Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors On My Auto-Buy List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new Top Ten list topic is posted and book bloggers fill in their own choices. I'm a list girl (as in, I don't function without them), so I thought this would be a good choice for me! This week's topic was a difficult one. On one hand, I have my authors who I would buy and read ANYTHING they've written. They have written enough books that I've loved, that I know this to be true. One the other hand, there are the authors who have only written one or two books, and I think they would be on this list, but I would need to read more to be sure. That said, I am going to cheat a little and have TWO lists...

YA Litwit's Top Ten Authors On My Auto-Buy List

1.  Neal Shusterman~  I am a total fangirl, and have read all of his books, and loved them all.  He is brilliant, and his books make you think, which I love.  If you haven't read his books yet, get on it!  (Read my review of Everfound HERE and my Banned Book Showcase featuring Unwind HERE.)  Favorite Book/Series:  The Skinjacker Trilogy

2.  Ellen Hopkins~  I love the way Ellen writes, and I don't just mean her style.  Yes, I love that she writes all of her books in verse, but I also love her n0-holds-barred attitude about subject matter.  Ellen puts the tough stuff out there, and doesn't apologize for the fact that she makes it so you can't ignore certain issues.  (Read my review of Perfect HERE and my Banned Author Showcase, featuring Ellen, HERE.)  Favorite Book/Series:  Impulse/Perfect 

3.  David Levithan~  I have SO much love for David Levithan and his books.  His wit and humor make it possible for him to write about relationships in a very real way, and his books just stand out because of it.   Favorite Book:  Every Day (Read my review HERE.)

4.  John Green~  This is the guy who made me see contemporary YA as something to love, instead of page after page of angst-ridden, whiny, teenagers.  He gets the minds of teens, and manages to show us that they are so much more complex than we realize.  (Read my reviews of Paper Towns HERE and The Fault In Our Stars HERE.)  Favorite Book:  Looking For Alaska

5.  Libba Bray~  Such a fantastic writer, and I don't say this lightly.  Libba has written several different genres now, and she has done them all exceptionally well.  She is imaginative, funny, and witty, and I would read anything by her.  Favorite Book:  (tie) The Diviners (read my review HERE) and Beauty Queens (Read my review HERE).

6.  Cassandra Clare~  I think I would read the phone book if she wrote it!  I have not been disappointed in anything she's written.  I know she has only written one world so far, but I just have a good feeling in my gut. (Read my reviews of City of Fallen Angels HERE, City of Lost Souls HERE, and Clockwork Prince HERE.)   Favorite Book/Series:  The Infernal Devices (but don't make me chose which book!)

7.  Holly Black~  Holly Black has an impressively warped imagination, and I LOVE it!  I love her KidLit and her YA.  She is just a dazzling talent in the sea of mediocrity that is publishing! (This, of course, could be said of ANY of the authors on this list. Duh.)  I have read The Spiderwick Chronicles with all three of my children, and am eagerly awaiting the day when I can appropriately introduce my 11 year old daughter to her YA.  Can't wait to read Doll Bones with the three of them!   (Read my reviews of White Cat HERE, Red Glove HERE, Black Heart HERE, and The Poison Eaters HERE.) Favorite Book/Series:  The Curse Workers trilogy

8.  Gabrielle Zevin~  I have been a tremendous fan of Gabrielle's since I read Elsewhere, one of my all-time favorite books.  I don't know why, but that book left an indelible impression on me.  I truly wish that Elsewhere is what our afterlife will be like, because the idea of it is perfection.  After reading that, I had to put my hands on her other books, and although they are all very different from Elsewhere, and one another, they are still awesome in their own rite.  (Read my review of All These Things I've Done HERE.)  Favorite Book:  Elsewhere

9.  Lauren Oliver~  Much like Gabrielle Zevin, Lauren can write any genre.  Her debut, Before I Fall, is more of a Contemporary read, while the Delirium trilogy is definitely a Dystopian.  The Spindlers and Liesl & Po, her two MG books, are very fantastical.  Lauren's intelligence and warm personality shine through in her writing, and make me want to devour everything she puts on a page.  She also happens to be my 8 year old son's  very close 2nd favorite, behind Roald Dahl (someone who I think is a HUGE honor to be put in the same class with).  Favorite Book:  The Spindlers (Read my review HERE.)

