Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Salon: The Best Books You Aren't Reading

Kelly at YAnnabe is hosting a Blog Blitz of Forgotten YA books. Coming up with the list is pretty easy-- if you're on LibraryThing, go through all the books you've rated with 5 stars that are tagged with YA or your tagging equivalent (Because I don't have a tag list, mine are tagged with "ya" "young adult" or "teen") that have less than 500 members. (For some perspective, Twilight has is in 26,220 libraries Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging is in 2,058).

Now, to clarify, I don't list everything I read in LibraryThing. I use it to catalog all the books Dan and I own. I don't own most of the books I read. But, I still have a strong list of books that you should be reading (and buying.) And I'll be honest, some of the results didn't surprise me, some made me really sad, and some were shocking.

Sadly, it appears that one of my favorite authors is not even on most people's radars. I'm talking about Jaclyn Moriarty. Almost all of her books is on this list! Most of her books are told in notes and journal entries and other "things" to piece together a narrative. In Feeling Sorry for Celia deals with what happens when Elizabeth's best friend, Celia, runs away. There are notes left of the fridge from her mom. Notes from such organizations as The Best Friend Society telling her she's a bad friend for not trying harder to find Celia. Meanwhile, she has to balance the hole Celia left with a new friend made through a school assignment... funny and poignant. You should also check out her Murder Of Bindy Mackenzie and Spell Book Of Listen Taylor. Right now my big question is do I wait patiently for her newest, The Ghosts Of Ashbury High to come out this summer, or do I break down and order it from Australia now?

Two Moons in August by Martha Brooks was my favorite book when I was a teen. I can't tell you how many times I've read it and I'm so happy it's back in print so others can discover it. Set in small town in Canada in the 1950s, Sidonie is slowly learning how to open herself up again after the death of her mother the summer before. After her mother died, her family fragmented and this summer, she tries to pull them together again. This book is the reason I own A Night in Tunisia. Also, her older sister's totally hot and cool boyfriend is Chinese and it's... not really an issue.

My Cup Runneth Over: The Life of Angelica Cookson Potts by Cherry Whytock (also, the just-as-wonderful sequels, My Scrumptious Scottish Dumplings, and My Saucy Stuffed Ravioli) Angel is a bigger girl (as in, she's got curves and her out of control body can be tamed with a decent bra and wearing clothing that works with it, but she's not fat) who lives a fabulous life in London. It's predicable British chick-lit fare, but has a few things that separate it out. Angel's family is super rich (their grocery store is HARRODS!) but Angel's fairly normal and down to earth. Not a lot of conspicuous consumption of brand names. The biggest thing in the story that's wealth dependent is that their family has a chef and Angel spends most of her time in the kitchen, learning to cook. Her parents are major characters and create a lot of the slapstick comedy. (Her mother is a former supermodel, her father a puddering older man who used to be England's most brilliant barrister.) Also, there are recipes after most of the chapters of something Angel's made or eaten. I've made a few of them, and they're pretty tasty. And, it's illustrated. And the illustrations have arrows with labels. Also, it gets props for having a gorgeous model on the cover who is closer to a size 12 than 2, much like Angel herself.

Now, I first picked up Diva without a Cause because of blog reviews. It's a book that I got from the library and loved it so much I bought it, and ordered the rest of the series from England. It's a hilarious look at working-class England and one of the most unforgettable voices I've ever read. Shiraz Baily-Woods is a proper legend and you MUST meet her.

The First Daughter series by Mitali Perkins. The first one is all about Sameera being on the campaign trail with her father, who is running for president. But when his advisers and handlers get a hold of her, packaging her into what they think the American people want, well Sameera has a few things to say about that. It has the best use of "Free Bird" in a book, EVER. And, look! A person of color on the cover with her whole head! One time, my friend Aimee came over to check on Sassy while we were away. There was a thunderstorm, so Sassy went and hid in the closet and Aimee couldn't get her out. So, Aimee figured she'd just sit down and wait. She grabbed a book off the bookshelf (this one!) to entertain herself. I came home to a note saying she had become engrossed and ended up borrowing both of them because she couldn't wait until I got home to ask and she hoped I didn't mind. (Not at all)!

Gamma Glamma by Kim Flores is a super fun book about science, makeovers, and homecoming. If Luz's science project is beyond outrageous, her teacher won't make her go to regionals, which are on the same day as homecoming. But, he likes it. So, Luz is inventing jelly beans that give you sparkling personality, as well as formulas to make your hair and nails grow in an attempt to make over her friends. But, not all of them want to be made over, and everything might explode right in her face, on national TV. Hilarious! I love a science nerd with a sense of fashion! And, you can't see her face, but I'd believe the girl on the cover is Latina.

