Tag Archives: books

Favorite Books of 2015

I surpassed my goal of reading 40 books in 2015 by reading 56 instead. I may have overshot a little. Here were some of the ones I liked best.

10149142The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
I went into this unsure of how I’d feel about it, considering it was about a dysfunction family and written by a man. What I thought might be an entire book dedicated to manpain turned out to be a funny, endearing narrative told from the perspective of a woman, the older daughter of the Fang family. It follows the Fang children when, after brushes with bad luck, they both end up back in their eccentric, artist parent’s home. They worry they’ll be dragged back into the chaos that was their childhoods. A great story for anyone who worries they’ll never escape being the child of their parents, which is something I know a lot about.
GoodReads

27111324The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal by E.K. Weaver
Finally. FINALLY this is available all together in one wonderfully, giant package. I’ve been following E.K. Weaver’s characters, TJ and Amal, since she was posting character designs and stitched together long-form comics on, uh, less than reputable art gallery sites. And that was around 2008? 2009? So I’m a little biased. The web comic can be read here, but if you can get your hands on the omnibus, I recommend you do. So much wonderful story, but also concept art, design notes, extras – all in one beautifully bound edition. The story: After coming out to his parents, Amal leaves Berkeley on a cross country trip to see be at his sister’s college graduation. A man he meets at a bar, TJ, agrees to pay for the trip, no questions asked, so long as he gets him to the other side of the United States, and like, right now.
GoodReads

13497818The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Does this book need an introduction? The life of a British idyll is disrupted when one of their parish council members dies unexpectedly. “Disrupted” might be the wrong world. “Goes totally fucking insane” might be better. I loved this book, and I was crushed to see how much people disliked it overall. The characters and their inner lives were fascinating, and the struggle between the rich and poor of the town was heart-wrenching and hit hard. As someone who grew up poor, this book meant a lot to me. And knowing Rowling lived in poverty before she struck it rich with Harry Potter, I’m sure she’s drawn on a lot of real life experience, and that makes it all the more engaging. If you tried reading the book and thought she was “trying too hard” with the crassness in the first part of the book, or that she was trying to distance herself from the boy who lived, go back and try again. Forget it is by the beloved author of Harry Potter and read it as a stand alone book. You may be surprised what you find.
GoodReads

18630542Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
I loved this graphic novel, because I’ve been saying for years that I wanted a version of Scott Pilgrim from Ramona’s perspective. And while I may never get that, I did get Seconds, which is pretty close. Katie runs a successful restaurant, but she’s still not content. She wants to open another, but things are not going well. She gets a second chance when she finds a tiny notebook and a basket of mushrooms – all she has to do is eat a mushroom and write what she wants to happen in the notebook, and she gets to go back and change the past! But of course nothing is that simple. As a slacker fuck-up in her twenties, I appreciate that O’Malley’s mastery for creating slacker fuck-up characters extends beyond Scott. My only complaint was that Katie should have ended up with Hazel, but that might just be me.
GoodReads

12349My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
Have I mentioned I love well-written female protagonists? Because I do. When Jane Tagaki gets a job making a documentary television series for a Japanese audience to sell American meat products, she uncovers not only misogyny, bigotry, and racism, but an insidious industry cover-up that penetrates deep into her biggest fears and (perceived) failures. Not only does Ozeki create wonderful characters in her protagonists, but the families she has Jane and her crew interview are so wonderfully real. I read “A Tale for the Time Being” a couple years ago, and I look forward to reading Ozeki’s third novel, “All Over Creation,” as soon as I can.
GoodReads

