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.

Who: Janice, of the excellent SF blog Janicu’s Book Blog, fellow booknerd and Smugglivus first-timer.

Please give it up for Janice!

I’m so excited to participate as a guest blogger at Smugglivus for the first time. And picking my favorite reads of the year is probably the easiest thing in the world. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to place a book when you don’t hate it but you don’t love it either? But when a book blows you away, you know. Of course, every book that has hit my favorites for the year has bowled me over in a unique and special way.

Unsticky by Sarra Manning

A recommendation Angie of Angieville, Unsticky just killed it. It’s about Grace, a struggling young woman who works for a pittance at a fashion magazine who enters an arrangement with an older, wealthy man. I know, scandalously wrong. Vaughn (the aforementioned wealthy man), and Grace are both flawed in huge ways and this relationship is based on mutual exploitation. And yet. These two are so perfect for each other. This may have a chick lit label, but it proves to be wonderfully deep, dark, and gritty. Oh man, I fell so hard for this one. Sarra Manning has a way of bringing you right into the relationship so you feel a visceral response to everything the characters go through. Have I mentioned that these two are messed up? Freaking delicious. This book has kicked off my interest in chick lit of the complex variety and Sarra Manning. Thankfully Manning has a great backlist of amazing YA, has written another adult book, and there’s more to come.

Recommended for: Those that like to read about realistic relationships in all their messy glory.

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

This is one I read as part of a book tour that Holly of The Book Harbinger hosted to highlight a couple of Australian authors. Unfortunately Six Impossible Things isn’t available outside Australia yet. This is too bad because it falls under that “Seriously, can you guys do no wrong?” umbrella of Aussie YA, which seems to be universally good. Six Impossible Things is about Dan Ceriell, who is dealing with the fallout of his father’s coming out, his parents’ subsequent divorce and the failure of the family business. These are all serious issues, but the story is never lets itself get bogged down by them. Instead, Dan’s narration of his new life in a stinky, inherited-but-not-really house, his adventures in reinvention, and his hopeless crush on the girl next door, infuse the story with a lot of humor. Things do not start off great for Dan, and I found myself protective of this nerdy, list making, hilarious boy, but slowly and surely, Dan makes connections with members of his new community. This is a short book with a bit of depth and a feel-good ending. When I devoured this one in no time flat, a happy smile on my face, and later couldn’t really think of anything I disliked about it, it was a winner for me.

Recommended for: Readers looking for YA with heart and humor.

Chime by Franny Billingsley

I picked this one up based on my favorable opinion of Billingsley’s The Folk Keeper, and ended up loving it. But Chime is a book where a reader’s reaction to it is hugely dependent on how much they like the unreliable narrator. Briony, with her sing-songy, stream-of-consciousness voice is not for everyone. She believes herself to be evil, deserving of the hanging she’s about to get. As she explains how she got there, I was half-convinced that Briony was just plain crazy. Then I began to understand that the magic and rules of Swampsea were actually real and Briony is a product of an environment where Industrial England sits on the edge of a strange and terrible wonderland. I fell slowly in love with this wild and fierce girl, her child-like sister, and the boyish but astute newcomer Eldric who brings Briony out of her shell. I did not find it a fast read — I had to take it in sips rather than in one big gulp, but I needed the slow pace to savor and digest. In the end I adored the mix of whimsy and intensity.

Recommended for: Romantics with a patience for the bizarre.

