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Another month has come and gone-which means it’s time to share my favorite books from the past month!  There are a number of exciting graphic novels  this time around, but I also had the pleasure to return to some favorite settings.  Here’s what I’ve got.

The Nameless City (Hicks):  The Nameless City, which is placed at a strategically important location, has been conquered and controlled for centuries.  The citizens, the Named, are subjugated.   Bookish, thoughtful Kaidu, a member of the most recent conquering nation, comes to the city to train in the military.  One day, after sneaking out into the city, he meets the urchin Rat.  At his request, she starts teaching him to run on the city’s rooftops, and a budding friendship develops.  Kaidu and Rat’s characterizations and the humor of their shenanigans, paired with Erin Faith Hicks’ gorgeous visuals, makes The Nameless City a delightful read. The story also begins to unpack the deep underlying issues associated with conquest and colonization and leads to a great set-up for future stories that I can’t wait to read.

The City of Blades (Bennettt-Jackson): The city of  Voortyashtan was the home of the war goddess, whose soldiers struck fear into their opponents.   The gods are (in theory) long-dead, but mysteries and secrets are still afoot on the continent.   General Turyin Mulaghesh  arrives in Voortyashtan to search for a missing Ministry spy, but quickly realizes that something much bigger is going on.   I was thrilled to return to Bennett-Jackson’s unique setting and thoroughly enjoyed this action-packed fantasy-mystery that both built on the previous story (City of Stairs) and stood well on its own.  I was deeply entertained by General Mulaghesh, a frequently vulgar, middle-aged war veteran, whose growth I really enjoyed following.

The Beauty, vol. 1 (Haun): What if you could achieve physical perfection without the stress of dieting and exercise?   The sexually transmitted disease, the Beauty, gives its hosts the bodies they want, with seemingly no cost.  However, when a young woman with the condition combusts on the subway, that paradigm changes.   Detectives Vaughn and Foster seek out the cause and a way to help those afflicted, but quickly come up against forces greater than themselves.  I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel’s exploration of beauty and its role in our culture and ethics.

The Bands of Mourning (Sanderson):  After the death of his beloved, Wax struggles to move on.  When the kandra approach him and his comrades, asking for assistance in uncovering the bands of the Lord Ruler, Wax grudgingly accepts in order to stop his uncle, who would be extremely dangerous with access to the Lord Ruler’s great power.  One of the things I enjoy about Sanderson is that there is always something new to discover in his world and about his characters, and he delivers.  Add great quips and an exciting plot, and you get a delightful read.  I cannot wait for the next one.

That’s all for this month.  See you next time!

Top Books of March

Another month has come and gone, and it’s time to share the books I especially enjoyed.

Let’s begin with Janice Nimura’s Daughters of the Samurai, which follows the stories of three young Japanese girls, who journeyed to the United States to learn English and bring back their knowledge of English and American culture to assist in the education of Japanese girls.  Nimura skillfully unfolds the narrative and does a good job of contextualizing these girls’ worlds; I was struck by the girls’ courage in the face of their obstacles and the expectations different cultures had of them.  This will be a fascinating read for individuals fascinated by Japanese culture and history or are looking for a true story about strong women.

Up next is Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree.  Faith’s family moves to an isolated island to help her father avoid a scandal.  After he dies under mysterious circumstances, Faith discovers a tree that will reveal truths after being fed lies.  Faith draws on her newly discovered lying abilities to find lies to feed the tree, what will it cost?   Hardinge has woven a fascinating world and unfolds the plot at a contemplative pace that will draw readers in.  Faith is an interesting character who finds her true desires at odd with what society dictates of her.

The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky is an exciting tale of Greek Gods set in modern day New York.  When Selene DeSilva, aka the Huntress Aremis, finds a dead woman in hte park, she sets out on a hunt to track down the culprits.  She is reluctantly aided on her hunt by Theo, a local classics professor, and, together, they unravel the secret of the woman’s death, which has to do with an ancient ritual that has suddenly come into use once more.   Brodsky has created a compelling setting that makes excellent use of classical studies and myth, and the story is engaging, with plenty of hints and twists.  I am looking forward to more stories from this author.  If you like Neil Gaiman, you’ll love this.

