I wasn’t able to post thoughts on the books I read in 2011 by the end of the year so I am doing it this week. I noted the general statistics yesterday and today want to tackle my favorite reads. Like last year, I am going to break in out into categories.
Young Adult Fiction
A large chunk of my reading this year was YA (30 of 79 books were roughly in this category) so I had a lot of books to chose from in 2011. So here are ten of my favorites in no particular order:
I am going to cheat a little and put two books by Gary D. Schmidt on the list, Okay or Now and The Wednesday Wars. “Great stories, great characters, imaginative settings and clear writing make these two books great reads. I highly recommend them.”
I am also going to put N.D. Wilson here because I can’t choose just one of his wonderful books I read this year: The Dragon’s Tooth (start of the new Ashtown Burials series) and the entire 100 Cupboards series) “… if you like large, complex and imaginative fantasy series this one is a must read.”
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby “Kirby weaves a great tale. There is historical detail, psychological insight, mystery, intrigue and more.”
Skellig by David Almond “It is a simple and yet powerful story of friendship, family, compassion and faith.”
The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi “The world DiTerlizzi has created is captivating and mysterious enough that you want to keep reading; not just to see the next illustration but to dig a little deeper into the mystery.”
I first heard about Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby from a Shelf Awareness review. It was not hard to see this as a book I should check out:
The king of a Northern land, having refused to marry off his beautiful eldest daughter and deed some of his holdings to a nearby chieftain, is now at war. He sends Harald, his youngest child and heir to the throne, along with Asa, the eldest daughter, and his middle daughter, Solveig, to a remote land to keep them safe. The king also sends a handpicked group to accompany them. As the novel opens, they await supplies before winter freezes out any vessel’s passage by water. A ship eventually arrives with the king’s personal guard–20 hearty berserkers wrapped in animal skins, led by Hake, a giant to rival Thor, and the king’s skald, Alric. When someone poisons the berserkers, everyone suddenly becomes a suspect.
Solveig, the only one of the king’s children who feels she has no purpose, narrates the story. At Alric’s urging, she begins to cultivate her gift for weaving a tale–and her narrative holds us in her spell. Her recurring nightmare suggests that she may also have the gift of foresight, in addition to her skills as a keen observer and storyteller. Matthew Kirby’s story peels away like layers of an onion. Two-thirds of the way into the book, Solveig reveals a structure to the novel that serves a dual purpose. Every piece of this puzzle, infused with Norse lore, fits together.
Young adult fiction tied to myths and stories? Yep, that’s me. And it turned out to be a gripping and imaginative story with great characters and a unique setting. Kirby really explores issues of trust in a community pushed to the brink while at the same telling a powerful coming of age story about a child awkwardly trying to find her identity (in contrast to the beautiful sister and the young brother and heir to the throne).