23093359The Wicked and The Divine: Volume 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
WHO LOVES WELL-WRITTEN FEMALE PROTAGONISTS? THIS GIRL. Anyway. I read Gillen & McKelvie’s run on one of my all-time favorite super teams, The Young Avengers, and when I heard they were doing an original story for Image, I jumped on that so fast my head spun. And I was not wrong. Every nine years, a pantheon of gods are reborn into living mortals, and within two years, they are all dead. It’s depressing as hell and gives wonderful commentary on the state of (mainly comic book) fandom. They go to a convention for gods, for Christ’s sake. Pun very intended. Sadly, I haven’t been able to keep up with the releases, but rest assured I will collect the graphic novels as they come out.
GoodReads

22318578.jpgThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo and I have a lot in common. I mean, she’s a well-respected, certified domestic goddess and I’m not. But! We both hate clutter and think hanging on to things you never use is unnecessary and should be remedied as soon as possible. I appreciate that Kondo encourages people to purge things from their life, but not to think of those things as useless or garbage. Nicely kept possessions can be sent on to second hand stores, and worn items can be thanked for the joy they brought you and laid to rest in the garbage. You would be surprised how freeing thanking and saying goodbye to a possession you no longer have use for is. Needless to say, she even encourages you to pass her book along to someone else, which I did. Also needless to say, I’m pumped for the sequel. In-depth sorting and organizing tips? Please, go on.
GoodReads

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Another Meme, This Time About Books

I can’t resist a good meme. Especially when it’s about reading.

Literary Pursuits of a Young Lady by Harlamoff Alexej.

Literary Pursuits of a Young Lady by Harlamoff Alexej.

A. Author You’ve Read The Most Books From
Erm, probably Neil Gaiman. Though I’m not sure I want to admit to that any longer. Though if we’re counting comics, there are lots of mangaka I’ve read a lot more of.

B. Best Sequel Ever
Book series don’t usually feel like separate novels to me, but I have to say all the sequels in the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey are great. They just get better and better as they go!

C. Currently Reading
Oh boy. I’m reading “My Gringo Cabron” by Jeannette Gau Stone and “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’ve been halfway through “World War Z” since last summer because I loaned it out and just recently got it back. I just picked up “Horns” by Joe Hill and “The School for Good and Evil” by Soman Chainani from the library. I am always reading something.

D. Drink of Choice While Reading
Arizona iced tea.

E. E-Reader or Physical Books
I’m happy with both, though I admit I’m better with physical books. Sometimes I forget I’m reading things on my iPad.

F. Fictional Character You Would Have Dated In High School
Harry fucking Potter, man. I would have dated the shit out of him in high school. Now? Not so much.

G. Glad You Gave This Book A Chance
“Ruby Red” by Kerstin Gier. The back cover has pretty much the worst write up ever, but the writing inside is amazing and hysterical! Such a pity it’s got a terrible jacket blurb, because I’ll bet it’s made a lot of people put it down.

Reading Girl by Gustav Adolph Henning.

Reading Girl by Gustav Adolph Henning.

H. Hidden Gem Book
See above. The entire trilogy is amazing, honestly.

I. Important Moments of Your Reading Life
I can’t think of many of them, but my recent decision to break up with Neil Gaiman was a pretty good one. It was just time. He no longer loves me like he used to.

J. Just Finished
Anne Jamison’s “Fic.” An awesome exploration of fanfic and fandom. Mostly Western fandom, but still pretty interesting. I can’t wait until someone starts writing academically about anime and manga fandom. I honestly worry it might have to be me.

K. Kinds of Books You Won’t Read
I can’t read a lot of really popular stuff. 99.9% of time it’s terrible. I read “The da Vinci Code” once. That was a mistake I won’t make again.

L. Longest Book You’ve Read
Maybe “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”? Or “1Q84”. I forget which is longer.

M. Major Book Hangover Because Of
It took me NINE WEEKS to read Grant Morrison’s “Super Gods”. I don’t know why. It’s a ridiculous fucking book. I don’t know if that’s what this means by “book hangover,” but it feels appropriate.

