Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Book Lists Pt. 5: Genre Day: Cross-Over Adult; Fantasy; Historical Fiction; Historical Fantasy; Dystopia

*Back to Introductory Post; Pt. 1; Pt. 2; Pt 3; Pt. 4; Pt. 6; Pt. 7
*Books are linked to my reviews, if available. They're also 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.

Genre Day
-Genres are both good and bad. On the plus side, there are a lot of books out there and separating books into genres gives readers an idea of whether or not they'd like the book. On the negative side, separating books into black and white categories steer readers away from books they might like.

Cross-Over Adult
People shouldn't limit themselves to adult books, but lovers of young adult fiction shouldn't be wary of adult books either.

The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
Starting in post-war Japan, The Commoner tells the story of the first non-aristocratic woman to marry a future emperor of Japan. The book begins with Haruko as a teenager and goes until she watches her own son marry a commoner. Haruko has a difficult life in the claustrophobic world of the monarchy. The book is rich with elements of Japanese culture and history that I loved. (Amazon)

The Greyfriar and The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith
Fabulous, unique vampire story. A mixture of suspenseful action scenes with a slow-building romance will satisfy readers of multiple genres. The vampires are intensely violent creatures more like animals than humans. Lots of political intrigue, steampunk elements, as well as sci fi/fantasy tie-ins. The romance is subtle but so sweet that I repeatedly re-read my favorite "Aww..." inducing moments. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins
Shows how teenagers' quirks that result in ostracism in high school can positively impact their lives later. Follows seven teens through a year in high school, each of whom have different roles on the social hierarchy from a loner to a popular girl. No extraordinary revelations about psychology or personality in here, but it's always interesting to read accounts of teenagers' daily lives. (Amazon)

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
If you're a fan of zombie books, Warm Bodies is definitely something to pick up. If you're not a fan of zombie books, don't pass this by. While the book doesn't skimp on the violence of zombie appetites, its most prominent features are beautiful prose, thought-provoking philosophical questions, and a subtle, sweet love story. (Amazon)

Exposure by Therese Fowler
Exposure is a harrowing tale of teenage sexting and the legal system. It shows the horrible consequences that can occur when normal teenagers in love act like teenagers in love, but their actions run afoul of overzealous parents and prosecutors. Definitely a page turner. (Amazon)

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon
Daniel finds a book called "Shadow of the Wind" at age ten. The rare book haunts and fascinates him and others throughout this book. Moreover, someone wants to destroy all copies of the book and Daniel gets involved in a dangerous attempt to save the book and uncover the author's past. Features a fascinating, quirky set of characters. A little hard to get into, but it ultimately becomes un-put-downable and highly rewarding. (Amazon)

Friday Night Bites (Chicagoland Vampires #2) by 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)

A Red Herring Without Mustard by 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.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
One of those books that you finish and want to immediately re-start to immerse yourself in the magic and beauty and also to understand its complexity. Two twists magicians create a circus as the framework to pit their proteges against one another. This results in an ensemble book that tells the stories of multiple characters. The book is a romance between Celia and Marco, but it is just as much the story of Poppet and Widget, Bailey, Tsukiko, Isabel, and more. The circus is incredibly described; I'd pay great amounts of money to attend this circus. (Amazon)


Nightspell by Leah Cypess
Complex high fantasy with incredible world building. Nightspell is set in Ghostland, a kingdom where ghosts and the living reside together. Loved how well the ghosts were described. A character driven novel. At various times in the book, I hated, feared, cared for, and pitied the characters, both ghost and living. The pace is slow but steady. If you like character-driven novels, family relationships, fabulous world-building, and nearly romance-less book, you'll love Nightspell. (Amazon)

Eon by Alison Goodman
Eon's entire life is dedicated to becoming a Dragoneye. His entire life is a lie. He is a 16 year old girl masquerading as a 12 year old boy. Eon's attempt to become a Dragoneye carries her farther than she ever imagined. The book draws on Chinese and Japanese legends. Constant action, great food scenes, and a strong, capable girl main character. It is high fantasy but it feels more like historical fantasy, because the Asian setting feels so real. (Amazon)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Stunning. A book equally about romance, family, and personal discovery. Even better, it's set in Prague. Karou is a regular girl who was raised by chimaera, half-animal/half-human creatures who live in a different world. Karou runs errands for her foster-father Brimstone who grants wishes. Akiva is an angel who hates chimaera more than words can describe. When Akiva and Karou meet, their souls collide. Karou is a strong, brave, funny, loving character who doesn't take guff from anyone. Heart-stopping romance. Shocking twists. Complex yet understandable. You'll re-read portions of the book after you finish and realize that there are so many important little things throughout the book. (Amazon)

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
A book where the main character does a complete 180 throughout the course of the plot, in looks and personality. A book that emphasizes the characters' faith in a way that fits seemlessly with the plot and is never preachy. A book that starts out weak and grows stronger and stronger. A book that incorporates Spanish language, culture, food, architecture, and more. A book where romance is present but not nearly as important as the protagonist. A book with major plot twists. Highly unusual, but highly enjoyable. (Amazon)

