Friday, December 31, 2010

Favorites of 2010

Note: These are my favorite reads of 2010, not all were released in 2010.

What were your favorites?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Black Bottle Man

Black Bottle Man
Craig Russell
Great Plains Publications, April 2010

Realistic/Historical Fiction/Fantastical Elements

If you read my IMM (2), you know that Craig Russell contacted me about his book, Black Bottle Man. The concept is like nothing else I've read. There are a lot teen books out now featuring fallen angels and other religious elements, but none quite like this one. So I was quite intrigued by this new and unique voice.

Forced to move every twelve days, what would happen to your life?
It’s 1927. Rembrandt is the only child in the tiny community of Three Farms and his two aunts grow desperate for babies of their own. Hope and Hell arrive in a mysterious black bottle, and on a moonless night a dark spell is cast. Soon after, a man wearing black top-coat, and a ‘glad-ta-meet-ya’ smile comes to visit. The devil seeks payment, and a dangerous wager is made. Until they can defeat him, Rembrandt, Pa, and Uncle Thompson must embark on the journey of their lives, for if they stay in one place for more than twelve days terrible things happen. But where and when will they find a champion capable of defeating the Black Bottle Man?
Time ticks.
Lives change.
Every twelve days.
From Great Plains Publications' website
The story is told mainly through Rembrandt's eyes, but we do get a few chapters from other characters' points of view. The shifting viewpoints could get confusing, but the characters' voices are so different that it isn't an issue and everything comes together in the end in a way that simply wouldn't be possible without the varying viewpoints.

Besides varying viewpoints, the novel is not told in linear time. It jumps from present day (2007) back to the 1920s and 30s. This is structure is what really got me into the novel. We see Rembrandt as an old man from the beginning and we slowly learn how he ended up as this person. The changes in time and in turn plot, help move the story along rapidly. I must say the beginning was a bit slow for me, but it picked up and I read the last 70-80 pages in one sitting.

The story itself is strange and unique: two brothers and a boy set out to find someone who can fight the devil to save their souls and the boy's two aunts. It isn't all strange other worldly demons and whatnot, like you might expect, it's very realistic. The men travel from place to place during the Great Depression and learn "hobo signs" which give them magical powers. But the signs are the only totally other worldly element -- the story and its characters are firmly rooted in reality, which so unexpected for a story like this.

My only issue with the whole thing is that I'm not sure if it's really a "teen" book, but then again what really makes a "teen" book a "teen" book. I think the book would appeal to older teens, not just because part of the story is told from the point of view of an older man, but because the action's a bit slow in the beginning and there's a lot to take in story wise.

Add to your to-read pile

Thursday, December 23, 2010

FIVE Great Series

Day Three of Adele's FIVE Challenge: Great Series. Join in the fun here.

1. The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater

Best werewolf story ever! Can't not wait for Forever to come out July 2011.
2. The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

I haven't gotten a chance to read Beautiful Darkness yet, but I did read Beautiful Creatures earlier this year and it was amazing. I'm really excited to see where this series goes.

3. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

How could I not put Hunger Games on my list? Katniss is one of my all-time favorite characters and the whole series is just wonderfully good.

4. Paranormalcy by Kirsten White

I loved this book and am so excited to find out what happens next. Supernaturally is due out in 2011 (no cover yet).

5. Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

I haven't got a chance to read these two yet, but I've been dying to read them. They just sound so good.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FIVE Great Covers

Day Two of Adele's FIVE Challenge: Great Covers. Join in the fun here. Picking only five was really difficult for me; I think we should call 2010 The Year of Great Covers.

1. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen 

"The font, the girl, the outfit, the pose -- it's all so 20s flappers and so gorgeous. I don't always like covers with the main character on the front, but I think this one really works." Full Beautiful Covers post here.

2. The Body Finder by Kimberley Derting

"The layout -- everything works perfectly together: the colors, the fonts, the images, it all comes together to create a strange beautiful image" Full Beautiful Covers post here.

3. Paranormalcy by Kirsten White

"This is one of best covers I've seen in while. The whole mood created fits the book perfectly and it's mysterious, dark, and pretty all at the same time (just like the main character). Everything about it just works; can't wait to see the covers on the next books in the series."

4. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

I love the Wolves of Mercy Falls covers; they are just so amazingly beautiful. I don't even know what to say about Linger it's just perfect. And the colored interior text just adds to how beautiful this book is.

