Other Books I’ve Read 2012

– Books of 2012 –

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvatercover_ravenboys_300

Birthday present book number two. This was another fantastic book. I really enjoyed Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy, but she topped herself with this imaginative and oftentimes lyrical story. I cannot wait to read its continuance.

Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. But she is too practical to believe in things like true love. Her policy is to stay away from the rich boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there — known as Raven Boys — can only mean trouble.

You can read the first fifteen pages online here.

Learn more about Maggie Stiefvater here.

Cold Days by Jim Butchercdcover_med

Chicago’s favorite wizard is back from the dead…finally! If you love fantasy, you should give this series a try. Usually after reading the latest book, I feel like I need to go back and reread the entire series again to see how all the threads have been pulled together so nicely, as if he planned it that way. This is one series that my husband and I both read religiously and I have to fight him over who gets to read the newest release first. (I lost, by this much.) It was worth the wait – although I did have to threaten him with bodily harm every time he tried to read a passage or tell me anything about…anything.

After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill.

Guess which Mab wants first?

Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own…

His soul. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

You can read the first four chapters online on the author’s website.

Learn more about Jim Butcher here.

Call of the WildThe Call of the Wild by Jack London

My dad built my daughter a bookcase for Christmas a few years ago and filled it with classic books – old copies he’d picked up at auctions and garage sales. Every once in awhile I take one out and read a story that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. This one grabbed my attention because of the arctic setting and the bit of the autobiographic quality of the writing. I’ve been longing for a good snow for awhile. Still haven’t seen one, but this book helped tide me over for awhile.

Half St. Bernard, half sheepdog, Buck is stolen away from his comfortable life as a pet in California and sold to dog traders. He soon finds himself aboard a ship, on its way to Northern Canada. Surrounded by cruelty, Buck’s natural instincts and behaviour begin to emerge as he works as a mail carrying sled dog, scavenging for food, protecting himself against other dogs and sleeping out in the cold snow.

Sold to a group of American gold hunters who are inexperienced living in the wilderness, the dogs are treated badly and as misfortune besets them, Buck is saved by John Thornton. Indebted to his new master, Buck remains by Thornton’s side, saving him from drowning and protecting him with fierce loyalty throughout their time together. However, Buck can not deny the strong lure of the wilderness around him.

Exciting and action-packed, THE CALL OF THE WILD explores the timeless relationship between man and dog, and the inevitable draw of primitive instincts that pull Buck away from civilization and humanity towards the lawless and harsh wilderness. (Plot summary from Goodreads website.)

Learn more about Jack London from the Literature Network website here.

The Center of Everything by Linda UrbanCenter of Everything

Another writer friend passed on this ARC to me because she knew I was such a big fan of Linda Urban’s. We had both just loved her debut middle grade novel, A Crooked Kind of Perfect. This book is just as stellar and is a straight-forward kind of perfect all on its own. I probably cried more than normal having just lost someone dear to me when I read it, but I think it made the book even better. This book comes out in early March.

For Ruby Pepperdine, the “center of everything” is on the rooftop of Pepperdine Motors in her donut-obsessed town of Bunning, New Hampshire, stargazing from the circle of her grandmother Gigi’s hug.  That’s how everything is supposed to be—until Ruby messes up and things spin out of control. But she has one last hope. It all depends on what happens on Bunning Day, when the entire town will hear Ruby read her winning essay. And it depends on her twelfth birthday wish—unless she messes that up too. Can Ruby’s wish set everything straight in her topsy-turvy world? (Plot summary from Barnes & Noble website)

Learn more about Linda Urban here.

Every Day

Every Day by David Levithan

One of my most favorite birthday gifts. Ever. EVER. Such a beautiful book. So fantastical, so creative, so touching in such an unusual way. Argh! You should so read this! I love everything I have ever read by Levithan.

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

David Levithan has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day. (Plot description from author’s website.)

Learn more about David Levithan here.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaimanthumb_AnansiBoys_UnabridgedCD_1185501006

This was the best garage sale buy I made this year. I love how effortlessly Gaiman moves from writing picture books to middle grade to adult books. One day I want to be like Neil Gaiman. This is a story in the same vein as American Gods in that it explores Gods and mythologies in a surprisingly human way. I liked this book just as much as American Gods.

