Sunday 29 July 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Book Review of Whisper by Chrissie Keighery

My new Sunday Spotlight feature (which actually bears a striking similarity to my old Saturday Spotlight feature) will showcase some of my favourite recent books reviewed for the superb Bookbag site.

Demi is starting a new school. It's a nervous time whenever this happens - but the reason she's moving is because an attack of meningitis 18 months ago left her profoundly deaf. She's learnt to sign, she's learnt how to deal with the problems that crop up every day - but will she ever learn to accept who she is now?

This is absolutely lovely. Given the subject matter, I wasn't sure whether it would be depressing but Chrissie Keighery has written a beautiful coming of age story for older teens which sees a fabulous narrator start to see that her deafness is part of her, but not the main thing that defines her. I loved the thoughtful contrast between Demi, who still has friends and family who aren't deaf, and schoolmate Stella, who constantly rails against the 'hearies' but is a really strong character who never lapses into caricature as she could have done in another author's hands. The changing relationship between Demi, her mother, and her older sister Felicity - who she secretly calls Flawless - is also very well-handled and deals with another issue not often found in teen fiction, while there's a strong supporting cast, particularly Demi's hearing friend Nadia. There are some absolutely gorgeous scenes, as well – particularly one in which Demi and her father watch SVU together and he takes notes on the bits the subtitles haven’t explained properly for her to read during commercial breaks to help her follow it.

It’s also very thought-provoking and the issues that deaf people have to deal with and the ways in which they do so are beautifully explained – in particular Keighery’s description of sign language brings it to life vividly, with some wonderful descriptions of the signs used. One minor criticism – one subplot, with Demi’s former interpreter Jules, seemed to peter out a tiny bit. Having said that, that’s just about the only problem I can think of with an otherwise superb book.

Definitely recommended reading here, I think all fans of teen contemporary novels will really enjoy this one.

Friday 27 July 2012

Friday Feature: 99p Kindle Bargains

I keep getting tweets from authors mentioning they have wonderful books on sale on Kindle for the jaw-dropping (my description) price of 99p each. I'm assuming at some point the nice people at Amazon UK will realise they're criminally undervaluing certain books, but if you get the chance, grab these four before they do!

A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis - This series took 2nd place in my 'Best Books Published Pre-2012 that I only just read' category of the YA Yeah Yeah Mid-Years. Putting that into perspective, John Green's stunning Looking For Alaska was 3rd. Kat is one of the best heroines for years and the world-building in these books - set in a Georgian England where magic exists - is stunning.

The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin - Flavin's fantasy novel is a huge recommendation for younger secondary school or older primary school children, particularly those with an interest in art. Mostly set in a strange land of a multitude of enchanted paintings, it has a great dynamic between the three heroes and some excellent supporting characters.

The Things We Did For Love by Natasha Farrant - Farrant's heartbreaking tale of a small village in South-West France where Ariane and Luc fall in love against the backdrop of World War II and Luc's involvement with the French Resistance is stunning. I cried my eyes out reading it.

Swim The Fly by Don Calame - I've apparently never reviewed this, for some reason. Not quite sure why - it's a stunning comedy in the same vein as the American Pie movies, raunchy but warm-hearted. Don't miss it!

Thursday 26 July 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Leopard Adventure by Anthony McGowan

One of my favourite series as a young boy was Willard Price's wonderful Adventure books. Featuring brothers Hal and Roger Hunt, who were sons of the expert naturalist John Hunt, they combined thrilling adventure with lots of interesting stuff about exotic animals.

Given my love of these books, I was both thrilled and slightly apprehensive on hearing a new series featuring Hal's son Frazer and Roger's daughter Amazon was set to be released. I relaxed slightly when hearing it was Anthony McGowan who'd been entrusted with the continuation of the Price legacy - if there's anyone you want getting your hands on a childhood favourite, then one of Britain's top authors for young readers has to be the man.

