2015 in Books

_2015I’m going to go ahead and write my reading review before the new year this time, because I don’t have the slightest intention of finishing another book before 2016 rolls around. Aren’t you so happy? It’s like an early Christmas present, only it’s an early New Year’s present! That no one actually wants!

By way of shortcut, if you want a straightforward list of books read this year, you can get that here for another couple of weeks, and then here afterward. Or you can check my Goodreads 2015 reckoning if you’d prefer.

Every year I go through and make lists and graphs to analyze my reading, to absolutely no purpose because it’s not as if I ever make adjustments or anything. I read what I like when I like to read it and do my best to feel no shame when that ends up being a long string of vampire-infested romance novels. (Although, I’d argue strenuously that this year’s quasi-embarrassing series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood, might be more accurately described as¬†romance-infested vampire novels.) Then I take those lists and graphs and turn them into a blog post that I’m sure pretty much no one actually enjoys except myself — and they are a highlight of my New Year every time. ūüôā

If you’re the rare individual who actually¬†does find this interesting, you can find my previous years-in-books here: 2014,¬†2013, 2012,2011, and¬†2010.

I track my books on Goodreads and do their annual reading challenge, in which you just set a goal and try to read that many books. This wasn’t a particularly great year for my reading, and I honestly wouldn’t have met my goal if I hadn’t included a handful of picture books that I read with Henry or on my own in December. This has been a really full-speed-ahead year at work, plus I’ve spent the majority of the year in varying degrees of “pregnant with a two-year-old,” so my stats are down. But since I just do it for the fun of it anyway, I’m not concerned.

This year I set a goal of 75 books and ended up reading 81. That isn’t as great as last year’s even 100, but it isn’t the worst of the past six years I’ve been tracking.

Books_Read_2010-2015_View_2

That comes out to about 25,000 pages this year.

Pages_Read_2010-2015_View_2

As a teacher, I definitely have “seasons” ¬†for reading. I obviously get a lot more read in the summer than in the school year, usually with a spike in December/January due to Christmas break and the really long dark evenings here. I like to track month-to-month reading, again just for the heck of it.

Here’s this year in books, monthly:

Books_Read_in_2015Pages_Read_in_2015
That’s a nice bump in books in December, but not so much pages — lots of picture books. ūüôā As anticipated, my real peak reading took place in July.

And of course, because there’s no such thing as too many graphs, I compared monthly reading for the past six years:

Books_Read_2010-2015Pages_Read_2010-2015

These are kind of interesting to me (although getting harder to read each year — may no longer be a usable format) because I can see not only how each year stacks up to the next, but whether I have a consistent trend in terms of when I’m doing my reading. Why was the late winter of 2011 such a humdinger? What was the difference between the late fall of 2011 vs. 2013? Intriguing.

As previously noted, this year I devoted a lot of pages to J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, which is an interesting beast. I absolutely despise the titles and covers of these books, to the point where I have on many instances refused to read them in public and do my best to hide my updates on them from my Facebook and Goodreads feed. Why, you might ask? Well, let me allow some pictures to speak for themselves.

covers

At a glance, it’s pretty obvious what these books are about, right? Lover this, lover that, shirtless people necking. What¬†are you reading, Mrs. Baker? Scandalous!

In fact, although there are some pretty detailed¬†steamy scenes in each of these, they really aren’t romance novels at all. They’re urban fantasy action/adventure stories about a group of vampiric soldiers who fight a (somewhat vaguely-explained) ongoing war against bad guy slayers while also battling various psychological or physiological battles in their personal lives. Lots of fight scenes, suspenseful storylines, intrigue, etc.. And in fairness, in each book, one of the vampires falls in love and is saved (literally and/or figuratively) by the object of his affection… so I guess that’s what makes them romance novels, in a blood-drenched Byronic sort of way. They’re fun, fast-paced, and don’t require a lot of emotional or mental investment, which is pretty perfect for me at this stage in my life. So yeah, romance-infested vampire novels, rather than vampire-infested romance novels.

