Sunday, 4 January 2015

YA Yeah Yeah Year-Ends: Shortlists, Day 3 - Best Bookshops/Self-Published/Adult/2015

Best Bookshop

The Big Green Bookshop 
I've written at length about how brilliant the Big Green Bookshop is before now, so won't repeat it here - I'll just say that co-owners Tim and Simon are two genuinely wonderful people, the selection of books is outstanding, and the free wi-fi is a bonus as it allows me to tweet pictures and say "So what should I buy?"

Foyles Charing Cross Road 
I queued for an hour or so on the morning of the reopening after the big move. It was well worth it! Foyles is a brilliantly-stocked shop with fantastically knowledgeable staff (I still miss Kate and Jen working there, although Jen's now at Tales on Moon Lane - see below!) including Jo from Once Upon A Bookcase.  I love that they have some fantastic American books there, while the cafe is a great place to meet people, and there've been some superb events this year - notably the Great Bookshop Debate.

Gay's The Word 
I loved Gay's The Word even before it played a big part in one of the year's best films, the fabulous Pride! It has a superb selection of LGBTQIA books, some fantastic events  - I loved going to the 'writing for children' one with BJ Epstein, where I first met my friend Charlie, and the This Book Is Gay launch was fantastic. I love a bookshop with a good second-hand selection, as well. For a second opinion on just how brilliant it is, don't miss Erica from The Bookshop Around The Corner's Indie Advent guest post.

Tales on Moon Lane 
I went to Tales for the first time in January and found it a really nice place, but didn't talk to anyone there as at the time I was still shy. However, since my friend Jen started working there a few months ago, I've become a fairly regular visitor and realised that as wonderful as the awesome choice of books is, and as gorgeous as the shop itself looks, the best thing about it is the fantastic staff. Tamara, George, Leah, Maddy, Tereze, and of course Jen, are all lovely people who are incredibly knowledgeable about childrens' books; it's one of my very favourite places to go. Also, they have some brilliant events there - I missed #DrinkYA co-organiser Louie Stowell appearing there but am told it was wonderful, while I loved Carolina Rabei's 'design a Christmas card' event there a few weeks ago, and my sister was thrilled with the resulting card. (Speaking of cards, the staff at Tales got me a Christmas card and present which was amazingly awesome of them!) For more about Tales, don't miss this fabulous post from Sarwat Chadda for Indie Advent!

Waterstones Piccadilly
I generally prefer indie bookshops to chains but Europe's biggest bookshop has a huge amount going for it - a lovely (if rather expensive) bar on the fifth floor, a great cafe on the lower ground floor, good offers on books, and an absolutely staggering amount of choice. I've been to more events there than I have anywhere else this year - highlights being GollanczFest, the superb Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan discussion, and the legendary Judy Blume, who I never thought I'd meet in person. Again (can you see a theme?) the staff here are fantastic here, particularly Laura Main Ellen, who runs the outstanding children's department.

Best self-published
I don't read all that many self-published books, but I happen to have really enjoyed five this year, so I had a ready made shortlist!

Zero Sum Game by SL Huang 
Superior adult thriller; imagine Jack Reacher but with a main character who's a young woman so good at mathematics that she's practically a superhero. Cas calculates the answer to problems so quickly that she can dodge bullets and beat up men much bigger than her. It's far-fetched but incredibly good fun, while the moral ambiguity we see (Cas upsets a potential ally who's horrified by some of her tactics, and starts to question her own behaviour) make it stand out in a crowded field. The villain, a 'psychic with a god complex' as described by the book's blurb, is a memorable one and this is one of the most exciting reads of the year for me. I've just bought sequel Half Life and can't wait to read. Speaking of SL Huang, I originally got this because I really loved her short story for Book Smugglers Publishing, Hunting Monsters - it's well worth checking out!

