Best of 2015, Worst of 2015

Happy New Year! I rung in the New Year in Nuremberg and wow! I have never seen so many people just shooting off fireworks in the street. It was amazing, and a very special moment. Gut gemacht, Nuremberg.

Now that it’s 2016, it’s a good time to look back on 2015 and honor the best books that I read and criticize the worst books that I read, which I probably enjoy a lot more, as hate keeps me strong. I arbitrarily picked to do top five best/worst and in no particular order.

I am excited to be disappointed and surprised in 2016. I’ve already dived into Leaves of Grass and Lolita, so it’s shaping up to be another good year of classics.

Worst Books of 2015 (in no particular order)

 

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

I am not going to write a lot criticizing this book because I love McCarthy and his writing. The worst that I can say about this book is that it was underwhelming. I just wanted…more. For all the praise it got, I was expecting more. This is on my worst list because of the discrepancy between expectations and reality, not because it’s a bad book objectively. I don’t know, too much nothing happened.

 

The 100, Cass Morgan

Alternative title: teenagers are fucking insane. I couldn’t get into this book because everyone in it was off their rocker to the point of being homicidal. I just don’t understand? Was I supposed to sympathize with the character that risks the lives of everyone he knows by sabotaging the space ship because he’s IN LOVE and wants to see the girl he’s in love with?

I seriously don’t know. Everyone risks way too much with the only apparent motivation being that they’re horny teenagers. I just don’t get it. None of what they risk is worth it for their teenage crush. Usually I love the whole, lord of the flies teenagers stranded and forced to survive genre.

But for me to care what happens to the survivors, I have to care about them. I wanted these teenagers to fail because they’re certifiable. There was like two characters I liked, which was not enough to read the sequels to find out what happen to them. I’m still caught up in the sabotage, risking thousands of lives to have another chance with your ex-girlfriend. Help.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

LET DOWN OF THE YEAR! This book had everything going for it! There’s a dog on the cover, it’s narrated by dog, and it’s got a great title! Too bad it’s god awful!

My least favorite part of this book is how ham-fisted the metaphor in the title is. Get it? He’s a race car driver, who is especially good at racing in the rain, which is where the title comes from! But also…Life…is like….racing in the rain. Because you just gotta react, and it’s slippery….and visibility is bad….and you’ve got to trust your instincts….and it’s easy to crash…

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH

It’s a shame that the metaphor was handled so inelegantly and obviously, because there are parts to this book that are genuinely gut-wrenching and touching. The relationship between Enzo and the main character’s dying wife is an emotional stab to the kidney. The zebra metaphor, though kind of obvious as well, is actually well enough written that it’s also impactful. Death, which is hard to understand or explain and the anguish it causes is expressed well through Enzo’s enemy the zebra.

But the racing metaphor! I can’t deal with it. Just let yourself go, you know, you just got to stop trying to control it because you can’t! Life is suffering! You’ve got to navigate the best you can!

Enzo deserved better.

 

The Last Song, Nicholas Sparks

This book deserved a movie starring Miley Cyrus. That’s all I can say. It was the worst book I read this year, and that’s saying a lot because there were a lot of books that I read that were free kindle e-books and not written by famous authors.

From the weird preachy-ness to the bullshit teenage love story, (she’s not like other girls! But actually this is said multiple times. Because you know, girls don’t read. Or like turtles. Or are good at music. Also Ronnie has purple highlights in her hair, which makes her so, so interesting. ???) there’s nothing redeeming about this book.

I just started drinking because I am thinking about this book. Have I mentioned that the phrase “she’s not like other girls” is used as the main motivation for the romance in this story? And the main reason for that is because she reads?

HELP.

Why is Nicholas Sparks even writing about teenagers? Hot tip: don’t, especially if you think having purple highlights makes a girl unique enough to differentiate her from her entire sex. Fucking stop.

 

Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James

Haha.

 

The Best of 2015 (in no particular order)

Tin Star/Stone in the Sky, Cecil Castellucci

I always get excited about YA sci-fi novels with a female protagonist, and this series by Castellucci is the best I’ve read in that genre. The books have an incredible atmosphere—though we only see a small part of the universe because the main character is stranded on an obscure space station, I felt through the whole book that there was a huge world where politics were changing the state of things in a slow grind that became ominous over time, even if Tula only ever heard murmurs of it.

Castellucci’s prose is spartan in its sparseness, but she avoids being dry and stale. Instead the prose works with the story, adding to the feeling Tula has of being alone in an alien environment placed on the far edges of civilization. Tula isn’t in the middle of the action, like a lot of protagonists. This is a small, personal story that feels like it is on the side of the actual main event. Narratively, it’s a choice that makes me feel connected to Tula, who is no grand hero but instead a survivor.

This isn’t a grand space opera or packed with intense space battles. This is the story of one girl trying to survive and take revenge while being immobile. It’s fantastic.

 

The Republic, Plato

What I love about the Republic is how insane it is—and it is insane. Plato endorses a totalitarian government, advocates the collapse of the traditional conception of a family, and subverts the rights of the individual for the overall good. Anyone who is interested in discussion on who should rule and how should read this book (or anyone who hates nuclear families). I mean, the man argues that parents shouldn’t raise their children, or even have children with people they chose themselves. Propagation of the population would, essentially, reduce to a positive eugenics where only the fittest are allowed to reproduce.

And when it comes to rulers, Plato’s philosopher-kings appeal to me because they are educated, and not just in one field. These are the people who are interested in all fields of study, more so than rule, which is what qualifies them to be rulers. It’s almost a catch-22, but it is a romantic idea we’re familiar with.

Plato tries to walk a line of having individuals finding their own happiness and having an extent of choice, but being restricted in the sense that they can’t harm the city through their freedom of choice. With the declining state of the world, the discussion on personal rights vs the total good is more relevant than ever, and Plato’s philosophy calls for unheard of sanctions on our personal lives.

