Category Archives: Best of lists

Best Middle Grade Books of 2014

best of 2014
Yesterday, we posted our picks for the Best YA Books of 2014. Today, we’re spotlighting our favorite Middle Grade Books of 2014. In no particular order, here are our picks:

hook's revengeHook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

I adored this whimsical twist on the classic Peter Pan story, in which Captain Hook’s daughter comes to Neverland to exact revenge on the crocodile that killed her infamous father. Schulz has crafted an insanely clever and witty story, and the book’s illustrations add just the perfect extra touch of whimsy. Funny and heartfelt, this is a book both kids and the adults in their lives will enjoy.

fleabrain loves frannyFleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

This charming tribute to Charlotte’s Web is full of heart and history. Rocklin brilliantly marries a wealth of historical information about the polio epidemic and the creation of the polio vaccine, with a sweet story about one girl’s unique friendship with a magical flea. Rocklin lovingly captures Franny’s journey from polio patient to hero.

Night Gardener, TheThe Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Auxier weaves a dark and twisted tale about an enchanted manor, and the two orphans who become unlikely heroes against a mysterious evil. I love Auxier’s writing, and he crafts the perfect moody atmosphere for his story. And if you’re worried this tale might be too dark for your kids, don’t be. Auxier certainly weaves a dark story — but it’s never inappropriate for the book’s intended audience.

stay where you are and then leaveStay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne

A brilliant historical drama about one boy’s quest to learn the truth about his deployed father’s fate during World War II. The book is a beautiful portrait of love, strength, and how far we’ll go to save the ones we hold most dear. Boyne paints a captivating portrait about life during the war, captured through the lens of one boy’s determination to find his father and save him.

rain reignRain Reign by Ann M. Martin

As if anything written by Ann M. Martin wouldn’t be brilliant? Rain Reign is a beautiful story about a girl on the autism spectrum, and the unique bond she shares with her dog. The book shows us her anxieties and her fears and her struggles, but also her strength, determination, and bravery.

cartwheeling in thunderstormsCartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

Adventure, freedom, and the enormity of growing up are at the heart of this book, which bears echoes of A Little Princess — as one girl is transported from her home on the plains of Africa to the confines of a boarding school in England. With a message that is ultimately liberating and reassuring, the book shows that there are different ways to be yourself and find freedom, while conforming to society’s needs for children to grow up.

For the comments: What are your favorite middle grade books from the past year?

Best YA Books of 2014

best of 2014
Every year, it’s always so hard to choose my favorite books of the year. But there are certainly stand-outs — and even probably a few other titles that should be on this list, that I’ve failed to include for one reason or another. Regardless — here are my picks for the best YA books of 2014! (Look for my top middle grade picks tomorrow.)

The books below are listed roughly in chronological order of when I read them over the last year.

arcadia fallsArcadia Falls by Kai Meyer

I’ve been obsessed with this series from German author Kai Meyer from the beginning — it’s a delightful mix of the paranormal and the mafia. This sexy, mature YA series takes place mostly in Italy — and this third and final book in the series is probably my favorite, since it elevates the stakes and it’s just so thrilling to see how the characters resolve their larger than life conflicts. Being wrapped up in two warring crime families certainly makes their forbidden romance much more dangerous!

tsarinaTsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

J. Nelle Patrick is the pen name of author Jackson Pearce — and I’ve long been a fan of Jackson’s work, so it’s no surprise I was just as enchanted by her historical fiction as I have been by her other books. I loved this delightfully magical twist on the fall of the Romanov family, and the start of the Russian Revolution. Gut-wrenching, romantic, and whimsical at every turn.

nogginNoggin by John Corey Whaley

Of course I’ll love anything John Corey Whaley writes, but Noggin was an exceptionally quirky, funny, and charming story. I love how practically Whaley approaches such an outrageous premise — that’s part of what makes this whacky story work so well! And as always, his writing is crisp, eloquent, and endearing.

sekretSekret by Lindsay Smith

Though the two books are very different, I almost felt like this was the perfect book to read after Tsarina because historically, the events in Sekret are largerly informed by the Russian Revolution chronicled in Tsarina. I loved this magical twist on the Cold War, and am eager to read the sequel in 2015.

