Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Fourth Annual Book Oscars, 2013 Edition, Honoring the Best Reads of 2012

It's officially that time of year again! Dust off your stiletto heels and tuxedo's because it's the 4th annual Book Oscars!

That's right, I once again turn my nose up at the traditional best of, New Years lists and announce my 2012 best reads in the glitziest way possible- Academy Awards style.  So expect a long show full of style faux pas, streakers and a lack of food for all those nominated. The rules are the same as always, I had to have read it in 2012 (not necessarily a 2012 release) and it couldn't be a re-read of an old favorite to qualify. Feel free to throw tomatoes if you don't agree.

2012 is full of ties, due to the fact it was one of THE BEST reading years I've ever had the privilege of enjoying.  Picking just one book for many of the categories was beyond impossible without overlooking many other sublime examples.

Best Costumes

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina was many things, one of them being an incredible debut for Rachel Hartman in 2012.  Lovingly rendered, Hartman made every part of her world vivid and well described, from instruments right up to the dragons and their politics. Costumes were no exception.  Bravo for a YA novel lacking in standard uniforms of Jeans and T-shirts, but an even bigger bravo for detailing actual period dress in a funny and intriguing way.

Best Visual Effects
Pure, by Julianne Baggot

One of the most unique dystopian/post apocalyptic stories I've read in awhile, Pure was loaded with the most incredible imagery and fantastic imaginings of a world that's been devastated by nuclear warfare.  Whether it was the impurities in the people themselves, from the fusing of inanimate objects (like Pressia's doll hand), the fusings of humans to each other (like Helmud and El Capitan), or the horrors of her world, Dusts and the Dome, Pure couldn't be more richly visual if it was a film (although it's going to be, a film that is).

Best Art Direction

Shadow and Bone was the whole package, and all of it was pretty- from the cover, to Keith Thompson's stunning art work on the map, but most of all, Bardugo paints a fantasy world in layers and dimension not often seen in books.  The culture of Grisha's against the back drop of war, Bardugo manages to impart culture, history and vivid imagery in every line she writes. A lush book that can be best described as epic and sweeping, Shadow and Bone is a smorgasbord for the senses.

A category that was full of impressive contenders, Best Art Direction saw a tie between Bardugo's Shadow and Bone and Taylors Days of Blood and Starlight.

After The Daughter of Smoke and Bone won Best Book for 2012, I expected nothing less than another spectacular part in Taylors three part series, however she managed to once again blow my expectations out of the water.  This story delves much further into Karou and Akiva's complex past in Eretz, and the astounding world she weaves for her readers is both lyrical and magical, while simultaneously being crushingly sad.  The real genius is how she manages to weave it our world though. 

Best Scary Read
Beautiful Lies, by Jessica Warman
The Diviners, by Libba Bray

Another tie! I told you it was an incredibly great year for reading.  These two books were equally fantastic but incredibly different, so different in fact, it seems bizarre to house them in the same category.  However they were the two scariest stories I read all year, in their own way.

Beautiful Lies was a spine tingling thriller full of mysterious twists that had my heart racing from the moment I started to read.  To say it was one of it kind in the YA world would be an understatement, but I haven't read Warman's other YA books yet, so maybe I've just been missing all the good stuff.

The Diviners was an unexpected romp through history, fun and horror.  I didn't see the horror coming, and it gave me the creepy crawlies for days.  Picture me tip toeing to the bathroom at night trying not to scream when one of the fuzzy kids brushed by.  Yeah, that.  If there is a scarier villain in YA then John Hobbes, I'm not sure who it is.  Throw in some cults, the KKK and other goodies and The Diviners was swimming in a soup of otherworldly/historically accurate scary.  A mean combination.

Best Funny Read
Etiquette for an Apocalypse, by Anne Mendel

Proof that you're missing out if you don't dive into the indies and self published authors from time to time, Etiquette for an Apocalypse was the funniest fiction book I've read all year.  A breath of fresh air in the post-apocalyptic genre, Mendel takes a stab at what it's like to be the average middle income family when everything falls apart.  There's nutella, marriage issues, and a heroine I can't imagine not loving.  Seriously, this is likely the book you missed out on last year, and you don't want to have.

Best Non-Fiction
Let's Pretend This Never Happened (a mostly true memoir), by Jenny Lawson (the blogess)

Speaking of funny, can I just say? This book made me laugh on the day I realised that my year had degenerated so badly that I was going to be quarantined at home for 4 weeks with Shingles.  And they really hurt people, but I laughed so much that day I didn't even care.  A wickedly funny book, that also has great heart, Jenny Lawson has written a story anyone can relate to, even if your father isn't a taxidermist, your background isn't poor and you don't have a love for strange vintage taxidermy hybrids like a baby Pegasus.