10.  Jackson Pearce~  I have all of Jackson's books proudly displayed on my shelf because I totally love her, but it's not just about the fabulous writing with Jackson; It's about the whole package.  She's an Atlantan, for starters.  Then there are her hilarious YouTube videos (check out her channel HERE) and tumblr posts (check out her page HERE), in which she talks about books and writing, but also about loads of other stuff.  She is the best.  Sure, the books are the number one reason she's on this list.  I love them.  But it's always awesome when there's more.  (Read my reviews of Sisters Red HERE, Sweetly HERE, Fathomless HERE, and Purity HERE.)  Favorite Book:  Purity

Runners Up
(in no particular order; click the title for me review)

~Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door)
~Scott Westerfeld (Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Peeps, Leviathan, Behemoth, etc.)
~Victoria Schwab (The Near Witch, The Archived)
~Maureen Johnson (The Name of the Star, The Madness Underneath, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Key to the Golden Firebird, etc.)
~Kody Keplinger (DUFF, Shut Out, A Midsummer's Nightmare)
~Terra Elan McVoy (Being Friends With Boys, After the Kiss, Pure, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts)
~Myra McEntire (Hourglass, Timepiece)
~Beth Revis (Across the Universe, A Million Suns, Shades of Earth)
~Maria V. Snyder (Poison Study, Touch of Power, Scent of Magic, Inside Out, etc.)
~Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall, Demonglass, Spell Bound)
~Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, Blackbringer, etc.)
~Lauren Myracle (Shine, ttyl, ttfn, Bliss, Rhymes with Witches etc.)

Now, I know I have forgotten a BUNCH of authors I love, but I don't want this (already) fangirly post to go on forever and ever.  I love books, and that means I love authors...  I have WAY too many books that I haven't even read yet, which means I have a ridiculous Auto-Buy list already!  Who do you think I left out?  Do we share any?  Am I a total cheater by having such a long list of runners-up?  I ADORE comments, so let me know!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

ARC Review: Breaking Point by Kristen Simmons

Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: February 12th, 2013

The second installment in Kristen Simmons's fast-paced, gripping YA dystopian series.

After faking their deaths to escape from prison, Ember Miller and Chase Jennings have only one goal: to lay low until the Federal Bureau of Reformation forgets they ever existed.

Near-celebrities now for the increasingly sensationalized tales of their struggles with the government, Ember and Chase are recognized and taken in by the Resistance—an underground organization working to systematically take down the government. At headquarters, all eyes are on the sniper, an anonymous assassin taking out FBR soldiers one by one. Rumors are flying about the sniper’s true identity, and Ember and Chase welcome the diversion….

Until the government posts its most-wanted list, and their number one suspect is Ember herself.

Orders are shoot to kill, and soldiers are cleared to fire on suspicion alone. Suddenly Ember can’t even step onto the street without fear of being recognized, and “laying low” is a joke. Even members of the Resistance are starting to look at her sideways.

With Chase urging her to run, Ember must decide: Go into hiding…or fight back?
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I waited until right before this book released to read its predecessor, Article 5, and I'm glad I did.  Article 5 ended with a serious cliffhanger, and it was awesome to be able to go right into the sequel without having to wait.  That said, where has this series been all my life?  Frankly, I'm a little over the whole dystopian thing, just as I was over the vampire and werewolf thing in the wake of Twilight.  That said, I've really loved the genre since reading 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 a gazillion years ago, and am more apt to give these books a chance than I was the paranormal stuff; I just do so with a wary eye. Well, I went into this series with a good number of reviews in the back of my mind- some great, some scathing, and a bunch in between- and no firm expectations...  I ended up really liking Article 5, and although there were a few flaws, I felt like it was a solid start to what I expected to be a really good series.  I gave it four stars.  Needless to say, that after reading Article 5, my expectations going into Breaking Point were a little higher.  I'm happy to say that Kristen Simmons totally delivered!