ask meAsk Me by Kimberly Pauley

I just adore Kimberly Pauley, and Ask Me is probably my favorite of her books to date. It’s a delightful combination of thriller, murder-mystery, and the supernatural — blended together with a healthy dose of Pauley’s signature humor, which gives the story just enough wit and charm to keep it from being too dour. Fans of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series should definitely pick up Ask Me — and I sincerely hope Pauley’s publisher sees fit to allow for more books featuring these characters, as there is plenty of series potential.

dreams of gods and monstersDreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

When I found out that Laini Taylor didn’t know how this series was going to end when she first started writing it, I was shocked. Shocked! Because Dreams of Gods & Monsters so perfectly wraps up what was already a lovely and elegant fantasy series. Everything comes full circle, and is so poetically wonderful … as always, Taylor’s writing is just breath-takingly gorgeous — and her masterful storytelling is at an all-time high, as she concluded this epic trilogy. This book — this series — is just a complete masterpiece.

treatment, theThe Treatment by Suzanne Young

Suzanne Young’s The Program was such a wholly original new story, and this year’s sequel was so compellingly-written and captivating … it had to make my “Best of 2014″ list. Suzanne cleverly brings the drama and the emotions full-circle, while still inserting her signature humor and wit into what is otherwise a very serious, dark storyline. I can’t wait to see where the rest of this world goes in the upcoming novella The Recovery, as well as her spin-off novel, The Remedy.

Sincesince you've been gone You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

A fun, light-hearted contemporary story about BFFs with a healthy dose of romance and an awesome playlist. I was blown away by how outstanding this story was — from conception to execution. A fun, smart idea about a bold “to do” list, left behind by a best friend MIA. The heart and emotion of Since You’ve Been Gone resonated so much with me, and I was just swept away by this fantastic summer story.

raging starRaging Star by Moira Young

I have adored every moment of Moira Young’s Dustlands Trilogy — and this final chapter was just so beautiful and brilliantly executed. I can’t say enough good things about this series, and this final book. It’s an emotional and epic conclusion to the Dustlands, and it was so satisfying to witness Saba’s tumultuous journey and transformation from book one through book three. Raging Star is just a masterpiece.

lost, theThe Lost by Sarah Beth Durst

I’ve long been a fan of Sarah Beth Durst, and devour pretty much anything she writes. In fact, this is one of two books she released in 2014 — the other being Chasing Power, which should probably get an honorable mention on this list, given it’s fantastic Indiana Jones-esque feel, delightful characters, and wonderfully imagined magic. But The Lost eked it out just a teensy bit on my list, even though this book was technically adult and not YA (like Chasing Power). I was blown away by the imaginative world, where lost things and people end up — and the smoldering, smart, and bold plot twists that carried the book through. I am still mourning the loss of the two planned sequels when Harlequin was acquired by Harper Collins.

firebugFirebug by Lish McBride

More magic & mobsters! Yes, I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it — I love the combination of magic and the mafia. Lish McBride’s new series, starting with Firebug, wholly satisfies by lust for more of this unique combination. (I’ve been suffering from withdrawals since Arcadia Falls concluded one such trilogy earlier this year; and Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy wrapped up a few years ago.) But beyond this delightful combination that I love so much, Firebug has really, really wonderful characters and a smart plot that was largely wrapped up in this first book — while still leaving PLENTY of bigger-picture issues to resolve in future additions to the series. (Like a certain romantic pairing!!!)

i'll give you the sunI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Beautifully written and expertly plotted. This book takes you back and forth in time and perspective, weaving together an intricate tale about siblings, family, love, and loss in magnificent prose. I don’t often say this about a realistic contemporary novel – but I could not put this book down. I had to know what happened next, how the story would unfold, and how the two storylines would finally connect. Just a brilliant book, from start to finish.

jackaby Jackaby by William Ritter

Sherlock meets Doctor Who in this fantastic book about a brilliant detective with a gift for seeing the supernatural, and his spunky assistant (our delightful narrator, with a love of dresses with pockets). Charming and engaging, I just fell in love with these characters — and though the plot of Jackaby is wrapped up within this single book, there is plenty of room for more adventures with this pair and I honestly can’t wait to read more.

