RSS

Tag Archives: books

The Best (and Worst) Books I Read in 2014

Last year I read 108 books. Before you get too impressed, please note that there were may picture books in that mix. Overall, I read a lot of good books, some exceptional. Unfortunately I also read a few bad ones. So here’s my take on the best and worst books I read, divided by genre.

Best Picture Book:
BeekleThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
by Dan Santat
I chose this book for a few reasons. One, the drawings are great; colorful with plenty going on but not too much to be distracting. Another  reason is the story itsself. It’s creative and unique. It takes the common experience of a child imagining a friend, and flips it on its head. Instead, the imaginary friend has no child to imagine to life. I’m hoping that this book will get at least a Caldecott nod.

Honorable mentions:
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base
This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld

Dishonorable mention:
Telephone by Mac Barnett

SmileBest Young Reader:
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
This was not a new release in 2014. It was published in 2010 and since then I’ve had many customers asking for the book. I thought it was time I saw what the big fuss was about. First off, this is a graphic novel, which is different from Manga and “diary fiction”. It’s a biopic story of Raina going through tooth troubles while trying to navigate middle and high school. First she breaks her two front teeth, then has to endure years of oral surgeries, braces, moldings, and so forth. Along the way she is trying to find who she is and her voice. The story line is good, the morals fantastic, and the art well done. (Side rant: some parents will not let their child read graphic novels because “they’re not real books”. Um, actually they are and some of them are amazing. Reading is reading. Whether the book has no, few, or lots of drawings. Some kids need the extra help of pictures to comprehend plot or vocabulary and THAT’S OKAY! They’re making the effort! If a parent insists that a child read only a “real” book, then that child is likely to be turned off to reading entirely. How awful and such a disservice to the child!)

Honorable mentions:
Shouldn’t You Be In School? by Lemony Snicket
Origami Yoda series by Tom Angelberger

PoisonBest Teen Book:
Poison by Bridget Zinn
The best potion master just tried to assassinate the princess, who also happens to be her best friend. Now Kyra is on the run, trying to track down the princess in hiding while not getting caught by the royal guard. With a piglet by her side, Kyra hunts down her target, promising not to miss this time.

I flew through this book (I don’t typically fly through anything). It has it all: intrigue, humor, adventure, romance, and a piglet. Who doesn’t love a piglet?

Sorry – I just love that! Anyway…The only downside to this book is that it will make you fall in love with its author, Bridget Zinn. And your heart will break when you learn that the talented young author lost her battle against cancer.

Honorable mentions:
We Were Liars by E. LockhartAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Dishonorable mentions:
Perfect Ruin by Lauren Destefano
The Originals by Cat Patrick

RosieBest Adult Book:
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
I didn’t read many adult books (i.e. not children’s or teen) but this was by far my favorite. I once read a description that the main character, Don, is the literary Sheldon Cooper and it is spot on. Don figures it’s time he gets married and sets about finding a wife the only way he knows how: methodically. First, he makes a list of must-have qualities. Second, he writes and distributes a 100-question booklet to eligible women. Now he just needs to review the answers and marry the one who gets them all right. Only, Don doesn’t expect a wrench thrown into his plans. That wrench is Rosie, who fits none of the qualities on his list, yet is suddenly, inexplicably now a part of his life. The book is hilarious and heartwarming at the same time. I couldn’t put it down!

Honorable mention:
Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Literature

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Waaaay too many books, not enough time

One of the things I love about Good Reads is that users can set reading challenges every year. This year I had to up my goal a few times because I read a lot of picture books. The challenge doesn’t make you specify what kind of books or number of pages; it just counts the quantity of books.

As of this posting, my “to-read” shelf is at 631 books.1 I can’t possibly read that many books in a year; I fall asleep when I read (hey, it relaxes me!). Still, on average it takes me a week to get through a 300 page book. So a realistic challenge for me would be to read 52 books in 2014 (not including picture books).

