Thursday, December 29, 2011

Feature & Follow Friday #78

Welcome to Feature & Follow Friday (err Thursday) on Parajunkee.com


If you are new to the #FF fun, Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that expands your blog following by a joint effort between bloggers. Feature & Follow Friday is now hosted by TWO hosts, Rachel of Parajunkee and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

*Thanks so much to Rachel for allowing me to be part of the Follow Friday fun. Parajunkee is one of the best blogs out there and FF is a highlight of the blogging community. The FF has been one of my favorite parts of my week for over a year and I'm so excited to help my fellow book bloggers get to know each other better.

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you! Now to make this #FF interesting we do a FEATURE blogger.

If you are interested in becoming a Feature click on the link here for Follow Friday Feature or go to Parajunkee and click the drop down link above FEATURES > Feature & Follow Friday and get on the waiting list!

It is also required, that if you participate you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) and the two Feature blogs.


Our Feature - Kristin Can Read





I originally started blogging to keep track of all the books I read and what I thought of them. It was helpful when my reader friends would ask me because I could just refer them to the blog. I'm an English teacher who reads ALL the time. I try to read books that my students (6th graders) are reading. Makes trips to the media center much easier when I can recommend books. I'm also a mom, wife, and now student again. I also like read the books most people would be embarrassed to admit they have read like The Duggars, Sarah Palin, and now Bristol Palin's book. I don't care. Makes read much more interesting.

Question of the Week: The New Year is here -- and everyone wants to know your New Years Blogging Resolution! What are you going to try to revise, revamp and redo for 2012 on your blog?


Before I answered this I looked back at my resolutions from last year. And I'm proud to say that I completed them!

Here are my resolutions for this year:

1. Keep Blogging! That was my resolution for last year and it still stands. My blog was a big part of my life last year and it's an even bigger part now. I want it to continue being so.

2. Comment More: I try to reply back to all the people who comment on my blog. I'm not 100% successful at this, but I do try. I'd like to continue doing this as well as commenting on more people's blogs regularly.

3. Social Networking: I want to do a better job maximizing the value of Facebook and Twitter. I've grown a lot on Twitter this year, but I still have a long ways to go on making it useful.

4. BEA! I'm planning to go to BEA this year. It will be exciting just because it's BEA but also because I've never been to New York City before. Is anyone else planning to go?

Now for the Follow Fun!








RULES To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:



  1. (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
  2. (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - Kristin Can Read & Ex Libris.
  3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
  5. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
  7. If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!


Happy Follow Friday! Follow it up with your twitter address if you want to get that one out!

*********

Best of 2011: Interview with Clay and Susan Griffith

As part of my end of the year round-up, I am posting interviews with a few of authors of my favorite books of 2011. Today I'm featuring Clay and Susan Griffith, authors of the fabulous Vampire Empire series, thus far comprising of The Greyfriar and The Rift Walker. Clay and Susan have been married more than fifteen years. They have written many comic books over the years including The Tick, The Man-Eating Cow and, more recently, Allan Quatermain and the Lord of Locusts. They also script and contribute to the tv/web show Monster Creature Feature.

Both The Greyfriar and The Rift Walker are wonderful, but I ultimately chose The Greyfriar to be amongst my Top Ten for the 2011. Each book stands out in a different way, but I particularly love the romance in the first book.

More about The Greyfriar:


Vampire predators run wild in this exciting steampunk adventure, the first in an alternate history trilogy that is already attracting attention. In 1870, monsters rise up and conquer the northern lands, As great cities are swallowed up by carnage and disease, landowners and other elite flee south to escape their blood-thirsty wrath. One hundred fifty years later, the great divide still exists; fangs on one side of the border, worried defenders on the other. This fragile equilibrium is threatened, then crumbles after a single young princess becomes almost hopelessly lost in the hostile territory. At first, she has only one defender: a mysterious Greyfriar who roams freely in dangerous vampire regions. A trade paperback original; buyer's choice. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Please welcome Clay and Susan to Alison Can Read!

1. How would you describe Greyfriar and Adele's personalities?

The thing that separates them the most is that Greyfriar lives in the now. He reacts instinctively and immediately, no matter the situation. He lives by his actions, eager to react and protect what he feels is important. It’s not that he damns the consequences; he just doesn’t think about them at great length. It’s what makes him a poor politician, but a stalwart hero.

Adele on the other hand is developing into a person who is always thinking about four or five moves ahead of everyone else. She’d make a terrific opponent at chess. She considers consequences because so many people are impacted by her actions. It is rare that she does anything on the spur of the moment. And if she does, she’ll pause to rethink the implications of her actions. She may hate politics but she is damn good at it.

2. One of the things that impressed me with The Rift Walker was that it avoided so many of the stereotypes of a "second book." Specifically - happy couple starts off together, some conflict separates happy couple, third wheel enters the picture threatening the renewal of happy couple's happiness, happy couple reunites and all is well leading into the third book. Was that something you consciously tried to avoid?

