Thursday, December 30, 2010

Follow Friday

It's time for the weekly book blogger hops again! A great opportunity to meet new bloggers and say hi to old.

Parajunkee's Follow My Book Blog Friday.


I'm Alison. I've been blogging for seven months. I review mainly YA with a few MG books and a weekly manga feature.

2010 Book Lists:

For the end of the year, I put together an extensive list of the books I've read in 2010 separated into categories. Check out the posts I've done thus far (more to follow):

Introductory Post
Part 1: Contemporary Fiction
Part 2: Best Writing, Twilight Lovers; Edgy Fiction; Foodie Fiction
Part 3: Boy POV; Middle Grade; Something Different; Kick-Butt Girls
Part 4: Paranormal Day
Part 5: Cross-Over Adult; High Fantasy; Makes You Think; Historical Fiction

Manga Mondays: Fruits Basket vol. 11 by Natsuki Takaya

Questions of the Week:

Blog Hop: ON VACATION

Follow Friday: What are your New Year's Book Blogging Resolutions?

1. KEEP BLOGGING! First and foremost, consistent blogging is my goal for 2011. I've done a great job at this in 2010, and I want to be doing the same thing in December 2011.
2. Build a presence: It would be simple to just say that I want more followers...I definitely do. But I also want to be a larger part of the community, which encompasses more than just having lots of followers. I'd like to be a blog that a lot of different bloggers recognize. To achieve this, I want to:
-Participate in and lead discussions.
-Comment more frequently.
-Build a following for my What Books? and Manga Mondays features.
-Actively use Twitter.
-Participate in blog tours.
-Go to the effort of doing author interviews - it takes so long to think up questions.
-Do more guest posts.

What do you think is the best way to increase your blog's presence?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Book Lists Pt. 5: Cross-Over Adult; High Fantasy; Thinking; Hist Fiction

*Back to Introductory Post; Pt. 1; Pt. 2; Pt 3; Pt 4; Pt. 6; Pt. 7
*Books are linked to my reviews, if available. Otherwise, they're linked to Amazon. I have read all of these books and written reviews for most, but haven't posted many of them yet. As I do, I will update this page.


Great Cross-Over Adult Reads
-Sometimes it's nice to feel like a grown-up


The Last Song - Nicholas Sparks
17-year-old Ronnie is still furious over her parents' divorce three years ago and is miserable that she's stuck spending the summer with her dad in North Carolina. She longs to hate everybody and everything, but finds a new friend, a handsome boy, a passion for aquatic life, and an opportunity to heal her relationship with her dad. The book equally explores the father/daughter relationship and the boy/girl relationship. Even though it's predictably melodramatic, you'll still cry at the end. (Amazon)

Cutting For Stone - Abraham Verghese
An Indian nun surprisingly gives birth to twins in an Ethiopian hospital, fathered by a British doctor. When she dies and the father disappears, two Indian doctors raise the twins Marion and Shiva. Told from Marion's point of view, follow his life from turbulent childhood in politically unstable Ethiopia to his young adulthood as a resident in the U.S. Fascinating mixture of Ethiopian and Indian cultures. Three-dimensional characters you'll grow to love - from Ghosh and Hema (the adoptive parents), to eccentric Shiva, to kind, damaged, everyman Marion. (Amazon)

Sweetness At The Bottom of the Pie and The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag - Alan Bradley
Fun mystery series set in post-war England. Features an 11-year-old girl named Flavia who is obsessed with chemistry and with thwarting her two older sisters. She runs into some odd situations and solves mysteries using her chemistry knowledge and sheer nosiness. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Water For Elephants - Sara Gruen
Not gonna lie. I read this, because I heard that Rob Pattinson was cast as the lead. So glad I did. Vet school drop out joins a circus at the height of the Depression. He forms a friendship with the abusive ringmaster’s wife Marlena and the star elephant Rosie. The story fluctuates between Jacob in the 1930s and 92 year old Jacob in a nursing home. Well-developed, interesting lead and supporting characters. (Amazon)

Girl In Translation - Jean Kwok
Beautiful, thought-provoking tale of an 11-year-old immigrant from Hong Kong. She starts school in New York City knowing no English but through sheer brilliance soon receives a scholarship to a private school. Meanwhile, her mother toils away in the sweatshop owned by her cruel aunt and uncle. Kimberly has to balance a life of poverty with the very normal life of her wealthy, innocent school friends. Kimberly longs to have a better life, but will her childhood love keep her in the sweatshop world? (Amazon)

Poison Study and Magic Study - Maria V. Snyder
Yelena is saved from execution for murdering the son of a general and instead assigned to be the new food taster for the military leader. Her supervisor Valek teaches her to detect poisons...and their relationship grows more interesting as the book continues. A mixture of high fantasy, thriller-like suspense, and hot romance. First of three books - don't bother reading the other two (#2 was okay, but I didn't get to #3 because so many panned it). (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Some Girls Bite (Chicagoland Vampires #1) - Chloe Neill
27-year-old Merit is changed into a vampire against her will. She's sucked into an impending vampire war. Merit must accept her new life as an immortal and also help protect her vampire house from those that threaten them. Heart-stopping, romantic, love triangle tension between Merit, master vampire Ethan, and rival house vampire Morgan. Merit has a fabulously snarky voice that will make you want to read more and more. (Amazon)

The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Skeeter is a wealthy, young white college grad in 1960s Mississippi. She wants to make a difference in the world. She colludes with a group of local African-American maids to write stories of just how difficult and wonderful their lives as "the help" are. A dangerous task at the height of the civil rights movement. Told in alternating perspectives of Skeeter, Minny, Miss Celia, and Abileen. The reader really gets to know and understand a variety of different people in the civil rights era South. (Amazon)

Hotel On the Corner Of Bitter And Sweet - Jamie Ford
A 12-year-old Chinese-American boy befriends a Japanese-American girl at the beginning of WWII, when the hatred of the Japanese is at its peak. The book alternates between the 1940s and 1980s, all from Henry's perspective. The 1940s portions are much better than the 1980s. A sweet story of a blossoming friendship in a time of turmoil and bigotry. (Amazon)

High Fantasy
-The line between paranormal and high fantasy is a bit fuzzy, but I equate high fantasy with old fashioned magic more than supernatural creatures.


