Favorite Books and Movies of 2011

I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth, just traveling still and wrapping up my magical, mystery tour. During the past two weeks, I’ve often been uncertain of what day it was, but I’m pretty sure today is the last in 2011 so I thought I’d write about some favorite books and movies I experienced this year. I’m lurking in the parking lot outside a Dunkin’ Donuts stealing its Wi-Fi so hopefully I can do this quickly. Click on links to read my reviews.

Favorite revival of a classic character: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. The author perfectly captured Dr. Watson’s narrative voice, and provided not one but two clever mysteries that could only be solved by the inimitable Sherlock Holmes.

Favorite Scandinavian crime novel: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I read some excellent ones, including Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist and Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis’s The Boy in the Suitcase, but Keeper has the edge because of the engaging crime-solving duo of Carl Morck and his assistant, Assad, and the humor Adler-Olsen injects into a grim story.

Book that caused me to lose most water weight: Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington. The story of a fifteen-year-old coping with her father going away to war made me weep copiously, while also making me laugh in parts and swoon over the beauty of its prose.

Craziest adventures: Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games and Hell & Gone. You don’t just read these novels—the first two in the Charlie Hardie trilogy—you experience them in a visceral way, the whole time thinking, “What the hell?” and “More!” Luckily, there is more coming in March—the final installment, Point & Shoot.

Favorite thriller that made me invest in Purell: Brett Battles’ Sick. Technically, life as we know it hasn’t ended yet, but it will if Daniel Ash and his colleagues can’t stop some seriously screwed-up people. No one is safe in this story, not even children, which ratchets up the tension. Full disclosure: I was a Beta reader and copyedited it, but the novel was already pretty kick-ass when it came to me.

Favorite dystopian zombie sexy hybrid: Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime. I read neither dystopian nor zombie novels, but this one, about a mother searching for her child in a world after something terrible happened, moved me and scared me. It also has a really hot sex scene that you probably shouldn’t read in front of your parents or a priest.

Most entertaining true stories: Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I don’t read memoirs, either, but devoured this thing in about one sitting because it’s hilarious and insightful. If she writes another book on the correct method of flossing, I’d read that, too.

Favorite overall movie: The Artist. It made me happy and the smile lingers weeks later. This ties in with the next award for…

Best supporting animal: Uggie from The Artist. He had strong competition from the horses who played Joey in War Horse and Snowy in The Adventures of Tintin, but Uggie did all the acting and stunts himself, while three horses shared duty as Joey and Snowy isn’t real.

Most surprisingly good rom-com: Crazy, Stupid, Love. Romantic comedies are hard to pull off and usually end up being corny, but this one is actually romantic and funny, thanks to Steve Carell, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, and Ryan Gosling. Gosling’s abs should’ve also received top billing.

Most jaw-dropping stunts: Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol. All-out fun, with innovative action scenes that did look pretty impossible to pull off.

Darkest, coolest noir: Drive. This movie left me shaking, it was so tense and good. Out of all the stellar performances Gosling turned in this year, this was my favorite.

Most affecting performance by an actor playing an icon: Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. Everyone has an opinion about Marilyn and knows so much about her already, but Williams still manages to bring out interesting facets of the legend’s psyche and make our heart break all over again.

My battery light on the laptop is flashing so I’d better wrap this up. Plus, the Dunkin’ Donuts manager is eyeing me suspiciously from the window. Hope you have a fun but safe New Year’s Eve and a magnificent 2012 that goes beyond your imagination.





  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Wonderful recap of your favorites, Elyse. Certainly, I’m with you in regards to The House of Silk, Bossypants, and Drive (which I have to thank you for recommending both to me). Duane’s book are just crazy fun… and I can’t wait to complete the trilogy in 2012. Still, there some things here I have to catch up to on your list. Thanks and Happy New Year to you and yours, my friend.

