“The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it” ― James Bryce
Here I am, adding myself to the book blogosphere masses with publishing my list of favorite books that I read during 2011. Albeit, I am late with posting my list, sorry. But, seriously, are you tired of reading such posts? No? I did not think so. Truly, we bookish people feed off of other book blogger’s lists. We eat them up. We discuss our likes and dislikes. We jot down titles of interest. It is our candy – these lists.
I have gone over my list of books read. That list is located on my handy bookmark which is featured in the photo above. This is a bookmark that I make every year. On this bookmark, I not only list the book read, I also give it a rating, and asterisk well liked reads, and circle the favorite for the month. I am unwilling to get all critical and analytical; I rate based on how well I liked said book according to my rating scale. I do not share my rating in my blog posts because I have found them to be very subjective, and not necessarily mean the same for each book even within a given rating year. Does that happen with you? XY&Z rates a 9 as does ABC but when I look at them both, I think, “They are not the same 9 rating – they are different – I like one better than the other – their audience is not the same, etc.”. I have that variety of conversation frequently. Yet, I do not change the rating because the rating stands with that particular book for its circumstance under which I read it, and for its audience. That is why I do not place rating in my posts. I hope what I say in a post will lead you to conclude if I liked the book or not and as to why. Not only that, I hope my posts help you conclude whether the book is for you or not.
Okay…okay…enough all that. Let’s get on with what this post is really about. Shall we?
….. My Bookish Year in Review - 2011 ……
My Top Ten Favorites for 2011
I read a total of 48 books. Not bad, but probably my worst year since 2008. Even so, with 48 only books read, it was a bit tough only choosing my top 10 books. My bookmark aided me greatly, but there are still a few more titles that I would add if 10 equaled 12.
The books are listed in order of when read; not by least to most favorite, vice versa.
The titles are hyperlinked to my reviews (where one exists)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Synopsis taken from Barnes & Noble:
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms blew me away when I read it last January. I was very much drawn into the story and captured with the allusion to Greek mythology, the gods, and the game of power. I liked the tale very much, and found many layers within this story. It did not rank high on the list of books I recommended last year, but recommend it I would.
by Michelle Moran
Description from inside ARC:
When Marie Tussaud learns the exciting news that the royal family will be visiting her famed was museum, the Salon de Cire, she never dreams that the king’s sister will request her presence at Versailles as a royal. tutor in wax sculpting. As Marie familiarizes herself with Princess Elisabeth and becomes acquainted with both Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, she witnesses the glamorous life of the court. It’s a much different world than her home on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, where bread can only be had on the black market and men sell their teeth to put food on their tables. The year is 1788, and men like Desmoulins, Marat, and Robespierre are meeting in the salons of Paris, speaking against the monarchy; there’s whispered talk of revolution. Spanning five years from budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.
I loved, loved Madame Tussaud, and came away from it with profound reading satisfaction. I went into knowing next to nothing in regards to the French Revolution. I came away enlightened. This is a well crafted, intriguing, and utterly engrossing story. I do not hesitate to recommend Madame Tussaud to anyone that I know who loves historical fiction. Actually, that would be true for anything written by Michelle Moran.
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Can a book rock your world with incredible story, and prose that also includes an amazing character? Oh yes a book can, and this was accomplished by The Name of the Wind. Let me say, I think I am in a bit of author love when it comes to Patrick Rothfuss. Seriously, I do not think that man will do no wrong in stringing words together that in some shape or form grabs and maintains my attention. Only problem, because I loved The Name of the Wind so well, I have yet to read The Wise Man’s Fear for no other reason than the fact this unwise blogger deals with fear that the follow-up to a book well loved will disappoint. Umm…stupid, I know. Especially since it has been well-received. sigh…2012 will be the year for The Wise Man’s Fear.
by Guy Gavriel Kay
Goodreads Description: Eight of the nine provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm, on a world with two moons, have fallen to the warrior sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior. Brandin's younger son is slain in a battle with the principality of Tigana, which the grief-stricken sorcerer then destroys. Years later, a small band of survivors, led by Alessan, last prince of Tigana's royal house, wages psychological warfare, planting seeds for the overthrow of the two tyrants. At the center of these activities are Devin, a gifted young singer; Catriana, a young woman pursued by suspicions of her family's guilt; and Duke Sandre d'Astibar, a wily resistance leader thought dead. Meanwhile, at Brandin's court, Dianora, his favorite concubine and--unknown to anyone, another survivor of Tigana--struggles between her growing love for the often gentle tyrant and her desire for vengeance. Gradually the scene is set for both conquerors to destroy each other and free a land.
