December 29, 2011

Quirky Bookworm's Best of 2011 (Part 3 of 3!)

I made it! Here's part three of my best of 2011 list. Be sure to check out parts one and two if you haven't read them yet. I'm not giving the books a set ranking, just rating them superlative style to make my decision-making process easier.

Most Like to Give You a Cavity: Cakespy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar Filled Life by Jessie Oleson. I have the world's worst sweet tooth. Or so I thought. But then I met this cookbook -- and realized there's someone out there with an even sweeter tooth! Jessie Oleson has compiled recipes that are a sugar lover's dream come true. I made S'moreos, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cinnamon Rolls, and Birthday Cake French Toast from this book, and they were all decadently delicious. Check out my full review here.

Best Cross-Genre Mix: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. This book was an amazing amalgamation of mystery and history, which happen to be my two favorite genres. Inspector Grant, recuperating in the hospital, is unable to investigate current cases, so he turns his gaze on Richard III -- reviled through the centuries as the killer of the two princes in the Tower. This is a fascinating book; check out a longer review of it that I wrote back in October.

Fastest Read: The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. I completely fell in love with these books in October. They tell the story of Fitz, royal bastard and apprentice assassin, who is sworn to defend his family, the Farseer Kings. The Farseers had ruled the Six Duchies peaceably for generations, but now the Duchies are under attack by deadly Red Ship Raiders. Fitz must use his wits and his magic to defend his country and his family. I was obsessed with these books--even though they're long I read them lickedy-split --and I wholeheartedly recommend them. I think book two, Royal Assassin, was my least favorite, but I'd still give even that one a 4 out of 5.

Possibly Best Presidential Bio: First Family by Joseph Ellis.  I'm torn between this one and Team of Rivals. But I think this one gets a slight edge because (as I've mentioned) I heart Abigail Adams. Ellis does a great job of showing the comfortable, yet intense, relationship between John and Abigail, told through the more than 1200 letters which survive from their correspondence.

Best Historical Mystery: The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear. I randomly grabbed the audiobook version of Maisie Dobbs #6, and thus was introduced to a lovely new series. I really liked Among the Mad, but I enjoyed book #7 (The Mapping of Love and Death) even more. In this book Maisie is asked to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of an American cartographer during WWI. Although it's been almost 15 years since the war ended, Maisie (along with the rest of British society) is still struggling to cope with how drastically the world has changed.

Most Surprising Addition to the List: The Magician King by Lev Grossman. I had already written this whole post, sans The Magician King, because I'd finished The Magicians and didn't love it. But mostly based on Kim's review of The Magician King I felt compelled to continue -- and fell hard for this book, finishing it this morning. It's basically like Narnia meets Harry Potter meets The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Quentin (a former student of the magical college Brakebills in upstate New York) is now a King of Fillory, a land much like Narnia. But instead of being goody-two-shoes British children like the Pevenseys, Quentin and his fellow Brakebills alums/kings/queens cuss, sleep around, and drink too much. Perennially unsatisfied with his life, Quentin decides that he needs a quest, and sets out to find one. I don't want to say too much and give it away, and you definitely need to read The Magicians first, but this book is completely bewitching. Longer reviews of these books will definitely be coming soon!

Best Book That Didn't Make the List: The Darkening Field by William Ryan. This book won't be published till 1/3/12, so I don't feel like I can officially put it on this list... But it's an irresistible mystery set in 1930s Soviet Russia -- similar and yet so different to the setting of the Maisie Dobbs books. Captain Alexei Korolev is investigating the death of a young film production assistant. The characters are more afraid of Korolev's investigation (since he represents the power of the Soviet state) than they are of a murderer going free. I was sent an advance copy of this book by Shelf Awareness, but I'm definitely going to go back and read the first book in the series!

Whew! I'm officially done nominating my contenders for best books of the year. Now I'll look through the books mentioned in all three parts, and then choose my official Best Fiction and Best Nonfiction of 2011!

What are some of the best books you've read this year? 
Have you read any of these ones?