Sunday, January 1, 2012

11 Best Books of 2011

Here they are, in order, from 11th favorite to number 1 favorite, the 11 best books I've read in 2011:

11. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Twilight-esque young adult paranormal romance about werewolves. But surprisingly good. Read my review of it here:

10. Karen Kingsbury’s Baxter books

What’s a Baxter book? Christian fiction author Karen Kingsbury wrote 3 separate series about the Baxter family, and then one more series that includes the Baxters. All in all it equals out to 18 books, all of which I read in the last few months of 2011. Wait a minute. Does this mean I am counting 18 different books as one spot in my Top 11? Well yes, actually, it does. At first I tried to narrow it down to one series, and even got as far as picking one writing about it. But then I tried to write about why I picked that particular series over the other 3, and I drew a blank. In my mind, these stories are really like one big long book. So anyway, that’s how spot number 10 became an 18-way tie.

I absolutely loved these books. All the characters were real and genuine, and honestly, after reading 18 books about them, I feel like they are actual people and I know them. I enjoyed these books much more than any of Karen Kingsbury’s stand-alones that I’ve read previously this year. I highly recommend these books to anyone.

If you would like to read the the Baxter books, make sure you start with the Redemption series. For a complete sequential list, check out the About the Baxters FAQ on Karen's website -

9. Legend by Marie Lu

I first started making this list on December 29. I had a three-way tie for spot number 11 and I didn’t know what to do about it. Then, on December 30, I read one last book of the year. Legend, by Marie Lu. This book edged its way up to spot number 9, bumping my 3-way tie down to spot number 12 and effectively solving my problem.

Legend is a young adult dystopian novel that follows the alternating viewpoints of Day, a wanted criminal from the slums, and June, an elite young soldier whose first mission is to track down Day.

Legend made it into the top 11 because it is exciting, dystopian, and extremely well-written. At first I considered putting it higher in the list, but in the end it didn’t make it higher than 9 because it lacked… something. Originality. Wow factor. Mind-blowing new ideas. No fight to the death among teens on reality TV, or operation undergone at age 18 that removes the ability to love. That’s what I love about dystopian, and this one just didn’t have it.

Don’t get me wrong. This book was still really good. It is 9th out of 120, after all. I would definitely recommend it, especially to all you dystopian fans out there.

8. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

1,258 pages of epic fantasy goodness. What’s not to love? And it’s the first in a series too. Check out my review of it here:

7. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants is a popular bestseller with a movie so I’m sure you’ve all heard at least a little about it. I was really surprised by how much I liked this book. Read my review here:

6. The Underland Chronicles series by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins? You mean the same Suzanne Collins that wrote The Hunger Games?? Yep, that’s the one!

The Underland Chronicles consist of 5 books about 11-year-old Gregor. One day, Gregor and his sister fall through a hole beneath his laundry room and end up in The Underland, a world filled with talking cockroaches, evil rats, and strange, translucent humans. Gregor just wants to get back home, but he keeps getting caught in the middle of Underland problems and prophecies.

This series was fantastic. I didn’t think I would enjoy it so much since it is geared more toward younger kids and it’s about bats, rats, roaches, and spiders. Yuck. But the books were exciting, thoughtful, funny, and creative. The only complaint I have is that the in the 5th book Collins got back up on her anti-war soapbox and I had horrible flashbacks to Mockingjay. But, we all still love The Hunger Games trilogy despite Mockingjay, right? It’s the same with The Underland Chronicles. The majority of the series is so good that despite book five's flaws it still made it all the way up to number 6 on my list.

5. The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter

Top secret all girls boarding school for spies?? Yes please! Think it sounds kind of dumb? Well you’re wrong. I didn’t expect much out of this young adult series at first either, but it ended up winning a spot in my top 11. Read my review here:

4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

For some reason I have a really hard time describing this book. So let me just tell you a few things: It’s a book of letters (epistolary novel!), written at the end of World War II. It has a weird name. I almost let my preconceived notions about books of letters and books with weird names keep me from reading this book. But I’m glad I didn’t because it was absolutely wonderful and I would recommend it to all of you.

