Welcome to Smugglivus 2011! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2011, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2012.
Recent Work: The phenomenal The Shattering, one our Notable Reads of 2011.
Please give it up for Karen, everybody!
Oh, Smugglivus. Such joy you bring us all! Such difficulty there is in selecting our most favourite things! But here’s an attempt at the best books, TV, and movie for me this year.
Flygirl, by Sherri L Smith
Ida Mae Jones took over her daddy’s crop-dusting business after he died, though the pilot that tested her wouldn’t give her an official license, because it’s 1941, and she’s a girl, and he was a jerk. When her older brother Thomas, who’s working as a medic in the Pacific, goes missing, she applies to the WASP program in the hopes of finding him – and her dreams. And she’s African-American, but passing as white to be part of the program. This YA historical has lovely prose, with a strong-willed, likeable narrator who finds time for contemplating the complexities of living this particular lie.
Cheer! Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders, by Kate Torgovnick
I love cheerleaders; I think they’re amazing and don’t get nearly the credit they deserve for being fierce competitors and stunning athletes. Of course, like all sports, cheerleading has problems with drug abuse, eating disorders, and terrible injuries. This insightful, empathetic non-fiction book, upon which the sadly cancelled TV series Hellcats was based, delves into both the highs and lows by following three college cheer squads during a year of competition.
Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
Libba once delayed dinner during the writing of this YA contemporary by explaining the plot to me. She didn’t really have to, because I was with her from, “Teenage beauty queens crash on deserted island; discover themselves, foil international conspiracy, scale fish with their razors.” Tons of fun, with vital, memorable characters.
Unraveled, by Courtney Milan
Oh man, those Turner boys. This is the third book (well, fourth, if you count the novella), this time following the story of Magistrate Smite Turner, nicknamed Lord Justice, and the girl who brings herself to his attention. In court. By lying to him. An awesome Regency romance that takes some serious whacks at class discrepancies, homophobia, and the huge power imbalance between the genders, while also being a fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable romance.
Dumpling Days, by Grace Lin
This book for younger readers follows Pacy and her family as they visit Taiwan. Pacy, heroine of Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, negotiates cultural divides, learns to paint, and eats a heck of a lot of dumplings. DO NOT read this beautifully observed and charming book without something delicious at hand.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
This urban fantasy is on many people’s best-of-year lists, and for good reason: because it’s freaking amazing.
I’m still in love with the crooks of Leverage, still thrilling with the kids of The Vampire Diaries and still clutching NBC in both hands and demanding more of Community (six seasons and a movie!), but this year I fell hard for two shows: one new to me, and one new to everyone.
Watch Parks and Recreation, they said. You’ll love Leslie Knope, they said. It stops doing that embarrassment squick thing you hated in The Office after the first season, they said.
And they were right, but I’m stubborn, so it took the start of the fourth season before I caught up on the magnificence that is the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana, and the idiosyncratic, loveable, flawed characters that work there. Leslie Knope is an amazing character created by an amazing actress – she’s unapologetically feminist, adorable, driven, ambitious, romantic, and consumes her own weight in waffles and whipped cream every week. She’s totally my role model.
Watch Revenge, Sarah Rees Brennan said, and because I have learned my lesson as regards Sarah and TV I will probably adore, I followed her advice.
Oh, Revenge. Take a traumatized young woman, with a dead mother and a father cut down before his time. Take a huuuuge inheritance that enables her to buy anything she wants, and learn anything of which she’s capable (which is plenty). And give her the opportunity to take on another identity, and go after the people who caused her and her family so much pain.
Sure, it’s technically a remake of The Count of Monte Cristo, but what I see on my screen is Batman, only female, less bothered by pesky ideals, and way cooler. Amanda Clarke is out to destroy everyone who hurt her, and she is absolutely magnificent in her rage. Less of a role model. More of a human hurricane.
Speaking of loose remakes of Alexandre Dumas books, my absolute favourite movie this year was very, very bad.
Not just a little bad. So intensely bad that I started laughing one minute into the voiceover prologue of The Three Musketeers. The voiceover was probably meant to provide historical background, but solemnly intoned the phrase “once-peaceful France”. Ahahahahahaha, yeah, maybe once. For about five seconds.
The movie provided further delightful historical inaccuracies, an astonishingly anachronistic script, and the most inept and obnoxious D’Artagnan I have ever seen, but it also featured very pretty costumes, swordfights, Milady de Winter pulling off a high-action jewel heist in her underwear, Orlando Bloom chewing scenery as if it were tasty, tasty candy, Orlando Bloom’s hair, and an airship forcing another airship to impale itself upon the spire of Notre Dame.
I adored it, and reviewed it in full on my blog.
As for what I’m looking forward to next year:
Team Human, by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier. I’ve already read this one in draft form, and I am super excited about getting my hands on a published copy. Vampires and teenagers and crime investigation, oh my!
A Week to be Wicked, by Tessa Dare. Confirmed bluestocking spinster + dashing rogue + fake elopement + road trip + witty author with a knack for characterization and a fine sense of the ridiculous = gimme gimme now.
Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale. I am a massive Austen nerd, and Shannon Hale’s first adult romance, Austenland, was a delight. I’m looking forward to this sequel.
The Land of Stories, by Chris Colfer. I have it on good authority that this is not your standard celebrity scribble, but an enchanting and entertaining story of twin boys exploring new territory, external and internal.
The sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. Because of the above freaking amazingness, that’s why.
Happy holidays to all, and to all a great Smugglivus! May your New Year be filled with worthy reads.
Thank you, Karen!