Friday, January 04, 2013

2012: The Year In Review

Happy New Year, readers!

And what a year it's been. I am happy to announce that I have recovered my reader's mojo - and then some. 2011 was my slump year, in which I managed to read only 38 books! This year, thankfully, I blew every previous record out of the water by reading an astounding 90 books - even more than 2010 (76 books) and 2009 (63).

As per my usual format, I will group my Best and Worst lists due to letter grade - it really wouldn't be fair to have a top 5 when I had, for instance, 12 novels that wowed me this year. Were all these books published in 2012? Nope. While I probably read more 2012 books this year thanks to BEA, I'm still the person who reads what she wants to read, when she wants to read them.

However, I won't be including reread reviews (from my December Rollout) in the top best of the year. My best and worst lists are for first-time reads only.


A Lily Among Thorns, by Rose Lerner. Romance, Historical. A+
I realize it's almost unfair to put this as one of my ultimate favourite novels, since thanks to Dorchester's perfect storm of publishing fail it is apparently nigh impossible to get one's hands on another copy to share the love. All I have is my own copy - and I'm guarding that with my life!
That being said, Rose Lerner's sophomore novel is a fantastic, well-realized romance that overturns so many gender roles that have become ingrained in historicals. In this novel, it's the heroine who's sexually experienced, financially independent, and possessed of powerful underworld contacts - and it's the hero who's emotionally supportive, can sew a straight seam like a mofo, and mixes a mean cup of hot chocolate.
Pair all of that with a surprisingly poignant secondary romance between two hot gay spies and you have a fantastically clever and original romance.

Freak Show, by James St. James. YA, Contemporary. A+
Freak Show is a vivid, electric novel that mixes absurd parody and emotional poignancy with skill, panache, and sequined flash, and all with the help of its singularly fabulous protagonist, teenage drag queen extraordinaire, Billy Bloom.
Billy just wants to fit in at his new ultra-white, ultra-conservative prep school - but not if it means giving up his flapper dresses and 12 layers of false eyelashes. When the school's football star comes to his defence after his classmates' violent bullying goes too far, Billy takes his newfound popularity (or notoriety) and seeks to use it to change things at his school for the better.
I loved this book primarily because of Billy's amazing voice - he's always creating, inventing, moving forward, refusing to let the prejudice of his peers and the tragedy of his past to catch up with him and slow down his progress. 

The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman. Fiction, Historical. A+
Oh Alice Hoffman, how do I love thy books? Her novels always have amazing female characters in them - such as in this novel, which follows four women whose paths lead them to Masada, the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion. Together, they tend the gentle birds whose leavings keep the fortress' orchards fertile enough to feed Masada's warriors and their families, all the while observing the petty politics and feuds that can overcome a community in crisis.

Shine, by Lauren Myracle. YA, Contemporary. A+
This novel was probably my biggest surprise of the year. Let's face it, I already knew Rose Lerner's and  Alice Hoffman's books were going to be awesome, but I had no idea who Lauren Myracle was until I picked up this book and spent the next 24 hours in blissfully frantic reading. 
This achingly perfect, painful novel follows a damaged girl named Cat as she leaves the safety of her self-imposed isolation to track down the man who gay-bashed her former best friend into a coma. In the process, she reconnects with the friends and classmates she abandoned and begins healing from her own trauma.
Simply exquisite on every level, from the bruise-black depiction of an impoverished backwoods town to the river-deep characterization of Cat and her friends and neighbours.

Ain't She Sweet? by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Romance, Contemporary. A+
Ain't She Sweet combines everything I love to find in a contemporary romance - deep backstories, a vivid setting, a perfectly imperfect heroine, and oodles and oodles of drama. 
Sugar Beth Carey used to be the queen bee of her small Southern town, and she wouldn't let anyone forget it - especially not the illegitimate half-sister her father loved more nor the pretentious young English teacher who refused to cut Sugar Beth a break due to her wealth and family connections.
Years later, she returns to her hometown divorced, disgraced, and broke - and nearly everyone in town can't wait to line up to kick her now that she's down. 
She refuses to give in, however, and that same young English teacher (now an author) finds himself crushing on his erstwhile student something fierce. If only she could win over everyone else that easily...