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
A quietly enticing novel. A high fantasy that feels foreign yet familiar. The Baens and the Witchlanders have been enemies forever. Each culture has its own myth stories decrying the evils of the other. This is a tale about a Baen boy and Witchlander boy whose lives intertwine unexpectedly. Very interesting, if a little confusing world-building, because of the two very different groups. Easy to read prose that is smooth and welcoming. (Amazon)

Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Wildwood is an incredible concept and a good book, but it fails to reach its full potential. The idea behind it is fascinating. A secret world exists within the city of Portland. The Impassible Wilderness is full of talking animals and humans and it has its own politics, history, and culture. As you'd expect from Colin Meloy (lead singer of The Decemberists), the vocabulary is incredibly sophisticated. Perhaps too much so. Unfortunately, the book drags and is way too long. Still fun to read, but a bit of a chore. (Amazon)

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
Marvelously rich, complex story that bridges dystopia, high fantasy, and science fiction. Alternates between four unlikeable, but always relatable characters. Oftentimes the book is too complex, making it hard to follow, but I admire the author for not dumbing down the series. Strong themes of politics, religion, friendship, and betrayal. No romance - quite refreshing. (Amazon)

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Drawing heavily on Chinese folk tales, history, and culture, Silver Phoenix is an adventure story full of evil spirits with a good dose of friendship and a little romance thrown in. By far, the best part of the book is the rich description of every meal and snack that characters ate. Fabulous, strong characters; somewhat odd plot. (Amazon)

Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Combination of high fantasy set long ago, traditional folk tale, family love and strife, burgeoning romance, and small town narrow-mindedness. When an unknown boy arrives in the town of Near, tongues start wagging. A new person is a cause for fear not celebration in this narrow minded, easily frightened community. These fears seem well-founded when local children begin disappearing in the night soon after the boy arrives. Lexi and said unknown boy dubbed Cole join together to search for the true Near Witch. Beautiful prose. (Amazon)

Chime by Franny Billingsley
Briony is convinced that she's an evil witch who hurts everyone around her; she despises herself. She holds everyone back, so she can't hurt them. Eldric, the new lion-boy, refuses to stay away. Beautiful, lyrical, stream of consciousness prose that is sure to garner this book awards. Well-developed characters and complex plot. The emphasis on "pretty" writing kept me from ever feeling truly attached to the plot and characters though. (Amazon)

Historical Fiction
*One of my all time favorite genres. History was my favorite subject in school and I love reading books about history, real or fictional.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Heartbreaking, depressing, beautiful. Revolution is the tale of modern Andi who is horribly depressed after the death of her brother. Her father drags her to France where she finds the journal of Alexandrine who was an actress and special friend to little Louis XVII in the French Revolution. Stark, clean language. Very readable. Don't read the book if you need to be cheered up, but definitely pick it up on another day. (Amazon)

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper
A book that manages to be both simple and complex at the same time. It is the story of a girl living a mundane life in a poor, isolated island with her family and a few friends. But it is also a story filled with vibrant personalities, from Sophie's intellectual cousin Veronica to her tomboy little sister Henry. It is also the story of a pivotal time in history, at the eve of World War II where the Nazis are already starting to meet their mark. Beautiful, atmospheric setting. Great characters. A little dull. (Amazon)

The Season by Sarah MacLean
A mixture of romance, friendship, and mystery all set in aristocratic Regency-era London. Our heroine Alex was born into great wealth. Her role in life is to socialize and quickly marry well. Alex doesn't want any of it. Our hero Gavin grew up with Alex and her brothers. He is like an older brother to her, treating her at times like a child and at times like an attractive young woman. The dialogue between them was fabulous. Witty, somewhat daring, and sarcastic. A fluffy fun book. (Amazon)

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
A stark, haunting, beautiful novel. Set in 1906 at an upstate New York resort. Mattie works at a resort where a guest was murdered. But the book is more about Mattie than the murder. She is an avid-booklover and wordsmith. She desperately wants to go to college, get out of her small town, and become a writer. Yet with her mother's death, her father's embitterment, and her family's poverty, the chief burdens of care-taking have fallen upon Mattie. Beautifully written character story. (Amazon)

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
Rollicking adventure story. Mary, aka Jack, pretends to be a boy and gets a job as a ship's boy on a navy ship. Mary and her fellow ship boys get themselves into one dangerous situation after another. Mary always manages to save the day. The book is told in Mary's cockney accent which is somewhat irritating, but does set the atmosphere. Great book for younger teens. (Amazon)

Walk the Wild Road by Nigel Hinton
12 year old boy in 1870 Poland is trying to flee to America. Encounters tons of adventure and danger, good friends and enemies, happiness and sadness. Classic boy's adventure story. (Amazon)

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
The idea of getting shipped off to Siberia is something I'd heard about most of my life. It's almost a cliche, a joke. In Between Shades of Gray, we are reminded that the horrors of the Stalin regime were no joke. They were raw, senseless, and beyond cruel. An exceptionally dark and powerful book. You will love all the characters, especially Lina. They are all wonderful yet flawed, realistic people going through unimaginable torture. (Amazon)

The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller
The Lost Crown covers the last four years of the Russian imperial family's life. It starts out at the beginning of World War I, when things are basically fine, with just an undercurrent of problems to come up to the very end of their horrific deaths. Told from alternating perspectives of the four girls: Olga, Maria, Tatiana, and Anastasia. The girls are sweet, innocent, and very sheltered. They try to keep their lives as normal and upbeat as possible. The book is very depressing, because you'll grow to love the characters but their deaths are pre-determined. (Amazon)

Historical Fantasy
*One of my favorite new genres - the combination of historical fiction and high fantasy. I love the infusion of magical elements into the real past.

