Fiction, Personal, Uncategorized

9 Books on My 2017 Holiday Wishlist

For those of you who don’t know, my birthday falls less than month after Christmas, on January 17th. Every year I make a combo Christmas/Birthday list in case anyone wants to get me anything. If you actually asked me what I wanted, I would probably stare at you like a deer in the headlights. It’s the same sort of syndrome that motivated me to start this blog. People would ask me to recommend books and I could never remember what I’d read and I kept recommending the same 2-3 books, while never feeling very confident that I actually liked them.

Anyway.

I thought it might be fun to put up the short list of books that made it to my 2017-2018 Christmas/Birthday List. Some of these are just books I’m dying to read and some of these are either the conclusion to series I’m reading or helping me move along to the conclusion!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

In this final volume of the internationally celebrated MaddAddam trilogy, the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of the population. Toby is part of a small band of survivors, along with the Children of Crake: the gentle, bioengineered quasi-human species who will inherit this new earth.

As Toby explains their origins to the curious Crakers, her tales cohere into a luminous oral history that sets down humanity’s past—and points toward its future. Blending action, humor, romance, and an imagination at once dazzlingly inventive and grounded in a recognizable world, MaddAddam is vintage Atwood—a moving and dramatic conclusion to her epic work of speculative fiction.

Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis

Under Wildwood is the second book in the New York Times bestselling adventure series the Wildwood Chronicles from Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, the acclaimed illustrator of The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Ever since Prue McKeel returned home from the Impassable Wilderness after rescuing her brother from the malevolent Dowager Governess, life has been pretty dull. School holds no interest for her, and her new science teacher keeps getting on her case about her dismal test scores and daydreaming in class. Her mind is constantly returning to the verdant groves and sky-tall trees of Wildwood, where her friend Curtis still remains as a bandit-in-training.

But all is not well in that world. Dark assassins with mysterious motives conspire to settle the scores of an unknown client. A titan of industry employs inmates from his orphanage to work his machine shop, all the while obsessing over the exploitation of the Impassable Wilderness. And, in what will be their greatest challenge yet, Prue and Curtis are thrown together again to save themselves and the lives of their friends, and to bring unity to a divided country. But in order to do that, they must go under Wildwood.

The White Mirror by Elsa Hart

In The White Mirror, the follow-up to Elsa Hart’s critically acclaimed debut, Jade Dragon Mountain, Li Du, an imperial librarian and former exile in 18th century China, is now an independent traveler. He is journeying with a trade caravan bound for Lhasa when a detour brings them to a valley hidden between mountain passes. On the icy planks of a wooden bridge, a monk sits in contemplation. Closer inspection reveals that the monk is dead, apparently of a self-inflicted wound. His robes are rent, revealing a strange symbol painted on his chest.

When the rain turns to snow, the caravan is forced to seek hospitality from the local lord while they wait for the storm to pass. The dead monk, Li Du soon learns, was a reclusive painter. According to the family, his bizarre suicide is not surprising, given his obsession with the demon world. But Li Du is convinced that all is not as it seems. Why did the caravan leader detour to this particular valley? Why does the lord’s heir sleep in the barn like a servant? And who is the mysterious woman traveling through the mountain wilds?

Trapped in the snow, surrounded by secrets and an unexplained grief that haunts the manor, Li Du cannot distract himself from memories he’s tried to leave behind. As he discovers irrefutable evidence of the painter’s murder and pieces together the dark circumstances of his death, Li Du must face the reason he will not go home and, ultimately, the reason why he must.

Prodigy by Marie Lu

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

A new threat haunts the streets of London…
Rory Deveaux has changed in ways she never could have imagined since moving to London and beginning a new life at boarding school. As if her newfound ability to see ghosts hadn’t complicated her life enough, Rory’s recent brush with the Jack the Ripper copycat has left her with an even more unusual and intense power. Now, a new string of inexplicable deaths is threatening London, and Rory has evidence that they are no coincidence. Something sinister is going on, and it is up to her to convince the city’s secret ghost-policing squad to listen before it’s too late.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in ArnesRed Londonand officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

 

What books are you hoping Santa leaves under the tree for you? Leave me a comment below!

Fiction, Young Adult

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

I am steadily working my way through the entire canon of John Green and David Levithan. I think I’m somewhere at five each.

