Posts Tagged ‘Allison D.’s Picks’

Best New Books of 2014: Allison D’s Picks

December 9, 2014

These are some of my favorite books that were published this year. You will probably notice that I not only love a well-written series, but that my reading interests vary across many genres. I enjoy juvenile books, graphic novels, romance, science fiction, fantasy, and I have a love-hate relationship with vampire novels.

Born of FuryBorn of Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Born of Fury is the seventh installment in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s science fiction romance series, The League, and is one of my favorites. Like J.R. Ward, Kenyon picks up where she left off, catching you up on your favorite characters while also focusing in on a particular couple. Hauk is a trained warrior from his planet of Andarion. He is also a member of the Sentella, a group now openly in war against The League, along with friends whom he considers his family. Sumi Antaxas, a League assassin, is assigned to target Hauk. What she believes to be a simple task becomes increasingly entangled as she becomes a captive of her target. There is intrigue, adventure, action, and romance in this fast-paced fantasy novel. In any science fiction novel, there is a thin-line that an author must walk in order to build a believable world separate from our own while also retaining some mystery and not boring the reader from minute details. Kenyon demonstrates this in her League series by having a perfect balance of both.

Escape from LucienAmulet, Vol. 6: Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi
This may be a graphic novel series, and intended for a younger audience, but there is something in it for everyone. The Amulet series is a fast-paced, exciting adventure; each volume of which I devoured in one sitting. Emily, her brother Navin, and their friends are hurtling on a journey towards battling the Elf King. In order to survive, Emily has to keep her wits about her, find a way to trust the other Stone Keepers she meets along with way, and keep her family safe. In the most recent edition, Escape from Lucien, Emily has to team up with an enemy while attempting to get her friends and brother out of the city of Lucien alive. It ends with a huge cliff-hanger but, in a series that is so fun to read, I cannot find it in myself to be miffed.

Shadow SpellShadow Spell by Nora Roberts
Nora Roberts is known for her romance trilogies, and this particular series has a little bit of everything; romance, of course, as well as close-knit families, Irish lore, magic, and friendships. If you have read anything by Roberts before, I found it to be a knitting together of the best parts of what I enjoyed about her Sign of Seven and Three Sisters Island trilogies. In this second installment, Connor O’Dwyer and his sister’s best friend, Meara Quinn, realize that there is a bit more between them than just friendship. They have taken their relationship for granted but when their budding romance is put to the test by the evil Cabhan waiting in the shadows they find there might be something more than just chemistry. The best part of reading a book by Nora Roberts is that I felt like I had been whisked away to small village in Ireland, with its history and long-standing inhabitants. The worst part? Having to wait seven months for the final installment to come out!

The KingThe King by J.R. Ward
The King is the 12th book in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. If you’ve never heard of the series before, I would start with the first book called Dark Lover. In The King, Ward revisits the couple from Dark Lover, Wrath and Beth. It is a different take on the vampire story and there certainly are no sparkly, vegan vampires to find in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. That being said, Ward has well-developed characters that come to life as you read further about their lives.  The King may center on Beth and Wrath, but Ward writes about the story lines of all of the other characters you have come to know and care about over the course of the series. What I love most about J.R. Ward’s series is that, in every installment, it feels as though I am stopping in for a weekend trip to check up on some friends of mine. There is a familiarity to it and a real character depth that you don’t find everywhere, especially not in romance series, which is one of the reasons I keep coming back for more!

The Mark of the Midnight ManzanillaThe Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig
I have been reading the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig for what feels like forever, each year eagerly awaiting the next addition to the series. The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is the 11th book in the series, not counting various novellas related to the assortment of colorful characters. If you are a fan of historical fiction set in the Napoleonic Era, with a dash of romance, some intrigue, spies, and lots of absurd humor then read this series. This book is, according to the author, the second to last book in the series. It follows the mysterious Duke of Belliston, Lucien, and Sally Fitzhugh. When a vampire novel that is all the rage in society sparks a rumor that Lucien is, in fact, a vampire, Sally must help Lucien solve the murder of a woman found dead at a party with the appearance of vampire bites on her neck. I enjoyed the absurdity that such a rumor sparked in the stuffy society setting and the hilarity that ensued as the two of them were thrown together to solve this strange murder mystery. The fact that Willig was making a jab at the current vampire craze in literature was an added bonus.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

October 28, 2013

Inventive—Check! Fun—Check! Whimsical—Check! Hilarious—Check!