And, unsurprisingly, McGowan succeeds here. It's a great mixture of the old and new - there's a lot of really up-to-date technology here, and the two teens are now working to rescue animals for conservation projects in the wild rather than to capture them for zoos - but the overall feel and style of the books is very similar to the original fourteen. There's still the same mix of wonderful excitement, great interaction with native helpers, information about various animals slipped in, and truly nasty villains. This was always a strength of Price's in the Hal and Roger series (although there were several times I wanted to strangle Hal for being so damn nice about these guys who were often trying to kill him!) and the showdown with the bad guy here is just as good as any in those books. McGowan also captures the setting of the forests of Siberia really well.

This is definitely one you could read without having tackled any of the originals, but I'd highly recommend them anyway. Apart from anything else, the very end of this book provides a fabulous moment for those of us who've read Price's own series. It's got me eagerly anticipating book 2 of McGowan's.

If you're looking for another continuation of a classic series set in an exotic location, I can't recommend Andy Briggs' update of the Tarzan novels highly enough!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Top Ten Most Vivid Book Worlds/Settings

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

1. Northumberland in the Sadler's Wells series by Lorna Hill - I love the Wells books, and for me the best bits were always the parts set in Hill's native Northumberland. Her portrayal of the countryside is gorgeous and the books are wonderful comfort reads for me, partly because of this.

2. The Abbey and the surrounding area in The Abbey Girls by Elsie J Oxenham - Speaking of gorgeous countryside, how could anyone not read EJO's classic series and not want to be transported to the beautiful Abbey of Gracedieu or the lovely area that surrounded it. Girls' Own at its very finest.

3. Prydain in the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander - My recent reread of this fantasy series has got me raving about it. Alexander created, drawing on influences from both Tolkien and from traditional Welsh mythology, a wonderful setting populated with remarkable characters.

4. Maycomb County in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - The only book I had to read for school which I ever liked, Lee's skill at portraying Southern America in the Great Depression makes this one to savour.

5. Gatlin County in The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - Drawing on TKAM for inspiration, Garcia and Stohl have created a wonderful modern Southern Gothic series here. Especially impressive is the balance between the realistic part of Gatlin County, trapped in the past with the inhabitants still referring to the War of Northern Aggression, and the world of the casters, filled with magic and voodoo.

6. Prohibition-era Chicago in Vixen by Jillian Larkin - I haven't read the other books in the series yet, but Larkin's first is superb, particularly the way in which she captures the feel of the Jazz Age so wonderfully.

7. The USA in Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - I love road-trip books, and Matson's is the best I've read. Her characters' journey from California to Connecticut, with - as the title suggests - a fairly meandering route, is wonderfully written.

8. Africa in Tarzan by Andy Briggs - Briggs has done wondrous things with his Tarzan reboot, cleverly modernising the stories but making sure they feel just right. His breathtaking portrayal of the continent is one of the main reasons to read these excellent books.

9. The FAYZ in Gone by Michael Grant - Grant's series is perhaps the best sci-fi out there at the moment. His chilling portrayal of a society where the adults have vanished and the remaining teens are imprisoned by a huge impenetrable dome is incredibly well done. I'm particularly impressed by the major roles played by some of the non-powered kids who manage to play a huge part without being overshadowed by the mutants.

10. Lyssia in Wereworld by Curtis Jobling - What Grant has done for sci-fi, Jobling has done for epic fantasy. Lyssia feels real, despite the shape-changers roaming around. The politics, the romance, the characters and the adventures are all pitch-perfect.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

My new Sunday Spotlight feature (which actually bears a striking similarity to my old Saturday Spotlight feature) will showcase some of my favourite recent books reviewed for the superb Bookbag site.

This is one of my very favourites so far this year, taking 2nd place in my 'Best YA Contemporary' category in the recent YA Yeah Yeah Mid Years.

Years ago, Taylor Edwards and her family would visit their old lake house by the beach for the summer. It was an idyllic setting, she had close friends there, and there was lots of fun to be had. Then she had a falling-out with best friend Lucy and an awkward moment with the boy she liked, Henry… and she hasn’t been back there in five years. This summer, she’s finally going back – because her dad is dying of cancer and wants to spend his last few months in a place he loves, surrounded by his family. Will she take the second chance to rebuild her relationships with the people around her?

In case the plot summary hasn’t given it away, this is a massive tearjerker – to the point where I was struggling to see for most of the last few chapters! It wasn’t quite as immediately gripping as Morgan Matson’s first novel, the wonderful Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, but by the time I was a quarter of the way through or so I was just as hooked as I had been when reading that book.

