2009 was a terrific year to be a book lover. So many great books were published in 2009 that it was often difficult to choose which book to read next. (My “To Be Read” grew to epic proportions this year.) It was hard choosing which books to include on this list. So, I limited myself to books I found myself going back to over and over or had that special something that made me think about it long after I was finished reading. In each of the following five books the characters, setting and action worked together to create a world in which it was easy to get lost or retreat to.
In no particular order, my favorite books of 2009:
I had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading about Regency England until I picked up The Season. Alex, the 17 year-old main character and her friends, are about to enter their first season of balls and dinners in London’s society. Alex’s mother wants her to marry well, but Alex wants someone who is not put off by intelligence. Of course, Alex finds romance and love in the form of Gavin, her brothers’ best friend, and the new Earl of Blackmoor. All the small details, such as ball gown descriptions and the fact that Alex and her friends read Jane Austen novels, really allow the reader to get immersed in the world of Regency England. MacLean’s characters are fun, smart, and very relatable despite the fact that the story is set in 1814 London.
I was lucky to get an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of Shiver at Book Expo America (BEA) in May. A few people on line in the Scholastic area were saying that it would be the “next” Twilight. While Shiver has not reached such epic proportions, I am happy to say that, in my opinion, it is much better than Twilight. It is the story of Grace, who was bitten by a wolf in her backyard when she was six, and Sam, who is sometimes a wolf and sometimes a boy. Told from both Grace and Sam’s perspectives (in alternating chapters), the story grabbed me from the start. I read it in one sitting and instantly wanted to know what happens next. Luckily the sequel, Linger, will be published in July, 2010.
Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (published by Little, Brown and Co, December 2009)
I have been captivated with the South since reading and watching Gone With the Wind in middle school and ever since then have enjoyed reading books set in the South. In this respect Beautiful Creatures does not disappoint, the book is set in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, a place so small that everyone knows everyone else. Also, with so many novels having the normal girl fall for the supernatural being boy, it was refreshing to read a book in which the opposite happens. Ethan Wate, normal high school sophomore, is drawn to new girl Lena Duchannes. Lena, the niece of the town recluse, turns out to be a Caster, a gifted individual with powers. Told from Ethan’s perspective Beautiful Creatures is ultimately a story about acceptance and love.
Fire is the last remaining human monster in the Dells. Irresistibly beautiful with hair the color of flame, Fire has the ability to control minds. She doesn’t like using her power because she is afraid of turning into her father, who used his ability to control minds to hurt both animals and humans. Then she is asked to uncover a plot against the king. Fire soon discovers that her power was greater than she realized and that it can and should be used for good. In Fire, Cashore creates a protagonist that must reconcile her abilities with her morals. I enjoyed seeing Fire transform from someone who kept most people at a distance, into someone who was able to open her heart to others. Her relationship with Prince Brigan is so well written that the reader knows that Fire loves him before she realizes it herself. Cashore is definitely an author to keep your eye on.
If you had a terminal illness, how would you deal with it? Sixteen year-old Cameron Smith, high school slacker, finds out that he has Creutzfeldt-Jakob (Mad Cow) disease. He finds himself being poked and prodded until he meets Dulcie, a punk rock angel who tells him that he can find a cure for Mad Cow. Along with Gonzo, a hypochondriac dwarf, Cameron escapes from the hospital and goes on a road trip in search of Dr. X, a physicist who might have the cure he’s looking for. Along with a yard gnome who thinks he is a Norse god, Cam and Gonzo make their way from New Orleans to Florida, just in time for the strangest spring break recorded. I love that Going Bovine keeps readers guessing. You’re not sure if Cam actually goes on his road trip or is just having hallucinations until close to the end. I have to admit that Going Bovine made me shout out with laughter and cry within the span of a few pages. Cam is my favorite narrator of the year; he made me want to root for him and wish that I could join him during certain parts of his road trip.
Honorable mentions: Because I couldn’t keep my list to just five books, here are some more books that I enjoyed immensely. These books have interesting characters, or amazing settings, or thought provoking plots (or a combination of all three).
Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson (HarperCollins, April 2009)
Candor by Pam Bachorz (EgmontUSA, September 2009)
The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan (Margaret K. McElderry, June 2009)
City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry, March 2009)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Delacorte, October 2009)
Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer (Disney-Hyperion, July 2009)
Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Delacorte, February 2009)
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Simon and Schuster, October 2009)