Saturday, January 4, 2014

Book List 2013: Roundup (Part 1)

 * = reread
[CB] = Children's Book
[GN] = Graphic Novel or Comic Anthology


The Moorchild

by. Eloise McGraw

A changeling girl is banished from her tribe and secretly swapped for a human baby. As time goes on she forgets her old life, but now finds herself stuck between two worlds and not accepted by either.

I know I should just talk about things based on their own merit and not compare them to other things, but I just can't manage to do it sometimes. This book just reminds me a lot of Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men...except it's not as good. So personally I'd say just go read The Wee Free Men instead. That being said, there were a number of bits I liked from it, so I'm still glad I read it.

[CB]   12.   [CB]

The Dark

by. Lemony Snicket
illustrated by. Jon Klassen

A young boy tries to overcome his fear of the dark.

Admittedly this one was disappointing. To be fair though, I had impossibly high hopes. I love Jon Klassen's artwork and Lemony Snicket is brilliant, so I was super excited to see what they'd create together.

I don't know. It's not bad or just doesn't pop. It's rather wordy for a children's book, the subject matter doesn't give Klassen a chance shine at all, and while it has an interesting message it takes a long time to get there.


The Catcher in the Rye

by. J.D. Salinger

A young man is kicked out of school and begins to wander around trying to figure his life out.

This is one of those books I've always felt like I should read at some point. So when a friend said that it was a favorite of hers I figured that was a good time to get on that.

For me reading literary Classics is often like slogging through a snowbank, so my expectations weren't very high, but I was surprised to find I really enjoyed it. It has an oddly modern feel to it and I found it extremely relatable. I've heard this is a common one to be assigned for school, but (like The Great Gatsby) I'm not sure if most middle/high schoolers would have the life experience yet to see where the author's coming from.

In any case, I liked it and I'm gonna have to reread it again in the near future.

[GN] *  14.  * [GN]

30 Days of Night

by. Steve Niles
art by. Ben Templesmith

The sun has just set on a small Alaskan town and it won't be back for an entire month. If that wasn't enough to depress the citizens, a group of vampires decides that this will be a perfect chance to have some fun.

First of all, let's take a moment to talk about Ben Templesmith. He is the x-factor that makes this comic so great. It would have been an interesting story in other hands, but he is what really gives the it its edge. His paintings give the story such an ethereal & spooky feel. Really, this is one of the few horror comics that actually LOOKS scary, instead of just having scary content. Add in the fact that Niles' writing provides a brilliant set-up and plenty of spooky content for Templesmith to depict and you've got yourself one of the greatest little stand-alone horror stories.

The one and only complaint I have with this book is the inclusion of the secret society/helicopter bit. It comes out of nowhere, goes nowhere, serves NO purpose to the story, and totally screws up the story's flow. Admittedly they only make up for a few pages of the book, so it's not a deal-breaker or anything, but it is the one unsightly blemish on an otherwise refined piece of work.

On an ending note, if you ever want to see the movie, please read this comic first. Trust me on this. The movie isn't bad or anything, but you can definitely appreciate it more when you've seen what it was based on.

*   15.   *

Nineteen Eighty-four

by. George Orwell

A man struggles to find truth, beauty, and love in a dystopian future where the government not only restricts people's actions, but restricts their minds as well.

I'm fully willing to admit that Nineteen Eighty-four is a classic. However, I must admit that my love of Fahrenheit 451 causes me to look down on this one. Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is everything this book is and more. Let's compare.


1984: Long winded with pages upon pages devoted to extremely dull philosophy. At multiple points it's reads like a liberal Ayn Rand (and I don't mean that in a good way.)

451: Extremely eloquent and concise.


1984: I honestly don't like a single character in this book. None of them have any depth or any reason to like them.

451: I love all the characters! The villains, the heroes, the weak, the strong, they are all relatable and fascinating.


1984: This is the one place the book holds its own. It has many extremely interesting notions regarding how people in power can shape the minds of those without. The ideas of warping language and history as a means to control a populace is fascinating. Overall seems to be a judgment of government.

