Monday, December 22, 2014

Counting Down til 2015: Rachel L's Top Ten of 2014

Not quite sure what book will suit your mood? Rachel L's top ten will take you on a guided tour of the best stuff out there:
All-Around Best of the Best: 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith (see all our posts)
Sometimes I wonder if Andrew Smith comes up with his book ideas by some sort of Mad Libs-esque process: pick random nouns, adjectives, and verbs and expand on that random selection until a genius story unfolds. In this case, the fill in the blank words are: falling horse, man-eating aliens, sex-obsessed best friend, young love, and seizures. Out of those words came my favorite book of the year, a quirky, satisfying story about a teenager, Finn Easton, whose father wrote a best-selling book about man-eating aliens who have a striking resemblance to Finn; his charismatic best friend Cade; and a beautiful and kind new girl in town, Julia.

Best Female Lead: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
Harper Price is unashamed in her love for all things Southern belle: cotillion, dresses, good manners. But then she’s unwittingly turned into a magical protector, a Paladin, and must protect her nemesis,  snarky school reporter David Stark. This is the most fun book I’ve read in a long time. Harper is bossy and kind of a mean girl, but she’s also fierce and loyal. And there are fights, magic, and, of course, love.

Most Tissues Award: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (see our full review)
Cadence Sinclair can’t remember what happened last summer at her family’s private island. The characters, Cadence and the other kids on the island, the Liars, are the stars of this story, and the shocking twist that Cadence discovers about that forgotten summer will have you reaching for that tissue box by the end.

Best “Survival of the Fittest” Dystopian: Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Darrow is a Red, the lowest caste of humans on Mars, and when his wife is martyred, he finds an opportunity to sneak into high Gold society to attempt to change things from the top down. He is forced to fight for his life among the Golds, and in the process must decide what really is worth fighting for. A dark science fiction dystopian that is cataloged in our adult collection, Red Rising is a great crossover for teen dark fiction fans.

Most Gut-Wrenching: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Leonard Peacock is about to do something drastic. He takes us through everything that has led up to this moment, the goodbye gifts, the tears, the gun in his hand. This book broke my heart, but Matthew Quick’s magic lies in his ability to find a kernel of hope in even the most bleak scenarios.

Nerdiest in the Best Way: Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff (see our full review)
What’s more real: the person you are in real life, or the person you are online? A great story about friendship, first loves, and integrity within the realm of online role playing games.

Best Friendships (and Falling Outs): The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
Selwyn Academy, a school for creative youths, is the setting for a televised art competition. Magnetic, talented Luke convinces his three friends, Ethan, Jackson, and Elizabeth, to pen an anonymous, scathing poetic commentary on the filming. But when Luke is recruited to join the show, a rift grows between him and the rest of his friends. Great banter and a realistic portrayal of the shifting nature of friendship.

Most Likely to Make You Gag a Little: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (read all our posts)
Random words selected: six-foot tall man-eating grasshopper, testicle-dissolving corn, love triangle with your best friend and girlfriend. Bizarre doesn’t even begin to describe this book, but Andrew Smith again works his magic, turning this crazy premise into an unsettling, but enjoyable coming of age story set amidst a giant insect apocalypse.

Class Clown: Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach (see our full review)
The classic high school outcasts: the fat kids, band geeks, stoners, nerds, etc., stage a protest about the school soda machine profits shifting from the marching band to the cheerleading team. Hijinks and hilarity ensue while main character and class clown/fat boy Gabe (aka Chunk) sheds his persona and learns to accept himself.

Most Mysterious: Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher (see our full review)
A teenage girl, “Zoe”, has a confession to make involving the death of someone she loves, and reveals the story in a series of letter to an inmate awaiting execution on death row. Touching and so, so, sad, this was a contender for the “Most Tissues Award”, but the mystery was so wonderfully done that it warranted a whole other category.​

Friday, December 19, 2014

Counting Down til 2015: Maria's Top Ten of 2014

Maria, our ambassador of children's literature, is here and her picks are not to be missed!

Every word is exquisitely selected in Jackie’s autobiographical new book in verse.  Growing up in the south and having moved to New York in the sixties and seventies we learn about her loving family, her struggle to read and how she found solace in writing at which she is now a master.  Exquisite.

Even if Russian history is not your thing you will be enthralled with this book.  It is nonfiction at its best.  The opulence of the Romanovs and the poverty of the Russian peasants are vividly portrayed and if it is possible to feel sorry for people who seemingly have it all you will.  This family was set for doom and it came soon enough.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
We all know that high school is tough.  Funny, irreverent Gabi Hern├índez has a lot going on in her life, such as friend Cindy’s pregnancy and friend Sebastian’s coming out; her first kiss, her own doubts about sex, not to mention her home problems with her father’s meth habit and her mother’s toughness.  In diary format we get to know Gabi and if you liked Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass you will get a kick out of Isabel Quintero’s debut novel too.

