Posts Tagged ‘books’

2013 Books: The Bad

Christmas!!!! I’m speaking to you from two weeks ago woooooo spoooooky

As always, I determined this list by looking at what books I’d rated 1 star on Goodreads. There are fewer of them than there have been in years past, especially considering I read about twice as many books this year. I guess I’m doing a better job of picking them! Well, except for these:

Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan

Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan

I hated this book. I hated this book so much I actually bothered to write why in a Goodreads review, something I almost never do, so that I could remember why I hated it for all time.

I don’t know why goodreads recommended this to me–I feel dirty. “If you sit down to pee you’ll like Pride and Prejudice”?? I couldn’t get past the juvenile writing style, casual gender stereotypes, and obsession with sex. The author’s choice for the “50 Greatest” books of all time often seems random, and, of course, dominated by white dudes. Plus, the author seems to have only a very basic understanding of the books he’s chosen to include, to the point where I’m not even sure if he finished reading some of them, let alone really getting what they’re about or placing them within a historical context.

It was like a perfect storm of things that piss me off: 1) Gender stereotypes, 2) Narrow-minded Only Dead White Dudes view of literature, 3) Enforcing the stereotype that “the classics” are boring, 4) Pompously explaining something you obviously know fuck-all about–especially if it’s a subject I know a lot about. Even thinking about this book again to write this made me angry. At least it inspired this blog post.

Five People Who Died During Sex by Karl Shaw

Five People Who Died During Sex by Karl Shaw

I thought this book would be like the literary equivalent of a Cracked article, but was disappointed to find that it doesn’t live up to Cracked’s research standards (which… is not really a phrase I’m typing seriously, but at the same time is 100% true here). I’m not a history expert, but even I caught multiple errors and historical urban legends being passed off as fact.

Tender the Storm by Elizabeth Thornton

Tender the Storm by Elizabeth Thornton

I mean, I had to rate this 1 star, but it was actually kind of hilarious. Dude helps hot young aristocrat out of revolutionary France, but can’t see past her disguise as a 12-year-old, even when she reveals her true age is “Totally Doable.” Then he gets to England and decides he has no choice but to marry her… for her own protection. Pages and pages of angst about I WANT HER BUT SHE’S TOO DELICATE AND INNOCENT ensue.

On the Prowl by Christine Warren

On the Prowl by Christine Warren

Oh my god, how can you write a romance novel about were-tigers and then only have them change into tigers one time???? Also a group of were-tigers is called a streak lol

The Diary by Eileen Goudge

The Diary by Eileen Goudge

Two sisters find their dead mom’s diary which tells the story of her first love. But it’s not their dad??? J/k it is, dramatic reveal at the end, he used to go by a nickname. Thanks for that Shyamalan twist, Eileen Goudge.

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

Amanda, listen up. If you write a book called “Mr. Darcy, Vampyre”, I had BETTER get to read about him tearing someone’s throat out in the first 100 pages. Instead, Elizabeth spends the entire book not knowing he’s a vampire, and it turns out he’s some kind of boring good vampire anyway, and then some handy villagers tell them how to cure vampirism because everything has to be boring forever, I guess

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

I’m almost positive this book was pitched as “Like… Lost but with reincarnation and everything’s really mysterious and WOOOOOOOOO *mysterious hand gestures instead of plot*” There, I saved you the trouble of reading it.

VIII by H.M. Castor

VIII by H.M. Castor

Hey, you bill something as “sexy, young Henry VIII” and I will read it. You turn it into a bland summary of Henry VIII’s whole life as you might find in any biographical dictionary, and I will rate it 1 star on goodreads and then go back to watching The Tudors.

American Nerd by Benjamin Nugent

American Nerd by Benjamin Nugent

This isn’t a history of nerd culture, it’s kind of a weird rant about one guy’s childhood and how he’s still bitter.

Final Descent by Rick Yancey

Final Descent by Rick Yancey


Basically, this book betrayed me. I gave my copy away to the library because I couldn’t take how much of an inexplicable departure it was from everything that made this series great. Let us never speak of this again.

2013 The Good
2013 The Ugly
Bonus: 2013 The Pretty

2013 Books: The Good

It’s that time of year again!! Time to give you The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of everything I’ve read in 2013! You’d think this list would be dramatically longer since I accomplished my goal of reading 200 books, but most things fell somewhere in the middle.