But what to read? With over 600 choices, I thought it would be best to put down the titles on a “short list” and read those first. I tried to get a variety of genres as well as finish up some series I started. So, divided by genre, here are the 52 books I will read in 2014:

Classic

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston3

 

Fiction

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

 

Non-Fiction

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Lucky by Alice Sebold

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The Great Typo Hunt by Jeff Deck

Love You More by Jennifer Grant

College Girls by Lynn Peril

Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. Holland

The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich

102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer

For Her Own Good by Barbara Ehrenreich

 

Young Adult and Teen

The Void of Mist and Thunder (13th Reality #4) by James Dashner

Reached (Matched #3) by Ally Condie

Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth4

Lovesick (Ghostgirl #3) by Tonya Hurley

Delirium (Delirium #1) by Lauren Oliver

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s #2) by Ransom Riggs5

Shelter Me by Alex McAuley

The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Fever (Chemical Garden #2) by Lauren DeStefano

Sever (Chemical Garden #3) by Lauren DeStefano

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans

Ascend (Trylle #3) by Amanda Hocking

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Me Since You by Laura Wiess

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Rule of Thoughts (Mortality Doctorine #2) by James Dashner

Unhinged (Splintered #2) by A.G. Howard

The Testing (The Testing #1) by Joelle Charbonneau

The Fire Chronicle (The Books of the Beginning #2) by John Stephens

The Curse of the Broomstaff (The Janitors #3) by Tyler Whitesides

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

When Did You See Her Last? (All the Wrong Questions #2) by Lemony Snicket

Shutdown (Glitch #3) by Heather Anastasiu

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

So, just over half of the titles I picked are young adult and teen. This really doesn’t surprise me since it’s what I read most of the time. A lot of the titles, from all the genres, were books that I bought on impulse6 because I HAD TO READ THEM RIGHT AWAY. Some I’ve had for years. Others, just a few months. Either way, I thought I should whittle them down first before trying to accumulate more, even if they are just digital. 

The ones I don’t currently own, I will rely on getting from the library. Now that I’m in a smaller town, access to free books is a bit more limited. Indy had over 20 libraries to pull from so almost everything I wanted was available. Here, not so much. There are only a handful of libraries at my disposal so my choices are more limited. Should I not be able to get a title through the library and am unable to afford to buy a copy, I will substitute the title for another in that genre.

And if when I get through my list, I’ll refill my coffee mug and start a new one.

 

1. To give you an idea, my “read” shelf, compiled over 7 years, is at 567. So, it would take me a good 8 years to read everything on my “to-read” shelf if I don’t add anything to it.2

2. Yeah, right.

3. I was supposed to have read this for a class in college. I don’t remember which class and the only thing I remember about the book was the beginning, which I liked, so I think that I didn’t actually finish it. Oops.

4. I want to read this before I see the movie, which is set to release in theaters in March.

5. It’s been over two years since the first book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, came out and left its readers hanging off a cliff!

6. No, Mom, I don’t own ALL of the books on my list. Just most.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 14, 2013 in About me, Literature

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Serving up a snoozer

In a previous post, I mentioned reading The Dinner by Herman Koch because it’s supposed to be the next big novel. Perhaps it will be but I can’t tell you whether or not it is because I didn’t even finish it.

The basic premise is two brothers and their wives go out for dinner on the town. Supposedly they are going to discuss the crime that their offspring committed but I didn’t get that far. I didn’t even make it out of the appetizers (the book is divided in sections by the courses). Typically, if I’m 50 or 100 pages into a book and I am not enjoying it, I put it down. This isn’t to say that the book doesn’t get better or is not good whatsoever, but I have so many books on my list (nearing 500 with more additions weekly) that I find it a waste of time to read something that is so painstakingly dull. (Well, except for that one time when I read Reached by Ally Condi because I knew that I would read the whole series just to see how it ended not matter what.) Supposedly there is some twist and/or big revelation near the end but I couldn’t fathom anything that would be good enough to get me to sludge through almost 300 pages to get to. So I dropped the book. Read it if you want, but I’m not going to keep it on my “to-read” list.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Literature

 

Tags: , ,

readreadreadsleepreadeatworkreadwritereadsleep

Happy February, everyone! I thought I would just post an update on my projects and goals. Since it’s the middle of winter and flippin’ cold outside, what else are you going to do?