5. Torment by Lauren Kate

I really love the Fallen Series covers; the dark mood, the beautiful dresses, the font. Everything about this cover is dark and beautiful, which fits the book perfectly. Really excited to read this one too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FIVE Great Debuts

I was planning on taking a bit of a blogging break from today until January 2nd, but then I came across Adele's FIVE Challenge and well there went my plans of a break. It sounds pretty interesting to look back on the year and look forward to 2011, so I couldn't resist joining in. Join in the fun here.

From December 21st to 31st Adele has picked different elements of YA to post about:
December 21 - 5 Great Debuts
December 22 - 5 Great Covers
December 23 - 5 Great Series
December 24 - 5 Great Re-Reads (books you've LOVED so much you went back for more)
December 25 - 5 Most Anticipated (2011 titles)
December 26 - 5 Hopes for YA in 2011
December 27 - 5 Great YA Movie Deals
December 28 - 5 Great Author (in the flesh) Moments
December 29 - 5 Great YA Bloggers
December 30 - 5 Great Miracles that Occurred to Get Me Reading More ______ (choose your genre)
December 31 - 5 Best Titles for 2010 (which I double because 5 was too hard)

I'm going to try to participate in most of these, but I know with the craziness of the holidays I likely only do a few.

Great Debuts:

1. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

"Alex's voice is so realistic. I really liked her -- she struggles to deal what has happened to her while trying to allow herself to continue living her life. Her friends are also wonderful characters; they all want to help her speak out and move on. Their voices are all just as realistic as Alex's. There isn't a single fake or preachy character in the book." Full review
2. The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

"I have to start with the voice of this novel; I absolutely loved Kody's voice from the first page. It just felt like an honest teenager, not preachy or trying to hip and edgy. It was incredibly refreshing to read something so realistic. Kody didn't shy away from anything here or gloss over the difficult situations teens face. And she managed to be funny and clever throughout the whole thing. Plus Kody is only 19 and wrote the book when she was only 17! Can you believe it!?! She is an absolutely amazing writer and I can't wait to read her next book and see how her wonderful voice grows and changes." Full review

3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

"Although the entire book is just one day over and over again, Oliver has repeated just enough to get you into Sam's mindset as she struggles to figure out what's happening to her and how to stop it. She doesn't repeat the unnecessary or let the novel get bogged down in the middle around the fourth time she relives her day. Being able to do this makes Lauren Oliver a brilliant writer - at least in my humble opinion." Full review
4. Paranormalcy by Kirsten White 

"Let's just start with characters: Evie is awesome. Although she works for a secret government agency chasing down paranormals, she is still just like any other teen girl -- she worries about boys, loves to shop, feels out of place, struggles to figure out who she is and what she wants. And through everything she's pretty clever and runs around with a pink sparkly taser. Kiersten White proves that you can be girlie and love pink and still be a strong, smart, independent girl. As for the rest of the characters, they are all interesting and play their rolls in the overall story well. Lend, the romantic interest is an interesting opposite of Evie in many ways adding to her character as well as his. I love these sort of character dynamics." Full review

5. Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony

"Unlike many of the other dystopias I've read recently this one is extremely plausible and realistic. Only being about thirty years in the future rather than hundreds helps with realism and believability, but the events leading up to the current situation are highly plausible and even likely. There's no crazy natural disasters or bizarre epidemics -- the world runs out of oil, pollution is at an all time high, and the world economies collapse. All of which are completely possible. Plus all of this background information is introduced and discussed easily and naturally throughout the story. There's no confusion about why the world is as it is; everything is explained and accounted for." Full review

Monday, December 20, 2010

Catcher, Caught

Catcher, Caught
Sarah Collins Honenberger
AmazonEncore, December 2010
Realistic Fiction

I am not much of a fan of Catcher in the Rye, but Sarah Collins Honenberger's book sounded like a lot more than just a book about a boy who relates to Holden and uses him to find courage. Beyond that, I was also especially interested in the alternative medicine side of the book.
Catcher, Caught tells the story of Daniel Solstice Landon, a 15-year-old high school student diagnosed with leukemia, as he struggles to find his place in the world while staring down his own mortality in the wake of a recent leukemia diagnosis. A reading of Catcher in the Rye, causes Daniel to question the intentions and authority of those around him. Tired of his cramped surroundings and hippie parents’ alternative approaches to his treatment, he follows the footsteps of Holden Caulfield to New York City in search of the same eternal truths, only to discover the importance of home when death looms. -- From Catcher, Caught promotional material
First off, I have to say I really loved Daniel's voice and the way the story is told. The novel is set up like Catcher in the Rye, in that Daniel is going to simply tell you his story, his side of things. And it works wonderfully; Daniel is interesting and thoughtful and a great storyteller. His story is about far more than just his struggle with leukemia. He struggles with being a teenage boy, falling in love, fighting with his parents, trying to figure out who he really is and what he wants.

