Category Archives: favorites

Shopping Suggestions

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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.

9781423144342_p0_v2_s260x420  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!

 

9781423166801_p0_v2_s260x420  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.

 

 

 

 

41zHaSex4JL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_  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!

 

 

 

9780545035330_p0_v2_s260x420  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!

 

 

 

9780316043533_p0_v1_s260x420  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.

 

 

 

 

9780807517390_p0_v1_s260x420  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.

 

 

 

9781452111742_p0_v3_s260x420  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.

 

 

 

 

9781442444645_p0_v3_s260x420  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!

 

 

 

9780802728388_p0_v3_s260x420  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!

 

 

 

9781442426702_p0_v5_s260x420  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!

 

 

 

9781442435001_p0_v5_s260x420  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.

 

 

 

9781595146748_p0_v2_s260x420  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.

 

 

 

9781934133590_p0_v1_s260x420  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!

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

9780374384678_p0_v2_s260x420  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!

 

 

 

 

9780545613781_p0_v1_s260x420  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.

 

 

9780399252518_p0_v3_s260x420  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!

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A Favorite Author: Cinda Williams Chima

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I have many favorite authors, as I’ve said before. And from time to time I will highlight them here. As you know from my last post, I accidentally ruined a book by putting it in the washing machine. Fortunately, because of my wonderful indie book store (Bank Square Books) and the store owner who saw my post, I was able to get a new copy in a day. The book I washed?

9781423144342_p0_v2_s260x420The 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 each 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.  When Jonah and Emma’s paths intersect, secrets and lies play a part in their growing attraction. The political battle between the wizards and other guilds cause Jonah and Emma to form a partnership to try to find out the true story behind Thorn Hill.

If you are at all growing a bit fatigued by all the similar stories out there, I know that feeling. Sometimes I read books and they just seem to be a play off of other popular books. This is where Cinda Williams Chima stands out, head and shoulders above the crowd. Her books are original. All her books are fantastic – in-depth stories with amazing world-building and magical elements tinged with intrigue and violence and love and lust. Her characters are strong and passionate, and the stories are woven intricately. You don’t need to have read the first three books in the Heir Chronicles to understand The Enchanter Heir, but you will probably want to go back to read them.

My favorite series of hers is the Seven Realms series. The first in the series is The Demon King:

9781423121367_p0_v2_s260x420

From the publisher:

One day Han Alister catches three young wizard setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet away from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won’t use it against him. The amulet once belonged to the Demon King, who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece so powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battle to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of riding and hunting with her father’s family. Raia aspires to be like Hanalea, the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems that her mother has other plans for her-plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning page-turner from best-selling author Cinda Williams Chima.

This series contains an epic love story, an amazing battle between good and evil, friendship and family love. This is a series I would read more than once and intend to in the near future. I highly recommend any books by Cinda Williams Chima!

For more about the author and her books: her website.

Favorite Couples

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In honor of Valentine’s Day (and my daughter’s birthday, Happy Birthday C!), I’m happy to once again share a list of my favorite couples from recent reads. Last year I shared a list that spanned back to when I first started reading YA/MG. You can see that (incomplete) list here. I’m always adding to it because I have a faulty memory. 😉 I’d like to add to the list today – mostly from books I read in the year since, but also to add favorites from past reads. Know that this remains an incomplete and continuously growing list!

9780425266748_p0_v1_s260x420Jacqueline and Lucas in Easy by Tammara Webber

(Berkeley Publishing/2012)

9780618863358_p0_v1_s260x420DJ Schwenk and Brian Nelson in Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

(Houghton Mifflin/2006)

Also, Off Season and Front and Center.

12294652Samantha and Jase in My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

(Dial Books/2012)

12680907Bitterblue and Saf in Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

(Simon & Schuster/2012)

9781423166009_p0_v2_s260x420Kat Bishop and Hale in The Heist Society books by Ally Carter

Perfect Scoundrels Book 3

(Disney Hyperion/2013)

103057115Amy and Roger in Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan  Matson

(Simon & Schuster/2010)

9780374302337_p0_v1_s260x420Remy and Dana in Funny How Things Change by Melissa Wyatt

(FSG/2009)

9781476730943_p0_v2_s260x420Nastya and Josh in The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

(Atria Paperbacks/2012)

Oh, I’m sure I’ve left out some key couples here! And I’ll be kicking myself for neglecting to add them, but I promise to keep adding!

Your turn – who are your favorite couples from YA novels? I can’t wait to hear what you’ll share!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

From My Bookshelves: A Favorite

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I started a semi-regular series here featuring favorite authors.  I decided to expand that category and include favorite books, not necessarily new ones I recently read, but old favorites. The kind that I reread or would never ever remove permanently from my bookcase.

