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Last year I divided the list into Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Graphic Novels thinking that would make me actually read more non-fiction. That... failed spectacularly. In general, I just didn't finish as many books as I would've liked last year, but it's not fair comparing to 2012, since that was when I got into Marvel and read a ton of trades. Still unaccounted for were (and are) single issue comics and the massive amount of fic I've been reading.

I did do a pretty good job writing reviews for everything, so I'm going to at least try to keep that going.


Fiction

1. Written in Red by Anne Bishop. I hadn't heard of this book until I saw it in the nominees for Goodreads books of the year, and since the library had the ebook available, I thought I'd give it a go. The North America of Written in Red is inhabited by native shape-shifters and other supernatural being, along with human colonists. Meg, the protagonist, is on the run and takes shelter as a human liaison to the supernatural community in the city of Lakeside. I really enjoyed the world-building, especially the scary monsters that are actually scary monsters, i.e. werewolves who don't feel bad about eating you if you trespass on their land. I stayed up until 4am reading on New Year's, and finished the (hefty) book later in the day.

2. Shadows by Robin McKinley. Several of Robin McKinley's earlier books are all time favorites, but Shadows just didn't grab me in the same way. The book is set in a world very similar to our own, but with magic, which is a setup I often enjoy. The big problem was that even at the end of the book, I really had no idea how the world worked. Maggie, the narrator, lives in a country that has banned magic, but it's unclear why, other than that they just trust science more. The whole world, her country included, is destabilized by "cobeys", which are a possibly magical phenomenon. I can't really say. There were just a lot of magical elements that didn't add up to much.

3. The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig. The later books in this series have been, in general, not quite as engaging as the first few, mostly because the protagonists of each subsequent volume are further and further away from the actual Pink Carnation and her spy ring. Finally moving back in a bit to focus on Miss Gwen was a good choice, and it was a nice change to have a romance between a middle-aged couple instead of the usual bright young things. Not mind-blowing, but still fun.

4. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta. For years, I've heard nothing but good things about Australian YA writer Melina Marchetta, and it turns out the praise is warranted. Saving Francesca follows Francesca's struggles at home, where her mother is suffering from severe depression, and school, where she's part of the female minority at a newly co-ed high school. The way that Mia's depression affected both her and the entire family rang incredibly true, but what really impressed me was how real Francesca's school life seemed. The teenage boys and girls act like... teenage boys and girls: making fart jokes, listening to obnoxious music on the bus, critiquing each other's hairstyles, etc. There's just so much that great in this book: family and friendships, and gender and ethnic stereotypes are all addressed, but not in a didactic way at all.

5. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. I picked this up because G. Willow Wilson is writing the upcoming Ms. Marvel comics run, and wanted to get a taste for her writing. If this is anything to go by, there're exciting thing in store. Alif the Unseen is a unique novel that blends fantasy, mythology, technology, and religion. The closest comparisons to what the book is like are The Golden Compass and Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore for also melding technology with literature/religion.

6. Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey. Wow. So Vanyel is, like, super gorgeous and broody. But nobody really gets him, you know? His dad wants him to stop playing lute like a girl and be a manly man who hits people. When Vanyel isn't brooding, he's discovering that gay people exist and finding his soulmate, and apprentice herald mage. If this were a fic, you'd find it tagged hurt/comfort, and it'd have some trigger warnings for the verbal abuse, homophobia, self harm, and suicide. Anyway, I read it cause it was rec'd to me when I was 13 and it seemed about time. I think I can pretty much leave Mercedes Lackey in the 80s now.

7. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. I wanted to like this book, which was the second selection for Tumblr's reblog book club, but there ended up being several problems that really detracted from my enjoyment. The protagonist, Hayley, is a teenager living with her father, a former solider with PTSD and she struggles to get through school with a volatile home life. Unfortunately, many of the teen characters didn't feel real, particularly Finn, Hayley's love interest. And Hayley herself seems to suffer from depression and anxiety--understandably--which the book never addresses, despite an insta-happy ending.

8. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee. Like Disney's Frozen, the book is based on the fairy tale of the Snow Queen, but the similarity pretty much ends their. Ophelia discovers the titular "marvelous" boy in a locked room tucked away in the museum where her father is helping put together an exhibit on swords. Ophelia doubts herself, but still faces some frightening obstacles around the museum to attempt to free him and save the day. It's a good middle grade adventure with likeable characters, a realistic family dealing with grief, and a museum full of cool stuff.

9. When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney. One of my students last year loved books about people "falling in love and dying." This is one I think fits the bill, because although it's not about someone losing a significant other, it's all about love and grief. At his high school graduation, Danny's alone. His mother recently died, he's still in love with his ex-girlfriend, his sister left the family years before, and his father died in an accident years before. Most of the book follows his attempt to come to terms with his mother's death and his feelings of abandonment while trying to decide what to do with his mother's apartment in Tokyo. There was a whole lot of sad, but I thought Danny's journey was well-written. I did wish there was some acknowledgement of how privileged his life was that he could jet off to Japan to deal with his shit.

10. The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black. I went to see Holly Black speak at the Bethesda Library last fall, but up till now I still hadn't read any of her books. Like with Written in Red, I enjoyed that this was a supernatural book where the monsters were actually monsters. Not mindless killing machines, but not precisely human either. It was interesting, too, to see vampirism treated like an infection, which seems much more common in zombie books. You're never quite sure whether Tana wants to become a vampire or not, or whether you'd like to see her become one, which adds interesting tension to the otherwise abundant horror-adventure shenanigans. 

11. Cress by Marissa Meyer. I don't know why I thought this was the final book in The Lunar Chronicles, because it's not. Like the previous books, Cress is a new take on an old fairy tale. This time it's Rapunzel, who in this story is a long-haired teenage hacker who's been imprisoned on a satellite for seven years. Naturally, her actions bring her into contact with Cinder and Scarlet. Since each novel so far has built on the others, there are a lot of characters, and the middle section of this book when everyone was split up and searching for each other did drag a bit. But by the end of the book the pieces were starting to fall into place for the final showdown that I assume is coming in the next book. I'm still enjoying Meyer's take on these well-known stories, and I'm impressed by how distinct the perspectives of each of the three female characters are.

12. Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Next up in my quest to start reading a bit more middle-grade fiction was this year's Newberry winner. Comic books weren't my reading material of choice at that age, but I definitely saw bits of myself reflected in Flora. I enjoyed the integration of comic panels into the text. Because of the comic book themes of the book--and I don't just mean that Flora likes to read them--it didn't feel gimmicky. (Which it could have in such a humorous, whimsical book.) A search for identity and belonging is such a common element in superhero comics, and that's exactly what Flora struggles with. She's lonely and in need of the friend she finds in Ulysses (who is a squirrel, FYI), and she wants to stand up for what's right when she can't rely on her parents to know what right is.

13. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. I'll admit I was immediately drawn to this one by the great title and cover art, but I got a good read out of it. Where'd You Go, Bernadette is both a satirical portrait of Seattle's upper-middle class and a story about family and mental illness. Bernadette, as the title of the book implies, is missing. Over the course of the book, her teenage daughter Bee tries to reconstruct the events leading up to Bernadette's disappearance, from her mother's quarrels with other private-school parents, her father's super-star status at Microsoft, Bee's acceptance to an East Coast, and, eventually, her mother's abandoned architectural career. There's a point where it seems like everyone's going to self destruct--and then there's a trip to Antarctica! Obviously. (Maria Semple has unintentionally made me want to re-read Troubling a Star.)

14. Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop. Bishop continues to build on the world introduced in Written in Red. Some of the new developments are interesting, some made me a little annoyed (another rape backstory? but I liked you so much, book). This one's definitely a middle book. Conflicts are escalating, character dynamics are continually developing, by the end immediate disaster has been averted, and there's clearly a bigger showdown coming.

