Lists

Most Anticipated of 2012

by sarahenni on December 30, 2011

Just so we don’t spend the ENTIRE week getting too weepy about leaving 2011 behind, today we’re all going to discuss what books we can’t wait for in 2012! Hold onto your spectacles, because 2012 is going to be JAM PACKED with books I am salivating over.

Veronica Roth’s Insurgent

May 28

I find Tris Prior to be one of the most refreshing YA characters I’ve ever read. How she struggles with fighting for what she wants versus feeling guilty for wanting it reflects a truly painful human conflict we all battle, regardless of age. Tris suffers from an inability to bullshit the world about who she is, and people don’t always take kindly to teens (and in particular young women) who live that way. The people in Tris’ world REALLY don’t take kindly to it, and I’m so eager to see where Roth takes Tris, both in the geographic world of the Divergent series and in her emotional journey.

Erin Jade Lange Butter

Date TBA

I remember reading the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement about this book, and the concept really struck me: “A boy everyone calls “Butter” is about to make Scottsdale High history. He’s going to eat himself to death live on the Internet – and everyone will watch. He announces his deadly plan to an army of peers and expects pity, insults or even indifference. Instead, he finds morbid encouragement.” And a funny thing happened with this idea. It stuck around. I kept thinking about it when there was a rash of horrible teen suicides last year. When the Hunger Games movie started discussions about teens interacting with the world through “reality” shows. I love this concept, and most of all I’m so eager to read how Lange handled these issues in her book, and see what kind of discussions it sparks.

Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue

May 1

I’ve struggled over the last two years with some YA heroines who are physically, butt-kicking strong, but who lack a nuanced emotional vulnerability. Kristin Cashore’s fantasy books feature leading ladies who assert themselves physically, and lead rich and complicated inner lives. Cashore brings each character such depth that their struggles with innate superpowers or neon monsters seem totally relatable. I can’t WAIT to see what Bitterblue has in store for us!

Stephanie Perkins Isla and the Happily Ever After

Fall 2012

With Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, Perkins has crafted two stories that are some of the best contemporary YA I’ve ever read, and I’d argue the most natural, fresh voice in that genre right now. What’s drawn me to her work, along with the perfect pacing and general quirky spirit, are the boys. These are boys. By that I mean, dudes. Guys. People that I’ve met, that I’ve known, that I’ve loved. They’re imperfect, they’re not drop-dead gorgeous, they’re awkward, they’re scared to death of the women they’re attracted to. Etienne, Cricket, and Josh are the most swoon-worthy boys in YA that I’ve ever met, and quite frankly I married one of them. It’s an absolute joy to see Perkins translate the thrills of falling in love with someone so real.

(GPOAB* included in lieu of not-released book art because he/Seth Cohen typify the type of guy that Perkins writes, and also, I think she’d approve.)

Justin Cronin’s The Twelve

August 28

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! There is no conceivable way I can wait another eight months for this book, the sequel to Cronin’s 2010 novel The Passage (pictured above because artwork for The Twelve is being shrouded in mystery and impending terror, no doubt). I loved The Passage more than I have loved a book in a very long time, because though it clocks in at an astounding 800 pages, not a scene is unnecessary, not a word misplaced. The action is tense, the characters are vibrant, the world is, in a word, angsdngfksd. Everyone called this a vampire book, but it was really more like a vampire-zombie post apocalyptic mash-up of Mad Max and 28 Days Later. I will be pre-ordering this to my Kindle and staying awake to begin reading the minute it downloads.

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristen Halbrook

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

* Gratuitous Picture of Adam Brody

{ 8 comments }

2011 in: Recommendations

by sarahenni on December 29, 2011

If you love reading (and my guess is, since you’re here, you do), you know that recommending books for others is an art. Every reader is different, so when your sister/boss/neighbor/niece asks for suggestions, a lot of thought goes into it. I find that my list of favorite books doesn’t always sync up with the list of books that I recommend most—I tend to recommend books that I think have more broad appeal, ones that I’ve seen most everyone pick up and love. So today we’re going to share the books that we’ve evangelized most for in 2011!

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This book made my “most recommended” list last year, too, and that really says something. It’s been more than a year since I read it, but Cronin’s haunting 800-page post-apocalyptic zombie-vampire cross-country journey tale still haunts me. It’s one of my favorites of all time, and I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t enjoy it.

Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore

I’m counting these as one book, because I never recommend one without the other. Cashore’s YA fantasy world has the complex world-building and medieval-style throne lust that typifies epic fantasy, but they feature strong female characters, a paranormal twist, and emotional arcs you can sink your teeth into. I loved getting lost in the stories of Katsa and Fire, and most of the people I recommended it to gave it a thumbs-up.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Though I’ve been recommending it to anyone who’d listen for years, I saw a definite uptick in interest when the Hunger Games movie started filming, most especially when the trailer came out and looked BOMB. The Hunger Games is, frankly, a book I dare anyone not to enjoy, and I’m so excited for it to blow up in March with the film!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

As soon as I started reading this book—and I woke Dr H up because I was laughing so hard—I knew I had to spread the word on the book. I’ve found it’s a great introduction to people that aren’t familiar with YA, or how the YA voice is different from the contemporary lit they’re used to reading. The combination of Green and Levithan makes for such a great balance of humor, angst, outlandish scenarios and real human stories, all in one book.

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

{ 4 comments }

2011 in: Favorite Books

by sarahenni on December 28, 2011

And now for the ultimate end-of-the-year reading list, my favorite reads of 2011! There were so, so many books that swept me off my feet this year, I had an extremely hard time narrowing my list down!

The Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

I had some issues with the last third of the book, but the journey getting there was so incredible, I wouldn’t (and haven’t) hesitate to recommend this to anyone. Reading a Laini Taylor book is like sitting down at a word buffet where everything is rich and dripping in sauce. She can spin a world with just a few sentences that you’ll want to be stuck in forever, and evokes Prague as a dark, funky, ethereal otherworld. And DoS&B’s main character Karou was one of the most interesting, unique, fun, independent leads in YA this year.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Reading Ashes was like taking a crash course in conflict and raising the stakes. I simply couldn’t put the book down, because every few pages something wrenched my heart into a tighter knot and I had to keep going because omg wtf is going to happen are you serioussss! I’ve been reading a lot of zombie books over the last couple of years, and this one had me flipping the pages double-quick. I can’t imagine how it could get worse for Alex, but then again that’s what I thought every chapter along the way. VERY excited about the sequel, too!

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Stephanie Perkins is non-pareil when it comes to evoking the most pure, unadulterated (har har) experience of being a teenager in love. Her characters are complex, genuine, selfish, loving, confused, brave. Her stories are rich—and funny!  When I read Perkins’ books I feel like the stories could come from my life—if I were cuter, my family were quirkier, and the world outside my door was gorgeous and romantic every day. It is an absolute joy to read Lola and Anna, which is probably why I’ve already read both several times.

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Quentin and the Brakebills gang returned in maybe the first sequel book I’ve ever read that actually improves, significantly, upon the original. When Lev Grossman came out with The Magicians a couple of years ago, I was pretty dang excited. Reviews trumpeted it as “like Hogwarts, but with more illicit fondling.” Like I was gonna say no? And I enjoyed it—I definitely did, and would recommend it to adult fans of sci-fi and fantasy—but in the end wasn’t blown away by the outcome of the story. Happily, The Magician King is exactly what I hoped The Magicians would be. In my opinion, this sequel exceeds the original in pretty much every way. The first book was lacking something of the hero’s journey that I’ve come to want/expect from fantasy, or at least it lacked the kind of reflection on Quentin’s journey that I wanted. Well, the second book was entirely about the pursuit of a hero’s journey, the subversion of it, and then twisting it again. All the while, Grossman is weaving a funny, crazy-readable story every bit as brutal at its core as The Magicians was. (Also, I am truly terrible at this whole reviewing business. For more eloquent reflection, please see Phoebe North’s review.)

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Valente is a poet, and every rich, meaty sentence brings that home in this book. Heartbreaking and gorgeous, I found myself re-reading paragraphs and saying words aloud, soaking up the beauty and wonder in each painstakingly wrought phrase. Valente’s book reminded me why we line edit, why we select words carefully, and how we can better imbue our everyday prose with a sense of magic and whimsy. I challenge anyone who claims to be tired of myth retellings to take this book under consideration. I had not heard any of these old Russian myths before, but it didn’t matter. Set against the devastation of early 20th-century Stalingrad, Valente takes traditional Russian myths and evokes them in heart-wrenching poetic detail.