Best Supporting Actress
Mel, The Farm, by Emily McKay

She's the autistic sister of the main character, and the chapters in her voice are one of the most intriguing bits of fiction I've ever read.  What's more the revelations her disability has on the story, about how others relate to her and what she brings to any given situation is enriching and makes you think about autism in a very different way. McKay made me stop and wonder, for the first time ever, why it was I had never read an autistic character before.

Best Supporting Actor
The Darkling, Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo
Issac, The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
Orma, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
A three way tie, I know, it's totally cheating.  But it's my Book Oscars and I'll do it if I want to, so there. Pfft!

The Darkling was one of my all time favorite villains. I loved him.  I adored his mystery, his power, his ruthlessness, his possible vulnerabilities (or was that all a scam?!), and of course his passion with Alina.  To say I can't wait for book two for more Darkling would be an understatement of magnificent proportions.

In a story filled with captivating and devastating characters, Issac stole the show for me in The Fault in Our Stars.  His quest for love, his broken heart that trumps going blind, his endless disgust for support group and his support for Hazel and Augustus were all things that made him a magnificent side character.  I could read a whole other book just about Issac.

A dragon in the guise of a man, Orma had my heart from his very first appearance in Seraphina, but as the story catches steam and you discover more of the politics between Dragon's and Humans Orma and his quirks takes on all new meaning. In a book filled with enchanting characters, Orma stole the show, and that's saying something.

Best Writer
For the first time ever I'm splitting this category in two. Best Debut Writer and Best Returning Writer, since the more I think about it, the more impressed I am with Debut authors that can pull their weight with the seasoned pros.
        Best Debut Writer
Rachel Hartman- Seraphina
Sweeping story, complex politics, a fantasy world that felt fresh and new, and incredible writing skills, Rachel Hartman left me in stunned disbelief that Seraphina was her first published novel. I fell in love with every aspect of her story, and if I could read an endless supply of Seraphina quality books I would be a very, very happy reader.

       Best Returning Writer
Robin Wasserman- The Book of Blood and Shadows
After reading The Book of Blood and Shadows I was horrified to realize this was Wasserman's fourth book and somehow I had been missing out on her mad writing skills for years.  A complex plot, riddled with ancient history, cults and incredibly intelligent dialogue on religion, this was a YA story with substance.  Think Dan Brown for YA, but better, and you'll be getting close.  One of those books you want to start all over again the minute you read the last page.

Best Actor
Victor- Such Wicked Intent and This Dark Endeavour, by Kenneth Oppel

Tragically flawed, and constantly making you wonder if he's the good guy or the bad guy, Victor Frankenstein , in Oppels retelling, has depth and a fascinating mix of dark and light.  In a genre that rarely has male protagonists, Oppel has managed to write one of the best. Hopefully he'll inspire others.

Best Actress
Allison- The Immortal Rules, by Julie Kagawa

Nuanced, deeply moving, smart, funny, all of these things pale for me when it comes to a kick-ass heroine. I LOVE a kick-ass girl in a story, especially when it's hard won.  Allison is the perfect example of the ideal kick-ass heroine, to be what she is, she's had to become the pariah of society and yet she manages to not become completely feral and retains some of her humanity. And she still kicks ass.  This makes her relationship with Zeke a total joy as well, since for once its the boy character that's totally dependent.  I am so looking forward to more Allison in part two The Eternity Cure.

Best Book
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

This was a fantastically difficult choice that came down to one factor, of all the books I had read in 2012, if there was one that wasn't on the hubbies radar that I could pick for him to read, which would it be?  Turns out it was Code Name Verity.
Thoughtful, surprising, heartbreaking and insightful, Code Name Verity was one of several books this year that left me thinking for a long time after.  But one of my absolute favorite parts about the story is the lack of love story.  This is an epic tale of friendship, and it reads like a love poem to the closest friends you may ever have.

And that's a wrap! If you haven't read all these books you're missing out, seriously, seriously missing out. So you know, peer pressure all the way to your local bookstore.

In the event you want check out previous years winners as well,  then make sure to check out the Book Oscars 2010, 2011, and 2012


  1. Furiously blushing. I'd like to thank the Academy...of you.

  2. Since it's always good to follow in the footsteps of the bloggess ... I too would like to thank the Academy. ... And also Mel for being such a fun character to write.

  3. I loved a lot of these books. Especially Jenny Lawsons.

  4. Very right choose for Mel (The Farm - Emily McKay) as The Best Supporting Actress, yes certainly she is a great character!