A Gentleman Undone, by Cecilia Grant. Romance, Historical. A+
Cecilia Grant hits another home run with her sophomore effort, a novel concerning a guilt-ridden and cash-strapped young war veteran who needs to win a fortune at the gaming tables and enlists the help of another man's mistress who just so happens to be a talented cardsharp. Cecilia Grant's skills at thoughtful characterization and historical detail, and her marvellous writing style have not decreased a wit since her last success, A Lady Awakened. Grant earns additional props for giving us a heroine who enjoys sex - with a man other than the hero. Le gasp!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. YA, Fantasy. A+
I barely know where to begin with this one - this novel is just so endlessly inventive, so unabashedly romantic, so colourful and unique. Teenage Karou studies art in Prague by day and runs errands for her adoptive family of monsters by night. Her plans go awry when she meets a young angel named Akiva and becomes embroiled in a centuries-long war between angels and monsters. This book effortlessly juggles vastly different tones and themes (such as the contemporary YA feel of the beginning, the urban fantasy tone of Karou's journey to save her family, and the epic high fantasy of Akiva's backstory) while maintaining the consistency of the ultimate narrative.

Delicious, by Sherry Thomas. Romance, Historical. A+
In Thomas' lush follow-up to Private Arrangements, a talented chef with a notorious past reunites with the man who stole her heart and proposed marriage to her ten years before. The only caveat? He has no idea because he never sees her face. Okay, yes, the fact that he miraculously never recognizes her until the very end is a little silly - but the drama and the romance are so tasty and the overall theme so clever (with the heroine's cuisine representing and reawakening the passion the hero's long denied) that I found it easy to forgive the contrived misunderstanding.

Persuasion, by Jane Austen. Romance, Classic. A+
I've slowly been reading my way through Jane Austen's books, and by my current estimate, Persuasion is by far my favourite. The characters are flawed, yes, but humanly so. The characterization is more subtle and realistic than in her previous books and the morals less black and white - for instance, Lady Russell could have easily been painted as a villain for the crime of persuading Anne to break her engagement with Wentworth - instead, she remains a positive and well-intentioned figure. Persuasion has no real villains and Austen demonstrates how even those who believe they are of the loftiest character (like Wentworth) can fall prey to weakness, arrogance, or short-sightedness.
And along with all that, Persuasion also has one of the most swoon-worthy reunion romances ever.

Every Day, by David Levithan. YA, Fantasy. A+
One of the most powerful and original novels I've read this year, Every Day explores the nature of love, gender, identity, morality, and adolescence with the adventures of A, a genderless entity who wakes up every day in the body of a different teenager. A maintains a fluid identity until A meets and falls in love with Rhiannon while inhabiting the body of her jackass boyfriend - and then A develops independent desires and ambitions and has to measure them against the desires, ambitions, and rights of the body A's currently inhabiting.
This novel is heartbreakingly emotional while also fiendishly clever, a book that poses dozens if not hundreds of thorny questions about what truly matters in a relationship. Is physical appearance truly immaterial? What about sexual orientation and gender identity? While Every Day doesn't really have the time to deal with or answer all of these questions, I think it's enough that this novel takes the time to ask all of them in the course of telling a fantastically entertaining story.

A Season to be Sinful, by Jo Goodman. Romance, Historical. A+
After reading two duds from Jo Goodman I was beginning to wonder if I'd have to turn in my Goodman Fangirl Card. Thankfully, I can retain my membership with A Season to Be Sinful, which chronicles the relationship between a recently retired spy hero and the damaged street thief heroine he rescues after she botches an assassin's attempt on his life.
Lush writing, great dialogue, an incredibly dark heroine backstory (I should probably put a trigger-warning somewhere), with a twisty and clever spy subplot thrown in? How could I not enjoy this?

The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. Fiction, Historical, Fantasy. A+
Last but certainly not least, we have The Song of Achilles, a gorgeously-written historical fantasy about Achilles' role in the Trojan War, as told from the point of view of his devoted lover, Patroclus.
Juggling the weighty themes of the inevitability of fate and the nature of heroism, Madeline Miller crafts a beautiful and romantic story, but by far her best narrative decision is to make Patroclus the narrator. In a story bloated with famous historical figures, gods, demigods, centaurs, and mythic warriors, Patroclus is, well, ordinary. He's not particularly talented, clever, or handsome, but this makes him the perfect observer of the devastation, destruction, and petty vindictiveness that can too often get lost beneath the veneer of an epic narrative.