But I mean…¬†seriously. Were these titles and cover art decisions really necessary? Were they Ward’s idea or did she fall victim to a publisher who wanted to market these their way? The titles alone sometimes have only a tangential relationship to the plot — my “favorite” probably being Lover Avenged, in which vengeance played a really minor role in the big scheme of things. And the covers? Again —¬†seriously? Of the sampling above, only¬†Lover Avenged¬†and perhaps Lover Mine¬†(top left and bottom right corners)¬†really reflect the characters within in any way; the others are all anonymous torsos airbrushed to emphasize the HOT SEXINESS of these books while I’m just sitting here, reading about vamp-warriors beating the crap out of bad guys and trying to hide the cover of my paperback. Stupid problems, I know.

I read a fairly unmemorable smattering of fantasy in an attempt to find another series that held my interest as effectively as the Dresden Files. The best of these was the Monster Hunter series by Larry Correia, an author I wrestled with because I find his Sad Puppy¬†associations quite distasteful, but whose books are pure fun for someone who likes the sort of books I like. His Hard Magic series, which was the interesting blend of alt-history urban fantasy, was also a lot of fun. I also finished, with some sadness, Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, which I enjoyed very much and will probably end up re-reading at some point.

I also read some rather good picture books, a couple of decent graphic novels, the slightly-disappointing next installment in Kiera Cass’s Selection series, the really-quite-good¬†Seraphina, and the excellent-as-expected¬†Lock In¬†and¬†The Human Division¬†(AND I got to meet the author!) I also read a couple of good “serious” books, my favorite of which was¬†All the Light We Cannot See by homeboy Anthony Doerr. Oh, and I read the first two volumes in the¬†Game of Thrones series, which I enjoyed, but hadn’t been especially inspired to go on to the next book just yet.

My least favorite books of the year were¬†Halfway to the Grave¬†(just unremarkable),¬†Go Set a Watchman¬†(yep, should not have been published),¬†As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride¬†(which I really wanted to like but just found disappointing),¬†The Unbearable Lightness of Dragons¬†(ditto, but not surprised — I haven’t been able to enjoy these books since the focus shifted away from Aisling Grey), and¬†Loki’s Wolves¬†(for which I had high hopes, but turned out to be a weak Percy Jackson knockoff — and given my mediocre opinion of PJ, that’s saying something).

And my 2015 obscure recommendation for all y’all out there in DYHJ-land?

The Giant Beard that Was Evil

I really got a kick out of this graphic novel. It’s unlike anything I’d ever read before. Thought-provoking, aesthetically intriguing, and readable on multiple levels — like, I’ve had sixth graders check it out and find it fun and silly, and I’ve also imagined a unit where I use it with twelfth graders alongside¬†1984 to discuss dystopia/utopia, societal norms/taboos, and philosophy. It may be a little hard to get your hands on it, as it’s not the cheapest book ever, but it was published in October 2014 so you can still find it on Amazon and in your better libraries (like mine ;)).

Lest I forget, here’s my annual Pie Chart of Genre Happiness:

Genre_Breakdown_2015

 

I categorize books into as many genres as seem appropriate — usually between 1-3 — and see how things break down. Every year, urban fantasy/paranormal romance makes up a good chunk of my reading; it’s just what I like to read for fun, especially in the dark winter months. Picture books honestly make up a bigger chunk than is represented, but I only count them once, and then only if they have something akin to a plot, were worth the trouble to log into Goodreads and mark them down, and if I remember to do it (or am coming up short on my yearly goal and need to bump up my stats). This year was shockingly bad for MG/YA books — I’ve had a hard time getting my mind to focus on “professional reading,” which this is for me, and there haven’t been as many new releases that commanded my attention. Will need to try harder next year. Somehow my label for general/realistic fiction lost its tail; it’s the sagey-green wedge between fantasy and graphic novel.

