I read a lot of books in a year. Last year I did 54 and this year I’ve already read 42, so I’m well on the way to breaking my previous record. I’ve narrowed down that list of 42 to the top ten books I was most impressed by. I don’t like to write bad reviews because I’m a writer too: I know how hard it can be to create something. (For future reference, I’ll not bother writing reviews about books that I hated.)
Here are the first five books that have impressed me this year – so far and in no particular order. (Please note: not all of these books were published in 2012. I just happened to be reading them in 2012.)
– Mercy by Rebecca Lim
Genre: YA supernatural/angels
Angels and fallen angels are a major subset of the young adult realm right now. Mercy was the first book of this type that I’ve read: I picked it up initially because the author and I share the same first name (name twins!) but it’s more than that – the book is just plain inventive. The title character, Mercy, is an angel who involuntarily “soul-jacks” people’s lives temporarily: she lives through them for a short time before moving on to the next host. All the while she only gets hints of who she really is, a struggle balanced with Mercy’s attempts at making the lives of those she inhabits a better place. With a huge host of angel books available right now, Mercy is a standout for its ongoing mystery (who is Mercy and why was she exiled in the first place?) and its fast-paced plot.
Final grade: A-
– Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston
Genre: YA – historical, adventure
Full disclosure: I resisted this book for a long time before reading it. You might ask why, since I read and loved two of her other novels, Wondrous Strange and Darklight, so I’ll be completely honest: I read the back of the book in the store and rolled by eyes over the main character’s name. This poor girl’s parents were symphony musicians who named their daughter Clarinet (ouch.) But after picking it up and putting it back a few times, I took the plunge and finally bought a copy. And pretty soon I didn’t care what the heronine’s name was. What the back of the book doesn’t tell you is that the plot also involves the legendary warrior queen Boudicca. How awesome is that? Clarinet’s name is mercifully reduced to Clare and oh yeah, there’s also time travel involved. Had I known there was time travel, I’d have picked the book up right away. Add Boudicca to the mix and you’ve got yourself a winning combination. I’ll never judge a heroine by her name again.
Final grade: A+
– Dark Mirror by MJ Putney
Genre: YA historical, magic
I picked this one up because I was drawn to the time period: early 19th century. I majored in English at University and I was always drawn to 19th century writers. So when I found Dark Mirror I was excited because it was my favourite time period and the main character had magic. I’ve also got magical characters in my writing and I love seeing how other authors handle magic. In the world of Dark Mirror, magic has always existed but it is frowned upon within the upper classes: upper class mages are sent to magical reform school (think Hex Hall meets Jane Austen) where they are trained to control and eventually denounce their powers. But our heroine Tory Mansfield joins up with a group of students who have elected to use their powers for good – and this young lady has some serious power. Around the middle of the book, things took a rather interesting turn: time travel again! Maybe once everyone is done writing about angels, we’ll be seeing a barrage of time travelling novels? (A girl can dream, right?)
Final grade: A
– Heist Society by Ally Carter
Something without angels, mages or time travel (for a change): enter the world of high class thievery with Heist Society. It’s like The Italian Job with a bunch of teenagers. And the title is genius. I’m not sure what genre you’d call this, so I’m putting it udner the catch-all of Young Adult for now. In this book we see our protagonist Katarina Bishop fall back into the family business of robbery when she has to save her dad from being framed for a major heist that he didn’t commit. What follows is a clever, fast-paced story that never slows down and always holds the reader’s interest. My only complaint? It wasn’t long enough! Good thing there’s sequels. This one’s got “make me into a movie” written all over it.
Final grade: B+
– Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
Genre: YA supernatural/paranormal, magic
So rarely is a sequel in a trilogy the best of the three. Often a sequel is merely a stepping stone between a cracking debut and an epic conclusion. But this is not the case for the second book in the Hex Hall trilogy. Demonglass is one of those rare sequels that is at least as good as, if not better than, its predecessor. We get to see a lot more of Sophie Mercer’s magical world in Demonglass, including the long-awaited introduction of her father James (a character only hinted at in the first book.) As a result, we learn more about Sophie’s origins and the nature of her power. We also get to see Cal become a more important character in this book (though I was rooting for him in the first book myself.) As a result, we start to see the beginnings of a love triangle that I’m sure we’ll see picked up on in Spell Bound (book three.) I’m really tired of love triangles, but at least the two boys in this one, Cal and Archer, are differentiated enough from each other to keep things interesting.
Final grade: A-