AThousandPieces_hc_cA Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

“Every me loves every you” became the sort of unofficial tagline for this book, in which a teen girl hops across multiple universes to try and solve the mystery of her father’s murder. But I could easily say, “Every me loves every page of this book.” I’m a huge fan of Claudia Gray’s work, and this might be her most thrilling and unexpected book to date. She tackles the science fiction genre like nobody else, mixing in bits of historical fiction (with a twist) and romance (with a twist) and adventure (with … you guessed it … a twist). I can’t get enough of the worlds within this book, and can’t wait to see where the series goes next.

paper airplanesPaper Airplanes by Dawn O’Porter

Like an ode to your BFF, Paper Airplanes is a celebration of female friendships. Taking inspiration from her own teenage journals, Dawn O’Porter’s Paper Airplanes is imbued with a raw honesty that is hard to find in most contemporary YA novels. I fell in love with these girls, and their relationship reminded me about all the things I love about my own best friend. This is a book I need to share with her STAT!

For the comments: What are the best books you read in 2014?

Novel Novice’s Best YA Books of 2013

best of 2013

It’s that time of year again, when we look back on the last year’s YA releases and shine the spotlight on which books we thought were the best of the best. By no means did I read every new YA release this year … but of the ones I did read, I felt like these fourteen were the best. In no particular order (well, roughly in chronological order of release date), here are my picks for the best YA books of 2013:

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

tragedy paper, theA beautiful portrait of first love and tragic loss comes to life in Elizabeth Laban’s stunning debut novel The Tragedy Paper.

Laban brilliantly explores the definition of a tragedy — both in the context of the story itself, and through her characters … The Tragedy Paper has the earmarks of what will one day be a true literary classic, something that would find itself at home both in personal reading lists and in the classroom.

Uses for Boys be Erica Lorraine Scheidt

uses for boysA coming of age undone is the earmark of Erica Lorraine Scheidt’s stunning and explosive debut novel, Uses For Boys.

Scheidt has written a raw, emotionally-packed saga of one young woman’s journey from childhood to adulthood. She employs a beautifully stark writing style that oozes with raw emotion. Every word sucks you into Anna’s broken world and keep you reading well past your bedtime. I’ll confess, I powered through this book without even realizing it because it was so compelling and engaging.

The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy

Hero's Guide to Storming the CastleOnce again, the princes are back and their adventures are even more outrageous and hilarious than the first go around. Healy masterfully continues the saga of Duncan, Frederic, Liam, and Gustav as they once again band together to save their kingdom. Unlikely foes, unexpected twists, and plenty of laughs abound as the story unfolds.

The archetype of the fairy tale is once again lovingly paid tribute to and shattered all at once, in a manner only Healy can present. His series offers up an entirely new way of looking at fairy tales, princes, and princesses — a refreshing twist that satisfies modern readers and fairy tale traditionalists alike.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

eleanorandparkIf John Hughes and John Green had a baby, it would be Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, a beautifully written story about two misfit teens finding love in the 1980s.

Rowell elegantly captures everything awkward and uncomfortable about being a teenager, especially a teenager in love. But she also captures all the magic and wonder of that love. Eleanor & Park will remind you about everything you loved (and loathed) about your own teen romance.

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos

Dr Bird's Advice for Sad PoetsA heartbreaking coming of age story about one teen’s struggle with depression, anxiety, and the mysteries surrounding his sister’s expulsion. Balancing humor with angst, Roskos has crafted a truly brilliant novel about one teen’s extraordinary struggles.

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is the kind of novel that will change young lives. Readers will cling to this book, its characters, and the underlying message that you can be okay — if you’re strong enough to fight for it. (Even if fighting for it means asking for help.) Beautifully written, this aching and charming story will stick with you long after finishing the last page.

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

far far awayAs timeless as the fairy tales that inspired it, Far Far Away will worm its way into the hearts of readers young and old. Far Far Away captures the wit of Doctor Who, the magical appeal of Narnia and Hogwarts, the no-nonsense approach to writing about nonsensical things previously mastered by Jasper Fforde, the enchantment of timeless fairy tales, and the harsh realities of the real world … all in one pretty, delightful, 384-page package.

Far Far Away captures everything that a fairy tale is meant to be, and wraps it all up in a contemporary package filled with a whimsical yet practical setting, with beautiful, flawed, charming characters, and a narrator who … well, you’ll just love him to bits.

The Program by Suzanne Young

Program, TheOffering a frightening look at our possible future, The Program by Suzanne Young is as thrilling as it is emotionally poignant.

Young’s writing is, as usual, breezy and natural. The teen voice shines through, while engaging readers in the raw emotion behind each choice the narrator makes. The Program would not be nearly so compelling, I think, without Sloane’s narrative as written by Young. She draws you in and refuses to let loose.

The Program is a gripping tale that will have readers hanging onto every word, and eagerly anticipating the sequel.

