Monthly Archives: December 2011

Good-bye 2011, Hello 2012: Novel Novice Visitor Survey

As we say good-bye to 2011 and hello to 2012, we want to take a moment to ask YOU about the job we’re doing here at Novel Novice. January will mark our second anniversary (wow!) and we’re always looking to make things better for all our visitors.

So we ask you to please take a moment to fill out the survey below and share your feedback. We want to know what you like about Novel Novice, what you dislike, and what you want to see more of.

Feel free to expand on your thoughts in the comments section!

The 2012 Desktop Wallpapers: YA Mega Franchises

As has become an annual tradition here at Novel Novice, we bring you a new, year-long collection of desktop wallpapers. In previous years, our desktop wallpaper calendars have exclusively featured The Twilight Saga, as many of our original fans came from that fandom exclusively.

But these days, we have followers who are fans of many books. So for the 2012 desktop wallpaper calendar, we’re featuring several popular YA series. This collection of desktop wallpapers takes a lot of work, but it is our gift to you — a way to say thanks for your support all year long.

Special thanks to contributing staff member/graphic artist guru artistephie, for contributing three of the wallpapers below (February, June and October).

As always, we’d love for you to share these with friends — but PLEASE, DO NOT repost the wallpapers themselves on other sites, but rather link back here to download the full images! (Posting a *small* thumbnail is fine, as long as it links back here for the full-sized image.) Thanks!

To download, just click to view full-size, then right-click to save.

For the comments: Which series is your favorite? Any series you’d like to see new wallpapers for in the future? Tell us below!

2011: The Year We Said Good-Bye to Harry Potter (sort of)

You could call 2011 the year we said good-bye to Harry Potter. Sort of. But not really. Because while the franchise has come to an “end,” it will never really leave us.

J.K. Rowling said it best at the London premiere of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 this past summer:

The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

Harry Potter is a very unique series, because its original core group of fans have grown up with its characters. How many of us were children or teens when we picked up the first Potter book? The first book was published in 1997 in the U.K. and a year later in the U.S., with the first movie hitting theaters in 2001. And now here we are, 14 years after that first book came out, and we still treasure Harry Potter and all his friends. They are loved ones; they are part of us.

Harry Potter has been an influential force, and these books and movies shaped a major portion of my life — and many others’ lives.

This year, the final Harry Potter film came out, marking the end of red carpet premieres and midnight release parties and over a decade of waiting for the next installment. But Harry will never leave us. He’s part of us, and there will never be another series quite like this one.

This video perfectly captures the best of this series, and why it so beloved by so many. I hope you’ll check it out, and share your memories of Harry Potter in the comments below!

Best YA books of 2011: Steph’s picks

This year was truly a banner year for outstanding YA. And while some established authors delivered gems to their fans, the majority of books on my list come from debut authors (which means we can look forward to their sequels in 2012 and beyond!).

Below–in no particular order–are my picks for the best of 2011:

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In a genre overrun with dystopians, this one stands out. Bad-ass heroine? Check. Fight Club feel? Check. Unlikely and possibly dangerous romance? Oh, yeah.

It’s everything you could want to escape the ho-hum of real life. Roth plays on two universal concepts: fear and being different. Watching Tris’s transformation is satisfying, empowering, and escapism at its finest. Definitely looking forward to the sequel.

A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young

I can’t do enough to sing this book’s praises. If I told you it was deep, touching, heart-rending, gut-wrenching and required at least one box of tissues, you’d say, “Er, sounds like a downer.” No. No, it’s not. Like it’s title, it’s beautiful. Hopeful.  Soulful. Devastatingly so.

Please do yourself a favor and read this book, then spread the word because this story makes the world a better place, all without being preachy or favoring a certain religion. Hats off to Suzanne Young.

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Henry. Oh, Henry. Is there anything more attractive than a character who wants to love and be loved, but just can’t? Carter does a bang-up job of tugging the old heart-strings, while updating the classic myth of Persephone and Hades.