We definitely wanted The Rift Walker to be an Empire Strikes Back-type sequel, meaning just as good if not better than the first book. We’ve been working hard to make this series something new and different from the start, whether it’s turning the vampire myth on its ear or mixing up the genres. The romance element to the story isn’t typical either. In fact, the romance between Adele and Greyfriar is pretty slow boil. In The Rift Walker they’re just becoming a “couple”, so there’s no real point in breaking them up with a third wheel. There’s too much to discover yet between the two of them. Also, our third wheel (Senator Clark) could never turn Adele from Greyfriar! In truth, the only third wheel they will have to contend with is the war itself, and the fundamental conflict of their natures. All other conflicts seem pale in comparison.

3. Vampires are so common now that they seem passe. The Vampire Empire vampires are definitely a different breed. Still, did you have trouble convincing publishers to look at a vampire series when werewolves and zombies seem to be the "hip" paranormal creatures?

We’ve been working on this series for quite some time, and the vampire craze came and went at least twice since its conception. But the beauty of the vampire is that they are timeless. Frenzies may rise and fall (Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Buffy, Twilight, to name just a few most recent), but vampires will always rise again (no pun intended!) There will always be an interest, and publishers were still interested in vampires too.

Actually, we saw publishers on both sides of the fence regarding vampire trends. Some said our books were not similar enough to other bestselling vampire series, while others said it was exactly like them, and they needed no more. But our series isn’t just a vampire story. It’s about relationships, politics, war, and high adventure, and we are thankful that Lou Anders, our editor at Pyr Books, saw a narrative than wasn’t just another rehash of an old monster.

4. If I worked with my husband, I would kill him - probably in less than a day. How do you balance your work lives and your personal lives?

Sometimes working together as a married couple is hard. Other times it is a blessing. The initial creation and then the final editing are usually the most difficult segments of the collaboration. That is when we are fighting the hardest to keep something personal in the story. Arguments can get loud, though rarely dangerous, unless one of us grabs a frying pan or the cat. But the rest of the writing process is fairly solitary. We both have separate offices and we work at different coffee shops sometimes. Updates are given when we get together over dinner or on the weekends. Bottom line, collaboration is hard, but we both know the final work is better for it. We both trust and admire what the other brings to the table, so at the end of the day, when we kiss and make up, we realize that what we are creating is something folks will love as much as we do.

5. The Steampunk genre is fairly new to me. Can you recommend some other Steampunk books?

Currently, we’re reading George Mann’s Newbury and Hobbs series. We love the flawed characters as well as the unique neo-Victorian world. The standard setters these days are Gail Carriger’s Soulless series and Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series. There’s also The Society of Steam novels by Andrew Mayer and Mark Hodder’s Burton and Swineburne series, as well as the young adult series by Philip Reeve called Mortal Engines. And although steampunk seems relatively new, there are classics in the genre, like The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, which has a great cast of eccentric characters.

6. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer, aside from the obligatory "Read a lot and Write a lot"?

Read a lot and write a lot. Yes, it is obligatory, but it’s still true. Okay, beyond that, we tell aspiring writers not to get discouraged, and learn to invite and interpret criticism. Aspiring writers will receive a great deal of criticism along the way from readers, editors, reviewers, even friends and family. Never hear the criticism as saying “you’re a bad writer.” Never let that criticism make you stop writing. Use it instead to learn and hone your craft to the next level. Negative comments can come for a variety of reasons. Genuine issues can be anything from confusing grammar to a lack of focus on themes to a change in character that seems unlikely, or your reader might be having a bad day or your story could be outside their comfort zone. The trick is to discover if the criticism is something you can control and correct, or whether it is something beyond your control. Never turn a blind eye to criticism out of arrogance or anger, but embrace it and explore the reasons behind it in order to discover if it is something important that can make you a better writer.

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)



Fantasy

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
*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)

Blog Tour: Kathryn Miller Haines of The Girl Is Murder

Please welcome Kathryn Miller Haines of The Girl Is Murder to Alison Can Read!

Iris Anderson is only 15, but she's quickly mastering the art of deception in this YA novel for fans of Veronica Mars. It's the Fall of 1942 and Iris's world is rapidly changing. Her Pop is back from the war with a missing leg, limiting his ability to do the physically grueling part of his detective work. Iris is dying to help, especially when she discovers that one of Pop's cases involves a boy at her school. Now, instead of sitting at home watching Deanna Durbin movies, Iris is sneaking out of the house, double crossing her friends, and dancing at the Savoy till all hours of the night. There's certainly never a dull moment in the private eye business. (courtesy of Goodreads)

1. How do you research for historical fiction books? Do you research first and then write or get the story down and then go back and correct facts?

It’s a little of both. I research just enough to verify that the story is plausible and to get some bare bone facts. Then I start writing and refer to research whenever I have a question or get stuck. Then when I’m editing, I double-check those things I was unclear about.

2. What are some of your favorite books about the WWII era - either young adult or adult novels?

My favorite adult WWII novel is probably John Dunning’s Two O’clock Easter Wartime. It’s about a small town radio station during the war and provides a really interesting look at what life was like in one small segment of the entertainment industry while serving up a really good mystery. For young adult, I would have to say The Book Thief. That book is just extraordinary in every possible way.

3. How would you describe Iris, your main character, in a sentence or two?

Iris is resilient, sly, insecure, and heartbreaking.

