My Favorite Reads of 2009: In Which I Am Most Verbose

I was going to wait to post this list until the last week of December, but a) I am impatient and b) I thought maybe some of you with last minute gift buying to do might like some suggestions. A few things to note–some of the books on this list weren’t released in 2009. I’m going with what I read this year, some of which wasn’t new. Also, I totally cheated, and if I read a series, I included all books in the series as one. So really this is more than ten. I am clearly not to be trusted.

Here, then, in order of how insatiably I devoured them, are my most delicious reads of 2009. I am fairly sure I kept this spoiler-free, so it should be safe for those of you who haven’t read the books in question yet.

Number 10: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. If you have never read any Sarah Addison Allen, you MUST. Her first novel, Garden Spells is one of my favorite books ever–and everyone I’ve loaned it to has declared it delicious. In fact, I think I’ll write a review of it some time because it is so delicious. But I didn’t read it THIS year, so it can’t make this year’s top 10. But The Sugar Queen was almost as delicious. First, the synopsis:

Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey’s narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them—and who has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

I loved so many things about this story. I love books where the heroine is not conventionally gorgeous but there is someone who finds her totally hot anyway. Because real life is like that, you know? Real women are hot, whether they are a size 0 or not. I love the quirky little mystical touches–the books that follow Chloe around insisting that she read them, the eggs frying in their cartons during a moment of passion. I love the blossoming friendship between two really sweet women, and the secret little twist I should have figured out but totally didn’t. Also, not YA! See, I do occasionally read books that were written for adults.

Number 9: Chalice by Robin McKinley. Beautiful writing, magical happenings, and bees! My complete review is here.

Number 8: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. I STILL don’t quite understand why I loved this book so much. My review is here. Also, have you ever seen such an awesome cover? I want to hang a framed copy on my wall.

Number 7: Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers series, books 1 and 2–The Summoning and The Awakening.

Product description for The Summoning:

My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again. All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don’t even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost — and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won’t leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a “special home” for troubled teens. Yet the home isn’t what it seems. Don’t tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? It’s up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House . . . before its skeletons come back to haunt me.

It took me a little while to get in to The Summoning, and when I finished it and returned it to the library I thought, hmm, that was all right. But then . . . I don’t know, somehow it got under my skin. So I got the second one, and THAT one I totally couldn’t put down. The characters really come in to their own in The Awakening, and it becomes clear how The Summoning was setting the stage for the things that follow. NOW I am willing to be Sarah Rees Brennan’s murder accomplice to read The Reckoning.

Number 6: Rampant by Diana Peterfreund. Killer Unicorns. Seriously. I pretty much covered my love for it  here.

Number 5: The Fever books by Karen Marie Moning–Darkfever, Bloodfever, Faefever, and Dreamfever. As Moning’s website explains, “The Fever books are dark, gritty, first-person mystery / suspense / thrillers with a healthy dose of eroticism, set in an urban fantasy world in Dublin, Ireland featuring sidhe seer MacKayla Lane.”

These books were definitely written for adults. And let me tell you, they are HOT. Not because there’s lots of sex, but because there’s lots of WANTING to have sex. Seriously, I felt like I needed a fan pointed at me when I was reading these. Gritty urban fantasy is not often my thing–I tend to prefer more mythic things, or things with a lot of humor to break up the tension, or things with a tender love story to add pathos. There is no tender love story, there isn’t much humor, and there is much grit. Also, the guy our  heroine really wants to hook up with is a creep. Or at least he seems to be. Is there more to him than that? Or do I just want there to be? I have no idea, because there’s still one more book left in the series and I don’t even know when it comes out and I am going CRAZY with the waiting over here. Did I mention they are hot? Phew.

Number 4: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. As far as writing goes, I’m pretty sure this was the best book I read in 2009. The prose was so beautiful. Even if YA or Fantasy/Horror isn’t your thing, you should try this book. You all know how I feel about happy in my books, and this book is definitely lacking in the happy, but I loved it anyway. That should tell you how good it is. (I wrote a full review of this book here, if you want to read more).

Number 3: The Twilight Saga. I don’t think, at this point, I need to post a synopsis do I? To explain how I love the series, I have to tell you a story.

I didn’t want to read them. A friend of mine (who has asked to remain anonymous) had read them and asked me to please just read Twilight, and tell her if she was crazy for enjoying it so much. I rolled my eyes and said “Fine, but you have to know how much I love you that I’m doing this for you.” One day I was feeling tired and grouchy, and had nothing else to read, so I surrendered and sat down with Twilight. And I was hooked.

And here’s the thing. Reading the Twilight Saga flipped some kind of internal switch for me, because after I read it,  some things I’d been struggling with became perfectly clear. When I started reading Twilight, I was right on the verge of committing to a demanding, intense vocational path because I thought it was The Right Thing To Do. My obsessive joy in reading Twilight stopped me in my tracks. I was reminded with almost painful intensity that what I love most of all is stories–reading them AND writing them. But I kept telling myself  that the kinds of stories I wanted to write weren’t important enough, that there were no guarantees I’d ever earn money from writing, so I couldn’t make writing a priority. It took silly YA vampire romance novels for me to see that if stories are the thing I can’t live without, then I have no business trying to commit to something else. It’s like marrying the guy you don’t really love because your family likes him (I almost did that too–and I think it was a book that saved me from that mistake as well.)