Incarceron - Catherine Fisher
Boy trapped in high-tech, evil prison. Girl trapped in stifling court society and undesired betrothal. Boy and girl connect. Can both escape their respective prisons? Told from alternating points of view. Mixture of dystopia, high fantasy, and science fiction. (Amazon)

Finnikin Of The Rock - Melina Marchetta
Finnikin was once the son of the chief palace guard, but ever since the coup, his father has been missing, and he has been in exile with the king's former advisor. A mysterious, mute young nun leads Finnikin on a journey back toward his homeland, fraught with danger. Extremely well-developed fantasy world. There's magic, political intrigue, and characters who unveil themselves slowly. (Amazon)

Poison Study and Magic Study - Maria V. Snyder
Yelena is saved from execution for murdering the son of a general and instead assigned to be the new food taster for the military leader. Her supervisor Valek teaches her to detect poisons...and their relationship grows more interesting as the book continues. A mixture of high fantasy, thriller-like suspense, and hot romance. First of three books - don't bother reading the other two (#2 was okay, but I didn't get to #3 because so many panned it). (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Mistwood - Leah Cypess
Prince Rokan finding Isabel in the woods and Isabel pledging to protect him. Isabel doesn't know why the prince had brought her here. Yet her subconscious knows exactly what she's doing. She instinctively understands the intricacies of court politics, physical protection, and human motivation. Isabel is a shifter - an immortal creature who can take the shape of whatever thing necessary. But why does Rokan need her and why can't she remember her past? Fabulously complex story and intricately drawn characters. Mistwood unfolds slowly but never frustratingly so. You'll want to savor ever page. (Amazon)

Brightly Woven - Alexandra Bracken
Sydelle is a skilled weaver from a rural town. Mysterious young wizard North shows up and cures the town of its drought. He demands Syd as payment for his services. Syd and North go on a journey to the capital to deliver a message regarding the recent assassination of the king. Their journey is fraud with danger, adventure, and even some romance. The story is slow and confusing at first, but turns into a satisfying read with a complex, well-built fantasy world and strong characters. (Amazon)

Secondhand Charm - Julie Berry
Evie lives in a poor, rural community but dreams of going to university and becoming a doctor. A chance meeting with the king results in a scholarship and Evie journeys to the capital to attend school. Just before she left, she bought several charms off a gypsy. These charms come in handy as the journey is more dangerous than Evie could have imagined. Evie must discover who she is, what powers she has, who to trust, and who to love. (Amazon)

If you want a book that makes you think...
-It's fun to read a book that makes you work a little bit. Or learn something.


Incarceron - Catherine Fisher
Boy trapped in high-tech, evil prison. Girl trapped in stifling court society and undesired betrothal. Boy and girl connect. Can both escape their respective prisons? Told from alternating points of view. Mixture of dystopia, high fantasy, and science fiction. (Amazon)

Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
Beautiful, complex, haunting, romantic, heart-breaking, uplifting. No single word can describe a book this wonderful. It’s extremely confusing at first, but if you stick with it, you will be in love with Taylor Markham and her world. Taylor represents her school in its annual turf war with the Townies and the Cadets. This year’s war is full of battles, friendships, and new love. Interspersed throughout the book are excerpts of a novel written by Hannah, Taylor’s housemother. You’ll be amazed how everything fits together; the smallest things at the start of the book is so significant later on. Truly skilled writing. (Amazon)

At Home - Bill Bryson
Take a tour through Bill Bryson's 150 year old home, room by room. Learn about topics loosely related, if at all, to these rooms, including fashion, cholera, rodent intelligence, and much more. Bryson could make an essay about wallpaper drying engaging and witty. You'll laugh hysterically at all of Bryson's dry British quips and learn a great deal in the process. (Amazon)

Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
Heart-breaking depiction of the effects of date rape on a 14-year-old girl. Melinda goes through life with a black veil over her face - she wants to live, but the memories and the depression separate her from the world. Deeply cynical, yet realistic portrayal of high school. You won’t be able to tear yourself away from the last quarter of the book. The stark, highly sarcastic prose heightens the emotions of the book. (Amazon)

Mistwood- Leah Cypess
Prince Rokan finding Isabel in the woods and Isabel pledging to protect him. Isabel doesn't know why the prince had brought her here. Yet her subconscious knows exactly what she's doing. She instinctively understands the intricacies of court politics, physical protection, and human motivation. Isabel is a shifter - an immortal creature who can take the shape of whatever thing necessary. But why does Rokan need her and why can't she remember her past? Fabulously complex story and intricately drawn characters. Mistwood unfolds slowly but never frustratingly so. You'll want to savor ever page. (Amazon)

The Cardturner - Louis Sachar
Alton's greedy mother "volunteers" him to help his rich uncle play bridge. His uncle is miserly and cranky on the surface, but Alton gradually sees a different man, brilliant and funny who has a bittersweet past. Alton even manages to find a cool girl friend in his family's mortal enemy. Few authors could pull off teaching teenagers how to play bridge without turning the book into an insomniac's dream. Sachar manages to educate and entertain. (Amazon)

Historical Fiction
-Always fun to put yourself into the best, whether it's 20 years ago or 200 years. A few of these have paranormal or fantasy elements as well.


A Faraway Island - Annika Thor
Two Jewish refugee children are sent to live with a family in Sweden to escape Nazi Germany. The 8 year old girl adjusts quickly, but the 12 year old girl has a horrible time dealing with the fear of the impending war and adjusting to a new country. Interesting albeit depressing. (Amazon)

When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
An homage to A Wrinkle In Time set in 1970s New York City. Sixth grader Miranda's best friend has abandoned her. Her life is further complicated by her new friends, her mom's boyfriend who wants more involvement in the family, and a mysterious crazy homeless man on the corner. Then she begins receiving notes that ask her do to things and seemingly predict the future. What should she do with these notes? Why is she receiving them? Both complex and accessible to young readers, When You Reach Me is truly worthy of the Newbury Medal. (Amazon)

Wishing For Tomorrow - Hilary McKay
Revisit the world of A Little Princess and discover what happened to the students of Ms. Minchin's Academy after Sara Crewe left. Although narrated by Ermengarde, Sara's best friend, the most interest part of the book focuses on Lottie (the little girl), Lavinia (the snob), and Alice (the new maid). Lavinia especially manages to redeem herself and turn into more of a protagonist than an antagonist. The book's language is reminiscent of a fair tale and it fits right in with the magic of A Little Princess. (Amazon)

Theatre Shoes - Noel Streatfield
A companion to Ballet Shoes with new characters. Sorrel, Mark, and Holly go to live with their dramatic actress grandmother in London during WWII. The three children receive scholarships to attend Ms. Fidolia's Children's Academy for Dancing and Stage Training by the now successful characters of Ballet Shoes. Follow the kids as they learn to sing, act, and dance while also living with the deprivations and fear of World War II. A classic that all will enjoy. (Amazon)

