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: Liz Burns, who blogs about young adult books, TV, and other things that capture her fancy at the excellent A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy over at School Library Journal. Liz is a first-timer Smugglivus guest and one we are honored to welcome.

Please give a warm welcome to Liz!

I love Favorite Book lists, because it removes any pressure. No one can second guess a favorite!

2011 had some outstanding books; I love the chance to flip through my reading life of 2011 and see what touched me – what made me laugh, what made me cry, what made me think, and what made me want to lock my doors and check under the beds. If you want my complete, really long list of my favorite books read in 2011, I’ve tagged them all in my blog as “Favorite Books Read in 2011.” Despite the intense, personal pain it caused me to narrow that list to five, I knew I had to.

In reverse order, my favorite five for 2011:

The Returning by Christine Hinwood.

A young man comes home from war, returning to the small village he left as a boy. At first it seems that only Cam Attling, missing an arm, has been changed by the war, but it touches all in both large and small ways. People are freed from doing what they had always done, being who everyone expected them to be. The Returning is a fantasy only in the sense that it is not our world; there is a medieval feel to this time and place, but no single thing ties it to our world enough to call it an alternate history. It is the villages changed by the War of the Roses, the aftermath of the Norman Invasion, the new Tudor rulers, World War I battle devastation. By removing the Lancasters, the Yorks, and any other familiar touchstone or name or place, Hinwood creates a place where the reader does not associate any one person or side with the “winner” or “loser,” the “good” or the “bad.” It answers the questions that I, as a history reader, wonder about – what happens to the people after the battles are fought? How do they live that next day, next month, next year?

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

A young woman is destined for greatness: what that will mean is a mystery. Elisa is controlled by those around her: first there is an arranged marriage to the ruler of a faraway country, later she is kidnapped. Forced outside of her safe bubble of servants and books, the indulged princess discovers she is made of stronger stuff than people think. Destiny is what you make of it. There are books where heroines are kick-ass and in charge; what I love about Elisa is that this book shows how a girl becomes strong and take-charge.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

The bond between sisters can be magical. When Ruby is around, the world seems to revolve around her and Chloe is just happy that she included in Ruby’s world, in that golden light where anything can happen. For a few years Chloe was exiled from that magic, sent to live out of state with her father. Now, Chloe is back home, back in Ruby’s sphere. Something is wrong, something isn’t right. For the first time, Chloe begins to question Ruby and her own place in Ruby’s world. This book appears to be a story of the bonds between sisters, but it’s really a supernatural tale about power and love. When the reader gets to the end, they’ll flip back to the front of the book to try to figure out just what happened.

Chime by Fanny Billingsley.

“I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.” Briony: she has confessed to something horrid. Something that deserves the penalty of hanging. Yet she says please, so you know, you just know, that she cannot be as bad as she says she is. Briony’s England is an alternate England, where magic still lingers in the wild and witches and other creatures are both real and dangerous.

And my number one favorite book for 2011, the “I want to go and live with this family and be their friends even though they have some pretty tough times,” is The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta.

Tom’s family suffered a staggering blow when Joe, Tom’s favorite uncle, was killed in a London bombing. Tom broke the heart of the girl he loved, unable to handle his grief and her pity; his father drank and left his family; the family was shattered. In Marchetta’s hands, The Piper’s Son is not a story of loss and sadness; instead, it’s a story of both the strength and weakness of family and friends, about the power of love, about the time it takes to heal and to become open to healing, and about the power of community.

What I’m looking forward to? (and please note, some of these covers may not be final!)

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta (Candlewick).

The chance to revisit the world of Finnikin, yet to see it through the eyes of someone else? Delicious.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (Little, Brown).

I adore the TV show Dexter, so imagining, what would it be like to be a serial killer’s son intrigues me.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth (Balzer & Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins).

When Cam’s guardian and aunt discovers that her niece is gay, she decides that Cam needs to be fixed and sends her to a gay conversion therapy center. I know! I can’t wait to begin this one.

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha (Penguin).

Because, well, Jack the Ripper.

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe (Hyperion).

Strange virus, quarantined island, body count rising? Yes, please!

Thanks, Liz!

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9 Responses to Smugglivus 2011 Guest Blogger: Liz Burns of SLJ’s A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

  1. I simply must read The Girl of Fire and Thorns…

  2. Chachic says:

    I have The Returning on my pile, bought a copy because it was blurbed by two favorite authors – Megan Whalen Turner and Melina Marchetta. I should bump it up and read it soon! Loved The Piper’s Son as well. :D

  3. Doret says:

    I can’t wait to read Froi of Exiles as while and I love the U.S. cover, Thanks so much for putting I Hunt Killers and Ripper on my reading radar. Look like they would pair nicely together.

  4. Angie says:

    I really need to make time to read THE PIPER’S SON. Everyone loves it. And I have THE RETURNING in my stack as well. For the same reasons Chachic mentioned. :)

  5. Pam says:

    I never read The Returning and I may have gotten rid of my ARC. It sounds really good.

  6. Michelle says:

    I’m in love with many of the books you’ve mentioned here and have to say I’m looking forward to many of the same. I found Finnikin a little slow at the start but the end made me more than interested to read Froi now.

  7. Liz B says:

    Sarah, “must” really is the right word. And now it’s been named as a Morris finalist, even better!

    Chachic, let me know what you think. It’s a rather unique structure, it doesn’t jump into the story…it’s more like a sideways approach. And Tom. Sigh. Love him.

    Doret, Froi is in my house! I’m so excited. Too busy right now to read it but as soon as my “have to” books are done, I’m on it.

    Angie: First, Piper’s Son. So you can fall in love with Tom. Then, The Returning.

    Pam, so many books, so little time. It’s hard to get to everything.

    Michelle, I love that Froi isn’t a sequel but a story set in the same world.

  8. [...] this month, my Top Five  Books of 2011 was part of Smugglivus at the Book [...]

  9. [...] Rae Carson. Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. 2011. Reviewed from ARC from publisher. One of my top 5. My review. “Elisa’s adventure is about to begin, and part of the joy of The Girl of Fire [...]

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