the Little Red Reviewer

The best books I read this year

Posted on: December 12, 2012

It’s that wonderful time of the year again! When we bake cookies and get cards in the mail and forget that we need extra time to warm up our cars in these cold, cold mornings.

It’s also time to talk about the best books we’ve read this year. I confess, I cheated a little on my list, I didn’t limit myself to books that came out in 2012, I’ve even got a reread on the list. Mostly space opera, a little fantasy and time travel, even a YA book made the list! In no particular order, here are my top  books that I read this year, with review excerpts and links to the  review should you feel so inclined to learn more about the titles that rocked my world this past year.

Redhead’s Best of 2012

224_large Faith

Faith, by John Love (2012)  – I read this all the way back in February, I knew right then it would make my best of the year list.  An amazing debut from author John Love, Faith is a dark and tense stand alone science fiction novel. The pages drip with a danger and fear that doesn’t quickly dissipate after you’ve put the book down.  This isn’t a book for everyone (that’s a polite way of saying it has lots of violence, amorality and swear words), but for those of us that like this sort of thing, Faith is quite the hidden gem.

(full review here, and I got to interview the author here)

Silently and Very Fast, by Catherynne M. Valente (2012) – has anyone been putting out short stories, novellas and full length novels as fast as Valente? she’s the hardest working writer I know, and this year she got to walk away with Hugo for Best FanCast to show for it.  it’s no secret that Valente is one of my favorite authors, and the Hugo nominated Silently and Very Fast is certainly her most science fictional piece.  With her signature flair for poetic metaphor and lyrical storytelling, this novella follows the life of Elefsis, a house AI who was told fairytales by the human children in the house. To Elefsis, life is a fairytale, and it should have a happy ending.

(full review here)

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (2012) – I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy, but when I do it’s a treat for it to be a beautifully written as this series (the 2nd book And Blue Skies from Pain came out later in 2012).  Northern Ireland, the 1970s, Liam Kelly would prefer to live a normal life. He’s not interested in getting arrested or learning secrets about his heritage. But all of those things are very interested in him, and in destroying everything in his life that he cares about.  Leicht spoiled me for urban fantasy.  I am eagerly awaiting future novels in this series.

(full review here)

The Anvil of the World, by Kage Baker  (2010) –  A little bit farce and a lot of fantasy, this book was a breath of fresh air.  this is the kind of book that reminds me of why I love reading in the first place – to be entertained, to on a journey, to feel for characters.  With a light touch, Baker takes standard fantasy tropes like quests and demons and heroes, and completely rewrites them. Baker mostly wrote science fiction, so a fantasy novel from her was a treat.

(full review here)

Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks (2008) – this was my 2nd culture novel, so I finally had a feel for what was going on. Leave it to Banks to take a plot that sounds so simple – win a boardgame and become emperor of an alien planet – and turn it into a suspenseful edge-of-your-seat page turner of a book. And lets not forget Banks’s AI drones, the snarky little creatures who often steal the spotlight!

(full review here)

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (2011) – really good space opera is not easy to find. Good thing I’ve got the team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck writing exactly the kinds of books I want to read.  A good sized and well developed cast of characters, a pace that doesn’t let up, physics that feel real and a brilliant twist at the end. I’ve got the sequel, Caliban’s War sitting on the shelf waiting for me, and a 3rd book in the series has just been announced.

(full review here)

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led The Revels There, by Catherynne M. Valente (2012) – Yes, another Valente, are you really surprised?  this is the 2nd (of a planned 5) book in her Fairyland series. I don’t usually go for YA, but I’ve found that when an author I enjoy writes something new, it doesn’t matter what age group it is for, I’m probably going to like it.   On her first visit to Fairyland, September left her shadow behind. A year later, a year older, she returns to fairyland to learn what her shadow has been up to.  Good luck getting through this book without a tear coming to your eye.

(full review here)

The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers (1983) – From one of the authors credited with creating the term Steampunk,  this novel isn’t so much steampunk as it is alternate history meets time travel meets a mythos that refuses to die. Everytime I read this book I like it more.  Great characters, fast pace, a nightmarish badguy, and the best time travel paradox you’re likely to come across,  I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve recommended this book to. Do yourself a favor and just go read it.

(full review here)

Tiassa, by Steven Brust (2011) –  Ever been in a book rut? the doldrums of satisfaction? Steven Brust is one of my go-to authors when I need something I know is going to satisfy. his Vlad Taltos series is one of the few long running series that I’ve loyally been playing catch up with since I discovered it.  New to the series? don’t start with Tiassa, it dumps you in right in the middle of things. But if you’re a fan of this series, Tiassa is Brust’s love letter to his fans.  Makes me want to read the entire Khaavren Romances trilogy.