It also has a darn good twist–a sure way to win my loyalty.

Now, if I could just get my hot little hands on the sequel …

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

When I found out this was set in a post-apocalyptic New Orleans, I was already sold. I was really done-in when Keaton captured NOLA so well, creating a dark gumbo of voodoo, Greek mythology and paranormal creatures and threw in a dash of toe-curling romance. Also, beignets.

I loved it so much I practically stalked (ok, not really) Kelly Keaton to get her to let us feature the sequel as our Book of the Month in February 2012, just in time for Mardi Gras. Get your beads ready, people.

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Confession: My dad is a Trekkie. He had one of the series or movies on TV at all times while I was growing up. The result was that I hated sci-fi, so when I read the synopsis of Hourglass and it involved time travel? Cue the groans.

Imagine my surprise when I fell in love with Emerson and her seriously messed-up life, including hallucinations, school expulsions, therapy and Southern belles that turned into worm food a loooong time ago. Add an insanely hot male lead (his mouth disturbs me!) and oh, hey, another hottie and ka-pow! Tension you can cut with a letter opener.

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

It’s always sad to see a favorite series come to and end, but Maggie Stiefvater nailed it with Forever. She took the literary YA world by storm with Shiver, then sunk her canines in deeper with Linger (did ya see what I did thar?) and the introduction of Cole St. Clair.

And then, then she grabs you by the shirt collar and shakes you like a ragdoll. She has you bouncing in your seat in public like an idiot as you read the final action sequence and you cryyyy because OMG-tell-me-she-didn’t-kill-that-character-off!!!

Suspenseful? “Da.”

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Great YA horror stories are few and far between, which is what makes Blood Magic such a rare treat. Though not for the faint of heart, it combines magic, romance, necromancy and mystery to create a truly unique and dizzying page-turner. I loved Silla’s intensity and inexplicable attraction to darkness.

In many YA books, the author cuts away just before something really horrific happens. Not Gratton. True to the horror genre, she rubs the reader’s nose in blood and drama, never shying away from a difficult scene. To this I say, Bravo!

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

No joke, I shrieked and giggled when this arrived on my doorstep. I loved Clockwork Angel and had been counting the days until the saga continued. I was wary. I’d seen some storyline similarities with Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, but was prepared to overlook them. Didn’t have to. Clockwork Prince is easily Clare’s best book yet.

What I loved most was that Clare was able to completely change my mind about a character, which is no small feat for this stubborn reader. I’m also sure this was a strategic move on her part so she can SMASH my heart to pieces in the next book.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

This list is in no particular order, but I may have saved the best for last. I was hooked from page 1. The concept, the characters and supporting characters, the psychology, the humor and the chemistry–good grief, the chemistry! All these elements combined to create the perfect storm of literary nirvana.

Mara is wonderfully flawed and vulnerable, but her tough attitude makes her highly entertaining, especially after she meets Noah Shaw. The romance between them is hot, but the chemistry–the way they play off each other–positively boils, and that’s what really sets Mara Dyer apart from other YA.

Now that you’ve read both my list and Sara’s, what else would you add? What are  you most looking forward to in 2012?

2011: A Look at the Year in Books on Film – by Amanda Bell

This year, there were a lot of book-to-film adaptations to hit the big screen. With Harry Potter and Twilight in the mix, too, some of these were among the highest sellers all year. Critically, though, some were much stronger than others . . . Here’s a run-through of 2011’s year in books on film (in order of release date).

Did you know all these movie stories originated in book form?

