Sunday, January 01, 2012

Joy and Serena's Faves of 2011 (the general market edition)

This may be a Christian fiction blog but Serena and I both love a good mainstream market read, so we're breaking character today and giving you a list of our faves from outside the CBA. Don't worry CF fans, we'll return to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow!

1. Favorite book read -- it's unanimous! (or duo-naminous, anyway!)

Joy: Divergent by Veronica Roth
Serena: Divergent by Veronica Roth

2. Most Powerful Book

Joy:The Help by Kathryn Stockett (I could easily put this in favorite book read too).

Serena: I didn't read a whole lot of "powerful books" this year (I got The Help for my birthday in December, but haven't had the chance to crack it open yet!), but I have to admit that I found The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente to be powerful in an unconventional sort of way. I was utterly delighted with this book and with "the classic storyteller" way it fabled its way through an entirely original moral tale.

3. Brilliantly Funny

Joy: Eh, Jenny B. Jones was funnier than anything I read in the general market this year.

Serena: Skulduggery Pleasant: Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy
(pub. in 2007, this one was new to me, but not the rest of the world, in 2011). This book reads like the best kind of buddy-comedy action movie, except the buddies are a middle school girl and a hundreds-of-years-old detective -- who just so happens to be a skeleton with mad ninja skills and a wicked collection of sarcastic one-liners. Brilliant.

4. Best ache-y, break-y tear jerker read:

Serena: Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes (this is CBA, actually, and was released in 2010, but I'm counting it because I didn't read it until 2011 and I was utterly moved to tears by the story!)

5. Best rainy day comfort read:

Joy: After historical inspy, the celeb memoir is my go to genre for a comfort read. I consumed Rob Lowe's Stories I Only Tell My Friends in one afternoon from a comfy chair in Barnes and Noble, and it was delish!

Serena: These aren't new, but as when one visits Narnia, I find the richness of the tales grow as I do, so it is not uncommon for me to reach for: the Harry Potter set, in order -- but if I have to pick my faves for a rainy day, they would be: 1, 3, and 5. (Of course this only works if you have a string of rainy days, you understand!)

6. Adrenaline fueled un-putdownable award:

Serena: I'd have to say... Divergent by Veronica Roth, again. I think I read it the day I downloaded it.

Joy: I agree. I read this one on my cruise and there were times I'd rather be in my room reading it than out enjoying myself.

7. Beautiful Prose Award:

Joy: Linger and Forever by Maggie Stiefvater. Stiefvater is a master of writing subtext, her characters frequently discuss life altering issues without ever actually talking about them at all. Sam, Grace, Isabel and Cole's personalities are so deep and complex, writer wannabes like myself should take notes.

Serena: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (see picture under #2). This might seem an odd choice for a beautiful prose award, but I loved the voice of the narrator, the symbolism, and the beautiful nuggets of truth hidden within the text. (There's even a character whose name is Truth. She is made of soap.) This is one I got from the library but plan to purchase, highlight, and read aloud to my girls -- even the highschooler (you're never too old to listen to a great book!) It's just a lovely, lovely story.

8. Most vivid, atmospheric setting:
Serena: Again, Divergent by Veronica Roth. Even now, I can see that world-gone-wrong in my head.

9. Most Haunting story:

Serena: Kindred by Tammar Stein. There is no pretty-bow ending on this unusual tale of spiritual warfare -- told from the point of view of a contemporary Jewish teen -- but the ending is not only satisfying, but thought provoking; and in that way, it is haunting.

10. Had no idea I would love this so:

Joy: Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. When I posted a list of 5 titles to read in the event of a zombie apocalypse, my blogging buddies chimed in with a bunch of zombie romance recs. Equal parts disturbing and engaging, they left me grasping for more. I finished Ryan's entire series and now I'm looking for the next zombie author I can sink my teeth into.

11. Wanted to love it but it didn't do it for me:

Joy: Bossypants by Tina Fey wasn't nearly as funny as I hoped it would be.

Serena: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell. I loved the cover and sometimes the story almost lived up to its gothic, otherworldy beauty, but... not enough to make me rush out for the sequel.

12. Best Plot Twist/Revelation:

Joy: Minny's Terrible Awful from The Help.

Serena: The ending of Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren. I know this one is considered CBA, but... it's so crossover that I have no qualms listing it among general market titles. There is a serious "Oh no you did NOT just leave me hanging like that!" at the end of that book -- and it was beautiful and unexpected and opened all kinds of worm cans for the next book(s?!) in the series.

Joy: Oooh, I agree, great cliffhanger on that one.

13. Best love triangle:

Joy: I have a love/hate relationship with the love triangle. But I would have been happy with Gabry and either Catcher or Elias in Carrie Ryan's The Dead Tossed Waves.

Serena: Cassia/Xander/Ky in Matched, a dystopian YA by Ally Condie (the triangle continues, I believe, in Crossed, which was just released and is sitting in my house waiting for me to read it!)

Joy: Good choice! I finished Crossed this week and I'm still not sure if I'm Team Xander or Team Ky.