Matson’s characters are superb, and I love the way they develop through the course of the novel. Taylor, in particular, is a fabulous narrator – ever so slowly coming to terms with her tendency to avoid problems, while Henry, Lucy, and Taylor’s father are three of the best supporting characters I’ve read about recently.

The subject of cancer is never skirted round and watching the effect it has on Taylor’s father is absolutely heartbreaking, but the way in which she grows over the summer and the way in which her family and friends support each other as they prepare for the inevitable actually make this one surprisingly easy to read despite the difficult topic.

Absolutely huge recommendation and Matson has become my favourite contemporary author, having written two of the best teen novels in the genre of the last few years. I can’t wait for her next book!

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books for fans of Amy and Roger's Epic Detour

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Today I'm going for ten books I think fans of Morgan Matson's wonderful Amy and Roger's Epic Detour will really enjoy.
FOUR more tearjerkers

1. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

2. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

3. Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt

4. Before I Die by Jenny Downham

THREE more with music at the centre

5. Beat The Band by Don Calame

6. King Dork by Frank Portman

7. Indigo Blues by Danielle Joseph

TWO more road trips

8. Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

9. Lottie Biggs is (Not) Tragic by Hayley Long

and ONE other which is so much more than just a narrative - this time featuring blog entries, exam answers, poetry and letters instead of the receipts, playlists, and photos which complement Amy and Roger's story so beautifully.

10. Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty

Sunday 8 July 2012

YA Yeah Yeah Mid-Years Part Two

(Part one, covering best YA releases from January - June 2012 by genre, can be found here.)


3. Life According To Alice B Lovely by Karen McCombie - The exceptionally consistent McCombie comes up with her finest book yet, about a thirteen-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother who scare off every nanny who's hired to look after them - until a teenager called Alice B Lovely gets the job. Watching central character Evie gradually warm to Alice is wonderful, while Stan, in particular, is a wonderful supporting character.

2. Billie Templar's War by Ellie Irving - Irving follows up the wonderful debut For The Record with an even better story in this tale of a bratty 11-year-old girl who puts on a military tattoo in the hope of getting the queen to visit her village so Her Majesty can write a note excusing her father from the fighting in Afghanistan. In turns heartbreaking, funny, sweet and constantly wonderfully unpredictable, this is staggeringly good.

1. Pea’s Book of Best Friends by Susie Day – Noel Streatfeild fans, don’t miss this one! Susie Day’s new series is a modern classic in the making with an outstanding portrayal of family life, a wonderful central character, a sweet plot and some fabulous twists. Out on Friday – a massive, massive must-buy.


3. Harper Madigan: Junior High Private Eye by Chelsea M Campbell - Fabulous juxtaposition of a junior high setting with a film noir plot – the PTA are the villains, a 7th grader is the maverick hero, and instead of a long-suffering senior officer we get a long-suffering vice principal. Really funny and with one of the strongest voices I’ve read for ages.

2. The Boo Hag by David Morgan - A (gasp!) original idea for a paranormal story, which features a scary creature taken from South Carolina’s Gullah culture, the skin-stealing boo hag. An awesome central trio of heroine Lenny, who the creature is chasing, her best friend Anna, and Brian, the hot guy who’s trying to help protect them as Anna tries to get to know him better, make this a really strong recommendation.

1. Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer - Unsurprising, as everyone knows how much I loved this one. Incredibly strong debut YA novel by Cramer which made my top 3 sci-fi/fantasy books of the year so far as well due to the riveting story and great characters.

Best Adult Books

3. Sherlock Holmes and the Lyme Regis Legacy by David Ruffle - Ruffle captures Sherlock and Watson brilliantly in the central story of his newest book on the great detective. I didn't think the short stories and vignettes were quite as good as the wonderful ones in his earlier Lyme Regis Horror, but the main novella is strong enough to make up for that.

2. The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham - Abraham follows up his staggeringly great first novel in the Dagger and the Coin series, The Dragon's Path, by somehow improving on it with this second part. The best adult fantasy book I've read for many years.

