Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Books of 2011 And Why I'm Glad They Haven't Pressed Charges

I know that I've been seriously neglecting this blog, but there is something intimidating about having a blog and writing reviews that are going to be seen. By people. Like you. *blank stare* Yes, I'm well aware that people can see them on Goodreads and on my library webpage, but I feel like I should have an audience over here. Which is terrifying. That being said, since this is technically my book blog, I'm going to share my favorite reads of 2011 with you here instead of over at Gasoline Wishes.

No description of the book here, kids. It is the third book in the Iron Druid Chronicles, so all I will say is go to #6 on this list, and start reading there when you are ready to devote yourself to the series.

At the end of the day, I am a huge fantasy nerd, be it high or urban. If I had to choose only one genre to read for the rest of my life, I do not think I would be the slightest bit unhappy with only fantasy. (I could tell you a story here, but this is neither the time or the place.) This book is a perfect example of the genre, and is masterfully written*. The mythology, characters (Atticus *swoons*), and world-building are just so delicious. I do not feel like anything I say about this book or series can do it justice. Well, except "read it". And "buy it". *ponders* Yeah, definitely those two. If you never listen to anything that I say (and I am quite sure you probably will not), just listen to me in this instance. READ THIS SERIES! Even if you are not the fantasy nerdgirl that I am, you will enjoy them. I promise.

Oh, there is a vampire in it if you are one of those people.

Okay, and werewolves if you are one of those people.

Maybe there is a naked goddess who shows up periodically. I know there are some of you out there. *wink*

*I may or may not have written a letter to the author, gushing about my love of this book after I read it. Okay, I did, but he wasn't surprised in the slightest. I was stalking him on Twitter (@KevinHearne) before Hounded ever came out. He's a very nice guy, so he hasn't pressed charges. Yet. He may though after I show up at InConJunction XXXII in July. He is a guest of honor. *happy fangirl dance*

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life. (Description from

There was a lot of hype around this book, and I was hesitant to read it. I'm lying. I was dying to read it after bloggers were raving about it on Leah Clifford's BlogTV show. The only reservations I had about it was due to the Hype Monster and the fact that I had to WAIT THREE MONTHS to read the book. Reservations? Am I crazy? Yes, I am crazy. I got the book as soon as money and opportunity allowed, and I devoured it! This book made me very happy (see my review!), and I cannot wait until the sequel comes out!

Concerning the author, I restrained myself from doing what I did to Kevin Hearne. I follow her on Twitter now (@KendareBlake) because I feel like I can keep from going too fangirl on her. We will see how I behave after book two.

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.  (Description from

I like the young adult genre just fine. They are fast, engrossing reads that are built for captivating the attention and imaginations of teenagers (and adults who like a little escapism - you know who you are). The majority of what I read in 2011 was YA. Why do I mention this? Well, while this book is classified as YA, it is so much more. This is a beautifully written novel of loss, finding oneself, and sacrifice. Why this book has not won more awards than it has absolutely blows my mind away. Everything about this book is art, from the photographs included, to the world-building, to the development of the characters. I am constantly recommending this book to my library patrons (who pointedly ignore me for the most part). I have to share the love.

Funny story, I could not read this book without thinking about Kate Winslet on Extras. I just spun it in my head to reflect book awards. Yep, I said it. Please do not judge me too harshly. Or do. In fact, you probably should. I am a bad, bad girl.

I do not stalk this author. However, I am considering it.

Eden didn't expect Az. 

Not his saunter down the beach toward her. Not his unbelievable pick up line. Not the instant, undeniable connection. And not his wings. 


So long happily-ever-after. 

Now trapped between life and death, cursed to spread chaos with her every touch, Eden could be the key in the eternal struggle between heaven and hell. All because she gave her heart to one of the Fallen, an angel cast out of heaven. 

She may lose everything she ever had. She may be betrayed by those she loves most. But Eden will not be a pawn in anyone else's game. Her heart is her own. 

