Monthly Archives: December 2011

Books I’m Excited to Read in 2012

Oh, this is a tough one for me. The best books I read over the past year aren’t the ones that were hyped all over social media with ARC giveaways for months before they came out. The best books were the ones I heard about after they’d been released for awhile, from people whose taste I trust. So…I don’t know what’s out there and I look forward to finding those gems again. But all that being said, there are a few books already that intrigue me and that I can’t wait to read. So here they are….

1. Butter by Erin Lange

2. Passengerby Andrew Smith

3. Catch and Release by Blythe Woolston

4. Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard

5. Vodnik by Bryce Moore

What are other writers looking forward to reading next year? 

Have a Happy New Year! See you in 2012!

Top Recommended Books of 2011

So today’s Best of 2011 topic is Top Recommended Books. So here are five books that I recommended to people this year, all for different reasons. They are also books I love dearly.          
  1. 47 by Walter Mosley
A historical story that’s also part fantasy and part sci-fi, this is Mosley’s masterfully written YA story about teen slave boy #47 who sets out to free both his mind and his people by following the wise words of “neither master nor nigger be.”

  1. The Butterfly Revolution by William Butler 
Wicked children as an allegory for philosophical beliefs and political failures? Um, sign me up. Holding a place in my heart right between Lord of the Flies and Janne Teller’s Nothing, this story follows a coup by a group of summer camp boys. They lock up the counselors and make their own political system all in the name of Fun. And, sure, it starts out as fun, but all good fascism must come to an end…
  1. Shadowland by Peter Straub
I feel like I mentioned this book a lot this year because of The Night Circus. I don’t think the books have anything  at all in common, but the idea of dueling magicians always makes me think of Shadowland, so I keep bringing it up in conversation.
  1. Espedair Street by Iain Banks
This book is on my top five all-time favorite books ever list, so I always recommend it whenever possible. Espedair Street is the unpretentious story of an angsty pimply teenage songwriter who hooks up with a band and goes with them on their meteoric rise to fame in the seventies. The band, Frozen Gold, becomes a huge arena band. So huge that, as the narrator tells us, Frozen Gold wasn’t “compared to Pink Floyd and Zeppelin. Floyd and Zeppelin were compared to us.” But after the fame, a lot of things go wrong. Especially pyrotechnic things.
  1. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta 
Many people love this book, but it sort of reminds me of John Fowles’s The Magus, in that both books have a slow, odd start where you have to tell people “just keep reading, it’s all worth it.”  I’ve had people argue that no book should start off boring or confusing in a way that makes you want to stop reading. However, I think everyone who makes it to the end of Jellicoe Road (and The Magus, of course) realizes that there is no other way the story should have been told.Patience is a virtue. 

Check out what books other writers have been recommending…

2011 Top Books

Today is look at the best books of 2011!  These are the best books that I read, although I’ve tried to mix things up so that I’m not just writing about the same books I wrote about yesterday. Most of them are recent, but not all, as you’ll see.
  1. Flicker by Theodore Roszak
Okay, this is a sad one to write about because I’ve loved this book since I read it in college back in the early nineties. Maybe I still had pretensions about doing something in film or film studies at the time, I don’t know. But this book is just….everything.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

From the golden age of art movies and underground cinema to X-rated porn, splatter films, and midnight movies, this breathtaking thriller is a tour de force of cinematic fact and fantasy, full of metaphysical mysteries that will haunt the dreams of every moviegoer. Jonathan Gates could not have anticipated that his student studies would lead him to uncover the secret history of the movies—a tale of intrigue, deception, and death that stretches back to the 14th century. But he succumbs to what will be a lifelong obsession with the mysterious Max Castle, a nearly forgotten genius of the silent screen who later became the greatest director of horror films, only to vanish in the 1940s, at the height of his talent. Now, 20 years later, as Jonathan seeks the truth behind Castle’s disappearance, the innocent entertainments of his youth—the sexy sirens, the screwball comedies, the high romance—take on a sinister appearance. His tortured quest takes him from Hollywood’s Poverty Row into the shadowy lore of ancient religious heresies. He encounters a cast of exotic characters, including Orson Welles and John Huston, who teach him that there’s more to film than meets the eye, and journeys through the dark side of nostalgia, where the Three Stooges and Shirley Temple join company with an alien god whose purposes are anything but entertainment.

