It was such fun to look back on what I’ve read this past year and pick my favorites! Below you’ll find mostly adult fiction titles, including some standout graphic novels, as well as a stellar young adult novel (Wilder Girls!). 2019 was also the year I dabbled in reading outside my comfort zone of generally weird and spooky, venturing into the land of romantic fiction and true crime. Much to my surprise, I was so utterly charmed by a romance novel that it ended up on this list (I’m looking at you Chloe Brown). I hope that if you haven’t read one of these titles you will be inspired to stop by and check it out this winter. Maybe you will also find yourself pleasantly surprised by broadening your reading horizons *wink*. Wishing you a joyful holiday season and happy reading!
I have some sad news -It was decided to stop our monthly staff genre book discussions and I have to confess, I miss them already… At least you’ll have one last list of new (to you?) teen books to read and enjoy! Are you ready to see what everyone had to say about their selection this month? Me too!
Megan: The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter, is the 2017 William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. It tells the story of three teens living in a small Tennessee town in the heart of the Bible Belt. Dill is the grandson and son of preachers and their legacy is not a happy one. Grandpa Dill was a snake charmer who became unhinged after the death of his daughter and Dill’s father, also a Dill, is in prison. His mother wants him to leave school and help support the family, but his best friend Lydia wants him to go to college. Lydia is internet famous for her fashion blog and she is eager to leave her small town middle class life and strike out on her own in New York City. The third member of this odd little group is Travis, the gentle giant. He chooses to escape the abuse he suffers at the hand of his father by retreating into a fantasy world. This book is full of the big questions teens ask, friendship, tragedy, and hope. This is a fantastic coming of age story for fans of John Green and A.S. King
Gina: We Are Still Tornadoes is written in epistolary format, by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen. Discover the thoughts of these childhood friends, Cath and Scott after their high school graduation in the letters they write to each other the following year as pen pals. Cath moves out of state to attend college while Scott remains home to assist his father in the family store and starts a band with friends. They correspond throughout the year sharing their experiences, learning, and growing. Their letters bring them close together to realize that they are more than just friends. The addition of the 80’s music references made this book enjoyable.
Steve: The first book of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan, is an awesome fantasy story that centers on an orphan named Will. On the Choosing Day none of the task masters choose him as an apprentice, that is until a Ranger ultimately requests him. Will is dutifully learning the ways of the Rangers, under the mentorship of the mysterious Halt, when his training is interrupted by news that the evil Morgarath is making maneuvers in an attempt to gain control of the kingdom. And then the real action begins.
Carol: In Jackaby by William Ritter, Abigail Rook comes to America in 1892 looking for adventure, and she is hired as an assistant to R.F. Jackaby, a mysterious detective who can see the paranormal. On Abigail’s first day, they are called to the scene of a murder. Jackaby is convinced that the killer is other-worldly and the game is afoot. This first in a series was published in 2014 and is a smart, funny and clever read—like a Sherlock novel, with a supernatural twist.
Sara: I read the young adult novel, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. It is the first in a trilogy about a 16 year old girl who wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the accident that put her there or how two friends and her boyfriend died in it. Her family moves to a new state, hoping Mara’s memory will come back gradually. Instead she begins hallucinating that she can see her dead friends and has premonitions of things before they happen. She also falls in love with a mysterious boy, Noah, who she feels like she has know for a lifetime. Were they destined to meet by forces beyond her control? And how did her friends die in the accident while she was unharmed? This book is a psychological (and perhaps paranormal) thriller, fast-paced and definitely worth reading.
Lauren: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows is a delightfully ridiculous retelling of the story of Lady Jane Grey and King Edward VI. Their fantasy world centers on the clash between Verities, “normal people”…I guess, and Ethians, who have both a human and animal form and are widely seen as the scourge of the earth. An absolutely hilarious story of magic, adventure, and a little romance.
Dori: In Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina, it’s the summer of 1977, and New York City is haunted by periodic blackouts, arson attacks and most menacingly by serial killer Son of Sam. Nora Lopez is about to graduate from high school and is thinking about her future while dealing with the stress of living with her single mother, a Cuban immigrant, and her younger brother Hector, a drug dealer who abuses his mother. To escape, Nora gets a job at a local deli and starts a relationship with Pablo, a handsome boy who works there too. As the city’s tension swirls around her, Nora must realize some hard truths while finding herself.
Beth: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige is set in a dystopia Oz. When Amy finds herself displaced in Oz after a tornado, she learns that Oz is real, but it is not the Oz she had read about growing up. She’s tasked with saving Oz by taking down the all too powerful ruler, Dorothy.