And those were my favourite reads of 2012.
However, for every good book - there is a, shall we say, less good book. For this one, I simply took every book that earned a C- grade or lower.


Dark Lover, by J.R. Ward. Romance, Paranormal. C-
This book made the list because, despite how entertaining this novel is when read as a parody - it's not one. And its themes and ideas and storytelling are pretty terrible. In this world, the vampire citizenry are protected by the tattooed, fanged equivalent of One Direction - an easily-marketable boyband of vampires who each come equipped with their own personal brand of Romantic Angst.
In this first installment of the Blackstreet Daggerboys Brotherhood, their King, Wrath, falls in love with a half-vampire reporter named Beth, all the while abusing and neglecting his tortured vampire wife.
Meanwhile, all his bros lurk in the background, cracking their knuckles, making rape threats, and having gay eye-sex with dogged police officers.

Undressed, by Kristin Cook. Romance, Historical. C-

This hilariously awful historical romance (with its inexplicably chicklit cover) is an astoundingly hot mess of nonsense - but what would you expect from a novel whose plotline validates child abduction? Self-righteous Scottish lass Brenna discovers she's an English aristocrat who had been snatched from her cradle by the people she lovingly considered her parents. Transplanted to England, she has trouble adapting to British society, which is comprised entirely of Evil, Thoughtless Jerks - with the alcoholic, gambling-addict hero as the sole exception. An entirely contrived plot, a heroine who swoons or turns an ankle at the drop of a hat, and cartoonishly rendered characters (both good and evil) combine to make me wish Undressed was Unwritten.

Accessible Love StoriesAnthology Review. Romance, Special Interest. C-
Unlike Undressed, the cover for Accessible Love Stories is entirely apt. The expression on the cover model's face perfectly captures my reaction to this disorganized and lacklustre set of stories that range from only okay to absolutely the worst thing I have ever read. A couple of stories are decent, but the organization of the anthology's theme (physically disabled people in love) is piss-poor, the proofreading and editing are absolutely abysmal, and the opening story reads like a romantic comedy as written by the cast of Jackass after taking one too many blows to the head. Read at your own risk.

Motherland, by Amy Sohn. Fiction, Contemporary. C-
Everyone in the novel is selfish and makes ill-advised decisions, a fictionalized Jon Hamm acts like an asshole, and one of the main characters winds up accidentally having sex with his own daughter. Now you don't have to read this pretentious, ugly drivel. You're welcome. 

The Kingdom of Gods, by N.K. Jemisin. Fantasy, High. C-
Part of this novel's low grade was sheer disappointment - the first two novels of of the series (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms) were so good, and yet this concluding volume of the trilogy was so confusing, inconsistent, and incoherent. Following child-god Sieh and his fumbling attempts to regain his identity now that his godly parents have made up (or are just about to), he befriends a pair of siblings -- with some truly bizarre and incomprehensible results. Not entirely bad, and certainly not offensive, it's nevertheless a disappointingly sad mess to put at the end of an otherwise stellar series.

Crewel, by Gennifer Albin. YA, Science Fiction. C-
The best kind of misogyny is internal misogyny - which can be found in spades in Gennifer Albin's offensive and derivative dystopian novel. Our heroine is capable of weaving the fabric of the universe, so she's whisked off by the Big Bad Government to become a Spinster and live in a gilded cage of luxury while doing the Big Bad Government's dirty work.
Every female character who is not the heroine can be easily checked into one of following categories: Vapid Twit, Power-Hungry Slut, Easily-Manipulated Lackey, and Token Lesbian Character Whose Defining Characteristic Is Her Violent Death To Teach The Straight Protagonist How Hating the Gays is Wrong.

Darkfever, by Karen Marie Moning. Urban Fantasy. D+
People in the romance and urban fantasy community go bananas for this novel about a Georgia gal who heads to Ireland to solve her sister's murder and discovers a secret fairy community, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. The plotting is lazy and inconclusive with an inconsistent future narrator who gives away the endings of scenes before they occur, the heroine is a TSTL bimbo who needs to be constantly rescued, and the "hero" is an abusive misogynist who holds the heroine captive. I have a fever, and the only prescription is .... fewer books like these.

