Favorite Reads of 2016

For once, I actually came up with a top ten list of books that actually sticks to ten books. Kind of.

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December Reviews

I’ve now officially reviewed every book and graphic novel and trade paperback comic book bind up that I read in 2015. Mission accomplished! December was primarily a Diana Gabaldon fest–as so many months this year were. What will I do with myself when I’m caught up on the Outlander books in 2016?

1983168A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) by Diana Gabaldon

I was on a tear through this series back last spring/early summer, but The Fiery Cross slowed me way down. Took me two months to finish, then I walked away for two more months just to have a break. When I finally picked this up mid-November, I read it in two weeks. It definitely meanders a bit, and, like The Fiery Cross, it really seems to be made up of a series of smaller episodes that could be individual stories or novels in series, some more interesting than others. But overall, I enjoyed this one thoroughly with it’s focus on the Fraser family and the neighbor turning on neighbor in the beginnings of the American Revolution.

6104759An Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7) by Diana Gabaldon

I enjoyed this one more than any Outlander book since the third one, Voyager. Those all dragged a lot in terms of plot, but this one seemed a lot more tight, probably primarily because we started following more characters. I loved the new characters and having the perspectives on either side of the war.

13634927A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows (Outlander Novella) by Diana Gabaldon

I read this between Snow and Ashes and Echo, which was a bad plan, it came out after the 8th book, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, and should be read after it, it seems. But I was excited to read it, since it covers the always tantalizingly mysterious back story of Roger’s parents and that piece of it was really excellent. I loved the return to a 1940’s setting and the according tension of the Second World War.

27264691Lifeboats by Diane Duane (Young Wizards Novella)

This nearly novel length installment between books 9 and 10 of the Young Wizards series was interesting in that it followed an apocalypse without action-movie like scenes of falling skies and screaming populace. Instead, we get a lot quieter conflict, overshadowed by a sky that is so evidently literally about to fall that it adds the tension without the melodrama and it was a really genius way to handle the situation. It did get a little too slow at parts, but overall it was a really cool story and I also highly enjoyed the extra adventure we had with the characters.

25422234Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

Basically a cover buy for sure, but I wound up really enjoying the biography inside it as well. I’d been aware of the stir around RBG’s dissents from the bench several years ago, but I knew nothing of her early work and formative years and I found the passages on the sexism she faced and fought in the 1960’s and 1970’s really compelling. The book overall strikes a great balance between seriousness and irreverance (Annotated legal transcripts+the RBG workout!) and it was the best impulse buy I’ve made in awhile.

18630542Seconds by Brian Lee O’Malley

I really enjoyed the style of this graphic novel; visually it was really vibrant and laid out well. Story wise, I think it started out pretty strong with lots of convincing magical realism elements and an interesting lead character. However, I thought the romance was pretty flat and boring and the conclusion was too heavy-handed with a too-obvious moral. Fun and worth the read, but the beginning of it had me expecting more from the end than it ultimately delivered.

September Reviews

I had a pretty good month for quantity and quality this month. And the best news is I finished up my Netflix binge of Supernatural right at the end of September, so I should get even more read and written in October.

991197Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

As most of you probably know, Persepolis is a graphic memoir of Satrapi’s childhood and early adulthood in Iran during the Iranian revolution years of the 1980’s. It simultaneously captures the more universal aspects of her growing-up experience and presents the stress and fear brought on by the threat and reality of war and politically instability and oppression. It was simply and beautifully drawn as well, small panels done in bold lines of black and white, which often really added to the power of the message. I highly recommend this one.

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J Maas18006496

Overall a very solid installment. This series has expanded above and beyond its somewhat cliched beginnings and become really wonderful. I did have a few small problems with this one, namely that the character development was somewhat lacking. We had good action and some new character introductions, so maybe there just wasn’t time but I felt like a lot of relationships changed somewhat suddenly and that romantic pairs were thrown together simply to satisfy a reader desire for everyone to be happy in love, which I find kind of annoying. But there was great plot development in this, and lots of high-stakes action, which made this 700+ pager fly by extremely quickly. Highly enjoyable, as I’ve come to expect from Ms. Maas.

