Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best Unputdownable Teen Books of 2012

This year I discovered five engrossing, absorbing, unputdownable books. I found it hard to let these books out of my sight while I was reading them. They are just that good. The following selections are some of the best YA releases of 2012, in my humble opinion.

Grave Mercy: Robin LaFevers
Released April 3, 2012
LaFevers’ debut novel mixes fantasy, magic and history in a story about Ismae, a girl assassin. Trained in a remote convent in the Middle Ages, she’s thrown into Brittany’s royal court to help discover an enemy saboteur. Romance spikes with Duval, the Duchess’ brother with whom Ismae stays. Their rough-and-tumble yet realistic relationship is an intriguing addition. Even though it’s a long read (over 500 pages!), I engulfed it.

Insurgent: Veronica Roth
Released May 1, 2012
Insurgent is the sequel to Divergent, both praise-worthy books. Tris is immersed in a war between factions in a dystopian Chicago. After unimaginable loss, she has only her sometimes-estranged boyfriend for company as they faction-hop. As they dive deeper into the history of their society, the action increases and the mystery heightens, ending with a cliffhanger that leaves me craving the final book with an unnatural thirst.

Bitterblue: Kristin Cashore
Released May 1, 2012
Cashore impressed me with Graceling and Fire but I was skeptical after reading Bitterblue’s description. However, a few pages into the book my skepticism flew into the spring air and the book became glued to my hand. Bitterblue is strong yet stubborn and her story is a fantasy/mystery/epic tale that brings back some of my favorite characters from the earlier companion novels.

Throne of Glass: Sarah J Maas
Released August 7, 2012

Maas is a debut author with a super-sized fan following, which is how Throne of Glass appeared on my radar. It takes place in a fantasy world surrounding the life of a young assassin, Celeana. She is secretive, strong and serene. To win her freedom, she’s thrown into a battle against thieves and military men to become the King’s Assassin. Plus an understated love triangle, and I found this book enthralling.

Unwholly: Neal Shusterman
Released August 28, 2012
It was a tortuous wait from the release of Unwind in 2007 until Unwholly appeared on the shelf, especially since I knew it would be awesome. Even though Unwind appeared to end somewhat happily, its' sequel opens with Conner, Risa and Lev in situations that are not even close to ideal. Three new characters are thrown into the mix, which leads to some mouth-dropping complications. Plus the spine-tingling twists and the non-stop action, and Unwholly was unputdownable.

Happy New Year! Can’t wait to see what 2013 will bring, especially in the YA world!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Favorite YA Things

As a YA writer and reader, there are some websites that I rely upon and even frequent daily. These sites have fun, interesting posts or expansive information or even both. Today, as I prepare to travel north for Christmas, I thought I’d share my favorite YA resources. I hope you find them worthwhile and please feel free to share your own favorite resources in the comments.

YA Stands
This site addresses YA specific and current issues. I get each post in my e-mail and I’ve grown quite fond of the informality of each post. It’s easy to read in the mornings when my brain isn’t fully functional. Also, there are multiple contributors which keeps it interesting and informative.   

YA Highway’s Publishing Road Map
This road map has helpful information on all aspects of the publishing journey. I was surprised and delighted at how expansive the site is. I’ve already explored a good portion of the links, and recommend the Setting and World Building list—it’s been useful to me already!

Nova Ren Suma’s Blog
Distraction 99 is a blissful distraction. I enjoy reading Nova’s blog not only because she discusses her writing life and habits but because she dives into other authors’ thoughts in her writer-to-writer interviews. Her viewpoint in these interviews is one that only a published author can provide and I find it unique and helpful.

Teen Reads’ Coming Soon section
If you are looking for new upcoming YA books, I would suggest visiting this link. It’s all-encompassing and the first site I click on to find out what’s coming soon in the YA world.

