March Book Haul!!!

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This month, I did not go a little crazy with book buying. I went a lot crazy.

But! I am so ridiculously excited about all of the books I found this month, so it works out πŸ™‚

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – I fell in love with the BBC miniseries version of this novel (I’ve seen it 3 or 4 times) and really wanted to be able to read the original novel. This will also help me with my goal to read more classics this year.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – After reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle last year, I’ve been anxious to start another Murakami book, and the concept of this one has fascinated me for years.

Embassytown by China Mieville – I’ve read two previous books by this author (Perdido Street Station and The City and the City), and both were wonderfully weird. This one is supposedly focused on language and the interactions between humans and an alien race.

And Again by Jessica Chiarella – I won this awesome and unique-sounding book in a giveaway from Tor.com! It’s a debut novel about disabled people given a second chance at life in perfect new versions of their bodies.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – I loved this book so much that I wasn’t content just to check it out from the library and read it once–I had to buy a copy so that I could repetitively re-read it.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – I’m so fascinated by this complex and notoriously difficult to read horror novel.

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead by J. Gordon Melton – because of course I need a reference text for my love of vampires.

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten of the Best Books I’ve Read Recently

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish (http://www.brokeandbookish.com/p/top-ten-tuesday-other-features.html).

This was supposed to be my last ten 5-star reads, but 5-star reads are so rare for me that I’d not only be rehashing my best books of 2015, but reaching back into 2014 as well. So here are ten of the best books I’ve read recently, including 5- and 4-star reads that I really enjoyed. I’ve ranked them starting with the most recent and moving backwards.

 

The End of Mr. Y

 

  1. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas – creative and extremely odd, with interesting literary and scientific references. #Weirdathon.

 

Bad Feminist

 

 

2. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay – poignant, thought-provoking nonfiction that made me laugh and want to cry.

 

The Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)

 

3. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – fast-paced and hilarious story of magic, amnesia, and espionage. #Weirdathon.

 

Fledgling

 

4. Fledgling by Octavia Butler – modern take on vampires that also dissects aspects of racism and consent in relationships.

 

The Passion

 

5. The Passion by Jeannette Winterson – a meditation on the different kinds of obsession rendered in gorgeous prose.

 

To Say Nothing of the Dog (Oxford Time Travel, #2)

 

6. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis – a hilarious take on time travel and British literature.

 

Magic for Beginners

 

7. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link – creative, original, and disturbing short stories.

 

Carry On

 

8. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – are there really still people who haven’t read this book? Go read it immediately.

 

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

 

9. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – I checked this book out from the library when it debuted and loved it so much I just bought my own copy to re-read.

 

The Library at Mount Char

 

10. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins – weird and creative, like most books I enjoy.

 

What were some of the best books you’ve read recently?

 

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

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Right now I’m in the middle (almost the exact middle) of Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman. This will be the 3rd book of short stories I’ve read by this author, and so far it’s not living up to my expectations. I’m actually really sad about this–I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan, and I loved the majority of the stories in both Fragile Things and Smoke and Mirrors, but for some reason I’m just not connecting with any of the stories in this collection yet. I still loved his thoughtful introduction and context for each of the stories that he tells, but the stories themselves so far are underwhelming. I really want to finish this before the end of the #Weirdathon, though, so I’m going to power through and hope that the stories get better. I know there’s an American Gods novella at the end, so I’ll have that to look forward to.

 

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This week I also DNF’d the audiobook version of The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. This had nothing to do with the awesomeness of the story, and everything to do with the fact that I am unable to listen well enough to certain audiobooks to feel like I’m really getting everything out of them. I don’t like that I can’t reread sentences on audiobooks without jumping back aways (I listen to audiobooks on CDs) and I have trouble paying close attention to deeper meanings than I do when I read normally. I really want to read this in a physical book, though–I love the story concept so far.

 

What is everyone reading this week?

Favorite Book Trilogies

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Book trilogies, for whatever reason, are a thing. For some reason, three seems to be the perfect number of books in so many series, and I feel like lately literally every movie, no matter how terrible, inevitably gets two sequels. But book trilogies also include some of my favorite books of all time, and if you really love a book, the promise of three connected stories is the only thing that can console you after it’s finished. So here are my absolute favorite book trilogies!

