It’s that time of year again, when we want to find the perfect gifts for family and friends. When I can, I prefer to give the gift of a book. Everyone wins – the receiver, the author, and the bookstore (please buy from your local Indie).
If you check out my reading list for the year (sidebar), these are the books I’ve read and enjoyed so far. But I’d like to highlight a few for your shopping pleasure. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll stick to children’s and teen fiction, but if you’d like my recommendations for adult fiction, just drop me a line.
The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima (Hyperion/2013)
In a continuation of the Heir Chronicles, this story focuses on Jonah and Emma. Both are survivors of the Thorn Hill massacre/accident (depending on who tells the story) – killing all the adults and turning the surviving children into “savants” or mutants. Not quite wizards or enchanters or warriors or sorcerers – but somehow having a special ability, but also cursed with short lives. Jonah is able to enchant, but also his bare touch will kill. Emma who knew nothing of this world comes to it after her grandfather is murdered and she’s united with her long-absent father. But then Jonah comes along to question Tyler (Emma’s father) about Thorn Hill and is ambushed by wizards and a battle ensues. There is mystery, intrigue, and romance! The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger but fortunately the next book, The Sorcerer Heir was released in October! I’m looking forward to reading it!
United We Spy by Ally Carter (Hyperion/2013)
In the last book of the Gallagher Girl series, Cam starts her last semester of her senior year as a Gallagher Girl with her three best friends and Zach by her side. Until things go unexpectedly haywire and the girls must use their spy training to solve and save, once again. Always exciting and always fun, I will miss this series! If you haven’t read any of the books, definitely start with book 1 about a secret spy school for girls.
Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (Candlewick/2013)
Piddy Sanchez’s biggest issue used to be wanting to know who her father was. But then she and her mother move and Piddy starts a new high school. Immediately she catches the wrong kind of attention. A mean girl and her gang of girls want to hurt Piddy and she doesn’t understand why. Piddy’s grades suffer as she tries to avoid confrontation and Piddy feels alone. Things continue to get worse for Piddy and she must make a decision in order to get her life back. Touching story!
Half A Chance by Cynthia Lord (Scholastic/2014)
When Lucy and her mom and photographer dad move to a cottage on a New Hampshire lake, she is, as always, worried about being the new kid. But summer gives her a chance to get to know her new home and make a new friend with neighbor Nate, even though he is only there for the summer. Lucy decides to enter a photography contest and with Nate’s help, she shoots photos, wondering if they will be good enough for her dad. She and Nate and his sister, follow the loons – recording their family life for the Loon Preservation Society and for Nate’s grandmother who is slowly starting to lose her memory. A story about friendship, family, and making and keeping memories. Beautifully written!
Sorta Like A Rock Star by Matthew Quick (Little, Brown/2011)
Amber Appleton, age 17, lives with her mother in a yellow school bus (her mother’s part time job). With her little dog Bobby Big Boy, Amber tries to bring hope into everyone’s lives – her best friends, the seniors at the retirement home, a Vietnam Vet and her favorite teacher at school, but when tragedy strikes and Amber gives up, all those lives she’s touched – they come together to give her a great gift back. Quirky characters abound with touches of humor and great emotion.
Dust of Eden: A Novel by Mariko Nagai (Albert Whitman & Co./2014)
After Pearl Harbor, Mina Masako Tagawa and her family are forced to leave their home in Seattle and relocate to an internment camp in Idaho. This is the story of the Japanese internment during WWII. In poignant and powerful verse, Mariko Nagai tells the story through middle-schooler Mina who has to leave behind everything – including her cat and best friend, Jamie. In the dusty barrack camps where the families are crammed together with no privacy and little amenities, Mina’s family cracks under the strain. The beauty lies in the telling – Nagai’s verse is filled with emotion. Grandpa’s roses are the beauty that survives in the harsh environment and serves as a reminder that under even the harshest conditions, beauty can be found.
Always Emily by Michaela MacColl (Chronicle Books/2014)
In 1835 Haworth England, 17yo Emily is forced by her sister Charlotte to go away from her beloved moors to a boarding school, where Charlotte will be a teacher. Both sisters crave the writing life, but Charlotte is practical. Teaching would be a good practical profession. Headstrong Emily escapes back home after suffering homesickness and misery. Emily comes across a young man camping on the moors and becomes embroiled in a mystery. A gripping and engaging tale based on the famous Brontë sisters.
Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland (Simon & Schuster/2014)
The story opens on Zephyr who is stuck in Tartarus’ worst section, the Pits, as punishment for killing one of Hera’s guards. Zeph is a failed Harpy. Fortunately, she has found a protector in Cass. When her childhood friend (and crush) Tallon comes to the rescue to release her from the Underworld, she and Cass join Tallon, his dragon brother Blue and Zeph’s childhood nemisis Alora in a quest to keep Hera from taking over the mortal world. Exciting and original and full of adventure and tension! I hope there is another book after this one!
