January 2016

Let’s get this ball rolling! After having hosted Christmas for my family for the first time ever — which was no small feat! — I have survived with most of my sanity intact. As the new year begins, and the holiday tide ebbs, it’s time for a bit of reflection. Again, I strive to read as many books from my own personal collection as possible to complete the list.

We begin with three, listed favorite to least:

The Lover's Dictionary David Levithan
A book from the library: The Lover’s Dictionary, by David Levithan
Six of Crows Leigh Bardugo
A YA Bestseller: Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
That Old Cape Magic Richard Russo
A book that takes place on an island: That Old Cape Magic, by Richard Russo

 

I was pretty self-serving when it came to choosing The Lover’s Dictionary. Leading a book club at work grants me the opportunity to choose practically any book as ‘a book from the library’ and this one was a quick, yet powerful read. Levithan tells a narrative in an uncommon method: dictionary entries. With some ‘chapters’ as sort as a few letters, to others that span several pages, I felt engaged. Though one might think at first glance this would be an uplifting, romantic, hopeful book, it really is quite sad… this is one that deserves more than a single read-through. I found myself noting certain pages/words/entries to turn back to and read over and over. Think of those you hold dear to your heart. Recognize how love is so closely tied to joy, and also pain. No one is perfect, no love is perfect, and no one lives without feeling heartache. There’s nothing wrong with hope. There’s nothing wrong with fear. Remember to be kind, understanding, and patient. Thanks for another lovely book, David.

~

Coming off of Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, I wondered what else this universe might contain. If you consider her first trilogy as the mythos… the legend… Six of Crows feels more like the real, present-day (Grisha) world. With that trilogy as prologue, you have a richer understanding of this new book. Six of Crows is much more of a heist/action/thriller than a fantasy, but those elements are still present. It felt more focused, and I know how proud Leigh is of this book. (I still have the manuscript around here somewhere!) While it’s not necessary to read Shadow & Bone (etc.) before this, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you do.

~

Though I purchased Russo’s book on a whim during one of my trips to The Cape, I’ve never taken the time to read it out on the beach as I intended. During this winter, I figured it was time to start thinking warm thoughts. Honestly, I don’t have too much to say about this one. It didn’t thrill me, but it didn’t bore me. The characters were flawed, which made them endearing… and the story was pretty light. I’ll probably let this one go now that I’m done with it. This is perhaps an unfair assessment of Russo’s work, since I know people don’t just win Pulitzers on a whim, but I may take some time before picking up another one of his books.

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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.

BEA – Books Everywhere…Ahhh!

Where do I even begin?

The last few days have been incredible — and I know my tendency to blather on about things I find exciting, but I’ll try to keep my gushing to a minimum.

This year, I had the wondrous opportunity to attend BEA – Book Expo America – which, I’m convinced, is where all my dreams come from. My favorite wordsmith, Jane Yolen, along with her daughter, Heidi Stemple, ushered me to the convention as Morpheus and Hypnos would upon a dark steed (or in this case, their black Hyundai), through the perilous nightmares of New York City streets.

36 books, 21.5 miles, 3 car jump starts and 1 sippy cup later (and only one caffeinated beverage!), I’m back home, still reeling from how much was packed into the last three days.

My biggest take-aways from my first BEA:

The hype is real and it’s a lot of fun!  Now, here’s what I’m going to tell you… because somehow I missed this in all my preparations… What I failed to gather was an understanding as to just how much time I would spend standing in line.

My first stop was waiting in line for Neil Patrick Harris. Letdown #1: a billion other people thinking the exact same thing. Letdown #2: He might not get to sign for everyone. Letdown #3: Rather than a full galley copy, he was signing a sample.  Whoa, whoa… a sample? What is this?? I stood in line for 45 minutes for someone to hand me a 30 page pamphlet? Why would I want this signed? That’s when reality set in. I ditched the line.

Til I got sucked in again when I saw Anjelica Huston. (At least this time, it was a hardcover copy of the full book!) And again for Marie Lu. And Rainbow Rowell. And Lev Grossman. And Tim Federle. And Ally Condie… Though there were so many I missed! Garth Nix, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, David Levithan, R.L. Stein, Stan Lee, A.S. King, Alan Cumming, Jane Lynch, Gregory Maguire… and Grumpy Cat 😦

Luck was not on my side when it came to any author in the autographing area. Each attempt was thwarted by a early closed line, or a mile-long line of squatters. Squatters. You know, the folks that decide to sit down because they’ve been waiting in line since the night before the universe was created. That kind of patience extended ell beyond my threshold for this event. Whether I arrived an hour before a signing, or ten minutes before a signing, I never stood a chance. That’s another thing: expect your plans to be changed. All of the authors mentioned above were those I intended on meeting, but then again, I suppose meeting 1/3 of my list isn’t too bad.

