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I have managed, over the last month or so, to get some actual reading in (amazing, no?), and so I just wanted to put this out there, because I got to read some really great books in the month of June.

YA books, no less. This is a genre I managed to more or less skip over past the age of about 11, with the exception of reading the Susan Cooper Dark is Rising series in junior high and a post-college obsession with Harry Potter I have never been able to explain to my husband. I have to say, if what I got to read in June was any example, I’ve been missing out.

So, first: AW’s very own Mistress of Purgatory Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix.

Silver Phoenix hc c

Isn’t that cover gorgeous?

With a refreshing non-Western setting, this book is a lovely coming of age story with a strong, complex and stalwart heroine, monsters and myths, murder, and a hint of romance. Ai Ling’s journey to find her father is filled with lessons, magic, danger and darkness: and through it all her smart, sassy, and forthright way of dealing with things that should put a person in hysterics  is a showstopper. The characters in this story are sympathetic, quirky, layered, flawed and and utterly believable. The story itself is fascinating. Cindy’s gift for dialogue and description puts you right in the head of Ai Ling, and brings to life the landscape and the spiritual life of a culture there just aren’t enough books set in, IMO.

It’s vivid, sincere, and entertaining from the first page to the last.  Pick it up the next time you’re wandering through a bookstore and you definitely won’t be sorry.

The next one I read was Sarah Rees Brennan‘s The Demon’s Lexicon.

thedemon lexicon_

It’s dark, it’s spare, it’s got magicians, demons, and the people stuck in between them; there’s a twisted bad guy, lots of morally questionable action on the part of –well, everyone really, and good guy who is dark, handsome, and more than a little twisted himself.

It’s also got brotherly love, which carries this novel from page one beyond angry-teen-boy-saves-world and into something new and wonderful and completely compelling. What I love about Brennan’s  protagonist Nick is that he doesn’t think of himself as a good guy, and he certainly doesn’t act like one. There’s only one person in the world he cares about: his brother Alan, and there are times when you wonder even about that. The dynamic between them is just riveting. The writing is clean, clever, and beautiful, and the ending is perfect. (Which is all I’m going to say about it, don’t worry. No spoilers here. I keep my reviews nice and vague.) The only way you’d be sorry you grabbed this one is if you started reading it after dinner, because if you do that I guarantee you’re not going to get any sleep.

So there you have it: I am a convert. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to try writing YA, but I definitely plan to keep reading it.