Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012: Non-Contemps

Rounding out my favorites of 2012 are the Non-Contemps, which I know isn't a great way to classify them but considering most of what I did read this year was contemp, this includes that is not, well, straight contemp. So dystopian, paranormal, fantasy, speculative... all of that, is thrown in here, and there are my top picks from them:

12. A Touch Morbid by Leah Clifford: These books are dark and twisted and brilliantly plotted. Also, Jarrod is amazing. And okay I admit, I'm pretty hot for Luke too. Don't judge. But this entire world, the way the Sliders are blended into an otherwise normal, contemp setting, how they are affected and can affect... it all just culminates into awesome.

11. Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins: This was an awesome ending to a fun trilogy, without leaving me feeling let down. Obviously, I can't say why I liked the ending of this so much, but I did. I thought it was perfect and beautifully done. This book has the same humor and life as the first two, yet holds the darker stuff with it. Also, Archer. Yay.

10. Endlessly by Kiersten White: I adore this series, and the ending definitely held up to that. The entire plot, both for this book and the overall series, is so well plotted, so subtly executed at times, it honestly amazes me. Evie has her darker moments, yet she still pushes through, and she figures it out. She's such a great character, so open even with the perky humor.

9. Hidden by Sophie Jordan: Another fabulous ending to a series I totally love. With some new characters introduced, and quite a few twists thrown in, this one had me hooked. As with the previous books, I felt so much for all the characters, and couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I love the way this one ended, love where things were left for readers. While I certainly want more in this world simply because I love it, I'm also content as is.

8. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: Confession - I am not a big fan of high fantasy. It's just not me for me, the girl who reads straight contemp more than anything, and the gritty, painful ones at that. But this one had me intrigued, and once I started in on it, had me totally captivated. I love the world, the writing, the characters. I love the challenges Calaena faces, both internally and physically. I love her determination, her softness. I love the romantic elements in this one, that doesn't override everything else. Basically, I just completely love this book and am dying for the next one.

7. Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton: This book amazed me. I loved Angelfire, but this one takes things to a new level, makes them deeper, a little darker. Courtney didn't hold back in this one. It had all the elements I love in a book - strong characterization, solid writing, and smooth pacing. My heart broke, I laughed out loud, and I might have yelled at a few characters.

6. A Want so Wicked by Suzanne Young: As much as I loved A Need so Beautiful, this one left me utterly stunned. The themes and elements pulled in, mixed with the strong writing, as well as the darkness throughout this one, and I was a sucker from the start. Not to mention, Harlin is one of my favorite boys ever, but add in the new boy in this one, and I adore and love and highly recommend this book.

5. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers: Technically, this is a zombie book, but to me, in a lot of ways, the zombies are just a mechanism for the rest of the story. Truly, I see this one as a girl who wants to die, forced into a situation where she's surrounded by people literally fighting for her life. The amazing characterization I've always loved with Courtney thrives in this one, as does the emotions and the intensity. I cannot accurately explain all the little nuances that made me freak over this book.

4. Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake: I love Cas. I love Anna. I love Kendare's writing. I love this story. Unpredictable, emotional, sweet and freaky, this one has it all. Cas cracks me up, yet he isn't always jokes and laughs. He knows when things are serious, and when he can take a breather. But what got me the most in this one is the romance angle, the love between the pair... and all that happens. I ached with this one, I took a few hard swallows. I hurt for the characters. But this is absolutely a book I will reread, and love every page of it.

3. Tempest by Julie Cross: The intricacy and brilliance of this one astounds me. And hurts my brain. Also, I love Jackson. He's that guy who isn't all that serious when it comes to relationships, who doesn't necessarily treat girls all that great, at least at first. But man does that change, and man do his feelings for Holly kind of wreck me at times. His growth in this book is amazing, without making me feel like he has no more room to grow in the next ones. Then there's the plot, well wrapped up within this book while still leaving so many questions for what's to come.

