Friday, December 30, 2011

My Own Personal Book Awards

I've read some spectacular books this year.  So spectacular in fact, that I couldn't resist giving out a few awards in some categories of my very own creating.  

There are five books in each category, and I swear to you, they could really go in any order, and their ranking here does not reflect anything but the order I found them on my reading list.  Looking at them now, I'm pleased to see what a diverse list this is.  My taste usually runs to the Contemporary side, but it just goes to show you never know what's going to rock your world.

So without further ado, I give you...

My Five Favorite Reads of 2011

1.  The Name of the Star 

Johnson hit this one out of the park.  (You can see my full review on Goodreads)  I was a little nervous how it would play, since she's one of my favorite contemporary writers.  But I am here to tell you, this is now my gold standard for what paranormal must be.  The characters still had all the layers and humanity of a contemporary, and their experience with the ghost world fit right in.  Fast-paced and compelling.  I can't wait for the next one!

2.  Divergent

The moment I finished this book, I ran to my mom's house and told her she had to put down whatever else she was reading and start it.  She finished the next day.  This book is straight up addicting from the get-go.  It's intense, fascinating, and so unexpected.  Everything you think you know about dystopian will be turned on its head.  Is INSURGENT out yet?!

3.  Chime

I read this book only after reading Mandy Hubbard's blog post about what editors were looking for.  When asked, more editors said they wished they'd edited CHIME than any other book.  For that reason, and in spite of the cover and the jacket flap, I read it.  Oh. My. God.  It was NOTHING like I expected.  It was brilliant and painful and so different from anything else I've read.  I couldn't put it down.  If you don't believe me about any other book, please go get CHIME as soon as you possibly can.

4.  I Capture the Castle
Dodie Smith

My friend Johnny recommended this book to me.  It's older--written in the 1940s, and first published in 1949.  Strangely enough, the author is also the author of ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIONS.  This book is pure magic.  Bizarre, and hilarious, and romantic, and wonderful.  I can't recommend it highly enough.  Another one I forced my mother to read as soon as I finished.

5.  Putting Makeup on Dead People

I was excited about this book based solely on the title.  Violi delivered an amazingly layered story that pulled me in from the start and made me want to stay longer in her world.  It was quirky, and unexpected, and tapped themes I haven't seen handled so delicately in YA.  Intricate as lace.  You should definitely put it on your to-read list.

The Five Books That Made Me Feel 
Like a Hack As a Writer in 2011

3.  Chime

Billingsley's story is a master class in world building.  The language, the voice, the characters, the setting, the structural devices...there was nothing here that didn't work for me.  It was like being miniaturized and settled comfortably in an old-fashioned music box, watching wide-eyed while the mechanisms did their magic.  I could die happy if I ever wrote something half this good.

2.  Ashes

Holy action movie on paper, Batman!  This one left me breathless.  It was particularly harrowing to read for me since it was set so close to where I live.  Bick even referred to local restaurants by name.  I loved the realism, and the believability of this awful future.  She even gave explanations for her character's survival skills that rang so true I didn't question her for a moment.  Amazing.

3.  My Invented Life

Bjorkman's use of language left my mind spinning.  This book was actually challenging to read at times because of the stream-of-consciousness style (though that's not even really the right description).  I felt like I was never given a full hand in a high-stakes poker game.  I'm not sure I loved this book, but it certainly gave me a lot to think about.  YA is NOT dumbed down, and this book is proof.

4.  Imaginary Girls

I have rarely loved to hate a character as much as I hated Ruby in IMAGINARY GIRLS.  Suma created a David Lynch-like atmosphere in this book where I never felt like I had both feet on solid ground.  This was another one of those books where I was never sure if I was enjoying it or not, but I couldn't help admiring Suma's skill.  Characters, voice, setting...everything wove together.  And I love that some mysteries were never fully explained.  (But I still hate Ruby.)