Safe travels and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Putting the YA in Holiday

When the weather begins to chill and the nights are longer than the days, it’s something spectacular to hide under a fuzzy blanket and curl up with a good book. While most of the time I’ll read my normal fantasy or realistic YA fare, I also enjoy picking up a holiday-themed book every winter.
I prefer my holiday YA fiction to be comforting and full of snow drifts and hot chocolate. There should be mistletoe, school cancellations and a barrage of snowflakes. Most of all, there should be new and cozy romances flourished by firesides in coffee shops or in the stacks of chilly libraries. The magic may have faded for these too-old-for-Santa teens, but I enjoy when they discover a new meaning in the holidays.  
As an oldest child, the meaning of Christmas for me was making sure my younger brothers still believed. On Christmas Eve, they would leave my grandparents’ house for church with my parents. I would stay behind with my grandpa and grandma to set presents under the tree. There would be endless boxes that radiated farther than the hue of the lights that adorned the tree. As a preteen, I knew Santa was a legend but I loved helping bring that legend to life for my brothers. When we returned from church, they would burst into my grandparent’s living room. The joy and surprise on their faces was enough magic for me.
Now we’re all grown and Christmas means taking time from our busy lives and spending the holiday together. The tree seems less full, now that the big boxes of Fisher Price and Lego toys have been replaced by DVDs, video games and books, but I know the magic is still there. I hope to continue bringing the holiday magic to life through tradition and fun for years to come.
If you are looking to cozy up during the holidays and experience the magic in a holiday or winter themed YA book, then I suggest grabbing some hot chocolate and a few cookies and climbing into a comfy chair with one of these:

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Mistletoe by Aimee Friedman, Hailey Abbott, Nina Malkin & Melissa De La Cruz
Wintertown by Stephen Emond

Let the magic abound through snow forts and colorful lights. Let it warm your home and sparkle on the darkest days. Have a happy holiday season!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Most Anticipated Teen Books: Winter 2013

Here are seven awesome novels that I'm looking forward to reading in these dark, shivering winter months. I hope that you find something intriguing in this mix of fantasical, mysterious, realistic and revolutionary YA fiction.

December 11
Falling Kingdoms- Morgan Rhodes

What it’s about:
Peace has reigned for centuries in this land where magic has been forgotten. Now, three kingdoms grapple for power and Cleo, Jonas, Lucia and Magnus find their fates intertwined. Only one thing is certain in the midst of the unrest: kingdoms will fall.

Why I’m excited:
Because I discovered this debut on a bookmark hidden in another new teen release. The cover called to me and I only grew more eager after reading the description. This book is right up my alley. Impending war in a fantasy world with a mix of young characters? It basically screams “Jamie!” and I’m so ready for it to be released in two days!

December 18

The Darkest Minds- Alexandra Bracken

What it’s about:
Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. On her tenth birthday, something about her changed, which got her sent to a government “rehabilitation camp”. Six years later, she has emerged from the camp alive but with frightening abilities she can’t control. On the run with others who have escaped, Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice.

Why I’m excited:
Because the story sounds like it begins in a world we know and understand, then transforms when Ruby awakens with dark powers. The mystique makes me want to know what she is capable of and what happens to her. Plus the idea that the government is in on some kind of conspiracy involving dark powers? Yeah, I’ll be picking this one up soon.

January 8

Shadowlands- Kate Brian

What it’s about:
Rory survived an attack from a serial killer who’s now on the loose, so Rory, her sister Darcy and their father must enter the witness protection program. Rory and Darcy can barely stand each other but when the settle into their new home on a picturesque vacation island, it might be the fresh start they need. Until one of their new friends goes missing. Has the infamous serial killer found them?

Why I’m excited:
Because Kate Brian is branching out from the Private series in a new and intriguing way. It’s a murder mystery where Rory is seemingly being hunted by a known serial killer who has attacked her in the past. Plus the setting, a gorgeous beach town/island called Juniper Landing sounds like a dream. I’ll be happy to dive into this dark and mysterious story in the new year.

Just One Day- Gayle Forman

What it’s about:
American LuLu meets Willem, a Dutch actor, at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England. After just one day together, there is an undeniable spark which bursts into a flame. The next morning, she wakes in Paris to find that Willem has left. Over the next year, LuLu travels on a journey to come to terms with her almost-true-love in an attempt to break free.

Why I’m excited:
Because Gayle Forman is a master of realistic fiction that takes place in this world but has a magic that is all its own. The premise of this novel sounds fantastic and I want to take this journey of discovery with LuLu, or Allyson as her passport reads. Plus, Forman is working on a companion novel about Willem’s journey (called Just One Year). I cannot wait to read the pair!

January 29

Prodigy- Marie Lu

What it’s about:
In this highly anticipated sequel to Legend, June and Day’s story picks up seven days after their escape from LA and the Republic. Day is believed to be dead by those they left behind, but June is now the Republic’s most wanted traitor. Injured and desperate, they turn to the Patriots, a rebel group who fights against the Republic. Can the pair trust their new alliance, or will they just be pawns in the unrelenting political games?

