This has been a really good year for books -- at least in terms of me finding books that I really, really like. Some years it seems as though everything is just middle-of-the-road with only a few standout novels. This year, though, I've given the same number of 5-star ratings in the first six months that I've given during an entire year. So here's a look at the books that will be contenders for my Top 10 of 2012 at the end of the year.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
There's so much to love about this novel. It's large and sprawling and covers a multitude of genres. It also works on so many different levels, with connections among different sections (metafiction done well is something that I love -- without all the pretentiousness, of course), characters, settings, and ideas.
The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff
I don't think there's a stinker in this entire collection. Of course, most of these stories are available on The Merry Sisters of Fate website, but what's not available is all the additional commentary you get with each story. These three authors have put together a great collection of work -- and an even better commentary on the act of writing. (Note: This book won't be published until October 2012 -- I read an ARC through Netgalley.)
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
I recommend Marchetta's Jellicoe Road to everyone I meet (well, almost everyone), and then I suggest they read her fantasy series, even if they aren't fantasy fans. The reason why? Because everything that I love about JR is contained in her fantasy novels -- it's just that the window dressing is a little different.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My favorite novels remind me of my other favorite novels, and this one is no exception. It brings to mind Ray Bradbury and Susannah Clarke and Christopher Priest, and it's a feast for the senses. This is definitely one I'll be going back to again and again.
Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch
This novel could make the list just on virtue of the amazing narration alone, but there's beautiful writing and an engaging plot as well. Again, this is one of those vast sprawling novels that brings to mind other books but also tops those other books by a mile.
Bright's Passage by Josh Ritter
Even though this suffers from a few "first-novel" technical issues, it's a beautifully dreamlike fable -- and it's that mood that pulled me along to the very end in just a few short hours. A real gem.
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
I actually listened to the audio version of this, but I was completely entranced the entire time. This is just the kind of novel I enjoyed when I was a younger reader, and I have enough of that reader left inside me to continue to enjoy novels like this. (Plus, Meloy is the sister of writer Colin Meloy, lead singer of The Decemberists, and author of the Wildwood Chronicles.)
After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
I'm enough of a comics fan -- and my husband is much more of a fan than I am -- to really enjoy this story. The character development is great, the plot zips along, and it's just a really enjoyable story.
Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
I describe some YA authors as "issue" authors -- their books are always about an important issue that impacts teenagers, like Laurie Halse Anderson, for example. Her books tackle major issues (rape in Speak or anorexia in Wintergirls) but without being preachy -- plus the writing is just plain awesome. You can add King to that list. I don't think I've ever read a novel that makes me want to take action like hers do -- not just this one, but Please Ignore Vera Dietz as well. Highly recommended.