Sunday, January 1, 2012

Top 11 Reads of 2011

2011 was a good year of reading for me even though my goal was to read 50 books, and I only read 39.  I think moving across the country knocked me off track because who can read when you have a whole house to decorate?  (not me)  My goal for 2012 is to read 55 books, so BRING ON THE BOOKS!  I checked out 6 books at the library yesterday that I am REALLY excited about.  Before I dive into 2012 reading, I wanted to share with you the best 11 books I read in 2011.  I realize that I haven't done a book post in quite some time.  Sad face.  Hopefully this will make up for it partially.  Keep in mind these are just the best books I read in 2011 - some are old, some are new.  Two are for adults, one is for teachers, and the rest are for kids. That's just how I roll.
1.  Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This is one of my favorite books EVER.  It was originally published in 2000, but I just discovered it via a staff book club.  It's a Gothic mystery set in post-war Barcelona.  A young boy discovers a rare novel "The Shadow of the Wind" by Julian Carax.  He then finds out that a horribly disfigured man has been destroying every copy of the novel.  But why?  According to Amazon:  Part detective story, part boy's adventure, part romance, fantasy, and Gothic horror, the intricate plot is urged on by extravagant foreshadowing and nail-nibbling tension. This is rich, lavish storytelling.

2.  The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Also one of my favorite books of all time.  I gasped, I cried like a baby... I couldn't put it down.  This book made me fall in love with Kate Morton.  I've since read another book by her ("The House at Riverton") and I can't wait to read her latest ("The Distant Hours")  From Booklist:  In 1913, a little girl, Nell arrives in Brisbane, Australia.  She doesn’t know her name, and the only clue to her identity is a book of fairy tales tucked inside a white suitcase.  When Nell dies, her granddaughter, Cassandra, finds herself the owner of a cottage in Cornwall, England, and makes the journey to finally solve the puzzle of Nell’s origins. Shifting back and forth over a span of nearly 100 years, this is a sprawling, old-fashioned novel, as well-cushioned as a Victorian country house, replete with family secrets, stories-within-stories, and even a maze. 

3.  Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine 
Caitlyn has Apergers, a type of Autism.  She likes things to be "black and white", and anything in between is confusing.  She relies on her brother Devon and her dad to get through everyday life.  Tragedy strikes and her brother Devon is killed.  Her dad is distraught, and there is no one left to help Caitlyn navigate her grief and her world.  What she needs is closure, and she begins a project intended to give her just that and to honor the memory of her brother forever.  Heart wrenching and uplifting and wonderful - this book is FANTASTIC.

4.  Maze Runner by James Dashner
This is one of the most bizarre books I've ever read, but it kept me intrigued until the very end.  A boy wakes up in an elevator to a society of other small boys living alone.  They don't know who they are or where they came from, but they know they were put there by the "creators" who send them a new boy every month and who send them supplies once a week through the elevator.  Their life is spent surviving and trying to figure out the solution to a giant life-size maze which they know is their ticket out.  It's a suspenseful, dystopic thriller.
5.  Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Another dystopia... The society Lena lives in has outlawed "amor deliria nervosa" or LOVE.  In an effort to control everyone in the society, every person undergoes an operation (read: brain surgery) to "cure" them of love at age 18.  This means they no longer feel any emotion at all.  Lena is looking forward to the operation because the society has scared her so much about the effects of the Delirium.  However, before her operation, she meets Alex, a mysterious boy who makes her heart flutter.  Will she let the society choose for her, or will she risk it all to rebel?  I think you probably know the answer, but it's still a great book nonetheless :-)

6.  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
This is quite possibly the best cover of the year.  The lady at Barnes & Noble told me they put out like 50 copies one day and they were sold out by the end of the day.  It's truly an attention-grabbing cover, don't you think?  I expected a terrifying tale, but it wasn't really a horror story at all.  It's an intense fantasy with some super weird and somewhat creepy elements.  It also contains time travel.  A little bit of everything!  It's basically about this mysterious island where "peculiar" children live - children with bizarre powers like levitation.  If you really want to be hooked, watch the book trailer here.

7.  Ida B by Katherine Hannigan
This book will become a part of your soul.  Katherine Hannigan is such a wonderful writer - she draws you in with her prose and creates the most vivid characters you will just love immediately.  Ida B is a precocious, imaginative little girl who is home schooled and loves to make up fantasy worlds and talk to the nature that surrounds her.  All is right with her world until her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and her world is turned upside down.  You will shed very satisfying book tears on this one, and you will wish you could put Ida B in your pocket and take her home.

8.  Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Centerstage is one of my favorite movies ever.  If you love Centerstage, you'll love Bunheads.  It's basically Centerstage in book form.  It's the story of Hannah Ward, who's in the corps de ballet of the Manhattan Ballet Company.  It's a behind-the-scenes look at what it's really like to be a full time ballet dancer at Lincoln Center in NYC.  Let's be honest, that cover had me at hello and I ate this one right up. 
9.  Matched by Ally Condie
Another dystopia in the same vein as Delirium.  It's a modern day "Giver".  In this society, you are matched with your mate at a "matching ceremony".  At first Cassia is delighted to be matched with her childhood friend, Xander.  However, when she gets home to view information about her match, it's not Xander's face she sees... it's Ky Markham, an "aberration" or someone who is not allowed to be matched.  The society tells her it was a glitch, but she can't stop thinking about Ky.  She has to choose between the life she's always known and the life that no one has dared to follow.  This is a trilogy, and the second book, "Crossed" is already out.

10.  Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
This is a book that I could not read too close to bed because it was so eerily, realistically scary.  It's about a catastrophic "end times" event.  The moon is hit by a meteor and knocked off course, causing cataclysmic climate change.  Most of the US is underwater from out of control tides, volcanoes are erupting, earthquakes are rampant, and basically the whole world is frozen.  Miranda and her family must survive.  The book is told through her diary entries, and I was flipping pages so fast - it's engrossing and distressing.  Makes you think.... this could happen.  What would I do?  If you read this you'll suddenly be grateful for electricity and food and heat and water.  I don't like the way they portray Christians in this book AT ALL, but other than that it was fabulous.
11.  Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
This is a nonfiction book and a "teacher" book.  However, I do think it's fascinating if you are a teacher or in education or even a parent concerned about reading.  He says that schools are unwittingly committing "readicide" and that schools' well intentioned attempts to get kids to read are systematically killing readers.  He offers a grim picture of the state of readers in young adult society today and gives some amazing ideas, especially for middle and high school teachers, to combat readicide.  This book is inspiring and practical, and (in my opinion), couldn't be more important.

Happy Reading!


Stefanie said...

I've basically decided we are book soul sisters - I've read a few of the books on your list, and the rest sounded so intriguing that I either bought them for my Nook or put them on my wish list! I can't wait to dive in :)

Liz said...

Matched and Bunheads... done and done. I have to be in the mood for a good cry, so I'll keep these in my back pocket in case that time comes anytime soon. :)

Anonymous said...

yay for books. finally read heaven is for real yesterday and needing suggestions. :-)


Nicki said...

Yes -- totally saving this post for the summer time! :)

Julia said...

Salsa - I'm reading Shadow of the Wind, per your suggestion, and it's so good that I had dreams/nightmares about it last night, then woke up at 1 am because I was dying to read more and read until 4 am. I mean, what? This book is literally making me lose sleep...I love it. :)

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