GGK is an author of fabulous talent. He knows how to craft amazing fantasy with historical undertones and Tigana is no exception. The writing is beyond superb. The story has a pace of its own which lured me in and kept me; a drug of sorts that I yearned for every day.
I loved this book greatly, and do not hesitate to recommend it but for some reason I could not bring myself to review this book. Actually, I know why, GGK has such great talent and weaves amazing stories that I felt overwhelmed by this one to where I simply thought that I could not do the book justice with my own words. Suffice it to say, I did write a small bit about this book that really summed up well why you should read this book too. My thoughts are hyperlinked to the book title.
by Kristin Cashore
Goodreads Description: Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.
Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.
Oh, Fire, how I loved your story. It took a bit to warm up to Fire’s story, but, warmed up I did. I very quickly found myself absorbed into her world with a rocking storyline, superb pacing, interesting and intriguing characters - Cashore has a fantastic gift for writing. Fire was a book that I thought of for several months before I figured out how best to express my thoughts – a letter to my friend. This review mode allowed me to share my enthusiasm for Fire in a way that my regular review mode would not allow. This book is seriously good.
by Connie Willis
Inside Flap: Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place. Scores of time-traveling historians are being sent into the past, to destinations including the American Civil War and the attack on the World Trade Center. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser, Mr. Dunworthy, into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. And seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who has a major crush on Polly, is determined to go to the Crusades so that he can “catch up” to her in age.
Blackout is a perfect example of how a group read can lead a reader – me – to a fabulous book that I probably would not have read otherwise considering it was not on my radar and I was not planning on WWII reading at the time. I am so glad that I went with my mood to read it. Blackout is truly unique in how it delivers historical information while immersing its reader into a fabulous crafted story. Blackout suited me so very well; a combo of time-travel and historical fiction blended together smoothly, and seamlessly. I look forward to reading in 2012 the next book, All Clear. Thank you CarrieK at Books & Movies for co-hosting this group read. While I was not a great participant, I did read the book and loved it.
by Jo Walton
Inside Flap: Startling, unusual, and yet irresistibly readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.
Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.
Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…
Among Others frequently stood out to me on the bookshelves when I would visit my local bookstore. When it was on sale, I snatched it up. Not just because the cover appeals greatly, but also because one of my blogging friends loved it greatly – thank you Carl for bringing this book to my attention. If not for his review, I probably would have continued my bookshelf browsing admiration. I am glad that I did not because Among Others is simply a book not to miss. Walton crafted a multi-layered story which was delivered with intelligent thoughts, and dialogue. I tore through the book – breathing in the story while at the same time finding myself pausing over nuggets of truth as they hit me. This is an excellent story. Brilliant.
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
GoodReads Description: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
Last year was a great year for Suey to have influence over my book reading choices and music interests. Thankfully, she is a fabulous friend, and I like, very well, her musical and book tastes. Not only was she influential in tuning my ear towards a fabulous musical talent. That talent became my Favorite Artist of 2011. She also was incredibly influential in my choosing to read, The Book Thief. I am so ever grateful for her persistence that I would not be disappointed. She was so very right. No…not just right…beyond right. The Book Thief is a book that no one should miss. An excellent story with many layers – deep reaching, and soul penetrating. This is a holocaust story with such uniqueness that nothing short of respect was felt for the subject matter. You know how the Diary of Anne Frank is read over and over again in the school system? I deeply believe that The Book Thief should be read with just as much frequency and same revere. Powerful, this book.
by Kurt Vonnegut
Goodreads Description: Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the world's great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.
