Top Ten Tuesday – YA Books

The Broke and the Bookish is a great book review blog and it hosts what is called the Top Ten Tuesday. I have decided to take part for the first time, since I like (and already do) lists on this blog. This week is the Top Ten X Genre books and I have chosen to list my favorite YA books.

So, on my bookshelf, you can find…

1-      Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Witches in South Carolina. Wonderful writing and setting. My number One.

2-      The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Gossip Girl in the 19th Century. A delight to read.

3-      The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

A girl who can see the future in 19th Century Baltimore. What more do you want?!

4-      Abandon by Meg Cabot

A retelling of the Persephone myth. I loved the idea but this book was so short! I felt a bit cheated. Now I’m waiting for Book 2.

5-      The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Werewolves! And such a gorgeous cover…

6-      Evermore by Alyson Noel

Immortal lovers who have to find each other again every time they are reborn. A good idea but I didn’t like the heroine.

7-      Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar

Already a classic. And I bought it at the Strand Bookstore and read it while I lived in New York. Good times…

8-      I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Extraterrestrials! Teenage hormones! Not my favorite book of all time but a good read, with a great suspense.

9-      Fallen by Lauren Kate

I bought this book for its cover, I’ll admit it. It’s about angels. And there’s a love triangle. A good read, but nothing highly original.

10-   Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Angels, again. I liked the plot, but I loathed the main male character. Which is why it’s my number Ten.

What is your Top Ten?

Favorite books

What’s on my bookshelf ? 2

Today I want to mention the books that have made me want to become a writer. They are the books I wish I had written myself, the books I can read over and over again, the books I can’t imagine my bookshelf without.

Because they are all different, I can’t really decide a number one and a number ten, so I will mention them in the order I have read them, from the oldest to the most recently discovered.

1-    Remember Me, Christopher Pike

I read this book when I was maybe 12 or 13, and I still recommend it to people. Because when it comes to YA novels, it doesn’t really get better than this: a girl who wakes up and realizes she is a ghost. She embarks on a journey to find out who killed her – before he kills again. It’s gripping, Shari is a great character and all the themes that you want to find in a YA book are there.

Most people would probably call me a ghost. I am, after all, dead. But it wasn’t so long ago I was alive, you see. I was just 18. I had my whole life in front of me.”

2-    Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling

I am one of the lucky readers who grew up with Harry: I was thirteen when the first book came out and I eagerly waited for each book to be published so I could read it in the next two days, then re-read it a few time afterwards. As I got older, I came to really appreciate the amazing literary achievement that this series is.

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

3-    A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving

I clearly remember reading this book during my High School Senior Year because it had been recommended by my English teacher. And I can still tell you the story from start to finish. The plot is one of the best written I have read, with every single small part of the book being meaningful and important in the end. When I try to write today, I always ask myself: is this important in the grand scheme of things for my novel? If it’s not, I get rid of it.

“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

4-    Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl

Another great plot. It is a 700-page novel about reading, writing and teaching literature, complete with visual aids and a final test. It is incredibly clever, funny and sad. Loving to read can save lives, Marisha Pessl proves it.

“It was as if Hannah had sprung a leak and her character, usually so meticulous and contained, was spilling all over the place.”

5-    Wicked, Gregory Maguire

Another book I keep recommending to everyone, although I know it’s not the easiest read. It’s just that I LOVE it. It tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West (yes, the one from The Wizard of Oz). It’s about women empowerment, evil and good, friendship and loss, communication and miscommunication, love and hate, books and magic. It’s a Fantasy novel about us. It’s an amazing book.

“Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?”

6-    American Gods, Neil Gaiman

I have read every book by Neil Gaiman, but American Gods remains my favorite. It is a classic American novel written by an Englishman. It tackles serious themes like religion, violence, loss, freedom and love and it mixes them with humor, magic and oddities. It is a Fantasy book, so not everything in it is true, or is it?

“Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.”

7-    Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I never laughed so hard reading a book. This tale of the apocalypse, by the two literary geniuses that Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett are, is impossible to describe. There are a witch, an angel, a demon, the son of Satan who gets unexplainably lost, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and a nun. All these people work towards/against the coming End Of Days, and it’s hilarious.

“Kids! Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous. Do not attempt it in your own home.”

8-    A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin

Obviously, this Fantasy series is not yet finished, however its first book, entitled A Game of Thrones, made me rethink my way of writing Fantasy novels. As I read the following books, I grew tired of the main characters dying and of the thickening of the plot. But Daenerys Targaryen  remains one of those characters I wish I had thought of myself;

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

9-    Wither, Lauren DeStefano

Wither, which came out last year, was, on top of being an amazing read, a real eye-opener for me in terms of Young Adult writing. Yes, you can write for teenagers and still tackle very serious issues, write with a rich vocabulary and describe elaborate settings.