In January, I published 6 blog posts, which is almost as much as I published last year alone! Woohoo! One thing that did help me write more was having a working computer again. I purchased a new laptop with a keyboard that works flawlessly (unlike the previous one where I had to punch. the. keys. several times to get it to work even once). It’s also a lot faster than my previous computer and has a longer battery life. This has made writing a lot easier (as well as cutting down on actual time spent on the internet since I’m not waiting for forever for a page to load). My other big writing project (that is, my novel) is not coming along nearly as quickly as it should be. I really just need to buckle down and do it. Setting public (and attainable) goals are supposed to be motivating so here it goes by: February 28, 2013, at 11:59pm, I will have edited 60 pages of my novel. This may not seem like a lot to you, the reader, but trust me, it’s a lot. And by editing, I don’t just mean looking for grammatical errors, but also expanding and adding scenes as well as fleshing out descriptions. Three weeks hardly seems like enough time. But now it’s out there and I need to stick to it! (Any nagging is appreciated.)

Of course, I still am working on that never-ending reading list. At last count, I have 19 digital ARCs waiting to be read on my nook. Oy! The next one up is The Dinner by Herman Koch, which is actually set to be released a week from today. I heard it’s supposed to be the next big seller. I’ll let you know how it is. Currently, I am about to finish Beautiful Creatures, whose movie version is coming to theaters on Valentine’s Day. Since I am once again single, I will be going to a viewing with a friend/coworker who has also read the book and was just as instantly obsessed as I was. Seriously, talk about gripping the reader from the get-go.

Finally, I hope to have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards up on my Etsy shop by the end of the month. It may seem early for them, but I have to pay a small fee to post a listing and it lasts for only 4 months. By posting holiday cards 4 months out, I am getting the most for my money. Of course, I didn’t do this on time for Christmas last year or Valentine’s Day this year (I have some unlisted valentines – email sarcasmincluded@gmail.com if you’re interested!). So that’s another overall goal of mine: make and post cards 4 months before a holiday.

Alright…I won’t keep you any longer. Go. Enjoy time with your family. Have some hot cocoa around the fireplace and tell stories. Or, if you’re like me, grab your cat and share her body warmth. Cry into your cup of Ramen noodles and hope that life doesn’t stay like this forever.* Hope that one day, spring will come.

Cheers!

*To my family and friends reading this: Don’t worry; I don’t cry into my dinner. I wait until I’m in bed.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 5, 2013 in About me, Crafts & Hobbies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Just a scared little girl

Well, if you know me, I’m not really “little”. Still, that’s how I feel inside, like I’m just a scared little girl.

I’ve mentioned several times on the blog about my book. I’ve worked on it for nearly a decade and have sent a “first” draft to iUniverse for review.* I received an editorial review of my work a few weeks ago, but I have yet to even read one word of it. Why? Because I’m scared. Once you put a part of yourself out there, once it’s in print, it’s there for others to judge and critique and there’s not changing it. There’s no taking it back and fixing it.

What if everyone hates it? Sure, I’ve had some friends and family read it, but I’ve had little critique that I could use. Everyone says they like it, which is nice, but when people I don’t know read it, they’re not going to be so gentle.

I look at books that are flying off the shelves, that are hard to keep in stock because everyone wants it. The latest example is E.L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy. Is it particularly good writing? One associate of mine said that there were plenty of grammar and spelling errors. A good friend of mind said that it was “no big deal”. So why is something that is mediocre** been at the top of multiple bestseller lists for weeks? Marketing. You get someone talking about a book and word starts to spread like wildfire. Many times I’ve had customers ask for the book then say, “I don’t know anything about it. Everyone just keeps telling me to read it.” Let me tell you, I’m over telling middle-aged and senior women that the book is one long BDSM story.

What’s Fifty Shades of Grey have to do with my book? When I see an unknown author skyrocket up to fame and fortune practically overnight, it breaks my confidence. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. So how am I going to feel when it doesn’t happen to me? Let’s be realistic: this is my first published work and my work isn’t on the same level of James Joyce, either. I have no monetary means for marketing the book, though social networking and plain ol’ word of mouth is free (or at least cheap). Sure, I can market my book some, but the more I put myself out there, the more susceptible I become to criticism.

And when it comes right down to criticism, it turns out that I’m just a scared little girl.

*First draft for them, one hundredth draft for me.

**This is solely an opinion based on what I’ve heard from multiple customers and friends. I have not actually read the books, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s no Ulysses.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on June 26, 2012 in About me, Literature

 

Tags: , ,

About last weekend…

Nearly 10 years ago in college I started writing a collection of short stories that interlinked.  There were several times when months would go by when I wouldn’t touch the manuscript.  Other times I worked on it in all-consuming binges, even carrying the manuscript with me wherever I went. 