What may I be speaking of? Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Yes, that is the whole title. We’re just going to call it Circumnavigated for the time being.

Reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz, our main protagonist September is whisked away to fairyland by the Green Wind from her boring home in Nebraska. Early in her journey, September is tasked by several witches to get a spoon back from the evil Marquess. This sets in motion a series of events in which September, unknowingly, is pitted against Fairyland’s newest ruler.

The world of Fairyland is rich with vibrant characters. She meets a part-library/part-wyvern (a wyverary) named A-Through-L, a marid named Saturday, and a wrangler in the great Velocipede migration. The brilliantly clever September faces danger around every curve. She forms deep bonds with the friends she makes in Fairyland and, when her time is up, she isn’t sure she wants to ever leave the adventure-filled Fairyland for her home in the Midwest.

The writing is poetic and magical. I felt it was sweet while being fantastical and, even better, providing a strong female protagonist. If you enjoyed books like Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, do yourself a favor and pick this book up immediately.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

October 16, 2013

I had been told that The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin was one of the best juvenile fiction novels of all time. No one could understand how I had never read it, let alone had never heard of it. In this entertaining tale, a group of sixteen individuals are gathered together while the will of their enigmatic neighbor, Samuel Westing, is read aloud.

Unbeknownst to these people, all mysteriously invited to live at the same apartment complex, Westing has enveloped them in an increasingly bizarre mystery. Paired off with unlikely teammates, each duo must attempt to unravel the mystery with the goal of winning the deceased’s fortune. The plot thickens as there are bombings, supposed deaths, and confusing clues.

Each of the sixteen neighbors has ties to one another that far outreach moving into the same building. As the clues continue to be handed out, the plot thickens when they discover that whoever wins also finds Sam Westing’s murderer. Turtle, the main protagonist, is brilliantly clever and loveable, despite her annoying quirks. Everyone underestimates her childish innocence while they blunder through their own interpretations of the clues.

Although it was a very quick read, I felt that I had gotten to know many of the characters–their flaws, strengths, and weaknesses–very well. I enjoyed the complexity to the mystery and the sheer peculiarity of the storyline. Yes, it was intended for children, but it is always nice to take a break from adult books and read a fun kids book every so often.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts

September 4, 2013

Up until recently, I had only read one Nora Roberts book and it had been such a long time ago I couldn’t remember if I had even enjoyed it. The book had been in a series and I had started with the last book–poor planning on my part. So, this time, I decided to start from the beginning!

The Three Sisters Island trilogy features a bit of magic, romance, and an island community that felt so real I wanted to book my next vacation there. Dance Upon the Air is the first book in this series and we are introduced to the island when Nell Channing escapes from her abusive husband. The island is off the coast of New England, and has the charming, small-town feel to it, where everyone on the island knows one another. Nell is drawn by some unknowable force to Three Sisters; a centuries old curse and she is a part of the puzzle to break it.

Despite the magical elements it is a fairly light read. There is the trademark romance story between Nell and Zack but even more significant is the fiercely strong bond that Nell builds with two women on the island–Ripley and Mia. The banter between Ripley and Mia is funny, and the friendships and life that Nell establishes on the island are solid enough that you feel as though you can step into the book and live on the island.

As a first series by Nora Roberts, I really enjoyed myself! Romance aside, it was cute, real, and just darn funny.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog. 

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

August 15, 2013

I’m one of those people that prefers to read a book before I see the film version. There’s just something about having a point of reference that is appealing to me. And, in the case of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures, I am very glad I read the book first. After reading and then watching the movie back-to-back, I would have been lost throughout the movie if I had not already read the book.

Ethan Wate lives in Gatlin, a small town in the South where nothing happens and barely anyone new ever moves there. That is, until Lena Duchannes, the niece of the mysterious Macon Ravenwood, arrives in town. Ethan begins experiencing all sorts of strange occurrences after meeting her, from nightmares he seems to share with Lena to a locket that shows them memories from the past.

The mystery continues to grow as Lena counts down to her sixteenth birthday. It is the day that she, as a Caster, becomes either light or dark. Despite attempts by both Ethan and Lena’s families to keep them apart, the mystery ties them further together.

Although there were a few moments when the story dragged, for the most part I couldn’t put the book down because I wanted to know what happened next. And now, after the ending, I can’t wait to read the next one! I’m curious as to how the series is going to end.