 

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Pink or Blue, Part Two

gender-revealAlmost three years ago, I wrote a blog post about the silly futility of trying to predict the gender of a not-yet-born baby without the benefits of modern technology. We were getting close to time to find out whether¬†we were having a blue or a pink, and I made a vague sort of guess that he (because it was a he, we’d find out later) was a boy because I couldn’t come up with any boy names that I loved. By that logic, we’re definitely cooking up a girl this time — I’m ready to name a boy but can’t settle on any girl names! Still, that’s hardly any way to figure it out, so tomorrow — hopefully — we’ll find out the new-fangled way.

In the meantime, though, I thought I’d go back to that 2012 blog post and try out some of the same gender predictors to see what they had to say this time around. Last time, I took 8 online gender prediction quizzes. Four said I was going to have a boy, and four said I was going to have a girl. How do we do this time around?

So as you can see… totally conclusive! Fifty/fifty, just like last time!

Obviously, I need a tiebreaker. Fortunately, the Me of three years ago planned for this occasion and wrote her very own gender prediction quiz based on highly unscientific nonsense (sample question: How many freckles are on your right hand?). I just took it and got the following result:

Your result: Girl!

You are going to have a child of the anatomically feminine persuasion.
Start stocking up on baseball bats, shotguns, and other devices to repel unwanted suitors.

There you have it, friends. Gotham is scientifically proven to be a girl. Or something.

1b65cc2c254090d25e40993698542346

I guess we’ll see what the fancy schmancy machine has to say about that in the near future.

If You’d Been Born in a Different Decade…

This is pointless and, as many pointless things are, pretty entertaining. And it tickles all my most ticklish geek-bones…. yay!

Time¬†has taken the updated Social Security Administration’s list of popular baby names and created a most¬†elucidating widget. You plug in your name, birth year, and gender. It figures out what rank your name had in that year (for example, my name was the 35th most popular girl’s name given in the year I was born). Then it references the popularity lists for all available decades and tells you what your name would have been, if you had been born then, and if your parents had chosen the name in the same rank spot. Because, obviously, parents pick baby names based on¬†which “place” they’re in, not the way they look or sound or what they mean or who else has them. ūüôā

That doesn’t make a lot of sense when I write it out, does it. I should just show you.

So basically, my name was the 35th most popular girl’s name in 1980. If I were born today, and my parents gave me the 35th most popular girl’s name, my name would be Leah.

Applying similar standards to the entire decade, going back a century:

  • If I had been¬†born in the 2000s, my name would have been Bailey (haha; that was my grandmother’s male doggy’s name)
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1990s, my name would have been Christine
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1980s, my name would have been Susan (really? I don’t know anyone my age named Susan…)
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1970s, my name would have been Renee
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1960s, my name would have been Lynn
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1950s, my name would have been Elaine
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1940s, my name would have been Ruby (and how cute would that have been, with red hair?)
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1930s, my name would have been Bernice
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1920s, my name would have been Eva
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1910s, my name would have been Marion
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1900s, my name would have been Jennie (interesting; I don’t think of this as being a “vintage” name)
  • If I had been¬†born in the 1890s, my name would have been¬†Nora

I decided to do the same trick to Ryan. Turns out his name was the 14th most popular name in his birth year. If he were born today, his name would be Aiden and I would have never dated him based on that alone. ūüôā

  • 2000s: Christian
  • 1990s: Kyle
  • 1980s: Kevin
  • 1970s: Paul
  • 1960s: Ronald
  • 1950s: Stephen
  • 1940s: Gerald
  • 1930s: Raymond
  • 1920s: Arthur
  • 1910s: Fred
  • 1900s: Arthur
  • 1890s: Albert

So if you like names as much as I do, you should go find out what your other names would be, and share your favorite (and its decade) in the comments. I think if I had to choose one of my alternative names, I’d throw way back to the 1890s (Nora, which is an increasingly popular name right now on its own) or possibly try Elaine (1950s) on for size. Not sure why but those are the two that are appealing to me right this moment. And obviously Ryan would have to be Arthur.