The Evolution Of Calpurnia Tate - Jacqueline Kelly
Calpurnia is at the age where a tomboy must become a young lady in 1899 Texas. But she's not ready. She spends the summer with her cranky grandpa exploring the natural world, science, and Darwin's Origin of Species. A must read for historical-fiction lovers. Something other than romance for once. (Amazon)

Prophecy Of The Sisters - Michelle Zink
Kind Lia has always been at odds with her difficult twin sister Alice. Then she discovers a prophecyOne sister is the guardian of the gate and the other is the gatekeeper, the only one who can let evil enter. Lia naturally assumes that she is the guardian while her untrustworthy sister is the gate. To her great surprise, Lia is in fact the gate. She desperately wants to prevent the prophecy's fulfillment. With the help of two new friends, Lia embarks on a journey to prevent the gate from opening. Set in the 1890s, the rich prose strongly evokes that time period. Imagine gothic Victorian splendor. (Amazon)

The Luxe - Anna Godbersen
Turn of the century Gossip Girl. At the height of the robber baron era, the rich are truly rich and the poor are truly poor. Follow three "rich" girls, who have everything they want except for love and a very bitter "poor" maid who wants independence and revenge. Godbersen's writing is heavy on atmospherics and descriptions. While initially bogging down the story, the descriptions make the book rich - you feel as if you are walking through Victorian New York City. (Amazon)

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure - Allan Richard Shickman
Follow Zan as he journeys to find his lost brother. He finds adventure, friends, enemies, and danger with ever page. A fun read for young teens or tweens. (Amazon)

Faithful - Janet Fox
Snobbish rich girl ends up in Yellowstone in the early 1900s. Maggie is quickly entranced by the region's beauty and slowly transforms into an independent young woman. Features Tom, a fabulous, rugged love interest; Kula, the haughty servant; Mrs. Gale, an independent photographer/mentor; Mr. Greybull, who could give Maggie the old life she wants. A bit predictable and unrealistic, but a fun story nonetheless. (Amazon)

Bright Young Things - Anna Godberson
In Summer 1929, life is at the very top of a roller-coaster - the balance point before you plummet to the ground. Letty and Cordelia come to NYC to create a glamorous life for themselves. Cordelia finds her father, a wealthy bootlegger, and befriends Astrid, a wealthy girl. The book is told in the alternating voices of Astrid, Letty, and Cordelia - who are all wonderfully likeable, yet three-dimensional characters. A great, realistic historical fiction. (Amazon)

The Education Of Bet - Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Bet is a girl in the 19th century who desperately wants an education. Her friend Will wants to join the army. Will and Bet switch places, and Bet plays a boy at a boarding school. She must balance getting an education, dealing with bullies, and most difficult of all, falling in love with her quiet, brilliant, kind roommate James. (Amazon)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday (30): Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking The Spine spotlighting upcoming releases.

Check out my 2010 Book Lists - a series of VERY extensive posts reviewing and categorizing the books I read in 2010! See if your favorite is on the list or add to your TBR list!

Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray
Berkley Trade, January 4, 2011


Heiress of one empire and prisoner of another, it is up to the daughter of Cleopatra to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers...

To Isis worshippers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene's parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can't hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother's dreams. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die?

2010 Book Lists Pt. 4: Paranormal Day

*Back to Introductory Post; Pt. 1; Pt. 2; Pt 3; Pt. 5; Pt. 6; Pt. 7
*Books are linked to my reviews, if available. Otherwise, they're linked to Amazon. I have read all of these books and written reviews for most, but haven't posted many of them yet. As I do, I will update this page.


Paranormal Day

Who doesn't love a paranormal romance? Actually, until I became obsessed with Twilight, I wasn't. But now I have officially gone over to the dark side. Here are the paranormal romances I read and enjoyed this year, separated into categories:

Vampires
-My favorite paranormal category


Vampire Academy: Blood Promise and Spirit Bound - Richelle Mead
Each Vampire Academy book is fun, suspenseful, and oozes romance. There’s the boarding school element. As the series continues, you have complicated royal politics. There are three really hot guys, Dimitri, Adrian, and Christian. One bold, kick-butt girl, Rose. And twist after twist in the plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Blue Bloods: The Van Alen Legacy and Misguided Angel - Melissa de la Cruz
Old school wealthy "blue-bloods" are really vampires. More specifically, vampires descended from angels. If you like angel and vampire mythology, you'll love this. The series becomes less about shallow rich kids and more about a great battle between good and evil as the books go on. Prominent love triangle between the hot, sweet, powerful guy and the best friend. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Sucks To Be Me and Still Sucks To Be Me - Kimberly Pauley
Mina grows up with two vampire parents. She now has to choose whether to become a vampire after the Vampire Council finds out about her. Mina attends vampire classes with other teenage vamp wannabes. Mina’s complaining, sarcastic humor is hilarious. Great guy characters in both books. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Infinite Days - Rebecca Maizel
600 year old vampire queen is transformed back into a human. A 16 year old human attending a New England boarding school. Makes new friends, new enemies, and falls in love with Mr. Popularity. Still, her violent vampire past haunts her and comes back to rear its ugly head. (Amazon

Sunshine - Robin McKinley
A unique vampire romance book. It's set in an alternate universe where vampires and other paranormal creatures are known to exist. Vampires hunt and are also hunted. Rae is put in the unlikely situation of a working relationship with a vampire, Con. Together, Rae and Con fight the government and other vampires. They form an interesting friendship. (Amazon)

Some Girls Bite (Chicagoland Vampires #1) - Chloe Neill
27-year-old Merit is changed into a vampire against her will. She's sucked into an impending vampire war. Merit must accept her new life as an immortal and also help protect her vampire house from those that threaten them. Heart-stopping, romantic, love triangle tension between Merit, master vampire Ethan, and rival house vampire Morgan. Merit has a fabulously snarky voice that will make you want to read more and more. (Amazon)

Morganville Vampires: Glass Houses and Dead Girls’ Dance by Rachel Caine
Claire moves out of her college dorm after being terrorized by the popular mean girls. Her new roommates are a strange bunch who are convinced that vampires run amok in Morganville. Turns out they're right. Claire and her new friends become vampire bait and must fight to save themselves. Of course, there's more to Claire's roommates than it seems at first glance. The books are a bit silly, but really addicting. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Werewolves
-I love a good dog story. :-)