This book had a great premise and it didn’t disappoint. For the most part. I really enjoyed this book, but I had the same issue with it that I did with Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. It seems a terrible thing to say there’s not enough anti-homosexuality sentiment in the two books, but there’s not. While I love that these characters get to exist in a world where no one is constantly insulting them and bullying them because of their sexual orientation. It’s not realistic. And as there aren’t a heck of a lot of YA novels about homosexual characters, it’s hard to defend a complete departure from realism. People love to read characters they can relate to. I’m not sure what gay teenager can really relate to Tiny Cooper, except as maybe something to aspire to? I’m not sure.

With that out of the way, I can discuss the things I liked. One of the things that was really great about this novel was that, despite the title, the novel is really about Tiny Cooper. Will Grayson and Will Grayson narrate the whole thing and have their own stories, but only in the intersection of the two characters, do we see the protagonist beyond.

I liked how Will Grayson and other Will Grayson (o.w.g.) ended up being very different, but sort of the same. Will Grayson tries to repress all his feelings about everything and o.w.g. is depressed, so his social life is so non-existent he seems as if he’s repressing everything, too. The interesting thing is that, once o.w.g. meets Tiny Cooper, his life starts to flip around and much faster than one would expect. So suddenly you get this idea of Will Grayson as the more destructive individual, instead of o.w.g.

Another nice touch in the novel is that o.w.g.’s sections are written either in AIMspeak or the lingo of the internet. So, run-on sentences, no capitals, little punctuation, certainly no quotes. This helps to make the contrast of the latter part of the novel that much more apparent.

John Green is so great at writing these absolutely insane, larger-than-life characters. Tiny Cooper is such a character. Like Augustus, Alaska, and Margo, Tiny Cooper is one of those characters you wish were real so you could be their best friend. Seriously, these characters are fantastic.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a solid offering from two of YA contemporary fiction’s best authors. Also, the version I took the image of, includes a commentary from the two in the back, which is just fabulous and so worth reading.

Fiction, Young Adult

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more.

Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After.

Nothing is ever the same.

The thing about reading John Green, is that I always finish one of his books and fill completely filled with a million things to say and nothing to say. Like, how can you possibly summarize such an excellent reading experience? How do you put into words the magic of artistry that is a JG novel? How do you explain how awed you are by his work and intensely sad that you’ll probably never be that good?

Oh, JG, the things you do to my heart and soul.

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you’ll notice that I’ve more or less managed to read his books in reverse order of publication. (First, The Fault in Our Stars, Second, Paper Towns) I still have Will Greyson, Will Greyson and An Abundance of Katherines to read. The first was written with David Levithan, so I don’t really consider it a JG book per se. I may or may not have mentioned this before, but my first encounter with JG happened in high school, when I picked up Katherines, read a couple pages, and put it down. I honestly don’t even know why, though I don’t usually give up on books. Only through sheer miracle of persuasion (what’s up Andrew!) was I convinced to give him another go. Intentionally or unintentionally, I’m saving that one for last. Reasons?

I hold two things to be very true about myself. 1) If I don’t like something right away, I don’t like it. This principle applies spectacularly well in shopping. I guess you could also say it’s a stringent belief in “go with your gut”. I feel like if I deliberate on something too long, I’m riddled with doubt that I made the wrong choice. Which isn’t to say I’m always right. I also apply the rule that, if something keeps haunting me after the moment’s passed, I made the wrong decision and I must attempt to rectify it, if possible. 2) I judge people hardcore. I’ve also noticed, the people I straight didn’t like for one reason or another, ended up becoming some of my best friends. Likewise, I’ve often been proved false by people I immediately liked and attached myself to.

So what does that have to do with the book or this review that isn’t happening? Maybe nothing. Maybe something. I reserve judgment until the day I once again attempt to read Katherines.

Alright, Looking for Alaska. Was amazing. I’m sure many of you have read it and can attest to its amazingness.

One of the things I liked about JG novels (this was the case in Paper Towns in particular) is that the object of idolatry isn’t always worthy of it. I didn’t like Alaska all that much. I mean, I did, in that I felt sad when she died and moved by Pudge’s letter about her, but I liked her more dead than alive. Which is something JG talks about on his Looking for Alaska page on his website (only look at the individual pages if you’ve read the books!). How we tend to remember the dead as much more “beautiful” than they were in life. I think that definitely happened to me along my reading experience.

Another thing I liked about this book, was that JG spent so long crafting it. By my count, at least five year. FIVE YEARS! To get to 221 pages of beauty. Which are beautiful, but still, only 221 pages! If you haven’t read it yet, think about that. Five years went into every precise word and sentence.

