Monthly Archives: December 2010

You Decide: Best YA Books of 2010


All this week, we’ve brought you the Novel Novice staff members’ picks for Best YA Books of 2010 — but now we want YOUR picks. We’ve created a poll based on some of this year’s biggest books, and we want you to vote. If we missed your favorite, feel free to add a write-in mention in the comments below! And drop by the comments to tell us WHY you picked your #1 book.

Your Recommended Reads

We asked and you answered!

Earlier this month we asked you to share your favorite titles in the comment section of our What will you be reading on your Winter Break poll. This week we’ve been sharing our Best of 2010 picks for YA Literature. Now it’s your turn.

Here are your recommended titles:

Shiver & Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Beautiful Darkness by Margaret Stohl & Kami Garcia

Matched by Allie Condie

Night Star by Alyson Noel

Midnight Alley by Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires, Book 3)

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy, Book 6)

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The Mortal Instruments (series) by Cassandra Clare

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (Darkest Powers, Book 1)

Torment (Fallen) by Lauren Kate

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

When I Was Joe by Keren David

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Claire

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Perchance to Dream: Theater Illuminata #2 by Lisa Mantchev

The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Don’t see your favorite on the list? It’s not too late! Share it in the comment section below.

2011 Desktop Wallpaper Calendars for your Favorite Books


Yesterday, we shared with you our 2011 Twilight Saga Desktop Wallpaper Calendars. They are a bit of a yearly tradition for Novel Novice (having started on our sister site, Novel Novice Twilight a few years ago). But we wanted to create a few extra 2011 desktop wallpaper calendars for fans of other book series. So we’ve put together some 2011 yearly calendar wallpapers featuring The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and The Mortal Instruments.

Just click to view full-size, then right-click to save:




Please be sure to link back to Novel Novice if you share these on other sites!

Best Young Adult Books of 2010: Tiffany’s Picks

You’ve seen  Sara’s, Steph’s , and Taylor’s lists for Best Young Adult Books of 2010. Below you will find Tiffany’s:

Call this the year of the sequels!! Many of my favorite books of 2009 had sequels come out this year. Which, of course, I ran to the store and bought the day they came out. But when you read over my list below, you’ll notice that many of these did not make the list. Was anyone else underwhelmed by the plethora of paranormal sequels that came out this year? They all seemed to fall under that second book slump (Cue – couple that gets together in the first book breaks up / falls apart because of lack of communication in the second book…yada, yada, yada). That being said, there were many books that simply kept me enthralled this year. It was hard narrowing down my list, but the books below represent many hours of enjoyable and inspiring reading.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Sure, you might be tired of werewolves. There are quite a few stories focused on these creatures as of late, but Pearce’s novel is one werewolf tale that will devour you.  Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Little Red Riding Hood. I’ve always loved a strong female protagonist, and Sisters Red offers two. Not to mention a hot, slow-building romance that stands out in a sea of mundane couplings so many YA books feature as of late. Action. Concise and well thought out plot. And great chemistry between the romantic leads. I can’t wait to read the companion novels.

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

One of my biggest complaints as a reader are authors who take a classic and butcher it in an attempt to “remake” it. It’s part of the reason I was never able to get behind the many Jane Austen – Insert Zombie / Sea Creatures / Vampires craze that has taken over the publishing world. Mostly because I feel these remakes are just added paranormal elements to the classic without trying to truly add their own spin on it. This is why I love Jekel Loves Hyde. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has always been a favorite of mine, but I can understand how daunting a read it can be for some. Fantaskey does a great job of reinventing the story for the modern, YA audience without losing many of the original novel’s important themes. Plus, watching Jekel and Hyde come together is pretty toe-curling at times. In a good way :-)

