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Smugglivus Day 24 – Guest Blogger: Rhiannon Hart

Welcome to Smugglivus 2009 – Day 24!

Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2009, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2010.

Today’s Guest: Rhiannon Hart, blogger of Young Adult and Speculative Fiction, especially of the dystopian/apocalyptic and fantasy variety. Rhiannon’s awesome blog is one that we discovered this year and it has quickly become one of our very favorite go-to sites for book recommendations. Rhiannon also happens to be an aspiring author of YA fantasy, with her first novel, Lharmell on submission, circulating about Editors’ desks at numerous publishing houses thanks to her awesome new literary agent.

Please give it up for Rhiannon, and her top reads of 2009!


For me, 2009 has been a very good year for books. I went back to Narnia, as I like to put it. Or, rediscovered the joys of YA fiction. I picked Writing for Young Adults as my final unit for my diploma and started haunting the teen section at my library again. It started with a few Carolyn Macklers and a bit of Lisa McMann … and then I discovered The Hunger Games and it was like fireworks went off in my brain. Something had been missing from my reading, and by golly I wanted it back: the fun, the adventure, the endless possibilities that come with being on the cusp of adulthood.

Two books of 2009 that I can’t stop raving about (and they need little introduction on the Smugglers or anywhere else for that matter) are Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins and The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness. Both second-in-a-trilogy books, they have set the bar high for the slew of dystopian titles we’re going to see in 2010.

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…”The Ask and the Answer” is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy.

Something happened to monsters in 2009. They were declawed, defanged. Zombies no longer wanted your brains, they wanted to be your boyfriend. In short, the world went mad! Luckily, one or two authors remembered that we need something that represents our greatest fears, the snappy, monstrous monsters who forge heroes and heroines and need some serious butt-kicking. One man who can pen a tale that could curl the toes of any Victorian horror novelist is Rick Yancey.

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for more than forty years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me…and the one who cursed me.

So begins the journal of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.

With the YA paranormal romance explosion still blasting delicious angst and endless love triangles all over the place, publishers are mining their backlists and re-releasing some old favourites. LJ Smith was my goddess in high school so I was thrilled to see a resurgence of interest in her books due to The Vampire Diaries TV series. One of my favourites is The Dark Visions trilogy. It’s the creepiest of her series and one that I hope captures the interest of a whole new generation of teens.

Kaitlyn Fairchild has always felt like an outsider in her small hometown. Her haunting eyes and prophetic drawings have earned her a reputation as a witch. But Kait’s not a witch: She’s a psychic. Tired of being shunned, Kait accepts an invitation to attend the Zetes Institute, where she can have a fresh start and study with other psychic teens.

Learning to hone her abilities with four other gifted students, Kait discovers the intensity of her power — and the joy of having true friends. But those friendships quickly become complicated when Kait finds herself torn between two irresistible guys. Rob is kind and athletic, and heals people with his good energy. Gabriel is aggressive and mysterious, a telepath concealing his true nature as a psychic vampire, feeding off of others’ life energy. Together, Rob and Gabriel’s opposing forces threaten the group’s stability.

Then one of the experiments traps the five teens in a psychic link. A link that threatens their sanity and their lives. And Kaitlyn must decide whom to trust…and whom to love.

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst was pure bliss. Paranormal romance at its best.

When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth. Now that Cassie is older, she knows the story was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, is determined to become a scientist, and has no time for make-believe.

Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face-to-face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned at the ends of the earth. And he can bring her back — if Cassie will agree to be his bride.

That is the beginning of Cassie’s own real-life fairy tale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knows will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her — until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice.

The best film of 2009 was undoubtedly District 9. Wikus Van De Merwe was one of the most unlikely heroes: nerdy, ignorant and despicable. His transformation (physically and emotionally) was astonishing to watch. This film also looks amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it.

An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology.

Now for 2010!

What a year it’s going to be. Not only will The Hunger Games trilogy and Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking books conclude with Collin’s as yet untitled third book (September) and Monsters of Men (May UK/Australia, September US), there are dozens of titles forthcoming for YA speculative fiction fans. Especially dystopian titles. In 2010, bleak is the new black.

Inside Out, Maria V. Snyder (April)

I’m Trella. I’m a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I’ve got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? Not like it’s all that dangerous – the only neck I risk is my own. Until I accidently start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution. I should have just said no…

The Line, Teri Hall (March)

An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It’s said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

Birthmarked, Caragh M. O’Brien (March)

After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.

Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, BIRTHMARKED explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where one girl can make all the difference, and a real hero makes her own moral code.

Restoring Harmony, Joëlle Anthony (May)

The year is 2041, and Molly McClure was only six when the Collapse of ’31 happened, ending life as the world’s population knew it. When she is forced to leave the comfort of her small B.C. island to travel down to Oregon, Molly discovers how hard the Collapse has been on the rest of the world. What starts out as a quick trip to the U.S. to convince her grandfather to return to Canada and be the island’s doctor, becomes a rescue mission. How much will she have to compromise to succeed in getting back home?

