Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

2017: The Pretty

What’s my favorite cover from a book I read in 2017? It’s a close race, but the winner is:

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

It is the perfect mix of creepy and curiosity-inducing.Here are the runner’s up:

^Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! by Mariko Tamaki

^Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Convergence by Sharon Green

This one is on here kind of nostalgically because the cover is the only reason I bought it in a used book store as a teen. Otherwise I would never have read this terrible, terrible series.

^How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

Lumberjanes Volume 6: Sink or Swim by Shannon Watters

^Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

^Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson

The Pages Between Us by Lindsey Leavitt

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking

^The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA by Doug Mack

Previously: 2017 The Ugly

2017: The Ugly

What was the book with the worst cover I read this year? Behold:

Red River vol 1 by Chie Shinohara
It’s a manga about a girl who travels through time to Ancient Egypt. I checked it out because the cover made me laugh. Other bad ones include:

A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
So 80s right now!

The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld by Terry Pratchett
This could be a lot more exciting. It’s Discworld!

*The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
As wtf as the book itself, so I guess that’s apt

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
I hesitated to put this on here, because it’s not exactly bad, just unsuited to the subject of the book. The cover makes it seem like it’s going to be your teen fantasy Twilight knockoff, when in reality it’s a badass historical fantasy set in feudal Japan about a noble girl solving her own attempted murder with the help of feudal Japanese Robin Hood.

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs
The Mercy Thompson series all have horrible covers that really seem to want to turn off the actual target audience of the book? Like, she has none of these tattoos and is usually wearing sweatpants and covered in motor oil in the actual narrative.

^Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
Also, notice how they give her feathered earrings so you know HEY THIS MAIN CHARACTER IS NATIVE AMERICAN

^Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
I swear this book is not about butts.

^Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
Yes, because mechanics and monster hunters both routinely work in just a bra.

^Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
What the hell

Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen
I feel like I could have designed a better cover than this

*Sexy Beast II by Kate Douglas
I mean, it’s hideous but I also kind of love it

Life after Life by Jill McCorkle
Another blah entry

Bringing Light to Twilight: Perspectives on a Pop Culture Phenomenon by Giselle Liza Anatol
We can do better than this

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
I find this cover bizarrely bright and gaudy for the dark horror that is this book.

^Gemina by Amie Kaufman
I think this is here because I freakin love this book, but the cover just isn’t selling it like it should

Next: 2017: The Pretty
Previously: 2017: The Bad

2017: The Bad

And now for the worst books I read in 2017. These are the ones I rated only 1 star on GoodReads (you can’t rate 0). Surprisingly, there are only 6 this year, which I guess means I was either better at picking books or was in a more generous spirit this year. And the very worst of them was:

Love Bites by Angela Knight
I got this in the Romance Novel of the Month subscription box I had for a while. The back cover promises a tale of VAMPIRE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE, which is such an amazing concept, I think my hopes were way too high. First of all, it is not a historical fantasy that posits King Arthur and his knights were actually vampires. It takes place in the present day, with King Arthur and his knights still alive, and hanging out mostly in some alternate vampire dimension with their paired off lady vampires who can also do magic. And for a book about vampires… NO ONE GETS BITTEN. So disappoint.

Competitions by Sharon Green
I have no idea why this whole series isn’t on here, because I read three of them this year and they all really sucked. The writing is clunky, the plotting slow and ridiculous, the main characters are all super attractive perfect Mary Sues, and their Captain Planet powers somehow manage to still be lame.

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
I’m willing to admit that I am probably wrong about this book. But I didn’t get it. A boy is trapped in a library by some kind of evil librarian that wants to eat him. He escapes with the help of his guard and a sort of ghost girl. The end, nothing is explained.

Those Secrets We Keep by Emily Liebert
This book promised to be about female friendships and DARK SECRETS, but it was more about bad writing and hateable characters.

Sexy Beast II by Kate Douglas
Another acquisition from the romance novel of the month box. Of course it was bad. Sadly it was not about some kind of sexy Tarzan despite the cover.

Unenchanted by Chanda Hahn
The main character of this book is a teen girl descended from one of the Brothers Grimm, cursed to live out fairy tales one by one until she either gets killed by them or breaks the spell. An okay premise, but executed pretty badly. Her school goes on a field trip to AN EVIL BAKERY.

