Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Top Twelve Books Of The Last Ten Years

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

It's a freebie week, so I thought I'd go for my top ten books of the last ten years! Then extended to twelve, because HOW could I pick between these twelve?!

Right of First Refusal by Dahlia Adler (#2 in Radleigh University series, but completely readable as a standalone) (self-published)

(New Adult - the only title on this list that isn't YA or MG.) Lacrosse player Cait Johannssen is stunned to find that her roommate's new boyfriend is Mase, who broke her heart at sports camp two years earlier. They agree to keep their past a secret but as the two see more and more of each other this gets ever harder.

Super hot, super intense. I love the central pairing here and there's a fabulous supporting cast (who are nearly all queer; lots of awesome representation!) Both the romance and the sports plotlines are incredibly well built and I was cheering for Cait and Mase all the way.

The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (Bloomsbury)

Young dragon Aventurine sneaks out by herself to try and capture a tasty human, only to be tempted by his hot chocolate and find herself magically transformed into a human girl. Declawed and defanged, she sets out to make the most of the transformation by getting a job as an apprentice chocolatier, but things don't go quite according to plan.

Completely and utterly gorgeous MG - the best MG I've read in 2016 - about dragons, chocolate, friends, family and finding your passion in life. I read this one with a massive smile on my face right the way through, and adored Aventurine and new friend Silke. I'm also left in awe of Stephanie after the ending - close to the end I couldn't see how she could wrap things up quickly enough but she pulled it off perfectly.

Bone Jack by Sara Crowe (Andersen)

15-year-old Ash has been waiting for his father to come back from the war. He's following in his dad's footsteps as the stag boy in the traditional Stag Chase, and he knows his dad will be proud of him. Running through the mountains whenever he can to train, he's not bothered by the taunts of the other boys who he beat to become the stag, and who will take their places as hounds - he knows their hostility is traditional. But something is stirring in the countryside, and he sees strange visions, while his old friend Mark is behaving seriously creepily. Is Mark just grieving for his father, or is there something more sinister at work?

This is a deeply disquieting tale which mixes old legends with thoroughly modern problems. Ash's village is reeling from foot and mouth, his father is suffering from shell shock after returning from the war, and farmers are going bankrupt all around. It's the perfect balance of these elements which make this stand out as something special.

Ash is a great main character, who's physically and mentally tough but who doesn't know how to handle either his father or his former best friend. It's these two relationships which give the book a lot more depth than I was perhaps expecting - both are superb, while the fantasy elements are also brilliantly handled, with strong elements of classic legends like the Wild Hunt being clear influences. Definitely one of the best debuts I've ever read.

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan (No UK publisher)

When Leila's first ever crush turns out to be on another girl, the beautiful Saskia, she's left trying to make sense of her feelings, wondering how her conservative Iranian parents would react to her being with another girl, and comforting her former best friend Lisa over her brother's death. Will she find love?

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous contemporary with one of my very favourite romances ever and a fantastic ensemble cast. Leila is such a lovely character, I adore her friends and I'm glad the romance doesn't stop her spending time with friends and making new ones, and the interactions with her family and the wider Iranian-American community are really interesting. A stunning read!

Have A Little Faith by Candy Harper (Simon & Schuster)

Faith has been moved into a different form to separate her from her friend Megs, as the teachers seem to think they're a bad combination. On the plus side, the school are bussing in cute boys for their choir - and Faith is ready to get to know the dreamy Finn a lot better. Until she realises he's singing a duet with her sworn enemy, at least. Can Faith get the boy? And will she be able to move back into the same form as Megs by impressing Miss Ramsbottom with her new found maturity?

My all-time favourite fun contemporary read - although both sequels are REALLY high up on my list as well - this is one of the most hilarious books I've ever read. It also features a fabulous group of friends, male and female, with the friendship being more of a focus than the romance hinted at in the description. I love that Faith and the rest can fall out but also make up, they care about each other deeply, and they work so well together. (Also her gran is an outstanding character who would steal the limelight completely from nearly ANY other narrator!)

A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master (Bloomsbury) 

Bedridden with cancer, Bilal's bapuji doesn't realise how far the plan for the Partition of India has progressed. Bilal has kept the news from him as he was worried that it would kill him – but when he accepts that death is imminent, Bilal swears to at least save him the pain of having his heart broken before he passes away. Along with his friends Chota, Manjeet and Saleem, Bilal swears to stop him from ever finding out. 1947 India, though, is a dangerous place for everyone, and there are people in their town who don't think that Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus should be doing anything together.

