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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!

 

 

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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!

 

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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!

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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!

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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!

 

 

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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!

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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!

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