Well, 2013 was not the best blogging year for me on here, was it? I’m way behind in writing up posts on the books I’ve read, but it’s a new year now so I have a fresh chance to do better in 2014. Here’s a summary of the books I read last year and a brief reaction to them. I still hope to post a full reaction to Allegiant soon, and a book-versus-movie comparison of The Book Thief.
In case you don’t want to read all my sub-cateogires, I’ll put my favorites first:
Favorite New Reads of 2013:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. So overwhelmingly, heart-breakingly beautiful.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy. I read this book one Saturday while home alone and the first half of it scared me to death; it seemed like a pretty realistic possible scenario if an alien invasion was to happen on Earth. The latter half of the book got more cliche and predictable, but I like Cassie, the protagonists, and I’m still interested to see what happens next, although I’m not sure when the sequel is scheduled to be published.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. As a shy fangirl who is more outgoing online than in real-life social situations, this book’s protagonist was totally relatable to me. I’ve never really been into fanfic much but I am in multiple fandoms, I know these terms, I understand and partake in these obsessions. Plus, the Nebraska college-town setting was very similar to some of my own experiences in Kansas.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Read this one because I loved Fangirl so much, and it did not disappoint. From my review:
and i think that maybe it’s partly best explained by the answer Park gives in english class about the longevity of the story of Romeo & Juliet: “because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? and in love,” but this version is maybe a lot more relateable to an audience that isn’t part of a wealthy feuding italian family centuries ago, and to anybody that feels like kind of a misfit.
Rainbow Rowell is officially my new favorite author, not only because of her books but because of her twitter and tumblr which just made me instantly feel like “ah, yes, she’s one of us!“, which is too bad for David Iserson (author of Firecracker), because until I discovered Rainbow Rowell in the last weeks of December he would have been my choice for “favorite new YA author that I started twitter-following in 2013”. He’s snarky and witty and I did love his book but I feel like I could spazz out about Rowell’s books in real life in front of her and she would be like “I know, me too!” but if I did that about Firecracker in front of Iserson he might just be like “wow, ok…” or say something cynical.
As you probably know, Young Adult is my favorite genre (all my “favorites” this year were YA), so of course I read more YA than anything else this past year. Besides the ones listed above, I really enjoyed Reached by Ally Condie, the conclusion to her Matched series, Tiger Lily by Jodie Lynn Anderson (even though I’m not sure I liked every single aspect of that storyline), and Firecracker by David Iserson, which features an awesome, snarky, insanely rich protagonist that you want to be friends with but you know she’d take one look at your jeans and call you a peasant, if she ever even acknowledged you. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Firecracker:
“Things were about to change. If nothing changed, I wouldn’t be writing this down because this is a book about the time when everything changed. And isn’t that what every book is about? No, seriously, isn’t it? I don’t read books.”
Another book that I read and enjoyed this year but not in an “I love it so much!” way was Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The title refers to the motivation behind a young girl’s suicide, and while it’s not one that I’ll want to re-read, it’s a very good book that I think all teenagers should have to read and discuss, similar the way I felt about Hate List last year.
A series that surprised me this year was Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and it’s sequel Days of Blood and Starlight; my review for the the first one ended with:
In conclusion, I liked this book more than I didn’t like it, and I’m definitely going to read the sequel, but I think it’s a pretty silly story.
But, as I admitted in my review for the second book, the imagery of the story stuck with me and I found myself doodling hamsas and imagining possible chimera combinations and now I am definitely looking forward to Dreams of Gods and Monsters, that should be coming out this April.
I liked The Fault in our Stars in 2012, so I read more books by John Green this year but didn’t end up liking either Looking for Alaska or Will Grayson, Will Grayson as much as TFioS. I also read Every Day by David Levithan, (co-writer of Will Grayson, Will Grayson), and although the premise sounded intriguing, (narrator is some undefined spirit-entity that wakes up in a different body every day,) it ended up feeling a little flat to me and nothing was really resolved by the end. From my review:
The whole thing just feels like a gimmick to be able to explore aspects of identity like gender and brain chemistry, and what the common denominators are between all human experiences, which is fine, but wasn’t as compelling as it might have been if the story had more gravitas.
