Jan 5, 2012

2011 Book Survey

Thanks to Literary Musings for providing me with this book survey. This is actually a meme being held over at The Perpetual Page-Turner.

(Disclaimer: I read so much, it's often difficult for me to remember my exact feelings around any particular title if it's not by a favorite author, much-anticipated, or knocked my socks off. Thanks to my new obsessive Goodreads habit, this is becoming a little better, but please excuse me as I question the true validity of these answers, as they may have been different had I a better memory.)

1. Best Book You Read In 2011?

Adult novel: 

Tie between The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon and River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh.

The Story of Beautiful Girl I reviewed here. River of Smoke is going to be terribly difficult to review and I can't decide if I'm going to or not. The Story of Beautiful Girl had really engaging characters. River of Smoke took me forever to finish (about 4 weeks) because it was so dense, but absolutely worth it as everything is so richly detailed and examined (and convoluted, but that's part of its charm).

Teen novel:

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

I love everything she writes. I can't help it. She writes with such sensitivity, but fixes your heart even as she breaks it. I end up crying every time I read her and I love it. I talk about it here.

Children's novel:

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall 

Hands down, just love everything she writes. Reviewed here.

2. Most Disappointing Book?

Adult novel:
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (sorry Emily!)

I know many people who greatly enjoyed this book. I am not one of them. Perhaps if I had read past the first 60 pages it would have grown on me, but the events of those first 60 pages — the characterization, the intense medical descriptions, the emphasis on religion and God, and the point of view of the main female character — worked together to create a singularly unpleasant reading experience that I was loathe to continue.

Teen novel:

 Touch of Frost and Kiss of Frost (Mythos Academy, books 1 & 2) by Jennifer Estep

Being such a fan of her adult Elemental Assassin series, I was particularly excited to see her writing for a teen audience. Unfortunately, the writing has gotten so much worse than in her adult novels. Truly disappointing, as by this time in your career, shouldn't your writing (or your editor's editing) get better? Maybe she's working with a different editor at a different publisher? Whatever the case, there were moments of great action and intrigue, but they were not enough to make up for the tired characterizations (the main character is basically a teen version of the star of the Elemental Assassin series), boring dialogue, and filler scenes that didn't really forward the plot.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?

Another tie:

A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness

One of my favorite teen authors, this children's book blew my mind. I was sobbing on a plane as I read it and I didn't even care. Heartbreaking and wonderful and tragic and dramatic and fantastical, and that's all without considering that it's a story sparked by an idea from the talented Siobhan Dowd who sadly passed away from breast cancer in 2007. This story honors both her life and her memory.

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

This non-fiction book of essays about the colonization of Hawaii was ridiculously engaging. Finished the whole thing and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it. A terrible history, as most colonizations are, but also full of humor and culture and a contemporary perspective on the smorgasbord of cultures that exist on the island today.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2011? 

This is a tough one because everyone reads something different, so obviously I recommend different things. I did tell many people about the Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley, beginning with Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (which I actually gave to my mother for the holidays), so I think that probably wins.

5. Best series you discovered in 2011?

Steampunk Chronicles by Kady Cross
Inn BoonsBoro trilogy by Nora Roberts 
6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?

Kady Cross
Ransom Riggs
Tamora Pierce

7. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?

Does it count if I haven't actually read it yet? I can hardly wait to read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. A friend very kindly lent it to me, but I've been waiting for a day I know I have free to just sit down and read it. That day, my friends, will be this weekend. But I've been anticipating it since 2011. So, it kind of counts, right?

If you're really going to push me on it, I'd have to say Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Again.

8. Book you most anticipated in 2011?

The books I most anticipated were mostly along the lines of my guilty pleasure reading. The Next Always by Nora Roberts, New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb, Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep, and of course, The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta because I count down the days for every one of her book releases. 
9. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2011?

I'm sensing a theme here:

10. Most memorable character in 2011? 

This is going to sound like an odd choice, but the characters in Laid Bare (Brown Siblings #1) by Lauren Dane really left me thinking. Yes, it's a book mostly about hot sex and tattoos but it delves pretty deeply into a M/M/F triad relationship. It prompted me to pick up Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage by Joe, Alina, Vicki, and Valerie Darger, and Brooke Adams, so that I could read more about a true relationship of love between multiple partners.

11. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?

This is impossible to decide. The book that impressed me the most with its writing due to the various styles and voices necessitated by the various plot threads that then somehow converge at one point in the book was Amitav Gosh's River of Smoke.

12. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011? 

Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children by Diane Ehrensaft

This non-fiction book about raising gender-nonconforming children helped change the way I look at the world. Even being open-minded and familiar with LGBT lifestyles, the all-encompassing mainstreams ideals on gender representation portrayed in this book was mind-boggling. At the same time, it was heartwarming to read the stories of families who recognized their children as gender-nonconforming, giving them the freedom to choose their own gender expression, and continuing to love them as that expression might change through the years. Of course, reading a book like this and trying to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the children I hope to have some day also made me question what I would do if my children were completely and unequivocally gender-normative in their identity and expression. Would I be as okay with a daughter who wanted to wear pink princess dresses as I would with one who wore truck t-shirts and wanted a dirt bike? It is definitely an on-going internal thought process to make sure I will be just as accepting of gender-normative expression as not. Luckily, I've got many more years to work on this as I don't plan on having children any time soon.

13. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read? 

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1) by Tamora Pierce

This was actually my very first Tamora Pierce novel, period! I quickly read the rest of the series, and though I found them to be a bit juvenile for my own reading tastes, I thought they were perfect for their actual intended audience and am looking forward to reading her more sophisticated works.

14. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2011?

I didn't actually read this book, but I saw this quote from someone, somewhere, and it's really stuck with me:

"It is not where we breathe, but where we love, that we live."
- Søren Kierkegaard, from the anthology Provocations

15. Book That You Read In 2011 That Would Be Most Likely To Reread In 2012? 

Miss Peregrine. A surprise, I know.

And that's all folks! Here's looking forward to 2012!          


  1. Well, fine. I'm sure my feelings will recover sufficiently for me to speak to you again before the end of 2012. Or, I could just say that I couldn't read The Piper's Son and we can call it even! ;)

  2. I LOVED The Story of Beautiful Girl and I wish I had seen it getting more praise around the interwebs. So, I'm happy to see you liked it. I'm also excited about The Monster Calls, which I just got on hold at the library. Thanks for your picks.

  3. Em, I'm shocked and horrified. Let's just call it even an move on. :)
    Laura, so glad you liked Beautiful Girl too! You're the only other person I know who's read it. Hope you enjoy Monster!

  4. Yay! I have Miss Peregrine in my library bag right now, and I'm infinitely more excited to read it after seeing how much you enjoyed it. And I'm DYING for my turn at the library with A Monster Calls. That Patrick Ness can do no wrong!

  5. Can't wait to read Miss Perigrine, The Night Circus and A Monster Calls!!


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