1. People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan's Shadows by Richard Parry - Incredibly hard to read, but impossible to put down, Parry's moving account of the Lucie Blackman murder made me cry three times - a feat no other non-fiction has come close to. Outstanding.

Best Pre-2012 books I just got round to reading.

3. Looking for Alaska by John Green – I know, I know, worst book blogger EVER given I hadn’t read anything by JG until February! This made up for it though – it really does live up to all the praise it’s had. I didn’t review it because I was petrified at the thought of spoiling such a phenomenal book, and I’ll avoid saying too much now for the same reason. If you haven’t read it, though – what on earth are you waiting for?

2. Kat Stephenson series by Stephanie Burgis – My new favourite heroine! Kat, a 12-year-old girl in Georgian England whose mother was a witch and has magic powers of her own, is a stunning character, and the supporting cast are worthy of Jane Austen at her finest.

1. Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander – I always thought I read these about 20 years ago, but I clearly didn’t get the entire series – I think reading it all at that age would have left me heartbroken for years. Just about beats out The Dark Is Rising, Jenny Nimmo’s Magician Trilogy, and the Harry Potter series to get my vote for the best children’s fantasy sequence ever. Stunning character development, hugely emotional, and not a weak book – the first and third are good, the second and fourth are great, and the concluding volume is an absolute classic.

Friday 6 July 2012

Friday Feature: Interview with Susie Day

One of my favourite novels for tweens and younger teens so far this year is the absolutely outstanding Pea’s Book of Best Friends by Susie Day – a definite modern classic! I was thrilled to interview Susie.

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

I did an event at Hay Festival recently which was overflowing with kids who obviously just really like books, all sorts of books. You know, the ones who haunt libraries and secretly want to be astronauts or unicorns or be called Mandy and have yellow hair. I reckon they’re my gang.

2. I compared Pea's Book to books from authors like Noel Streatfeild and Edith Nesbit because the portrayal of family life and the relationship between Pea and her sisters was so fabulous. Who were your favourite authors when you were growing up?

I’m still glowing from those comparisons! Pea’s Book  owes a lot (intentionally) to Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes, which I reread till the pages went furry - along with lots of her other books: Thursday’s Child, White Boots, the Gemma series. I’m the youngest of four sisters, so those family-centric stories where each sibling had their role to play appealed to me hugely. Arthur Ransome’s Swallows & Amazons books were favourites for the same reason.

I'm a huge fan of Ballet Shoes, Gemma (which is probably one of the series I've reread the most often) and the earlier Swallows & Amazons, in particular. Great choices! 

3. If I ever have children of my own, I'm definitely pushing for one to be called Stegasaurus! What's the strangest name you've ever seen in a book? 

As I work in an international boarding school, I’m surrounded by ‘unusual’ names: I spend more time with people called Guanyu or Yaroslav or Maria Elena than most. I’ve yet to meet a Stegasaurus though, or a Tinkerbell - but I taught a Tanglewest once. Willy Wonka is probably the strangest fictional name I’ve encountered, just because I’m still faintly amazed Roald Dahl got away with it...

4. Rumour has it there's a Doctor Who reference in every book you've ever written (I loved ex-merminate!) Is this rumour true?
Ha! Rumbled. Entirely true.

5. As well as Pea, you have a young adult novel, The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones, coming out shortly. What's the main difference between writing for teens and writing for slightly younger readers?

Not a lot, to be honest. I’ve ended up writing my younger books in third person (so more of a traditional ‘storytelling’ voice) and my YA in first person (so the character’s voice is almost talking to you) - but in each case that’s because it fitted that particular story best. Twice-Lived Summer... is all about that painful transition to ‘teenage’, working out who you are; we need to be in Blue’s head, feel what she feels - and see what she can’t. But I don’t dumb anything down when writing for pre-teens; the second in the Pea’s Book series is about the meaning of art and was inspired by a Virginia Woolf novel. The emotional impact should feel as big whether what’s at stake is life or death, or starting a new school and being a bit nervous.

I think you've made me even more excited about Pea 2 - and I wouldn't have thought that was possible!

6. Along with Jo Cotterill and Keris Stainton you're a co-founder of Girls Heart Books, a wonderful website. What made you set the site up?

