Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gift Guide for Readers: Part Two

And here’s part two!

11. THE NAME OF THE STAR by Maureen Johnson Ms. Johnson must have thought, “So you think the paranormal market’s dead, huh? Well, then, get a load of this!” when she sat down to write THE NAME OF THE STAR. I loved how she put an unexpected twist on what has been a dying genre. Part mystery, part suspense, and part paranormal, THE NAME OF THE STAR was quite literally a page-turner. The only reason I didn’t officially recommend it is because the subject matter--a murder mystery that involves a series of Jack-the-Ripper-style slayings--is a little gruesome (although I thought Ms. Johnson handled the blood and guts as well as she could). On the whole, well worth a read.

12. THE FAERIE RING by Kiki Hamilton If you like enchanted talismans and vibrant historical settings, you’ll probably love THE FAERIE RING. Ms. Hamilton painted her late-Victorian-era London with broad, luxurious strokes (and even made two of Victoria’s younger sons pretty important characters). I did want the faerie element to be a little more fleshed out, but on the whole, I enjoyed this.

13. THE IRON QUEEN by Julie Kagawa To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of details about this third installment in Ms. Kagawa’s Iron Fey series. I remember thinking it was a little redundant and didn’t take the story in the direction I might have taken it, but then, I know I’m on the waiting list for THE IRON KNIGHT at the library, so I must not have thought too poorly of it:)

14. DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor Here’s another great example of a well-established author reinventing a waning trend (in this case, fallen angels). I thought the first two-thirds of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE were engaging and original, but then the whole book morphed into Epic Back Story Mode. Now don’t get me wrong--the back story was interesting and highly relevant to the plot. But I wished Ms. Taylor would have woven that back story into the forward-moving action a la HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET instead of dumping it at the end. Would that have been much harder to do? Of course, but I think Ms. Taylor would have been equal to the task.

15. BAD TASTE IN BOYS by Carrie Harris The thing I liked best about BAD TASTE IN BOYS was that it didn’t take itself too seriously. Sure, aspiring medical researcher Kate Grable is dealing with a zombie plague, but does she let that rob her of her sparkling wit and personality? Of course she doesn’t:) The other thing I really liked was how real Kate seemed. She cared about important things, like school and grades (and keeping all her classmates from turning into zombies), but she also cared about what the senior quarterback thought of her. She was neither too fluffy nor too serious. I’d read another book about her in a heartbeat (no pun intended).

16. CROSSED by Ally Condie If you read my last reading roundup (the one from February, not the one from yesterday), you can probably guess that I didn’t particularly care for MATCHED. However, the same cannot be said for its sequel, CROSSED. I inhaled this book. I loved the characters, the world building, and especially the prose. Make yourself read MATCHED so you can get to CROSSED. (Also, after reading CROSSED, I am definitely Team Xander.)

17. THE MAGIC THIEF by Sarah Prineas A well-written MG fantasy that will especially appeal to the boy readers in your life. I kept waiting for the plot to develop into something a little bigger than it did, but perhaps the rest of the series will do that. On the whole, I’d recommend it.

18. THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson I wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did, mostly because I tend to go for urban rather than high fantasy, but Ms. Carson’s debut sucked me in. Whereas some authors choose to spread a story out over two or even three books, Ms. Carson managed to cram two or three books into one. The result is a fantastical, fast-paced adventure that never quite fits within one genre. I’d definitely buy this one for my teenaged daughter (if I had a teenaged daughter, that is).

19. LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins Fans of Ms. Perkins’s ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS won’t be disappointed by this companion novel. Cricket Bell is just as lovable as Etienne St. Clair (if not more so, in my opinion--I’ve always liked those shyer, nerdier types), and every scene leaves you wanting to read the next one. My one caveat is that Lola and her boyfriend Max are sexually active (although we never see those scenes), so that’s something to take into account.

20. GOLIATH by Scott Westerfeld This third and final installment in Mr. Westerfeld’s Leviathan series is another great selection for the boy readers in your life. GOLIATH features a bunch of exciting action scenes atop a genetically engineered flying sperm whale (hello, steampunk!), and the romance is minimalist and understated. The only thing I didn’t like about GOLIATH was how uneducated it made me feel about the history of the First World War…

I think that’s it (from me, at least)! Which books would you add to my gift guide?


Cortney Pearson said...

Several of these I've actually added to my TBR pile in the past few days! I actually loved Matched, so I'm excited that Crossed is good too!

Ninja Girl said...

Hey Krista!!
Great list, lots of diversity. My favorite read this year was Anna Dressed in Blood, so I'd have to add that one ;)
Hope you're having a wonderful week,
Ninja Girl

Krista V. said...

Great minds think alike, Cortney:)

Hey, Ninja Girl! I've heard of ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, but I don't know much about it. Googling now... :)

Karen Akins said...

Great list! Matched wasn't my favorite but sounds like I should give Crossed a chance. :)

Melodie Wright said...

Oh, I wasn't a big fan of Matched or Supernaturally, either. Supernaturally actually seems a YA rewrite of an adult paranormal series by Karen Marie Moning.

Your others are good suggestions for my holiday TBR pile. Thanks!

Vivi said...

What a great list!! Thanks for sharing. I so agree with you about Daughter of Smoke and Bone...holy backstory, Batman! Her writing is AMAZING and I loved her world building, but I wanted the story to stay with more in the present with Karou and Akiva.

Liesl Shurtliff said...

Go Xander!

Funny, I kind of had the opposite reaction to those books. I loved Matched, but was less enamored with Crossed, but I think that has more to do with my fatigue of dystopians in general. In many ways I think Crossed was a stronger book and I still enjoyed it.

Krista V. said...

Karen, I'd give CROSSED a chance. It's a very different type of book. (You'll have to let us know what you think if you read it!)

Happy to add to your to-read pile, Melodie!

You're welcome, Vivi! And you're right - Ms. Taylor is an excellent writer. (That's why I think she could have pulled off the whole interweaving-the-front-and-back-story thing.)

You're Team Xander, too, Liesl? Oh, good. And isn't it funny how two people can have opposite reactions to a pair of books?

Carol Riggs said...

Thanks for the review and run-downs! I will have to read CROSSED, I think. I saw it at the library and almost got it, but now I'll have to snag it for sure. If I can remember enough about MATCHED...I think I can...

Krista V. said...

Carol, that happens to me, too. Why do these darn sequels always come out a year apart? :)