When Fat Charlie’s dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie “Fat Charlie.” Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can’t shake that name, one of the many embarrassing “gifts” his father bestowed — before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie’s life.

Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things. Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie’s doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew. A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who’s going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun … just like Dear Old Dad. And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.

Because, you see, Charlie’s dad wasn’t just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil. Some said he could cheat even Death himself.

Returning to the territory he so brilliantly explored in his masterful New York Times bestseller, American Gods, the incomparable Neil Gaiman offers up a work of dazzling ingenuity, a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth that is at once startling, terrifying, exhilarating, and fiercely funny — a true wonder of a novel that confirms Stephen King’s glowing assessment of the author as “a treasure-house of story, and we are lucky to have him.” (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Neil Gaiman here.

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

I absolutely loved Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Everyone in my household did. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but my husband grew up overseas and he vacationed in Greece almost every summer until he was 14 years old – lucky bastard. Needless to say, he had a thing for Greek mythology and he loved these books. Even so, it took me awhile to embrace his newer series. I missed Percy. Time to get over it. The new heroes are great. I love that he finally has a hero from Aphrodite’s cabin and let’s just say she shouldn’t be judged at face value. I still miss  Percy, but it looks like he may be making a guest appearance in the next book. Yay!

Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently she’s his girlfriend Piper, his best friend is a kid named Leo, and they’re all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids.” What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea—except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn’t recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on?

Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What’s troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all—including Leo—related to a god.

(Plot summary from author’s website.) Riordan has one of the coolest author sites I’ve ever seen with maps to the hero camps, a list of ten signs that you might be a half-blood, and a place to explore Greek mythology even further.

Learn more about Rick Riordan here.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

I read this because it was assigned summer reading for my daughter and I never read it when I went to school. I thought I ought to educate myself. You can’t pass up a seminal story like this. Hansberry does a fine job of weaving the different responses to relocating the family to the white neighborhood with the truth of emotion.

Set on Chicago’s South Side, the plot revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis and matriarch Lena, called Mama. When her deceased husband’s insurance money comes through, Mama dreams of moving to a new home and a better neighborhood in Chicago. Walter Lee, a chauffeur, has other plans, however: buying a liquor store and being his own man. Beneatha dreams of medical school.

The tensions and prejudice they face form this seminal American drama. Sacrifice, trust and love among the Younger family and their heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world is a searing and timeless document of hope and inspiration. Winner of the NY Drama Critic’s Award as Best Play of the Year, it has been hailed as a “pivotal play in the history of the American Black theatre.” by Newsweek and”a milestone in the American Theatre.” by Ebony. (Plot summary taken from Amazon here.)

Learn more about the play here.



The Pirate Bride by Ryan And Anna McKinley, illustrated by Jerry Bennett

I bought this book to support my friend and fellow Oklahoma SCBWI member who did the fantastic illustrations for this chapter book written by a father/daughter team. Yes, i am speaking of the Jerry Bennett. Of course I also read it. The story is nice, but the ILLUSTRATIONS, WOW! That Jerry, he’s going places! Now I just can’t wait to see him at our next conference so he can sign it for me: “To my craziest fan ever, now leave me alone or I’m getting that restraining order.” Wait, that’s what John Green will sign when I finally corner him…Oh, I’m sure Jerry will come up with something witty all on his own.

There is no escape from responsibility…even on vacation.
That doesn’t stop 13 year-old Rachel from trying. A day of surfing, away from all five of her younger brothers, is meant to reward Rachel for all of her hard work at home. Instead, it turns into the greatest adventure of her life.

A wipeout catapults Rachel and her surfboard to a strange part of the ocean, far away from land and her family. Rescue arrives, or so Rachel thinks, in the form of an old sailing vessel. She quickly realizes that her heroes are lost pirates, some of which regard her as a threat, others which believe her to be their own rescuer-The Pirate Bride.

Voyage with Rachel as she applies her experiences with her rowdy brothers to the task of earning the pirates’ trust, at the same realizing that even her unruly siblings aren’t as bad as a ship full of lost pirates.