Shiver and Linger- Maggie Stiefvater
Human falls in love with werewolf. Grace is fascinated by a particular wolf. Sam is a werewolf in his final year of transformation.When they meet in Sam’s human form, their love is instantaneous and immutable. Can they stay together somehow? Beautiful, atmospheric writing. The prose evokes a cold, gray winter day - very fitting with the book's setting. Fabulous use of lyrics and Rielke poems to hype up the romance. Haunting, sad, sweet, angsty, wonderful. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

The Dark Divine - Bree DeSpain
Daniel disappeared years ago and his friend Jude came home covered in blood. Now Daniel’s back, Jude hates him, and Jude’s sister Grace is falling in love. Grace and Daniel’s friendship gradually builds into something more - much more real than love at first sight. Paranormal romance with a slow introduction of the paranormal element that eventually turns into a “must keep reading” thriller. Modern Prodigal Son. (Amazon)

Sisters Red - Jackson Pearce
Scarlett and Rosie March are skilled werewolf hunters and have been ever since a wolf killed their grandmother and horribly scarred Scarlett. While Scarlett lives for the hunt, Rosie longs for a normal life. Perhaps a life involving romance with Silas, their long-time friend and hunting partner. But life starts moving quickly when a huge influx of wolves come into Atlanta and Scarlett, Rosie, and Silas go hunting. Great werewolf mythology - they're monsters rather than big furry, cute dogs. Good mix of suspenseful plot and fun, likeable characters. (Amazon)

Witchcraft
-There are witches and wizards other than Harry Potter? Shocking, but true.


Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Ethan is entranced with the mysterious, dark new girl. Lena is a caster, a witch, who is on the cusp of discovering whether she is innately good or evil. Full of great side characters like Link, Macon, Amma, and Liv and a warm, slow, mysterious Southern Gothic setting. Ethan learns that his and Lena's worlds are more linked that he could have imagined as the series continues. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Hex Hall - Rachel Hawkins
Sophie is a witch who's been exiled to Hex Hall, a boarding school for paranormals. In addition to finding her way in a new school, Sophie must worry about mysterious attacks on students. Surprisingly funny for a paranormal drama/romance. Lots of different, fun takes on paranormal creatures (like vampires). Fabulous ending. (Amazon)

Once A Witch - Carolyn MacCullough
The only Talentless girl in a family of sorcerers, Tamsin lives in the shadows. She agrees to do a task for a stranger, pretending to be her sister, and discovers that there is a lot more to this little task than she expected. What's more, Tamsin is not the girl she thought she was. Teamed up with handsome Gabriel, she must save her entire family. Sweet, fun, and page-turning. An inventive twist on paranormal/witchcraft books. (Amazon)

Fairies
-Tinkerbell's come a long way.


Lament - Maggie Stiefvater
Deirdre meets Luke at a music competition and the attraction is incredible. One problem: Luke is an assassin for a faery queen and Deirdre should have been his next target. Deirdre has the ability to see faeries which makes her a very powerful person. Together, Luke and Deirdre must battle the Iron queen. Great faery lore - many are evil beings but others are kind, almost human. There are also humans who spend so much time in faery land that they aren't really human anymore. Beautiful writing - verdant. The prose feels like green grass and rainbow-colored flowers. (Amazon)

Iron King, Iron Daughter, and Iron Queen - Julia Kagawa
Meghan Chase discovers that she is the daughter of great fairy king Oberon. Half-fairy and half-mortal, Meghan can withstand the iron that cripples full-blooded fairies. Meghan initially goes into the Never Never to rescue her kidnapped brother, but it turns into a three-book journey to save the entire fairy world from the iron fey. Great character growth through the series: Meghan starts out simpering and boring and turns into a confident, capable, kick-butt warrior. Love triangle between dark and handsome Winter Prince Ash and best friend, funny Puck (aka Robin Goodfellow). Coolest cat character. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3)

Wings and Spells - Aprilynne Pike
Finally a story where the faeries are the good guys. Laurel discovers that she is a faery who was sent to live with a human family. Laurel reconnects with her faery heritage when her family is threatened by a group of trolls who want access to the faery gate on Laurel’s property. Features a love triangle between two equally good, sweet guys, Tamani and David. A sweeter, more innocent story than most fey novels, but still has moments of action. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Glimmerglass - Jenna Black
Alternate universe where every knows fairies exist. The co-exist with humans only in Avalon, which is just outside London. Dana goes to visit her father in Avalon and gets twisted up in political intrigue that threatens her freedom and her life. She can't trust anyone: her father, her new friends, her aunt...especially once they realize that Dana is a Faeriewalker. (Amazon)

Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr
Enthralling, edgy fairy book. Aislinn has the Sight to see fairies, but must keep it a secret. Keenan, a cursed Summer Prince, finds her and must have her for his Summer Queen. But Aisleen doesn't need a king; she loves her boyfriend Seth. Two essentially "good" main characters who have needs opposite the other. Is there a way everyone can win? (Amazon)

Angels
-For someone who really doesn't like angel mythology, I sure read a lot of them this year.


Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick
Norah is both repulsed and attracted by Patch. He alternates between being lewd and intensely romantic - a “bad boy” with a hint of something more. Norah’s human life suddenly collides with the dangerous yet sexy world of fallen angels. A suspenseful psychological thriller that will have you turning the pages. (Amazon)

Blue Bloods: The Van Alen Legacy and Misguided Angel - Melissa de la Cruz
Old school wealthy "blue-bloods" are really vampires. More specifically, vampires descended from angels. If you like angel and vampire mythology, you'll love this. The series becomes less about shallow rich kids and more about a great battle between good and evil as the books go on. Prominent love triangle between the hot, sweet, powerful guy and the best friend. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Fallen - Lauren Kate
Dark, Southern gothic, fallen angel romance. Luce feels a strong, unexplainable connection to gorgeous, bad-boy Daniel at her new reform boarding school. Add handsome Cam to create a love triangle. Twists and turns as the mystery and danger builds and you don’t know who you should trust. (Amazon)

Tyger Tyger - Kersten Hamilton
Celtic mythology brought to life. Goblins exist and are threatening Teagan’s family. Finn, Teagan’s cute, Irish, unrelated-cousin, is cursed/destined to fight all goblins. When the goblins kidnap Teagan’s father, Finn, Teagan, and her adorable brother Aidan go into the goblin world to rescue him. Goblins are cunning and cruel and far more intertwined in Teagan’s life than she ever imagined. Tyger Tyger connects goblin mythology to the popular fallen angel mythology. (Amazon)

Everything Else...
-Either too few paranormals to create a category or something entirely to itself.