This is a surprise favorite. Over the last few years, I have been hearing about Vonnegut, and I did not think his writing would be for me. Yet, I wanted to read one of his books to say that I did – a bit of a snobby bookish bent on that, I will admit. But, ha ha, the joke is on me. Not only did I like his writing, I found his concise manner greatly appealing. With clipped sentences, and time-travel sequences, Vonnegut crafted a bizarre story that kept me wanting to know more. I was intrigued, to say the least. An impression upon me was certainly left. I will be reading more Vonnegut stories.
The Way of Kings
by Brandon Sanderson
Goodreads Description: Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soiless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.
It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.
One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable
Blown away, I was. The epicness of The Way of Kings amazed me, and not just because of its vast scope of story, but also for all the detail embedded. Sanderson has enormous talent; he magnificently wove the threads of this story together. I am in awe, AND this is just the tip of the ice burg. If The Way of Kings is any indication, this is the start of an incredible and amazing series. I am glad that I have not waited for the series to be complete before embarking on this journey.
Favorite Bookish Experience of 2010:
Author Event: Patrick Rothfuss, was by far, hands down my most favorite bookish experience for 2011. I travelled 1 1/2 hours on March 9th in order to listen to this man speak, to meet him, AND to have my book signed. It truly was a fantastic experience, and I urge anyone who has a chance to attend any of his book signings to do so. I wrote in length about the experience, if curious, check my post out – Author Event: Patrick Rothfuss.
Favorite Book of the Year - 2010:
The Name of the Wind makes it to the top of my list purely for the fact of how incredibly engaged I became with this story. I really felt the story become apart of me as I read. Every waking moment, I found myself wanting to read this book, and when I could not, I was thinking of all that was going on. Kvothe, almost a year later, is a character that has stuck in my mind – he still ranks as one of my most favorite. I must thank Logan at Rememorandom for suggesting and influencing me to give this book a read. If it were not for his enthusiasm, I would have missed out on my favorite read of 2011. Whew! Glad I did not miss out.
~ For much of 2011, I thought The Name of the Wind was a shoo-in for this top spot, but the last part of year found myself reading two other books that became heavy contenders for this spot – The Book Thief, and The Way of Kings. Alas, I went with The Name of Wind because I was simply more engaged and connected with the story and character.
Favorite Book of the Month
Like I mentioned, I keep track of my books on my bookmark, and I mark which book is my favorite read for the given month.
January: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
February: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
March: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
April: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
May: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
June: Fire by Kristin Cashore
July: Blackout by Connie Willis
August: Did not complete one book
September: One book completed, not a favorite
October: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
November: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
December: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
If interested, my complete list of books read in 2011 can be found here, Books Read 2011 This is where my books are listed until I can get a books read page up on my blog.
~ genres are subjectively assigned, and a single book could be assigned to more than one genre.
Books Read – 48
Own - 28
Library - 7
Publisher / ARC - 13
New to Me Authors - 32
Female Authors - 30
Male Authors – 12
Historical Fiction – 8
Fantasy – 23
Paranormal – 2
Urban Fantasy - 4
Science Fiction – 5 (however, they were not solid sci-fi)
Dystopian - 2
Graphic / manga – 1
General Fiction – 2
Short Stories – 1
Romance - 3
YA - 17
Middle Grade - 4
~ I read far more books that I own than I realized. However, I did not keep track of books read already owned versus bought thus owned. Also, I am a bit surprised that I read 13 books given to me by the publisher or via NetGalley. I thought that number was much lower. My library stat needs to increase during 2012. My male author number is much lower than I realized. I thought that I tended to read books authored by a male rather than female. My stats prove otherwise. Goodness, I read far, far more Fantasy than I thought. Although, that is not too surprising as I do gravitate towards that genre. What was surprising is the few books that I read in Historical Fiction…only 8 in my second favorite genre.
I know many of you have shared your 2011 favorites, please do let me know if you posted your year in review. I would like to make sure to read your list.
“Get books, sit yourself down anywhere, and go to reading them yourself.” ― Abraham Lincoln