2015 Favorites Roundup Part 2

In continuation from Part 1, these are the books that I loved reading last year but were published pre-2015. While I did manage to read some new books, mostly I read whatever caught my fancy at garage sales or wonderful library book sales (a whole BAG OF BOOKS for $1!). These are my three favorite “old” books that I read in 2015–okay, I cheated on the last one because it’s actually a series, but what are you going to do about it?


A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is about a Canadian writer named Ruth finding a washed up diary in a lunchbox (from the 2011 tsunami) of Nao–a 16-year-old girl from Tokyo. Through Ruth’s reading of the diary, we learn about Nao’s disturbingly cruel classmates, her resolve to commit suicide, and most importantly (in Nao’s mind), her Buddhist nun great-grandmother.

I listened to the audiobook read by the author. I cannot praise her performance enough–it was fantastic to experience Ozeki’s knowledge of Japanese language and culture. The novel itself is fantastically meta, weaving the past with the present and writing, thoughts, and dreams. Nao’s sections of this book were wonderfully weird. Full of aching beauty and thoughtfulness, this is easily one of my favorites for the year. Get ready for some pervy stuff, though. If that’s not your thing, you might want read something else.


Fangirl

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is about a freshman in college who turns to writing fanfiction to cope with life. Cath’s twin sister wants to stop spending so much time together and stop living together–these revelations come as a huge shock to Cath, who considers her twin her best friend. Together, the two have bonded over everything, including the long-lasting act of writing fanfiction about Simon Snow (fictional representation of Harry Potter brought to life in Rowell’s Carry On).

I loved this book because of the struggles Cath experiences while navigating college, literary obsessions, and being an anxious introvert. Her story so closely resembled my own freshman year that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the hysterical antics and writing Cath gets up to. I finished it in one sitting because it is just so spot on. This is superb for lovers of fanfiction.

Side note: Rainbow Rowell was a speaker at my local library, which convinced me to read all of her books. They are all fantastic, trust me.


 

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned (Y: The Last Man #1)Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and José Marzán Jr. is actually a ten-volume graphic novel series. I devoured the whole series in 2015 because it is just that good, so I’m counting it as one book. I struggled with whether to mention this series or Gaiman’s Sandman (which I also read in 2015), but I thought that it already has received so much acclaim that Y should get some love.

Premise: something caused all mammals with a Y chromosome (including embryos and sperm) on Earth to drop dead–except for one man and his monkey. Yorick and Ampersand, respectively, travel the world to find Yorick’s girfriend Beth and to find the reason that only they survived. Along the way they encounter cults, crazy government officials, assassins, astronauts, and get into all sorts of crazy shenanigans.

What I loved about this series was both the fantastic storytelling and the dark humor. While some feel the series is sexist, I thought the author wrote a realistic representation of what could happen if females suddenly became the only living beings on Earth. I laughed, I cried, I devoured this story. Yorick can be a jerk, but a lovable one, and the female characters (especially Agent 355 of the secret government organization, the Culper Ring) were just so wonderful that I didn’t even care if Yorick’s survivor’s guilt was awkwardly written about. The rest is so masterfully done that this goes in my top three favorite graphic novel series.


So… what were your favorite books of 2015 (new or “old”)?

 

2015 Favorites Roundup Part 1

I read the most books I’ve EVER read in one calendar year in 2015 (133 books!). Although I read a lot of older books, I did manage to catch some that were fresh off the press.

These were my top three favorite books published in 2015.


The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #2)The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is the sequel to The Queen of the Tearling–a post-apocalyptic fantasy about the descendants of a group of people that travelled from American to England.

Queen Kelsea is now dealing with the effects of breaking the treaty with Tear’s neighbor, Mortmesne. Johansen steps up her game in the sequel by adding a second point of view, told through Kelsea’s visions of a woman (Lily Mayhew) dealing with pre-Crossing troubles in America. She also excels at conveying a wealth of truth in how young women actually think. Kelsea becomes such a beautifully, refreshingly real woman. I highly recommend this series.


Golden Son (Red Rising Trilogy, #2)Golden Son by Pierce Brown is the sequel to his fantasy debut, Red Rising, which is about Darrow of the Red caste. This space-world is hugely separated by caste, to the point of genetic tampering depending on color. The Reds are at the bottom of the totem pole, slaves to the Golds. Darrow is part of a Red rebellion against the Golds that explodes into action in this book.