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Corrine Jackson

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristen Halbrook

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

{ 9 comments }

5 Favorite YA Characters

by sarahenni on December 27, 2011

Today we’re sharing some of our favorite characters from 2011. I love pointing out characters that have left an impression on me, because—though every great book needs great characters—not all great characters come from our favorite overall stories. It’s a different way to think about all the books I read, and I’m happy to say that the characters I listed (split into five girls and five boys, in no particular order) have stuck with me like good friends.

The Girls

Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Lola Nolan from Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door

Marya Morevna from Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless

Tris from Veronica Roth’s Divergent

Fire from Kristin Cashore’s Fire

I think Molly Quinn could pull off Fire's mix of strength and vulnerability

The Guys

Tiny Cooper from John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson Will Grayson

Dr. Pellinore Warthrop from Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist

Quentin from Lev Grossman’s The Magician King

Adam from Gayle Forman’s Where She Went

Warner from Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me

Aaron Johnson has the perfect self-satisfied smirk to play Warner

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Corrine Jackson

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

{ 4 comments }

2011 in: Albums

by sarahenni on December 26, 2011

Well, here we are friends! Though it seems like we just welcomed 2011 in, but its final days are winding down. That can only mean one thing—a deluge of fantabulous end-of-year lists to help us remember and commemorate the 12 months that was! In addition to being a wild year for me personally, 2011 was a fantastic year for writing, books, music, etc! To celebrate, some friends and I organized a week-long blog circus where we’ll share some of the best albums, books, and characters that we discovered in 2011 (not necessarily things that were new this year), and we’ll also look ahead to what’s in store for 2012!

We’re kicking it off today with the list of the best in writing music. Everyone’s different when it comes to writing—some prefer silence, some a loud cafe, some prefer full albums and some curated playlists. I go through phases, but usually you can find me using long playlists consisting of several full albums that help me lose myself in the music, the moment, I own it… oh—wait. No. No, Eminem did not make this list.

Here are my top 5 for 2011 (in no particular order), and the links to everyone else’s  response is at the bottom!

The Civil Wars “Barton Hollow”

This is about as Prairie Home Companion as I get, I’ve got to say, and what pushes this group past twangy kitsch is their undercurrent of southern gothic (best represented here). To me, the best of their music embodies the delightful American myth of a part of the country where the ghosts of your ancestors and their mistakes are nearby, haunting. Where long walks through never-quite-silent forests can lead you to any generation’s hell. If you’re writing a book that’s a little creepy and/or a lot wicked, I’d recommend adding one or two of these songs to your playlist.

Radiohead “The King of Limbs”

Radiohead is my spirit animal. One day, many years ago, I was a 13-year old punk endeavoring to download the entirety of Napster when I decided to search for songs with the name “Sarah” in them. I was in the market for a theme song because, obviously. I came across Lucky, and my universe tilted half a degree to the left. My friend Jessica recently used Radiohead as a verb to describe something that was so beautiful, and so sad, that it made you feel joyful in this nihilistic, invincible way. I almost kissed her because it was so, so perfect. ALL THIS TO SAY. Radiohead has made me feel inspired, and helped me unlock my inner weird, creative person for more than half my life. I love them, and I love that they consistently put out new music like this, that works so, so well to write to.

Jeff Buckley “Grace”

I know guys, I KNOW. I am THAT girl who is putting Jeff Buckley on her playlist. But there is simply nothing more gorgeous and haunting than this man’s voice, and for some reason listening to this CD while I was writing this year unlocked a certain character completely for me. If you haven’t listened to Jeff Buckley before, you absolutely must (but you might want to be sitting on a porch on a warm summer evening with a bottle of wine to get the total effect).

Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs, “God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise”

If you’re writing a song about two young people dealing with crippling loneliness in the far west desert of Texas … Ray does the trick.

1. Local Natives “Gorilla Manor”

Ethereal, surf-pop inspired, steady beats, vocals in three-part harmony… Yeah, this album was basically my complete and utter jam. It struck that perfect balance between ‘soothing enough to be background music’ and ‘fantastic enough to just listen to normally at other times’.

And in honor of the #1 pick, I will also share one of my absolute favorite online videos of all time, a French online music magazine’s live version of Local Natives’  song, “Who Knows Who Cares.”

Check out what everyone else had to say:

Caroline Richmond

Corrine Jackson

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristen Halbrook

Kristin Otts

Lee Bross

Lindsey Roth Culli

Lynn Colt

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

{ 5 comments }