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The Book of Blood and Shadow
by Robin Wasserman
This is a book that doesn’t have any easy answers about love, betrayal and forgiveness. It won’t give you a warm romantic feeling. You won’t want to reread the most romantic moments when you’re sick or need comfort. It’s not a book that’s an easy read in any way. It’s fast paced, and it certainly has romance in plenty, the expected and unexpected kind. It’s also a book about religion and science from a time when there was very little difference between the two translated into our world, where the two are enemies. The main character isn’t a believer, and even at the end, she would prefer to believe a more rational explanation than the one which her senses and memory give her.
Black Heart
by Holly Black
I don't know what to say to those of you who haven't found Holly Black's noir/fantasy series that begins with White Cat. It crosses so many genre boundaries it's hard to even begin describing it. Imagine a world where the mob is magic, and the whole government is about circumventing that magical system. Or imagine a world where kids don't know what magic they have and can never be entirely sure of the explanations that adults give them. In other words, imagine our world, just tilted slightly to the side. I just finished Black Heart, the final book in the series, and all I can think of is the quote from Oliver, “Please, sir, can I have some more?” It isn't just the brilliant plot twists and turns that make this series great, although those alone would make it worth reading—and reading again. It isn't just the finely drawn characters who are worth reading—although I would love to sit in a room with any of them and pick their brains and hearts. It isn't just the core-deep sense of world building that is going on in this book that seems to seep past the pages like a painting that has no frame. It's the language that makes me tip my hat to Holly and say—you are not only a writer, ma'am, you are a poet.

Fair Coin
by E. C. Myers
Fair Coin by EC Myers is about a young man who comes home to discover his mother has attempted suicide because she believes he is dead. Whoever it was in the hospital morgue looks a lot like him, has a library card identical to his—and a coin. And in addition, at school the next day he finds a message that tells him to make a wish and flip the coin. He does this, and his wishes begin to come true. Except that this isn't your ordinary fantasy. It twists into something rather different, and I must say, I was truly impressed at how tight this plot was and how the threads were all tied up at the end. When you change history, you've really got to work hard to make me believe it works, and this book faces a similar problem. I read quickly, eager to find out what happened next. The prose flows easily and the characters are well-drawn. If I had any quibble at all, it is that the author stole the idea from an old manuscript of mine from years ago. But then did it better.
Cat Girl's Day Off
by Kimberley Pauley
Cat Girl's Day Off is a hilarious contemporary fantasy about a girl who is a member of an illustrious family of magics, and her magic is the stupid one--all she can do is talk to cats. But it turns out that talking to cats can be useful, after all, when a famous movie star is kidnapped, replaced by a double, and only her cat can tell the difference. Then follows a series of fun sketches where Natalie and her friends help to save the world--with cats. I loved the relationships between the trio of friends. I loved the high school scenes when the teens are trying to coordinate test taking with world-saving and magic. I loved the rivalry between Natalie and her sisters. I loved the parents who are far from perfect but very real. Most of all, I admit it--I loved the cats and the dogs. I felt like the conversation from them was absolutely spot-on (!) and wanted a whole series of books in the same vein. And I am not a cat lover.

Ashfall
by Mike Mullin
This is the stuff great dystopians are made of. The level of research done on the fallout of a volcano like this seemed superb to me, a lay person. I loved the landscape of the escape. There’s no need to do massive worldbuilding until Alex gets out of the hot zone, but once we’re there, enough is hinted at that it feels that the author has done a lot of thinking about widespread consequences of this singular event. And to me, the more important notes of characters in an apocalypse were right on, too. I cared about this dystopia because I cared about Alex and Darla. A lot.
Vodnik
by Bryce Moore
I expected to like this book, since it was edited by a friend of mine who has great taste. I expected to find smart, ethnically diverse characters. I didn't expect how funny it was, nor how smart the relationships between the main characters (good and bad) were. I loved the interspersed quotes from the book on death. I loved the gradual unfolding of the mythology of the world. I loved how everything came together and made sense. I also loved how smart it was to have the main character an American who is going back to the old world. This was a great way to give the reader a way to see the old world from the beginning (a more typical way is to have the character from our world and time use a wardrobe or other magical device to go into the other world). What else can I say? The mysteries were clever. The details about the castle and the Roma were excellently done, not too much but enough to make me feel like I was there. This is Europe, a Europe I've both lived in and written about and the novel was able to make me feel like it was both the same Europe and a new Europe at the same time. A great book.

