December 28, 2011

Quirky Bookworm's Best of 2011 (Part 2 of 3. I think.)

I'm continuing my round-up of the best books I read in 2011. If you missed part one or three, you can catch up here and here. I'm ranking them superlative style because an absolute ranking is too hard, it stresses me out!

Guiltiest Pleasure -- Where Shadows Dance by C.S. Harris. It's the sort of admission that will make highbrow fiction readers look down their noses at me, but I really love the Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series by C.S. Harris. As usual, Sebastian, also known as Viscount Devlin, is still putting his logic, wit, and combat skills to use as he tries to uncover a killer in 1800s London. This time the dead man happened to be a diplomat, and as Devlin investigates he's drawn into the world of politics that his father (the Earl of Hendon) loves, and Devlin himself detests. To further complicate the situation; Devlin is engaged, and his fiancee's father, a powerful diplomat, may know more about the crime than he's admitting. Read my full review of the first book in the series here, and be sure to check them all out, they're historically accurate, engaging, romantic, and fun.

Best Graphic Novel -- V for Vendetta by Alan Moore. I shocked and appalled poor Noel by saying that I liked the movie better than the graphic novel version, but I still quite liked V for Vendetta. It's a gripping story-- set in a dystopic London where the government is all-seeing and all-controlling. A young girl named Evie is rescued from almost certain rape by a mysterious 'V' -- who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and talks in riddles. V is also a terrorist, trying to bring down the repressive regime, and the novel depicts the reactions of both people within the government, and those who have been oppressed, to V's attacks. V is gearing up for a big event on Guy Fawkes' Day, and Evie has to decide if she's going to help him or not.

Possibly Best Presidential Biography -- Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I really really really liked this book. I liked seeing Lincoln from a political perspective, and enjoyed reading about his sagacity in his decisions as president. I reviewed Team of Rivals as part of my 'History by Three' post about the Civil War, and I can't recommend this book enough! Although, be warned, I totally cried like a baby when Lincoln's son Willie died. And the sense of impending doom -- since you know that Lincoln is about to be assassinated -- makes the latter part of the book a bit hard to read. I can't help but wonder how different Reconstruction would have been (and how different North/South relations still might be) if Lincoln hadn't been killed.

Most Memorable Historical Fiction: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. I've loved all of Geraldine Brooks's books (especially People of the Book) -- and I was so excited to read this one. I was on the waiting list at the library for about three months, and happily it lived up to my expectations. The story of Bethia Mayfield and her Native American friend Caleb, set in 1660s Massachusetts, is engrossing and beautiful. It's based on one small true fact -- but Brooks takes that fact and twists it into a lovely and unforgettable read. I reviewed Caleb's Crossing as part of my 'History by Three' post about Colonial New England. Read that review here.

Most Intriguing Use of Cannibalism -- Arctic Obsession by Alexis Troubetzkoy. I was surprised how much I liked this book actually. Shelf Awareness sent me a copy to review, and I thought, well, I like history usually, I'll give it a shot. And then I couldn't put the silly thing down. It's very readable and tells the fascinating history of Arctic exploration over the centuries. It's absolutely unbelievable how people survived for months (or even years) in frigid conditions without modern things like fleece-lined jackets and warm tents and whatnot. The end gets a bit over-the-top environmentalish for me, but admittedly the Arctic is in serious danger, so I understand why Troubetzkoy included it. I just wanted more stories about cannibalism! I first reviewed this book back on December 6th, click here to read the longer review.

Whew! I'm getting better at this decision making! How about you? What are some of the best books you read in 2011?