Saturday, January 16, 2010

Special 2009 Edition- What Are YOU Reading (plus a contest!)

Yes, I’m a little late posting a “best of” list, but I’m not going to tell you the best books of 2009. What I am going to do is comment on the books that I read in 2009that were my favorites. You see my “To Be Read” pile is so high that I’m a little behind sometimes!

In connection with my list, I’m having a contest. Why? Because I’ve got some amazing followers here, on Twitter, and on Facebook, and I want you guys to discover some of these fabulous books!

I read a lot of YA (young adult) books this year, because I’m writing YA but also because I enjoy them. Some of them are written much better than the novels labeled as for adults. This list is heavy on the YA, but I hope you’ll discover some great new books that interest you. I’ve marked them YA, A for Adult, and MG for Middle Grade (8-12ish), but I think you’ll see that these books transcend those labels.

The contest will run through January 31st at 11:59p.m. Central Time. Entries will be randomized to come up with the winners. To enter, leave a comment here on the blog with your favorite book from 2009 and which book on my list is most interesting to you.

For extra entries, you can do one or more of the following, just make sure and comment at some point before the contest is over so I can give you credit:

+5 entries- new or existing follower of the blog
+3 entries- tweet about this contest or post about it on Facebook or post it in the sidebar of your blog
+7 entries- do a blog post about this contest
+3 entries- become a new follower on Twitter or Facebook
+5 entries- current followers on Twitter or Facebook

1st prize- choice of 2 books on the list (can be from same or different series)
2nd prize- choice of 1 book on the list
3rd prize- $5 gift certificate to your favorite online book retailer

Rules: Contest is open to US, Canada, and anywhere that will ship. If winner is not in US or Canada, book selected must be one that will ship to. $5 gift certificate is in USD only- value will depend on winner’s currency.

Depending on how many people enter, I may add some additional prizes that are writing/reading related or books that I’ve read that are in good shape. Books for 1st and 2nd prize will be new, but may be bargain books so may have retailer marks. If a winner can’t find a book they want on the list (I hope that won’t be the case!), I will make alternate arrangements.

Okay, so now on to the books!

It’s way too difficult to pick a favorite book. That being said, there were two series that so blew me away that I had to make a special mention of them. So… drum-roll, please… the tie for my favorite series of the year (in alphabetical order by author) goes to:
THE HUNGER GAMES Series by Suzanne Collins
The GONE Series by Michael Grant

THE HUNGER GAMES is set in post-apocalyptic Panem (what’s left of the US), where the districts are kept in line through hunger as much as force. The ultimate show of control, however, is the annual Hunger Games; each district must send one boy and one girl to compete, gladiator-style. This novel is so brilliant that I can’t even do it justice. I was worried that I’d be disappointed with book 2, CATCHING FIRE, because I loved book 1 so much. But the second was as good as the first. Hurry up book 3! [YA]

When people ask me what GONE is about, I always tell them it’s like LORD OF THE FLIES mixed with the X-men. Sounds strange, but the book is that and so much more. One day everyone 15 and older disappears into thin air, and a huge, impenetrable dome cuts off the town. The kids are left to fend for themselves, and, to complicate matters further, some kids are developing strange powers and animals are mutating. Once again, I was worried I wouldn’t like the second book in the series (HUNGER) nearly as much, but I actually liked HUNGER more than GONE. I’m on pins and needles for book 3! [YA]

Now for my other favorites this year, all amazing books/series (in alphabetical order by author):

MAGIC BITES (Kate Daniels book 1) by Ilona Andrews- The way Ilona mixes the supernatural world with the real world is amazing. Her descriptions are so tangible that you can see her world as clearly as if you had described it. I love this different take- a mercenary that cleans up magical problems. [A]

THE SUMMONING (book 1 of The Darkest Powers Series) by Kelley Armstrong- Teens end up in a group home because they’re mentally ill… or are they? Chloe discovers she’s actually a necromancer and can talk to the dead. This leads to some genuine creepiness, I tell you. Great story and characters. [YA]

The Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter- A boarding school for female spies-in-training? That was all it took to get me interested in this series. The writing and well-done characters kept me coming back for more. This series is funny and interesting but heart-breaking at times. Just like being a teenager. [YA]

THE STRAIN (book 1 of the trilogy) by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan- I’m all for books about rampant zombie vampire viruses. I enjoyed how the book traced the experiences of many characters, the involvement of the CDC, and the back-story of the Master and his hunter. What they don’t “show” is even scarier than what they do. [A]

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman- Anyone who knows me well knows that I swoon if you just say Neil’s name- I adore his writing. This book is so beautiful, but it’s even better listening to him read it on his website. It tells the story of Bod, whose family is murdered when he’s a baby. The ghosts of a nearby graveyard raise him. I think it’s a gorgeous tale of not letting the dark things keep you from living. [MG]

PAPER TOWNS by John Green- A great YA book told from the guy’s point of view. My SAT students kept telling me that I had to read this book. I’ll admit that at first I had a hard time getting into it. But after Margo disappeared, I started to love it, especially the scenes when Quentin is alone, analyzing her clues. Quentin’s search becomes as much about searching for his true self as a search for Margo. [YA]

The WICKED LOVELY Series by Melissa Marr- I’ve never been into fairies/faerys/fae (or whatever you choose to call them), but I’d heard amazing things about this series. I’m glad I listened. I was engaged the entire time by the story and characters of WICKED LOVELY, and Melissa’s writing was so descriptive. I loved the tension she put into the book and how her characters were never what they seemed. I just finished the second book, INK EXCHANGE, which is just as good as the first. [YA]

The WAKE Series by Lisa McMann- I really enjoy this series about a girl who has the (unfortunate) ability to enter people’s dreams. This could have been just another story about a teenage girl with problems, many of which relate to a power she doesn’t understand. But the story rises above that and is much deeper and intense. I won’t tell you much more because I don’t want to give it away, but Janie is a great, complex, real character, and what happens to her, especially in book 2 (FADE), is so powerful. [YA]

NEVER GIVE UP by Joyce Meyer- This is an inspiring book of sticking with your dreams and goals, no matter what. Joyce includes scriptural references, personal stories, and the stories of people in history that overcame great odds and struggles. It’s a very empowering book. [ALL AUDIENCES]

ANGEL TIME (book 1 of the Songs of the Seraphim series) by Anne Rice- This book was nothing like I expected, but I still enjoyed it immensely. Anne weaves the story of a conflicted hitman, the angel sent to offer him redemption, and the treatment of Jews in English history. Sounds odd, but it works. Beautifully written as always. [A]

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan- I devoured this series. Even though it was written for an 8-12 year old audience, the books held my interest. Mount Olympus is real? Kids are demi-gods and have to go to camp to learn how to fight? Heroic quests? Very cool. [MG]

LEVIATHAN (book 1 of the series) by Scott Westerfeld- The trailer for this book had me literally salivating to get it. It’s a glorious, steampunk version of World War I. The Clankers (who worship steam machines) are fighting the Darwinists (who worship animals genetically modified to be war machines). I had some difficulty with the vocabulary and pacing at first, but once I got used to it, I loved the book. [MG/YA]

There you have it- the most memorable books for the year for me. What’s on the agenda next? Lots of horror, supernatural beings, a lot of non-fiction (I have quite a pile waiting), retellings of classic novels with monsters, and other assorted fun books. I still have a lot of catching up to do, especially with books that came out in 2009. I’m betting a few of those will be on my 2010 list! Happy reading and good luck in the contest!


  1. Hey there!
    So hard to pick a favorite from the year; I read so many good ones, but the favorite was probably Catching Fire. Hard to top that one.
    I loved a lot of the other books you listed here too. The Summoning series would be the most interesting pick from the list that I haven't read yet.
    Let's see... just started following the blog, follow you on Twitter already, and I'll go tweet about the contest!