The New Book of Days

Today, in a discard shelf in our school library, I found this book:

The New Book of Days by Eleanor Farjeon, (c) 1941.

The New Book of Days by Eleanor Farjeon, (c) 1941.

 

It was published in 1941. The front leaf informs me that the author (compiler?) has included “a scrap of fun or fancy, poetry or nonsense, fact or fable” for every day of the year. And as I flip through it, I see that it leans heavily toward fancy and nonsense…. especially nonsense.

For example, here is today’s offering:

NBOD 4-28

Hmm. This may prove entirely too intriguing of a “makes no sense out of its cultural context” find not to share. And just think: I’d have something to post every day for a year! Ha!

 

 

Reading Update 28

SGF Reading

Reading Update:¬†Today is Thursday, July 17. As of today, I have read 69 books toward my goal of 100; two of them have been since the last update. The two books I’ve read so far are:

books28

Siege and Storm is the sequel to¬†Shadow and Bone. I like this series, although it falls in kind of a strange zone for me. For the most part, it seems to be middle school level — but then there’s this undercurrent of darkness and sexuality that makes it more YA. I mean, there’s nothing happening or anything, but there’s this sort of sense that it will, y’know? Anyway, it’s a pretty great dark fantasy sort of thing, with interesting characters (albeit somewhat thinly written).

Dangerous is the latest by Shannon Hale, and it’s science fiction! It’s a superhero story, an alien story, a love story, and an adventure story. It reminded me of both¬†The Fantastic Four and¬†Ender’s Game. I liked the characters, especially the strong female protagonist, and I liked how it wasn’t nice and neat and whitewashed. I didn’t like the way that huge spans of time were wiped away in a single sentence, but I guess that comes from trying to edit a book down to a length and pace appropriate for young readers. It wasn’t the greatest book I’ve ever read, but I’m hoping for a sequel.

Currently Reading/Looking Ahead: I need to find a good read to review for GLW. I put Ready Player One in my bag this morning but am not enthused.

Reading Update #27?

SGF Reading

Reading Update:¬†Today is Thursday, July 10. It is hard to remember to blog during summer break, especially when I am prepping for and teaching summer school, and also doing a bundle of other things… oops. But here I am. As of today, I’ve read 67 books toward my goal of 100 for 2014.

Since last time, I’ve read the following eight¬†books:

books27

Not so very much to say about¬†Corduroy and¬†Pooh Loves unless you’re reading to a toddler…

The Assassin’s Blade is a collection of prequel novellas in the Throne of Glass series. I was expecting them to be dreadful, but they were pretty good, and made me all the more eager for the next book to get published.

Graceling is one of those books that had been recommended to me several times by various friends. It focuses on a young woman who has the Grace (think Xanthian Talent, or superpower) of near invincibility. She’s a powerful fighter and nothing seems able to hurt her. In rapid succession she rebels against her king, rejects her suitor, chops off her hair, falls in love, and runs off on an adventure. It was interesting enough that I read it very quickly, and would like to read the other two books in the series so far, but I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. It felt thin, and I feel like other books have done the same basic story better.

Shadow and Bone is the first in yet another YA fantasy trilogy, this one taking place in a fantastical Russia-ish land. Its protagonist is a orphaned girl conscripted into her country’s military, who discovers an unrealized magical power when she and her beloved friend are attacked. From there she is swept up into a world of glamour and intrigue — and betrayal. I thought this was really well done; I actually cared about the characters, even though they were written in simpler strokes for younger readers. For the first 3/4 of the book I felt it was a pretty great middle grade fantasy in the Narnia vein; later, some more adult situations complicate things, and the very end of the book felt quite rushed and thrown together. Altogether, I quite enjoyed this one and am anxious to read the next book.

The¬†Daughter of Smoke and Bone series was recommended to me by J, and I’d heard a lot of positive chatter from other sources. Here is a place where the hype was right! SUCH a good story. Karou is an eccentric art student in Prague, but of course this is one of those classic “quirky character¬†is more than s/he appears to be and is in fact a messiah figure” tales. The character writing is fantastic, and the complicated moral ground and romantic subplot make this sophisticated enough for adults.

