Posts Tagged ‘lists’

Favorite Books of 2016

ashesAshes by Laurie Halse Anderson

I’ve been waiting for the conclusion of Anderson’s Seeds of America series for so long, and it doesn’t disappoint. The story is so suspenseful I actually relaxed when the characters reached the Battle of Yorktown, because they were safer there than they had been while wandering the countryside and hiding from slave-catchers. Bonus: reading this book will trigger Hamilton songs to play nonstop in your head. You have been warned.

The Best Man by Richard Peck

Only Richard Peck could write a book about social media hysteria, male role models and anti-gay discrimination without it feeling like an “issues” book. And you will laugh helplessly as you read it, especially when you meet the character who’s a snooty parody of every “upstairs” stereotype in Downton Abbey.

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet

The way to describe this book is to imagine the TV show The Americans taking place in East Berlin, from the perspective of an American kid, with a lot less violence and spying, but with all the paranoia of living under constant surveillance.

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

The fourth book in Lockwood & Co. has all the usual creepy haunted houses, oddly-polite teenage drama, and dry sarcasm. Unlike the previous books, it finally stops stalling and makes great progress on the series arc of the nature of ghosts and the sinister forces that caused The Problem.

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Fall Sequels

whisperingskullNow that it’s October, the sequels/companion books are starting to roll out. Here are just a few I can’t wait to get my hands on:

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis (published Sept 30)

This one takes place 40 years after Elijah of Buxton! Hope it’s as quirky and funny as its predecessor.

The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud (Sept 16)

Looking forward to more madness from the ghost-hunting, teenage underdogs of Lockwood & Co.

Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George (Oct. 7)

ds3_cover_408x630The temperamental, constantly shifting castle in this series is probably Hogwarts’ cousin–and the most interesting character in George’s series. Hoping to get more of the castle’s history in Thursdays.

The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde (April: UK. Oct: US)

“Quark!” said the Quarkbeast. More physics jokes, please.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (Oct. 21)

Book 2 ended on a cliffhanger, and given that this one is #3 in the quartet, it probably will too.

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Five Ways to celebrate Kate DiCamillo’s appointment as the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature:

The_Tale_of_Despereaux1. Drink soup when she’s inaugurated on Jan 10th.

2. Vacuum up an errant squirrel and enjoy some holy unanticipated occurrences!

3. Throw a party with egg-salad sandwiches, Dump Punch, pickles, dog pictures, Littmus Lozenges, paper bag lanterns, and crepe paper in the trees.

4. Visit a carnival with your best friend, and don’t skip the fortune teller!

5. Go to the toy store and give an old china rabbit a new life.

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With hours to go until 2014, I’ve decided to look back at some memorable books from 2013. This isn’t meant to be a best-of (or worst-of) list–they’re simply books that were weirdly notable in some way:

UnluckyCharmsThe Long-Awaited Sequel

The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer: 11 years is a long time to wait! And I still haven’t read it.

The Sequel I Didn’t Need, But it Was Good Anyway

Son by Lois Lowry: yes, I was very nervous about the Gabe-as-a-teenager thing, but it all worked out.

The Better-Than-Its-Prequel Sequel

Unlucky Charms by Adam Rex: wonderfully timey-wimey, with less character confusion and more irreverence than Cold Cereal.

midwinterbloodMost Unsettling Book

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick: if the title doesn’t creep you out, the cover should. High-quality minimalist horror.

Best Animal and Household Appliance Mashup

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo: finally, a vacuum cleaner I can support, and a well-deserving squirrel hero.

The Masterpiece I Didn’t Understand

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata: I must be the only one who didn’t like this book. I couldn’t even finish it–the writing seemed sloppy, or maybe I just need books with strong, non-meandering plots.

The “Eh” Book I Really Liked

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper: beautiful writing, compelling characters and lots of surprises in the plot. It even made our holiday recommendations list.

Most Anticipated Companion Novel

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, of course.

Most Disappointing Series Conclusion

The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz: needs a heaping dose of subtlety.

mouse question tailDo We Really Need Another Book About a British Mouse?

