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Last books of 2012

For 2013, I resolve to post more often. How does that sound?

82. A Storm of Swords (George R. R. Martin)
Yikes. If I thought the previous volumes in the series were violent and gory and depressing, this one takes the cake. The very bloody cake. It's also probably the best-plotted of the series, though, and the one that sucked me in the most. I was constantly on edge to know what happened next. ****

83. Sophie's World (Jostein Gaardner)
A novel that is both a philosophy course and a story about a girl getting a surprise philosophy course... and then things get really weird. This is the book for which the term "meta" should have been invented. The story is surprisingly good, if strange, and it does a pretty good job of carrying the "let me teach you the history of philosophy" sections. I mostly quite enjoyed reading it, and didn't get bogged down too often, which is pretty high praise for this kind of book (is there really any other book of "this kind"? I don't know that there is). ****

84. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
Okay, this one really did deserve its popularity. It's a good story, it's got an engaging protagonist, and if it sometimes seems unlikely, well, that's sort of the point, isn't it? ****

85. The Gift of Fear (Gavin de Becker)
De Becker's basic premise is that we should listen to ourselves, and that we could all be safer if we paid more attention to our intuition and worried less about the things we think we should fear. The book tries hard to be all about examples and learning to trust yourself, but it's hard to put something together like this without being a little prescriptive. Also, de Becker insists that by being more aware of real risks and real things to fear, we can let go of the irrational fears that take up so much of our energy... but I still came away from the book thinking there were so many more things to worry about than I'd realized! This might be a case where more thinking about the ideas presented is required... ***

86.  Indigo Springs (A. M. Dellamonica)
Wow. This is a completely original take on fantasy. The way magic works is quite different from the kinds we're used to seeing, and the characters are simultaneously deeply flawed and very sympathetic (mostly). The writing is good, too, and the story structure manages to maintain plenty of suspense even as it opens after most of the book's events have happened. Recommended. *****

87. The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)
This is a book full of lovely setup, beautiful writing, and evocative imagery. The descriptions of the circus are wonderful, and nearly hypnotically effective. Unfortunately, the plot and the characters just can't live up to the setting. I had a hard time believing in any of the supposed romance, and found the magic system (and associated magical challenge) both too detailed for the dreamy quality the book wants and not detailed enough to understand the stakes or the characters' options. The book has the potential to be really good, but it doesn't quite stick the landing. ***

88. The Dead Zone (Stephen King)
There are some plotting and pacing issues here that I might quibble about, but King really is good at writing a readable, absorbing story with sympathetic characters and the grim inevitability of fate. ***

89. Blue Magic (A. M. Dellamonica)
The story gets a little bit bogged down in this sequel, unfortunately. The characters and the writing are still great, but there is almost too much going on. The slightly smaller scale of the first book worked better, I found; saving the world is just a little too grandiose for the kind of story this feels like it should be. Which is not to say it's not still a very good book. It really is! ****

90. Rosemary and Rue (Seanan McGuire)
Since I enjoyed Seanan's writing as Mira Grant so much, it only seemed fair to give her fantasy a try. And yes, it's just as good. Instead of zombies, we have fae from all imaginable cultures, and they're not the happy shiny fairies of modern folklore, but rather the dangerous creatures of Scottish ballads and every other culture's stories. Well, and they're also people, with a full range of personalities and opinions. Our heroine, October (Toby) Daye, is a changeling -- half-fae, half-human, and therefore caught between two worlds. She's also a moderately hardboiled private investigator. Oh, and she got stuck being a fish for fourteen years, resulting in her human family thinking she abandoned them. Fun all around! The story is well-plotted, there is both good narrative closure and plenty of room for a lengthy series to continue (good thing, since there are quite a few more books already). Will read more. *****

