Top Ten Tuesday #6

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Click here to read more and join!

How people manage to run their book blogs when school’s in session is something I haven’t figured out. Obviously. The last time a TTT post was spotted here was back in early September, before classes started and statistics temporarily ruined me. And book reviews? I didn’t have proper time to read, let alone review — and let me not forgot about keeping update on memes and other blogs. At the very least, I had hoped to rejoin the weekly TTT several weeks ago. I unfortunately did not foresee that multiple tests a week plus life with the bonus of I AM NOT SLEEPING?!? equals REJECT EVERYTHING THAT IS ADULTHOOD AND RESPONSIBILITY. But thank goodness finals week is done! I mean: I can blog? I can blog and read and LIVE without cramming for exams. I am undergoing this wonderful sensation, and I think it’s called “not feeling [as] stressed.”

Now, without further procrastination, I move to the real point of this post: Top 10 books that I read in 2012. Here I go!

1. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
SeraphinaIf I am tired of hearing myself rave about Hartman’s debut YA fantasy novel, I know everyone else must be as well. But honestly, can anyone not expect me to shower this book in a thunderstorm of more praise? Lightning bolts are at the ready — they shoot out from eyes like killer beams and electrify anyone’s anti-Seraphina commentary to the death. (Just kidding, or not.) In short, the reason I am still very much in love with Seraphina comes from the lasting impression. It’s first-class. Top notch. Superior to everything. (Well, maybe not everything.) You get the idea, I am sure.

Hit me over the head with another YA title that not only tops Hartman’s world-building craft, but her all-around pure talent and ability. Do it. I haven’t encountered another book this year — except Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief — that has won my entire devotion quite like this. I am prepared to sell my soul for even a snippet of Dracomachia‘s draft.

2. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Between Shades of GrayWhoa, there, grab a tissue! What did you do to me, Sepetys? There is watery substance dripping down my cheeks. My eyes are leaky, broken faucets. Fix this. I think I have… tears? But I can’t stop reading.

Lina’s story punched me in the heart at every turn of every page, and it hurt. Lord, did it hurt, because I cried. Crying, I note, is not something that too many authors can make happen. Sepetys’ style flows from one sentence to the next, packed with such details, emotional sentiment, and stark pain that it all came at me in swift blows. By then it was too late to set the book down. (How could I? I have feelings for this whole story.) Every atom of me was invested in Lina’s life, her journey, and her story, so it is no surprise that I found myself reading until morning light peeped through the blinds and drowned my room. What is sleep?

I recommend that anyone read this, especially if you love young adult literature and/or historical fiction, because this is one tragic yet beautifully written book.

3. How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
How to Say Goodbye in RobotYou might say Bea is my fictional twin — teen-version me, except a thousand times cooler than I’ll ever be — and Jonah is the best friend I wish I had. The friendship these two share appears controversial based on what I’ve read by other reviewers. I observe a great deal of baffled readers who view Jonah as a ‘territorial (boy)friend,’ despite that Bea and Jonah’s relationship is strictly platonic. Sitting opposite is me, because rarely — never, actually — have I encountered something special like what these main characters share.

Boyfriend is such a stupid word. No, I’m not your boyfriend. I thought we were way beyond that. What we are cannot be described with trivial words like boyfriend and girlfriend. Even friend doesn’t come close to describing it.

But who cares about fitting into labels when you have a good, quirky book like this? It’s one book I would love to read again and find time to review, if only to share my thoughts — I certainly do have quite an attachment to it.

(If the library had not put Standiford’s novel on special display, there is an uncomfortably high chance that I would have gone the rest of my life and never learned of its existence. This likelihood disturbs me, because I first read How to Say Goodby in Robot at the very beginning of 2012, and yet… Amazingly, I still feel strong affection for both the characters and storyline. I adore every part of this book, flaws and all. The only thing I find upsetting is that I cannot convince another  human being to read this book. Why?! I am more than willing to make a surprise attack and buy it for someone.)

4. Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and BoneWoooo, everyone, it’s the Darkling! Whose real name, as Leigh Bardugo has informed via her Tumblr account, will be revealed in the final book. I pray it resembles nothing generic, like, say… Fred. I once had a terrible, fleeting crush on a boy at the ice skating rink when I was ten. That is, until I discovered his name. Hence “fleeting crush,” and yes: you are free to call me shallow, but I’d built up a full 30 minutes imagining him as a Charlie. Fred ruined everything.