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Zombies? Not really my thing. Zombie book with a great romance, beautiful writing, and a few dystopian elements thrown in for good measure? Totally my thing. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel when reading The Dead-Tossed Waves, which is more of a companion novel than sequel to The Forrest of Hands and Teeth, a book that broke my heart but that I loved all the same. There’s an amusing story about my honeymoon, reading that book, and a giant wave that I’ll save for another day….The Dead-Tossed Waves was the only sequel of 2010 that I felt maybe surpassed the first book, but at least match the awesomeness of the original. I Can’t wait to read the next one. And if you think this series is just for girls, think again. The boys in my classroom are eating them up. Eating them up? Heh. Like Zombies.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Is there a better fictional best friend / boyfriend than Jay from The Body Finder? I’m not sure. Derting’s novel is one of those you just can’t put down. It’s a story that knows how to build tension in a way I feel many YA novel’s don’t have the patience for. Everything from the mystery to Violet and Jay’s relationship is so well paced, the reader simply can’t get enough. And guess what? There’s a sequel! I read the first 70 pages of the sequel on Derting’s blog this morning, and if it’s any indication about the rest of the book, I think this is one sequel we’ll see on next year’s list! I’d seen the whole “I can sense dead people” thing before, but Derting does what good paranormal authors do: makes the realism (i.e relationships, school, relate-able conflicts) the main focus of the novel, and that’s what makes it such a success.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said by every single person who has read it? It’s brilliant! It’s funny! It’s sexy! It’s so darn well-written that authors everywhere are reading with green, green envy. This kind of book isn’t usually my thing. And to be honest, if I saw it on the bookshelf and read the blurb without hearing all the hoopla about it first, I wouldn’t have picked it up. Thank goodness the whole blogging world has been talking about this book for months. So much so, I bought it the first day it came out. And read it in one sitting. Just go get it. Right now. You’ll love it.


The Twilight Saga 2011 Desktop Wallpaper Calendars


We’ve been getting a lot of comments lately about people wondering if we’d have a 2011 Twilight Saga Desktop Wallpaper Calendar. And the answer is absolutely YES! And here it is! Our staff member Stephanie (artistephie) created the February calendar and helped me brainstorm a lot of the other ideas, so many thanks to her.

We hope you enjoy this year’s calendars. Just click to view each month full-size, then right-click to save:

We’d love it if you want to share these with other websites, but please do NOT re-post ALL of the wallpapers. We’d much prefer you link back here to Novel Novice! Thanks!!

You can also check out our 2011 desktop wallpaper calendars for The Hunger Games, Harry Potter &

Best Young Adult Books of 2010: Taylor’s List


You’ve seen Sara and Steph‘s lists for the Best Young Adult Books of 2010;  now here are Taylor’s favorites:

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The waiting and anticipation for the final book of the Hunger Games Trilogy was well worth the wait! It wasn’t pretty, but it was real. Mockingjay is the perfect ending to the story of Katniss, the Districts and Panem. If you haven’t read it yet, get cracking! You have the perfect opportunity to read all three books (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay) back to back before the movie debut, which is scheduled to begin production in late spring 2011. Since all three books are already out, you’ll be spared the nail-biting wait for the next book to be released to find out what happens next.

Check out Sara’s spoiler free review to find out more about Mockingjay.

The Mermaid’s Mirror by L.K. Madigan

One of my favorites of the year, Mermaid’s Mirror is a fantastic read! I love how real the characters are. And who doesn’t want to read about summer, beaches and surfing? Throw in some secrets, a mermaid or two,  a touch of romance and some great friends and you’re all set. Madigan’s writing is excellent. Lena’s family is present in a way that tends to be uncommon in YA literature, and although they have their secrets, there is real love demonstrated in the relationships, which really makes this story so excellent. The mermaid world is refreshing and different from what you’d normally expect when there’s any type of magic involved.

Reviews: Sara, Steph

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Claire

I was a late comer to The Mortal Instruments series, but once I got hold of them I couldn’t put them down. It only stands to reason that I would be equally excited about the first of The Infernal Devices series. An excellent compliment to TMI, this very cool, steampunk story fills in some gaps and builds some excellent connections to the TMI storyline. The magic mixed with technology is creepy and fascinating. One of my favorite TMI characters also makes an appearance – bonus!

Reviews: Sara, Steph

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

Another vampire novel, totally worth the read. A little romance, a lot of drama and over 500 years of “life” gives the reader an interesting character to follow. Lena, the main character, is one of those characters that you love to hate, and maybe – just maybe, you’ll find a redeeming quality in her along the way. The cast of characters vying to be Lena’s love interest make the story all the more interesting. Maizel’s spin on the vampire story is new and interesting, giving you a look at the cold ones from a different perspective than we’ve seen in past novels involving vampires.