Currently Reading/Looking Ahead:¬†I picked up The Season last night but I’m not impressed. May go by my library this afternoon and pick up Siege and Storm. As long as I’m catching up with my MG/YA collection I probably ought to pick up some realistic fiction, but I’m just not in the mood right now.

Reading Updates #22 & 23

SGF Reading

Reading Update: Today is Thursday, June 12. It is summer break and I have completely forgotten to do my reading updates for the past week and a half. Take me out of the school and my internal calendar completely breaks down! As of today I have read 59 books toward my new goal of 100 books.

Since last time, I’ve read the following three books:

weeks22and23

Crown of Midnight¬†is book two in a series and manages a rare feat: it is a rare sequel that greatly surpasses the first book! I thought book 1 was sort of meh, but something about the story brought me back for book 2. Now I’m aggravated that I have to wait for book 3 (and am planning to read the prequel collection pretty soon here). I’m also a little disturbed about this book’s popularity with preteen boys; they DEFINITELY warrant a YA sticker by the time we get to¬†Crown!

Finally finished up volume 1 of¬†The Absolute Sandman. ¬†I feel like it’s kind of wrong to rate it because I’m caught mid-story, so I don’t really know how the whole thing will fall together. At this stage I ended up giving it a 4 of 5, just because it hadn’t yet earned that fifth star for me (unfinished story) and because I still, as always, struggle with the visual format. I’m just such a wordie, and I don’t find it easy to read a narrative with so much left unsaid. Comic books (which this is, really, as opposed to a graphic novel) always leave me a little disoriented.

I picked up¬†Affliction because I had to. I’m a devotee of this series even though it has started to SUCK (and not in a vampire way). To my complete and utter glee, this was actually a good book! It had a plot! Things happened! Not just¬†things, but things OTHER THAN sexcapades and long philosophical conversations! Yeah, there was a zombie apocalypse, and I’m not much of a zombie person, but this book was good old-fashioned classic Anita Blake and I loved it. Here’s hoping Hamilton has more like it in mind for books 23+.

Currently Reading:¬†Right now I’m s-l-o-w-l-y reading an issue of Mental Floss,¬†because that’s about where my ability to focus is these days.

Looking Ahead: The Maas prequels, maybe?

Reading Update #21

SGF Reading

Reading Update: Today is Monday, May 27.  As of today, I have read 56 books toward my new goal of 100.

Since last week, I read the following books:

books21

I’ll start with the picture books and move up.

A Pocket Full of Kisses is apparently a sequel, but I didn’t realize that when I read it. I was immediately drawn to the artwork and the fact that it’s about raccoons. I really loved raccoons when I was little. Thought I’d have one as a pet one day (thanks, Sterling North); my most threadbare stuffed animal from my childhood is Rocky, my beloved raccoon. As an adult living in a place where raccoons are a reality instead of a fun idea, I’ve come to learn that they aren’t exactly the endearing woodland friends of my early imagination, but I still find them — and their adorable hands! — fascinating. Anyway, in this book, the main character is a raccoon who is trying to adjust to having a new baby brother. He’s¬†becoming annoyed at the way his brother encroaches on his life, and worries that his mama may not love him as much now that she has two children. Mama Raccoon puts his fears to rest by giving him extra kisses to keep in his pocket. It was very sweet, and now I want to track down the first book!