First off, I enjoyed Ember a lot more in this book.  In Article 5 she had her desire to reach her mother driving her actions, helping her to do a lot of the more kick-ass things she did.  In Breaking Point that motivation wasn't there, but she continued to be kick-ass.  She became strong and independent, with a mind of her own, and she wasn't about to let anyone tell her what to do if it was in compromise with what she thought was right.  Not Chase, not Wallace, not the government.  And speaking of Chase (*swoons a little*), I'm glad Ember still managed to have a mind of her own when he was around.  I'm not sure I would have been that disciplined...

Further on the Chase subject, because his character was, honestly, one of the main things that kept me from giving Breaking Point five stars...  I think Chase is great in some ways, don't get me wrong.  He is certainly super-hot, and he has his sweet, protective side that makes me go, "Awwww", but he also got on my nerves. A LOT.  You see, I really wasn't into his, "Don't touch me, Ember. I'm damaged and I don't want you to get hurt," broody nonsense.  Yes.  We get it, Chase.  You've been through a lot, but guess what?  So. Has. Everyone. Else.  Get over it, and man up...  I actually still really liked Chase for the most part, but I did find him annoying from time to time.  Then there was Tucker.  Still not sure about him, but I would like to think the changes are legit.  I'm hoping that we get a whole lot of Tucker in book number three, because good-guy or bad-guy, he's become one of my favorite characters.  Another favorite for me was Sean.  I would have never predicted, while reading Article 5, that this would be the case, but he kind of grew on me, without my realizing it, and that is the best...

"Now, what about the plot and pacing and all that stuff?", you ask.  Well, you know I can't give spoilers, but I can tell you this.  Breaking Point kicked some serious ass in that regard.  There was a ton of action, and the story went in a direction that was entirely different from where I thought it would when I finished Article 5.  There were a lot of surprises, the biggest of which was that Kristen Simmons is not at all afraid to kill off important characters.  I love it when authors kill important people for a couple of reasons, but the most important one is that by doing so, they keep me on my toes.  As far as twists go, the only thing I saw coming was who the dishonorably discharged soldier Sean was talking about in the first chapter was. (I only give you even this tiny spoiler, because it was so obvious.)  Otherwise, I was taken off guard at several turns throughout the book.  

In the end, I think the thing I liked best was the imagining of what this society was like, and what it would be like to be a part of a fringe rebel group.  I thought it was an accurate, and rather disturbing one.  Of all the dystopian fiction I've read, I felt like this series had the most plausible scenario.  No natural disaster or plague caused the crazies to gain control.  The horrors of war helped a religious zealot get control of our country and over time, he basically dismantled the structure of our system of checks and balances through fearmongering, and under the guise of morality.  The people bought it because he was such a principled, moral guy and they craved structure after so much destruction.  I have no doubt that something like this could happen in our future.  Let's hope Kristen's writing isn't  as prophetic as it is compulsively readable! 

I felt like Breaking Point well outdid Article 5.  I liked the character development more (although there were a few, who are now dead, who I would have liked to know more about), and as I stated before, I liked that the scenario was so rational.  It was action-packed, with lots of death, so I felt like it would have just as much appeal to boys as it would to girls (and we all know books like that are few and far between in YA).  There was an underlying romance, which I liked, but it was never overpowering because the characters involved were exceptionally strong individuals, and able to function solo.  There were no love triangles either!