3. Matched by Ally Condie

Matched is a dystopian young adult book about a world where society chooses everything for you, including your significant other. I actually read this book twice this year; once in January and once again a few months ago in anticipation for the sequel. And rereading it reaffirmed my love for it. Of course I love the dystopian setting, but the great writing is what makes this book stand out to me. Narrator Cassia depicts her world with beautiful imagery and thoughtful perceptions that make it come alive. Read my full review here:

2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help is another popular bestseller that you have probably heard of. Suffice it to say that I agree with everyone else on this one: it is really freaking good. If you haven’t read it yet, well what are you waiting for? Seriously, go read it.

And now, drumroll please…


Here it is, my favorite book of the year:

1. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium takes place in a dystopian future where love considered is a deadly, contagious disease. Thankfully there is a cure, but it can’t be safely administered until you turn 18. 17-year-old Lena can’t wait until she turns 18 and can be cured like everyone else. That is, until she meets a boy, and, you guessed it, begins to fall in love.

I’m not really sure what it is about this book that made me love it so much that it was easily the only contender for spot number 1. Probably a combination of the dystopian world, interesting premise, very real characters, powerful imagery, and beautiful, thoughtful writing.

And here’s some exciting news: Delirium is the start of a trilogy, and the next book, Pandemonium, will be released on February 28! Best book of 2012, perhaps?? We'll just have to wait and see!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End Thoughts

Well 2011 is over, and guess what?! I completed my quest to read 111 books in 2011. In fact, I finished two weeks early and ended up reading a total of 120 books. I'm in the process of writing a huge post about my favorite 11 books of the year, but for now I wanted to share with you some thoughts and statistics about my 111 in 11 project.

First, here's a breakdown by genre of what I read:

71 Young Adult
24 Christian fiction
7 Scifi/Fantasy
6 Mystery/Thriller
5 Romance/ChickLit
4 Historical
2 Classics
1 Nonfiction

My most productive month was November with 19 books, and my least productive was September with 1 book.

Some of you might remember that originally I had some sub-goals. I wanted to read 5 nonfiction, 10 classics, and 15 bestsellers. I stopped keeping track of bestsellers but I'm pretty sure I read at least 15 books that were on one the the New York Times lists at some point in time. But I didn't even come close to those other two goals... oops. I gave up on that about halfway through the year, when I was afraid I might not even make my 111 goal. I also had a list of must reads, and I got all but about 2 of those. If I had a do over I probably would have tried a little harder to meet those goals, but really I'm not too upset about it. Maybe those are some good goals for 2012.

Speaking of 2012. 112 books in 2012?? Well, probably not. At least not intentionally. Why? Because I don't like feeling obligated to read. I'd rather it be something I'm doing because I want to. However, I probably will still keep track of what I've read. Without that list I tend to forget what I read. I will also probably keep book blogging occasionally, because I like talking about books. So keep checking this blog if your interested!

What's next on my reading list? Well I have been dying to reread some books for about a year now... I will probably start rereading The Hunger Games tonight, then maybe The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter too. After that, who knows!

That's about everything I wanted to say I think. For those of you who have followed along with my journey all year, thanks for the encouragement and suggestions, and most of all thanks for reading!

Make sure to check back soon for my 11 Best Books of 2011. Here's a teaser- books that almost made the list, numbers 12-16:

12. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
13. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
14. A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
15. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
16. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Friday, October 21, 2011

Finally, a book worth reviewing!

82 down, 29 to go! I'm slowly getting closer... But still really far away...

