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Favorites of 2011

Another year of reading is gone. This was a good year as several of my favorite authors released new books and I discovered a couple new favorite authors as well. I decided this year that I would keep my favorite list at 10. I cheated a little last year by sneaking in two extras. It was a difficult task, but I managed to whittle it down to 10.

Here they are  in no particular order:
Links are to my reviews:
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
The Inquisitor's Apprenticeby Chris Moriarty
The Coming of the Dragonby Rebecca Barnhouse
The Dragon's Tooth by N.D. Wilson
The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Deedy and Randall Wright
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Arrow by R.J. Anderson
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall

A few weeks ago I wrote about my Favorite Characters of 2011 and there are some more really great books on that list that I loved this year too.

The Inquisitor's Apprentice

The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty took be by complete surprise. I was expecting to enjoy it and was patiently waiting for my library to order copies. Then on a visit to our local bookstore, I saw it and bought it on impulse. This is a good thing because I didn't enjoy this book, I LOVED it. I recognize it is not a book everyone will like, but it worked for me on every level. As a reader I was engrossed and it kept me thinking. As a mom it is definitely a book I want to have on the shelf for my kids. As a teacher I could see so much potential in it for a great unit study. But it was the reader me who enjoyed it the most. And now I have a new literary crush as well.

Sacha Kessler is a Russian Jewish immigrant living on Hester Street in a magical New York in the late 19th century. Magic practiced by the masses is illegal and the Wall Street Wizards (Morgaunt, Vanderbilk, Astral) use it to stay rich at the expense of the people. Sacha's life is changed forever on th…

Happy Boxing Day!

And Merry Christmas a day late!

I have been busy enjoying our family traditions and the wonder of my kids for the past few days. Also, feeding the 8 people staying in my house right now.  I hope everyone is enjoying themselves as much as I am! Regularly scheduled book type posts will be returning on Wednesday with a review of The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty, a book which made a last minute entry in my Favorites of 2011. I will be bringing you that list on Friday.

Enjoy any time off you may have and Happy Reading.

Prom and Prejudice

There are many many novels out there that are retellings of or borrow elements from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I have a love/hate relationship with these novels. For some reason I can't help reading them despite the fact that they usually annoy me. A lot. Elizabeth Eulberg's Prom and Prejudice managed to not do that. I found it to be, like its bubble gum pink cover, light and fun.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London. Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have…

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

That title. The cover. If you are in any way a fan of children's fantasy I think it rather impossible to face those two things combined and not want to read this book. Then you read the synopsis and find out the main character is a thief and, if you are me, all thoughts of even attempting to resist this book's allure go out the window. But why would you want to resist? Jonathan Auxier has penned a delightful adventure full of magic, thievery, intrigue and militant ravens. Yes, there is oh so much to like in Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes.
"Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves. As you can well imagine, blind children have incredible senses of smell, and they can tell what lies behind a locked door- be it fine cloth, gold, or peanut brittle- at fifty paces. Moreover, their fingers are so small and nimble that they can slip right through keyholes, and their ears so keen that they can hear t…

Books for Christmas Presents

Or What My Kids are Getting for Christmas, 2011 Edition.

 So I did this last year and decided to do it again this year since my kids, not surprisingly, get quite a few books for Christmas each year.

For the Little One (age 3):



You can find my thoughts on Apple Pie ABC and Press Here and also Follow Me and A Pocketful of Posies (from below) at this post.
We are in a Book and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! are fairly self explanatory. If you are the parent of a young child and don't know Mo Willems (I recently discovered there are such parents) you need to get to know his books and know them well.
Super Dragon is a cute story about a young dragon who wants to compete in a flying contest but needs to learn to fly first.
For Bit (age 7):




Cake Mix Cooking for Kids is a book full of easy recipes that use cake mixes as a base. Great for budding bakers who want to strike out on their own.
You can read my thoughts on Tuesdays at the Castle here and The Cheshire Cheese Cathere.
Bit a…