“And here we are: two small dying things, as the world ends around us like falling autumn leaves.”

10- Anna Dressed In Blood, Kendare Blake

Another read from last year, I bought Anna Dressed in Blood because I loved the title. And I wasn’t disappointed, as the writing is as good as the title. This Young Adult ghost story narrated by a foul-mouthed teenage boy is a great novel, on top of being remarkable for its non PG-rated writing.

“Anna, she’s like Bruce Lee, the Hulk and Neo from The Matrix all rolled in to one.”

So, what are your favorite books?

Vampire books

What’s on my bookshelf ? 1

Toward the end of the 1990’s, long before the craze about vampires that has taken hold of the Western world for the past 5 years, I started reading Vampire books. I have never stopped, and I now find myself with an entire bookcase dedicated to the genre, filled with the best and the worst of Vampire novels.

 If you’re interested in the topic of Vampires in literature, but don’t really know where to start, here is a guide of what to read first, and what to avoid at all cost. Then it is up to you to make up your own mind about these titles.

 

1-    Dracula, Bram Stoker

When diving in the huge pool of Vampire books, why not start with a classic? Dracula was written in 1897 and is still a landmark in the Vampire literature. It is an epistolary novel depicting the vampire Count Dracula in his attempt at relocating from Transylvania to England while Professor Van Helsing tries to destroy him. It is fast-paced, gothic, creepy and still attention-grabbing.

 

2-    Interview with the Vampire/The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice

Moving on from Dracula, the next landmark in Vampire literature is the work of Anne Rice. Written in 1973 (published three years later), Interview with the Vampire is the most famous of The Vampire Chronicles series. It tells the story of 200-year-old vampire Louis, as he himself recounts his life during an interview with a reporter in New Orleans. My favorite novel in the series, however, is The Vampire Lestat, written in 1985. The book tells the story of Louis’ maker, a French vampire called Lestat de Lioncourt. 560 pages long, the novel is incredibly well-written and fluid for its length, and wonderfully gripping.

 

3-    The historian, Elizabeth Kostova

A debut novel and a masterpiece. Published in 2005, the book mixed three different narratives to tell the stories of Vlad the Impaler, his fictional equivalent Dracula and a history professor looking for Vlad’s tomb. Filled with amazing descriptions of setting and rich themes, the novel also has a riveting plot and an eerie atmosphere. It refers to a long tradition of gothic/Victorian/detective/horror/historical novels as well.

In the 1990’s, Vampire novels moved on from the traditional stories centered on the vampires themselves to introduce human heroes (usually heroines) having to deal with vampires. However, since Anne Rice had proven earlier that vampires didn’t have to be the bad guys of the story, this new kind of vampire books often showed the vampires in a good light, turning them into the heroine’s love interests. Among those books, you can have a look at:

 

4-    Blood Books, Tanya Huff

A strong-willed PI investigates strange cases and comes across a 500-year-old vampire in Toronto, Canada. Together they face supernatural threats, while slowly falling for each other. What I enjoyed about this series was the vampire character, Henry Fitzroy, who is witty and just creepy enough. The books have been turned into a Lifetime TV series called Blood Ties in 2007.

 

5-    The Southern Vampire series, Charlaine Harris

As of today, the series has 12 titles and has been turned into a very successful TV show called True Blood by HBO. I have only read the first two books, as I wasn’t very fond of the main (human) character Sookie Stackhouse and of the fact that vampires are only a background to the main story. If I’m advertized vampires, I want vampires!

 

6-    Undead and Unwed, MaryJanice Davidson

A hilarious book, first in a series of 11 books (so far) published since 2004, Undead and Unwed is a sort of Sex and the City with vampires. It tells the story of a thirty-something unemployed former model who dies in a stupid accident and wakes up a vampire. From then on, it’s mostly a romance novel, with some very funny pages and an original plot. I have only ever read book 1, so I wouldn’t be able to say if the rest of the series keeps up with the witty and original quality of the first book.

After the 1990’s shift in Vampire literature, came the 2000’s landslide of teen vampire books.

 

7-    The Twilight Saga, Stephenie Meyer

Everything has probably been said and/or written on the Twilight Saga, but there is no denying that the series has put vampire literature back in the spotlight. Published between 2005 and 2008, the four books depict the love story between the human narrator, a teenage girl named Bella Swan, and a vampire called Edward Cullen. I personally waited until 2007 to read Twilight and its sequels, and I have to admit it is an easy read with a few original ideas (“sparkling” vampires and the warfare among supernatural beings). However, I was annoyed by the focus on the human girl rather than the vampires, whose characters were, to my mind, rather under-developed. I wish it had been the story of the Volturi rather than Bella’s. But that’s just me.