15. Legend by Marie Lu. I was going to swear off new dystopias for awhile (I keep saying that) but Heather really liked it, plus Marie Lu seemed pretty interesting in person, so I figured what the hell. What makes the book most interesting is the fact that the two main characters, June and Day, share many similarities, but grew up in very different circumstances, which really shapes the way that they interact with the world and with each other. And of course there's action and a little romance and an evil government that somebody probably needs to topple.

16. Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Foolishly buoyed by Legend I decided to finish a different dystopian trilogy, which turned out to be yet another YA dystopian trilogy with a disappointing third act. Lena spends most of the entirety of the book involved in a pointless lover triangle with two unappealing guys, though Hana's sections are somewhat more interesting. (I'm not sure why each of the three books employed different narrative structures--single POV, alternating timelines, dual POV.) At the end nothing about the characters relationship or the society they live in is really resolved.

17. Unveiled by Courtney Milan. In the face of disappointing dystopias, read entirely predictable historical romance! I was not crazy on the whole "dude is convinced this is the one woman for him, will eventually convince her as well" trope, but I was a fan of the fact that apparently romance novels are a better place to find characters who understand that consent is a thing than, well, almost any type of media. 

18. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I think I started out expecting a pretty straightforward story about a boarding school prank war of sorts, and I had some initial confusion about the shifting POVs and timelines. Marchetta isn't one for huge infodumps, and it makes the reading experience so much richer as you unravel the story along with Taylor. One of those books that made my heart ache, but in a good way.

19. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. Four "Prince Charming's" are tired of being known only by the Princesses they rescued. They end up as an unlikely team on a quest to defeat dragons, witches, trolls, and other various baddies. Lots of fun and funny takes on fairy tale tropes.

20. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. For anyone who's ever wondered why sci-fi so often unnecessarily recreates the social prejudices of contemporary life, this is the book for you. The main character is a spaceship AI. Or a bunch of people all controlled by the spaceship AI. Or just a person. The narrator's culture does not recognize any gender, and Leckie chose to use female pronouns, which makes for a very jarring reading experience. I'm very interested to see where the series goes.

21. The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher. I picked up this middle-grade mystery expecting Saturday morning cartoon style hijinks and was pleasantly surprised with a fairly high-stakes mystery, along with good messages about friendship, cultural appropriation, and body positivity.

22. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg. An openly gay teen who's tired of being "that gay guy" decides to act straight when he transfers to a new school. It's a book that could have been gimmicky, but ends up dealing well with teenage sexual identity and the consequences Rafe faces in his relationship to family and friends by going back in the closet.

23. To Sir Philip, With Love by Julia Quinn. In need of something light, we turn once again to The Bridgertons. It's not my favorite entry into the series, but it's still amusing and fluffy.

24. The Screaming Staircase by Johnathan Stroud. This is the first in a very cool new series about the trio of teenage ghost hunters that make up Lockwood and Co. It's got a weird feel that's part contemporary and part gothic horror. The intertwining mysteries we resolved in a satisfying way, with obvious clues put in place about even higher stakes in books to come.

25. The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham. If what you are looking for is MOAR VERONICA MARS, then this is exactly what you'll get. It does just what the show does: a combo of mystery investigation and complications in Veronica's personal life.

26. The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. Cute, funny, and a super quick read. I could see immediately why the series is so popular.

27. Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell. I really enjoyed The Princess Curse, Haskell's take on The 12 Dancing Princesses, so I expected good things. Like her previous book, the fantasy setting is grounded in European history, so there are dragons, but also the Catholic Church. Tilda doesn't want to be a princess OR a dragon-slayer, and though the book is full of adventures, it's really about Tilda figuring out what kind of person she is.