New Baby Train is an adorably illustrated folk song offering up an alternative theory to the whole “stork” thing. Rather than tell you more, I’ll point you in the direction of a YouTube video that brings song and book together:

Moving on from little kid books to YA books, we have¬†Throne of Glass.¬†I’d been wanting to borrow this from our school library for a while but hadn’t gotten around to it before this past weekend. The cover art, concept, and its popularity with my pickier fantasy-loving boys drew my attention. It’s the first in a series (six novels projected, plus a collection of prequel novellas); book 3 comes out in September. It features a young female assassin fighting to win a position as the King’s Champion — but more importantly, for her promised freedom after four years of royal service.¬†On the positive side of the equation, I read this book quickly and eagerly, and have book 2 sitting at hand. I liked that there is a strong supporting character who isn’t a Generic White Person. On the negative side, the characters left me flat. The protagonist is annoyingly and unrealistically vain and immature; I couldn’t work up¬†any interest in which boy would win the girl. And the book suffers badly from purple prose. That said… book 2. Here next to me. So there’s obviously¬†something working correctly here. (Also: Why do my male students like this book so much? It’s very girl-oriented. The book even mentions menstruation! Interesting.)

And moving on from YA books, past adult books, into Adult Books, we have¬†Possession. This is book 5 in the Fallen Angels series by J.R. Ward. It’s an urban fantasy, heaven vs. hell epic,¬†peppered liberally (well, not so much in this book, which was a welcome change of pace) with steamy scenes of demonic, angelic, and human sexcapades. Definitely classy reading. I liked this one better than some of the previous installments; it’s definitely not great literature, but better than your average romance novel and on the upper end of the majority of urban fantasies I’ve read, so there you have it. Start at the beginning with¬†Covet if this genre is your cup of tea.

Currently Reading: I need to wrap up The Absolute Sandman Vol. 1.

Looking Ahead:¬†Crown of Midnight¬†(sequel to¬†Throne of Glass) is in the wings…

Reading Update #20

SGF Reading

 

Reading Update: Today is Wednesday, May 21. As of today, I have read 52 books and got myself one of these thingamajiggers:

52of52

Which, of course, is just patently silly. Obviously when I set this goal I wasn’t taking picture books into consideration! So I guess I’m going to go ahead and change my goal… hold that thought…

52of100

Okay. That’s better.

Since last week, I read the following books:

week20books

All of the above were fewer than fifty pages in length. (I’ve been reading a couple of big fat books, too, but just haven’t finished them.) With the exception of¬†The Night Bookmobile, they’re all children’s picture books.

Listen to the Wind is a kid’s adaptation of the¬†Three Cups of Tea story. I always kind of look askance at Greg Mortenson stuff, after all the scandal and whatnot, but the artwork in this picture book blew me away. Plus, if you take the discrepancies and financial indiscretions off the table, Mortenson’s story really is inspirational and has a great sort of message for young readers. This book is obviously a vast over-simplification of the whole tale, but worthwhile and a good adaptation.

Henry’s Heart¬†is a densely assembled nonfiction-ish picture book about the human circulatory system. It’s awfully cute and would be a big hit with little kids with an interest in science and medicine. It’s not a great read-aloud book because of the non-linear writing (lots of sidebars) but a lot of children¬†would get a kick out of poring over all the little details. I think it would also be a good supplemental text or something for a health class!

I quite liked¬†Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated. It’s exactly the sort of storybook I would have adored as a child. Just a sweet little fairy tale, with endearing illustrations and the sort of less-than-perfect ending that appeals to me.

My Name is Sangoel is the story of a refugee boy who struggles to find a way to maintain his identity after moving to America. None of the people he meets in America can pronounce his name, until he comes up with a clever way to bridge the language gap. It is sweet and simple, and would be a terrific book to share with young students who have classmates from other countries.

I really loved the artwork and text design in Mermaid Queen:¬†The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History!¬†It’s another nonfiction picture book and tells an abbreviated version of Annette Kellerman’s life. I wish that it had gone into a little bit more detail about her early medical problems; I think most young readers will miss entirely the fact that she was (initially) disabled.

Then there’s¬†The Night Bookmobile. Oomph. That’s the sound of being kicked in the stomach. On the one hand, this book was SO good. I loved the concept of the Bookmobile and the Library, and the protagonist’s yearning for the Bookmobile resonated deeply with me. I’m sure it would with any lover of stories. But the resolution? The protagonist’s choice? The way she let her desire for something unattainable ruin all of the many good things in her real life? Ugh. This book falls in the unhappy category of being one I would recommend to tons of people, except for the fact that I can’t, because it would feel too much like an endorsement of something reprehensible. Pooh.

