Friday, January 4, 2013

Best Books of 2012

These are the five star books that I read in 2012. They are in no particular order.

1. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

This is the second book in the Divergent series. It is not a stand alone. I really enjoyed both books in this series. I feel that the plot is unique, and the books flow so nicely and yet still manage to have some depth. The Divergent universe is a dystopia where upon puberty each citizen chooses a faction to belong to at adulthood. The factions are based on character traits such as honesty, bravery, and intelligence. The youth are given tests to help them decide upon their faction, and it is believed that there is an ideal faction for each individual. Unfortunately the third book in this series has not been released yet. I am much looking forward to it!

2. Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

This wonderful story about a girl growing up in Washington state around 1900. The book is based on a diary found by the author from one of her ancestors which gives it a realism some historical fiction lacks. May Amelia is the only girl child in her neck of the woods (local lore says that girls just aren't born there), and she resents the special treatment she receives. There is a follow-up book to this one which I have not read yet.

3. Jip: His Story by Katherine Paterson

Jip was surprisingly good and makes for another historical fiction piece on my list. Jip is a boy being raised on a poor farm during the Civil War era in Vermont. The characterizations are so rich! (I should not be surprised with an author like Katherine Paterson.) One of the characters is a man with a mental disability who lives in a cage. Somehow this is a happy, optimistic story though. There is a tie in between this book and Lyddie by the same author, but it is definitely a fine standalone read.

4. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

I think this might be the absolute best book that I read this year. OK, maybe I shall say tied with Ender's Game. Bitterblue is the third book in the Graceling Realm series, and the term series is used here loosely because the books are only loosely tied together. I would strongly recommend that one read Graceling before reading Bitterblue, and I think to get as much out of the story as possible, it would be best to read Fire first too. Although Bitterblue is a children's book, this is a long, deep, involved story. In the Graceling realm, some citizens are born with special gifts. They are called gracelings. In some kingdoms, they are enslaved. The books delve deeply not only into characterizations but also into politics, right and wrong, evil, love, and loyalty, There are disturbing images in all three books, especially Fire, but I feel that the imagery is necessary to the story and not overdone.

5. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

I loved, loved, loved this book which also makes for a third historical fiction piece on the list! Calpurnia Tate is growing up in Texas in 1899. She is another overprotected daughter, and in this book, she finds a friend and mentor in her eccentric, elderly grandfather who also teaches her much about science, especially nature. I am surprised that this great story doesn't get more critical acclaim. I honestly think that it may be because the book is somewhat true to the time. It is not a feminist book and does not contain revisionist history. It is a great look at a spunky girl and cantankerous old man's journey into the realm of scientific inquiry with snippets of period family life thrown in for one's enjoyment. This book coupled with Our Only May Amelia would be an excellent study of life in 1900 in two distinctly different places from heroines who have a lot of personality in common.

6. This Full House by Virginia Euwer Wolff

This Full House is the last book in the Make Lemonade trilogy. These are books written in free verse with the foundational theme being poverty. This is another strong series with all three books earning five stars in my book. They are difficult and uncomfortable. They also build upon one another so it is best to read This Full House after the first two. Of the three books, This Full House is the weakest, but it is still an amazing work. I hope Wolff continues writing more deep stories for teens.

7. All Good Children by Catherine Austen

Unfortunately, I read this book early in the year, and my review at the time is limited to, "Another winner in the sci fi dystopian young adult category." I do not remember the depth of this story, or why I found it amazing, but it won five stars at the time so I place it here for your perusal.

8. Hunger by Michael Grant

This book would be something that I would typically find more in my "guilty pleasure" pile as opposed to my "it's amazing" pile. The Gone series by Michael Grant follows a group of kids who find that all the adults in their section of the world have disappeared, and they are locked into this piece of Southern California by an impenetrable dome. On top of that some animals, including humans, are experiencing mutations. This is a lengthy series with six volumes so far. I have read four of them and give all four stars except for the second, Hunger. This is definitely a series, and the books have to be read in order to follow the story. Grant is a great word creator and writes strong characters. These are real people, multi-dimensional. The books make you think, and Hunger is the best of the lot. I like to take a break from long series, but I will be returning to this one in the future to read more volumes. Note, there is some graphic violence in these novels, but again, I do not think it is overdone. It could be particularly disturbing to younger children though so I recommend it to those 12 and up who don't mind disturbing imagery in their stories. Your views may vary.

9. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

A true classic work of science fiction, I strongly recommend this to any thoughtful read.




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