2. Fracture by Megan Miranda: I picked this one up, skimmed the first chapter, honestly not really WANTING to like it because of a character name. But I was hooked from chapter one, and I did nothing for the next few hours until I was done. This book took me by storm, and even over a year later, I still remember specifics from it. I love the brain stuff mixed in, but more so, I love the emotional atmosphere of this one. I could not stop thinking about these characters when I was done, and my heart ached physically for so much of the book. I adore this one, for so many reasons.

1.Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi: This book falls in the category of Books Kari Wishes She Were Able to Write (But Can't). It is brilliant, intricate, stunning. It brings you two characters who are flawed, who are not always totally likeable... characters I actually totally love. It has this romance that sneaks up without you noticing it. It has this huge elements woven between some smaller ones, letting more subtle ones peak through. There's twists and turns, and an utterly amazingly built world. Truly, this one of the best books I've ever read, and I kind of want to just crawl into Veronica's brain and live there.

Best of 2012: Adult Romance

I've gotten really into adult romances this year, at least in the last few months. While the bulk of what I read is still largely YA, I've been mixing in romances between them more and more. Don't even ask me why I waited so long to get into them, I can't really say. But here's the ones, of what I did read, that stood out the most.

10. Waking Up Married by Mira Lynn Kelly:I love the concept of this one. It had such a unique feel, so different and flirty and fun. Certainly a unusual sort of take on marriage and relationships, and challenging both characters in some interesting ways, I was totally into this one. With a fun mix of flirting and teasing, with some steamier stuff thrown in, and still centered very much on what both characters ultimately need for themselves, this had a lot of different elements thrown in.

9. All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey: Boys loves girl. Girl marries someone else. Girl moves back home later. Yep. This is one of those set ups I love, and it had all the right mix of family drama, character fears, and just going for it. Ryan was his own sort of angsty in this one, and man did I melt for it.

8. No Flowers Required by Cari Quinn: I freaking love the concept in this one. Woman determined to keep her independent flower shop going, while falling in love with the guy trying to take it away from her? Yes please. What's better, is the play out was so worth it. Yeah, I got mad at the guy for hiding who he really was so long, but I also go it too. Quinn knows what she's doing when she throws these two together, testing them in some awesome ways, but giving readers plenty of fun too.

7. Yours at Midnight by Robin Bielman: This is the perfect New Year's read. It has that romance of the season feel to it, mixed with bigger things and deeper feelings. And considering Lyric and Quinn not only grew up together, but have definitely had a night together before, what happens in this one is an unexpected and belated fall out. But man is it good, and has that nice mix of the characters being scared and unsure, with wanting more.

6. Believe It or Not by Tawna Fenske:Quirky and funny and hilarious. I can't even accurately describe this one, other than to say it will have you laughing out loud, even while it turns you on. Tawna is seriously a master at sexual tension and chemistry, leading you on... and on... before giving you a well worth it play out. With a romance that sizzles, yet isn't easy to work out either, this one had the right mix of unease and fun.

5. Down for the Count by Christine Bell: Hot. That's kind of the main thing I have to describe this one. But also, I am a sucker for an unrequited love kind of storyline, and when both characters already had feelings before they were actually allowed to explore them... well, I am usually enamored. And this one didn't disappoint.

4. Ashes and Wine by Taryn Elliott: Would you like a side of tears with your lust? Then this is one you need to check out. I felt so much for both characters, and got so invested in this story I was actually sort of surprised when it was over. There is a pretty big emotional element to this one, mixed with great sexual tension and just the right amount of sweetness.

3. Taking a Shot by Jaci Burton: In the romance world, this is my favorite series. Hot jocks? Take the world on their own women? Yes please. And this one didn't at all disappoint. The chemistry between Jenna and Tyler was it's own kind of spicy, but with the usual Riley family elements mixed in, and the way the characters are so fleshed out, this one had me hooked and panting for more.