 

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)Authority (Southern Reach, #2)Acceptance (Southern Reach, #3)

 

The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer – this trilogy helped me to realize how much I am drawn to weird fiction and creativity in writing, and inspire me to seek out more books in a similar vein. Vandermeer tells an eerie and consuming story that gains depth in each successive book.

 

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)

 

The Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi – I have an undying appreciation for this trilogy, because it got me through the extreme stress of my National Board exams. At this point I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read it, because it lends itself extremely well to re-reads. And I love it, every time. I love the angst, the drama, the journal-esque style of the first book, and the villain-turned-love-interest. These are all elements that don’t always work for me in YA, but in the Shatter Me trilogy, it’s all perfect.

 

The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)The Magician King (The Magicians, #2)The Magician's Land (The Magicians, #3)

 

The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman – In these books, Grossman puts into words what fantasy readers have always felt: the longing to become a part of your favorite fantasy worlds, combined with the human traits that set us as real people apart from the heroic protagonists of fiction. I love this series because its characters are so flawed: they’re selfish, disillusioned, and paradoxically skeptical and full of hope; in short, they’re real. Because there’s only so long that you can trick yourself into thinking that you’d act like Harry Potter would in any given situation; the truth is that the majority of us would instead act like Quentin Coldwater.

 

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam, #1)The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam, #2)MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy #3)

 

The Maddaddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood – speaking of realistic, I still think that the futuristic society of Oryx and Crake is the most prescient and believable picture of society’s breakdown that I’ve ever read. Margaret Atwood is biting and creative, and her portrayal of society’s collapse is as intriguing as it is haunting.

 

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance, #1)The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance, #2)The Kingdom of Gods (Inheritance, #3)

 

The Inheritance trilogy by N.K. Jemisin – incredibly well-crafted fantasy world that changes completely over the course of the trilogy. My favorite by far was the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but this trilogy is a great example of one that can shift main characters and tone completely yet still remain coherent.

 

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)

 

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – I’ll admit, my enjoyment of the series did decrease slightly with each successive book, but it’s still one of my favorites. I love Katniss as a flawed, strong main character who is a hero because she’s forced into it, not born into it. I also think the series brings up a lot of interesting societal critiques, not the least of which is desensitization to violence through the media.

 

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3)

 

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien – I’ve only ever read this as a single continuous story, and in that way it’s a trilogy that never felt like a trilogy to me. It’s epic and emotional, and masters the task of focusing on both the global and the personal.

 

 

What are your favorite book trilogies?

The Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

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I recently went to the bookstore (of course) and bought several new books (of course) (In my defense, I had a gift card). Among them was 1Q84, Haruki Murakami’s 1,157-page novel that I’ve had my eye on for years. So many things about this book intrigue me: the fantasy elements, the connection to George Orwell’s 1984, and particularly how long it is. I absolutely love the feeling of being deep in the middle of an extremely long book and never wanting it to end. It’s rare that a writer is talented enough to write a book that’s not only gigantic, but truly needs to be that gigantic in order to properly tell its story. I’m always searching for books like that.

Acquiring a gorgeous new giant book for my TBR pile made me start to think about the longest books I’ve ever read. To be clear, these are not necessarily the best books I’ve ever read or my favorites (although some of them are!)–they are just the most colossal.

 

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

 

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke ( 849 pages) – Actually one of my favorite books. Two British magicians are bringing back magic during the Napoleonic Wars, and I could not be more on board. It’s fantasy, it’s alternate history, and it’s written in this gorgeous crafted old-fashioned-sounding prose. And there are footnotes! And Faerie! This is the type of book where you don’t notice length at all until you’re at the end and lament the fact that it’s over.

 

The Lord of the Rings

 

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (1,137 pages) – I’m counting this as one book because the edition I own is the all-in-one movie cover edition, and I’ve only ever read it as one continuous novel. I actually read through this twice during middle school, which was right before the Lord of the Rings films started being released. At the time, I was hesitant to start The Lord of the Rings because I was disappointed by The Hobbit (I thought it was too childish, and I really hated that there weren’t any female characters). But once Gandalf and the hobbits reached the Council of Elrond, I was completely on board–political machinations in fantasy realms hook me every time. Unlike a lot of readers, I didn’t mind the descriptive prose–Tolkien knows how to write, and the book deserved every one of its pages.