“The Pirate Bride” is an original story from the imagination of ten year-old Anna McKinley and brought to the page with help from her father, Ryan. Adding to the magic and wonder of the story are beautiful, pencil sketch illustrations by the artist Jerry Bennett.

Learn more about The Pirate Bride from the website here.

Learn more about Jerry Bennett on his facebook page here.

From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

I first read this book when I was a kid. I hadn’t realized how much it influenced me until I started working on my latest revision for my middle grade novel, which is a mystery set in a museum. I also had an unhealthy, let’s say preoccupation, when I was a kid with wondering what happened in my favorite places at night and how I could get myself locked up in them without getting caught. I decided I should revisit this fantastic book, and not just to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently plagiarized anything. It was just as good the second time. I’ve started plotting my escape to the Lindt chocolate factory already.

When Claudia decided to run away, she planned very carefully. She would be gone just long enough to teach her parents a lesson in Claudia appreciation. And she would go in comfort-she would live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She saved her money, and she invited her brother Jamie to go, mostly because be was a miser and would have money.
Claudia was a good organizer and Jamie bad some ideas, too; so the two took up residence at the museum right on schedule. But once the fun of settling in was over, Claudia had two unexpected problems: She felt just the same, and she wanted to feel different; and she found a statue at the Museum so beautiful she could not go home until she bad discovered its maker, a question that baffled the experts, too.
The former owner of the statue was Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Without her-well, without her, Claudia might never have found a way to go home. (Plot summary from publisher’s site.)

Learn more about E.L. Konigsburg from her publisher’s author page here.

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Another airplane read. This trim book flew by in about an hour on my way out to the LA conference. I read this and it was like a study in emotional simplicity.

“Did Mama sing every day?”
Caleb asks his sister Anna.
“Every-single-day,” she answers.
“Papa sang, too.”

Their mother died the day after Caleb was born. Their house on the prairie is quiet now, and Papa doesn’t sing anymore. Then Papa puts an ad in the paper, asking for a wife, and he receives a letter from one Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton, of Maine. Papa, Anna, and Caleb write back. Caleb asks if she sings. Sarah decides to come for a month. She writes Papa: I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet. I am plain and tall, and Tell them I sing. Anna and Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she like them? Will she stay? (Plot summary from HarperCollins site here.)

Learn more about Patricia MacLachlan on her publisher’s page here.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

Wonderful chapter book that I read on the plane home from LA. Eugene was such an eloquent speaker during the Picture Book Panel that I had to read something by him immediately. This book was perfect; a 2012 Newberry Honor Book filled with Yelchin’s moody that put you in the mood of Stalin’s Russia – quite a chilly place to be.

On the eve of his induction into the Young Pioneers, Sasha’s world is overturned when his father is arrested by Stalin’s guard. Yelchin deftly crafts a stark and compelling story of a child’s lost idealism. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Eugene Yelchin on his website here.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

This was such a fantastic book with so much heart, I fell in love with Gary Schmidt forever and ever while reading this one and vow to read all of his other books in the near future. He was one of the keynote speakers at the SCBWI LA Summer Conference, actually closing out the conference, and I think he was one of the best. This book came out of an actual experience he had with a teacher who hated him…and he hated her. He was stuck with her alone one afternoon a week and she made him read Shakespeare to keep him out of her hair. The only thing was, he loved it. The parallels may end there. Schmidt set the story in Vietnam era small town America where conflicts of culture and what to stand up for still creep in and impact everything, including how his main character learns to deal with his own father. Great book. Read it!

Holling Hoodhood is really in for it.

He’s just started seventh grade with Mrs. Baker, a teacher he knows is out to get him. Why else would she make him read Shakespeare…outside of class?

The year is 1967, and everyone has bigger things than homework to worry about. There’s Vietnam for one thing, and then there’s the family business. As far as Holling’s father is concerned, nothing is more important than the family business. In fact, all of the Hoodhoods must be on their best behavior at all times. The success of Hoodhood and Associates depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has Mrs. Baker to contend with? (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Gary Schmidt on his website.