The story unfolds very naturally -- the novel's all just moments in Daniel's life. There are difficult, serious moments as he struggles with his illness, funny moments with his friends, sweet moments with his girlfriend (and some very real and well written love scenes, I must say), and exciting moments as Daniel tries to break away from what's expected of him.

I found the alternative medicine and minors having a say in their treatment choices plot very interesting and very well written for such a serious and controversial subject. Since Daniel is just stuck in the middle with his parents and the Social Services fighting over what is best for him, you get a less biased view of both sides. Daniel just wants a say in what happens to him, so there's no judging tone about conventional or alternative medicine, which I really enjoyed.

Overall Catcher, Caught is a thoughtful, well written coming-of-age novel about a boy who's fighting cancer.

Add to your to-read pile

Friday, December 17, 2010

Beautiful Covers (3): A Change

I've only done a couple posts about "Beautiful Covers" and my original intention was to just talk briefly about a few covers (usually 5) once a week, but I have a lot more to say about the covers than just a few lines. So Beautiful Covers will now feature just one cover and be every other Friday. 

Anna's first series, The Luxe, all have pretty amazing covers, but I like this one a lot more. This one just screams 1920s, while the other series covers were beautiful I don't think they said as much about the time period like this one does. The font, the girl, the outfit, the pose -- it's all so 20s flappers and so gorgeous. I don't always like covers with the main character on the front, but I think this one really works. The girl's posture and her look really set a mood for the cover that would be difficult to do without having a person on the cover. Plus her pose and appearance don't tell you too much about the story; it just works to make you want to pick it up. Beyond the girl and image itself, I really love the fonts. They really work to enforce and enhance the 20s theme and the placement is really nice. Just big letters right over the image. Simple with the more complex image in the background.

I can't wait to see what the next covers in the series will look like.

Thoughts on Bright Young Things?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Across the Universe Contest

I am super super excited about Beth Revis's 2011 debut Across the Universe. It sounds so good and the cover is just beautiful (see more of my thoughts on the cover here).

Summary from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone--one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship--tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
Beth is currently doing an amazing contest on her blog in anticipation of the upcoming book release. There are 100 prizes, yes that's correct 100. So head over to bethrevis.blogspot now and sign up!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Debut Author Challenge 2011

I really enjoyed participating in The Story Siren's 2010 Debut Author Challenge, so I'm participating again next year.

The Challenge: Read 12 (or more) 2011 YA or MG books by debut authors.

Anyone can join, with or without a blog. There are monthly prizes and other sorts of goodies, as well. Check out The Story Siren for more info and to join in the fun.

My Challenge List:
  1. The Water Wars  by Cameron Stracher (1/1)
  2. Entangled by Cat Clarke (1/6)
  3. Across the Universe  by Beth Revis (1/11)
  4. So Shelly by Ty Roth (2/8)
  5. Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney (2/8)
  6. Like Mandarin by Kristen Hubbard (3/8)
  7. Wither by Lauren DeStefano (3/22)
  8. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (3/22)
  9. Awaken by Katie Kacvinksy (3/23)
  10. Entwined by Heather Dixon (3/29)
  11. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (4/26)
  12. Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton (4/26)
Check my Challenges page for my progress and to find reviews.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In My Mailbox (4)

"In My Mailbox" is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to showcase what books bloggers have received in their mailbox, from the library, or bought. If you want to participate check out her site here.

Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

That's for In My Mailbox for 2010, see you in 2011!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Mockingbirds

The Mockingbirds
Daisy Whitney
Little, Brown Young Readers, November 2010
Realistic Fiction

I've really been looking forward to this book for months. It was well worth the wait. Daisy Whitney is an amazing writer and I hope her words help inspire others to speak out.

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it. -- Goodreads site

Everyone should read this book along with Speak, the two girls' voices are so different and they deal with their rapes in very different ways, but in the end both girls find the courage to speak up for themselves. It's wonderful that Daisy (and Laurie) had the courage to write a book like this one, to hit on all the difficult issues of rape and how the victim deals with what has happened. She has managed to write an very important book that I know will give girls the courage to speak out.