The Freedom Maze
by Delia Sharman
This is a novel I would never try to write. A white girl born of a long line of Southern aristocrats who is dealing with her parents divorce ends up back in time before the Civil War, seeing the effects of slavery for herself. There are so many ways that it could go wrong, so many ways that it could be read the wrong way. But in the end, I think it works. At least, it works for me, a white girl born in the lower middle class. I can't speak for others, if this is a story that co-opts the experience of blacks. I was fascinated by the turn that the story takes when the white girl is actually mistaken for a slave, the child of a white man and his part-black slave whom he takes to France to marry. She is left behind in a house where she is put to work in the house, so long as she behaves properly. I loved Gone With the Wind in high school, but this is a long way from the slaves in Gone With the Wind, thank goodness. I also really loved the light touch of magic here, the sense that it was not contained, that it flowed over into every aspect of life, that there was magic bubbling up everywhere. Don't know how to explain why it felt like that, but it did.
The Near Witch
by Victoria Schwab
I have to say that one of the things I loved about this book was simply the feel of it. I though a little about the narrowness of the scope and the way in which the story was circumlocuted by the border of the town itself, but it worked for me. I liked the first person, persent tense narration. I believed in this place, and I believed in this character. I believed in the Near Witch, too, on a story level and also on a metaphorical level. There is something true about the dark stories we tell and sometimes those stories can come back to haunt us. Is that the fault of the stories or our fault, for telling them, for making them real? On the one hand, this is a novel about trying to find missing children and protect a little sister. It is also a sweet, gentle romance. And a story about difference. I like the story about stories themselves the best.

Cold Magic
by Kate Elliott
I love everything by Kate Elliott, but this book was particularly good. I enjoyed the alternate history and the steam punk feel of the background setting. I also liked the twists on the romance. You've got a girl who has been promised to a man of a group she hates and her parents have kept this secret from her all her life. He suddenly shows up to claim her, and she is forced to go with him to save her family. But he's mysterious, dark, and nearly silent. Of course, she hates him and mistrusts him. Then gradually she gets to know him a little better. Lots of standard romance tropes are in play here, but Kate Elliott deals them out with a gentle, sure hand. She knows just where to change them, just where to go a little deeper. I loved the sister relationship in this book, too, and the sense that women are women, but also capable of being warriors, witches, and strong in any role. I don't know any writer who does women as well as Kate Elliott.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns
by Rae Carson
This was a book with a forced marriage to an unknown, older man from a different kingdom. The main character is immediately torn away from all familiar surroundings, with only a few friends to sustain her, who are gradually taken away, as well. In this case, the setting was a pseudo Spanish medieval one (I think). I especially liked the godstone which the main character has embedded in her and which makes her valuable to others. I liked how religion was a real part of this fantasy and wasn't either mocked or used as a way to talk about modern religion. I liked the way things were always turning over on their heads, not what the main character or audience expected. Also, this is a main character who thinks of herself as fat. One of the main male leads falls in love with her when she is fat. The other seems only to do so when she has lost a lot of weight after a trying physical experience. Yeah, guess which one I liked better? I won't tell the ending to avoid spoilers, but I was intrigued by it. It certainly wasn't what I expected.

The Inquisitor's Apprentice
by Chris Moriarty
I LOVED this book. I read it and felt immediately as if I had fallen into turn-of-the-century New York City with a twist. I thought the world building was fantastic. The characters may be a little cliched, the young boy who wants to prove himself, the smart girl sidekick/romance and the older, mysterious guide. But I really liked the evil character of the Golem who is essentially the main character himself, in mirror form, trying to suck life out of him to have his own. This was a fascinating villain and the dilemma set up is so interesting, definitely worth exploring in subsequent books. I read this in ARC form, so I'm not sure that the art was finished, but I hope it lives up to the text. I also loved the Jewish family backstory going on here, and the general discussion of religiousness. So interesting, and so much what it is on my mind at the moment.
Drink Slay Love
by Sarah Beth Durst
This is the vampire book I wish I had written. It is funny, poking at the cliches of vampire fiction in all the ways that I do in conversation. The stupid sparkly defanged vampires of late, the conventions of not being in sunlight, the vampire families living in old mansions, a vampire's interest (or lack of same) in going to high school. It also adds the fun twist of a unicorn which doesn't belong in vampire fiction at all, except that it does here. But the pleasure of this book is that it isn't just a parody. It has all the fun without ever once sacrificing the real meat of plot and characterization. I really cared about this vampire who was trying to be good. I cared about her love relationship, and I cared about the ending turning out well, since the stakes (pun intended) were raised pretty high. Don't miss out! Enjoy laughing over this with a friend.