The Rite
Release Date: January 28th
Source Material: The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio
Main Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Ciaran Hinds
Domestic Sales: $33,047,633
Critical Reception: 19% on Rotten Tomatoes

Gnomeo & Juliet
Release Date: February 11th
Source Material: Loosely based on Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
Main Cast: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith
Domestic Sales: $99,967,670
Critical Reception: 56% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Eagle
Release Date: February 11th
Source Material: The Eagle by Rosemary Sutcliff
Main Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland
Domestic Sales: $19,490,041
Critical Reception: 39% on Rotten Tomatoes

Unknown
Release Date: February 18th
Source Material: Out of My Head by Didier van Cauwelaert
Main Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones
Domestic Sales: $63,686,397
Critical Reception: 55% on Rotten Tomatoes

I Am Number Four
Release Date: February 18th
Source Material: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
Main Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Diana Agron
Domestic Sales: $55,100,437
Critical Reception: 32% on Rotten Tomatoes

Beastly
Release Date: March 4th
Source Material: Beastly by Alex Flinn
Main Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, Mary-Kate Olsen
Domestic Sales: $27,865,571
Critical Reception: 19% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Adjustment Bureau
Release Date: March 4th
Source Material: “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick (short story)
Main Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Michael Kelly
Domestic Sales: $62,495,645
Critical Reception: 72% on Rotten Tomatoes

Mars Needs Moms
Release Date: March 11th
Source Material: Mars Needs Moms! by Berkeley Breathed
Main Cast: Seth Green, Joan Cusack, Dan Fogler
Domestic Sales: $21,392,758
Critical Reception: 36% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Lincoln Lawyer
Release Date: March 18th
Source Material: The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Main Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe
Domestic Sales: $58,009,200
Critical Reception: 84% on Rotten Tomatoes

Limitless
Release Date: March 18th
Source Material: Dark Fields by Alan Glynn
Main Cast: Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel
Domestic Sales: $79,249,455
Critical Reception: 69% on Rotten Tomatoes

Jane Eyre
Release Date: March 18th
Source Material: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Main Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell
Domestic Sales: $11,242,660
Critical Reception: 85% on Rotten Tomatoes

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Release Date: March 25th
Source Material: Rodrick Rules (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #2) by Jeff Kinney
Main Cast: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Robert Capron
Domestic Sales: $52,698,535
Critical Reception: 47% on Rotten Tomatoes

Soul Surfer
Release Date: April 8th
Source Material: Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton, Rick Bundschuh, Sheryl Berk
Main Cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt
Domestic Sales: $43,853,424
Critical Reception: 46% on Rotten Tomatoes

Atlas Shrugged: Part I
Release Date: April 15th (limited)
Source Material: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Main Cast: Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, Edi Gathegi
Domestic Sales: $4,627,375
Critical Reception: 12% on Rotten Tomatoes

Water for Elephants
Release Date: April 22nd
Source Material: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Main Cast: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz
Domestic Sales: $58,709,717
Critical Reception: 61% on Rotten Tomatoes

Thor
Release Date: May 6th
Source Material: Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, J. Michael Straczynski (comic books)
Main Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman
Domestic Sales: $181,030,624
Critical Reception: 77% on Rotten Tomatoes

Something Borrowed
Release Date: May 6th
Source Material: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
Main Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield
Domestic Sales: $39,046,489
Critical Reception: 15% on Rotten Tomatoes

Priest
Release Date: May 13th
Source Material: Priests by Min-Woo Hyung (graphic novel)
Main Cast: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q
Domestic Sales: $29,136,626
Critical Reception: 17% on Rotten Tomatoes

X-Men: First Class
Release Date: June 3rd
Source Material: X-Men by Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer (comic books)
Main Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Domestic Sales: $146,408,305
Critical Reception: 87% on Rotten Tomatoes

Green Lantern
Release Date: June 17th
Source Material: Green Lantern by Geoff Johns (comic books)
Main Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard
Domestic Sales: $116,601,172
Critical Reception: 27% on Rotten Tomatoes

Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Release Date: June 17th
Source Material: Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater
Main Cast: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury
Domestic Sales: $68,218,041
Critical Reception: 47% on Rotten Tomatoes

Monte Carlo
Release Date: July 1st
Source Material: Headhunters by Jules Bass
Main Cast: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy
Domestic Sales: $23,184,930
Critical Reception: 38% on Rotten Tomatoes