 

Emma, Jane Austen

Going into reading all six Austen books, I would not have picked Emma to be my favorite. The heroine is the least sympathetic of all Austen’s women, being a spoiled heiress. Emma doesn’t understand the realities of life, all of it is like a cute game where she thinks things can’t go wrong, especially if she interferes in people’s lives. A person like that should be intolerable.

But Emma is fun. She’s witty and good-hearted. All of her interactions with her father and Mr. Weston reveal a woman who cares about the feelings of others. She indulges her father’s craziness when it comes to health and soothes Mr. Weston every time Frank fails to arrive. Emma is also vivacious. She draws people to her by being bright and fun. Her personal flaws, most of which are a result of her wealth (lack of dedication being a big one) are overwhelmed by her charisma. I want to be Emma’s friend. There would be moments where I would have to roll my eyes at her, but in the end I would still want to be around her.

I’ve heard that Emma is about the humbling of a pretty rich girl, but I think that’s unfair to Emma. She’s humbled, but it isn’t by someone else. I would rather say that Emma is about some who is a little selfish and self-absorbed maturing. Emma makes mistakes and she learns from them. She wants to be a better person than she is and by the end of the story, she has matured. Emma is, for now, my personal favorite Austen.

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Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews

The big reason this book ranks in my top five is because it prioritizes friendship over romantic relationships. So many YA fiction does the exact opposite—two people become each other’s whole worlds because they’re in “love” (quotations because YOU’RE SIXTEEN). When you’re older than 16, this total obsession that characters reach is disturbing. I don’t want teenagers to read books and think that relying on a single individual because you’re in “love” is healthy. Often these books side line friendships—friends are side characters that are often neglected for interaction with the love interest.

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl focuses on friendship. It examines why friendship is so powerful—how strong platonic bonds can be and how they can save you in a much healthier way than a romantic relationship.

I want to scream from rooftops about how much I care about platonic relationships, and Andrews has created a book where this is at the forefront. There are parts of Earl that I don’t like and ways in which Greg is problematic as a human being, but I forgive him because we’re all flawed. He’s also 16 and hopefully will mature.

Andrews doesn’t exploit cancer (I’m not saying John Green but John Green). It’s raw and it’s miserable, but not because romance is involved. Greg handles the situation poorly, which I also like. He doesn’t really understand the situation until it’s too late. Human relationships are messy, even when they aren’t romantic, and this book captures that. For all its problems, Earl has a special place in my heart this year.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor                   

The magic of this world has captured my imagination. It’s raw and brutal in many ways and I love how Taylor’s characters don’t really understand their magic themselves. The story of the world unravels slowly to the characters and what a world it is.

Taylor has major pacing problems. The first book of the series takes too long to get started and there are stretches in the third that focus on a character I care very little about. This series is rough around the edges in a lot of ways. But the center is so rich and gooey that I’m in raptures anyway.

Perhaps it is because Taylor’s world is so immense. This isn’t just werewolves (actually there’s no werewolves) or one supernatural being. This is a world full of history and different races, all with their own traditions and customs. There’s just so much to explore it makes me giddy. A lot of YA books I’ve been reading have committed to, “well, it’s basically the same world that we live in, BUT WITH VAMPIRES.” So a series like this is just a real treat. I can’t recommend it enough to lovers of YA fantasy, if you can work through the writing.

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End of the Year Round Up Day 4

Books 76-100 to ring us into the New Year. I am actually really excited for 2016’s year of books as I already downloaded some exciting titles with my Christmas and birthday gift cards. There’s so many good titles waiting for me! And also bad ones to keep me warm by fueling my hate.

76. The Pact (Karina Halle): On the scale of ‘help me, my eyes are melting out of my head because I keep reading this book’ to ‘I paid 0 dollar for this book and it’s actually surpassing all my expectations for that value,’ this book rates as ‘trope where two people promise to marry if they aren’t both married by such age but of course they’re in love with each other the whole time.’

77. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Arthur C. Clark): If you listen carefully, you can hear my screams of uninhibited joy from the space station. When someone asks me what I’m thinking about when I’m staring off into the distance, 9/10 my answer would be how it is the greatest tragedy of my life that I don’t live in time where travel to Saturn is considered typical. A Space Odyssey touches that part of me and leaves me yearning. HAL is an incredible character, an achievement, I would say. He’s disturbing because in the end, I’m not sure how self-aware HAL actually is. There’s a line about HAL fearing disconnection that has earned a place in the quote hall of fame for me: “He had been threatened with disconnection; he would be deprived of all his inputs, and thrown into an unimaginable state of unconsciousness. To HAL, this was the equivalent of Death. For he had never slept, and therefore he did not know that one could wake again..”

78. The Humans (Matt Haig): I have mixed feelings about this book. The beginning was really enjoyable—it highlights really well the abject awkwardness of human day-to-day interactions that we all feel. I like the humor of examining the way people interact as an alien and it works well here. But about halfway through the book shifted into sort of a ham-fisted exploration of “LIFE IS SUFFERING BUT THAT GIVES IT MEANING.” Like it went hard in ways that were too obvious and kind of cringe-worthy. But I would recommend it as an easy and sweet read.

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also there’s a dog on the cover

79. Game Changer (Rene Folsom): Something that bothers me in all of these terrible romances is that the people in them never seem to do any work. Like they spend all their time running around, going on really fancy dates or stalking each other, and never going to the office. How are all of you not fired? Though in this one the guy is the CEO (maybe, I don’t remember) so I guess he can skip work all he wants, but that’s not going to help his company survive in the long run. Also this book was fucking terrible.

80. Coraline (Neil Gaiman): One of my great failings in book reading is never having read a Gaiman book before. I chose Coraline as my first because I’ve seen the movie and it was short (I’m not going to lie, I was thinking of my totals. American Gods is long.) This book is one of those nightmares masquerading as a children’s story. It is especially clever because I don’t think children would be as disturbed by it as I am. It’s like Where the Wild Things Are—it reads completely different to different age groups. And in that vein—this book was horrifying. I’m deeply disturbed by it. So that’s high-praise.

