Tag Archives: literature

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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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.

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the cover

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The Pensive Hatter?

Alice and the White Queen

Alice and the White Queen

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty

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Abomination against God 1…

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…and 2.

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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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Playing Catch-Up: Why I’m Behind on YA

Though this is not strictly a book blog, it should come as no surprise that I like to read. And if there’s one thing I do not read enough of, it’s the YA genre. Deterred by early attempts to enjoy the genre when I was high school, I gave up on it for a few years. When I was a teen, YA was just getting its footing, and only Harry Potter really stood out. There were other seminal books teenage girls read, but most of them had been written decades earlier and were embarrassingly out of touch.

Recently, the genre has exploded. Not only is it full of imaginative stories by female authors (a few things “proper” literature is sadly devoid of), but its also plentiful. And I have absolutely no idea where to start.

But I am super intent on doing it. Next year, I’ve pledged to read mainly YA books. I don’t own too many, and new series are hard to come by in second hand shops. I was almost thinking about cancelling the challenge when I read this awesome post by s.e. smith of the blog This Ain’t Livin’. (And is any coincidence I sometimes want to call smith “S.E. Hinton” instead? Probably not.) smith points out that people’s dismissal of the genre often lies, sadly, in misogyny. And well. I don’t like that.

Still, that leaves me stuck on how to read the books. Of course, there is the public library, if I’m looking to read for free. But due to the popularity of the genre, YA books are often checked out and have long waiting lists attached to them. And as I’ve advised others, I’ve been trolling the internet looking for giveaways. And boy, did I hit the mother load.

Blogger and YA writer Beth Revis is doing a giveaway of FIFTY young adult novels, most of which are SIGNED by the authors. This is, of course, an incredibly popular giveaway, but heck, why not give it a try? Many of these would definitely end up re-homed if I somehow managed to win, because I like to share the love.

Beth asked that to enter, people post the graphic and write an entry about why they love YA. Unfortunately, due to my lack of exposure, I’m not really sure how to write such an entry, except to tell my story and cross my fingers. It is a real pity I don’t love YA, but I really hope to teach myself how in the near future. :)

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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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