Reviews: Sara, Steph, Taylor

Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

Not your typical dry, boring historical fiction. The characters are great and I love the multi-genre presentation that includes letters, journal entries and newspaper articles among the chapters. You get a good chunk of Victoria, based largely in fact, and another very interesting (and totally fabricated) story from the perspective of Liza the “servant” girl who becomes Victoria’s friend after her own set of unfortunate circumstances pull her away from her nearing debut in society and toss her instead into the working class.

Check out our review of Prisoners in the Palace.

I read a lot of excellent books this year and I chose just a few to highlight here, but there are many more good ones, including: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick , Linger by Maggie Stiefvater  and Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.

My “to read” list includes Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Matched by Allie Condie. What books do you think are The Best of 2010?

Cover comparison: The Radleys by Matt Haig

When I first saw the cover for The Radleys by Matt Haig, I thought, Oh great, another vampire novel with red, white and black color scheme. How original.

But then I looked a little more closely at the cover art, and came to the conclusion that it’s definitely more sinister than that other vampire series. That other series had beautiful, enigmatic covers. The dripping blood on The Radleys pretty much guarantees that someone’s going to die a horrible death.

Here’s the American cover:

The U.K. has two versions — one adult and one YA — although the content is exactly the same.

The French version is a bit different, though it keeps the white picket fence theme:

The German edition takes a completely different approach:

And finally, we have the Australian version, which, except for the language, has pretty much the same cover as the Danish edition. This is my least favorite, as it reminds me of that scene in the movie “There’s Somthing About Mary” … (I know, ewwww!)

For the comments: Which is your favorite and why?

Hot Chocolate for the Female Soul

It’s delicious, it’s soothing, it’s familiar, it’s indulgent. The best way I can describe Chick Lit is to say it’s hot chocolate for the female soul.

From the girly book covers – that come in an assortment of appealing girly colors and which may or may not feature some fabulously stylish girly accessory – to the all too recognizable dramas us ladies confront on a daily basis – relationships, friendships, self-doubt, self-loathing – Chick Lit provides just the kind of comfort we crave in just the kind of pretty package we want.

My obsession with Chick Lit began in high school, that time in a girl’s life when we need the comfort of a hot chocolate (with whipped cream and marshmallows) the most. When the drama can sometimes seem unbearable and it’s just nice to know that someone, somewhere may be going through the same thing we are. Even if that someone and somewhere are fiction.

I started out with Jane Green and Jennifer Weiner. Two pioneering Chick Lit authors, who to this day, continue to create the kind of characters that, as corny as it sounds, become like friends who stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Jane Green’s Jemima J. is an ugly duckling turned swan story- a guilty, cotton candy kind of pleasure- and Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed is as delightfully decadent as a slice of red velvet cake. But aside from their deliciousness, these stories are identifiable and entertaining, heartbreaking and inspiring, featuring female leads who put even Carrie Bradshaw to shame with their wit and candor.

After sampling these scrumptious and substantial selections, you may find yourself craving more of that Chick Lit comfort, and trust me, I’ll continue to show you more where those came from.

Best Young Adult Books of 2010: Steph’s List

Earlier we brought you Sara’s list of the year’s best YA, and while we overlapped a bit, there are many books on her list that I haven’t even read, and vice versa. Therefore, here’s another perspective on 2010′s top reads!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Really, does it get any better than this? When it comes down to sheer anticipation and excitement, no other book this year (in any genre) created as much buzz and frenzy than the final book in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy. Whether you loved or hated the ending, the thrill of pawing through those pages into the wee hours of the night (or morning, in many cases!) is what reading and writing is all about. And I’ll be honest, only one or two books I’ve read since Mockingjay has even come close to replicating that emotional blender. At Novel Novice, we called it Post-Panem Depression, for fear that no other book will ever reproduce the high of reading Mockingjay.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution may not have the **WOW** factor of Mockingjay, but it was neck-and-neck with it for my top pick of 2010. I’m partial to contemporary YA so this really spoke to me (near the end there’s a supernatural sequence). It has all the elements I love: history, realistic drama, music, a flawed but kick-ass female lead, a touch of romance, and a satisfying ending. Add to that the absolutely perfect writing and foreign setting, and you’ve got yourself a winner. Really, I can’t say enough about Revolution.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells

Actions have consequences. Looks can be deceiving. Carpe diem. These principles combine in Skinny Dipping to create a modern coming-of -age story that haunts, illuminates and inspires. Set in modern-day Southampton, The Summer of Skinny Dipping loosely follows the pattern of The Great Gatsby, but Howells makes it her own, exploring issues that affect everyone, regardless of social strata. The scenery is lush and ethereal, the characters vivid enough to evoke strong reactions from readers. To me, these strong reactions are the mark of great writing. I want to feel something, and Skinny Dipping does not disappoint.

Sea by Heidi R. Kling

Beautiful, from beginning to heartbreaking end, Sea is one of the unsung treasures of YA. Another piece of contemporary fiction, it incorporates the events surrounding the real-life massive tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004, imagining the lives of the children orphaned by the tragedy. It’s a completely eye-opening and devastating read, but well worth the emotional investment because it teaches us about tough choices, the cruel reality of life, but also the redemption and healing that is always possible.

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

I included this book for a very selfish, almost immature reason: I’m Team Varen. There’s just something about a hard-to-get, dark and mysterious loner who you just know has a sensitive side. Kelly Creagh manages to write some of the most crackling sensual, sexual tension I’ve read, but does so in an extremely subtle, deft manner. As if that wasn’t enough, she also makes Varen an expert on Edgar Allan Poe, whose gothic writing has become the go-to classic literature for angsty teens everywhere. The last third of the book gets a little sketchy, but I loved the characters enough to hang in there and I can’t wait for the next book in the series. Plus, Creagh’s website is just freaking fantastic. Check it out and be sure to take a listen to her deliciously dark playlist for Nevermore, located under “Extras.”

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

I loved Paranormalcy because it injected new life into paranormal romance, which it so ubiquitous in YA right now, it’s a bit overwhelming. The story is just what the title indicates: a normal girl wanting to lead a normal life. There just happen to be some paranormal elements, like a mermaid best friend, predatory vampires in need of ankle trackers, and an invisible water boy held captive in the basement. But Evie enjoys normal things: trendy clothes, cheezy teen TV dramas and acceptance by others. She’s just so normal, with no major hang-ups. No woe-is-me drama, just fun and flirtation. Even when things go down the crapper, Evie maintains her strong backbone and for that, I dearly love her. [Sidenote: The cover makes no sense to me. It does not reflect the tone of the book, so don't let it put you off.]

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Ah, Clockwork Angel, how I love thee. I love your creepiness, your historical setting, your humorous repartee, and egad, how I love Will Herondale. I’ll never look at a glove the same. This was also my first foray into steampunk, or gaslight romance — historical mechanical elements combined with kick-ass Victorian sci-fi. The result is an unnerving psychological and physical thriller with a strong female lead, a cast of eccentric supporting characters and a pained, pain-in-the-ass hottie with a dark secret. “Whirr-click,” indeed.

 The Mermaid’s Mirror by L.K. Madigan

Similar to Paranormalcy above, L.K. Madigan’s latest is contemporary YA fiction … with mermaids. A contradiction? Perhaps, but Madigan creates characters that are just like you and me and our friends and families. The situations are realistic, the dialogue is realistic, and in the end, the decisions the characters make are ones that you and I would make, too. Then add mermaids. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this isn’t some far-out, off-the-wall fantasy world — readers will be totally able to connect with Lena and her situation, despite its paranormal twist. I think this is why Madigan is such a stand-out author for me, and really, if her other book, Flash Burnout, had come out this year, it would totally be on this list, too.

Matched by Ally Condie

I’d like to thank the publishing industry for making my holiday season just a little brighter, but A LOT MORE HECTIC because they released a number of great end-of-the-year books. Makes for great reading if you can find the time (don’t they know we’re putting together these lists?!). ANYWAY, Matched is a late entrant and I’m glad I was able to fit it in under the deadline because it’s not to be missed. It’s a little bit 1984, and a little bit The Hunger Games, and a lot to love. Condie’s take on the dystopian novel follows the awakening of an average girl in an extremely controlled “Society,” and it isn’t until Cassia realizes that she’s tired of being told what’s best for her that the proverbial stuff hits the fan. You can’t create love in a test tube, nor can the human spirit be repressed forever. I very much enjoyed the characters in Matched and can’t wait to see what the next two books in the series bring. (Also, Team Ky! and poor, poor Xander.)

