My Year in Reading: Cassie-la’s Best and Worst of 2011 Wrap Up

A lot of people have New Year’s Resolutions they set for themselves. Not all of them succeed, but many try. To quit smoking, get a better job, start exercising, finish a degree, perform an exorcism, the list goes on and on. As a bibliophile the only resolutions I set for myself are reading goals. I have been doing this with much success for four years now.

In 2008, while still pursuing my undergraduate degree I read exactly 50 books. In 2009 I made it a little bit farther with 54 books- I was still in school but not working until 4:00AM anymore. In 2010 I had 5 months of freedom from school and shattered my record with 78 books. This year with no school to complete I knew I needed a more lofty goal, so I chose to aim for 100 books during 2011. Little did I know I would be mostly unemployed and I would hit that goal in no time.

In 2011 I read a grand total of 141 books (see the full visual list HERE). I would have preferred a nice even number, but what are you gonna do? 38 of those were novels, 1 was an anthology, 5 were non-fiction, 26 of them were young adult novels, 58 were graphic novels and trades, and 12 were middle grade books.

The Best of the Best:

Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo
Recommended for
: Batman fans who don’t mind that pussy Superman too much.

Just in time for Christmas, Batman is visited by three spirits to change his grumpus attitude. Featuring Catwoman, Superman, and the Joker, this remake of A Christmas Carol has the most stunning artwork I have ever seen in any other graphic novel.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Recommended for
: Feminists, lovers of snark, anyone who watches “Toddlers and Tiaras”.

After a vicious plane crash that leaves these beauty contestants on an island to fend for themselves against all odds, humor takes over and gives us a wild romp aimed at beauty contests, cosmetics, Kim Jong Il, and conspiracy theories. Starring a stuffed lemur names General Goodtimes, there is only one word for this novel: uproarious.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Recommended for
: Lovers of fractured fairy tales and Hans Christian Andersen.

My most recent post gushed over this adorable tale, based on The Snow Queen (Pixar recently announced a movie!). After Jack gets a shard of a goblin mirror in his eye, he changes. He doesn’t want to talk about Harry Potter or daemons or tauntauns, and it is up to his best friend Hazel to rescue him from the villainous Snow Queen and the evil which has taken him over.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Recommended for
: All fans of painful love triangles and period clothing.

This young adult period steampunk fantasy novel has a lot going for it, and not just genres. For one it has an amazing love triangle that will confuse you to the point of being both Team Not Jace and Team Other Not Jace, for another, it has enough twists to shake a dragon head walking stick at.

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Recommended for
: People who like their zombies to have a little romance.

Fans of zombies rejoice! Zombies now have a softer side. They’re just a little decayed, they’re still sexy, they’re still sexy! Not my first ZomRom (zombie romance) nor my last, Lia Habel adds in a touch of steampunk, a lot of strong female leads, and a debut that rocked the young adult world.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith
Recommended for: Regency era romantics who like their subjects undead.

It wouldn’t be a year end list if I didn’t include a Quirk Books mash-up, and this one is extra special because it’s a sequel, and a damn good one. This time we get a closer look at the other Bennet sisters, Kitty and Mary as Elizabeth struggles to rescue Fitzwilliam Darcy from a life of zombiedom. A thrilling conclusion to the book that started it all: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Fated by S.G. Browne
Recommended for
: Fans of the allegorical in real life.

This novel follows Fabio (AKA Fate) as he goes about the world performing his Fate-ly duties, assigning fortunes and misfortunes to those he comes across. Featuring the much luckier Destiny, his chubby friends Sloth and Gluttony and his nemesis Death, Fabio begins to change the fates of those around him, with disastrous consequences.

A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
Recommended for
: People who wished Lord of the Rings was more readable.

Hands down one of the most addictive series I have come across this year was A Song of Ice and Fire, which took up three months of my time. Literally all I would do was read these books. These epic fantasies have everything you could want: dragons, a sassy dwarf, magic, and lots of main characters deaths. So much death.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Recommended for
: Fairy tale fanatics longing for rich prose and a good adventure.

I’m going to come right out and be honest, this was my favorite book of the year. FAVORITE! September longs for adventure, and when the Green Wind comes along she can’t resist the opportunity to leave her humdrum life behind. Exceptional prose, and so much heartbreak, this modern fairy tale reads like all your favorite classics.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Recommended for
: Historical fiction lovers and movie buffs.

This children’s book is told as much through prose as through illustration with large chunks of the narrative coming across visually. Following Hugo, the young boy with an art for fixing clocks, a mysterious gentleman with a tie to old films, and a mysterious clockwork creature, this novel is hands down the best children’s book I read all year.

John Belushi is Dead by Kathy Charles
Recommended for
: Anyone fascinated by morbidity.

Hilda and Benji enjoy traveling around California and visiting the death sites of their favorite celebrities. Their bible is Hollywood Babylon and from Hilda’s pink hair to Benji’s manic tendencies, they are not your typical teenagers. Full of fun Hollywood trivia and a love story to boot.