If you like romantic stories this one if for you.  Victoria Darling is an upper class young lady growing up in England in 1900’s.  She yearns to be an artist in spite of her parent’s opposition.  They want her to marry a man she doesn’t love.  And of course she falls for a lowly constable.  I didn’t want this novel to end.

Injustice time 50!  You may have never heard of the Port Chicago 50 before but after reading this story you won’t forget them.  These young African-American men who refused to return to the bomb loading dock at Port Chicago after a horrible explosion that killed 300 and hurt an additional 400 people is masterfully told by historian Steve Sheinkin.

Revolution by Deborah Wiles
This is the second part of Wiles’ planned trilogy about the 1960’s.  Is such a wonderful way to acquaint yourself with that era. When white and black activist start arriving in Greenwood, Mississippi to register blacks to vote life gets complicated not only for Sunny Fairchild but for the town as a whole.  Wonderful mix of history and fiction.

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos
This is a different kind of a “music” story.  Harry is writing his college essay when the story opens.  We learn of the bullying he endured as a young boy.  Now he is part of The Scar Boys, a band he named after himself.  Each chapter begins with the title of a song, who wrote it and who sang it.  Ultimately a story of hope.

Again, if you want romance, this story will fill the bill.  Lara Jean has a box full of love letters.  These letter she has written herself to boys without meaning to send them.  But when they accidentally get distributed Lara Jean has a lot to answer to.  This is not just a story of romance but also a story of family and the ties that bind them.  Very endearing.

When her father is killed in a coup, Leila tries to adjust to her new life somewhere near Washington, D. C. along with her mother and young brother Bastien who was supposed to be the heir to the dynasty.  Full of intrigue and suspense.   The end is a surprise.

How in the world did former Olympian Louis Zamperini manage to survive a crash in the Pacific for 47 days just to be rescued by the Japanese and then being imprisoned and tortured by a despicable Japanese commandant in not one but two internment camps and once being returned to freedom having to face his own demons?  Louie’s spirit couldn’t be broken.  An inspirational story if there was ever one!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Counting Down to 2015: Lisa’s Top Ten for 2014

 Lisa wants to spread the love to the most possible number of books, so after her top ten you'll find a few more recommendations she couldn't leave off the list!

Passion and art pulse through the tale of Noah and Jude, twins who become strangers to themselves and each other after their mother's very untimely death. With luminous language Jandy sculpts the story of a family broken by grief and betrayal.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue / Maggie Stiefvater (see our review and our post from the author)
The Raven Boys cycle just gets better and better. If you haven’t read them yet, hurry and read The Raven Boys (see our review) and The Dream Thieves (see our review) so you can fall in love with the exquisite writing and characters in Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Will Patton’s narration in the audio just gives you one more thing to love about the series.

It doesn’t get timelier than this (unfortunately). Alternating characters tell us how it went down when a white man shot a black teen. Shades of gray abound in this story of black and white.

Tomboy : a graphic memoir / Liz Prince (see all our posts)
Liz Prince is a tomboy who doesn’t like dresses and other stereotypically “girly” things. This honest graphic novel memoir illustrates Prince’s journey of self-discovery and self-affirmation in the face of gender stereotypes.

One Man Guy / Michael Barakiva (see our full review)
The story of Armenian American Alek’s budding romance with skater dude Ethan is told with charm and humor. But Alek’s parents are not so charmed. How different is homophobia from ethnic hatred? Alek’s crossing of lines help blur the lines for his family.

Sheinkin shines a floodlight on institutional racism in this fascinating, well-researched book.  The African-American sailors who refused to continue working in unsafe conditions in 1944, after an explosion at a munitions loading dock killed over 300 people, were convicted of mutiny and their families are still awaiting justice. Prepare to be outraged.

Enter the world of sixteen-year-old Laureth as she flies from London to NY with her young brother in search of their missing father. The catch? Laureth is blind. This suspenseful tale will open your eyes to what it’s like to live in the world without sight.

Romeo and Juliet step aside! Benvolio takes the lead in this enthralling retelling of the old classic. (Will I be disbarred from librarianship if I confess to preferring Caine’s version to Shakespeare’s?)

Combine a horse falling off a bridge, a teen with epilepsy, a father who’s a cult figure in the sci-fi world, a sex-obsessed best friend, a first love, and a road trip and the world might just start moving sideways. Sound quirky? You have no idea!

Before she became a bard Siobhan was just your normal music-geek teen in a small Canadian town. Then Owen and his famous dragon slaying family arrived. If the cover and “fantasy dragon adventure” subject put you off (as they did me), try the first chapter, and you’ll be hooked on this smart, fun, alternative-reality tale.