American Primitive by Mary Oliver

This small book of poetry came to me in the greatest of ways. I won it! How fabulous is that? I’m always looking for more poetry to read and this beauty of a book just fell into my lap. Oliver won the Pulitzer for poetry for this fine book. It made me want to go run out into the woods a devour nature with my eyes just like she does.

The fifty poems in American Primitive make up a body of luminous unity. Mary Oliver’s visionary poems enunciate the renewals of nature and the renewals of humanity in love, in oneness with the natural, in union with the things of this world. (Description excerpt comes from author’s website.)

Learn more about Mary Oliver on her website.

A Song of Fire and Ice Series by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones

A Clash of Kings

A Storm of Swords

A Feast of Crows

I fell in love with this series on HBO during the first season and have been wanting to read the books for quite awhile. After season two aired, I knew it would be torture to wait an entire year to find out what happens so I thought what better time to start than now. The first book has not disappointed. Not much was left out in the television series from the first book, actually some nice detailed bits and background peeks into characters, which I love. Book Two is a different story, but the changes from the book only enhanced the experience of the world Martin created, at least for me. Some diehard fans will surely disagree. Overall I think HBO did a smashing job, which made me wonder what they could have done with the wizarding world of Harry Potter if they’d made those fantastic books into a series. Something to think about, eh?

I did have a moment in Book Three where I wanted to physically throw the book across the room after so many very bad things happened to so many characters that I loved – that’s as close to a spoiler as I’ll get. That just shows how connected you become to them.

I have enjoyed discovering the differences and learning so much more about all of these fantastically complex characters. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in the rest of the books. They do take me a little longer to get through than most books at an average of close to a thousand pages each, but they are well worth it. I still have the remainder of the series – more heavy books of fantastic-ness – to tide me over until next spring. Although everyone who’s already read them assures me I won’t last that long and I’ll be crying for the next book which won’t come out for a few more years. Well shall see!

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones. (Plot summary of first book from Goodreads.)

Learn more about George R.R. Martin on his website.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

“The Booker of the Booker,” so phenomenal it was given the prestigious award twice. This is the second book of Rushdie’s I’ve read. The first was Shalimar the Clown, a few years ago, which I really truly loved. This one took me a little longer to appreciate, despite it’s double Booker nod. Most of the time, my head was spinning from so much information, so many characters, it was hard to keep up. It could just be me. I did like it enough to continue reading more of Rushdie’s work, it just wasn’t my absolute favorite to date. Mr. Rushdie has just recently completed work on the screenplay for this novel and the movie adaption is soon to be released. I must say, I am curious to see how this novel translates into film, especially with Rushdie helping to develop it himself. Check out the website link for the film here.

Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India’s independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of national affairs; his health and well-being are inextricably bound to those of his nation; his life is inseparable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of his country. Perhaps most remarkable are the telepathic powers linking him with India’s 1,000 other “midnight’s children,” all born in that initial hour and endowed with magical gifts.

This novel is at once a fascinating family saga and an astonishing evocation of a vast land and its people–a brilliant incarnation of the universal human comedy. Twenty-five years after its publication, Midnight’s Children stands apart as both an epochal work of fiction and a brilliant performance by one of the great literary voices of our time. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Salman Rushdie on his website here.

Nôt Exăctly Jōb by Nathan Brown

As I mentioned in my blog post about Mr. Brown, I met him while taking a summer course in Santa Fe on Southwestern literature and culture. Since he’s from around these parts, just down the road a ways, I wanted to read some of his work. I also want to keep reading more poetry. Two birds – one stone, done. I am so glad I did. His writing is incredibly powerful and so full of emotion that I don’t think he left any of himself on the table; he bled right onto the page. I liked this first book so much that I picked another right away. I plan on adding his other books to my growing poetry collection.

In this book of poetry, photographs, and scripture, poet Nathan Brown expands the tradition of spiritual literary struggles by engaging with the Book of Job both as poetry and as catalyst for personal, contemporary questions of innocence and experience, faith and doubt. Often irreverent but always honest, Not Exactly Job is an emotionally powerful and intellectually challenging work. (Plot review from Goodreads.)