451: While 1984 deals with ideas of Government creating a dystopia, 451 says that Society will create a dystopia on its own and the government is merely a tool for enforcing it. Which, in my opinion, is the more frightening scenario. Not to mention Bradbury's predictions are startling accurate.

*   16.   *

The Giver

by. Lois Lowry

A small community has embraced order at the cost of everything else. No one sees color or feels pain, people are assigned their jobs and their parents. But one member of the community must hold the memories, pains, and joys of the old world in case they are ever needed. This responsibility is given to a young boy named Jonas, but will he be able to accept the world he grew up in when he realizes what they've given up to create it?

The Giver is probably the greatest Young Adult book ever written. It is brilliant, it's accessible, it's powerful, it's fascinating, and it's memorable. I first read it in elementary school and I continue reading it to this day.

So Good.

If you've never read it before you need to remedy that.

*   17.   *

Sideways Stories From Wayside School

by. Louis Sachar

A collection of stories about the class on 30th story of a school that was accidentally built 30 rooms high instead of side by side.

I adore the Wayside School books. When people ask me what some of my favorite books are I never fail to mention these books. I love them to death.

It's hard to describe what it is about them I love so much. They're able to reduce extremely complicated ideas and feelings into hilarious little ideas/scenes/premises. They play with logic and convention. They are just impossibly clever. That wonderful kind of clever that you don't even realize as clever until it's already in your head.

[CB] *  18.  * [CB]


by. David T. Greenberg
illustrated by. Victoria Chess

A bizarre look at all the things you can do with slugs.

This book! I will recommend this book to everyone I can. It is so weird! It's so weird and gross and it's for kids! AGGGHHHH! I love it. I love that it's so different and I love that how impossibly memorable it is.

*   19.   *

Fahrenheit 451 

by. Ray Bradbury

In a future where firemen are responsible for burning books, one of them has a crisis of faith. An encounter with a strange young girl plants a seed of doubt in his mind and he begins to see the dystopia he's living in for what it is. He has so many questions, but no one has the answers. But maybe...maybe there are answers in the books?

As you might have guessed from my talk about Nineteen Eighty-four, I'm a rather big fan. It's one of my very favorite books.

Also Bradbury must have been genius because holy shit he was pretty much right on the money with this one. He totally called the increase in people's obsessions with screens, drugs, and other distractions.

[GN] *  20.  * [GN]

Batwoman, vol 1:

written by. J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
art by. J.H. Williams III, Amy Reeder, & Richard Friend
colors by. Dave Stewart
letters by. Todd Klein

Someone, or something, is stealing children from a small neighborhood in Gotham and Batwoman (aka Kate Kane) is on the case. However, her activities are beginning to attract a great deal of unwanted attention.

This comic is just far too pretty. I'm not gonna lie, I kind of bought just so I can look at it. It's one of the most artistic superhero comics I've ever seen.

The story's actually quite exciting as well. There are a few bits that deal with some continuity stuff I'm not familiar with, but overall it's a great read. Plus, what's this? A lesbian superhero? It's like we're living in a modern inclusive society or something.


a novel

by. Chuck Palahniuk

A narrative in the form of diary entries from a woman whose life begins to spin wildly out of control after her husband dies.

This is such a weird book, but I've gotta admit it's kind of brilliant. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but this story goes in directions I never saw coming. If you're in the mood for an unusual sort of mystery then I'd highly recommend it.

[GN] *  22.  * [GN]

The Amazing Screw-on Head
and other curious objects

written and drawn by. Mike Mignolia
colors by. Dave Stewart

A collection of comic shorts from the man that created Hellboy.

Oh, Mike Mignolia. Your art is so sexy and your short stories never let me down. This is just a really fun collection all over. You can tell Mignolia must've been having a great time making it.

*   23.   *

Ender's Game

by. Orson Scott Card

Humanity barely survived the last time the Buggers came to Earth. Now the world is united against a common foe, but defeating an opponent so far beyond us is going to take a new kind of solider. Children who are shown to have promise are sent to an orbiting space station know as Battle School. There they are turned into soldiers. However, one young boy is above and beyond the rest, and it's on his shoulders that the fate of the world lies. Whether he likes it or not.