OK, so this list is getting sort of long, year so I’m keeping it at three even though I also feel like The DUFF by Kody Keplinger and Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park should be on this list (both contemporary YA. both so good). As it is, for a supposed speculative fiction fan, two out of my three choices are not spec fic without adding those other two. So… let me tell you about the two series (that are fantasy and urban fantasy) that I’ve loved this year:

Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series:

So many bloggers were hounding me to read this one (Sheesh! Rabid I tell you). I finally I started reading The Thief in Spring this year, and found myself reading the second, third, fourth book in the series within a month. So, people were right. I loved this series. This is YA Fantasy that resolves around the three kingdoms that are uneasy neighbors: Sounis, Eddis and Attolia. Within these kingdoms, there is Gen, a man who says he can steal anything. This trickster is one of those characters that worms his way into your heart and stays there. When I reviewed The Thief, I said “It’s got a light, straightforward style with sly undercurrent that I liked” and “if you attention to the story, you are rewarded”. True of all the books, even though each book has its own POV. And now that I am all caught up, I can turn around and hound other people who haven’t started: Why? WHY HAVEN’T YOU STARTED?

Recommended for: I think this has pretty universal appeal for fantasy fans. Even my husband likes this series.

Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series:

Now this series I have actually not been the last to read. This centers on a changeling detective as she navigates the world of faerie hidden within San Francisco. I love the world building in this one. There are so many kinds of fae, so much history and potential fallout, and so many separated, hidden places (aka “knowes”). And there is a Cat Sidhe fae named Tybalt who shows up every so often that that’s a potential love interest but the relationship is a complicated one. Rosemary and Rue came out in 2009 and since then there have been four more books. McGuire is a prolific writer and has put out two Toby Daye books a year (I don’t know how she does it), but to make room for her other projects (She has a few at this point), the schedule has gone down to one per year. Now is the time to jump in and catch up! I highly recommend that you give it at least two books to really get into this series though. This is one where I say over and over: there are story arcs that are hinted at early on that are built upon in each successive book. Since I love a puzzle I really enjoy trying to guess what is going to happen. Also: Toby’s character improves (in life and work) as the series continues.

Recommended for: Urban Fantasy readers that appreciate story arcs and characters that develop over several books. Bonus if you’re a reader who notices and likes to follow story breadcrumbs.

Books I’m highly anticipating in 2012:

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale:

I enjoyed the heck out of Austenland, so I’m eager to read this new offering (and to see the Austenland movie that’s supposed to come out too)

Nine Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend by Sarra Manning:

Want.

Discount Armageddon (InCryptid #1) by Seanan McGuire:

I’m very excited to try out McGuire’s new series that features a family that is in the business of protecting monsters from humanity (and vice versa).

About that Night by Julie James:

A romantic suspense by an author who never seems to fail me. I am not a romantic suspense kinda girl, but I will read Julie James’ romantic suspense.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore:

Bitterblue is coming out! Oh how I have waited for this day.

Silence by Michelle Sagara:

I’m not exactly sure what this is about. From what I can tell, it involves a graveyard and a grieving girl and a spookiness. And it’s Michelle Sagara. Sounds excellent to me.

The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin:

I hugely enjoyed Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy (it almost got on the list), and I’m looking forward to her new one which features a strange new world where priests walk in dreams and kill people in their sleep.

Elfhome (Tinker #3) by Wen Spencer:

This doesn’t have a cover yet, but I am a huge, huge fan of Wen Spencer and cannot wait for a third book in the series that started with Tinker. Rumor is that this will be out July 2012 from Baen books.

OK, I think I’ll stop there. Thank you for having me over Smugglers, and Happy Smugglivus all!

Thanks, Janice!

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26 Responses to Smugglivus 2011 Guest Blogger: Janice of Janicu’s Book Blog

  1. Tina says:

    Okay I am definitely putting Sarra Manning on my wish list for next year. Your rave reviews have all made me too curious.

    Hee. I still smile when I remember Six Impossible Things. :)

    And on The Queen’s Thief series — rabid yes! Haha. I remember being caught in that too. But I’m so glad I read that this year as well. I’m going to read the fourth book soon. :)

  2. Chachic says:

    Further proof that Janice and I like the same books: I’ve read and loved all of the books in her best of 2011 list except for the October Daye series. I should bump that up my TBR pile! :D I also picked up Unsticky because of Angie and I feel no shame that I’m included in the group that highly encouraged Janice to read the Queen’s Thief series.