4. You've written both adult and young adult books. How does your writing differ for the two genres?

I think the main difference is that there’s more of an immediacy when you’re writing for young adults. Readers don’t want pages of historical description – they want action and dialogue. I prefer that, actually, since as a reader I tend to skim or skip over description unless it’s a crucial to a story. And I think it allows you to see the characters more as individuals then as artifacts of their time.

5. What advice do you have about improving writing - aside from the ubiquitous read more and write more?

Join a writing group. Reading and responding to other people’s work, as well as getting feedback for my own, absolutely changed my writing for the better. You don’t have to listen to everyone (nor should you) but learning to face criticism and discern between what is and isn’t useful will drastically help you read your own work with a more critical eye. And responding to other people’s writing will train you for what to look for in your own.

Thank you so much for the lovely interview Kathryn!

2011 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. 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.

Until I read Twilight I had never picked up a paranormal romance book (note that I consider Harry Potter fantasy, not paranormal). Twilight released the flood gates for me on a whole new genre. Now paranormal romance comprises a good percentage of my reading. Here are a list of various paranormal romance novels, split up by paranormal element.

Vampires

How can you not love these adorable blood-sucking fiends?

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)

Midnight Alley and Feast of Fools (Morganville Vampires #3 and 4) by Rachel Caine
Morganville Vampires is the potato chip of YA paranormals. You can't read just one. The stakes are raised in this installment. Claire moves to Morganville to attend college and realizes the town is strewn with vampires. Claire quickly becomes a mediator of sorts, having relationships with humans and vampires, both good and evil. Hot romance with Claire's boyfriend Shane and great moments with friends/roommates Eve and Michael. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, #1) by Heather Brewer
Vlad is half vampire, half human. Being a vamp isn't that big a deal, as long as it stays secret. His secret is threatened when a teacher disappears and is replaced by a creepy guy who is extremely interested in Vlad. Vlad and his best friend go searching to find his old teacher and discover the new guy's issues. Funny book but has surprising dark side. (Amazon)

Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6) by Richelle Mead
Perfect ending to a fabulous series. There's less action in this installment since Rose is on the run and has to learn the value of accepting help rather than giving it. Meanwhile, Lissa is waging a political battle at court to acquit Rose and maybe change the future of the royals. Don't forget about romance. Dimitri and Adrian will both make you squeal, yell, and cry in this book. (Amazon)

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Bloodlines lives up to Vampire Academy, but I think it may be even better! Sydney is easier to relate to than Rose - Cautious, thoughtful, ambitious, responsible, subdued, self-conscious. And there's Adrian! I loved him in VA, but he comes into his own here. Not a huge amount of action - mostly set-up for the series - but the plot flows quickly and enjoyably. Also not much romance, but what's there is perfectly done. Heart-stopping! Don't read this unless you've read the entire Vampire Academy series. (Amazon)

Faeries

Definitely not Tinkerbell...

Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
My favorite book of the entire Iron Fey series! Ash is determined to trade his fairy sold for that of a mortal, so he can reside with Meghan in the Iron Kingdom. Reminiscent of Homer's The Odyssey, Ash sets off on a long journey of dangerous adventures to reach the place where he might become mortal, joined by his friend/enemy Puck. Full of what Julie Kagawa does best - great action and well developed characters. Plus lots of Grim! (Amazon)

Illusions (Wings #3) by Aprilynne Pike
I love Aprilynne's unique take on traditional fairy lore. We learn more about fairy-land in Illusions because it is told from both Tamani and Laurel's points of view. So refreshing to see another perspective. A new character is added to the series: Yuki, who Tamani is assigned to watch over. Creates a very melodramatic love rectangle between Laurel, David, Tamani, and Yuki. A bit overdone, but there is some great romantic moments in the book. (Amazon)

Shadowspell and Sirensong (Faeriewalker #2 and 3) by Jenna Black
Dana the Faeriewalker is wanted by everyone for her powers. Especially the dangerous Erlking, the faerie hunter who Dana meets when he is on the loose in Avalon. A love rectangle (or square) between Dana, Ethan, Keane, and the Erlking. There are now three hot, sex guys in this series. Of course, one of them is out to kill her...but little details. Shadowspell takes awhile to get into, but once you do, you won't put it down. Somewhat stereotypical plot and romance but hooks you regardless. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

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)

Werewolves

I'm more of a vampire girl than a werewolf girl, but I'll take a gander at a cute little puppy.

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
Conclusion to Wolves of Mercy Falls series. The helicopter shoot is on and Isabel, Cole, Sam, and Grace had to race to save the wolves. It wasn't a page turner, but there was a definable plot and finally some action. New characters become important. We revisited old ones. Relationships improved. Relationships broke down. The book dragged a lot at the beginning. As always, beautiful, cold, stark writing. Controversial ending that I loved, but many people didn't. (Amazon)

Lost Saint (The Dark Divine #2) by Bree DeSpain
One of the "second books" that is better than the first despite following the predictable sequel plot. Grace and Daniel, the happy couple, are thrust into conflict. A new, mysterious guy comes into to thwart their relationship. Stereotypical love triangle, but still highly enjoyable. Rich, fascinating werewolve mythology. Loved the theme of secrets and the dilemma of who to trust. (Amazon)

Witches

I didn't set out to read a lot of witch novels this year, but I certainly did.