81. North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell): I’ve seen the t.v. adaption a LOT of times so I finally committed to reading the book. It was actually far better than I expected and, in my opinion, actually far better than the adaption. The book occasionally dips into Thornton’s point of view and (I’m weak and I love this sort of thing) portrays him as a more complex character than in the t.v. version. Thornton is a champion brooder, he takes it to new heights and establishes the ‘staring out of windows in serious thought’ game. This book has some serious investigations on politics and religion as well, in case you’re a raging socialist who also loves romance. Also love that Margaret is canonically not skinny. Get it girl.

82. Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen): This was one of the Austen books I hadn’t been looking forward to reading because it is one of her earliest (if not the earliest, if you’re judging by written and not published). But this is now my dark horse candidate for being in the top three of my favorite Austen novels. There’s something very charming about Catherine’s overactive imagination and Tilney is a charming goofball, rather than dark and brooding (sorry Mr. Darcy). It is the most light-hearted of the books, no doubt. Also it reinforces my opinion that Austen thought little of 17 year-olds, as they’re either throwing themselves around in crying fits (I see you Marianne) or losing all touch with reality.

83. Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Laini Taylor): See Daughter of Smoke and Bone for why you should read this series. An excellent conclusion, tying together every thread you could hope it would (at over 600 pages, it had better) and with a satisfying conclusion. Also, for once in my LIFE, my favorite character lived so thank god for that.

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the conclusion of these beautiful covers

84. Forever Betrothed, Never the Bride (Christi Caldwell): My favorite part of this whole book is when the main character admits her illicit love of gardening. 10/10. The rest of the book couldn’t live up to that moment, which is tragic because it was around page 1. Oops. Also weirdly reverent of the military.

85. Dirty Blood (Heather Hildenbrand): There have been a couple of werewolf YA books this year that were pleasant surprises to me. This one fell into the category of “when will the paranormal romance trend die because I’m starting to think I’m not going to outlive it.” There wasn’t anything redeeming about this book, but also nothing horribly offensive (I don’t think?). It was just mediocre written and kind of boring, ultimately.

86. Love is a Dog From Hell (Charles Bukowski): I don’t really live Bukowski’s ‘love’ poems, and this was a whole collection of them. It isn’t that they’re kind of misogynistic (though I give Bukowski more credit than most, because there are several poems where he reveals a self-awareness that women aren’t the core of all his problems, the way he treats them is), it’s that they’re so gross. On one hand I applaud Bukowski for not romanticizing the physicality of sex. On the other hand I don’t want to fucking hear about it because it’s so disgusting. There were a couple of gems in here but mostly it was me cringing.

87. Balanced on the Blade’s Edge (Lindsay Buroker): I was ambivalent about this book because it was free and that had been going so well for me all year, but this little fantasy story defied my angst of another horrible werewolf novel (not that I expected werewolves when there was a plane on the cover, but whatever). I ended up reading four more books by Buroker because they’re reasonably priced on Amazon and great, non-serious fun. Anyway—I feel like the world of a fantasy novel makes it or breaks it for me more than the writing or the actual plot, and Buroker writes an interesting lore. She does a good job of sketching out the existence of a vast world without being caught in overly lengthy descriptions. It’s a book were you get the impression that a lot more is going on in the world than the characters see. Full disclosure: I love me a talking sword.

88. The Emperor’s Edge (Lindsay Buroker): Steam punk is a genre that I’m not particularly familiar with or interested in, but I got this book for free so I committed anyway. This is probably the best free e-book I read this year, and I don’t mean that in comparison to other free e-books, I mean just as a book. There isn’t really anything deep in the book, if you’re into complicated, long-term plots and overshadowing senses of doom. But it is a genuinely funny and fun romp of a fantasy. The steam punk isn’t ever really forced down your throat if you’re also not into the genre, so I feel good recommending it to anyone who enjoys fantasy. The steam punk parts are mentioned but not dwelled on and I never found them distracting. Really this book reminded me of a very good indie film—the side characters can be a little flat, dialogue can be a little awkward, the plot is really straightforward, but it’s got that sort of small time charm where you end up rooting for the rag-tag group of heroes. Enough charm that I read the next two books (and already bought the fourth).

89. Dark Currents (Lindsay Buroker): All the books in this series do a good job of being episodic, in that they have self-contained plots that are resolved by the end. I usually don’t like that kind of story progression (which is why I struggle to find t.v. shows that I stay invested in), but it worked for me here. Actually this series is like a t.v. show, now that I wrote that. It follows a little group on their adventures—hijinks and witty banter ensue!

90. The Princess and the Hound (Mette Ivie Harrison): A strange (?) little fairy tale. I leave the (?) there because all fairy tales are kind of strange when examined. My biggest complaint is that I figured out the curse way early on, and I don’t think I should have, or I would have liked it better if I didn’t, in any case. I don’t know what else to say without spoiling it (that ending with the bear tho, amirite?). There has to be an academic paper somewhere about why parents in fairy tales are always so awful, except for the dead one. I’m guessing.

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this book scored points with me because there is a dog on the cover AND a dog as one of the important characters

91. Deadly Games (Lindsay Buroker): Episode three—can our little group of a rascal magician, a professor, a cold-blooded assassin, an inflated ego, and upstanding moral guardswoman keep it together? The answer is no, no they cannot because working together on a team with a random assortment of weirdos is a great way to cause a lot of disasters and I’m glad this book addresses that problem.

92. Death Maker (Lindsay Buroker): In which I go back to Buroker’s other series to check on how those characters are doing only to find out this book doesn’t focus on my favorite smack-talking sword. I was so disappointed I almost didn’t read it, but I’m glad I did because I would have missed out on how much trouble one little pilot can make (she blows up a whole fucking city, that’s how much). Also the talking sword shows up at the end to be snarky, so I got what I wanted out of this book.

93. Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame (Charles Bukowski): Again with the titles that make me feel insignificant. Ironically, was reading this at the same time I started reading Leaves of Grass. Whooie, do Bukowski and Whitman have a little disagreement on how to view life. Though how different they are actually highlights how they’re also the same, in what they think about. Maybe there’s an academic paper on this? If not, you can go forth and write it. I believe in you. I would start with how both Bukowski and Whitman spend time describing people across the world living their daily lives.

94. Even White Trash Zombies get the Blues (Diana Rowland): Me during the holidays.

95. Life, the Universe, and Everything (Douglas Adams): He writes with such anarchic glee. No one writes metaphors/similes like Adams. Also this leaves me with two more to go in this series? I’ll try to finish it next year.

96. Choke (Chuck Palahniuk): I feel weird when I say this is my favorite Palahniuk because the sex bits are really vile (Bukowski would be proud). However, I think about Choke a lot. The character of the mother is a rich subject for rumination. Palahniuk has a unique talent in combining the ridiculous with the philosophical. On one level, I take glee in the chaos the mother causes (the switching the hair dye is a personal favorite). On another level, Palahniuk continues to address his favorite topic of disgust: capitalism and consumerism. Like actually, no you’re right Palahniuk, people establish identities based on their habits of consumerism and that’s kind of fucked up. To complete the recipe for Choke, add a pinch of self-destruction, savior complex, and surrealism (that part with the rocks though). Please someone talk to me about this book.

97. Invisible Monsters (Chuck Palahniuk): Re-read this as well as Choke. What a soap opera, and I mean that in the most loving way possible. It is the most light-hearted of Palahniuk’s books that I’ve read and I have a special fondness for it. The twist at the end, as is Palahniuk’s style, is aimed more for the effect of humor than anything else, in my opinion, and it delivers so, so well. It’s a great moment of “daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.” There’s a lot of moments like that in this book, I mentioned it’s a soap opera, right? The best moment is the estrogen one though. Favorite plot twist in a book, bar none.

98. Regency Buck (Georgette Heyer): I don’t know where to fucking start. WHY if you know someone is attempting to murder someone else, do you not warn them and instead try to handle it on your own? Oh yeah, I just realized: because he’s the problem solving man! The silly woman wouldn’t be able to help, no she needs to be kept in the dark up to the point where she gets kidnapped because god forbid he be deprived of the scene where he rides up, kick flips off of his horse and punches the bad guy through the window. (Don’t read this book if you’re expecting this to happen. It won’t happen. The kick flipping, I mean. He does show up last minute to dramatically punch the bad guy in the nose). I kept waiting for the love interest to show up in this book because it’s really just a game of ‘spot the asshole’ and all of the people the woman meets early on were too kind to her to be of notice. I need to go scream for a minute.

99. Mansfield Park (Jane Austen): I was really cutting it close with finishing the last two Jane Austen books..haha… This one is so LONG! Good grief. It starts getting good in the last two-thirds but man, does nothing happen for like 100 pages! It’s funny to compare this to Persuasion, because that book is so tightly written. Once it does get going though, I really enjoyed that. A lot of people hate on Fanny Price, but I found her extremely sympathetic. She’s like an average person who gets dropped into a romance movie and she keeps fucking up her lines. Realistically, we’d all be there. I do find it distracting when all these women are in love with their cousins though. It’s hard to detach yourself from the thought.

100. Persuasion (Jane Austen): I had my doubts about this one—it was actually the only Austen I had never seen a film adaption of. All I knew was that it was about a couple who had been betrothed and then broke it off before meeting each other 8 years later. Anne is the most mature of Austen’s heroines, and I like that about her. She’s grounded in reality. I also appreciate how much time she spends listening to people’s stupid conversations, just sitting in there and taking it all in, finding them silly but without the need to comment on it. Those bits are so well written that the humor arises from your imagined disdain of Anne’s, because she doesn’t really ever make a comment herself. The humor is all in the frivolity of the conversation, especially when it is two people talking about the same subjects from two different points of view (both equally wrong and silly). It is, without a doubt, the most refined book of the six. Very good, in the end.

I made my goal of 100 books (originally my goal was 60, I had no conception of how many books I could read in a year if I tried) AND my Jane Austen goal, so I consider this year a victory.

So in reflection, I have been stuck on one question. What happens to the horses in the Regency times when people get a change of horses when they’re traveling. Do the horses not belong to the people? Are they just like a rented car that waits and rests for the next person to use them? If they DO belong to the people, how do they get their horses back??? Does someone have to stay with them? Do they tie a string around their neck, like, “Mr. Elliot’s”? I’m so confused and none of the books ever actually explain this! Jane Austen just assumes we know! Well I don’t, Miss Austen, I really don’t know and I’m worried about it. I’m worried about those horses.

Upcoming for next year:

I decided on my literary resolution for next year—one non-fiction book a month. I’ve really neglected reading non-fiction, which is ironic because I listen to a lot of non-fiction podcasts and you’d think I’d also enjoy reading it.

I’m going to try to keep to posting on Tuesday (shorter) and Friday (longer post). I have one more round-up post delving more in detail with my favorites and my least favorites of the year, then two posts on Mansfield Park, though I might put something in between them.

Originally I had intended to only write a couple of sentences for each book. Haha. Silly me. Better going next year, I suppose.

year in books 2015 edit

All I’ve gathered from this is that only 7 other people on Goodreads were in a German Literature class and having as much fun as I did.

 

End of the Year Round Up Day 3

Day three and books 51-75. I noticed that last time I accidently listed Hello, I Love You as number 50, when in reality it was Fifty Shades Freed but I think that part of me was rejecting the disgusting coincidence of a Fifty Shades book being in the 50 slot, so this way I can pretend that never, ever happened.

