Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR

More and more I find my reading tastes changing with the seasons, though spring is usually a pretty transitional time from the darker and more serious reads of the wintertime to the light contemporary mixed paradoxically with epic, high fantasy fare I tend to favor in the summertime, so here’s a mixed bag of stuff I plan on reading between now and May or so…when I can be certain the snow is gone for good. Springtime in the Rockies and all…

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1. Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

I often pick up non-fiction in the springtime, don’t ask me why, and I’ve been interested in this book since watching The Imitation Game back in January. I picked up the audiobook cheap on Audible and am really enjoying the slight dent I’ve made in it so far (it’s 30 hours long!).

2. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I’ve heard some of the buzz around this book and snagged it from the library. I imagine I’ll pick this one up this coming weekend before it has to go back and see what all the fuss is about.

3. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I’ve been meaning to read this forever and one of my friends really loves this series so it’s high time I started it.

4. I Was Here by Gayle Foreman

My birthday was a few weeks ago and I got a bunch of books that I really desperately wanted and just haven’t gotten to yet. This is one…

5. These Broken Stars by Amy Kaufman and Megan Spooner

This is another one.

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6. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I reread Garden Spells almost every spring anyway, and this year I have acquired a few more of her books that I haven’t read that would be perfect to go along after.

7. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

A series with more of an autumnal mood, but I just recently read the Miss Peregrine’s graphic novel and got back into the world, and I need to read this before the third book and the Miss P movie come out later this year (I think? Hopefully that’s right!)

8. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

A recent release I haven’t sunk my teeth into yet. I’ve always had a hit and miss experience with Holly Black’s stuff, but I’m hoping this one’s a hit.

9. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

One more 2015 release. Vicious was one of my favorite books last year and I only held off on buying this the week it came out because I was holding out hope someone else would buy it for my birthday. They didn’t, and I’m trying to read down the pile of stuff I did acquire before I run out and get it myself, but I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out before picking this one up.

10. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I bought this one back in February when I went through my TBR looking for black authors to read in honor of Black History Month and came up pitifully empty and keep pushing this aside in favor of some other things, but it’s definitely a goal of mine to keep reading diversely all year and I’ve heard nothing but glowing things about this book in particular.

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Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts-March 11

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts is hosted at Bookishly Boisterous. It’s a casual weekly meme where we all just share whatever is tumbling around in our bookish brains. For me it’s perfect on days like today, when I feel like writing, but I don’t have any particular subject I’d like to write a whole post about. Let’s go with bookish thoughts first and then I’ll dive into the heavier things that have been on my mind all week:

  •  I’m currently reading Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin and I’m enjoying it, but I keep setting it aside in favor of other things. It’s been more than a month now since I’ve started which gives me anxiety about not finishing it, but I’ll get there. Eventually. I blame James Baldwin. Sometimes he writes stuff that is so stunning I go back and reread it right away.
  • About a week ago I read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven in basically one sitting after hearing several rave reviews of it. I’d write one too, but I find I can’t talk about it at all without spoiling it, so I won’t be posting one, but it was very good.
  • The other just-finished read is The Duff by Kody Keplinger. I really enjoyed this almost in spite of myself. It’s like I knew that objectively, the prose wasn’t that great, that the plot development was a little weak with its abrupt changes, but I couldn’t put it down. The characters were great and it was snarky, and just different enough to be interesting. Haven’t seen the movie yet, but I hope to go soon. From the trailer, it looks a lot different from the book, but I’ve heard some good things about it nonetheless.
  • The sad news of last week that I didn’t set out to mention, but find that I have to write about was that a friend of mine from college was killed in an accident. She and I were never all that close–we traveled in the same social circle, but never quite clicked one on one–and definitely was someone I had fallen completely out of touch with in the five and half years since we lived down the hall from each other, but I’ve been really broken up about her passing. I’ve lost distant family members to old age and various medical ailments, but loss has never felt quite like this. She was 23 and healthy and her accident should never have happened, but there’s no one to be angry at, no cause to take up in her honor. There’s just a lot of grief and this glaring reminder that anyone’s life can be taken at any time, no matter how confident and invincible we might feel on any given day. All I find I can do is try to shake myself out of my solitary work-home cycle and reconnect with the other friends left in the wake of this disaster, to let go of all the little problems and appreciate the little joys. It’s not much, but it’s the only take-away I can find.
  • A weirdly related, but slightly less depressing topic is that of photographs. I’ve been thinking more and more about experiences had with and without a camera (or camera phone) in front of my face and I’ve been conflicted. I dropped and broke my smartphone on Friday night a few weeks ago, just a few hours before I was headed out the door to a concert with friends. Instead of charging up my ancient point and shoot digital camera, I went to the show without any camera at all and really enjoyed myself. I was more in the moment, instead of scrambling to get my phone out of my pocket when the singer’s on my side of the stage, or the guitarist is jumping off of something or whatever like I usually am. And the people watching between sets without a smartphone to distract you is crazy fun too, by the way. The whole night seemed extra fun, for all that I don’t have a tangible reminder of it. Contrast that, though with freshman year of college when that point and shoot camera was pretty new and I was obsessed with capturing every moment of my new life experience with my new friends. It means I have a zillion candid shots of the most random moments in dorm rooms and on walks to Burger King and other mundane events right alongside shots of Homecoming and the big Fall Break trip. And so when I got the phone call that one of those friends was gone forever I had a stack of photos and an even bigger Facebook album with shots of her face at every angle, captured in moments I would have otherwise forgotten. So I don’t think I’ll drop the camera completely, but it’s good to remember that it’s the memory that’s most important, not just the proof of it.
  • I hope everyone else has had a better week than me! And as always, happy reading.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten All Time Favorites from the Past Three Years

