Monday, January 2, 2012

My Favorite Books of 2011

2011 was the year of the amazing book. Really. I had such a hard time narrowing down this list. And it must be noted that I'm choosing only from books I had time to read. I still have a shelf full of gorgeous, shiny 2011 books just dying to be read, and no doubt many of those are amazing too. So, this isn't an exclusive list, this is just my way of making sure my readers know about some pretty awesome books. And in the comments, I'd love to hear your recs for your faves from 2011!

In no particular order, here are the books that stayed with me for days, inspired me, and made me cry, laugh, or stay up until 2 a.m. because I couldn't bear to stop reading.

1. Hourglass by Myra McEntire:



Summary:

One hour to rewrite the past . . .


For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.


Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

My Thoughts:

I fell in love with this book because of Emerson's voice. Snarky, funny, broken, and hopeful, Emerson was the perfect narrator for this southern murder mystery meets Dr. Who story. I often laughed, I adored the romance, and I flipped the pages as fast as possible to figure out how in the world Em and Michael could possibly save the day when the day was lost months before the story even started. There are plot twists, heart-warming (and heart breaking) emotions, and surprises. I've never been a huge fan of modern time travel books, but Myra McEntire changed my mind.



2. Enclave by Ann Aguirre:




Summary:


New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.

My Thoughts:
This story is a gritty, compelling adventure from the very first page. The world building is exceptional, the characters are interesting and damaged, and the redemption each achieves by the story's end is hard won and well deserved. This isn't a book for those who want their characters to be touchy-feely from page one, but for those who enjoy a flawed, well-drawn character who slowly and painfully learns how to feel love and hope. I read this book as fast as I could, even while trying to draw it out, and I'll be snatching up the sequel as soon as it hits the shelves.


4. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins:



Summary:


In this companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, two teens discover that true love may be closer than they think



Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn't believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit - more sparkly, more fun, more wild - the better. But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.


When Cricket - a gifted inventor - steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

My Thoughts:

Oh, where do I start? First, I don't read contemporaries very often. I much more a dystopian or fantasy fan. I put off reading Ms. Perkins' first novel ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS for forever, even though everyone was saying it was amazing. When I finally decided to read it, I discovered I'd been an idiot for putting it off for so long. Perkins has an incredible ability to bring unique, flawed, lovable characters to vivid life on the page. LOLA showcased that talent well. I gulped this book down, and I'll re-read both Lola and Anna before the next companion novel comes out just for the sheer joy of seeing characters I love get their happily ever after. If you love romance, quirky characters, and settings that feel like you're THERE, these are the books for you.


5. Divergent by Veronica Roth:



Summary:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.



During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.


Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the YA scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

My Thoughts:

This is another book I put off reading because the hype was so HUGE, and I guess I start wondering if any book can really live up to that. If you're putting off reading this for the same reasons (or if you just haven't put this on your To Be Read list yet), let me assure you: It lives up to the hype. Thrilling, heart breaking, and completely fascinating, this book stayed with me for weeks after I finished reading. The emotional stakes are so high, the adventure is so edge-of-your-seat, and the journey the main characters take (both internal and external) is incredible. And have I mentioned the world building? Stellar. I will have the sequel in my hands the very day it comes out.

6. Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton:



Summary:
A dark and lush paranormal romance set in a richly reimagined New Orleans—now in paperback!Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.
Her search for answers uncovers a message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.


She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.


Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.
My Thoughts:

This is a lush, atmospheric action-packed story with some incredible surprises in store. The world Ms. Keaton creates is gritty, vivid and dangerous. Her characters are definitely not your run-of-the-mill characters, and I don't think I can fully put into words how haunting this book is. It stayed with me for days. DAYS. I don't know if this book got the buzz it deserves, but take it from me. This is worth reading.

7. Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins:


Summary:
Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.



That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.


Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world—the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a risky procedure that will either destroy her powers forever — or kill her.


But once Sophie arrives she makes a shocking discovery. Her new housemates? They’re demons too. Meaning someone is raising them in secret with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Acher to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?

My Thoughts:

Fans of Hex Hall were thrilled with its sequel, and I'm no exception. Full of humor, suspense, and plot twists like WHOA, this book is impossible to put down. The same cast of characters is back, new problems are on the horizon, and Sophie is torn between two guys (and between secrets and a destiny no one seems to want to explain to her). The romance in this book is perfect. And by perfect I mean ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME, HAWKINS??? Here I was all TeamArcher for life, and now I'm wondering if it's really a bad thing to be TeamEveryBoyInSophie'sLife. I can't wait to get my greedy little hands on Spellbound this spring!