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

clockwork princessCassandra Clare’s readers know to brace themselves for the worst when they open one of her books, especially the last book in a series. They know anything can happen; any character could be killed off — or worse. (It is fiction, after all. There are fates worse than death.) And while Clockwork Princess, the final book in Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy, bears plenty of heartbreak, it is also one of the most glorious and satisfying conclusions to a series the YA world has seen to date.

Clare masterfully navigates the murky world of love triangles in a completely new light, showing readers a very different approach to loving more than one person. But in the midst of the tangled romantic lives of her main characters, Clare deftly concludes the mythology of Tessa’s existence, and the ongoing battle that began in the first book, Clockwork Angel.

Brother Brother by Clay Carmichael

brother brotherBrother, Brother is a lovely little quiet, slow-paced book that is just a treasure and a treat to read. This is a book that’s not so much about action and adventure as it is about the characters that inhabit its pages. Brother, his friends, and the strangers he encounters throughout his journey. Carmichael has put together a cast of characters that are unique and engaging — whether they’re the ones you love or hate.

Carmichael writes with an easy grace that entices the reader. Despite the story’s slow pace, this book sucks you in and refuses to let you go. Sure, it’s a quiet story — but it is gripping and engaging. Every little moment builds and builds until a truly incredible climax. And truly, by the end of this beautiful journey, I just wanted to linger in Brother’s world and see where he went next.

Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin

wise young fool finalBeaudoin writes with his usual signature style, putting his stamp on every page of this story. Through Ritchie’s narrative, and Beaudoin’s quick-wit writing, the reader experiences a teen who is big on dreams and even bigger on inner turmoil.

As the story of Ritchie’s tumultuous journey to juvie unfolds, Beaudoin shows us a teen in pain — struggling to overcome, move on, and have just a few things go his way. It’s a raw, honest journey — but mixed in with Beaudoin’s rock ‘n’ roll sensibility and sharp-tongued humor, Wise Young Fool is an utter delight to read. Every single page. Just delightful.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

beginning of everythingOne of this year’s wittiest, most engaging coming-of-age stories is the newly-released The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider.

Schneider perfectly captures the angst and anxieties of high school, especially when faced with uncertainties about social status and figuring out where you fit in after you thought you’d already figured it out.

The Beginning of Everything captures all the beautiful moments of a perfectly tuned coming-of-age story in the same vein as John  Green, J.D. Salinger, or Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s a new classic for today’s readers — one that teens will adore, and older readers will cherish.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

coldest girl in coldtownVampires may not be the “hot” thing in paranormal YA literature right now, but they sizzle within the pages of Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, one of the most original, stunningly written vampire sagas of all time. And it’s only one book!

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is gripping from page one, and continually keeps readers on their toes as Black steers the plot in surprising new directions. Throw in some steamy, toe-curling romance, a bit of familial sacrifice and love, and a centuries-long feud between vampires, and you’ll find that The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is near impossible to put down — and even harder to let go of once you’ve finished the last page.

It’s explosive, poetic, sexy, and simply brilliant from start to finish. It is, if I dare say, easily the best vampire book I have read in ages, and possibly ever.

Cherry Money Baby by John M. Cusick

cherry money babyCultures clash and stereotypes are laid out and torn down in John M. Cusick’s Cherry Money Baby, a poignant study of life in middle America and what happens when it collides with Hollywood glitz.

On writing Cherry Money Baby, Cusick has said he wanted “to explore how our assumptions about money, sophistication, and self-worth can cloud our vision.” With this book, he accomplishes his goal with aplomb — and also delivers a charming and quirky coming-of-age story that is unlike any other I’ve encountered.

Cusick has crafted a believable, realistic setting — and populated it with characters that are engaging and vibrant, each in their own unique way. Don’t miss this contemporary YA charmer.

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

ConjuredCover_HiResIt is rare these days to find a book so utterly unique and different from everything else out there, that when one does come along, it is near impossible to describe. That’s the case with Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst — a YA novel that defies genre definitions while capturing the imagination with a brilliant blend of magic, mystery, and crime drama.

Durst is a master at creating some of the most unique novels to hit store shelves in recent years (not just in YA, either – I truly think her work stands out across the board) — and Conjured may be one of her most outstanding books yet. It is as original as fiction can get — all brilliantly and beautifully written.

For the comments: What are your picks for the best YA books of 2013?

