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Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Reading Overview

So, today is the last day of the year--and, as a matter of fact, the decade. Since I could barely read at the start of this decade, I don't think I'll be doing a Best Books of the Decade list, but a Best Books of 09 couldn't hurt. Basically, this is the post where I make up for the fact that I rarely ever blog by going through a bunch of books and giving them REALLY SHORT REVIEWS a la Robin Ellen. [Minor spoilers for some books.] Here goes:
  • IF I STAY by Gayle Forman: This was a book I always promised to review but never did because I was lazy like that. So, here goes. A teenage girl named Mia is the sole survivor of a car accident and must decide whether to stay on Earth or go be with her family...wherever they are. This book was excellent, wonderfully crafted, witty, wise, darkly funny, beautiful. Rating: 9.
  • THE PRINCESS DIARIES series by Meg Cabot. I read all ten books of this series in like a month. Here's what I have to say: Wow. EXTREMELY FUNNY, like, really. Above average writing, maybe 7.5-8, but really freaking hilarious. This was just a really fun series to read and I would reccomend it highly if you're looking for a lot of light-yet-occasionally-deep books to read one after another. Note: Nothing like the movie. This is a good thing. Overall series rating: 9.
  • AFTER by Amy Efaw. Devon, a straight-A student and awesome soccer player, is unable to accept that she is pregnant, so when she gives birth, she throws the baby in a trash can. This book was pretty good. I liked Devon a lot, and that was really the saving grace of the novel in some parts. The writing was maybe 7.5 quality, and while I wouldn't award any *BEST BOOKS OF 09* awards to this one, I liked reading it and everything. Reccomended to fans of Sarah Dessen looking for something a little bit darker. Rating: 8.
  • LISA, BRIGHT AND DARK by John Neufeld. Lisa, a popular, pretty high school student, begins to go crazy, and her friends are the only ones who believe her. I admit it--if this book had been long I wouldn't have read it. At 143 pages or so it's a quick read, though, so I gave it a try. Finished it in a few hours, and the biggest problem with it is that it was published in 1969 so it's extremely dated. I could stand it, but sometimes it just dragged. The writing was pretty good, though, and I liked the MC, despite the fact that she was extremely whiny at times. The slang, by the way? WTF. Rating: 6.
  • NOTES ON A NEAR-LIFE EXPERIENCE by Olivia Birdsall. I read this book back in April or so, and I don't remember some of the littler details, but basically it was about a girl named Mia whose parents get divorced, thus sparking her life falling apart. A quick, thoughtful, slightly fluffy read with a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, but it sadly sinks into the background a bit if you read something 10-rated after it. Enjoyable, though. Rating: 7.5.
  • THE MARKET/THE TAKER by J.M. Steele. In THE MARKET three high school students discover that the guys at their school have a stock marketesque system of 'ranking' the girls at their school, so they attempt to raise one of them to the top to 'beat the system.' A light read, I enjoyed it about as much as I enjoyed THE TAKER, which was about a girl who tanks her SATs and hires someone to take it for her. Both are light, yet have convincingly portrayed characters, THE MARKET more so, but THE TAKER is definitely a page-turner (finished in a school day), so there you have it. MARKET-7. TAKER- 7.5.
  • BURGER WUSS by M.T. Anderson. Hard to explain, but this book's about a kid who works for a burger chain and, like, accidentally starts a war with a rival chain over a girl or something. Good, with realistic characters, but honestly, the plot is confusing, hard to follow, and honestly not that gripping. While I'll probably read more of this author's work in the future, this probably wasn't his best. Not by a long shot. Rating: 6.5.
  • AS YOU WISH by Jackson Pearce. A girl whose boyfriend dumped her when he realized he was gay wants to belong, but she's reluctant to wish for it when a 'jinn' (read: genie) appears to grant her wishes. A fun, quick read with BIG TEXT ON THE PAGE that makes you think about friendship, belonging, love, all that good stuff. I liked the characters, with their not-stereotypeness and their believability, and the MC is someone you genuinely want to have a happy ending. Believability is stretched at a couple points in the novel, but what do you expect? It's fantasy! Rating: 8.
  • SWEETHEARTS by Sara Zarr. Jennifer--now Jenna--has put the past behind her, but when her former best friend returns, how will she deal with it? Great. I've read this and Once Was Lost, and though I liked OWL better, this is by no means 'bad' or even close. A great twist on YA chick lit by an AMAZING author, I was reading maybe 20 books while reading this one, but I couldn't put this one down. Rating: 8.
  • BOY TOY by Barry Lyga redux. I have decided to rerank this one in light of my horrible review of it earlier. Rating: 7.75--oh, what the hell, 8. There you go. The RATING IT DESERVES. ;)
