Favorite Books of 2016

Another year has passed, and that means it is time for my favorite books of 2016 post!  I hope you either see something you enjoyed this year, or find something new to read!

Nonfiction: I read so many fascinating nonfiction books this year, but the one that really drew me was Mychal Denzel Smith’s Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching, which chronicles Smith’s coming of age as a young black man in America.  Smith has a unique and compelling voice, and I found myself  completely engrossed.  If you are looking for books on the black experience, I found this one highly accessible and eye-opening, especially when paired with books, such as Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Jeff Chang’s We Gon’ Be Alright. (Honorable Mentions: Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates); The Nazi Hunters (Andrew Nagorski); Born on the Edge of Race and Gender (Willy Wilkinson))

Graphic Novels: Monstress (Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda) takes this spot.  Monstress follows Maika Halfwolf, a young woman who has a literal monster inside of her.  As she tears through obstacles to her answers, she  also awakens forces that have long laid dormant. Monstress’ art is gorgeous and immersive, and Maika is an engaging heroine in what is shaping up to be a great story. I can’t wait to read more.  (Honorable Mentions:  The Nameless City, by Faith Erin Hicks; Toil and Trouble, by Mairghead Scott, March 1-3, Lewis et al; Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill)

Realistic Fiction/Literary Fiction:  The Last Painting of Sara De Vos (Dominic Smith) takes this category.  The story explores the intertwined lives 0f Sara de Vos, one of the few Dutch female artists; Marty De Groot, the descendant of the owner of de Vos’ last remaining painting; and Ellie Shipley, an angry grad student who forges the painting.  After Ellie gets her life together and acquires a professorship in Sydney, Australia, her life threatens to unravel when both her forgery and the original come to Australia for an exhibit. Smith does a superb job of building up the character dynamics and weaving the story threads together in this engrossing novel.

Science Fiction & Fantasy: The Paper Menagerie (Ken Liu) was my favorite science fiction and fantasy book this year.  Liu blends science fiction concepts, history, identity, and mythology in this compelling collection of unique science fiction stories that should not be missed.  (Honorable Mentions: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Becky Chambers); Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction (translated by Ken Liu))

Young Adult: The YA winner is Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea.  Salt to the Sea follows a group of teenage refugees who, along with thousands of other refugees, board the Wilhelm Gustloff in order to escape the German-Soviet conflict in the last year of World War II.   Their relief is short-lived: a submarine attacks the Wilhelm Gustloff, which sinks, taking most of its passengers with it.  Sepetys has a knack for bringing to life relatively unknown historical events (The Wilhelm Gustloff lost over 9,000 of its 10,000 passengers, and the tragedy is considered one of  the (if not the worst) worst maritime disasters, even though not many know about it), and this book was no different. Salt to the Sea is a compelling story with sympathetic characters, and reading about the characters’ experiences brought tears to my eyes.    (Honorable mention: Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo)

Best wishes for 2017!  Happy reading!




Hi all, I’m back with another top books post!  This month was pretty busy for me–I was doing Nanowrimo and had some job interviews–but I still found some time to read!  Here is my short list for this month.

Toil and Trouble (Scott): Smertae, Cait, and Riata–also known the Fates or”the weird sisters”– have always protected the island of Scotland.  When Semetae gets into a disagreement with Riata, she helps Macbeth earn a crown that does not rightfully belong to him. This retelling of Macbeth explores the story in fresh new ways and has gorgeous art to boot.

Born on the Edge of Race and Gender (Wilkinson): In this collection of essays and poems, activist and educator Willy Wilkinson shares his experiences as a queer, transgender, and disabled Asian. Among his stories are his experiences with transition, parenthood, and chronic fatigue syndrome.  Wilkins has an approachable writing style, and the vast breadth of subject matter means many people will find something that engages and touches them. This would be a great read for a gender studies class or anyone interested in the intersection between race, health, and gender issues.

Hi all, I’m back with another top books of the month post!  I apologize for being late with this post; I am doing National Novel Writing Month, and I didn’t have a chance to get around to it until now.  So, here we go!

The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth #2, Jemisin):  Essun has fled her village; her former mentor is trying to teach her to use the floating obelisks to carry on his work to destroy and rebuild a brutal world.  Meanwhile Essun’s missing daughter comes into her own powers, but she is in the hands of someone extremely dangerous. The sequel to The Fifth Season delivers a compelling narrative; Jemisin has created a unique  world, and the reader has the opportunity to explore the world’s secrets alongside the characters.  If you are looking for a fantasy series with a unique world and engrossing story, pick up the Broken Earth series.

