Most favorite books read in 2012

The year is ending today, so I decide to make a wrap-up post about the books that made the greatest influence on me, those I loved the most. Below is the list of the 10 most favorite books I read in 2012, in no particular order, as they are equally amazing.

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1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

When there’s a movie coming out, based on some book, and if the general idea appeals to me, I always read the book first. Just because it’s a general knowledge that a movie rarely does the book justice. In case of The Help I went another route. I watched the movie first, and I loved it a lot, it was so energetic and thoughtful. Then I read the book and I loved it even more. It’s amazing to read a historical fiction which is also fun and entertaining, despite it dealing with such an important social issue.

2. Into The Wild by John Krakauer

Yes, I’ve known for a long time that there was a movie directed by Sean Penn which was very well received by the public, but I never bothered to get into it or the book it was based on. Yet, this summer I was strongly recommended to read it by some new acquaintance, and I gave it a try. The fact that the book is based on true events was a major influence on me. I loved it, and to this day I still think about it, contemplating on Chris McCandless’ motives.

3. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s a book that everyone should read. A great story about finding yourself and your place in the world.

4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I didn’t want to read this book at all, because I was sure I wouldn’t like it. But everyone around me was talking about it like crazy, and I couldn’t resist. And when I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I loved the suspense in this book, it’s unpredictability, it had everything to draw me in.

5. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

A great dystopian Young Adult story about a world where love is considered to be a disease. What can be more romantic then two main characters falling in love in this world and fighting for their happiness? The last installment of this series is one of my most anticipated in 2013.

6. Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale

The movie based on this book has been one of my all time favorites for a long time. And this year I tried reading the book and I can say that it’s a rare case for me when both the book and the movie are equally great.

7. Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

The movie was a total flop for me, while the book is so charming, I fell in love with it from the first pages. It was interesting to read about the circus life yet the characters were so alive, I cared for them a lot. Great romance in great setting.

8. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

The most heartbreaking book I read this year. Jojo Moyes managed to write a wonderful story about a very complicated issue. And even though I generally don’t like sad endings, and I cried while reading it, this book is a miracle.

9. The Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling

They say J.K. Rowling should only write books for kids. Well, I beg to differ, as her first book for adults was a great revelation to me. There’s no one to rival Rowling in creating the most believable characters and story lines.

10. The Edge Of Never by J.K. Redmerski

I read enough of Young Adults book, and most of them are very superficial. But this one has made a great impact on me, it’s romance, plot and ending left me both tearful and happy. Wish there were more books like this of this genre.

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Bared to You by Sylvia Day

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Title: Bared to You

Series: Crossfire, Book 1

Author: Sylvia Day

First published: April 3rd 2012, Berkley Books

Edition: ebook, 280 pages

Genre: Erotica, Romance

Age group: Adult

Rating: 

Bared to You (Crossfire, #1)

Eva Tramell moves to New York from San Diego, following a job offer at an advertising agency. The move is also an opportunity for her to get closer to her mother and best friend Cary Taylor, with whom she shares an apartment.

The first day at work, while being a professional success for Eva, is also remarkable for her in a personal way, as she stumbles upon the sexiest man she had ever seen. An image of a hot and built man in an expensive suit with black hair and piercing blue eyes isn’t one she can get out of her mind.

But aside from impressing Eva with his appearance, Gideon Cross is also a man of action, used to get whatever he wants. Now his aim is Eva, he desires to have her, but Eva is scared off by his arrogance. Never had she met a man to say to her such bold things, yet arising a sudden overwhelming feeling in her.

Eva is not new to one-night stands or friends-with-benefit situations, but something in Gideon puts her on guard. They have to get to know each other first, before they go any further. That’s Eva’s condition, and Gideon, not one to back down, accepts it.

And there is a lot to know about Gideon. Aside from being a billionaire and owning seemingly half of Manhattan, he is also dangerous and possessive. The things he finds out about Eva, using his secret sources, give Eva the creeps. Yet, the desire is too strong to resist, and soon these two find each other engaged in the most hottest sexual relationship of their lives.

The connection between them deepens alongside with the most hidden secrets being revealed. And now it’s a constant learning for them to open up and accept each other. But both Eva and Gideon are set not to let their dark pasts rule their future together, especially when they deal with the feeling they never felt before. Love.