Overall, I am super happy that I finally started reading this series.  I am eagerly awaiting the third and final book in this series (that as of now, has no title or release date).  I can't really imagine where the story will go from here, but I am positive of one thing... It is going to be one hell of a ride!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  There are a few makeout scenes, but nothing graphic.  As far as sexual content is concerned, this book is pretty clean.  There is a good bit of violence, some of it graphic in nature, but not overly so.  I would say both Article 5 and Breaking Point are appropriate for grades 6 and up (ages 11 and up).

Friday, February 22, 2013

#GIVEAWAY! Win TWO Books by Kate Ellison!

Up for grabs are two books by Kate Ellison!  One lucky follower will receive a hardcover copy of the FABULOUS Notes From Ghost Town and a paperback copy of The Butterfly Clues.

Ya'll, I finished Notes From Ghost Town yesterday, and it was awesome!  I will be posting my review in a day or so, but I wanted to get this giveaway up as soon as I could, because I want to share its awesomeness!

Publisher:  EgmontUSA
Publication Date:  February 12th, 2013

They say first love never dies...

From critically acclaimed author Kate Ellison comes a heartbreaking mystery of mental illness, unspoken love, and murder. When sixteen-year-old artist Olivia Tithe is visited by the ghost of her first love, Lucas Stern, it’s only through scattered images and notes left behind that she can unravel the mystery of his death. 

There’s a catch: Olivia has gone colorblind, and there’s a good chance she’s losing her mind completely—just like her mother did. How else to explain seeing (and falling in love all over again with) someone who isn’t really there?

With the murder trial looming just nine days away, Olivia must follow her heart to the truth, no matter how painful. It’s the only way she can save herself.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Publisher:  EgmontUSA
Publication Date:  February 14th, 2012

Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place--possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home.

But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire"--a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind.

As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues," with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld much closer to home than she ever imagined--a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

ARC Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Publisher:  Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:  January 29th, 2013

In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

If you looked up the definition of "Gothic Novel", you might find a picture of The Madman's Daughter, but while this book may be just that, it is so much more...  I will admit that when I decided I was interested in reading this book for review, I had no idea what it was about, or even which genre it fell into.  I liked the cover.  And I liked the little blurb on the cover, "In the darkest places, even love is deadly."  Between those two things I was pretty much sold.  It didn't matter that I'm not really into Gothic Thrillers or Historical Fiction.  It didn't really matter to me that it was inspired by The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, a book I never really liked much.  I gave The Madman's Daughter a chance because I liked the cover.  That is something HarperCollins does so well; They lure me in with their gorgeous covers, making me want to read books I normally wouldn't pick up, and you know what?  I've yet to be disappointed, and this book is no exception.  The Madman's Daughter was phenomenal!  I could not put it down, and now I am chomping at the bit for the as-of-now unnamed, second book in the trilogy, which will be based upon The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (which I did quite enjoy).  So... What did I like so much about The Madman"s Daughter?  Let's see...