Suffer the Little Voices by Nathan Brown

This one was almost twice as long as the previous book and that just meant there was more of it to love. This one was written following a very dark time in this poet’s life and he let it all out in the pages, just like a true artist of this form should. You get a real sense of an aching soul, questioning what it all means. This book is a little harder to find, but well worth it.

“Suffer the Little Voices is unrelenting in its exploration of sacred points of experience bound up with skepticism and doubt. Nathan Brown mines these moments as if his life depends on them, and he convinces us that meaning in our own lives hangs on the little precipices of doubt that he identifies. There is no immediate comparison for this remarkably powerful poetry, except perhaps the work of Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. This book is an amazing gift that Brown has given to those who acknowledge the doubts that define the time we live in.” Robert Con Davis-Undiano
Director of World Literature Today

Learn more about Nathan Brown on his website here.

The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci & illustrated by Nate Powell

I love Cecil Castellucci and not just because she’s quirky and sweet and has a really high-pitched Minnie Mouse voice that doesn’t match her hardcore rocker exterior. I first read her book Queen of Cool years ago and loved it. In her latest book, she joins forces with a fantastic illustrator, Nate Powell, to merge the graphic novel with YA. The result is mildly intriguing at first and then the images make such an overwhelming impact at the end when you realize their significance. Such a completely different kind of story and yet universal at its core. Loved this book!

Every summer the trucks roll in, bringing the carnival and its infinite possibilities to town. This year Tessa and her younger sister Lulu are un-chaperoned and want to be first in line to experience the rides, the food . . . and the boys. Except this summer, jealousy will invade their relationship for the first time, setting in motion a course of events that can only end in tragedy, putting everyone’s love and friendship to the test. Alternating chapters of prose and comics are interwoven in this extraordinary novel that will break your heart and crack it wide open at the same time. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Cecil Castellucci on her website here.

Learn more about illustrator Nate Powell on his website here.

Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy by EL James 

To be honest, I did not know that these books were going to be wall to wall sex scenes when I picked them up. Not that that would have stopped me from reading…It was time for me to take a break from YA and read a “grown-up” book and boy did I pick the right word there. These books are not for everyone. I found them mildly entertaining, and although I was aware of many of the, let’s say role-play scenarios, that existed in this world beforehand, some others were definitely eye-opening.  As far as the plot of the books – what little there was – I was really done reading after the first half of the second book. After that, all the scenes became repetitive, problems were solved much too quickly, and everything was so predictable that the constant, unrealistic sex was no longer amusing. If this sounds like it’s right up your alley, by all means, indulge. Just please don’t let this be the only thing you read this year. Use this as a palate cleanser to ensure that you will thoroughly enjoy the hell out of the next quality book you read.

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY: When college student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating.  The unworldly Ana realizes she wants this man, and Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian’s secrets and explores her own desires. FIFTY SHADES DARKER: Daunted by Christian’s dark secrets and singular tastes, Ana has broken off their relationship to start a new career. But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and while Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Ana is forced to make the most important decision of her life. FIFTY SHADES FREED: Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to turn Ana’s deepest fears into reality. (Plot summary from Google book search.)

Learn more about E.L. James on her website here.

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Lauren Myracle is another writer I started reading because she had been placed on the banned authors list, and I don’t mean just casually placed on it somewhere near the middle. In 2009 and 2011, her books were THE MOST challenged books in the country.  That takes quite a bit of parental ire to achieve. She raises difficult subjects like sexuality, homosexuality, and alcohol abuse and explores them with characters that respond like real characters would. I loved her response to being asked about her own children’s reading habits. She said, “As a mom, I want my kids to read any fucking book they want! I want them to read.” That is exactly the kind of writer I want to support. I was an instant fan.

A few years ago, I picked up one of her “internet girls” series to see what all the fuss was about. After reading ttyl, a book that was written entirely in texting dialogue, I was slightly underwhelmed. I think it was because all the action was happening off-stage, so to speak. We kept hearing about everything that was going on through the texting, but not really “seeing” it. For me, l liked it well enough and I could see the appeal to teens (and there were enough controversial issues for the fanatics to get their panties in a wad), but it didn’t hold the emotional punch that I desired. Undeterred, I decided to give her another try when Shine came my way and I’m so glad I did. Emotional impact achieved. I must now go back and read everything else she has ever written outside of the texting series. She has lived up to my expectations and then some.