    Can’t wait for Midnight in Austenland, Nine Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend, Bitterblue and About That Night as well! :mrgreen:

  3. Liz says:

    There are few things quite as satisfying as watching someone discover the Thief books for the first time :)

  4. Misti says:

    The October Daye series is one of my top 3 favorite urban fantasy. So good. I’m so excited to try her new series next year.

  5. [...] books I end up loving have some romantic thread. What can I say, I am a softie for such things.   Head on over and check out what books I’m talking about. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); [...]

  6. KB/KT Grant says:

    Julie is one of my all time favorite contemporary romance authors. And how can you go wrong with a hero that looks like Sawyer from Lost? *slurp*

  7. janicu says:

    Thank you for having me over Smugglers!

    @Tina OMG, Yes, I am now a Sarra Manning fangirl. Did I already say that in this post? *checks*. Well I should have. Serious autobuy now after reading 3 of her books so far. Slowly making my way through her list.

    @Chachic – I know, we do! I have the urge to fistbump you over this. I hope you do read October Daye and like it, but I don’t see you reading much UF except Ilona Andrews, so I’m unsure. Really, do try it for more than one book.

    @Liz – Haha. I was pretty pleased when the husband was finishing one and asking for the next. He went through them like butter.

    @Misti – I still need to get into her Mira Grant books (I’m afraid I’m not a zombie person, but I have liked a zombie book – WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion, so I feel like I should be more open minded about zombies)

  8. janicu says:

    @Katiebabs – Haha, the references to Kyle looking like Sawyer in A LOT LIKE LOVE were hilarious.

    “F[*]ck Josh Holloway,” he nearly shouted in frustration. “I’ve worn my hair like this for years.”
    “Getting a little loud over here, Sawyer,” a guard warned”

    (for others reading this and scratching their heads: Kyle is the male lead in the upcoming ABOUT THAT NIGHT, and the brother of the heroine of A LOT LIKE LOVE).

  9. blodeuedd says:

    I had to go and put unsticky on my GR account list :D Sounds interesting

  10. Michelle says:

    This is such an awesome list — a lot of these titles are already on my wish-list, such as Six Impossible Things and the October Daye series. I *might* even try Unsticky (even though it’s something I normally would never read).

  11. capillya says:

    Yet another Sara Manning fangirl! I need to read her! And I’m sad to say that I started reading The Thief while on a trip to Nashville this summer. I don’t know if it was the sweat in my eyes as I was trying to read it in the blistering heat by the pool or WHAT but I just could not for the life of me focus on any of the words…I had to put it down, but will definitely have to put it back down again.

  12. Estara says:

    Ohhh, I hadn’t seen that Sagara cover yet. Thanks! And it says book one of the Queen of the Dead, so it looks like a new series ^^ – which will probably push the Essalieyan books back further… unless it’s another of the subseries there, like Hunter’s Oath and Sun Sword and House War.

    I definitely look forward to that one.

  13. Angie says:

    I <3 Janice. Great Smugglivus post!

    I love that your husband went through the Queen's Thief series like butter! Mine did, too. Universal appeal is right.

    Holly loaned me SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS. I really need to get around to it.

  14. Chelle says:

    Well, you know what I have to say: Tybalt! *grin*

    Also, yes to Discount Armageddon and Bitterblue. Can hardly wait for those.

  15. janicu says:

    @blodeuedd I never really see you read contempt, but the grittiness factor you may like.. Weren’t you also the one who kept saying you had to read The Queen’s Thief series? I remember this.. uh huh. That one I would definitely push on you. :)

    @Michelle Oo, yes, I could see you getting into this one. *nods*.

    @capillya Yes, Sarra Manning is making the rounds. Oh well, don’t feel bad about THE THIEF. I started off on the second book by mistake and it was a total DNF until I rebooted from the beginning years later. It could be the timing.

