Welcome to Smugglivus 2011! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2011, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2012.
Who: Kristen, of Fantasy Cafe, one of our favorite Fantasy-dedicated blogs.
Please give it up for Kristen, everybody!
Thank you, Ana and Thea, for the invitation to once again talk about some favorite books for Smugglivus. It’s become a holiday tradition and is one I look forward to!
This year I was very fortunate to read a lot of books I loved. That’s not to say there weren’t some disappointments – including some books I expected to top my favorites list that aren’t even in the running for a place on it — but when I look over what I read there are a lot of books I want to include on this list. In fact, I read so many books I loved that I am having a TERRIBLE time trying to keep this from being an out of control list of books. Just to narrow it down, I’m only including books published in 2011. If I include all books read this year, I will have to give in to the massive list because there would be too many books I couldn’t stand to exclude!
In alphabetical order, here are my favorite books published in 2011.
All Men of Genius by Lev A. C. Rosen
Why I loved this book: Fun story, fantastic dialogue, and Violet’s adventures as a woman pretending to be a man at an all-male school for scientists made for some great reading.
Inspired by both Twelfth Night and The Importance of Being Earnest, All Men of Genius had definite potential to be awesome – and it was indeed awesome. It’s entertaining and can be quite humorous, but it also makes some statements about roles in society as Violet struggles to be accepted as a scientist in spite of being a female. The story and the way it was written was so much fun, and I enjoyed every moment of reading it.
The Cloud Roads (Books of the Raksura #1) by Martha Wells
Why I loved this book: The characters, the inventive setting, and the ease with which it drew me in and made me care.
One page was all it took and I was hooked. By the end of the first chapter I could completely relate to the main character and wanted to see him succeed. Moon is an outcast who cannot find a place to belong. He has to hide his shapeshifting abilities because it’s always assumed he’s a Fell, a race to be feared. I had such sympathy for Moon and his situation, and I also loved the world with its compelling non-human characters. Despite the unfamiliar setting, the characters had very human personalities that made them very easy to relate to. I absolutely loved this book.
Cold Fire(SpiritWalker #2) by Kate Elliott
Why I loved this book: The characters, the narrator’s viewpoint, the dialogue, the revelations, the romance, the world – I loved EVERYTHING about this book except the devastation I felt when it ended and I had no sequel to read.
It took me completely by surprise that this was one of my favorites because while I certainly enjoyed Cold Magic, the first book in the series, I didn’t love it the way I did this one. I think it was because Cold Magic set up the characters and the unique setting, but the sequel just built on that and I didn’t have to get to know everything like in the first book. Cat, the narrator, was what truly made this book for me. She’s so vibrant, and I just love the way she thinks about things, her sense of humor, and the way she phrases her thoughts. The dialogue was excellent and the way the various characters interacted just made me want this book never to end. Cold Fire was one of my biggest surprises of the year, and I cannot wait for Cold Steel to come out!
A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) by George R. R. Martin
Why I loved this book: The characters and the development of one in particular, the subtlety, the way it rewarded paying attention to detail, and the memorable moments.
It doesn’t have the break-neck pace and jaw-dropping events in nearly every chapter that A Storm of Swords had, but it certainly had some very memorable moments. This is really a character-heavy book about their journeys and where they’re going, which is probably part of why I enjoyed it so much. Plus I just loved all the little subtleties and the details that are easy to overlook but prove to be very important.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Why I loved this book: Gorgeous writing, creative mythology, a whimsical but sympathetic main character, and a story that slowly unfolds to reveal all the details.
There is so much done well in this book, but the biggest reason of all to read it is for the writing. No one writes like Laini Taylor. Her prose is not dense or ornate, but it is concise and beautiful. Whether she’s writing a description, humorous dialogue between characters, or how an emotion like loneliness feels, she just gets it right.
Late Eclipses and One Salt Sea (Toby Daye #4 and #5) by Seanan McGuire
Why I loved these books: Tybalt, all the new information and revelations about Toby, Toby’s sense of humor, the fae, the risks the author is willing to take, and more Tybalt. Tybalt is the only reason to read these I need, but even better, there’s a lot more to like about this series than just Tybalt.