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The third installment of the Caster Chronicles ups the ante yet again. Ethan and Lena are back together after their struggles in Beautiful Darkness. Strange things are happening in town. Insect infestation, freak weather disasters - it seems like the apocalypse. Ethan too is struggling. The natural order has been disrupted and only Ethan and Lena can fix it. (Amazon)

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
Witchlanders is 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)

Always a Witch by Carolyn McCullough
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)

Red Glove by Holly Black
Great follow-up to White Cat. Full of danger and curseworking. Cassel has to learn to rely and trust on his friends rather than doing everything himself. Great Cassel and Lila moments! The book is a real page-turner yet also has a lot of substance - developed characters and excellend world-building. (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)

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)

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)

Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
Jack goes from being a normal kid with a mysterious heart problem to a warrior with incredible strength, power, and purpose. He is a pawn in a vicious game of wizard's chess. Jack has to protect his family and friends and fulfill his destiny on his own terms. Easy read with relatable main character. Interesting world building of wizard society, although not entirely believable. (Amazon)

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)

Angels

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Best angel book I've read yet. Clara is half angel and is still coming into her powers. She is assigned a task to help someone and molds her life around it. Twist on normal love triangle. Great worldbuilding that is different from other angel books. Really fun read. (Amazon)

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Ellie discovers that she is a Preliator: a mortal with an immortal soul tasked to destroy Reapers. With her handsome, kind, devoted aide Will at her side, Ellie is a fighting machine. Complicated angel/devil mythology that is partially explained in this book but will surely be developed more in later books. Hard to tear yourself away from the pages. (Amazon)

Personal Demons and Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers
A guardian angel and a demon duke it out to tag Frannie's soul for Heaven or Hell. The problem comes when both Gabe and Luc (angel & demon, respectively) fall for Frannie. Why is Frannie so important to Heaven and Hell? Which side will Frannie choose? A little silly but fun angel/demon series. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

Mermaids

I didn't like Ariel much, but I am fond of literary human fish.

Fins are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs
Typical second book. Quince and Lily are in love and happy happy. Pretty typical start to a second book. Then Lily's cousin Doe shows up and threatens to ruin everything. We get to learn a lot more about the mermaid world, particularly how it interacts or doesn't interact with the human world. Plus the existence of other kingdoms. Some of the plot arcs, particularly Doe's actions are a bit too outrageous to be believed though. All in all, a fun fluffy book. (Amazon)

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
A very different mermaid story. Abused girls transform into man-killing sirens who gleefully kill humans for fun (since humans never treated them well). Just about as dark as it sounds. But it's also a story of a supportive girl-power group of mermaids and features a sympathetic main character. (Amazon)

Ghosts

Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade
Second Ghost and Goth book took the plot in a direction I didn't expect. Will and Alona are on separate journeys in the book - mostly alone. Will is intrigued when he meets other people who can see ghosts and who knew his father. Alona is mourning the fact that the world is moving on without her. Very interesting plot twist at the end. (Amazon)

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendara Blake
Cas is a teenage ghost-buster, skilled at killing the dead until a 17 year old ghost named Anna bests him. Anna kills everyone who enters her home, except for Cas. Still, Cas is determined to kill Anna before she harms again. Mixing horror with romance with friendship with family drama, this book is a unique take on the ghost paranormal genre. (Amazon)

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)

Zombies

Zombies Don’t Cry by Rusty Fischer
Campy zombie horror romance. Very likeable main character who isn't overly angsty about becoming a zombie. Great side characters in Dane and Chloe who function as zombie mentors. The zombie world was very interesting - sticks close to traditional lore with added things like zombie laws - but wasn't explained fully enough. The story is framed around romance, which is a typical love triangle, but it isn't as interesting or important as the zombie plot. (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 - as I am not - 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)

Multiple Paranormal Creatures

One big happy family. Or not.

Hex: Witch and Angel by Ramona Wray
A witch is torn between two otherwordly guys. Not a normal triangle - one is good and one is bad but the book twists around so you're not sure who is the right guy. Lily, our heroine, has a great voice. Better written than most self-published novels. (Amazon)

City of Bones; City of Ashes; City of Glass; City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
Clary falls into the world of the Shadowhunters, an organization dedicated to destroying demons, when her mother disappears. She teams up with sexy, arrogant, handsome, incredible Jace; snooty Isabel; quiet Alex; and even her nerdy friend Simon. Incredible world building. Fall to your knees romance. Very descriptive prose. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3, Amazon 4)

Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Sequel to Paranormalcy. Evie has the normal life she's always dreamed of, but it's boring. Lend is still the awesome boyfriend, but he's not around. Evie jumps at the chance to work again for the IPCA on a contract basis. Enter stage-right new boy Jack who may be trying to help or hurt Evie. Lots of funny moments, although not as many as in Paranormalcy. Good character growth and world-building development. (Amazon)

Other

Some books defy characterization. Either that or I only read one book within that genre this year.

Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Kate accepts a bargain from Henry (aka Hades) to join him in his house for 6 months, pass tests, and perhaps become his wife in order to save a schoolmate and prolong her dying mother's life. Greek mythology very light. Kate is incredibly self-sacrificing and Henry is handsomely intriguing. The romance builds gradually. Love how mysterious the tests and characters were - the tests suprise Kate and the reader and no one knows who amongst the character is really trustworthy. (Amazon)

Switched by Amanda Hocking
Wendy has never fit in. Even her own mother tried to kill her. Turns out she's really a troll who was switched at birth. When she goes back to her real family, the danger, drama, and romance begins. Wendy is a strong character with lots of gumption. Great beginning to a series. Lots to criticize if you want to, but lots to enjoy if you give it a chance. (Amazon)

Die for Me by Amy Plum
Fabulous new series. A bit Twilighty but in a good way. Even better, it's set in Paris. Unique paranormal element with great history and world building. Kate and Vincent have some insta-love, but Vincent is such a great guy that I don't mind. Well developed side characters make book a joy to read. (Amazon)

Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsay
Lenzi is a reincarnated Speaker who helps lost souls find their way. She doesn't remember any of her past lives, but luckily she has handsome, kind, loyal Alden to help. Very interesting paranormal element. Lenzi and Alden fight evil spirits but also help good dead people. I like the altruistic element. The plot isn't original but the characters are fun and I quickly came to think of them as friends. (Amazon)

Carrier of the Mark by Carry Fallon
Megan is the new American girl who moves to Ireland with her dad and is instantly drawn to dark, mysterious Adam who doesn't like any of the other girls at school but is also drawn to Megan. Sound familiar? This book is very Twilighty by still delightful. Unique paranormal element. Unlike Twilight, Megan is equally powerful as Adam, if not moreso. Forbidden romance. Great family side characters, especially Aine - who is almost as cute as Alice. (Amazon)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Manga Mondays Meme (82): Manga Mondays 2011 In Review

I've been doing Manga Mondays every week since I started my blog 18 months ago. It's always been a personal feature, but now I'm going to try turning it into a meme. There are quite a few people who do Manga Mondays. I don't claim by any means that I owned or created the idea of Manga Mondays - it's an obvious choice given the alliteration. I think a meme would be a good way for everyone to publicize their own Manga Mondays and get a little more publicity.

The linky will be below my review.

2011 in Manga

It's been a great year for Manga Mondays. I've discovered new series that I loved (and some I didn't love) and continued with old favorites. I'm excited to see what 2012 holds.

Here is a review of the manga series I read this year:

Kekkaishi by Yellow Tanabe
By night, junior high student Yoshimori Sumimura is a "kekkaishi" - a demon-hunter who specializes in creating magical barriers around his prey. By day, Yoshimori's got some other demons to battle: an addiction to sweets and a seriously crotchety grandfather! Yoshimori's pretty 16-year-old neighbour and childhood friend, Tokine Yukimura, is also a kekkaishi, but their families are feuding over who is the true practitioner of the art. Yoshimori couldn't care less about catching demons...until he realizes that his apathetic attitude is taking a toll on his friendship with Tokine. Just as he decides to take matters into his own hands, a couple of amphibious demons and the pesky ghost of a pastry-chef show up to complicate matters! (courtesy of Goodreads)

Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara
After her parents get divorced, Ann Uekusa and her mother move from Tokyo to rural Shimane. Accustomed to the anonymity of city living, Ann can't get used to the almost overbearing kindness of the people in her mother's hometown. But when personal tragedy strikes, Ann discovers how much she needs that kindness. (courtesy of Goodreads)

MAR (Marchen Awakens Romance) by Nobuyuki Anzai
Ginta Toramizu is a 14-year-old kid who doesn't have a lot going for him: he's near-sighted, doesn't do well in school, sucks at sports, and to top it off - he's short! But Ginta is a dreamer and has had the same dream 102 times, always in the same fantasy world, where he is a hero blessed with all the abilities he lacks in real life. Then one day a supernatural figure appears at Ginta's school and summons him to a mysterious and exciting new world! In this strange universe filled with magic and wonder, he is strong, tough, agile - and he can see without his glasses! Thus, Ginta begins a mystical quest in search of the magical items known as 'ARMS,' one of which may have the power to send him home. Joining him on this epic journey are his companion Jack and the valuable living, talking, mustachioed iron-ball weapon known as 'Babbo,' which everyone wants but, it seems, only Ginta can possess! (courtesy of Goodreads)

Chibi Vampire by Yuna Kagesaki
Karin is a cute little girl who also happens to be a vampire...with a twist. Once a month, she experiences intense bleeding from her nose--we're talking gushers! In other words, she's a vamp with blood to spare, so rather than stealing blood from humans she actually gives her blood to them. If done right, this can be an extremely positive experience that benefits the "victim" as much as the vampire. The problem is that Karin never seems to do things right! (courtesy of Goodreads)

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
Tohru Honda was an orphan, living with her grandfather, when one day fate kicked her out of the house and she was forced to take up residence in a tent in the forest. Little did she know that the land she was staying on belonged to the Sohma family, a mysterious clan. After stumbling upon the teenage squatter, the Sohmas invite Tohru to stay in their house in exchange for housework. Everything's going well until she discovers the Sohma family's greatest secret: when hugged by members of the opposite sex, they each turn into their Chinese Zodiac animal! (courtesy of Goodreads)

Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi
After orphan Teru Kurebayashi loses her beloved older brother, she finds solace in the messages she exchanges with DAISY, an enigmatic figure who can only be reached through the cell phone her brother left her. Meanwhile, mysterious Tasuku Kurosaki always seems to be around whenever Teru needs help. Could DAISY be a lot closer than Teru thinks? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino
Cross Adademy is attended by two groups of students: the Day Class and the Night Class. At twilight, when the students of the Day Class return to their dorm, they cross paths with the Night Class on their way to school. Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu are the Guardians of the school, protecting the Day Class from the Academy's dark secret: the Night Class is full of vampires! (courtesy of Goodreads)

What series did you read this year?


Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 Book Lists Pt. 3: Boy POV; Middle Grade; Fluffy Bunnies; Heavy Stuff



*Back to Introductory Post; Pt. 1; Pt 2; Pt. 4; Pt. 5; 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.

Boy POV
*Tired of all those angtsy teen girls? Try reading a book from a boy's POV. Less angst...or angst in a different way.

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The third installment of the Caster Chronicles ups the ante yet again. Ethan and Lena are back together after their struggles in Beautiful Darkness. Strange things are happening in town. Insect infestation, freak weather disasters - it seems like the apocalypse. Ethan too is struggling. The natural order has been disrupted and only Ethan and Lena can fix it. (Amazon)

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
Witchlanders is 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)

Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Partial Boy POV)
Water horses are beautiful equine creatures that reside in the sea and are wild, vicious killers. Every year, islanders race these horses in the Scorpio Races. Every year, people die. Sean and Puck (aka Kate) enter the races for different races. The characters' emotions and actions are reserved, but this somehow makes the reader's emotions all the stronger. A quiet story that you'll want to re-read over and over to truly sink in. One of the best slow building relationships that feels real. (Amazon)

Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
My favorite book of the entire Iron Fey series! Ash is determined to trade his fairy sold for that of a mortal, so he can reside with Meghan in the Iron Kingdom. Reminiscent of Homer's The Odyssey, Ash sets off on a long journey of dangerous adventures to reach the place where he might become mortal, joined by his friend/enemy Puck. Full of what Julie Kagawa does best - great action and well developed characters. Plus lots of Grim! (Amazon)

Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
Jack goes from being a normal kid with a mysterious heart problem to a warrior with incredible strength, power, and purpose. He is a pawn in a vicious game of wizard's chess. Jack has to protect his family and friends and fulfill his destiny on his own terms. Easy read with relatable main character. Interesting world building of wizard society, although not entirely believable. (Amazon)

Red Glove by Holly Black
Great follow-up to White Cat. Full of danger and curseworking. Cassel has to learn to rely and trust on his friends rather than doing everything himself. Great Cassel and Lila moments! The book is a real page-turner yet also has a lot of substance - developed characters and excellend world-building. (Amazon)

Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, #1) by Heather Brewer
Vlad is half vampire, half human. Being a vamp isn't that big a deal, as long as it stays secret. His secret is threatened when a teacher disappears and is replaced by a creepy guy who is extremely interested in Vlad. Vlad and his best friend go searching to find his old teacher and discover the new guy's issues. Funny book but has surprising dark side. (Amazon)

Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade (Partial Boy POV)
Second Ghost and Goth book took the plot in a direction I didn't expect. Will and Alona are on separate journeys in the book - mostly alone. Will is intrigued when he meets other people who can see ghosts and who knew his father. Alona is mourning the fact that the world is moving on without her. Very interesting plot twist at the end. (Amazon)

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendara Blake
Cas is a teenage ghost-buster, skilled at killing the dead until a 17 year old ghost named Anna bests him. Anna kills everyone who enters her home, except for Cas. Still, Cas is determined to kill Anna before she harms again. Mixing horror with romance with friendship with family drama, this book is a unique take on the ghost paranormal genre. (Amazon)

Cracked by K.M. Walton
A good book for a bad mood. Very angry. Victor and Bull have horrible lives - particularly horrible families. Bull bullies Victor to suicide, but they end up as roommates in the same psych ward. The reader feels the characters’ anger and despair. It’s a simple yet hard-hitting prose. The plot is somewhat predictable but not as much as I expected. Both characters are easy to sympathize with, if not like. Very quick read. (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. Prue and Curtis venture into the forbidden forest to rescue Prue's baby brother and brave all sorts of dangers.  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)

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford
Mormon teenager realizes that he's gay. Caught in a catch-22 when he realizes that his religion (which he whole-heartedly believes in) and his body are diametrically imposed. Told in alternating perspectives between Paul, his friend, and their parents. Manages to explore both points of view without demonizing or glorifying either one. (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)

Beat The Band by Don Calame
Must read for anyone who loved Swim The Fly, or anyone who likes funny contemporary fiction featuring very normal male characters.  Cooper, a brash, hormone-crazed teen, convinces his friends to enter into the school Battle Of The Bands contest. He envisions their future rock-star gods, and with girls running at them tossing their clothes off. Cooper's plan to become Mr. Cool suffers a setback when he's matched up with Hot Dog Helen to do a semester long project in health class on methods of birth control. Very funny book, although not as funny as Swim the Fly. (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)

Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Piper's Son is about the love and pain of a close family and the camaraderie and anger of friends.  A great companion to Saving Francesca. Witty, smart dialogue is the key feature of this story. Melina is a master of creating an enticing story with a relatively barebones plot. The characters and dialogue make this novel. (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 - as I am not - 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)

Middle Grade
*Not children but not teens. There's something about the tween years that is always enduring.