I can’t forget Morning Star, the conclusion to Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy.  Darrow has been beaten, but he still has allies.  After these allies free him from the clutches of the Jackal, Darrow and his friends rally to bring rebellion to Mars and the Gold’s empire.  The scale of worldbuilding is impressive–Brown pulls you right into the action.  I also loved the emphasis on friendship in this one; although Darrow is the figurehead for the revolution, he would be unable to accomplish everything without the assistance of his friends.  A most satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, indeed.

Last but not least, is Brandon Sanderson’s Calamity, the conclusion to The Reckoner’s trilogy.   David and the remaining Reckoners work together to stop their former leader Prof, who has been corrupted by Epic powers.  Prof has been working on something big–can David and the Reckoners save him from himself and unravel just what Calamity is?   This conclusion had plenty of big reveals and actions–just as I have come to expect from Sanderson–and brings the series to a satisfying conclusion.

That’s all for now.  Until next month!

I’m back with another top books of the month post!  Here are the books that I especially enjoyed during the month of February.
Salt to the Sea (Sepetys): This story follows several children whose paths converge as they travel to and finally board Wilhelm Gustloff , a ship carrying refuges out of danger of the final conflict between the Soviet Union and Germany.   The promised safety quickly evaporates when the Wilhelm Gustloff is torpedoed. Sepetys beautifully sketches sympathetic characters and conveys a powerful, hopeful story in the midst of a dark part of history.  I almost never cry over books, but this one had me tearing up.  If you want some compelling historical fiction, pick this up as soon as you can.
Six of Crows (Bardugo): Kaz is a legend in the criminal underworld, where he has built up a monstrous legend for himself.  When he gets the opportunity to smuggle a man with a powerful secret out of a secure fortress for a fortune,  Kaz gathers a crew and sets out.  However, skills and loyalties will be tested, and the cost may be greater than the reward.  This is an action-packed heist fantasy story with an intriguing setting and well-drawn characters.
Low, V.2 (Remender):  Stehl finds herself struggling to continue on her quest to reach the surface and learn what the probe has discovered about the world above.   Meanwhile, the Minister of Thought moves to bury the information in order to prevent the citizens from being destroyed by false hope.  Once again, I was floored by the brilliant illustrations that bring this compelling and unique world to life.  I also enjoyed watching Stehl deal with her tragedies as well as getting the opportunity to see more of the world and conflicts.   I am looking forward to seeing how this series unfolds.
Story of my Tits (Hayden): Jennifer Hayden takes the reader through her youthful insecurity to love to her experience with breast cancer all while maintaining a reflective, upbeat tone. Hayden is particularly strong in portraying the relationships in her life.  This is a sweet, slice of life story that you will not want to miss.
The Country of Ice Cream Star (Newman): In Ice Cream’s Star World, children die before they hit twenty-one, felled by a mysterious disease.  In this harsh world,  Ice Cream leads her fierce band of Sengels while making deals and fighting with nearby tribes.  When her brother Driver falls ill and her world becomes threatened by an outside force, Ice Cream sets out to find a cure and save her people.  Newman succeeds in developing a unique language and voice for Ice Cream, which further pulled me into the compelling world she had created–where children both face incredible struggles while still behaving in very childlike ways.  This is a unique post-apocalyptic story that should not be missed.
That’s it for now!  Tune in again at the beginning of next month!

Happy New Year, all!  Here is my favorite books I read this month.

Between the World and Me/Coates: Written to his son, Coates describes the discrimination and the vulnerability that is part of the experience as a person of color in the United States.  Coates’ honesty and writing makes this an absolutely gripping and powerful read.  If you’re looking for some amazing nonfiction, read this.

Hereville(1-3)/Deutsch:  This series follows Mirka, a young Jewish girl who dreams of fighting monsters, but is instead stuck in the village of Hereville.  When Mirka wins a sword from a troll, her life gets a lot more interesting.  From fighting meteorites to saving her sister from a magical fish, Mirka handles her problems with youthful impulsiveness.   Yet even though Mirka creates most of her problems, she also fiercely wants to do the right thing.  This feisty and caring heroine will be sure to win a spot in your heart, and the books (How Mirka Got Her Sword, How Mirka Met A Meteorite, and How Mirka Caught a Fish  ) are great for all ages.