 

Winter's Tale

 

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin (768 pages) – For me, this would go in the “not worth it” section of extremely long books. It’s not that Winter’s Tale is a bad book, but it did not need to be even half as long as it was. I did not find any of the characters interesting, and kept wishing for more fantasy elements. All through the book, I felt like I was waiting for some sort of big payoff or climax which never arrived. I bought the movie edition thinking I’d read it before the film came out, and didn’t quite make it. It became sort of a joke with my friends, who noticed the fact that snow was persisting that year into March/April in Boston and attributed it to the fact that I was still reading a book called Winter’s Tale that I’d started in January. Well, I eventually finished it, and winter ended, so you’re welcome, I guess.

 

Atlas Shrugged

 

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1,069 pages) – People tend to have very strong political opinions about Ayn Rand–libertarians love her, and most other people can’t stand her views–but my reading her books had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the fact that she was my grandfather’s favorite writer; he passed away when I was a child and before I was able to get to know him as an adult. In high school, I decided to read all of her books to connect with that part of him, and I’m glad that I was able to do so. I don’t agree with her extreme political stances, but I do respect her as a storyteller–Atlas Shrugged is a gigantic feat of a book with a twisty plot that never lets go of your attention. I think more people need to let go of their prejudices against her politics and read her books purely for the storytelling.

 

Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Trilogy, #1)

 

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (901 pages) – I really hate this book cover. The book is actually a very beautifully written fantasy that I devoured one summer. It’s set in an alternate medieval Europe, which is something I often have a problem with in fantasy because it can show a lack of creativity, but in this case Carey created a really interesting historical and religious context for her world. Also, Joscelin. How can you not love Joscelin?

 

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)

 

The Name of the Wind (722 pages) and The Wise Man’s Fear (1,107 pages) by Patrick Rothfuss – Again, these books fall into the trap of pseudo-medieval-Europe fantasy, but I’ve really enjoyed them.

 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)

 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (870 pages) – I feel like I don’t talk enough about Harry Potter in this blog. My favorite book in the series is The Prisoner of Azkaban, but this is the longest, and I love them all so much. The thing about Harry Potter is that I feel like we’d all have been completely happy with 2,000-page volumes every year; I loved the amount of detail, humor, and heart in each new book.

 

The Stand

 

Edit: I can’t believe I forgot The Stand by Stephen King (1,167 pages)!

 

 

What are some of your favorite giant reads?

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish (http://www.brokeandbookish.com/p/top-ten-tuesday-other-features.html).

This is my first Top Ten Tuesday post! After reading so many of these fun prompts on other blogs, I’m finally diving in myself. My spring TBR list is ambitious and, frankly, far too long (like all of my TBR lists) but I’m going to try and make this top ten list realistic. So here are the top ten books I actually think I will read this spring, regardless of my TBR decision-making issues and tendency to deviate from all lists I make.

I think that I will be continuing the spirit of the #Weirdathon beyond March, as well–while still mixing it up with other genres, I’d like to continue to focus on my love of reading weirdly.

New releases:

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)Marked in Flesh (The Others, #4)Roses and Rot

  1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas – more Rhysand, please! I’d be good with more Lucien, as well. Tamlin I can take or leave. I’m hoping that this sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses is more fast-paced than its predecessor and explores the Persephone/Hades dynamic that was hinted at with Feyre’s bargain with the Night Court.
  2. Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop – Meg is a cassandra sangue (blood prophet) who can see snippets of the future when her skin is cut. She escaped enslavement and a sheltered life into the world of the Others–vampires, shapeshifters, and godlike beings who control territory and natural resources in this alternate version of Earth. I have some issues with this series (mainly with the treatment of its female characters) but I still really enjoy these books. They’re slower-paced and very comforting to read, although the series has been a bit uneven.
  3. Roses and Rot by Kat Howard – I was on board when I saw the blurb from Neil Gaiman. Everything I hear about this book seems to stress that it dissects the darker aspects of fairy tales, which is something I can never resist.

Already on my bookshelf:

The Yellow WallpaperMr. SplitfootThe Book of Lost Things

4. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – I’m embarrassed I haven’t yet read this creepy feminist classic.

5. Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt – a ghost story perfect for continuing the #Weirdathon.

6. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly – I’ve been meaning to get to this one for awhile and feel like everyone has read this except me.