N. Number of Bookcases You Own
Five. Two of them are short, only two rows, and one is small and mostly holds CDs and Erik’s cookbooks. The fourth is maybe a little shorter than me and holds mostly video games, DVDs, and some manga. The fifth is the tallest, and holds books, a printer, and some of Erik’s stuff.

O. One Book That You Have Read Multiple Times
Ugh, I’m not a re-reader. It’s really hard for me to reread books. That said, probably the “Alice” books.

P. Preferred Place to Read
On the couch, but I’ll read anywhere.

Q. Quote From A Book That Inspires You/Gives You Feels
“We have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which ‘now’ was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient ‘now’ to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile. … We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenarios. Pattern recognition.” – William Gibson, “Pattern Recognition”

R. Reading Regret
So much time and money spent on Neil Gaiman, I s2g.

S. Series You Started and Need to Finish
The Lunar Chronicles by Marrisa Meyer! The last book isn’t out yet though, sob. Also the Monster High “Ghoulfriends” series. The library only has books one, two and four, ugh.

Morning Reading by Zelio Andrezzo.

Morning Reading by Zelio Andrezzo.

T. Three Of Your All-Time Favorite Books
Ooh, so hard. I forfeit, because this is constantly changing.

U. Unapologetic Fangirl For
A young adult novel series with well written female characters.

W. Worst Bookish Habit
Having too many! I’m working on it though. And I mean it this time!

V. Very Excited For This Release More Than Any Other
Ooh, the new Ever After High novel! They have a lot of upcoming books I’m excited for. The series about Lizzie and Duchess is going to be amazinggg.

X. Marks The Spot (Start On Your Bookshelf And Count to the 27th Book)
“The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin. A fantastic children’s puzzle mystery.

Y. Your Latest Book Purchase
Purchase? I don’t actually buy books much, if you can believe it. I usually go to the book exchange, get given books, or borrow from the library or friends/family. I think the last book I *bought* was Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being” last summer. Which was great, by the way.

Z. ZZZ-Snatcher (last book that kept you up WAY late)
Again, Anne Jamison’s “Fic”. SO GOOD, GO READ IT.

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Blog ABCs: P through Z – The End!

Fact: updating daily is impossible. Let’s finish out this nonsense.

P is for Pink

Pink is the color my bedroom was painted when I was a wee thing. I whine and moaned and told my parents that I want a red room, but they weren’t interested. I was getting pink walls (and subsequently, a pink bed, since we had enough paint left over) whether I liked it or not.

Fast forward a good 20 years and it’s now one of my favorite colors. As a kid, I knew my favorite color. And it certainly wasn’t pink. As an adult, I hate the question; how could you make me choose?! But pink is definitely up there.

Exhibit A: A semi-bad hair day from college.

Q is for Quiet

I’m not gonna lie, I’m just trying to finish this thing. But damn do I love the quiet. Now hush and let me be.

R is for Reading

I wish I could say I’ve loved reading all of my life, and though I did spend a lot of my parents’ money on books as a child, I almost never read them. They just kind of sat on the shelf and sometimes I flipped through them, but I didn’t really read them. I don’t know what exactly I thought they were good for,  but eh. I’ve learned.

Now, reading is, in fact, my jam. I try to read at least 50 books a year, and though I’m not always successful, it’s not for lack of material. I have a stack of at least ten borrowed books on my desk. I have an iPad with five apps dedicated to ebooks. I abuse my library card. The local book exchange can’t get rid of me. I don’t want to get up and count the number of bookshelves I own, but it’s definitely more than a one bedroom apartment should have.

S is for Sailor Moon

from bishoujosenshisailormoon.com

from bishoujosenshisailormoon.com

Wow, this is kind of a big subject. Let’s start with history.

On a summer’s day in my youth, I was hanging out with my cousin in park near her home in New Jersey, when she asked me an innocuous question “Do you like Japanimation?”