The Sandman: Overture/Gaiman:  A prequel to Gaiman’s original series The Sandman, Dream must face down a mad star in order to save the Dreaming and the world.  I was captivated by the twisty story-line and the breathtaking art (which reminded me very strongly of paintings).   If you liked Sandman, you will enjoy this.

That’s all for January, folks!  Catch you later!

 

 

Favorite Books of 2015

2015 has come and gone, which means it is time for me to name my favorite books from this year.  Did you read any of these and enjoy them?  Do you see something you want to try?

Nonfiction: This spot is secured by Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery.  Montgomery unfolds the story of her experiences forging a bond with the octopuses at the New England and her research into these highly intelligent and unique creatures.  Montgomery’s passion for her subject and her ability to blend research and personal narrative made this an engaging and thought-provoking read.  (Honorable Mentions: Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Snyder), Finding Reliable Information Online (Stebbins), and Redefining Realness (Mock) )

Literary Fiction: This year, my favorite literary fiction pick is Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.  Station Eleven follows a traveling performing troupe as they traverse a world recovering from the destruction wrought by a virulent flu.  I was captivated by Mandel’s writing style and  her ability to mix present and past events to create an emotional and engaging story.   This is a good one if you are in the mood for a post-apocalyptic story, but you don’t want a dystopian novel.  (Honorable Mention: The Buried Giant (Ishiguro))

Science Fiction/Fantasy: As usual, this was a hard category–there were a lot of really interesting reads this year.  The winner for this category is Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormonant.  The story–which follows a brilliant young woman who will sacrifice everything to free her home island from conquerors–explores so much (identity, race, and colonialism, to name a few) in a gripping story of political games and betrayals.  Don’t miss this one.  (Honorable Mentions: Stormlight Archive (Sanderson), Autumn Republic (McClellan) and  The Fifth Season (Jemisin)  )

Graphic Novels:  This was another tough category this year.  I’m going to have to name Julian Voloj’s Ghetto Brother as one of my favorites; Voloj presents a compelling story about Bronx gangs who band together to promote peace in their community.  I also enjoyed C. and R. Gage’s Lion of Rora (which follows Waldensian Joshua Janavel as he leads a rebellion against his community’s oppressors) and Noelle Stevenson’s two fun and engaging stories–Lumberjanes (a group of girls attend a camp with supernatural themes), and Nimona (“evil” mad scientist and a wild shapeshifter shake things up in a corrupt kingdom ).  (Honorable Mentions: N/A–I had too many top favorites this year).

Young Adult: Marie Lu’s The Rose Society secures this spot.  The sequel to Lu’s Young Elites delivers a compelling story of a young woman’s descent into evil as she pursues her vengeance.  This story dragged me in, and, once I finished it, I immediately wanted the final book in the trilogy (which, alas, I have to wait for).  (Honorable Mentions: The Winner’s Crime (Rutkoski), Shadowshaper (Older), and Made You Up (Zappia) )

That’s a wrap, folks.  I wish you all the best (and, of course, good reading material!) for 2016!

Top Books of November

Hello, readers–it’s time for Top Books of the month!  Because of NaNoWriMo, I didn’t get to read as much as I usually do, but here are a few titles I particularly enjoyed!

Made You Up (Zappia):  Schizophrenic Alex transfers to a new school for a fresh start after an incident involving paint and her old school’s gym floor.   On her first day, she runs into head outcast, Miles Richter, and they instantly butt heads.  Alex thinks he looks familiar, but, when you aren’t sure what’s real and what’s not, she isn’t sure.  Anyways, she’s just trying to survive her last year.    Her experience is a lot different than she expects!  I loved Alex–she’s funny and determined, and that made me root for her as she battles to succeed at her goals. The story is engaging because Alex’s unreliability means I wasn’t sure whether what I was reading about is real or not.  I also found the romance interesting as neither she or Miles is easy to get along with, and their own challenges affect the relationship.   I recommend this one if you like unreliable narrators and unconventional romances.

