One of my friends asked me if I would do a Best of the Best for the books I've reviewed so far. Great idea! So I picked the books that I thought I'd be sad if I had missed out on and came up with 15 of them. It's not to say that I didn't find many, many others that I really liked; but these were my favorites. Series are counted as one for the sake of my sanity. I will list the link to the review I did, book cover and a summary from Amazon or Goodreads. So, in no particular order (except maybe in order that I read them?)...
The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King Pirates, reincarnation, dogs, teenage angst, a romance that spans the centuries, magic, treasure—all are wrapped up inside a fun Goth cover that belies the very adult story within. Emer Morrisey, the youthful scourge of the South Seas in the 17th century, has lived through 100 lifetimes as a dog, and now shares the body of 20th-century teen Saffron Adams. Along with fantasies about torturing and murdering most everyone around her, Saffron's sole ambition is to escape her pathetic family and find the treasure she knows lies buried somewhere in Jamaica. The book is not for the faint of heart or stomach, with painful scenes of animal and human abuse, attempted rape, battles, and murder. Particularly difficult is the character of Fred Livingston, the reincarnation of the French captain who killed Emer's lover, and who is quite obviously crazy. His very disturbed mental state is shown through his truly evil actions toward his dog and the voices that taunt him day and night.
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff In this grim debut novel, the Doyles hide the terrible secret that 16-year-old Mackie is a changeling who was swapped for their real son when he was a baby. In their town of Gentry, there is an unspoken acknowledgment that a child is stolen every seven years in an uneasy bargain for the town's prosperity. Mackie's struggles to go unnoticed are made more difficult by his severe allergies to iron and other metal, his inability to set foot on consecrated ground such as his minister father's church, and his tendency to become severely ill around blood. Now he is dying. When a classmate's baby sister is abducted and a Replacement left in her place, Mackie is reluctantly drawn into the age-old rift between the Morrigan and the Lady, sisters who lead the two changeling clans who live underneath Gentry. Mackie agrees to help the Morrigan maintain the unwitting townspeople's goodwill in exchange for a drug he needs to survive. Meanwhile, he and his friends plot to rescue Tate's stolen sister from the Lady. Yovanoff's innovative plot draws on the changeling legends from Western European folklore. She does an excellent job of creating and sustaining a mood of fear, hopelessness, and misery throughout the novel, something that is lightened only occasionally by Mackie's dry humor and the easy charm of his friend Roswell. The novel ends with a glimmer of hope, though the grisly and disturbing images throughout may overshadow the more positive ending.
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry It’s been 14 years since First Night, when the dead came back to life. Six billion people have died (and reanimated) since then, and America has collapsed into isolated communities living within the great “Rot and Ruin.” Benny is 15, which means it’s time to get a job or face cut rations, but his general laziness leaves him with only one employment option: join his stuffy, sword-swinging, Japanese half-brother, Tom, as an apprentice bounty hunter. This means heading beyond the gates to slice and dice “zoms,” but Benny quickly begins to see the undead in a new light—as well as realizing that Tom is much more than he ever let on. The plot is driven by an evil bounty-hunter rival and the cruel games he plays, but Maberry has more than gore on his mind. The chief emotion here is sadness, and the book plays out like an extended elegy for a lost world.