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, by Chris Colfer. Middle Grade, Fantasy. D+
I'm a fan of Glee and Chris Colfer's acting, but unfortunately, if The Land of Stories is any indication - he shouldn't quit his day job. This Middle Grade novel revolves around a pair of twins who are transported into the land of fairy tales by a magical book left by their grandmother, and need to assemble the pieces of a powerful Wishing Spell in order to get back home. This solid concept is unfortunately crippled by passive, amateurish writing, overly-convenient storytelling, inconsistent world building, and an insipid, childish tone that patronizes readers.
Not to mention, it ends with the message that murdering and torturing people is okay so long as you do it because you're in love.

Wake, by Amanda Hocking. YA, Fantasy. D+
What's that? More misogyny in my YA novels? It must be my birthday! Amanda Hocking's newest novel concerns a trio of girls who are gorgeous, wear skimpy clothes, and travel in groups - therefore they must be evil creatures who use their slutty feminine wiles to lure unsuspecting boys. The whole novel is steeped in slut-shaming - if someone is beautiful, they must be shallow, or evil, or anorexic, or otherwise morally inferior because how else are we to feel better about ourselves? They are clearly predators out to take your men! Run away! Run away!
...and I haven't even mentioned the fact that they are Sirens who actually eat people!

Seize the Fire, by Laura Kinsale. Romance, Historical. D+
A Laura Kinsale novel on my Worst list! How has it come to this? Unfortunately, Kinsale's trademark gonzo plotting and historical detail are no match for a supremely incompetent twit of a heroine who's made Almost Getting The Hero Killed her life's work. Continually whining, eternally useless, and bereft of any talents or ambitions beyond Wringing Her Hands and Crying Helplessly, this pathetic princess spends 500 pages being dragged out of dangerous situations by her hair by the exasperated babysitter hero. I'd rather seize the asprin and give this book a pass.

Wickedly Charming, by Kristine Grayson. D
Wickedly Charming asks the question, "What if Snow White's stepmother wasn't evil - just monumentally ignorant, judgemental, shrill, and unpleasant? Not to mention stupid?" The result is a vapid trainwreck of a novel with a heroine who wants to ban books (!) paired with a hero who's more mouse than man - and not in the enchanted way.
Add to that a wholly hypocritical and misogynist theme - the Stepmother rails against fairy tale fiction for demonizing older women, and yet who's the novel's main villain? Oh, right - AN OLDER WOMAN, a dried-up Cinderella who tries to wish her own children out of existence because she's a frivolous attention whore. Yeah, because that doesn't propagate negative ideas about women, now does it?

Sins of a Wicked Duke, by Sophie Jordan. Romance, Historical. D-
In this delightful tale of woman-hating garbage, a rebellious duke and his cross-dressing footman heroine teach readers how an orgasm counts as consent, sexual assault is always the woman's fault because her hotness just drives rational men crazy, and a man can molest and exploit his female staff as much as he wants because his manboob snake-tattoo, his artistic hobbies, and his charity towards male street urchins obviously indicate that he's really a sensitive baby angel at heart - so you should really stop tempting him with your Womany Wiles and just let him screw you already.

And AnimeJune's Number One Worst Read is....

The Blessed, by Tonya Hurley. YA, Fantasy. F
In this ugly, incomprehensible and disgustingly sexist mess, three hateful, selfish girls spend the novel slutshaming each other, fighting over the same hot guy, impaling themselves on medieval torture implements, burning their eyes with hot wax, setting themselves on fire, and almost getting raped - for Jesus!
So - if you're into female characters being constantly punished and victimized in the service of a barely-explained pseudo-Catholic paranormal storyline in which all the powerful characters with knowledge and influence are men - get the hell off my blog. Seriously.

The Best of the Rest:
Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery (reread). YA, Historical. A+
Pros: Literally almost everything. Cons: Except that bitch Josie Pye.

The Broken Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. High Fantasy. A
Pros: Kick-ass heroine, fab redemption storyline! Cons: Bit of a downer ending.