  • Reply
    Laura Benedict
    December 31, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Hadn’t even thought of seeing The Artist–mostly because it never reached us here in Bugtussle. We did go see MI–Ghost Protocol on your sage advice and it was a big hit with everyone. So much fun stuff, here. Will keep me busy for weeks. Oh, and everyone should read Sophie’s book, and not just for that fab scene. Travel safe!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 7:45 am

    There you are!

    Love the recap. Or maybe just your words and the way you put them together?

    Read all the books except Littlefield’s Aftertime, but it sits in cue on my nightstand. Thanks for always being such a great lit guide and one I can depend on.

    As for movies: The Artist needs to win Best Pic this year and Michelle Williams deserves Best Actress. Since I agree with the rest of your assessments, I will be heading out to see Mission Impossible this weekend. Popcorn and fun seems like a great way to decompress from an arduous holiday.

    Looking forward to your 2012 thoughts and comments. And HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

  • Reply
    Tea Time with Marce
    December 31, 2011 at 9:41 am

    The Keeper of Lost Causes I can’t wait to read. Great favourite lists.

    Happy New Year

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Thanks for the great recap, Elyse! And thanks, too, for taking time out of your vacation to keep up updated. Love the Dunkin Donuts trick…my daughter and I did the same on Christmas in a Starbucks parking lot; worked great except when the Sun shone on the monitors… Best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year! (I assume you’ll be starting off with RC’s Taken tour???)

  • Reply
    jenn aka the picky girl
    December 31, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Happy New Year! Love the list and looking forward to watching Drive.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Fantastic list, PCN. I’m still taking a few notes!

    Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    December 31, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed Crazy, Stupid, Love (hard to know how much the abs influenced me, though), and Bossy Pants. I can hardly wait until The Artist starts here – as much to see Uggie in action as anything else. As usual, I still have plenty of movies and books to catch up on – but for problems such as this, we should pray. Thank you for another year of insightful, smart and funny reviews, PCN, and here’s to a bright and shiny New Year. Enjoy what remains of your magical mystery tour.

  • Reply
    Sophie Littlefield
    January 2, 2012 at 7:03 am

    hey you darlin, i’m honored as can be to be included on the list! safe travels home!

  • Reply
    Benoit Lelievre
    January 2, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Kudos for the Swierczynski mention. It’s completely wacked-out, unique and worthy of attention. Hopefully it gets picked up by Hollywood and makes the millions it deserves to make.

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    January 2, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    le0pard13—Glad you enjoyed those titles! What did you think of MI:4 in IMAX?

    Laura—Love the word Bugtussle! My travels were, ah, interesting and somewhat of a nightmare but I’m finally home, thank you.

    EIREGO—Thanks for being such a supportive PCN reader. I hope to see lots more of you here this year!

    Marce—Would love to hear your thoughts on KEEPER. Dutton says the sequel is slated for sometime this year.

    Jann—McDonald’s is also a good spot for free Wi-Fi. I’m almost done with TAKEN despite trying to read it sloooowly. It’s very good, and yes, it’ll be my first 2012 book signing. Hopefully there will be pictures!

    jenn—He doesn’t bare abs in DRIVE but the performance is just as swoon-worthy.

    Poncho—Hope your new year celebration was fun! Please don’t be a stranger ’round here, especially since IDOL starts this month.

    Shell—Thank you for sticking with me on this blogging journey for so long. I’m happy I’ve gotten to share so many of my favorite things with you over the years.

    Sophie—It was hard to pick one out of the 9 books you published this past year!

    Benoit—I’d be first in line to see Charlie Hardie movies. I’d bring sandwiches and camp out for tickets if I have to.

    • Reply
      January 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      MI:GP in IMAX was awesome. Saw it with another car-pool parent and my son after getting back from Portland. The following week, I took my daughter with me to see it again in IMAX. Really a lot of fun.

      • Reply
        Pop Culture Nerd
        January 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm

        Aw, yeah! I think I’m going to see it again with Mr. PCN since he couldn’t come with me to the screening.

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