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Showing posts from December, 2011

Stand-Out Books of 2011!!!

Happy New Year’s Eve!

It is now time for the second annual Stand-Out Books of the Year (2011) post! It has been a crazy, reading frenzy this year! Anybody who’s been frequenting the blog for a while now, will know this is the most review-ridden year I’ve had! Don’t believe me? Here are the stats for 2011:

How many books did I read?


That is 76 more than in 2010!!!

How many pages did I read?


That is 26,310 more than in 2010!!!

How many pages (on average) did I read per day?


That is 73 more than in 2010!!!

Yep, it’s been an insane, wonderful, bibliophile-friendly 2011. Hopefully for you too!

So, now it’s time to pick my Stand-Outs! I can never name anything my “favorite”, because there are far too many – and that is just too hard for me! Especially when there are just SO many amazing books out there!

All this extra reading make it even HARDER to pick Stand-Out titles and keep the list short! Inevitably, it is going to be longer than last year’s. However, to make it a little easier I’m …

Murder at Midnight

Murder at Midnight is a middle-grade adventure/mystery novel by Avi.

Fabrizio has only recently found a home among the city of 1490 Pergamontio, Italy. He’s been taken in by a magician and his wife, but only the wife seems to be finding him pleasing so far. Fabrizio is entranced by his Master’s magical talents, and yearns to do the same tricks – but his Master seems intent on kicking him out one of these days.

When Fabrizio’s Mistress goes to visit her ill sister, she implores Fabrizio to make himself indispensable to Master.

But then the trouble begins.

When potentially rebellious papers begin showing up all over the city, each one exactly the same without the inevitable mark of uniqueness from the human hand, suspicion falls on Fabrizio’s master, Mangus. His magical talents are placing the blame on him, though Mangus insists there is no such thing as magic – that what he does is mere illusion.

A plot of unknown proportion seems to be amongst them – a plot of politics, revolution, and mu…

The Other Countess

The Other Countess is a YA historical romance set in Elizabethan times by Eve Edwards.

When Ellie (titled as the Lady Eleanor Rodriguez, Countess of San Jaime, worthless and penniless as it may be) was twelve, her father was turned out of the house they had been living in. Her father's shared obsession with the Earl of Dorset of the alchemical search for turning items into gold left the Earl quite destitute in death. So, when William Lacey (at the time only fourteen) became the new Earl his first order of business was to get Ellie and her father off their property.

That was the first time Ellie and Will met. It was not pleasant.

Four years later, Ellie's affection for her father wars with her frustration with his alchemy pursuits. They are often poor and certainly never well-liked. Her witty tongue and surprisingly learned mind makes her even more of a pariah in Queen Elizabeth's court. However, her Spanish-infused beauty and feisty spirit make her eye-catching to some undesi…

The Daughters Join the Party

The Daughters Join the Party is the fourth and final book in the YA contemporary series by Joanna Philbin.

I personally recommend reading the Daughters books in order, if you can, to save you from spoilers. They go: The Daughters, The Daughters Break the Rules, and then The Daughters Take the Stage.

We have long been introduced and become invested in Lizzie, Carina, and Hudson - best friends that share a common understanding of having famous parents. Now we meet fifteen-year-old Emma Conway - she's a bit of a rebel and has spent the last year at a boarding school - breaking rules.

Being the daughter of a New York senator tends to give her less-than-perfect ways some leeway - but once her dad tells her that he is getting a campaign for President together - that leeway is gone. The things her parents already didn't like - such as her vibrant hair colors and modern fashion choices - are now becoming verboten.

And when she accidentally lets it slip on network TV that her dad is runni…

The Eleventh Plague

The Eleventh Plague is a futuristic dystopia YA novel from Jeff Hirsch.

The America we know is gone. Through a series of events and a brutal war, America was hit with something the survivors now call the Eleventh Plague. It was an airborne agent that caused a new, deadly strain of flu - and killed two-thirds of the population. Very few people are left. And many of those who are should be avoided.

Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn never saw any of the actual war or carnage, he was born after. His parents were already living a mobile life, finding happiness in their love, along with his grandfather. His family are salvagers, those who travel the desolate countryside looking for things of value and importance to trade for food, weapons, and clothes. It's their survival.

It's been many dark years since Stephen's mother died and it's been just him, his dad, and his grandpa. But when his grandfather dies - a mean, bitter, tough old man - trouble begins to snowball for the two rema…

How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life is a YA contemporary novel by Sara Zarr.