I met Jo via some author friends (we also share a publisher, Random House), and when she had the idea to start an author-run daily blog from writers for girls I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. Lots of attention goes to prize-winning ‘literary’ kidlit - which is brilliant, of course; I love those books too. But popular, contemporary fiction for girls often gets ignored, even discouraged by well-meaning adults who think girls should read something ‘better’ - while accessible books that encourage reluctant boys to read are applauded. Our authors represent a variety of genres, for girls aged 8-14, and we want to celebrate enjoyable good books: the kind that create lifelong readers. I’m a big nerd, so I do all the techie stuff behind the scenes of the website. We’ve had fantastic support from all of the UK’s big children’s publishers, and I still feel giddy when I look at our archives: Cathy Cassidy, Hilary McKay, Julia Golding, Karen McCombie...I could be here all day! Most of all, I’m massively proud of how it’s taken off with young readers. Their comments always make me beam.

Yup - there's some really fabulous authors there! McCombie and Cassidy are two of my favourites and there are lots of others who've written for you who I love - notably Rosalie Warren, Joanna Nadin, Hilary Freeman and Anne-Marie Conway. (And of course the three of you!)

7. What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading GEEKHOOD by Andy Robb, SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson, and THE DESCENDANT by MG Harris. Oh, and DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE, because I went to the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum and realised that somehow I never had. Me being partway through all of these is a reflection on me, not on the books; when I’m distracted with lots of different work things I tend to flit about a bit with my reading...

I do that as well! The Sky Is Everywhere is one of my absolute all-time favourites - hope you're enjoying it as much as I did!

8. I just had a look at your Twitter and found out that you wrote the synopsis for Pea Book 3 (two more? Yay!) in the JK Rowling cafe. Will there be magic bits in it?

I did! It seemed wrong not to write something while I was there. It’s still in the very early stages (I have to edit #2 first) but actually, now you mention it, I can see Tinkerbell getting alarmingly keen on magic tricks. If that ends up in the final version you get the credit.

If that happens, I'm going to be completely insufferable! (I can almost HEAR the comments people are making to themselves on reading that...)

9. And on a slightly more serious note, is it just going to be a trilogy or are there going to be even more? I'm crossing my fingers madly and hoping this will be long-running...

There will definitely be three: Pea’s Book of Big Dreams is out in January - I saw it was available for pre-order on the Waterstones website the other day when I haven’t even finished it, eek! - and #3 later in 2013. After that it’s really a question of if I can keep thinking of funny, interesting things for Pea, Clover and Tinkerbell to do.

I'm tempted to pre-order right now! No pressure, or anything...

10. What's next for Susie Day?

Unfortunately, moving house. Twice. Living in a boarding school means sometimes you get moved around, so I’ve got to pack everything up to move about 2 minutes’ walk down the road - and then do it all over again 8 weeks later. Luckily one of the places I’m staying in has a very lovely table that yells ‘nice place to write’, so I’m hoping the experience is inspiring. Pea’s Book of Putting Things In Boxes And Then Taking Them Out Again, anyone?

Hope it's a great experience! Very best wishes - can't wait for Bluebell and the new Pea books!

Sunday 1 July 2012

YA Yeah Yeah Mid-Years - Part One

I love doing awards, but can never settle on a format. Here's what I'm going for this time around.

Today's post will cover YA books released in the first six months of the year. (Hopefully, unless I've messed up any release dates, anyway!) I'll name my top three contemporary, historical, fantasy/sci-fi and paranormal.)

Part two will cover MG books, self-published books, books published prior to 2012, books to be published soon that I've already read (not that I'm boasting...) and possibly some awards for characters as well. Hopefully, you'll find out about some cool new books when reading the lists!

(Note: Many of these were originally reviewed for The Bookbag - a few links go there.)

YA contemporary:

This has been a phenomenal six months for YA contemporary books so I'm going to cheat here and name three in joint third...

Joint 3rd - Welcome Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Corriel - Girl goes from Mistletoe Queen to social outcast when her friend starts spreading rumours about her. Exceptionally well-handled subplot with Chloe's grandmother suffering from Parkinson's makes what I was expecting to be a light read really stand out.