Wake, Fade and Gone- Lisa McMann
Janie is cursed by the gift of seeing other people's dreams - good ones, creepy ones, really bad ones. The daughter of a single alcoholic mom mired in poverty, her normal life is no better than her dream life. She realizes that she can use her curse to help solve crimes - that some purpose can come from her life. She has a fabulous partner/boyfriend in Cabel, a damaged "bad boy" who becomes a passionate, kind, charismatic boyfriend. As the series goes on, Janie discovers just what possibilities and consequences can come from her dream-catching ability and must decide whether to ignore her gift and cut out everyone around her. The prose is as stark, edgy, and as fast-paced as the story. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3)

The Ghost And The Goth - Stacey Kade
Fun, light paranormal romance. Popular girl Alona dies unexpectedly. The only person who can now see her ghostly figure is Will, a loser goth. They become an unconventional team: Will helps Alona move on and Alone helps will manage all the ghosts vying for his attention. Will is immediately sympathetic and likeable. Alona takes a little longer for the reader, and even herself, to realize that she's not just an airhead. (Amazon)

White Cat - Holly Black
The White Cat world is just slightly altered from our own. Certain people are born with magic - to do good or evil. Cassel is the only non-magic person in a dysfunctional family of evil curseworkers. Cassel is arrogant, a loner, a minor con artist...but he's also brilliant and naturally a good person. (Amazon)

Dream Girl and Dream Life - Lauren Mechling
Clair Voyante has always had extremely vivid dreams. But after her grandmother gives her a cameo necklace, her dreams start predicting the future! Can Clair use her powers to protect her friends? The mystery/paranormal element of this series is only half the fun. The best parts of this book are Clair's funny and cool friends; her kooky, supportive family; and the depiction of New York City. In fact, New York City is described so thoroughly and so often that it is a character unto itself. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

The Rise Of Renegade X - Chelsea Campbell
Damien is proud to be the son of a master villain. And then horrified to discover that he's the illegitimate son of a geeky super-hero. Now his actions will determine whether he becomes a villain or a hero. What seems like an easy choice towards villaindom at first becomes harder as he gets to know his hero family and discovers some disturbing things about his villain mom. Add to that a love triangle between cheating ex-girlfriend Kat and his new sidekick Sarah, and you have a really fun read. (Amazon)

Jekel Loves Hyde - Beth Fantaskey
Tristan Hyde is cursed with an evil twin that causes him to act cruelly and violently at unexpected times. It was Jill's ancestor, a science genius, who started the beast trait in the Hyde family. Now Jekel and Hyde are together again - in high school chemistry class. Tristan convinces Jill to use old family files to try to find a cure to rid himself of the beast before he is irredeemably changed. Tristan is great - dark, haunted, handsome, but also devoted and sweet. Jill is a pretty typical, boring, somewhat likeable girl. (Amazon)

Prophecy Of The Sisters - Michelle Zink
Kind Lia has always been at odds with her difficult twin sister Alice. Then she discovers a prophecyOne sister is the guardian of the gate and the other is the gatekeeper, the only one who can let evil enter. Lia naturally assumes that she is the guardian while her untrustworthy sister is the gate. To her great surprise, Lia is in fact the gate. She desperately wants to prevent the prophecy's fulfillment. With the help of two new friends, Lia embarks on a journey to prevent the gate from opening. Set in the 1890s, the rich prose strongly evokes that time period. Imagine gothic Victorian splendor. (Amazon)

Paranormalcy - Kiersten White
If the thought of another angst-ridden paranormal romance makes you gag, check out Paranormalcy. Evie: Kick-butt vamp/wereworlf/hag fighter who also loves anything pink and longs to go to high school to have her own locker. Lend: Handsome, smart, intriguing, genuinely nice love interest. Plot manages to be light and fun, but also thought-provoking. Are the “good guys” really good? Who or what is Evie? Who can she trust? One action-packed scene after another. (Amazon)

Forgive My Fins - Tera Lynn Childs
Lily is a normal high schooler who is secretly a mermaid princess. By an accidental kiss, she eternally mates herself to her worst enemy Quince. They have to travel to Thalasinnia, the mermaid kingdom, to undo the mating. I loved the well-developed mermaid world and cute sea cliches. Complete fun fluff. (Amazon)

Siren - Tricia Rayburn
A book about sirens, obviously. But just as much, a book about sisters. The main character Vanessa and her love interest Simon are relatable and likable. The paranormal element of sirens is just as creepy as the legend inspiring the story. (Amazon)

The Body Finder - Kimberly Derting
Girl who can sense dead bodies - specifically bodies of those who have been murdered. When teenagers start disappearing, only Violet can find the killer. The book is particularly fascinating because it is told, in part, from the killer's point of view. The story speeds along as Violet goes through every day life, finds love in her best friend Jay, and has to hunt a killer before he hunts her. (Amazon)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Manga Monday (30): Fruits Basket vol. 11 by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket vol. 11 by Natsuki Takaya

Summary

While at the Sohma vacation home, Tohru is caught in a whirlwind of familial strife. Can she relax and put the "fun" in dysfunctional? None of the Sohmas are going to make it easy, including an angry horse that attacks Tohru. Could this be a new member of the Zodiac? Meanwhile, in a fierce argument with Akito, Kyo reveals his true feelings for Tohru. Will Akito tell Tohru about Kyo's secret crush? And speaking of secrets, Akito makes a major announcement--one that will reveal his true identity and change the Sohma family forever! (courtesy of Amazon)

Review

Fruits Basket volume 11 is a turning point for the series. It starts out where the tenth volume ended. Tohru and the Sohma family are spending their summer vacation at a cabin (or cabin-like place). Tohru is left alone much of the time as Akito demands the family's constant attention. Kyo, as the hated cat, is the only one who Akito does not want to see. He alone keeps Tohru company. Finally, even Kyo is summoned to Akito's presence and Tohru is totally alone.

In this volume we meet the final two members of the zodiac, the rooster and the horse. We don't see a lot of them, but I imagine they'll be fleshed out in later volumes.

We also get a vague understanding of who Akito is. I am more and more curious about Akito. He seems like such an awful, hateful figure. Manipulative, unfeeling, whiny, possessive, incapable of human positive feelings. I really wonder whether he is going to continue being presented this way or if we will come to understand or even sympathize with him. It's hard for me to imagine feeling anything but revulsion for Akito after seeing how cruelly he treats Kyo, Yuki, and Tohru. Another thing that confuses me about Akito: I assume that he's male, but sometimes he is so effeminate that I wonder if he's actually a girl. My husband said that Akito is generally a male name, so I assume he's a boy, but I'm not entirely sure.

