Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Top Five Favorite Releases This Year

So, December is nigh, holidays are around the corner, and soon we shall be handing in our last pieces of coursework for the semester. Very soon, people will start churning out their favourite things for the year, New Years Resolutions and all sorts of lovely things. And since we at The Book Lantern are always ahead of the curve, I only thought it nice to put out my top five favourite books this year.

Why top five? Well, for one thing, not to bore you. For another, my colleagues will probably give their own lists too, and I wanted to leave more room for creativity. Here are some things you should know about this list. First of, it’s only books that have been released in 2011. Second, those are books that I have read, so if you don’t see 1Q84 or Scrivener’s Moon or Miss Pergrine up here, it’s because I haven’t gotten around to them. Third, no indie authors (I’m planning a separate countdown for those).

And finally, it’s either standalones or the first books in a series, so that you may add it to your NaNo Gift basket or your Christmas shopping lists (oh, capitalism, how I love you).

So, without further ado:

#5 Ward Against Death by Melanie Card

I got this book as an e-galley, but to my shame never got around to reading it. Then my friends gave it some rave reviews, and I just had to get it on the Kindle.

I don’t regret it for a minute.

What can I say? It’s an amazing book. Ward is such a refreshing hero, so different from all the stalkers and all the jerks in YA these days, I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. Celia was also wonderful – inventive and smart, and so delightfully ruthless that you can’t help but enjoy her character. The two of them make a combo worth tramping even Alona Dare and Will Killian, two of my favorite characters of all time, and that’s saying a lot.

The story is intricate too, set in an alternate reality reminiscent of 16th century Italy, full of magic and assassins and secret orders. In two words – PURE WIN!

#4 Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Berzenoff

The thing about books with LGBTQ characters is that they rarely get enough limelight. It’s no secret they are heavily underrepresented in YA, and it’s even worse when you consider what treatment those characters get.

So yeah, it is a pretty big deal when a book not only has gay characters, but has them as the main characters. Now that’s something.

But Brooklyn, Burning isn’t just that. It’s a story about loss and overcoming hardship and the beauty of the human condition.

Also, the main character plays drums. How awesome is that?

#3 Sister Mischief by Laura Goode

Contemporary YA is often underestimated for not having enough room for variation. What people don’t understand is that most YA dystopias are hardly more than that, with some ‘what ifs’ sprinkled in.

Sister Mischief is a book that would revive your belief in the genre. Gutsy, beautiful and badass, much like its heroine, the story draws you in from the first page and grips you to the end.

Not to mention the romance is pretty damn wonderful. Esme and Rowie are two teenagers who definitely have some baggage, but their relationship is a powerful one, and it would leave a lasting impact.

#2 Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

When you hear WWII stories, you probably think that it would be about Nazi Germany. Why doesn’t anybody remember Russia used to be allies with Hitler, though? Is it because they switched sides that people forgot that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were obliterated from the maps for years on end?

This is the story of a young girl, Lina, whose family gets taken by the NKVD and who gets sent into a worker’s camp in Siberia.

It’s not a gentle book. It doesn’t pull any punches when it tells you about people living in inhuman conditions, nor does it belittle the beauty of life. Lina’s is a story that will stick, because she is so very relatable – a girl, forced to grow up too fast.

#1 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (by an idea of Siobhan Dowd)

Siobhan Dowd was one of the best YA authors. No, I mean it. Hers are the stories I expect to last and still be read in twenty years time, simply because her characters connect with you like few others can.

Patrick Ness took her idea and created a story that is not only worthy of the idea, it is powerful enough to knock the breath out of you. Connor, the main character, gets visited by a monster one night, and that monster promises to tell him three tales. The third time, the monster would ask for Connor’s truth, or eat him alive.

In spite of the fantastic elements, though, this is actually a story about many things – grief and loss, triumph and joy, hatred at its worst and love in all of its shades of gray. It’s a story that will make you reflect, and appreciate those you love all the more better.

So that was my top five list. I hope you guys liked it, or if you didn’t, I’d love to hear what your favorite books this year were. Stay tuned for more, and Happy Holidays!

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