5.  The Replacement

Wow, this book gripped me from the first page.  It was like reading a book set in a Tim Burton movie.  Like others on this list, I never felt completely at home in this world, but it was so rich and believable I couldn't help turning pages.  Only the ending let me down in any way.  I'd still highly recommend it.

My Five Favorite Female Characters for 2011

1.  Cassandra from I Capture the Castle
Dodie Smith

I really don't know how to put words to my adoration for Cassandra.  She's totally of her own time, yet delightfully madcap and modern.  I could easily imagine a teenager from today having the same kind of adventures Cassandra and her family went through.  She's a complete delight, and you will never regret reading her story.

2.  Ruby Oliver from Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren't Complicated I Wouldn't Be Ruby Oliver 

Ruby has been one of my favorites since I read the first installment in her series a couple years ago.  She's funny, and smart, and self-centered, and confused, and good-hearted, and quirky without wearing it like a badge of honor, and her footnotes just make me want to be her best friend.  Sometimes, I wanted to strangle Ruby for being so stupid, but all her decisions were so human and relatable, in the end I still wanted to hug her.

3. Clio from Girl at Sea

Clio is everything I love about Maureen Johnson's writing.  She's smart, unsure of herself, wise beyond her years, but somehow naive.  Best of all, she was dropped into the middle of a story that screams out to be made into an action/comedy, like, now.  Are you listening, Hollywood?  Clio's observations of her world, and the other characters were laugh-out-loud funny.  Yay for girls in action roles!

4.  Rory in The Name of the Star

And oh look, another Maureen Johnson character!  Feel free to take the reasons above and apply them to Rory.  Her near-death experience by humiliating choking episode, love of processed cheese-food-product, and willingness to use her paranormal abilities to get her homework done make Rory a character you can absolutely get behind.  Trust me, you'll love her.

5.  Donna from Putting Makeup on Dead People

Donna is definitely the quiet one on this list.  I loved her introspection, and the way she dedicated herself to her interests, whatever they were and however outside the norm.  She made me root for her so hard, right from the beginning.  She reminds me of a friend of mine, so of course I want to climb inside the pages and squeeze her to bits.

My Five Favorite Male Characters for 2011

1.  Roger from Amy and Roger's Epic Detour

Roger is fun, and self-assured, but totally broken at the same time.  I loved the way he didn't question Amy's fear of driving, and went along with every strange twist in their journey.  I also loved the restraint he showed, and of course, his awesome taste in music (By the way, if you search some of the songs on his playlist on YouTube, you'll find a ton of the others suggested in the side bar.  How cool is that?).

2.  Eldric from Chime

Eldric was like a small sun dragged down to earth.  I could just picture him vibrating with energy and bubbling with laughter.  I loved his bad boy side, and his humor, and the way he "played" with Briony when she needed him to.  Such an amazing, rich character.

3.  Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door

Cricket was unique and weird, and adorable.  I am a sucker for a smart boy, and Cricket fit that bill to a T.  I loved the way he dove into anything that came up, from pie-making, to pizza box sliding.  A great, romantic lead that would have any girl with a thing for nerdboys swooning.  Loved him.

4.  Tobin from "The Cheertastic Christmas Miracle
Let It Snow 

Tobin is everything I like about John Green's writing.  Funny and sarcastic without delving into snarky, full of joy at the wonderment of life, and not even completely embarrassed about it.  Totally willing to dive straight into a bad plan and ride it out, no matter what.  Green writes about the kind of kids I knew in high school, and Tobin was no exception.  A lovable delight.

5.  Shakespeare Shapiro from Spanking Shakespeare

Rarely have I read a character who could pull off self-pity as successfully as Shakespeare.  He made me care about what happened to him, even though he saw himself as a victim of circumstance.  Hilariously honest and self-depricating to a fault.  I loved his relationship with his parents, and the way he was so utterly inept with the girls in his life.  Hilarious and adorable.  Hidorable.

Best Love Stories of 2011

1.  Tris & Four from Divergent

Oh, the understated sexual tension!  Oh, the forbidden aspect of the student-teacher attraction!  Oh, I am so going to kick Veronica Roth's ass if anything bad happens to Four, I swear to God!