As always, I determined The Good by looking at everything I rated 5 stars when I added it to Goodreads. Here are the winners:

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

I think this one was my favorite, but it was a tough call. It’s a graphic novel about a boy who accidentally gets sent into death and the Ghostbusting team who follow to rescue him. It was a really fun version of the afterlife with beautiful illustrations. A quick read, but a good one.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I feel like this book was written specifically for me. It’s about a fanfiction writer and her sometimes-awkward start to college. The excerpts from her so-not-harry-potter-fanfic are amazing.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

AHHHHHHHH I was so excited for this book to come out!!! Allie Brosh’s comics/essays are amazing, and the book had a perfect mix of hilarity and truth.

The rest: Read the rest of this entry »

5 Things You Should Know About Pride and Prejudice

Guys, I have read Pride and Prejudice for like 4 different classes, because apparently that’s what the Rice English Department felt would most prepare me for my life. It’s like they assumed the purpose of my life was going to be ruining people’s good time. Maybe they were right, because anytime someone starts fangirling out on P&P in front of me, I’m like:


I’m not saying don’t have fun, I just think you should think a little about what you’re saying before you do. I like Pride and Prejudice too, because it’s interesting and Jane Austen is a good writer, but I think there are some things you probably aren’t considering if you’re going to gush about ~how roooooooomantic~ everything is, because it’s not. Let me crush your joy in a moment, but first a plot summary.

The Deal
The Bennets are an upper-middle class regency family who don’t have to work for a living. They have 5 daughters, which is a bummer because it means when Mr. Bennet dies, his gross cousin will inherit the house and land, so it’s really important for some or all of the girls to make good marriage matches. Which is tough when you got no cash, but luckily they have some assets.

There's Jane Bennet, the hot one

There’s Jane Bennet, the hot one

She’s terminally nice, and falls in love with a rich terminally nice neighbor, whose sister and friends are trying to keep them apart.

Lizzy, the smart one

Lizzy, the smart one

Lizzy will say whatever to whoever. It’s what brings her to the attention of the rude-but-rich Mr. Darcy, who eventually is like “Well, I guess I want to marry you, even though most things about you physically repel me because ew poor people.” Of course when she’s like “Get away from me, freak” it only makes him want her more, because men love a girl with spirit. Or something. Eventually he wins her affections by doing nice things for her family involving rescuing this troublemaker:

Lydia, the fun one

Lydia, the fun one

Also known as “Lydia the slutty one,” I say you do whatever you need to, girlfriend, although props if it doesn’t involve bringing shame upon your house or whatever.

Also there's these two no one cares about

Also there’s these two no one cares about

And that’s pretty much it. Jane Austen is great at writing minor characters who are funny and a little ridiculous, and Lizzy, her heroine, is just the right amount of fiesty and mannerly to intrigue without ruffling regency era feathers. People love this book/movie/tv adaption/web series/spin off about zombies.

I read a really terrible book recently that purported to summarize great works of literature to give you a fun overview, and the guy billed Pride and Prejudice as the original soppy rom-com that only “people who sit down to pee” will like. That quote should really be on the cover, because the phrase “people who sit down to pee” tells me everything I need to know about a writer. Anyway, Pride and Prejudice is a soppy rom-com if you’ve seen the movies or only read a summary like this one. There are some other things you need to consider:

1. Darcy is not that smart or witty

Guy can rock a cravat, I'll give you that

Guy can rock a cravat, I’ll give you that

I’ll even give you all the above (except maybe the sweet and nice–dude starts the book as a major jerk), but what I will not give you ever is that this is a relationship based on intellectual equals. Dude couldn’t keep up with Elizabeth Bennet if he wanted to. A lot of people cite their “witty repartee” as the highlight of the book, but, as pointed out by one of the best English professors I had at Rice, “Elizabeth is the witty one–he just laughs at what she says.” Check it:

“However he wrote some verses on her, and very pretty they were.”
“And so ended his affection,” said Elizabeth impatiently. “There has been many a one, I fancy, overcome in the same way. I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!”
“I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,” said Darcy.
“Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.”
Darcy only smiled.

Darcy is basically Elizabeth’s straight man, and when he gets a chance to show off his own brain-muscles in dialogue with someone else, it’s usually to deliver stuffy judgey lines to make them feel bad:

“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.”

He’s the kind of guy that comes to a party and sits glowering in the corner. You don’t have to talk to him, but everything still gets more fun after he leaves. So why would the charming and clever Elizabeth Bennet marry this guy?