Other great reads of 2014:
If you don’t know what went down in Mississippi in 1964, you HAVE to read this book. It shows institutional racism at its worst, but sadly, it’s part of our history. And you know what they say about history repeating itself….

Babe might not have been the easiest person in the world, but she sure was the best athlete who ever lived. Don’t believe me? Read the book!

Fascinating format!

Lost girl found / Leah Bassoff and Laura DeLuca
We’ve heard about the Lost Boys of Sudan, but what about the girls?

Emi, a film set designer, has the most fun job ever (other than librarian, of course). Add love and mystery and everything leads to this book.

Cartwheeling in thunderstorms / Katherine Rundell
One of my favorite books for young readers. Will’s delight in life and resiliency shine. (Sadly, the cover does not. Are there awards for worst covers?)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Counting Down til 2015: Kady's Top Ten of 2014

Kady's got an ecclectic mix of titles on her top ten, including short stories, sci fi and two graphic novels among her selections:

10. Cress by Marissa Meyer
The third in Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, this story follows the basic structure of Rapunzel, with some swash buckling space pirates, cyborgs, genetically modified wolves and villainous slave traders thrown in for good measure.

9. My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins (see all our posts)
Stephanie Perkins et al gave us a beautiful anthology this year of 12 charming holiday stories that range from light and fluffy to darkly despairing and everywhere in between. Standouts (for me) included stories by Kelly Link, Gayle Foreman, Kiersten White and Holly Black.

I feel like this book flew under a lot of people's radar this year, which is a shame because it raises an interesting theory for exactly how the inevitable fall of civilization will happen. With so many books these days taking place in a firmly dystopic world, it's nice to see some that tackle how we got there.

Another book that tackles the approaching end of the world, Grasshopper Jungle in what ahppens when you combine a sincere interest in history, a very horny teenage boy and gigantic man-eating grasshoppers.

6. Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
A lot of series I love came to an end this year, but none finished as strongly as Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin. This last book focuses on Annith, a side character from the first two novels and her journey as she leaves the convent and strikes out on her own as a kick-butt assassin nun in 15th century France.

5. Noggin by John Corey Whaley (see our full interview and our interview with the author)
A friend described this book as "science-fiction without a whole lot of science" and I couldn't agree more. Instead of spending time explaining the "how" of this new technology that allows doctors to Frankenstein bodies together, to create life out of death, this beautiful story focuses on the "what now?"

Fine, this book technically came out in the last quarter of 2013, but I didn't read it until 2014, so that totally counts, right? Even if you're giving me a side-eye right now about timing, do yourself a favor and read this book. It's creepy and unsettling and ultimately heroic with a truly stand-up-and-cheer moment towards the end. And that's really all you should know going in.

3. Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley
I don't know about y'all, but I've been waiting for a new Bryan lee O'Malley comic book since the last Scott Pilgrim came out 4 years ago. And this graphic novel, about a girl who finds a magic elf and some special mushrooms that allows her to take back mistakes and relive her life the right way, does not disappoint. Hardcore Scott Pilgrim fans will love the familiar Toronto setting and in-jokes and everyone will wonder about what mistakes in their own life they'd like to take back.

2. Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks and Caanan White
In 1919, the 369th Infantry regiment, also known as the Harlem Hellfighters, came home from World War I. They were the first all black regiment in the U.S. Army and fought under French command, seeing more action than almost any other American unit. But when they came back from war, their fight for justice, democracy and equal rights really began.

Man, I love this book so much I don't even know how to talk about it. Like Bryan Lee O'Malley, I've been waiting, waiting, waiting for Jandy Nelson to write another book ever since I fell in love with The Sky is Everywhere. Jude and Noah are twins and best friends against the world. At least they are when they're 13. By the time they're 16 the twins are barely speaking. Follow along with alternating POV chapters, Noah's from age 13 and Jude's from age 16 as they figure out what went wrong and how to come back together.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Counting Down til 2015: Librarian M's Top Ten of 2014

Last year Librarian M swept our awards predictions, if you're into books with shiny stickers, you might want to get reading these books:

At one point during this book I was laughing and crying at the same time. In a good way.

Yes, both of Andrew Smith’s books are on my list. Don’t skimp and only read one of them.

Tomboy by Liz Prince (see all our posts)
For all y’all who feel like you don’t fit in.

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier (see our full review)
Shame on you if you haven’t been reading Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels. They are delightful!

Kekla Magoon just keeps getting better and better.

Panic by Lauren Oliver (see all our posts)
I love when a thriller is actually thrilling.

Yay, a book about working in the movies! Loved all the details about being a set designer.

Gotta have a super-weird one on here.

Funny murder mystery! It doesn’t have a serial killer, but that’s ok.

Funny, but not a murder mystery! I loved this main character so much.