Thankfully I trust Bardugo enough not to disappoint, however.

But in other Shadow & Bone news: Wow, did I ever have trouble setting this book down, and it had everything to do with characters more so than plot itself. I say this because I find the plot settles more on the predictable side — it is not difficult to see where the story ultimately leads, but I still enjoyed becoming an instant Genya fangirl (no matter where her loyalty lies) and the chemistry between characters. As a plus: Bardugo wraps the first of a trilogy well, patching the story together like a complete book. At the same time, she leaves just enough dangling details to rope us into Grisha Installment #2 —  another book of many that I am excited to read next year.

5. The Last Musketeer by Jason
The Last MusketeerWhatever it is that you are doing: STOP. Pause all current activities and find a graphic novel by Jason. (That is “Jason,” simply Jason, the pseudonym of John Arne Sæterøy.) Request it at the library, buy it from a bookseller, steal it from a friend — I do not care about your book-obtaining methods. All I care is that someone else on this planet gives this artist and his books a chance.

While I have only read a measly three graphic novels from him (the first being I Killed Adolph Hitler, which has less to do with Hitler than you’d think — that is not a bad thing!), The Last Musketeer is my favorite by far. A subtle and fair dose of good-natured humor greeted me on every page with charm. It’s impossible not to smile, at the very least.

The Last Musketeer by Jason

The Last Musketeer by Jason

6. I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly (illustrated by J.M. Ken Niimura)
I Kill Giants

I find giants. I hunt giants. I kill giants. So you’ll forgive me if ‘motivating’ a room full of losers with no self-esteem out of their hard earned money doesn’t hold much interest.

If there is one type of story I love, it is a good coming of age story and the elements that accompany it. How these stories are told — whether they stand out among the heap or blend in — depends on how the writer chooses to use those elements, to plant twists and spin originality.

I Kill Giants is another graphic novel I read and almost instantly adored. Barbara Thorson is your average Queen Misfit Extraordinaire, which may as well translate into The Greatest Giant Slayer to Exist. Defending the world from dangerous giants is a full-time job — an occupation, I add, that leaves little room for to cope with personal demons. This battle is beyond Thorson vs. Giant, as the story delves into the imagination of a troubled girl who struggles to accept what reality has in store. Bonus points: I could stare at the illustrations all day and still not get enough. (I fancy the idea of an IKG anime…)

Written  by Joe Kelly & illustrated by J.M. Ken Niimura

Written by Joe Kelly & illustrated by J.M. Ken Niimura

7. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, inspired by Siobhan Dowd’s idea, and illustrated by Jim Kay

A Monster CallsThis quickly earned a rightful spot on my favorites list, and whenever I can possibly order my thoughts in a coherent manner, I swear I will review this brilliant book. Until then, I am happy to have read it — period. Jim Kay’s illustrations are quite catching, and I’d pay for poster-size versions of his A Monster Calls artwork simply to hang on my walls! It is not only the story, however, that I can love and connect to on a person level, but I find that honesty is something to appreciate. However different the circumstances my situation are from Connor O’Malley’s, comfort lives inside these pages. This is just one example of why no one should let the “children’s book” label stop you from reading. This book is not only for children. It’s a book for anyone, of any age, who knows the grief of losing a loved one.

Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book ThiefZusak did something much worse than rip my heart out and stomp all over my emotions. No. He first staked me over and over, slowly, and willed pain waves upon my soul with every jab. Then he stitched a time bomb inside me and watched emotions explode.

Beat me all you like, Zusak. I’m an empty piñata now. (So why do I love you so much for it? I can’t wait to read I am the Messenger, which a certain lovely gal gifted me — a dozen thank yous!) The Book Thief, for me, is one of those books that genuinely leaves me speechless, because I have no idea where to begin. How do I explain what makes this book wonderful? Or why I adore it? Every speck of this book is a fantastic, and often at times emotional, experience. The reasoning? Just because it is.

9. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenI think I articulated my feelings on this book quite well when I said:

Here’s the thing: my favorite books are almost as precious to me as my cat. They’re like my adopted children, only more endearing because they aren’t germ-spewing factories that shout, cry, and scream. It’s like when someone declares the smallest of a semi-but-not-really-insult about your mother.

Oh, no, protective mother hen! I kid, though. This book is not for everyone, and I can understand why. But for whatever and all reasons, which I discuss in my disgustingly long review, I clicked with Jacob.

10. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Northanger AbbeyI have adored just about every Austen-based movie and mini-series I’ve watched. What is not surprising is that I have read very little of Austen’s novels. As part of the “Austen in August” reading challenge this summer, I got my hands on a few Austen classics: Pride & Prejudice, Persuasion, and finally: Northanger Abbey. The latter, unfortunately, is the only Austen novel I could fit into my August reading. While I do plan to read Austen’s other works, I am happy to have read and enjoyed Catherine Morland’s story. Mostly, I think I felt surprised to find myself so quickly engrossed in this “love story” for the first half of the novel. Catherine, you Tilney-infatuated book nerd! That girl has a wild imagination.

So tell me: what are your favorite books read in 2012?

18 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday #6

  1. Ahahaha I knew Seraphina and Shadow & Bone would make your list for sure! A Monster Calls made my list too :). I really need to read Between Shades of Grey, I’ve heard such good things about it. Great list Raya!

    • I feel so predictable in my choices now! Oh, I think you will really like Between Shades of Gray. It’s sad but very difficult to walk away from. Sepetys is coming out with a new novel next year, too, and I can’t wait to read it.

  2. Loved Miss Peregrine. It was on my list last year. Looking forward to the sequel, hopefully due out this next year (fingers crossed).

    I Kill Giants is really fantastic, I’m glad you read and enjoyed it. I’m going to add The Last Musketeer to my list of things to try to track down from the library. Hadn’t heard of it, or the author, but it looks and sounds like something I would enjoy.

    • Yeah, I read that the second book is due next year — I can’t wait to read it! There is also a Miss Peregrine graphic novel to be released (or maybe it already was released?), so I’ll give that a go, too.

      Jason’s comics are difficult for me not to like, and I certainly want to read more by him. I hope you enjoy his work as well!

    • One soul: neatly packaged and ready for shipment. But I am awfully excited to see what you have in store for us readers in the next book! I don’t know how I’m tolerating this wait, but it’s always a side effect of discovering new book series that I love.

  3. Seraphina and Smoke and Bone are two I hope to catch up with in the new year. Shades of Gray is incredible and I’m glad to see it made your list.

    • I admit to feeling excited but also curious to read Sepetys’ new novel that’s set to be released next year. I want to see if the style is similar to the one found in Between Shades of Gray or not — that book really packs a punch and put Ruta Sepetys on my radar.

    • I’m patiently awaiting the next Miss Peregrine book (to be released in 2013, I hear)… I only hope Riggs doesn’t release it too late into next year. The sooner, the better!

    • The book is without a doubt my number one read of this year. I loved every bit of it, and now I’m left to idle with my impatience for its sequel to come out!

  4. Congratulations for SURVIVING!! Haha :) LIFE is the main reason my blogging is so sporadic. It’s hard to juggle with 3 kids, teaching, grading, planning, and living life.

    The Book Thief made me feel ALL THE THINGS!! Have you listening to the audio? It’s so fabulous.
    I have the 2nd Shadow and Bone book from a conference, so I need to read book 1 over Christmas break. Hopefully you can relax and enjoy your break!

    • Oh, gosh, thanks! I felt desperate for an actual school-break (despite having the whole summer off, ha — I guess I wasn’t ready to go back). I can’t even begin to imagine life with one kid, but three? You certainly have the workload, it seems.

      (And for the record: you have a copy of Shadow & Bones sequel? I’m jealous! I was ready for book 2 the instant I finished book 1! I hope you enjoy both reads (: )

      I haven’t tried The Book Thief‘s audio, but now that you mention it I’m curious. I should check it out sometime with the audio version of A Monster Calls — I heard Jason Isaacs does a brilliant narration!

    • I hope you enjoy it! The entire world that Hartman built is something to appreciate, I think — that, and the brilliant writing, set it apart from my other reads this year.

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