Friday, January 7, 2011

My Take On: My Top 15 Reads of 2010

Another year, another crop of excellent books. Here are the top 15 books I read last year along with my brief thoughts on them. They're not listed in any particular order, mostly chronological as read. I tried to narrow it down to a nice round ten, but it just wasn't happening. Also, please note that all titles are linked to Good Reads.
And without further ado, I give you the best that 2010 had to offer...
1. Nightlife by Rob Thurman
    If you're looking for an action packed supernatural series that doesn't revolve around a "forbidden love," than this is for you! This book took the overused supernatural mold and smashed it to bits! It raised the bar on what has become an overly romanticized genre by getting back to the roots. The monsters are original and the story is so, so fresh. The Cal Leandros series is a new take on the old hat that supernatural has become and I would recommend it for men and women alike.
2. Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Manchev
    This world is so full and textural! The Theatre Luminata is officially my favorite fictional world. Manchev has woven, not only a great story, but an amazing world that was just as much a character as the protagonist! But the world, great as it is, is only half of the book. The characters are all borrowed from plays, but they've had new life breathed into them. And come on, who else has ever written a bad boy with a trailing cloud of butterflies? No one, that's who! Another completely original book, and an absolute must read.
3. The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott
    This is not only a good story with immaculate and heartwarming characters, it's also got an interesting story of its own! This is the manuscript that "Jo" was working on for years and years in the novel Little Women! How's that for art imitating life? It definitely has the air of a first novel, too awesome characters and overuse of a favorite word or two, but I love it. Edith is one my favorite characters ever, and if I had to switch places with a character, it would be her because she is such a rare mix of purity, charity, and guts.
4. Hold Still by Nina LaCour
    This is a story that has stayed with me. It was heart breaking, and sometimes gut-wrenching, but the ending was nonetheless hopeful, and I loved the artistic aspect--I especially loved the sketches in Ingrid's journal. I read this one very early on in the year, but it has remained fresh in my mind and it still speaks to me, not only about the horrors of suicide, both to the soul and to the ones left to deal the loss, but of the importance of loving others and being there fully for them because you can never know what it's like to be in their skin.
5. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
    Besides being hilarious and tragic, this story asked a lot of pretty deep questions. Questions about life, how you live it, and what reality really is. The main thing I came away from this book with was a sense that life is fleeting and that our time on earth could come to an end at any time, so you better get your living done while you can! And to me, that doesn't mean go and party like Miley Cyrus or BASE jump off a sky scraper or anything crazy, it means make what you can with what you've got. Love your family no matter how flawed, know your friends and allow yourself to be known, and seek God always and with every ounce of your being; because you never know when your family will be gone, when you'll need true friends, or how soon you'll be meeting your Maker.
6. How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
    Finally, a boy/girl duo that is completely platonic! I'm so used to reading books where the boy and girl are forced into some convoluted, lust-driven "love" by the climax, or worse, the second page, and it drives me nuts. Why can't a book ever portray them as simply being friends? But no more, world! This books has taken that standard and dumped it on it's butt. In this book, Beatrice and Jonah are more than friends, yet not in a romantic way. One is the peanut butter to the others jelly. Their relationship is sometimes strenuous, always complex, and often times misunderstood, but I loved it nonetheless.
It was quirky, it was funny, and ultimately, it was heartbreaking.
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    I'm a big fan of the "new classic" genre,  and this is one of the best I've read yet. Within these pages are some of the most endearing characters ever written. Well, that weren't fuzzy animals, anyway. I loved the dynamic between Atticus, Scout and Jem; they were such a great family! And the voices were so innocent and frank. I felt as though I were there with Scout and Jem as they discovered the hard truth of innocence: that it is often lost, and that once gone, it is nearly impossible to regain and will be sorely missed--and not just by those who lost it, but by those who were blessed enough to be touched by the ones who possessed it. The picture painted in this book of a small, Southern town and its dramas is worthy of the title Classic. It really is a must read.
8. Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics by Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
    I've yet to read a book about faith or my religion that was boring, and this one was no exception. It set my faith-life afire! LTCF is about learning to take a your spiritual pulse; reawaken your deepest, truest self, and rekindle your relationship with Christ and his Church. It reaffirms the obligations--or as a very wise friend of mine likes to say invitations--of being a Christian in our society by showing, among other things, all the ways in which the life of a Christian is destined to lead them down roads that many people won't agree with. It gave a me the jolt I needed to re-realize that the life of a true Christian is often one lived in moral opposition; that we are called to live counter-culturally. In the world, but not of the world. I highly, highly recommend this book, not just to Catholics wishing to reawaken their faith or get reaquainted with the Church, but for all Christians of all denominations wishing to fulfill their lives as the members of Christ's Body.
9. The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
      This is the last book in one of my favorite series (thank you, Sarah!). Usually a series has at least one dud, but Darkest Powers was one of the exceptions. It was never dull. The pace that Armstrong set in the beginning was kept up throughout the entire series and wrapped up nicely with a very satisfying conclusion. It was just what I was hoping for and I couldn't be happier! Plus, we have more adventures to look forward to in this world with her new book The Gathering which comes out later this year. I can't wait!
10. FEED by Mira Grant
     This is the zombie book I have waiting for. It had, not only a great setting, one that had found a logical balance between fear and the futuristic, but the pathology was so real. Grant really did her research when forming the zombie-virus. She took two real life viruses and added a realistic amount of optimism and naivete, stirred them together with a touch of anarchy, and came up with a fearsomely realistic outcome. Well, as realistic as any zombie-virus can be. Something else I really enjoyed was the characters. George and Shawn are two of my favorites ever; I loved their quirky relationship, how closely knit and co-dependent they were, and the way they played off each other. And, oh, the ending! I actually mourned. It was excellent.
11. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
      This is one my old favorites. I first fell in love with the movie when I was little; I loved the oppulance of Sara's life early on in the story, but my favorite part was when she and her fellow captive of fate pretended their way into bliss. The book is a bit different from the movie though, and when I first read it, I almost didn't like it for it's differences. It wasn't the story I remembered, and the ending much sadder, but I grew to love it more than the film version. The reason: Sara. She is one my favorite, most admired characters, and the book allows you to get to know her much more than any movie ever could. Despite the many hardships she faced, and her own character flaws--pride comes to mind--she always tried her best to treat everyone with the same amount of courtesy and respect that she would expect of a princess. She always strove to be a princess, and not the kind that gets every little thing she wants and rules with a heavy hand and an empty heart, but the good kind; the kind of princess that hears the complaints and troubles of all who come before her and spreads largesse to everyone in need.
12. My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick
     Sedgwick makes good use of the rich history of European vampire lore in this well researched, beautiful, and creepy story of a father, a son, and a village plagued by the undead. These creatures pay tribute to the true roots of the myth, not as seductive, misunderstood antiheroes, but as the embodiment of every primal fear of man; death, darkness and damnation. And the creatures, which not once in the entire narrative were called "vampires", were actually scary! This is an amazing homage to the truly horrific nature of the myth with an ending you won't see coming. I recommend this for anyone who is tired of  witnessing the systematic immasculation of one of the world's most dreaded myths. 
13. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
      This book had, not only some serious moral questions about how far is too far with the advancements of medicine, but also religious undertones that kept me satisfied. Jenna's grandmother, who seems to hate her for unknown reasons, is a devout woman, and through her Jenna comes to question the existence of her very soul. It was interesting, to say the least, reading about Jenna's identity struggle and having it put on such a profound level. It was also deeply satisfying to see how that particular struggle resolved itself.
14. Nomansland by Lesley Hauge
      I was afraid Nomansland would be a thinly veiled feminist rant about how women don't really need men or how they can deny their feminity, but I need not have been worried. The moral of this story is that womanhood is a uniquely powerful blessing. Some people make it seem like a burden or a disease, and that makes me sick, but Hauge portrayed womanhood as being a strength and, ultimately, that woman cannot live without man, and vice versa.
15. The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
      I love E's style; she takes the unrealistic chick-lit genre and adds an almost painful amount of realism to the overly bubbley norm. This book had me laughing out loud one minute and mad as a nest of hornets the next. The characters were great, especially the ones that E. led you to dislike rather strongly, and I loved seeing into the mind of Ruby as she struggled with the mess that her life had become. I found her immensely easy to relate to, especially as she struggled with the anxiety that her crumbling social-life gave her, and I can't wait to continue this series.
And that concludes my list of the 15 best books  read in 2010! Hopefully 2011 is just as good or better in regards to reading.
May this year hold many good reads and happy memories in the making!

