Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top 10 for 2013: Karen's Brightest Lights of the Year

There were so many fantastic titles this year and Karen is ready to shine a light on a few that you may have missed! Don't stay in the dark, read Karen's list today!
Relish by Lucy Knisley (see our full review)
I was hesitant at first.  Don’t get me wrong; I love food but I’m no foodie!  I kept getting gushing reviews of this graphic novel which only increased my hesitancy.  Because, really?  We all know that books with gushing reviews never live up to the hype.  I was proved wrong.  Relish is fun and the illustrations are AMAZING!  If you love food and graphic novels this is a book you can curl up with and devour.
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (see our posts)
This much anticipated sequel (at least by me) did not disappoint.  While I enjoyed Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves was ten times better.  It shed more light on the characters I wanted to get to know like Ronan.  I cannot wait for the final in the series to come out.  And rumor has it Raven Boys is set to become a movie (see our dream cast for the Raven Cycle.
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Everyone knows that Spiderman quote, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”  Well, in the sequel to Shadow and Bone  (see our full review) Alina struggles with her hunger for power.  Is she looking for the next amplifier and more power to save Ravka from the Darkling?  Or is she looking to usurp the Darkling for her own reasons?  The deeper she travels into the Darkling’s world of dark magic, the farther away from Mal (her childhood friend) she gets.  This story is about choices and consequences.  As the reader, you are just as torn as Alina; all of her options are compelling but which one is the right one?  Is there a right one?
March by John Lewis
In the first volume of the trilogy, we meet John Lewis as he recalls his life-long struggle for civil rights and his experiences in the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March.  Graphic Novelist Nate Powell (The Silence of Our Friends) gives life and access to the 1960s civil rights world.  John Lewis is an American leader and his life’s story is one everyone should know.
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
This was a refreshing take on superheroes.  Instead of being the good guys, they are the bad guys.  They are called the Epics and they’re the ones who make our lives, the regular people’s lives, difficult almost unbearable.  Steelheart is the Epic of Newcago, formerly Chicago.  At ten, David watched Steelheart murder a bank full of people and then his father.  But no one knows that David survived that attack or what he saw.  When David joins the Reckoners, a rebel group of humans, his plan is revenge.  But is revenge as sweet as he thought it would be?
War Brothers by Sharon McKay
This is poignant.  Intriguing.  Disturbing.  If you’ve read the novel version or McKay’s Thunder Over Kandahar then you’ll know what I mean.  This intense and condensed graphic novel tells the harrowing story of a group of friends who are kidnapped in the middle of the night and forced to be child soldiers in Uganda.  Jacob makes his friends swear a pact together: they are brothers; they will watch out for each other.  The images give a sharp life to the words and paint a picture so upsetting that you’re left wondering who the victim is and who the culprit.  Though a fictional work, this novel pulls from real events and real people.
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (see our full review)
Kiri Byrd’s parents are out of town.  It looks like it’s going to be a regular, boring old time – practice piano, water the azaleas, keep the house clean, etc, etc, etc.  But this isn’t what happens.  A strange man calls and tells her he knew her sister.  Kiri decides to meet this man. A story unfolds.  Lies are revealed.  Insanity ensues.  This is fraught with sorrow, joy and madness.  It is a true coming of age story that made me love Kiri and cheer her on even in the midst of her seemingly unwise decisions.  It’s a story that shows you that sometimes in order to truly live you have to trust blindly.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (see our posts)
First off it’s the 80s and there are mix tapes.  Who doesn’t love mix tapes?  The 80s?  If you say you don’t well, you are clearly missing out.  Eleanor is new to school.  She’s had a rough time but music is her escape.  She spends nights rationing the use of her walkman.  She has to be sure her batteries last.  In walks Park.  Or I guess I should say there sits Park.  They meet on the bus.  He’s the only one willing to give her a seat even if grudgingly.  Uncomfortably silent bus rides slowly turn into music and comic book sharing.  As their relationship changes, you’ll remember your own first love.
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
It’s published as an adult title but it is a book that every teen should read.  Malala was just 11 when she started speaking out against the Taliban in Pakistan. She spoke out for girls’ education and women’s rights.   When she was 15, the Taliban attempted to assassinate her.  She survived.  I am Malala gives readers a glimpse of life under the Taliban, and the immense sense of hope that Malala holds and instills in others. Malala is just one person making a huge difference.  A friend of mine often says, “if not you, then who?”  This book reminds us that each and every one of us can make a difference.   
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff (see our full review)
Elegant writing brings authenticity to the very real issue of body image that teens face while entwining a chilling murder mystery.  Hannah is haunted by the ghost of her best friend Lillian who self-destructed six months ago.  When the insufferable heat of July brings a series of grisly murders to town, Lillian won’t stop until Hannah investigates.  But Hannah’s more interested in Finny Boone, the bad boy and moving on; it’s time to let Lillian go.  Will Lillian let Hannah move on or will she be entangled in a murder investigation?

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