Sunday, December 30, 2012

Favorites of 2012

Each year, I summarize my reading with a list of my favorite books of 2012. It's an idiosyncratic list. Maybe the book made the list because it fit my mood at the time I read it. Who really knows? But, my list won't match any other list out there. Here are my ten favorite books of 2012, in the order I read them.

If Fried Chicken Could Fly by Paige Shelton kicked off her Country Cooking School mystery series. It introduced Betts Winston and her grandmother (Gram) who run a cooking school in the fictional town of Broken Rope, Missouri. The town is known for its gruesome history, and capitalizes on it, but when Gram becomes a murder suspect, Betts must work with a ghost to find the true killer. The second book, If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance, is already out.

Melissa Marr moved from young adult literature to adult fiction with Graveminder, the story of a town where the dead would walk unless their graves are not properly tended. When Rebekkah Barrow's grandmother dies, she reluctantly returns to Claysville, only to discover that a Barrow woman is always the Graveminder, and that she must partner with the current Undertaker to set things right in a town where the worlds of the living and the dead are connected.

I described Betty Webb's Lena Jones mystery, Desert Wind, as a book that should scare everyone living in the Southwest. This is the story of about crime on a grand scale. The story starts in 1954 when John Wayne, Susan Hayward and Agnes Moorehead are filming The Conqueror. A horse wrangler on the set at the time may hold the key to unraveling a crime almost sixty years later. The book is powerful, political, and serves as a warning, one of the best of Betty Webb's stories.

Deborah Coates' debut novel was Wide Open. Sergeant Hallie Michaels was a changed woman when she returned from Afghanistan for her sister's funeral. She had a near-death experience, and can see ghosts, which is why she doesn't believe her sister's death was a suicide. And, she's convinced her sister's death is connected with the recent disappearance of other young women in the community. Deep Down, the sequel to this book, will be available in March.

Adriana Trigiani's epic novel, The Shoemaker's Wife, is based on her own family history. It's a story that sweeps two star-crossed lovers from the Italian Alps at the beginning of the twentieth century to New York City, and then separates them during World War I. It's a beautiful story of love and family, war, loss, immigration, and finding a place in the world.

Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder thrillers are favorites. Gone Missing, the fourth in the series, takes the police chief into the Amish world of Rumspringa where Amish teens are allowed to run free. This time, Kate is called on to use her background in the Amish community when teens have gone missing in Ohio, and she's asked to consult on the cases. However, she returns to her own community when a local girl goes missing.

Jodi Picoult teamed up with her daughter, Samantha Van Leer, for the beautifully illustrated Between the Lines. I loved this story of a reader who falls in love with a fairy tale, and the prince who wants to get out of the pages. The characters and the plot are wonderful. The illustrations are lovely. And, I kept my copy and bought one for my niece. It's a story for females who are readers, and grew up in love with books.

The Age of Miracles was an amazing, beautiful debut novel by Karen Thompson. This dystopian novel is told by a narrator who was eleven at the time the earth started slowing down. Walker's novel is beautiful in the starkness of some of the statements of change. No one knows what would happen if the world started slowing down, but Walker makes educated guesses that are believable. And, those suggestions become believable told in the matter-of-fact manner by the narrator, revealing the story of one year in her life when everything changed.

Ellery Adams writes some of my favorite mysteries in her Books by the Bay series. And, I loved her latest, Written in Stone. But, it's the first in her Charmed Pie Shoppe series, Pies and Prejudice, that makes my favorites list this year. It's a magical book that introduces Ella May LaFaye who flees a failed marriage, returning to Havenwood, Georgia to the women who raised her. When Ella Mae was upset, or blue, or happy, she baked pies. The women found her the perfect spot for a bakery, The Charmed Pie Shoppe, so called because Ella Mae's emotions somehow found their way into her pies, and affected the people who ate them. Pies and Prejudice is a murder mystery, but it's also my favorite type of magical realism, reminiscent of Sarah Addison Allen's work. The book is filled with wonderful characters, and wonderful possibilities for future books.

What would my list be without a book by Louise Penny? In the latest Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery, The Beautiful Mystery, she examines music as she takes readers into an isolated monastery in Quebec for a story about balance and reflection, another story about evil and good, a story of the soul. I suggested that readers read it carefully, and pour over the words of this magnificent novel. It's a story that soars to the highest heights of passion, and takes readers to the greatest pain, the pain of betrayal. However, you do need to have read earlier books in this series to appreciate this book. So, readers who haven't read these books need to start with Still Life.

Those ten books are my favorites of 2012. Do you have favorite books that you'd like to share? As I said, my list is a very personal one, but they are my favorites. 


Anonymous said...

I've only read a couple of these, so far. I really enjoyed GONE MISSING - always look forward to a new book in this series. And BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY - sigh - broke my heart - so good. I'm on pins and needles to see where Louise will take us next.

I think all of the ones I haven't read are on my TBR list.

Lesa said...

Kay, There are a few that almost made the list. Francine Mathews' Jack 1939 comes to mind, but these are the ones that hit home. I hope you enjoy the others as well. And, you're right about Louise Penny's book. Broke my heart.

SandyG265 said...

I enjoyed If Fried Chicken Could Fly and Pies and Prejudice. I didn't really like Between the Lines. My favorite new mystery of 2012 was Broomsticks and Brownies. I've already got the sequel on order.

Karen C said...

I've only managed to read one of the books on your list - GONE MISSING. I love that series. Some of the others are on my TBR list, too.

Marce said...

Nice list, I want to try LouiseP and the graveminder looks good.

Susan said...

I own Graveminder but haven't read it yet - so it's moved up now to read asap! I also have Louise Penny's book before The Beautiful Mystery, A Trick of the Light, to read next. I'm so delighted to see Louise on your list! I love the Gamache mysteries. I've added most of your others to my to get list, they all sound so good! Thanks, Lesa. I hope you have a good move, and that 2013 is filled with plenty of good reading for you.

Lesa said...

Thank you, everyone! I hope you enjoy the books you select from the list. And, I love Susan's wish for a good move and that 2013 is filled with plenty of good reading for you. I wish you all a year of good reading!

bermudaonion said...

I've only read 2 of those books but I enjoyed both of them.

Deb Coates said...

Lesa, I don't usually comment on reviews or review sites, but I have to tell you that it's a real thrill to be mentioned on the same list as Louise Penny!

She's definitely one of my favorites. So much so that I'm always one book behind so I'll always have one to read (I know! It's weird). I've also just started listening to the audiobooks. For anyone who likes audiobooks, they're really well done and i get things out of them that I either forgot from my reading or missed the first time.

Anyway, I'm glad you liked Wide Open and thanks for including it on your list.

Nancy said...

I've read a few of these and agree with your opinion of them. It would be so hard for me to pick my ten favorites.