(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.