Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top Ten Reads of 2010

I read a little over a hundred books this year, not as much as my benchmark set last year, but still a lot. Note: a lot of these are young adult books, the kind you can down in a single sitting. it's not like I a read a hundred dense books like Crime and Punishment or Middlemarch :)

And there were definitely some that stand out, almost all paranormal or fantasy ya reads. In no particular order:

1. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. Okay, this might actually be my top favorite read of the year. I know Jellicoe Road got all the praise and attention last year, but I didn't really like it. This one, though, god it was full of great characters and it rang out so many notes of hope of restoration, forgiveness, and reconciliation after the horrors of war. So many books are about the falling apart and climax of wars, but this one is about the aftermath, plotting the path back to healing and wholeness. But this is just the underlying theme, it's far from didactic. Marchetta does what great writers do best: write something incredibly meaningful through the medium of engaging characters, tension, and epic plotting. Both covers of this book have been bad, though. Kills me, because it's such a GREAT frickin book!

2. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. This book might win my award for most beautiful writing of the year. The author also writes poetry, and not only is the language itself poetic in the prose, but the snatches of poems at the beginning of chapters are also really evocative. Lots about loss, love, sexuality, a really honest depiction of this girl emerging from a painful event back into life.

3. The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. This book came out a year (or two) ago, and I'd always heard/read good things about it, but for some reason had stubbornly refused to pick it up --maybe b/c it had a male protag, and I'm not usually into dude narrators, but that was actually one of the things that made this book absolutely amazing--being inside Nick's head and getting his unique view on the world, being part of his confusion about all the emotions in the people surrounding him but not knowing how to share them. There were seriously cool supernatural elements to Brennan's world, but really, it was getting in Nick's head that just wrenched my readerly heart out. I couldn't stop thinking about this book for weeks after I'd put it down. And bummer about the not-very-good covers (both hardback AND paperback), it deserves so much better!

4. Nightshade by Andrea Cremer. This book was fabulous, and a surprise. I got an ARC of this book and was happily surprised to find it wasn't just the cliche paranormal fare. Cremer creates an intelligent mythology and does intricate world building. It's awesome because the reader is introduced to the world through Calla's eyes, and to her, the flawed power structures and strict gender (and creature) roles around her seem normal. But with the introduction of Shay into her world, she slowly begins to question everything she thought she knew. The book keeps up action, tension, and sexy elements all the way through.

5. The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith. I just read this book this week, but haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. I wrote a pretty big fan-girl post about it last week, but yeah, it's a great story, so piercingly honest. It's about race relations, yes, but also just about being human, and Smith excellently uses supernatural elements to help the characters see just what it means to be human, to be haunted by the past, and how to work to overcome pain to keep on living.

6. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. Loved this book hard. I liked it's pacing and setting a lot more than I did the modern world of her Mortal Instruments Series. The late 1800's with the supernatural and a little bit steam-punk? Along with delicious, tormented boys and a strong female lead? Yes please.

7. The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger. Bianca's acerbic sarcastic wit is frankly refreshing in a YA world full of weaker female leads. Bianca's got problems, sure, but she's dealing with them the best way she knows how. She doesn't fit in the cookie-cutter pattern expected of young girls, and she's not shy about it. I love, love, love Bianca's character. She's complex, has plenty of vulnerabilities underneath. And then there's Wesley. Yum.
8. Paranormaly by Kiersten White. I'm surprised I haven't seen more buzz about this book around, because I totally loved it. Again we're introduced to a main character who accepts the world as it's presented to her and all of the limitations imposed on her, and through the introduction of an outsider, begins to question they whys of her confinement. The action, pace, and lighter voice of this book made it a really fun read. It was the perfect balance of tone--not light enough to be fluffy, but not so dark it was hard to read.

9. The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell. Okay, maybe this isn't fair, because this one won't come out till March, but it was still one of my best reads this year. It has a haunting tone underlying the glitz and glitter of life in Victorian Baltimore. The language alone makes this book worth a top ten read. The characters are all complex, especially the main character--her transformation throughout the book, for better and for worse, really resonates through the text. And the romantic aspects of the book are also so realistic and full of aching, unresolved tension because of the setting (boys and girls are barely allowed to touch, much less kiss!).

10. Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers. Sexxxxxxxxxxxxxxxy. This book is wicked sexy, with a demon and an angel vying for Frannie's soul, and her supernatural abilities that could change the course of the world as we know it. Apart from the super sexy factor was the appealing nature of each character, especially the character growth of the demon Luc. Being inside his head was awesome. This book was fun, but again, not fluffy. Can't wait for the sequel next year. Only flaw is the cover, which is so mass-market-paper-back cover, and the book deserves better!

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