August 2015

While I read many other books this month, sadly (is it really sad?) they did not help me knock off items for my Challenge. I’m talking at least four books for various book clubs, along with another two or three just for fun. BUT — Since this is the Year of the Book, I’m going to stay on target and stick to the script! Despite going on a little vacation this month, I didn’t actually read all that much, so these are the ones I scratched off the list:

killing Lincoln bill o'reilly
A book your mother loves: Killing Lincoln, by Bill O’Reilly

to kill a mockingbird harper lee go set a watchman
A banned book: To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

and we stay jenny hubbard emily dickinson poetry
A book you own but haven’t read: And We Stay, by Jenny Hubbard
The Good:
I sorta pulled a fast one this month… Recently, I read Jenny Hubbard’s debut novel, Paper Covers Rock (OMG go read it now), and I was so entranced that I tweeted her about it. I also creeped on her site and saw that she is planning on coming up to the area for a Poetry Festival in October…  So, I’ve said in the past that I try really hard not to buy books until I read the ones I already own… I mean, that’s the whole reason I started this blog. Then I told myself that buying a book is okay IF I’m getting an author’s signature. You see where this is going yet? Yes — I dashed out and bought both of Jenny’s books in anticipation for her arrival. As if that weren’t enough, I thought: Hey, while she’s up here, why not host an event for her at the library??  I think one of my favorite parts of my job is to unabashedly spaz out over authors and the amazing works they create. So here’s to you, Jenny!  Can’t wait to meet!

And We Stay is set in a fictional girls boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts (note the local interest). We follow Emily Beam, a teen recovering from a traumatic event that occurred at her old school. With the help of some new friends and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, she begins to find peace. As with her first novel, Hubbard blends poetry and prose into a beautiful and haunting narrative.

The Bad:
Ugh. I’ll try to keep this short. I was really excited to ask my mother for the name of a book she loved for this challenge. 180 degrees later… Killing Lincoln was staring at me. “But it’s a really good story!” she said. Well… I think Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had more truth to it. (Kidding. Sort of.) I got a lot of flack for reading this book… and I’ll remain impartial to political engagements. SO, let’s just say I read it, and I did more research than O’Reilly did in “writing” this book. But thanks, Mom! — It’s a book I wouldn’t have otherwise read, and that’s gotta count for something!

The Ugly:
With all the chatter and controversy (?) surrounding Harper Lee’s “new” book, Go Set A Watchman, and knowing that I have never read it, I thought why not try reading To Kill A Mockingbird for the umpteenth time. I never had read it for school, which I sort of kind shocking, and though I tried reading it before, I never got past chapter four. I listened to this one and once I got past hearing Sissy Spacek’s voice as Scout (I previously listened to Spacek narrate Carrie by Stephen King… Now THAT was good!)  I finally accepted that I just had to get through it. Honestly, I didn’t care for it. I understand it’s important place in literary history and why it’s taught in school etc., etc., but since I wasn’t reading this through an academic lens, I found little joy. The issue of race will always be an ugly subject in this world. This poor book has been beaten to the ground… I appreciate the idea behind the book and the overall message it delivers rather than the act of reading/listening to it.

 

For those keeping track, that leaves under 10 books left for the Reading Challenge for the year! That said, many of the remaining titles are books that do not have audiobook versions, so I will probably take my time to trudge through them. I’d say I’m pretty on-track to finish them all this year!

Til next time!

July 2015

This month I was able to take a big-big chunk out of the challenge list — thank you, summer! — I’ve only got 12 more until I finish the whole list! That’s crazy!!  AND that’s only the challenge books, not even the other books on the side that I’m reading that sadly don’t fit into any of the remaining criteria. That said, this was probably my most enjoyable month so far — I loved all of these books! So here we go!

red queen victoria aveyard
A book written by someone under 30: Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

 

morte mort(e) robert repino
A book with a one-word title: Mort(e), by Robert Repino

 

the awakening kate chopin classic literature
A book with bad reviews: The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

 

gay literature anything could happen ellie goulding will walton lgbt
A book set during Christmas: Anything Could Happen, by Will Walton

 

rainbow rowell fangirl carry on
A book based on a true story: Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

 

anne of green gables l m montgomery canada
A book over 100 years old: Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

 

paige mckenzie sunshine girl haunting youtube
A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, by Paige McKenzie

 

bioshock rapture john shirley
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: Bioshock: Rapture, by John Shirley

If I were to highlight all these books as much as I want, this entry would be a mile long…This time, let’s try something different: 5 words (or less) to describe why I loved each book, so you can skip all the ramblings underneath.