Dirty London by Kelley York 
I only picked this up because Dahlia Adler, my go-to person for book recommendations in general and QUILTBAG in particular, mentioned it in her End of Year Survey and it sounded interesting. It is absolutely wonderful (if not hugely original, admittedly.) London has been hiding her sexuality for a long time but gets into a fake relationship with new friend Wade when she realises he's gay. Unfortunately rumours start to spread about her, with lots of girls believing she's a slut, and while this is happening she's also having to deal with her younger sister's rapidly disappearing psych medications and her unpredictable father. This has one of my favourite romantic relationships of the year (I'm kicking myself for not finishing it until after I'd published 'best pairings' as it would definitely be in there) but where it really excels is in the portrayal of London's relationship with her sister Jasmine, which feels incredibly realistic. I love the way that London's relationships with both her love interest and her sister change over the course of the book, and will definitely be reading more from York.

The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf by Nick Bryan 
Fun crime novel, technically adult but with huge appeal to YA readers. It's about a mismatched duo, veteran private detective John Hobson and new work-experience girl Angelina Choi, forced to work together to solve a murder which seems to have been committed by a wolf after Choi gets put in charge of creating a social media profile for her new boss and gets overeager. I really enjoyed the interplay between the central couple of characters here, and it's a fun detective story with an excellent plot. I'm looking forward to reading their next adventure.

One Song Away by Molli Moran 
Sweet, warm and tender NA about a girl who moves back to her home town after failing to make it as a country singer in Nashville, then persuades the boy she always had a crush on to pretend to be her boyfriend so her mum will stop trying to set her up with people. Wonderful chemistry between leads Sophie-Claire and Jake make this a must-read, while I also loved the way Molli Moran captured small-town life so well.

GLAZE by Kim Curran 
Arguably cheating slightly, as it was self-published in paperback and e-book but Jurassic London brought out a gorgeous hardback edition. Kim Curran's dystopian novel, set in the very new future where over-16s can go on Glaze, a social network which you're pretty much always on, is superb. After being banned from Glaze due to false accusations about her behaviour at a protest, Petri is desperate enough to get a new chip fitted with help from a hacker - but quickly finds out it's giving her more information than she should be getting, and Glaze may be more dangerous than her mother, the founder, had ever realised. This is a totally believable extension of current social networking and of trends on the internet, with great characters (including a stunning villain with interesting motivations) and a superb climax.

Best Adult

The Widow's House by Daniel Abraham 
Abraham's epic fantasy sequence, The Dagger and the Coin, keeps getting better and better. Following several main characters, each brilliantly portrayed, this is a stunning read. By far my favourite ongoing adult series.

We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler 
This is a really hard one to write without spoilers! All I'll say, plotwise, then, is the very very start. Rosemary has just moved to college. Everyone there seems to want to talk about their families, but Rosemary keeps quiet about hers. She misses her older brother and her sister, who both disappeared from her life many years ago, and still has slight hopes of reconciliation - but will they ever return to her life, or are past mistakes too big to recover from? It's a gripping story with a perfectly-paced plot which makes you want to find out more and more about what happened to Rosemary's sister Fern, in particular. With fabulous characters and exquisite writing, this is a beautiful read and makes you think about families, about choices, morality and so many other things, raising some massively thought-provoking questions.

The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson 
Sensationally good historical crime, set in the Marshalsea prison in 1727. Hurled in there due to his debts, gambler Tom Hawkins is left desperately trying to solve a recent murder, partly to get his freedom and partly because his new cell-mate Samuel Fleet is the chief suspect. Tom and Fleet are incredible characters, with Fleet one of the most complex and fascinating I've seen for years, while the prison, with the Master's Side being almost like a village for those who could scrape together money to pay for it, and the Poor Side being a stinking pit, is brought brutally to life.

Vicious by VE Schwab 
Two college roommates manage to discover that by creating near-death experiences, they can endow themselves with superhuman powers. Ten years after things go horribly wrong, Victor breaks out of prison and tries to stop Eli from eradicating all other ExtraOrdinaries. Arch-enemies Victor and Eli are an incredibly compelling pairing, the plot has lots of twists and turns, and the excitement level here is through the roof! Stunning fun.

Zero Sum Game by SL Huang (See self-published section for my thoughts on this.)

