31 December 2010

My Top 10 Books of 2010

I've read a lot of really good books this year. But there were some amazingly stand-out books that were my absolute favorites.

#10 - Naamah's Curse by Jacqueline Carey

Far from the land of her birth, Moirin sets out across Tatar territory to find Bao, the proud and virile Ch'in fighter who holds the missing half of her diadh-anam, the divine soul-spark of her mother's people. After a long ordeal, she not only succeeds, but surrenders to a passion the likes of which she's never known. But the lovers' happiness is short lived, for Bao is entangled in a complication that soon leads to their betrayal.

This was a very good sequel. In fact, I liked it much more than the first book in the series. The love story was good, and the fact that the beautiful courtesan had to deal with constant rejection was even better. I look forward to the final book in the trilogy in 2011.

#9 - The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

What if fairy tale magic really existed?

Lonely at her new school, Elizabeth takes a job at the New York Circulating Material Repository, hoping to make new friends as well as pocket money. The Repository is no ordinary library. It lends out objects rather than books—everything from tea sets and hockey sticks to Marie Antoinette’s everyday wig.

It’s also home to the Grimm Collection, a secret room in the basement. That’s where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White’s stepmother’s sinister mirror that talks in riddles and has a will of its own.

When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth and her new friends embark on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before they’re accused of the crime themselves—or the thief captures them.

A great book. It started with the premise: a library that lets you check out magical items? Awesome. Love the reference to "the Lovecraft Collection" (which had me instantly scream 'No! Don't go in there!!!'). The characters are great. I'm so-so on the plot, it was solid and engaging but a bit predictable. But I can let that go for the promise of more, funner things to come.

#8 - Matched by Ally Condie

In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one… until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow — between perfection and passion.

This book was good. Not great, but good. It was a little slow at points, but I think that's due to the fascinating inner dialogue of the main character. However, I put this book on this list solely for its promise. The build-up to the climax is slow, but the climax is great, and the denouement promises that the next book will be much more action-packed.

#7 - Sabotaged by Margaret Peterson Haddix

After helping Chip and Alex survive fifteenth-century London, Jonah and Katherine are summoned to help another missing child, Andrea, face her fate in history. Andrea is really Virginia Dare, from the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Jonah and Katherine are confident in their ability to help Andrea fix history, but when their journey goes dangerously awry, they realize they may be in over their heads: They seem to have landed in the wrong time period. They can’t reach JB for help. Andrea is behaving oddly. And even worse, it appears that someone has deliberately sabotaged their mission . . .

Another awesome book in the "Missing" series. I love the science behind time travel in the series as well as the exhausting historical research that the author went through. The series makes me believe it really is what time-travel to our past would be like. I loved this book especially because it had a female historical figure that was well-written and strong.

#6 - Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Tally has grown up in a post-apocalyptic world where, at the age of 16, everyone is given an operation that makes their faces and bodies perfect. Before the operation they are known as "uglies," and after as "pretties." After the operation they live in New Pretty Town, enjoying a life of constant partying and pleasure. Tally can't wait. Shortly before her 16th birthday she befriends Shay, who tells her about the Smoke, a secret community of those who refuse the operation. When Shay runs away to join the Smoke, Tally is given a choice by the Specials, the secret police: help them find the Smoke and betray her friend, or remain an ugly forever.

I can't believe I didn't find this series before now. It was great. The premise is wonderful: if beautiful people have a societal advantage, why not give everyone surgery to make them all beautiful and level the playing field? The dystopian society is believable, and I like how Tally grows from someone who goes along with the status quo to someone who questions everything around her. Shay is a great character, too, and a great counterpoint to Tally. And the romance in this book is mostly MacGuffin, which is nice as well :D

#5 - Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund

The hunt continues…

Astrid Llewelyn is now a fully-trained unicorn hunter, but she’s learning she can’t solve all her problems with just a bow and arrow. Her boyfriend Giovanni has decided to leave Rome, the Cloisters is in dire financial straits, her best friend’s powers seem to be mysteriously disintegrating, and Astrid fears that school, home, and her hopes of becoming a scientist are nothing but impossible dreams.