Yes, if it’s The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck. He somehow makes the well-trod premise wholly original.

Deceptively Simple, Yet Somehow Effective

A tie between The Truth of Me by Patricia MacLachlan and The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech.

The Book(s) with an Interminable Waiting List

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang: it’ll be Christmas 2014 by the time my library request arrives.

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Without considering their oratory skills, we did some wishful thinking and compiled a (by no means comprehensive) list of authors we’d like to follow Neil Gaiman, Jack Gantos, and Lemony Snicket’s example…and narrate the books they wrote.

The Grande Dames:

waitingLois Lowry: Gossamer (sob) and The Giver quartet (double sob)

Susan Cooper: The Dark Is Rising sequence (gritty English accent and fantasy = win)

Katherine Paterson: everything (triple sob)

Patricia MacLachlan: Waiting for the Magic (because she was unexpectedly snarky at The Exquisite Corpse and that would work well for WftM)

The Great Uncles You Wish You Had

Richard Peck: everything but The River Between Us

Michael Morpurgo: War Horse

team human (more…)

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Fall Reading List

The end of summer/early fall always brings a huge list of book releases, and here’s what I’m looking forward to in the next few months:

9780374379940_p0_v1_s260x420The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech (Sept. 3): The premise reminds me of Ruby Holler, one of my favorite Creech books.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (Sept. 2): fingers crossed for the sequel to The Raven Boys, which had wonderful writing.

From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos (Sept. 24): road trip with Miss Volker! This could get even crazier than its prequel.

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Sept. 17): a new series from the creator of Bartimaeus.

slightlyHeroicCover250The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami (Aug. 13): I heard about this through Educating Alice. So glad Dini is back, with all the silliness of her favorite Bollywood star and her wacky entourage.

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow (Oct. 29): I’m a big fan of Plain Kate. I hope the world and character building are just as good in this one.

The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet by Tom Angleberger (Aug. 6): I would’ve preferred Jabba the Flat, but oh well. A showdown over the principal’s plan to cancel the arts…gee, I wonder who Jabba is supposed to be.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi (Sept. 10): worth reading for the title alone.

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There’s a certain type of book, the one that suddenly all the cool kids are reading. Even before it’s published, it generates lots of buzz as an ARC. Then enough stars are heaped upon it to form a major constellation. Maybe it’ll win an award or two. By the time you actually get a copy from the library (and there are 349 requests on the first returned copy and only five copies in circulation), you’re so excited you start reading it on the spot. And you know what, now that you actually have your hands on it, you can’t see what all the fuss is about.

Most recently, I experienced this with Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. I was all set to like it. A tale of two high school misfits and their down-to-earth progression from dislike to friendship to first love? A shared obsession of comic books? Not a single head-scratching ominous prophecy of epic proportions in sight? A big fat stamp of approval from John Green and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards? And not to be superficial, but a stylized book jacket as sleek as an Apple product? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes!


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woman covering head with a pillowAs promised, here’s part 2 of our pet peeves survey, starting with Charlotte Taylor at Charlotte’s Library

1.  Series titles that overshadow the title of the actual book you are reading.  Egregious example from 2012--WINGS OF FIRE The Dragonet Prophecy.  I hate not being certain which is the title of the book and which is the title of the series!

2.  Prologues that aren’t necessary.  Which I think is most of them.   It is hard to try to care about a prologue, knowing that in just a few pages you’ll be thrust into the actual story, and even though you may be confused (this is particularly true of action-packed prologues)  you have to concentrate because there are probably Valuable Clues.  I don’t mind mythological prologues about the world being created, though–they tend to be rather soothing and don’t come back to bite you.

3.   Authors using words that have no place in the English language because we don’t actually need any more nouns becoming verbs thank you very much.  Egregious example of 2012–a dragon “gifting” the kingdom with magic in Iron Hearted Violet, by Kelly Barnhill.  The word is GAVE.  Especially if you are quasi-medieval.   (Please, anyone who might have a present for me, just give it to me as a gift.  Don’t gift it).