The False Princess
by Eilis O'Neal
I write about princesses, though not the prissy, flooffy kind. I don't actually have anything against beautiful, strong princesses of the more standard variety, and that was what I was expecting when I opened this book. What happened instead was that this princess finds out that she isn't a princess at all. She's turned out of the castle with a small amount of pay for her services to the crown, essentially for taking the place of the princess while the endangered princess was in hiding, raised as an ordinary girl. What also surprised me was that the two princesses become friends. I had thought that the real princess would turn out to be selfish and rude. I like friendship stories with strong women and think they are lacking in YA, so this was great. A mild romance was also fun.
Plain Kate
by Erin Bow
Wow, what a great story this was! It's dark and delicious fantasy set in a never-never medieval world of gypsies and traveling performers. But at heart, it's a story about a girl who has power and learns how to use it and what the price of it is. That makes it sound like a thousand other stories, but it's not at all. It has heart, and some gizzard in there, too.

Dead Air
by James Goss
This is an audio book with the feel of an old-fashioned radio play. I absolutely loved it! I've read a few Dr. Who novelizations and they all pale in comparison to the TV series. But this one is its own unique thing. I love David Tennant, of course. But the story itself is fun. It's about aliens who take over the voices of others, and there is a twist at the end.
Among Others
by Jo Walton
I don't know how Jo Walton does it. Every book of hers is so unique. They are all speculative, but I honestly think she could have four or five different pen names and make different careers for all of them. This is a story set in the near past in England, about a girl who is growing up after the death of a twin and the estrangement of her mother, and slowly realizes that she has magical power and that it isn't good. But it's also about how we find our tribes and how important it is to do so, and how books play a role in this for those of us who are nerdy types. I fell into this book and didn't want it to end.

Tankborn
by Karen Sandler
I started out writing YA and adult science fiction and fantasy, but it was my YA fantasy that sold first, and I have focused on that since then. I've watched with interest as sf has become a new hot subgenre in YA, though not with the name "sf." It's dystopian or thriller or something else. But for the most part, it's also lacking the focus on humanity and science that I long for. Tankborn is an exception to this. It has plenty of interesting science, but the focus is on the human story, and it is a story of secrecy and oppression, as many stories are. The fact that the main character is a POC makes perfect sense here, though I also am proud of Stacy Whitman, the editor of this imprint, for making this important project work.
A Dance for Emilia
by Peter S. Beagle
My sister, who is an artist, suggested this story to me. She said that it captured for her the painful feeling of not being adequate in her chosen art, but the decision to continue to work in it anyway. I think she is absolutely right, with the added fun of an animal/human crossbreed which interests me every time. I know this isn't a new book, but it was a new read for me, and maybe for you, too.

Ingathering
by Zenna Henderson
This one was recommended by my editor, who thought one of the books I was working on had the same flavor. I hope that my books are still as readable in forty years as these were. They're small stories in the best sense, stories about people who don't matter or who seem like they don't matter. Not kings or queen or soldiers or presidents, but school teachers and doctors and kids. A lot of kids. They are from another planet and they must learn how to use the small magical power they have here, but use it secretly. But they also have to find each other, find the people who are like them, which is a great code for what we all are trying to do, find our tribe.
Princess for Hire
Lindsey Leavitt
This was another book that I had low expectations for, assuming that it would stereotypical characterization and plot about a floofy princess. But it's not about the princesses at all. It's about an ordinary girl who takes over for them when they are on holiday. And the princesses aren't what you expect, either. A lot of imagination went into this, and the characters are deep enough to make me interested in the sequel. Plus, it's fun enough that any kid looking for an easy read will love it, too. The best combination of all!

Thirsty
by M.T. Andersen
About a boy who discovers he is turning into a vampire and he does everything in his power (ultimately —nothing at all) to stop it. Also hilarious.
The Amaranth Enchantment
by Julie Berry
There is a superb romance on the side. I like romance where the question isn't--which man does she go for--but is-- can these two really get together and how? Plus the goat is so much fun you will almost want to have one as a pet.

The Folk Keeper
by Franny Billingsley
The "folk" in this book aren't nice. They have teeth! So why would anyone volunteer to keep them? There are reasons, gradually unfolded as this story about identity and love unfolds.
Tithe
by Holly Black
A dark urban fantasy about the "real" fairy world and what it would be like to find out you belonged to it. I liked it because it made hard choices, but didn’t break my heart.