2. Elizabeth Bennet is a gold digger

Since we're talking a regency-era gold digger, I thought Joseph Ducreux was appropriate

Since we’re talking a regency-era gold digger, I thought Joseph Ducreux was appropriate

I’m not being judgey–this was definitely not a bad thing to be in regency era England when your only source of income disappears with your aging father. Elizabeth is a woman, so marriage is literally the only option open to her. Girl can’t get a job or join the army or the church or whatever dudes without land could do back then. It was either get married to some guy who’ll support you, or hope one of your sisters does and that your new brother-in-law will be enough of a pushover that you can just continue to hang around. Lizzy’s smart, and finding a rich guy to marry is the smartest thing she can do in her situation.

Hopefully not this guy, though

Hopefully not this guy, though

And she’s not completely shameless about it. Again, she’s smart, so she doesn’t just saddle herself with someone she’ll hate, re: her gross cousin (pictured above) or Mr. Darcy the first time he asks, before he proves himself not terrible. Girl’s not desperate yet and thinking long term strategy, which pays off in a big way, because Darcy is by far the richest guy in the book. She gets to tour his gigantic mansion and grounds and is blown away. She even admits to her sister later that this is the main source of her affections:

“My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved him?”
“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”

In the movies, whenever they include this line, they then have Elizabeth and Jane kind of laugh to each other like “Hahaha, j/k of course I don’t care about money.” But really, in the time this was written, you’d be an idiot not to.

3. Mr. Bennet is the worst

I know, it’s hard to hear.

Guy's got that cheeky, long-suffering Ben Franklin look

Guy’s got that cheeky, long-suffering Ben Franklin look

But it’s true. Some of the best lines in this book are from Mr. Bennet, who manfully puts up with all the silliness of his wife and daughters and hides in his library whenever he can. His abject neglect and hatred of his lot in life would be really funny, if it didn’t have serious consequences. Dude, your wife and daughters are going to be destitute and homeless when you die, and you don’t even care? Seriously, while Mrs. Bennet frantically tries to plan marriages to save her family from ruin, Mr. Bennet makes fun of her for it, and then ignores the problem completely. Because, hey, I guess he’ll be dead so what does he care? What a loving father and husband.

Then, when tragedy and drama strike, and his youngest daughter Lydia (see “the fun one” above) elopes with a sketchy soldier, he heaves a great sigh and says “Fine, world. I guess I’ll get off my ass to do something for my family for once if I have to, god.” But j/k Mrs. Bennet’s brother and Mr. Darcy tag-team it to save the day, find the couple, and get them properly married before there’s a scandal. Way to sit at home and grumble like a boss, guy! No wonder your wife’s insane. Which brings me to:

4. Mrs. Bennet is a victim of emotional abuse

I’m not saying she’s not kind of annoying most of the time

She basically makes this face for the full 6 hours of the BBC miniseries

She basically makes this face for the full 6 hours of the BBC miniseries

But she is the only person in this family who is worried about what’s going to happen to them all in the future. Whenever she freaks out about them all being homeless, Mr. Bennet rolls his eyes at his silly wife, but, really, she’s got a point. Unlike her snarky, layabout husband, she’s also got the drive to try to do something about it, and her plan is getting everyone married. In the movie adaptions it always seems hella annoying, like the family members who start hassling you about “finding someone” and “settling down” when you’re 30 and god it’s none of your business why I can’t get a date, Aunt Muriel. But, remember, this isn’t your family reunion, this is regency England, where marrying your way out of your problems is basically her daughters’ only option. So I can’t fault her plan, just her shrill, often-inappropriate execution.

But why does Mrs. Bennet act that way all the time? She’s always making vaguely inappropriate remarks, over-reacting for no reason, and weeping copiously at the slightest bad news. Is she just being a wacky minor character for you to laugh at? No, she’s acting out the after effects of decades of emotional abuse.

It's hysterical, right?

It’s hysterical, right?

Ladies are essentially property with very little control over their own lives in this world, so you can see why anyone prone to nervousness might start flipping out with worry and panic attacks when faced with an uncertain future. On top of that, Mrs. Bennet has to deal with a husband who is actively mocking her all the time, admits he hates being married to her, and just generally treats her like shit. In most of the movies, they pass her off as too stupid to understand he’s mocking her, but you don’t live with that for years without feeling the disdain. Even if I buy that she’s not quick enough to get his snide little remarks, she understands that tone and his behavior only too well. How would you feel if you had to live and raise a family with someone who hated you and wasn’t afraid to show it? Who refuses to participate in any attempt to save the family, and treats you like an imbecile for even caring? You’d probably drink a little too much at the Lucas’ dinner party too.