Five Quarters of the Orange, by Joanne Harris (reread). Fiction, Historical. A
Pros: Richly detailed setting, lovely food description. Cons: The younger heroine is a nasty little shit.

The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green. YA, Contemporary. A
Pros: Smart, inventive and challenging writing style. Vivid characters. Cons: A little too constructed.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart. YA, Contemporary. A
Pros: Bitchin' heroine, creative feminist commentary, no obvious love triangle, unconventional ending.Cons: Plot kind of jumps all over the place. Heroine, while bitchin', is also occasionally kind of a bitch, too.  

A Precious Jewel, by Mary Balogh. Romance, Historical. A
Pros: Unconventional characters, particularly the hero. Lovely writing. Cons: Hero is an ass and heroine is a martyr for much of the novel.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, by Cathrynne M. Valente. Middle Grade, Fantasy. A
Pros: Endlessly creative setting, excellent characterization, gorgeous wordplay. Cons: Uneven pacing, occasionally cluttered language.

The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman. Fiction, Historical. A
Pros: Absorbing moral debate, well-developed characters, magical setting. Cons: Slow pacing.

Sacred Hearts, by Sarah Dunant. Fiction, Historical. A
Pros: Excellent period detail, thoughtful Catholic themes, engaging characters and conflicts.Cons: Pacing is a little slow.

Days of Blood and Starlight, by Laini Taylor. YA, Fantasy. A
Pros: Excellent worldbuilding, compellingly ambiguous themes, excellent writing. Cons: Kind of a bummer book.

The Birth House, by Ami McKay (reread). Fiction, Historical. A
Pros: Effective combination of thoughtful themes and developed characters. Cons: The ending is a little disorganized and convenient.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J.K. Rowling (reread). YA, fantasy. A
Pros: "Yer a wizard, Harry." Cons: Only six more books to go!

Private Arrangements, by Sherry Thomas (rereview). Romance, Historical. A
Pros: I like it this time! Cons: Secondary romance is still really confusing.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth. YA, Contemporary, LGBT. A-
Pros: Fantastic, nuanced characterization. Detailed environment. Engaging coming-of-age storyline.Cons: Slow pacing for the first two-thirds. Occasional overabundance of detail. Some narrative loose ends.

Sex with the Queen, by Eleanor Herman. Nonfiction, Sexual History. A-
Pros: Excellently paced, lots of details and scandals. Cons: Author's attempts to inject romantic conjecture into the nonfictional narrative fall flat.

Zombies Vs. Unicorns, Anthology Review. YA, Fantasy. A-
Pros: The zombie stories. Cons: The unicorn stories. And Justine Larbalestier's commentary.

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, by Kat Rosenfield. YA, Contemporary. A-
Pros: Lush writing, good suspense, excellent setting. Cons: Inconsistent characterization.

Beguiling the Beauty, by Sherry Thomas. Romance, Historical. A-
Pros: Gorgeous writing, intriguing themes, exquisite period details. Cons: Asshat hero, heroine is a bit of a doormat in the latter half of the book.

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. Science Fiction. B+
Pros: Solid themes, bold plot twists. Cons: Episodic story structure, pat ending.

Unveiled, by Courtney Milan. Romance, Historical. B+
Pros: Original plot, fine characterization. Cons: Hero is an selfish ass for way longer than necessary.

On the Way to the Wedding, by Julia Quinn. Romance, Historical. B+
Pros: Not nearly as bad as the last Bridgerton novel! Cons: Hyacinth still makes an appearance.

Silent in the Grave, by Deanna Raybourn. Mystery, Historical. B+
Pros: Well-developed historical setting, engaging protagonist. Cons: Slow pacing.

Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear. Fantasy, High. B+
Pros: Unique worldbuilding. Great characters. Even greater lady characters. Cons: Some contrived plot points. Unclear goals. Romance seemed a little tacked on.

Jellicoe Road, by Melissa Marchetta. YA, Contemporary. B+
Pros: Fascinating mystery. Yummy hero. Fantastic supporting characters. Weepy ending. Cons: First fifty pages are remarkably frustrating. Most of the adults in the story are STONE COLD JERKS, y'all.

