Summer Essentials

Category : reviews

When I was in school, I anticipated the “summer reading list.” Mostly to see what books I had already devoured, but also to scope out new ones. I don’t have a proper summer reading list anymore, since I don’t have a three-month vacation in the middle of the year (don’t I wish), but I can still offer you a few of my favorite light reads to enjoy while you’re hanging out by the pool.

  1. High Fidelity, Nick Horby
    A 30-something record store clerk has issues with life, love, and his job. And he’s a music junkie, peppering his inner monologues with obscure music references. When you’re done with the book, I recommend the movie as well (Hello, John Cusack).
  2. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson
    A cross-country road trip with a guy you barely know, dumping your mother’s pre-arranged itinerary to create your own adventure. If anything says summer, it’s this.
  3. Naked, David Sedaris
    I don’t recommend ever reading Sedaris in public. Because you will laugh, and continue to laugh, and you will consistently annoy everyone around you. Unless you’re into that kind of thing.
  4. On Writing, Stephen King
    With summer comes new adventures and grand goals, and for many of us that means finally writing that novel. Stephen King offers some great advice about it. He knows a little about that “writing” thing.
  5. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
    The movie is coming out in the fall, so this one is a given.

Or you could disregard this entire list and read one of the longest novels of all time, but that’s entirely up to you. (You better believe I’m eyeing up In Search of Lost Time.)

image source: stock.xchng

2012 Top Ten

Category : reviews

Hello, readers! Thought I had abandoned you?
I had intended to announce my vacation, but it was immediately following Christmas, and that announcement never happened. So here is the entry that I should have posted at the end of December: My top ten books of 2012. It’s difficult to narrow it down—I completed fifty books last year—but these are the best of the best. According to me. (Links are to my goodreads reviews.)

Clockwork Prince

Cassandra Clare

James Joyce

Richard Harland
Chronic City

Jonathan Lethem
Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson
John Dies at the End

David Wong
Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

J.K. Rowling
War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy
Jellicoe Road

Melina Marchetta
A Visit From the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan

The Best Books You’ve Never Read

Category : reviews

Flavorwire released a list of Ten Underrated Books Everyone Should Read. (And I haven’t read any of them, which means I have some catching up to do.) You’ll probably all familiar with my top ten, but what about everything else?

So, here are some titles I feel are underrated that you probably haven’t read.

How to Breathe Underwater; Julie Orringer
Even if you’re not a fan of short story collections, I will recommend this to anyone. I will read anything Orringer writes, because her words hold a sort of beauty I cannot resist.

You Shall Know Our Velocity!; Dave Eggers
It’s likely that you’ve at least heard of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius or What is the What, but I don’t hear anyone gushing over this one. My own review is rather gushy.

Desideria; Nichole Kornher-Stace
Is this considered cheating because I went to high school with the author? Maybe. Sure, it’s how I stumbled upon this gem, but I kept with it for its wonderfully complicated tale. (my review)

Fireflies in December; Jennifer Erin Valent
I don’t read a lot of Christian works (And Southern to boot), but this one is so charming that I devoured the entire trilogy. It’s cute, serious, and sassy all at the same time.

Books That Motivate Me to Write

Category : reviews

I’m really creative with the titles these days.

Every so often I read a book that makes me think, “Well, shoot. That is writing. It’s about time I do some of that myself.”

(Yes, I actually do say “Well, shoot” in my inner monologue.)

I know that anything I attempt to write will never live up to the beauty of these tomes, but they still leave me itching to record my own words. To make a name for myself in the literary world. Although I apparently need to read more like them, because I haven’t written anything yet. But one thing at a time. For now, we present the books that are so beautiful that they give me hope for the literary community as a whole: (Not including my top ten, because I’ve discussed them enough.)

Special Topics in Calamity Physics; Marisha Pessl (my review)

Man’s wobbly little mind isn’t equipped for hauling around the great unknowns.
Very few people realize, there’s no point chasing after answers to life’s important questions. They all have fickle, highly whimsical minds of their own.
Nevertheless. If you’re patient, if you don’t rush them, when they’re ready, they’ll smash into you. And don’t be surprised if afterward you’re speechless and there are cartoon Tweety Birds chirping around your head.

A Fraction of the Whole; Steve Toltz (my review)

As I passed through the gates, the blistered hands of nostalgia gave my heart a good squeeze and I realized you miss shit times as well as good times, because at the end of the day what you’re really missing is just time itself.

An aside: Looking at Special Topics and Fraction of a Whole now, I realize they’re quite similar (and brilliant).

You Shall Know Our Velocity!; Dave Eggers (my review)

And there is a chance that everything we did was incorrect, but stasis is itself criminal for those with the means to move, and the means to weave communion between people.

The Book Thief; Markus Zusak (my review)

People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors.

Best of 2011

Category : reviews

First on the agenda: Happy new year!

Since I haven’t composed a blog entry in a week and a half, I’m a little rusty. Good thing I have a top ten list to compose, right?

According to the goodreads challenge, I’ve read seventy-five books this year. This isn’t completely accurate, since some of them were bind-ups, so it’s probably closer to eighty. (Not that I’m bragging.) And you expect me to select a top ten based on eighty novels?

I did it anyway.

10. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour
Morgan Matson

9. Pathfinder
Orson Scott Card

8. Boneshaker
Cherie Priest

7. The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins

6. Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Marisha Pessl

5. Goliath
Scott Westerfeld

4. A Fraction of the Whole
Steve Toltz

3. The Book Thief
Markus Zusak

2. Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card

1. De Profundis
Oscar Wilde

New favorite authors: Oscar Wilde, Orson Scott Card.
Also, there are several authors here that have only published one novel: Steve Toltz, Morgan Matson, & Marisha Pessl. The latter two have something in the works for this year, which I’m greatly anticipating.

All in all, 2011 was a good year. I have many good things on my list for 2012 already, including War & Peace (Starting that one tomorrow…); continuing the Mortal Instruments series; The Half-Made World—which I’ve had my eye on for quite some time—and more love for Orson Scott Card (in the name of The Lost Gate). And who knows what else I’ll pick up throughout the year.

This year’s reading goal: seventy books. Well hey, I had to think logically here. I am starting with War & Peace.

Related: Favorites of 2010

Favorites of 2010

Category : reviews

During the long months of 2010, I have completed a total of 59 books. Some of these were bind-ups or collections (re: Rabbit Angstrom), so it’s probably more than that. Not that I’m bragging or anything.

Selecting favorites is never easy, but I’ll suffer the torture of re-reviewing everything to pick out my top 10 favorites of 2010. Just for you. And who doesn’t enjoy a top 10 list? (Per the norm, click the title for full review.) Also included the month in which I finished it, because for some reason I find that interesting.

10. The Book of Lost Things; John Connolly
It takes our already well-known and loved tales and twists them to fit into the story. Like, [David] runs into seven communist dwarves and an evil princess sleeping in a tower. And it’s a coming-of-age tale to boot, with David learning about himself and what it means to be brave.

9. Then We Came to the End; Joshua Ferris
It’s both funny and sad because it’s all true. You recognize the stereotypes, and it goes into their minds and makes you understand who they are. You form favorites by the end. And you feel as if you’re there, too, coming up with ad campaigns in the back of your mind.

8. The Works of Jules Verne; Jules Verne
Jules Verne, one of our great forefathers of science fiction. He provides massive amounts of science and math, which go above my head most of the time. Regardless, I like him. I even like the movies that were based upon his novels. Even after this collection, I still want to read more of his stuff.

7. How to Be Alone: Essays; Jonathan Franzen
This book will give you a complex… If you’re anything like Franzen—the intelligent, literary type—you understand the concept of solitude. It should be comforting, at least, to see that there are others like yourself out there, but it just depressed me further because I haven’t found any of them. The title is fitting, though we don’t need any further instruction on how to be alone.

6. Behemoth; Scott Westerfeld
We have Deryn (I mean Dylan, pardon me), a female airshipman posing as a boy (a girl in the military? Never!). And we have Alek, who’s not-so-secretly the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. Deryn is clearly in love with Alek, which makes things a little complicated (and oh-so-amusing)… But what I adore most is the setting. Set in a steampunk alternate WWI era, we see monstrous “Clanker” contraptions (mechanic walkers and the like) and “Darwinist” beasties, a bunch of fabricated animals. The way you’re thrown into this world almost makes you believe it really existed, with its intricate details and the way it is worked into authentic history.

5. The Giver; Lois Lowry
I don’t know how I missed this during my childhood. I think I was intimidated by it. I also think there are things in there I wouldn’t have completely understood. It would have blown my mind back then, as it did now. Now, I realize the disadvantages of the utopian society—I’ve read enough books on the topic—but as a child, this book is necessary. It shows the importance of making your own decisions, of being an individual.

4. The Winter of Our Discontent; John Steinbeck
Most of the novel is Ethan’s day to day life, a grocery store clerk & the people around him, his self-reflections and inner thoughts. Which sounds like it would be painfully dull, but you consider who he interacts with daily – his materialistic children; the banker who could, potentially, rob a bank; his boss, who’s probably an illegal immigrant; his best friend from childhood, now a drunkard on the street.

3. You Shall Know Our Velocity; Dave Eggers
What happens here? A whole lot of nothing, and everything at once. A best friend dies, and the remaining two travel the world trying to give away money. Because it frustrates our narrator, Will, that he 1) has money, and 2) others don’t. He tries to give it away to strangers in foreign countries, his sidekick (Hand) being the typical annoying friend who you both hate and love because he knows everything and won’t shut up.

2. Atlas Shrugged; Ayn Rand
It makes you look at America and where you stand within it. It makes you think of your own morals, to figure out what’s right and worthy. It forces you to think about what you’re living for, what the purpose is. Where does your happiness come from? Is it genuine? And, most importantly, is your life your own? You think you’re alone in your mindset of the world, and then you read this.

1. Moby Dick; Herman Melville
How can I possibly do this novel justice? It’s brilliant, beautiful, sad, hilarious. There were moments I laughed out loud and moments nearly in tears. I loved everyone on the Pequod—Ahab, our monomaniac captain; Queequeg, the savage harpooner; Perth, the blacksmith who’s ever forging a new leg for Ahab; and especially Starbuck, first mate (which I just learned Starbucks, the coffeeshop, is named after). Everyone on that ship has such a distinct identity and interacts with one other so well. I guess you have to, being stuck together on a ship for four years.