Childrens book reviews by StorySnoops, judge a book by more than its cover, serving fresh scoops of new books for you every day
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Archive for the ‘Best of 2012’ Category

Best of 2012–part 4

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Now that we are solidly (one week!) into 2013, it’s time to wrap up the “Best of 2012″ here at StorySnoops. Looking back on the books I read this year, I see a theme emerging with my favorites. A lot of different stuff came across my nightstand, but a disproportionate number were from the teen girl category. Sorry fellow Snoops–New Year’s Resolution #12–I will branch out in 2013! Within that category though, my faves range from angsty realistic fiction to dystopian romance, and historical mystery–not too bad. So here goes. In 2012 I really loved…

The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George. In the interest of full disclosure, I knew this book would be high on my list before I even picked it up. I am a huge fan of Elizabeth George’s adult books, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE a good character-driven story that makes me sad to close at the end simply because I will miss the new friends I’ve made. The Edge of Nowhere did not disappoint, and I was delighted to find out that it is the beginning of a series. Whidby Island, Washington is the setting for this story about emotionally lost 14-year-old Becca, who has a psychic ability to hear “whispers” of other people’s thoughts. Can’t wait to see what is next for Becca and the residents of Whidby Island!

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley. The only thing better than a good love story is a tense, sometimes cringe-worthy, intelligently-written, page-turning love story. (How many hyphenated adjectives can fit in one sentence, I wonder?) If you plan to read this book, pick a day that is wide open, get comfy and settle in for a cover-to-cover read in one sitting. The story takes place over the course of one night in Melbourne, Australia, with a group of high schoolers looking for an “unforgettable” graduation night. Lucy wants to track down the secretive graffiti artist Shadow whose art speaks deeply to her, but she is stuck with Ed, a boy she has been trying to avoid for two years after the most embarrassing date of her life. Ed says he knows how to find Shadow though, so Lucy is on board for a single night that will change everything.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Ooh boy, can’t say enough about this one. I don’t normally seek out historical fiction but this one found me anyway. Code Name Verity is part spy mystery (always a winner for me), part tale of inspiring friendship and girl power (go sister!), and part historical fiction (always educational). I admit I had to work a bit to connect in the first part of the book, but was I ever rewarded for my perseverance! Richly drawn characters, a complex villain, a taut thriller and an ending that made me want to go back and re-read for clues I was certain I had missed. Let it be noted that this is one of two books on this list that I bought as a Christmas gift–for my mom, who will never know it is a “young adult” book :-)

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. Let’s just say that I have cleared my calendar for Tuesday, January 8th, the day the sequel to this one comes out. The dystopian/sci fi theme is interesting–the post-apocolyptic world in Under the Never Sky is divided between the Dwellers and the Outsiders. The Dwellers live in a controlled virtual reality world, while the Outsiders have scratched out an existence in what is left of the barren landscape. When Dweller Aria escapes the virtual realm, she is rescued by Perry, an Outsider who has been cast out of his tribe. Of course the two of them could not be more different, but they need each other in order to survive the harsh situation they find themselves in. This sci-fi romance is a page-turner and is the other Christmas gift I bought from this list (for my daughter–who will be banging down my door waiting for me to finish the sequel).

HONORABLE MENTION: A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Obviously, this one was far from being a new release in 2012, but I saw it on the high school English reading list and wanted to go back for a re-read from an adult perspective. Funny how much more I enjoyed it when there was no essay due at the end! It is a beautifully written classic about struggling against the enemy within–a theme which is relevant regardless of time or place. It’s a quick read and I can’t wait to discuss it with my daughter when her class reads it!

That wraps it up for the StorySnoops’ favorite reads of 2012. It was a good year in books! If you missed the other Snoops’ faves, you can find them here.

Wishing you a joyous 2013 and as always, happy reading!

-Eden, StorySnoop

The Best of 2012 – Part 3

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Hello everyone!

2012 was a great year for books, at least in the stack that I read! I always love these “Best of” lists – it’s like a cheat sheet for what to read – guaranteed to be great.

Here are my favorites from 2012:

Up first of my list is – of course – The Fault in our Stars. (Insert dramatic reverent sigh here.) When I read this last January, I knew it would be the best book I read all year, and I was right. My adult book club even read it, and they loved it, too. It’s a great book for your teen that you will value just as much.