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author. (Plot summary from Amazon.)

Learn more about Lauren Myracle from Wikipedia here.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

I picked up this book because I’ll be attending the SCBWI summer conference in LA this August and Sepetys is on the faculty. I haven’t read anything from her before and I like to have some knowledge of the writers and editors that will be speaking. It helps me decide who’s sessions to attend and it helps me get more out of their talks if I’m familiar with their work. This book was a surprising view of  life under Stalin’s rule through the eyes of a people who suffered just as much as the European Jewish population- the citizens deported to Siberian labor camps because of their anti-communist views. Truly moving and endlessly fascinating.

Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.

In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina’s father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.

Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive.

It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive? (Plot summary from author site.)

Learn more about Ruta Sepetys on her website here.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

Sones writes in verse and she does so very well. I picked up one of her books on the recommendation of my writer friend Sharon Martin from my critique group – who is a phenomenal poet in her own right. Sharon has been published in poetry magazines and her current WIP is an outstanding YA novel written in prose.

Excerpt from author’s site:

My name is Sophie.
This book is about me.
It tells the heart-stoppingly riveting story
of my first love.
And also of my second.
And, okay, my third love, too.

It’s not that I’m boy crazy.
It’s just that even though
I’m almost fifteen
I’ve been having sort of a hard time
trying to figure out the difference
between love and lust.

It’s like
my mind
and my body
and my heart
just don’t seem to be able
to agree on anything.

Learn more about Sonya Sones on her website here.

The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones

City of Ashes

City of Glass

City of Fallen Angels

City of Lost Souls

I cannot remember where I first heard about this series, to be honest. I started reading them at the end of 2010 and have re-read them all as each new book arrives – hence why I hate waiting for sequels; I always have to re-read the previous book or I get lost trying to remember all the details. I felt the series was complete after the third book; most of the over-arching story lines had come to a satisfying conclusion. I’ll still read the other books because I like her writing. A lot. It’s just that everything is going horribly wrong all over again and I hate to see that happen to these characters. I guess that’s a great endorsement right there. You’ll care about these characters enough to want to keep them from harm, but we as writers know, you have to hurt your characters – put obstacles in their way, deny them what they truly want – because it makes for great tension and great story-telling.

Here’s a plot summary for the first book in the series from the author’s site:

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Clary knows she should call the police, but it’s hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.

Equally startled by her ability to see them, the murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. Within twenty-four hours, Clary’s mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon.

But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….

Learn more about Cassandra Clare on her website here.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My daughter actually picked this up at the bookstore. She and I read a lot of the same books – she steals mine, I steal hers. Sometimes we even wait until the other one is done reading first. Sometimes. This one looked too enticing to NOT try. A word of caution, don’t read this all alone at night. *Shudders*

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. (Plot summary from author site.)

Learn more about Ransom Riggs here.

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

I started reading this during April when the Surprise Agent Invasion was in full swing and I needed a distraction. This book was suggested by Cupid as the selection for her blog’s reading group. We’d all read the book and then discuss it online. I’d never done that before so it sounded like fun. It was a great read and although the cover art is outstanding, I’m not sure I would have read it on my own. I’m glad I did. The only downside is that this is the first book in a trilogy and the next one doesn’t come out until 2013. I hate waiting for sequels! Arg! It’s just so agonizing. I like to wait until all of the books are out and then read them right in a row. I may be a bit impatient.

NEWSOUL
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

NOSOUL
Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

HEART
Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all? (Plot summary from Jodi’s website.)

Read more about Jodi Meadows on her site here.

The Shiver Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver

Linger

Forever

When I started actively working on building my writer’s platform, I became a more active participant on Twitter. Part of that included following authors that I know and love, and some that I’ve only heard about, but knew I should probably love as well. Ms. Stiefvater falls into the latter category. I then also decided if I followed these writers, I should at least read something by them, hence my beginning this series. Her writing kept me reading further.

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf — her wolf — is a haunting presence she can’t seem to live without.

Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human…until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy with a murky past. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human — or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Maggie Stiefvater on her website here.

The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

Divergent

Insurgent

This is the debut novel by Roth and it is pretty darn good. I’ll have to get the sequel, Insurgent, which just came out recently.UPDATE: I HAVE read the second book and it was just as good as the first one. Now I’ll have to wait an entire year to finish off the series! ACK! Have I mentioned how much I hate waiting? I believe I picked this one up because of all the positive word of mouth comments about it out in the twitterverse. I also love discovering new writers to become avid fans of.

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her. (Plot summary from author’s site.)

Learn more about Veronica Roth on her website here.

Elegy for Trains by Benjamin Myers

This is the first book of poetry on my reading list, but it will not be the last. I think poetry can teach writers a great deal about getting to the essence of emotions and painting images through the beautiful use of language. This book of poetry is very special to me because it was written by the son of one of my writing mentors, the woman who one day soon I will write a long, gushing post about, the ever amazing and wonderfully talented, Anna Myers. Ben is a fantastic writer and poet on his own merits and won the Oklahoma Book Award in poetry last year for this very book. This year, at the Oklahoma Book Awards, I was privileged to hear Ben give a heartfelt introduction as his mother, Anna, received a lifetime achievement award for her 19 published children’s books.

Benjamin Myers’ poems range from Virgil through Shakespeare to Woody Guthrie.Just as facets in gems come to life when light strikes them, so do the themes, images, and tropes in Elegy for Trains when the brilliance of Benjamin Myers’ wit, sensitivity and intelligence illuminate his words. His poems make us see Oklahoma and the world afresh. You will read this book, then want to read it again! book overview from Amazon website.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I am a huge fan of John Green. He had me at Looking for Alaska and I’ve read every novel since. This book is one of his best. Green’s humerus bone must be infused with adamantium because his sense of the comedic is sublime. We even forgive him for following the most hysterical scenes with extremely poignant, heart-wrenching moments that have you grabbing for the tissue box. Always questioning, always thought-provoking in a non-condescending way, always everything I want in a book.

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love. (Plot summary from Barnes & Noble).

Learn more about John Green from his website here.

The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

Over Sea, Under Stone

The Dark is Rising

Green Witch

The Grey King

Silver on the Tree

This is actually a five book series that I had on my to-read list after an editor at one of our OK SCBWI conferences recommended her enthusiastically. I received all five books in one huge tome for Christmas (what can I say, my family knows what I love the most). It wasn’t until I started reading the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone, that I realized how old the series was. Cooper first published the first book the series in 1965 and the last one in 1977. The way the editor had been gushing about Cooper’s far-reaching influence in fantasy, I hadn’t realized that he meant from so far back in the past. And yet, there were so many relevant issues that Cooper addressed in her series that could have written about today. She was so imaginative in how she wove the magical elements into her stories, I just couldn’t believe the books were over thirty years old. I loved the settings which takes place all over England and Wales. I especially enjoyed the mini-tutorial on how to pronounce a majority of Welsh words that she worked into a dialogue scene – so fun. Some books were stronger than others. The heavy magic and the full weight of the quest doesn’t become apparent until the second book, The Dark is Rising, which just takes this sudden turn into the fantastic that you want more and more of.

In one of the most influential epic high fantasies in literature, Cooper evokes Celtic and Arthurian mythology and masterly world-building in a high-stakes battle between good and evil, embodied in the coming of age journey of Will Stanton. The Dark Is Rising Sequence chronicles the adventures of Will Stanton, the last of the immortal Old Ones, as he acquires the Things of Power for the Light in its climactic battle with the Dark. (Plot summary from YALSA website.)

Learn more about Susan Cooper from her website here.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

I bow down before the queen of teen YA. I never ever thought I’d read a book with such a title or cover, believe me. (Yes, damn it! I did judge.) This may appear to be just your average story about a bunch of  beauty queens whose plane crash leaving the survivors stranded on a deserted island with no plug-ins in sight, but as with all of Bray’s books, there is so much more depth and discovery underneath it all. A commentary on girl culture at its very core and a must-read for every young woman. If you have read her Gemma Doyle series, which I also adored, this is quite a departure from that writing style. It’s more like her Going Bovine, although nothing really compares to Going Bovine, does it?

