Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Books of 2010

Happy New Year, Bookworms! Welcome to the new decade.
What books did you enjoy reading this year? I discovered so many fabulous titles and authors. If I could, I'd have a huge list of favorites. To keep this post relatively short, however, I'll choose three YA titles and three "adult" titles. I've further narrowed the list down to books that either launched in hardcover or were reissued in paperback form.

The following is, of course, just my opinion. What books did *I* enjoy the most this year? In no particular order:

A d u l t :

*Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier: (New in Paperback) Who doesn't love the epic, sweeping romance of Beauty and the Beast...that breaks the traditional mold AND has a little Celtic history in it? This was my first time reading Marillier, and I went on to read all her other stuff this past summer (but it was backlist, so I never reviewed it...)

*Room by Emma Donoghue: (New in Hardcover) A stunningly realistic portrayal of the greatest nightmare that can befall an individual. Told through the eyes of a five-year-old, this hard-hitting novel is made all the more poignant.

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: (New in Paperback) There's no review link because I read this before I had the blog, but this book is absolutely worth all the accolades it received. It's a book about, well, books. We need more novels in the world featuring such a glorious subject! With vivid language, Barcelona springs to life in an intriguing new way. I couldn't put this down and wish I could have reviewed it for you! (But the original cover is so much better than the new one. I love all the books on the cover and the way the dust jacket is smaller than the book, allowing the images on the cover itself to peek I posted them both. The red cover is the new one.)

Y A :

*Matched by Ally Condie: (New in Hardcover) Seriously, you saw this one coming, right? Fantastic novel, well worth the wait. An intriguing new entry in the Dystopian genre, one that leaves you wondering what on earth is going to happen to the characters in book two.

*The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney: (New in Hardcover) I don't know what I was expecting when I picked up this novel, but my expectations were more than met. I LOVE the way Whitney relates the novel to Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird and thought The Mockingbirds were a well-constructed group. The plot was intriguing and kept me turning the pages long after I should have gone to bed.

*Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper: (New in Hardcover) After reading this book, you'll never misjudge someone with a disability again. Gripping and poignant, one of the most emotional books I read this year. A precious gem of a book that more people need to read!

U p c o m i n g A R C :

Delirium by Lauren Oliver: (New in Hardcover, Feb. 1) Okay, so I've only read three ARCs for 2011 so far, but of those, this was my favorite. If you liked Matched, you should be itching to pick this one up in February. It's even BETTER. Another new trilogy in the Dystopian Genre, this one focuses on a disease called Amor Deliria Nervosa (or, in our society, our ability to love) and society must remove the part of your brain that triggers such negative emotions upon a citizen's eighteenth birthday. For a taste of this amazing book, click here to read the first three chapters now.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Loot (2)

I've been trying to do this post for almost a month now. Oh well,better late than never, right? Here's all of my fun new loot since the November 9th post.
(Do you recognize any of these titles from previous O n e s t o W a t c h posts? ^_^)

What are my fellow bookworks reading right now? Did you get anything awesome for the holidays?

C h r i s t m a s P r e s e n t s :

Look, folks, actual "adult" books, not just YA! Yay me :)

*Patti LuPone: A Memoir by Patti LuPone (with Digby Diehl): I love Patti LuPone. I've seen her on Broadway a few times and even met her in person at the Stage Door. Lovely woman, phenomenal performer. I'm so eager to read about her life!

*The Shadow Wife by Diane Chamberlain: If you haven't read any of her novels before and like realistic fiction by authors such as Jodi Picoult, you should, especially since she's been called "The Southern Jodi Picoult."

*The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle: Kittle's first novel in four years. I discovered her a few years ago on Jodi Picoult's forums when looking for similar authors I might enjoy. Her previous novel, The Kindness of Strangers, was especially amazing, so I'm excited to read her latest offering!
*Pegasus by Robin McKinley: Being a fairytale nut, McKinley has always been one of my favorite authors (it's why I was so shocked earlier this year when I wound up loving Juliet Marillier's Heart's Blood more than McKinley's beloved Beauty, which I've adored for years). I've also always loved horses; when I was little, My Little Pony and Rainbow Brite (with Starlight the horse!) were my favorite shows, and I especially loved anything with wings or horns. McKinley has a new take on the pegasus--AND it's going to be two books. YES PLEASE!!

*The Uglies/The Specials, both by Scott Westerfeld: I figured that if I could get books 2, 4, and the guide from library sales, it was time to throw some real money at the author and complete my collection. I really need to re-read this series in 2011 now that I'm on my Dystopian kick.

p u r c h a s e d b o o k s :

*Matched by Alliy Condie: (I told you I've been trying to get this post up forever! I bought this book the day it came out on Nov. 30. Check out the pic of the ARC/Galley edition of this book below!) I reviewed this book recently and it's absolutely one of my favorite reads of 2010. Pick this up. Now!

*Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card: Sci-Fi has never been my first choice of genre, but I really embraced the Ender books when I was younger. I also proudly display Card's fantasy novel Enchantment with all the other fairytale retellings on my bookcase. Not only is this a new fantasy novel, it's for teens and sounds awesome!

*Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: It's Jane Eyre. Period, the end. Um, and I did I mention that the new cover is beyond GORGEOUS? I can stare at it for hours. The paper used for the cover is delicate--I'm afraid I'll damage it! There's a front and back flap with more lovely art, as well as a full-color back cover. Lovely, just lovely. Penguin, I'm obsessed with your publication (as well as cover artist/designer Ruben Toledo)!

*Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks: I'm not sure quite what to expect, but the word "Selkie" is in the cover. It will surely find a home on the shelf with all my mermaid/sea books.

*Harvest Moon: Three All-New Tales of Moonlit Fantasy by Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara, and Cameron Halley: Okay, so I don't normally pick up books with short stories by multiple authors. I picked up this one, however, because I love the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series by Lackey and this book tells the tale of Persephone (one of my favorite Greek myths, no less). I'm sort of sad the book doesn't come in hardcover since it won't quite match the rest of the series, but I suppose it's all right since it's right next to her other fairytale series, The Elemental Masters, which is in paperback.

a r c / g a l l e y b o o k s :

*Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner: Out now (old ARC). Middle-grade Dystopian. Sounds fresh and exciting!

*Still Alice/Left Neglected, both by Lisa Genova: Still Alice has been out for a while, but Left Neglected is coming out on January 5th. I've been wanting to read Genova for a while because I've heard nothing but awesome things about her novels. She works in the field in which she writes, so she'll know her stuff. Plus, both books sound AMAZING. Definitely hard-hitting, but I like "realistic" fiction when I read "adult" stuff. ^^

*The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern: January 25th Release. (I still don't understand why some books come out in both tradecloth and paperback on the same day, but hey, whatever works...) I never read Ahern's bestselling novel P.S. I Love You , but the summary for this is intriguing. It's about a girl who finds a diary that she has the future.

*Matched by Ally Condie: I've already talked about this title ad nauseam, no? Including mentioning above, along with linking to my recent review. Sometimes, ARCs look like this before they have finalized cover art. Pretty neat, huh?

*Delirium by Lauren Oliver: February 1st Release. This is going to be the next book you get sick of hearing me talk about. I've been wanting to read both this and Matched since I heard about them over the summer. I blew through this ARC so fast, too. I can't wait to give you guys my review in February! It's even BETTER than Matched, and you all know that I think Condie did a pretty darn good job! There was an interesting article in Publishers Weekly about the cover treatment for this trilogy (in fact the cover seen here on the ARC is not the final one; they re-did everything), as well as how she ran a contest on her blog to come up with book titles for books two and three.

*Across the Universe by Beth Revis: January 11th Release. This gets to be one of the first books I'll review for you in the new year. I'm not a huge sci-fi person, but this novel really grabbed my attention and was hard to put down. I also LOVE the reversible cover idea and can't wait to see it in person!

*The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card: Another fantasy in lieu of sci-fi from Card. Yay, lucky me! The enclosed publisher letter states that the book was 33 years in the making, so I'm excited to see what we wound up with!

l i b r a r y f i n d s :
Um, I still have a couple of the books out from last month's post, though I've read/returned most of those titles by now. The only new title I've checked out is:

*Hero by Mike Lupica: I've never read Lupica before because I'm not big on sports, but this sounds like something new for him. It's about superheroes, stories easier found in graphic novels than printed books. This sounds really fresh, so I'm excited to see what it's all about.

Well, that's all for me until the new year. I definitely pre-ordered a bunch of books to ship out during the next three months while I still got 40% off, so look forward to more loot posts to come!

"Vixen" by Jillian Larkin (Debut Author)

With another new year—-and decade-—upon us, I thought it would be a good time to look at a new book that takes place close to a century ago, during the Roaring '20s. (Can you believe it? Another decade and we'll have our own version of the 20s!) Debut author Jillian Larkin has released the first in her Flappers trilogy, Vixen. Told in three alternating points of view, the novel is pure historical fiction: we learn not only about flappers, as the series title suggests, but get a peek at what life during the Roaring '20s was like, from prohibition, speakeasies, and gangsters to fashionable clothing, hairstyles, and slang. There's a little bit of something for everyone, and Larkin paints a picture that makes it easy to picture the vibrant decade in the mind's eye. The book releases at a good time, too: HBO recently released aired the debut season of its latest TV hit, Boardwalk Empire, and fellow teen author Anna Godbersen (author of the popular historical series The Luxe) recently released a new book set in the same time period, Bright Young Things. There's also talk of a movie version of the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, which closed on Broadway about three years ago.