I'm posting again so soon because I just finished a great book and I want to talk about it. What book? Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. This book has been popular for a while now, so I'm sure a lot of you have already read it or seen then movie. I've been putting off reading it for a while, mostly because I thought I wouldn't like it. I'm not really sure why I thought that, but somewhere along the way I got it in my head that it wasn't a very good book. But I loved it. Great writing, fascinating story, I could hardly put it down and finished it in a day and a half. I especially liked the framing of the story, the way the narration switched between 93 year old Jacob and 23 year old Jacob. Surprisingly, 93 year old Jacob's chapters were just as interesting as his 23 year old counterpart. Maybe I only liked this book so much because my expectations were so low. Honestly though, I think I would have liked it anyway. Now, if only I could find 111 books this good, I would have been finished months ago.

I've read 2 other books recently that are worth mentioning. One was Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. I had high expectations for this books because it was a bestseller for a while and the premise sounded really interesting. But I was disappointed. The writing wasn't very good, and yes, the historical events behind the novel were interesting, but the story itself fell flat. A bit of background: The story alternates between Sarah: a 10 year old Jewish girl in France during WWII, and Julia, a present day middle aged journalist who slowly discovers Sarah's story. Really fascinating premise with a lot of potential, but story never connected with me. There are several possible reasons for this. For one, I felt like the book was simply telling me how I should feel, rather than actually stirring my emotions. Also, I never really forgot that I was reading a book. The story didn't draw me in enough. And finally, the present day part of the book, Julia's part, read like a bad chick flick or cheesy Nicholas Sparks novel. It didn't really fit with the gravity of what happened to Sarah and her family. It wasn't an overall terrible read, it just wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be.

book#2: The Death Cure by James Dashner. You might remember that I read the first two books in this YA dystopian trilogy back in January, The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials. I was very excited to read the much anticipated final installment. Overall, I think it was a good book. I was a little disappointed, but mostly because I think I remembered liking the first two books way more than I actually did. Or probably more accurately: I was much less disillusioned with and burnt-out on reading when I read the first 2 books, and so I enjoyed them way more than I would if I read them right now. That's sad, right? Anyway- the third book was good, really fast paced and full of action. I would have liked a little more character development and a little more umm... I don't know... something else that was missing... but considering it is young adult and probably geared toward teenage boys, I'll let it slide. Also I'm not entirely sure I liked the ending, but as a friend recently pointed out, I hardly ever like the endings, so I'll let that slide too. So- if you started The Maze Runner trilogy, go get a copy of The Death Cure, because it is at least a series worth finishing.

So far October has been way more productive than September, but I've still only read 5 books this month. I don't think I'll make my benchmark of 11, which means November and December are going to be verrrry busy. And I'm working now too- So that means even less time for reading. But, I'm very determined to reach my goal. I feel like I have not really accomplished much in this post-college year of floundering and figuring myself out. But reading 111 books, yeah that would be a pretty good accomplishment, right? Plus, when else in my life will I have time to attempt something like this again? So wish me luck and, as always, please let me know if you have any good books suggestions!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


78 books down, 33 to go, and less than 3 months left!

It's been a long long time since I updated this, but for those of you still wondering, I'm still attempting to reach my goal of 111 books in 2011! This quest has proven to be a lot more difficult than I expected, mainly because I really had no idea how much or how often I would get burnt out on reading. For example, in September, I read all of one book. And I should point out, that I didn't actually read that book, it was an audio book that I listened while walking or driving.

Because of the extremely unproductive month of September, I'm not actually sure that I will reach my goal. I will have to read 11 books a month, so it will be a lot, but I'm sure going to try! It would help tremendously if I find 33 really good books to read, but that's not likely. (But, suggestions are welcome!)

If you are interested in a book suggestion, well since my last actual update I've read two books that I think are worth recommending. One is The Help, which if you haven't heard of that book by now you must be living under a rock. The other is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows. This book was surprisingly wonderful. It's written as a bunch of letters, so I didn't think that I would like it. But, it was great, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. (Thanks Tara for recommending it to me!)