Alex's voice is so realistic. I really liked her -- she struggles to deal what has happened to her while trying to allow herself to continue living her life. Her friends are also wonderful characters; they all want to help her speak out and move on. Their voices are all just as realistic as Alex's. There isn't a single fake or preachy character in the book.

I really can't say enough good things about The Mockingbirds -- it's beautifully written. Daisy managed to add many funny, clever moments throughout the novel without taking away from the seriousness of Alex's rape.

A few comments on the cover: I really love this cover. It's just gorgeous and perfect for the book.

Get this book immediately and begin reading! (I really mean it, go now)

Chapter 16

I was recently contacted by a member of Chapter 16, an online journal about books and writers. The organization is sponsored by Humanities Tennessee. The organization mainly focuses on Tennessee authors and books set in the state. They have a section on their site dedicated to Children's and YA lit. The articles are interesting, well-written, and thought-provoking. So even if you don't live in Tennessee or read a lot of novels that take place there, you should still check out the site and read up on what they have to say. 

Check out the main site at and the YA specific page at

Friday, December 10, 2010


Lauren Kate
Delacourt (Random House), December 2009

I've been wanting to read this one since it came out, but just hadn't gotten to it yet. So I was really excited when I won a copy of the new paperback edition in a Random House Twitter contest. I'd only read one fallen angels book (Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick) before Fallen and wanted more.

There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce–and goes out of his way to make that very clear–she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her. -- From Goodreads

Let's start with the characters. Every character is interesting and has more going on then meets the surface. I loved Luce right from the beginning; she's lost and struggling to figure out what's happening to her and who she really is. Although she's caught between two boys and is rather obsessed with them, Fallen isn't just another paranormal romance where the girl simply cannot live without her love interest.

Lauren Kate's writing style really makes the book. Her voice is interesting, smart, and different. I can't wait to read Torment and whatever comes next for Kate and Luce.

I have to say a bit about this cover -- it's just gorgeous (and so it the Torment cover). It's dark and mysterious and absolutely fits the content and feel of the book. The image, the blue and black, and the font -- it all just works so well.

Add to the top of your to-read pile

Thursday, December 9, 2010

City of Bones

City of Bones
Cassandra Claire
Simon & Schuster, April 2007

Not sure how I managed to go long without reading The Mortal Instruments, but here we are almost four years after the release and I'm just now starting the series.
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder - much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing - not even a smear of blood - to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy? 

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know.... -- Goodreads site
This one totally lived up to all the hype I've been hearing; it was really amazing and I'm dying to read the next book. I've been reading a lot of paranormal lately and this one's definitely one of the best. The world-building is pretty excellent. Everything makes sense and connects up; there's no weird loose ends about the world and what is and is possible.

Beyond the world-building the characters are awesome. Clary is interesting and you can't help but be on her side. And the Shadowhunters (Jace, Isabelle, and Alec) -- oh they are all excellent. Each of them has their own minor storyline that adds to the story without taking over or being boring. I really can't wait to see what happens to them in the rest of the trilogy (well, I guess there are several more books coming out, so it's not really a trilogy anymore).

I'm not going to give anything away, but the plot twists are everywhere and so, so good. I just have to know what happens next!

Add to the top of your to-read pile

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Historical Fiction Challenge

YA Bliss is hosting a YA Historical Fiction Challenge (more info and sign up here). I don't usually read historical fiction, but have recently come across a few that sound really amazing, so I thought I'd join in the challenge. The challenge runs from January to December 2011.

Three different levels to choose from:

Level 1: 5 YA HF books in 2011
Level 2: 10 YA HF books in 2011
Level 3: 15 YA HF books in 2011

I'm going to start out at Level 1, but may end up Level 2.

Tentative list:
  1. Bright Young Things  by Anna Godbersen
  2. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly 
  3. The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
  4. Vixen (Flappers #1) by Jillian Larkin
  5. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In My Mailbox (3)

"In My Mailbox" is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to showcase what books bloggers have received in their mailbox, from the library, or bought. If you want to participate check out her site here.

(sorry about the video and sound quality -- my web cam is having issues)

Catcher, Caught by Sarah Collins Honenberger
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
In Search of WondLa by Toni DiTerlizzi

What did you get?