Red Queen — Local debut author hits big!
I remember picking this book up sometime in the fall of last year while it was still an ARC. It was in such a pretty little Velcro case, too! I had to practically pry it from the bookseller’s fingers because she said it was THAT good — then the next day, WHO shows up at the bookstore looking for it, but Victoria Aveyard herself! I had to tweet her out and admit to taking it… Then I had her sign that very copy at her launch event 🙂

Mort(e) — BAD-ASS CAT.
I met Rob at Book Expo America in 2014. It was my first time attending and everything was shiny and new and I was snatching books from all over the place. While things were winding down on a particular day, I was slowed down by a long signing line spilling out into the walkway. This abrupt roadblock awkwardly placed me right in front of the SoHo Press booth. I spotted the nifty cover and so I picked up a copy to read the back — “The author is signing right over here!” said a tall, slim African-American woman. “What’s it about?” I asked. “It’s about a cat and giant ants that want to take over the world… and… well… The author can sign it for you!”  Admittedly, I was apprehensive, but also greedy for a signed book. A very nervous looking Repino was sitting at a table full of his books… I knew I had to say something to break the ice, so I mentioned I was a blogger and I would TOTALLY write a review for his book when I finally got around to reading it. He chuckled a bit and said he appreciated it. WELL, Rob… Here we go!

SURPRISE REVIEW!

Yes, Mort(e) is about a cat and giant ants that want to take over the world… but it’s also a touching story of unrelenting dedication and the bonds of friendship (& love). Told in a refreshing voice, Repino chronicles the life of a house cat and his connection with the dog next door. Yes, a normal, non-talking house cat — at least at first. Down below the Earth’s surface lives a gigantic (gross, grubby) queen ant that has decided to rain Hell down on the humans for stomping on and burning all of her little children. She unleashes a “hormone” into the atmosphere that causes a mutation in the animals on the surface enabling them to walk upright and speak (and fire guns and stuff). Suddenly it’s an all-out war between humans and animals, and the animals are kicking some serious butt. Our hero comes to his self-awareness during a traumatic event between his family and the neighbor, resulting in his dog-friend’s disappearance.
With a little nod here and there to Animal Farm by Orwell, Repino’s engaging Sci-Fi is action-packed and even humorous at times. I may not know a whole lot (nothing) about ants and their biology/chemistry, but if what Repino has written about their ‘colony-mind’ and seemingly immortal/never-ending consciousness is at all true… that’s freaking creepy!  Bonus points for having a remarkably satisfying ending. (AND even MORE points for a sequel in the works!!).

The Awakening
 — Everything deserves a second chance.
This is one of those books I HAD to read in school… which, of course, means that I didn’t. In fact, I got to page 11. At least that’s the conclusion I draw based on the dog-eared page. Now I’m going to say something that I never though I would say, but good literature like this is simply wasted on the young! Why would you ever force a teenager to read a story about a woman who is struggling with the monotony of her marriage and the thrill and infatuation of new love (or is it love??). Teens are trying to work through their first loves and infatuations and unrequited feelings and sexual frustrations. Okay, so some teenagers are certainly more emotionally mature than others, but seriously. Come on english teachers. How can they relate? I’m so thankful that I gave this book a second chance by someone’s glowing recommendation. Hmm… what OTHER books did I “read” in school that I should revisit?

Anything Could Happen
 — I needed this at 14.
I met Will this year at Book Expo America. The ARC of Anything Could Happen somehow ended up on my desk, and I knew from the cover: “Op, this is a gay book. I need to read this… I haven’t read one of these in a while.” I had the intentions of reading it once I finished up with grad school (which maybe tells you how long I had it) — well, meeting Will bumped it up to the top of my list.
When I was young and reading gay literature, I realized it was so much of the same story over and over again… the secrets, the surprise outing, the betrayal and heart ache… and while those all factor into the overall experience of the ‘coming out’ narrative, Will’s book is a much needed upgrade from the traditional. We’re faced with a character in the South, which we can assume is conservative. We’re also presented with a heterosexual love interest that has two dads. The story has some classic elements such as school bullying and unrequited love, but Will wrote a much more realistic take on a young man coming out to himself and his family — and in such an uplifting and positive way, leaving me hopeful and joyously celebrating our protagonist by the end of the last page. Good for you, Will. And good for Tretch — what a cute little bug that boy is 🙂 Thank you for such a beautiful, and current, gay young adult novel.