Jill MacSweeney has managed to sabotage all of her friendships, and even her longtime relationship, while grieving her father's death. Her Dad understood her, they were alike. Now, Jill feels so achingly alone. But then her Mom decides she wants to adopt a baby. Jill hates the idea of replacing her Dad with a new family member, and is frustrated with the way her Mom is going about it.

Mandy Kalinowski is pregnant. She arrives at the MacSweeney home a little further from her delivery date than they expect. She just couldn't stay at home any longer. She couldn't be around her Mom and her Mom's boyfriend one more second. So, she fudged the details a bit. Mrs. MacSweeney seemed like a nice person. She didn't mean to lie, she just knew that something had to be done. She's determined to give her baby a better life than she's had with a family that actually wants her. Like Mandy's never had...

How to Sav…

Faerie Winter

Faerie Winter is the YA dystopia fantasy sequel to Bones of Faerie, both by Janni Lee Simner.

I strongly recommend reading Bones of Faerie before reading any synopsis' or reviews of Faerie Winter. If you have yet to do so, I suggest avoiding this review and picking up a copy of Bones of Faerie. Then, after you are riveted by it's story, come back here. Okay?

As I've said before, as a rather crazed, eccentric bibliophile I not only shun spoilers like they'll give me the plague, I also don't read the book jacket unless I absolutely have to. Especially when it comes to sequels. I'm just weird that way. Maybe you are to. We bibliophiles tend to be strange, right? But that's what gives us our charm!

Anyway, if you've already read Bones of Faerie - I would hope that the fact that you loved it is more than enough reason to pick up Faerie Winter. If so, skim over the next few paragraphs to get to my opinion of it, without reading the summary. However, if you want…

Bones of Faerie

Bones of Faerie is a YA fantasy/dystopia novel by Janni Lee Simner.

It's been many years since the War - when faeries crossed over to our world and began attacking with their powerful magic, turning even the plants violent. The modern world fell, or so they've told fifteen-year-old Liza, and many died because of magic and those who brought it here. It's been many years since the faerie folk left, but the results remain.

New rules apply now. Everybody knows not go out alone in the dark. Everybody knows not to touch a stone that glows with faerie light. Everybody knows to cast out those who are born with magic, before it can eradicate the town.

That's how Liza's baby sister died. She was born with the glass-clear hair of a faerie, so Liza's father immediately took the baby outside and left it. Liza's mind can't forget the image of her sister's bloody bones in the moonlight.

And then the next day, Liza's mother disappeared. Nobody expects her to live, …

Sound Bender

Sound Bender is a middle-grade/YA sci-fi novel by Lin Oliver and Theo Baker.

Thirteen-year-old Leo Lomax has just lost both his parents in a plane crash. He and his brother Hollis go to live with their odd, wealthy uncle Crane. He deals rare (and possibly illegal?) antiques out of his Brooklyn warehouse. Soon after they move in, Leo receives a birthday present from his dad - something he sent before dying. It breaks Leo's heart as he reads the handwritten letter - he misses them so much.

But cutting through his grief is the message in his father's gift - new information on Leo's birth and hidden ability that may just now be beginning to show itself...

Leo's always been fascinated with sound, but now he's hearing things he logically shouldn't. When he picks up the spoon to eat his soup, he hears the cook arguing with her husband. And then he begins to hear something haunting - a cry, human-like and so very sad - and feels it is connected to an object in his uncle&#…

Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer

Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer is a YA mash-up by Cecily von Ziegesar.

It's a story most of us are familiar with. Except with more blood.

Serena van der Woodsen went off to boarding school right after a little indiscretion with Nate Archibald, her best friend Blair Waldorf's boyfriend. Now she's back and ready to make it all right - with a little homicide. After all, if Nate wasn't around, there'd be no reason for Serena and Blair's friendship to be strained. They could go back to being BFFs!

But Blair isn't all warm and fuzzy for the idea. She loves Nate, even if sometimes she feels like strangling him herself. And the fact that Serena can come back after being gone for so long and get away with murder - literally - while still looking gorgeous and blond makes Blair more than a little irritated. If Serena can do it, so can Blair.

But Blair can do it better.

Watch out Upper East Side...

Gossip Girl: Psycho Killer is the first mash-up/reimagining I have read. It certa…

Lips Touch: Three Times

Lips Touch: Three Times is a YA fantasy collaboration of three novellas by Laini Taylor, with illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo.

Three teens girls who have lived entirely different lives, and never cross each others paths, find out how monumental a kiss can be. Especially when it may have unintended consequences.