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we’re listing our favorite books out of the ones we’ve read in the last 3 years:IMG_20150303_203137

1. The Fault in Our Stars-I had to whittle this list down from a first pass of fifteen and I still cheated to keep this on it because it’s technically been 37 months, not 36, since I first read it. I knew back then it would be a favorite for a long time to come and I was right.

2. The Way of Kings-I almost hesitated to add this to “all time” favorites lists because there is so much left in the series, but I just adored this world and these characters so much, I had to include it. There’s another particularly popular Sanderson series that would have made this list too, but one per author seemed the best way to go and I love this series even more than Mistborn.

3. Giovanni’s Room-I read this in February, so it’s a little early to have it on a favorites list, but I was so completely in awe of this work that I had to include it. I don’t know any good reasons why I never read James Baldwin in school, but I’m so glad I have started now.

4. Eleanor and Park-This is such a perfect YA romance. Simple and sweet and totally unexpected. I don’t pick it up all the time, but when I do I get completely caught up in it all over again.

5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe-I read this like a year ago and I still can not wrap my head around how this book did so much with such simple prose in such a short space. It’s the story equivalent of Hermoine’s little beaded bag from Deathly Hallows.

6. The Girl of Fire and Thorns-Everyone and their grandmother is raving about Throne of Glass in the last year or so. And Throne of Glass is awesome, but if you love it and you haven’t read Fire and Thorns you need to jump on it. Strong characters, the most angsty, swoon-inducing romance you’ve ever seen, tight political drama. It has everything you could ever want in a fantasy novel. Read it. Please.

7. Saga-This opened new doors for me. I ventured into a comic book store for the first time so I could get the single issues of this series because I absolutely had to know what happened next at the first opportunity. This merges art and action and striking family drama all into one and it just keeps getting better.

8. The Infernal Devices-The Mortal Instruments series has its share of detractors and its share of rough patches, but this trilogy was all but perfect. Steampunk was on trend at the time it was releasing, but this was still so creative, combining its magic system with another era, and creating one of the best and most interesting romantic plotlines I’ve ever read.

9. Dark Triumph-The first and last books in this trilogy were, in the grand scheme of things, pretty forgettable for me, but this installment will stick with me. Sybella’s story was so compelling and her romance really broke the typical YA and fantasy molds.

10. The Name of the Wind-Patrick Rothfuss does beautiful things with the English language, not surprising, considering he’s building a beautiful world too. The storytelling nature of this series is brilliant and the scope of the world is awesome too. Everybody talks about this with good reason. Scenes in this book and it’s sequel have stuck with me in the two and a half years since I first neglected my homework to fly through them.

February Reviews

February was mostly cold and snowy here (as it was everywhere in the U.S., seems like) and I stayed in and got lots of reading done. Very happy with very nearly everything I picked up this month, both in a variety of fiction genres and in graphic novels:

Novels

15798977Home by Toni Morrison

This was the first work of Toni Morrison’s I’ve ever read. I don’t get the impression that this is one of her more famous works, and I wasn’t totally blown out of the water by it, but it was solid. Moving, multi-faceted portrait of a family separated by war both hopeful and heartbreaking all at once.

The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) by Brandon Sanderson13538824

This book picks up several centuries after The Hero of Ages, the final book in the Mistborn trilogy. It’s fascinating to read just to see that fantasy world grow and develop technologically, to see how culture and religion have changed in the intervening time. Then, of course, there’s a whole new set of characters to know and love and rip-roaring mystery/action thriller with a lot of western flair (gunslinging, train heist and more). I enjoyed it, but I don’t think this quite lived up to the larger-than life Mistborn trilogy. I could have used some more focus on the characters and their development, but this is definitely not to be missed and I am looking forward to two more more books coming this year.

17288631Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

This was perfection. Can’t believe I haven’t read James Baldwin before, but I’m so glad I have now. The writing here was masterful and the story was so compelling, with a complicated, not always likeable lead. It was short but it explored so many different ideas: homosexuality, of course, but other kinds of identity as well. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson15704459

The Brandon Sanderson-fest continues. This sequel to Steelheart came out in January and since it had been more than a year since I read the first installment, I had some recall issues, but I caught up quickly. It helped that the supporting cast pretty much completely changed as the main characters traveled to a new city with a new antagonist, so it wasn’t all that hard to get back into. I thought this was done extremely well, with an insane amount of action, but also with a strong character-driven story, more so than in Steelheart. As always in a Brandon Sanderson novel, I was blown away by the revelations and the plot twists and I am so excited to read more next year.