Ugh.

  1. Fifty Shades Freed (E.L. James): I was really excited because I thought this was going to be the last of them but then E.L. James had to do me in and release the version from Grey’s point of view so I had to submit myself to another one of these festering cesspits of ‘literature.’ Also the only redeeming thing about this book is that finally someone got shot. Thank the lord.
  1. Grey (E.L. James): I don’t remember anything about this book. All I can think about is ‘laters baby’ like I’m stuck in a circle of hell, unable to escape the eternity of knowing this phrase was published like it should be something cool that people would want to say to impress upon their crush that they’re hip.

    52 copy

    you bet your booty i got this from the library because there’s no way this piece of steaming garbage is going to be placed on my shelves

  1. Deceit (M.J. Haag): A highly problematic story, especially because potential rape is used as a plot device like every 5 pages (sorry more like 30 pages), but I do like the reinterpretation of fairy tales so I’m a sucker for a story like this. Though I felt like I was deceived into reading something that got disturbingly close to animal husbandry in the human and animal sense. But hey, it happens to the best of us! Haha! (help)
  1. Depravity (M.J. Haag): I didn’t find it disturbing enough to stop tho.
  1. Devastation (M.J. Haag): I don’t know what else to say about these books without it getting weird fast.
  1. The Walls Around Us (Nova Ren Suma): I’m left with so many questions and so many emotions. Beautiful surreal writing, not enough questions answered, and an eerie atmosphere.
  1. There Are No Men (Carol Maloney Scott): This is about when I entered into the true depths of free e-book hell. This book isn’t that bad though, and I swear I’m not just saying that because there’s a dog with a prominent place in the story. I’m not that weak.
  1. Days of Blood and Starlight (Laini Taylor): Such a good sequel. The plot develops in a satisfying way while adding a lot of new pieces of the story. A good example of how a long book doesn’t necessary mean that it needs a better editor. That was in no way a jab at the Harry Potter books, because I don’t have a death wish.
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beautiful cover: the sequel

  1. Hemlock (Kathleen Peacock): Another teenage werewolf book. This was way better than it had any right to be and I actually highly recommend it because it’s just a fun read. Someday I may have to admit I like werewolves, but at this point I’ll still deny it.
  1. Saving Grace (Michele Paige Holmes): Oh here we go, testing the limits of my memory that retains books about as well as a strainer retains water. I’m trying to remember anything about this book without looking at the description but all I’ve got is some starchy water. It has a pretty cover though. Okay, I read the description and I would say that I think this book was average, if I remember correctly, if you’re into Regency Romances.
  1. The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak (Brian Katcher): I have a theory of my own. It involves trying to answer the question: why do books that seem intended to target a “geeky” audience spend a lot of time blatantly insulting that audience? Evidence from this book: Zak lives to attend Comic Con. He also spends a lot of his time while he’s AT Comic Con insulting the kind of people who attend Comic Con. ??? Not everyone who is a part of this culture is so self-hating? There’s also a plot-twist (?) in this book where suddenly it turns into a drug-deal-turned-kidnapping that is so ridiculous and out of place in a book that was first about these two people traipsing through Comic Con trying to find a lost younger brother that I was left squinting at the book trying to figure out when the author starting losing sleep because he had a deadline and finished the book in a state of sleep-deprivation, because I can’t think of a better explanation for the way this book progresses. Side note: why am I not at Comic Con.
  1. Hemlock Grove (Brian McGreevy): YES. I love this book! The writing style, the atmosphere, the tandem saying of “shee-it” by the protagonists. Again, there are some parts of it that are unpolished and reading this book is challenging in the beginning because you have to adjust to the strange, convoluted prose, but the DELIVERY! I’m unapologetically (though when am I ever apologetic) in love with this book. Utterly in love. It is high up on my list of books to add to my personal library. Also it about werewolves again, shit. But it’s like a werewolf book in the way Dracula is a vampire book—it’s disturbing and does not portray the situation in an attractive way. Have I mentioned the tandem expression of “shee-it”? Because that’s art.

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sheeit

modern art

  1. Geek Girl (Holly Smale): See another entry in “why do books targeting a geeky audience blatantly insult that audience.” In this book: why be a NERD when you can be a MODEL? You silly nerds, you should put your energy into being attractive AS WELL as geeky! Because then you too can be cool! Don’t limit yourself! I may have overdosed on sarcasm, but I just find this whole situation so perplexing. If I’m your audience, don’t insult me?!
  1. You Get so Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense (Charles Bukowski): I get depressed when I read Bukowski, not because of the poems but because his titles alone are better than anything I’ve ever written in my whole life (or probably ever will write) and I think it’s unnecessary that Bukowski gotta make me feel this way.

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    Read during National Read a Book Day

  1. Ice Planet Barbarians (Ruby Dixon): I made a blog post about this, which can be read here. My wish for 2016 is more ridiculous sci-fi books featuring romances with aliens. Or I guess the next Mass Effect would do just as fine. I’m not picky.
  1. Barbarian Alien (Ruby Dixon): Actually, in all seriousness, more sci-fi target at women written by women would be awesome in general. Consider that. I’m going to try to read more science fiction next year, but I feel like it is a wall of adversity, being such a male-dominated area of literature. But I will try, in order to improve myself.
  1. Thornhill (Kathleen Peacock): The sequel to the previously mentioned Hemlock, which could alternatively be titled: How Serena Deserved Better. I didn’t like this one as much as the first so I don’t know if I’ll read the next book in the series.
  1. Dracula (Bram Stoker): My favorite scene in this book is when grown men gather and with severity and doom over hanging their heads dramatically place a wafer cookie in a box of dirt. This is worth a read not just because it exposes you to a lot of the origins of vampire mythology (which is sick as hell), but also because it is genuinely still remarkably engaging and accessible writing. A lot of classics suffer because the language is hard for a modern audience to trudge through, which is what I expected in Dracula, not knowing much about it before hand, but I wouldn’t rank this high at all on the impenetrable prose scale. How gross is it that Dracula has hairy palms though? Gnarly.