Waterfall, Cascade, and Torrent by Lisa Bergren
Time travel/historical fiction. Gabi and her sister accidentally travel back in time to 14th century Italy. Gabi runs into handsome, wealthy, brave, and kind Marcello and they quickly fall in love. No time to bask in happiness, because they have a multitude of enemies to fight. Great world-building. Lots of sword wielding girl power. Takes a bit of time to get into, but once the characters and story get their claws into you, you won't put the book down. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3)

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver
Reminiscent of classic children's stories. Set in Victorian era England, Liesl & Po is a book of friendship and loneliness, of greed and generosity, of death and life. Liesl, Po, and Will are all lonely and suffering characters. We watch as all three lives collide and then travel together in an exciting and heartwarming adventure. Oliver's prose is magical. It flows so smoothly that I felt like I was flying while reading the novel. Love the simple yet haunting sweetness of the book. (Amazon)

The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton
The perfect combination of historical fiction and fantasy. The Faerie Ring is set in Victorian England. You get to see the extremes of wealth and poverty in this novel since Tiki, the main character, lives on the streets while Leo, another main character is the son of Queen Victoria and lives in Buckingham Palace. Add to that a stolen ring that establishes peace between mankind and the fey and you have a story that will totally carry you away. (Amazon)

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
A middle grade historical fantasy set in early 19th century England and centers on a family that is just outside the cusp of wealth. Since the family is desperate for money (to pay off Kat's brother's gambling arrears), Elissa the oldest sister is going to marry the horrible (but rich) Sir Neville. Kat is bound and determined to stop this. In a parallel plot line, Kat finds her deceased mother's magic book and ends up being thrust into a world of magic that she couldn't have imagined. The two plot arcs intertwine as Kat has to get her sister away from Sir Neville while also juggling magical powers and magical politics. (Amazon)

Always A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
Sequel to Once a Witch. Combination of witchcraft and time travel. Tamsin Greene is no longer Talentless. She is an incredibly powerful witch and will need all her powers to rescue her past and present family from Alistair Knight. Great, headstrong female lead complemented by cute romance. (Amazon)

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
Set at the turn of the 20th century in Baltimore, this book blends historical fiction and paranormal. Amelia discovers that she is psychic. She and her cousin use her talent to climb the local social circle, but eventually foretelling the future has negative consequences. Ultimately, this is a romance with a handsome, mysterious painter named Nathaniel. An otherworldly, true love book. (Amazon)

*Dystopia is not one of my favorite genres, but I do read it when a book sounds particularly good. I didn't read many this year, although there were quite a few that sounded interesting enough to overcome my distaste for dystopia.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Dark, dark. Depressing, depressing. Glimpses of hope. Life is horrible for all but the privileged few in Wither. A disease kills off every human in their early twenties. Reproduction is valued above all else. Rhine was kidnapped and forced to become one of a wealthy son's wives. Touching story about the relationship between the sister wives. Rhine's fast romance with a servant boy Gabriel is good but will probably be better in later books. (Amazon)

Matched by Ally Condie
Cassia is happily ensconced in a utopian society where the government makes all decisions for a person. She is thrilled to be "matched" with her best friend for a future husband but then devastated to learn that she was supposed to be with someone else. When she gets to know her true intended, the walls of her perfect society begin to crumble. Book flows quickly; incredibly easy and enjoyable to read, even if not wholly original. (Amazon)


  1. What a fabulous, comprehensive list, Alison! You definitely have some of my favorites and other books that I have high on my tbr pile. "The Commoner" sounds very intriguing and never heard of it before.

  2. I've heard such amazing things about Warm Bodies, even though I'm not a huge zombie fan, I think I would really enjoy that one. And of course I love all things Waterfall and Chicagoland Vampires, I would recommend those to every single person I met if it wouldn't come across as creepy:) Another outstanding list Alison, thank you!

  3. The Night Circus is amazing! Not too keen on thr Season though...
    Thanks so much for these lists!

  4. LOVED the Night Circus, I think everyone should read this book! Also really enjoyed DOSAB and I'm looking forward to reading Chime in 2012! Great lists Alison

    The Cait Files

  5. still need 2 read the nite circus hhave it on my bookshelf

  6. Dude! I so want my hands on Night circus! I love these list. Thank you for making them! I know exactly where my income tax money is going too! LOL!

  7. Definiely get yourself a copy of Forgotten- I think it would be in my top ten for 2011!

  8. And same with Wonderstruck and Hugo! They are both amazing- get them both! ( :
    The two aren't linked though, so you can read either first.

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