First off, the characters were great!  I really liked Juliet.  She was strong and independent, and she had a lot of spunk for a girl living in the era that she did.  As for the love interests, I adored everything about Montgomery.  It seemed like Megan wanted us to have mixed feelings about him, but I never did.  As for Edward, I just always knew there was something off about him, but I never expected him to be the man he turned out to be.  Juliet's father, Dr. Moreau was brilliantly written as well.  His descent into madness (well, further descent, as it becomes clear that he has always been a bit mad) was an awesome ride.  I would have to say that the "natives" of the island were the most interesting characters though.  They were so key in the unfolding of the mystery and the pace of the story, that collectively, they were a single character, in addition to their own individual stories.  Which brings me to the next reason I loved this book!  The story- it was creepy as hell.  The world building is so good, that even the parts in London had me feeling like there was something lurking in every shadow, but London was nothing compared to the island.  Then there was the fact that Megan Shepherd is really a master at writing suspense.  I spent much of the time reading this book with knots in my stomach, ready to jump at the turn of the page.  All that aside though, it was the story that made this book.  It starts out by painting a picture of what Juliet's life has been like since her father had been run off with accusations that he performed a number of unnamed medical atrocities.  First she lived with her mother, who out of necessity, became the mistress of a wealthy man- basically a high-class prostitute.  When Juliet's mother died, she was turned out onto the streets to fend for herself, as her extended family wanted nothing to do with the daughter of a madman.  She got a job cleaning at the university and a room at a boarding house, but things were far from easy for her.  While spending the evening out with some students at the university, she inadvertently comes across one of her father's drawings, and this sparks the hope in her that he is still alive.  She traces the drawing back to a pub where she finds not her father, but the now grown house boy from her childhood, Montgomery, who is in town getting supplies to take back to the island inhabited by her long-lost father.  After a situation occurs that puts Juliet on the run, Montgomery is forced to take her along with him, to the island in the Pacific, where her father is staying.  Well, the island is full of surprises and oddities, with the natives being the only a small fraction of it.  The story unfolds with surprising fluidity given the fact that this is Megan's debut, and I found that even the unbelievable ended up appearing completely plausible.  There was action, romance, mystery, and intrigue, and I could not stop turning the pages.  In the end, I was left, mouth agape, wondering what had just happened.  Then I experienced a bit of denial, looking for more pages that HAD to be there.  Then I was just heartbroken... I do hope for resolution in book number two, but something tells me it will take a totally different direction than I expect it to, and that I will be singing its praises because of it...

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  I think this book is fine for middle school and up, although I think older readers will appreciate it more.  For this reason, I say it's best suited for grades 8 and up (ages 13+). 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

ARC Review: The Trouble With Flirting by Claire LaZebnik

Publisher:  HarperTeen
Publication Date:  February 26th, 2013

Franny's supposed to be working this summer, not flirting. But you can't blame her when guys like Alex and Harry are around. . . .

Franny Pearson never dreamed she'd be attending the prestigious Mansfield Summer Theater Program. And she's not, exactly. She's working for her aunt, the resident costume designer. But sewing her fingers to the bone does give her an opportunity to spend time with her crush, Alex Braverman. If only he were as taken with the girl hemming his trousers as he is with his new leading lady.

When Harry Cartwright, a notorious flirt, shows more than a friendly interest in Franny, she figures it can't hurt to have a little fun. But as their breezy romance grows more complicated, can Franny keep pretending that Harry is just a carefree fling? And why is Alex suddenly giving her those deep, meaningful looks? In this charming tale of mixed messages and romantic near-misses, one thing is clear: Flirting might be more trouble than Franny ever expected.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Oh, Claire LaZebnik, I so love the way you write!  Each time I read one of your books, I come away with a overall feeling that all is right with the universe, and that true love really does exist.  Trust me, THAT is a huge accomplishment, because I am possibly one of the most jaded people ever when it comes to love.  I absolutely DETEST Valentine's Day, get totally grossed out when my friends express their gushy feelings toward their significant others on Facebook, and believe that the true and everlasting love of a single person is a total myth.  Now, a true and everlasting love of cupcakes, well, that is another story...  Moving on.

About a year and a half ago, I reviewed Claire's YA debut, Epic Fail, and LOVED it (read my full review HERE). Claire has several other Chick Lit titles under her belt, as well as some non-fiction titles dealing with Autism (check out her Goodreads profile HERE), but I believe that YA is her forte; She has a real knack for understanding the minds of the characters she writes, as well as those of her target audience.  Plus, I love that her YA novels have been loose retellings of Jane Austen novels, because I believe that they will open the minds of a new generation to reading those dusty, old, WONDERFUL books!