If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman Summary for If I Stay: The last normal moment that Mia, a talented cellist, can remember is being in the car with her family. Then she is standing outside her body beside their mangled Buick and her parents' corpses, watching herself and her little brother being tended by paramedics. As she ponders her state (Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this), Mia is whisked away to a hospital, where, her body in a coma, she reflects on the past and tries to decide whether to fight to live. Via Mia's thoughts and flashbacks, Forman (Sisters in Sanity) expertly explores the teenager's life, her passion for classical music and her strong relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, Adam. Mia's singular perspective (which will recall Alice Sebold's adult novel, The Lovely Bones) also allows for powerful portraits of her friends and family as they cope: Please don't die. If you die, there's going to be one of those cheesy Princess Diana memorials at school, prays Mia's friend Kim. I know you'd hate that kind of thing. Intensely moving, the novel will force readers to take stock of their lives and the people and things that make them worth living. Summary for Where She Went: In the three years since the tragic accident Mia barely survived in If I Stay, she and high school ex-boyfriend Adam have lived separate lives on opposite coasts. But then Adam, now the dissatisfied front man of popular LA-based band Collateral Damage, stops over in New York City for one night before kicking off the European leg of his tour. It happens to be the same evening that Mia, now well on her way to becoming a renowned cellist, is performing at Carnegie Hall. Adam buys a ticket, planning to slip in and out, but Mia spots him and for the first time in years they’re face-to-face with each other and their shared past. Over the course of one evening, as Adam and Mia traverse the city’s streets, they relive the four days Mia spent in the intensive care unit as well as her departure to Juilliard and from the life she knew. Emotionally raw and incredibly moving, Gayle Forman again showcases her considerable talent for drawing complex characters who face impossible decisions and then bear the consequences.
Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago
"On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, a day that would mark the end of one life and the beginning of another, I found out my grouchy next door neighbor was the walking dead. When you turn around expecting to see something familiar, and instead see something else altogether, it takes a little while for your brain to catch up with your eyes. I call it the 'Holy Crap Factor.'"
Forced to flee his home and family, twelve-year-old Will Ritter falls in with the Undertakers-a rag-tag army of teenage resistance fighters who've banded together to battle the Corpses.
Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
Summary of Forest of Hands and Teeth: Mary knows little about the past and why the world now contains two types of people: those in her village and the undead outside the fence, who prey upon the flesh of the living. The Sisters protect their village and provide for the continuance of the human race. After her mother is bitten and joins the Unconsecrated, Mary is sent to the Sisters to be prepared for marriage to her friend Harry. But then the fences are breached and the life she has known is gone forever. Mary; Harry; Travis, whom Mary loves but who is betrothed to her best friend; her brother and his wife; and an orphaned boy set out into the unknown to search for safety, answers to their questions, and a reason to go on living. In this sci-fi/horror novel, the suspense that Ryan has created from the very first page on entices and tempts readers so that putting the book down is not an option. The author skillfully conceals and reveals just enough information to pique curiosity while also maintaining an atmosphere of creepiness that is expected in a zombie story. Some of the descriptions of death and mutilation of both the Unconsecrated and the living are graphic. The story is riveting, even though it leaves a lot of questions to be explained in the sequel.
Summary of Dead Tossed Waves: Timid, thoughtful Gabry has grown up safely in the city of Vista. She lives in a lighthouse with her mother, Mary, the daring heroine of The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Delacorte, 2009), whose job it is to kill Mudo—zombies—as they wash ashore. Then one night, Cira, Gabry's best friend, and Catcher, Cira's brother, convince her to sneak outside Vista's walls. With the attack of one Breaker—a fast zombie—everything changes: a friend is killed, Catcher is infected, and Cira is imprisoned and destined for the Recruiters, the army that protects the loose federation of cities left after the Return. Feeling both guilty for having escaped punishment and self-destructive after the revelation that Mary in fact adopted her, Gabry pushes herself to cross the city's Barrier again. Some pieces of the narrative are well constructed: the constant, looming threat of the Mudo, Gabry's quiet determination and daring in the face of fear, and villainous soldier Daniel's palpably frightening power-grabbing sexual advances. Other details are less believable, like Mary's suddenly abandoning her daughter and her duties to seek her past in the Forest. Though flawed, this volume has enough action, romance, and depth of character to satisfy, and the cliff-hanger ending will leave fans hungry for the third book.