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)

Home for the Holidays (Mother Daughter Book Club) by Heather Vogel Frederick
The penultimate book in one of my favorite middle grade series, the Mother Daughter Book Club. The five girls are now 15 years old. This year they're reading the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. The book very loosely follows the Betsy Tacy books. All the girls are traveling various places, there's a big emphasis on Christmas, and there is lots of arguing as friendships are challenged. Boys of course play a big role in the fights. Overall, a fun book appropriate for all ages. (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. Prue and Curtis venture into the forbidden forest to rescue Prue's baby brother and brave all sorts of dangers.  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)

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)

Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, #1) by Heather Brewer
Vlad is half vampire, half human. Being a vamp isn't that big a deal, as long as it stays secret. His secret is threatened when a teacher disappears and is replaced by a creepy guy who is extremely interested in Vlad. Vlad and his best friend go searching to find his old teacher and discover the new guy's issues. Funny book but has surprising dark side. (Amazon)

Princess for Hire and Royal Treatment by Lindsey Leavitt
240 pages of pure, unadulterated cuteness. Desi goes from being a nobody 14 year old girl to a substitute princess. Fabulous main character. Despite having the typical low self-esteem of a normal teenager, Desi is independent, brave, and outspoken. Nothing too surprising plot-wise, but thoroughly enjoyable. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
Travel back in time to a life where children are innocent, kind, and all about having adventures. Set in present day, but feel timeless. In this installment, the three youngest Penderwick sisters are on their own (with their aunt) for vacation when their father, stepmother, and oldest sister all go elsewhere for a few weeks. The plotline sounds uninteresting, but it's fascinating to see what adventures these kids can have. The author does a great job of showing how things that seem inconsequential to adults can be a big deal to a kid. (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)

Fluffy
*Fun, Fluffy bunnies. When tears and fears just won't do.

The Daughters Take The Stage (Daughters #3) and The Daughters Join The Party (Daughters #4) - Joanna Philbin
Gossip Girl light. In Book 3, Hudson wants to be a jazz singer who performs in little smoky nightclubs. Hudson's mom, mega superstar Holla Jones envisions Hudson's career more on the trajectory of Willow Smith. Hudson has to grow a backbone and rely on the support of her friends to thwart her mom's plans. In Book 4, Emma is the daughter of a presidential candidate. Reckless, brave, and outspoken, she gets in over her head and gains national notoriety for it. She has to rely on her friends and inner character to stay true to herself. Nice characters, strong friendships, some romance, and uplifting messages. Fame, fashion, and wealth. (Amazon 1; Amazon 2)

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik
Pride and Prejudice meets high school. Derek is the son of uber celebrities. Elise is the daughter of the dorky, social-climbing school principal. The book has all the elements of Pride and Prejudice but doesn't follow the original book's plot so closely that it gets bogged down. Features uber-wealth, celebrities, and fashion. Another Gossip Girl nice. Cute light read. (Amazon)

Home for the Holidays (Mother Daughter Book Club) by Heather Vogel Frederick
The penultimate book in one of my favorite middle grade series, the Mother Daughter Book Club. The five girls are now 15 years old. This year they're reading the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. The book very loosely follows the Betsy Tacy books. All the girls are traveling various places, there's a big emphasis on Christmas, and there is lots of arguing as friendships are challenged. Boys of course play a big role in the fights. Overall, a fun book appropriate for all ages. (Amazon)

Princess for Hire and Royal Treatment by Lindsey Leavitt
240 pages of pure, unadulterated cuteness. Desi goes from being a nobody 14 year old girl to a substitute princess. Fabulous main character. Despite having the typical low self-esteem of a normal teenager, Desi is independent, brave, and outspoken. Nothing too surprising plot-wise, but thoroughly enjoyable. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2)

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)

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
Adorable, fun, light-hearted romance. A must for any Pride and Prejudice fan and a great introduction for those who haven't read Austen yet. While Prom and Prejudice doesn't have the complex social satire as Pride and Prejudice, it still incorporates the key elements of  the original. It was great seeing Elizabeth and Darcy able to get to know one another without the limits if proper 19th century societal expectations. (Amazon)

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
Travel back in time to a life where children are innocent, kind, and all about having adventures. Set in present day, but feel timeless. In this installment, the three youngest Penderwick sisters are on their own (with their aunt) for vacation when their father, stepmother, and oldest sister all go elsewhere for a few weeks. The plotline sounds uninteresting, but it's fascinating to see what adventures these kids can have. The author does a great job of showing how things that seem inconsequential to adults can be a big deal to a kid. (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)

Fins are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs
Typical second book. Quince and Lily are in love and happy happy. Pretty typical start to a second book. Then Lily's cousin Doe shows up and threatens to ruin everything. We get to learn a lot more about the mermaid world, particularly how it interacts or doesn't interact with the human world. Plus the existence of other kingdoms. Some of the plot arcs, particularly Doe's actions are a bit too outrageous to be believed though. All in all, a fun fluffy book. (Amazon)