And that's only the beginning of the end.
 (Description from

I was terrified to read this book. Why, you ask? Well, when I first found out about the book a year or two ago (I don't even know if it had a cover yet), I emailed Leah and told her how excited I was to read the book. I mean, it sounded utterly kickass and the heroine shares a name with my daughter. Instead of getting a restraining order on some weirdo getting info on her book well before its release, she gushed about me being her first fan that was not her friend or related to her. This is a very important job, no? Anyways, my daughter was hospitalized last year, and Leah was so completely awesome to me. I was stuck in a hospital for four weeks with little to no contact with my friends or anyone else because my daughter's immune system was gone and I stood at her hospital room door with a sword (not really, but I meant business). I have no idea why I had messaged her about it, other than I'm awkward and I do what I want, but she was just so sweet. She gave me something to talk about other than symptoms with family and doctors. I had a book to look forward to read when my daughter was well. It was something other than worrying about trying to find what was wrong with my baby so that I could fix her. Her book did not come out for a few more months, but this sweet busy girl offered an escape for me. She may not remember this. It's not like we were having all night Skype chats about our feelings and Life. They were just short, occasional snatches of conversation over email or chat to talk shop about books a little. Still, to me, it was priceless.

Then came the book. I hate reading books written by people I genuinely like. It just does not turn out well. I am a book snob, and I always feel horrible for hating the crap that someone nice puts out. I feel bad lying and saying that I loved their horrible, poorly written, poorly realized, and painful waste of paper that should have never been printed. Yes, I felt that strongly about a few of my friends' books. I never told them though. I did not want Leah's book to be one of these. I should not have worried. I had the book read in hours, and it was so good. Eden was suck a badass chick that she would have probably jumped through the book and Touched me just for thinking otherwise. And Luke... Yeah. I am so beyond ready to read A Touch Morbid. This is good stuff people*. Give Leah and A Touch Mortal a spin. Oh, and if you want my review, go here.

*Nicole Peeler is also an exception for me hating books written by people I know. Read her too, she's great.

This is the third book in the series, so again, I'm not going to post a description of it. It has spoilers for the rest of the series (the first book is Red-Headed Stepchild), but here is my review from Goodreads:

If you're reading this review and haven't read the book yet, please step away from the computer. Do yourself a favor and read the damn book! Unless, of course, you haven't read Red-Headed Stepchild, which you should buy and devour immediately. I suppose I can't say much, being as I've owned every one of Jaye Wells books since they came out. I'm a book hoarder, but not always a diligent book reader. That being said, I have now read it and am about to start on Silver-Tongued Devil

Jaye Wells is a wordsmith. Not only does she write amazing stories, she weaves colorful characters, dark humor, and flashes of pure genius into them. Green-Eyed Demon is a prime example of this. She tells the story of her heroine, Sabina Kane, in such a way that I feel like I'm experiencing her battles, triumphs, heartbreaks, and growth right along with her. The book was so intense that tears ran down my face throughout the last chapter. Sabina has evolved so much over the course of the series, and my heart surges with pride for this literary character. It is nothing but pure awesome sauce. 

As for me breaking down the book and giving you an idea of what happened in it, I trust that you can read the product description. I would hate to insult your intelligence or accidentally spoil anything. Once again, just read the damn book.

Yeah, so go read the book. Have I said that yet?

As for Jaye, I do not stalk her on Twitter. I feel like she would cut my ass if I got a little creepy. *shudders* I do follow her though - from a safe distance. Giguhl, the awesome sauce Mischief Demon, has a Twitter account, too. You should follow them both - @jayewells @Giguhl. Oh, and you should also go to Jaye's book signings if there is ever one close to you. She is hilarious, and she writes funny things in her books when she signs them. 

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil. (Description from

I found Kevin Hearne through a guest post on Nicole Peeler's website. After being filthy, I went over to Suvudu to read the excerpt they had up of the book. I read six pages. Why did I stop? Duh, so I could go buy the book! I have never been hooked by a book that quickly. I then became ridiculous and started stalking Kevin a little over on Twitter. I could go on about what a nice guy he is (he sent me a copy of Hammered before it was released and called me his favorite book whore *blushes*), but this is about the book. Hounded (and the other two books in the IDC) is hilarious, smart, and so much fun to read (it is all in my review, people). I am proud to say that I am a Kevin Hearne fangirl*, through and through. I am fairly sure that you will be joining my Crazy Train after reading his books.

