I have to preface this by confessing that I'm an idiot. I threw away my old planner before tearing out the two pages where I had written down the titles of the 58 books I've read this year, and so I had no written record to consult to refresh my memory when making this list. (And no, I didn't add all my 2011 books to Goodreads. I try to convince myself that Goodreads doesn't exist whenever possible. It's a painful place for authors. More on that in my post on 2012 goals tomorrow.)
So anyway, I had to draw from memory alone to make this list. Which is frustrating in a way because I KNOW I've forgotten some amazing books. But in another way, it's a fairly accurate way to judge my favorites of 2011. These are the books that stuck in my cluttered, crowded mind. They made an impression. They brought joy and entertainment and sometimes The Tears.
Speaking of The Tears...
Let's start with the first book that made me cry this year: KNUFFLE BUNNY FREE by Mo Willems. I teared. I smiled. I smiled through the tears. It took 8-10 readings aloud before I could get through this book without a sniffle or two. (I think my boys chose it every night just to see me get all choked up and have to give me hugs. They're sweetly cruel that way.)
Trixie grows up and we all cry with happy/sadness. (My summary. I couldn't find a handy one online.) Visit Mo Willems at http://mowillems.com/
The next offering is from my new 2011 friend, Sophie Littlefield. I'm happy to say I was as charmed by her books as I was her person. AFTERTIME is a gritty zombie read like none I've read before. An amazing, layered original world and a damaged heroine on a quest for her missing daughter made this a gripping read and one of my top books of the year. Go forth and check it out. (This is an adult book. Wouldn't recommend it to those under 16. Very gritty. *grrrrr* )
Awakening in a bleak landscape as scarred as her body, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls surviving something terrible. Wearing unfamiliar clothes and having no idea how many days—or weeks—have passed, she slowly realizes the horrifying truth: Ruthie has vanished.
And with her, nearly all of civilization. Where once-lush hills carried cars and commerce, the roads today see only cannibalistic Beaters—people turned hungry for human flesh by a government experiment gone wrong.
In a broken, barren California, Cass will undergo a harrowing quest to get her Ruthie back. Few people trust an outsider, let alone a woman who became a zombie and somehow turned back, but she finds help from an enigmatic outlaw, Smoke. Smoke is her savior, and her safety. For the Beaters are out there. And the humans grip at survival with their trigger fingers. Especially when they learn that she and Ruthie have become the most feared, and desired, of weapons in a brave new world....Next up BLACK CAT by Holly Black. (The sequel is on the top of my TBR list for 2012.) Loved the male narrator in this one. He had such a compelling voice. (Read this earlier in the year so my impressions are foggier, but I remember love love loving it.)
Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.Patrick Ness is on my list twice because he is just that awesome. He always delivers such a visceral, honest read. Check out the KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO series. You won't be sorry. It starts out awesome and just keeps getting better.
Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others.
Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape.
As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await?
But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge…
The electrifying finale to the award-winning Chaos Walking trilogy. Publishing May 2010 in the UK, Ireland and Australia, and September 2010 in the United States and Canada.OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon M. Draper was a touching, well-crafted read. A gem of a book, just perfect in every way. As a writer I can spot "lazy day passages" in my own writing--places where I obviously wasn't as "on" as I was the day before or after--and I'm getting to the point where I can spot those places in other writers' work as well. But this book? Not a lazy day passage in it. It will make you think and ache and maybe shed a tear or two.
Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school—but NO ONE knows it.
Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows. But she can’t. She can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write.
Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.
This is the second Ness book on the list, A MONSTER CALLS written by Ness, inspired by an idea by Siobhan Dowd (whose book A SWIFT, PURE CRY I also enjoyed the hell out of this year). This story will break your heart. I almost had an asthma attack trying not cry over the ending (I was on the stair climber at the gym, my preferred reading destination because I WIN at multi-tasking, and had to stop reading and finish it later.) I wept like I haven't wept over a book in years and was, at the same time, so very grateful for this read. If I die young and leave the world while my children are still children, THIS is the book I want them to read. Knowing Siobhan lost her struggle to breast cancer before she could write this story made it all the more heartbreaking to read, but Ness did an amazing job with the execution. The man gets it. Just go. Read this now. Bring tissues.
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
But it isn?t the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...
The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.THE DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE is a lovely romance, but it was, as always with Taylor's work, Laini's prose that I fell in love with. She is an amazing, fanciful, magical writer. I want to roll around in her words and hug them and call them my friends. I hope to meet her sometime soon and fan girl all over her in person.
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?Magic. THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING is pure magic. I will reread this book again and again. I will read it aloud to my children. I will hold it close and thank the book gods and Catherynne M. Valente for this gift of a read. This is the fairytale adventure I always wanted to read as a kid. Add it to your collection.
Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.
THE IRON THORN is another magical read. I didn't want to leave this world--these two worlds, really, Catilin has created two amazing, layered, imaginative, unique worlds that I can't WAIT to learn more about in THE NIGHTMARE GARDEN. This is an adventure and a love story and an iron flavored fairy tale you don't want to miss.
CHIME by Franny Billingsley enchanted me from the first page. Billingsley may be the only writer in the world whose beautiful words make my mind squirmier (in the good way) than Laini Taylor's. I am deeply, deeply saddened that this talented lady doesn't write faster. I want more, mooooorrreeeee. *greedy reader is greedy*
In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft’s epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Hereticalas born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.
Aoife Grayson’s family is unique, in the worst way as every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.
Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.
Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.
May you all have a happy and safe New Year's Eve!
See you in 2012,