Novel Novice’s Best YA Books of 2012

best of 2012 banner

I read some pretty kick ass books in 2012. A lot of them. So many that sometimes it’s hard to remember what they all were. But I’ve kept notes throughout the year, marking what I consider to be the year’s BEST books — though it was definitely a hard list to narrow down. I have so much love for so many of the books I read each year.

So step aside Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and Entertainment Weekly. Here are the Best YA Books of 2012, according to me (in no particular order):

amelia anne is dead and goneAmelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

This book is so painstakingly beautiful, it hurts. Every word is carefully chosen and each sentence poetically written. Rosenfield has made a stunning debut on the literary scene, and I sincerely hope she has more to offer soon — because I have yet to find another novel that compares to the majesty of this undone coming of age saga.

It’s only a bonus that I happened to be buying this book when my now-fiance popped the question in the middle of the YA section at our local B&N.

Hero's Guide to Saving Your KingdomThe Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

I don’t read a ton of middle grade fiction, but when I do, I have high expectations — expectations which this book far exceeded. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom may be marketed to the middle grade set — but honestly, this book is perfect for anyone. From adults reading aloud to younger children — to adults reading silently to themselves, and everyone in between. This book will have you in stitches from laughing so hard, and you’ll be delighted by this refreshing, new twist on the classic fairy tale princes.

Team HumanTeam Human by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan

I’m a sucker for vampire stories (pun intended, always) — but Brennan & Larbalestier’s collaboration on Team Human has completely raised the bar when it comes to this blood-sucking genre. This duo has revamped the vampire-human romance — both paying homage to and sending up this beloved paranormal theme. Funny, poignant, touching. They pack a lot of punch into this standalone stunner of a novel.

vesselVessel by Sarah Beth Durst

I loved this book so much that when I finished reading it, I hugged the book (really) and then started re-reading it immediately. I only regret having to force myself to stop re-reading it when I realized how massive my “to be read” pile remained. Nonetheless, Vessel is an absolute masterpiece of storytelling: magic, romance, adventure, destiny & fate. Durst has outdone herself.

divinersThe Diviners by Libba Bray

Jeepers creepers. Completely. Bray’s latest forray into historical fiction is creepy to the max. But she’s also written a lively, colorful, flapper-filled account of 1920s New York City — filled with murder, mystery, mayhem, and magic. I just want to crawl into the world of The Diviners and stay for a while. (But maybe not stay too long, what with all the death at every turn …)

last dragonslayerThe Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

I know I’m not the only Harry Potter fan who’s been a bit homesick for Hogwarts ever since J.K. Rowling wrapped up her beloved series. But Fforde’s first book for younger readers made me forget about that longing for a while. The Last Dragonslayer harkens back to everything I loved about Harry Potter: magic colliding with Muggle, unlikely heroes, an ecclectic and lovably bunch of characters. Everything Fforde has mastered in his adult books (like the much loved Thursday Next books) shines through in The Last Dragonslayer.

rebel heartRebel Heart by Moira Young

I adored Moira Young’s debut novel, Blood Red Road, so much that I called it “better than The Hunger Games.” Not surprisingly, the publishers liked that — and now my blurb is on the cover of both the paperback and the hardcover sequel, Rebel Heart. And with this second book now on my “read it and loved it” pile, I can safely say that I still stand by my original statement. Young took everything I loved about Blood Red Road and far surpassed my expectations with Rebel Heart. It was painful and difficult and aching and wonderful and beautiful all at once. The conflicting emotions I felt as I raced through each page were almost too much to handle, but I couldn’t resist. This book is just spectacular.

black heartBlack Heart by Holly Black

I experienced an intense conflict of emotions upon finishing Black Heart, the third book in Black’s Curse Workers trilogy. You see, I was elated by the book itself. Utter perfection, this series could not have ended more satisfactorily. And yet, when I realized this was the end, I slipped into a bout of literary depression. You know the one: when one of your all-time favorite series is over, and you realize … there are NO more new books coming. That this is it. That’s how I felt after finishing Black Heart. I’ve moved on by clinging to the dim hope that someday, Holly may return to the Curse Workers and write more. For now, I’ll have to anticipate her new novels.

MasqueRedDeath hc c-1Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

This is genre-bending at its best. Historical, romance, mystery, dystopian … I don’t know what to call Masque of the Red Death other than simply stunning. Griffin deftly draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s story of the same name, while crafting her own unique vision of a world undone and a story packed with intrigue. Part one of a two-book series, the conclusion — Dance of the Red Death — is definitely one of my most-anticipated releases of 2013.