28. Prodigy by Marie Lu. It took me a surprisingly long time to get invested in this one, I think because for much of the book I was just waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop so I'd know who was double crossing who. Hopefully Champion keeps up more of the pace of the last third of the book.

And here's where I got behind and the reviews become brief to non-existent. Oops?

29. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Ugh, this book hit me so damn hard. For me it wasn't about the fact that figuring out what actually happened to Cadence and the "liars" was an impossible mystery—I mean it's advertised right from the get go that Cadence is an unreliable narrator—but about the emotional struggle Cadence goes through. I mean maybe a book that's all about memory and privilege and guilt doesn't sound that appealing, but it's amazing.

30. Storybound by Marissa Burt. A middle-grade novel that shares some meta elements with the Thursday Next series. I liked the interesting takes on fairy tale tropes, but was sort of bummed that the story kind of leaves off in the middle. I haven't read the sequel yet, but hope to see if it finishes with the promise of the first.

31. Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy. Alice is not what you expect from a teenage protagonist with cancer, mostly because she's not a nice person. It was an interesting answer to a narrative trope, but frustrating for me as a reader because I really didn't like Alice, and couldn't understand why Harvey loved her in the first place, let alone why he would want her after she treats him so poorly.

32. The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. I love it when a book introduces me to characters and situations I would never have thought about—in this case a family of Japanese-American farm workers. Every character in the book is complex, from Summer's family members to the other workers on the harvesting team, which is a big part of what makes the book work. 

33. Mouseheart by Lisa Fiedler. I was drawn to pick this one up because it had a map of the subway and worlds beyond on the endpapers, and I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. Talking mice with special destinies are nothing new, but this is still a well-done, enjoyable read.

34. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. I don't know why it took me so long to read this book... possibly because the title is somewhat misleading? I mean, there is a princess academy, but really the book is more about family and culture and belonging than about learning etiquette.

35. The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement... by Amy Ignatow. This series is one of the many illustrated journal style books that are very popular at the library right now. The plot was nothing revolutionary (two friends try to change to fit in at school, it pulls them apart, they eventually reconcile) but has a good message, and I liked the racial diversity and inclusion of LGBT characters.

36. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. A good Willy Wonky, Westing Game read-alike with a series of puzzles in a brand new library... in Ohio!

37. When We Wake by Karen Healey. Why do I ever bother pretending I'm going to stop reading YA dystopias? When We Wake features a future where politics, technology, and society have all been shaped by the effects of climate change. Love isn't forbidden, children don't battle to the death, and nobody's assigned to factions. The future that Tegan wakes up in if different than the past she remembers, but it's not unrecognizable. One of the most realistic aspects was Tegan's realization that as much as humanity advances, people still have the same shortcomings as they ever did.

38. I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora. Summer reading about summer reading! Kids plotting to get their town to read To Kill A Mockingbird was what got me interested, but it was the characters that really hooked me. I could've easily spent more time just reading more of their conversations about weird Catholic saints, favorite books, and whether Peeps are a fruit.

39. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. Sometimes you like a book about some quirky, nice, people having everyday adventures. It felt very much in the spirit of books like Anne of Green Gables and Swallows and Amazons.

40. Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson.  A delightful, funny, very genre-aware children's fantasy about a girl who wants to be a pirate, her gargoyle sidekick, her loyal governess, magic, and buried treasure. Or, magic buried treasure. Because magic can be mined. Like gold.

41. The Riverman by Aaron Starmer. This book is weird. Well-written, but extremely weird. Like I read the whole thing and I don't even know what was real and what wasn't. And there are a lot of missing, possibly dead, implied possibly abused children for a middle-grade book. Like if The Lovely Bones was for kids. Which... why?

42. The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan. Novella that sets up the family situation in The Duchess War. Not completely necessary to understand the book, but a short and enjoyable enough read.

43. The Duchess War by Courtney Milan. My favorite of Courtney Milan's book that I've read so far. Good characters, some legit romantic obstacles, and some defiance of genre tropes. A good time was had by all.

44. Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Rainbow Rowell's books just make me feel things, okay? The premise of this book is frankly ridiculous—Georgie finds a magic phone that lets her talk to her husband Neal in the past—but that really doesn't matter because the emotional impact is real. It's just a really great portrayal of people a relationships in that makes you want to smile sometimes and cry other times way. (Also I just really love the way Rainbow writes the 90s?)

45. Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles. Wow, this book had a lot of sad. Like, I don't know what I expected from a book about a girl whose family runs a funeral home. Kind of like A Ring of Endless Light in Alabama with more southern quirk and more death, and without the teen romance or magic bonds with dolphins. /worst book comparison ever

46. What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick. Teen cross-class romance on a small New England Island that I would've like more if it were shorter. I liked the set up of the island and the characters, particularly Gwen's trio of friends and quirky old-lady employer, but I just wasn't feeling it with her and Cass... especially as their whole misunderstanding dragged on through the middle section.

47. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. It reminded me (in a good way) of books like The Blue Sword and Crown Duel where the heroine is out of her element and has to train to a) fit in and b) save the kingdom. Obviously this is a trope I like, but what makes Shadow and Bone not just an interesting retread is the culture not based on Western Europe.


Graphic Novels

1. A Bride's Story v.3 by Kaoru Mori. The third collection focused more on Mr. Smith, an English researcher visiting the region, featuring more nomad culture, great characters, and beautiful art.

2. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. Relish is a non-chronological graphic memoir centered around food, which is really not as complicated as it sounds. There were some great family and food anecdotes accompanied by lots of bright illustrations. I particularly enjoyed that it's not a food snob memoir--Knisley's just as enthusiastic about McDonald's french fries as she is about fois gras. 

3. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. I've read some bits of this before when they appeared on Allie Brosh's blog of the same name, but that didn't really reduce my enjoyment of reading them in book form. I both laughed a lot and over-identified a lot with this book.

4. Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. Friends with Boys wasn't really super plotty--it's mostly a slice of life graphic novel that happens to have a ghost. The story follows Maggie through the beginning of ninth grade, her first year of public school after years of homeschooling with her mother and three brothers. It's a fast, enjoyable read. My biggest complaint is that it felt somewhat unfinished. I don't know if there will ever be a sequel, but with the questions still unanswered at the end, I feel like there could be.

5. Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Middle school drama club! Embarrassing crushes! Backstage shenanigans! Fake canon construction!

6. Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen. Weird comic book is weird. Sometimes absolutely hilarious with over the top ridiculous parody, sometimes.... eh, shrug. 

7. Morning Glories v. 2 by Nick Spencer. Everyone is mean and I literally have no idea what is going on most of the time. I think there is a long game happening, but I am impatient.

8. Smile by Raina Telgemeier. Graphic novel memoir that is pretty much as good as people say it is.

Non-Fiction

1. Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe. I really should just stop reading books about fandom (except Fangirl). Like Harry, A History did, Among the Janeites focuses mostly on the experiences of big name fans. Sure, BNFs are visible and definitely have interesting experiences--in this case things like spending millions of dollars buying Austen's brother's former estate--but what's captured is a fandom experience that seems nothing like the average fans. In this case, the author's own experience was the most recognizable.

2. Blitz: The Story of December 29, 1940 by Margaret Gaskell. Very well done history book that I nonetheless wouldn't recommend to everyone, because let's face it, some people just aren't into an in depth analysis of the historical context and impact of a bombing raid on ONE NIGHT seventy years ago. And then some people are me. (a.k.a. this is what happens when you read the books on Connie Willis's bibliography from Blackout.)

 

(no subject)

Date: 2014-02-05 01:55 pm (UTC)
lunamystic: (Friends)
From: [personal profile] lunamystic
*wanders over*

Have you read Jellicoe Road by Marchetta? It's actually On the Jellicoe Road, but apparently that title was too long for Americans. Anyway, it's fantastic.
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