And maybe therein lies the answer to why I liked the novels so much. They are–at least in part–about finding something you want so much you’d risk your life to have it. They’re about the seemingly impossible becoming possible, about knowing what you can’t live without. That’s powerful stuff.

Number 2: The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. The synopsis:

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick’s mother stole — a charm that keeps her alive — and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon’s mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase…and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is des-perate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians’ Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

This is the Demon’s Lexicon. Turn the page.

I’ve talked more than once about  how much I love this book. It was tough to rank my top three, because I love them all so so much. This one was almost number one. Funny, because it took me a little while to allow myself to love it as much as I did. When I first read it I was thinking . . . “Why can’t I put this down? This guy is kind of a creep. I really don’t like him. But he’s funny. And . . . well . . . I can’t deny that he’s hot. He’s a jerk, but he’s hot. And . . . nailbiting excitement! And good dialogue. And interesting plot twists. Can’t . . . stop . . . reading . . .” And then I gave the book back to writing buddy Laura . . . and couldn’t stop thinking about it. About how clever it was, how much I liked the dialogue and the relationships between the characters. I finally had to go buy it myself and read it again and see if it was as good when I knew the big secret. I think maybe it was even better the second time, possibly because I wasn’t biting my nails because of the stress and the “dude what’s gonna happen NOW?” thing. Delicious.

And Number 1, which will come as no surprise to those of you who read yesterday’s post, is The Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare. Here’s a synopsis of all three books:

In City of Bones, fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world. And she’s introduced with a vengeance, when Clary’s mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque monster sent by the evil and powerful Shadowhunter, Valentine. How could a mere human survive such an attack.

In the second novel, City of Ashes, Clary just wants her life to go back to normal–but that turns out to be impossible. For one thing, her mother is still in the hospital, in a mysterious coma. For another, she and her newfound brother Jace have fallen under a cloud of suspicion now that the Shadowhunter world knows that Valentine is still alive–and that Jace and Clary are his son and daughter. Then Clary’s best friend Simon is turned into a vampire and kidnapped by Valentine, who intends to sacrifice him as part of a bloody ritual that will make the Mortal Instruments Valentine’s forever.

In book three, City of Glass, Clary has to use all her ingenuity and newfound magical skills to get herself to the Glass City in Idris, the secretive Shadowhunters’ home country, where she is forbidden to go–for it is only there that she can find the cure to the enchanted sleeping sickness to which her mother has succumbed. When Valentine attacks the city and destroys the demon towers, Clary and her allies are all that stand between him and the total annihilation of all Shadowhunters. Love is a mortal sin and the past tangles inextricably with the present as Clary and Jace face down their father in the final installment of the Mortal Instruments series.

And trust me, if you’re going to start reading them, you want to just buy all three. Please to learn from my painful example. I had a pile of books I wanted to sell, so I went to the Powell’s books on Burnside in Portland. I sold my books, and then went browsing in the Young Adult section because I didn’t know what I wanted to read. I saw City of Bones and remembered reading about it on someone’s blog and being mildly curious. I grabbed a copy and took it to the coffee shop to read a bit of it, and decided it was  worth bringing home. And since the store had used copies, I bought City of Ashes as well. City of Glass had JUST come out in hardcover and I figured, “I don’t know that I’m going to like these enough to pay full price for the hardcover, so I’ll wait.”

Huge mistake.

I read City of Bones in one day. And when that plot twist came? The one that plays heartlessly with your emotions? I wailed. Writing Buddy Laura and Ms. Mouse (not her real name) came to visit, and I practically threw a tantrum as I said things like “That CAN’T be true” and “How could she DO this to me?”  Hey, I never claimed to be rational when it comes to books. Fortunately, they are both readers and didn’t attempt to stage an intervention or have me committed. They just asked if they could borrow the books when I was done with them.

So I read City of Ashes the next day, and the second I finished it I was hysterical with my need to read City of Glass (see not rational, above). So I drove an hour to a different Powell’s, bought City of Glass, brought it home and started reading it immediately. The hubster came home from work and came to my room. I gave him a sideways hug, and without looking up from the book, I said “Sorry, can’t talk, reading.”

He knew I wasn’t going to make him dinner that night, and went to make himself some eggs.

I can’t even explain how I love these books without sounding like a complete idiot, and also giving huge spoilers. Let’s just say the books have everything–demons, angels, vampires, faeries, werewolves, witches and warlocks, hot warriors with black rune marks on their skin, forbidden love, prophetic dreams  . . . and Magnus Bane, who is the awesomest leather-pants-and-glitter wearing, smart talking, hair-gel-using, cat-eyed gay warlock ever. Love me some Magnus Bane.

Also there is Jace. But if I tell you about his awesomeness I will have to spoil many things for you, so I will say no more. Except–read them. Read them right now, and then thank me for telling you about them. That is all.

So there you have it–my top ten of 2009. What are yours?

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3 thoughts on “My Favorite Reads of 2009: In Which I Am Most Verbose

  1. Okay, I don’t have a list per say, but have you read the Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier? They are amazing! You should try them.

    Also, the Fever series and the Mortal Instruments! Love them too! Excellent choices.

    1. I haven’t read the Sevenwaters Trilogy, though I’ve heard it mentioned more than once. Might have to give it a try. I read Wildwood Dancing by Marillier and I thought it was pretty good!

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