So, The Trouble With Flirting?  All I can say is that I adored it.  (Actually, that isn't ALL I can say, but it sounded good.)  I just happened to be sick the day after I received it in the mail *coughs*, and read it straight through in one sitting!  It is a loosely based, modern retelling of Mansfield Park, and I thought it was near perfect.  Mansfield Park isn't my favorite of Jane Austen's books, nor is it my least favorite; Actually it falls right in the middle for me.  That meant one very important thing for me while reading The Trouble With Flirting... I had an open mind to the story, because I didn't feel a tremendous urge to compare and nitpick, as it pertained to the original, because this story is very loosely based on the original, and if it had been, say, Emma, I may not have been so okay with liberties.  That said, I am not going to do a play-by-play comparison. I'm just going to tell you the reasons I loved it.

Obviously, I was drawn to it because it's a modern retelling, so the story was big for me.  I loved it.  I loved that the protagonist, Franny, was at this summer theater camp, not as an actress as she would have liked to have been, but as an assistant to the costume designer, her spinster aunt.  You see, Franny's family can't afford to send her to college, let alone an expensive summer camp, so she is spending her summer earning money to help fund her education.  When Franny arrives at the Mansfield Summer Theater Program, she runs into her old friend from middle school, Julia Braverman.  This is when she finds out that Julia's brother, Alex, is also there; Alex, Franny's forever-crush, and the first boy she ever had it bad for... As Franny catches up with Julia and Alex, she meets other students and begins to build an awkward social life (after all, she is "the help", and these teens are all rich, beautiful, and sophisticated).  Enter Harry Cartwright, a roguish ladies man, who has the eye of every girl at Mansfield, except Franny, who is firmly pining for the attached Alex.  Well, of course, that means Harry sets his sights on the one he can't have, Franny... The story continues in ways that I wouldn't have expected it to, and it left me feeling very satisfied in the end.  Honestly, if you had asked me at the beginning, I would have said that, without a doubt, I knew how it would end, and it makes me happy to know that I would have been dead wrong.

Something else I really loved about this book were the characters and character development   Claire went out of her way to show us that people aren't always who they appear to be on the surface, and that everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt.  I became so caught up in the details of each character, that I found myself thinking of them as friends.  The interpersonal relationships between the characters would not have been so key had the characters themselves not been developed so well.  Of course, I loved Franny.  She was just a great girl.  Sure she was insecure and made a few poor choices, but she always owned up to them, and tried to fix any damage she may have caused.  Aunt Amelia really surprised me a lot, as did Isabella, and the boys.  I only had one character pegged from the beginning, and that was Marie; She was pretty much the very necessary, if cliche, romantic antagonist.

Like I said before, I found this book to be near perfection.  It was light, sweet, and so upbeat, I couldn't help but close it with a ginormous smile on my face.  It was like the feeling you have when you've just finished an airy, delectable pastry; Satisfied, yet craving more.  That is exactly how I feel about Claire's writing, and I can't wait to read what she has coming next!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This is perfectly fine for middle school and up.  There are a couple of hot and heavy make-outs, and some mention of a few morally questionable girls, and there are a few characters who smoke and drink, but overall, it it pretty benign stuff.  I would say it is fine for grades 6 and up (ages 12+).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Characters In the Fantasy Genre

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new Top Ten list topic is posted and book bloggers fill in their own choices. I'm a list girl (as in, I don't function without them), so I thought this would be a good choice for me!  This week's topic was "Top Ten Characters In X Genre".  I picked Fantasy for a couple of reasons.  First, I don't read a ton of fantasy, so it would easier to narrow my favorites down to ten, and second, some of the greatest characters ever imagined come from the genre.  So, here they are...

YA Litwit's Top Ten Favorite Fantasy Characters

1.  Harry Potter~ I adore the Harry Potter books, and I loved being along as Harry grew from this young boy, to the kick-ass man he became.  Harry Potter is not only my favorite Fantasy character, he is one of my all-time favorite characters of ANY genre.

2.  Sirius Black from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling~  I think Sirius is one sexy wizard!  I adored him as a character and role model for Harry.  I just wish his time with the series had been longer.  I missed Sirius in the final books.  :-(

3.  Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore~  Katsa is my favorite kick-ass female character ever.  She is who I would aspire to be if I lived in a fantasy realm.  So powerful, but also principled, and super-smart.  She doesn't need anyone to protect her or take care of her, but she allows it because of love.