Princess Princess Ever After (O’Neill):  When Princess Amira rescues Princess Sadie from her tower, the two instantly hit it off.  As they wander the countryside, Sadie’s jailer forces a confrontation, and Amira and Sadie will have to figure out who they really are.   This adorable graphic novel is a heart-warming story about friendship and self-discovery.  Amira and Sadie are awesome characters, and their relationship emphasizes the importance of finding your true friends.   If I have one complaint, it’s that this awesome graphic novel was not long enough.  I’m looking forward to seeing more from Katie O’Neill.

The Nazi Hunters (Nagorski):  The Nuremberg Trials are known throughout history for their judgement of major Nazi figures, but what happened when trials of Nazi war criminals stopped occurring?  Andrew Nargoski tells the story of the Nazi hunters–men and women who took it upon themselves to track down the still-free Nazis and push to hold them accountable.  Andrew Nagorski weaves the exciting stories of the hunts with a discussion of accountability and collective memory; the result is a fascinating read.

The Motion of Puppets (Donohue): Recently-weds Kay and Theo are living in Quebec while Kay performs in a circus.  Kay is fascinated by a puppet shop and one puppet in particular.  One night, she hides in the shop in order to escape someone following her and she disappears.  The frantic Theo begins a long, grim search for his beloved, but, unbeknownst to him, Kay has become a puppet.  The only Kay can escape her new existence is for someone to recognize her in her new form and lead her away from the show before dawn comes.  Kevin Donohue remixes some classical ideas into a fresh, hair-prickling read.

That’s all, folks!  Good luck to any readers who are also doing Nanowrimo!


Another month has gone by, so here are my favorite books from this past month!  I hope you find some materials that catch your fancy!

Shrill: Tales of a Loud Women (Lindy West): In this collection of essays, writer and activist Lindy West shares the story of her abortion, her experiences flying while fat, and the time she took on an Internet troll who pretended to be her dead father (and so much more!).   West’s writing is witty and engaging, and I found myself both relating to her and learning from her in equal measures.  If you care about women’s rights, check this one out.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1; Becky Chambers): Earth was destroyed, and humans joined the Galactic Commons, a united group of aliens.   Ashby commands the Wayfarer, a spaceship that creates tunnels through space.  As the crew heads to dangerous territory for a major job, the story explores the characters and their relationships. Chambers’ compelling world-building (complete with very original aliens!) and strong character relationships make this a strong and tender narrative.  I loved how the characters–many of who were alien species–navigated their relationships with one another.  Fans of character-driven narratives–particularly the show Firefly– will enjoy this one.  I cannot wait for sequels!

Haikyu! (vol. 1 & 2) (Haruichi Furudate): Ever since he saw a player called “The Tiny Giant” in the High School volleyball championships, Hinata dreams of playing volleyball. After playing one middle school game and losing badly, Hinata joins Karasuno’s volleyball team, only to encounter his rival.  However, Hinata and his rival, the arrogant Kageyama, have a powerful dynamic on the court, and they, plus their teammates, might just have what it takes to go all the way to the championships.  I originally picked Haikyu because I loved the anime, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The action is top-notch, bur the focus on character growth is what makes this series so engaging.  If you love the anime series like I do or are looking for a great sports graphic novel, pick up Haikyu.

Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley (Weigel): In Alanna’s world, dragons are rare, yet feared. When Alanna finds a dragon’s nest, she quickly discovers that these winged giants are actually pretty great!  However, a greedy knight is after the dragons and their minerals, and Alanna, her brother, and her new dragon friends will have to outfox him!  This graphic novel was great fun–Alanna is a wonderfully clever rambunctious kid, and Weigel’s dragons are absolutely adorable.  If How to Train Your Dragon holds a place in your heart, definitely give this one a try.

