Novel Teen Book Review’s Top Ten Books of 2009

Since I review books over at Novel Teen Book Reviews (, I thought I’d post this list to give you some ideas for gift buying.

PS. Like my snow? Isn’t it awesome? I love, love, love Christmas!

Always Watching (Rayne Tour, book 1) by Brandilyn and Amberly Collins
(Great for girls who love mystery and suspense.)

As her mother’s concert wraps up, Shaley O’Connor gathers her things backstage to head off to the airport to pick up her best friend. Shaley is so excited that Brittany’s mother granted her permission to come on the tour for a few days. As fun as the band and crew are to hang out with, Shaley misses her home and friends. Brittany’s visit will be just the thing she needs.

But before Shaely makes it to the limo, she stumbles upon the dead body of her friend Tom. Everything falls apart. Shaley struggles to understand secrets she never knew about Tom while the paparazzi watches her every move, hoping to snap a picture of the mourning teen. Brittany’s mom threatens to send her home, and Shaley gets a few mysterious, anonymous gifts.

If the killer is a member of the band or crew, he’s still out there, and, as the messages in Shaley’s gifts say, he’s always watching.

Brandilyn Collins is a master of the murder mystery. She crafts a story that makes it nearly impossible to guess who the murderer might be. How exciting to have her storytelling in the young adult genre. Brandilyn and her daughter cowrite this series and create a smart and realistic character in Shaley. I’m looking forward to Rayne Tour, book 2 to discover more about Shaley and her past. Recommended.

If you’re thinking about this book as a gift, be sure to get book two, Last Breath. Click on the title for Novel Teen’s review.

Age Range: 12-16
Genre: Suspense
Part of a Series: Rayne Tour, book 1
Pages: 215
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: 2009
4 Stars

North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
(Fantasy adventure. Great for boys, girls, and adults, too.)

This story starts out where the first book left off: in Peet the Sock Man’s tree house. Janner, Tink, Leeli, Podo, and Nia are about to set off for the Ice Prairies, but they don’t get going soon enough and end up on the run from the Fangs of Dang. It’s a long, long journey to the Ice Prairies, and the Igby children are waylaid by some pretty horrifying setbacks. Will all in their party survive the trip? Will they get caught before they make it?

Oh, I likes me this book a way bunch! It makes me wanna talk like Podo, which I probably don’t do as well as the old coot, but still I give it me best shot.

I liked this one better than the first, which is such a great thing. The characters were even better this time. I love the parallels with Janner and Peet. Two Throne Wardens struggling to do what they must even when it is nearly impossible. Andrew Peterson’s style is funny and clever while telling a dangerous tale of woe. That’s what makes his writing so unique. He’s a wonderful writer and storyteller. I highly recommend this series. I cannot wait for book three. And I love the illustrations in the book. The Snickbuzzard with the belly button, especially.

If you’re thinking about this book as a gift, be sure to get book one to go with it. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson came out last year and is fabulous. Click on the title for my review.

Age Range: 8-12
Genre: Fantasy
Part of a Series: book two in The Wingfeather Saga
Pages: 323
Publisher: Waterbrook
Released: 2009
5 Stars

Touched by a Vampire by Beth Felker Jones
(A non fiction book for Christian fans of Twilight.)

As half the world has read the Twilight Saga, including myself, I was very excited to find a book that talks about some of the stuff that makes Twilight so appealing and why. If you love God and the Twilight Saga, I encourage you to pick up this book. Read it yourself. Do a little book club with your friends. Ask your youth pastor to do a group at church. Or ask your mom to read it with you. When something becomes as popular as Twilight, it’s a good idea to step back and ask yourself why. You want to be able to think for yourself and know what you like or dislike about it and not just follow mob mentality on the issues.

Beth Felker Jones explains in this book why Twilight hooks girls so desperately. She talks about love, sex, marriage, purpose, family, and desire in relationship to Twilight and the Bible in a way that gets you thinking about what God has to say on these subjects. Many Christians have applauded this series for the premarital abstinence between Bella and Edward. But does Twilight’s redemptive qualities outshine its darkness? This book is written for fans, parents, teachers, and youth workers. Use this book to take a closer look inside Twilight and see what you find.

Age Range: 12 and up
Genre: Non Fiction
Part of a Series: No
Pages: 180
Publisher: Multnomah
Released: 2009
5 Stars

The Firstborn by Conlan Brown
(Action adventure. Great for boys and dads. Compare it to: Clive Cussler, James Bond)

The Firstborn starts out with a rescue mission. Devin Bathurst is having visions of a kidnapped woman. He uses this sight to try and rescue her before she is killed. The scenes volley back and forth between Devin, the woman, and the kidnappers. Then we discover that the woman, Hannah, has a similar gift. She can see where a man has been, his past deeds. This leads us to the clever premise of the Firstborn, descendants of those who were raised from the dead when Christ died on the cross. The Firstborn fall into three orders: Prima, Ora, and Domani. Those that can see the past, present, and future.