This MG is a gorgeous story of family and friendship, with some incredibly exciting scenes. It's extremely thought provoking, raising the question of whether Bilal is right to lie to his bapuji to protect him, or whether the dying man deserves to be told the truth even if it will hurt him. The book also does a brilliant job of evoking 1940's India and really increased my interest in this time period.

This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin (No UK publisher)

Bandmates Sam and Ramona are in love with each other, but neither has got around to telling the other that yet. Then new boy Tom joins their band and Ramona falls in love with him - but she still loves Sam too. How can they work this out?

Oh wow oh wow oh wow, ace representation, an AMAZING love triangle, and three incredibly likeable main characters. This completely blew me away. I adored the way the central trio actually talk through things, I liked the relationships they had with their parents, and overall this stands out as pretty close to being unique in several ways. 

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (Harper Collins)

Study machine Frances makes a proper friend for the first time in the reclusive Aled, who is the genius behind the podcast she loves. When their friendship breaks down she's devastated, but she also has to cope with the secrets from her past, while he fights even darker things at university. 

I love the main two characters here - a brilliantly-written platonic friendship between a guy and a girl is NOT that easy to find in YA, sadly, but this absolutely delivers. There's a hugely diverse cast (yay for ace spectrum rep!) and Alice Oseman captures the pressure of sixth form and of university perfectly. She's also done an amazing job of showing the positives and negatives of internet culture, while Frances's mother is one of my favourite parents in YA - a fantastically supportive character.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Gelrev Ongbico (Bloomsbury)

In the snowbound woods of Russia, Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer; they teach animals to run, to fight, and to be wary of humans. But when the Russian Army take Feo's mother, it's left to Feo, her wolves, and some new friends to go on a breathtaking rescue mission.

Rundell’s writing style has always been superb – second book Rooftoppers is one of my favourites for years – but this is her best yet, while the decision by Bloomsbury to pair her with illustrator Gelrev Ongbico definitely pays off – his beautiful drawings add a lot to Rundell’s outstanding story. I was expecting this to be exciting and wonderfully written. It doesn’t disappoint on either account! What I wasn’t expecting was the humour that is in the book – despite the terrible situation Feo is in, her incredible spirit and relationship with the wolves, and her new friend Ilya, had lots of moments that made me smile.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker)

Starr, torn between two worlds - the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the rich suburban high school she attends - finds both of them forever changed when her best friend is shot by a white police officer. As the only witness, and knowing that he was unarmed and posed no threat, Starr has to figure out what to say with her community potentially about to be torn apart, and death threats coming her way.

A compelling and heartbreaking story of courage, standing up for what's right, fighting prejudice and the power of community. I fell hard for MC Starr, her brother and father, and the rest of the characters. There's an intense, justified, anger here - particularly on a devastating final page - but also moments of joy, and an optimism that things CAN get better if enough people use their voice. I hope readers are inspired to follow Starr's lead. One of the very best books I've read for years and a massively important read.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Electric Monkey)

Verity is a collaborator. Captured by the Gestapo in France in 1943, she agrees to give up information about the war effort – not even in return for her life being spared, but to gain just a few weeks and a quick and merciful death. She tells the tale of how she came to be in France, from the moment she met her friend Maddie, the pilot whose plane she bailed out of, right up until her capture. It’s a gripping tale of friendship, courage, patriotism, love, and family. And nothing – but nothing – is quite as it seems.

I can never really talk about this coherently, but the best advice to give you would be to go and read this NOW. Yes, I could ramble on about Verity and Maddie, the two wonderful heroines, and the way their friendship is handled so beautifully. Yes, I could talk about Weir’s phenomenal writing style, and the superb narration by Verity, which veers between heartbreaking, brutal, gorgeous, and surprisingly funny. I could even tell you how many times I burst into tears reading it. (Actually, the last one’s a lie, I lost count at around page 250.)   

But at the end of the day, I’m so terrified of spoiling this incredible novel in even the most minor of details that I think I’ll avoid doing any of that, and just tell you to go and read it.

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon (Corgi)

Natasha - twelve hours away from being deported, and desperately trying to save herself and her family meets Daniel - who's always been the good son but forgets about everything when he instantly falls for her. Over the course of the day, they get to know each other, but can they beat the odds together?

WOW! The unique structure - mostly a dual narrative, but interspersed with stories of lots of people the MCs meet - got my attention quickly but Nicola's beautiful writing and the superb central pairing are even more impressive. I loved the chemistry between them while the author also brought New York to life perfectly. A stunning look at love, science, poetry, fate, and so many other topics. And oh, that ending! An incredible read.

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