2. Wallbanger by Alice Clayton: This one squeaked in here at the last minute, since I finished it yesterday. But this book is hilarious, so full of witty banter, great innuendo, but still has a really interesting story mixed in. While it doesn't hit into deeper stuff as much, it still fleshes out the characters really well and lets you really get to know them. Mostly, though, I just loved the voice and wit and fun that was this one. Not to mention, it's the best title ever.

1. One Night With a Hero by Laura Kaye: Apart from how ridiculously hot this one is, what I love the most about is not what you'd expect in a romance... but it's how at least for a little bit, I actually hated Brady. But I also understood him, and felt for him. Dude's got serious anger and resentment issues, and man do they get tackled in this one. This book is the best of both worlds - hot and sexy, and emotional and painful.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012: YA Contemporary

I read a ton of books this year, most of them contemporary. I branched out into some more adult stuff this year, especially romances, but at least with YA, I stayed very largely in the contemporary section. Which made picking this list insanely challenging, because wow did I totally love so, so many books I read. Still, including the 2012 contemp releases I read as ARCs in 2011, here's my top picks of the year. And while I intended to pick 12... it was too hard. So here's 15. You know, three to grow on?

15. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson: Heartbreaking and beautiful, this is a grief novel folded into a finding yourself concept with a sweet romance around the edges. There is something so honest about this one, so highly emotional and engaging. Add in the strong family component, and this one is breathtaking.

14. Burning Blue by Paul Griffin: The plotting in this is brilliant, but more so, I loved the main character and the narration. This is a thriller mystery mixed with an across the tracks style romance, with two characters who seem ill-fitted for more reasons than their social standing, yet it works so, so well.

13. Never Enough by Denise Jaden: I love this one for all the issues it covers, without being obvious about covering them. From body image and self esteem, to first love and other firsts, this one is so relatable and endearing. It's one of those books readers will find parts of themselves in, no matter what, and it's a book that left me stunned.

12. Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf: This one amazed me with the potency and layers, and it's intensity. While there are some secrets kept for later, much is laid out from the start and built from there. Mixing a few different elements, and having a high emotional impact, this one is easily on my favorites shelf.

11. Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols: This one wins for my favorite Jennifer Echols book so far, which is saying something. But Leah is an amazing character, and the feel of this one was so different from much of what's out there. From her pilot status to the back story and other elements mixed in, and the seriously hot, sizzling off the pages romance and tension, this one has all the things I love in a book.

10. Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie: This one wins, first and foremost, for the voice. There is something so immediate and so affecting about the way it's written, and so very obviously teenage boy but also... THIS teenage boy. The anger, the confusion, the hurt. It's all there, along with a host of other things. There's some raw truths to this one, as well, and it's one of those books that challenges your way of thinking.

9. Butter by Erin Jade Lange: For all the ways I love when a book eviscerates me, I love just as much when one can tackle some rough issues with grace and humor, and this is one of those. Butter is a witty, fun character, yet he also is far from perfect and not just because of the weight issue. There is something so painful about his mindset at times, and even the premise of this one is just downright heartbreaking. I connected hard to this book, and it left me feeling all sorts of things in the end, even if the story had me laughing out loud constantly.

8. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry: Holy hot kisses. This book has some of the Best. Kisses. Ever. But more so, I adore Echo and Noah. They each have their own intense, heartbreaking, and amazingly well done stories, and adding to it is as how those stories start to weave together. With great writing and strong voice, set alongside all the heat of their budding relationship and the pain each brings along as well, there is a hard hitting but fabulous must read.

7. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour: This one of those books that, in truth, I can't accurately explain all the ways I love it so much. It's the voice, the way Colby is so obviously boy and yet somehow not, somehow more emotional, more feeling, more softened. It's Colby himself, the way he sees things, the hurts he feels, the mistakes he makes. And it's the story, the trials and the mishaps and the sweetness and the fun. This book is so many levels of Kari perfection wrapped into one beautifully scripted story.

6. Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos: Unfortunately, the biggest reason I adore this book would be a spoiler. But suffice it to say it's in the ending and the journey to it. This book isn't just about the effects on the rest of the family when someone falls into drugs, yet so much centers back to that as well. There's romance without really seeming like a romance. There's pain and hurt and confusion, morphed into an awkward understanding without making the hurt go away. This one is one of those books that says so much in such a short time, and kept me thinking about it for weeks after I was done.

5. If I  Lie by Corrine Jackson: Again, one of the main things I love is related to the ending, but Quinn is one of the strongest, most well done characters I've read, and this entire book had me hooked. It is so intensely emotional, so engaging from the start. Throwing some pretty big questions at the reader, this is also one of those books that challenges you, and stays with you long after you're done.

4. Live Through This by Mindi Scott: This book captivated me from the first time I've read it, and while I admit I did beta read this one, that isn't why it's on this list. Truly, this book got to me, enamored me. More than anything, I love the gray areas this one explores, how abuse maybe doesn't always look like abuse, how sometimes it's not just shame or even a sense of deserving that keeps someone silent. But on top of that, I love how even with what's going on in private, the rougher things Coley is dealing with, she's not shut down by it. She still has problems with her friends, she's still falling for an adorkable and sweet boy. She's still just a normal teenage girl on the outside. And somehow, as the story progresses, all that is mixed up, tested and messed with, and the end result is a book that left me gutted without me noticing the knife ever slipping in.

3. 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues: This book broke me. Both times I read it. I felt so, so much for these characters, loved and hated them. Wanting them to somehow get past all that's happened. But Jake, especially, got in my head. He is such a broken mess, so lost and unsure and damaged. And this book is so honest, so realistic, that things are far from perfect and happy in the end. There is so much in this book, both on the pages and between the lines, and add in how all three POV's weave together, and this book is breathtaking and stunning and awing.

2. In Honor by Jessi Kirby: I'm going to be honest and say Rusty is a huge part of my intense love for this book. He is everything I love in a book character. Broken, messy, cocky and kind of a jerk on the outside, mushy and sweet on the inside. He doesn't in any way have his crap together, he doesn't even really know how to go about getting it together. But he's still, inside, a good guy. He's caring, and he's thoughtful. And the way Honor brings that out of him, but more so the things he brings out in her, the way they both handle their grief, sometimes in some pretty heartbreaking ways, just got to me. This is a book I've read 3 times, and one I'll read several more. It's stunningly written, and has such an impacting story even without it being a long book.

1. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller: This is basically the epitome of a perfect Kari book. Absolutely amazing male POV. A guy who is hard on the outside, mushy on the inside. A guy who has this incredible sense of loyalty and honor, yet is his own kind of lost and unsure. Then there's the romance, a slow burn yet not lacking heat at all. A girl I admittedly have a girl crush on, who can hold her own yet isn't overbearing. A story that is, in the end, about just trying to figure things out and work through some crap without having to walk away with everything perfectly lined up. And more. There is so much in this book, so many levels and layers and emotions and feelings. Cute mixed with pain, humor mixed with honesty. I adore this book, for these and probably a million other reasons.

So those are my top contemp picks of 2012. What are some of yours?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of 2012: Female Characters

As much as I love boys, especially the melty ones, a fabulously done female character can totally get me just as much in a book. So after much debate, I've finally narrowed down my top picks for best female characters of the year. Once again, these are from books released in 2012 only, and characters I've met for the first time.

12. Clementine (Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker): Clem got to me in large part because she is such a mess, with this kind of horrible view of herself at the start of the book because of things that have happened. She is so relatable, so real, and just so engaging. She's strong underneath it all, yet she's not at all invincible.

11. Hudson (Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler): First, she is a brilliant cupcake maker. Who doesn't love someone who can create awesome cupcakes? Second, she's hilariously awkward with boys. But also, she's a mess, and I like messy people. And beyond that, she is seriously selfish and jerkish at times and yet, I so got her, I so felt for her, and I so rooted for her. And I think sometimes people have to be horrible to those around them, to get themselves out the hole they're down in, and that was Hudson. And I loved her every step of the way.