InsurgentInsurgent by Veronica Roth

The follow-up to Divergent probably doesn’t need my help — this series is already a best-selling success, with a movie adaptation in the works. But nonetheless, Insurgent was definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. Not only was the action and pacing dynamic and engaging — but the big twist at the end proved that Roth hasn’t just churned out a new YA dystopian series. She has, in fact, crafted one of the most ingenious entries into the realm of science fiction literature.

fault in our starsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I don’t need to tell you why The Fault in Our Stars is one of the best books of 2012, because everyone else has already done so. I’m actually getting kind of sick of all the hype — but the fact of the matter is, this really is one of the best books of the year — and quite possibly, Green’s finest novel to date.

Best book from 2011 that I read in 2012:

Peter NimblePeter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

And I must give one last shout-out to Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes. This book was released in 2011, but I didn’t get around to finishing it until earlier this year. But every second spent within its pages were well worth it. Magical, charming, evoking the spirit of J.K. Rowling and the classic fairy tales. Mixing a bit of grimness with whimsy, Auxier’s novel is pure artistry and a delight for readers both young and old.

For the comments: What were YOUR favorite books of 2012?

Best of Middle Grade 2012

best of 2012 banner

2012 has been a great year for Middle Grade! I have to admit, trying to selected “the best” is an impossible task, but alas, I’ve put together 10 of my favorites:

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdomby Christopher Healy

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. heros-guide-to-saving-your-kingdomPrince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Debut author Christopher Healy takes us on a journey with four imperfect princes and their four improbable princesses, all of whom are trying to become perfect heroes–a fast-paced, funny, and fresh introduction to a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure

The enchanting true story of a girl who saw fairies, Fairy Ringand another with a gift for art, who concocted a story to stay out of trouble and ended up fooling the world.

Frances was nine when she first saw the fairies. They were tiny men, dressed all in green. Nobody but Frances saw them, so her cousin Elsie painted paper fairies and took photographs of them “dancing” around Frances to make the grown-ups stop teasing. The girls promised each other they would never, ever tell that the photos weren’t real. But how were Frances and Elsie supposed to know that their photographs would fall into the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? And who would have dreamed that the man who created the famous detective Sherlock Holmes believed ardently in fairies— and wanted very much to see one? Mary Losure presents this enthralling true story as a fanciful narrative featuring the original Cottingley fairy photos and previously unpublished drawings and images from the family’s archives. A delight for everyone with a fondness for fairies, and for anyone who has ever started something that spun out of control.

Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

An enchanting—and twisted—tale of two Summer Birdsisters’ quest to find their parents

When their parents disappear in the middle of the night, young sisters Summer and Bird set off on a quest to find them. A cryptic picture message from their mother leads them to a familiar gate in the woods, but comfortable sights quickly give way to a new world entirely—Down—one inhabited by talking birds and the evil Puppeteer queen. Summer and Bird are quickly separated, and their divided hearts lead them each in a very different direction in the quest to find their parents, vanquish the Puppeteer, lead the birds back to their Green Home, and discover the identity of the true bird queen.
With breathtaking language and deliciously inventive details, Katherine Catmull has created a world unlike any other, skillfully blurring the lines between magic and reality and bringing to life a completely authentic cast of characters and creatures.

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

When seventh grader Georges (the S is silent) Liar and Spymoves into a Brooklyn apartment building, he meets Safer, a twelve-year-old coffee-drinking loner and self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer’s first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend?

The One and Only Ivan by Patricia Castelao

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big  One and only IvanTop Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

May B by Caroline Starr Rose

I’ve known it since last night: May B
It’s been too long to expect them to return.
Something’s happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again.

Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love

The Mighty Miss Malone by Paul Curtis

“We are a family on a journey to a place called Might Miss Malonewonderful” is the motto of Deza Malone’s family.

Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father.

The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano

One of America’s most influential Hispanics — revolution-of-evelyn-serrano‘Maria’ on Sesame Street — presents a powerful novel set in New York’s El Barrio in 1969

There are two secrets Evelyn Serrano is keeping from her Mami and Papo? her true feelings about growing up in her Spanish Harlem neighborhood, and her attitude about Abuela, her sassy grandmother who’s come from Puerto Rico to live with them. Then, like an urgent ticking clock, events erupt that change everything. The Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, dump garbage in the street and set it on fire, igniting a powerful protest. When Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn is thrust into the action. Tempers flare, loyalties are tested. Through it all, Evelyn learns important truths about her Latino heritage and the history makers who shaped a nation. Infused with actual news accounts from the time period, Sonia Manzano has crafted a gripping work of fiction based on her own life growing up during a fiery, unforgettable time in America, when young Latinos took control of their destinies.