I had no idea what she was talking about, but not for long. She introduced me to Toonami, an after school programming block Cartoon Network showed on weekdays in the 90s and 2000s, which was populated by shows like Dragon Ball Z, various Gundam series, and yes, Sailor Moon. I recognized SM as a show I had sometimes caught very early in the morning years before when waiting to go to school, and happily began rewatching the original series and R season. In the early 2000s, Cartoon Network bought the rights to the S and Supers seasons, and though I knew all about them from doing lots of “research” online, I watched them all anyway, immediately dropping everything when I got home from school to turn on the TV.

To say Sailor Moon was a big part of my childhood would be incorrect. Sailor Moon is a big part of my LIFE. It was one of the first times I had ever seen a show, cartoon or live action, that was almost completely populated by girls and women. Books did it sometimes, but no one really liked those – and as I mentioned, I wasn’t great at keeping up with my reading as kid. But there was Sailor Moon on Toonami along side other cool action shows, with it’s femininity front and center.

And now, 15 years later, Sailor Moon Crystal is being simulcast all over the world, and it and the original series will soon be released on DVD with a new dub for an entirely new generation of girls to find and fall in love with. I’m elated for them.

And for  me too, of course. ;)

T is for Tattoos, planned

Hi, I’m Michelle and I don’t have any tattoos. But I want them.

Junko-Full1_2-Laptop-sig

 

Above is the first tattoo I plan to get. It’s the signature of mangaka and fine artist Junko Mizuno, whom I talked about a bit in the last post. I don’t want the entire picture above, just the bunny skull and crossbones, perhaps on the inside of my forearm. I’d love if Junko herself could sign it and I could then get that tattooed on as well, but I’d like to focus on just getting the tattoo first and seeing if I want to make any alterations later.

eye tattoo

The next one has a bit of an interesting story. When I was very young, maybe in kindergarten or first grade, I found the above drawing in my backyard. It had blown in on the wind and stuck in the grass. At first I thought it was amazing, and I was surprised by the two numbers written on the paper, since I was learning something similar in math class at the time. (That would be, having two numbers and circling which one was the larger or smaller number. Very difficult stuff when you’re six.)

And after 20 years, I still think it’s pretty awesome. I may redraw it to make it look cleaner, but I think I’d still like this somewhere on my body. I’m not sure where yet, but I’ll figure it out.

I’ve always wondered if this was someone’s original design and who they were, and if it’s not original, what it might be from. Watch, it’s just from a CD cover or something. But even if it is, it’s pretty damn cool.

Those two are so far my only planned tattoos, but who knows what else I might stumble across that I want to ink permanently on my body?

U is for Undecided

I really don’t know what to put here. I want to finish this meme. Here, have an appropriate image:

IMG_1891

V is for The Victorian Era

I’m not one to romanticize the past, but if I ever had too, I think I’d probably go for the Victorian Era. Everyone was much kinkier than you’d think and they all had amazing clothing. I mean, there was also a lot of disease and other horrible stuff, but hey. Pretty dresses!

W is for Wonderland

ttl7

You know what else happened during the Victorian Era? My most favorite books ever, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (And What Alice Found There) were published.

Anyone who knows me knows I love these books, and the many pieces of media, et al. based on them. I own a number of editions of both books, books of academic essays about them, a few movie versions, an Alice costume and plenty of memorabilia. And of course American McGee’s games. Slap something Wonderland-themed on your product and I will at least gaze longingly at it. I also know a shit-ton of trivia. Ask me anything. I probably know the answer.

X is for XD

‘XD’ is my emoticon of choice. I will use it in any and all situations, guaranteed. Yes, probably even ones it would be inappropriate for. Sorry, not sorry.

Y is for YA

I think this kind of speaks for itself. I’ve been reading a lot of Young Adult fiction for the past couple years. Feel free to read some of my reviews. Next on my list is Soman Chainani’s “The School of Good and Evil.”

Z is for Zat’s All Folks!

Yeah, I’m done. So very done.