8. Across the Universe by Beth Revis:




Summary:
Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. She expects to awaken on a new planet, 300 years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, Amy's cryo chamber is unplugged, and she is nearly killed.



Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir.


Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she? All she knows is that she must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

My Thoughts:

This is a fabulous adventure with one of the most compelling opening scenes I've ever read. I was fascinated by the ship and the characters, and I desperately wanted to solve the mysteries with them. Kudos to Ms. Revis for totally surprising me in the end. :) I love surprises in books! This is an engrossing tale with romance, plot twists, and a world unlike any you've ever seen.

9. Chime by Franny Billingsley:


Summary:
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.

My Thoughts:

Oh, this book. It's unlike any book I've ever read. Full of secrets and gorgeous prose. Lush and haunting. The characters, quirky and fascinating, come right off the page. The swamp setting is a character in its own right. The stakes are incredibly high. This is a book full of terrible beauty and unearthly things. It's pure magic. I'm going to read it again and take notes on how to write something this amazing.
10. Red Glove by Holly Black:


Summary:
Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe’s world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else. That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s now been cursed to love him. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.



When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help solve the crime. But the mob is after him too—they know how valuable he could be. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone—least of all, himself?
My Thoughts:
I adored WHITE CAT, and the sequel is fabulous too. Who could resist a world of magic and cons and one boy caught up in both even though he really wants to be a good person? Thoroughly entertaining, fast paced, and full of emotional depths, this is one of the best books--one of the best series--I've ever read.
11. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater:


Summary:
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Shiver and Linger comes a brand new, heartstopping novel.
Some race to win. Others race to survive.
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.


Some riders live.


Others die.


At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.


Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition - the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
As she did in her bestselling Shiver trilogy, author Maggie Stiefvater takes us to the breaking point, where both love and life meet their greatest obstacles, and only the strong of heart can survive. The Scorpio Races is an unforgettable reading experience.


My Thoughts:

I didn't expect to love this so much. I mean, it's Maggie, so I figured I'd enjoy it. But I fell hard for this book. It has Maggie's gorgeous prose and insightful character development, yes. But it also has something ... more. The story is bigger than the two main characters, and we feel the stakes as they affect others too. We fall in love with more than the two main characters, too. It's full of danger, suspense, courage, and two damaged people slowly and courageously finding their way toward true love and hope. Beautiful, heart breaking, and so moving, this is a book I'll be re-reading just to see how she does it.

12. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson:




Summary:

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.


Elisa is the chosen one.


But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will.


Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.


And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.


Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.
My Thoughts:

There's no such thing as a perfect book, but this comes close. The world Ms. Carson builds is flawlessly complex. The stakes are unbelievably high. And Elisa just stole my heart. One of my favorite parts of the book was seeing the subtle growth in Elisa's character. Ms. Carson reveals her in tiny movements, small choices, and little sentences that are all part of the tapestry of this rich, compelling story. I can't recommend this book highly enough.


That's my list of the best books I read this year. There are many, many other amazing books out there, and I know I missed some (or just haven't had a chance to read them). What are your recs for best books from 2011?

10 comments:

  1. Across the Universe was one of my top favorites. I own several of these books, but haven't had a chance to read them yet. I really need to get on that. :)

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  2. What a great list!! I've read most all of these and featured many of them on my favorites lists too.

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  3. Great choices! I cannot swwon enough over LOLA and DIVERGENT! :)

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  4. Love your list and now I have some to check out! THX!!! I have to put in Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare...so much better than Clockwork Angel; The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson...a modern day Jack the Ripper novel with a twist of paranormal, awesome book!; & Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting...great sequel and introduces a hot new boy!!

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  5. Oh, I forgot about The Name of the Star. I really enjoyed that one! Haven't read the others yet, but will add to my TBR. Just don't tell my hubby ...

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  6. I haven't heard much about Enclave, but everyone who's read it seems to love it. I'm planning on buying it in my next book purchase.

    And I just got a copy of Darkness Becomes Her. New Orleans is often an amazing setting, so that's the main reason I wanted to read it. Glad to hear the characters are unique!

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  7. Thanks to you I now have a pile of books to read. And you're messing with my scatterbrained mind, leaving out #3! Are you taking lessons from Beth Revis?

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  8. LOL. Actually, I had another book in this list, but realized it was an ARC and isn't coming out until this year. I decided to save it for my best of 2012 list instead. :)

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  9. So many good ones! I also loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

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  10. I stayed up WAY too late last night finishing HOURGLASS. Loved it. DIVERGENT, RED GLOVE, and ACROSS THE UNIVERSE grabbed me this year as well. Thanks for the other recs. LOLA is popping up on a lot of lists, so I'm going to grab that one up soon.

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