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

But wait, there’s more! And I’ve quite possibly saved the best for last, and I could not live with myself if I didn’t add this at the last second. I can probably count on one hand the number of books I’ve read more than once: Pride and Prejudice, The Bell Jar, The Twilight Saga, Hamlet, (and, erm, select scenes from the Sookie Stackhouse novels *blush*) and Anna will soon be added to that list. Very rarely is there a book that is an absolute delight to read, from the very first word to the last. I giggled, I squealed, I snorted, I teared up, and I definitely smiled at the end. The chemistry between the two main characters is like nothing I’ve read before – I seriously don’t know how Perkins managed to capture sexual tension and chemistry so perfectly. It’s rare enough to find that relationship in real life, let alone recapture it on paper. It’s hard for me to believe that the characters don’t really exist! I just can’t gush about this enough. Anna and the French Kiss totally earns all the hype and good reviews you’re reading about it.

If my little blurb isn’t enough to convince you, consider this: Stephanie Perkins created what is quite possibly the most pee-your-pants-laughing-worthy curse I’ve ever heard. It goes like this: ” … Toph is an insensitive douchebag motherhumping assclown … “

PURE. GOLD.

Book review: The Radleys by Matt Haig

I got my hands on a copy of this book a couple months ago and wrote a review, but it was so long ago it seems like ages. With The Radleys out today in the U.S., I thought it was worth reposting, with a few updates.

Synopsis:

Peter, Helen and their teenage children, Clara and Rowan, live in an English town. They are an everyday family, averagely dysfunctional, averagely content. But as their children have yet to find out, the Radleys have a devastating secret.

From one of Britain’s finest young novelists comes a razor-sharp unpicking of adulthood and family life. In this moving, thrilling and extraordinary portrait of one unusual family, The Radleys asks what we grow into when we grow up, and explores what we gain – and lose – when we deny our appetites.

Review:

I’ve been hearing buzz about this book for months — it’s already out in the U.K. but only hits U.S. shelves today. I was so thrilled to get my hands on an advance copy despite my growing aversion to all things vampire. (Really, does the world need yet another vampire book?)

Yes. Yes, it does.

Page 1, I was hooked; page 119, I exclaimed, “This cannot be YA!” The Radleys has been released in both an adult version and a YA version in the U.K. so I assumed I had gotten my hands on the adult version. An Internet search turned up little, so I sent an e-mail to Jenny at www.wondrousreads.com (a wondrous YA blog across the pond). She confirmed that yes, there are two versions, but the only difference is the cover art. The content is exactly the same.

Which brings me back to, “This cannot be YA!”

Here’s why: No teenager in their right mind wants to think or read about their parents having sex!

You’ve been warned.

That mental image aside … I’m not convinced The Radleys will appeal to young adults because of its mature content. Not mature as in, “You’re too young and you shouldn’t be reading this!” But mature as in, “I’m not sure young adult readers will find the subject matter interesting.” This is not Twilight. But it’s not Southern Vampire (Sookie Stackhouse) Series either.

The major crisis of the book centers not around teen siblings Rowan and Clara Radley — who are very compelling characters – but rather their parents, Helen and Peter, and their prodigal Uncle Will, a bad guy of the highest order. And yet, it’s his free-spiritedness that makes the characters — and readers — question their morality.

What happens when you deny yourself for so long, you do physical harm? The pain and tension is killing you. You want to be good, but being bad feels soooo much better. Not the greatest message, but it makes for one fabulous read.

Matt Haig perfectly captures pain, yearning and frustration. Readers can expect to feel the characters’ tug-o-war over and over, back and forth, yes, no, maybe so, and it’s not until the carefully constructed facade cracks wide open that any of the characters find satisfaction. It’s this inner struggle and tension that everyone can relate to that will be this book’s salvation.