97 out of 172
As a first time judge, I had no idea what to expect. As soon as the nominations started coming in, I began trying to collect the books from my library and mark off the ones I’d already read. The category I was judging was Fantasy & Science Fiction – Teen and by the end of nominations we had 172. ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY TWO. That is almost two years worth of reading for me right there.
And I’m not going to lie. I was intimidated as hell.
We knew that we were not expected to read 172 books, but between the seven of us we’d need to read all of the books at least once, preferably twice.
I started off very strong, plowing through a book a day at least. I can’t even tell you what else I did for about 4 weeks. I read on my way to work. I read before work started. I read during my breaks and my lunch. I read while I waited for my husband to pick me up after work and I read on my way home. I read after dinner and I read until it was time to go to bed. I read at the gym. On the weekends I did nothing but read.
I had these grand ideas of keeping up this pace, of reading every book all the way through. My blind naive optimism was just darling, by the way. Just darling.
By the end of October I was already pretty exhausted so I had a nice long talk with myself and myself and I agreed that we needed to approach the mounting pile of books with a more sensible outlook. This became even more obvious when the publishers started sending their review copies.
Before I go on, I’m sure there are no publisher people reading my blog, but I just want to send a giant THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING to them. They were very generous with making sure we had books to review. I was pleased when most of the books I wanted to check out from my library had a waiting list, so the publishers should be proud that there were a good 25 books at least that my library couldn’t pony up because I was like number 14 on the waiting list.
I remember the day my Harper Collins box arrived and I knelt down and kind of wept over their beautiful books. Of course by the end of the first week my anxiety started to grow as the wall of unread books piled its way across my dining room table. My mailman may never forgive me.
With that many books crossing my hands, inevitably I started being able to pick out very very quickly those that could compete from those that couldn’t. There’s this certain feeling, something I’ll go into more later, that the really great books had that the others just didn’t. Not that those others were bad, on the contrary several of my very favorite books from the nominations list weren’t shortlist contenders.
There were also very bad books. No fair sugar coating that, there were a few that would have benefited from some stronger editing. I still read them and gave them a fair shake.
As for all of those books I was given as review copies from publishers? Most of them are being donated to my husband’s Senior English classroom library which he will no doubt share with other English teachers in his department. They are very excited.
There are a couple of books I’m keeping for myself, primarily because of emotions I developed for that particular copy. (Also Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, the one I spilled coffee on, though I kind of love it even more for it. I was so engrossed in the moment, half standing up, preparing to run or scream or get hysterical because of what was happening and….whooops. Coffee Fail.)
So you know which books made the short list (click here for a reminder), but what about those books that didn’t quite make the short list? I’ve got several, ready to be blown away? Here we go!
I want to get 100 copies of this book and hand it out to everyone I meet. This was probably the biggest surprise of all 172 books. The name is ridiculous, and the book is not very long, so I kind of thought it was MG when I first saw it. (It’s not.) I also thought, no way could this book be that great. I figured it would be a quick read to check off my list.
LITTLE DID I KNOW. Gary Ghislain is a genius. This book is hysterical, like tears streaming down my face, can’t catch my breath, everyone in my house thinking I was going mental. It’s clever and VERY smart, the kind of smart that sneaks up on you when you’re bent over gasping for breath through peals of laughter. Twice I ended up on the phone with friends reading passages aloud. I can’t tell you how many text messages and Tweets I wrote that started out, “You have GOT to get this book…”
That should be enough for you to pick up a copy, but alright, here’s the plot:
An alien girl, Zelda, comes to Earth from her Amazonian-like planet where women rule in order to find her soul mate, have sex with him, and drag him back to her planet within a small window of time. Crazy alien girl ends up picked up by the cops and dumped off at the doorstep of a man who treats kids with behavioral problems.
His son, our protagonist David, a shy kind of nerdy socially awkward boy, is drawn to her like a moth to flame because she’s practically insane, a sort of Michelle Rodriguez Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
David ends up on a wild ride he can’t escape in an effort to help her find Johnny Depp (her mate) before Zelda’s time is up. Even though she belongs to Johnny Depp, a besotted David might end up being the only boy Zelda wants…if they can survive the explosions, police chases, and violent alien interlopers desperate for a way home.
AWESOME, I KNOW.
The False Princess on Amazon
I’m not a huge fan of high fantasy. So much of it is so repetitive that I tend to have a knee jerk reaction to new releases. I’m more of the sci-fi side of sci-fi/fantasy. When The False Princess became available at my library via Kindle, I was skeptical but ready.
This is my second favorite surprise read of the Cybils year. I loved loved loved this story of heartache and loneliness. The emotions felt by the heroine are universal and so easy to identify with. It is a very a-typical story of magic and love, betrayal and corruption. I can’t wait to pick up a copy for my own collection. I think it will be a book I end up loaning out often.
Nalia is a princess – she’s bright, charming, and full of promise. Her best friend is a noble boy who spends most of his time at the palace with her. Everything is exactly as it should be until Nalia’s 16th birthday and in a very brief, cold explanation, Nalia is told she is really Sinda, a peasant girl raised as a stand in for the real Nalia who has been raised in secret away from the court for her own protection. Sinda, for all intents and purposes, was the body double for the real princess – to die in her stead if the premonitions of the princess’s bleak future were true. Safe at 16, the real Nalia is brought to court and Sinda is ushered out in an unremarkable carriage, unable to speak to the mother and father she grew up loving, unable to say goodbye to her best friend. She has nothing of value to her name except a purse of money to give to her only surviving relative, an aunt who works as a dyer in a village. Having been raised a princess, she has only gowns meant to be worn at court, no skills, no useful knowledge and her aunt has no time or patience for this wasted girl.
When it is clear she is not welcome any longer in this village, she goes back to the city to work as a mage’s scribe where she learns about the powerful, dangerous magic in her blood that had been magically blocked her entire life while she was at court. Sinda has to find a new life for herself, develop a new skill set and try to make her own way in the world, but intrigue, betrayal, and corruption lead her endlessly back to the boy she left behind, the girl who stole her life, and royal secrets that will change all of them forever.
Other Honorable Mentions!
Via GoodReads: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Via Goodreads: Each night at precisely 4:33 am, while sixteen-year-old London Lane is asleep, her memory of that day is erased. In the morning, all she can “remember” are events from her future. London is used to relying on reminder notes and a trusted friend to get through the day, but things get complicated when a new boy at school enters the picture. Luke Henry is not someone you’d easily forget, yet try as she might, London can’t find him in her memories of things to come.
When London starts experiencing disturbing flashbacks, or flash-forwards, as the case may be, she realizes it’s time to learn about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.
Via GoodReads: Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.
Via GoodReads: A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows
Via GoodReads: A devastated Earth’s last hope is found in Pearls: small, mysterious orbs that fall from space and are capable of supplying enough energy to power entire cities. Battling to control the Pearls are the Skyship dwellers—political dissidents who live in massive ships in the Earth’s stratosphere—and the corrupt Surface government.
Jesse Fisher, a Skyship slacker, and Cassius Stevenson, a young Surface operative, cross paths when they both venture into forbidden territory in pursuit of Pearls. Their chance encounter triggers an unexpected reaction, endowing each boy with remarkable—and dangerous—abilities that their respective governments would stop at nothing to possess.
Enemies thrust together with a common goal, Jesse and Cassius make their way to the ruins of Seattle to uncover the truth about their new powers, the past they didn’t know they shared, and a shocking secret about the Pearls.