Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 books of 2011

2011 wasn't as prolific of a reading year as 2009 & 2010, but in other news, I did graduate from college - finally - and get certified in two subjects! So while I didn't read/blog as much as the other years, I didn't mind so much!

But here are my ten favorite books of the year - in no particular order...

1. Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta

Twelve months later, I still can't explain why this book affected me as much as it did. I rarely ever think about characters after I close their book, but Taylor, Jonah, and the others have somehow stuck with me. I may not like Marchetta's fantasy books, but I adore this novel.

My favorite standalone novel EVER, at this point. Plus, my grandma liked it :)

2. The Cabinet of Wonders - Marie Rutkoski

My review of this novel is coming up this week, but I'll quickly say that I found this first installment of the Kronos Chronicles absolutely delightful. Steampunk meets fairytale in this beautifully simple story of a girl in early-modern Prague, a wicked-legit clock, and a mechanical spider.

3. Divergent - Veronica Roth

One of the highlights of my reading year was this extremely well-written and evocative dystopian novel. I also have a very high respect for the author, as well. This story of a futuristic Chicago, divided into virtue-based factions, is an excellent example of how a modern dystopian ought to be. Sure, the violence got a little heavy at times (even for me), but Divergent was ultimately a major hit with me.

4. Unwind - Neal Shusterman

One of the first of the YA dystopian genre, Unwind still is "the one to beat," as far as I'm concerned. Despite a lackluster ending (for me at least), Unwind was filled with tension, adventure, and thought-provoking questions and scenarios. I also have a major respect for Shusterman's storytelling ability - for asking questions rather than spooning out answers.

Plus that unwinding scene was C-R-E-E-P-Y!

5. Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

To be honest, I didn't *like* Ship Breaker so much as I was quietly and respectfully in awe of it. It was a little too dark and bummer-depressing for my cup of tea, but the reason Ship Breaker makes my list is because of Bacigalupi's heartfelt writing style - just enough detail to hook the reader into the action without overpowering the narrative with weighty and pace-slowing descriptions. Plus, this is a good example of a *real* dystopian. This definitely had enough realism in it to seem relevant to me (in a way that other dystopians like The Hunger Games, never was)

6. Once Every Never - Lesley Livingston

This book was just a DELIGHT. Still not sure if it was released in the United States, but wow, I just adore Lesley Livingston. In my opinion, she is one of the best, most talented Young Adult authors today. She took a very obscure part of history - Roman Britain - and made a solid story around it. As usual, she showcased her strong knowledge of history and Celtic mythology.

I cannot wait for the sequel!

7. The Queen of Attolia - Megan Whalen Turner

With this novel, I was more enamored with the story than the writing, but Queen of Attolia makes the list because it was a fun read but also an inspiring one. Megan's world seemed so effortlessly real, and that's something I'd love to replicate in my own writing. Her worldbuilding is not easily matched and her characters are rich and thoroughly interesting. There are very few characters I've encountered in YA who can match the overall appeal of Eugenides the thief.

Steampunk quickly replaced dystopian as the genre of my fascination. I could not get enough steampunk this summer, and Kady Cross' Girl of the Steel Corset appears to be the most promising steampunk novel/series for Young Adults currently in print. I still stand by the prediction I made in 2011 that steampunk will surpass dystopia as the 'next big thing' in YA lit.

I found Finley Jayne to be a fun protagonist to root for and follow, and I am eagerly anticipated the sequel.

9. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
Ahh, I found a real winner with this one. Besides the beginning (too much modernity and a few useless characters) and the ending (didn't like the 'big reveal' and am more than a little apprehensive about the sequel), Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the strongest debut I read this year - along with Divergent. Taylor's worldbuilding was absolutely astonishing, and her characters (except Karou, who still leaves me divided in my opinion of her) were brilliantly crafted. Akiva and Brimstone were easily my two favorite characters of the year (with Eugenides from Queen's Thief solidly in 3rd). Laini is easily one of the most skilled writers I've ever encountered. Her work is both inspiring and intimidating.

10. Chronicles of Prydain (whole series reread) - Lloyd Alexander

I finished the year rereading this beloved series, so I had to include them on this list. One of these days I'm going to hunker down and actually write a review of the Chronicles of Prydain, one of the best young adult series ever written. I've referenced Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper, the hapless bard Fflewddur Fflam, and the flighty-but-spirited Eilonwy before, but they deserve a review of their own. And they'll get it, one of these days. But these books mean so much to me, and it's because they are the books that, way back in 4th grade, really got me excited about reading. They are the books that got me thinking about creating my own stories, and writing them down. So it's only appropriate that I closed out 2011 with a reread of my favorite series.


My reading goal for 2012 is slightly less than last year's - only 50 books. Hopefully it'll be a number that I'll be able to reach. Either way, I'm excited to begin my 3rd year blogging and hope that anyone who's reading this will stick around with me for another great year.

What was your most memorable read of 2011?

7 shout-outs!:

Natalie said...

Congrats on graduating! Yay! I can see why Jellicoe Road is on your list. I loved that one as well! I have to admit though: I haven't read any of the other books you mentioned! I own Divergent and Ship Breaker though, and I'm looking forward to reading them!

Charlotte said...

I'm so glad to see you liked The Cabinet of Wonders--it's a favorite of mine!

And now having read The Queen of Attolia, you get to read, or perhaps already have read, The King of Attolia, which is one of my favorite books ever! In case you didn't know yet, there's a very nice Megan Whalen Turner discussion group, called Sounis...

Unknown said...

SO MANY outstanding books here. LOVE JELLICOE ROAD. That's just a life-changing kind of book. Sometimes I almost feel sorry for the books I've read since Jellicoe, THG, and Monsters of Men - How can anything else compare?? Still got to read Divergent and Daughter of Smoke and Bone... Here's hoping that 2012 is full of even more fabulous books!

The Flashlight Reader said...

I actually had The Black Cauldron computer on my (ancient) Tandy computer in the 80s. It was awesome. Did you see that Disney is releasing TBC on DVD soon? I can't believe it's been 25 years.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Divergent are sitting on my book shelf waiting to be read! I hear they are awesome.

The Flashlight Reader said...

And I also think it should be noted that I was thinking about you today from the book swap eons ago. I was wondering how you were doing. =) and then voila, you appeared on my blog.

danya said...

I love love LOVE the Chronicles of Prydain series! It's just wonderful, full of quirky, distinct characters and captivating storylines. I wish it got more attention in the blogosphere - so pleased to see it on your list!

Also, congrats on graduating!!

Ari (Reading After Midnight) said...

I loved Jellicoe, and Divergent, and Unwind.. also The Daughter of Smoke and bones was great too. I'll have to check the others, maybe they will make it to my top 10 2012 ;)))

Happy midnight reading!

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