It’s still February, if only just, so here you go: the other half of that mandated pair of yearly blog posts for all book bloggers. First comes “The 10 Best Books I Read Last Year,” and then comes “10 Hotly Anticipated Reads of This Year.” I can already tell it’s going to be a good year for reading. Here, in no particular order, are the ten books that top my list for 2012, some of which have been around for a long time, others of which will be released at some point over the next ten months . . .
1. “The Passage,” by Justin Cronin
Since it’s already late February, I’ve already read the first book on this year’s to-read list. And what a stunner! Think Stephen King’s The Stand crossed with “The Walking Dead” a terrifying dystopian vision of the future when infected humans become bat-like “virals,” and humanity is reduced to a fading minority. The key to the dilemma seems to be Amy, a teenage girl who is somehow a century old, and who can somehow control the virals. But what exactly is the ageless and mysterious Amy? Expect this doorstopper of a book, and its equally brick-like sequel The Twelve, to devour a good month of your life, minimum.
2. “Light,” by Michael Grant
Speaking of dystopian fantasies, I can’t wait for the final installment of the Gone series. This isn’t quite the end of the world, like The Passage, but possibly it’s the end of the mysterious dome which isolated a group of teenagers from the rest of the adult population five books ago. This is YA, but it’s not Twilight or even The Hunger Games–it’s more like Lord of the Flies, and these kids are far too busy surviving to care about love triangles. I’m crossing my fingers that Grant will finish this hair-raising saga with his signature style–swaggering heroes you love and slimy villains you love to hate, all wrapped in a ball of non-stop action.
3. “War and Peace,” by Leo Tolstoy
I’ve read and adored Anna Karenina, but somehow never got around to Tolstoy’s companion classic. Time to find out if the story of Natasha, Prince Andrei, et al fascinates me as it has so many others across the centuries.
4. “The Painted Girls,” by Cathy Marie Buchanon
I love ballet, I love French Impressionist art, and I love books about painters (Girl With A Pearl Earring! The Swan Thieves!) and dancers (Russian Winter! A Company of Swans!) So what could be more promising than this just-released tale of two sisters, one a former dancer entering the Parisian demi-monde, and the other Degas’s inspiration for his famous “Little Dancer” sculpture? Highly anticipated.
5. “The Bronze Horseman,” by Paullina Simons
One of those books with a large, persistent, and vocal group of fans. Over and over I’ve heard readers swoon about the star-crossed lovers! The pulse-pounding war drama! The Russian setting! Time to see what all the fuss is about. War-torn Russia is a fascinating setting in and of itself, so I’m anticipating good things from this one.
6. “The Fiery Heart,” by Richelle Mead
First the Vampire Academy series, and now the Bloodlines series–Mead’s fast and funny YA vampire books are my delicious guilty pleasure. These are written for teenage girls in the best sense of the word, because Mead’s heroines are never palely loitering Mary Sues with not a thought in their pretty little heads outside their love lives. Her VA heroine was an ass-kicker in the Buffy style; the gal who stars in the Bloodlines series is more brains than brawn, but just as resourceful in a crisis. The Fiery Heart is fourth in the series, and November can’t come soon enough.
7. “Daughters of the Nile,” by Stephanie Dray
Talk about girl power–Cleopatra’s daughter Selene has it in spades. This is the third and final installment in Dray’s delicious romp through ancient Roman politics and Isis magic. I had the privilege of a sneak peek at the book’s early draft (privileges of being friends with the author) and I know how much tweaking and polishing has been done since then, so I can’t wait to read the final product. This I predict without Isis’s help: Selene will be queenly and occasionally terrifying in her goal to rule her kingdom and found a dynasty; her husband Juba will be appealing and occasionally maddening in his efforts to win his queen’s love; and Emperor Augustus will continue to raise the hairs on my neck every time he walks (slides, slithers) onto the page.
8. “The Tudor Conspiracy,” by C.W. Gortner
Gortner takes a refreshing spin on oft-tread ground with his Tudor Spymaster series, sending his fictional hero Brendan on an exhilarating scramble through political snakepits rife with real historical figures like the young Princess Elizabeth. This second installment in the series has Brendon scheming to save Elizabeth from her vengeful sister Queen Mary. God knows how he’ll do it, but I can’t wait to find out.
9. “The Forsyte Saga,” by John Galsworthy
Big multi-generational family epics, plus that same lush period of English history that spawned all my favorite Edith Wharton novels. Let the family drama, the big hats, the high teas, the looming social change, and the seething dialogue begin!
10. “Of Human Bondage,” by Somerset Maugham
Yet another of the big classics I haven’t gotten around to yet, though I adore Somerset Maugham and have read most of his other work. Plus, this is my mother’s favorite book of all time. ‘Nuff said; it’s going on the list.
And on that note, happy reading!