Lurv in Review: The Best & Worst of 2011

I’m a little fashionably late in getting this up – hey, maybe I should rename my blog Fashionably Late – but better so than never!

Know how the year always feels like it’s gone by way too quickly? Well, when you’ve got to summarize what you’ve done on a blog in an entire year, then it feels thousands of miles long. Plus, the cat is sitting to my left, occasionally throwing me not-so-subtle kitteh glares because I’m not petting him, sometimes head butting me when ‘m trying to upload pictures, etc. Kittehs make blog posting take longer! *pets kitteh*

In all honesty, reading felt at times like it just sucked for me this year. Yes, I’m bitching about that again. Reading slumps, the occasional author coming on to deflect my griping about their book into their own farcical playground, more reading slumps, yet more reading slumps and how one feels.  I forgot my own blog anniversary because my sinuses were kicking my butt (as they have all year long). I divorced an author – and that’s all I’m saying about that one. I still can’t believe I didn’t enjoy The Wise Man’s Fear! (No,that’s not who I divorced and will say no more!)

That was my summary of the worst of 2011  – aren’t you glad it was brief?

But there were wonderful things, too. Sure, who wouldn’t love to enjoy every single book they read, but I think that’s a rare breed of reader. Still, 2011 brought me things like:
Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

This series just gets better and better. This was one of those “turning point” type of series books, when major things happen for the characters, new twists are thrown into the plot and it’s all just as gloriously addictive as ever.

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Pale Demon is a phenomenally strong entry in the Hollows series. It reaches back to the very beginnings of the series and ties things together in that way that I love for a truly good, cemented series to do. There are revelations. Rachel is beaten down, trod on…and in some ways she is finally vindicated. God I loved this book. For me, there was never a dull moment. I laughed, I cheered for Rachel and at times I cried for her. A lot. I wouldn’t ever have it any other way. This is my most favorite book in the series to date. I honestly don’t know how I could love this series any more than I already do, but somehow Harrison manages to enable me to find more love for it with each book.

One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

I may be as in love with an author’s voice and style as is currently considered OK and not stalkerish when it comes to McGuire’s work. I can’t get enough of her urban fantasy books, and these October Daye ones just continue to blow me away again and again.

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What’s amazing to me about this series at times is that it deals with a lot of issues that are often deal breakers for me in other books. Things like cruelty to women and children. Especially the children. This series shows that there really are – for me – books that can engage me with these themes without making me feel manipulated or coerced falsely, somehow, into caring for those that are harmed. I think this is because, not only is McGuire just a master at crafting an enthralling story, but she isn’t gratuitous with the cruelty elements. Yes, she shows how merciless Faerie can be, but she does so in a way that makes me believe it’s a part of that world, and that Toby won’t stand for it. If it wasn’t for Toby, some of the things that happen in this series would be almost unbearable. That being said, through her, I often go through a whole bag load of emotional highs and lows, and I love every minute of it. I’ve hated some of these characters, loved some of them to death, been thinly veiled in my dislike of others, yet sad when they met their ends. This series is a testament to just how deeply one can – and likes – to be drawn down, deep into a book.

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

This is absolutely no surprise to anyone, right? That this book rocked th socks off of so many? YEAH. Sure did. It was hot, sexy fun and fulfilled in so many ways what we’d been waiting for. This also marked Singh first foray into hardcover  a worthy point in the series to do so. Let’s hope that trend keeps up!

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Hello, awesome book. I love you. It’s been a couple of many, many weeks since I read you and you’re still on my mind. While this series is never far from my reader’s heart, you, Kiss of Snow, reaffirmed my belief that you and your siblings are awesome. I loved your taboo romance, I loved the pack’s dynamics and I enjoyed the escalation in the Psy/Changeling conflict. I adored Sienna — and Hawke? Well, let’s just say he makes steam look like child’s play. Thanks for being a great book.

Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman

The publisher sent me Eona and since I’d already heard great things about Eon, and bought it, I decided to plunge into this series. People – WOW. This is one of those YA series that transcends the trappings of YA, that YA is good only for YA-ers. If you’re an adult looking to try some YA, this is the series for you, and if your a kid looking for something beyond the much-publishing-world-hyped Twilight wannabes, this is also the series for you!