2.  Briony & Eldric from Chime

Mmmmm, animal magnetism in a repressive historical time period!  Eldric and Briony simmer together and you just want them to finally let it happen!  So good.  Romantic without being sappy, obstacles you can actually believe, only a little bit wanting to clock one of them over the head with something heavy and scream, "Can't you see he/she loves you?! AG!!"  So so so so good.

3.  Anna & Will from Sixteenth Summer
Michelle Dalton

This book is everything sweet and wonderful about that first real love.  All that wrapped up in a spectacular oceanside setting that made me want to move to Georgia.  And if you know me at all, that is REALLY saying something.  Love how this one ended.  And I won't spoil it for you, so there.

4.  Mia & Adam from Where She Went

Adam and Mia have made my heart ache since IF I STAY.  I was going buggy for most of this book, so desperate was I to know everything would work out okay.  Amazing character development from the first book, and I bought every word of it.  It will fill you with longing and ennui, but in a good way.

5.  Lola & Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door

Okay, who doesn't love Stephanie Perkins?  If you haven't read ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS you have obviously got to get your priorities straightened out.  I didn't love Lola as much as I loved Anna (the characters, not the book), but still the romance was so honest and realistic I couldn't help putting this book on my list.  Plus...Cricket.  I mean, yum, right?  As much as I wanted to thump Lola over her head with a book a few times, I suppose it would have been dishonest of her to see the light too soon, right?  Even when that light is Cricket.  If you love romance, this is the one for you, trust me.

So, there you have it!  For more Year-End goodness, may I recommend checking out YAHighway?

Leave your favorites in the comments!  My To-Read list can never be long enough.

- Liz

Monday, December 26, 2011

Booklist 2011

Book List 2011

1.  Inexcusable - Chris Lynch
2.  Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler
3.  Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles
4.  The Brief History of the Dead - Kevin Brockmeier
5.  Prom - Laurie Halse Anderson
6.  Leadership and Self-Deception - The Arbinger Institute
7.  The Bermudez Triangle - Maureen Johnson
8.  Oblivion Road - Alex McAulay
9.  Book of A Thousand Days - Shannon Hale
10. Dramarama - e. lockhart
11. Rampant - Diana Peterfreunde
12. Invincible Summer - Hannah Moskowitz
13.  The Replacement - Brenna Yavanoff
14.  Ten Miles Past Normal -  Frances O'Roark Dowell
15.  Wither - Lauren DeStefano
16.  Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen
17.  The Last Little Blue Envelope - Maureen Johnson
18.  Bumped - Megan McCafferty
19.  Stay - Deb Caletti
20.  Sharks & Boys - Kristen Tracy
21.  Putting Makeup on Dead People - Jen Violi
22.  The Summer of Firsts & Lasts - Terra Elan McVoy
23.  Wrapped - Jennifer Bradbury
24.  Where She Went - Gayle Forman
25.  Sixteenth Summer - Michelle Dalton
26.  The Day Before - Lisa Schroeder
27.  Viola in Reel Life - Adriana Trigiani
28.  I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
29.  The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie - Jaclyn Moriarty
30.  Chime - Franny Billingsley
31.  Some Girls Are - Courtney Summers
32.  Smokin' Seventeen - Janet Evanovich
33.  Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies - Blake Snyder
34.  Girl at Sea - Maureen Johnson
35.  Ghosts of Ashbury High - Jaclyn Moriarty
36.  Singing the Dogstar Blues - Alison Goodman
37.  Feed - M.T. Anderson
38.  The Lost Crown - Sarah Miller
39.  How to Ruin a Summer Vacation - Simone Elkeles
40.  Unfamiliar Fishes - Sarah Vowell
41.  Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill
42.  The Day Before - Lisa Schroeder
43.  Dash and Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn & David Leviathan
44.  The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin - Josh Berk
45.  24 Girls in 7 Days - Alex Bradley
46.  You Wish - Mandy Hubbard
47.  Slam - Nick Hornby
48.  Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots - Abby McDonald
49.  Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys - Kate Brian
50.  The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen - Mitali Perkins
51.  The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon--and me, Ruby Oliver - e.lockhart
52.  Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren't Complicated I Wouldn't Be Ruby Oliver - e. lockhart
53.  Let It Snow - Maureen Johnson, John Green, Lauren Myracle
54.  Trapped - Michael Northrop
55.  The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson
56.  Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma
57.  Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
58.  Something Like Fate - Suzanne Colasanti
59.  My Invented Life - Lauren Bjorkman
60.  Slumming - Kristen D. Randle
61.  Flipped - Wendelin Van Draanen
62.  My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies - Allen Zadoff
63.  The Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love - Rosie Rushton
64.  The Liar Society - Lisa & Laura Roecker
65.  Sisterhood Everlasting - Anne Brashares
66.  Divergent - Veronica Roth
67.  Lola and the Boy Next Door - Stephanie Perkins
68.  Delirium - Lauren Oliver
69.  Ashes - Isla J. Bick
70.  Twenty Somewhere - Kristan Hoffman
71.  Amy & Roger's Epic Detour - Morgan Matson
72.  Explosive Eighteen - Janet Evanovich
73.  A & L Do Summer - Jan Blazanin
74.  Spanking Shakespeare - Jack Wizner
75.  Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto - Eric Luper
76.  Five Flavors of Dumb - Antony John
77.  The Running Dream - Wendelin Van Draanen
78.  Ten Things We Did That We Probably Shouldn't Have - Sarah Mlynowski

