Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 Reading List

The Apology:

Hello friends, I am so sorry that it has been a million years since I have posted.  Since my last review I have moved houses and acquired a kitten and then the holidays happened, and I am just a little bit behind in my life.  I do plan on coming back in full force in this, our year of the apocalypse, so stay tuned for more regular updates. 

Instead of a normal post to celebrate my triumphant return to the blogging world, I've decided to do something just a bit different.  The following is a list of every book I read in the year 2011, accompanied by a short snippet of what I remember liking or disliking about it.  If a book has a * next to the title, that means I especially enjoyed it, and would put it amongst my "best books I read in 2011" (not necessarily published in 2011).  A + means it's a book I reviewed in more detail on this blog.   Happy New Year, and I hope you'll continue to read :)  I hope to make this annual list a yearly tradition!

The Books:

Boy2Girl by Terence Blacker
Kinda funny but kinda mediocre book about gender identity that had promise, but ended up falling a little flat.

* Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo
Oh, I loved this book.  Sweet and fun and goofy, perfect for beginning readers and the adults who read with beginning readers -- I also loved the awesome illustrations of the sisters' mid-century modern treehouse. 

Saving Sky by Diane Stanley
Not bad -- youngish dystopia with parallels to Japanese internment camps and interesting issues of morality.  I wanted a little more character development.

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Teen with an eating disorder becomes one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse -- another interesting idea in a not incredibly memorable book.  Good for kids who like Wintergirls

Matched by Ally Condie
Another book I wasn't thrilled by (I was in a little bit of a dry spell at this point in my year).  Standard dystopia, kinda blah love story, kinda ripped off from every other teen dystopia.  Won't read the next ones in the series, though I know a lot of people LOVE them. 

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
I actually listened to this one, and it was a pretty good audio book.  Lots of interesting ideas about surveillance, and I especially liked the non-fiction tangents. 

Grace by Elizabeth Scott
Scott always writes uniquely and kind of upsettingly.  This was beautifully written and disturbing, a dystopia without FEELING like a dystopia. 

* Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
A paranormal book that's actually fun?  And clever?  And hilarious and gross at the same time?  And set in Seattle?  Yes please.

Benjamin Franklinstein Lives by Matthew McElligott
Funny sciencey Frankenstein parody for middle grade boys (and girls, of course, but this is one of those "boy books").  Nothing special, but fills a good niche for my patrons.

The Cardturner: A Novel About a King, a Queen, and  Joker by Louis Sachar
Another book I listened to -- I really liked it!  Despite the fact that it was almost entirely about the mechanics of bridge, this was actually kind of a page-turner.  Now I want to learn to play bridge.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Yet another teen dystopia set in the future of our own world.  Gritty and realistic and page-turning, with interesting characters and moral dilemmas and environmental issues. 

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
Another dystopia (yeesh, I read a lot of those, don't I...), but a more gentle one.  In essence a book about a journey and living off the land.  Not amazing, but a good change of pace from the action-packed intense dystopias I've been reading.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
This one was kinda eerie for me, because it was basically an accurate representation of a birthright trip to Israel, which is something I have experienced.  Well done and well presented, I identified with everything the author went through.

* Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
My second Scott book this year.  This one...this one.  Man.  What a draining experience.  Amazingly well written account of a girl who is abducted and used as a sex slave.  I listened to this one and was riveted the whole time, though I can't say it's a book I ENJOYED.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
One of my few adult novels of the year -- I really appreciated the character voices and the page-turningness of this one.  I guess I'm on The Help bandwagon.

The Schwa Was Here by Neil Shusterman
I am usually a HUGE Neil Shusterman fan, but this one was underwhelming for me.  Maybe it's because I listened to the audio book and couldn't imagine the character voices myself?  I just didn't find it that memorable.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney
Honestly, the only thing I remember about this book is that it was a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book.  Main character is still a jerk, but it still made me laugh.

*Meanwhile by Jason Shiga
So.  Creative.  A choose your own adventure graphic novel with a time travel twist.  One of the most inventive books I've ever read.

Packing for Mars:  The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
Super entertaining non-fiction.  Adult book with great teen appeal.  You know you want to know what happens if you barf in space.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Good realistic fiction -- great to give to kids to understand what it means to have cerebral palsy.  Kind of heartbreakingly sad.

* The Boyfriend List:  15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs, and Me, Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart
I can't help it, I love love love Ruby Oliver.  I'm not usually one for fluffy teen girl books, but I just so identified with the character and what she was going through. 

Axe Cop Volume One by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle
A compilation of my favorite web-comic.  Crawl inside the mind of a five year old boy and his amazing comic-artist older brother.  Pure, hilarious, childlike hilarity and joy.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart
I'm in the minority on this, I know, but I just COULD NOT get into this book.  The beginning was great and it was all downhill from there. 

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines
This book was SO WEIRD.  It sounds like it should be a badass book about a girl in a gladiatorial contestant, but it was really about being the child of a celebrity and a has dystopian world that's really not very well developed.

Happily Ever Emma by Sally Warner
Cute middle-grade book for kids who love Ivy & Bean and such.  I liked Emma, I've definitely recommended this book to kids a lot this year.

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires
SO CUTE.  Great graphic novel for kids about a cat who thinks he's a space traveler.  Hilarious and ironic with fantastic art and a sense of humor.

+ How to Grow Up and Rule the World by Vordak the Incomprehensible by Scott Seegert
Excellent Dr. Horrible style "non-fiction" book for kids from the point of view of a failed supervillain.  The humor will probably become dated fairly quickly, but it made me laugh out loud.