So if you’re like me and like to read both the book and watch the film adaptation, then I definitely suggest reading the book first! You might even find that it was better than the film altogether.

Visit the Beautiful Creatures web site.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander

May 22, 2013

If there is one thing I love, it is taking a trip in a time machine (or a book) to a historical setting. Tasha Alexander’s novel And Only to Deceive does just that, by plopping readers down in Victorian England. But just because it is in the Victorian Age does not mean that it doesn’t portray exceedingly charming characters dealing with any sort of issues we might deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Such as intrigue, mystery, and suspense. Well, at least that is what Emily has to deal with daily since her husband died. She also has an overbearing mother obsessed with marrying her off, whom Emily had married her husband, Philip, to get away from.

Only months after they were married, her husband left on a hunting trip to Africa where he subsequently died. Emily comes to learn about her husband, whom she never got a chance to get to know while he was alive, through the private journals and letters he left behind. And that is where the intrigue starts.  She begins to question whether she, or Philip’s friends, really knew him at all. What was his involvement with antiquities and his obsessive collecting of all things Greek?

Although it was a slower-moving book, I felt it was light enough for a summer read. There is something in And Only to Deceive for everyone. A little mystery, a dash of romance, a hint of well-researched historical fiction, and a hair of amateur detective work. And a rainy summer day sets the perfect scene for the London weather portrayed in the book.   If you like this book, you will like Crocodile On the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Find and reserve his book in the library.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

April 25, 2013

Not only does Grace Lin write Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, she also provides stunning illustrations to accompany the story. It was part folktale, part fantasy, and an all-around great adventure as Minli set off to meet the Old Man of the Moon.

Minli’s family is poor and the only form of entertainment was the stories she had grown up listening to; her father told her about Magistrate Tiger, the Jade Dragon, and the Fruitless Mountain. Stories about fortune and people changing their luck inspire her to use one of her only copper coins in order to buy a goldfish. Instead of bringing her family good fortune, she feels the weight of her family having another mouth to feed.

When she released the fish into the river, the goldfish tells her the story of the Never-Ending Mountain. She learns of Old Man of the Moon, living at the top of the Never-Ending Mountain, whose red thread weaves together everyone’s fate. Growing up in the shadow of the Fruitless Mountain, Minli finally decides that it is up to her to change the fate of her village and the fortune of her family, and she takes it upon herself to meet the Old Man.

Minli meets many different people and creatures along her journey; a flightless dragon, a Buffalo Boy, and a village in which all of its inhabitants know the true meaning of happiness. While many folktales can appear preachy, Lin employs them with ease to provide background information about the story. She ties everything up neatly with a red thread; the missing line that Minli must use to request an audience with the Old Man of the Moon.

It was an enjoyable and sweet tale about a girl’s discovery of what happiness is and the meaning of friendship. Although it was a juvenile fiction novel, I found myself amazed at the depth of the subject matter and, when I finished, I wanted to read it all over again.

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Insatiable by Meg Cabot

April 16, 2013

I’m not sure what I expected when I started reading Insatiable by Meg Cabot. Maybe I felt something along the lines of ‘No! Not another vampire novel!’ But perhaps Cabot feels the same way. Meena, the protagonist, is tired of hearing/writing/talking about vampires. Imagine her disbelief when she discovers they are not only real, but her new boyfriend is the prince of darkness himself. Not that Meena is normal herself…

Meena is able to predict the way every person she meets will die. Relieved that this isn’t the case when she meets Lucien, she doesn’t realize this very fact will embroil her in the middle of a load of vampire trouble. Lucien is in town from Romania, visiting his cousin, to solve the mystery of who is draining girls and leaving their bodies all over New York City.  Meena stumbles into a power struggle between Lucien and his brother, Dimitri, and unknowingly gets herself placed in the middle of their battle.

There is something for vampire lovers and haters alike in this novel. Meena spends a great deal of time abusing ‘monster misogyny’ of vampire culture. She even finds the concept of vampires laughable. Add in a fanatical, sword-wielding, vampire hunter named Alaric Wulf, a yappy Pomeranian mix named Jack Bauer who doubles as a vampire dog, Meena’s nosy neighbor Mary Lou (also a vampire), and Meena’s unemployed brother Jon, and amusement abounds.

The humor and major cheese factor kept me laughing the whole time! What a great approach to mix up the normal, overly dramatic, vampire novel!

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