Fangirl
 — So relevant to college life!
Okay, I’m started to get pretty long-winded now! Time to crank through these next few. Fangirl reminded me of one of my best friends in college. Though, actually, when I recommended she read this book, she said she did and she didn’t like it (whoops)! But that’s okay! It’s not a reflection of my time in college, but it certainly reminded me of my experiences. Few (if any) people know that I was contemplating writing fan fiction in my middle school days after reading some written about Sailor Moon, and OMG, Gundam Wing! In college I began that contemplation again, and while I never put fingers to keys to type anything up, I certainly had a number of stories and slash-fics in my head. So this one was nostalgic in some ways — which always feels warm and fuzzy.

Anne of Green Gables
 — Who knew she was funny?
I CRACKED UP when I listened to this book on double-speed. Anne is such a vibrant character on her own, not to mention an incessant chatterbox, but to have her prattling on at twice the normal talking cadence made it seem like she was all tweaked out on caffeine. Towards the end I picked up to read the book, since I was gifted such a beautiful copy by Aracely’s Books, and I still found some humor in the voice. What a treat!

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
 — Youtube sensation turned book? YES!
In my quest to find “a book that scares me” I’ve turned to a few spooky/creepy books in hopes that SOMETHING jostles me. This will make me sound like a freak, but I love stories and movies and shows about the supernatural and demons and possessions and all that (sorry Mom). I got to meet Paige at Book Expo this year (notice a trend, folks?) and though I knew I recognized her name, I hadn’t yet watched any of the YouTube series this book is based on. She was kind enough to give me not only a copy for my job at the library, but also one for -me- to have, so if course I had to read it! And while the subject matter was spooky and creepy, which I enjoyed… It’s difficult for me to get scared by a book. But I still liked it a lot, and I’m looking forward to book two. Maybe I should start watching the web series too…!

Bioshock: Rapture 
—  40/50’s era underwater dystopia.
So, an interesting take on “somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit” — Since Rapture is a fictional place. I was actually considering reading one of the Oz books, or perhaps The Secret Garden. I really wanted to read a book based in Australia, but since I’m drawing titles from books I already own, I’m fresh out of Outback stories. I was hoping this book might also possibly be a “book that scares me” — especially since the games were so enchanting and terrifying…oh gosh, the music alone! — yet again, I closed the book unafraid and unspooked. I blame it all on reading Stephen King at such a young age. Anyway, all the same — I’ve never read a book based on a video game franchise, and this served as a nice prequel. Actually, it made me want to play the games all over again! (Which reminds me, I still have to play the last one set in the flying city of Columbia…)

If you’re still with me, congratulations! You made it through this super-sized entry! I felt I had to compensate for posting late… even though I’m being slick and backdating to the end of July. See ya next month!

 

June 2015

June, June, June… Yet another month to fly by all too quickly this year. This month was all about trying to catch up with life — to fall back in step with the day-to-day. While I made some progress in the Reading Challenge, I was able to squeeze in a few non-challenge books, too. But first… A whoops from last month:

Last month I had reported only reading one book. Well, I forgot that I read this one… Probably because I didn’t find it memorable.

A mystery or thriller: The Girl on The Train, by Paula Hawkins
A mystery or thriller: The Girl on The Train, by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train has been one of those wildly popular bestsellers that we can’t keep on the shelves in the library. I had this on hold for months… everyone raving about it… That should have been a clue. For anyone that is interested in reading it… just read a Wikipedia or Goodreads summary. That’s all you need.

Challenge Books:

A nonfiction book: The Real Wizard of Oz, by Rebecca Loncraine
A nonfiction book: The Real Wizard of Oz, by Rebecca Loncraine
A book at the bottom of your to-read list: City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare
A book at the bottom of your to-read list: City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare

A quick love & hate story…
Loved the Baum biography! I may actually read it again some time! Since the history classes I took in school never covered a whole lot of American history, I felt like I stumbled upon this little treasure trove of information — who knew most children barely survived infancy?? I didn’t! This is one that I’ll be passing around to a few people for sure.

The City of Ashes on the other hand… So, I was never too keen on the first book… though I was really excited to read the series! In fact I bought the first three books all at once. Then I read the first one… and it took me a really long time… then the movie came out… and that was atrocious… then I met the author… and after I was finished being star struck, I settled on accepting that the books were popular, and that I found them to be ‘okay.’ Not bad. But… okay. I think I dislike the series because it IS so popular and I’m still trying to chase down the bandwagon to hop on. And I’m no good at running. So I’m a bit spiteful, for no good reason other than me being a little pouty brat. Still, got another one crossed off my list!