Why I’m excited:
Because I flew through Legend, and I have high expectations for its sequel. June and Day’s world is an expertly crafted dystopian adventure and I’m excited to see where their journey goes once they leave LA and are alone together. I’m expecting a Mockingjay-like twist in that both the Republic and the Patriots are proven to be essentially evil, but I cannot phantom the complications that will follow.

February 12

Out of the Easy- Ruta Sepetys

What it’s about:
Transporting back to 1950 and the French Quarter of New Orleans, Sepetys introduces Josie, a daughter of a brothel prostitute. Josie wants more out of life and devises a plan to leave the Big Easy. But a mysterious death leaves her entangled in a police investigation where her allegiances will be challenged. There’s a mysterious motorcycle boy and a best friend (who’s a boy) that works at a bookstore. Caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld, Josie has to sort through the complications before she can escape.

Why I’m excited:
Because Ruta Sepetys proved herself to be a master of historical fiction in Between Shades of Gray. This story takes place in another decade in another place, but it still has the same allure of a magical city and a complicated yet intriguing story of a young girl. New Orleans will be a new literary adventure for me, so I’m excited to pick this one up come February.

March 12

Code- Kathy & Brendan Reichs

What it’s about:
Tory Brennan, niece of renowned forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, gained a mysterious, viral power in her first adventure along with her three friends. In their second adventure, they uncover buried pirate treasure and now the stage is set for their third adventure in Code. When they find a geocache with clues from the “Gamemaster,” it leads to a fake bomb and a wicked promise of a real one.

Why I’m excited:
Because I love Temperance and Tory Brennan. Mostly I’m a fan of Bones, but I’ve engulfed the first two books in this series with an unhealthy vigor. I enjoy that Tory is a tomboy and a science lover, separating herself from most characters that I stumble across in teen fiction. And I love that these are classic mysteries written by a best-selling adult mystery author.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Flashback Reviews: Best of 2010

For every book I read, I write a review. So far I’ve filled one journal and am working my way through another. It helps me keep track of what I’ve read, what I’ve loved and what I could have lived without. Every now and then, I flip through past reviews and reminiscence about the great teen novels that I’ve read over the past few years.

What I Saw and How I Lied – Judy Blundell
(Read April 2010)

Immediately, I was struck by the clear, creative descriptions that opened this novel. They easily transported me back to 1947 Brooklyn and then Palm Beach. I knew very early on that this was a great book. Blundell has a unique style and I loved how she wrote Evie, an innocent young girl that just wanted to be like her mother. Realizing truths that had previously been hidden, Evie took matters into her own hands and became a truly good woman through the course of this novel. Usually foreshadowing irks me, but Blundell used the technique wonderfully, setting up the mysterious, troubling turn of events with an expert hand. I loved how both messages (that I perceived) were present throughout the book and were understood in the end.

The Prince of Mist – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
(Read June 2010)

This was a simple yet magical story. Even though Zafón never told the reader where or when this story took place, I interpreted that it happened in an English coastal town during World War II. Though, he did hint at the setting by making a spider-killing task into a Holocaust metaphor. This novel was an easy but intelligent read, which were the primary reasons why I loved it. There was an innocence to Max, Alicia and Roland and their adventures which was amazing. Yet, Zafón didn’t treat the YA reader as a child since the back story was intricate and mysterious and played well into the character’s current world. I hope Zafón expands his YA repertoire with another entrancing YA read.

Adios, Nirvana – Conrad Wesselhoeft
(Read November 2010)

This was the best teen book I’ve read since “All Unquiet Things” by Anna Jarzab nearly a year ago and it was definitely one of the best teen books of 2010. The main character, Jonathon’s thoughts were written with an original flare and the descriptions were creative beyond belief. Wesselhoeft is a debut author who was inspired by his son and friends jamming on guitars and filling his house with laughter and crumbs. That was how he realistically created Jonathon, a troubled guitar-playing, poetry-writing, refusing-sleep boy who lost his twin brother eight months previous. Surprisingly emotion-ridden, this journey involved an aging World War II veteran, a toppling Velcro Kong, a Rickenbacker 366 and quotations from Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” I loved the references, the messages and the great surprise in reading a super fresh line that really made me think and made me wish I had written it at the same time.