Gravediggers: Mountain of Bones by Christopher Krovatin

Ian was the one who chased the majestic buck into Gravediggersthe forest. Kendra and PJ followed him. They all hoped to return to the hiking trail before anyone noticed they were gone. However, the mountain had other plans for them: dark, sinister plans that only nightmares are made of.

The Goonies meets The Evil Dead in this series about three kids who become separated from their backpacking group in the Montana wilderness and discover they are stranded in the heart of zombie country.

Ian was the one who chased the majestic buck into the forest. (His motto: Act first, think later.)

Kendra didn’t want to become separated from the other sixth graders, but she followed Ian anyway, despite what her analytical mind told her.

PJ followed him, too. Even though he was scared, he figured he might catch some amazing footage with his video camera.

They all hoped to return to the hiking trail before anyone noticed they were gone. However, the mountain had other plans for them: dark, sinister plans that only nightmares are made of.

Now they don’t know where they are. They don’t know how to get home. They don’t know what gruesome creatures lurk in the shadows-but when they find out, will they be able to defeat these monsters and escape the mountain together?

This first book in the Gravediggers series is a scary, mysterious, wild ride that will thrill readers to the very last page.

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans

Enter a wonderful world filled with real magic,  Hortens Miraculous Mechanismsmystery … and danger.

As if being small for his age and also having S. Horten as his name isn’t bad enough, now 10-year-old Stuart is forced to move far away from all his friends. But on his very first day in his new home, Stuart’s swept up in an extraordinary adventure: the quest to find his great-uncle Tony–a famous magician who literally disappeared off the face of the earth–and Tony’s marvelous, long-lost workshop.  Along the way, Stuart reluctantly accepts help from the annoying triplets next door… and encounters trouble from another magician who’s also desperate to get hold of Tony’s treasures.

A quirky, smart, charming page-turner, Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms will enchant young readers–as well as teachers, librarians, and parents.

For the comments: What are your favorite Middle Grade reads of 2012?

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.

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?

Best Young Adult Books of 2010: Sara’s List


All this week here at Novel Novice, staff members are featuring their picks for the Best YA Books of 2010. We read so much here, and that makes it ridiculously difficult to choose just a select few to make this “Best of” list … so really, you shouldn’t be all too surprised to discover that my list (at least) is a bit lengthy. I hope you’ll forgive my inability to edit myself. And now, on with my picks for 2010!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I mean, can any other book really stand up to this one? The final chapter in the epic Hunger Games trilogy was easily the most-anticipated YA Book of 2010 — and it lived up to the hype 110%. It was sad, gruesome, disturbing and yet utterly perfect. This series could not have ended any differently. In my mind, this was exactly what needed to happen — and every moment hit exactly the right note, right up to the very last word. If you haven’t discovered The Hunger Games series for yourself yet, now is the time to do it. All three books are published, so you won’t have the experience the agonized wait between installments like the rest of us did — and with a movie adaptation about to go into production, the popularity of this series is on the cusp of exploding even more than it already has.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Easily one of the best books — period — that I have ever read, Revolution was probably the book that surprised me the most in 2010. It was pitched to me by the folks at Random House, and I was excited to feature it here at Novel Novice because of all the educational tie-in possibilities. (Lots of ways to relate history and music lessons!) But I was blown away by how amazing this book was — the story, the writing, the complexities. Everything about this book works in every single way. If you had to choose one YA book to pass on to readers who traditionally scoff at the genre, this is it.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

This is one of those books that will stick with you for years to come. It’s a coming of age story in the truest sense — but told in a way that is equally moving, compelling, charming and amusing. It blends angst and humor seamlessly, and then throws in a dash of “High School Musical” for good measure. I’d rank this book right up there with Catcher in the Rye as one of the most quintessential high school stories.