  2. Hi Lynne! Thanks for commenting, especially as you are the first! :-) Knowing that we like a lot of the same stuff (or at least want to read a lot of the same stuff), I would venture to say that you'd like The Summoning. Very well done. I let little bro borrow CF and I may have to go get it back from him!lol I've read THG like 10 times but CF only once (right before end of the year).

  3. oh, and Lynne, thank you because you're the one who told me about Neil reading The Graveyard Book on his website! Yay!!

  4. Jessica: This is Paul W. Hankins from Southern Indiana (Hi, Lynne. I get in on contests too). My favorite book for 2009 was Josh Lieb's I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President. I will post a link to this contest at my website,, to my reading group on Facebook (Centurions), and a tweet. So, I'm in, right. By the way, sometimes Lynne uses my name in her posts. You might want to look into this dubious behavior (grin)) Just kidding. Love ya, Lynne.

  5. My favorite book was Catching Fire, sequel to Hunger Games. I wait unpatiently for the third book coming out in September. I am one of Paul W. Hankins Centurian readers and read about your contest on his Facebook.

    Patricia K. Keefe
    Shoals, IN

  6. ACHERON was by far the best book discovery of 2009 for me!

  7. thanks for stopping by Patricia!

    Crystal- I'll have to check that out for sure! thanks!

  8. I fell in love with Percy Jackson last year and devoured the series. (my daugher, too!) I can't wait for the movie! And, just to throw this out there, my favorite adult book/fantasy was Acacia by David Anthony Durham. Loved his descriptions and character building.

  9. My favorite book from 09 was Joshilyn Jackson's gods in Alabama. Most interesting from your list is Percy Jackson - I had no interest in it until I saw the movie trailer, bad reader.

    Also, I already follow you on twitter, and I tweeted about the contest. :)

  10. The Graveyard Book - definitely!!!!! A gem!!

  11. I agree with every book you listed. Fabulous. Magic Bites and Magic Burns are both excellent. I LOVED listening to/watching Neil read The Graveyard Book. If you are into UF/romance, I enjoyed the Riley Jensen series and the DarkFever series. Just read Hush, Hush and enjoyed it. Overall favorite book I read this year was The Thirteenth Tale. I loved it, but it's not new. I think it was a 2008 release. Beautiful Creatures is a well done YA. It's hard to really pick one. Catching Fire kicked butt.

  12. Hi Rose! I can't wait for the movie either. Looks great! I'll have to check out that book. I've been reading almost all YA this year! lol thanks for commenting :-)

    Hi Jess- thanks for stopping by! I'll have to check that book out too. The Percy books are so fun! I love doing these blogs and seeing what other people are reading :-)

  13. thanks for stopping by Juliette!

    Mary- I'm not surprised that we have the same tastes! lol I haven't read any of the books you mentioned (except for Hush, Hush this weekend) so I'll put those on the list too. Can I get paid to read all the time?! lol

  14. You know, I thought I entered already until you mentioned it tonight on Twitter, then I wanted to come by and check, and I see that I didn't!

    I think my favorite read of 2009 was also HG/CF. I haven't felt this excited about a book release (the third book) since the HP series! (And I'm not quite as excited for this, but you can bet I'll be at the bookstore that day, reading at lunch, etc.)

    As far as the book that's most interesting to me...well I have the first 4 in the Percy Jackson series, but I don't own Book 5 yet, so that's something...but I also want to read The Graveyard Book and Paper Towns, too!

  15. thanks Heather! Yep, I'll be getting HG3 that day and not stopping till I finish it! lol

    All 3 of those are great, so you'll have a tough choice if you win! :-)

  16. Hi Jessica, usually this is a hard choice, but 2009 was different - my favorite book, in a bit of a runaway, was WHEN YOU REACH ME. I've been meaning to read the WICKED LOVELY books for a long time, so I'd love to win one of those. Great contest!