    @Estara I keep saying this but I need to start and catch up with the House War / Sun Sword books. The Essalieyan books have been pushed back? Whaa? No!! I need to look into this.

    @Angie Thanks! Yup, I think this is the ONLY series that *I* recommended that he read that he liked. I’ve read plenty HE recommended and liked it, but vice versa? I thought it was impossible until Megan Whalen Turner. Also, I think you will like SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS.

    @Chelle Indeed! :) I was going to say something here about how I am not sure there’s anyone on some other team other than Team Tybalt, but then I worried that someone would comment that they WEREN’T Team Tybalt and then my head would explode from the shock.

  16. Chachic says:

    *fist bump*

    There you go :P I did read the first three Mercedes Thompson books and decided to take a break after the majorly traumatic in the series. I remember we discussed that and we felt the same way about it. So I’m on the lookout for another urban fantasy series to love, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet because of the giant TBR pile.

    Oh and Capillya had a hard time getting into The Thief? Must bug her on Twitter about that. :)

  17. I normally don’t read books like Unsticky, but your review of it put it on my radar! Great post!

  18. Kristen says:

    Yay Janice! And the Queen’s Thief series and Toby Daye! Tybalt is awesome, and the series does keep getting better.

    I’m also really looking forward to The Killing Moon, Discount Armageddon, and Bitterblue.

  19. Carla says:

    this whole post made me insanely happy – from the Unsticky love – one of my favourite adult reads this year – and it seems that Angie’s influence has stretched a far bit over the internets because I bought that on her recommendation too! :)

    I am loving the Fiona Wood recommendation – i actually read six impossible things last month and it was hilariously endearingly fab. I loved it like woah. And can’t wait for midnight in austenland! can’t bloody wait for that one.

  20. janicu says:

    @Chachic Yay, fistbumped! Oh, yes, I do remember that conversation now that you prompted me. My memory is full of holes until I get the right nudge. OK, then you *should* go forth and read the October Daye books. You really should. Mm hmm.

    @Lisa Hmm. I don’t recall seeing any reviews from you on a straight up romance, but hey, if you feel yourself in the mood for one, I would be interested in your thoughts on UNSTICKY. I’m not sure AT ALL how you’d like it but I think it would be a nice litmus test.

    @Kristen Thanks! Yep, I think we’re on the same page there.:D

    @Carla I’m glad! Yes, Angie has been influencing my reading for a while now. When she calls a book ‘crack’, my readie senses tingle. SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS: “endearingly fab” is the perfect way to put it! It is a happy-making book even with what Dan goes through.

  21. blodeuedd says:

    So you remember that? Lol, yes I do have book 1 and…I am very bad, lol

  22. Holly says:

    Late to the party put I just wanted to stop by and say how much I love Janice! I’m still tickled by her reaction to SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS. I think may have to pick up the October Daye series pretty soon…

    Great post!

  23. SandyG265 says:

    I’m lookingfoward to Seanan McGuire’s new book.

  24. Michelle says:

    Oh man, great list Janice! So happy to hear you love the October Daye series too — Tybalt is a dreamboat.

  25. janicu says:

    @blodeuedd I do remember that. :) Don’t worry though, I don’t really think I’m the one who can talk about someone else being bad.

    @Holly Aw, shucks. Thanks for stopping by. I think I was surprised by how much I loved SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS too. I just didn’t want to stop reading, but that is exactly what I want to feel like when I read a book.

    @SandyG265 *nod*. I think it’s going to be good. I’m getting a bit of a YA vibe from it too, but I am not sure.

    @Michelle I actually didn’t know you were a fan either! Ah, another person I know who I can talk to about the books! Really, every time I finish the latest in the series, I want to find someone who has read it to so I can discuss. And it’s sort of a frothing at the mouth I MUST DISCUSS reaction.

  26. [...] Janice, of the SF blog Janicu’s Book Blog. Janice is a fellow booknerd, writing reviews as a speculative fiction romantic and a sophomore [...]

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