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Eon/Eona is a wonderful character, which is really a vast understatement. In a genre rife with, for me, too many female lead characters that are ineffectual nothings waiting for the crumbs of some boy’s affections, Eon doesn’t wait for things to happen to her – she makes things happen. As unsure as all this dragon eye stuff is to her – it’s an ancient magic and much is unknown about it all, but that’s for you to find out more about – she nevertheless takes the reins of this story and makes it shine. She questions things, she initiates things and she shows leadership skills that many much older than her couldn’t begin to display. Yes, she stumbles in the getting there, and she makes mistakes. She has no one to tell her “this is how it should be”. There is a lot riding on her disguised female shoulders, and the tension and suspense as a result makes this a very compelling set of books. Even after her true gender comes to light, Eona has no easy time of it, often having to prove her worth time and again merely because she is a girl. Well, and it may have something to do with the extreme circumstances of a prince who is forced from his throne, but there can be no doubt that it is a man’s world and Eona isn’t an exception to that rule – she’s got to force her way in.

The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

Readers love it when they go in with low expectations (for self-preservation usually) and come out insanely rewarded. That’s how it went down with me and this book. It had awesome action, romance and plotage. It was funny, intense and suspenseful. I wanted the next immediately and pouted that at the time there wasn’t even a 2nd book title on the horizon. There is now, though! Book two will be The Shattered Dark, November 2012. CANNOT WAIT.

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I laughed, I cried, I was on the edge of my seat with this book. I want more of its romance, more of its adventure, and I want to feel as satisfied again, as a result, as I did at The End. Thankfully it ends at a place where I can be Happy For Now and not rage-frothing at a ridiculous cliffhanger. Williams – if your book had to have any similarity to Moning’s Fever books (shudder), thank you for at least not leaving us hanging. Thanks for answering tons of questions, for blowing my mind while doing so, and while leaving something juicy to move on with in the next book. Thanks for an awesome urban fantasy read. Need I say it? Yeah – loved it.

The Doomsday Vault by Steven harper

This one was one of my honorable mentions, a fantastic, adventurous and humorous steampunk read. I feel like this one’s not gotten enough attention this year and I fear it’s because the new wave of steampunk may feel a little overdone with all its mad scientists and zombies. And even though this one ascribes to those formulas, it’s a very different – and I believe successful – take on them. Loved it (though I had a few reservations) and can’t wait for book two, The Impossible Cube, in May 2012.

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As the daughter of a baron, Alice is of course expected to behave most properly. No, like MOST PROPERLY. I think this is one of the few aspects I ended up taking issue with. She puts so much emphasis on it, over and over and over. We get it, Alice. You can’t hie off to that cool, seekrit spy/seekrit agent organization called the Third Ward because it is not what future baronesses do. Harummpphh! In fact, this very proper tone carries over the book overall, and I loved it! Because pretty soon Alice is doing things that are Not At All Proper. And it’s fun, it’s exciting and Alice is so damn good at it and, and it plays off all that proper nonsense so well.

Cold Fire by Kate Elliott

Here it is, folks, my number one read for the year. It was hard to decide which book would get the coveted spot – I loved almost completely all the books listed here, and many of my favorites from prior years just keep on giving me the wonderful goods. Maybe it’s because I’m still basking in this book’s warm glow, but Cold Fire was a phenomenal read. I couldn’t have been happier at how book two in this series continued that awesomesauce.

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The girls are both manipulated, lied to and pushed around a lot in this book, while also discovering shocking things about themselves. I’ve always kept just as strongly in mind the review over at Dear Author (a really excellent review, BTW), when Jia remarks how unsatisfactory it was that Cat and Bee are so used by men in this installment. And I totally agree with her that they are – they are both at that proverbial eye of the storm (which is never calm, actually), with plenty of people ready to make use of them, their powers, influence, etc. At times it feels very disheartening for the two young women, and one might wonder if they’ll ever get ahead, if there will ever be some kind of empowerment for them. I think there will be. I think we see sparks of it in Cat especially, that she is getting fed up and won’t take it anymore (hello, she’s not afraid to use her sword and she’s getting quite good at punching arrogant men in the face). I feel she has grown into an immensely strong character, but that in order to become so, much of what she goes through is necessary to make her so. There has to be some catalyst, and Cat definitely gets plenty of catalysts in this book alone. I cannot wait to see her kick some serious ass in book three and am pretty confident she will. Good lord, I think I…trust that this will happen.