Ironside
by Holly Black
Another great, great book! I love Holly Black's vision of the fairy world, a dark place tht mirrors the worst reality of our own world--and maybe a bit of the best, too. I loved the romances in this book. I find that I can't love a romance if that is all the book is about, but when the romance is wrapped around real-life choices, around betrayal and courage, self-sacrifice and self-knowledge, then I want to stand up and cheer.
White Cat
by Holly Black
I loved this story of Cassel. He lives in a world where magic workers are forced to wear gloves to protect others from magic. He has a secret, but it isn't the one he thinks he has. And the surprises keep coming. I also loved the romance here, understated and dark as it is. Such sexy covers!

Unicorns Vs. Zombies
edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbelestier
I used to read a lot of anthologies when I was a beginning writer, and then I didn't for a long time. I tend to want to stay in a world for a while if I invest time in it, and to be honest, a lot of the stories in themed anthologies felt as though they were written hastily and without much thought. This is not that kind of anthology. I don't know if it's because Justine and Holly asked the right people or that they edited the hell out of their stories. But every story here is a great story. Some are terrifying and some are tender. I went in thinking I was Team Unicorn and I don't know what I am now.
Graceling
by Kristin Cashore
My daughter and I fought over this one. She read it once. Then I read it. Then she read it again. Then it got loaned out to various friends. I'm not sure either of us knows where it is now. A great story, strong female heroine, and interesting magic. That makes it sound like so many other books, but this is not a book like any others. I loved the intrigue and I didn't anticipate the surprise at the end, which is a hard thing for another author to pull off. If I tell you more, I'm afraid I will ruin it, so I won't.

Sword
by Da Chen
This was such a short book, but it packs a great story in its pages. It feels like one of those romantic stories with layers upon layers of storytellers, but it also is a story about--well, a sword.
Anya's Ghost
by Vera Brosgol
Teen Graphic Novel. I wish there were more graphic novels, I really do. They don't seem to sell well, and I think this is because Americans are stupid. Or prejudiced in some odd way against "comics." I loved the way that the ghost is introduced both in the story and in the drawings as harmless, and then gradually changes to have more power. And I loved the metaphor this is for teen (and really lots of girl) friendships

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
This is a brutal story of the future, where children are used in a kind of reality game where only one survives. One girl is an unlikely hero who changes the games forever. But her own life does not look as good. I'm looking forward to the sequel to this one.
The Demon's Lexicon
by Sarah Rees Brennan
This is a story of two brothers who are trying to love each other. It's a romance about a girl who falls in love with the right boy, and then struggles with falling in love with the wrong boy. It's a mystery about the past and who did what to whom. You may guess the first part of the mystery, but there are so many twists and turns, you will never guess them all. I can't tell you much about the plot without runining it. But there are demons in the world and people can call them, and those people are magicians. But this isn't Harry Potter and the magicians aren't the good guys. And it turns out that no one is who they seem.

Clockwork Angel
by Cassandra Clare
Yeah, so Cassandra Clare probably doesn't need me to recommend her books to anyone. But there are times when commercial books are shrugged aside by people who want something well written, and you shouldn't do this with Clockwork Angel. It has all the heart-pumping action anyone could want, plus hot romance, but it is put together finely without cheap tricks. I loved it and want to go back to that world again.
Mistwood
by Leah Cypress
I started reading this book, thinking it would be a fairly standard paranormal romance. And then I read chapter two. This definitely has romance in it, but it is actually a clever fantasy about figuring out who you are and what that means. It is also the story of a king who has been dethroned and another king who is waiting for his crown. And about those who battle on the side of the pretender, and the true king. You'll be surprised which side you take.

The Explosionist
by Jenny Davidson
How could I not like a book written by a fellow triathlete and academic (though she isn't yet in recovery)? I read this book a year or so ago and somehow it got forgotten in my list until I read the new book Invisible Things. Such carefully drawn research. It never bogs the book down, but makes it feel as if you are there, and this is the way it must have happened. What if England was losing WWII, there were magic of certain kinds, and a young girl knew secrets that could stop Hitler?
Magic Under Glass
by Jaclyn Dolamore
There was a bit of a controversy over the original cover, but no trace of that on the new one. And nothing to do with the author or the book, really. I enjoyed the interesting romance here. I also enjoyed the magic system and the main character, who isn't the typical sassy, anachronistic one you sometimes find in period pieces. She grew on me slowly as she grew into her own character. I can't say too much more without giving everything away. It's a delicate story. take.