Tohru makes an important decision at the conclusion of this volume. I assume it is going to be a leading theme for the rest of the series. In keeping with her nature, Tohru is maddeningly self-effacing and cheerful. She seems like a whisp of a person. But when the people she loves are threatened, she becomes as brave and daring as her Yanki mother. I think Tohru is really going to step up to the plate in future volumes, and I can't wait to see it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 Book Lists Pt. 3: Boy POV; Middle Grade; Something Different; Kick-Butt Girls

*Back to Introductory Post; Pt. 1; Pt. 2; Pt. 4; Pt. 5; Pt. 6; Pt. 7
*Books are linked to my reviews, if available. Otherwise, they're linked to Amazon. I have read all of these books and written reviews for most, but haven't posted many of them yet. As I do, I will update this page.


Male Narrator
-Give me a break from all the girly angst once in awhile.


Swim the Fly - Don Calame
Hilarious. Laugh until you cry. Call all your friends and read aloud excerpts because "they must hear this." Three boys have a summertime goal of seeing a girl naked for the first time. Meanwhile, Matt (the narrator) also set a goal to swim the 100-m fly to impress a girl (Kelly). The boys are anything buy studly. Three awkward, kind loser kids. The lengths to which they go in pursuit of their goal will have you in stitches. The book is also oddly poignant and ultimately has one of the best portrayals of a strong, sweet burgeoning relationship that I've read. (Amazon)

Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Ethan is entranced with the mysterious, dark new girl. Lena is a caster, a witch, who is on the cusp of discovering whether she is innately good or evil. Full of great side characters like Link, Macon, Amma, and Liv and a warm, slow, mysterious Southern Gothic setting. Ethan learns that his and Lena's worlds are more linked that he could have imagined as the series continues. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

White Cat - Holly Black
The White Cat world is just slightly altered from our own. Certain people are born with magic - to do good or evil. Cassel is the only non-magic person in a dysfunctional family of evil curseworkers. Cassel is arrogant, a loner, a minor con artist...but he's also brilliant and naturally a good person. (Amazon)

Incarceron - Catherine Fisher
Boy trapped in high-tech, evil prison. Girl trapped in stifling court society and undesired betrothal. Boy and girl connect. Can both escape their respective prisons? Told from alternating points of view. Mixture of dystopia, high fantasy, and science fiction. (Amazon)

Finnikin Of The Rock - Melina Marchetta
Finnikin was once the son of the chief palace guard, but ever since the coup, his father has been missing, and he has been in exile with the king's former advisor. A mysterious, mute young nun leads Finnikin on a journey back toward his homeland, fraught with danger. Extremely well-developed fantasy world. There's magic, political intrigue, and characters who unveil themselves slowly. (Amazon)

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure - Allan Richard Shickman
Follow Zan as he journeys to find his lost brother. He finds adventure, friends, enemies, and danger with ever page. A fun read for young teens or tweens. (Amazon)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green and David Levithan
Two boys named Will Grayson meet one night and form a friendship. WG1 is the average kid in the shadow of his flamboyantly gay best friend, Tiny. WG2 is a gay teen who is so depressed that you spend much of the book wanting to give the kid a big hug. WG1, WG2, and Tiny become an interesting trio as Tiny puts on a school musical called Tiny Dancer. Lots of sarcasm, lots of boyish angst (I guess angst isn't unique to girls). (Amazon)

Operation Redwood - S. Terrell French
Julian Carter-Li has been abandoned by his mother and is stuck with his awful aunt and uncle. But Julian is a quiet, obedient boy...until he finds an email to his uncle from Robin, an irate girl protesting a plan to cut down some ancient redwood trees. Inspired by Robin and his friend Danny, Julian sneaks off to spend the summer with Robin and her family in rural northern California. Operation Redwood manages to entertain and teach the reader a whole lot about trees. (Amazon)

The Rise Of Renegade X - Chelsea Campbell
Damien is proud to be the son of a master villain. And then horrified to discover that he's the illegitimate son of a geeky super-hero. Now his actions will determine whether he becomes a villain or a hero. What seems like an easy choice towards villaindom at first becomes harder as he gets to know his hero family and discovers some disturbing things about his villain mom. Add to that a love triangle between cheating ex-girlfriend Kat and his new sidekick Sarah, and you have a really fun read. (Amazon)

The Cardturner - Louis Sachar
Alton's greedy mother "volunteers" him to help his rich uncle play bridge. His uncle is miserly and cranky on the surface, but Alton gradually sees a different man, brilliant and funny who has a bittersweet past. Alton even manages to find a cool girl friend in his family's mortal enemy. The Cardturner manages to teach the elementals of bridge in a non-boring way. (Amazon)

Middle Grade
-Good for both young and old


A Dog's Life - Ann M. Martin
Told from the perspective of a dog. Squirrel is born as a stray in a shed with her brother Bone. All too soon, she is alone traveling in a world that is often cruel to lonely dogs. Watch Squirrel as she goes through life encountering humans who can be nice, indifferent, ignorant, or just plain cruel. The book does not shirk from delving into the violent life of a stray dog. Will make you smile, cry, and sign up to volunteer at an animal shelter. (Amazon)

Theatre Shoes - Noel Streatfield
A companion to Ballet Shoes with new characters. Sorrel, Mark, and Holly go to live with their dramatic actress grandmother in London during WWII. The three children receive scholarships to attend Ms. Fidolia's Children's Academy for Dancing and Stage Training by the now successful characters of Ballet Shoes. Follow the kids as they learn to sing, act, and dance while also living with the deprivations and fear of World War II. A classic that all will enjoy. (Amazon)

The Magical Ms. Plum - Bonny Becker
A modern-day, whimsical Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Ms. Plum, a third grade teacher, has a magical supply closet. She sends students to retrieve items such as paperclips or pens when they need to learn a lesson. They return with chatty parrots and tiny alligators that somehow reinforce whatever life lesson they are in need of. Great for late elementary readers or older readers who want something fun. (Amazon)

Everything For A Dog - Ann M. Martin
Companion to A Dog's Life; this book follow's Bone, Squirrel's brother. His life is difficult but less so than squirrel. Follow him as he lives with families and as a stray. The book is told from alternating points of view of Bone and Charlie and Henry, two little boys from different times. Great descriptions of rambunctious little boy games. Depressing at times reading about unhappy children, unhappy dogs, animal cruelty, and a child's death. But ultimately as satisfying as all good dog books are. (Amazon)