5. All these soldiers are around because there’s a GD war on
Where does Lydia’s sketchy soldier lover come from? Why are there so many redcoats just hanging out in town? Does the British government employ them as eye candy?



No, they’re totally training to fight Napoleon. This novel was published in 1813, just after Napoleon’s botched Russian campaign and like ten years of him tooling around the continent pissing on things and claiming them in his name. Things like Italy. The novel is set in an undetermined year around the turn of the 19th century, so this is very much relevant to the story. Or… should be? For some reason, Jane Austen never really mentions it, besides that there are tons of soldiers all over the place. A lot of people think Austen couldn’t write about or even mention more than that, because, as a lady, she was only expected to write about girly things like getting married. So, yeah, Jane Austen was “obsessed with marriage,” another great quote from peeing-sitting-down guy, but this was olden times and she was a lady and therefore didn’t really have a choice. She got handed a boring writing assignment (“Only marriage! And lady topics!”) and then decided to be great at it anyway.

But you do have to realize that, for the majority of people alive at the time, Elizabeth Bennet’s problems seem like a paradise compared to their daily lives. Everyone pictures “living in Austen’s world” and being a star-crossed lover in an empire waist gown, but really you’d probably just be a dirt farmer or gunned down by Napoleon or whatever things non-kinda-rich-white-ladies were doing with their time. Historical context, fools.

English major out.


Daughter of the Lioness Book 1: Trickster’s Choice

notebook paper

We’re back in Tortall again!!! This series of two books is about the daughter of badass Lady Knight, Alanna the Lioness, and badass spy master, George Cooper. Her name is Aly and she’s less badass and more annoying than either of her parents. Still, reading this book was exciting because I didn’t read it alone! I was joined by artist and noted pipe-enthusiast James Fox, with the understanding that I would provide humorous chapter commentary and he would provide humorous chapter illustrations! Did I mention this was all like a year and a half ago? Anyway, here are the parts of the project that survived to the present day!

Pretty sure James could also design a better cover, but whatever

Pretty sure James could also design a better cover, but whatever

The Copper Isles raka clans were too busy fighting among themselves and those damn white people took over. Plus, their god Kyprioth may or may not have had his ass handed to him by the other gods. Some say the ancient raka royal line is still out there…


Chapter One: Parents
Aly is super rebellious and dyes her hair blue to piss off her mom. Aly’s dream in life is to be a spy in the field, but her mom and dad will not let her! She decides to run away and is promptly kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery. That’ll sure show them!


Chapter Two: Trickster
Aly works for the Balitang family! They are way nice to their slaves, even if they are raka because the first Mrs. Balitang was totally a raka herself! She’s dead now, but her two half-raka daughters are feisty teenagers. Bronau, some kind of prince, warns the Balitangs that the Crazy King thinks they are traitors and they should head off to the country. Kyprioth makes a bet with Aly that if she keeps the Balitang children safe through the summer he will take her home ASAP. He fools the Balitangs into thinking Aly is the new Joan of Arc.


Chapter Three: The Raka
The Balitang children are super curious about Tortall and all the awesome ladies that live there, including Alanna, Aly’s mom. On the entire journey to their country island castle, raka just come out of the jungle to STARE at them, specifically the two teenage girls, Sarai and Dove.

TC004 Read the rest of this entry »

The Circle Reforged Book 1: The Will of the Empress

Edit: Here’s another review I wrote more than a year ago, and just never posted for some reason.

You guys, I can’t believe it! I unironically enjoyed this Circleteers book! Even some of the parts with Sandry! I know, I never thought this could happen! Maybe it’s the combination of the Circleteers being back together AND them also being 18. Every book about the Circleteers (btws this is a name for them I made up since they remind me of Captain Planet) follows the same basic structure:

1) Various people think it’s impossible for the Circleteers to do things
2) They prove them wrong
3) Tris is the greatest

This book didn’t deviate from that basic structure, but now that the main characters are older, their adventures are more intricate AND often involve some form of romance, which is always a welcome distraction from the sameness of the plot. Back from their myriad travels, the Circleteers find that they have grown up and grown apart. They don’t trust each other like they used to, and they fight more. Plus, they’re kicked out of the Temple where they grew up and have to Make It On Their Own. Apparently Sandry is also a rich noblewoman, not just in their country, but also in the Russian Namorn empire to the north! Her cousin, the empress, is throwing political temper tantrums to get her to come back there, so finally Sandry agrees. The other Circleteers go too, to protect her from the empress’ tricks.