Skin Hunger
by Kathleen Duey
This is a book about two different heroes in two different times, both dealing with what it is to have magic that is extremely powerful. A finalist for the National Book Award in 2007, and richly deserved!
These Bones
by Clare B. Dunkle
This is a fun fantasy romance, but that’s not what it is primarily. It’s also a were-wolf story and a story about a choice. A very hard choice that one person has to make for herself, and for the one she loves. Does she love him enough?

Beautiful Creatures
by Kami Garcia
Set in the south, this felt at first like a contemporary story, but the magic slowly leaks in. I loved the main characters and their dilemma. There are a lot of urban fantasies with high fantasy elements, but this is one of my favorite. I liked the magic system and I liked the tentative relationship between the two romantic leads. Also, mean girls in high school never got it back so good.
Jessica Day George
I was utterly sucked into this book, and I must say that I thought it was the best retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" that I have ever read. I felt like everything made sense at last, and I felt like the plot didn't get so complicated I wondered what had happened. I loved the lass's relationship with her brother, and the tension between her and her mother.

Half World
by Hiromi Goto
This is a fantasy adventure that has some comic book elements, but also is very different from anything you've probably read before. It's based on Chinese mythology rather than Western, and there are times when characters assume certain things are good that maybe we wouldn't. I loved how that made me work mentally as I tried to keep up with the story. And the ending is superb.
Repossessed
by A.M. Jenkins
I love this new genre mixing magic and old elements of fantasy with modern-day teenage life. Charles de Lint does it so well, but he's a little dark for my tastes. This is just good, plain fun. I thought the things that interested a demon about life as a human felt very real and meaningful to me. It made me rethink my own life and what matters. I loved how the demon tried to get sex. Not so different from a regular teenage boy, it turns out. And the little brother--awesome!

Devilish
by Maureen Johnson
How do you save your best friend from herself, when she keeps selling your soul to the devil to save her own? This is funny, fast-paced and meaningful, too. I plan to read more from the same author.
Blood and Chocolate
by Annette Curtis Klause
This is a book with feeling. It evokes the passion the young girl is experiencing throughout and afterwards, you will never think of humans the same again.

Dreamhunter
by Elizabeth Knox
This is one of the most original books I have read in a long time. I don't know where she came up with the idea or the structure. For those reasons, it is hard to read. It just isn't based on the American fantasy novel template. I loved the main character, though, and I loved the magic of the dreams. Oh, how glad I am that I don't have that magic, however.
The Agency 1: A Spy in the House
by Y.S. Lee
I found myself gradually drawn into this story, and then surprised again and again as the truth unfolded. It always made perfect sense, but I never guessed it ahead of time. That happens so rarely to me these days, it is refreshing. But it wasn't just the surprises I loved. I loved the main character's spunk and action. She knew what she wanted, and though she is in a Victorian world, she knows how to get it, too.

Black Juice
Margo Lanagan
The whole price of this book is worth it for the first story, "Singing My Sister Down." And for a bonus, you get all of the others. I don't want to spoil it by telling you any of the great details, but I will say that this is a dark book, and that there is something dark inside of me that revels in it.
Tender Morsels
by Margo Lanagan
This is published as YA, but I wouldn't recommend it for any but the very oldest group. Still, it is the most amazing book. At first you can hardly bear how terrible the world is. Then you can't believe how wonderful the fantasy world is. Then the two come together, and it feels just right, like a fairy tale come to life.

Gifts
by Ursula K. LeGuin
This is the first book in a series I discovered recently that is amazing in its breadth and depth. Each book in the series is so different, yet they tell a story that spans different cultures and many changes. I loved this first story about a boy whose gift is not what it is assumed. And I was chilled to read about a father who would go so far to ensure his power.
Guardian of the Dead
by Karen Healey
Loved this story with a main character who isn't beautiful and thin. She sees herself as rather painfully fat, but she still has adventure and falls in love. I truly admire Karen for her courage in telling a story with Maori mythology and by all accounts, getting it right. But it's not just a book about a PC world. This is fun stuff and the joy of it is, the different tradition means you won't guess where it is going. But Karen's genius means it will all make sense.