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure - Allan Richard Shickman
Follow Zan as he journeys to find his lost brother. He finds adventure, friends, enemies, and danger with ever page. A fun read for young teens or tweens. (Amazon)

When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
An homage to A Wrinkle In Time set in 1970s New York City. Sixth grader Miranda's best friend has abandoned her. Her life is further complicated by her new friends, her mom's boyfriend who wants more involvement in the family, and a mysterious crazy homeless man on the corner. Then she begins receiving notes that ask her do to things and seemingly predict the future. What should she do with these notes? Why is she receiving them? Both complex and accessible to young readers, When You Reach Me is truly worthy of the Newbury Medal. (Amazon)

Wishing For Tomorrow - Hilary McKay
Revisit the world of A Little Princess and discover what happened to the students of Ms. Minchin's Academy after Sara Crewe left. Although narrated by Ermengarde, Sara's best friend, the most interest part of the book focuses on Lottie (the little girl), Lavinia (the snob), and Alice (the new maid). Lavinia especially manages to redeem herself and turn into more of a protagonist than an antagonist. The book's language is reminiscent of a fair tale and it fits right in with the magic of A Little Princess. (Amazon)

Out Of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper
11-year-old Melody is a genius, but trapped in a body crippled by cerebral palsey, no one knows it. She can’t walk or talk or do anything by herself. When she gets a machine that speaks for her, people are shocked at the things she can do...but do they believe it’s really her? Heartfelt, inspiring book. Really makes you think more about disabled children. (Amazon)

A Faraway Island - Annika Thor
Two Jewish refugee children are sent to live with a family in Sweden to escape Nazi Germany. The 8 year old girl adjusts quickly, but the 12 year old girl has a horrible time dealing with the fear of the impending war and adjusting to a new country. Interesting albeit depressing. (Amazon)

The Summer Before - Ann M. Martin
Babysitter’s Club fans rejoice!!! A brand-new prequel to the BSC series. See Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacy the summer before the club is formed. All four girls are having a difficult summer. Feeling alone and struggling with the pains of growing up. The book is quintessentially Ann M. Martin style, yet it somehow feels more grown-up than the Babysitter’s Club books. A sweet, yet also bittersweet book. (Amazon)

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
A toddler's family is murdered, and he is brought into a graveyard to be raised by the ghosts within. Named Nobody Owens ("Bod"), he must learn to navigate the ghost world and the human world, where danger still lurks. Exemplifies the best of Neil Gaiman: always dark, but at times sweet, funny, dangerous, and/or sad. (Amazon)

The Evolution Of Calpurnia Tate - Jacqueline Kelly
Calpurnia is at the age where a tomboy must become a young lady in 1899 Texas. But she's not ready. She spends the summer with her cranky grandpa exploring the natural world, science, and Darwin's Origin of Species. A must read for historical-fiction lovers. Something other than romance for once. (Amazon)

The Mother Daughter Book Club, Much Ado About Anne, Dear Pen Pal, and Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick
Four very different girls and their mothers start a book club. The girls, reluctantly at first, become best friends. Each book covers a year of their lives, starting in 6th grade. They read a different book each year (e.g. Little Women, Anne of Green Gables) and the girls’ personal lives loosely follow the plots of the books. A wholesome read that still manages to showcase three-dimensional characters. The girls and their parents all make mistakes yet all learn something. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3, Amazon 4)

Operation Redwood - S. Terrell French
Julian Carter-Li has been abandoned by his mother and is stuck with his awful aunt and uncle. But Julian is a quiet, obedient boy...until he finds an email to his uncle from Robin, an irate girl protesting a plan to cut down some ancient redwood trees. Inspired by Robin and his friend Danny, Julian sneaks off to spend the summer with Robin and her family in rural northern California. Operation Redwood manages to entertain and teach the reader a whole lot about trees. (Amazon)

Keeper - Kathi Appelt
Ten-year old Keeper is convinced that her mother is a mermaid. After a horrible day, she travels at night in a rowboat to a cove where she believes she’ll find her mother the mermaid. The points-of-view alternate between Keeper and the adults and animals in her life. Beautiful, lyrical writing. Skims the line between reality and fantasy. Strong Newbery contender. (Amazon)

The Aristobrats - Jennifer Solow
A group of popular girls take their position seriously and try to be examples for the rest of the school. But when they're stuck doing the nerdy school webcast, their popularity plummets. They discover what's really important and that they are not, perhaps, the good examples that they think themselves to be. (Amazon)

Well That Was Different...
-Books that aren't like anything else you'll ever read.


How To Say Goodbye In Robot - Natalie Standiford
Bea moves to a new town and unexpectedly becomes best friends with Jonah, a loner who seems to hate everybody. They bond over a crazy radio talk show whose transcripts are included in the book. One of the strangest books I’ve ever read. It’s funny, depressing, sad, poignant. Well worth reading. (Amazon)

Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
Beautiful, complex, haunting, romantic, heart-breaking, uplifting. No single word can describe a book this wonderful. It’s extremely confusing at first, but if you stick with it, you will be in love with Taylor Markham and her world. Taylor represents her school in its annual turf war with the Townies and the Cadets. This year’s war is full of battles, friendships, and new love. Interspersed throughout the book are excerpts of a novel written by Hannah, Taylor’s housemother. You’ll be amazed how everything fits together. (Amazon)

The Cardturner - Louis Sachar
Alton's greedy mother "volunteers" him to help his rich uncle play bridge. His uncle is miserly and cranky on the surface, but Alton gradually sees a different man, brilliant and funny who has a bittersweet past. Alton even manages to find a cool girl friend in his family's mortal enemy. The Cardturner manages to teach the elementals of bridge in a non-boring way. (Amazon)

When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
An homage to A Wrinkle In Time set in 1970s New York City. Sixth grader Miranda's best friend has abandoned her. Her life is further complicated by her new friends, her mom's boyfriend who wants more involvement in the family, and a mysterious crazy homeless man on the corner. Then she begins receiving notes that ask her do to things and seemingly predict the future. What should she do with these notes? Why is she receiving them? Both complex and accessible to young readers, When You Reach Me is truly worthy of the Newbury Medal. (Amazon)

Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott
15-year-old Alice was kidnapped by Ray five years ago. Her life has been pure hell since that time. She’s no longer a little girl and will soon be useless. She has to help Ray find her replacement, with only death awaiting her on the other side. Fascinating analysis of how cruel treatment and hopelessness can influence a person’s character. Hard to read, but very interesting. (Amazon)