Next: 2017 The Ugly
Previously: 2017 The Good

2017: The Good

Time to look back on everything I read this year with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly! According to GoodReads, I read 116 books in 2017. That’s 38,385 pages! As always, The Good list is everything I rated as 5 stars. After some deliberation, I decided that my favorite book I read was:

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
This book is basically Scooby Doo, the gritty reboot. None of the gang has really gotten over their last case, where they were trapped for the night in a haunted mansion on a small island in the middle of their town’s lake. Was the dude in a mask really the culprit? Or was something else going on there? Years later, it’s time to get the gang back together and find out! But Peter, the handsome jock, has been dead for years, ending his promising Hollywood career with suicide, probably from unresolved PTSD. The other members of the gang haven’t exactly had promising careers either. Andy, the tomboy, is a drifter who’s in and out of jail. Kerri, the girl genius, is working dead end jobs and fostering Tim, the grandson of the original canine member of the team. Nate, meanwhile, is in an insane asylum. Besides being full of fun callbacks to Scooby Doo, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys, this book is really well-written and legit terrifying in parts. Plus I got to live my Velma/Daphne ship dreams.

The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA by Doug Mack
This book was a close second for favorite read of this year. The author travels to all the US territories (American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands) and writes about both their history and what life is like there now. It’s shocking to me that these places are part of the United States but I never learned anything about them in school. I’d never even heard of the Northern Mariana Islands. Their political situation is murky, at best, as became tragically clear to me a few months after I finished this book and the entire country basically looked on like it was someone else’s problem as Puerto Rico died. We wouldn’t have let that happen to New York or Idaho, but those places are states. The strange limbo of the US territories has never been more cruelly illustrated. So, I learned a lot, but Doug Mack’s writing style is really engaging and interesting. His travel stories were often funny and always interesting. I recommend this book to everyone.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine and Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly
These books reminded me of teen Dirk Gently so I rated them probably higher than they deserve.

Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America
This book is composed of essays by different authors, which is good because I had to read it in short bursts, otherwise I would get overwhelmed by sadness and rage, which has been happening a lot more to me in general lately, obviously. Still, an important and informative read, especially for anyone interested in intersectional feminism (which should be everybody, come on) who doesn’t necessarily have a feminist theory background–the language is engaging and approachable.

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! by Mariko Tamaki
Lumberjanes in chapter book form! In this episode of my favorite badass girl scouts, the Lumberjanes discover unicorns, cloud people, and Lumberjanes of the past. It was kind of weird reading a narrative that I’m used to experiencing in comic form, but all the characters stayed true to themselves and I got some neat backstory on all of the main characters.

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
I read this in October to get read for Halloween! It was about a teen girl descended from Cotton Mather (of Salem Witch persecution fame) who moves back to Salem where, surprise, her family’s history is still very much alive in the form of ghosts, curses, and a clique of witch-descendants who are maybe out for revenge?

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
This collection of Kate Beaton’s comics was definitely worth the purchase price!

Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language by Patricia T. O’Conner
I read this book as part of my book club’s “read a book by an author with the same name as you” initiative. It was interesting, although I unfortunately don’t remember any fun facts from it.

Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed, River Marked and Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
Also as part of my book club’s “authors with your name” initiative, I ended up reading the entire Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. The covers have always turned me off before, but this series is actually totally badass. Mercy Thompson is a car mechanic who can turn into a coyote. The world is on the cusp of learning the truth about the fey, werewolves, vampires, and other things that have always remained hidden, and probably the most interesting part of Mercy’s adventures is the interaction between various aspects of the normal world (the government, the media, religion) with these fantasy creatures as they become aware of their existence. Plus Mercy’s a badass who can see ghosts. And there’s a vampire mafia! And werewolf feminism!

Our Hidden Lives: The Remarkable Diaries or Post-War Britain by Simon Garfield
Apparently there was a government initiative in the 1940s onward in Britain where people would keep diaries of their daily lives and send them off for “study” to some office. This book is excerpts from the diaries of a few of the diarists. The details of their lives as World War II came to an end were really interesting from a historical standpoint–dealing with air raids, rationing, soldiers coming home, starting “normal” life again. Also, their regular experiences could be hilarious or heartbreaking. I love diary formats anyway.

Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson
I am a sucker for polar exploration, y’all. This book is about the lost Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage north of Canada, and also the search for its remains, which spanned two centuries. I learned a lot about 19th century exploration but also the Canadian government’s historical treatment of its Inuit citizens, which ended up being a major aspect of finding the wrecks of the Franklin Expedition’s ships. They probably could have been found before 2014 if any of the earlier searches had bothered to pay attention to the Inuit communities who regularly hunted in the area the ships went missing.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
This book is a collection of short horror stories in comic form by Emily Carroll. It’s basically Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark for adults, and just as viscerally terrifying.