  • SOMETHING, MAYBE by Elizabeth Scott. Hannah's parents are both sex icons, and they both make her life miserable. Shitty summary to a great book. I've only read this one of Elizabeth Scott's works so far, but I loved it and have Living Dead Girl and Stealing Heaven lined up for 2010 already. I LOVED IT SO MUCH YES AMAZING. Hannah was a kickass protag, and the emotions this book has rise up inside you are VARIED AND AWESOME. A CAPSLOCK AWESOME BOOK THAT DEFIES RULES OF EXPLANATION. Rating: 8.5.
  • PANTS ON FIRE by Meg Cabot. Similar to Sweethearts--in fact, very similar. Not as well-written, but the plot was captivating enough and I liked the MC. Rating: 7.
  • WILD ROSES by Deb Caletti. Cassie's life took a turn for the abnormal when her mother married Dino Cavalli, a crazy world-famous violinist, and now, with his much-awaited comeback concert on the horizon and a growing romance with his first-ever student, she wonders if things can ever be normal again. Deb is one of my favorite authors, and this was a hilarious and thought-provoking look into madness, love, family, and...yeah, madness, love and family. Seriously, though, I laughed out loud SO MANY TIMES while reading this book. Beautifully written. Rating: 8.5.
  • LEAP DAY by Wendy Mass. Josie, whose birthday is today, February 29th, has always wanted to know what other people are thinking--which you get to do. I liked the writing style and the overall plot, which was extremely compelling. The story moves fast and furiously, and the characters are so wonderfully drawn you wish you knew them. Small glances into the characters' futures are original and occasionally tragic, and the eventual ending is hilariously bittersweet (more on the sweet side). Fans of Susan Juby and Maureen Johnson, this is for you. Rating: 8.
  • DEVILISH by Maureen Johnson. Another of my favorite authors, this was a hilarious book about a girl who discovers a demon attends her Catholic school. Not her best, but oddly compelling and hilarious. Even the nuns were funny, sort of. Rating: 7.5.
  • THE KEY TO THE GOLDEN FIREBIRD by Maureen Johnson. After the sudden death of their father, three sisters find themselves growing apart. THIS WAS AMAZING. As usual, MJ's characterization was spot-on, and the feelings of loss, love, lust and longing were captured with extreme vividness. One of her best. Rating: 8.5.
  • TMI by Sarah Quigley. Becca is the queen of overshare, but after her boyfriend breaks up with her for a TMI moment, she decides she must restrict her spilling-of-the-beans to a blog...You can guess what happens next. This is actually a kind of original idea, sort of, or at least in its execution. I liked the characters, especially Becca, and I found myself screaming DON'T DO IT! several times during this novel. Rating: 7.75.
  • GOY CRAZY by Melissa Schorr. Rachel, a Jewish NYC teen, deals with issues about her faith (most notably the fact that her parents won't approve of her Catholic boyfriend) during her sophomore year. This was a really interesting book, and also uproariously funny at times. Rachel was a believable character, and the ending, though a little expected, fit with the book's tone. Rating: 7.5.
  • YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME by Rachel Cohn. After the suicide of her cousin/former best friend, Miles deals by smoking, taking drugs, and wallowing in guilt, among other things. This was a great book. First Cohn novel I'd ever read, but I instantly wanted to read more (like VERY LEFREAK, one of the most anticipated books by me of 2010) of her work. Miles' anguish was real and painful, and the DC statehood subplot was well done. Great plotting and strangely 3D characters sets this novel apart. Rating: 8.
  • DROP by Lisa Papademetriou. Three Las Vegas teens find themselves drawn to the high-stakes world of gambling. A great book, but I'm trying not to let the ending get in the way like I did with BOY TOY and like I will do later. Characters--Check. Plotting--Check. Dialogue--Check. Writing--Check. Ending--WTF? It seemed just thrown in so the author could finish and go on to the next SHINY idea. Really, Lisa Papademetriou? I expected better. An amazing book nonetheless. Rating: 8.
  • SAVING FRANCESCA by Melina Marchetta. Francesca's vivacious mother suddenly becomes depressed, leaving Francesca with no one to turn to for 'support.' My first thoughts upon reading this novel: Wow. Melina Marchetta's done it again. This is a wonderfully written novel, wise and funny and gripping and just everything a Melina Marchetta novel generally is. Wow, is all I have to say. Wow. Rating: 8.5
  • EVERYTHING IS FINE. by Ann Dee Ellis. Mazzy's mom won't get out of bed, but she still maintains everything is fine. This one barely misses out on the Top Books of 09 list, but trust me it's amazing. Heart-wrenching, with beautiful, almost poetic prose, this short novel's a pageturner. Rating: 8.75.
  • ONCE WAS LOST by Sara Zarr. Samara's faith begins to slowly unravel after her mother is arrested for a DUI and a 13-year-old girl from her church is kidnapped. Another one that barely missed the list, Zarr's prose is endlessly wonderful, with a plot that works and characterization that is seamlessly melded with it. Definitely her best so far, though I've only read 2 of the 3. Must get to Story of a Girl next year... Rating: 8.75.