Let's pretend for a minute that Orson Scott Card isn't the kind of person who keeps saying offensive things in his personal life and just concentrate on the fact that this book is amazing. It's one of my personal favorites. It's got everything I could want in a story. The characters are so well done, it's relatable, it's fantastical, it's interesting, it's exciting, it's moving, it's got it all. I cannot recommend it enough.



by. Ted Dekker

A murderer is after a seemingly normal man, threatening to kill him (and others) unless he confesses. But confess to what? In order to get out of this one alive he's gonna need some help from some unusual sources.

I read this one because a friend said she really enjoyed it. The writing wasn't really my kind of thing, but the ending was an interesting twist on a classic twist and that made the whole thing worth it.


The Average American Male

by. Chad Kultgen

This book is awful.


Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

by. Mary Roach

A look at how our bodies' digestive system works and how scientists have studied it over the years.

Mary Roach has been a little hit or miss after the brilliance that was Stiff, but this one is definitely a hit. In fact I'd say it ranks right below Stiff on my list of my favorite Mary Roach books. She brings a light-heartedness to science that is just hopelessly endearing.

If you're even mildly curious about digestion then you need to read this thing. It is delightful, humorous, informative, and just plain fun.


Ribbiting Tales:
Original Stories about Frogs

edited by Nancy Springer

A collection of stories about frogs.

What can I say? I like frogs.

And if you too like frogs and/or short stories for young people then this is a book for you.

[GN]  28.  [GN]

Swamp Thing
vol 1: Raise them Bones
vol 2: Family Tree

Written by. Scott Snyder
Art by. Yanick Panquette, et al.

The life forces of the world are divided into 3 groups: animal life (aka The Red), plant life (aka The Green), and death (aka The Rot). Usually they are in balance, but the Rot has waged war against the others. The only hope for the Green lies in its chosen champion, a scientist named Alec Holland. However, there's just one problem: he doesn't want anything to do with it.

My initial love of the new Animal Man series got me interested in this series because their plots are connected. Plus it's written by Scott Snyder! I've enjoyed a number of things he's done. However, much like Animal Man, it started out really strong and then has slowly descended into doofy.

I can definitely recommend the first volume. The second volume, however, starts out pretty good, but by the end I was kind of like, Yeah...I'm done with this series now.


[GN]   29.   [GN]

We Can Fix It:
A Time Travel Memoir

by. Jess Fink 

In this mix of fiction and memoir the author grabs her flashiest bodysuit and her time machine to revisit the worst moments of her life in order to hopefully fix them.

I originally got this as a present for a friend, but then I chickened out because I was worried they might think it was weird for me to randomly get them something. So I just kept it for myself.

It's a great book though, so that's all right.

We all have memories of the things we regret, of how stupid we used to be, and of how much fun we've had. When you look back on those memories you just want to jump back to that time, don't you? To relive your greatest joys and to stop yourself from making all those bad decisions. Jess Fink expertly deals with these feelings in an extremely fun and yet deeply touching way.

I often fret over my past, present, and future. And frequently find myself wishing to be in a different time than I am. If you're like that too, then I highly recommend you give this book a try. It's a pleasantly cathartic experience.

*   30.   *


by. Joey Comeau

The narrative of a troubled soul as told through the medium of cover letters.

I lovelovelovelovelovelovelove this book and I wish I could make everyone read it.

Seriously. Go read it.


Lost in a Good Book

by. Jasper Fforde

The second book in the Thursday Next series.

I read the first book in the Thursday Next series (The Eyre Affair, BL2011 #18) and I never planned on reading another one, but then one of my supervisor's at work asked about these books. During said conversation I said I had only read the first one so he went to his office and lent me the next two. Haha, I read them because I wasn't really sure how to get out of that social situation without doing so...

They're not bad or anything, they're just not my thing. They do, however, border on my sort of thing, so there is still a lot of parts I enjoyed. Reading them wasn't a real burden or anything as I actually quite like the characters and the jokes, it's just that the plots don't interest me at all. Not even a little bit.


The Stand
Complete and Uncut

by. Stephen King

A super virus is accidentally unleashed on the world, killing 99.4% of the world's population. Now the survivors are left to try and make their way through the shambles. But two factions have begun amassing armies: a kindly old Mother Abigail& the cruel Dark Man.