Gemina by Amie Kaufman
This book is the sequel to Illuminae, and just as awesome! Another epistolary sci-fi novel set in deep space with badass teen characters who have to fight to save their space station from a marauding mercenary crew, the self-destruct sequence, and an escaped deadly parasite. Plus, the characters from the first novel show up towards the end so YAY REUNION!

The Invasion of the Tearling and The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
These sci-fi/fantasy novels take place in a magical fantasy realm that is also humanity’s distant future (past? time travel, dawg). I liked the beginning of the series, when it was political intrigue and assassination plots.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
This non-fiction book follows the lives of four different women during the Civil War who acted as spies. The most badass was probably a woman who escaped her abusive home life by dressing as a dude and enlisting. She was never caught, but was often sent on spy missions because she was so good at “posing” as a woman. Go girl.

Next: 2017: The Bad
Previously: 2016: The Good

Banned Books Week 2017: Eleanor and Park

Title: Eleanor and Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Challenged in: Yamhill-Carlton school district, Oregon; Chesterfield County, Virginia
Because of: “pornographic” content and “vile, vile, nasty language”

This book deals with some hard topics: bullying, poverty, and child abuse. I can see why some people might find it hard to read. Most of the story is about two “outsider” teens bonding over music and comics, trying to get away from these problems, or at least not think about them for a while. Rainbow Rowell is a fantastic author, and I love how her characters always feel very authentic, even the bad ones, unfortunately. I hate that anyone has to go through a childhood like Eleanor’s, but I know that some do, which is why I think books like this are so important. Both for victims to find hope and for their peers to maybe gain some understanding of what others might face and gain some perspective and empathy.

Plus, when reading up on the Oregon challenge, I found that apparently some of the challengers were reading and objecting to fanfic of the book instead of the text from the book itself. Perfect.

Previously: Make Something Up

Banned Books Week 2017: Make Something Up

Title: Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Challenged In: A SECRET
Because of: profanity, sexual explicitness, being “disgusting and all around offensive”

Confession: I checked this book out but couldn’t finish it. Not because of how ~scandalous~ it was, but because I find Chuck Palahniuk’s writing to be really tiresome. I’ve tried to read another of his books and had the same reaction. His whole deal is for you to find him SHOCKING and it’s pretty clear to me that he puts more effort into that than character development or plot. So yeah, all those allegations in the challenge are true, and that’s what Chuck Palahniuk wants. Obviously a lot of people want it too, since he’s a best-selling author, and since none of his books are shelved in the children’s section, I don’t see what people are complaining about. If you don’t like his books, don’t read them. Which I guess I could say about every book that gets challenged.

Previously: Big Hard Sex Criminals
Next: Eleanor and Park

Banned Books Week 2017: Big Hard Sex Criminals

This cover pretty much says it all

This cover pretty much says it all

Title: Big Hard Sex Criminals
Author: Matt Fraction
Challenged In: It’s a secret, apparently
Because of: Sexually explicit

Sex is a plot point in this comic, so obvs it’s going to involve sex. The two main characters have the rare ability to stop time after an orgasm. They end up trying to use their powers to rob a bank and are apprehended by the TIME STOP COPS lol. It’s kind of ridiculous and silly, and I think if it were a normal book instead of a graphic novel, it wouldn’t be on this list. It’s shelved in the adult section (see the back cover above), but graphic novels always get more grief than regular ones because ~the children could just open it up and see a penis~. So maybe watch your children in the library instead of trying to tell the rest of us what to do.

Previously: George
Next: Make Something Up

Banned Books Week 2017: George

George by Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino

Title: George
Author: Alex Gino
Challenged in:
Because: transgender child, “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”

I read this book when it first came out in 2015. It’s short and sweet and reminded me a lot of I Am Jazz, but for chapter book readers. George really wants to be called Melissa (being deadnamed by the title of your own book is probably my major beef here) and dreams of playing Charlotte in her school play. Her supportive best friend helps her practice lines, borrow clothes she feels more comfortable in, and decide on a game plan for how to deal with their teacher and classmates. So another book challenged because some people can’t get over the fact that trans people exist. I feel sorry for their children.

Previously: This One Summer
Next: Big Hard Sex Criminals

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