John Dies at the End by David Wong
Recommended for
: Readers who enjoy the bizarre and the absurd.

This strange book and soon to be even stranger movie follows best friends David and John. After using a drug called soy sauce, the guys have the sudden ability to see into other dimensions, from men made of meat to fourteen foot basement tiger sharks. A perfect blend of horror and humor, John Dies at the End will have you wondering what you just read, and loving it.

The Last Dragonslayer and The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde
Recommended for
: British humour lovers who enjoy complex world building.

Unfortunately, this series will not enter the US market until next year, despite the fact that Amazon UK sells it for the Kindle. This novel is typical Jasper Fforde, with British comedy and the absurd covering every page. From dragons to Quarkbeasts (creatures part blender and part hyena), this is Discworld with 75% more complexity.

Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Recommended for
: Anyone and everyone.

It’s difficult to describe why this series is so damn amazing. There’s main characters Alek and Deryn and their tragic love story, the steampunk elements of the Clanker nation and genetically engineered Darwinists, and the ties to historical fiction. This series takes World War I way past the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and into a fantastical world of living, breathing airships.

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Recommended for
: Comic book fans who enjoy lots of substance, twists and turns and perfection.

I LOVE THIS SERIES! After their father is murdered, the Locke family moves to Key house, where they discover keys which allow the user to go back in time, turn into an animal, fly, control shadows, become a ghost etc, etc, etc, etc. Part mystery part horror part comedy, all amazing.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Recommended for
: Serial killer fanatics, anyone that enjoys ghosts and ghouls.

My first Maureen Johnson novel went well. It’s equal parts engaging writing and the crazy Maureen everyone comes to expect through her larger than life twitter personality. In modern day London, a copy cat killer is re-enacting the Jack the Ripper Murders, and foreign exchange student Rory is right in the middle of the Rippermania. Spooooky!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Recommended for: Readers who like the circus, magicians, and the fantastic.

Since before they can remember, gifted magicians Celia and Marco have been pitted against one another in a mysterious competition centered around the Night Circus: a mystical, otherworldly place full of the impossible. From a tent full of memories to a floating carousel, the Night Circus is everything I wish could exist in the real world.

The Radleys by Matt Haig
Recommended for
: People who like their vampires to be more realistic and less sparkly.

This is a slice of life novel about a small town British family. Except they’re vampires. A fact which they’ve hidden from their children in an attempt to prove nurture over nature. When their youngest daughter’s blood lust take over, the Radleys life is thrown into turmoil, and the novel within the novel The Abstainer’s Handbook is unable to help them fight their true nature.

Super Dinosaur Volume 1 by Robert Kirkman
Recommended for
: Dinosaur lovers young and old.

Allow me to explain about Super Dinosaur and his quest to protect the mineral DynOre from the evil villain Max Maximus. He can fly, swim, and use his arms thanks to a mechanical suit. He’s SUPER DINOSAUR and he fights the likes of Tricerachops, Terrordactyl, and Painkylosaurus. This series is pure camp. In a good way.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Recommended for
: Anyone who doesn’t mind being completely depressed for 336 pages.

Do you want to be sad? Read about teenage suicide? Feel bad for baby seal cubs? Then read about Hannah Baker, who makes a series of 13 audiotapes explaining why she committed suicide. The tapes are circulated through a complex series of instructions around the people who cause her death, making them question their choices and think about all the things they didn’t know about Hannah Baker.

The Worst of the Worst:

Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray (This is Hamlet we’re talking about, Hamlet! There is something rotten in Denmark and it’s his piss poor attitude…. He stabbed your dad through a curtain, so instead of drowning yourself you’re gonna write a sad poem in your journal and move on.)
Marked: House of Night Book 1 by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
(Emo vampires complain about their lives, are good at everything, and give each other vampire BJs.)
The Meowmorphosis by Franz Kafka and Cook Coleridge (Cats aren’t so interesting when they’re not playing keyboards or doing invisible things.)
The Mist by Stephen King (The movie was better. ::slaps self:: No, seriously.)
The Nightmare Factory by Joe Harris, Stuart Moore, and Thomas Ligotti (Strange things happen, thinly veiled horrors occur, no one cares.)
The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (The dead things wilted like noodles while the reader cried like someone forced to read this prequel.)
The Zombie Wilson Diaries by Timothy W. Long (Man is stuck on a poorly written island with a zombie. Does gross things to her.)
Wire Hangers by Alan Robert (So bad I only remember there was a funny looking murderer.)

My 2012 Reading Resolutions include finishing all my unread graphic novels and trades, reading more non-fiction, catching up on all ongoing series, reading Chuck Palahniuk’s prior two novels, and finishing everything ever written by Joe Hill.

What are your 2012 Reading Resolutions?

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4 thoughts on “My Year in Reading: Cassie-la’s Best and Worst of 2011 Wrap Up

    • Thank you! I think to top it this year would be impossible. And personally the “Song of Ice and Fire” books are so dense they should count as more than one book.

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