But the Firstborn has grown paranoid over the years, each order fearing the other, and one man is trying to take over. Can Devin manage to follow God’s will or his own to fight against what lies ahead?

I thought this premise was brilliant. It’s like, what if there were Christian mobsters? How would they act? What choices might they make? The story is fast-paced, action-packed, and gripping. The writing style was a bit jolting at first. Brown uses sentence fragments a lot and jumps from one point of view to another. But once it got going, I was hooked. I really liked Brown’s characters, especially the play between Devin and John. If you’re looking for a new suspense read, look no further. I’m excited to see what Conlan Brown comes up with next.

Age Range: 16 and up
Genre: Suspense
Part of a Series: I hope so!
Pages: 311
Publisher: Realms (A Strang Company)
Released: 2009
4 Stars

Me, Just Different by Stephanie Morrill
(A contemporary book for girls. Compare it to: Meg Cabot, Sarah Dessen.)

When Eli rescues eighteen-year-old Skylar from a bad situation at a summer party, she is so relieved that she agrees to start dating him. But she is also making some life changes. No more parties, and she’s going to start going to church. But her friends and family aren’t making that an easy thing to do. Eli is always jealous and won’t come to church with her, her little sister has a secret that Skylar is forced to keep, and her parents’ marriage is falling apart. The last thing she needs is for Connor, the guy down the street, to start butting his nose in where it doesn’t belong.

This was an engrossing read. Stephanie Morrill writes a story as addicting as any TV teen drama. I got sucked into Skylar’s circle of friends, with all their issues and cattiness, and was rooting for Skylar to ditch the wrong people and stick with the right ones. I loved how the whole story came together. It’s a sweet teen romance that doesn’t skimp on the backstabbing girlfriends and clueless boys. I liked it a great deal. Looking forward to the next book in the series. Highly recommended.

Age Range: 14 and up
Genre: Contemporary
Part of a Series: The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt, book one
Pages: 245
Publisher: Revell (a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Released: 2009
4.5 Stars

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson
(Fantasy adventure for boys, girls, and adults. Compare to Eragon, Lord of the Rings.)

This book really surprised me. I am a person who loves to read. I read everything I can get my hands on. From romance to science fiction, there really isn’t a book I won’t pick up. So I think I know a good book when I read one, and this is a good book. From the first chapter I was interested and entertained, and the end was fabulous! Now there are times when most avid readers find themselves becoming bored, and feeling the need to skim some of the slower parts. I find myself doing this at least a handful of times per book. In this book though, I wasn’t bored. The story really kept me entertained all the way through, and that is a rarity indeed.
I think this author is going to be huge one day. I can see movies in her future. Hey, if Twilight can be a movie, so can By Darkness Hid. So I look forward to her next book with anticipation, and want to commend her for a truly wonderful first work of fiction!

Age Range: 12 and up
Genre: Fantasy
Part of a Series: Book one in the Blood of Kings series
Pages: 480
Publisher: Marcher Lord Press
Released: 2009
5 Stars

Blaggard’s Moon by George Bryan Polivka
(A pirate fantasy adventure. Great for older boys, girls, and adults who love pirate stories.)

The story opens with a man named Delaney sitting on a post in the middle of a jungle lake that is infested with piranah and horrible mermonkeys. As Delaney ponders how he came to be in such a predicament, the reader drifts with his memory and into a wonderful adventure. We come to know the story of a girl named Jenta who was low born but brought up as a lady. We learn of a young man named Damrick who stands up to defend the common folk from pirates by forming the Hell’s Gatemen. As Damrick and his men take to the seas, we meet many pirates such as Sharkbit Sutter, Conch Imbry, Dancer Clang, Skeel Baris, and Belisar the Whale. All of these ingreedients combine to form a very interesting and extremely entertaining adventure.

This book was engaging. It took a few chapters to get me into the author’s style, though. It was interesting to experience a story through one man’s memory of another man’s tale, but it worked very well with this pirate novel. Polivka’s characters were dynamic. I could see them and hear them. I could relate to how they got to where they were in life and why they did the things they did. I really liked one of the themes of how the love and encouragement and prayer of one person can change another’s life. I’ll be thinking of this one for a while.