Instead, I found my biggest rewards at book drops. That’s where a publisher births about 100 ARCs on a tabletop while people rush by and swoop them up. These lines, though also rather long, rush through rather quickly, usually yielding a satisfying three or four ARCs at a time.

What I missed out on the most were the author panels (many took place on Saturday, the day after I left when BEA became open to the public) but also on the conferences and talks. I inadvertently bypassed so many networking opportunities with other bloggers. Though, I should point out, the few that I met while waiting in lines were all lovely! Here’s to hoping I’ll get to attend next year!

In the meantime, I submit this list of acquisitions to my Sickness. These were not purchased! So based on my original rule set, they’re acceptable additions. With all of these new ARCs, I will need to revisit and reformat how to account for them… But until then…:

 

  1. Trial By Fire – Josephine Angelini
  2. Miles to Go – Connie Bailey
  3. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas – Stephanie Barron
  4. Witch Island – David Bernstein
  5. The Iron Trail – Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
  6. Atlantia (sample) – Ally Condie
  7. The Emissary – Patricia Cori
  8. So We Read On – Maureen Corrigan
  9. Not My Father’s Son – Alan Cumming
  10. Hell to Pay – Garry Disher
  11. Endgame: The Calling – James Grey & Nils Johnson-Shelton
  12. The Magician’s Land – Lev Grossman
  13. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography (sample) – Neil Patrick Harris
  14. Skink– No Surrender – Carl Hiaasen
  15. Bombay Blues – Tanuja Desai Hidier
  16. The Devil’s Intern – Donna Hosie
  17. Flying Shoes – Lisa Howorth
  18. A Story Lately Told – Angelica Huston
  19. Mastering Toby – Jan Irving
  20. Evil Librarian – Michelle Knudsen
  21. Amulet: Escape from Lucien – Kazu Kibuishi
  22. The Young Elites (sample) – Marie Lu
  23. On A Clear Day – Walter Dean Myers
  24. Last Winter We Parted – Fuminori Nakamuri
  25. Young Houdini: The Magician’s Fire – Simon Nicholson
  26. Clariel – Garth Nix
  27. King Dork Approximately – Frank Portman
  28. Mort(e) – Robert Repino
  29. Jackaby – William Ritter
  30. Landline – Rainbow Rowell
  31. Dataclysm – Christian Rudder
  32. I Became Shadow – Joe Shine
  33. Sway – Kat Spears
  34. A Sudden Light – Garth Stein
  35. Sisters – Raina Telgemeier
  36. The Black Butterfly – Shirley Reva Vernick

Battle of the Books

People may think my book choosing methods are strange, but honestly, I just find it amusing. Considering my lack of interest in sports, a book bracket may be as close as I get to some type of Fantasy League. Here’s the breakdown:

I chose two books from eight different categories, yielding sixteen titles total. (Well, six. I doubled up on two categories.)

  • Stephen King Classics: Cujo vs Misery
  • Travel: A Year in Provence vs PTown
  • LGBT fiction: Will Grayson, Will Grayson vs The Brothers Bishop / In The Line of Beauty vs Hero
  • YA series (having 3 or more titles): Insurgent vs Rebel Heart / Beautiful Darkness vs Reached
  • Kindle Books (fiction): Ten vs Better Nate Than Ever
  • Fiction: Little Children vs Dogs of Babel

Once selected, I set the titles against one another in their respective categories and flipped some coins and followed the paths of the bracket tree. The resulting list will govern the order of the books I will read over the course of the next year. With my recent acceleration in reading (like reading 35 books in 14 weeks for class) I imagine this will be a breeze. I may push a title to the front of the list as an audiobook becomes available through OverDrive or my library.

  1. Reached
  2. Insurgent
  3. Cujo
  4. Dogs of Babel
  5. Hero
  6. Ten
  7. The Brothers Bishop
  8. A Year in Provence
  9. Rebel Heart
  10. Beautiful Darkness
  11. Will Grayson, Will Grayson
  12. In The Line of Beauty
  13. Misery
  14. Better Nate Than Ever
  15. PTown
  16. Little Children
Battle of the Books
Battle of the Books

Here we go!