  17. thanks Mike! I will have to put WHEN YOU REACH ME in the TBR pile- that's high praise!! I have to tell everyone about WICKED LOVELY because if Melissa Marr can get *me* interested in faery things, then everyone should definitely read it! lol Now I'm curious to read other faery books to see what I've been missing! lol

  18. HI, Jessica! I can't pick a fave from 2009. I know, lame, but I was doing a lot of genre reading more as research for my own book. Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake series were my mainstay last year. Now this year, I've already found some new faves. And I'd LOVE to read The Hunger Games series. I've heard so many good things about it.

    I retweeted for you tonight, found you on FB and follow your blog now. You'll be on my blog roll. :)

    Now back to edits, for both of us!

  19. Young adult and middle school grades are right up my alley as a middle school English teacher. I've read some on your list and I have some of your in my 'to read' pile. What I have enjoyed most this year... That is so difficult. I read "Thunder Cave" by Roland Smith and was enthralled even though it is not my usual genre. I am reading one now called "Raven's Gate" by Anthony Horowitz and I'm eating it up.
    I'm going to do a blog post and become a follower for some more entries. I can always use books for the classroom. Great idea Jessica!

  20. Hi, Jessica! Followed your Twitter here--great blog! Hmmm, let's see, I've bought a few books to read and I have about six that I'm reading concurrently, LOL!

    Anyway, my favorite book for 2009 is THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY. (Granted, it was published in the 80's, but, I just found it in '09.) I just bought GOING BOVINE and can tell from page one that the voice is compelling. I also would LOVE to read the HUNGER GAMES series and am halfway through Book One of THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS.

    Now, for the contest stuff. I'll put you on my blogroll, will sign up as a follower, and will look for you on Facebook. Just retweeted you!

    See ya around the virtual water cooler! Best of luck to you on your road to publishing.

  21. I loved a lot of those books also. My favorites that I have read were Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Can't wait for book 3! I also love Hush, Hush. Skin Hunger and Sacred Scars. And The Mortal Instrument Series. There were so many good books this year but those ones stick out for me.

    Tweeted about your contest. :)

  22. Have read quite a few books I've really liked this past year, but think my favorite read is a slight cheat as I had gotten an advanced copy of the new Paladin book by Alexis Morgan and had read it back in November.

    From your list, think it would have to be The Graveyard Book. Haven't read it yet, but I do greatly enjoy Mr. Gaiman's works and it is on top of the list.

    +5 - follow blog (Y. Bressani)
    +3 - new follower on twitter (strogan)

  23. thanks Kristie! You will love THE HUNGER GAMES. I go back and read a chapter now and then even though I've read it all the way through SO many times! lol And yes, back to edits! *cracks whip on both of us*

    Hi Heather! Thanks for stopping by :-) I'm going to have to add both books to my pile. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do this, so I could find more books to read! lol

  24. lbdiamond- I'm the same way- I'm always reading multiple books at the same time! lol I try to post once a month about what I'm reading and what's coming up. GOING BOVINE is definitely on my list since Libba Bray is awesome. The Mortal Instruments series would've been on here but I started CITY OF BONES in 2010! lol So it will have to go on next year's blog :-) Thanks for following!

  25. AnAlaskanGirl- I just finished Hush,Hush after going to Becca Fitzpatrick's signing here in Houston. She is such a lovely person, and I'm so happy for her success. I haven't read SKIN HUNGER or SACRED SCARS, so two more for my list! Thanks for entering!

    Y.Bressani- oooh, that is a cheat! lol But, since this post is about books READ in 2009 and not 2009 books, it still works! lol I can't believe I waited so long to read THE GRAVEYARD BOOK since I'm such a fan of his, but it was worth the wait. I'm slowly savoring AMERICAN GODS right now, yet another that I waited way too long for, especially since I've already read ANANSI BOYS and loved it! thanks for following!