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YA Lit: Year One

That title makes this entry sound badass, like the origin story of a comic book character. But really, this post is just about the other handful of YA books I read last year and haven’t yet talked about, in the vein of this post.

9779094This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1) by Kenneth Oppel
I hate to say it, but I couldn’t really find anything I liked about this book. It didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be, but here are a few things it tried to be: the origin story of Doctor Frankenstein from the novel Frankenstein; a romance novel/paranormal romance/love triangle Twilight-esque thing between twin brothers and their cousin; an adventures novel with a lot of really confusing descriptions of said adventure; and smart, which it wasn’t. Burn? I don’t know, this just didn’t do it for me. As I read, I kept waiting for it to get more interesting, but it mostly just read as a bastardization of the original Frankenstein story. Which it was. Many YA novels based on classic works of literature are prone to this problem, but this was especially bad. [GoodReads]

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

10369932The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
I may just be biased, but I really can’t get into YA novels with male narrators. Nine out of ten times, I just won’t be interested from the get-go, and this book was no exception. I was really hoping for some zombie carnage to see if that would save it, but no, this was mainly a survival story. The writing was solid though, and I will give the author props for making the “minority” of this story an actual minority, not just some white guy with like, mutant powers or a weird disease. The world and it’s post-apocalyptic problems were also very realistic, but I just wasn’t into it. If you’re a fan of adventure/survival, this may be for you, but it just didn’t do it for me. [GoodReads]

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

13316306Invisible World by Suzanne Weyn
This book is a hybrid as far as historical significance is concerned, because not only is it about the Salem Witch Trials, it’s also a story about slavery, which I loved. So many novels, especially of the YA variety, will focus on one significant historical event while ignoring anything else happening during the same time period. Although clearly a fictionalized version, where witches actually exist, some good and some evil, it depicted the period well and fairly accurately.

That said, it read much like a YA novel from before the recent boom – a standalone book with a meandering plot that focused less on the paranormal elements and more on the inner feelings of the main character. Though this is not necessarily a bad thing, it wasn’t really what I was looking to read when I started on this adventure. I give major props to the author for being daring with historical integration, though. Very few YA novels set in this time would bother trying to tie in a slavery subplot, and Weyn does it very well, making it significant but not preachy. [GoodReads]

Rating: ★★★☆☆

12188615Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell

I have to wonder just how many American kids spend their teenage years living on farms after their parents decide on a whim to relocate them in an attempt to… I don’t know, ride out a mid-life crisis? Anyway, I see this as a plot in books quite often: “How can I make my main character weird in a way that doesn’t actually make them weird, but might get them teased and would definitely make them hate their parents? I know, I’ll have them go from living in the city to living on a farm! Genius!” Really, you could replace farm with just about any place that isn’t the sort of place a teenager would want to live and it would still work. What I’m saying is, it isn’t a terribly original plot device. But it wouldn’t be a plot device then, would it?

The book itself is well written, but like The Invisible World, it reads like  a pre-boom novel with a meandering plot and a teenage protagonist whose only worries are smelling like cow pies and having a flaky best friend. Not that every YA book needs heavy (or any) supernatural or romance plot lines to carry it, but it was again just not what I was looking for. And it was cute, but it could definitely have been better. [GoodReads]

Rating: ★★★☆☆

13602234Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicle #2) by Marissa Meyer
Oh gee golly gosh am I glad about how quickly Meyer gets these books out. Only a few scant weeks until book three is released! End preemptive squeeing.

Scarlet is the second book in The Lunar Chronicles series and introduces quite a few new characters. Cinder remains, and spends much of her time running from the law in this novel, while Meyer introduces the second girl in the “team,” Scarlet. Scarlet is a French girl whose grandmother has gone missing. When her absentee father suddenly returns, she knows something is up, and partners with a prize fighter named Wolf to find her.