Pretty Monsters
by Kelly Link
This is a collection of the most hilarious, odd-ball fantasy stories ever. I loved "The Fairy's Handbag," but I also loved just about every funny, unpredictable, stream-of-consciousness line in the book. A must read.
Keturah and Lord Death
Martine Leavitt
An incredible story that engaged me all the way through. I wanted one ending so much at first, and then gradually found myself wanting a different ending instead. About a girl who is caught in the forest by death and has to tell a story each day to stay alive. Also about a lot more than that.

Ash
by Malinda Lo
This is a book about Cinderella finding her Prince--ess. So, if that bothers you right there, don't pick it up. I loved the richness of the language and the world. It isn't a big, end of the world story. It doesn't have to be. The personal stakes are plenty high. I loved the twists of the fairy tale that felt just right. I loved how the ending went. I loved the fay of this story, used traditionally, but still new.
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
by Lish McBride
I didn't notice this book until it was recognized by the ALA this year, but I really liked it. You don't hear many heroic tales about necromancers, but this has all the stuff of fun urban fantasy, plus a main character who is deliciously flawed and sexy and trying to do his best.

The Blue Sword
by Robin McKinley
A classic, with romance, otherworldy magic, girl power, and the discovery of "the truth." I don’t think there is another YA fantasy that compares with this one. What else is there to say?
Robin McKinley
I'm partial to fairy tale retellings, and I love this one, with the fresh voice of Beauty speaking for herself. My style has been compared to Robin McKinley's, and I can't think of a nicer compliment.

Pegasus
by Robin McKinley
I think I love everything Robin McKinley writes, each in a different way. But I do know that some readers wish that she was still writing in the style of Beauty or The Hero and the Crown. Well, Pegasus is just the book for you. I've used it as an example of the perfect fantasy in the way that it constructs metaphors that only make sense in the fantasy world. I love this book!
Queen of Camelot
Nancy McKenzie
McKenzie sets herself a challenge from the beginning: to make Mordred a hero, to make Guinevere and Lancelot’s love true but spotless, and to recreate a king no one would ever betray. She does it well, and she does it all without changing the hallmarks of the traditional story.

Stephenie Meyer
This is the book that will get people reading. I can't say how many times I've recommended it to parents who think their teens (boys and girls) won't read anything. It works! They become addicted. Yes, I know there are flaws in the writing and I am annoyed at how long she is drawing it out, but read!
The Shattering
by Karen Healey
This is a story about three teens drawn together by the apparent suicides of their siblings, desperate to prove that there is some “meaning” in the deaths besides despair and darkness. I loved Healey's way of concretizing what feels real in the heart. This is what the best fantasy does. It makes metaphors real. Everyone who knows someone who has committed suicide wants to deny it happened, wants to blame someone else. In this case, there is a mysterious curse on the town the teens live in that the teens have to break. They have power to fight real villains and to triumphant. Except that Healey makes a brilliant twist in the end that I won't reveal, which makes it clear she knows what she is doing. It isn't just fantasy here. I also must say that I loved the quirkiness of the characters. Not in any superficial way. They felt very real, and very different. I was dragged in from the first page and kept reading to the end. I felt shattered, too.

Rhymes with Witches
by Lauren Myracle
This is one of those books I wish I'd written. And if I were as good a writer as Lauren I would have. It’s about the worst side of high school, the girls who seem so high above everyone else in all realms, and the secret of how they got there. You can, too, so long as you’re willing to pay the price. Think it can’t be that bad? It is.
Life As We Knew It
by Susan Beth Pfeffer
I devoured this book in a few hours, and I think the most telling thing I can say about it was that every time I looked up or had to go to the bathroom or get food for the kids I had to remind myself that I wasn't still living inside the book. I felt like I was as cold as the main character was. I kept checking the cupboards to see how many cans of food we had in them.

Boneshaker
by Cherie Priest
Steampunk is the new vampires! But it's being done better than vampires. Smarter characters, more interesting dilemmas, better worldbuilding. This is the first in the wave, and it's got an adult viewpoint along with the young adult one, so it's not published as YA, but YA's love it. Also, adults love it. Zombies are usually totally uninteresting to me, but I liked these. They were scary, but also had a sciency background to explain them. Not so much it took away the fear, but enough to make it feel less like cardboard. And dirigibles! I love them!
Imaginary Girls
by Nova Ren Suma
Another confusing book. It has a fantastical element, but that isn't clear from the first. There are no fairies or magic spells. It seems possible for a while that the narrator is simply delusional, as unreliable as her sister is megalomaniacal, or that there is some elaborate hoax being played. It's the story of two sisters who rely on each other too much, and it reminded me of mother/daughter stories where there is a deep dysfunction. The metaphor of the water in the book is deep and I loved the sense of borders around this town where they live. It feels real, like the real boundaries of my life as a teen. I could move, but I couldn't move that far away from my home. I'm not doing a good job of describing the plot here, but I'm not sure that plot is what this story is about anyway.