(full review here)

Edited at the last minute, because I can’t believe I forgot these two titles!  That’s what I get for writing  a best of list during a bout of insomnia.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (2012) – this debut title blew my mind. An epic fantasy that feels a little like Indiana Jones plus magic, this book grabbed me in the first chapter and didn’t let go. Crescent Moon has everything – adventure, romance,  characters with depth and history, atmosphere, just an amazing piece.

(full review here)

The Troupe, by Robert Jackson Bennett (2012) – A coming of Age story in the time of Vaudeville, and nothing is as it seems, even behind the curtains.  Compelling, heart wrenching, beautiful and frightening,  and starring characters who feel as real as you or I, this urban fantasy offers twists and turns at every opportunity.

(full review here)

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19 Responses to "The best books I read this year"

Some great stuff here, Red. I didn’t enjoy Of Blood and Honey all that much, but agree with the rest of our common reads. I see a few I’m gonna have to add to my list, too. Thanks.


Oooo, we were discussing this the other day. Are you the first of us to get your year-end Best list up? Perhaps you may be, perhaps. :D


I love reading everyone’s Best Of lists. I’m not ready to pull the trigger quite this early into Dec. Still too much month left for potential great reads. And given that I’m reading Wool right now and am LOVING it I at least want to hold off a bit to see how that ends.

I also don’t limit myself to only books released in a given year, particularly since the majority of what I read is not brand new stuff. There is always too big of a pile of stuff from the previous years…including recommendations from everyone’s Best Of lists!!!

Love your list. I’ve admired the Faith cover from the moment it first popped up online. It practically glows! Same for the Valente book, which I bought right away but still have not read. Bad me!

I have both of the James S.A. Corey books on my shelves and, like with Ready Player One recently, feel like I’m the last person on Earth to read a book that I have no doubt I will thoroughly enjoy. I’ve even seen the authors on Sword and Laser and loved what they had to say and yet it still sits there staring at me intently from my reading room shelves.

I’ve read many great things about Banks’ Culture novels and really should give one or two a try this next year.


Wonderful list. Once I started reading the Culture novels I couldn’t stop, just can’t get over how Banks hold all that stuff in his head!


I own like 3 of these books and haven’t read them yet. I am such a slacker. Never the less, they have now been moved to the top of the TBR mountain.

Great post.


Reblogged this on Pwyller's Non-Sports Trading Card Blogobonanza and commented:
There are some stellar reads here! And I’m not just being punny!


Wow, I’ve only heard of one author (Powers). I need to explore some of these!


This is redheads other, better half. She missed a book… in a word, 2312. Kim Stanley Robinson baby! Read it, enjoy it, live it.


And he has spoken! :)


I was surprised to not see this on the original post. ;)


Hubby (and everyone else) LOVED 2312. Don’t get me wrong, I greatly enjoyed it, but I didn’t have the kind of emotional response to that book as I did to the ones listed above. Had I done a “top 20 of 2012″, I’m sure 2312 would have been on the list.


This has reminded me that I bought The Anvil of the World on your recommendation, but it’s still sitting unloved on my teetering book pile :-S
Faith sounds good, so I may have a go at that too. I also really should read the Player of Games. I’m ashamed to say I abandoned both Consider Phlebas and the Algebraist half way through – but I love Against a Dark Background, and Iain Banks’ non sf novels.


Anubis Gates the only one at my Library (well, other than Kage Baker, but I’m slowly working my way through her stuff already). May amazon wishlist grows ever longer, thanks to you.


This is a great list – I’ve already read your reviews before so I know which ones I want (at least six!). Not sure if I’m going to thank you or not for continually increasing my tbr pile! Okay, yes, I’ll admit you put in all the leg work and I reap the rewards so thank you very much! Another great year of books.
Lynn :D


ha! I was just teasing another blogger the other day, “thanks for making my books-I-want-to-read list explode, again!”.


Loved Leviathan Awakes and Caliban’s War. Am going to try and finish The Anubis Gates over the hols and a couple of books by Valente are in shipment. Thank you for introducing me to all these brilliant books.


I’m not at all surprised Fairyland was on the list. :) I may have to check out Silently and Very Fast too…you had me at the lyrical writing!


Made it over here from Stainless Steel Droppings… I love seeing two Valentes on your list! Love her. I haven’t read any of these books but they will surely be on my wish lists now :)


These titles look awesome. Thanks for the great info!


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