Thursday, June 5, 2014

2014's Best Books: Rachel L's Top 5

The fabulous Rachel is here with her top 5 books that she couldn't stop thinking about this year, so far.

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (see our full review)
Cassie is a born profiler, meaning that she can take one look at you and figure out your entire past, your inclinations, your intentions—everything with an uncanny accuracy. Pretty neat party trick, but it’s also drawn the attention of the FBI’s top secret program for teenage “Naturals” like Cassie with these unique skills. These Naturals are being trained to become supernatural serial killer hunters. And what gives Cassie an extra edge is a sad event in her own past—the brutal murder of her mother. When a serial killer appears to be loose near their hidden training facility, the Naturals must put their skills to the test, or else risk becoming the next victim in a string of gruesome homicides. All in all, a really fun crime thriller with a dash of romance!

When I first read the description of this book, I thought, “Well that’s just weird enough that I have to try it!” And it didn’t disappoint. Austin lives in boring Ealing, Iowa where he spends his time skateboarding with his best friend Robby or thinking about taking things to the, um, next level with his girlfriend, Shann. Or avoiding the meathead bullies from his school. Things take a decided turn for the weird when Austin and Robby witness said bullies steal a strange glowing orb from the local pawn shop. Mere hours later, giant praying mantises start eating the residents of Ealing, Iowa and reproducing constantly. Like, really, constantly. And yes, I did say “giant praying mantises”.

This book is very strange, very funny, and very raunchy. So when you’re in the mood for something more than a little bit off-beat, give this a try. It definitely will not disappoint.

Ava Lavender became a wonder of the world when she was born with a full set of beautiful, speckled brown, feathery wings. Cloistered away from the rest of the world, Ava knew nothing of being a normal girl going to school, making friends, or living a life. That is, until her best (and only) friend Cardigan finally convinces her to leave her shelter and spread her figurative wings among other teenagers. Little do they know that a string of broken hearts threading Ava’s own family’s history has been leading up to a fateful day between her and a strange, devout man named Nathaniel Sorrows who has developed an odd obsession with Ava and her angelic wings.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a thoughtful and lyrical book dotted with magic and damaged souls. Set in Washington state, it makes for a great rainy day read when you’re wanting a little bit of fantasy to help you escape.

Selwyn Academy is a fancy arts high school that has been selected to host a cutthroat elimination reality show called For Art’s Sake. Following the lead of his best friend, the charismatic Luke, Ethan and two other friends, Jackson and Elizabeth, protest the filming by writing, illustrating, printing, and distributing an Ezra Pound-inspired long poem decrying the tv show and the downfall of quality arts education that it represents. But when Luke’s caustic poetry catches the attention of the show’s producers, he is invited onto the show and forces Ethan and his friends to re-evaluate what their friendship really means.

This was such a fun and funny book about friendship, art, and true talent. The banter between the four main characters has me laughing out loud. This is a great, light-hearted, summer read!

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Okay, okay, so I haven’t actually finished reading this yet, but I just have this tingly feeling that it’s going to be one of my favorites this year. Told in letters from a girl in England going by the pseudonym “Zoe” to an inmate on death row in Texas, the story is a confession of sorts intended to give Zoe some closure for causing—and getting away with—the death of someone she loved dearly. Zoe paints herself as an ordinary, if slightly sheltered, teenage girl who finally finds the courage to defy her parents and live a little more on the wild side. She parties, drinks for the first time, finds herself in embarrassing situations, and kind of falls in love with two boys who happen to be brothers. Zoe is a great storyteller, slowly weaving the tale of her terrible deeds within the larger story of her coming of age and her current feelings of guilt. It’s such a wonderfully suspenseful read that I’m not surprised that it won the 2014 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery!

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