While I'm not normally a fan of novels with chapters that alternate POV, Larkin handles the shift well and such a break-up of the novel is necessary. The three main characters in the novel lead very different lives, and through each of them, we're able to flesh out different aspects of the decade. In fact, Clara steals the show despite the fact that her cousin Gloria is the "main character" of the novel. I found myself most eagerly looking forward to Clara's plotline as she tried to make a new, "regular" life for herself after previously being a flapper in one of the most notorious speakeasies. It is through Gloria and her friend, the scheming, back-biting Lorraine, that we experience teenagers going through rebellion as they try to grow up too fast and live glamorously--while, of course, hiding what they're doing from their parents and, in Gloria's case, fiancé. The novel ends with everything in flux, making it easy for readers to start looking forward to the release of 2011's Ingenue, coming out in August.

The Teen Section needs more historical fiction. So much of what's out there is war-based (and a lot of that revolves around the Holocaust). There is so much more that has happened and decades chock-full of stories waiting to be told. It's nice to see a niche forming for a decade that isn't heavily studied in school but still full of intrigue. I hope this trend continues and that period pieces are finally beginning to make their way back into fashion.

[Review based on ARC edition]

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Dash and Lily's Book of Dares" by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

If you're looking for a fun, lightweight holiday read, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares will hit the spot. Co-written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, the authors behind the bestselling Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, the book takes place in New York City during the winter holidays. I'll admit that I don't typically read this genre in the Teen Dept. The novel caught my eye because it takes place at The Strand, which is a really awesome used bookstore in NYC. They have over 18 MILES of books in their store, and I was lucky enough to stop in for a visit earlier this year (I meant to blog about going there, as well as to the flagship B&N, but it never happened. Sorry!). It's a truly amazing place full of books and people. The prices are pretty amazing, too, and they have hard-to-find out-of-print books (why I originally stopped in).

In the novel, Dash is browsing through the shelf housing his favorite author when he comes across a red Moleskin journal. He's on winter holiday, bored out of his mind, and attempting to hide from his least favorite holiday, Christmas, so when he picks up the journal and discovers instructions for a scavenger hunt around the store, he decides to follow them out and see what happens. The journal was left by a teenage girl named Lily, though it was her older brother's idea to do so in the first place. Lily is Dash's opposite: Rather than being jaded, she's in love with everything Christmas and immensely enjoys this time of year. When she pops into The Strand to see if anyone found her Moleskin, she discovers that Dash has created a new scavenger hunt for her to follow. The two wind up passing the journal back and forth and sending one another around the City without ever meeting, and readers can live vicariously as they travel to famous attractions such as the Wax Museum, busy stores such as FAO Schwartz, and even the "newest" Pixar film (which doesn't really exist, but fit in adorably). They form a friendship through the pages of the notebook, and suddenly, the holiday break is anything but boring.

I really enjoyed reading this novel. It wasn't heavy, but light and uplifting. Sometimes, it's okay to sit back and enjoy something funny, especially during the holidays. I also LOVED the book cover design. The title of the book is listed across two Street Signs, the Directional Arrow lists the two authors, and the Pedestrian Light has a cute heart on it. The inclusion of (heart-shaped!) snow added to the atmosphere, making it visually feel like a book wanting to be picked up and read at this time of year, preferably snuggled up with a cozy blanket and hot cup of cocoa.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"The Mockingbirds" by Daisy Whitney (Debut Author)

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

Debut author Daisy Whitney doesn't hold back the punches when it comes to The Mockingbirds. Hard-hitting and honest, this is easily one of the best teen novels of the year. The book takes its name from Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird and is heavily influenced by the classic. That alone = made of win.

The book is named after a group of students at Themis Academy who call themselves The Mockingbirds. The group is sort of like a secret society. Most students don't know who is in it, only that The Mockingbirds exist. The group is in charge of the school's justice system and making sure that students honor the Code of Conduct because the teachers think the students are perfect and can do no wrong. They have an elaborate trial and jury system and have molded themselves using context from To Kill A Mockingbird. For example, when they are accepting applications for new recruits, they make several allusions to the novel:

Join the Mockingbirds! Stand up, sing out! We're scouting new singers, so run, run, run on your way to our New Nine, where you can learn a simple trick...

(Did you get all of them?) When a case is about to go to trial, they hang gum in tin foil from the trees in the quad, which represents the first thing Boo Radley left in the Knothole for Scout and Jem. There's even a very specific use for a physical copy of Harper Lee's tome. Whitney weaves the classic into her novel in an interesting way that always had me smiling.