6 comments:

hmsgofita said...

Looks like quite the list! I enjoyed Adoration of Jenna Fox until the epilogue and then that ruined the rest of the book for me. It got a bit too preachy in the end...I'll have to check out the other books. Great list.

Avery Jalaine said...

This is an excellent post. I shall be pursuing all of the books on this list that I haven't yet read.


Cheers.

Zombie Girrrl said...

@ Heather: I enjoy preachy; I like to know exactly where I person is coming from on a spiritual level. I loved the religious aspect of this story. I also liked the story of why she wrote that book; the author's daughter had a serious health issue and it got her thinking about what she would do and how far she would go to save her. It was really cool getting some insight into her mind and how she came to write such an amazing story.

@ Avery: Thanks for the visit and cheers to you as well. I hope you enjoy your every adventure in reading!

YA Vampire Books said...

I'm sad to say that I haven't read a single book on this list! :( I own the Reckoning though, so I'll get to that one eventually1

M.A.D. said...

Ooooooooooooh!!! Great list, ZG! I gots t' get Feed, The Boyfriend List, and Nightlife added to my TBR :D
'Fixin' to go look up Nightlife now lol

:D

Misty said...

Oh, I loved The Inheritance when I was a teenager! I've always been a big LMA fan, but that, Little Men and An Old Fashioned Girl were the standouts for me.

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