    68 copy

    a very serious book about men doing very serious things

  1. The Bride Wore Blue (Cheryl Bolen): Soggy soggy noodles and starchy water. I have got nothing except that the leading lady wore blue on her wedding day (I wonder how I could remember that much. Haha oh wait). I read the description and it reminded me that this book starts with one of my favorite tropes “someone saved me from dying on the battlefield and now I’m in love with them but how do I find them.” But I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing just read Daughter of Smoke and Bone because that book is fucking great.
  1. Banished Love (Ramona Flightner): written about here. Thoroughly enjoyed and bought the sequel, though I haven’t read it yet. No alpha male dominating bullshit to be found in this cute little story. Also the lady becomes a pamphlet reading feminist by the end, so get it girl.
  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams): I never read all of these books so I bought the ultimate collection and reread the first the set me on my way. I won’t spend a lot of time showering praise on this book, because I feel like everyone knows. But if you want to swap favorite Douglas Adams lines, hit me up. I’m in love with the analysis of this book as a work of positive nihilism, as well, which you can read about if you poke around on the internet.
  1. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Douglas Adams): Marvin for one of the greatest robots in literary history. I misread this title as well, I imagined it to be a spatial ‘end of the universe’ when it is actually a temporal thing. Maybe that was intentional though?
  1. A Sweet Possibility (Natalie Charles): I love when the title of a book that I otherwise remember nothing about reminds me of the basic plot. There’s this woman, okay, and she’s like…interested in opening her own chocolate shop…and she meets this guy and they fall in love and it all works out in the end…probably.
  1. Confessions of a Virgin Sex Columnist (Kay Marie): Okay, there’s this woman and she’s like…employed as a sex columnist…but she’s a virgin……and she meets this guy and they fall in love and it all works out in the end….probably…

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    “cute cover tho”- me whenever i have nothing else to say

  1. And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie): I have not read a lot of classic crime literature (this may be my first, if I’m not mistaken), so I started with Agatha Christie because she’s a woman and I dig that. An investigation on justice, which I would have probably written a paper about if I was still at university, but also a fun ‘who-done-it’ read. Not a single sympathetic character in this whole book! That takes guts, to just commit to portraying an entire island of assholes. Love how everyone loses their minds. I plan on reading more Christie in the future.

 

With the new year approaching, I’ve got to make a new goal for my year in literature. This year was to read all six Jane Austen novels (which I made, barely). I have a friend who is committing to 50 consecutive books written by women authors.

Hooray for that self-motivation!

See you all soon for the conclusion of this list~

End of the Year Round Up Day 2

Day two of the huge round-up, featuring books 26-50. There isn’t a lot of suspense for book 26, considering the pattern of the last list, but maybe the rest will be a stirring surprise.

26. The Mediator: Haunted (Meg Cabot): I pretend there isn’t a 6th book, so this is as far as I read. I just couldn’t deal with the method in which the ghost was un-ghostified, because I really just wanted him to stay a ghost forever. Does that make me a bad person?

27.Strange Angels (Lili St. Crow): Look, there’s a whole lot to read in the teenage werewolf/vampire genre. One might say the genre is choked to the point of no resuscitation by now (and it would be hard for me to say they were wrong). But, despite this, I rather enjoyed this romp. I can’t place my finger on why, except maybe the brutal beginning of zombie-dad.

28. Betrayals (Lili St. Crow): I liked Strange Angels enough to read the second book in the series, which is always a stretch goal for me. My attention span rarely makes it beyond a trilogy and even a second book is an honor.

29. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen): My goal for literature this year was to read all six Jane Austen novels. I began with the most famous then worked my way through using no guidance except suggestions on Facebook and my opinions on the covers. I suppose I could have read them in chronological order or some other logical method but I couldn’t be bothered. I like this Austen, but after this year it is no longer my favorite (though the t.v. version still is my favorite film adaption)

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You may ask me why Elizabeth looks like a zombie on my copy of P&P. I have no answer for you though.

30. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë): Jane Austen is underrated for being an author that was clever, socially critical, and devoted to the destruction of the patriarchy. On the other hand, I can’t shower any praise onto C. Brontë, except that I have never read an author who does dramatic scenes of heroines running away in a stormy night from mansions burning down while the crazy wife that was locked in the attic laughs dramatically from a tower. This book is ridiculous and the hundred or so pages of religious GUILT is almost unbearable. But I also love it because who doesn’t love scenes where the heroine runs away from a burning mansion. Though I still am not over the fact that the “love” story is pretty much a worldly older man dominating the mind of a sweet and fresh-into-the-world child. It’s a little fucked up.

31. The 100 (Kass Morgan): I read this because I had been hearing a lot about the show, but in the end I was absolutely bamboozled by the insanity of these teenagers. Like I get it, you’re 16 and in love but compromising the safety of an entire spaceship (and your whole civilization) because you’re 16 and in love reminds of why I hate teenagers who think they know the purest form of eternal love that, obviously, no one has experienced before or could understand. LISTEN. You’re SIXTEEN. Sit down and think about your life choices. Christ.

32.Storm Siren (Mary Weber): Took me a while to get invested in, but it wasn’t bad by the end, which was dark. I’ll probably read the sequel if I can remember it.

33. Dairy Queen (Catherine Gilber Murdock): Shout out to cows for being spiritually touching animals. Also this is cute.

34. The Jane Austen Book Club (Karen Joy Fowler): I thought this book about a bunch of people reading all of Jane Austen’s book was relevant to my life (because I was reading all of Jane Austen books). Features one of the best lines of the year: “Maybe Allegra felt a sneaking admiration for toilet-hurling lesbians.” Lmfao bye.

