This seemed to go pretty well the other week, and I'm still stuck for time, so let's try some more mini-recommendations.
That Burning Summer by Lydia Syson - I picked this up more because of the breathtaking cover than anything else, but ended up being impressed by the writing as well. It's a World War II tale of a girl living on a farm who discovers a Polish airman who's desperate to not go back to fighting, and hides him in a remote church. Characters are well-portrayed, particularly main couple Peggy and Henryk, and Peggy's younger brother Ernest. Even more impressively (given my well-known feelings on quick-burning love stories), the romance between Peggy and Henryk feels completely believable and they make an excellent couple.
In Bloom by Matthew Crow - I've seen a fair bit of buzz suggesting this was really, really good. Nothing had prepared me for how completely wonderful it actually is, though. The story of Francis, who gets diagnosed with leukeaemia and faces the horrors of illness and treatment alongside Amber, a girl he meets at the hospital, is one of the best of the year for me. It's warm, tender, and surprisingly funny at times, given the subject matter. It's also a beautiful depiction of both romantic love and family relationships, with a brilliant narrator and a superb supporting cast. I particularly liked Francis's brother Chris and both lead character's mothers, who are very different people but who are both brilliantly drawn.
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher - I've avoided this after not being a big fan of Pitcher's first, My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece, but was eventually tempted to pick it up by Jill Murphy's wonderful review over at the Bookbag. Narrator Zoe, who feels responsible for the death of a boy, is an outstanding character, while the central concept here as 15-year-old Zoe unburdens herself of her guilty secret by writing to a convicted murderer on Texas's Death Row is riveting. As she tells both her story and his, her voice is superb.
Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie by SJ Adams is one I've heard nothing about, in contrast to the much-praised previous two. I have a real soft spot for books set completely or mostly in the course of one day, and this one is a new favourite of mine. Following Debbie as she tries to find her best friend Lisa to confess she has a crush on her before Lisa succumbs to the doubtful charms of the school's most boring guy, it's a wacky but likeable romp. Debbie's support for her journey, Emma and Tim - founder members of the Church of Blue - are engaging characters and the relationships at the heart of the book are really believable. This deserves to be much better known than it is (at least in the UK - not sure if it's more popular over in the States.) The constant references to TV show Full House probably work better if you've seen it, or have some idea of what it is, but as someone who just vaguely recognised the title, I managed to fill in the gaps as much as needed. Definitely worth checking out!
Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle - Brilliantly heart-warming story, consisting of three interlinked novellas, is an ideal Christmas present. Check out my full review over at the Bookbag.