Though I think Cinder spent a little too much time on the lam without much to show for it (except a new partner in crime and Iko’s transformation from robot to ship), meeting Scarlet and seeing what Queen Levana is truly up to was definitely worth it. It actually took me a while to finish this book because I was reading an ebook version on my iPod. Yeah, my iPod. That’s how desperately I wanted to read it, but the eye strain kept getting to me. I persevered and finished, but for the next one in the series I think I’ll just get a print copy. [GoodReads]

Rating: ★★★★☆

5530930Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black & Cecil Castellucci, et al.
WOW, did I have a hard time with this book. Short stories collections are great, because it basically gives you allowance to jump around a book without consequence, but this one was a goddamn nightmare. For every good story, there was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad one. And who they were by would surprise you. (Maybe.)

It is now apparently a trend to make your geeky protagonist a middle-to-high-school aged girl with a single quirk that makes her “geeky”, give her a BAOF (“best and only friend,” a term actually used in one of the stories), and then pit her against a popular girl, or have her have a hopeless crush – or worse, both. The stories in the collection that boil down to this were clearly phoned in, and it shows. But let’s not dwell.

Some stories that were really amazing were the following: Black & Castellucci’s “Once You’re a Jedi, You’re a Jedi all the Way”, a Romeo & Juliet/West Side Story-esque tale about Klingon and Jedi cosplayers who meet at a con and fall in love, is hilarious and cute. Tracy Lynn’s “One of a Us”, about a group of geeks who teach a cheerleader how to be, well, one of them, is incredibly sweet and heartwarming, as well as great commentary on geeks and geek culture. M.T. Anderson’s “The King of Pelinesse” is melancholy and smart, a take on the pulp novels of the mid-20th century. And Wendy Mass’ “The Stars at the Finish Line” is a cute romance that was actually believable and fun to watch unfold.

And I may have embellished a little. Many of the stories were very good. I’d say maybe only a third were utter trash. But in the words of LeVar Burton, don’t take my word for it. [GoodReads]

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Alice in Wonderland Edition Spotlight No. 1

Let’s see if I can make this an occasional feature: I spotlight a specific edition of Alice Adventure’s  in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass in my collection. Why? Because I can!

Trying to thin out my book collection is always hard, because more than half of it are always things I haven’t read and need to hold onto. The other less-than-half are ABSOLUTE favorites I cannot (yet) let go of, though most of them end up being passed on eventually – it’s usually just a matter of time. And the same could be said for my collection of Alice in Wonderland editions.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (And What Alice Found There) are pretty much my favorite books ever, and because they are so widely published, there are millions of editions out there from all over the world. I try to thin this collection out occasionally, because while buying up all eight different copies I found for a dollar each at a library book sale sounded good at the time, I’ve come to find I really only want to keep certain editions. And those would be determined by artwork.

Many editions of Alice boast about how they contain “the original art of John Tenniel!”, which is great butnot exactly special. The book, as well as the original artwork, is in the public domain, so any edition include Tenniel’s art. And while it is wonderful (I own quite a few pieces of clothing and jewelry with the etchings on them), it gets repetitive. Not to mention it’s always nice to see a fresh take on an old story.

Cleaning out my collection, I came across an edition of Through the Looking-Glass illustrated by artist Malcolm Ashman. The art is very far from the original, and frankly surprised me when I took a closer look: The style is very realistic, and often depicts the fantastical creatures Alice meets as humans in costumes; Alice and the Red and White Queens look more like mid-century Southern belles than Victorian England ladies; and many of the faces of the male characters make me think they might have been based on British actors I can’t quite place. Have a look at some of the artwork below.

IMG_0362

the cover

IMG_0355

The Pensive Hatter?

Alice and the White Queen

Alice and the White Queen

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty

IMG_0357

Abomination against God 1…

IMG_0358

…and 2.

IMG_0359

Fabulous.

You can find this edition here on Amazon.