Stacey: In Kids of Appetite, David Almond has been able to address serious issues with such subtle grace. Vic is struggling to cope with the loss of his father to cancer while watching his mom begin a relationship with someone new. Oh, and also Vic has Moebius Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that paralyzes his facial muscles. Escaping the house with his father’s ashes, Vic stumbles upon a tight-knit group of outsiders (yep, a nod to the S.E. Hinton book!) each with their own troubles. When they find a message hidden in the urn, the clues lead the kids to discover memories of importance to Vic’s parents. Sweet but never sappy, with a message about kindness, compassion, and living with personal integrity, plus a quirky sense of humor; this book becomes something truly special.
Thank you for joining in and reading along with us for the last few years -I hope you’ve discovered an new favorite author (or two) and (like me) found a little love in your heart for a genre you previously felt “bleh!’ about! (I’m looking at *you* horror genre!)
This year I made an effort to expand my reading horizons and in the process I discovered some amazing books! I read or listened to 200 books in 2013 and picking 13 favorites was nearly impossible, but after much fretting, I am finally satisfied with my 2013 “Best Of” list.
1. Favorite Nonfiction:
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I found this book fascinating. The case studies and anecdotes are compelling (and in some cases a little creepy). I found the suggestions and techniques for changing habits to be useful in my own ongoing quest to make healthier choices.
2. Favorite Picture Book:
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. My nephews, ages 7, 8, and 9, think that they are getting too old for picture books, but I say you’re never too old for a charming and hilarious story! The letters from Yellow and Orange are my favorite!
3. Favorite Audio:
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Don’t let the gorgeous cover fool you, this is not fluff. This story has it all: family drama, hidden secrets, suspense, and even a touch of romance and humor. It was this book, more than anything else, that motivated me to walk the dogs in the recent blizzard-y weather.
4. Favorite YA:
Reality Boy by A.S. King. Considering that the majority of my reading is YA, picking just one book for this list was a little painful. I must admit that I have become slightly obsessed with A.S. King’s books. Her books are full of heart-breakingly dysfunctional characters and the their struggles to have better lives. Her stories are powerful and empowering, and not just for teens.
5. Favorite Middle Grade:
The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy. This is the hilarious sequel to The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. The League of Princes is off on another (mis)adventure and once again their leading ladies are there to save the day. Fans of fairy tales, fractured or otherwise, won’t want to miss this series.
6. Favorite Debut:
In the Shadow of the Blackbird by Cat Winters. I had to sneak another YA book on the list, but I think it will appeal to a wide range of readers. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the old photographs and vivid descriptions of life during the great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Readers looking for fright will find a devilishly delightful ghost story!
7. Favorite Historical Fiction:
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. This book covers the life of one woman, Dorothy, from her youth in pre-WWII England, through the war and into the present day. As she lay dying her daughter makes a startling discovery about her mother’s past. Full of twists and turns, I was guessing right up until the surprising end!
8. Favorite Graphic Novel:
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. Not sure about the whole graphic novel thing? Ease into them with the delicious memoir! Give this to your favorite foodie (but be sure to read it before you wrap it)!
9. Favorite Science Fiction:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. 80’s pop culture collides with future dystopian America. Virtual reality is the new reality and gamers are battling out for chance to win billions. This book was so much fun and the audio was narrated by Wil Weaton!
10. Favorite Book Recommended by Fellow Librarians at RRPL:
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. This is a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter with a futuristic science fiction twist. Fascinating!
11. Favorite Mystery:
Broken Harbor by Tana French. This is the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. I love everything about French’s police procedural novels. The setting is vivid, the characters are well-developed and perfectly flawed, and the mysteries are suspenseful without being gruesome.
12. Favorite Funny Book:
The Last Word by Lisa Lutz. This is the last book in the Spellman Files series and I suggest you start at the beginning. The series stars a highly dysfunctional family of private investigators. Hilarity ensues.
13. Favorite Fiction:
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. This is my current favorite book. It is a charming coming-of-age story with lots of family drama, humor, and a sweet romance. This book is like a cozy blanket on a chilly day: you want to dive in and not come out. I realize that sounds cheesy, but I found this book to be so comforting. I have lots of love for Rainbow Rowell.
….and a last minute addition for luck! I promise, no more.
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. This is superhero science fiction. With a twist. Imagine living in a world with only super villains. In Steelheart, ordinary humans develop superhuman talents and use them to enslave and terrorize ordinary people. All but a small handful of people submit. The resistors call themselves The Reckoners and their only goal is to rid the world of Epics. This series opener is amazing!
YA (young adult) literature isn’t just for teens anymore. It appears that the movie industry has finally wised up to something that fans of YA have known for years: YA books are AWESOME (and apparently make great movies). So, you’ve read Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and maybe even The Perks of Being a Wallflower. What’s next?
