Kristin’s Top Ten of 2011

As 2011 draws to a close, I would like to share my favorite titles from this busy year! As per usual, the main problem of making my “Top Ten” list was trying to narrow down all of the titles. But as you can see, I did cheat a little (I have 11 rather than 10). So without further are my fabulous picks!

A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay. 2011.
This title was recommended by Lindsey, who did a wonderful review of this deeply moving story of a boy whose mother is very ill. One of the many twists in the story is that an unexpected monstrous visitor comes to him every night at seven minutes past midnight. I was hesitant about this title at first, because I didn’t know what to expect. The cover initially reminded me of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories books, but this story is very different from that. This story is intense, touching, and ultimately unforgettable. To get the true effect of this title, you must read it for yourself.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol. 2011.
Many graphic novels pass by my desk everyday, but Anya’s Ghost was one of the few that really intrigued me this year. Anya is a freshman who is embarrassed by her immigrant past. Her family came to the United States from Russia when she was very young, and she has worked very hard to fit in as an American teen. Little does she know that her life will dramatically change when she falls down a well and encounters a ghost from 1918 named Emily. An entertaining read that was even endorsed by Neil Gaiman: “Anya’s Ghost is a masterpiece, of YA literature and of comics.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. 2011.
Being a huge fan of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I had no doubt I would love Wonderstruck. Selznick is amazing, there is no doubt about it! I adored this book, especially because of how intricately the two stories are woven together. His glorious artwork amazes me again and again with the detail, especially when it comes to eyes. I like how he depicts the eyes as having their own story just like in the silent films, where the performers told stories with them. There are so many more things I could say about this lovely book, but I will let you read Tracey’s review instead. An amazing book meant to read again and again!

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. 2011.
I listened to the audiobook version of this title, and was excited to find out that it was narrated by the author herself! Talk about a tongue-in-cheek read, that will also keep you on the edge of your seat! The book begins with a small group of beauty pageant contestants fending for themselves on a remote desert island. Miss Texas (Taylor) leads the group (and on the audiobook, Libba gives her an amazing southern drawl) and wants them to continue practicing for the Miss Teen Dream pageant, despite everything. If you enjoy handsome pirates, lip gloss, mystery, and cynicism, Beauty Queens is a must-read for you!

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. 2011.
Tracey recommended Okay for Now to me, and I am ever so grateful to her for introducing me to Gary Schmidt. I loved the character of Doug, and how he tried to stay optimistic despite his difficult circumstances. The scenes that especially captured my interest were when Doug would compare people to Audubon’s paintings: “Her blue coat was spread out, and it covered them both like wide wings…” Schmidt truly has a gift for authentic dialogue and engaging the reader. I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. 2011.
I adored this book! Laini Taylor does a sensational job of drawing you into the story with her prose that is tantalizing and filled with vivid imagery. Magical tattoos, fiery handprints and mythical beasts will make you want to learn more about blue-haired Karou’s fascinating world. An otherworldly romance was also a nice added touch (especially for me), check out my full review here.

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff. 2011.
Brenna Yovanoff’s depiction of heaven, hell and everything in between was unlike anything I have ever read before. I enjoyed how twisted, yet strangely beautiful the world of Pandemonium was. The tone of the writing also captivated me, along with many stunning twists and turns. A striking novel that just might have you sympathizing with a demon girl (I know I did)! To read a full review please click here. To read my exciting author interview with Brenna Yovanoff, click here.

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton. 2011.
Romance, magic, murder, and the quest for immortality are all spellbinding elements in Tessa Gratton’s debut novel Blood Magic. Trust me, you will never look at blood the same way again! I also enjoyed the alternating points of view that started each chapter because they made me feel really connected to the characters of Silla, Nick, and even Josephine Darly. In terms of paranormal fiction, Gratton’s Blood Magic is one that really stands out from the pack! Read my full review here, and be sure to stay tuned for an author interview with Tessa Gratton!

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting. 2011.
This is the best dystopian novel that I have read thus far. Derting, also known for her Body Finder series, does a magnificent job of luring you into the world of Ludania. We meet Charlaina (Charlie) who lives in a society where the language you speak determines your social class. Charlie can understand all languages and must hide this ability in order to avoid punishment or death. Throw in an evil queen, an intense romance, fascinating side characters, as well as many secrets..and you have The Pledge! Look for my review at the end of this month, as well as an author interview with Kimberly Derting!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. 2011.
“I’ve been locked up for 264 days is how debut author Tahereh Mafi begins the intriguing story of Juliette. The Reestablishment has locked Juliette up for a murder she didn’t mean to commit. Her touch is lethal, and the people who have imprisoned her have plans to use her to their advantage. As a weapon. An amazing debut that will lead you on many plot twists, and leave you wanting more. Look for a more in-depth review by me in January!

*Bonus*: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. 2012.
Although this is my Top Ten of 2011 list, I figured I could add in my first pick for my 2012 list (because it is that amazing of a novel). It was featured as our very first Promising Bloom, and rightfully so! This was my first introduction to John Green and I was not disappointed. His characters are so authentic and expressive, that it made me feel as if I really knew Hazel and Augustus. The Fault in Our Stars is an insightful story that will hit your funny bone and tug at your heart strings.

Thanks so much for following our blog this past year. We really appreciate all of your support, and hope that you will continue to enjoy our blog in 2012 and beyond (‘to infinity and beyond!’) Have a wonderful holiday season, and we look forward to seeing you again next year!

Kristin J.