Joint 3rd - Torn by Stephanie Guerra - I gave this 4 1/2 out of 5 stars when reviewing it for the Bookbag and have been kicking myself ever since - I'm not sure why I didn't go for the full five. Intense, with some incredibly harrowing scenes, and packing a lot into a fairly short length, Guerra's story of two mismatched teens who find friendship with each other - nice girl Stella and erratic, fiery Ruby - is one of the best coming of age stories I've read for years.

Joint 3rd - Silenced by Simon Packham - Chris is left unable to speak after the death of his friend Declan. Can Declan's girlfriend Ariel or the new boy Will help him come to terms with his grief? And what exactly happened on the night Declan passed away? As good as Comin 2 gt u, Packham's first teen novel, was, this is even better, with a surprising amount of humour despite the subject and an absolutely superb narrator.

2nd - Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson - This tale of a girl returning to the scene of annual holidays from years earlier to spend some time with her dad, who's dying of cancer, reduced me to tears on numerous occasions. Matson has written two of my favourite novels of the past few years now, and is definitely one of the best authors around.

1st - Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt - I loved Second Chance Summer so much that I can't quite believe I'm not putting it top of this category - but debut author Jarratt's tale of a girl struggling to cope with a car crash which left her disfigured and her best friend dead just about takes it. This is a truly gorgeous romance which also handles prejudice, mental illness, grief and disfigurement pitch-perfectly.

YA historical:

3rd - Changeling by Philippa Gregory - Gregory's YA debut, set in 15th Century Europe and following a 17-year old expelled from his monastery and trying to map the End of Days, features perhaps the best central quartet of the year. Main character Luca, his servant Freize, noblewoman Isolde and her maid Ishraq are all exceptional.

2nd - The Things We Did For Love by Natasha Farrant - If there was a 'Most Underrated' category, this spellbinding, breathtaking, wonderful story about two teens who fall in love during World War II as one gets involved in the French Resistance would absolutely walk it. Heart-rending, beautifully written, and I have no idea why more people aren't raving about this one.

1st - Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - On the other hand, it's very, very clear why pretty much everyone IS raving about this one. Another World War II story, this had me in absolute floods of tears. The central duo of two girls - one a pilot, another a spy - are two of the best characters of the year and Wein's writing is breathtaking.

YA fantasy/sci-fi:

3rd - Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer - The comet which brings visions of colourful sunsets and a purple moon also brings death to the adults on Earth in this chilling tale. Abby Leigh and her brother Jordan are left trying to look after the other children on their small island - with puberty, and death, quickly approaching Abby, can she hold on until a cure can be found? Cramer makes a fairly far-fetched premise work because his characters are so well-developed that the darkest parts are utterly heartbreaking.

2nd - Wereworld: Shadow of the Hawk by Curtis Jobling - Jobling's epic fantasy continues. I'm not even summarising it to avoid spoilers - but the heroes are still brilliant, the villains are still truly terrifying, and the character development throughout the series is outstanding.

1st - Fear by Michael Grant - Too gruesome for my tastes, very long, and confusing in parts. Despite this, it's my favourite sci-fi novel so far this year because Grant's dystopian series has some of the most incredibly well-developed characters I've ever read about. I love the way the non-powered kids in the FAYZ are so important to the society they've built, I love Albert's character arc over the last few books, and one scene between Brianna and Dekka is one of my top three scenes of the year so far.

YA paranormal:

3rd - Hollow Pike by James Dawson - Dawson's incredibly tense tale of a small town where rumours of witchcraft may be more than just rumours is wonderful. His portrayal of school life, particularly the bitchiness of teen girls, is superb, and he's created some outstanding characters.

2nd - A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton - Another fabulous location in the seaside setting of Winter, and a stunning romance. As great as these elements are, though, and as brilliant as Warburton's world of witchcraft is, the truly outstanding thing is her writing style which is packed full of wonderful dialogue.

1st - Department 19: The Rising by Will Hill - 700 or so pages and not a word wasted. Truly immense. Brilliant action, great romance, and cuts between half a dozen or so viewpoints absolutely perfectly. Staggeringly good, and I can't wait for book three.

Overall Top 5:

5th The Things We Did For Love
4th Department 19: The Rising
3rd Second Chance Summer
2nd Skin Deep
1st Code Name Verity