Saturday, 3 December 2011

My Favourite Books of 2011

It's nearing the end of the year and so it would take me a very long time to list all of the reviews that I've written in 2011. Instead, I thought it would be good to review a select few of my favourite books that I've read this year.


A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness


Every single one of my Goodreads friends rated this five stars and I can now see why. I tried not to get myself hyped up for this book and didn't really look into what it was about, I just started to read and I'm glad that's what I did.
I don't really know what to say about this book because I feel as though it is something that you have to experience for yourself.
It made me cry. Not just a few tears either, but quite hysterically - it made my stomach turn and it felt truly heart wrenching. That may sound overdramatic, but it's not - the emotions that this book stirred inside me were extremely strong. The subject matter, loss and grief, is very poignant and Ness has managed to handle it almost perfectly. Conor is a very authentic and well developed character. I could really connect with him and felt what he was going through. The writing was beautiful and vivid - along with the fantastic illustrations, I was thrown into Conor and the monster's world, like I was there with them, struggling through the visions and nightmares. I think anybody who has lost someone that they love will relate to this. It pulls up memories and the deepest, hidden emotions. For me, it felt as though some of my silent thoughts were being revealed on paper.
This is a truly special book and I can see that it could really help a lot of people who have gone through, or are going through, loss of a loved one. The fact that the story was based on Siobhan Dowd's idea, who unfortunately passed away before it's writing, just makes it even more emotive and real. Ness has certainly done this story justice. A true treasure.



Love is the Higher Law - David Levithan



This was such a beautifully written book. I really enjoy Levithan's writing and this book definitely didn't disappoint. 9/11 is always going to be a sensitive subject and here, I thought it was handled exceptionally well. I loved how the three likeable and realistic main characters lives all came together and the relationships between all three of them was both touching and tasteful considering the background subject. The whole novel was extremely poignant without feeling too heavy. As it was based upon some of Levithan's true memories of the day in New York, the book was only more intriguing. Claire, Jasper and Peter all dealt with things in their own way and the differences were fascinating. The voices felt very authentic and it was easy to relate to their anxiety, sadness and confusion before, during and after the attack on the Twin Towers. I think that the message throughout this book is important, inspiring and it was very well displayed - to stand united and to look after each other is important, and just because some people try to ruin things, we should still go on.




Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson


This book was amazing. I really thought that the author put a lot of effort in to make the character seem realistic and troubled, without being whiny or irritating. Obviously the book handles sensitive subjects and I found that they were handled well. I thought the formatting of the book was extremely effective and gave it an 'edge' that some books don't have - it really allowed me to get in the mind of Lia and share her thoughts. The writing was absolutely beautiful and I loved the Wintergirls comparisons. I didn't want to put this book down as it was extremely compelling and both Lia and Cassie were interesting. A book that I'd recommend to any Young-Adult reader




Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins



I love this book, Paris and Étienne St. Clair. Though I feel a little embarrassed to write it, this book is so romantic and it gave me lots of warm fuzzy feelings inside in the best possible way - it just made me feel so happy. There isn't an amazing, shocking, earth-shattering plot, but this just feels so real and works so well. It really didn't take me long to get pulled into the whole story. Perkins is a fantastic writer and it's hard to believe this is her first novel. Her writing flows really well. It is apt and realistic for her teenage protagonist, Anna. Anna is a likeable character who is your average girl who has been 'dumped' in Paris by her parents to study at the School of America in Paris. Her new found group of friends are also likeable and realistic - whilst reading this book, you really feel like you get to know everybody in the School. Étienne/St. Clair is handsome, has a wonderful personality and yet is still slightly flawed which makes him even more loveable. Both Anna and Étienne make mistakes, they're not perfect, but their relationship seems like it really could be perfect together. The backdrop of Paris may be cliché for a romance, but it works so well. Perkins described the city fantastically and I really got absorbed into the atmosphere. This is definitely a book I'd recommend.




I am J - Cris Beam


Wonderfully written and thought out, I Am J is certainly something that I'd recommend to others. There are few books out (that I'm aware of) that describe the thoughts and feelings of transgendered teenagers and it's good to see that there's one that's so authentic. This book really encapsulated how it must feel to be stuck in the wrong gendered body. J's thoughts and struggles seemed very real and it was interesting to see how his world and the people around him changed as he started his physical transition.
The strongest point of this book, for me, is that it seemed so realistic. I've never felt as though I've been assigned the wrong gender, but if I had then I'd imagine I'd feel very much like J did and have some of the same struggles. I found the changes in his relationship with his family and friends to be interesting but sometimes their actions did feel a little forced or fake - the only issue that I had with this book. This novel opened my eyes that little bit more to the transgendered community and hopefully it will allow a lot more people to be informed or to even feel more comfortable with themselves. If I was questioning things, J covered it and managed to give me more information. I also found the inclusion of J's best friends self harm issues and the fact that J was a Jewish/Puerto-Rican to be impressive.
Beam has made an inspiring choice to write this and her own experience with other trans- men and women are apparent. I really hope that Beam writes more as she has so much to offer.



Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys



I absolutely adored this book from start to finish. The subject is so interesting and heart wrenching and it is really felt through the characters. All of the characters are well formed and play their own part, they're easily distinguishable and their personalities are strong. The story, based on true to life events and memoirs, is also strong and intriguing all the way through - it was hard to put this down. The events and emotions are portrayed extremely well. I felt bonded to the characters which made this novel even more powerful. The changing scenes were well set, the atmosphere clear thanks to good writing. An amazing read that I feel will stay with me for a while to come.



Sing You Home - Jodi Picoult



Without a doubt, this is one of the most effective and best novels that I have ever read. Wow - it's really hard to describe this one, but one word I could certainly use is intense. The amount of surging emotions I felt was bizarre, feeling anger, sadness and joy all within a few pages - Picoult's use of humour was fantastic in this novel and I found myself laughing out loud at numerous points yet I did have to pause to reflect at times as the emotive issues left me sometimes seething, sometimes upset - but I still didn't want to put this down. The soundtrack to this book was a great idea for both the storyline and the feeling of the book, but it just made it way too intense for me to listen and read at the same time. I was interested in all of the featured issues and events - not just the issue of LGBT people vs. society and religion but also of alcohol abuse and mental illness. I felt a connection and thought that almost all of the characters were very well developed and striking. The writing was superb and drew me in right from the beginning. I had high hopes and expectations for Sing You Home and I certainly was not disappointed. Picoult has outshone herself. Although I find it hard to put into words, there is so much that I love about this book and it is most definitely one of my new favourites.




Life As We Knew it - Susan Pfeffer


This is a fantastic dystopian novel by Pfeffer which I really enjoyed reading. When I first began reading the book, I didn't feel particularly enamoured by the protagonist, Miranda, or her writing. However, after reading on for only a little while, I found myself absolutely absorbed into the story. One of the great things about this book is that it's realistic and I could actually imagine it happening - it's quite unnerving in that aspect. It's not hard to put yourself in Miranda's position and think about what you would do if the catastrophe actually happened. The tension is great. I can understand why people may see this book as a little repetitive but it's still realistic, it would be that way. I found the family to be endearing and the way that they worked together wasn't unlike how I'd imagine a lot of family units would work. I found Miranda to be a little irritating and some things she did at the beginning of the book irked me, but I couldn't blame her for most of her thought processes or actions and I connected with her a lot more as the book and situation progressed. I loved reading this and it is an easy read that I'd recommend.


Divergent - Veronica Roth


Divergent is a fantastic debut from Roth. Roth obviously has a talent for writing and her action scenes in this book particularly shine through. With more expansion and exploration in following books, this series could get even better.
I found this book to be so exciting - it was fast paced and so I never got bored. I just wanted to keep reading on as more things were revealed about the dystopic society. The factions in the book really intrigued me - I couldn't get enough information about them and look forward to learning more in the next books. The characters are all reasonably strong and I admire Tris, the protagonist, for her determination (yet her doubts and fears still give her realism). The romance was a little cliché, but I still absolutely loved it.
Around the end third of this book, the action became more intense and I couldn't put it down - it was truly enthralling and well done. So much more was being revealed and it'll be interesting to see how things turn out in the next book. I'll certainly be wanting to read the next installment of Divergent.



For more of my 2011 book reviews, you can check out my 'Read-in-2011' book shelf on Goodreads.

33 comments:

  1. Between Shades of Gray is suck an amazing book! I really want to read Anna and the French kiss, hopefully I'll have time to read it this month :)

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  2. New follower. I haven't heard of some of these books. Been hearing such great things about Anna and The French Kiss. Welcome to the Blogging World. Come visit me as well.

    Grace
    Livre De Amour-Books of Love Blog

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  3. I'm so ashamed to admit that I haven't read any of the books on that list. But I really want to read Anna And The French Kiss and Between Shades of Gray.
    I'm a new follower. ;)

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  4. I LOVED ANNA!! <3 That book was honestly my favourite contemporary book of the year -- I can't believe it took me so long to pick it up, and I'm SO happy that you loved it too! :)

    This is such an awesome list, Steph! And I adore your blog -- I'm definitely your newest follower! :) It's so nice to meet you!

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  5. I've only read Wintergirls and I cried through most of it. I do plan on reading Anna and the French Kiss soon.

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  6. I'm dying to read Anna and the French Kiss! I've not read much straight-up contemporary YA, but I've heard nothing--LITERALLY NOTHING--but outright raves about this book!

