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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!

Top Books of July

July’s come and gone–and that means another “top books” post!  So, let’s get right down to business.

Station Eleven (St. John Mandel):  

When actor Arthur Leander has a heart attack while performing in King Lear, it will be the last “normal” night.  After that night, a flu sweeps the globe, killing many and uprooting the modern world.   Several years later, a performing troupe travels the landscape performing Shakespeare.   Among the performers is Kristin, who was there the night Leander died. As she and her companions struggle to make their way, the beginning still impacts the present story.

I was completely floored by this book.  St. John Mandel brings to life a ravaged world just starting to recover, and does a superb job of weaving the past and present events together that turn into a story that was so touching.  It’s very hard to explain the plot without really giving away the magic, so just believe me when I say you should read it!

Uprooted (Novik):

Every year the wizard Dragon takes a girl from the village; they stay with him for several years before leaving the villages near the dreaded Wood forever.    Agnizeska never believes she’ll be picked for the role, but chooses her he does.  Agnizeska goes to the Dragon’s tower and soon finds herself using her new-found power to combat the onslaught of the Wood.

Novik really captured my imagination with this fairy tale-inspired work.  She describes the world wonderfully, and sets up the conflict and the Wood’s ability in a meaningful and fascinating way.  The story is strong, and Agnizeska’s growth and determination are a pleasure to read.  My one minor complaint was that the romance seemed done to fulfill some kind of expectation rather than truly developed.   Overall though, this was a great read, and I recommend it to fairy tale lovers!

Shadowshaper (Older): 

Sierra Santiago plans to spend the summer working on her mural and hanging out with her friends.  However, a creepy man crashes a party, and her abuelo (grandfather) begins to weep and apologize.   Soon after, Sierra discovers a group called the Shadowshapers, individuals who are able to infuse art with the spirits of their ancestors.  As Sierra works to master shadowshaping, she must face down an individual who is looking to destroy everything she cares about.

This new YA fantasy is fantastic–it only took me an entire evening to read this awesome story!  I love the concept behind shadowshaping–it has a really strong familial connection, and I like how art becomes the medium to channel these spirits.   Sierra is a great character who rises to the challenge, and the story is exciting and hits upon issues such as culture appropriation and family without letting them completely overwhelm the story

Leviathan trilogy (Westerfeld):

Prince Alexander is forced to flee his home in the dead of night.  Commoner Deryn Sharp joins the British Air Force disguised as a boy; she serves on the great whale airship Leviathan.  A crash landing brings the two of them together, and Alex and Deryn join forces to make a difference in World War I.

This YA alternate history fantasy trilogy was a great read!  The plot in each part of the trilogy is exciting and frequently humorous, and the worldbuilding–World War I with mechanical machines and biological creations–is creative and fun.  The characterization of both Alek and Deryn was well-done; their decisions strongly affect the plot, for better or worse.  Deryn with her spunk and drive was my favorite character, and I really liked the relationship between her and Alek.  It was well-balanced between them and did not overwhelm the plot.   If you haven’t read this trilogy, you should.

Rat Queens, volume 2 : The Far Reaching Tentacles of  N’rygoth (Wiebe):

The Rat Queens are back!  In this volume, they face off against a deadly threat in the city of Palisade.   When Dee’s former god N’rygoth is revealed to have a role, she and the other Rat Queens must face up to their pasts to defend what they have in the present.

I very much enjoyed the second volume of Rat Queens.  The story takes a more serious tone as it explores the back-stories of Hannah, Violet, and Dee.  While perhaps not as funny as the first, I liked these developments and am looking forward to the next installment!

All right–that was July!  Thanks for reading!

Top Books of June

I’m a bit late (as usual), but here are the books I especially enjoyed in June.

Fiction:

Gracekeepers (Logan): In this world, much of the land has disappeared; tensions exist between the landlockers–individuals who live on land– and the damplings–who live on the seas.  North travels the seas with a traveling circus; she is the “bear girl” and performs with her beloved bear.  Life with the circus is becoming strained for North as she juggles a secret and her unwillingness to wed the son of the head of the circus.  Then she meets Callinish, a Gracekeeper who buries the dampling dead; Callinish and she connect, but soon must depart. However, Callinish decides to confront her own past and sets out, and North and Callinish’s paths cross again.  I really loved the writing and the setting in this story.  North is also a highly likeable character, and her story to find her place is a compelling one. Don’t miss this one!