As you can probably tell from the title and the empress’ all-seeing eyes on the cover, she is the main bad guy, always scheming to get Sandry and her money to stay in Namorn through various intrigues, kidnappings, and suave economic maneuvering. Plus, she starts tempting the other Circleteers with what they want most, which turns out to be plants, money, and lesbian love.

That’s right, this book features the first gay main character in Tamora Pierce! Daja, the smith Circleteer, has a vaguely described moment of truth and falls for a hot Namorn lady. Luckily, this is not an issues novel, so no one agonizes over it constantly or freaks out. Apparently Rosethorn and Lark, the two temple ladies running the cottage they lived in, were a couple this whole time? I thought clergy were celibate in this universe? Whatever.


Best New Character: Cousin Ambros
Guy is so long-suffering and apparently way good at math.

Returning Character Honorable Mention: Zhergeobova
I don’t really understand this guy’s name, but he was the slightly-less-insane resident of the psych ward in Cold Fire that helped Daja lead all the mental patients to safety.

What I Learned: A major point in the book is the Namornese custom of kidnapping women until they agree to marry you, which is apparently totally legal and okay in all social classes in Namorn. The Empress doesn’t care since she was kidnapped twice and managed to escape, so claims that women who don’t manage to get away “deserve what they get”. Way to stick up for the sisters, Empress B. Bride kidnapping is actually a real thing, even today! Because there is such a stigma against pregnancy out of wedlock in many cultures, the woman feels obligated to marry her abductor/rapist from shame and coercion. It happens in many different places (including the U.S.–where in 1985 a guy claimed it was a custom of his ethnic group, and so was only charged with false imprisonment instead of kidnapping and rape). Kyrgyzstan of the Impossible Spelling seems to come up a lot when discussing it, where it’s estimated that half of all marriages begin in bride kidnapping!

Thing I Most Wish Was real: Badass names like “Ladyhammer”.

The Play-By-Play

Chapter one
Sandry is pouty that the other Circleteers have been away so long, and annoyed that she has to read another list of numbers from her cousin, who runs her estates in Namorn. Daja is glad to be coming home, but doesn’t want to mind-speak with Sandry because Sandry talks too much. Daja is pissed that no one told her she’s 18 so can’t live at the Temple anymore. But she doesn’t want any of Sandry’s pity charity so she buys a house of her own in the city. Sandry is pissed that Daja won’t “open her mind” which I guess means open their mystical hive mind connection. I guess I’m supposed to think Daja is being really mean, but I’m totes with her on this. Tris is even more grumpy than usual because, now that she can see things on the wind, it’s hard to STOP so she wears bitchin sunglasses all the time to block it. Tris doesn’t want chump charity either, and insists on being Daja’s housekeeper. Briar keeps vaguely alluding to some horribleness that befell him and Rosethorn sometime after the events in Street Magic. It’s so vague and weird that I check multiple times to make sure I haven’t skipped a book. No one wants to resume their mystical connection, because they all have SECRETS. Except Sandry, who continues being pouty.

Chapter two
Briar is apparently seducing everything female, except the other Circleteers. Tris says she wants to go to Lightsbride, Mage University, because she doesn’t want to use her weather powers for war. She’s going to go under a fake name so no one will know about her freaky secret powers!! I really hope this is what happens in the sequel! Secret identity Tris adventures sound great! Everyone grumbles about having to go on another field trip to Namorn! Tris sees on the wind that a dam upriver has broken just as they are crossing the river! She hurries everyone across, but they don’t listen to her and grumble, so she threatens to throw lightning at them, saving their lives. Instead of being grateful and apologizing for being jerks to her, they blame her. Tris, you need to get your own book ASAP! Read the rest of this entry »

The Circle Opens Book 4: Shatterglass

Edit: Do you remember like two years ago when I was rereading all the Tamora Pierce books that were, like, my life in middle school? Me neither, but apparently that was totally something that happened. I finished reviews for a bunch of books too, that for some reason I never posted. I found them in my drafts folder today, so here they are! In case you were waiting on the edge of your seat to see how this series ended. Sorry about that.