4.  The Darkling from Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo~ Wow!  I'm not sure I've ever been so hot for a fictional character, especially a villain, but that Darkling...  Oh wow!  I sincerely hope we see a lot more of him in future books.

5.  Hatter Madigan from The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor~  Another sexy fantasy guy.  I imagine that if a movie were to made of this series, that Jude Law would play Hatter, and let me tell you, I LOVE Jude Law.  Hatter Madigan isn't only sexy though, he is totally kick-ass too!

6.  Hermione Granger from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling~ So I really wanted to mention Hermione higher up, but I thought it was weird to make this list about my love for Harry Potter.  I love Hermione because she reminds me a bit of me as a girl.  I too was a kind of a know-it-all (because I did), and was awkward tuned pretty.  Hermione is so relatable.

7.  Celaena from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas~  Talk about kick-ass!  This girl is the most notorious assassin in the world.  She's so notorious that people would never even suspect she's a girl.  I loved her, and can't wait for more!

8.  Karou from Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor~ Karou is one of those characters that it is impossible to find fault with.  She just manages to handle everything thrown at her with a sort of grace.  Now, I haven't read Days of Blood & Starlight yet, so I don't know if things stay that way, but from what I know of her, I love her!

9.  Avry from Touch of Power and Scent of Magic~ Another kick-ass girl who I think rules.  This girl puts her life on the line regularly to heal others.  She is such a noble person, but she also knows how to use her brain, and she knows how to fight if she needs to.

10.  Miri from Princess Academy and Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale~ I loved both of these books and Miri had everything to do with that.  She was smart, independent, and resourceful.  She knew she could have a life that any girl would dream about, but she chose instead to help those in her village, and surrounding areas have a better life.

So this is my list.  What genre did you choose?  If you chose Fantasy, did we share any?  Do you think I forgot anyone?

ARC Review: Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date:  January 15th, 2013

Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know.

Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer. Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical,  Uses for Boys  is a story of breaking down and growing up.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Uses For Boys came as a total shock for me.  I've mentioned before that YA Contemporary is not my favorite genre, and although the genre seems to top my annual "Best of" list every year, and although there are several authors of the genre who I call favorites, I dislike far more YA Contemporaries than I like.  It has to be something special for me to love it.  When this book arrived in my mailbox unexpectedly, I thought, "Oh! Pretty cover!", but I wasn't sure I would read it.  Then I saw it was blurbed by the fantastic Ellen Hopkins, who happens to be one of my favorites in any genre, and I was sold.

Here's the deal.  Uses For Boys is ugly.  It's raw, gritty, real, and heartbreaking.  The protagonist, Anna, is one that just tears you up.  She is disconnected and naive.  She is so lonely and desperate for love and attention, and she relies heavily on the only guidance she has ever received... The poor example of her self-absorbed, bed-hopping, several times married mother.  Her reality is stark, cold, and unforgiving, and although she experiences a small bit of light and hope through her sometimes friendship with Toy, and fledgling relationship with Sam, as the reader, I was left wondering if it would ever be enough.  When I picked this book up, my expectations were based on the cover, and the cover told to me expect a YA Romance.  Well, nothing could have been more misleading.  This book is a coming-of-age story about a girl who is coming of age under the harshest of circumstances.  Anna's voice was tragic and and crushingly despondent.  I had so many feelings while reading this book, and I have to say, that the good ones were few and far between.  I can't say that I enjoyed this book, because much of it was difficult to read, from a subject-matter standpoint, but I found it compelling nonetheless.  I thought it was extremely well written in a beautifully simple way that is not often found, especially in YA.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book is for high school students and up.  There are harsh circumstances, many instances of drug and alcohol abuse, abortion, and many sexual encounters, including sexual assault.  I would say this book is best suited for ages 15 and up (grades 10 and up).