A few extras:

George, by Alex Gino
George, by Alex Gino
better nate than ever
Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, by Tim Federle

Both of these books made me tear up. Between the nostalgia I have for Charlotte’s Web and remembering what it was like to be a 13/14-year-old boy — these two books hit me in the soft underbelly. Nice job, authors. 🙂

Next up:
Anything Could Happen by Will Walton ❤ It should have made this month, but I got distracted… But more on that later!

May 2015

Whew! May is finally over!  So much has happened in the last 31 days, I can’t believe it all fit into the same month. I attended at least three conferences for work, I finished grad school, flew across the Atlantic to Spain for just over a week, came back, then turned right around to go to Book Expo America in NYC. This has been the most overwhelming month in recent history, but the best kind… and now it’s out of the woods…back to life, back to sense…

2015 Reading Challenge
Another scant month for challenge books: Just one!

a dirty job christopher moore
A funny book: A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore

I realized while I scanned my shelves, that not many of my books are actually all that humorous. Though I do have some Terry Pratchett floating around somewhere, this is the only other one I could find. It reminded me quite a bit of Gina Damico’s Hellhole, which I enjoyed much more, in fact. Though I understand why the story had to take place over several years, it felt drawn out longer than was necessary. Still, I enjoyed it.

Book Expo America 2015

This year, BEA was all about connections. Attending Bloggers Conference granted me the pleasure of meeting new faces, and learn a bit more than I did before. After learning my lesson last year, I was much more discerning about waiting in signing lines for particular authors. I managed to return with a haul of under 50 books (43).  I’m much happier with what I brought back this go-round — a much more cultivated batch, rather than a supermarket-sweepstakes grab-bag like last year. A full list to appear later.

There were several fabulous parties that I was invited to, and I had no idea they were going on last year! I’m thrilled to have been invited to be a part of the festivities. This experience has humbled me, but has also reminded me why I love what I do. Words escape me — I’ve had such a difficult time describing my emotions. I can only smile, while my eyes well, and feel so blessed to be surrounded by such love from my friends and colleagues. This is what I’m meant to do. Thank you to everyone who made BEA15 such a treasure. I’ll go all sentimental – these are memories I will be hard-pressed to ever forget.

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And if there’s one thing I learned this year: Be bold. Red pants make all the difference.

April 2015

 

 

Okay, April was tough. I only finished  book from the challenge this month.

But I did a bit of reading for three other titles! I was asked to moderate an author panel at The Odyssey Bookshop, featuring Nova Ren Suma (The Walls Around Us), Lance Rubin (Denton Little’s Deathdate), and Tommy Wallach (We All Looked Up). I did my best to make dents in each of the books to get a strong sense of their stories and themes… and I really enjoyed each of them! Despite each of the books dealing with dark topics like death, our panel was lively and in high spirits. And, I must say, the authors were all adorable. It has been one of my favorite panels — I hope we cross paths again, guys!  (BEA?? :D)

1q84 haruki murakami
A book with a number in the title: 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami

 

The Good: I’ve always enjoyed Murakami’s work. Ever since I read Sputnik Sweetheart during my freshman year of college, there’s been this odd connection I felt. I realized how Murakami’s work had inspired an anime I had watched in high school (Haibane Renmei, for anyone interested). Since then, I’ve collected several of Murakami’s other books, and though I’m looking forward to reading them one day, I may take a break after this one.  1Q84 is about… well… how can I describe this? I enjoyed the characters. I appreciate Murakami’s splitting of the book into three volumes. The overall story was interesting… Hmm…
So… Can I just skimp and say that I liked it in general?

The Bad: Too long. Now I know why some of my friends preferred reading the book in three separate volumes. I listened to the audio as I typically do, and I couldn’t believe how long it took me to get through! I felt like certain parts of the story were drawn out unnecessarily, but then other areas could have been developed more. Perhaps it’s more of an editing problem? This book could have (should have?) been reduced by at least a third… There was quite a bit of repetition. As with other Murakami books, I feel like many of his themes are waaay over my head. Two moons? Little people? And wtf is an air chrysalis, anyway?  I just wanted to read more and more about the Cat Town, the Dowager, and Tamaru.