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Release Date: July 15th
Source Material: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Main Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Domestic Sales: $381,011,219
Critical Reception: 96% on Rotten Tomatoes

Winnie the Pooh
Release Date: July 15th
Source Material: Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard
Main Cast: Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson, John Cleese
Domestic Sales: $26,692,846
Critical Reception: 91% on Rotten Tomatoes

Captain America: The First Avenger
Release Date: July 22nd
Source Material: Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (comic books)
Main Cast: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson
Domestic Sales: $176,654,505
Critical Reception: 78% on Rotten Tomatoes

Cowboys & Aliens
Release Date: July 29th
Source Material: Cowboys & Aliens by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (comic book)
Main Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Domestic Sales: $100,240,551
Critical Reception: 44% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Help
Release Date: August 10th
Source Material: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Main Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer
Domestic Sales: $169,036,252
Critical Reception: 75% on Rotten Tomatoes

One Day
Release Date: August 19th
Source Material: One Day by David Nicholls
Main Cast: Anna Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson
Domestic Sales: $13,843,771
Critical Reception: 37% on Rotten Tomatoes

Seven Days in Utopia
Release Date: September 2nd
Source Material: Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia by David Cook
Main Cast: Lucas Black, Robert Duvall, Melissa Leo
Domestic Sales: $4,373,074
Critical Reception: 12% on Rotten Tomatoes

I Don’t Know How She Does It
Release Date: September 16th
Source Material: I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson
Main Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer
Domestic Sales: $9,662,284
Critical Reception: 18% on Rotten Tomatoes

Moneyball
Release Date: September 23rd
Source Material: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis
Main Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright
Domestic Sales: $73,904,739
Critical Reception: 95% on Rotten Tomatoes

Killer Elite
Release Date: September 23rd
Source Material: The Feather Men by Fanulph Fiennes
Main Cast: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert de Niro
Domestic Sales: $25,124,966
Critical Reception: 25% on Rotten Tomatoes

What’s Your Number?
Release Date: September 30th
Source Material: 20 Times a Lady by Karyn Bosnak
Main Cast: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Blythe Danner
Domestic Sales: $14,011,084
Critical Reception: 24% on Rotten Tomatoes

Real Steel
Release Date: October 7th
Source Material: Steel: And Other Stories by Richard Matheson (short story)
Main Cast: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo
Domestic Sales: $83,425,009
Critical Reception: 58% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Big Year
Release Date: October 14th
Source Material: The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik
Main Cast: Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Steve Martin
Domestic Sales: $7,166,399
Critical Reception: 37% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Three Musketeers
Release Date: October 21st
Source Material: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Main Cast: Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ryan Stevenson
Domestic Sales: $20,119,626
Critical Reception: 24% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Rum Diary
Release Date: October 28th
Source Material: The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Main Cast: Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribis, Aaron Eckhart
Domestic Sales: $13,018,899
Critical Reception: 51% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Descendants
Release Date: November 16th (limited)
Source Material: The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Main Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller
Domestic Sales: $33,716,552 (so far)
Critical Reception: 90% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
Release Date: November 18th
Source Material: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Main Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner
Domestic Sales: $270,951,901 (so far)
Critical Reception: 26% on Rotten Tomatoes

Hugo
Release Date: November 23rd
Source Material: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Main Cast: Chloe Moretz, Asa Butterfield, Christopher Lee
Domestic Sales: $44,927,000 (so far)
Critical Reception: 94% on Rotten Tomatoes

A Dangerous Method
Release Date: November 23rd (limited)
Source Material: A Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein by John Kerr
Main Cast: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen
Domestic Sales: $412,937 (so far)
Critical Reception: 79% on Rotten Tomatoes

My Week with Marilyn
Release Date: November 23rd (limited)
Source Material: My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark
Main Cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh
Domestic Sales: $7,307,196 (so far)
Critical Reception: 83% on Rotten Tomatoes