*Proof of my fangirliness - I illustrated a blog post over on Gasoline Wishes about Fragarach, Atticus'... hehe... sword. Also, when I was forced to evacuate my house back in September due to wild fires, his books were in the same bag as my daughter's baby pictures. Yes, I love them that much.

Go the Fuck to Sleep is a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don't always send a toddler sailing blissfully off to dreamland. Profane, affectionate, and radically honest, California Book Award-winning author Adam Mansbach's verses perfectly capture the familiar--and unspoken--tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night. In the process, they open up a conversation about parenting, granting us permission to admit our frustrations, and laugh at their absurdity.

With illustrations by Ricardo Cortes, Go the Fuck to Sleep is beautiful, subversive, and pants-wettingly funny--a book for parents new, old, and expectant. You probably should not read it to your children. (Description from

I was so excited when I found out about this book. I found out about it because one of the morning news shows was talking about the buzz it was getting due to piracy. Instead of me pretending that I was a Somali pirate and the publishing world was the Sea of Aden, I preordered the book. It was a depressingly long wait, but I was so excited the day that it came in the mail! (By the way, that's part of the fun in getting books and movies - the wait.) I laughed so hard that I had tears running down my face. My daughter is one of those children that does not like to sleep, and I truly felt that this book was written as a love letter to our relationship. Oh and the pictures... Epic. It is so, so hard being a parent and having something light-hearted and fun like Go The F**k to Sleep is like having private "mommy-time" in a book. I have not hidden anything under my bed since I was a teenager, but that is what I did with this book. The pictures are safe for my kid to look at since she cannot read yet, but heaven forbid she tries to take it to kindergarten for Show & Tell.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
 (Description from

I found this book while I was coming off of a hardcore Sci-Fi kick (I'm talking the likes of Robert A. Heinlein, folks). I needed another audiobook for the car, and this was the only science fiction that I could find that was available on my library's Overdrive account. I had never heard of it, but I was down for whatever.




I did not take my headphones off for two days. I will just give you my review from Goodreads instead of trying to gush too much. And I will.

I began Across the Universe, sight unseen. I had not read any of the descriptions or any of the reviews. I am a huge fan of Sci-Fi from the heyday of Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury, and Beth Ravis’ debut holds its own alongside those quite nicely. It encompasses everything good about Young Adult literature, Science Fiction, and the typical coming-of-age novel, yet it is so much greater than its parts. 

I enjoyed the book’s audio format, and I downloaded it from my library’s Overdrive account reading only the description, “A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.” I’ve been on a Sci-Fi spree of late, and it seemed right up my alley. The technology that Ravis imagined was both exciting and frightening. For the YA element, the characters were heartbreakingly real and beautifully written. Elder and Amy, the main characters whose points of view are alternated in each chapter, both grow up when they face the harsh realities of lost innocence in a contained spaceship, each questioning what is right and what is worth fighting for. The book also had a bit of a murder mystery, but I don’t consider it a mystery because it was glaringly obvious to me throughout the entire story. 

One of my favorite things about Across the Universe is the old-school Science Fiction cliffhanger ending. It left me imaging what became of those aboard the ship, and toying with the possibilities of what the characters will face in the aftermath of the novel’s climax. I was slightly disappointed when I disappointed when I found that it was a part of a planned trilogy, but that disappointment evaporated in about five seconds. The sequel, A Million Suns, releases on January 12, 2012, and I will be happily devouring it, as well, when it releases. 

You should know by now that if I am praising someone that much, I am stalking them on Twitter (@bethrevis). I do not really stalk her, per se, but she will nerd out about Doctor Who with me occasionally or toss me tidbits of attention when I advocate for her book on the awards scene. It really is that good, and she is such a nice lady. 

This is starting to look like a list of my favorite authors as well as my favorite books, isn't it?