Sylvia Day is an acknowledged best-selling author of romance books, but this one is my first reading of her works. Bared To You is hugely promoted as a better version of Fifty Shades of Grey, excelling in the amount of very enthusiastic reviews.

I love books about romance, it’s pretty much obvious, judging by the books I reviewed on this blog. But I favor the stories that have a captivating plot and necessary character development. Fifty Shades of Grey, despite being not so greatly written, has a very unique theme, probably the reason the book became such a hit. A Dominant/Submissive relationship was never one to go well with the public or been described with such detail, but the combination of an innocent heroine and an experienced man was probably the key to success.

Speaking of Bared To You,there’s not much similarities to Fifty Shades of Grey, aside from the hero being a possessive and manipulative billionaire. And in this case I can’t point out anything I could like about this story. Yet the list of dislikes is pretty long. The factor that disturbed me the most was the plot of the story or the lack of it thereof. It pretty much seemed to me as a seemingly endless chain of sex scenes, in different surroundings and positions. Sex is the main theme, well used in the story instead of character description and the universal solution to every existing problems.

Eva and Gideon don’t know about each other? Well, crazy sex in a limousine not only solves this problem but also develops deep emotional connection between them. Eva is jealous? Gideon forces himself on her, and Eva forgets whatever was on her mind due to the mind-blowing sex. There’s something troublesome in their pasts that gives them nightmares every night? Why talk about that, sex is a great means of communication!

OK, sarcasm aside, till the end of the story I didn’t get any even slightly romantic scene between these two. Where had the Eva from the beginning gone? The one to put Gideon in his place and stand her ground? One day she refuses to even talk to him after his bold proposition and next day she jumps his bones in his limousine, turning into a sex-o-holic.

What is also bothersome is that Eva seems to lust after practically any man she sees. In fact she’s only surrounded by seemingly hottest men on the planet. The way she notices every single detail about their appearances is very strange, considering that she describes Gideon in the same words. Then what is the thing that makes him different for her? Oh, yes, I forgot, it’s sex!

And speaking of secondary characters, why there were no prominent additional female figure in the story, maybe Eva’s friend, a girl to give her a nice and needed advice. I lacked it a lot, I was tired from all this endless stream of gorgeous men. Where was the light and funny girly chit-chat when it would have been so welcomed?

And at last, my main concern was the non-existent connection between Eva and Gideon, I didn’t get why they wanted each other or why they supposedly fell in love in the end. No tension filled situations, no trust growing, no deep conversations or romantic declarations, no sparks between them. Just a new sex scene on every page.

I don’t know how I even managed to get to the end or why. Most pointless story I read this year.

Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

 

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Title: Practice Makes Perfect

Author: Julie James

First published: March 3rd 2009,Berkley Sensation

Edition: ebook, 304 pages

Genre: Romance, humor

Age group: Adult

Rating:  ★ ★ ★

Practice Makes Perfect

Payton Kendall and J.D. Jameson have been lawyers at a Chicago firm for 8 years, but kept their distance through all this time. Both are total opposites, and not only in the types of cases they generally deal with. Payton is feminist and only-success-oriented, having to survive in the world generally populated by men. And J.D. has come from a very wealthy family with his father being a respected judge. To Payton J.D. is just a cocky and over-privileged jerk who has had everything in his life on a silver platter, while she, coming from a not so rich and single-parent family, has to fight to get what she wants.

For years Payton and J.D. have maintained an illusion of being friendly co-workers in front of their colleagues, while secretly fighting about each other’s points of view. Both of them are set on becoming the firm’s partners, which in the beginning is an assured fact. Though, due to the new policy, their boss suddenly presents them with a news that this year only one of them will be chosen with the other one having to quit. If their banter from previous years wasn’t enough, now it’s a race to win for Payton and J.D.

The story continues with a line of very funny attempts of the both of them to make the other fail or embarrass each other, like Payton pouring coffee on J.D.’s suit jacket or him breaking her shoe. And when the matters appear to almost having got out of hands, they are asked to work together on a major case. The case, which starts as a show-off of their professional skills, soon turns out to be a revelation for both of them. Payton discovers that J.D. is not so egoistical as she once believed he was and acknowledges how great he is as a lawyer. And J.D., going through the same revelations, also remembers the moments he first met Payton and the overwhelming impressions she made on him as a beautiful and confident woman.

With the stakes high and feelings getting in the way, the battle is becoming tougher, but who will be the first of them to give in?