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Release Date: December 9th
Source Material: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre
Main Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy
Domestic Sales: $2,311,670 (so far)
Critical Reception: 94% on Rotten Tomatoes

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Release Date: December 16th
Source Material: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Main Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace
Domestic Sales:  $90,564,000 (so far)
Critical Reception: 59% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Release Date: December 21st
Source Material: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Main Cast: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Stellan Skarsgard
Domestic Sales: $27,716,000 (so far)
Critical Reception: 85% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Adventures of Tintin
Release Date: December 21st
Source Material: The Adventures of Tintin by Herge (comic book series)
Main Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig
Domestic Sales: $24,107,000 (so far)
Critical Reception: 84% on Rotten Tomatoes

We Bought a Zoo
Release Date: December 23rd
Source Material: We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever by Benjamin Mee
Main Cast: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church
Domestic Sales: $15,600,000 (so far)
Critical Reception: 63% on Rotten Tomatoes

War Horse
Release Date: December 25th
Source Material: War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Main Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis
Domestic Sales: $15,025,000 (so far)
Critical Reception: 74% on Rotten Tomatoes

For the comments: What was your favorite “book on film” of 2011?

This post was written by Amanda Bell, who also writes the Twilight Examiner column, the District 14 column at NextMovie.com, and is a regular contributor to Hypable.com and other websites. Follow @AmandaBWrites on Twitter for more of her great work!

Best YA Books of 2011: Sara’s Picks

It’s that time of year when we take a look back at the best YA of 2011. But we here at Novel Novice have a hard time narrowing things down to a numbered top ten list. So instead, below you’ll find — in NO particular order — my picks for Best YA of 2011:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I would never expect anything but stellar work from the fabulous and award-winning Patrick Ness, but his latest novel — based on a concept by the late Siobhan Dowd — is nothing short of breathtaking. If a perfect piece of literature exists, A Monster Calls would definitely qualify. It’s hard to even find the right words to convey how moving and beautiful this book is. It brought me to tears (a feat that is not easily accomplished) and has stayed with me weeks after finishing it.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

There are not enough words to convey how much I love this book. Where Things Come Back is one of those rare books that come along only once every so often and stun you with its brilliancy. Whaley’s debut novel is of a caliber you rarely find in literature (any literature, not just YA) — and has rightly earned all of the many accolades it’s received to date, including a Morris Award nomination. Whaley cleverly weaves together two seemingly unconnected stories into one stunning conclusion, giving you a story of loss and love, growing up, and — most importantly — hope.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

There is an overload of dystopian lit hitting the YA shelves these days, but Blood Red Road really stands out from the crowd. In a guest blog on MTV’s Hollywood Crush, I even called this book “better than The Hunger Games.” Yeah, cue the hate mail. But that’s how strongly I feel about this book. It has lots of action, a flawed but kick-ass heroine, and a no-holds-barred approach to violence and thrills that only propels the story forward. It’s also written in a stunning, stark prose style reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy.

A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young

Full disclosure: Suzanne & I are friends. Like, we go out & gossip over beer type of friends.

Full disclosure: I’d recommend her book A Need So Beautiful even if she was my sworn enemy.

This book is all sorts of spectacular. As the title would suggest, it is a beautiful story with realistic characters and a heart-tugging dilemma. I’d say it’s Suzanne’s best work ever, except I’ve read a very early version of the sequel, coming in Summer 2012 — and, well, Suzanne outdoes herself. So do yourself a favor and read A Need So Beautiful now to be fully prepared for A Want So Wicked.

Red Glove by Holly Black

I can’t say enough good things about Holly Black’s Curse Workers series, and the second book, Red Glove only increased my love. Holly’s brilliant mix of magic and mobsters continues with new layers of plot and character development, with all sorts of twists and turns along the way. Much like another book on this list, Holly avoids the pitfall of “middle book syndrome” to deliver the second book in a trilogy that stands strongly all on its own. I fell in love with this series when I read White Cat, but with Red Glove I became obsessed. (In a totally normal, healthy, non-stalker-y way. I swear.)

Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves

This book is sick and twisted, and I mean that in the best way possible. Slice of Cherry is unlike anything else I’ve ever read in YA. It has some morbid and disturbing themes, but conveys them in a way that is simply captivating and — yes — magical. Dia Reeves has concocted something truly original with this book. She takes magic realism to a whole new level with her story of murderous sisters, and the journey they take as characters. In some ways thematically, it’s reminiscent of Stephen King. But on the whole, there’s really nothing to compare this book to. It simply exists on its own merits.

Clockwork Prince by Cassie Clare

I’ve been keeping a list of my “Best of 2011″ books all year, because it’s easier than trying to remember what I read at the end of 12 months. And my original list included City of Fallen Angels by Cassie Clare … until I read Clockwork Prince. And in an effort to include only one of Cassie’s books, I had to go with the latter. Clockwork Prince is, in my opinion, Cassie’s best book to date. It’s the second book in her Infernal Devices trilogy, but never once suffers from so-called “middle book syndrome.” Clockwork Prince stands alone as a brilliant book, with developments and twists that let it stand on its own — while still setting the stage for what will undoubtedly be a stunning conclusion in book 3.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

It’s hard to come to terms with the feelings this book stir up inside of me, but I can readily admit that Forbidden was one of the most stunning, gorgeous, and heartbreaking books I read this year. The story of a star-crossed romance between brother and sister makes you feel uncomfortable — all the more so because the way Suzuma writes, you are rooting for this romance to succeed. Your brain tells you it’s so wrong, but your emotions tell you something else altogether. Forbidden is not an easy read, but it is one that is well worth the effort.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

I’m not normally a big fan of high fantasy, but there is something really special about Daughter of Smoke & Bone that just sucked me in. It helps that the book starts out in modern-day Europe before bringing you into a magical, alternative realm where mystical creatures are reincarnated in new bodies. But the book is about more than that. It’s about a romance, between a girl with teal hair and an angel sworn to defeat the mystical creatures who raised her. Daughter of Smoke & Bone is simply a breath of fresh air in a world where cookie-cutter paranormal stories are littering the YA shelves. I can’t wait to see where Laini takes us in the next book in her brand-new series.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

I already loved Kimberly Derting’s Body Finder series, but The Pledge takes her work to a whole new level. In this book, the first of a new trilogy, Derting creates a genre all her own. She combines elements of dystopian, fantasy, and romance — weaving in the building blocks of the traditional fairy tale. But nothing about The Pledge is traditional or predictable. It will, however, keep you up late at night reading to find out what happens next — and linger with you after the very last page. As a bonus, this first book stands solidly alone all by itself — while still setting the stage for the sequel.

Honorable Mention: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

This anthology of short stories features some of today’s best writers from YA and elsewhere — and each story is based on an original illustration by the fabulous Chris Van Allsburg. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book now, if you haven’t already! It not only provides great reading entertainment, but it’s also pretty to look at.

For the comments: What were YOUR favorite YA books of 2011? (PLUS, check out Steph’s list later this week!)

New Young Adult Book Releases: December 27, 2011

Did you have a good holiday weekend? If you’ve got gift money burning a hole in your pocket, here are some new releases you might want to check out:

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

I’m telling you why we broke up, Ed. I’m writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

Magic of the Moonlight: A Full Moon Novel by Ellen Schreiber

Beware of a bite under a full moon…
it will complicate your love life.

Celeste has more to worry about than a secret romance with a hot guy from the wrong side of town. That guy, Brandon, is a werewolf. With gossip and hostility swirling at school, it’s time to find a cure for his nocturnal condition, and perhaps the one person who can help is his scientist father. But what if a “cure” makes things worse and Brandon becomes a werewolf full time? And with rumors circulating that there are werewolves in Legend’s Run, is it possible that there is another among their classmates?