In Goblin Fruit, the first novella in Lips Touch: Three Times, we meet Kizzy. Kizzy has lived a very strange life with a very odd family, making her an outcast at school and in life. But then a very good-looking new guy at her local high school seems to take a surprising interest in her. Why?

Then we have Spicy Little Curses Such as These, in which we come across a girl who has been cursed from babyhood to have the most beautiful voice in the world - but to have that voice kill every ear who hears it. She has lived as a mute, believing the curse real. But when she falls in love for the first time, her surety falters and wonders if she dare risk speaking aloud and testing it for ce…


Bunheads is a YA contemporary novel by debut author and former dancer Sophie Flack.

Nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward lives, breathes, and dreams ballet. Since she was a very young girl, she knew she wanted to be a dancer. Her parents took her to dance lessons - but then at fourteen she was offered the chance to move to New York, alone, and join the super-prestigious Manhattan Ballet company.

Her focus and drive is entirely centered on dance. She's always either rehearsing, performing, or conditioning. One of these days she hopes to get noticed in the crowd of beautiful, talented dancers and be singled out for a solo. If only she can stay thin enough, strong enough, and passionate enough.

That's never been a problem before. But then Hannah meets Jacob.

He's a college student, a musician, and incredibly cute. And interested in her. He's a nice guy, their conversations are fun, and their attraction seems to be mutual. But he's not a dancer. He doesn't understand her life…


Unleashed is the first novel in a new YA supernatural series called Wolf Spring Chronicles, co-written by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie.

Though sixteen-year-old Katelyn McBride is devastated, she can't find the energy to fight it when her grandfather insists she move to a small town in Arkansas to live with him when Katelyn's mother dies. The mixture of the shock of being an orphan so suddenly and the guilt that lingers in her over her drugged, helpless state at the time of her mother's death (a painkiller prescribed by her gymnastics coach) has left her semi-catatonic.

She's only partially aware of the fact that moving away from California is also taking her away from her best friend, her life, and all of her big hopes and plans for a future of dance and gymnastics - something she's been training for, for years. Once the reality of it does come crashing down on her, her grief expands.

For now, though, she's stuck trying to start over in Wolf Springs. Katelyn soo…

The Fox Inheritance

The Fox Inheritance is a YA sci-fi novel by Mary E. Pearson.

Locke and Kara have been in a disembodied nightmare for a very long time. Their minds simply floating around, confused, frightened, and helpless in a digital world of nothingness.

What they don't know is that after they and their friend Jenna Fox were in fatal accident their minds were kept alive, even though their bodies were destroyed. But Jenna left them a long time ago - it's just been Locke and Kara.

Just Locke and Kara. For two hundred and sixty years.

Forgotten, abandoned, and tucked away in ignorance until finally being found, released, and given brand new, perfect bodies based off of old pictures and tiny pieces of DNA off their original bodies. Though Locke is a little taller, his eyes greener than he remembers, and more muscular overall - improvements?

But not only are their bodies unfamiliar and wrong, somehow... they've awakened to a world completely different from the one they left. Their families, their…

The Faerie Ring

The Faerie Ring is a Victorian-era YA fantasy by Kiki Hamilton.

It's December in 1871 London and sixteen-year-old Tiki is determined to make a home for herself and her makeshift family of fellow orphans. They live in a hidden shelter that gives them a roof and a door, making them better off than many other souls in the same situation. They've been forced to pick pockets to eat, but that won't pay for the scary sounding cough coming from little four-year-old Clara...

But then Tiki lands herself in a situation when she steals a beautiful, mesmerizing ring hoping it will be the end of her family's struggles and beginning of a new life for them. Instead, it sets off a series of events that position Tiki in the middle of a war between humans and Fey.

Before they died, Tiki's parents told her stories about faeries - but she never imagined they were real.

In fact, she continues to disbelieve it - but Rieker, a handsome, enigmatic, fellow thief, is the one telling her about t…

Fox & the Peach

Fox & the Peach is a YA fantasy novel by Nick Thaler.

In 1580 feudal Japan, teenage Momo is finding herself thrust into a battle she never sought out. She was found as a wounded fox and cared for as a potential pet by a young developmentally challenged boy - but imagine the family's surprise when she soon turned into a girl!

She's a kitsune, a girl who turns into a fox. Momo loves the boy who took her in, he is her "brother". But Momo isn't completely human, and she's not completely animal. She's wilder than humans but tamer than the foxes she tries to run with while in that form - it seems like no matter what, she's alone. And her "father" is demanding that she remain human if she stays with them any longer - but how can she do that? That would be suppressing her very nature.