Lirael
by Garth Nix
A very different fantasy, where a world of magic and non-magic live side by side. Until . . . Also the story of a girl with the power to hold back the dead. And the price she has to pay to keep the world in balance. My second daughter’s favorite series currently. She is ten.
Garth Nix
I love this dystopian science fiction look at what happens when kids trust adults too much.

Airborn
by Kenneth Oppel
I wish I had written this book. Towards the end of the book, there is a scene where Matt tells Kate to take off her shoes so they can walk silently through the airship towards the pirates. It is a long, tense section of the book where the stakes are raised every page and some of the people you really like don't make it through. But at this moment, Kate takes off her shoes and says that she hopes her feet don't stink everyone out. I loved it! Perfect way to cut tension, but also the perfect characterization from Kate.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox
by Mary E. Pearson
This is one of those books I wish I had written. The parents are so creepy and so real, and the problems that this girl faces in the future are not so distant from today. About a girl who wakes up and discovers that she has been dead.

The Dead and the Gone
by Susan Beth Pfeffer
This is the sequel/companion book to Life As We Knew It, which is a family favorite. It is, if possible, more devastating. About when the moon gets struck by an asteroid and moved closer to Earth, a minor disaster strikes. Not the end of the world, just the end of the world as we know it.
Sherwood Smith
I loved her spunky heroine and her hero, too. She made old things a little newer and a little truer.

General Winston's Daughter
by Sharon Shinn
This is a romance with all the right elements, plus a bit of fantasy thrown in. Not every fantasy book has to be about high stakes, the end of the world, the worst evil in the universe. This is just a book about revolution and freedom and love and finding yourself. Just that. I love Sharon Shinn. I found her through a short story collection and she is one of the reasons I keep reading them; to find great novel writers.
The Shape-Changer's Wife
by Sharon Shinn
I have become a huge fan of Sharon Shinn, but this is an earlier, very tight novel that is part romance, part fantasy, and all over supberly done. You won't expect the ending, but you won't be disappointed.

Summers at Auburn Castle
by
Sharon Shinn
I love almost everything Sharon Shinn has written, but this book is so easy to fall into. It is probably the most commercial of her books, and it works for both adults and teens. It's about a young noblewoman who becomes caught up in court intrigue, and the romances that swirl around it. But it is also a great sister story with a fine twist. No one who reads this book will dislike it.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor
I loved Lips Touch by Laini Taylor last year, but I must admit, felt trepidation when I realized shortly into this book that it was about angels, vampires, and puppets along with being set in Prague. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Prague. It just felt like too much for any author to deal with well. But Laini does a great job making old things new, making the setting matter and feel real and distant at the same time, exotic and familiar. I liked the surprise ending (which I will try not to spoil). I liked the bit about gathering teeth. I liked the sense of being propelled forward to find out a secret about the main character that even she does not know about herself. I don't think I could pull off a book like this, but it left me wanting more.

Thief Eyes
by Janni Lee Simner
I will admit that I met Janni and heard her talk about this book before I read it. Janni is so interesting and kind that it would be difficult not to be favorably disposed to a book she had written. But it has happened to me before, and it didn't this time. Because this book is freaking fantastic! Also, I wish I had written. In fact, I think I may write it anyway, in German style, just to show that I can. It's a book that twists an old Icelandic myth into a present day contemporary fantasy and it does it well. I am obviously in favor of the project of retelling old forgotten myths from cultures that do not match our own but have lessons for us anyway. This one has some surprisingly strong female characters in it, and it turns out that is not as unusual as you might think, if you go back far enough. There are waves of female archetypes, and these are some kick-butt ones. I don't want to say more for fear of ruining it, but it is a must read for girls and anyone interested in myths of old Europe.
Lips Touch
by Laini Taylor
This is a book of loosely connected fantasy short stories that all center on the image of a kiss. It is also loads of fun to try to figure out how it is going to work. I couldn't do it, but in that way, it feels like a mystery reading it. It is also a great lesson on how to do everything that people say doesn't work, and make it work anyway.

