Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 10 Favorite YA Books of 2011

This is not - NOT - a list of the "best" YA books of 2011, because there are so many I did not read! There are a whole bunch I really wanted to get to and just didn't manage: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Anna Dressed in Blood, Shine, many more. I'm a book behind on both of Cassie Clare's series. Beautiful Chaos has been on my nightstand since the day it was released but I haven't managed to open it. I think I'm two or three books behind on Sarah Dessen. I have a whole list of books I didn't manage to read. Maybe I'll do a midyear update of my favorite 2011 books I read in the first half of 2012, or something. And I've compensated for this issue in past years below the main list, with lists of pre-2011 books I read and loved this year.

And a disclaimer - I know almost all these authors to some extent. I work for one. I've worked with others at conferences. I've chatted with some on Twitter. I think the only one on the main list with whom I've had no contact is Deb Caletti (probably because she isn't on Twitter). I won't pretend that I managed to keep my feelings about the books completely isolated from my impressions of the authors, but none of them asked for good reviews or anything, and I would NEVER tell you I liked a book I didn't like.

So! Here we go! Instead of trying to write whole reviews of each book, because then I'd never finish, I will instead just give you a short list of elements that made me particularly like it.

1. The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan - Amazing sibling relationships, a hot lying older brother, urban fantasy, humor, the Goblin Market, a bookish boy, girls who are strong in different ways and both awesome and don't hate each other, and one of my favorite fictional couples EVER.

2. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins - A geeky love interest, GLBT characters whose sexuality isn't An Issue, boy next door love interest, basically PERFECT romance.

3. Where She Went by Gayle Forman - Classical music, a hot but angsty rock star, a perfect mix of heartbreak and tragedy and romance and hope.

4. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson - London, boarding school, humor, a really hot ghost, lots of murder.

5. Red Glove by Holly Black - A hot lying older brother (yes it's a theme), fascinating magical politics, organized crime, family drama, and a wonderfully conflicted, complex hero.

6. Stay by Deb Caletti - The ocean, sailor boys, a well-drawn father/daughter relationship, family secrets, and the best portrayal I've read of loving someone with mental illness.

7. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - Mystery, a ridiculously hot love interest, and so much total insanity (in a good way) that I can't say more without ruining it.

8. The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson - Traveling around Europe, a mysterious hot guy, a nicely drawn portrayal of grief, non-hokey personal growth.

9. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab - Enchanting language, fairy tales, sibling love, a mysterious stranger, subtle social messages.

10. Past Perfect by Leila Sales - Historical reenactment villages, forbidden romance, imperfect but loving family relationships, lots of ice cream.

My Favorite 2010 YA Books I Read in 2011:
1. The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan
2. Jane by April Lindner
3. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
4. White Cat by Holly Black
5. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
6. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Earlier YA Books I Read for the First Time & Loved in 2011:
1. The Changeover by Margaret Mahy
2. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
3. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
4. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Friday, December 9, 2011

Today Is Not the Day for This Nonsense

I mean, seriously, (in my opinion) this is dumb regardless, but not postponing after what happened in Virginia yesterday? These people are the worst.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Good Wife, "Parenting Made Easy" - Recap at ThinkProgress

Here's my take on this week's episode.

Your weekly TV news!

Here's this week's update, with lots of midseason premiere dates.

Quote of the Day (from a Castle review, but no spoilers!)

"That said, they need to keep in mind that this isn't How I Met Your Mother or one of those other shows where the nominal lead could fall off the planet and it might take a couple of months before anyone noticed. There's a reason that the audience for this show isn't watching Hawaii Five-O instead, and if you're nice to that reason, he might let you call him 'Captain.'"
From The AV Club. They also make a nice point about Castle playing damsel in distress. Bonus points for a 39 Steps reference, too!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Breaking Dawn Thoughts & Links

I saw Breaking Dawn last night, and it was . . . better than I expected, actually! I mean, the subject matter is intrinsically ridiculous, but they did a reasonable job with it. It was awful in an entertaining way, rather than awful in a dull way. It was, to use one of my favorite new words, hilarrible - simultaneously horrible and hilarious.

My feelings on Twilight in general are moderate in a way that's pretty boring but that I don't really hear people mention much, so to put it out there: It's, you know, okay. I've read all the books and seen all the movies. They're not my favorites. I don't love them. But they're far from the worst books I've read or the worst movies I've seen. (Breaking Dawn isn't even the worst movie I've seen in the past month.) I think they're only such a Thing because of external factors, and the books themselves are just . . . enh. Not good. But not the worst thing in the world.

I've heard a lot of people say things like "I loved those books until I realized Bella's behavior was wrong," or "because she's a doormat" or "because she's not a good role model," and that totally rubs me the wrong way. It often sounds like it really means either "I loved those books until people told me I shouldn't" or "I secretly still love those books but think I shouldn't admit it." And . . . but why? Since when does liking something mean agreeing with decisions made by the characters? I rarely hear anyone saying "I used to like Rebecca but Mrs. de Winter is such a doormat that she literally lets her husband get away with murder." or "Those people in Wuthering Heights are all such bad role models!" or "I watch Dexter but don't worry! I know people shouldn't actually be serial killers!" So the fact that people - many people - say this sort of thing about Twilight smacks of what Sarah Rees Brennan talks about here about an assumption that young girls don't understand the concept of fiction and therefore YA books should always have good role models. And really, people like things for all kinds of reasons, and I would never assume that because someone liked a book or a character, they agreed with or wanted to emulate that character's actions.

Some more interesting Breaking Dawn-related links:

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the RPatz

Robert Pattinson Says Stuff Sometimes

Twilight, Fetish, and Protecting Girls from Themselves

The Harsh Bigotry of Twilight-Haters

When Is It Okay for You to Hate Twilight? Here's a Guide.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

West Wing Reunion & Other Movie Links

Richard Schiff and Bradley Whitford are going to be in a movie together.

Yes, There Are Black People in Your Hunger Games

A Where's Waldo movie? Huh. Okay.

The 10 Most God-Awful Movies About Greek Mythology

Another fascinating obituary of a famous person's daughter.

Jane Austen in space? Sure.

Alan Cumming's Macbeth & Other Culture Links

Alan Cumming doing Macbeth as a one-man show? Sign me up.

6 Thoughts About Misogyny & Popular Culture

How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things

The Shame of Joe Paterno, or Sports Are Just A Job

Sister Bloggers: Why So Many Lifestyle Bloggers Happen to Be Mormon

Perfect Welsh Rarebit & Other Links for Food Lovers

The Guardian is doing a fun series on the best way to make simple foods. Here's Welsh rarebit and porridge.

The UK's cheapest meal: a toast sandwich. Huh.

Muslim cab drivers rescue New York City's oldest Jewish bagel bakery from closing, plan to keep it kosher

Making the Grade: Why the Cheapest Maple Syrup Tastes Best

Gail Collins on Romney & Other Politics Links

Gail Collins is always awesome, but I particularly liked today's column: The Mitt Romney Pardon

Cracked Granite: Birthers Spark Chaos in New Hampshire

Obama's Flunking Economy: The Real Cause

The Nightmarish Horror of Being Jon Huntsman

A Weird Unforced Error by W. Mitt Romney