My Reading Highlights of 2010

Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud:

Can I Play Too? (An Elephant and Piggie book) by Mo Willems

The Siren Song by Anne Ursu

The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes by Kelly Easton and Greg Swearingen

New-To-Me Series That On One Hand I'm Glad To Have Found, But On The Other, I'm Seriously Horrified That I'd Missed Out On Until Now:

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's boy (Bloody Jack Adventures) by L.A. Meyer

Sequel Happiness:

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Book That Made Me Crave Food:

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Most Enjoyable Bad Book:

Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

Forgettable Plot Saved By a Fresh, Honest Voice:

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger

Book I Was Most Surprised By:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Made of Pure Awesome:

The Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner

Crunch by Leslie Connor

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Newsgirl by Liza Ketchum

Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper

Best Book Hidden Under the Worst Cover:

Pride an Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

More Adorable Than Sparkling Puppies:

Birdie's Big Girl Shoes by Sujean Rim

YA Book Most Likely to be Loved By Adults More Than Actual YAs:

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Biggest Disappointment:

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Books that Invoked Irrationally Violent Emotions in me:

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman

Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

Books I Loved For Their Imperfect Heroines:

Fat Cat by Robin Brande

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Best Vampire Book For Twilight-Haters:

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Worthy of the Hype:

Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems

Favorite Roadtrip Book (and MAN, there were a lot of them!):

Ranger's Ransom by Emily Diamand

Best Action/Adventure Book:

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Books that were weird just to be weird:

It's a Book by Lane Smith

The Boy Who Couldn't Die by William Sleator

Sci-fi's that made me think there is still a future for this genre (future, get it):

The Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner

Crunch by Leslie Connor

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

X-Isle by Steve Augarde

Books I lent out to people multiple times:

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Jumper by Steven Gould

The Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner

Worst Book of the Year:

The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan

Have a question about this list. Wonder why I loved or hated a book? Leave a comment...let's discuss.

Setting:New York City - Reality:None

Despite the lack of book reviews, I promise I have been reading quite a few books over the past few weeks, and through no fault of my own, many appear to have the same interesting trend. The trend being this: That more and more teens are fairly wealthy and live in New York City in apartments that are larger than their other rich friends but never have the one thing they want the most. For boys, this is often a girl, often blond and also rich who doesn't give the main character the time of day because she is currently going out with someone richer and/or manlier. For girls, they are usually searching for popularity and something equally mundane, while trying to squash their opponents/other girls. As an added bonus, these teens often find themselves searching for meaningful adult relationships with the parents who have neglected them due to their money. Take the following books into consideration:

Not to say that all these books are trash, in fact some teeter on the edge of being decent, and a few like The Boy Who Couldn't Die and Beastly are actually rather fun. But most are Sweet Valley High without the kitsch and teens are devouring books like this. Why? Is it because we all imagine what it would be like to be rich? But as you can see, it isn't just the book packaged mass produced series that contain this trend.

The second most popular setting appears to be all girl's boarding schools which is fascinating because although I know they really exist, a raise of hands as to how many people went or know anyone who actually went to one? Off-hand, I can think of only one acquaintance who I worked with ten years ago.

And why are so many books set in New York City? May I venture to say that I imagine for editors (the majority of which work in NYC), would find a book set in their stomping grounds to be more appealing that one set in Wisconsin? As a child who grew up in New Jersey, I used to imagine that New York City was teeming with children my age simply because I had read so many books set in that city that I used to imagine that this was where most of the children of the world lived. I used to imagine that there were roving gangs of children wandering the city treating one another cruelly with no parental supervision. Harriett the Spy may have been to blame for this notion.

All I know is, I am tired of reading about rich people in large apartments in NYC. I think it is time to return to my beloved genre fiction. I'm in the mood for a distant planet full of aliens or a land where the rich are nobility and everyone despises them for it. Any suggestions?

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion by Mo Willems

Trixie and Knuffle Bunny are back in this third and final tale of Knuffle Bunny and it is just as delightful as the others. In this tale, Trixie and her family are going on a vacation overseas. As any parent has experienced, it is very easy to misplace things when traveling and Trixie is no exception. Caught up in the delight of flying and visiting Oma and Papa, he leaves Knuffle Bunny on the plane and by the time they realize, the plane is headed to China!

One of the more uncommon themes in a children's picture book is the coming of age story. Some may argue that all picture books are a coming of age story, teaching the children who read them important lessons to help them in their growing up journey, but the Knuffle Bunny books have allowed children to watch Trixie grow from an unintelligible baby, to a little girl beginning preschool, to the cute blond who discovers happiness without her Knuffle Bunny. And I'll tell you, I may have shed a tear at the end. Okay, maybe more than one for the back pages of this book are incredible.

Mo Willems does it again. Knuffle Bunny is a cute, funny, coming of story, set in another country, with all the love and passion of the previous books. This one definitely deserves to be a Christmas gift.

The Game of Sunken Places by M.T. Anderson

Gregory and Brian arrive at their Uncle Max's house for what will admittedly be a strange fall vacation. True to form, eccentric Uncle Max lives in a giant mansion where he immediately burns the boys' clothes and forces them to wear clothes the turn-of-the-century. The 20th century. They sleep in a nursery where they find a strange fame called the The Game of Sunken Places. But Jumanji this game is not. There are no dice or pieces just an hourglass that is slowly counting down--but to what? The boys are in a race against time, bu they don't know the rules and this game is deadly.

This books is full of wonderful descriptive elements that really bring this world to life. You can feel the crisp fall New England air and whenever the wind blows, there is a creepiness that will crawl up under the covers with you. Yet, for all the brilliant descriptions, it reminded me of a movie where the editing is slightly off. The scenes jump, with only a sentence to bridge where they are going. If you aren't paying attention the characters are suddenly going down a flight of stairs and you aren't quite sure how they got there. Yet Anderson is unafraid of spending an entire paragraph describing an object or using poetic language to make us understand the wind or the languishing canal. All of this is the same issues I have had with other M.T. Anderson novels. Anderson is a brilliant writer, with language and sentences that any writer could be envious of, but sometimes it throws off the pacing. This is not due to lack of plot, but because Anderson doesn't pay the same attention to detail in all aspects of his writing. His language is beautiful and his transitions feel stilted.

The characters in this story are great though, although you may be surprised as to who the main character really is. We are taken on a journey with the Brian and Gregory and I'll admit, I wasn't sure if they could win, although I knew they must.

Anderson does take us on a journey, but I often myself wondering why these boys went on the journey in the first place? Perhaps that is the wrong question for a fantasy novel, but if this happened to me as a child...I don't think I would have continued to play the game. Perhaps that is the joy of this book though, Brian and Gregory go on a journey that most people would be too afraid to set out on. Not a bad book, but it isn't one of Anderson's best.