The Masked City  (The Invisible Library #2; Genevieve Cogman):  The Invisible Library maintains balance between the natural-order obsessed dragons and the chaotic Fey by collecting books; Irene is a Librarian, trained to retrieve materials from alternate worlds.  When her apprentice Kai gets kidnapped and taken to the heart of Fae territory–an alternative Venice– Irene will have to use every ounce of her skills, brains, and training to get him back.  I enjoy the world and the magic (a Language that allows you to manipulate objects), and the plot is full of action and wit.  Add a clever female lead (who loves tea!), and I was sold.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass (Cinder Spires #1; Jim Butcher):  Long ago, humankind left the earth for spires high above the sky.  Disgraced air force man Grimm captains The Predator, a mercenary airship for one of the spires; after a particularly nasty encounter severely damages The Predator, Grimm is trying to find a way to keep going.   Gwen and Bridget are new spire guards struggling to learn the ropes, under the guidance of Gwen’s cousin, Benedict .  When their spire gets attacked, the two groups will have to work together to rescue their spire from destruction.  Clever characters, witty, whimsical dialogue, and an action-packed plot make this a fun read.  If you like steampunk, you should definitely go for this.

That’s all for this month–I’ll catch you next time!

Top Books of August 2016

Hello, I’m back with my top books of the past month!  This time around, I have a short story collection, a couple of graphic novels, and a young adult novel.  If any of those sound interesting, read on!

The Paper Menagerie (Liu):  Ken Liu combines history, science fiction, and fantasy in this engaging short story collection.  My favorite stories include a mother who creates magical origami animals for her son and a story about a man who is able to pull memories from history in order to bear witness to a horrific crime.  Liu’s writing is engaging, and I really enjoyed how he blended history, mythology, and science fiction concepts in his stories.  If you like thoughtful,engaging, and/or genre-bending stories, you will definitely want to read this collection.

And I Darken (Conqueror’s Saga #1) (White): Ladislav Dracul is the daughter of the leader of Wallachia.  Ladislav–or Lada–and her brother Radu learn harsh lessons at the hands of their ruthless father, whom neither can seem to please .   When her father sends them as hostages to the Ottoman Empire, they meet Mehemed, the heir to the throne.  The trio form a close-knit relationship as they struggle to secure their power in a harsh world. This alternative history is a fast-paced story that explores decisions and the way they shape individuals.  Lada is a compelling and terrifying heroine, so if you tend to like darker protagonists, this one is for you.

Faith: Hollywood and Vine #1 (Houser): Faith is  a nerdy young woman is also the psionist Zephyr, who is able to use telekinesis and fly.  After tragedy strikes her superhero team, Faith decides to strike out on her own in Los Angeles.  She takes a job as a content writer for an online publication and looks out for those in need.  When potential psionists start disappearing, Faith is on the case!  This is a fun superhero comic: although the plot is fairly brief, it proves a solid introduction to Faith and her world.  Faith’s warm personality will endear you to her, and her struggles have nothing to do with her appearance (Faith is “plus-sized”).  I’m looking forward to reading more stories about Faith!

Ghosts (Telgemeier): Cat and Maya’s family move to Northern California’s coast so that Maya, who has cystic fibrosis, will be able to breathe more easily.  Cat is uncomfortable and uncertain, while Maya explores their new home with her usual enthusiasm. One of the locals informs them that the dead come to visit for the annual Day of the Dead festival.  As the Day of the Dead festival, Maya’s condition worsens.  Will Cat be able to adjust to her new home?  Telgemeier’s colorful illustrations are eye-catching, and her characters’ struggles are realistic and relatable.  The mix of real life problems and supernatural element make for an engaging, bittersweet story that will have you reading it over and over again (I certainly did!).