White Cat by Holly Black. This is the first book in The Curse Workers series. It’s like The Sopranos with magic. Set in an alternate reality America, some people have the supernatural ability to manipulate the minds, memories, emotions, and luck of others with the touch of a hand. Other curse workers have the power to kill, transform, or physically injure others. Curse work is illegal, workers are feared, and most are criminals, mobsters, and con artists. Cassel Sharpe comes from a family of workers but he has no curse skill. He is an outcast, a con artist, and a murderer….dun dun dun!
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Thanks to the success of The Walking Dead, zombies are all the rage and YA has TONS of awesome zombie fare. One of my favorites is this trilogy by Carrie Ryan. Mary has grown up in relative safety, while the Unconsecrated roam the forest and unrelentingly attempt to get beyond the fences. When the wall it breached Mary has to choose between the life she has always known and the dangers of the great unknown. Dark, intense, and never once is the word zombie mentioned!
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. Are you a history buff? You won’t want to miss this awesome steampunk take on WWI! Here’s the scoop: the year is 1914, and Europe is on the verge of a war. Prince Alek, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne is on the run from the Clanker Army. Deryn Sharp, a girl disguised as a boy, is an airman for the British Air Force learning to fly the genetically engineered air beast, the Leviathan. The two form an uneasy alliance as they struggle to protect their secrets and stay alive. Clankers vs Darwinist! Giant walking machines vs. Giant flying beasts. This is the first in a trilogy as well.
The Diviners by Libba Bray. Flappers are once again hip, thanks to the remake of The Great Gatsby! How would you like your Flappers with a side of supernatural demonic serial killer? So. Freaking. Creepy.
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga. Speaking of creepy! Love Dexter? Check out this series starring Jasper Dent, the son of the countries most notorious serial killer.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Sure, Iron Man is a really hot cyborg, but Cinder is a cyborg version of Cinderella. This first book in the series is a futuristic retelling of the Cinderella story, complete with a handsome prince and a wicked stepmother.
I am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak. Not into all the dark, supernatural stuff? No problem! From the author of The Book Thief (have you read that one? No? You should!) comes the story of Ed Kennedy, my favorite nobody. Ed Kennedy is a nineteen-year-old Australian cab driving who lives with a smelly old dog, pines away for his best friend, Audrey, and loves to play cards. He’s an ordinary guy, going nowhere fast, until the day he foils a bank robbery. His glory is short-lived, but shortly after the would-be robber is sentenced, Ed receives an ace of clubs with three addresses written on it. And so begins Ed’s new adventure.
Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt. This book was recently chosen as NPR’s Back Seat Book Club selection and a personal favorite of mine. Doug has a time life at home and now that he has moved to a new, small town things don’t look much better. Both his dad and his brother are bullies and his other brother is away in Vietnam. With nothing to do and no friends, Doug finds himself at the library. There he discovers Audubon’s birds and a talent he never knew he had. I did not expect to become so completely emotionally tangled up with Doug and his problems. And the birds! Audubon’s birds! Really? Yes! I have read this one twice now and I am sure I will read it again.
Are you read for this summer big YA movie? I don’t know about you, but I am so excited to see City of Bones by Cassandra Clare on the Big Screen!
Most people know Jason Segel from movies like Knocked Up and This is 40 or maybe from the television series, How I met Your Mother. What you might not know is that he is also a writer, having written the screenplays for Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the 2011 movie The Muppets. According to the Associated Press, he is going to be using that writing talent to pen a series of books for middle school kids on overcoming your fears, and it’s supposed to be funny as well as scary. He’ll be collaborating with popular author, Kirsten Miller, to create the series “Nightmares!” and Random House is set to publish it next year.
The movie Beastly will be coming out in early March. This movie is based on the young adult novel by Alex Finn that came out in 2007. Check out our Reading Room review of the book. I, for one, loved this retelling of the fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast and really recommended this book to friends and family. When news came out this novel was being turned into a movie, I was excitedly looking forward to seeing the movie. However, having seen some of the early trailers on the television, I wonder how much of the movie stays true to the book. Hmmmm….one wonders when the original cover looked like this:and the new paperback version that is out now for the movie looks like this:
In the book, Kyle is changed into a beast…one with fangs, claws and lots of hair! Kyle in the movie is turned into a beast but he certainly doesn’t look too hairy to me! I’m also having a hard time picturing Mary-Kate Olsen as Kendra the witch who puts Kyle under her magical spell. I also wonder how the Unexpected Changes chat group that Kyle goes to online will be portrayed. I hope the ending won’t be changed!….I’m sure glad that I have read the book first and once again, I think the book will be much, much better than the movie! We’ll see….