8709528The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6) by Richelle Mead

This sixth book in the Bloodlines series concluded the saga remarkably well. It felt a bit rushed, and despite one tear-jerking storyline, was a little too easily resolved, but I was so glad it brought back a lot of plot threads from early installments and tied them all together. Definitely not a disappointing end to a series I adore.

Marked (House of Night #1) by Kristen and P.C. Cast30183

I did not like this at all. I tried to continue the series and I had to stop partway through book two because it just seems to get worse from here. The idea is good, an alternate reality where vampyres (yes, with the y) exist in tandem with humans and once a human teenager is “marked” to become a vampyre he or she attends a separate school for fledglings while they transition. The problem with this is in execution and character. The writing swings from childish (poo and poopie are chosen over “shit” or even “crap”) to inappropriate and derogatory. We don’t ever see the gay character without being reminded in some glaringly stereotypical way of his gayness, Zoey, the narrator, seemingly can’t go two pages without calling her antagonist a slut or a ho or a hag. Zoey comes off so incredibly selfish and frustrating and so her light-speed rise to power is more sickening than inspiring.

16250900Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Very smart, extremely intriguing historical fiction. The characters were done so well and the story composition is spectacular. I was so impressed by this, both by how real the story and the characters and their friendship felt, though they are completely fictional, and how much it captured the wider story of the desperate uncertainty of Europe at war in the early 1940’s. A must-read.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories by Rae Carson19346537

These three stories were all prequels to the main trilogy and they were all rather tragic. But I enjoyed them immensely. The world Rae Carson built is spectacular and I really loved getting to visit it again after a couple of years away.

11621048Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

After the massive disappointment that is the conclusion of the Lux series and the utter train wreck that is House of Night, I was just about ready to give up on YA paranormal romance entirely. I decided to pick this up, I’ll admit, because I thought I’d hate it and could get it and it’s sequels out of the way and off my shelf. I’m happy to say, though, that that plan was instantly thwarted. This was extremely well done. Clara is a spectacular lead. She’s strong and decisive, but she isn’t perfect. She screws up, she gets angry at her mom, she’s cruel to her friends. The romance is a bit of a love-triangle, but it’s a believable one and Clara’s decisiveness and respect, both for herself and the guys, doesn’t drag it out. The nephilim lore in the plot is done well, with both the main character and her family members of the biblical race, so that the awkward secret is between Clara and her peers, with her in the know, an interesting and effective reversal from how things are typically done in the genre. It definitely gets a little irritatingly angsty, but overall it was a quick fun, read and extremely well done.

Hallowed (Unearthly #2) by Cynthia Hand11563110

Less good than Unearthly, this was still entertaining. Some more mystery and heaps of uncertainty, it dragged a bit. I started to feel like this could have been condensed into a much shorter book, like this series shouldn’t have been a trilogy at all. A lengthly stand-alone, maybe or a duo. I think we’re set up quite nicely for a strong conclusion in book 3, but I think that’s all this really accomplished.

15851966Radiant (Unearthly 2.5) by Cynthia Hand

There was an ad for this ebook novella in the back of Hallowed and when I looked it up on Goodreads, one of the top reviews said to read it before reading the third book, so I purchased it. It will probably tie to some stuff in that third installment I have not yet started, but taken on its own, it was underwhelming and anti-climactic.

Comics and Graphic Novels

17333322Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs and Cassandra Jean

I read Ms. Peregrine’s the novel about two and half years ago and have yet to pick up the sequel Hollow City. I decided to read this as a quick refresher in anticipation of finally reading book 2 and I was impressed. Ms. Peregrine’s is not my most favorite paranormal novel ever, by any means, but is inventive and fascinating and a great story. The illustration in this is fantastic as well, and I think the story was summarized quite nicely in this adaptation.

Alex & Ada Issues #10-#12 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan23551515

A comic book series I love more and more every time I pick it up. Alex & Ada is exploring the very definition of humanity with its robot-human relationships and it’s totally engrossing. It strikes a good balance between tension and humor and the simple, uncluttered frames and character–rather than action–driven scenes are lovely and somewhat unique to comics as I’ve experienced them so far.

20881139Black Science Vol. 1: How to Fall Forever by Rick Remender

When I saw this at the comic book store a little while ago I was intrigued first by the bright coloring (because inside, I never grew past 5 years old, apparently) and then, when I picked it up, by the idea. A device that transports a group of scientists through dimensions, broken down, keeping them from returning home. And the story is amazing. It’s definitely a ride where you don’t know what to expect. My only complaint was that the characters are not particularly memorable. They all play strongly off of a pulpy action movie stereotype: stoic, tortured scientist, villainous businessman, sarcastic teenager, etc. I do think they’ll develop as the series continues, however, and I am definitely looking forward to picking up volume two.