22754100The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I’d heard some ambivalent and negative reviews and wasn’t sure I’d read it, but I was glad I did. A small cast of characters makes the whodunnit pretty easy to predict, but the genius of this plot is that none of the characters are obviously evil and all of them have motive and some sort of character flaw that would allow them to act on it. They’re all unlikeable, which I thought was really interesting, trying to decide who to like or root for or suspect and I got hooked into it and was kept guessing just enough (my predicition was right in the end, but I just wasn’t sure) to read this in two sittings over two days.

The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) by Diana Gabaldon10967

This installment in the saga was pretty good overall, spectacular at moments, but I felt it dragging a lot and I was ultimately pretty unsatisfied with where it left off. There were a few new developments, but it mostly dwelled on problems and conflicts set up at the end of the previous installment that this never actually resolved. There were really remarkable passages, usually in small domestic scenes, that were just beautifully composed, but the overall story was a bit disappointing.

24817626Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

It’s been a few weeks since I finished this and I still can’t figure out how to feel about it. First, I’ll say that in a weird way, this book is trying to do some of the same things that To Kill a Mockingbird does, just less successfully. This dwells rather needlessly on long stretches of Maycomb history and teenage Jean Louise flashback but rushes the climactic confrontation and resolution. I have no basis for saying this, but I strongly suspect something almost identical to this happened to Harper Lee, because it’s emotional, but it lacks the symbolism and subtlety of her other, famous work. It’s ultimately cathartic, but it mostly just meanders. I wish I could read it completely blindly, as though it wasn’t TKM’s characters in “the future” (sarcastic air quotes. I really don’t see this as a direct sequel, since it’s not quite factually consistent) to suss out whether or not I’m jaded or just plainly didn’t enjoy it. I think it’s probably a mix of both.

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling22716447

This is Mindy Kaling’s second memoir and it mostly covers the few years since the publication of her first, though she did delve back into her years of college and early years in LA as well. I listened to the audiobook, which she narrates, and highly enjoyed it. Mindy’s smart and funny, and she also has some great insights that make it more worthwhile than a piece of light entertainment. In particular, I enjoyed her closing commentary on body image and think it’s definitely worth the listen or read.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’ve read so far in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly list meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week we’re listing our top ten books of 2015 so far. I’m not even going to put mine in order; I’d try, but it’s summertime and I don’t feel like stressing out about it.

8301077Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory

We’ll start off with my new favorite, ongoing comic book series about a world where an avian flu has made chicken consumption illegal and the crime solving agent with the power to see the history of absolutely anything (emphasis on the anything) he eats. Chew has all the hallmarks of a great crime drama: almost unbelievably creative, socially commentary with empathetic and complex characters. And then it’s hilarious. And then you read it again and you find new, even funnier things in the background.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas16096824

I’m a fan of the Throne of Glass series, so I was expecting to like this, especially after hearing lots of glowing reviews, but I managed to keep my expectations at a pretty reasonable level and was pleasantly surprised by this. It’s definitely a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but it takes place in a different, well-crafted fantasy world and takes some turns that are harder to expect. Definitely a must read if you’re looking for fairy tales, tales with actual fairies, and/or some pretty steamy fantasy romance.

15704459Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

This second book in the Reckoners series was a sequel that kept the pulse pounding, action packed fun of the first novel, but raised the stakes and developed the characters without missing a beat. Granted, I’d probably read Brandon Sanderson’s shopping lists and love them, but this was particularly entertaining.

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski20443207

Another sequel done spectacularly, the Winner’s Curse series is smart and unpredictable. More political drama then fantasy, set in a made up place without magic, it deftly explores an unstable empire, the ways in which the conquered and the conquerers interact. The Winner’s Crime in particular didn’t stall and didn’t flinch in the way so many mid-series books do. It was intense and addictive to read

10964Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

It feels weird to say this series is fun, because it’s often very dark, but then I don’t know what word I’m looking for. Engrossing, perhaps. Transportative is great too. The series gets rather large in scope, covering lots of time and very many places, but Outlander is still my favorite of the series so far as a woman from the past settles into the even more distant past and explores all the little details of historical Highland life. Romance, history, politics, and a lot of drama, it’s got something for every mood and I’m having so much fun with it.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin17288631

I’ve started adding a few more literary fiction works to my reading list, and this foray into Baldwin’s work happened this February. I was amazed by this book. Incredulous I hadn’t heard of it before getting into watching booktube and reading blogs regularly because it felt so universal for all that it is hailed primarily as a hallmark of LGBT fiction.