More great books to read that I read this year:

  • anything by SUSANE COLASANTI or SARAH DESSEN (I've read everything by both of them)
  • Th1rteen R3asons Why by JAY ASHER
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by MAUREEN JOHNSON
  • Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by DEB CALETTI
  • Bliss, TTYL, TTFN, and L8R, G8R by LAUREN MYRACLE
  • That Book I Forget It's Title...Shit. I think it's by...crap. I fail.
  • Absolute Brightness by JAMES LECESNE
  • Fancy White Trash by MARJETTA GEERLING
  • If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by GENNIFER CHOLDENKO (some may say it's not YA, but read it anyway)
  • Hero by PERRY MOORE
  • Geography Club by BRENT HARTINGER
  • Lemonade Mouth by MARK PETER HUGHES
  • Poison Ivy by AMY GOLDMAN KOSS (again, more middle-grade than YA, but it's still good)
  • This Is What I Did: by ANN DEE ELLIS
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by SHERMAN ALEXIE
  • Anything by LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON (Except Twisted, which I haven't read yet, but I'm sure it's still great)

Okay, that's that. Now, it's time for the big list...


There are actually two lists: The Best Books Released This Year and Best Books I Read This Year. The Best Books I Read This Year are books from 2008 and before--combine them and you get the full BEST BOOKS of 09 list. When I figured out that this year was 1 of the best years for books ever, I came up with this format, by the way--so I'm not discriminating towards 09 books. Not really.

Here goes:


  • LIAR by Justine Larbalestier. I gave this one a 10, right? I think so. Anyways, yeah. It was great.
  • ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen. I believe I gave this one a 9. A well deserved 9 for sure.
  • WAITING FOR YOU by Susane Colasanti. Marisa's trying to get popular Derek to notice her amidst family struggles and struggles with former anxiety disorder. I loved this book. Maybe not the most original book ever, and not as good as TAKE ME THERE, but I loved it anyway. Marisa was one of the top 10 protags of the year, despite her flaws and her tendency to obsess over guys like 90 percent of female YA MCs, but I liked that she was a realistic character who'd discovered a way to live with anxiety disorder. As with all of Susane's books, highly reccomended. Rating: 9.
  • THE SECRET LIFE OF PRINCE CHARMING by Deb Caletti. Quinn's female relatives have always told her that men are no good, and when her boyfriend breaks up with her and her father's shocking secret is revealed, she wonders if maybe they weren't so wrong after all. This is a great book, funny, thoughtful and provocative (which is to say thought-provoking, but I use that word way too much, so I split it up into two parts), and one I'd highly reccomend. Fans of Elizabeth Scott and Sarah Dessen who haven't yet read Deb Caletti's books should def. pick this one up. Rating: 9.
  • FOREVER PRINCESS by Meg Cabot. This is definitely the best of the Princess Diaries series. While some people may be deterred by the length, most die-hard PD fans won't care--and will most likely rip through it in a matter of hours. Rating: 9.
  • DONUT DAYS by Lara Zielin. Emma's pastor parents want her to go to a Christian college, but Emma wants to study journalism--so she's determined to write the best article on the Crispy Dream donut campout this weekend. DONUT DAYS is funny, the quintessenial light-yet-deep read, but with a couple surprises inside. Zielin's fresh voice will captivate readers and have them flipping the 246 pages to the heartwarming, bittersweet end. I LOVED THIS BOOK. Plus, it made me want donuts. Mmm, donuts... Rating: 9.
  • GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray. Don't get me wrong, I love Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, Elizabeth Scott, and Justina Chen Headley just as much as the next person (as evidenced in the above and below posts), but sometimes I so miss having male protags in books. Not being female myself, I find them easier to relate to. Sort of. Anyways, when I heard Libba Bray was writing a new book with a guy for an MC, I HAD TO HAVE IT. And GOING BOVINE was great. But like DROP and BOY TOY, the ending changed things. It wasn't bad or disappointing. It was just confusing. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for both GOING BOVINE and, strangely, Justine Larbalestier's LIAR.
  • ...
  • ...
  • Okay, resume the GOING BOVINE post. I loved the book, but the ending confused me. I got how it was supposed to be all Schroedinger's (spelling?) cat, two realities and all, but I STILL DIDN'T GET IT. You see, I love unreliable narrator books as much as the next person, like LIAR, but this book was different. With LIAR I got that really there was only 1 truth, it was just that Micah may not have told it to you. With GOING BOVINE, though, the theory was that there were TWO truths, which just didn't add up to me. After hours and days of thinking, though, I got it. And now I'm sort of satisfied. I gotta say, though, three more spoilery things: 1) WHAT HAPPENED TO GONZO? I can forgive Libba Bray for the ending, since it made sense. But WHAT HAPPENED TO GONZO? Making me like characters and then just having them disappear is so not cool. You're still the funniest human being ever. But WHAT HAPPENED TO GONZO? I will so not rest till I find out. 2) The last scene in the second-to-last chapter? At first I didn't get it. Then I did, and I seriously almost cried. I've only cried twice while reading, once with THE HUNGER GAMES and once with...I forget which book. Crap. Anyways, the scene at the end of the 2nd to last chapter, p 476-7, was seriously wrenching. And 3) I think this is actually better than A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, really, despite the ending. Which reminds me, I have to read REBEL ANGELS/A SWEET FAR THING next year...Yay. (not really being sarcastic)
  • ...
  • ...Bulleted List
  • Okay, so end spoilers. Rating: 9.
  • NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL by Justina Chen Headley. Terra can't wait to escape her smothering existence in her small Washington town, so when she meets Jacob, she's intrigued by his slightly-nomadic-except-not-really Seattle existence. (Again, a really shitty summary.) A great book, amazing characters...just overall awesome. (You can see I'm delving into generalization here. God, this post has taken a long time.) AMOXING. Rating: 9
  • CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins. This and the Hunger Games? Epic. Rating: 9
  • FAT CAT by Robin Brande. Cat's a great person--funny and smart--but she's fat, which she hates, so she decides to try and lose some weight. Cat is without a doubt my favorite non-Micah female protag this year (sorry, Katniss, Marisa, Destiny, Carly, Indigo, etc.). She's just really sincere about her love of science, and even if you're a writing geek like me you can't help but get swept up in her enthusiasm. Everything about this book is just perfectly melded together. Ultimately, FAT CAT is why I read--for a book that's both funny, thoughtful, wise, and has lots of food. Rating: 9.5.
  • THE MILES BETWEEN by Mary E. Pearson. Destiny always keeps a distance between herself and her fellow students, but when she goes on a road trip w/ three other students, she is able to finally disclose a painful childhood secret. THE MILES BETWEEN was amazing. Genres blending, prose styles melding, torn characters mending--wow. I love road trip novels, and this has to be one of my favorites I've ever read. Destiny was a great protag, and the two things I've heard about most against this novel--I can't say one because of spoilers, but the other one was the heavy emphasis on coincidence, which, along with friendship, forgiveness, family and love, was what this novel was basically about--hardly mattered to me once I reached the end. I loved this book. A lot. I know I say that a lot, but with THE MILES BETWEEN I really mean it. Let it take a space on the shelf next to LIAR and LOOKING FOR ALASKA, THE FORTUNES OF INDIGO SKYE and JELLICOE ROAD. It's just that good. Rating: 10.
  • WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson. WINTERGIRLS chronicles Lia's struggles with two things--anorexia and the death of her best friend Cassie from the disease. It's haunting, gripping, and realistically portrayed. It's not light. It's not fun. It's not really enjoyable. But you have to read it. You have to, not just because you want to know what happens to Lia at the end, but because the book is just so gripping you can't let go. Takes 'thought-provoking' 'disturbing' and 'stark' to a whole new level. Rating: 10.