2015 releases I've read already 

(I've read about 20 of this year's releases, thanks to a mixture of hugely generous publishers, borrowing some books that were out in the US last year from Debbie when she got them at BEA, and spending a bit more money than I'd planned over the last few days. These are the ten that stand out!)

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell 
No spoilers, but if you want a heart-stopping, tear-jerking, utterly incredible read, pre-order this story of a Japanese teenager's struggle with ALS. A truly outstanding book, up there with The Art of Being Normal and The Sky Is Everywhere as one of the best three contemporaries I've read in the last five years.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry 
Seven schoolgirls try to cover up the deaths of their headmistress and her brother to avoid being sent home. This reads like an Alan Ayckbourn farce - fast paced, frenetic, and incredibly funny. I loved it!

Bloodstone by Allan Boroughs 
Boroughs follows up his exciting post-apocalyptic adventure, Ironheart, with a stunning sequel here as India and mentor Verity head to Antarctica. With all the action of book one but more humour, much more character development, and a hugely emotional ending, this is superb, and puts the series right up there as one of the best ongoing MG series around.

Demolition Dad by Phil Earle 
Renowned YA author Phil Earle, best known for his gritty contemporary books, moved towards the lighter end of things with last year's brilliant The Bubble-Wrap Boy. His first MG book is the story of a boy in a fairly boring British town whose dad is a demolition expert - knocking things down on building sites Monday to Friday, and taking apart opponents in the wrestling ring on Saturdays.  It's a warm, funny and tender story about a boy's hero worship for his father, with a wonderfully heartwarming ending. An excellent read; I can't wait for more MG from Phil Earle!

The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone 
Pullmanesque debut tells the story of Molly, a Romany girl, and her protective wildcat Gryff. Forced to take on the sinister Dreamsnatcher, she's plunged headlong into a world of secrets, magic and prophecies. Massively exciting and chilling in all the right places, this is a superb series-starter.

Captive by AJ Grainger 
Exciting kidnap story with a great central romance - I'm not normally a fan of Stockholm Syndrome type-stuff but the chemistry between Prime Minister's daughter Robyn and her captor makes this a hit, while the revelations of the web of corruption she's caught up in are perfectly tied.
I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson  
Nelson's second book is worth the four year wait.  This dual narrative jumps back and forth between Jude's point of view as a damaged sixteen-year-old, working with an irascible sculptor, and her twin brother Noah's point of view as a thirteen-year-old discovering his sexuality. As the novel progresses, we learn more about why the twins, so close earlier in their lives, are barely speaking by the time they're sixteen. Just as expected from the author of the magnificent The Sky Is Everywhere, this is both gorgeously written and is seriously emotional.      

We Are All Made Of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
Academically brilliant thirteen-year-old Stewart and fourteen-year-old Ashley, queen bee of her class, end up as a family when Stewart's widower father and Ashley's mother move in together. Stewart's still grieving for his mother and Ashley is trying to hide the fact that her father left them because he's gay. Seeing the pair try to get on with each other and cope with issues at school is both hilarious and deeply moving at times.

Nearly everything else on this list was hugely anticipated by me before I read it. This was a random read which I picked up after Helen Boyle was kind enough to give me a proof at #ProseccoYA one Tuesday night in November. I got it that Tuesday, read it on the Wednesday, and fell so utterly in love with the outstanding voices of both narrators and the incredibly strong cast (with particularly superb portrayals of the three parents here) that I reread it just a day or two later, before passing my proof onto another blogger because I want as many people as possible to read this one before its May release.

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
Stunning fantasy about a seventeen-year-old girl who is the embodiment of a goddess and instantly kills anyone she touches except the prince who's immune to her. Forced to be the court executioner, she's feared and loathed by nearly everybody, until a new guard comes to the court... This is an exceptionally good read; hugely exciting and with some incredible twists, plus an absolutely brilliant love triangle.
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson 
My thoughts on this are pretty well known to anyone who follows me on Twitter, and again I'm worried about spoilers. I'll just state that it's up there with The Last Leaves Falling and The Sky Is Everywhere as one of the best three contemporaries I've read in the last five years.

Coming tomorrow, my top 15 MG reads of 2014!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for including DIRTY LONDON on your list! :)