Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Slut Awards - Willow's picks.

2012 came and now it's headed out. The year is glancing back over its shoulder at us and giving a wave, and I imagine a smirk, because it didn't end the world. No zombies or angels, and not one vampire. 2012 was trying and exhausting, but like any book worthy of my shelf, it tested and its characters, who maybe had never even considered themselves all that tough, stood up as best they could and best of all? They fell into epic loves.

Here's to the year that didn't break us and to the books that are overcrowding both my here on the ground made of wood and nails shelves and the cloud ones. Because it's about to be 2013, you guys, and while we may not have those hoverboards McFly promised us yet, we do have shelves in clouds and that's pretty magical.

Here is my list of the new discoveries, the ones I finally read, the recommendations that turned into obsessions and the book that carved its' name onto my soul.

(I'll show you the scars.)

Magic Bites: Special EditionThe Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews
At the start of the year I was getting paid to shelve books, and during one of those afternoons I came across a stack of the first four books in this series. Scrolling around GR, and different blog sites, meant I'd heard of the series, especially when I was looking for books like other series I'd loved like the Night Huntress books. So I took them home and decided to take a stab, and now am a bonafide fan girl. There's just something about the series as a whole, but especially Kate, that works so much better than most everything else out there in this genre. Maybe it's the husband and wife team who write the books, but it's the perfect blend of funny, sexy, crazy and magic. The chemistry between not only the love interests, but the people fighting alongside each other in this post-shift world will keep me desperate for the next book in 2013.
Yes, and Curran. God.

Flat-Out LoveFlat-Out Love by Jessica Park
Here is the magic of a Kindle find. Of not knowing, but taking a chance. Unknowingly to me, this was my first real stab at what's being considered New Adult simply by having the protagonists in college, and the introspective first-person angst coveted by many a YA. Unless you count the Jessica Darling series from what now seems like a million years ago, and you should consider them.
Here you have a strong, whip-smart, genuinely funny girl finding herself in what has to be the set up for a romantic comedy situation, and it's so much more. It is funny, and it is romantic, but it's also heartbreaking and thoughtful and written so well. It's the mystery of the family Julie finds herself in, it's the huge role Facebook plays in our everyday lives, and it's Matt with his geeky shirts and incredible loyalty. This one is sweet and just so, so good.

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This is the book that started Paper Boyfriends and I almost can't even talk about it. I don't know what I was expecting, having heard different reviews and comparisons, but when I finally got down to reading it was immediate. Instantaneous. It spoke to the wide-eyed kid, and it whispered to the adult who still thinks maybe, just maybe. The love story between Marco and Celia had the perfect amount of swoon and it flowed into these first person accounts of the wispy, chocolate, sparkling magic of a midnight circus with statues that come to life, women who control fire and signs that tell you to come closer.

EasyEasy by Tammara Webber
If someone were to ask me, "What the hell is this New Adult crap? What's the difference?" I would hand them this book. Writing about those gap years between high school and grown up life isn't just an excuse to write swoony sex with swoony boys. This whole New Adult movement can be about so much. Think about those years. Think about the choices, the angst, the friendships, the moments that shape us. It sounds like a graduation speech, but there's a reason they say the friends you make in college are the ones you'll keep. Because there's something to that moment in our lives. And we want to read books about it whether we're there, past it, or looking toward it. And Easy exemplifies that moment. The heartbreak was gutting, the humor was pitch perfect. And of course swoony sex with a dark, artsy type.
And banter, and swooning, and I could keep going the rest of the post just about this one.

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)Angelfall by Susan Ee
If this book wasn't on your radar in 2012, make that happen in 2013. This was another one of those amazing finds Pen-rye-n e-shoved at me (and picked up a nickname), and I remember shaking my Kindle wanting to get the words into my eyes faster. Here is another end of the world story, but it's always all in the telling. We've got angels who have turned on the masses, people trying to survive, and there in the center is a girl hell bent on getting her paralyzed sister back the angels who snatched her. She just has to deal with the snarky angel boy she saved and who is leading her to the den of sinning cherubs. You've got your swoon, your action, your plot twists, and your strong as hell girl who is so human that she cuts you with it. And all you want is more, and this is a sequel we're dying a little bit more every day for.

On Dublin Street (On Dublin Street, #1)On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
Here is the story of a twentysomething girl meeting a super hot guy who runs a business and has some serious money. Maybe he's got some emotional baggage, and maybe he's everything she can't stop thinking about, and maybe he's going to bang it out with her, and maybe....See, this is where I stop and say that while yes there is super hot sex happening here and light the pages on fire chemistry, Joss tells her story and never once does she let it become about anything other than her growth. So turn the focus to the self, my ladies. She is a tough, damaged, beautiful girl and this sexy, lovely story is reminiscent of a really well-told coming of age story.

