2012 was a year I set myself to expanding consciously upon my previous reading horizons and looking to material outside of my normal comfort zone, this being something I achieved in part – both as a result of ensuring varied content for the blog and otherwise. This notwithstanding, there has also been plenty of time for genre reading – this being a firm favourite and something I tend to revert to at varied intervals.
I’ve been reading spec fic ever since my parents bought me a copy of Diana Wynne Jones' Howl’s Moving Castle for a previous birthday. Looking back, a number of this year’s reads fall within this category, such as the subject of my previous review entry; this also being a re-read for this year (as for many).
Additional stand out reads for this year include Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls and my first reading experience in connection with the works of Catherynne M Valente – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, described within the blurb upon the cover as “a glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian fairy tale, done with heart and wisdom” by Neil Gaiman. Winner of the Andre Norton Award and similarly lauded by the author of The Last Unicorn, Tamora Pierce and Holly Black, this is one novel which deserves the praise heaped upon it. I was similarly impressed by the highly anticipated follow up The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland And Led The Revels There. Intelligent writing for smart readers. Highly recommended.
Mixing YA into the melting pot here, I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed Kate Milford's The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands, which I read almost back to back, having ordered one whilst I was approximately halfway through the other. Milford blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction by adding a certain amount of historical background into her tales of crossroads bargaining and demons and produces something noteworthy on each occasion as a result. Genuinely entertaining reading.
Probably not as many in this category as I would have liked, although I’m always on the look-out for suitable shorts. I have, however, been dipping in and out of Shadow Show, the tribute anthology to Ray Bradbury and particularly enjoyed Kelly Link's contribution, Two Houses.
During my random internet trawls for short fiction I also came across Calum Kerr's collection of flash fiction, 31, inspired by recent participation in NaNoWriMo and each entry of which was written in a single 10 to 20 minute sitting. I, for one, enjoyed them, being partial to the odd piece of “shorter than short”.
Kate Milford’s The Kairos Mechanism probably also deserves a mention here, being novella length. This is effectively a “bridge” story between The Boneshaker and her subsequent prequel novel, The Broken Lands but well worth the read simply on its own merits as a folklore based fantasy tale. The project was originally Kickstarter self-funded but is also available in paperback and e-book format via Milford's own website.
Despite not having been published this year, I’m also mentioning Kat Howard's The Calendar of Saints as one of the pieces of short fiction which has had a significant effect upon me more recently. A beautifully written tale of the blade as both instrument and point of honour.
YA also features here, with Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity being the one which impressed me the most. Wein produces an affecting duel narrative detailing the fate of two friends who become involved in the British war effort – the “sensational team” referred to upon the back cover. Gripping and full of well researched detail.
Despite being (arguably) better known for her genre fiction, my most recent experience of Elizabeth Hand's work stems from her foray into the world of crime/literary thriller in the form of Generation Loss and Available Dark (another example of a prequel published subsequent to the events which follow it, similarly to Milford’s The Broken Lands). An unlikely examination of art and redemption.
Graphic novels also feature within my 2012 reading list, despite this previously having been a neglected area for me. Some of this is due in part to the sheer readability of Locke and Key, a series I’ve been following throughout this year and which arguably opened my eyes to a subsection of the bookshelf I’d previously been missing out on. I’m eagerly awaiting the conclusion to this series and will hope for the possibility of stand-alones, even once the overall narrative arc is concluded.
Whilst this isn’t a comprehensive list of the works I haven’t previously referred to here for this year and isn’t intended to act as a “best of” or “top five” or “ten” in the strictest sense, it does highlight at least a couple which I feel are well worth the time expended upon their contents. Hopefully there’s something which may take your fancy and provide some reading material for the next occasion on which you have time for the written word.