Golden Son quickly became one of my favorite speculative fiction series in 2015, when I read both novels. The politics of different human castes (genera, really) and intellectual battles in space are just so masterfully written. The humanity even in this far-off future is remarkably realistic and the situations that Brown puts his characters into are crazy and terrifying and wonderful.


A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic, #1)

A Darker Shade of Magic is a story about the last magician who can travel between parallel versions of London. Grey London is boring and lacks magic. Kell is from Red London, filled with magic and music and all things wonderful. Next in line is White London, where magic has been nearly used up and everything is creepy and awful. Last in line is Black London, a dark land cut off from magic.

Kell is an ambassador for the Prince of Red London, and he gets up to all sorts of rogue-ish fun. He bumps into another rogue, Delilah Bard, and the two set off to have a “proper adventure.” A Darker Shade of Magic is a mix of swashbuckling fun and deadly secrets and assassins. I’m excited to read the sequel, A Gathering of Shadows, scheduled to release in late February.


Coming soon: favorites read in 2015 that were published pre-2015.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive CoverLuckiest Girl Alive is a 352 page thriller/mystery published by Simon & Schuster in May 2015. I listened to the audiobook version, read by Madeleine Maby.

Since this book is considered a mystery, I’ll avoid too much summary to prevent spoilers. Ani (Tifani FaNelli) is an editor at a well known women’s magazine looking forward to marrying Luke, a man of status and old money. She wants to forget about her dark past at school and mediocre status so she attempts to create an entirely new personality for herself, known as Ani. Besides flashbacks, that’s pretty much the entire plot of the book.

Considering half her time is spent fretting about which expensive outfit will make her look the most ragamuffin or how best to starve herself and how much she wants to binge eat, it might not seem like Ani cares to think about her past. But once a man from her days at school appears, More

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies is a 390 page fiction novel published by Riverhead Books in September 2015.

Fates and Furies coverI wanted to review Fates and Furies because of the acclaim it received this year and the fact that I think it’s highly overrated. Normally I avoid writing negative reviews because I know each book has its audience, even if I’m not part of it. I felt compelled to write this review because while the novel is touted as being masterful and literary, the pretension of it makes it my least favorite book of 2015.

The plot revolves around the marriage of Lotto (Lancelot) Satterwhite and his lovely (okay, interesting-looking) French wife, Mathilde. They get married after two weeks of dating, have rad parties, pay lots of bills even though only Mathilde has a job, keep dark secrets, and do all sorts of other marriage-y things. The first part of the book, Fates, is told through Lotto’s point of view and sets up their perfect marriage. The second, Furies, is told through Mathilde’s point of view and breaks it down into the nitty gritty. More

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling is a 464 page novel, published by Harper Paperbacks in 2013. It’s the first in the series of the same name.

The Queen of the Tearling Cover

Much scientific (especially medicinal) knowledge was lost during the Crossing—three centuries previous to the events in this post-apocalyptic tale. I believe the Crossing was from America to Europe, partially due to a legend of an entire ship full of doctors and medical equipment sinking during the Crossing.

In the new feudal world, Queen Kelsea–who has spent 19 years being raised and trained to rule the Tearling–is herded onto the throne in place of the Regent who happens to be her slovenly uncle, desperate to keep his place on the throne. More

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants is a 320 page novel scheduled to be published by Del Rey in April 2016. I received an e-book copy pre-release from NetGalley. Some changes may be made by the time it publishes, so this review is just for the galley of the book.

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)We are introduced to Dr Rose Franklin—in a rather unnecessary prologue—during her tumble into a hole in the ground where she discovers a giant, glowing hand. Who dug this hole? We’ll never know! But what we will eventually know is that the rest of the giant parts are mysteriously similar, at least proportionally, to humans. Sleeping Giants is about a host of people on a scientific and paramilitary mission to find and configure all parts of this gorgeous, glowing giant. More

Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade House by David Mitchell, of Cloud Atlas fame, was published by Random House in October of 2015.  I received the novel from NetGalley.

Slade House CoverAlthough I’ve never read a David Mitchell book–apparently this novel fits into his established fictional universe–Slade House works perfectly well as a standalone novel.

While the plot surrounds weird occurrences down the street from an everyday pub, the history and appeal of the Slade House is anything but usual. More

The Courtesan By Alexandra Curry

I received The Courtesan from First to Read (a Penguin program). It was published by Dutton in September of 2015.