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
A toddler's family is murdered, and he is brought into a graveyard to be raised by the ghosts within. Named Nobody Owens ("Bod"), he must learn to navigate the ghost world and the human world, where danger still lurks. Exemplifies the best of Neil Gaiman: always dark, but at times sweet, funny, dangerous, and/or sad. (Amazon)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green and David Levithan
Two boys named Will Grayson meet one night and form a friendship. WG1 is the average kid in the shadow of his flamboyantly gay best friend, Tiny. WG2 is a gay teen who is so depressed that you spend much of the book wanting to give the kid a big hug. WG1, WG2, and Tiny become an interesting trio as Tiny puts on a school musical called Tiny Dancer. Lots of sarcasm, lots of boyish angst. (Amazon)

Kick-Butt Girl Protagonists
-These girls don't need a boy to save them


Heist Society - Ally Carter
Katarina comes from a family of con artists - high time thieves, but she just wants to live a normal life. She's sucked into the family business when her father is implicated in a con he didn't do, and her father needs Katarina's help to save him from the police or the really bad guys. All of Ally Carter's books are full of adventure, lots of plot twists, and good romantic tension. (Amazon)

Poison Study and Magic Study - Maria V. Snyder
Yelena is saved from execution for murdering the son of a general and instead assigned to be the new food taster for the military leader. Her supervisor Valek teaches her to detect poisons...and their relationship grows more interesting as the book continues. A mixture of high fantasy, thriller-like suspense, and hot romance. First of three books - don't bother reading the other two (#2 was okay, but I didn't get to #3 because so many panned it). (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Only The Good Spy Young - Ally Carter
The newest Gallagher Girl book is more serious than prior books. No longer are the books about Cammie trying to balance life with love (although that's in there too). It's really about Cammie having to save herself, her friends, and her family. The only people she can trust now are her best friends - not her teachers, Zach, or even her mother. Life is getting more dangerous. And more exciting for the reader!

Catching Fire and Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
Katniss just can’t get a break. In Catching Fire, Katniss is once again a victim/fighter in a Hunger Games. She makes new friends and new enemies. I love how the triangle between Peeta and Gale deepens. Things become even more complex in Mockingjay as Katniss is helping to overthrow President Snow and his despotic government. But are the “good guys” any better than the “bad guys?” Katniss quibbles and worries through life, yet instinctively fights to the death whenever threatened. See the (disappointing) conclusion to the love triangle. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Airhead, Being Nikki, and Runaway - Meg Cabot
Emerson Watts: Smart, ultra-feminist girl trapped in gorgeous super-model's body after a brain transplant. Someone wants to kill Emerson/Nikki. Can Em use her smarts to catch the killer and her beautiful bod to make a living? Fabulous side characters in Lulu, Freida, Christopher, and Gabriel. Typical Meg Cabot, in ways both good and bad.(Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3)

Sisters Red - Jackson Pearce
Scarlett and Rosie March are skilled werewolf hunters and have been ever since a wolf killed their grandmother and horribly scarred Scarlett. While Scarlett lives for the hunt, Rosie longs for a normal life. Perhaps a life involving romance with Silas, their long-time friend and hunting partner. But life starts moving quickly when a huge influx of wolves come into Atlanta and Scarlett, Rosie, and Silas go hunting. Great werewolf mythology - they're monsters rather than big furry, cute dogs. Good mix of suspenseful plot and fun, likeable characters. (Amazon)

Paranormalcy - Kiersten White
If the thought of another angst-ridden paranormal romance makes you gag, check out Paranormalcy. Evie: Kick-butt vamp/wereworlf/hag fighter who also loves anything pink and longs to go to high school to have her own locker. Lend: Handsome, smart, intriguing, genuinely nice love interest. Plot manages to be light and fun, but also thought-provoking. Are the “good guys” really good? Who or what is Evie? Who can she trust? One action-packed scene after another. (Amazon)

Infinite Days - Rebecca Maizel
600 year old vampire queen is transformed back into a human. Lenah's human life at a boarding school doesn't make for a very edgy book, but the many flashbacks of her vampire life do. Maizel doesn't shirk from depicting Lenah's vampire world as cruel and violent, with her as the chief perpetrator. (Amazon)

Dream Girl and Dream Life - Lauren Mechling
Clair Voyante has always had extremely vivid dreams. But after her grandmother gives her a cameo necklace, her dreams start predicting the future! Can Clair use her powers to protect her friends? The mystery/paranormal element of this series is only half the fun. The best parts of this book are Clair's funny and cool friends; her kooky, supportive family; and the depiction of New York City. In fact, New York City is described so thoroughly and so often that it is a character unto itself. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Wake, Fade and Gone- Lisa McMann
Janie is cursed by the gift of seeing other people's dreams - good ones, creepy ones, really bad ones. The daughter of a single alcoholic mom mired in poverty, her normal life is no better than her dream life. She realizes that she can use her curse to help solve crimes - that some purpose can come from her life. She has a fabulous partner/boyfriend in Cabel, a damaged "bad boy" who becomes a passionate, kind, charismatic boyfriend. As the series goes on, Janie discovers just what possibilities and consequences can come from her dream-catching ability and must decide whether to ignore her gift and cut out everyone around her. The prose is as stark, edgy, and as fast-paced as the story. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3)

Some Girls Bite (Chicagoland Vampires #1) - Chloe Neill
27-year-old Merit is changed into a vampire against her will. She's sucked into an impending vampire war. Merit must accept her new life as an immortal and also help protect her vampire house from those that threaten them. Heart-stopping, romantic, love triangle tension between Merit, master vampire Ethan, and rival house vampire Morgan. Merit has a fabulously snarky voice that will make you want to read more and more. (Amazon)

Vampire Academy: Blood Promise and Spirit Bound - Richelle Mead
Each Vampire Academy book is fun, suspenseful, and oozes romance. There’s the boarding school element. As the series continues, you have complicated royal politics. There are three really hot guys, Dimitri, Adrian, and Christian. One bold, kick-butt girl, Rose. And twist after twist in the plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Iron King, Iron Daughter, and Iron Queen - Julia Kagawa
Meghan Chase discovers that she is the daughter of great fairy king Oberon. Half-fairy and half-mortal, Meghan can withstand the iron that cripples full-blooded fairies. Meghan initially goes into the Never Never to rescue her kidnapped brother, but it turns into a three-book journey to save the entire fairy world from the iron fey. Great character growth through the series: Meghan starts out simpering and boring and turns into a confident, capable, kick-butt warrior. Love triangle between dark and handsome Winter Prince Ash and best friend, funny Puck (aka Robin Goodfellow). Coolest cat character. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3)
 
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