There's No Place Like Home (Secrets of My Hollywood Life #6) by Jen Calonita
The final installment of Secrets of My Hollywood Life, one of my favorite light, chick lit series. Kaitlin has tons of things on her plate. Her pushy mom only makes things worse, encouraging Kaitlin to do too much and making her seem like she's attention-hungry. Kaitlin's friends (which now includes her former rival Sky) want her to put her foot down and set some limits. But Kaitlin just can't say no. Enter Stage Right...a head-on collision and an It's A Wonderful Life alternate universe. Kaitlin is now from a poor family, in a fancy school, and hated by everyone except her star-crazy friend Liz. (Amazon)

There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Normal (well, actually, filthy rich) girl meets teen vampire super-star Beckett Rush on a plane. They end up staying at the same B&B in Ireland. Finley hates Beckett for being famous, seemingly arrogant, and a supposed player. Beckett doesn't take anything seriously, constantly teases Finley, and won't leave her alone. What a surprise that they fall in love. A very predictable plot, but an utterly adorable, Christian romance. (Amazon)

Heavy
*Are you in the mood to be depressed or angry? Check out these books.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
Grace is entranced with Mandarin, the local exotic bad-girl. When Mandarin strikes up a friendship with Grace, everything is exciting, dangerous, and new until Grace begins to realize that Mandarin is deeply troubled. The tale of two troubled girls is beautifully, lyrically written, but hard to read. Grace comes to life and you hate to see her make bad choices or get hurt by her awful family situation. A very intense book. (Amazon)

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
A beautiful, powerful book. The Mockingbirds takes Alex Patrick on a journey from one of the lowest, most terrifying, humiliating points imaginable to a slow, gradual recovery and a possibility of empowerment. A victim of date rape, her friends convince her to go to The Mockingbirds, the underground school disciplinary squad, and put her classmate on trial. Through Daisy's skillful prose, words fly off the page and the reader lives, breathes, and feels Alex's ordeal. (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)

Cracked by K.M. Walton
A good book for a bad mood. Very angry. Victor and Bull have horrible lives - particularly horrible families. Bull bullies Victor to suicide, but they end up as roommates in the same psych ward. The reader feels the characters’ anger and despair. It’s a simple yet hard-hitting prose. The plot is somewhat predictable but not as much as I expected. Both characters are easy to sympathize with, if not like. Very quick read. (Amazon)

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
A story of friendship and family. Francesca is starting Year 11 as one of the few girls in a former boys' school. And her mother has sunk into a deep depression, bringing her family down with her. Francesca is miserable until she finds a loyal group of friends who build her back up. The highlight of this book is the banter between the characters. The dialogue is worth reading regardless of the plot. You'll fall in love with Francesca, her family, and all her friends. You can enjoy them again in Piper's Son. (Amazon)

Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Piper's Son is about the love and pain of a close family and the camaraderie and anger of friends.  A great companion to Saving Francesca. Witty, smart dialogue is the key feature of this story. Melina is a master of creating an enticing story with a relatively barebones plot. The characters and dialogue make this novel. (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)

Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser
Painfully real book about parental alcoholism, immigrant life, and just growing up. Alyssa is the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. She's trying to live a normal high school life with a somewhat immature boyfriend and a best friend who longs to be popular while also balancing her mother's worsening alcoholism. A good cultural read. Also a realistic, non-whitewashed tale about alcoholism. (Amazon)

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
A very different mermaid story. Abused girls transform into man-killing sirens who gleefully kill humans for fun (since humans never treated them well). Just about as dark as it sounds. But it's also a story of a supportive girl-power group of mermaids and features a sympathetic main character. (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)

Hush by Eishes Chayil
Powerful, heartbreaking story of child molestation in the Hasidic Jewish community of New York City. Witness the devastation that can destroy multiple families when crimes are kept secret for years. Aside from the plot, this is a great cultural exploration of a close-knit religious community that lives as if it were 100 years ago. (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)

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford
Mormon teenager realizes that he's gay. Caught in a catch-22 when he realizes that his religion (which he whole-heartedly believes in) and his body are diametrically imposed. Told in alternating perspectives between Paul, his friend, and their parents. Manages to explore both points of view without demonizing or glorifying either one. (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)

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)

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)

Shine by Lauren Myracle
A whodunnit mystery disguised as a novel. Cat's childhood friend Patrick, who is openly gay, was savagely beaten and is in a coma barely holding onto life. Cat sets out to find his attacker. In doing so, she has to confront her past and all the people in her community that she has labeled as ignorant, cruel, or addicts, be they friends or family. A somewhat slow, serious book that makes you think. (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)

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
In the style of literary, award quality YA novels. Told from alternating perspectives of Vera, her dad, and a pagoda. Vera is a trying to heal from her friend's death and deal with her own demons. Vera's dad is trying to keep everything organized and be a good father. The pagoda is in the center of town and sees all. The circumstances of Charlie's death is the frontal plot, but Vera's relationship with her dad is ultimately the most important theme of the book. (Amazon)
 
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