Taste Test by Kelly Fiore (Bloomsbury/2013)
When Nora Henderson secures a place on the popular TV cooking competition for high school seniors, she is excited for a chance to achieve her dream of leaving small town Weston, NC and having a career in the culinary arts. When she arrives and meets the other contestants, she immediately loathes the arrogant son of a famous chef, Christian. The two become fierce competitors. During the course of the show, it seems someone is sabotaging the competition, seriously injuring some of the contestants. Nora is determined to figure out the mystery. Exciting mystery flavored with a spicy romance, and recipes!
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (Simon & Schuster/2014)
Lara Jean has been in love with 5 boys in her 16 years, and she’s written each of them a love letter and sealed them in her closet. Those letters were meant for her and never for the recipients, but when those letters somehow reach these boys, Lara Jean must deal with the consequences. The hardest boy to deal with is Josh, her beloved older sister’s boyfriend. To try to convince Josh she no longer has feelings for him, she starts a fake relationship with Peter K, another letter recipient. They write up a contract with rules, but, of course, complications arise as Josh tries to pursue Lara Jean. I laughed and cried and I loved that the MC was half Korean-American. Best news? There’s a companion book coming out in 2015!
Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson (Simon & Schuster/2014)
When Emily discovers that her best friend Sloane has disappeared, she is lost without her. Sloan was what made life good, and what made Emily interesting. Sloan leaves behind a list of things for Emily to do – all things that scare her, like ride a horse, go skinny-dipping, and kiss a stranger. These are all Slone things, not Emily things. But Emily believes that doing these thing might bring Sloan back or at least give her a clue as to where she went. During the course of checking off things on her list, Emily becomes friends with class president, all-around-do-gooder and confident half of a couple, Frank Porter, and of course, things get complicated. Loved this story and didn’t want it to end. I just wanted to hang out with Emily (and Frank) longer.
Like No Other by Una LaMarche (Razorbill/2014)
Devorah Blum has always been the rule follower in her Hasidic family, but when fate strikes during a storm while she’s at the hospital, she finds herself stuck in an elevator with a boy her age. She has never been alone with the opposite sex and while at first frightened, she is surprised at how comfortable she is with him. Jaxon, a East Indian nerd at heart, is instantly attracted to Devorah and tries hard to impress her. He’s usually tongue-tied in front of girls, but he is strangely comfortable with her as they share conversation and headphones. After they escape the elevator, they both feel an undeniable pull toward each other, and Devorah risks everything to try to be with him.
Devin Rhodes Is Dead by Jennifer Wolf Kam (Mackinac Island Books/2014)
Fifteen-year-old Devin Rhodes is found dead at the bottom of the ravine, and best friend Cass is wracked by guilt that overshadows the loss and grief she feels over the last moments she shared with Devin. Cass struggles with her feelings over how used and small she felt when she was around Devin and the forever friendship they’d shared. When she believes that Devin’s ghost is haunting her, Cass wants nothing more than to forget, even as everyone around her prods her to remember, especially the detective that comes to question her. Told in alternating before and after chapters, this suspenseful story about friendship is a true page-turner with an ending that doesn’t disappoint. Outstanding page-turning story!
Cooper & Packrat #2: Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest by Tamra Wight (Islandport Press/2014)
Cooper and Packrat are back in another Wilder Campground adventure. Cooper and Packrat discover one of their campgroup geocache boxes filled with illegal eagle parts. They are determined to discover the mystery of these illegal activities. An adventurous story with fascinating facts about eagles
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (FSG/2014)
Kestral is the General’s daughter – a proud Valorian living in luxury in the conquered Herrani capital. Her father has given her an ultimatum – marry or join the military by age 17. She wants neither. One day, she comes across a slave auction and she ends up bidding for and buying a slave – something she is ashamed of. Smith is arrogant and closed off, and yet the two start to form a sort of friendship – one that is not normal for mistress and slave – trust and attraction grows. But unbeknownst to Kestral, Smith (or Arin) is a plant and a spy who is second in command to the brewing rebellion. A gripping page-turning with a hot romance!
The Angel Tree by Daphne Benedis Grab (Scholastic/2014)
Every Christmas in the small town of Pine River, the Angel Tree is mysteriously erected in the town square. People young and old tie wishes to the tree, and those wishes, with the generous help of the townsfolk, come true. Lucy wishes that the surgery for her sick seeing-eye dog that her family can’t afford will be provided. Max wants nothing more than to get out of the depressing run-down apartment his family lives in after their house burned down. Joe, new to town, and friendless, wishes his mother could come to him for Christmas. Cami doesn’t tie her wish onto the tree because she wants to discover who the mysterious benefactor is. When the four come together to solve the mystery, a greater gift of friendship materializes. A heart-warming tale perfect for the Christmas season and any other time of the year.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Books/2014)
In free verse, Jacqueline Woodson recalls her childhood, from birth in Ohio, to a childhood raised by family in South Carolina, to moving again as a child to Brooklyn New York. And always was the dream of becoming a writer. With details of the race struggle during her childhood interspersed with touching detail about her family and forever friend, Woodson tells a story about her childhood.
Honestly, I recommend any of the books I’ve read and listed on the sidebar of my blog. These are just a few of my favorites from the year. Happy holidays, happy shopping, and of course happy reading!