In the end, while I enjoyed it, I had different expectations for 1Q84. To be fair, perhaps if it didn’t take me as long to get through, I may have appreciated the book more. I knew I had to finish it before beginning something else… and now it’s done! Whew!

March 2015

Another month draws to a close in 2015 and I plowed through a ton of challenge books this month, bringing me just past the half-way mark. There were quite a few titles this month that I really enjoyed, including an old favorite from when I FIRST started to get excited about reading on my own, one that threw me back to my high school days, and another that reminded me of some of my true passions through college. Ah, such nostalgia! So, without further ado, this month’s completions!:

leigh bardugo shadow and bone grisha trilogy
A book written by a female author: Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo
stephen king revival
A book written by an author you love that you haven’t read yet: Revival, by Stephen King
the kiss of deception mary e pearson remnant chronicles
A book with a love triangle: The Kiss of Deception, by Mary E. Pearson
perfect ruin lauren destefano internment chronicles
A book set in the future: Perfect Ruin, by Lauren DeStefano
david levithan two boys kissing gay
A book set in high school: Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
animorphs k a applegate
A book from your childhood: Animorphs #1 The Invasion, by KA Applegate
peter cameron someday this pain will be useful to you
A book that became a movie: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron
holly black the darkest part of the forest
A book published this year (2015): The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black
laurell k hamilton incubus dreams anita blake vampire hunter
A book with more than 500 pages: Incubus Dreams, by Laurell K. Hamilton

Top Two:  Aw, do I have to pick only two??
The Darkest Part of the Forest – Oh, oh, oh…. Now, I’ve read Holly’s Curse Workers trilogy as well as Coldest Girl in Coldtown, all of which I have greatly enjoyed. Yes… I know… I haven’t read Tithe or Spiderwick… or Doll Bones… but those are on a list, somewhere. But THIS! Ah, Holly — I don’t know if you’ll ever read or see this, but thank you for this book. I love the dark, shadowy feel the worlds she builds, and I love the classic (as in more authentic) portrayal of faeries and other such folk. In fact, I had to dash out and pick up Andrew Lang’s Collection of fairy books from Barnes & Noble (Sorry indies!) and I can’t wait to work my way through those stories again. My college photography career was guiding me towards fairy tales and mythology… those things really inspired me, and while reading DPotF, I felt those familiar sparks of creativity. Not to mention, it was so incredibly refreshing to have a gay character that was treated just as normally as other characters and not as a stereotype. So, Holly — thank you. 🙂

Two Boys Kissing – Oh, my dear, sweet David Levithan. This was remarkable. I don’t usually dole out blind, sweeping praise, but oh, how I love his work. Told from such an original point of view, this story speaks to different levels of the gay community without being condescending or beating readers over the head with a preachy history lesson. There are so many little passages that are such gems, words that are positive, affirming and uplifting. I’m so glad this book has been written.

Bottom Two:
Revival – Here’s the problem… I really liked the books this month. Well, except maybe for Stephen King. But I didn’t DISLIKE Revival; I know he could have pushed it a bit more. King does such a good job of creating religious zealot characters that I really wanted him to take Revival to the next level. Think back to Carrie – Margaret White is a wonderful example of a nutty religious figure. King also does a good job of riling the other characters up around this trope, like the chorus of people in The Mist(EXPIATION!), and while I enjoyed Revival, I had much higher expectations for it.

Perfect Ruin –  This is another title I had high expectations for… but just as many reservations. I remember when I moved to New England, somehow I discovered that Lauren DeStefano was an author that lived not-too-far away, and there was a lot of promotion for her debut book Wither. I started listening to Wither on audio right before I listened to Siege and Storm, and I got perhaps a disc in and I just wasn’t finding myself as engaged in the story. Mind you, this has also been the case with Uglies by Scott Westerfeld and Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire. I’ve been in a very indecisive state lately. Perhaps I should have taken that as a sign. What drew me to Perfect Ruin initially was because it reminded me of the video game Bioshock: Infinite, which is set in the floating city of Columbia. I couldn’t help but use that game as visual references, especially since there was this gritty underbelly featured in both stories. That said, I will most likely continue to read this trilogy. Burning Kingdoms just came out this month and I have the ARC…. It just wasn’t my absolute favorite. Like with Wither, I wasn’t gripped… though, (semi-spoiler) the princess towards the end of the book actually has some spunk to her! She’s the reason I’ll pick up the next installment for sure.