Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: A Year in Review

Two thousand eleven was the year for comfort reads. While I did read a few thought provoking books, I spent most of the year craving brain candy. When I look over the titles of the books I read this year, I can pinpoint what was happening in my life at that particular time.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much was a fitting book to read as I gave away hundreds of my own books, preparing for my move. I read most of the Patricia Briggs's books, beginning with Moon Called, during my final days of pregnancy when I needed something fast paced and deliciously good to distract me from the million thoughts going through my mind. I read A Game of Thrones during those seemingly endless cluster feedings. Bloodline was the first book I read in our new house. And Harley Jane Kozak's Wollie series was what jump started my reading again when I was beginning to think I might never read again. Madelyn Alt's The Trouble With Magic saw me through right after my father's death. It's only been in the last few months I feel as if I have found my reading groove again--even if in a limited capacity.

I am breaking from my usual tradition of posting my stats and own special book categories this year. My record keeping fell by the wayside, and I haven't the energy or time to try and pull it all together at this late date. Instead, I am turning to an end of the year survey that is going around thanks to Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner.

1. Best Book You Read In 2011?

Looking over the titles of the books I read this year, I an struggling over which book would take top honors. I read a little less than half of what I read last year, and so I hesitate to make a top ten list like I normally do. Instead, I will share the titles of a few books that most stood out for me:

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin managed to hold me captive despite it's length at a time when my attention span was shot because of sleep deprivation and constant interruptions. It is the first in an epic fantasy series. The characters got under my skin and I fell under the spell of the world so completely. The HBO miniseries based on the book was pretty awesome too.

A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres was not only well researched but also extremely well written. I learned so much I hadn't known before about the Jonestown Massacre, and about Jim Jones and his followers in general. There is much more to it than what meets the eye.

While Patrick Ness's The Chaos Walking Trilogy amazed me in its detail and world building as a whole, the first book in the trilogy was by far my favorite. The Knife of Never Letting Go was much more than I expected in terms of depth and heart. There was one scene in particular that was heartwrenching--I nearly threw my nook across the room.

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley was so very good. The writing, the characters, the setting , and the story . . . There wasn't anything I didn't like about it. It definitely is among my favorites this year.

Linda Castillo's Sworn to Silence is perhaps my favorite mystery of the year. The protagonist is a complex character and her past played a particularly interesting role in this first in the series. I liked the setting, particularly the Amish cultural aspects and the conflicts that arose as a result.

2. Most Disappointing Book?

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith wins this category hands down. I wanted to like it because the television show is a guilty pleasure of mine, but the book fell completely flat for me.

3. Best series you discovered in 2011?

I finally got around to reading Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series and it quickly became a favorite. I am anxious to read more by the author.

4. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?

I think most of the authors I read this year were new to me. Among my favorites would have to be Patricia Briggs, Lena Coakley, Linda Castillo, Patrick Ness, and George R.R. Martin.

5. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Hmm. I suppose I'll have to go with a book outside of my comfort zone on this one since I didn't tackle any new to me genres. Bossypants by Tina Fey--not only did I listen to the audio book (way outside of my comfort zone), but I generally avoid celebrity memoirs. I really liked Bossypants; I laughed all the way through it and have been recommending it to people right and left.

6. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?

Patrick Ness's Choas Walking trilogy had me from the first page. I began with The Knife of Never Letting Go, raced through The Ask and The Answer and devoured Monsters of Men.

7. Book you most anticipated in 2011?

I am afraid books were the furthest things from my mind when it came to anticipation. Baby. New House. These were things I anticipated. I did read several books that were published in 2011, however, all of which I enjoyed to different degrees.

8. Most memorable character in 2011?

Todd Hewitt and Viola from The Chaos Walking Trilogy captured my heart, but then, so did Arya Stark, the youngest daughter of Edward Stark, of A Game of Thrones. All three faced difficult times and were forced to grow up too fast. They each had an innocence about them and had good hearts.

9. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?

Tigerheart by Peter David probably comes the closest. I loved how the author wrote his novel in the spirit of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. It was poetic and fun. I felt myself transported right into the pages of the book, lost in the descriptions of places and characters.

10. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?

Moon Called
by Patricia Briggs was so good! I am still kicking myself for putting off reading the series all these years.

11. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

I wanted to talk about The Chaos Walking trilogy with a passion you wouldn't believe. Only, everyone who had already read it seemed all talked out and those who hadn't yet--well, I couldn't exactly talk to them about it, could I? Ho hum. I almost made my husband read it but then decided against it. With my luck, he'd hate it and then I'd feel bad.