White Cat by Holly Black

What I love so much about this book is its complete originality. It stands out from the crowd of paranormal YA fiction for a number of reasons. One, because it’s not really a romance. Two, because it’s from a guy’s perspective. And three, because it’s about mobsters. And what makes this book even better is the combination of mobsters and magic. Holly Black has created a truly unique world and an action-packed novel that will have you racing to get to the last page, and then lingering to savor every moment. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll also be eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Kimberly Derting has a gift for combining the most squeal-worthy romances with the most edge-of-your-seat, terrifying thrillers around. And though the two may seem an odd pairing, Derting mixes them together masterfully. The crime thriller aspect of The Body Finder will scare the crap out of you (in a good way), while the romance will have you melting into a puddle of happy, sappy goo. The sequel coming out in 2011 is equally wonderful.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

I love a good fairy tale, and when done well, I love a good fairy tale retold with a modern twist. Jackson Pearce certainly delivers with Sisters Red, a new twist on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. I love everything about this book — the characters, the setting, the mood, the romance, and the Buffy-worthy ass-kicking scenes. I want more — lots more — from this world, and while a companion book is due out in 2011 (Sweetly, which I will certainly be checking out) — I’m really hoping for an actual sequel just so I can spend more time with Rosie, Silas and Scarlett.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

I confess, I was a bit hesitant going into this book. I absolutely adored Cassie’s original series, The Mortal Instruments — so I was intrigued by the concept of this prequel (the first in a new trilogy), but wary of the Victorian setting. After all, I generally prefer contemporary books in contemporary settings. But by the end of Clockwork Angel, I’d been converted. I think I actually like this book even better than the original series. There’s something wonderfully complex and delightful about the combination of the Shadowhunter world with Victorian London; Cassie uses this combination to put her own stamp on the Steampunk genre and it’s a total win. What’s more, she’s created a love triangle with Will, Jem and Tessa that’s so complex even I can’t choose a side. (And usually, I’m extremely decisive). And while part of me wishes I could read the second book in the series right this very second, another part of me is savoring the anticipation.

Matched by Ally Condie

Here’s another book that has lived up to the hype. A romantic thriller set in a dystopian future, this is exactly the book Hunger Games fans will want to devour after finishing Mockingjay. And since it’s the first in a new trilogy, it also gives us plenty to look forward to in the next couple of years. If you enjoy this book, also mark your calendars for the February release of Delirium by Lauren Oliver. The two books share enough similarities to satisfy the same group of readers, while each one tells a unique story.

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier

It doesn’t matter whether you end up choosing Team Zombie or Team Unicorn, this book is a gem. The concept, the design and the execution all hit exactly the right note — while the stories themselves are all completely entertaining. It doesn’t hurt that some of the best YA writers all contributed pieces to this whimsical anthology.

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder

For the sake of full disclosure, I should mention that Lisa is a friend. But we didn’t really know each other well when I first sat down to read Chasing Brooklyn — so I feel I can safely put this book on my Best of 2010 list without a conflict of interest. Lisa is known for writing beautiful, haunting novels in verse for Young Adult readers — but I felt as if she really outdid herself with this book. I love the complexity of the story, and the ever-growing dynamic between Nico and Brooklyn. Lisa also masterfully combines some of the more horrifying moments with the more tender, human moments. I loved this book from beginning to end, and I can’t wait to read what Lisa does next.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells

This book was a surprise and a half, and is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t necessarily judge a book by its cover. Upon first glance, this looks like a fluffy summer romance. But it is oh so much more. Another classic example of coming of age, The Summer of Skinny Dipping is about growing up, family, first love and the consequences of our choices and of our actions. This is hands-down one of the best books I’ve ever read. In fact, it was so good, I couldn’t put it down — I literally read it in a single sitting one night.

Sea by Heidi R. Kling

True confession: I was worried that Heidi R. Kling’s book about post-Tsunami Indonesia would turn preachy. Fact: it does not. Not once. Instead, Sea is a moving story about one girl’s personal journey — and not the journey from California to Indonesia. But rather, her journey within herself — what she learns about herself, her family, her wants and needs and goals in life. The story itself is moving and beautiful, and beautifully written. Heidi’s words wrap you up like a warm summer day and transport you away to another world. And that is exactly what I love most about reading — how it can take me away to another world. Sea does exactly that.

Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

The world of YA came to a close in 2010 on a very high note, with Anna & the French Kiss — which is truly a gem. It’s well-written, smart, funny, sassy and extremely honest. Everyone will find something to relate to in this book, because the experiences and emotions are very real. It’s also one of the most squeal-worthy, toe-curling, heart-thumping, ooey-gooey romances I’ve ever read. I sort of want to make out with this book, it’s that enchanting and charming. Or maybe at least crawl inside and live in it.

For the comments: What are your favorite books of 2010?