Ack, but now I remember that [as you yourselves point out]  I detest intrusive narrators of a particular stripe with a passionate intensity–the ones who pretend to be my friends even though I Have Never Met Them!  I am no one’s dear reader, not even Megan Whalen Turner’s (not that she would).  And then, after presuming on an acquaintance of just a few pages, they act like they know what I’m thinking!  They don’t.  My heart isn’t racing, breaking, trembling, or any of the other things they say it is.  It is becoming increasingly hostile.  A narrator who knows her place, however, can be tolerable.  (Question:  are extroverts more tolerant of intrusive narrators?)

We’re not exactly extroverts, but some intrusive narrators are okay (ie the Dear Reader in The Tale of Despereaux). And ditto on the “gifting,” though we’re sometimes guilty of being lazy like that.


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After last month’s post about our personal pet peeves, we reached out to various bloggers for their input, and they responded with thoughtful lists of their own of what sets them off. The responses are quite original–no repeats yet!

Monica Edinger at Educating Alice wrote

I saw your post and have been trying to think of pet peeves.  I guess the one that tops it for me isn’t really about what is in a book, but the way people keep using the term “young adult” for children’s books.  There is an attitude from certain adult readers who clearly read children’s books that it “doesn’t matter” and “why make age matter” and so forth.  But in my opinion it DOES matter because it is eliminating a whole group of people who are not speaking for themselves as they are not aware of the issue and won’t be until they are older.  I feel so strongly that there are a particular group of books that are written for children and not teens and not older folks. That they want to read them is great, but calling them young adult to differentiate them from adult titles, but otherwise figure it doesn’t matter is wrong in my book.

Sorry to go on, but I saw a variation of this attitude in the comments to my HuffPo post about The Hobbit.  So it is my top of the top pet peeve.  A commenter on my earlier screed wrote perceptively that adults do this because saying they are reading a YA book is acceptable, but a children’s book would be embarrassing.

Otherwise, I’m never a fan of copycat material from something unique. For instance, I’m seeing some buzz for books using old photos as did the guy for Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The books sound so copycattish and that bugs me.

Lastly, I’m not a fan of books that are overly earnestly didactic, well-intentioned, but too clearly trying to point a moral or make a lesson.

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Basically, a year-end roundup of our favorite books from 2012. Any of these titles would make an entertaining and enriching gift, whether it’s for the holidays or just because you are the definition of awesome and enjoy gifting books.

Picture Book 

extraWhat’s great about Extra Yarn is that while everyone has a different opinion on the story’s takeaway message, they’re all absolutely right. Also wonderful are illustrator Jon Klassen’s quirky pictures of a boring gray town bursting into variegated color as a result of Annabelle’s knitting, particularly when it’s worn by Klassen’s recurring Hat animals. Finally, this story celebrates yarn bombing. What’s not to like?

Middle Grade

mg pic

We can totally see Liar and Spy or In a Glass Grimmly winning accolades in the coming year. Other standouts include The Secret of the Fortune Wookie and The One and Only Ivan.  However, if you’re looking for that (elusive) distinguished book starring a female protagonist, look no further than Earwig and the Witch for some wonderfully ordinary magic.

YA fiction


It pleases us to proclaim what a good year 2012 has been for YA. On the top of our list is the not-very-festive but absolutely gripping Code Name Verity, which features a fantastic friendship between two very different young women. Also in the depressing but good category are The Wicked and the Just and The Drowned Cities (the prequel/companion novel to Ship Breaker.)  Alternatively, if you’re looking for something more upbeat, we recommend Team Human, which cheekily references the vampire genre yet has fully-fleshed characters (human and otherwise) and a story line that stands on its own.


montmarayFor those who enjoy book sets, the third and final installment of The Montmaray Journals was published this year. Like the previous two books chronicling the plight of the noble (literally) but penniless FitzOsbornes through WWII, The FitzOsbornes at War is a wonderful mix of frothy and serious drama.

We’ve shared our favorites. What are your recommendations for 2012? 

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