Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

The Best of 2011

Well, it’s been a banner year, folks. Having read over 150 books (!!!), it was more than a bit difficult to pick a top five or even top ten, so I cheated a bit and narrowed down my picks by genre and reading level. These aren’t necessarily new books (though they’re new to me), but they are generally books I already have read multiple times or plan on it in the near future. Most likely they are a part of my ever growing personal library or they soon will be, when I can pony up the funds to purchase them.  If you haven’t given them a shot yet, what are you waiting for?

The Best of the Best

Chime by Franny Billingsley

It’s amazing to think that a book I almost didn’t continue reading has turned out to be one of my absolute favorite books this year. Franny Billingsley gets a big high five for creating a book with a totally unique premise, incredible characters, and giving the main character, Briony, such a captivating voice (though this is initially what put me off on the book — I’m so glad I stuck with it).  This isn’t a book for everyone, but it’s definitely one you won’t quickly forget.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

If someone has asked me for a recommendation for a book this year, this is the title I have most frequently shoved in their hands. There’s just something so undeniably appealing about it, despite the fact that it’s dystopian fiction and that generally offers some unhappy account of how troubled our society is or will be some time in the not-so-distant future, which is the type of story that puts a frown on my face (so sue me, I like a book that offers the promise of a happy ending. DF generally does not). It seems like dystopian fiction is the new vampire in the young adult realm and all the books tend to blend in together anymore, but Veronica Roth has managed to pen a tale that stands out in the crowd. It might be difficult to imagine our society dividing into factions focused on the cultivation of a particular virtue, but that doesn’t mean I can’t suspend my disbelief in order to enjoy an amazing story like this one. Want a book with a herioine actually worthy of the title of strong female character, a realistic (but sizzling) romance, an action packed plot, and a “holy crap, I didn’t see that coming” sort of ending?  Divergent is the book for you.

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

I don’t want to say too much about Froi, since it is a sequel and not yet out in the States, but run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore or library and find a copy of Finnikin of the Rock. Read. Repeat if necessary (and it will be necessary). Wait with eager anticipation until March rolls around and then inhale Froi of the Exiles. I won’t say I told you so. I promise.

The Best of Realistic Fiction

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

First things first: I finally got a copy of the Australian version with the awesome cover. *fangirl squeal* Goodbye generic American cover, hello gorgeous, moody black and white image!

*Ahem* Now that that is out of my system, let me say that Melina Marchetta is one of the few authors who can persuade me to read realistic fiction. She’s just that good. As amazing as all of her other books are, The Piper’s Son just might have blown them all away. Y’all, this is not a statement I can say lightly, considering how much I love, love, love Jellicoe Road. When I say you need to read this book, trust me, you really do need to read it.

The Best of Fantasy

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This is a book for horse-lovers, especially if those horses are the mythological  variety with a penchant for eating and/or drowning folks. This is a book for those who couldn’t give a rat’s behind about horses. This is a book for those who like their heroines feisty and their heroes quiet and mysterious. This is a book for those who can appreciate the beauty and appeal of places that few others can. This is a book for those who like their mouths to literally water as they read. This is a book for just about anybody.

The Best of Paranormal/Supernatural Fiction

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Ladies and gentlemen, I hate paranormal fiction. Ever since the travesty that is the Twilight series (I’m sorry, but they need a few more Vikings to make them a proper saga), practically all I can find in the young adult section of every bookstore is paranormal fiction. As if vampires weren’t bad enough, then we got werewolves and zombies and angels and whatever other mythological creature they  scrounge up next. I was so sick of it all, I could have puked.

Then I read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.

And I liked it. A lot. It proved to me that perhaps paranormal fiction could be hilarious and unique and worth my time reading after all, which is the only reason I was willing to pick up the next title(s) on this list . . .

The Best of Adult Fiction

Feed and Deadline by Mira Grant

If you are looking for a zombie book full of blood and gore and horrifying images that are practically guaranteed to give you nightmares, then Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy will probably not be your cup of tea. These are not your typical brainless (ba-dum-ching) zombie novels, but if you’ve ever wondered how life might change if the zombie apocalypse were to occur, love a good government conspiracy, and enjoy books with twists so unexpected that you can’t help but giving them a stern talking to and/or throwing them at a wall, well then, Feed and Deadline (and the forthcoming Blackout) are most certainly the books for you.

The Best of Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Santa was good to me this year when he brought me this book. The prose is so incredibly lush,  the characters so delightful, and the plot so captivating and unique, that the only word that accurately describes how wonderful it is is delicious. And for once, a multi-dimensional antagonist who isn’t simply bad because she is the villain and that is how they are, no questions asked (*cough*  Disney villains *cough*).  If that weren’t wonderful enough, it has these gorgeous line drawings at the start of every chapter. Am I the only one who thinks more novels ought to have illustrations? Seriously, they’re not just for picture books.


