Jim's Top 15 Books Reviewed in the Last 5 Years
I was planning on celebrating 5 years of writing for the Bookbag by doing a top ten of my favourite books I've reviewed for the site, but did anyone REALLY think I'd cut it down to ten? After much heartache (and helped by the fact that there've been several of my favourites in that time period which other people have reviewed for the site, like Love in Revolution by B R Collins, which Jill reviewed, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which Linda reviewed, and Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo and K G Campbell, which Tanja reviewed) I finally managed to pin it down to fifteen! I've gone for as wide a range as possible.
The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson series, starting with A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis which Linda reviewed for the Bookbag - somehow the only one I've reviewed for the site is A Reckless Magick by Stephanie Burgis. This is without a doubt my favourite children's trilogy for a long, long time, and has perhaps my favourite ever heroine. Loyal, clever, and altogether wonderful, twelve-year-old witch Kat is a truly brilliant creation, while Burgis brings Regency England to life superbly. I am so staggeringly excited by the thought of reading about her as an eighteen-year-old next week when Courting Magic is released that I could explode. (But will try not to, at least before reading!)
The Pea’s Book series, starting with Pea's Book of Best Friends by Susie Day – I've reviewed the first three for the site; my review of the fourth hasn't made it up yet because it's close to completely incomprehensible, semi-coherent, gushing about how gorgeous this series is. Fresh and timeless at the same moment, somehow, this is an outstanding quartet and I can't wait for the upcoming spin-off series.
Bone Jack by Sara Crowe – I've spent much of my life waiting for a book or series which I love as much as The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. Sara Crowe's debut is equal to it. A stunning portrayal of a shell-shocked father, a village reeling from foot and mouth, and the old legend which is recurring, this is one of the finest examples of UKYA of recent years.
The Faith series, starting with Have a Little Faith by Candy Harper – Everyone knows how much I love these. I've given away over a dozen copies of the first to blogging friends because I want everyone to have the chance to experience one of my favourite books for themselves. It's warm, funny, and a brilliant book to reread – as wonderful fourth time around as it is first time around. Sequel Keep The Faith is equally superb.
The Micah Grey series, starting with Pantomime by Laura Lam. I don't actually read all that much teen fantasy but when I find a series I love it can draw me in more so than perhaps any other genre. Protagonist Micah is stunningly written, the supporting characters are outstanding, and the romance is beautifully handled. Add in really sensitive handling of LGBTQ issues and this is breathtaking.
The Department 19 series, starting with Department 19 by Will Hill (which Jill reviewed); I've reviewed the other three. Latest, and best of all, is Department 19: Zero Hour by Will Hill. Will Hill's update of the Dracula tale – casting Dracula as the lead villain, Frankenstein's Monster as one of the heroes, and the descendants of the men who originally stopped Dracula as the people running the secretive Department 19 to protect the UK from supernatural threats – is truly epic. So many amazing characters, and Hill switches between them superbly.
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson – I love road trip books and I love books with music involved heavily. Matson's writing is stunning and the scrapbook format this takes is awesome, with her second and third books being nearly as wonderful.
The Brookfield/Ashbury quartet – of which the only one I've actually reviewed is the final one, Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty – is completely different to anything I've ever read. Thrillingly imaginative and told from multiple viewpoints via exam answer, blog entries, contents of a Scholarship File, a PC responding to an assignment, notes from mysterious societies… no-one writes like Moriarty does. Sensationally good.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson – Gorgeous setting, wonderful characters, lyrical prose. And it's so beautifully put together with the pictures of the poems that it's probably the most perfect book I own. Outstanding.
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales - Emotional, sometimes brutal, but ultimately hopeful, and a great story of friendship and recovery from tough times. Utterly superb.
Far From You by Tess Sharpe - This one absolutely destroyed me, with one of my favourite ever relationships, sizzling chemistry, and a great narrator.
The Dagger and The Coin series, starting with The Dagger and Coin: The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham – epic fantasy at its absolute finest, with some of my favourite ever character arcs and an incredible plot.
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald – Slightly weird in that I reviewed it after reading for the eighth or ninth time, but it seemed wrong that The Bookbag didn't have a review of an all-time classic! Pretty much the perfect novel.
People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan's Shadows by Richard Parry – This deeply moving account of the tragic death of Lucie Blackman is an upsetting, but hugely worthwhile, read, in which Richard Lloyd Parry studies Japanese society while also keeping in close contact with Lucie's family and finding out more about her, portraying them all with great sympathy despite the acrimony between them.
Telling Lies for Fun and Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block – Required reading for anyone who wants to be an author; entertaining enough for anyone who just wants a good read. Everything Block writes is so fantastic that it's brilliant to take lessons from a true master of the craft here