One last thing. I doubt that I'll start updating my blog again regularly in the next few months, but if you are interested in keeping up with what I've read or how close I am to my goal, check the link on the right side of the page, the What I've read so far page. I have been regularly updating that list throughout the whole year, because it's my way of keeping up with what I've read.

Well, that's about all I have to say. I'll hopefully blog a several more times before the end of the year, but at the very least, I'll definitely let you know how things turn out when January 1st arrives!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Halfway there!

Earlier today I finished my 56th book... and do you know what that means? That's right, I'm over halfway to 111!!! I have to say it feels pretty good. :D And just in time too, it's almost July and I am just barely on schedule. But that's okay, I've got 6 more months!

The special book number 56 was When Joy Came to Stay by Karen Kingsbury. This was the first Karen Kingsbury book I had read, and I loved it! I have to admit that I've been a little snobby towards Christian fiction... I mean there are a lot of badly written Christian fiction books out there. But really, that's true of any genre. And When Joy Came to Stay definitely doesn't fall in the bad category; it was great! Since Karen Kingsbury has written something like 50 novels.. you will probably see several more of her books popping up on my reading list.

Book number 55 was another Sarah Dessen book, Along for the Ride. It's about like every other Sarah Dessen book I've read, but that didn't stop me from staying up til 4 in the morning to finish it! I loved it and I would most definitely recommend it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Longest book of the year right here!

Well I'm pretty proud of myself because I just finished a 1,258 page book! Yep that's right, 1,258 pages, and in 8 days too! Not too bad, right? Maybe I'm getting back on track.

Anyway, this book, as you might have guessed by the length, falls in the epic fantasy genre. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is the first in what will eventually be a 10(?I think) book series. The book was really good, especially if you like epic fantasy. If you aren't an epic fantasy fan, then I probably wouldn't recommend it. It's long, complex, a little slow at times, and a lot confusing. But I think that's part of what I loved. So many small details, little clues, big revelations, hints at bigger revelations to come... I love it. And the characters! I fell in love with Sanderson's previous books because of his characters... and he did not disappoint with in this book. I feel so invested in them and their world already after one book.. how will I feel after 10?

There is one problem though. This is only the first book, and the second one won't be out for another year. With 10 books, and 1-2 years in between... I can't imagine this series ever ending. And that's a daunting thought. I will likely be 40 years old when this is over! I am hesitant to get involved in such an enthralling series so early on... but it's too late now. I am already invested. Maybe I will wait until I am 40 and all 10 books are released before I read another one. But probably not, I won't be able to wait that long. And part of the fun is the speculation, right? It might be kind of fun to follow this series through from the start.

Anyway, if you are a Wheel of Time or Sword of Truth fan, you'll like this. If you like fantasy but don't want to get involved in lengthy epics, try one of Sanderson's stand-alone novels- Elantris or Warbreaker.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm still alive but I'm barely reading

Barely reading. What can I say? I guess I'm not quite the avid reader that I was so proud of being. Or I just got a little burned out. Either way, I've hardly been reading at all lately. I realize I didn't post a progress update at the end of May- it was because I didn't really read much in May. I didn't feel like there was much to update. I thought June would be better. So far, it's been worse. I've only read two books- and really we should say only one, because the other one was an audio book that I've been listening to for months and finally finished. But that one book I did read was a good one- 1984 by George Orwell. It was on my must read list AND it's a classic, which I have to read 10 of this year (this makes two). So I do feel a little proud of myself for finishing that, and for the most part, enjoying it.

Hopefully my reading will pick up in the next month or so, because I'm going to the beach. (Twice!) There is something so appealing about the idea of spending a day just reading a good book on the beach. So in anticipation I've been saving two supposedly awesome books for beach reading- Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Hopefully they will live up to my high expectations, and get me back to being a reader again. I'll let you know.

In the meantime, if you are looking for some good beach reading, might I suggest Delirium by Lauren Oliver? You won't regret reading it, I promise!