35. The Secret of Happy Ever After (Lucy Dillon): some marketing person somewhere: “what if we put a picture of a dog on the spine of the book? Maybe that would help increase how many people pick it up. People are crazy about dogs.” Me: “This book has a picture of a dog on it, I should probably read it.”

36. Emma (Jane Austen): Probably my favorite Austen, honestly. I really shouldn’t like Emma (the girl) because she is silly, prideful, self-obsessed, a meddler, and okay I could go on, but I love the girl, really speaks to me of Austen’s writing skill. She presents a character that you should find annoying, but Emma’s obvious intelligence and goodness is just as present, making her a much more believable and well-rounded character than some of Austen’s other heroines. We have to admit it, there are some people we love but who can be annoying and mistaken as hell, but Emma grows into a more mature woman by the end of the book and I have no trouble respecting her. Also Mr. Knightley is under-appreciated because he is v. sweet.

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Emma is faring a lot better than Elizabeth, in that she doesn’t seem to have been bitten by a zombie yet.

37. Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl (Jesse Andrews): Read this after seeing the trailer for the movie. I liked this book a lot better when I read an interview with the author, where he explained that readers should remember that the book is narrated by Greg, who is, at times, misguided and moody. With that in consideration, I love this book. I want so many more books that focus on the value and deepness of platonic friendship. Not to point any fingers (okay no really, I’m looking at you, The Fault in Our Stars), but I think the idea of a romance taking place with someone who is terminally ill and that being the focus of their life is exploitative. This book is about friendship, awkward youths, and bad films. For all of Greg’s flaws, I genuinely love him. Also the movie made me cry like the weenie I am.

38. The Last Song (Nicholas Sparks): I now know the experience of being preached to by a man who is trying to connect with the youths by acting young but not really understanding young people and weirding you out with his turned around baseball cap and misplaced slang expressions. Also WOW this book went REALLY preachy. Like, “Oh it’s a good thing Ronnie found her way back to GOD, otherwise who knows what would have happened to her.” Yikes. Also the writing is terrible.

39. The Help (Kathryn Stockett): I don’t feel like I’m in a position to comment on this book, but I enjoyed the story.

40.The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein): This book was the letdown of the YEAR. I will talk more about this in my best/worst post but COME ON. What a disappointment, especially when it has a dog as the main character.

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How can a book with a cover like this go so, so wrong? That dog deserved better.

41. Working for the Devil (Lilith Saintcrow): Oops, guilty pleasure, loved this book. Haha. Ya got me, I kind of love interpretations of demons. And urban fantasy. And blade wielding ladies. Goodbye

42. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen): Until you get to the scandalous part of this book, a lot of it is very boring. Very, very boring. But not as boring as the first volume of Mansfield Park. Zing. I just smack-talked a Jane Austen book using a Jane Austen book so take that Jane Austen. But the SCANDAL. Jane Austen wrote some pretty racy things for her time but her books are always portrayed as so sweet, so innocent, so pure.

43. Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor): shout out to Laini Taylor for being break-out favorite new author of the year. This trilogy captured me. There’s some weaknesses, to be sure, Taylor sometimes struggles with pacing and her prose can come off as a little juvenile, but the world-building in this series is so rich that I have to forgive the other faults. Once you get past the slow beginning, you are plunged into such a vibrant and completely realized fantasy setting that it’s hard not to be drawn in. Incredible. 10/10.

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also this cover is gorgeous

44. Girl Online (Zoe Sugg): I like reading books with light blue covers, which is why I grabbed this book off the library shelf. WHAT A TRAIN WRECK. Also the side story about how Zoe Sugg may have not actually written this book adds a level of hilarity to how embarrassing this story is. Also I had no idea about Zoella before this and I still don’t, so I’m not biased for or against her. But WOWZIE.

45. Fifty Shades of Grey (E.L. James): I have a bit of literary masochism so I decided to read this whole series. My friends on Facebook almost saw me lose control of my life trying to read these books and so many people have said so much about this disaster that I won’t get into it here. Except I hated it about just as much as you would expect. I will leave this here, straight from my status updates: “Of all the capital offenses Christian Grey says as dialogue (that no one would ever actually say), the worst is ‘laters baby.’”

46. Red Queen (Victoria Aveyard): Hmm. Will read the sequel. Lots of praise for this book and maybe it deserves it? Kind of lukewarm on it but not because of bad writing or bad plot, not sure why.

47. Fifty Shades Darker (E.L. James): “50 shades darker was an enormous let down because part way thru i started to think someone would get shot and i’d be saved from this hell but no.”

48. My Life as a White Trash Zombie (Diana Rowland): someone wrote a novel about my life (how could you not read this with a title like that?).

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featuring Kip the Kindle

49. Half Bad (Sally Green): rough but good. I liked the choppiness of the writing but at times it dipped out of style and into just being rough. Also kind of disturbing.

50. Hello, I Love You (Katie M. Stout): Another light blue cover that I grabbed in the library. Oh how I love thinly veiled fan-fiction masquerading as a novel. Lmao bye.

I think I learned something important this week, which is that I tend to grab books with a light blue cover at the library when I’m trying to find something to read. Also books with light blue covers tend to be awful. This has actually been educational for us all.

Next week: we learn how I felt about the last two Fifty Shades books (not good, I can tell you that much) and descend into free e-book hell, which I haven’t escaped from since.

Also my birthday was yesterday and I think it says something that for gifts I received chocolate, a rock, and a bunch of gift cards to buy books for my Kindle. Also a dog figurine, which in sum total says about everything you need to know about me.

Frohe Weihnachten everyone!

End of the Year Round Up

So my move to Austria may have overwhelmed my intentions to keep this blog up to date (whoops) but I am back and going to make a valiant effort to try to continue to make posts. Hopefully with the time off of teaching due to the holiday break, I will be able to write some posts to backlog and eventually resume a weekly schedule.