1.  Curious George Feeds the Animals - Margaret & H.A. Rey
2.  Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendik
3.  Skippyjon Jones - Judy Schachner
4.  Guess How Much I Love You? - Sam McBratney
5.  Sixes & Sevens - John Yeoman
6.  I Love You, Daddy - Jillian Harker
7.  Much Bigger Than Martin - Steven Kellogg
8.  The Lorax - Dr. Seuss
9.  You Can Do It, Sam! - Amy Hest
10.  A Present for Toot - Holly Hobbie
11.  The Cat in the Hat Comes Back - Dr. Seuss
12.  Super Sid the Silly Sausage Dog - Sam Lloyd
13.  The Tomato Patch - William Wondriska
14.  The Snowy Day - Ezra Jack Keats
15.  And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street - Dr. Seuss
16.  Peter Rabbit's Easter - Frederick Warne
17.  Toot & Puddle You Are My Sunshine - Holly Hobbie
18.  Peter Rabbit's Happy Easter - Grace MacCarone
19.  The Napping House - Audrey Wood
20.  Here Comes the Crocodile - Kathryn White
21.  Begin at the Beginning - Amy Schwartz
22.  On the Moon - Anna Milbourne
23.  Love From Uncle Clyde - Nancy Winslow Parker
24.  Toot & Puddle The One and Only - Holly Hobbie
25.  Toot & Puddle Charming Opal - Holly Hobbie
26.  Toot & Puddle Top of the World - Holly Hobbie
27.  Toot & Puddle Wish You Were Here - Holly Hobbie
28.  Toot & Puddle The New Friend - Holly Hobbie
29.  In the Night Kitchen - Maurice Sendak
30.  McElligot's Pool - Dr. Seuss
31.  The 500 Hats of Bartholemew Cubbins - Dr. Seuss
32.  Peter's Chair - Ezra Jack Keats
33.  Pet Show! - Ezra Jack Keats
34.  So Sleepy Story - Uri Schulevitz
35.  Elizabeth - Leisl Moak Skorpen
36.  Lyle and Humus - Jane Breskin Zalben
37.  But No Elephants - Jerry Smath
38.  Apt. 3 - Ezra Jack Keats
39.  What's a Wise Bird Like You Doing In a Silly Tale Like This? - Uri Schulevitz
40.  The Secret Room - Uri Schulevitz
41.  Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book - Dr. Seuss
42.  A is for Arr:  A Pirate Alphabet - Laura Purdie Salas
43.  The Sun, The Wind, and the Rain - Lisa Westberg Peters
44.  Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus - Mo Willems
45.  The Poky Little Puppy - Janette Sebring Lowrey
46.  Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late - Mo Willems
47.  Leonardo the Terrible Monster - Mo Willems
48.  Hi, Cat! - Ezra Jack Keats
49.  Goggles! - Ezra Jack Keats
50.  Herbert Fieldmouse: Secret Agent - Kevin O'Malley
51.  Best Friends - K.T. Hao
52.  The Big Ugly Monster and the Little Stone Rabbit - Christopher Wormell
53.  I Stink! - Kate & Jim McMullan