The Horse and His Boy

Featuring Bit, Age 7

Our last read aloud of 2011 is complete. We just finished The Horse and His Boyby C.S. Lewis. I had read all of the Chronicles of Narnia to Bit when she was four and she enjoyed them then. This time however she not only enjoyed this but was pulled into the story. She was vocal and opinionated about everything and really engaged with the text. It was heartwarming for me as this is my absolute favorite of the seven books.
The Story
In Narnia it is the Golden Age as the High King Peter reigns with his siblings, but to the south of Narnia in the land of Calormen, a boy named Shasta has lived a simple and harsh life with his father in a fishing hut. Everything changes on the night a powerful Tarkhan wants to buy him as a slave and it is revealed that Shasta is not from Calormen at all. With the help of the Tarkhan's war horse, a talking horse captured from Narnia named Bree, Shasta escapes and head for the north and freedom. Along the way he and Bree form an alliance…

Let it Snow

Yes, this is another YA Christmas book post. What can I say? I'm in a holly jolly mood this year. Let it Snow is a collection of three short stories by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle. They are interconnected and involve snow, Christmas, and romance. Light, fluffy, fun. It is perfect for reading snuggled under a blanket near your Christmas tree.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully e…

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu

It is rare for me to pick up a book anymore that I have no preconceived notions about. It is hard not to develop some about almost any book when I read so many blogs. I was very excited when I saw The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang on the new arrivals shelf at my library.  I had seen it mentioned in a couple of comments at Heavy Medal but knew nothing else about it. Just the title. It was a lovely experience going into the story not knowing what to expect. I can say that it is one that is well worth reading and adding to any library collection (home, classroom, school).

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She's ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother's sister, is coming to visit for several m…

Princess of Glass

Tackling a retelling/reworking of Cinderella in a post Ella Enchanted (my review) world is a brave thing to do. And if you are going to do it you should really give your story some kind of unique spin. Jessica Day George did just that with Princess of Glass and the end result is an enjoyable and fun read.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Hoping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other's countries in the name of better political alliances--and potential marriages. It's got the makings of a fairy tale--until a hapless servant named Eleanor is tricked by a vengeful fairy godmother into competing with Poppy for the eligible prince. Ballgowns, cinders, and enchanted glass slippers fly in this romantic and action-packed happily-ever-after quest from an author with a flair for embroidering tales in her own delightful way.

There is a lot to like about ho…

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything

Sometimes a book comes along that is a balance of quirky, enjoyable, and well written. When it happens to be a contemporary fiction novel about a culture many young readers are not familiar with, so much the better. If you are looking for such a book then Uma Krishnaswami's The Grand Plan to Fix Everything is one to check out.

Summary (from Goodreads):
Eleven-year old Dini loves movies—watching them, reading about them, trying to write her own—especially Bollywood movies. But when her mother tells her some big news, it does not at all jive with the script of her life she has in mind. Her family is moving to India…and, not even to Bombay, which is the center of the Bollywood universe and home to Dini’s all-time most favorite star, Dolly. No, Dini is moving to a teeny, tiny village she can’t even find on a map. Swapnagiri. It means Dream Mountain and it only looks like a word that’s hard to pronounce. But to that open-minded person who sounds the name out, one letter at a ti…

Characters Who Captured My Heart in 2011

“I was attempting to write the story of my life. It wasn't so much about plot. It was much more about character.”  -from Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
I love this quote because, as I have stated many times, I read for character. If you make me love your characters I will forgive you all kinds of faults in your world building and plot development. As I was thinking about the books that will go on my Best of 2011 list (which I'll post at the end of December) I started thinking about all the amazing characters I fell in love with this year. Not all the books they come from will make that final list (though some will) and I decided to a separate post to cover all the characters who captured my heart this year and  made me fall in love with their stories.
Instead of linking the titles to their Goodreads page like I usually do, I have linked them to my reviews.
Melina Marchetta's Boys: Yes, all of them. I read Saving Francesca, my first experience with Marchetta's work, last …