Book Recs: What I Read in 2011

I read a lot. This is partly due to the fact that I like books, but also because I read fast. Really fast. Crazy-person fast. It typically takes me two hours to get through an average-length novel. That’s as long as it takes to watch a movie, people.

As far as I’m concerned, the invention of the e-reader is probably the most awesome thing that’s ever happened to books, and possibly the worst thing that’s ever happened to my bank account. (Who am I kidding. and Sephora are the worst thing that ever happened to my bank account.) If I’m reading a series, I can finish one book and download the next one right away! If I’m browsing for something new, I can download the first chapter and see if I like it! If I just finished a series and am feeling bereft, I can impulsively purchase EVERY SINGLE THING THE AUTHOR HAS EVER WRITTEN even though it is 3 O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING and I REALLY SHOULD BE SLEEPING. Not…that that’s a thing. That happens. When I finish a series.

Anyway, aside from the fact that these are all YA (okay, with the exception of the Ridley Jones books), here’s what else they have in common:

  • Women authors unite! I’m not saying you have to have ovaries to write books I love with a fervor bordering on obsession; I’m just saying that it doesn’t hurt.
  • You know I really liked a book if I get to the last page and immediately turn to the beginning again to start it all over.  That was the case with every single one of these.
  • Each of these stories hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until the very end. (Yes, even the Envelopes books…although I suppose running is less accurate in that case than flying off to London for reasons which will be explained.)

Anyway, behold: my favorite books of 2011.*

The Mortal Instruments Series: City of Bones · City of Ashes · City of Glass · City of Fallen Angels (Cassandra Clare)
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

These books are like crack.

Wait. That’s not a good way to start a review.

I should say: I literally could not put these down, to the detriment of my ocular health and personal sanity, and I am so invested in Clary’s relationship with Jace that it borders on alarming. That’s…better, right?

Seriously, this series is amazing. Well-written, fast paced, smart, WAY hotter than YA ought to be, intricately plotted and did I mention Jace? Because, yeah.

The first three books conclude the initial plot arc, and City of Fallen Angels continues the story with a new trilogy. If you’re wary of works in progress, you can safely stop after City of Glass. I don’t know why you would, but you can. Maybe to pretend that Cassandra Clare doesn’t enjoy ripping the hearts out of her readers and making them clutch, weeping, at the empty hole in their chests? NOT THAT THE INFERNAL DEVICES ARE NEXT ON THE LIST OR ANYTHING.

The Infernal Devices Series: Clockwork Angel · Clockwork Prince (Cassandra Clare)
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

I stumbled on these books totally by accident. I had just finished Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker (which I loved) and Clockwork Angel was one of the things Barnes and Noble thought I’d like. I’d never heard of Cassandra Clare, but I downloaded the sample chapter for fun and also because I have poor impulse control.

5 minutes later I was frantically clicking the “BUY NOW” button because if I didn’t find out what happened next I would explode. (See poor impulse control, above.)

The Infernal Devices series is a steampunk dream, all Victorian London and secret societies and shape shifters and demons and Tessa and Will and Jem OT3 Forever. Ahem.

You can view these as a prequel of sorts to The Mortal Instruments, or you could view them as a standalone series. Either way works just fine and you’re not going to get spoiled no matter which you read first (though there are lots of cool Easter eggs in both series if you know what to look for).

None of that eclipses the fact that when you get to the end of Clockwork Prince you will probably want to have a very large stack of tissues nearby. Just FYI.

13 Little Blue Envelopes · The Last Little Blue Envelope (Maureen Johnson)
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

I started reading Maureen Johnson because of Twitter.

True story.

Someone (I don’t even know who now…Wil Wheaton? The Bloggess? Someone else entirely?) retweeted some Maureen Johnson tweets and I thought, ha, she’s kind of hilarious. So I followed her, and she is THE BEST THING ANYPLACE EVER. If her tweets are this entertaining, I thought, her books must be fantastic.