With the year coming to an end I decided to finish with my stack of Julie James’ novels, though I will be expecting the publication of the new installment of the F.B.I./U.S. Attorney series next year. Practice Makes Perfect is one of Julie James’ stand-alone novels, and while the previous one that I read, Just The Sexiest Man Alive, didn’t make that much of an impression on me, this book I loved a lot.

The communications between Payton and J.D. are amazingly written, first their fights and witty remarks and then their declarations to each other. First it’s a hate/competition relationship, when they try to outdo each other professionally, to impress their boss. Then they try to put their disagreements aside to work together on a case. And alongside this they come to realize how little they actually know about each other, despite having worked together for so many years. And what they do find out makes them think back to the time when they just met and really liked each other.

Payton and J.D.’s romantic scenes didn’t take that much place in the book, yet they were powerful and steamy. I liked that they didn’t fell into the relationship straight ahead, but actually worked through their issues, making the choice between a carrier and love. And that weekend on the beach was very romantic, definitely an ‘awww’ moment.

The only problem I had with the story is the abundance of all the lawyer and court stuff, it was just too detailed, sometimes it was hard for me to get through it. But in general the story was great, Julie James never disappoints me.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

 

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Title: Shiver

Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 1

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

First published: August 1st 2009, Scholastic Press

Edition: ebook, 301 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Age group: Young Adult

Rating:  ★ ★ ★

Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)

11-year old Grace is snatched from her tire swing by a pack of wolves. Hungry due to the cold winter with nowhere to find food, they almost tear her apart. Only one wolf with bright yellow eyes stays aside and watches how the girl doesn’t make any attempts to save herself.

17-year old Grace is strangely obsessed with wolves. She likes the smell of their fur, and the woods drag her in with their tall trees. golden leaves and the sense of freedom. She can tell any member of the pack from the other by now, but the wolf with yellow eyes is the one Grace is most attached to. The wolf watches her from the woods every winter, rarely coming closer and letting Grace touch his fur and memorize his smell. Then he would mysteriously disappear when spring comes till the next cold season.

The people of Mercy Falls, though, are not that impressed with the wolves. In fact, they are set to get rid of them once and for all, when a boy from Grace’s school is supposedly killed by one of them. Desperate to save from being shot that one wolf she cares so much for, Grace runs into the woods only to later find him in front of her house. His yellow eyes and the smell are the only indications of who he is, as now he’s no longer a wolf, but 18-year old boy Sam.

The wolves in this town are not regular wolves, as all of them are actually people, who after being bitten keep shifting from their human forms to wolves for several years until one last shift would take them out of the world of people forever. For Sam and some other members of the pack this is the last year.

Having watched each other from afar for 6 years, Sam and Grace are very comfortable together, and their relationship quickly grows into love. But the constant threat of Sam turning into a wolf forever doesn’t go away. The only way to prolong Sam’s staying as a human is to keep him warm, but winter is quickly approaching, cold being the defining and initiative factor for the transformation. There’s only one person who never changed after having been bitten, and it’s Grace. Will she be able to find the reason behind this and keep Sam with her?

I read a lot of bad reviews about Shiver on the Internet, and while it does remind of Twilight in some way, on the whole the story is not that disappointing. It gives a pretty solid and well thought-through plot, and while it doesn’t contain much action scenes, it’s not boring. Slightly predictable, yes, but not to the point where I would abandon the book.

The wolves of Mercy Falls are very interesting and more believable species by description than those of Twilight or even it’s vampires. The reason is in the simplicity. There’s no author’s over thinking about the wolves’ nature. The facts are as straight and simple as can be – when it’s cold the bitten ones change into wolves and in summer they are back as humans again. The way the wolves communicate is similar to that of Twilight’s wolves, yet is described better. They just pass pictures in their minds, nothing specific. They are animals after all, they can’t have serious talks with each other, because when they shift their minds shift too, become those characteristic of animals.

As the time of the year is vital to the lupine population, the story’s primal accent is on the temperature, which is indicated at the beginning of every chapter. It’s mostly cold throughout the story, so no wonder about the title. I did shivered when reading it, the atmosphere of cold winter, snow and wind, seemed to seep from the pages. And maybe because I was reading this book during cold winter evenings, just like Sam trying to keep warm myself, the atmosphere felt very real yet cozy to me.