The book itself deals with some hard themes. The Mockingbirds is centered around a girl named Alex who goes out with some friends, drinks a little too much, and wakes up next to a boy she doesn't know. She later comes to terms with the fact that she was date raped; the book focuses on the fact that such a thing can still occur when someone is asleep and/or unconscious. In the Afterword, Whitney mentions that she herself was once date-raped, which was one of the reasons she wrote this novel. Because she'd experienced it herself, what Alex goes through feels emotional and real, but never trite. I once had a writing professor who stated that there are a few topics that most writers have trouble tackling. Rape was one of those issues. Whitney handles the topic realistically in a way that endears Alex to readers.

The novel is self-contained, but reading Whitney's blog earlier today, I discovered that she has submitted a second "Mockingbirds" novel for publication. If you're the type of person who doesn't like sequels, you can still read this book and not worry about an open ending. It's my belief that the "sequel" will be more of a book that takes place at the same school with many of the same characters making an appearance, especially since we meet many Mockingbirds in this novel. Whitney's voice is fresh and easy to read, so I am already eagerly anticipating her sophomore release.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brief Update!

Sorry I've been so quiet lately. This time of year tends to be very busy for me. I'm hoping to get a couple of good reviews up this week. I'd like to review The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (so fantastic!), Vixen by Jillian Larkin (out today!), and Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (great for the holidays!) this week.

I'm also a little bummed. Today I finished reading my ARC of Lauren Oliver's Delirium. Um, it was pretty incredible. I sort of think I like it even more than Allie Condie's Matched! So why am I bummed? Well, the book doesn't hit bookstores until February 1st, so none of you will be reading it and talking to me about it yet! :( Plus, I can't post my review until closer to the book's release date. (Well, I guess I COULD, but I don't like posting things so early that you forget about them!)

I have a lot of fun new stuff to read, too. I bought some books at work due to an extra 10% off for Employee Appreciation Week, picked up a couple of new books tonight at the library (AND purchased a biography about Stephen Sondheim for only fifty cents!), and received an ARC of Across the Universe in the mail. So excited to read this ARC! I guess I should do another Book Loot soon, huh?

Okay, I should log off the computer. I'm trying to keep sickness at bay. I really will try to get up some reviews this week!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ones to Watch: December 2010

At the beginning of each month, I like to point out upcoming titles that seem worthy of being read. Granted, this is just my opinion on books that I personally want to read. This month, the list is light due to the holidays. Most of the books came out in November. My wish list was ridiculously long! December will be a catch-up month for me. :)

DISCLAIMER: I'm all over the place when it comes to genre, so there will most likely be books that don't appeal to you. There might also be something you're looking forward to not on the list. We're sure to have some titles in common, though! (There's also a good chance I won't get to every book I want to read, so if doesn't show up as a review here, it doesn't mean I didn't care for it! Plus, there are some books that I may want to look at due to a summary or cover image but may decide not to read because it's not *my* personal type of book, and that's okay, too. Still pointing them out early!)

S P O T L I G H T O N : V I X E N B Y J I L L I A N L A R K I N

The Flappers is a new trilogy by debut author Jillian Larkin. The books take place in the roaring 20s, a decade growing popular again thanks to HBO's Boardwalk Empire. I've always liked the era myself. In fact, Thoroughly Modern Millie has always been a favorite musical of mine, in part due to the era in which it takes place. It was nice to read something where Larkin mentioned this as one of her inspirations. I was lucky enough to receive/read an ARC of Vixen thanks to the Barnes and Noble First Look Club and got to talk a little with the author. The series is fresh and different from everything else in the Teen Dept. right now. Plus, the cover is gorgeous, no? (I'll have a review of the book up closer to Launch Day!)

o n e s t o w a t c h ( D e c . 2 0 1 0 )

D e c . 7:

*Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner: I love the title's pun. Definitely makes you take a second look. I've always been a fan of ice skating, so this story sounds like a light, enjoyable read.

D e c . 1 3:

The Gift by James Patterson: I still prefer Maximum Ride, but I liked the Dystopian thread running through the first book in this series, Witch and Wizard. This book will determine if I continue reading the series with subsequent releases.

D e c . 1 4 :

The Flappers: Vixen by Jillian Larkin: Featured above!

D e c . 2 8 :

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher: The sequel to Incarceron is finally hitting US bookstores! If you like Dystopian novels and haven't read Incarceron, you should do so soon. I also like that there are only two books, so no more waiting after Sapphique! Plus, SUPER gorgeous cover design. It's worth owning these books in hardcloth because the paperbacks will never even begin to compare. (Again, I'll have a review of the book up closer to Launch Day based on an ARC copy!)

So, which books are you looking forward to this month, Bookworms? Any of the above? Something I totally missed? I want to know! I feel like I must have overlooked SOMETHING. Can there only be four things I can think of worthy of greedy little paws?