One of my good friends works for iUniverse, a self-publisher, and gifted me a publishing package years ago.  What a wonderful gift!  Sadly, it took me three years to enact on it.  But finally…FINALLY…I submitted my manuscript a few months ago.  Earlier this week I worked on the book details, including details for the cover and author biography.

Now, the book won’t be out on shelves right away, but after years of working on it, I feel like it’s finally coming together.  It’s both exciting and scary.  On one hand it will be nice to see this project in a finalized form.  On the other hand, I’m putting a part of myself out there for everyone to see and critique.

Do I think that my manuscript will be the next Hunger Games or Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?  No.  But perhaps this will lead to enough exposure to publish something else down the road, which could be the next hot seller or, again, have enough exposure to continue publishing. 

I’ll keep everyone updated on the process.  The next step is to write the back cover copy (and work on my pitch to consumers).

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 21, 2012 in About me, Literature

 

Tags: , ,

NaNoWriMo, holidays, and Oz

I know, I know.  I should have written sooner, but I truly have been busy.  Let’s catch up, shall we?  My previous post was an update on NaNoWriMo so I’ll start there.  In case you didn’t already guess, I didn’t finish the month – or even the second week – of writing.  It wasn’t because I didn’t have any ideas, but because of exhaustion.  I work retail and this was one of the busiest holiday seasons my store has had since I started working there in 2003.  I work odd hours, some days going in at 7am, some at 2pm, and am on my feet all day.  By the time I get home, I’m tired and in need of mental decompression – and that’s just a normal day.  Add on the crazy demands for Christmas shoppers and the constant running around with very little down time, it’s no wonder that I wasn’t up for the task of writing after work.  Days off were spent restoring my energy and mental health.  It was too much for me to do what I was obligated to do, let alone an ambitious project on top of it.

Now, that’s not to say that I won’t go back to it.  NaNoWriMo is officially November, but can be done any month.  I can pick my manuscript back up in, say, March, when work won’t be very demanding and yet the weather still not so great that I will be distracted by wanting to play outside.  Should I continue with the novel I started, I will relay my progress on this blog.

Outside of work, I had a lovely holiday season.  Fred and I spent Christmas day with his parents and a little of his extended family.  It was nice to finally meet some of them and talk more with others I’d already met.  For New Year’s we went to a friend’s house for a game night and fireworks display over the lake.  It was fun, but I was mentally exhausted from the “go-go-go” of work since Thanksgiving.  We left shortly after midnight.

I’m not a fan of making many New Year’s resolutions since many times I (and people in general) set myself up for disappointment.  So, this year, I just have three simple and attainable resolutions:

1. Start getting allergy shots.

I know, this sounds like a lot of fun, but I’m really tired of constantly blowing my nose and sneezing.  Last May I got allergy testing done and I’m allergic to many things under the sun, including the two cats with whom I live.

2. Beat one of the Mario games on my own.

Fred has beaten all of the Mario games at least once on our Wii.  He grew up playing these games and has said that a lot of it is muscle memory.  I, on the other hand, never played these games until just a few years ago so I don’t have the reflexes he does.  I would like to complete one of the games without his help.  

3. Read 6 classic novels.

For having an English degree, I’ve read very few classic novels.  Ones like Jane Eyre, that I was supposed to read in college, but didn’t finish, I don’t count as having read them.  I have over 80 classic novels on my e-reader and even more on my bookshelves, and it’s high time I read some of them.  I only decided on 6* because: (1) they take a little longer to read and (2) there will be new, shiny books by which I will be distracted.

On that note, I’ve started reading The Annotated Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and Michael Hearn.  While I’ve been reading diligently for 3 days, I’m still in the introduction (it’s a pretty big book).  I find it fascinating, though, to learn of Baum’s history as well as the history of the books and its multiple versions (stage and film).  One of the things that I found most interesting so far is that after the book was released, a “musical extravaganza” was written and performed on several stages, including Broadway.  It parallels with Wicked, which was first a book by Gregory Maquire and then a musical on Broadway and then on tour.  It, too, tells of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but from the point of view of the “Wicked Witch of the West”.**

 

*For Fred: “Six is good.”

**An absolutely fascinating play.  I have the book, but I haven’t read it yet.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 7, 2012 in About me, Literature

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,