I was right. (That’s not unusual.)

I liked 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I would have loved it when I was younger, in that OH MY GOD I AM GINNY sort of way that you love books when you’re sixteen or nineteen or twenty-three. But clearly I am way too grown-up for that now, right? Then came The Last Little Blue Envelope, and it absolutely blew me away. Partly it’s the complexity of the relationships between the primary characters, which are much more fraught than they were in the first book. But mostly it has to do with Oliver.

The 1-800-WHERE-R-U Series: When Lightning Strikes · Code Name Cassandra · Safe House · Sanctuary · Missing You (Meg Cabot)
Meg Cabot's 1-800 Series

Meg Cabot makes me feel like a failure. I mean, seriously, take a look at the number of books she cranks out in the average year. The only possible explanation is that she never sleeps, or is actually comprised of several different people, like Shakespeare. Or Frankenstein.

The 1-800 series isn’t particularly highbrow or literary-minded. It’s fun and fluffy and a little bit dark. Like lots of Meg Cabot books, the heroine is plucky and a little bit unhinged.

For those of us who grew up in the 80s, When Lightning Strikes is a pitch-perfect homage to Escape from Witch Mountain. Which – who didn’t love that movie? But if you take the series as a whole, you realize the story is less about Jess Mastriani’s cool precog powers and more about learning who to trust and figuring out what matters and growing up.

What. I just like them, okay?

The Hunger Games series: The Hunger Games · Catching Fire · Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

(I want to apologize in advance to those of you who click that link. Suzanne Collins is an extraordinary writer, but whoever “designed” her web site should have their internet privileges revoked. Authors: beautiful, functional web sites make the world sing in perfect harmony, just like Coke. Or that weird alien invasion from Torchwood. I DIGRESS.)

There probably isn’t anyone on the planet who hasn’t heard how fabulous The Hunger Games trilogy is. I’m just chiming in to say it’s all true. The books are amazing. I tore through them like my life depended on it.

I also highly recommend giving the books a second go while following the excellent recaps on Mark Reads. Are ‘recaps’ even the right word for those? Basically Mark liveblogs each chapter as he reads it, and it is awesome.

Bumped (Megan McCafferty)
Bumped by Megan McCafferty

THIS COUNTS as a series because the second book (Thumped) will be out SOON. Not SOON ENOUGH, but SOON. I am patiently waiting, see? This is me, being patient.

Megan McCafferty is the woman responsible for the fabulous Jessica Darling series (Sloppy Firsts, etc.), which I loved unreasonably and may still pull off the shelf with alarming regularity. You don’t know.

Bumped has all the snarky teen-speak of McCafferty’s previous series, but also the added bonus of being a dystopian look at a future in which teens are the only members of society able to have babies. Oh no, it’s AWESOME, trust me. It’s like The Handmaid’s Tale meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or…something like that, only good.

(Megan McCafferty’s web site is perfectly acceptable, by the way. See, authors? You do not need Flash intros or SOUNDS or huge, slow-loading graphics or a background that hasn’t been updated since 1998. Web designers are your friends.)

Beautiful Lies · Sliver of Truth (Lisa Unger)
Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

I’m not usually into mysteries – wait. That’s not even true. I thought I wasn’t into mysteries, and then I started reading Lisa Unger and realized that what I’m not into is badly-written mysteries.

Beautiful Lies and Sliver of Truth follow the delightfully-named Ridley Jones through a series of realizations that what she thought of as her life was a series of carefully-crafted lies. How these lies are unraveled – and how much danger Ridley is in – ratchets up the tension, but the real kick comes from the way all the pieces fit together in the end.

And even though there didn’t seem to be any missing pieces at the end of Beautiful Lies, I was amazed to find that Sliver of Truth was able to go back and find the little details I hadn’t even noticed and turn them into a new, even more intricate puzzle.



*These were not all written in 2011. I just read them in 2011. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m skimping on details here. Also, I was in no way compensated for this or any other post because no one actually reads my blog.