Woo!! Powered through The Circle Opens series! [Edit: LOL] Clearly I like the Circleteers way better when they are either separate or older. Probably both! Of course, I liked this book the best since it’s about Tris, my favorite Circleteer of them all. Here are some reasons why she is awesome: 1) Weather magic=clearly the best magic, 2) she likes books, 3) she is generally annoyed at others, which is a welcome relief from the other suspiciously cheerful Circleteers, and 4) fat kid solidarity. Luckily Tamora Pierce didn’t harp too much on how Tris is The Fat One in this book. The cover art at least doesn’t seem to think it’s that bad:

For the first time ever, I think I like the less melodramatic cover on the left

Tris and her teacher, the fabulous Niko, are traveling far to the South in a city that has a ton of glassblowers and also a rigid caste system. Tris witnesses an inept journeyman glassblower magically create a living glass dragon by accident! And then have a tantrum about how NO HE DOESN’T HAVE MAGIC GO AWAY. Keth is probably the most interesting Circleteer student-mage of the series, because he’s at least 20! Luckily, Tris is the bossiest person in all of Circleteer-land so this is not really a problem. The main conflict in this book is a lot like Magic Steps (Book 1) in that there is a crazy murderer loose in the city and only Tris and Keth can bring him/her to justice! Unlike in Book 1, we never get anything from the murderer’s point of view, meaning his identity remains a mystery until the very end! Good job, Tamora Pierce, you have successfully navigated the crime/mystery genre! Instead, we occasionally get passages from the point of view of Dema, police mage who, damn it, is going to CLEAN UP THIS CITY no matter what it takes! He reminded me a lot of a less dead Wulfric Snaptrap and less seedy Sam Vimes. Plus, Tris has TWO adorable animal companions, who somehow don’t even annoy me at all!


Best New Character: Dema, the police mage!
Dema is from the First Class, which apparently means he is super noble and takes it as his role to protect the lesser classes. Since the murderer is going after street dancing girls, no one else seems to think it’s a problem, but he will not rest until the killer is stopped! Even if it means pissing off all of the city’s priests, who hate justice. The only thing missing was for him to constantly mutter about how he was too old for this.

Returning Character Honorable Mention: Nikolaren Goldeye!
Tris’ teacher is ALL ABOUT wearing the fanciest clothes possible and pretty much owning everyone at magic, which sounds like my dream job. He’s basically Numair from the Immortals series, without all that troubling pedophilia. Thanks for not making a pass at Tris, Niko! Since you’re in a Tamora Pierce book, I know it’s a constant danger you must guard against.

Tris’ Improvement Score: +0%=100/100
Oh, Tris. Never change.

Thing I Most Wish Was Real: Pet Winds
So with Tris’ weather magic, she can basically control winds. She uses them for all kinds of awesome things, most noticeably as personal, portable air conditioning in the hot climates, and one time to fly her up a flight of stairs. My goals in life include flying and never having to sweat again, so I am psyched about both.

The Play-by-Play

Chapter one
Tris is exploring Tharios! She asks a garbage collector for directions, and the girl yells at her because she’s one of the Untouchables, a hated caste who handle gross things. You’re supposed to just ignore them! Tris thinks this is bullshit. She stumbles upon a glassblower who clears doesn’t know what he’s doing! He accidentally creates a magical glass dragon, and then tries to kill it! Tris saves the glass dragon and yells at the guy for not controlling his magic. The guy yells back that he has no magic and then breaks some things. Keth the glassblower backstory: he used to be a great glassblower whom everyone loved, but then he was struck by lightning and now he can’t do it anymore without screwing up! Boo hoo! His family kicked him out and now he lives with his glassblowing cousin trying desperately to regain his lost talent. Dema, police mage, is haunted by the ghosts of murdered dancing girls, demanding he find their killer!! Their bodies are always strangled and left dramatically in public places! Apparently Tharios is terrified of death and uncleanliness and the priests have to purify every place a body was found ASAP, which makes it impossible to dust for prints or whatever magical detectives do. He is super annoyed! Read the rest of this entry »

Challenged Books: Scary Stories Series

I was both happy and a little nervous to see the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Series on the 2012 Banned and Challenged Book list, because it meant I would have to revisit my childhood fear. These books are probably the reason I didn’t get a full night’s sleep for most of 1994.

Damn you, Alvin Schwartz!

Damn you, Alvin Schwartz!