Simon Pulse's Once Upon a Time series is a little hit or miss, but mostly it's hit. Different authors retelling different fairy tales. All of the volumes in this series appear on the list (yes, I checked the ones I don't own yet.) I've read all of them, and liked most of them, and loved many of them. Some of my favorites that you should check out? The Storyteller's Daughter by Cameron Dokey, which is Scheherazade's version of Arabian Nights and The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn, which takes on The Twelve Dancing Princesses and King Arthur.

Along those same lines, last year's Morris winner, A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce is a fantastic retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Additionally, it is a wonderful look at English life at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the problems that face a small family mill when more and more people are turning to large factories. This got a decent amount of blog buzz, so I'm pretty surprised to see that it's in so few libraries.

DC's doomed Minx line has some unloved titles that deserve a second glance--Kimmie66 by Aaron Alexovitch explores reality and death and virtual friendship, Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim shows what happens when, on Grace Kwon's 18th birthday, her 70, 30, and 6 year-old selves show up and Confessions of a Blabbermouth by Mike Carey is about high school, step-fathers, step-sisters, writing and life, from the point of view of a British teen blogger.

Really? Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller? A group of Girl Scout rejects dress up like ninjas and fight crime in New York and you haven't read it yet? There's a horde of gold, Kiki Strike might be a princess, an assassin, or a kung fu movie star, and in general this is just a most awesome book. Excellent characters, lots of action, and more mystery than there appears on the surface. Sooooooooo goooooooooooood.

Seriously guys? Both volumes of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation? I understand the idea of a sprawling epic written in authentic 18th century English about slavery and freedom in the American Revolution is complicated and scares some people away, but they're so damn good! Also, do I have to remind you that the first one won the National Book Award? And that both received Printz honors? Also, the second cover prominently displays a person of color. And while it is a book about slavery, it's a much different narrative than we usually get.

Where is the love for Justina Chen Headley? North of Beautiful is a Cybils nominee and has been all over the blogosphere for a year! And yet, it's only in 239 libraries! WTF? Girl Overboard also isn't getting the attention it deserves, and that was another one that all of us were raving about when it came out! But I really want to give my shout-out to Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies). Patty Ho is a bi-racial teen sent off to math camp. Sure, she does dorky things like math proofs for what's going on her life, and there's the Mama Lecture series, which reproduces the text of her mother's more frequent lectures. If you like her other work, you have to read this one. Also, the girl on the cover? Totally looks like she's half-Tawainese, half-white.

Also, Elizabeth Scott seems to be the blogosphere's darling, so why is EVERY ONE OF HER BOOKS on my list? If you want a good, fun romance with some meat to it, check out Perfect You or Bloom. They're so refreshing. If you want something darker that will haunt you for years after you've read it, try Living Dead Girl. I cannot wait until The Unwritten Rule comes out in April.

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Melissa Walker said...

Love your list! We have some overlap (I heart Elizabeth Scott!)

Sarah said...

Great list! I'm requesting My Cup Runneth Over from ILL right now. Series sounds fabulous!

Melissa said...

Fabulous list. I need to read more of Mitali Perkins. And, I can't believe I forgot Curse Dark as Gold; LOVED that book. I'm going to have to check out a few of the other ones, too.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I wonder why wonderful books are often overlooked.

I'm reading a so-named book from 2009: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet. Love it so far.

Megan said...

Nice list! It's great to see Feeling Sorry for Celia getting some love. Yours is one of several lists I've seen it on, including my own! I read it quite a while ago, and I've still got my lasting good impression of it. I recently read Moriarty's The Year of Secret Assignments and really enjoyed it, too, so I'll definitely be looking for the others you mentioned!

Kelly said...

I'm pretty sure Feeling Sorry for Celia will feature high in the wrap-up list tomorrow...just tallying the last few lists now!

I loved Celia, as well as A Curse Dark As Gold. Loved this gave some great recommendations for future reads. :)

Anastasia @ Here There Be Books said...

Diva without a Cause sounds cute! Also, I LOVED Kiki Strike; definitely with you in the it-needs-more-love department.

Fyrefly said...

I've read both volumes of Octavian Nothing, but they didn't really do much for me... I didn't connect to the narrator at all. On the other hand, Curse Dark as Gold looks wonderful - I'm always on the lookout for a good fairytale retelling.

Paige Y. said...

Excellent List -- I read Perfect You last month and will be booktalking it. I need to read the Mitali Perkins series -- I have it in my library but haven't read it yet.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

I HAVE to read some Elizabeth Scott! I keep meaning to.

My Cup Runneth Over is on my list, too! And Feeling Sorry For Celia should have been...

Katie said...

I put three on hold at the library -- "Gamma Glamma," "The First Daughter," and "Feeling Sorry for Celia." Can't wait until they get here.

Grow up please said...

Can I add your cool blog to my list of blogs? Check mine out!