To keep Brandon’s secret safe, Celeste must hide her relationship with him from her best friends, but with the Moonlight Ball approaching, she must make a choice. Her dream is to go with her one true love—Brandon. But once the sun goes down, the clouds separate, and the full moon appears, could she really walk into the dance on the arm of a werewolf?

In this installment of the sumptuously romantic Full Moon series, Celeste faces her fears and her friends and finds out whether she’s strong enough to stand up for herself and her one true love.

Living Violet by Jaime Reed Dafina

He’s persuasive, charming, and way too mysterious. And for Samara Marshall, her co-worker is everything she wants most–and everything she most fears. . .

Samara Marshall is determined to make the summer before her senior year the best ever. Her plan: enjoy downtime with friends and work to save up cash for her dream car. Summer romance is not on her to-do list, but uncovering the truth about her flirtatious co-worker, Caleb Baker, is. From the peculiar glow to his eyes to the unfortunate events that befall the girls who pine after him, Samara is the only one to sense danger behind his smile.

But Caleb’s secrets are drawing Samara into a world where the laws of attraction are a means of survival. And as a sinister power closes in on those she loves, Samara must take a risk that will change her life forever. . .or consume it.

For the comments: Which of these new releases are you most excited about?

Happy Holidays from Everyone at Novel Novice

From everyone at the Novel Novice family, we’d like to wish you all a warm & wonderful holiday season. The blog is going dark for the next three days so we can enjoy the holidays with our families.

We’ll be back on Tuesday, December 27th with brand new content — including our Best of 2011 lists, and our 2012 Desktop Wallpaper Calendar!

In the meantime, here are some festive features you can enjoy in the meantime:

Snowmen as YA Lit: Original Art

YA Reads for the Holidays

Holiday Shopping Guide

Harry Potter & Sherlock Holmes as Snowmen

Today, we present our last batch of literary snowmen for this year (though mom has ideas for more, so who knows?) Below, you’ll find snowmen for Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows and Sherlock Holmes:


Here are the other snowmen drawings we’ve posted:

(PS. Authors, if you want the original drawing, just email me. I’m happy to mail it to you!)

Cover Reveal: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

Today, we are thrilled to be revealing the cover for Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker — coming in May from Bloomsbury. We’re really excited to read Melissa’s latest novel (she’s so great!) — but in the meantime, we’ll satisfy ourselves by oogling her gorgeous new cover:

We also asked Melissa a few questions about her new book. Here’s our exclusive Q&A:

Reading the synopsis for Unbreak My Heart, I love the idea of the dual stories of heartbreak and new love. As a writer, how was it flipping back and forth between the two? Did you write them dually, or individually?

I wrote them dually, but at the start, I was so focused on Clem’s past year experience that I had trouble putting her in the present. That slowly got easier. Later, I realized that’s how SHE was feeling too–at first so bogged down and still reliving the past instead of waking up to the present moment.

What can fans of your work expect to find in Unbreak My Heart? What about new readers?

I tend to write characters who think/brood/contemplate a lot, and this book is no exception. So whether it’s set in the fashion world, in cowboy Texas, at a Hell House or on a sailboat, a book of mine will always have a lot of internal exploration. I do have one little nod to a past book in this one, but it’s tough to spot!

How does the newly revealed cover image tie-in with your idea of the story in Unbreak My Heart?

I love the external in the cover–the water, sky, clouds, sail. They totally fit with how I pictured Clem’s environment. And the way she’s looking out over the waves, I imagine she’s holding the past while waiting for the future. I really love the photo.

If you could “float away” for the summer like Clem, where would you most like to float away to?

I wouldn’t mind spending some time tooling around Southern Spain, near a tiny little beach town called Nerja that I fell in love with a while ago. But I’d settle for a few days out on the water, with twitter, but without a deadline.

Sounds fantastic! Here is the official synopsis for Unbreak My Heart:

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

Unbreak My Heart hits stores May 22nd!