Redefining Realness (Mock):  In her memoir,  Janet Mock describes her experience in transitioning while growing up as a poor person of color in Hawaii. She does a great job of blending her personal story with a discussion of broader issues that trans individuals face.  If  you are curious about trans issues, check this one out.

A Silent Voice (1 &2) (Ooima): When Shoko enters Shoya’s elementary school class, he uses her deafness as an excuse to bully her.    He leads his classmates in attacks against her, and, finally, the bullying escalates so badly that Shoko is forced to leave school.  Haunted by that time years later, Shoya seeks out Shoko in order to look for redemption and forgiveness. Bullying is a deeply personal topic for me, and I was intrigued by the premises.  I like that nothing is straightforward, and the whole plot so far is bittersweet.    Shoya is not automatically forgiven, and he has to struggle to make amends while fighting against people’s perceptions and his own self-loathing.  I am annoyed that Shoko has been relatively passive so far, so I’m hoping she will play a bigger role in the later volumes.  I have the next two volumes on hold at the library, and I’m looking forward to reading them.

Top Books of October

A “Top Books” has been long overdue; I apologize for the radio silence.  Let’s get right into the books!

Fiction:

The Rose Society (Lu): I believe I have talked about Marie Lu’s Young Elites on this blog before; I have been waiting for its sequel for awhile.  In The Rose Society, Adelina forms her own group of allies to pursue her plans for revenge against the Dagger Society and to take the throne and punish the Inquisitors who hurt her.  When I finished reading this book, I wrote on Goodreads “gut-wrenchingly awesome”; I still stand by this statement.  Adelina is a sympathetic, well-portrayed character, and it is heartbreaking to watch her descend into darkness   If you haven’t started reading The Young Elites, you should.

The Heart Goes Last (Atwood): Atwood plays with the concept of safety and personal freedom in her newest book.  After an economic crisis hits, Charmaine and Stan start living out of their car in an increasingly unsafe world.  When they hear about Positron–a contained complex where members live in houses one month and prison the next.  In the meantime, everything is provided for, and they are safe.  However, things rapidly become complicated when Stan and Charmaine become involved with their house’s alternates.   Margaret Atwood’s work is hit or miss with me, but I really enjoyed this unsettling tale.

Shadows of Self (Sanderson): I really love Sanderson’s Mistborn series, and I was thrilled to get my hands on Shadows of Self.  Wax is serving as an assistant investigator for the local police force; meanwhile a kandra (shapeshifter who takes on the form of another) has gone mad and is trying to overthrow the government.  I loved the continual application of aspects of Sanderson’s setting, and the plot was equal parts exciting, humorous, and sad.  I can’t wait for the next one.

Graphic Novels:

Lion of Rora (C. Gage, R. Gage, and Lewis): In the early 17th century, the Waldensians (a minor Protestant religious group deemed heretical) struggle to survive in the area near the French-Swiss Alps, under the Duke of Savoy’s reluctant tolerance.   When farmer Joshua Janavael stands up to a representative who tries to bully a grieving family, he ignites and leads a war of rebellion.  Based on real events, this graphic novel delivers a compelling, action-packed story about a little known underdog.  The creators do a great job of working together to portray this fascinating and little-known historical event.  Definitely check this out.

Low: The Delirium of Hope (Remender and Tocchini): Humankind has retreated beneath the surface of the ocean.  However, time is running out to find a new home because the radiation is finally starting to reach the ocean.  After her family is destroyed, Stehl sets out on a suicide mission to find a new place for mankind.  I found this graphic novel by chance, and I’m so glad I read it.  The setting is compelling, and the world is portrayed in gorgeous color illustrations; Stehl’s eternal optimism is great and well-portrayed; even though she could (and does) get called delusional, she works to make her dreams happen.

Non-Fiction:

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Snyder): In Black Earth, historian Timothy Snyder argues that usual narrative around the Holocaust (one that usually focuses on the mechanical systematization of murder) leads us to miss important language; his argument centers on the collapse of statehood in Eastern Europe–a factor which he claims set the stage for the Holocaust. Snyder writes well: he presents his argument in an accessible narrative fashion and backs up his claims well.  The topic is a heavy one, and, as a result, I took my time with this book  However, it is a fascinating and worthwhile read.

That’s all folks!  Catch you next time!

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