10. Dani (All These Lives by Sarah Wylie): This girl is a spitfire, and just comes out life with everything she has. Even it's dangerous. Even if it's not quite right or normal. Add in how much she loves her sister, the guilt she feels at simply being the healthy one, and all the ways she tries to make things as okay as she can, and Dani is that girl who is well on her way to figuring things out, even if she's not there just yet.

9. Nikki (Everneath by Brodi Ashton): This one's hard to accurately explain, beyond just I love this girl. Partly because of the literally emotionless state she's in when she returns, but also because of how she pulls herself back together, and doesn't shy away from the mistakes she's made.

8. Mia (Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt): For starters, anyone who can beat cancer is a winner in my book. But more so, with Mia, what makes me love and appreciate her is how she handles the entire process... and all the ways she messes up on the way. From romance to her family to how she hides the whole situation, she's one of those girls who is really only making things worse, yet once it crashes down, she doesn't actually give up. Even if she wants to.

7. Rose (Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett): Rose is one of the most firecracker characters I've read. She's angry, she's hurt, she's confused. She is such a mess. She also knows when to fight, and when to stand back. And with all this, she's also not quite ready to grow up, at least not as quickly as her friends. She's young and a bit naive, yet she also isn't totally blind either. Truly, words can't even capture all the ways this girl got in my head and my heart, but she's certainly earned her spot.

6. Bria (Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard): Throughout this entire book, Bria pushes herself out of her usual boundaries. She tests herself in so many ways, and while yes, Rowan and Starling push some of it, much of it comes from herself. She doesn't give up, even when she hits plenty of hurdles, and she just has such a huge amount of internal strength, I couldn't help but adore her.

5. Loann (Never Enough by Denise Jaden): Loann is one of those characters I saw at least some parts of myself in... and not necessarily parts I'm always happy with. I connected to her, though, in some big ways. She's insecure, not just about her body though that is part of it, but with other things as well. She's innocent and naive in some ways, but so strong in others. She messes up, but she keeps going. And even though she's always felt sort of second best to her sister, her love for her sister shines so much.

4. Leah (Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols): Determined and fiery. Those are the two main words I'd use to describe Leah. Her home life is horrible, her situation less than ideal. But she will make it on her own, she will get out of the trailer she lives in, she will make something of herself in life. Though she's had to grow up too fast, she is headstrong in that self-motivated way, and she is a girl who captivated me.

3. Calaena (Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas): She's an assassin, so I don't know that I really need to say more. But just in case, I also love her fierceness. Calaena is afraid of things, but she doesn't let it hold her back. She doesn't let someone intimidate her, either. And she doesn't hold back when it comes to what she wants. She is such a stunningly done character, and someone who doesn't need a guy or anyone else to support her, yet she also isn't going to completely turn away from the softer parts of herself either.

2. Amelia (The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez): Amelia has an almost backwards sort of progression in the book. She starts out selfless almost to a flaw, especially when it comes to her sister, but turns seriously selfish as things progress, particularly as she struggles to understand her sister more. Things then progress beyond that, and she almost comes full circle, except it's a different sort of selfless, the kind that doesn't damage her in the process. And through it all, there is still this strength to her, this drive, that the pain and confusion can't wipe out.

1. Quinn (If I Lie by Corrine Jackson): Quinn is easily one of the strongest characters I've read this year. Her situation is awful, with an entire town turned against her, her own father so angry at her, and almost no one to turn to. She's harboring some big and painful secrets, and is so torn between protecting the person they effect, or herself. She doesn't take any of it lightly, and though she suffers so much in the process, there is still just something so, so endearing, so empowering, about her that she will always stand out in my mind.

So there's the female characters who really stood out for me this year. What are some of your picks?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best of 2012: Male Characters

2012 has been an amazing year in books... and in book boys. So naturally, as I started my Best of 2012 lists, I'm kicking it off with my favorite boys. And because this is always incredibly hard for me to do, I'm doing only guys I've met in a book for the first time, so sequels, etc, are not included. Maybe in January, I'll do an overall favorite boys list but for now... here's the 2012 boys who turned me... into mush. Yeah. Mush. We'll go with that.