There’s plenty that I’m looking forward to in 2012, and I’ve already published my Most Wanted list, so feel free to check that out and let me know if I’m missing out on anything awesome.

I’m also doing a reading challenge in 2012 – Year of the Fantasy Classic. I know – I know. Do I really blog enough to keep up with a reading challenge? Hey, maybe that’s part of the challenge for me. If you’ve been wanting to get back to some (hopefully still) good fantasy classics that you read waaaay back when, or have always wanted to try some, feel free to join up.

I hope everyone’s year was filled at some point along the way with reading awesomesauce and I hope you’re all having a wonderful Holiday Season however you choose to celebrate. It wouldn’t be Lurv around here if I didn’t leave you with at least one bragging effort, what I’m currently reading as I quietly pursue my own reading awesomesauce this Friday before Christmas Eve…

That’s right. McGuire’s new series. And it’s grrrrreat so far. GRIN.

Till next year, reading peeps! This is me, signing off until 2012. Hugs, hot cocoa and plenty of good reading all around. Cheers!

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16 comments

  1. Oh man, my best of completely parallels yours! I’m looking forward to more reviews from you in 2012 to discover some awesome news reads. I’m dying for Seanan McGuire’s new series!

  2. Hey! Even though we didn’t read a lot of the same books last year, we still share one… guess which one? *g* Kiss of Snow did it for me too. I DO have the McGuire series in my list of books to read, and The Shadow Reader is in my TBR already.

    Hmm… I didn’t include my biggest disappointment of the year in my post. That was a doozy!

  3. Alright, I am going to read Kate Elliot. I have read so many reviews of this book, that I am now excited to read it! Thanks for your top picks. Even though I am trying to read every book on the planet, it’s just not working out for me as well as I’d hoped!

  4. Hmm. I read Cold Magic, and I am a Kate Elliott fan from way back, but I thought it was just OK. I don’t know what I expected but it didn’t seem to have enough resolution. Too much of a “first installment” ? Too young-adult? I dunno.

  5. Oh no. If your fashionably late and I have stood everyone up. I know my top 6 books for the year but haven’t even started looking at stats etc!

  6. I’m fashionably late in replying to everyone! Apologies. Once I go under the rope and hit Home for the Holidays with Kidlet, it’s a wonder I ever surface again at all. You’d think being home all day would afford me some time to be social here, but it falls by the wayside usually.

    Cheers, KB! :D

    JL, thanks! I’m almost done with McGuire’s Discount Armageddon and it’s very good! I have a few quibbles, but they’re moinor…ish.

    Hils, what was your biggest disappointment. Nosy me wants to know!

    Ms. Caboo, I know what you mean. I think I’ve discovered something very important , though, on reading everything – I’m just a finicky reader and that’s OK. :D

    Hugs to you, Angie!

    Shara, I did divorce an author. Silently, but still. It was way too uncomfortable a sitch for me, personally, and I hated that it felt that way, so buh bye, author! Looking forward to your end-of-year roundup. :)

    Nicola, I’ve heard others mention they felt Cold Magic was young adult and I don’t know why. It has nothing like a young adult vibe to me – isn’t reading weird? LOL. I knew going in that it was meant to be a trilogy, so maybe that helped me, not sure.

    Marg, welcome to the Fashionably Late Wagon! We have lots of lovely tea and cakes and BOOKS. :)

  7. Nah, you’re not late, it’s not the end of the year yet. i feel like.. really… shouldn’t the best of list be happening in January? *nods* :D

    But I’m loving this list. And I’m happy I have COLD FIRE and EON on my tbr. I also must get me THE SHADOW READER. And DISCOUNT ARMAGEDDON!!!! OMG, you lucky woman.

    (this comment is also fashionably late).

    • I guess it depends on the reader, maybe? I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot more time to read – but I DID manage to read one more book I wish was on my best of list now. :D

      I give your wanted list a stamp of approval lol! So glad you have Cold Fire and Eon in your reading pile, too! Can’t wait to hear what you think of them.

  8. Great list! And what a great phrase, divorcing an author. Did not happen to me yet, but perhaps in the future I might fall out of love with one.

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