The worst YA book I read this year was definitely The Maze Runner by James Dashner; the narration was stiff and repetitive, the story didn’t affect me emotionally, and I was not pleased with the depiction of the one female character (literally the ONE girl in the whole book). Also in the sadface section of this category here at the bottom of my 2013 YA list is Allegiant, Veronica Roth’s conclusion to the Divergent series, but that one deserves it’s own post. It’s not terrible, and I’m not upset about spoilery things that happened, it just…doesn’t feel like the same story.
This year I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, which was a lot more violent than I expected a children’s book to be, but you have to remember it was written a hundred years ago. I downloaded it in a set with all the sequels, so I might read the rest of them someday. It was a short read, but I read it for a bookclub so I’m not sure when I’d be motivated to read more Oz stories.
I also listened to the audiobooks of Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, translated and narrated by Stanley Lombardo. I definitely liked The Iliad more, but both were good, and I highly recommend the Lombardo translation since it’s very contemporary and easy to follow. I never realized before how much influence the imagery and plotlines in these ancient epics have had on our culture today; so much of it feels very familiar and modern, like something you could easily see on a big-screen.
Resolution for 2014: read more Classics!
What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, And Me by Rielle Hunter. Loved it, not kidding. The writing is awful, but that’s part of the entertainment. From my review (one of my favorite reviews I’ve ever written, by the way):
Reading this book is exactly like eating junk food. You know it’s bad, that it has no nutritional value, but it’s irresistible and you can’t stop munching delightedly away. NOM NOM NOM, GOSSIP AND JUDGMENT AND UNBELIEVABLE NARCISSIST DELUSION, DELICIOUS!
Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler. Meh. Wanted to like it more than I did. From my review:
This is unfair, but my main reaction while reading this book was “man, Tina Fey’s Bossypants is so much better.” Also, “wow, Aisha Tyler’s writing style is kinda pedantic,” but that observation is totally fair and true. Footnotes and five-syllable words galore!
Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. This book didn’t really need to be written and I’ll probably get more insight on the 2012 election from the upcoming Netflix documentary Mitt than I did from reading these mostly-tedious, poorly-written (like, they try too hard to be clever with their phrases and it’s distracting) pages.
I am still relatively new to the world of comics, but I am getting more comfortable with the genre and being able to find things I’d like to read within it. This year I read and loved Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son as well as Art Spiegel’s Maus, and I would recommend them to pretty much anybody. I also read a story arc on The Death of Captain America by Ed Brubaker, which I liked pretty well, and I was excited when the trailer for the upcoming Captain America movie came out because I recognized characters immediately without having to look them up, just like a real comic-book nerd!
I also read and reviewed all three parts to Avatar: the Last Airbender: The Search. It was a pretty frustrating story arc overall, but I’ll still probably read the next series Gene Luen Yang churns out because I love the original show so much.
I want to give it only one or two stars, but I’m giving it three because it’s doing a very effective job of eliciting strong emotions in me, (mostly RAGE!), which is a mark of good storytelling, and the art is pretty good…and I’m just so damn happy to have another piece of the ATLA universe, even if it is hopefully a very misleading segment.
-quote from my review of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search part 1
My favorite series is still Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT and I keep up with it every month; after I read each issue I go read Drew Bradley’s column at Multiversity Comics for his in-depth breakdown of all the little things I probably missed. Because I’m enjoying Mind MGMT so much and following Kindt on twitter, I’ve also started reading the Spider-man series that he is writing. Oh, and I also read his 2 Sister’s: A Super Spy Graphic Novel (four stars) and Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes (five stars).
This year I also read a new comic, Dream Thief, by Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood, on the recommendation of friends and because the author and artist both live near me, but I didn’t end up liking that story, although the art was fantastic. (Maybe I will post a full analysis of Dream Theif 1-5 at some point as well). Finally, I read the first two issues of Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark and loved it, but my local shop doesn’t carry it regularly so I’m going to have to get caught up with that one with the trade paperbacks.