12. Creed (Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala): Talk about a gentle soul, stuck in a rough situation. There is something so unbearably endearing about Creed that I fell for him from the start, and still love him even a year later.

11. Trevor (Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini): He is sort of broody, sort of funny, sort of sweet. Not to mention, his shirts always change and display his thoughts, and some of them are just downright hilarious.

10.Cam (Through to You by Emily Hainsworth): How can you not love a guy who loves his now dead girlfriend so, so much, his life is almost on hold? Maybe it's pathetic, but I found it just so horribly romantic. Not to mention, there was also just something about Cam himself that totally lured me in.

9. Decker (Fracture by Megan Miranda): Decker is one of my favorite characters to both love and hate. I always shift between so angry at him, to loving him to death. It's actually probably ridiculous all the things I feel for him.

8. Jackson (Tempest by Julie Cross): I love guys who are sort of messy, who have a little baggage, who are still trying to get their eyes opened up to things. And Jackson is all that, and then some. Not just how his feelings and views towards his girlfriend change throughout the book but so much else with it, too, and he just totally gets to me.

7. Kyle (Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock): Rawr. I might have to leave it at that for my reasoning behind this one, but I'll try to expand by saying Kyle is amazing, and funny, and just the slightest bit broken. And so totally hot.


6. Colby (The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour): Colby really is one I can't accurately put into words. My intense love for him stems from not just who he is, but how it's laid on the pages, his mindset... how he truly feels so much, lets all of it hit him, in a way that is not only rarely captured in a male POV book but just...  isn't always that specific to a guy either. Colby is intense yet soft, gentle yet rough when he needs to be, and just so totally sweet I find myself often thinking back to him, and his story.

5. Kaiden (Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins): Umm, son of a lust demon? Yes please. But more than his physical hotness, it's his attitude, the swagger and cockiness layered over a little bit of a vulnerability and the fact he's trapped into serving his father and working for him. Kai makes me melt in so many ways.

4. Travis (Something Like Normal by Trish Doller): Travis might have broken me a little. He's kind of a shithead, yet he also is so loyal, so determined... so messed up. Not just because of what's happened while he was in Afghanistan, but things before he left and even now that he's home. He's the perfect kind of broken for me, yet not so far gone he's beyond help. Travis is freaking amazing, and hilarious on top of it with a natural wit to him that gets me. I wouldn't at all mind spending a night on a beach with him...

3. Noah (Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry): He's sexy, sweet, and charming. He's also rough on the outside but so freaking melty on the inside. Add in the story that comes with him and just how hot his kisses are, and holy crap this boy.

2. Perry (Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi): It would take forever to list all the reasons I love Perry so freaking much, but for those of you that have read the book, that line about carrying the rocks? ALL THE MELT. As if I wasn't already enamored, then that happened and I was so done for. He's honorable, yet he makes mistakes. He's determined, yet he's not without fear. He's stubborn, yet he's not close minded. He is just such a mix of so many amazing things, and if this boy was real I would seriously fight every one for him.

1. Rusty (In Honor by Jessi Kirby): No boy has made me melt quite like Rusty. He is the epitome of a shithead, of a player, of a guy you really probably want nothing to do with. Yet he is also such a mess, so freaking broken, that I couldn't stop thinking about him. He has his moments, where he's not charming because he knows how to play it but because HE really is that way. The times where he's unbearably sweet, achingly thoughtful... mixed in with all the times he messes up and hurts people. And okay, so there's also something about the way he talks and acts in general that gets me... Ahem. Yeah.

So there you guys have it. The boys of 2012 that stood out to me the most, and the ones I definitely think everyone should meet! Even if they are all neatly organized into my Boy Closet, you can still MEET them.

What are some of your favorite male characters from 2012? And who in 2013 are you excited to meet?