The Strange Power, LJ Smith (April)

A decade after books 1–9 of the Night World series were released, the final title is almost here. I am still weeping over the fact that the original cover has been scrapped in favour of this insipid one. If it’s not outrageously tacky, it’s just not Smith in my opinion.

Spells, Aprilynne Pike (May)

Six months have passed since Laurel saved the gateway to the faerie realm of Avalon. Now she must spend her summer there, honing her skills as a Fall faerie. But her human family and friends are still in mortal danger–and the gateway to Avalon is more compromised than ever.

When it comes time to protect those she loves, will she depend on David, her human boyfriend, for help? Or will she turn to Tamani, the electrifying faerie with whom her connection is undeniable?

Return to Labyrinth volume four, Jake T Forbes (August)

The concluding volume of Return to Labyrinth! Is Jareth good or evil? Is Toby about to embark on an incestuous relationship with Moppet? Will Jareth and Sarah ever frigging kiss?! I’ve been waiting more than two decades for this kiss. It better happen or I may just do myself (and the author) a mischief.

Jekel Loves Hyde, Beth Fantaskey (May)

Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents’ rules – especially the one about never opening the mysterious, old box in her father’s office. But when her dad is murdered, and her college savings disappear, she’s tempted to peek inside, as the contents might be key to a lucrative chemistry scholarship.

To better her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize, but to save Tristen’s sanity. Maybe his life. But Jill’s accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and compels her to risk everything – even Tristen’s love – just for the thrill of being… bad.

The Sending, Isobelle Carmody (February? July? The Australian release date is still in the rumour mill.)

The conclusion to the Obernewtyn series, more than 20 years after book one was released. In the US it will be broken into two novels, The Sending and The Red Queen (July).

Finally, a couple of book-to-film adaptations I just can’t wait for.

The Road (January in Australia)

Tomorrow, When the War Began (TBA)

“Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.”

World War Z (TBA/rumoured)


Thanks Rhiannon!

Next on Smugglivus: Angie of Angieville

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  • Danielle
    December 24, 2009 at 12:13 am

    I’m going to agree with everything EXCEPT Dark Visions. L.J. Smith doesn’t seem to do it for me.

    Great post, Rhiannon!

  • Dee
    December 24, 2009 at 7:31 am

    I’ve heard mixed reviews on L.J Smith. The first book in Aprilynne Pike’s series is on my TBR list. Great post!

  • katiebabs
    December 24, 2009 at 9:33 am

    OMG my inner tween just did a dance. A Labyrinth graphic novel!??!

  • Kris
    December 24, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    OMG! I’m in dystopian fic heaven and I can’t believe I missed the fact that Tomorrow was being adapted to film! I got the entire series for Xmas and am happy dancing like crazy at the moment. YAY! :mrgreen:

  • RKCharron
    December 25, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Hi Rhiannon 🙂
    Thank you for the excellent post here today.
    Merry Christmas!

  • The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Smugglivus Day 24 – Guest … - Obernewtyn Isobelle Carmody books - Obernewtyn
    December 25, 2009 at 8:46 am

    […] See the rest here: The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Smugglivus Day 24 – Guest … […]

  • Rhiannon Hart
    December 25, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Danielle & Dee–I’ll admit that LJ Smith doesn’t have quite the panache of other authors here, but she was a high school love of mine!

    katiebabs–Yes oh yes!

    Kris–I can’t wait for the film. It’ll probably be out NEXT Christmas *sob*

    RKCharron–you’re welcome!

  • Rhiannon Hart
    December 25, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks so much for having me, Smugglers, and Merry Christmas! :mrgreen:

  • Celia
    December 25, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Ah, Rhiannon, you have the best recommendations. I am with you on the ‘bleak is the new black.’ Also: they’re making a film version of Tomorrow, When the War Began? Ah-mazing. I’ll be reading the dystopian right along with you… 😀

  • Angie
    December 25, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    The two-part conclusion to the Obernewtyn series is coming out in July!? OOoh. That is the perfect impetus for me to knuckle down and finally read them. I’ve been meaning to for ages.

    Thanks, Rhiannon!

  • Cassandra Jade
    December 26, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Rhiannon, a fantastic list of books. I didn’t know they were making Tomorrow, when the war began into a movie. Now I’m worried they are going to ruin it but incredibly hopeful that they manage to make an amazing movie.
    Thanks so much for sharing this post.

  • Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)
    December 29, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Catching Fire seems to be making a lot of lists.

  • Kay
    January 1, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Great posts! These are all books I loved or want to read! I just started reading Isobelle Carmody’s series this year and I had no idea the conclusion was coming. Great to know!

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