Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Book Lists Pt. 6: Gossipy; Best Romance; Non-US Settings; Tear-Jerker


*Back to Introductory Post; Pt. 1; Pt. 2; Pt 3; Pt. 4; Pt. 5; 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.

Gossipy
-There's something about shallow girls with great clothes and lots of money. And it's even better if they somehow manage not to be shallow.

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)

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)

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)

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)

Best Squeal Inducing Romance

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Another winner from Stephanie. Just as fun and sweet a romance as Anna and the French Kiss. Lola is a vivacious character. She spends her life creating and dressing up in costumes, which make her personality shine while also masking a deep-seeded insecurity. She is also stubborn, self-righteous, and quick to jump to conclusions. Cricket is as nice as can be. Awkward and nerdy. A little insecure. Very patient. Kinda "boyish," in a cool way. A highlight are Lola's dads Andy and Nathan. So nice to see well-developed, caring parents. And the romance! Super sweet. Nice build-up - feels like something that could actually happen. Love the Anna and the French Kiss tie-in too. (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)

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)

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Truth. You can whittle the theme of Just Listen down to that one word. The importance of being truthful to your friends and family. But most of all, the importance of being true to yourself. Super sweet romance. Owen is the nicest boy even though he seems sullen at first. Annabel's family is an important subplot, which is refreshing. Just Listen also succeeded by never feeling fake or contrived. Lovely. (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)

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)

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)

Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt
When Type-A perfectionist Payton's world falls apart after her dad is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Payton's counselor tells her to choose a focus object to help manage her stress. She chooses Sean Griswold's head. This turns into a great friendship and slow romance. Sean is a fabulous character who pushes Payton to break out of her angry shell. Also a wonderful, realistic portrayal of a loving family going through a hard time. (Amazon)

Books With Non-US Settings
-A surprising number of books are set outside of the US. I love armchair travel.

Italy (Medieval): 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)

Spanish (Fantasy but obvious Latin culture): 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)

Japan: 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)

England: 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)

Ireland: 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)

England: 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)

England: 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)

Australia: 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)

Ireland: 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)

Hasidic Jewish Area of Brooklyn (Feels very foreign): 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)

Paris: 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)

Fictional Island Near England: 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)

England: 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)

France: 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)

Poland: 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)

England/Scotland/France/Egypt/Northern Africa: 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)

Lithuania/Siberia: 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)

England: 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)

England: 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.

Russia: 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)

Italy: Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson
The perfect book for the armchair traveler. Jessa is on a school trip to Italy with her jerk ex-boyfriend and "the other woman." Instructions for a Broken Heart is as much a journey of break-up recovery as it is through Italy. Jessa follows her friends instructions to get revenge on the boy and have fun. Hilarious antic. The book drags a bit, but overall is a create story of a girl rebuilding and rediscovering herself. (Amazon)

Australia: 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)

Spain (Post WW2): 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)

China: 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)

China/Japan: 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)

Prague: 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)

Tear-Jerker
-I'd recommend buying stock in Kleenex for these. Interesting that I didn't read as many cry-inducing books this year as I often do.

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

10 comments :

  1. LOVE the whole list of books with non-US settings, those are always favorites of mine. Who wouldn't want to visit Siena after reading Waterfall, Cascade, and Torrent? I'm on the next plane over as soon as I can afford it:) I need to check out some of the other ones on this list as well. Thanks for such a comprehensive group of books Alison, these lists are amazing.

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  2. I LOVE all of these lists you've been doing! I really like how your categories are both standard and unique (like the non-US settings in this post). These posts must have taken you so long to put together, but I'm loving every minute of them, so thank you! :)

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  3. I really liked Forever too! I thought it concluded the series well.

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  4. I loved this list! Adding so many books on my tbr pile!

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  5. Oh my word--I've just binged on the VA series (I've read Frostbite through to Last Sacrifice in the last week), and I'm so eager for Bloodlines. Poor Adrian... I really hope he gets a HEA in this series. Poor boy :(

    And Daughter of Smoke and Bone! I got this for Christmas! I've heard AMAZING things.

    You had a seriously great year, by the looks of it!

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  6. I didn't think of The Piper's Son as a romance, but I agree about the characters and dialogue. And I love the non-US settings part. Looks like I have a lot of books I need to check out.

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  7. This is a wonderful idea! I loved Bloodlines too. And can't wait for The Golden Lily. Happy New Year.

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  8. These lists are so helpful. "The Girl of Fire and Thorns" now intrigues me. :)

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  9. LOLA, this book was everywhere in 2011. Insane popularity, but a good read, really good I mean!

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  10. Wow, I loved reading this list! I have not read "Revolution" but it made me very excited to go pick up a copy and get my nose in it. :) I was also really happy you included "Girl of Fire and Thorns." I adored that book and reading about a culture that is not mine was fascinating :)

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