91.  Carousel Tides (Sharon Lee)
More urban fantasy! More mythological creatures living in the modern world! This one doesn't work quite as well as McGuire's, although it's still pretty good if you avoid the comparison that comes from reading them back-to-back. We have a guardian of the land who has been avoiding her duty and now has to take up her responsiblity again. There's the obligatory romance -- which is a little paint-by-numbers -- and the larger-than-life threat. My biggest complaint, really, is that there starts to be a bit too much being tied together in the end for credulity. When the conflict seemed much smaller and more individual, it was also more compelling. On the other side, the spooky carousel with its imprisoned animals, could have been used more effectively -- it felt like a bit of a wasted opportunity, ultimately. ***

92. Lucifer: Mansions of the Silence (Mike Carey et al)
A rag-tag crew sets off in search of Elaine's soul, and rescues her from a very creepy afterlife as a lantern (and Mona gets rescued too!). This is a good, largely self-contained story, which nonetheless includes some major twists to the larger story arc. I can't believe Jill is going to get off that easily, and what on earth is going on with Cal? ****

92. Lucifer: Exodus (Mike Carey et al)
One more "twist" from the last volume sets up this one: God has left creation. So, of course, things get interesting. In with all the complicated scheming and plotting, there are also some great character pieces. The little stitchglass weaver is a terrific character, and his story is so sad and sweet... I really enjoyed it. The rest of the book is good too, but it gets bonus points for that story alone. *****

93. The Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri, trans. Mandelbaum)
Do I really need to try to sum this up? Okay then -- Dante insists that he has the real good on the afterlife, and that all the people he disliked are definitely going to Hell. And his friends are mostly going to Purgatory, and eventually to Heaven. Plus, some pretty famous poetry.

94. Gaudy Night (Dorothy L. Sayers)
Oh, this was such a good book. It's a mystery, sure, but it's really more about. Harriet Vane dealing with her past decisions and working out what she really wants.  And yes, Wimsey shows up to bail her out when she can't solve the mystery on her own, but he clearly respects her and doesn't just "swoop in" like your stereotypical hero. *****

95. The Book of Joby (Mark J. Ferrari)
God and the Devil compete over the soul of Job -- er, Joby. Plus more Arthurian tie-ins than you can shake a stick at. This is a book that almost works. There's plenty of good story, but I think too much time is spent with the devils and the angels -- I would rather have had it really be Joby's story, instead of the story of the Devil's stratagems. There was something about the writing, too, that felt like it really wanted to be a graphic novel -- it's very visual, full of set-pieces, and scenes that could have come straight out of a Vertigo comic. ***

96. A Local Habitation (Seanan McGuire)
A very good follow-up indeed. I quite love the idea of a cyber-dryad, I must admit. The identity of the killer was maybe a little telegraphed -- I kept saying "no, it can't be that obvious, can it?" -- but the way the whole thing works out was not nearly so predictable. Although I'm not sure I'd recommend hiring Toby as a P.I. after this debacle -- exactly how many people survive her investigation? ****