Feed by Mira Grant Urban fantasist Seanan McGuire (Rosemary and Rue) picks up a new pen name for this gripping, thrilling, and brutal depiction of a postapocalyptic 2039. Twin bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason and their colleague Buffy are thrilled when Sen. Peter Ryman, the first presidential candidate to come of age since social media saved the world from a virus that reanimates the dead, invites them to cover his campaign. Then an event is attacked by zombies, and Ryman's daughter is killed. As the bloggers wield the newfound power of new media, they tangle with the CDC, a scheming vice presidential candidate, and mysterious conspirators who want more than the Oval Office. Shunning misogynistic horror tropes in favor of genuine drama and pure creepiness, McGuire has crafted a masterpiece of suspense with engaging, appealing characters who conduct a soul-shredding examination of what's true and what's reported.
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation. Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.
Beautiful Creatures: Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever. Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them. In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
Beautiful Darkness: Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen. Sometimes life-ending.
Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.
Hunger Games Trilogy Chat
The Hunger Games: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Catching Fire: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull's-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol. Catching Fire maintains the adrenaline rush of Suzanne Collins's series launch.
Mockingjay: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.
I don't know why I didn't review WHITE CAT. But *sings* trust in me...it's just as good!
White Cat: Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen. Red Glove: Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else. That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.
When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself? Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.
Generation Dead: Phoebe Kendall is just your typical Goth girl with a crush. He’s strong and silent…and dead.
All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren't staying dead. But when they come back to life, they are no longer the same. Feared and misunderstood, they are doing their best to blend into a society that doesn’t want them. The administration at Oakvale High attempts to be more welcoming of the “differently biotic." But the students don’t want to take classes or eat in the cafeteria next to someone who isn’t breathing. And there are no laws that exist to protect the “living impaired” from the people who want them to disappear—for good. When Phoebe falls for Tommy Williams, the leader of the dead kids, no one can believe it; not her best friend, Margi, and especially not her neighbor, Adam, the star of the football team. Adam has feelings for Phoebe that run much deeper than just friendship; he would do anything for her. But what if protecting Tommy is the one thing that would make her happy?
Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando
Dreamland Social Club: Jane has traveled the world with her father and brother, but it's not until her fractured family-still silently suffering from the loss of Jane's mother many years before-inherits a house and a history in Coney Island that she finally begins to find a home. With the help of a new community of friends, a mermaid's secrets, and a tattooed love interest with traffic-stopping good looks, the once plain Jane begins to blossom and gains the courage to explore the secrets of her mother's past. Colorful characters, beautiful writing, and a vibrant, embattled beachfront backdrop make this the perfect summer read for anyone who has ever tried to find true love or a place to call home.
Rotters by Daniel Kraus
Rotters: Grave-robbing. What kind of monster would do such a thing? It's true that Leonardo da Vinci did it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and the resurrection men of nineteenth-century Scotland practically made it an art. But none of this matters to Joey Crouch, a sixteen-year-old straight-A student living in Chicago with his single mom. For the most part, Joey's life is about playing the trumpet and avoiding the daily humiliations of high school. Everything changes when Joey's mother dies in a tragic accident and he is sent to rural Iowa to live with the father he has never known, a strange, solitary man with unimaginable secrets. At first, Joey's father wants nothing to do with him, but once father and son come to terms with each other, Joey's life takes a turn both macabre and exhilarating.
The Overtaking by Victorine Lieske
The Overtaking: Shayne Bartlet has been kidnapped, his powers disabled and his memory altered. He's not having a good day. And he doesn't even know it.
When Shayne's telepathic abilities surface, he finds out Danielle isn't the normal teenager she appears to be. In fact, she's not even from his world. And when he finds out her race is responsible for the overtaking of his entire planet, he sets out to uncover the truth about her. Danielle didn't mean to fall in love with a Maslonian boy. Her job was to observe and report. But when Shayne's well being is at stake she goes against orders to help him, putting her own self in danger. Together, Danielle and Shayne discover that things are not as they seem. They must stop Danielle's race from destroying the Maslonian planet, and free Shayne's people.