This is the 9th book in Harrison's Rachel Morgan Hollows series, and it is so very good. There was a brief lull in the books (do not worry - it was not anything on a Sookie scale), but Pale Demon is one of the best in the series. Instead of me giving you spoilers, here's a description of the fantastic series:

The Hollows series (also called the Rachel Morgan series) is a series of nine mystery novels, six short stories, one graphic novel, and one compendium resource by Kim Harrison, published by HarperCollins Publishers, in an urban fantasy alternate history universe and set primarily in the city of Cincinnati and its suburbs. The alternate history is built upon two premises: the recent open existence of magical and supernatural species, primarily witches, vampires, and werewolves, with the human population; and the historical investment of Cold War military spending in genetic engineering as opposed to the Space Race, which resulted in the accidental release of a virus via a genetically modified tomato in the 1960's that killed a significant portion of the human population. The series is set approximately forty years after this plague, referred to as 'The Turn' within the series.

The series is told in the first-person point-of-view of Rachel Morgan, a detective witch who works with local law enforcement agencies and faces threats both mundane and supernatural in origin. The series also focuses on Rachel's relationships with her partners, a living vampire and a pixy, as well as her personal relationships with males of different species.

Seriously, just go read it. Trust me. 

It-girl Betty White delivers a hilarious, slyly profound take on love, life, celebrity, and everything in between. 

Drawing from a lifetime of lessons learned, seven-time Emmy winner Betty White's wit and wisdom take center stage as she tackles topics like friendship, romantic love, aging, television, fans, love for animals, and the brave new world of celebrity. 
If You Ask Me mixes her thoughtful observations with humorous stories from a seven- decade career in Hollywood. Longtime fans and new fans alike will relish Betty's candid take on everything from her rumored crush on Robert Redford (true) to her beauty regimen ("I have no idea what color my hair is and I never intend to find out") to the Facebook campaign that helped persuade her to host Saturday Night Live despite her having declined the hosting job three times already. 

Featuring all-new material, with a focus on the past fifteen years of her life, 
If You Ask Me is funny, sweet, and to the point-just like Betty White. (Description from

Like everyone else in America, I love Betty White. I am not even ashamed to admit that I watch The Golden Girls at every opportunity. However, I probably would not have sought out her book to read under normal circumstances. See, I do not read a lot of memoirs, and I have pretty large TBR list with my usual genres (YA, fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, etc.). I ended up with the book because everything that I wanted to read was not available at the time on Overdrive, and I needed something to do to keep me awake. (I was babysitting the sanity of my very good friend while he waited on bar results, and I had to watch him sleep. Yeah, it was that bad.) I was very happy with my findings.

I laughed, I snickered, I cried, and I read the whole thing in one sitting. It was a light, easy read in which Betty White gives us a view of some of her favorite moments in life. This would be a great book to read in snatches because each section is separate from the others. Either way, I do not know of many people who would not enjoy reading this book.

Love can never die.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love. (Description from

I was lucky enough to get this galley from NetGalley, and I chose this to be my reading distraction on the cruise I took back at the start of the month. I thought that I would just read a little right before I went to bed at night and when my daughter was doing her swimming. I did not realize that I would be sneaking away at every opportunity to hide in a quiet corner of the ship to see what was happening next to the characters. I have never read a zombie book or anything classified as "steampunk" or "Victorian" - not because I am not interested, they just have not landed in front of me - and if this one is any kind of representation of the genres, I am a new fan. It was quirky and different, but a lot of fun. In a way, I am grateful that I was seasick during the majority of days at sea, because I was able to devour this book. Being as my reading time is limited these days, the fact that I immediately wanted to reread it should speak volumes. (Also, if you're interested in reading my review of it, it's here.)
So those are my favorite books for this year. Maybe they were your favorite books, too. If not, you should read them. If you did read them and did not like them, I question your judgment. I bet you hate air, too. Regardless, I will not use this time to insult you. Instead, I call upon you to find your favorites and then stalk to the authors*. Not all of them press charges.

*You probably should not show up at their houses. Well, unless you want to go to jail. And want to risk them not writing any more books. That would be terrible. So let's keep the stalking and admiration from afar.