Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Best Books I Read in the First Half of 2011

I am still sick. Did I mention I was sick? Perhaps not. ANYWAY. I returned from LeakyCon feeling horrid and got sicker over about a day, and now I'm finally starting to feel a little better. And at the moment I am fortified with Dimetapp and a Frosty dropped off by a wonderful friend (I'm starting to think I should give my friends fake names like Maureen does. Should I?), so I am going to recommend to you the best books I read between January and June.

I told you about The Name of the Star yesterday, so I won't go into that again.

The Demon's Covenant and The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan - At some point I will write a whole long post about my love for this trilogy (starting with The Demon's Lexicon). But in brief: it's about a group of teenagers in England who have to deal with demons and magic in addition to normal teen things like siblings and school bullying and falling in love for the first time, and there's action and drama and romance and fantasy and OH the humor. These books always take me a while to read because I have to keep putting them down to laugh and/or cry.

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy - More teens and magic and family issues and romance! The two main characters are both completely awesome and their romance is slow and gentle and sort of realistic - it ends with "Hey, I'm going off to college! Let's grow up a little!" But in a hopeful way. And I don't know HOW I had never read Mahy before, but her writing is enchanting and she didn't even lose me in her long descriptions of magic (which often happens) and now I want to read everything she's written.

Jane by April Lindner - This is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre in which Rochester is a rock star. Literally. And it works shockingly well.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman - Mia is horribly injured in an accident that kills her family, and we learn about her through flashbacks as she decides whether to live or die. I put off reading this one for a while because of the whole "(semi-)dead girl talking" thing, but it was AMAZING.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - This is an awesome YA romance with boarding school! And Paris! And a heroine with actual interests and hobbies and her own life, who isn't totally fixated on the hero!

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson - This is the sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes, but I liked it even better. Ginny has to really Deal With Some Things, and it's moving and funny and has great European settings. And OLIVER. Oliver is my favorite.

White Cat and Red Glove by Holly Black - Cassel is a teen con artist who grew up in the world of the magical mafia, and gets pulled back in by various family things, and there's the most compelling twisted romance ever. And he has an older brother, Barron, whom I love passionately.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare - This is set in the same universe as Clare's Mortal Instruments series, but in Victorian England. Tessa gets pulled into the world of the shadowhunters while looking for her brother, and there's magic and romance and lots of action and a really fun setting.

Stay by Deb Caletti - I will say more about this one in another post, but I was completely captivated by this story that involves dating violence but doesn't at all read like an "issue book." There's a really relatable heroine and an awesome dad and a nice seaside town and a lighthouse and hot sailor brothers. It's a perfect "rainy summer day" book.

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon - This is a fantasy inspired by Chinese mythology and culture, about a girl who ignores societal norms to go on an epic quest to find her father. There's also one of my favorite types of magic, and a wonderful slow-burning romance. Warning: This book will make you hungry.

So! That should keep you busy for a while. What are some of your recent favorites?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In which I immediately taunt you with praise of a book you cannot yet read.

Hello out there! I am Felicity Disco, assistant to YA author Maureen Johnson. Some of you may know me from Twitter and/or LeakyCon. I've been wanting a place for thoughts of more than 140 characters, so I thought I'd start a blog where I can talk about books and maybe a little about my own writing process. If you'd like to learn more about me, here's a FAQ. If there are any other questions you think I should include there, please let me know!

It seems only appropriate that I kick things off with a few thoughts on Maureen Johnson's upcoming book The Name of the Star. First of all, let me say that I realize I am in no way impartial when it comes to Maureen's books. I will also point out, though, that the work I do for her is not directly related to the books at all, and that she was basically done with this one before I started working for her. BUT STILL. I am completely acknowledging my bias.

All that said, I have to tell you: The Name of the Star is my favorite of Maureen's books so far. By a lot. As I've been telling people, it has all the awesomeness of her other books, WITH ADDED MURDER. And ghosts. And a British boarding school, and I love boarding school stories. But let me back up and tell you a little about the book, in case you do not know! Our heroine, Rory, is an American girl who arrives for a year at a boarding school in London just as someone begins to mimic the Jack the Ripper murders. Her school happens to be right in the middle of Ripper territory, so she's thrown into the middle of it all. And then the ghost police show up, and things get really interesting.

And now I will give you a list of reasons why I love this book. (You'll find that I often set out to write reviews and wind up writing lists. It's just how I think.)

1. Rory is a great heroine - not annoyingly perfect or The Most Special Girl Ever, but certainly not boring either. She goes through a lot and learns and changes but remains realistic amid all the crazy stuff going on.
2. The setting: London! I love London! And schools! As I've mentioned!
3. There's a guy named Alistair, and I can't tell you much about him without ruining things, but he wears a trench coat and listens to The Smiths and lounges around the literature section of the library and I LOVE HIM MADLY.
4. I also love Rory's roommate Jazza. And some of her other schoolmates. And the folks on the ghost police force, actually.
5. The whole ghost and ghost police thing is really well done. I like my paranormal elements to have rules and be internally consistent and MAKE SENSE in context, and these did.
6. A truly frightening antagonist. I don't need ALL books to scare me, but I like when murder mysteries scare me at least a little.
7. Jack the Ripper was one of the first big cases really covered by the tabloids, and this update of what that sort of media coverage would look like now was really fascinating. (Some of the media reports get rather info-dumpy, and slow things down a bit, but if you have to have an info dump, I guess that's really the best way to do it.)
8. There's a sort of cliffhanger, but it's not the kind that is annoying or makes the book any less satisfying. It's the good kind that just adds a layer of awesomeness and makes you really eager for the next book.

So, have I convinced you? Are you now wondering how you, too, can read this book? Well, the bad news is that The Name of the Star isn't out until September 29. But the good news is that if you pre-order from Books of Wonder, Maureen will sign your copy! (And look how pretty that cover is!)

So! I suppose that's enough for today. Soon, I will tell you about the best books I read in the first half of the year, and my favorite fictional rock stars, and the book that got me over my Zombie Issue. Until then!