The rest of 2012

1. Welcome to Bordertown (ed. Holly Black and Ellen Kushner) ****
2. Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Marisha Pessl) ****
3. A Betrayal in Winter (Daniel Abraham) *****
4. The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) *****
5. An Autumn War (Daniel Abraham) *****
6. Cleopatra: A Life (Stacy Schiff) ***
7. Strong Poison (Dorothy Sayers) ****
8. The Wise Man's Fear (Patrick Rothfuss) *****
9. The Fortune of War (Patrick O'Brian) *****
10. The Price of Spring (Daniel Abraham) *****
11. Corsets and Clockwork: 14 Steampunk Romances (ed. Trisha Telep) **
12. The Companions (Sherri S. Tepper) ***
13. Empress (Karen Miller) ***
14. The Surgeon's Mate (Patrick O'Brian) ****
15. Agatha H. and the Airship City (Phil and Kaja Folio) ***
16. Memory (Lois McMaster Bujold) *****
17. Half-Blood Blues (Esi Edugyan) ***
18. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (Jon Krakauer) ****
19. Mort (Terry Pratchett) ***
20. Feed (Mira Grant) *****
21. Bloodchild and Other Stories (Octavia Butler) ****
22. The Ionian Mission (Patrick O'Brian)
23. Treason's Harbour (Patrick O'Brian) *****
24. Komarr (Lois McMaster Bujold) ****
25. The Hallowed Hunt (Lois McMaster Bujold) ****
26. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) ****
27. Deadline (Mira Grant) *****
28. Reamde (Neal Stephenson) ***
29. The Far Side of the World (Patrick O'Brian) *****
30. The Reverse of the Medal (Patrick O'Brian) *****
31. Range of Ghosts (Elizabeth Bear) ****
32. A Civil Campaign (Lois McMaster Bujold) ***
33. The Riven Kingdom (Karen Miller) ***
34. House of Dreams (Pauline Gedge) ****
35. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot) *****
36. House of Illusions (Pauline Gedge) **
37. Shades of Grey: the Road to High Saffron (Jasper Fforde) ****
38. Five Red Herrings (Dorothy L. Sayers) ****
39. The Letter of Marque (Patrick O'Brian) *****
40. Falling Free (Lois McMaster Bujold) ****
41. Diplomatic Immunity (Lois McMaster Bujold) ****
42. Shanghai: the Ivory Compact (David Rotenberg) **
43. Jack of Fables, vol. 4: Americana (Bill Willingham et al) ***
44. Jack of Fables, vol. 5: Turning Pages (Bill Willingham et al) ***
45. The Thirteen-Gun Salute (Patrick O'Brian) *****
46. The Book of Madness and Cures (Regina O'Melveny) **
47. The Nutmeg of Consolation (Patrick O'Brian) *****
48. Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins) ****
49. Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins) ****
50. Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures (Vincent Lam) ****
51. Clarissa Oakes (Patrick O'Brian) *****
52. Have His Carcase (Dorothy L. Sayers) *****
53. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (Charles C. Mann) *****
54. From Hell (Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell) ***
55. Anya's Ghost (Vera Brosgol) *****
56. The Wine-Dark Sea (Patrick O'Brian) *****
57. The Commodore (Patrick O'Brian) *****
58. The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities (ed. Ann & Jeff Vandermeer) *****
59. The Book of Cthulhu (ed. Ross E. Lockhart) ****
60. Cryoburn (Lois McMaster Bujold) ***
61. The Yellow Admiral (Patrick O'Brian) ****
62. The Red Tree (Caitlin R. Kiernan) ****
63. The Hundred Days (Patrick O'Brian) ****
64. Murder Must Advertise (Dorothy L. Sayers) *****
65. Montréél (Éric Gauthier) ****
66. The Sharing Knife, vol. 1: Beguilement (Lois McMaster Bujold) ***
67. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (Charles C. Mann) *****
68. Blue at the Mizzen (Patrick O'Brian) ****
69. Sea of Dreams: Racing Alone Around the World in a Small Boat (Adam Mayers) ****
70. The Sharing Knife, vol. 2: Legacy (Lois McMaster Bujold) ***
71. Debt: the First 5,000 Years (David Graeber) *****
72. In the Forests of Serre (Patricia McKillip) ****
73. The Sharing Knife, vol. 3: Passage (Lois McMaster Bujold) ***
74. The Child that Books Built (Francis Spufford) *****
75. A Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin) ****
76. Door Into Fire (Diane Duane) *****
77. Lucifer, vol. 5: Inferno (Mike Carey et al.) ***
78. Red Plenty (Francis Spufford) *****
79. A Clash of Kings (George R. R. Martin) ***
80. Blackout (Mira Grant) *****
81. The Sharing Knife, vol. 4: Horizon (Lois McMaster Bujold) ***

I also (re-)read during the year (but did not record/count), the Sandman series (in the Absolute editions), which I continue to love unreservedly and without objectivity. So I guess that's #97-100, for those who like round numbers.
Tags: books

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