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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Recent Reads: 5 Books I Love

I have been reading so many good books that I want to share with you, but each time I finish one I’m hit with the realization that all the stuff that I should have done while I was reading still needs doing. So I skip the review.

Which makes me sad since part of the fun of being in the YA community is learning about new books. Or hearing new takes on old books. Or both.

So I though I’d do a round-up of some of the books* I really enjoyed:

There were a few things that drew me to this story.
  1. The main character hunts ghosts
  2. He’s hunting a serial killer ghost
  3. The ghost is has a pretty awesome nickname: Anna Dressed in Blood
  4. There are fun sidekicks
  5. It was supposed to be scary
I love to be scared (unless were talking about spiders, snakes, mice, lizards, or any bug), so this was kind of a no-brainer for me. Truthfully, the story didn’t scare me, but I rarely scare, unless we’re talking about the aforementioned critters, in which case I’m all:

Still, I loved this book. It was suspenseful and perfectly paced. The main character, Cas, was strong and mature, but still a realistic teen boy. His relationship with his mother is one I wish I saw more of in YA stories, and his unlikely gang of ghost hunters, especially the absolutely awesome and completely dorky Thomas, serves a nice contrast to Cas’ serious side. But my favorite character? Anna.

Yes, my favorite character is a serial killer ghosts who rips her victims in half once they enter her house. (On that note, if blood and gore leave you lying horizontal, be warned: Blake isn’t afraid to murder her darlings.) The relationship that forms between Cas and Anna is believable and sweet, and their moments together were some of my favorite.

Two words: assassin nuns.

Okay, I’ll give you 145 more. Ismae (which I pronounced and continue to pronounce Ishmae because my mind decided of its own accord there needed to be an h in there) was raised as an assassin by a nuns who serve as the handmaidens of death. That’s what hooked me. The world-building in this novel is fantastic—it’s a fantasy in a historical setting, and LaFevers pulls it off so well. Aside from a killer protagonist—literally—there’s a wonderful romance that blooms between Ismae and the half-brother of the Dutchess, whose house she’s staying at to suss out information about the string of murders happening in the high court. The characters are all fully formed—from Ismae and Duval, the love interest, to the austere head nun and the adorable (and young) duchess. I’ll be honest: I’m not a big fan of historical novels, but I tore through this one.

You know sometimes how you just want a fun book, a fast read that’ll entertain? Enter From What I Remember. It’s basically The Hangover for YA. It’s told from alternating perspectives: Kylie, the valedictorian who wakes up in a hotel room in Mexico with a boy she barely knows and a wedding band on her finger; Max, the stuck-up boy who makes fun of kids at school who’s stuck in Tijuana on the morning of graduation; Will, the flamboyant best friend who takes a road trip to Mexico to save Kylie; and Lily, who walks in on her boyfriend with another girl. In Mexico.

Usually I think four POVs is a lot, but it worked in this case. The story was just plain old fun, and I loved all of the characters. The love-hate relationship between Max and Kylie was adorable as was the loyalty between Kylie and Will. It’s a cute read.

Graffiti Moon is one of those books I went into expecting a typical YA contemporary story and got ... well, something that blew me away. (Which forces me to conclude that I should read any Aussie book that comes my way.) The story centers around a single night: Lucy’s on the hunt for Shadow, a graffiti artist she admires, and she’s joined by Ed, the boy she’s tried to avoid ever since he touched her butt and she punched him in the nose. Ed just so happens to be Shadow, but he’s keeping that quiet because it’s, like, his secret identity. (Though sayting mum is hard when Lucy’s going on and on about the things she’d like to do with Shadow…)

This story has so much more depth than I imagined. The writing is beautiful, the characters so well created and complex. It made me appreciate art and graffiti in ways I haven’t before. And it had a realistic and complicated romance that was also believable and sweet. Before I spend the rest of this post gushing, please read this. It’s really great.

There’s so much I enjoyed about this story. For one, the premise is fresh: A volcano blows and within minutes part of the United States is plunged into survival mode. The book is narrated by Alex, who’s making the trek from his now-destroyed house to the town in which his parents are staying. It’s a great story of survival—dealing with food and water shortages, ash that can damage the lungs if inhaled, the whole every-man-for-himself atmosphere—and both  honest and funny. There’s romance (which worked really well for me), but it’s not insta-love and it makes sense considering the state of the world. I love reading books narrated by boys, and the voice here was spot-on. Plus, I’ve come away with some great new survival tools should a volcano erupt or zombies attack. I’m anxiously waiting the sequel.

And I’ll stop there before your eyes have a chance to glaze over. (Or has that already happened?)

What books have you recently read and loved?

*Click on the book image to go to the Goodreads page.

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