In the meantime, without Momo being aware of it, the warlord Oda Nobunga is rising to power and enlisting the skill and help of various mythical creatures such as ten…

The Shattering

The Shattering is a YA mystery with a bit of the supernatural thrown in by Karen Healey.

Keri has spent almost all seventeen years of her life planning for every event she can imagine. Before she broke her arm when she was seven, she already knew what she should say and do if it were to happen. When that proved to be a good thing, she began to plan for everything else.

But she never thought to plan what to do if her brother committed suicide.

Shattered with grief, she is approached by a childhood friend, Janna. Janna's brother also suddenly took his life, though many years earlier. Yet instead of approaching her as an old friend that understands the pain, she drops a bombshell on Keri.

She tells Keri it was murder. Janna wants Keri to meet up with a tourist she knows named Sione, a guy about their age, who also lost a brother to suicide. She says he has some answers.

The three teens begin looking at stats and find something very disturbing. Every year there is a boy killed - every one…

The Invention of Hugo Cabret+The Hugo Movie Companion

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a children's novel in words and pictures by Brian Selznick.

I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't already found this gem. I'm a bit late to the party. But now the movie Hugo is coming out and my interest in the original book was renewed, so here I am!

It's 1931 in France and orphaned Hugo spends his days keeping the clocks at a Paris train station, determined to convince everybody that his Uncle is still around (he was the clock keeper) and not cause them to visit the small apartment he lives in by himself and find out her is without a guardian. He knows he'd be sent to an orphanage.

Sometimes going to an orphanage doesn't sound all that bad when Hugo struggles to find food and resorts to thievery, something he despises and knows his deceased father would have frowned upon. But going to an orphanage would wrench him from his last connection to his father - a mechanical man, an automaton that the two of them had been working on…

A Web of Air

A Web of Air is the sequel to the YA dystopia/sci-fi novel Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve.

You know the drill. If you haven't read Fever Crumb, this review will inevitably spoil some stuff from the first book. Just don't read it, if this is the case. Go read the book, then come back and check out my review on the sequel. Okay? Okay!

Now all who have yet to read Fever Crumb should avert thine eyes...

Fever Crumb has spent the last two years on a traveling barge theater, a place she only expected to be temporarily. When she joined them she was only fourteen and trying to escape a radically changing London with Ruan and Fern, the two children of the deceased, kindly Kit Solent. Now sixteen, she has come to terms with the fact that she is half Scriven, but still has no real desire to return home. She misses Dr. Crumb, but she spends her time using her engineer skills to electrify the show and dazzle audiences. She finds theater, in general, to be ridiculous but it gives her a chance to …

Fever Crumb

Fever Crumb is a futuristic dystopia YA novel with dashes of old-fashioned steampunk and clockwork sci-fi by Philip Reeve.

Fever has not had an ordinary childhood. She has been raised since infancy by her adopted guardian, Dr. Crumb, a member of the Order of Engineers and sheltered in one of the last remaining relics of the Scriven era (a past tyrannical race that been cruel and mad before finally being overrun by angry Londoners). She's been surrounded by intensely rational minds that do not find anything redemptive in imagination or emotion.

This is all Fever knows, and she's just fine with that. In fact, she has garnered an extraordinary knowledge of engines and science in a time when women are not considered reasonable creatures. She's the only female exception in the Order of Engineers.

But as she has been accepted as an apprentice, Fever is now fourteen and expected to make her first foray outside her home to assist archaeologist Kit Solvent. He has made some kind of di…

So Silver Bright

So Silver Bright is the third and final book in the YA fantasy trilogy Theatre Illuminata by Lisa Mantchev.

As a HUGE fan of both of the first novels in this trilogy, Eyes Like Stars and Perchance to Dream, I implore you not to spoil yourself by reading this review unless you've already read the previous two. These books are just too amazing to ruin. Instead, read my reviews of the first two books here and here.

Assuming the only remaining readers are fellow fans of this trilogy, without further ado...

Bertie and her theatre troupe are almost done with their quest. Or so they think. Bertie has successfully rescued Nate from the Sea Goddess and somehow they all made it out of that situation alive. She's met her father, and learned a bit more about her own powers. Only one thing remains: reunite her father the Scrimshander with her mother, Ophelia, at the Theatre Illuminata, as she promised.

Nothing is ever easy for Bertie, though. She can't find her dad, the Sea Goddess is out…