But let’s be real, most of the credit for this goes to Stephen Gammell, who filled these books with drawings like this:

This was the exact moment my innocence died

This was the exact moment my innocence died

Oh my god were these books terrifying. Which of course meant that no one I knew could stop reading them. To be fair, not all of them end in grizzly ghost-death.

Sometimes there are also spiders.

Sometimes there are also spiders.

Yeah, these are definitely not appropriate for every kid (or every adult). Luckily there are plenty less-soul-scarring books in the library for them to read. Eventually, though, everyone has to confront their fears, and I reread all three of these books, turning the pages with trepidation at what might be waiting for me.



I realize now that the stories aren’t really that bad. A lot of times the protagonists live after something vaguely spooky or unsettling happens to them. Really in a lot of cases the pants-wetting terror of the illustrations seems a little over-the-top compared to the words. It makes me wonder how these books would do if Stephen Gammell’s mad genius was taken out. Probably they would never be challenged… but also a lot fewer kids would want to read them.

Previously: Challenged Books: The Ones I’ve Already Read
Next: Captain Underpants!

Challenged Books: The Ones I’ve Read Already

So every year I try to read everything on the Banned and Challenged Books list when the ALA puts it out. My dream is that one year the list will come out and I’ll have read every book on there already. This year I’m at 60%, so it’s not impossible. I’m going to be reading the four I never have and doing a breakdown as usual, but first I thought I’d cover the ones I have read.

2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This book is really funny, and also really sweet and meaningful at the same time. It’s full of cool drawings since the main character is a budding artist, but I’m not very familiar with those because I listened to the audiobook which was the best audiobook ever. It’s read by the author, and basically like he’s having a casual, semi-autobiographical conversation with you about what life on the reservation is like and how much people suck sometimes and how cool people are other times. I guess if I think hard about it I can remember some parts that had violence and sexuality which maybe someone might find objectionable, but it’s silly to judge a book based on small incidents taken out of context. This story is about so much more than that, and it’s real and beautiful and amazing. I’ve asked three separate librarians if they have any audiobook recommendations for me and all three, separately, immediately suggested this one. It made me kind of sad that I’ve already listened to it and that pleasure is behind me.

3) Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Another amazing audiobook!! It’s weird that my two favorite audiobooks ever are both on this list right next to each other. This story isn’t for everyone: it’s sad and real, but also beautifully written (and performed) and a clever premise. It’s about a boy who gets a package in the mail of 13 cassette tapes, recorded by a classmate who has recently committed suicide. Over the tapes she explains how she came to that point, and each tape is devoted to a specific person or incident. The narration alternates between what she says on the tapes to what the boy listening to them is thinking and doing, and if you get the audiobook there are two different voice actors reading these parts, so it really seems like a conversation sometimes. It’s powerful, listening to it like that, and sad. Just like how people are driven to commit suicide in reality. Taking away the book won’t take away that.

4) Fifty Shades of Grey

You know I've got this one down

You know I’ve got this one down

Yeah, I feel you, book challengers. I would be happy if no one ever read this book again based on its terrible, terrible writing, plot, characters, gender roles, themes, and the way it has somehow made bad fanfiction less shameful. If only ELJames could slither back into the bowels of the Internet from whence she came! But, as long as she’s out here in the sunlight with the rest of us, we might as well have fun laughing at how terrible this is. Occasionally with Phineas and Ferb guest appearances because I can’t help myself.

5) And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

A children’s book based on the true story of two male penguins raising an egg/chick together. Come on, guys, if we’re going to be offended by children’s penguins, I direct your attention to this terrible 90s monstrosity. I’m not offended by it because of it’s depressing girl-as-commodity gender roles, but because its anthropomorphic animated penguins are terrifying. Speaking of terrifying…

8) Scary Stories to Read in the Dark Series by Alvin Schwartz

We'll talk about this nightmare tomorrow

We’ll talk about this nightmare tomorrow

10) Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Yeah, book challengers, you’re right. It’s too bad slavery has to be such violent and explicit subject matter. But then, I could just make that sentence “It’s too bad slavery has to be”. I read this book in 12th grade English and found it really, really creepy, mixed with the usual tinge of annoyance that comes with reading something and writing too many essays about it. I don’t know what would happen if I read it again just to read it. Probably reincarnated murdered babies is still unsettling, though. As it should be.

Previously: 2012 List
Next: Stephen Gammell still haunts my nightmares, but I forgive him

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