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, by Erin McCahan. YA, Contemporary. B+
Pros: Increasingly layered storytelling. Bright, bubbly heroine. Great voice. Cons: Worst Mom Ever. A little cutesy.

Divergent, by Veronica Roth. YA, Science Fiction. B+
Pros: Interesting worldbuilding. Tough heroine. Human drama in a futuristic setting. Cons: Slow pacing. Sudden "Mwahahaha!" Evil Villain Master Plan.  

The River King, by Alice Hoffman. Fiction, Contemporary. B+
Pros: Alice Hoffman is da bomb, yo. Cons: Not her best - meandering storyline, little payoff.

Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik. Fantasy, Historical. B+
Pros: Amazing worldbuilding, fantastic bromance between man and dragon. Cons: Slow slow slooooow pacing.

The Wild Marquis, by Miranda Neville. Romance, Historical. B+
Pros: Delicious hero, interesting book collecting subplot. Cons: Heroine is a bit of the silly type who sometimes ignores sage safety advice for the plot to go forward.

Tigers in Red Weather, by Liza Klaussmann. Fiction, Historical. B+
Pros: Excellent changing perspectives throughout the years, nice details, interesting story. Cons: A little bit of "Rich People's Unhappy Lives" Syndrome. 

Not That Kind of Girl, by Siobhan Vivian. YA, Contemporary. B
Pros: Multifaceted female characters, excellent message and theme. Cons: Heroine is a bit of a bitchface - that's the point. But still. Bitchface.

Where It Began, by Ann Redisch Stampler. YA, Contemporary. B
Pros: Interesting mystery, hilarious hilarious voice. Cons: Heroine is completely passive in her own story.

Chocolat, by Joanne Harris. Book-to-Film Review. Fiction, Contemporary. B
Pros: Mmmm, chocolate! Beautiful writing too. Cons: Very unclear themes at the end. Super-creepy villain. 

The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway. Fiction, Historical. B
Pros: Detailed setting, subtle characterization, strong female protagonist. Cons: So very definitely NOT a happy fun-times feel-good book.

When the Duke Returns, by Eloisa James. Romance, Historical. B
Pros: Bubbly writing, good description, swift pacing. Cons: Future Couples hog too much screentime, hero is a selfish ass.

Fitzpatrick's War, by Theodore Judson (reread). Science Fictional, Alternate History. B
Pros: Rich and fascinating setting and history. Amusing format. Cons: Too much time spent on the world details and too little on the story.

Untie My Heart, by Judith Ivory. Romance, Historical. B-
Pros: Sex in a chair! Cons: ... not entirely consensual sex in a chair.

Duke of Shadows, by Meredith Duran. Romance, Historical. B-
Pros: Original setting in the first half, beautiful language. Cons: Flabby Big Misunderstanding and cheap suspense subplot in the second half.

Tiger Eye, by Marjorie M. Lieu. Romance, Paranormal. B-
Pros: Gorgeous writing, original setting. Cons: Mary Sue Heroine, paltry romantic tension.

Catch and Release, by Blythe Woolston. YA, Contemporary. B-
Pros: Excellent writing, subtle characterization. Cons: Unsettling and unsympathetic male protagonist, directionless ending.

The Vicious Deep, by Zoraida Cordova. YA, Fantasy. B-
Pros: Great depiction of Coney Island setting, hilarious hero POV, great family dynamic, strong female love interest ... Cons: ...strong female love interest exhibits strength by doing stupid things. Magical mermaid setting is less well developed. Sloppy and unresolved ending.  

The Girl Most Likely To..., by Susan Donovan. Romance, Contemporary. B-
Pros: Layered characters, nice backstories, emotional beginning. Cons: Lots of male entitlement, too little romantic conflict, plus a total whackadoodle deux ex Real!Father ending.

I Kissed an Earl, by Julie Anne Long. Romance, Historical. B-
Pros: Self-aware heroine, intriguingly complex financial storyline, strong writing. Cons: Heroine is a loathsomely spoiled idiot for the majority of the book.

Cold Magic, by Kate Elliot. Fantasy, Historical. B-
Pros: Intricate alternate world, gripping actual plot. Cons: Infodumps out the whazoo, irritating characters.