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  7. I loved Wintergirls. I haven't read any of the others yet but I do have a few of them on my shelves! =]

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  8. I have been hearing such good things about Anna and the french kiss, yes I am very curious :)

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  9. Thankyou for visiting my blog :) I'm now following you! I love love love your blog layout (mostly because it's pink) haha! I need to read A Monster Calls and Divergent (I know, I haven't :S) but I LOVED Anna!!

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  10. A Monster Calls is awesome. Great list.

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  11. I SO agree on Anna and Divergent. I've heard amazing things about A Monster Calls and Wintergirls, so I really need to read those as well. Great picks!

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  12. I love about 90% of this list. The others I haven't heard of but that is about to change! Great list. Thanks :)

    ♥ Trish
    Just a YA Girl

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  13. There's a lot on this list that I either love or want to read really, really badly.
    I couldn't agree with you more about: Anna and the French Kiss, Divergent.
    I really want to read A Monster Calls and Life as We Knew it so it's great to see they were so excellent.
    Thanks for the list - I need to get to work on mine now :)

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  14. I loved Anna! Wintergirls and Divergent sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing your awesome list!

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  15. Ha! I just went to your reviews page to find this review of A Monster Calls. Then I started scrolling down and thought, "Holy Smokes! These are so many of my favorite books!!" Then I scrolled back up and realized the title of the post was "Favorites of 2011." Ooooh, so many great books. I've read and loved all of them except I Am J (never heard of it before now!). And going back to A Monster Calls... I finished it and looked up to see my husband looking at me, somewhat horrified. I said, "What!?!?" He said, "Well... I didn't expect to look over and see my wife crying her eyes out!" It was a tear-jerker for sure.

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  16. I found Wintergirls to be really disturbing. Definitely well-written, but REALLY disturbing. But things like cutting, suicide, and ghosts really bother me. I wouldn't have read it if it weren't for a class.

    I absolutely LOVED Life as We Knew It! I also thought it was very realistic and really made me think about what I would do in that situation. Miranda bothered me in the beginning of the book but then she really grew as a character. I actually wrote a critical paper about her growth (from maiden to mother to crone). If you haven't read the others in this series, The Dead and the Gone is equally good. I think I may have even liked it better, despite the fact that it is more gruesome and sad. I cried while reading it!

    I totally agree with you about Divergent being a great page-turner! I started it on a Wednesday and finished it on Friday! I lost sleep over that book and took it to work with me! I am hoping for more world-building in the next two books. I want to know more about the other factions and how the world got to be the way it is.

    It looks like we have very similar tastes in books, and I'm looking forward to following you! (Love all the owls, too, by the way!)

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  17. A Monster Calls was a truly amazing story. One that's going to stick with me for a very long time. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well. :)

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  18. Oh I have been wanting to read Between Shades of Gray for ages! Your review makes me want to read it even more.

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  19. i want read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins..great review,make me cant wait to read this books...

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  20. I read Anna and French Kiss it's really great book.
    Amazing review!

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  21. There's been a lot of buzz about this book and I have it on my TBR list. I WANT A COPY!!!! If it's as exciting as you say it is, I'll probably won't be able to put it down either and could probably finish it in a few days.

    Thanks for your review.

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  22. Between Shades of Gray was such a fantastic book - I had to read it for book club, and I'm really glad I did!

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  23. I loved Divergent! Tris is one of the better female characters out there. :) I'm enthousiastically awaiting Insurgent!
    Great review!

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  24. Anna and the French Kiss is such a GREAT book! I absolutely loved that one! It made it onto my list of all time favorites! :)

    I got to meet Stephanie Perkins in April, and she was really nice and had the COOLEST red hair! :)

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  25. I told you I'd let you know what I think of Divergent when I finished...well...here's my review. Hope you check it out. Thanks. http://sandyfarmer.blogspot.com/2012/05/divergent-review.html

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  26. Anna and the french kiss sounds like a good read! But I hope to get a chance to read Divergent soon!

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  27. I love Jodi Picoult but haven't had a chance to read Sing you home yet. :( But Am looking forward to getting my hands on Life as we knew it.

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  28. I love divergent, really like the character, Tris and Four... one of my favorite couple on YA book^^

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  29. i already bought divergent..eager to read it...very soon i hope :p
    thx for the review...

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  31. A Monster calls is seriously one of my favorite books. I reviewed it as well. It’s just amazing.
    Have you read Okay For Now
    Check out my review. It’s a must, must read

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  32. Divergent sounds like a great book, a lot of action and suspense just my kind of book

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  33. What did you think of Insurgent and Allegiant? I wasn't so keen on Divergent, am still reading the trilogy - yes, I know I must be the last reader! Check out my Divergent review at http://www.sandrandanby.com/.
    SD

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