This book not only had wonderful characters, the plot was smart and I couldn’t guess how the author was going to pull all his story threads together. That in itself makes it so satisfying in the end, though it’s not the happiest of tales. I highly recommend this one to just about everyone.

Age Range: 16 and up
Genre: Fantasy
Part of a Series: no
Pages: 373
Publisher: Harvest House
Released: 2009
5 Stars

So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones
(A hysterical contemporary story of girls.)

Bella Kirkwood’s mother is getting remarried, whether Bella likes it or not. But that’s not the worst thing that could happen to this Manhattan girl. Bella’s new stepfather lives in Truman, Oklahoma, and, since Bella’s dad is going through a selfish phase, she has no choice to move from her fast-paced uptown life to Cow Town, USA.

Bella start out okay, but a harsh venting session about small town life on her old Ask Miss Hillard blog gets the wrong kind of attention: the Truman kind. She quickly becomes a social outcast in Truman and must start over if she is going to survive at all. She joins the school paper. While sitting in a dumpster on the lowest assignment ever, she overhears something more rotten than the banana peel stuck to her arm: a real story!

This could be Bella’s chance to move from social outcast to acceptable human being. She chases the story of a lifetime, despite the fact that her super hot—but extremely bossy and annoying—editor tells her it’s too dangerous. But as usual, Bella gets more than she bargained for.

Having absolutely loved the Katie Parker books, I was not at all surprised that Jenny B. Jones’ new series would have me laughing out loud. Jones has a knack for wonderfully sarcastic characters and books you can’t put down. Her characters are true to life in the best ways. I highly recommend this new series and am anxiously awaiting Bella’s next adventure.

If you’re thinking about this book as a gift, be sure to get book two, also, which is just as hysterical. I’m So Sure by Jenny B. Jones came out just a few months ago and is hysterical. Click on the title for Novel Teen’s review.

Age Range: 12-16
Genre: Contemporary
Part of a Series: A Charmed Life, book one
Pages: 326
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: 2009
5 Stars

City of the Dead by T. L. Higley
(An awesome historical mystery. Great for older boys, girls, and adults who love books that read like movies.)
Hemiunu, architect for the Great Pyramid of Giza, struggles to stay on schedule and in the good graces of his cousin, Pharaoh of Egypt. When a sadistic killer is taking the lives of Hemiunu’s closest friends, he does all he can to discover who the killer is and to keep a dark secret from coming to light.

Wish I’d read this one a long time ago! What a great story. T.L. Higley completely sucked me into ancient Egypt and her character Hemiunu. He was a deep and interesting character to follow. I liked how she wrote her book in his first person point of view. It made it easy to connect with him.

The storyworld was intriguing as was the relationships she built between the royal members of Pharaoh’s court. Murder, love, betrayal. My heart ached for these people as they lived in their strange belief system and I love where she went with it. Plus, it was a good who-done-it. Another book I couldn’t put down. I am glad there are seven wonders of the ancient world and hope I get to read every book in this series.

Age Range: 16 and up
Genre: Historical Fiction
Part of a Series: A Seventh Wonders Novel
Pages: 380
Publisher: B&H Books
Released: 2009
5 Stars

Taking Tuscany by Renée Riva
(A 1970s coming-of-age book that will make you laugh out loud. Compare to Anne of Green Gables.)

A few years have gone by since Saving Sailor. A few tortuous years where poor A.J. Degulio has been forced to live in Tuscany, a half a world away from her beloved dog, Sailor, her friend Danny, and the beauty of Indian Island, Idaho. Sigh! Sure, one might think that living in Italy would be wonderful. Not A.J. In Italy, she is a blond, Yankee Barbie doll, the punch line of every joke at school. To make matters worse, her family is crazy, as usual.

Love, love, love Renée Riva. It’s rare that a book makes me laugh out loud. During this one, my husband kept shooting me weird looks, wondering if I was loosing my mind. Nope. Just reading Taking Tuscany and loving it! The whole time I’m reading it, I’m dying that I don’t have Heading Home waiting on my bedside table. Ug! Renée, please don’t make us wait too long for book three. I need to read the real-life-fiction version of Moon over Milan.

If you’re thinking about this book as a gift, be sure to get book one, Saving Sailor. Click on the title for Novel Teen’s review.

Age Range: 12 and up
Genre: Historical fiction
Part of a Series: Sequel to Saving Sailor
Pages: 266
Publisher: David C. Cook
Released: 2009
5 Stars

2 Responses to “Novel Teen Book Review’s Top Ten Books of 2009”

  1. Anonymous says:

    thanks Jill for helping me pick out the best book(always watching).

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