One more thing. I just noticed it’s a purple candle on that cover. The entire time I’ve been reading this book, I didn’t take that in. I thought it was just some disembodied smoke.

Fiction, Personal, Plays, Top Ten Tuesday, Writing

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Blog Posts That Give the Best Picture of You

This week’s TTT covers ten blog posts (on your blog!) that give the best picture of you as a reader and/or a person. As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

I feel a little awkward with this one, as I’m writing a big ‘ol braggo post (but that is kind of sort of what blogging is, yes?)

1. My Extended About Me. Kind of an obvious choice.

2. This is a super recent post, but I think this short story is really representative of my writing.

3. On the same note, I wrote a short play two years ago and performed it at an open mic with my friend. I don’t do vlogs or anything or the sort, so this is your one and only (for the moment) chance to see me live. Haha.

4. And again, a little bit of flash fiction I threw up on the blog.

5. Favorite Book: Shadow of the Wind

6. Favorite Book: Hyperion

7. Favorite Book: Plainsong

8. Favorite Book: The Fault in Our Stars

9. Favorite Book (This and the afore-mentioned only represent a small portion of the things I love dearly): The Lover’s Dictionary

10. Most amazing motivational speech ever, by Neil Gaiman.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Characters Who Remind Me of Me!

As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s challenge is 10 literary characters who remind you of yourself or someone else.This was actually a little bad hard.

1. Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones Series)

2. Madeline (The Marriage Plot)

3. Aria Montgomery (Pretty Little Liars Series)

4. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter Series)

5. Hazel (The Fault in Our Stars)

6. Mia Thermopolis (Princess Diaries Series)

7. Daine (Immortals Series)

8. Sabriel (Abhorsen Series)

9. Tibby Rollins (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants)

10. Amy Harper Bellafonte (The Passage)

Fiction, Young Adult

Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge— he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues— and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

This is only my second John Green novel. I read The Fault in Our Stars a couple months ago. After greatly enjoying it, I was more than ready to take on a second Green novel.

This one did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the relationship between Q and Margo. I understood Q, because I was a little bit of a Q in high school. Margo Roth Spiegelman is a great character: she’s adventurous and crazy. She’s even inspired me to have my own Margo-esque adventure. By the time you read this, it will be done and I will hopefully have not been arrested, fined, or otherwise penalized. 🙂

Most of all, I was again blown away by the sheer genius that is John Green. It would be a major spoiler if I told you exactly what a Paper Town is (of course, you could Google it). But it’s so perfectly obscure and clever and interesting that I am astounded. John Green is the perfect example of what writers try and cultivate: observant sponges. In the two novels I’ve read, both feature things that are so obscure they are only happened upon by chance. But of course, literally anything and everything can serve as inspiration. Keep your eyes open to the world around you. Anything can stumble in, if you provide the path.

The ending took me a bit by surprise. I didn’t really see it coming, but in retrospect, if Green had done anything else I would have been disappointed. It’s kind of hard to review this novel since so much of it would be spoilers. But suffice it to say, I loved it. Go read it. Just do it.

Fiction, Reviews, Young Adult

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

This isn’t the type of book I would have ordinarily picked up on my own. Kids + Cancer = Too sad for life. Generally, I don’t read books that make me unduly sad and/or cry. Life is sad enough without my favorite things making me sad, too. But this is one book I’m so glad I decided to embrace.

I’ve never read John Green before. I read a handful of pages of An Abundance of Katherines, but didn’t like it much so I stopped. I’m sensing that I’ll try and read that book again, soon. Maybe I was too young for John Green before. Or not ready. Or something.

I’ve just finished this book and I can’t quit crying. I’m not sure if I’m crying from sadness, from happiness, or from the beauty of the book itself. This is the pinnacle of what young adult literature should be. Beautiful, relatable, and moving. This is why I write- to teach kids that there are still things worth reading in the world and more of them are being written everyday.

Kudos to John Green for sneaking in poetry and philosophy into a young adult novel. But also for writing a book so perfect in every way. There are not enough stars for this book. Maybe all the stars in the sky would be enough. But maybe not.

There isn’t much else I can say without destroying the perfection of the novel, but there is this.

Hazel and Augustus are just two kids with cancer trying to make sense of a messy world. Theirs is a beautiful romance, made even more beautiful by the cancer cloud that hangs over them, threatening each and every moment of their bliss. But isn’t that what all our lives are? Beautiful moments tempered with the notion that it could all end at any moment, blown away like ash in the wind.

As Augustus says, “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations”.