Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book of the Week - Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Finley and Erin are couple of the few white teens who live in gritty, trash and drug infested Belmont. They have know each other almost all their lives and both are fanatic about basketball seeing it as a way to get out of the neighborhood. Finley, a varsity starter really doesn't much talk to anyone besides Erin, his Dad, and the legless grandfather he calls Pop. Even though they are a minority at their inner-city high school nobody messes with them because of who Erin's brother is. Everything begins to change for them when Coach asks Finley to be a friend (and almost content companion) to Russ, who is a basketball phenom who has moved from California following his parent's murders and has constructed an alternate reality for himself. Russ, who claims to be an extraterrestrial named Boy21, is as quiet as Finley. 

What I loved about this book is that the three main characters are all genuine good hearted people with flaws and secrets, just trying to live their lives even though bad things happen. Thinking about this book makes me realize I really do read from the gut. I connected with these characters and felt for them. This book creates an emotional connection for me.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Top Ten for 2012 in No Particular Order

Meyer, Marissa 
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1) 
Feiwel & Friends

Loved this futuristic take on Cinderella featuring a cyborg mechanic, a prince of a prince, a wicked step-mother, a plague, a ball, an interspace political conflict, and much, much more. Smart, witty, joyful reading. Loved the android/fairy godmother, the magic that is not magic, the “glass slipper,” and the escape vehicle. There are lots of things the reader figures out long before Cinder does but it adds to the fun as one hopes she will put it all together.

Wein, Elizabeth
Code Name Verity
Egmont Press

     Amazing! Powerful! Two young women behind enemy lines in WWII. Edge of the seat suspense. Unreliable narrator. Unforgettable characters; a pilot and a spy. Gestapo torture. French resistance. Resonating with truth. Tears in my ears from crying while reading it in bed (in the middle of the night).  

Knowles, Jo
See You at Harry’s
Candlewick Press

In Jo Knowles best book to date we meet a family that runs a restaurant called Harry’s. They are ordinary except for the fact that their lives revolve around the family business, originally started by Fern’s grandfather. The parents share some of the annoying and embarrassing traits many young teens see in their own parents. The children of the family are all named after book characters, Sarah who has already graduated from high school, Holden who is in high school and is bullied, Charlie, the three-year-old baby of the family who has become an emblem of Harry’s, and Fern, twelve-years-old (putting this at the youngest end of YA and also for middle grade readers) who is coming into her own when tragedy strikes. Months after reading it I can still feel its power in the way Charlie’s stickiness and smelliness still come immediately to mind. This is a heart wrenching, sad, beautiful, extraordinary tale of loss, guilt, and going on again. Not to be missed.

Marchetta, Melina 
Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)

     Definitely one of the best books of the year. I can’t imagine it not being a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and other SFF awards. While it is the middle book of a trilogy I can promise you that it stands on its own as I did not read Finnikin of the Rock
Froi, fiercely loyal and fiercely independent accepts the task of going to the neighboring kingdom that had perpetrated horrific acts upon the people of his adopted country Lumatere during their recent war. In Charyn he is to take the place of one of the last “last-born” to gain access to the palace and assassinate the king before Quintana, the mad last-born princess, comes of age. Charyn was cursed nineteen years earlier with sterility and later a prophecy written in Quintana’s blood has decreed that “the last will make the first” understood as the last children born before the curse took effect will have to conceive in order to break the curse. This has led to Quintana being fruitlessly mated each year since her thirteenth birthday, the day called by the Charynites, the day of weeping. This sweeping epic combines politics, national, sexual, and interpersonal with amazing complex characters. Don’t miss it. 

Bray, Libba
The Diviners 
Little, Brown Books

How does Libba Bray get better with every book she writes? This is the first in a series and with the huge canvas and the big cast of characters she has chosen, it will take a while to tell the story. The roaring twenties really come to life, even to the smells. As I read it my grandmother’s flapper high school portrait kept popping up in my mind. The palpable sense of evil keeps the reader on the edge of her seat as the suspense keeps growing. Not to be missed.

McCall, Guadalupe Garcia
Summer of the Mariposas 
Tu Books

     This unusual mythic reality tale features five sisters living on the border with Mexico, whose father left almost a year ago. One day, when swimming in the river, they find a man’s body. Eventually, after seeing the pictures of his family in his wallet, they decide they must take him back to his home in Mexico. With the paranormal help of Llorona and some magical earrings, they take a hero’s journey through Mexico filled with strange encounters.

Stiefvater, Maggie
The Raven Boys 
Scholastic Press

Lost my review on this one somewhere along the line. A girl from a family with paranormal powers doesn’t have any readily recognizable psionic talents but is able to enhance the powers of those around her. On the one night a year when those who will die within the next year are revealed, she actually hears something. It results in her getting to know some of the boys from a nearby boarding school, boys she never wanted to know. It brought to mind Lev Grossman’s The Magicians but taken to a higher  level by featuring multidimensional characters full of heart and soul.

Hartman, Rachel
Random House

Hartman’s world building is wonderful and the mixed race eponymous heroine is beautifully developed along with her relationships.  The world Seraphina  lives has been at peace for decades due to a treaty reached between Queen Lavonda of the Goreddi royal family and Ardmagar Comonot who is the leader of the dragons. In this world, the dragons can assume a human shape and interact with humans. They are devoid of emotions but great scholars and mathematicians. Their music is precise and perfect but without the emotion that would make it great.  Seraphina, is half dragon and half human, a combination that is supposed to be impossible. The only outward manifestations of her dragon side are scales on her left arm and on her back. Raised by her single then remarried father to be all human, she becomes the protege of her draconic uncle and ends up living in the royal palace and working as assistant the the court composer. She has a garden she tends her mind that is peopled by strange creatures. When the heir to the crown is murdered and found headless, near the 40th anniversary of the accord between dragons and humans, the immediate suspicion is that he was killed by a dragon who bit his head off. Seraphina teams up with the Captain of the Guard, the bastard prince called Kiggs to solve the murder and try to stop war from breaking out. This fresh fantasy stands out in popular crowed genre. In a year when many books seem bloated and in need of judicious cutting, this 465 page tome is just right.

Kokie, E.M.
Personal Effects
Candlewick Press

       This amazing debut novel makes the reader feel what seventeen-year-old Matt feels. His beloved older brother has died in Iraq. His abusive father bullies him and is forcing him to follow his militaristic dreams, not letting Matt be who he wants to be. Matt has major anger issues that drive him to attack another student. The small package of T.J.’s personal effects disappeared shortly after the funeral so when T.J.’s footlockers arrive at the house, Matt wants to go through them before his dad can spirit them away as he did with the photos everything else that confirm the one time existence of T.J. What he finds starts him on an unforgettable journey. I loved this because I never knew exactly where it was going, it surprised me at every turn. I loved that Kokie was able to make me empathize with a character I could of easily dismissed had I met him in real life.  

OK. That is only 9. I had too much trouble choosing from all the other books that were tied for my top 10 of the year.