Another book that had me chomping at the bit to discuss was A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres. I actually did talk about it quite a bit as I was reading it--to my coworkers, whether they wanted to listen or not.

Looking Ahead

Two thousand twelve will no doubt be an eventful year. Soon the finalists for the Indie Lit Awards will be announced, and I will be busy catching up with the top five mystery nominees before the final votes are tallied. I will be hosting my first challenge, the Merely Mystery Reading Challenge, and I hope to join a few others just for the fun of it.

I predict my reading will follow a similar pattern this coming year as it did this year. I have enjoyed reading books from my own stacks and so want to keep the review books to a minimum. Also, I imagine I will be too busy chasing a certain little Mouse all over to read quite as much as I might like!

What were some of your favorite books and authors read this year? Did anything stand out above the rest? What are your goals for this coming year?


I mentioned before I might try my hand at writing about more than just books and movies here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty. I hope to do some of that this coming year. I would love to hear your ideas about what you might like me to write about. I confess I am not the best at brainstorming on my own so could use a little friendly guidance. Pretty please?

Also, I am going to start referring to my reviews as my bookish thoughts. I have never been good at writing a formal review and, really, my reviews tend to be merely my thoughts and reflections about how a book touched me or what I thought of it. Saying it's just my "bookish thought" takes some of the pressure off as well--at least psychologically. It gives me a little more freedom, if you will. Semantics, I know.

Before I close, I want to say again how grateful I am to those of you who are still keeping up with my blog. My posts have been sporadic this year, sometimes few and far between. I have not been able blog hop the way I would have liked which meant a lot less commenting on my favorite blogs. I truly appreciate your support this year and look forward to being more involved this next year. Thank you and have a very Happy New Year!

© 2011, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. A Game of Thrones is also going to make my list. I'm so happy I read it! I've finished book 2, which was excellent, but not better than the 1st one (at least to me), and now I'm about to start book 3. Love some Martin in the New Year!

  2. I love the way that you put together this list, and your explanations for each book. I can imagine that your reading too on a very different shape and hue, what with all the changes that took place in your life over the past year. I wish you a great 2012, and hope that your reading is wonderful and that Mouse is wonderful as well!

    Happy New Year!!

  3. That's why I call mine book reports rather than book reviews. And recently, I've begun to sometimes write shorter posts about books and I call them book notes. Semantics, yeah!
    What I love in any blog is about life -the baby, the family, the house, the animals, and the books.

  4. I enjoyed this post. I say call them reviews whatever form they take. I think most book bloggers trend away from a formal review format over time. I certainly have.

    As long as it's still about books, book blog readers will keep coming back.

  5. So, basically... I need to read Patrick Ness and Patricia Briggs!

  6. Happy New Year Wendy! It is good to see you back to blogging and reading. I know it is hard to find time to read with a little one around the house!

  7. Oh yes, the Chaos Walking Trilogy. It sucked me in late this year. It really IS just like one big book, so there is no way to read one then take a break. And when I read this part of which you speak in the first book, I cried, then sent an e-mail to Rhapsody Jill and cussed and begged her to tell me if it was for real.

    Like James said, I think we all eventually go to a less formal format, and why not? It is much more fun to read, and I don't see us getting paid for it. I am not sure I am the right person to give advice on what to write about. I love books and movies, but I also personally would enjoy one day a week maybe to hear about Mouse. See a picture of what she is up to. I know you do this on FB but it would be fun to see it here too!

  8. This was fun to read. I'm really anxious to read A Thousand Lives.

  9. you've had quite a year on the page and off :-) congrats on getting through all the changes!

  10. Loved your list of the books that you were reading during the life changing points in your life. I love the changes that you're embracing for next year. Strangely enough I'm venturing in the same direction as you...more bookish thoughts less formal reviews (but mine have never been really formal)and spending more time on the books I want to read. Less pressure is what I'm going for in 2012. You can write about anything, Wendy and I'll always stop by and read them!! I find that you're an interesting person and I like you!!

    Have a Happy New Year!!

  11. I like the idea of bookish thoughts...and I know what you mean about it taking a little bit of pressure off :) I did the same thing other than I just added thoughts to the titles of my posts on books. I hope that you have a wonderful year in 2012!!

  12. I enjoyed reading about your reading life of 2011. I have the ARC of A Thousand Lives on one of my TBR shelves. You really have encouraged me to pick it up, especially being that it made your top books list of the year. It sounds fascinating.