Now here goes for the Best non-09 books this year:

  • LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green. Miles "Pudge" Halter goes to a boarding school in Alabama and makes friends and then something happens. This is without a doubt THE BEST BOOK I HAVE READ THIS YEAR. Seriously. WOW. Emotionally haunting, darkly funny, frighteningly (almost) realistic, LOOKING FOR ALASKA has def. earned its spot as my FAVORITE BOOK EVER. It' Rating: 10.
  • AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES and PAPER TOWNS by John Green. More amazingness from John Green, but funnier. I'm sure you've heard about them before, so I'll keep this short. Rating for both: 10.
  • JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta. I've done a post on this one before, so let me just say if you haven't read it yet it's AMAZING. Rating: 10.
  • THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE by Maureen Johnson. This blog's former namesake, the second novel of the extremely talented Johnson is awash with characterization, hilarity, sorrow, anguish, and awesome. A review has been written but in case you forgot since that was back in, like, April, it was great. Rating: 10. (I think I gave it a 9 earlier, but it deserves this.)
  • M OR F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts. The writing is maybe 7.5-8 in this book, but it's seriously funny. I love how THE STEREOTYPE IS FREAKING SAT ON BY JABBA THE HUT, plus it's, like, a hotbed for quoting. On the lighter side, but def. a worthwhile read. Rating: 9.
  • THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. Haven't yet reviewed it, but most of you prob. get the gist. Prequel to CATCHING FIRE. Rating: 9.
  • JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen. Annabel's friends are ignoring her because they think she did something she didn't, but she finds a kindred spirit in loner Owen. Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors, and this is definitely my favorite of her books. Hopeful, thoughtful, and romantic, YOU HAVE TO READ IT. Rating: 9.5.
  • SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. You've all heard about it. I finally got to it this year, I've read it maybe twenty times since then. Rating: 10.
  • THE FORTUNES OF INDIGO SKYE by Deb Caletti. This was my first Deb Caletti book and ultimately her best. You might think, "Whoa, that sounds unrealistic," but she handles it so realistically, so lovingly, that you can't help but be drawn in. Character delineation is subtle yet wonderfully crafted, and Indigo is one of my fav protags ever. Amazing. Rating: 10.
  • AUDREY, WAIT! by Robin Benway. Audrey becomes famous after her ex-boyfriend records a song about her. This was a really fun book. The mark of a great book, it's been said, is that one can't put it down. Personally, the mark of an AMAZING book to me is that I have to put it down because I don't want it to end, but this book, most of which I read in a few hours, was amazing. Audrey's a little whiny, but she's so relatable and so real despite the fact that she's famous that you can't help but like her a lot. Rating: 9.5.
  • THE MURDER OF BINDY MACKENZIE by Jaclyn Moriarty. Bindy's made enemies w/ everyone at school, but if she's going to solve her murder, she must 1st make FRIENDS. This book was great. I can't say much more. I can, but I seriously have to go somewhere like right now. It's 494 pages but I read it in like 3 days. It's that good. Bindy=another AMAZING PROTAG. Rating: 10.

And that's that. I read a total of 202 books that I can remember this year. I enjoyed many of them, some of them less than others. Some were 10s, some were 6s, some were 1s (I didn't post any 1s this year--must post more 1s next year! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA). But even LISA, BRIGHT AND DARK could be reccomended of these books, I guess.

Next year, of course, I won't be so easygoing. If a book deserves a 9 or a 10 like the ones above, then it'll get it. BUT THERE IS NO WAY SYBIL DESERVES AN 8. Just saying.

There's a lot of new books coming next year, and I'm sure many of you can't wait. I sure can't.

See you next year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

(Now Microwave Safe!)

The Bermudez Bookshelf, from here on, has changed its name BECAUSE OF COPYRIGHT (ok, not really...). It will now be known as "(Microwave Safe) Book Reviews," but the URL, will stay the same. I apologize for any inconvenience.

J Hernandez