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September 21, 2013 · 10:35 PM

This Post Contains a Lot of Spoilers

2013 is my year for reading Young Adult literature, and so far, so good. I may have cheated a little and read a few in late 2012, but I was eager to get started. Here’s what I’ve read so far:

11870085The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I figured if I was going to start anywhere, I might as well see what the big fuss was about with John Green. I’m a fan of him and his brother, Hank, and their various YouTube channels (though, if I’m being honest, I have to say I like John’s videos better), so I figured why not give his books a try? I pretty much automatically went with “The Fault in Out Stars,” since it’s his latest and most famous work. The book was good, and Green writes teenage girls pretty well. I like that he treated her as a person rather than just a “girl character”. Considering I’ve heard all of his protagonists have thus far been male, and all of their love interests manic pixie dream girl types, I was delighted to find how much I liked Hazel.

Overall, I found it a sweet, sad and enjoyable book, though I noticed a lot of John Green’s characters sound just like John Green. A lot of the time, I read their dialogue in his voice. Thank God Hazel never really said “And then I took off my bra.” I also didn’t cry, but it might have more to do with the fact that I’m a heartless bastard then anything.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

11235712Cinder by Marissa Meyer
I’d been wanting to read this since I heard about it, as I first saw it at Books Inc. being recommend with the phrase “Blade Runner meets Sailor Moon”. And if you know me at all, I love anything and everything that has to do with Sailor Moon.

The book itself was an EXTREMELY fun read. I love the characters, the fast pace, the funny dialogue and the world Meyer built in New Beijing. Cinder herself was smart and resourceful, and I love that in a YA heroine. I also love the trope subversion of “the girl does not think she’s beautiful until someone else (usually a guy) points it out”. Cinder is (SPOILERS) Lunar, so she is able to use a glamour to make herself look differently, which is something she didn’t know until a scientist told her. Anyway, it amuses me.

I was really impressed by this book, and also downloaded the shorts stories “Glitches” and “The Queens Army” from iBooks. I had no idea it was such a trend to write short stories to tie series books together, but apparently it’s then norm in YA books these days. The second book in the series, “Scarlet” is out now, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Rating: ★★★★☆

7137327Enclave by Ann Aguire
I found this book a little duller than the other two on this list so far, but I really liked the world in which it was set. In fact, the two short stories that accompany this book “Foundation” and “Endurance,” the first being about the how the underground enclaves came to be, and the second about the main character’s best friends and their escape from their enclave, were a lot more interesting to me. Post-apocalyptic stories are some of my favorites, and I always love to read about different versions of how people will think the world may “end”. I was just sad to find the characters that live within the world kind of boring. My favorite parts were definitely before they left the enclave, and everything after that seemed kind of slow and meh. Also, the character of Stalker especially bothers me, since he and the main character, Deuce, have a dubious relationship. Considering his original plan for her was (trigger warning: rape – highlight to read) most likely a gang rape, I am not happy that he joined the “hero’s party,” as I tend to call it.

I will give the second book a try,  but I am not in love with the main cast. It’s a little disappointing since I liked the short stories so much. I hope the characters receive more development in the later books and become more interesting and likable.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

12000129What the Dog Said by Randi Reisfeld
I was surprised to see Randi Reisfeld’s name on the cover of this book, as I recognized it from the novelizations of the television show “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” I used to read when I was a kid. It’s interesting to see she’s doing original writing and now, and was also responsible for the book series T*Witches (along with H.B. Gilmour, to whom “What the Dog Said” is dedicated), which I remember being turned into a Disney Channel movie starring Tia and Tamara Mowry from “Sister, Sister”. I’m having flashbacks to the 90s, guys.

“What the Dog Said” is a cute book about a girl who starts hearing her sister’s dog talk. I thought the summary sounded a little like a Disney Channel movie, as it seemed like it would appeal to a younger audience than YA readers, but what do I know about them? Though I thought the narrative dragged in place, I liked Grace, enjoyed her story and even related to her. She’s depressed due to her father’s death, and when she gets stuck with training the service dog her sister brings home, it was encouraging to watch her pull herself out of her muck and learn to feel better again. And I may also have a soft spot for goofy dogs.

