(WARNING: This post is formatted all kinds of funky in Google Reader. Sorry. It looks pretty on my blog, at least.)
This may come as something of a surprise to you, but...I love books.
No, really. I love books. I don't talk much on here about what I read, but I thought today I'd give you some recommendations. I took all of the cover images from Amazon, so that whole "Click to LOOK INSIDE!" thing won't actually work. But if you click on the cover images it will take to you to their Amazon page where you can do just that.
First, we have my recommendations for older teens. I would say 16 and up, based on content.
Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr. I have yet to read anything else of hers, but I was struck by the writing in this book. It got me reading
contemporary YA again (where before I had mostly focused on paranormal). The story focuses on childhood, how it shapes who we become, and what we do to try and make ourselves the people we think we should be--even if that isn't always honest to others or ourselves. Beautiful, thought-provoking. Not an easy book, but not one that will rip you apart inside. The highest praise I can give a book is that it stays with me. This one did.
The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa. This was a genuinely fun read. When you read as many current paranormal books as I have been lately, they tend to bleed together. Julie's depiction of faeries stood out to me. It was engaging and interesting, with a beautifully horrific fantasy world lovingly created (and heavily researched!) for the reader. I must have really liked it, because I'm getting deja vu just writing this recommendation...
If I Stay, by Gayle Forman. First of all, I'm not crazy about the new cover treatment they gave this book. The hardcover was beautifully simple--so evocative. This looks like pretty much everything else out there. I get why they did it. I'm just sad they felt the need to.
That being said, this book. THIS BOOK. Oh my gosh. It has more "mature" content than books I usually recommend and is not for younger readers, but it was a powerful book. Another that has never left me. So perfectly crafted and so brilliantly told the fact that there is a follow-up novel coming out soon actually make me nervous. I don't want anything to change how I felt about Mia's story. One of my all-time favorites. I kinda worship Gayle Forman.
And now onto middle grade books. I know I've mentioned it before, but the first novel I ever wrote was middle grade. (Umm, in theory. In reality it was not actually anything. Turns out I totally suck at writing middle grade--but it may just be my favorite to read. I really wish I could write it!)
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling, by Maryrose Wood. I loved this book. It had all of the charm of Lemony Snicket, without the mean-spirited, dark undercurrents. (For the record, I loved the Lemony Snicket series...but I would hesitate to give it to young children.) Adorable, clever, delightful read.
The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende. Okay, stop. Stop it right now. You're singing that horrible song from the awesomely cheesy movie in your head, aren't you? Fine. Nothing against the movie ("But I've gotta keep my feet on the ground!"), but it really did this book a disservice. The book is interesting and smart. It borders on philosophy in many parts. But in spite of the fact that it is a thinking book, it's also a fantasy--a vividly expressed one at that, entertaining as a child's book and intriguingly deep as an adult read. Love, love, love this book.
Three Tales of My Father's Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I vaguely remembered this book from when I was a little girl and picked it up at the library to read to my kids. They adored it. Absurd, charming, fun. Definitely a great read-aloud for very young children just starting to develop an attention span for longer stories.
And finally, my newest find. Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, by Mac Barnett. Okay, did you read that title? How could you NOT want to read the book? It is genuinely hilarious. Adam Rex's illustrations are pitch-perfect, and it's one of those books that, while you're reading, you get annoyed if no one is in the room with you because darnitall that funny line needs to be read aloud! The start of a new series, a must-own for my personal library and yours, too, if you have young kids. A loving update (and slight parody) of the Hardy Boys books, I can't recommend it highly enough.
And, speaking of Mac Barnett, stay tuned tomorrow to read an interview in which he was kind enough to ignore my flagrant dishonesty and underhanded trickery. Also, he's funny.