18755048S by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams

S. was time consuming and challenging, but definitely very fun. It completely redefines the phrase “engaging read” with it’s found object quality and interactive text. The novel at its heart is solid literature on its own account, and the characters that study it in the margins are fully formed. I fell in love with them and loved the mystery and the hunt. It was hard work, but it was extremely satisfying.

On Immunity by Eula Biss20613511

Only one of two non fiction books I’ve read this year so far and for such a short little book, it packs a lot of insight. It’s very thoughtful, examining the cultural perception of vaccines and public health. It takes a position, but isn’t particularly argumentative, which is rare in the vaccine fiasco. Just a well composed, thought provoking little gem of a read.

18460392All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Everyone was talking about this a few months ago and I went in with some skepticism, but I thought this was a masterpiece of emotional manipulation. It was very engaging, felt very real and I highly recommend it.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein16250900

So unique in concept and so excellently executed. To have a female friendship at the forefront was so lovely, and the World War II setting was fascinating as well. I felt the world-ending urgency of Europe at war against dictatorship through the intimate tale of two friends and both stories worked so well together.

Bout of Books Day 3-Update

Today

Progress: Read 112 pages of Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Challenge: Book Haiku hosted by Kristina Horner

Total

Pages Read: 484

Books Completed-None (yet!)

I’m still enjoying Voyager but I’m definitely feeling the length of it, what with keeping track of my reading so closely this week. I am hoping to finish this one up by/on Friday and use Saturday to read something short and light off my TBR (maybe Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover? Not sure yet) before jumping in to All The Light We Cannot See, which I want to have read by next Wednesday for IRL book club.

Today’s challenge was so. fun. I got to write a little haiku about Voyager:

And these are tons of fun to read! You can really tell who is loving their current read and who isn’t.


Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Bout of Books Day 2-Update

Today

Progress: Read 209 pages of Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Total

Pages Read: 348

Books Completed-None (yet!)

Voyager is still going well, overall. It had a bit of a slow transition section that I was slogging through a little last night and early today, but now it’s roared back and is crazier than ever, which is saying quite a lot, given everything else happening in these books.


Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

April Reviews

Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer

I really don’t have very many feelings about this one. It was written well. It was interesting to see Luna and something from Levana’s twisted perspective. But I don’t know that it was a necessary addition to the overall story. It was extra, a behind the scenes peek at events we already knew about and an introduction to the character we meet next. I’m a little bitter, I suppose, because I’d rather just have had Winter on the spring publishing slate, but there’s nothing to be done about that and this was definitely an enjoyable one-afternoon kind of read.

Quinn (The Travelers #1) by Marie Evergreen

So Marie Evergreen is actually the Municipal leader for the NaNoWriMo group I’ve worked with the last two years and I was excited to see someone from the little consortium of  “weirdos who sit and the corner on their laptops and don’t talk to each other” (as we’re known at the local coffee shop) publish a book. She wrote this long before I knew her, but she was working on book 3 this year and the time travel premise sounded fascinating so I knew I wanted to buy it and check it out. This has a bit of a vignette style that I never like, and I didn’t like it here, jumping from time to time and place to place without a deep exploration of any character anywhere, but at the end of the day this was a fun read. Very creative with a strong and unpredictable action-packed conclusion. I look forward to later books in the series and watching Marie grow more as a writer.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I’d had this on my TBR for almost two years, wanting to read it before diving into the popular new television series, but during the Xfinity Watchathon week earlier this month I caved and decided to just watch the show… all 10 episodes in 48 hours and I freaking loved every minute of it. The book is also excellent. It’s just a really weird mix of things: famously historical and romantic with a little portal-fantasy twist, it’s also thoughtful and political and written strikingly well. I had some iffy feelings about the ending, but overall I’m loving this series so far.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I found I had a lot to say about this, so expect to see a full review soon. The short version is I didn’t care for it mich at all; found it to be quite generic, predictable and underdeveloped. It was done well enough that I see why people love it, but it was way too overhyped for me to feel anything but disappointed about it.