54.  I'm Mighty! - Kate & Jim McMullan
55.  Chicken Says "Cluck!" - Judyann Ackerman Grant
56.  Dora Saves the Game - Quinlan B. Lee
57.  The Monster at the End of this Book - Jon Stone
58.  Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed - Mo Willems
59.  There Is a Bird on Your Head - Mo Willems
60.  If You Take a Mouse to School - Laura Numeroff
61.  Froggy's Sleepover - Jonathan London
62.  Ready, Freddy! Halloween 'Fraidy Cat - Abby Klein
63.  The Wizard - Jack Prelutsky
64.  The Pigeon Wants a Puppy - Mo Willems
65.  Don't You Feel Well, Sam? - Amy Hest
66.  The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog - Mo Willems
67.  Me on the Map - Joan Sweeny
68.  Knufflebunny: A Cautionary Tale - Mo Willems
69.  Miss Hunnicutt's Hat - Jeff Brumbeau
70.  Hattie the Bad - Jane Devlin
71.  Tacky and the Winter Games - Helen Lester
72.  Maya & Miguel: My Twin Sister - Eric & Crystal Velasquez
73.  Ready, Freddy! Homework Hassels - Abby Klein
74.  Ready, Freddy! Going Batty - Abby Klein
75.  I Broke My Trunk! - Mo Willems
76.  Watch Me Throw the Ball - Mo Willems
77.  Are You Ready to Play Outside? - Mo Willems
78.  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie - Laura Numeroff
79.  If You Give a Cat a Cupcake - Laura Numeroff
80.  Froggy Eats Out - Jonathan London
81.  Froggy Goes to Bed - Jonathan London
82.  "Eat!" Cried Little Pig - Jonathan London
83.  Ready, Freddy!  Thanksgiving Turkey Trouble - Abby Klein
84.  Ready, Freddy!  Tooth Trouble - Abby Klein
85.  Ready, Freddy!  The One Hundredth Day of School - Abby Klein
86.  Ready, Freddy!  Ready, Set, Snow! - Abby Klein
87.  Froggy Plays Soccer - Jonathan London
88.  Elephants Cannot Dance - Mo Willems
89.  Can I Play, Too? - Mo Willems
90.  I Love My New Toy! - Mo Willems
91.  Ready, Freddy!  The Pumpkin Elf Mystery - Abby Klein
92.  Ready, Freddy!  Stop that Hamster! - Abby Klein
93.  Ready, Freddy!  Talent Show Scaredy-Pants - Abby Klein
94.  Pigs Make Me Sneeze! - Mo Willems
95.  Happy Pig Day! - Mo Willems
96.  Today I Will Fly! - Mo Willems
97.  Froggy Plays in the Band - Jonathan London
98.  Froggy's Day with Dad - Jonathan London
99.  Mac & Tab - Karen Smith
100.  Ready, Freddy!  Don't Sit on My Lunch - Abby Klein
101.  Ready, Freddy!  A Very Crazy Christmas - Abby Klein
102.  The Spirit of Christmas - Nancy Tiller
103.  Press Here - Herve Tullet
104.  Froggy Learns to Swim - Jonathan London
105.  Froggy's Best Christmas Ever - Jonathan London