Naked in Death (In Death, #1)The In Death Series by J.D. Robb
This was the year I finally picked up a J.D. Robb book. There's just SO many, and I'd see them and I'd wonder and then I'd shelve them and then finally I started one.
I'm about twelve into the series of 800 books, and I love them so hard. I love Eve in a way I don't love many protagonists. She's pissy and loyal and she's been broken to the point most people couldn't come back from, but now she's Law and Order and she's beating the shit out of bad guys, being the surly, but indulgent best friend to her Lady Gaga of a bestie, and she's going to bed with Roarke. Does he have a first name? Do we care? Listen, each book somehow seems to build on what's already in place and it gets better and stronger and you become more involved. Each book so far has been its own murder mystery wrapping up nicely at the end, and getting through it with people you know so well is a perfect episodic escape.

Her Best Worst MistakeHer Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry
This was effervescent. It was chemistry and sparks and heat and everything I search for in a contemporary romance, because it took these characters and went further, surprising me with the depth of emotion without having to lean on any dramatic miscommunication trope. This is simply the story of two people falling for each other in such a real, lovely and electric way. Two people who've been tolerating the other because of the person they have in common, but it only takes that one misstep, that one caught look, that one push to send them over the edge. This is why I love this genre, why I got hooked on it so many years ago, and Sarah Mayberry romanced that fan back out of me.

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Insurgent by Veronica Roth
This is another series I finally got around to reading thanks to Pen-rye-n. You see it all over the place, and its following is a loyal, intense one.
And for good reason.
These books are sharp. They don't play around, but they also don't skimp on emotional turmoil, believable friendships in the face of the end of their society, and a girl declaring herself as she stabs people, jumps off trains, and gets tattoos on her lunch break. It's a crazy world, but the writing never takes it to a place that makes it about simply shocking you. It will, but when it does your heart will be so tight in its grip you'll jump into the chasm of death willingly after a girl you'd love in any story even without this level of drama. Oh, did I mention there's a boy named Four? And that he's named that because he only has four fears? It's drama, it's non-stop action, and it's two people to ship the hell out of. The next book is going to kill me.

WallbangerWallbanger by Alice Clayton
This was a fantastic find for me. I was having flashbacks to Jennifer Crusie and I don't think I can give a higher compliment to someone who writes contemporary romance that is actually funny. It was able to be both sexy and hilarious without letting one take away from the other. I wanted to find out about the sexy, smirking Wallbanger as much as I wanted to sit down for breakfast with Caroline and her friends. The texts between everyone was conversational comedy perfection, and killed me a little it was so good. I was surprised by the turns in Simon and Caroline's relationship, but I'm so glad that it didn't just become the expected Friends with Benefits thing. They stopped and tried to figure this thing out, and it was sort of achingly sweet, but still with the bite of their sarcastic friendship. Simon is a loyal, world traveling stud who means well and she's hilarious and gorgeous and has so much spark and here is a really fantastic romantic comedy that does not fade to black.

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Again, Pen-rye-n led me to the promised land with a recommendation she literally had to text me about middle of the page.
Mid-sentence, even.
People like to type LOL at each other all the time, but literally, I'm shaking you when I say I LOLed the crap out of this book. From the get go, Kami's head is a fantastic place to be. The writing is smooth and the pacing is perfect and before you know it you're in an elevator with the boy whose voice has been in Kami's head her entire life and YOU JUST WANT TO DIE. A great group of characters surround them, each making themselves necessary. It's so good, and it's real and lovely and magic and I want to climb into their window, and I don't know. Hang out or something. Listen, I need this sequel. I need it today.

The Bronze Horseman (Tatiana and Alexander, #1)The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
The movie Les Miserables just came out in theaters, and for the sake of honesty, let's just say I've never seen a production of it. Or read the book. But I'm hearing people talk about it, and how they're sitting there in the theater, and they're just dying, even knowing what's going to happen, and they're singing along, and it's this experience of this story that is carved so deep into their bones.
The Bronze Horseman is my Les Mis.
I'll hear a Russian accent and I'll wonder how Alexander's voice sounded when he talked to Tatiana. How he managed it around his American one. I think of them all the time. I can't look at a bench without wanting to cry, but it's such a good cry. They're tucked so deep into my chest, and sometimes I'll just check the bookshelf to look at the covers. I die a little still when I think of the big moments, the goodbyes, the finding, the freezing cold and I know what every Les Mis fan is feeling in that movie theater, and I give them a fangirl nod.

Come on, 2013. Give us new characters to ship, stories to gut us then stand up and cheer, romances that will make us shriek and swoon and deliver those desperately anticipated sequels.

Thanks ever so much for the good times, 2012, but you keep on heading out the door.

Make sure to read Pen-rye-n's picks! She is my dealer and everything.


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