KindredPossessionWide Sargasso SeaWhite Teeth

7. Kindred by Octavia Butler – I’ve previously mentioned my mission to read all of Butler’s works, and this one is up next. A time travel story about the horrors of slavery, I started this a few years ago and never finished. This is my chance to pick it back up again.

8. Possession by A.S. Byatt – I am completely intrigued by the sound of this book about two young students researching the lives of two Victorian poets. It sounds gorgeously romantic–perfect for spring!

9. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – this is an exploration of the backstory of the “madwoman in the attic” from Jane Eyre. Do I need to say anything else?

10. White Teeth by Zadie Smith – I keep saying that I’m about to read this book and then never actually read it. I’ve heard so much about the brilliance of Smith’s writing that I need to bite the bullet about reading realistic fiction and just dive in.

 

Any thoughts on my TBR picks? What are you excited to read this spring?

 

#Weirdathon Update: Weeks 1&2

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I missed posting my Week 1 update for the #Weirdathon (I was on vacation! Stay tuned for my upcoming post about vacation reading), so here are my combined updates for the first 2 weeks of weird reading in March.

 

 

To recap: the #Weirdathon is hosted by Outlandish Lit (http://outlandishlit.blogspot.com/) and for me has been a great excuse to read even more weirdly than I normally do.

So far, the thing that’s surprised me the most about the #Weirdathon is how dependent I’ve become on switching between genres while reading. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever been very good at reading for long periods of time within only one genre, and I’m not sure that I have been. When I’m caught up in a series I tend to want to read straight through (as far as I can until the series ends) but otherwise I’m sort of a genre-hopper. I like to be reading several books at once and I want all those books to be very different from one another. I thought that focusing on weird fiction for a month might prove an exception to my typical reading trend because all of the books’ individual weirdnesses would make them so distinct from one another, but it hasn’t. While I’m loving the focus on reading weirdly, I still apparently have genre ADD; in addition to my weird reading, I’ve finished 2 nonfiction books so far this month.

Here’s how it’s gone down so far:

 

Weird books I’m currently reading:

The Gone-Away WorldThe End of Mr. Y

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

I like both of these a lot so far, but to be honest I’m still at the beginning in both cases. The premises are very promising and also very weird.

 

Weird books I finished:

The Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – 4.25 stars

I absolutely loved The Rook. If you enjoy fantasy combined with humor and espionage (who wouldn’t?) you really, really have to pick this one up.

The book’s premise is that a woman wakes up in a park in London with no memories, surrounded by dead bodies wearing latex gloves. From letters she finds in her pockets, she learns that the body she inhabits used to belong to a woman named Myfanwy (rhymes with “Tiffany”) Thomas, a powerful figure in a covert supernatural agency whose function is to protect the United Kingdom from otherworldly threats. The old Myfanwy was forewarned in prophecies that she would lose her memories and that another prominent member of the organization would be responsible; it is up to the new Myfanwy to discover who would conspire against her and why.

Myfanwy’s organization, the Chequy, is populated by memorably unique characters with interesting supernatural powers. There’s a character who can invade and influence dreams; one who can secrete poisons from his skin; and a being with one mind but four distinct bodies. There have been a lot of X-men comparisons, most likely due to the varied powers and existence of a school to train the Chequy’s operatives from childhood, but for me The Rook’s premise is more far-reaching and intriguing. We’re constantly hearing how the Chequy interacts with and provides explanations to the mundane world, and we’re reminded of the complexity of saving the world through the fact that Myfanwy’s position in the organization, despite her formidable powers, is mainly administrative.

The main thing I want to impart about this book is how fun it is. You will get absorbed into the world of the Chequy and invested in its outcome, but at the same time you will be laughing hysterically at the absurdity of the book’s situations and its dry humor. For me, it was a perfect vacation book–consuming, enjoyable, and well-crafted.

But I do have one issue.

While I was reading The Rook, as the concentration of pages gradually shifted from my right hand to my left, I was heartened by the fact that I’d heard its sequel will be released in June. I was so glad that the story and these wonderful characters would continue in another book, since the worldbuilding is, in my opinion, too lush for just one. But then! I found out that the sequel focuses on two new main characters, relegating Myfanwy to the background, and it made me sad. I like her too much, and I’m too invested in her as a character, for her not to be the star of the second book.

So, I’m sad. But will I still read the sequel? Heck yes.