Next up is Wonder, which is quite frankly, Wonder-ful. I adore this book and I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s my favorite middle grade book of the year. I hope it’s recognized as such come awards time.

The great Rebecca Stead never disappoints, and her new book, Liar & Spy, is clever and heartwarming. Middle school audiences are lucky to have this author writing just for them. I love an author who really hooks the reader from the beginning, but makes them really THINK the whole time they are reading.

And last by not least, the book that I think will become an instant children’s classic – The One and Only Ivan. This is a quiet, touching book for children and adults alike. Think Charlotte’s Web with zoo animals. It’s a gorgeous story that will touch your heart.

That’s my list. I could go on and on because there were so many amazing books in 2012.  Don’t miss The Best of 2012 Part 4 when Eden reveals her favorites!

The Best of 2012 — Part 1

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

With 2013 just around the corner (already?!?), it’s time to reflect back on another year of reading and select our favorite books. The funny thing about my picks for 2012 is that three of them are sequels to my favorites from 2011. The recipe for success? One strong female character, lots of action, and a dash of romance.

The follow-up to Divergent, Insurgent continues the story of Tris, who lives in a future Chicago where society has been divided into factions in order to extinguish undesirable human traits that lead to a world at war. But on the day of Tris’ initiation into her chosen faction, a coup results in the very thing the establishment of the factions tried to prevent. Tris is a richly complex character who must now decide where her loyalties lie while grappling with unrelenting guilt and grief–emotions that affect both her choices and her relationships. Unlike most in her society, Tris makes use of the lessons that each faction has to offer, rather than focusing on only one faction’s philosophy. If you haven’t read Divergent, I strongly recommend starting there.

Sure to please fans of The Hunger Games, Outpost is the second installment in a post-apocolyptic dystopian trilogy. After spending her entire life training to be a huntress down in the tunnels of the enclave, Deuce is having trouble adjusting to life as a regular girl in the topside town of Salvation. Here, Deuce isn’t considered grown, as she was in the enclave, and life consists of going to school and doing chores with her foster mother. Deuce doesn’t quite know how to fit in and she longs not to waste her true purpose: to defend the community. As she did in the first book, Enclave, Deuce continues to question the authority and intentions of the community’s leaders as well as the expectation that she must conform to traditional gender roles. This series is also best read in order.

Picking up where Blood Red Road left off, Rebel Heart is another engrossing read that will be enjoyed by fans of dystopian fiction as well as those that are new to the genre. It continues the story of Saba, an imperfect but capable and strong-willed female character who will do whatever it takes to find her true love, Jack. Unconcerned with placating others, the eighteen-year-old Saba uses her wits and determination to overcome even the most insurmountable of obstacles. Packed with action and danger, the Dustlands series is also about friendship and love–both romantic and familial. Saba’s irrepressible desire to find Jack tests the boundaries of her family’s loyalty and exposes her own shortcomings. Once again, this book will have more meaning when read after its predecessor.

Bitterblue is an immensely readable and compelling sequel to Graceling and it’s companion book Fire, featuring another strong and likable female character. Eighteen-year-old Bitterblue is queen of Monsea. It isn’t easy for her to lead a kingdom that is recovering from the thirty-five-year reign of her father Leck, a sadistic maniac with the ability to alter people’s perceptions of reality. Stuck in her castle tower signing papers all day, she can’t help but feel removed from the kingdom she is supposed to rule. So Bitterblue begins to sneak out of the castle at night–anonymously–to intermingle with her subjects so that she can learn about their lives and become a more effective queen. On the streets of the city, she discovers that her kingdom is not as peaceful as her closest advisors have led her to believe after she befriends a group of people trying to expose the truth about what happened during Leck’s reign and set things right. When her friends become the target of those who intend to silence the truth, Bitterblue decides that she cannot rest until she understands exactly what Leck did that left her kingdom so damaged. Only then can she help her kingdom heal from the truth of those atrocities. While it is not necessary to read Graceling or Fire first, readers who do will have a greater appreciation of Bitterblue‘s characters and storyline.

2012 was an excellent year for strong female characters. I’m looking forward to following some of their stories in 2013, and hopefully meeting a few more.

Happy reading and Happy New Year!

-Jen, StorySnoop