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After her mother dies in childbirth and her father is executed, Sai Jinhua is sold to a brothel and expected to learn the art of pleasing and pleasuring men. Along with many other young girls, she is repeatedly and brutally taken advantage of. However, one day, a gentleman comes and tells Jinhua that she was his lover in a past life and proceeds to purchase her and install her as his concubine. More

Found: Sad Recommendation

While on vacation in Branson, MO this year, I found a cute little bookstore called Calvin’s Used Books. It was a little messy, a little cramped, and a lot of fun. I found quite a few goodies, including a beautifully well put together Bruce Lee biography (with tons of exclusive and gorgeous photos–the owner commented, “Well that didn’t last long here!”) and Honolulu, about a young Korean girl named Regret who escapes to Hawai’i.

The third book I added to my collection was Don DeLillo’s Libra. I’ve yet to read the novel, but I’ve read a few of DeLillo’s other works. They intrigued (or confused) me enough to purchase Libra. (See White Noise–an excellent commentary on ad pollution.)

Inside Libra, More

Getting Ready for NerdCon

In October, I’ll be attending NerdCon: Stories. Their aim is to celebrate all things nerdy, which I’m always up for. On the agenda is a host of fun story-telling-themed panels and events. While they’re still setting up the actual schedule, the one thing that’s caught my eye so far is “Life Online: From Meme to Memoir.”

In addition to exciting panels, NerdCon is playing host to a huge number of podcastors, novelists, cartoonists, musicians, poets, etc. Some people I’m excited for:

Patrick Rothfuss

John Scalzi

Lev Grossman

Holly Black

Rainbow Rowell

John Green More

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor is a 483 page novel, by Katherine Addison, published by Tor Fantasy in April of 2014. I read the novel with a friend, who suggested the book to me in the first place.

The Goblin EmperorMaia, a half-goblin teenage boy, is forced to leave his secluded home at Edonomee after the emperor–a man who may have begot Maia but certainly never raised or loved him–and the emperor’s three sons die in an explosion. Maia assumes a busybody life at the Imperial Court, taking his place as the new emperor. Roughly the first half of the book deals with Maia being awkward, confused, and embarrassingly ignorant about goings on in the empire and the machinations of the Imperial Court. More

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

After learning Rainbow Rowell was going to give a talk/signing at my local library (and that she’s going to be at NerdCon), I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon and start reading her books. I was not disappointed. I started with Fangirl, which is still my favorite. Even so, Landline is a solid novel–published in July of 2014 by St. Martin’s Press.

The narrative revolves around Georgie’s (possibly) failing marriage. She gets the break of a lifetime when a network wants to pick up the show she and her best friend Seth have been writing together since college. Unfortunately, they want episodes written in the next couple weeks, which span Christmas-time. While Georgie backs out on going to Nebraska with her husband and children, she also proceeds to fail to write anything while she is consumed with worry at the bumps that have come up in her relationship with her husband, Neal. More

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation is a sci-fi/supernatural/horror novel by Jeff VanderMeer, published by FSG Originals in February of 2014. The other two novels in the Southern Reach Trilogy were both released in 2014 as well.

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)

A journal belonging to a woman who was part of the twelfth expedition to mysterious and dangerous Area X–a place where no one has ever truly come back alive from–is found by an unexpectant reader. Myself. I personally adore novels written in the form of a journal and Annihilation only served to reinforce that adoration.

The main character, a biologist, set out to Area X with a psychologist, surveyor, archeologist, and lingiust. They’re charged with exploring the walled off Area X but things don’t go the way any of them planned. More

Grand Returns

I realized the other day how long it had been since I’d written a review when I got turned down for an ARC of a book. On Netgalley, that has never been the case before and they suggested updating my blog.

After getting a new job, moving, and trying to settle in to a new routine, reading had been the last thing on my mind. But now that I’m settled… I’ve jumped into the “start a million new books” phase. I just started reading The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, which is the excellent sequel to AnnihilationThe Way of Kings by a favorite of mine–Brandon Sanderson, and I’ve about finished Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds which rides on the blazing space cowboy trail left by Firefly. 

Devoting time to reading has been so refreshing… Damn, I just love a good book. Here’s to many more in both of our futures.

 

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian is a 369 page science fiction novel by Andy Weir. It was originally self published, then picked up for publication by Crown in February of 2014.

The MartianThe book begins with Mark Watney writing in his log that while his team (of astronauts on Mars) thought he died in a windstorm, he actually survived and now is living alone on Mars. As an engineer and botanist, Mark devises many different ways to extend his survival on Mars–all the while trying to figure out how to contact his team or Earth, both of whom believe him to be dead and his mission to be scrapped. The plot revolves around his triumphs and failures on Mars and his ingenuity as a lonely man and only resident Martian. More

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