  13. This is a lovely post, Wendy, about the year you've just had, and how reading wove its way into it just the same. You know I enjoy reading about Mouse, and books, and your life, and peppering your 'book thought's in between makes for a lovely blog to come to.

    I'm so glad you are loving the Mercy Thompson books as much as I and Kelly do! lol I can't wait for River-Marked to come out is soft cover this year.

    Game of Thrones is good, isn't it? and funny, I really liked Arya Stark too! I'm on Book 4 in the series and making my way through Season one of the tv series.

    Have a very happy New Year, Wendy.

  14. I'm glad your Nook survived The Knife of Never Letting Go! LOL I know exactly what scene you're talking about. :)

    Happy New Year, Wendy!

  15. Guess I should add Patrick Ness to my to-read list! Happy new year!

  16. Natalie - I hope to read the second book in Martin's series this year. I am glad to hear you enjoyed the second book!

    Heather (Zibilee) - I was looking over what I'd read this year in comparison to previous years and there's a definite difference. A lot less literary and the more serious fiction. It's kind of cool seeing the shift in my reading--and understanding why. I'll be curious to see where my reading takes me this year.

    I hope you have a wonderful New Year as well!

    Nan - Semantics, sure, but for some reason it matters--to us anyway. :-)

    Hopefully I will write a little about all the topics you mention this coming year. My poor animals have been neglected as of late here at Musings of a Bookish Kitty.

    C.B. James - I don't think I could stop talking about books if I tried. :-) My reviews have tended to be less formal for quite some time and so I imagine they won't change overly much.

    It's sad a name change can lessen the pressure I put on myself in writing them. It isn't logical, really. Somehow it does though.

    Aarti - Yes! Please! Right now! Just kidding. I would love to know what you think of both if you get the chance to read either author, Aarti.

  17. Kathleen - Happy New Year to you too! I have a feeling my chances of reading much at home have shrunk even more now that Mouse is walking. Where does the time go?!

    Sandy - Yes, once you begin reading the Ness books, you have no choice but to read straight through to the end. I hoped and prayed that one part of the first book wasn't real either. It was so devestating.

    I have a couple of ideas swimming in my brain in regards to incoperating Mouse talk on my blog. I do want to start participating in Kid Konnection, which Kathy mentioned to me once upon a time, but I am not sure how often.

    Kathy - I do hope you get a chance to, Kathy. It's so good--and interesting!

    Marie - Thank you, Marie. It definitely was one life-changing year!

    Staci - Thanks, Staci! That is so nice of you to say! It sounds like quite a few of us are making similar changes in terms of reviewing/sharing our thoughts about books. Less pressure is good, isn't it? Especially when we do this for fun!

    I hope you have a great New Year too!

  18. Samantha - Taking off the word "review" has that effect, doesn't it? I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way. I hope you have a great New Year, too!

    Joy - Thank you, Joy. I'll be interested to know your thoughts about A Thousand Lives. I wish there had been more documentation on Jones's right hand staff, but oh well. The author could only work with the materials she could find.

    Susan - Thanks, Susan. My husband was actually the one who pointed out that I could probably pinpoint my year through my reading and so I gave it a shot--and he was right! Funny the way that worked out.

    I am waiting for the soft cover version of River-Marked to come out too--and as soon as it does, I'm on it!

    I can't wait to continue with that series and George R.R. Martin's.

    I hope you have a great New Year as well, Susan.

    Carrie - Haha! Me too. I might not have read the rest of the trilogy otherwise. :-) Happy New Year to you too!

    Anna - Same to you, Anna! If you can, definitely give Patrick Ness a try. His books are very dark, but so good!

  19. Arya from Game of Thrones was one of my favorite characters this past year too. I have a feeling 2012 will be the year of comfort reads for me. I'm already making a list of books I want to purchase before the baby arrives so I'll have them ready to go if I get a spare minute.

  20. Kris - My brain just couldn't function on much else, I'm afraid, this past year. There's nothing wrong with comfort reads though, right? I hope you have a wonderful 2012. So much to look forward to!

  21. A baby can really cramp your reading style right? ;) I am listening to Bossy Pants right now and enjoying it, but that's no surprise because I love Tina Fey.
    IT's been fun reading all the favorites lists (even if I;m running weeks behind).

  22. Stacy - So true. LOL I wish I could say I was gaining an appreciation for picture books--but truth be told I'll be glad when we move up to chapter books. That's a ways a way though . . .


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