Happy Reading! ~Donna
Of course, they have been many other novels based on the fairy tale, The Beauty and the Beast. If you’re interested, check out these titles from our Reading Room:
Remember….I’m the reader who loves Happy Endings….well, I just finished another novel based on The Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. It is the new historical romance paperback by Eloisa James titled When Beauty Tamed the Beast. I loved it! There’s the Beauty and naturally, there’s the Beast and a happy ending for all! Yeah!
Do you know one of my favorite things about teen books? They have the same amount of drama, action, and character development that you’d want to find in any good adult book, but they don’t have a lot of the distracting chatter. Or maybe I should have said: teen books are succinct! But you don’t have to take my word for how awesome teen books can be, you can read what everyone thought about the book they read right here:
Carol: A Spy in the House by Ying S. Lee takes place in May 1858, during London’s “Great Stink.” In the attic of a boarding school is the “Agency,” an elite, all-girl group of private investigators. Ex-thief, hotheaded 17-year-old Mary Quinn, is the Agency’s newest hire. A Spy in the House is not just a great mystery. It’s intricately plotted, humorous, and set against a well-written and well-researched historical backdrop. It stars a fabulously feisty heroine and includes a bit of romance too. What could be better? Oh yes, the second book in the Agency series, The Body in the Tower, comes out this month, I’m (not so patiently) waiting.
Megan: Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey. Solange Drake is the first female vampire born to the Drake family. According to an ancient prophecy if she survives her transformation on her sixteenth birthday she will become the next Vampire Queen. As if the threat of death from the bloodchange is not enough, the current queen, the local anti-vampire league, and a couple of rogue vampire tribes are all out to kill her. When Solange is kidnapped just days before her birthday it is up to Lucy, her human best friend, and her seven overprotective brothers to save her before it is too late.
Janet: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi is set in the futuristic gulf coast area of the United States. Nailer, a teenage boy, leads a day to day existence stripping copper from old, grounded oil tankers. After a hurricane Nailer discovers a wrecked clipper ship full of valuables and a beautiful young girl which may lead him to a better life.
Evelyn: The Christopher Killer: A Forensic Mystery by Alane Ferguson. Cameryn Mahoney wants to become a forensic pathologist. She talks her father, the county coroner, into letting her become his assistant. When the latest victim of a serial killer is found near their small town, Cameryn learns that the victim is one of her friends and is forced to use her own intuition and forensic knowledge to help find the killer. This is the first in a planned series for young adult readers. The characters are well developed and interesting and the author includes fascinating, detailed forensic information. I wish they had books like this when I was in high school.
Emma: Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman is the diary of 12-year-old Catherine. It’s 1290 and Catherine documents daily life with lots of detail on family, friends and food. Catherine’s father, the beast, is trying to marry off his young daughter for the best price. Catherine is very clever in trying to avoid marriage, especially to smelly old men. A wonderful funny story.
Julie: Sabriel by Garth Nix is a wonderful teen fantasy book that begins the Abhorsen trilogy. Sabriel is at school living a fairly normal life when she must cross over the wall into the Old Kingdom to search for her missing father. The world of necromancers, magic and a very angry cat named Mogget is an unusual and engaging place to let the reader’s imagination loose.
Ann: The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton is a wonderful book. Crime, mystery, teen angst, and coming-of-age blend together into one of the most unusual books I’ve read in a long time. Michael discovered at an early age a special talent- he could open locks. It is precisely this talent that gets him into so much trouble that he can’t find his way out. Combine that with the fact that Michael hasn’t spoken a word since he was eight years old due to a traumatic event, and you have a narrative that zings. For most of the story, Michael is a teenager, and while this book is not written specifically for teens it definitely will appeal to teenage readers.
Dori: Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd tells the story of fourteen-year-old Holly Hogan who has lived in a residential care facility in London for most of her life. After finding a wig, she decides to take on a new, more courageous identity as “Solace” taking to the road to find her mother in Ireland. Holly’s voice is funny, sarcastic and smart, and her journey is realistic and uncompromising.
Stacey: Motorcycles, Sushi, and One Strange Book by Nancy Rue was an interesting book to read, both for the plot and for the subtle Christian lessons learned along the way. Fifteen-year-old Jessie has ADHD and her mom has a mental illness. When things horribly wrong at home, Jessie finds herself relocated to a new state with a father she’d never met before but it could be the best thing that ever happened to her. It just doesn’t seem that way but can the cute boy who owns his own motorcycle help Jessie find happiness?
A pretty satisfying, wide array of choices in this list, don’t you think? Me too! And while you’re selecting something from the teen room, you could also be selecting a book to read from our next genre … historical fiction! The only guideline I’ll provide this time? You’ll want to choose something set at least 25 years in the past. Enjoy the hunt, I know I will!