Anyway, ever since I first read FLICKER it’s been one of those reread every few years kind of books for me, an old favorite, and I read it again this summer. I know that Roszak is best known for his The Making of a Counter-Culture, chronicling the emergence of counterculture movement in the sixties (he later wrote The Making of an Elder Culture). Roszak also lived in Berkeley and near the end of his life he and my mother worked together on a project called Ashby Village. Anytime my mom would talk about him, I’d say “TELL HIM HOW MUCH I LOVE HIS BOOK FLICKER!’ And she kept saying “What was that book again?” For some reason we went back and forth with this and I really just wanted to meet Mr. Roszak in person, but then he passed away last July. I don’t know if my mom ever got to tell him how much his book meant to me, but I’d like to think she did, and the whole point of all this rambling is really just to say: If you love an author’s work, TELL THEM.

Also, read FLICKER.

And other books that I loved and hope you will read and love too:

    2.  Nothing by Janne Teller
    3.  Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

    4.  Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff
    5.  Beautiful by Amy Reed

My favorite 2011 YA Guys

In continuing with this week’s blog circus, today’s topic is the year’s top boy/girl characters from YA fiction. I enjoy writing male POV stories, so I read a lot of male POV stories (or maybe it’s the other way ’round, huh?). Anyway, for that reason, my list is a compilation of the most memorable YA guys I read about this year. Again, I’m not sure that all these books came out in 2011, but most did. I’m also fairly sure that not all of these books were published as YA, but they all feature teen protagonists, so I’m including them.

So without further ado, meet my millionaires  favorite YA guys!

1. Pierre Anthon from Nothing by Janne Teller

Pierre Anthon says it:

“Nothing matters,” he announced. “I’ve known that for a long time. So nothing’s worth doing. I just realized that.”

Too bad no one listens to him. Everyone throws rotten fruit at Pierre Anthon and then things get really weird….
2. Jack from The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
A professor of mine once told me that to be a teenager is to be psychotic, an observation I agree with wholeheartedly. I think there are a lot of ways to interpret Jack’s story, but whether you see his connection to Marbury as a trauma reaction, as the forces of an intrapsychic world come to life, or as something more fantastic altogether, Jack’s complexity, frailty, and depth make his bleak story memorably compelling. 
3.  Zach from Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Oh, man, if there was one character who broke my heart this year, it was Zach. It’s something in his voice, his honesty, his sorrow. Zach wakes up in rehab and doesn’t/doesn’t want to remember why he’s there. But LAST NIGHT I SANG TO THE MONSTER isn’t anything close to your standard rehab book; instead it’s a book about a most amazing and difficult type of friendship and the ways in which people try (and fail) to heal themselves.
4Toby from Citrus County by John Brandon

Uh oh. It’s hard to talk about this book without saying too much. It’s a disturbing read, which I like. Toby is a difficult character, which I also like. You might hate me if you read this book. Carry on.
5. Wes from Everything Happens Today by Jesse Browner
Aww, Wes. He keeps getting compared to Holden Caulfield, which I can see: EVERYTHING HAPPENS TODAY follows one day in the life (and mind and heart and everything else) of an angsty Manhattan prep school kid. Wes is in love but he’s lost his virginity to someone other than the object of his affection. His mother is dying of cancer. He cooks food. He has a dog. Wes feels all the feelings and it’s his strong voice and philosophical meanderings that carry this book.

See what characters other writers enjoyed…