Beauty, by Robin McKinley (reread). YA, Fantasy. B-
Pros: No singing candlesticks! Cons: Not enough Beast characterization.

Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins. YA, Science Fiction. C+
Pros: Engaging first half, solid themes. Cons: Cheap cop-out second half too derivative of previous book.

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins. YA, Science Fiction. C+
Pros: The last 100 pages. Cons: Literally everything before that.

Never Love a Lawman, by Jo Goodman. Romance, Historical. C+
Pros: Detailed setting, excellent Western-style action scenes. Cons: Evasive characters, slack pacing.

Origin, by Jessica Khoury. YA, Science Fiction. C+
Pros: Interesting themes, colourful setting. Cons: Unbelievable insta-love romance, ridiculous ending.

What's Left of Me, by Kat Zhang. YA, Science Fiction. C+
Pros: Interesting concept. Cons: Piss-poor worldbuilding and repetitive pacing.

Crazy for You, by Jennifer Crusie. Romance, Contemporary. C
Pros: Some humour and complexity. Cons: Having your villain descend into mental illness only to call your novel Crazy For You is not the most sensitive of choices.

Storm Glass, by Maria V. Snyder. YA, Fantasy. C
Pros: Layered heroine, solid worldbuilding. Cons: Useless love interests. Too many stories at once. Really boring after about halfway through. 

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. YA, Contemporary. C
Pros: Fascinating look at how a myriad of small actions beget large consequences. Cons: Ugly central concept and the suspense aspect is wasted with a cheap cop-out on the part of the male protagonist.

Crazy for Love, by Victoria Dahl. Romance, Contemporary. C
Pros: Solid writing, lots of drama. Cons: Hero's serious anxiety disorder is shrugged off, unrealistically. Muddled romantic obstacles. 

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. Fantasy, Contemporary. C
Pros: Original storyline, detailed setting. Cons: Dull characters, scattered and unfocused narrative.

Not Proper Enough, by Carolyn Jewel. Romance, Historical. C
Pros: Lovely writing, excellent depiction of setting. Cons: Booooooring as hell. No actual plot.

The World According to Garp, by John Irving. Fiction, Contemporary. C
Pros: Fascinating exploration of themes of gender, sexuality and art. Cons: Very long and boring, "tell over show" writing style.

The Virgin Cure, by Ami McKay. Fiction, Historical. C
Pros: Good period detail, lovely writing. Cons: No real plot, cop-out ending.

Demon Moon, by Meljean Brook. Romance, Paranormal. DNF
Pros: Intricate world building. Cons: Overly-intricate worldbuilding, boring romance, confusing plots.

Tempted by His Kiss, by Tracy Anne Warren. Romance, Historical. DNF
Pros: Um, competent English? Cons: Completely unoriginal characters and plot. Heroine with no sense of boundaries. Weird almost date-rape scene. Cutesy prepackaged sequel bait family members.

Scoundrel's Kiss, by Carrie Lofty. Romance, Historical. DNF
Pros: Good description and use of setting.  Cons: Boring! Inconsistent themes. Annoying heroine. Super boring. Lifeless action scenes. Did I mention boring?

The Heir, by Grace Burrowes. Romance, Historical. DNF
Pros: Hero and heroine are respectful, sensible people who like to talk out their problems. Cons: Over a hundred pages of talking about their problems without actually encountering any problems! ZzzzZZzz.... 

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas. YA, Fantasy. DNF
Pros: Um, it's got a nice cover? Cons: Cliched writing, cliched love triangle, cutesy inconsistent mass-murdering puppy-saving heroine, no subtlety or complexity at all (which makes me cringe whenever it or another review brings up the WHOLLY UNFOUNDED Game of Thrones comparison).

Ravishing in Red, by Madeline Hunter. Romance, Historical. DNF
Pros: It looks like the story gets better after 100 pages. Cons: Those first 100 ages really aren't worth it.

Lord of Ice, by Gaelen Foley. Romance, Historical. DNF
Pros: Saucy heroine (only at the beginning). Cons: Uninteresting and unoriginal plot, violent hero, "Innocent" Heroine used as Tylenol for Man Pain.

Other Reviews:

The Hunger Games. Film Adaptation, Science Fiction. A

Brave, Animated Film. Fantasy, Historical. B

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