The Thief
by Megan Whalen Turner
Megan Whalen Turner's series beginning with The Thief is one of my all-time favorite fantasies. I buy it and give it as gifts. I do NOT loan it out. I have reread this series many times. It is about a very clever thief who can steal anything, even the Queen of Attolia. The twists and turns and intricacies of plot are amazing.
Vivian Vande Velde
About a girl who gets stuck in a video game set in medieval England. She's the king's heir, only she has no idea what's going on or who her real allies are. Until she finds out, it's real dangerous to have that crown on her head. Like a big, red target.

Skinned
by Robin Wasserman
I read Robin Wasserman's first book about Scooby Doo to my second oldest who loved Scooby Doo at the time. Now they're both growed up. This is another book I wish I had written. Maybe I did write it, only not as well. Maybe I will still write it, if I can figure out how to do it as well. It's about a girl who can only be saved by having her brain downloaded into a robot's body. She's still beautiful, but she's not human anymore. Or is she?
The Winter Prince
by Elizabeth Wein
I like well done Arthur retellings. In this one, Arthur has twins, a son and a daughter. He still has Mordred, but Mordred can't inherit. What does a son who is raised by Morgan Le Fay do to his younger brother, the sickly one who is nonetheless going to inherit the throne, who is always throwing his illegetimacy in his face? In Wein's world, the unthinkable happens. Mordred turns into a hero.

The Sunbird
by Elizabeth Wein
This book took its main character to a place I did not want him to go. But then it got him out again and I began to admire him so much that I think I would read anything about him Elizabeth cares to write. It's about the son of Mordred who lives in Africa in 500 A.D. and becomes a spy for his king at a very young age. Then he becomes a slave, and he pretends to be mute to protect the truth of what he knows that will save the kingdom. But at what cost?
I am Not a Serial Killer
by Dan Wells
I could not stop reading this book about a boy who is afraid he is a serial killer and gradually discovers that there is a real serial killer killing in his city and only he understands enough about serial killers to figure out how one thinks and how to stop him. Also, I loved how it started in our world and then gradually moved into a kind of comic book world of magic. I loved the intense pov and I loved the twists and turns of the plot. It was the kind of book that I could see no flaw in. Fabulous, riveting, and it isn't really horror in the normal sense of the word. For older teens.

Peeps
byScott Westerfeld
About the black plague and vampires, and a future where we're going to need them both.
Uglies
Scott Westerfeld
About a world where everyone becomes beautiful at age sixteen, through a government-mandated operation. But what else does being "pretty" do to you? And what if you don't want it?

Flora's Dare
by Ysabeau Wilce
The sequel to Flora Segunda is possibly even better (and weirder) than the first. This is probably the most original fantasy I have ever read. At first I felt very confused because none of the language is what I expected and it took a long time to figure out who was who and what the rules of the world were. But they are so quirky and original I loved it. I loved how it feels slangy like real teenagers but nothing like anyone you have ever met. I love how character turn out to be not how you expected, but you never feel cheated as the reader.
The Thirteenth Child
by Patricia C. Wrede
I know that this book has been attacked for writing American Indians out of the settlement of the West. I understand the reasoning behind that argument, I think. But I still loved this book. It is such a creative reimagining of the way the West was won. And I really loved the character of the twin who isn't magical and finds herself. I think of this as a sort of companion piece to Lois McMaster Bujold's Sharing Knife series, which are a reimagining of Ohio, but on a different planet. I think the only mistake Wrede makes it not making it clear enough that this isn't our world, and has nothing to do with our world. Then she might have avoided the complaints.

The Replacement
by Brenna Yovanoff
I fell into this book in a way that rarely happens these days, with my editorial eye. This is in many ways the perfect YA fantasy, where all of the feelings of real life, the alienation, the breathlessness, the hope, all are transformed into a fantasy that makes more sense than reality does. This is about a boy who doesn't belong--literally.
The Returning
by Christine Hinwood
I picked this up a while ago, and read the first few pages, but it is one of those books that moves slowly, and it takes a long time to "get into" the world of the book. I had expected it to be fantastical, but if there are elements of fantasy here, they are hidden pretty deeply in this first book. I really ended up liking every character in this book. It is definitely more of a character story than a plot story. I hope that it gets more readers. It is about the after-effects of war, which I think is something that doesn't get dealt with much in fantasy. It's all the glamor of the victory, but not about what happens to the defeated and how a new society can be forged and who it costs. There is a new kind of heroism on display, and I liked how the female characters were appropriate to the time period of the story and yet very real, very strong.
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Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2014 all rights reserved.
Last revised October 1, 2014.