 

8-    The last vampire, Christopher Pike

An example of vampire books rediscovered after the success of Twilight, The last vampire (published in 1994) tells the story of a 5000-year-old vampire girl named Sita. To my mind, it is a very strange book, primarily focused on the history of India and the Hinduist religion. It reminds me of Anne Rice’s books, as Sita is a very old vampire who is depressed and trying to find a way to die.

 

 9-    The Vampire Diaries, L. J. Smith

First published in 1991, the series has found a new success after the release of Twilight. It is about a human teenage girl, Elena Gilbert, who falls in love with two vampire brothers. The books have been turned into a TV show by the CW in 2009. An easy read, The Vampire Dairies are mostly romance novels, which, you’ve by now guessed, are not my cup of tea.

 

10- The Blue Bloods series, Melissa de la Cruz

I was really hopeful when I started reading this series in 2007, but I have to say I have been disappointed. Set in Manhattan, NY, the books are about a group of teenagers belonging to the city’s oldest and most influential families, who find out on their 15th birthday they are in fact vampires. To me, the problem with this series is that it is more about the Upper East Side, its private schools, its select parties and its shallow inhabitants than about vampires. And frankly, there’s only some much clothes descriptions that I can take before feeling I’m reading an ad for Barney’s.

 

11- Jessica’s guide to dating on the dark side, Beth Fantaskey

At last, a good teenage read about vampires. Published in 2009, the book follows the adventures of an adopted high school girl who finds out on her 17th birthday that she is a vampire royalty engaged to a complete stranger. As her betrothed invades her life in a hilarious attempt at winning her heart, she tries –and fails- to continue her life as a normal teenager. It’s funny, it’s witty, the vampires are (finally!) the main characters again and Jessica is a great narrator.

 

12- The Morganville Vampires series, Rachel Caine

With 11 books published since 2006, and 4 more to come, The Morganville Vampires series is about… vampires living in the town of Morganville, Texas. As the main character, a 16-year-old university student, finds out that her housemates are not all human, she embarks on a one-way journey into the secrets of the vampire-run city. The books are short but packed with action and suspense. Claire is a great example of strong-willed heroin and the vampires are delightfully complex characters.

 

13- Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead

I’ll probably lose a few readers by writing this, but Vampire Academy was to me an absolute disappointment. Praised everywhere, I dutifully read the first book, eager to see what the fuss was all about. To this day, I have no idea. Published in 2007, the novel has an original setting (vampire teenagers trained to protect the country’s royalties in a special school) but I felt it was more about teenage hormonal changes than vampires. Predictable and annoying, I wouldn’t recommend it.

 

14- Infinite Days, Rebecca Maizel

Published in 2010, this is the first book in what will be The Vampire Queen series. I am currently impatiently waiting for the second book, as I loved the first one. It is about a 500-year-old vampire named Lenah, who is given the opportunity to be a 16-year-old human again. She has to adjust to her new life while her coven seeks to have her back as their queen. It is an incredibly original plot, the kind of story you read and wonder: why didn’t I think of that? I highly recommend it.

Moving on from teen reads, these past two year have brought vampire literature back into the adult corner of libraries. I will mention two books:

 

15- The Passage, Justin Cronin

A 900-page novel, The Passage is the first book in a trilogy. Published in 2010, it is the story of an apocalypse: after a failed experiment in 2018, the human population is decimated by a virus which creates vampire-like creatures. The remaining humans struggle to survive over the next 90 years, desperately trying to find a cure for the virus, which they will find in the shape of a 100-year-old little girl. So, as of now, I am still undecided about The Passage. There are some beautifully written pages, as well as a wonderful main character (Amy, the “little” girl). But there are also huge chunks of the book that I personally think should have been edited/deleted. 900 pages is too long to tell a story that can, in the end, be summarized on a single A4 page. The author spends dozens of pages introducing characters who then just die. He describes settings forever without ever having any action actually happening in these settings. I really loved the first 100 pages, as well as the last 100 ones, but I believe the 700 pages in the middle could have been shortened into another 100 pages, making it a nice, readable and enjoyable 300-page book. But that’s just me.

 

 16- The Radleys, Matt Haig

Unlike The Passage, The Radleys is not long, and it’s a delight to read. It is also quite innovative, as it introduces us to a family of vampires living a quiet life in an English suburb. Published in 2010, the book is a nice change from the usual vampire literature, and I loved the idea of Dracula meets Desperate Housewives.

Still on my reading pile:

–          Lost souls, Poppy Z. Brite

–          Vampire Empire, Clay & Susan Griffith

Any suggestions on vampire books I should read ?