Teen beauty queens. A “Lost”-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count. (Plot summary from Bray’s website.)

Learn more about Libba Bray here.


Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

A book authored by the dream team. Could YA get any better? Well, if Libba Bray and AS King ever do a mash up, I might just die. Until then, there is this wonderful, fan-fucking-tastic book. (Sorry. I don’t believe in censorship and sometimes there IS no other word that expresses what I mean.) My favorite of the year so far.

I’ve loved John Green since I saw him in LA at the SCBWI summer conference right after his first book  Looking for Alaska came out. I think he knows this and he has me on some stalker watch list. As for David Levithan, he pretends he’s an editor but he needs to quit that day job and keep writing wonderfully strong characters that just happen to be gay. His book Boy Meets Boy is not to be missed.

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical. (Plot summary from John Green’s site.)

Learn more about David Levithan at his site here.

Learn more about John Green at his site here.

Tethered by Amy MacKinnon

My daughter bought this one for me for Christmas because she said during one bookstore browsing that I had picked it up and shown interest. I couldn’t remember, but I’m glad she did. This is the first adult book I read this year and I loved every minute of it. MacKinnon’s character makes you actually enjoy hanging out in the creepiest place I can think of; the mortician’s basement.

Clara Marsh is an undertaker who doesn’t believe in God. She spends her solitary life among the dead, preparing their last baths and bidding them farewell with a bouquet from her own garden. Her carefully structured life shifts when she discovers a neglected little girl, Trecie, playing in the funeral parlor, desperate for a friend.

It changes even more when Detective Mike Sullivan starts questioning her again about a body she prepared three years ago, an unidentified girl found murdered in a nearby strip of woods. Unclaimed by family, the community christened her Precious Doe. When Clara and Mike learn Trecie may be involved with the same people who killed Precious Doe, Clara must choose between the stead-fast existence of loneliness and the perils of binding one’s life to another. (Plot summary from MacKinnon’s author site.)

Learn more about Amy MacKinnon on her website here.

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers

I would have read this even if Myers wasn’t our current Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. He is just amazing. I gushed about this book in an earlier post here. I’ve also read his book Monster which won the Michael L Printz award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and was a National Book Award Finalist. It is fabulous. If you like gritty books with so much heart you’ll ache, grab this one.

For fourteen-year-old Reese, it’s hard to stay out of trouble when the code at Progress Center is survival of the fittest. Can he get a second chance, even if he’s locked up in juvie jail? (Plot summary from Myer’s website.)

Learn more about Walter Dean Myers on his website here.

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn

My love for all things Rachel Cohn is well-documented in this post. This woman has voice for days and is a must-read for all aspiring to write for teens.

Very LeFreak has a problem: she’s a crazed technology addict. Very can’t get enough of her iPhone, laptop, IMs, text messages, whatever. If there’s a chance the incoming message, call, text, or photo might be from her super-secret online crush, she’s going to answer, no matter what. Nothing is too important: sleep, friends in mid-conversation, class, a meeting with the dean about academic probation. Soon enough, though, this obsession costs Very everything and everyone. Can she learn to block out the noise so she can finally hear her heart? (Plot summary from Cohn’s site.)

Learn more about Rachel Cohn on her website here.

Interstellar Pig by William Sleator

I originally picked this up after reading about his death last year and then my husband raved about reading The Green Futures of Tycho when he was a kid, another Sleator book and one I have on my to-read list . I’d never heard of Sleator before the article and he was praised as such a great writer that I had to try at least one of his books. I read two; this one and The Test, which I read last year. This one is definitely worth the read if you like science fiction.

Sixteen-year-old Barney is resigned to another boring vacation at his parents’ summer rental, reading science-fiction novels and keeping out of the sun. The summer starts to get interesting when Barney learns their rental once belonged to a Captain whose insane brother had been locked up for twenty years in the bedroom where Barney now slept. Then the neighbors move in, bringing with them the game they call Interstellar Pig. – plot summary from Wikipedia

Books of 2012

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