Tempest Tales (Mosley): When African-American Tempest Landry is killed by a police officer, he goes up to the Pearly Gates, where St. Peter promptly judges that he should go to hell.  Tempest refuses, and so St. Peter sends him back to Earth.  Tempest has to live his new life under the watchful eye of an Accounting Angel, and the two debate as the angel tries to convince Tempest to accept Peter’s sentence.  I enjoyed this story’s exploration of the conflict between the religious-based definition of morality and the real world.

Nonfiction:

The Library Beyond the Book ( Schnapp & Battles ):  Much of the world’s information is now created digitally, and the Internet has increasingly become the go-to place for information.  In The Library Beyond the Book, Schnapp and Battle lay out the historical roles of libraries and explore the potential roles libraries could take on in the future.  This is a great read for librarians or anyone who is curious about the future of libraries.

Graphic Novels

Finder: Talisman (McNeil): Marcie had a favorite book growing up, but she lost it.  In the meantime, she daydreams and tries to write her own stories and recreate the magic of her perfect book. I related to Marcie’s struggles to create something worthy.   McNeil’s art really brings Marcie’s story to life.

Demo (Wood):  This comic tells the story of several individuals who have unique powers.  However, none of these characters are superpowers.  Rather, in gorgeous black and white, Wood explores these characters’ lives and how their abilities affect them, their decisions, and those around them.  I really enjoyed the different stories; many of the powers are quite creative and aren’t always to the bearer’s advantage.   I would recommend you check this one out if you like the idea of powers, but want a break from superheroes.

In honor of Pride Month, I thought I would take the time to discuss some of my favorite LGBT stories.  I also will link to some LGBT resources offered by library organizations.  This list is by no means comprehensive.  If you don’t see a LGBT work that you’ve really enjoyed, please share in the comments!

 Books:

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children (Kirstin Cronn-Mills)–This YA novel follows trans teen Gabe as he struggles to find acceptance for his decision to become male.  Gabe starts hosting a radio called “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children” and finds both his voice and acceptance.  This is a great story with relatable characters; the book is a lot less Pollayanish than I’m making it sound.  I think it does a great job of showing Gabe’s search for acceptance without relying on dramatic tactics to explore those issues; Gabe’s music geekery will be sure to appeal to some readers.

The Rifter series (Ginn Hale)-I’ve talked about the Rifter series on this blog before (see this post), and I need to mention it again.  This fantasy LGBT series has great world-building and a compelling story; the romance between the two main characters–John and Kyle– is sweet and well-portrayed.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Benjamin Alire Saenz)–Aristotle (Ari for short) is an angry young teen with a brother in jail; Dante is super inquisitive and cheerful.  After Dante starts teaching Ari how to swim, the two develop a strong friendship that becomes something more.  I really enjoyed these two characters–particularly Ari–and found the story engaging.   The friendship unfolds very nicely, the language is beautiful, and the issues don’t completely overwhelm the story nor is the storytelling overly dramatic.  This book’s a great read.

Wandering Son (Takako Shimura): This manga series follows a grade school boy who wants to be a girl and a grade school girl who wants to be a boy.  I haven’t come across any other stories with younger trans characters, so I wanted to be sure and include it.

Nightrunner series (Lynn Flewelling):  This fantasy series follows Seregil and Alan who spy for the kingdom.   I haven’t read the whole series, but I enjoyed the setting and stories.  Seregil and Alan are really fun characters, and, if you like stories set in an engaging world with a little romance thrown in, you’ll enjoy this.

Webcomics:

I’ve always been impressed by the diversity of the scene both in terms of works and creators.  There are a lot of comics out there that feature LGBT characters, but I decided to focus on the ones I read with LGBT main themes.   I think this category is especially lacking, so if you’ve got favorites, share them!

Rain (Jocelyn Samara)—This comic focuses on a MtoF transexual who is trying to get through her senior year at a conservative Christian school.  The story is equal parts engaging and entertaining as it explores themes of identity and acceptance; the cast features a diverse group of orientations and gender identities.  Also, if you’re into anime/manga and/or video games, there are a lot of fun references!

As the Crow Flies (Melanie Gillman): This comic features Charlie, a queer African-American girl, who is on a hiking trip with a predominately white Christian group. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous (all of it is done in colored pencil!), and, while the story updates slowly, it is an engaging read as it explores the topics of faith and identity.

Resources from the Library World

American College and Research Libraries. Protections for LGBT Americans in the Workplace.  This article offers resources includes historical timelines, reports on LGBT workers, and resources for LGBT workers.

American Library Association’s GLBT Roundtable.  GLBT Book Month.  This is a collection of award lists for LGBT books.  The site includes the Stonewall Award and the Roundtable’s Rainbow Books (for teens and children) and Over the Rainbow(LGBT books for adults) lists.

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