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

Top Books, July 2016

It’s that time of the month again: it’s time to discuss my favorite books from July!  This month, I have two fiction books, one non-fiction, and a graphic novel.
Every Heart a Doorway (McGuire):  All Nancy wants to do is to return to the Underworld she found after she went through a door; however, her family just wants her to go back to a normal life.  When she is forced to attend a special school intended to achieve that goal she instead finds children like her; all have the ability to open doors to worlds that they could call home, and each one wants to return but must learn to live where they do now.   However, someone starts killing children, bringing darkness to this newfound sanctuary.  I found the concept behind this story unique; the plot is quick and engaging, and I found the underlying message satisfying.  Fans of stories such as Harry Potter and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will find much to enjoy in Every Heart a Doorway.
Monstress, vol. 1: Awakening (Liu and Takeda):  Maika Halfwolf, a seventeen year old Arcanic (half human, half animal), has a monster inside.  Desperate for answers, she breaks into the Cumea stronghold to interrogate a woman about answers.  Leaving with more questions, Maika begins a quest to find answers and control the monster.  However, thanks to her actions, forces that have long lain dormant have awakened, and war may once again be on the horizon.  Monstress is a compelling story with plenty of action and strong world-building; Maika is a compelling, well-rounded heroine.  Her anger is terrifying to behold, but Liu provides little details–such as her love of her friend Tuya–that make her sympathetic.  Takeda’s beautiful and detailed illustrations bring this story to life; her backgrounds are intricate, and her drawings of characters convey so much.  This graphic novel will pull you right in, so do not miss this one (especially if you like epic fantasy and horror)!
Time Salvager (Chu): James Griffin-Mars is a chronman–he time travels into the past in order to salvage key resources so that humankind can continue to subsist another year.  James is exhausted, worn down by the lives he’s seen snuffed out and the loss he has suffered; he is seeking a way out. When James jumps back to acquire equipment from a research facility,  he rescues Elise, a research scientist, breaking the first of the Time Laws.   James’ actions force him and Elise to go on the run and will uncover some hard truths about this universe. The gruff, miserable James and passionate Elise balance each other out well, and the plot has all the marks of a fun, fast thriller.
Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching (Smith): Last, but far from least, is Mychal Smith’s Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching.  In this book, Smith explores how to grow up to be a black man.  He unfolds his story about growing up torn between expectations and the things he thought he needed to do to become a Black Leader.   Smith uses his own experiences to discuss and challenge the racist and sexist systems; for me, his ability to talk about those big issues was made this book so excellent.  His writing style–which is colloquial and intense–pulled me in, and I devoured this one in about a day.  If you care about racial and related social issues or found Between the World and Me powerful, you should definitely check this one out.
That’s all for this month!  See you next time!
It was an especially good month for reading, and I can’t wait to share my favorites.  So let’s get to it!
The Homegoing (Gyasi):   In eighteenth century Ghana, two half sisters are dealt completely different hands: Effia becomes the wife of a white military officer while Esi, imprisoned in the bowels of the castle, where she awaits the ship that will take her into slavery.  What comes next are the stories of their descendants.  This inter-generational family saga is an incredible read: Gyasi’s prose is rhythmic and engaging, and I loved how histories build on each other and showed the impact of past and present decisions.  I am not doing this book justice: you should just read it.
Orange: The Complete Collection 1 & 2 (Takano): One day, Naho receives a letter that supposedly comes from her future self; her future self wants her to save Kakeru, a new student who takes his own life.   Initially skeptical, Naho becomes more convinced after the content of her letter proves to be accurate.  Kakeru is a kind boy who fits readily into Naho’s friend group, and Naho finds herself falling for Kakeru.  Naho struggles to follow her letters’ instructions and save Kakeru.   This is a quiet, tender exploration of compassion, friendship, and mental illness.  Takano excels in portraying the character’s emotional states, and the soft line-work complements the slower, pace.  While the plot gets a bit tangled at times (not sure because of the translation or my own reading), the message of the importance of caring rings loud and clear.
Lazarus, 1-3(Rucka et al.): Forever Caryle is a Lazarus, a genetically modified super soldier, who is obligated to protect the interests of her family, who oversees a powerful empire, where those who are not Family must scrabble for an existence, and hold the secret to an ageless existence.   One day, Forever receives an email claiming she is not of the Family.  Despite that, Forever’s got a job to do: the other Families are challenging the Caryle family, and Forever must help to see them through.   I cannot get enough of this comic series; the artwork is amazing, the story engaging, and the world-building superb.  Forever is a compelling heroine whose conflicting obligations and compassion make her a fascinating character to follow.   I will definitely be keeping an eye on this series.
Unfinished Business (Slaughter): Ann-Marie Slaughter served under Hilary Clinton as the first female director of policy planning, but then made the decision to quit after two years in order to be with her family.  Slaughter uses her story as a jumping-off point to discuss workplace culture and the struggle that is work-life balance.  She compellingly argues that a lack of emphasis on care has negatively impacted both men and women and individuals at all socioeconomic levels.  Unfinished Business expertly articulates a lot of my concerns about current values surrounding work.  If you’re curious about any of these issues, you should definitely check this out.
That’s all for this month.  Tune in next month for more recommendations!