That’s the tentative plan and it’ll probably be fine.

But! For the end of the year I thought I might do a roundup of all of the books I have read in 2015, highlighting some of the best and worst, because the worst should never be neglected.

I’m breaking the list into four posts because 100 books is a lot and divides cleanly into four. Nice.

  1. Push (Eve Silver): Strangely enough, since my memory towards books tends to degrade at a rate faster than melting tic-tac, I actually remember the plot to this book. But what I remember most were the awkward interactions between the main character and her love interest (of course, this is YA book, so there’s got to be a shoved line of uncomfortable teenage romance) including some bonding over the manga Bleach. I remember this because it was so ham-fisted and stilted that I had to wonder if the author happened to be a fan of Bleach, or if they heard that kids these days really like those comic books from Japan and after a quick Google search, found Bleach to be a prevalent title. (No disrespect to the series, by the way, I’ve never read it.) I love when adult authors try to pen teenage interactions that are nothing like the actual way teenagers interact.
  2. Der Kaukasische Kreidekreis– The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Bertolt Brecht): I read this in my German class and wrote a paper on it comparing the play to Plato’s holistic views of justice in philosophy so if you’re a fucking nerd, read this play. The character of Azdak as the good-bad judge is comic and political genius.

    Screenshot 2015-12-18 12.43.55

    If you want to have this much fun, stay in school kids.

  3. YOLO (Lauren Myracle): Ignoring the somewhat painful title, I felt obligated to read this book because the original few were some of my favorite books back when I was a young teen and I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren Myracle at a YALSA conference.
  4. Moon Called (Patricia Briggs): The greatest outrage of this series is how Mercy, the main character, is portrayed on the book covers. Within the story, she’s a no-nonsense bad-ass who tends to start physical altercations with men who go too disrespectful on her. Too bad for the sake of sales she has to be portrayed in an objectifying way on the cover!

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    How can I tell people to read this book without feeling like an asshat when it has a cover like this?

  5. Grieche sucht Griechin (Friedrich Dürrenmatt): Another book from my German literature class, with one of the wildest turns from a comedy to a surreal murderous depressing ending mourning the foolishness of human interaction. This book is wild.
  6. Blood Bound (Patricia Briggs): Maybe they decided to not objectify Mercy—oh wait.

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    GOD DAMN IT

  7. Dragon Age: Asunder (David Gaider): If you didn’t know I was Dragon Age trash, now you do.

    daiscreen

    I need a second to wipe the drool off of my face. Sorry about that.

  8. No Pretty Pictures: a Child of War (Anita Lobel): I was fortunate enough to meet Anita Lobel and listen to her talk on her experience as a child in Nazi-occupied Poland as well as see her illustrations for children’s books up in our University gallery.
  9. Brigitta (Adalbert Stifter): Let me tell you about the themes of outer and inner beauty as portrayed in this Germa—or you could take a university course and have THAT enjoyment all for yourself.
  10. Everything is Illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer): I could write an essay of praise on this book. It’s fucking fantastic. Go read it.
  11. Undine (Fredrich de la Motte Fouque): I took a class on German Romanticism so…
  12. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon): Wow, this book is universally praised, as far as I have read. But it left me with a lot of mixed feelings, which would also require an essay to express. Writing about any disorder is full of land-mines, and I’m not sure this book handled Autism Spectrum Disorder with the kind of delicacy that would be optimal.
  13. Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World (John Broome): Alternative title: we’re all fucked because we destroyed the planet.
  14. Princess of Thorns (Stacey Jay): I’m turning into a fan of Stacey Jay. She writes modern fairy-tales, which is a genre that just tickles me, and this was a solid entry in that genre.
  15. The Faerie Path (Allan Frewin Jones): I don’t remember much happening in this book but I’m distracted by the sparkles on the cover so that may be having an adverse effect on my efforts.
  16. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog (Bruce D. Perry): Essentially a book on neuroplasticity and trauma that is accessible to people outside of the field, if you’re interested. Also, as someone who studied psychology, it’s hard to not be resentful of the great success Bruce Perry has had in life. Like congratulations, I guess, not like I’m envious of how famous you are or how much good you’ve done for the field or anything. Shit.
  17. The Republic (Plato): Full disclosure that Plato is the light of my life, but his Republic includes such ethical gems as “it’s morally wrong to lie to people, unless the people you are lying to are the general population and it’s for their own good” and “dogs are philosophical creatures by nature.” I’m paraphrasing there. Except for the dog bit, he really said that.

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    the bae

  18. Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless (Liz Czukas): I’m always a slut for top-ten lists.
  19. Stone in the Sky (Cecil Castellucci): !!! Maybe my new favorite YA sci-fi. This will show up in the best of bit, so I’m not going to wax poetic about it here, but a seriously fantastic series with an interesting writing style.19
  20. Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse): A book everyone should probably read, actually. If you’re into the meaning of life and that kind of thing.
  21. The Road (Cormac McCarthy): I found this to be kind of a let-down, to be honest. McCarthy is such an incredible writer and it felt wasted on the sparse story. The cannibals rate 10/10 on the clever cannibal scale, so there is that.
  22. The Mediator: Shadowland (Meg Cabot): I will not defend myself. I love this stupid series.
  23. The Mediator: Ninth Key (Meg Cabot): Also whenever I re-read it, I re-read the whole series.
  24. The Mediator: Reunion (Meg Cabot): I bet you can’t guess what is going to be the next book.
  25. The Mediator: Darkest Hour (Meg Cabot): I bet this is a real cliff-hanger as to what the next post is going to start with. Here’s a hint, there’s another book in this series.

To be continued…. on Tuesday!

What kinds of books did you read this year? I’ve been informed that my list is incredibly silly, but I will not be ashamed of my erratic reading choices or my commitment to reading bad free e-books. Someone’s gotta.