Overall, a cute book, and though it might be a little on the young side for me, it was a good story with a good message. I hope it encourages a couple of kids who read it to think about training a service dog, or to at least adopt one from a shelter if they can.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

12358349Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
I’ve already written a short review for this on GoodReads, so I think I’ll just copy and paste it. ;)

I was very surprised by Ruby Red. First, whoever wrote the jacket description should be fired. It does not reflect the good, solid writing contained within, nor does it do it justice. The book is well-written, funny and charming, which is exactly how I like my YA novels. If you have to spend an entire book (or three) in someone’s head, they had better be entertaining. The other thing that surprised me about the novel was that I actually cared about the main couple, which is not something I tend to do with YA books. Often the romance seems forced or unimportant to the overall plot, but Gwen and Gideon’s relationship seemed very natural, and the author didn’t leave you wondering about it. She tells you within the first half of the first novel they’re a thing, and, unusually for me, I wanted to find out how it happened! Time travel is tricksy that way. Not to mention, the time travel aspect thus far well done, too. It’s not easy keeping track of complicated timey-wimey rules, but Gier manages it. I’m just hoping the next installments shed some light on the mysteries and don’t leave too much unsolved, but suffice to say I will definitely be reading them.

Rating: ★★★★☆

And that’s all so far! I’ve got a few more on my current list, including the second books in the “Cinder” and “Ruby Red” series. I’m currently reading “This Dark Endeavor” by Kenneth Oppel, about the twin brothers Frankenstein, and I also have “The Eleventh Place” by Jeff Hirsh and “Invisible World” by Suzanne Weyn waiting – courtesy of my mother-in-law who teaches seventh grade English and knows about all the good YA books. (I actually read everything on this list except “Cinder” and “The Fault in Our Stars” on her recommendation!)

Does anyone else see a trend here, by the way? Every YA book I’ve read so far has been narrated by teenage girls. And it’s kind of great. A lot of YA books I read in the past and disliked (“The Perks of being a Wallflower” by Stephan Chobsky, “Hairstyles of the Damned” by Joe Meno, “Playing with Matches” by Brian Katcher, “Miss Peregine’s Homes for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs, etc.) all had male narrators. I’m not saying men/male narrators automatically make for bad YA books (I didn’t like the way “The Hunger Games” was written, and Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother” is one of my favorite YA books), but I think I was just reading the wrong stuff. How sad that it put me off the genre so long!

How about you guys? Read any good YA lately? Have anything to recommend? I’m all ears!

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Book Meme

How I feel without a laptop.

“These fairy tales take me away from the harsh reality of peasant life.”

1. What’s on your current book wish list? If too many to list, describe what kind of things are on it.
I have a book wishlist a mile long, but some titles that pop into my head are Cinder, Supergods and Devil Said Bang.

2. If you could get just one of those as a gift right now, which would it be?
Well, Devil Said Bang isn’t out yet, and while I do want to read Cinder, Supergods has been calling to me lately. I’ve been seeing and hearing about it all over, despite it coming out about a year ago now. So yeah, I’ll go with Grant Morrison.

3. Are there any books in your collection that you want a different or secondary copy of?
I collect editions of Alice in Wonderland, but lately I haven’t been finding as many. I really want the Ralph Steadman illustrated version (it’s expensive!) and the Vintage version, because the cover makes me smile.

4. When is the last time you sold/donated/otherwise got rid of books you didn’t want anymore?
Oh, within the last month or two. I don’t keep as many books as I used to. Unless it’s near and dear to my heart, or I think I might read it again, I usually donate it to local book exchange.

5. Do you have any books written in a language other than your native tongue?
Sadly, no. I might be able to muddle through a couple children’s books in Spanish or French, though.

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