Catherynne M Valente

2011 in: Favorite Books

by sarahenni on December 28, 2011

And now for the ultimate end-of-the-year reading list, my favorite reads of 2011! There were so, so many books that swept me off my feet this year, I had an extremely hard time narrowing my list down!

The Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

I had some issues with the last third of the book, but the journey getting there was so incredible, I wouldn’t (and haven’t) hesitate to recommend this to anyone. Reading a Laini Taylor book is like sitting down at a word buffet where everything is rich and dripping in sauce. She can spin a world with just a few sentences that you’ll want to be stuck in forever, and evokes Prague as a dark, funky, ethereal otherworld. And DoS&B’s main character Karou was one of the most interesting, unique, fun, independent leads in YA this year.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Reading Ashes was like taking a crash course in conflict and raising the stakes. I simply couldn’t put the book down, because every few pages something wrenched my heart into a tighter knot and I had to keep going because omg wtf is going to happen are you serioussss! I’ve been reading a lot of zombie books over the last couple of years, and this one had me flipping the pages double-quick. I can’t imagine how it could get worse for Alex, but then again that’s what I thought every chapter along the way. VERY excited about the sequel, too!

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Stephanie Perkins is non-pareil when it comes to evoking the most pure, unadulterated (har har) experience of being a teenager in love. Her characters are complex, genuine, selfish, loving, confused, brave. Her stories are rich—and funny!  When I read Perkins’ books I feel like the stories could come from my life—if I were cuter, my family were quirkier, and the world outside my door was gorgeous and romantic every day. It is an absolute joy to read Lola and Anna, which is probably why I’ve already read both several times.

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Quentin and the Brakebills gang returned in maybe the first sequel book I’ve ever read that actually improves, significantly, upon the original. When Lev Grossman came out with The Magicians a couple of years ago, I was pretty dang excited. Reviews trumpeted it as “like Hogwarts, but with more illicit fondling.” Like I was gonna say no? And I enjoyed it—I definitely did, and would recommend it to adult fans of sci-fi and fantasy—but in the end wasn’t blown away by the outcome of the story. Happily, The Magician King is exactly what I hoped The Magicians would be. In my opinion, this sequel exceeds the original in pretty much every way. The first book was lacking something of the hero’s journey that I’ve come to want/expect from fantasy, or at least it lacked the kind of reflection on Quentin’s journey that I wanted. Well, the second book was entirely about the pursuit of a hero’s journey, the subversion of it, and then twisting it again. All the while, Grossman is weaving a funny, crazy-readable story every bit as brutal at its core as The Magicians was. (Also, I am truly terrible at this whole reviewing business. For more eloquent reflection, please see Phoebe North’s review.)

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Valente is a poet, and every rich, meaty sentence brings that home in this book. Heartbreaking and gorgeous, I found myself re-reading paragraphs and saying words aloud, soaking up the beauty and wonder in each painstakingly wrought phrase. Valente’s book reminded me why we line edit, why we select words carefully, and how we can better imbue our everyday prose with a sense of magic and whimsy. I challenge anyone who claims to be tired of myth retellings to take this book under consideration. I had not heard any of these old Russian myths before, but it didn’t matter. Set against the devastation of early 20th-century Stalingrad, Valente takes traditional Russian myths and evokes them in heart-wrenching poetic detail.

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Corrine Jackson

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristen Halbrook

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

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5 Favorite YA Characters

by sarahenni on December 27, 2011

Today we’re sharing some of our favorite characters from 2011. I love pointing out characters that have left an impression on me, because—though every great book needs great characters—not all great characters come from our favorite overall stories. It’s a different way to think about all the books I read, and I’m happy to say that the characters I listed (split into five girls and five boys, in no particular order) have stuck with me like good friends.

The Girls

Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Lola Nolan from Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door

Marya Morevna from Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless

Tris from Veronica Roth’s Divergent

Fire from Kristin Cashore’s Fire

I think Molly Quinn could pull off Fire's mix of strength and vulnerability

The Guys

Tiny Cooper from John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson Will Grayson

Dr. Pellinore Warthrop from Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist

Quentin from Lev Grossman’s The Magician King

Adam from Gayle Forman’s Where She Went

Warner from Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me

Aaron Johnson has the perfect self-satisfied smirk to play Warner

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Corrine Jackson

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

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