Of course, some points of the story seemed off for me. Like Grace’s obsession with the wolf in the beginning. At that stage of the story, where I didn’t know the reason behind it, this fact seemed really creepy and nearly turned me off the book. Than, speaking of most Young Adult fantasy novels, why is it whenever the girl’s boyfriend is some mysterious creature, her parents are always either oblivious to them or just don’t care? Grace’s parents were practically non-existent, sometimes I would just forget she had them at all, when Sam would spend nights in her house without being noticed. I wonder what would turn out of such stories if the parental units actually took parts in their kids’ lives.

I can’t say I loved Shiver, yet it’s an OK story with just enough mixture of love story, fantasy and adventure. And while it doesn’t give anything new to the genre, it’s a quick and easy read you can cover in just one day or read before bed as it’s calm and cozy. I would probably read the other books in the series just to have a closure on the story and make sure that Sam would stay human and with Grace. It’s predictable, but still…

The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski

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Title: The Edge of Never

Author: J.A. Redmerski

First published: November 14th 2012, Createspace

Edition: ebook, 351 pages

Genre: Romance, drama

Age group: New Adult

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Edge of Never

This story was a crazy emotional ride for me, it turned from sad to happy, from slow to fast, from burning to cold. When I started with it, I knew from the synopsis that this would be a road trip story, and all the other stories of this type that I usually got with, were pretty much boring, predictable and kind of “out of this world”, in the way that every scenes would be so unrealistic, you keep reading knowing that sooner or later reality would break in. It always felt like I read the road trip story just for the sake of that road trip. But The Edge of Never is nothing like that.

I picked this story absolutely at random, but I was impressed with the amount of really overwhelming reviews. There turned out to be so many fans of this book, that I couldn’t just walk away.

The story starts a bit slow and at first it was a struggle for me, as I didn’t see anything that great about it, though this feeling changed later on. The beginning seemed like a typical YA story setting. There is a group of young people who spend their lives partying and having fun, and not thinking about tomorrow. And as it is expected there is somebody who’s not satisfied with it and feels left out, wondering if it’s all life has to offer.

This is 20-year-old Camryn Bennet, who dreams about traveling the world with a backpack to prove that life isn’t just college and work. And she would have done it long ago, but her boyfriend Ian died in a car crash and now Camryn is afraid to do it alone. Her only best friend Natalie ignores her after her boyfriend tried to force himself on Camryn, her parents are divorced and too busy with getting their lives back on track, and her only brother is in prison.

But it takes one eye-opening night in a club for Camryn to make up her mind and next day she lives on a bus, absolutely randomly yet crucially setting on Idaho. Camryn is very scared of going alone, yet she is determined to do it, not as a way to fulfill her and her boyfriend’s dream, but most importantly to find herself, to learn who she really is and what she is capable of.

On the bus Camryn meets 25-year-old Andrew Parrish, and though at first she is reluctant to open up to him, soon they become friends. Camryn can’t help to notice that Andrew is on the road for the same reason she is. Just like her he seems to harbor some secrets, and Camryn is set to find them out and help Andrew overcome them. Just like Andrew helps her.

Slowly Camryn not only realizes that she trusts him with her life, but she understands that Andrew is her real partner in crime. Though it was Ian whom she planned this trip with, she wasn’t that comfortable with it as with Andrew. And Andrew is the one to teach her how to live out-of-the-box, to follow the deepest and strongest desires of her heart.

Together they not only learn every little detail about each other, they fall in love, and the scenes where they are together are probably the most beautiful I’ve read in a book for a long time. Despite the very graphic love scenes, they fit so good into the story and only make their love feel real. I love how Andrew constantly teases Camryn about some of her fears or prejudices and pushes her to do some risky stuff she would never do by herself. And Camryn slowly comes out of her box, becomes more assured of herself and her place in life, which now is wherever Andrew is.

But despite Camryn opening up and Andrew telling her reasons behind his decision on this road trip, there’s still a nagging feeling, that something bad would come up and break their small bubble of happiness. The last chapters of the book were very tough, I just couldn’t keep my eyes from watering and asking myself why. Why these two had to go through this, hadn’t they had enough hurt already?

But that’s probably the main lesson the author wanted to give with this book – to show that we live only once, and it’s our duty to make of our lives as much as we can. It doesn’t mean to be reckless or irresponsible, but it’s about making right decisions and not being afraid of your heart’s desires.

I laughed and I cried with this book, but still I loved it a lot, it was brilliant and touching.