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
I was not expecting to like this book at all, but I actually really enjoyed it.  Grisham knows how to create a page-turner, and his talents translated fairly well to children's literature.

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle by Patrick Rothfuss
Delightfully horrifying.  A picture book for adults, do not give this to children.  The Edward Gorey/Neil Gaiman fan inside me giggled in terrified delight.

+ The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
Filled with fun literary allusions and a cute romance.  I wish I had access to a library that lent out STUFF.  Especially if that stuff were magical.

+ Room by Emma Donaghue
Kind of reminded me of Living Dead Girl, but from the point of view of a kid.  The author did an amazing job of creating the characters and the world.  I could not stop reading.

* The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
Oh Adam Rex, you are a mad hilarious genius.  This was a good one to listen to on audio because the narrator was so fantastic.  So.  Funny.  Only complaint is that it was a little too long.

+ Epitaph Road by David Patneaude
Another gentler dystopia for more middle schoolish readers.  The world was not incredibly well developed, but the action kept me going.  What would happened if the world were more female-dominated than male dominated?

Knucklehead:  Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka
About what you can expect from a Jon Scieszka auto-biography.  Quirky and hilarious and doesn't skimp on the icky. 

+* Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
So freaking awesome.  Maybe one of my favorite books ever, now.  China Mieville is the MASTER of imagination, genre stereotype subversion, and quirky awesomeness.  Turns every kids' quest book completely on its head.

* Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell
I don't usually include pictures books on my books read in a year (since I probably read hundreds of them), but this one stood out.  I think it's a possible Caldecott contender (we'll find out soon!)

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers
Think Indiana Jones if he were an eleven-year-old girl.  Lots of fun Egyptiany stuff.  Theo is awesome -- a series I recommend but probably won't read more of.

The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
Does The Mysterious Benedict Society better than The Mysterious Benedict Society did, and does A Series of Unforunate Events not as well.  Weird amalgamation of other series, but still somehow well done and enjoyable.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Listened to the audio book, as it's read by the author.  Fun memoir by a woman I respect.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
There's nothing better than crying tears of joy next to strangers while finishing a book on the airplane.  They've both outdone themselves, this book is fantastic.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Lovely intertwining stories based on the Chinese folktale tradition.  Beautiful story about the power of storytelling.

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson
Action packed, thrilling ride about a kid who gets sucked into an underwater cave and has to survive.  Really liked the references to Greek myths.

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Creepy, effective ghost story in graphic novel format.  The art was perfect for the story, and the story was a perfect depiction of the ennui of high school.

Superman's Metropolis by Jean-Marc Lofficier
A friend lent this to me because of my love of German Expressionist film.  Awesome re-imagining of the Superman origin story told through the perspective of the film Metropolis.  Worth reading for the art and creative premise.

* The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Schmidt really knows what he's doing.  Funny and heartwarming piece of historical fiction about an unusual relationship between a kid and his teacher.  Achingly beautiful.

+ Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Wacky wacky Libba Bray.  I kind of love her and hate her at the same time -- this book was too long and a little too hit-you-over-the-head political farce-ish, but I appreciated the openness of the female sexuality.

Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle
Volume 2 in the print version of my favorite webcomic.  Hilariously awesome as always.

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge
Beautifully done graphic novel for teens about a girl's artistic and social awakening in a new city.  Amazing use of the medium, much less literal than most graphic novels, takes perfect advantage of the form.

Theodore Boone: The Abduction by John Grisham
The sequel to the first Theodore Boone book -- this one was NOT as good.  It felt...scattered and un-polished.

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson
A very awesome, slow-paced, character study sort of science fiction book.  I loved the description of synesthesia and the mystery -- the end left a little bit to be desired but in general this is great.

Zombiekins by Kevin Bolger
Another Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Stink, etc. read-a-like.  This one stood out because of its fantastic vocabulary and unabashed disgustingness.

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Companion novel to The Wednesday Wars, which I also read this year.  Much less funny and more somber than its predecessor, but every bit as wonderfully written and honest.

* Divergent by Veronica Roth
Best dystopia I read this year, hands down.  It's a weird amalgamation of every other teen dystopian/romance novel, but for some reason it just WORKS.  Great characters, great violence, great story.  One of the few series I'll probably read the second book of.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
A sad, beautiful exploration of death and grief.  I liked it, but had a hard time figuring out who the audience would be.  Also wish there were more character development between the main character and his dying mother, so I cared more.

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick:  Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales by Various
A follow-up to Chris Van Allsburg's brilliant illustrated book in which famous teen writers create stories around the drawings.  Some of the stories were great, but as a whole I was kinda disappointed.

Dear Anjali by Melissa Glen Haber
Decent exploration of a young girl's grief over the death of her best friend.  The writing style kind of annoyed me (it seemed affected and dumbed-down). 

The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 by Thomas Ott
I have a special place in my heart for wordless graphic novels, especially when they look like a cross between Edward Gorey and Dore.  This one was creepy and effective. Reminded me of the movie Pi.

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen
Really really well done, but really really hard to read. Rape, bullying, violence, and people just generally being horrible to each other.  Fortunately the two main characters are both excellently portrayed and interesting real people.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
I love Brian Selznick's art, and I love his storytelling, but I wish he had a better editor (for the writing parts of   his work).  I thought Hugo Cabret took better advantage of the medium, but this was well done too.

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