The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy (Viking/2007)

Joan is unhappy when she must move with her family from Connecticut to California.  She’s angry with her mother, and her father is perpetually angry at everyone and everything, so Joan is both surprised and happy to meet The Queen of the Foxes (aka Fox, aka Sarah) who lives not too far away from Joan’s new home in the middle of the woods.  The two girls share adventures and make up stories all summer, until school starts and Joan discovers that Sarah is not only not one of the cool girls, but ostracized.  Still, they remain friends.  They win a writing contest and take a special summer program at UC Berkeley on creative writing. Joan takes great joy in learning how to write stories – even as her world/family seems to be crumbling apart – along with Fox’s.  As she asks more questions and observes more, she sees things she hadn’t noticed before – her mother’s strength and her father’s unhappiness.  And sometimes, even though you want to fly away, it’s better to stay.  The story itself centers around families and change, and how Joan and Fox interpret these things and survive. The story and the characters tugged on my emotions, and I fell in love with Joan and Fox. Such a great story, so well-written!

I read and loved this book when I first read it  years ago, and I recommended to friends near and far who also loved it. I re-read it last year and still love it. I hope the author writes something new soon!

A Favorite Author – Maureen Johnson

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I have many favorite authors and hope to share them with you throughout the lifetime of this blog. Today I want to feature Maureen Johnson.  She is the author of nine YA novels and a contributor/co-author of two more YA novels.  Prolific, yes?  I’ve never met her, alas, but I have been a fan of hers for many, many years.

I first discovered her when I read Bermudez Triangle, which I remember enjoying, enough to search out other books by her. That’s when i came across The Key to the Golden Firebird.

This book remains one of my favorites of all time and I reread it every other year or so.   What It’s About: May always felt like an outsider to her baseball-loving family – particularly her dad, and her two sisters, Brooks and Palmer.  When her father suddenly dies of a heart attack, she feels even more adrift.  Her mother works night shift, Brooks quits baseball and starts drinking, and Palmer retreats into herself. And suddenly her nemsis and long-time family friend Pete Camp offers to give her driving lessons and they actually get along. May is confused by her feelings for him and further confused by her jealousy when he starts dating her co-worker. Slowly things heat up, Brooks and Palmer and May all heading for self-destruction in their unique ways.

Then, I read another book by Maureen Johnson and loved it equally – 13 Little Blue Envelopes.

I’ve recommended this book to many friends, including my sister, but just recently reread it again earlier this year. Wow! Still love it!  What It’s About: When Ginny receives a package from her deceased beloved aunt with 13 little blue envelopes, she embarks on a mysterious scavenger type trip that takes her from her home in New Jersey, to New York, London, Scotland, and many more places.  Ginny always believed that exciting things only happened when she was with her aunt, but exciting things were definitely happening to her as she travels alone. During her travels, Ginny makes discoveries about her aunt and about herself. 

So I was thrilled earlier this year to learn that she had written a sequel! (So many years later!) I read The Last Little Blue Envelope the day it came out!

What It’s About: Ginny is back home in New Jersey, post-European summer adventure following the directions from her beloved, deceased aunt in 13 blue envelopes.  Except that last blue envelope was stolen in Greece.  Even so, Ginny had a grand adventure traveling alone and meeting Keith, and discovering she has an uncle in London.  She’s preparing for college – struggling to write her essay – when out of the blue, she receives a mysterious email from an Oliver who claims to have her backpack, and the letters. Except there’s a catch – he wants a finder’s fee in the form of half the sale from the proceeds from the very last piece of art Gin’s aunt left – in three pieces, scattered throughout Europe. And Ginny is off again, on another grand adventure.

I’ve read and enjoyed most of this author’s books, but most recently I read The Name of the Star.

Woo Boy! This story was unlike any I’ve read by her, but still contained the things I love most about Maureen Johnson’s stories – great characters I fall in love with immediately, gripping story with strong emotions, and a good romance.  I don’t want to say too much about this book (available in stores now) because I don’t want to ruin any elements of surprise.  What It’s About: When Rory’s parents take a sabbatical to teach in England, Rory leaves behind her small bayou town in Louisiana and attends a boarding school in London. Just as she starts her first day, Jack the Ripper copycat murders start taking place right near her school. Rory makes quick friends with her roommate Jaz and her group of friends, including the cute but shy Jerome, who is rather obsessed with the murders. And that’s all I’m going to say!  Oh, and that I wasn’t able to read this book at night alone. I’m hooked though and am already impatient for what I hope will be book two in this series!

For more about Maureen and her books, check out her site, read her blog, and follow her on Twitter!