Looking over the books I read this year, I was surprised by how much YA I read and how little paranormal romance. In part, I blame Amazon Vine - I keep choosing YA books as my twice-monthly free items. My TBR pile going into 2012 has several PNR paperbacks, but I'm in no particular hurry to get to them. I do feel that if I give the genre a bit of a rest, I'll only appreciate it more when I do get back to it.
Not all of these were published in 2011, but this is the year I read them. Here they are in alphabetical order.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. The whole thing is a delicious send-up of pop culture and sexism. My favorite character is Adina, Miss New Hampshire, a journalist embedded in the pageant. She's a smart, Jewish feminist - sort of a teenage Emma Goldman. I also like lesbian, comic-book-loving Miss Michigan (Jennifer), the transgendered contestant (I won't give it away) and Indian-Californian Valley Girl DJ-wannabe Miss California (Shanti).
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris. This is the 11th Sookie Stackhouse book. (Only 2 more to go -
The next book is going to be called Deadlocked.
Dream Lover, edited by Kristina Wright. A collection of diverse, elegantly erotic tales of paranormal romance. Given my personal preference for wolf tales, it may come as no surprise my personal favorite in this collection is Alana Noel Voth's "Moongirl Meets the Wolf Man." Full review here.
Family by Michael Ostow. The young protagonist of this unusual novel-in-verse, Mel, is one of those tragic young adult characters, the likes of which inspired Meghan Cox Gurdon to write her controversial Wall Street Journal essay "Darkness Too Visible." Yet it ends on a hopeful note. Full review here.
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. A charming and delightful story, a witches' love story appropriate for all ages. I saw the anime version first (yes, with Christian Bale as the voice of Howl). The plots aren't exactly the same, but they both involve a good deal of green slime, and both are utterly charming. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good fairy tale.
Isis by Douglas Clegg. The most beautiful part of this eerie tale is Clegg's description of what the Cornish call the Isle of Apples (Avalon), the land of the dead. But just as J.K. Rowling warned in "The Deathly Hallows" in The Tales of Beedle the Bard, those brought from the land of the dead do not belong in this world. Iris should have listened to the old legends.
Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay. O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou some guy named Dylan? It's because in this immensely imaginative novel, Stacey Jay manages to turn everything we think we know about the world's most famous pair of impulsive teenage lovers on its head. At the risk of sounding like a young adult instead of an adult reviewer reading a YA book, OMG, this novel is SO good! Come to think of it, it's both YA and PNR.
Steamlust: Steampunk Erotic Romance, edited by Kristina Wright. There's a good reason why I keep reviewing Cleis Press titles - the publisher consistently puts out high-quality anthologies. I believe the key to good steampunk is the same as the key to good erotic romance: the beauty is all in the details. Fortunately, Wright's editing instincts do not fail her, and Steamlust is full of glorious details. Full review here.
The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty. It's sort of like The Prestige mixed with Harry Potter mixed with the Disney musical Newsies, but with more Jewish characters. Its protagonist is 13-year-old Sacha Kessler, who lives in the tenements, circa 1900. Magic is technically illegal in America, but still widely practiced, and one day Sacha learns he can see magic. This rare talent leads to his new job as an inquisitor's apprentice.
The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin. A Hu-Li is a werefox, but she's so much more than that. She's 2,000 years old, one of a sisterhood of werefoxes from ancient China. These foxes are a kind of energy vampires, using prostitution as a cover to feed off the sexual energy of men. Through a kind of hallucinogenic effect they produce with their fox-tails, A Hu-Li and her sisters never actually have to touch these men. A Hu-Li is, in fact, a 2,000-year-old virgin. For the first time in her extremely long life, A Hu-Li is faced with the prospect of falling in love.
What I'm reading going into 2012: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I read a few of these short stories in grade school, but not at all since then. I'm enjoying them.