So when she’s given the opportunity to leave the Cloisters and put her skills to use as part of a scientific quest to discover The Remedy, Astrid leaps at the chance. Finally, she can have exactly what she wants…or can she? At the Gordian Pharmaceuticals headquarters deep in the French countryside, Astrid begins to question everything she thought she believed: her love for Giovanni, her loyalty to the Cloisters, and – most of all – her duty as a hunter. Should Astrid be saving the world from killer unicorns, or saving the unicorns from the world?

Killer Unicorns are AWESOME! and so is this book. The sequel to Rampant is a great book, which, to me, dealt a lot with inner turmoil and the price of "selling out". I love the "Buffy" vibe with a fresh, new direction and outlook. And the Astrid character is great, fighting so hard to leave her family behind and yet it always keeps catching up with her.

#4 - Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

This book was seriously disturbing in a very good way. Although I was incredibly surprised at how short it was (when I got it I felt like I was holding a con program), but it was packed with goodness and really didn't need to be longer. It was a great look at anorexia and how difficult self-image is to a teenage girl, as well as how hard it is to *want* to change, and how much harder it is to actually start that change. I am greatly looking forward to the sequel: Rage.

#3 - Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Full of awesome. I know a lot of people weren't happy with how this book went, but I thought it was really good. I think most of the problems came with how dirty and costly the rebellion/war was, which is one of the things I really liked: war IS dirty and messy and costs A LOT of lives. I think this book told that, but in a way that young people could identify with. I also think it was a plausible, almost predictable, end to a book about a reality show where dozens of teens are killed for entertainment.

#2 - StarCrossed by Elizabeth Bunce

Digger thrives as a spy and sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse, dodging the Greenmen who have banned all magic. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner and lover Tegen is killed, she has to get out of the city, fast, and hides herself in a merry group of nobles to do so. Accepted as a lady's maid to shy young Merista Nemair, Digger finds new peace and friendship at the Nemair stronghold--as well as plenty of jewels for the taking. But after the devious Lord Daul catches her in the act of thievery, he blackmails her into becoming his personal spy in the castle, and Digger soon realizes that her noble hosts aren't as apolitical as she thought... that indeed, she may be at the heart of a magical rebellion.

The best high fantasy I've read in a while. Love how Digger was not a 'gem waiting to find her superpowers' like a lot of these stories, but instead was really just an exceptional girl for her character and her curiosity. The plot was brilliant, and, although I don't want to spoil the fun, the lack of romance was really great because there really are times when a woman's life is too busy for love, just like a man's.

#1 - Eon by Alison Goodman

Eon has been studying the ancient art of Dragon Magic for four years, hoping he'll be able to apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But he also has a dark secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been living a dangerous lie for the chance to become a Dragoneye, the human link to an energy dragon's power. It is forbidden for females to practice the Dragon Magic and, if discovered, Eon faces a terrible death. After a dazzling sword ceremony, Eon's affinity with the twelve dragons catapults him into the treacherous world of the Imperial court where he makes a powerful enemy, Lord Ido. As tension builds and Eon's desperate lie comes to light, readers won't be able to stop turning the pages...

I think this will be one of my all-time favorite series. I keep calling it Tamora Pierce writes Avatar: the Last Airbender. Eon is totally believable as a girl disguising herself as a boy. I love the gender identification turmoil that goes along with it: there are many points that Eon wonders if she could be happy living life as a girl at all,something that most other girl-in-hiding books gloss over. They think that of course the girl must be upset that she has to hide who she really is, but I can imagine more than a few girls who would be happy living the life privileged life of a man in a patriarchal society and enjoying all the benefits that brings. The magic laws and plot of the book aren't bad, either :D

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