14. Favorite couple:

Joy: Isabel and Cole from Forever by Maggie Stiefvater. These broken side kicks stole the show.

15. Favorite Cover Art:

Serena: Entwined by Heather Dixon. If I could buy a print of this and hang it in my office, I totally would. I love this cover. And for a former-little-girl who dearly loved the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, I'd have to say: the book was pretty doggone good, too.

And as for a cover that was perfect for the book? I'd have to go with Matched by Ally Condie (see pic above)-- it got the dress right (so many covers are a poor reflection of what the character is supposed to look like according to the text!) and it captured the essence of Cassia's existence. Perfection.

Special thanks to Inkcrush for creating such a neat book blogging meme.


  1. Ha! I think our favorites list might be a little YA heavy. :)

    Serena, I hope you don't watch The Help movie before you read the book!

  2. Ooo, loved DIVERGENT, THE HELP, ENTWINED...and I simply must get to SHIVER and start that series!! On the shelves...

  3. P.S. Thanks for listing CASCADE!! Loved the ending of that much to explore in TORRENT!

  4. I was just reading for fun...then saw my name! Thanks, ladies. Mostly thanks for the fun tag-team "best of." I love the Siskel and Eibert approach. Very fun. I now have to get: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

    And I've had Divergent on my Kindle forever, but stopped after about 20 percent. Since it's been on EVERYONE's favorite of 2011 list, I clearly have to boot that story back up. Have you all read Delerium? That was my favorite YA dystopian pick for the year. Happy new year to you both. THanks for all you do for books and authors.

  5. Great picks guys...I cant believe Ive read all those books on your list...well minus the Rob Lowe one...

    Joy- carrie Ryan is addicting huh? I loved that series..:)

  6. I'm so glad y'all decided to do the mainstream edition! I'll have to add some of these to my reading list.

    I'm excited to see The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making up there! I picked it for a bookclub, but I haven't read it yet. I've been a little worried. :)

  7. @Lisa, I loved Shiver. Can't wait to hear what you think of the series!

    @Jenny- Your name came up a few times in yesterday's Best Inspy Romance of 2011 too. :) I have Delerium on my kindle right now waiting for me.

    @Tina- Yes, loved those zombies! I took out Warm Bodies from the library on your rec too. I haven't read it yet though.

    @Tammy- I've heard good things about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland too. Let me know what you think of it!

  8. Oh awesome list. I'm glad to hear Rob's memoir is good. I scored it for free the other day on

    I can't wait to read Crossed and agree on the best love triangle.

  9. I caught it on audible when it was free too just so I could listen to Rob's sexy voice read it to me again. LOL.

  10. This list is YA heavy, isn't it? So much awesome stuff in YA of late -- and it's usually without the "this was a great story for a while, but now it's just about getting to the next sex scene" fluff found all-too-often in mainstream adult stuff. I love YA.

    Yeah, Joy, Rob's voice wouldn't be a bad one to hear! But a nice still from The Outsiders or an old St. Elmo's fire poster might need to be nearby to 'get the full value' from his stories. wink, wink.

    I spent a long time surfing around and wracking my brain for the title/author of a book I read and wanted to include on this list, but it escaped me. It's about a girl who has a paranormal ability that sometimes results in things/people catching on fire. She is sent from school to school and ends up at a juvie "school" facility in the middle of nowhere where she meets a feller she has a "past" connection with. He wants to avoid loving her because their love dooms them both. There's a scene of cleaning up a graveyard and knocking over a big statue. Sound familiar to anyone? I know there's a sequel in the works... and I'd appreciate a nudge in the right direction.... Thanks!

  11. I luved Cascade (well actually the entire River of Time series ) and I haven't read ANY of the others yet! I know The Help is now out on Blu-Ray and I still haven't read the book...sooo behind the times here.

    XOXO~ Renee

  12. I read your posts via email but rarely stop over to comment. Happy New Year, Joy and Serena! Wishing you both many reasons to rejoice in the coming year. (And I loved The Help. I even bought it in hardcover!)

  13. I need to get The Help! I've seen it everywhere, on bookshelves and on people's blogs top 10 read this year. I also need more YA books to read so I'll have to come back frequently to check your list again. Enjoyed this post very much!

  14. @Serena- Hmm, that one doesn't sound familiar. (And I probably still have a St. Elmos Fire poster in my attic I could pull down for the reading. LOL).

    @Renee- I'm behind the times on Jane Eyre. I wanted to read that one before I saw the movie, so I've put off watching the movie b/c I haven't read the book yet.

    @Renee Ann- Happy New Year!!! Best wishes for you in 2012!

    @Julie- If I still had my copy, I'd send it to you in a heartbeat, but I passed it on already.

  15. Thanks. What a nice surprise to see my debut on your list. I'm so far behind. I loved The Help (movie was great too). I'm reading Hunger Games now and it's fantastic, but like I said, I'm ridiculously behind. I discover everything a day (er years) late. :) Thanks again.


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