4 comments on “The Best of 2011

  1. Chachic
    January 10, 2012

    YES to The Piper’s Son! LOVED it to bits. Just as much as Jellicoe Road and that’s saying something because Jellicoe is the reason why I started reading more contemporary YA – before that, I mostly read fantasy. Can I just say that I’m jealous that you have the Aussie edition? It’s so pretty! I’ve wanted to get that ever since I saw it. Did you order it from fishpondworld?

    Also loved The Scorpio Races – Puck and Sean. ♥ One of my book blogging buddies compared the romance there to the romance in the Queen’s Thief series and that made me so excited to read the book. I wasn’t disappointed. Although not sure if I can compare Sean and Puck to Gen and Attolia, that’s PRETTY high praise.

    Planning to read Feed and Deadline when the third book comes out so I can read them all together. I’ve heard such good things about these books and saw them pop up in several best of 2011 lists.

    Sorry for the longish comment! I figured you’d appreciate one here instead of just at Sounis. 😛

  2. Jenn
    January 13, 2012

    Melina Marchetta is pretty amazing, isn’t she? She’s created characters that I’m really disappointed not to be able to be friends with in real life. I was the same as you — I mostly read fantasy, but now I’ve branched out a bit to contemporary YA (though I haven’t found any writers quite as brilliant as Ms. Marchetta).

    I got the Aussie version of The Piper’s Son for Christmas after pining after it for a good long while. Thanks goodness for fishpondworld. I also got The Gorgon in the Gully from that site. Have you read that? Danny, Jonah Griggs’ little brother is the main character and he and his friends are precious. Jonah is in it as well, though via telephone, as the book takes place during the same time as Jellicoe Road.

    Yeah, I don’t know if I’d compare Sean and Puck to Gen and Irene, but they are awesome in their own rights. That book took me back to my younger days when I read almost nothing but horse books. I can’t wait for my horse-loving niece to be old enough to read it.

    I’d definitely recommend waiting for Blackout to come out before you begin the trilogy if you are the kind of reader who can’t handle the suspense of waiting to find out what happens. Both books have some pretty substantial cliff-hangers. If you like sophisticated sort of books that feature zombies (as opposed to the mindless gory kind), you might also check out Jonathan Maberry’s Rot &Ruin. There’s also a sequel, Dust & Decay out, but I haven’t yet read it.

    Thanks for the comment here and see you at Sounis!

    • Chachic
      January 16, 2012

      Yep, Melina Marchetta is amazing. Were you aware that she’s also a fan of the Queen’s Thief series? 😛 I know exactly what you mean about her characters, I wanted to be friends with them. She really makes them come alive. I haven’t found anyone else who writes like her either but some other contemporary YA novels that I enjoyed reading last year are Saving June by Hannah Harrington, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley and Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar.

      LOL just made a Want Books post for The Gorgon in the Gully: How long did it take for your fishpondworld order to arrive? I haven’t signed upf or an account but I’ve been meaning to give it a try.

      I know what you mean, The Scorpio Races reminded me a bit of The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley because of the horses. Which is funny because I’m not really a big fan, not that many horses to ride around here in the Philippines.

      Thanks for the zombie recs! I’ve heard about those. Have you read Warm Bodies?

      • Jenn
        January 23, 2012

        Yes — I love it when my favorite authors love my other favorite authors. Warms my little heart. Probably the only other author I could compare to Melina Marchetta in terms of amazing characters and world-building is Megan Whalen Turner, and that probably more applicable with M.M.’s Lumatere Chronicles than her realistic fiction. I’m definitely going to have to give your other recs a shot when they come to the US or maybe pony up the cash to get them from fishpondworld.

        Speaking of which, I don’t remember Froi of the Exiles taking too long to arrive (though November was a long time ago) and my copy of The Piper’s Son arrived in time for Christmas. I think my parents ordered The Gorgon in the Gully at the same time and it didn’t arrive until after the New Year. I think it just depends on the book itself — whether or not they have it in stock or not, that sort of thing. Since you’re in the Philippines, it probably wouldn’t take as long for anything you ordered to arrive as it would me ( I live halfway around the world in Indiana).

        I haven’t read Warm Bodies, but I’ll have to give it a shot.

        I’m also going to have to stop by your blog for your Queen’s Thief week and if I get motivated enough to post twice in one week (I’m a bit of a slacker, as you can tell by the amount of time it’s taken me to respond to you), I’ll definitely link to your blog!

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2011 by in Reader's Advisory and tagged .
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