Finally we have¬†Extra Yarn, which was so very nice. I love Klassen’s artwork, obviously, but I also loved the story and its adaptable metaphor — for happiness, kindness, love, you pick ’em. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Currently Reading: Here, let me just copy and paste exactly what I wrote last week for this section.

I have Possession (book 5 in the Fallen Angels series, a dreadful guilty pleasure of mine) for on-the-road, and a MASSIVE copy of the first volume of The Absolute Sandman at home. It stays safely at home because it’s the public library’s, and I don’t want anything to happen to it (as it’s rather wildly expensive) and it seems like it might be somewhat safer there.

Ta-da!

Looking Ahead:¬†I don’t even know. Ha! I guess we’ll see what strikes my fancy next after I finally finish these other two behemoths.

 

Reading Update #19

SGF Reading MDE

Reading Update: Today is Monday, May 12. As of today I have read 45 books in 2014 and am, accordingly, 87% of the way toward my goal. I definitely think I am going to be changing that goal here pretty soon! Since last time, I finished the following books:

week19 reading

The One is the finale of the Selection trilogy. There are a lot of YA trilogies out there, and most of them seem to be dystopian yarns; the Selection is no exception in that regard, but it¬†is exceptional in that it was entirely satisfying and devoid of most of the darkness and angst that characterize most of its cohort. Yes, bad and dark things happen, and there are bad and dark characters — but I never felt like this trilogy was going to give me an ulcer, and it never made me cry. Instead, it made me want more time to read, and then it made me want more story to read when I was done. No one is going to claim that this trilogy is a Great Masterpiece of Youth Literature, but I will happily claim that it is one of my favorite things I’ve read this year.

The Princess Test is a long-form retelling of “The Princess and the Pea,” although¬†long may be stretching things a bit — it’s really just a short story, typeset in such a way that it makes up an entire (small) book. In order to flesh out the story beyond its usual parameters, Gail Carson Levine adds extra challenges beyond the expected pea-under-mattresses and afflicts her monarchs with a predilection for excessive¬†synonyms. It was a cute, quick little tale.

The Princess and the Pea is a graphic novel adaptation of the more traditional tale that I remembered from my childhood. Nothing too exciting here, including the artwork (which seemed a bit like that of a high school manga fan), but a nice introduction to the fairy tale for the visually oriented.

Red, White, and Blood is the third in the Nathaniel Cade/President’s Vampire series. The concept here is that there is a vampire in the President’s Secret Service, sworn by an old voodoo oath to protect the President and the United States at the cost of his own vampiric nature. That vampiric nature, of course, is at the cost of Cade’s morality, and so even as the vampire fights the forces of darkness (both supernatural and human) he also fights a battle within himself: is he worse than a beast, or is he redeemable? Farnsworth is a local guy, a heck of a researcher, and a fellow who spins a fine suspense novel. It’s not overly vampy, isn’t weighed down with historical tidbits, and walks that lovely line between scary and exciting. I love these books and, even though they’re (again) no great masterpieces, I highly recommend them.

Currently Reading:¬†I have Possession¬†(book 5 in the Fallen Angels series, a dreadful guilty pleasure of mine) for on-the-road, and a MASSIVE copy of the first volume of The Absolute Sandman at home. It stays safely at home because it’s the public library’s, and I don’t want anything to happen to it (as it’s rather wildly expensive) and it seems like it might be somewhat safer there.

Looking Ahead:¬†I hope I can get hold of Volume 2 of¬†Sandman. Beyond that, there are several YA titles on my radar, and the kids are almost done using the library, so soon I’ll have my pick of the litter. I think the first one there is¬†Daughter of Smoke and Bone; I checked it out and was going to read it next, but a kiddo just put it on hold, and they only have the next week to get and read books, so I’ll probably bring it back for her and get it again this summer.