So I cheated, but both of these books came out this year and I loved both of them. If I had to pick a favorite it would probably be Late Eclipses because there was so much new information revealed, but One Salt Sea had this completely emotional ending that left me a mess and makes me applaud the author for being willing to take huge risks. But really, I could read these books for Tybalt alone. The King of Cats with his presence and charisma is one of my favorite characters right now.
Miserere: An Autumn Tale (Book 1 of the Katharoi) by Teresa Frohock
Why I loved this book: The characters Lucian and Rachael, the fact that it had actual mature adult characters who acted their age, the dark fantasy aspect, and the different take on the battle between heaven/hell.
For such a short book, Miserere has a lot of complexity and I thought it was an excellent debut novel. It’s a story based on the battle between heaven and hell, and it is actual dark fantasy with horrific fallen angels. It’s not full of angst on the part of the 40-year-old main character, even though he has plenty of reasons to pity himself. There’s a quiet romantic thread going through it between two mature adults whose relationship ended badly and it reveals more about what happened to them as it goes along. It’s set on a world with its own rules and structure where all religions work together to combat the Fallen, and the warrior-priests all have different gifts that help them combat the enemy. There’s so much in this fairly short novel, and the more I think about it all, the more I like it. (A word of caution: It is dark and there is one brief scene where Catarina, the villain, rapes someone. It’s not what I’d call graphic and it only takes up 1 – 2 pages, but of course different people have different comfort levels with these types of scenes in their reading so I just want to give you a heads up.)
The Sea Thy Mistress (Edda of Burdens #3) by Elizabeth Bear
Why I loved this book: Basis on Norse mythology, elegant prose that is not verbose, complexity despite the short length, and memorable characters.
While it is based on some common myths, Elizabeth Bear made them her own with the setting and characters she created. The struggles of the characters and their transformations in this particular book were especially poignant .This book made the Edda of Burdens one of my favorite series and one I’d like to reread someday, especially since the first book does throw readers into the deep end and would be clearer on a reread.
There are some favorites published this year, but I want to mention some of the others I really wanted to include. For books published this year, it would be a shame not to note Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, Eona by Allison Goodman, and Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey as wonderful books that deserve to have a place on the list.
Now, enough dwelling on 2011… It’s time to look to books coming out in 2012 that must be read! Of course I am looking forward to any sequels to the aforementioned books coming out in 2012 – The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells, Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire, and Cold Steel by Kate Elliott. Here’s a few more of the books I’m looking forward to next year:
Grail of the Summer Stars by Freda Warrington
It’s another Aetherial Tales book! And Sam and Rosie from Elfland will be back even if it’s not really about them! I cannot wait because Elfland was my favorite book read last year.
Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
It’s the start of a new epic fantasy trilogy, and the setting will be reminiscent of Central Asia. I’ve enjoyed all of Elizabeth Bear’s books I’ve read and her writing is lovely, making this one of my most anticipated 2012 releases.
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
It’s the start of a new urban fantasy series by Seanan McGuire! That’s all I need to know to want to read it, but it also just sounds like fun with its focus on cryptozoologists.
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
The blurb calls it a “fantasy novel with all the adventure of the Arabian Nights.” I’m sold, especially because I’ve also been hearing good advance praise about this book and thought the first chapter seemed promising.
The Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper
This is already out in the UK, but those of us in the US have to wait until next year. It sounds very intriguing. Those who hear the songs of the earth must be killed, even if they are a knight – no exceptions.
The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin
It’s the start of a new duology by N. K. Jemisin! I loved her Inheritance books and can’t wait to see what she does with an unrelated story.
Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey
I’m very curious to see what Jacqueline Carey does with her new urban fantasy series. She’s such a diverse author, and I’m looking forward to meeting her new “reluctant hell-spawn heroine, Daisy.”
I’m also hoping this is the year The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch will come out, but I was hoping that last year… Fingers crossed!
Happy New Year to all and I hope that 2012 finds you reading lots of wonderful books! Thank you to Thea and Ana for letting me ramble on for a bit and for introducing me to one of this year’s favorites (I picked up The Cloud Roads because of you two!).