This book is way, way, way too long. By this I mean it's 1,200 pages and without the meat to back it up. Despite this, I'm still glad I got the complete and uncut version, because apparently the abridged version cut some of the best scenes.

In other news my friend told me that this was a book about zombies. I just want you all to know that there are absolutely ZERO zombies in this book. I cannot tell you how confusing it is to read this expecting zombies and then have them continuously fail to show up. So, let's get that out of the way right now. There are NO ZOMBIES in this book.

Anyways, the first...third or so of this book was really exciting. I want it on record that I thoroughly enjoyed that first third and considering it's length that's equivalent to liking an entire normal book's worth. But the middle is just okay. And the ending?

Well, the ending is terrible. Really, it's just about the stupidest ending I've ever seen. Getting through 1,200 pages to be met with that was just the biggest slap in the face.



by. Scott Westerfeld

A steampunk alternate history version of WWI. Here German robots fight against British bio-engineered monsters and the bastard son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is on the run from assassins because he is next in line for the throne.

A friend recommended this one to me, but it wasn't quite to my tastes. It definitely has some really interesting elements, but I've always had a hard time getting on board with the whole steampunk thing...the same goes for most alternative/fantastical versions of history. I think I would've liked it a lot more if it wasn't an alt-history WWI story and was just a weird fantasical robots vs. creatures adventure.

[GN]   34.   [GN]


by. Taiyo Matsumoto

Two street urchins named Black and White rule the streets of the sprawling crime-ridden Treasure Town. But when a new crime boss comes to town seeking to recreate the town to his specifications, Black and White prove to be the only ones who can stand in his way.

I first heard of this story through the movie (which I LOVE). So when I saw that Joey Comeau had said that this comic was one of his favorite books of all time I knew I had to check it out.

It does not disappoint. While I did mis the vibrant colors of the movie, the comic is an amazing story. It's such a strange tale that's equal parts hopeful/poetic and dark/violent. After you read it you're left with so much to think about. My brain often comes back to this story and you can be sure that I'll be reading it many more times in the future.


The Girl Who Couldn't Come

by. Joey Comeau

A collection of erotic short stories.

Joey Comeau is one of my absolute favorite authors. He is just impossibly good.

A fan recorded a reading of the title story and it's that story that made me want to read it. So I'd recommend giving it a listen and see what you think.

[CB] *  36.  * [CB]

The Little Prince

by. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A man's plan crashes in the desert and there he meets a strange boy who came from a small planet in outer space.

I know this is supposed to be a classic and I always hear people shower it with praise, but you know what? That little prince is a total asshole.

He goes around judging everyone! Heck, there's even one part where the main guy is trying to fix his plane so he doesn't DIE in the desert and the dumb-ass prince keeps bugging him so the dude is finally like, Sorry, but I don't really have time for your shenanigans, I'm kind of occupied with the important task of not dying. And the shitty little prince throws a big ol' tantrum and is like Adults! They don't know what important means. Is the sunset not important? Is it not beautiful enough for you, old man!? Fuck you! Fuck you, adults!

And I just want to smack him! Ugh. He is the worst.


Are You Handsome

by. Dessa

A small dialogue between two people about how they see themselves.

I'm not sure if this really counts as a proper book, seeing as it was a mini-book thing that came with Dessa's new Cd, but whatever! It's my list and I'm going to go ahead and count it.

It was interesting. Not mind-blowing or anything, but definitely interesting. Especially how the book was formatted.


The Complete Lockpick Pornography

by. Joey Comeau

Two stories about people trying to challenge cultural norms through wildly defiant (and occasionally illegal) actions.

These two stories used to be offered for free online (and maybe they still are) and I tried reading them there, but I always ended up quiting. I have trouble getting into things that I read on the computer. But my love of Joey Comeau inspired me to give them a try in proper book form. And I'm very glad I did. There is just something about the way that man writes that I just can't get enough of.

I don't know. His stuff is always hard to describe to people, because it never sounds as great as I think it is. It's like trying to describe why a joke's funny, or why a poem is touching. It just IS or it isn't.

I've read some reviews of this book that had a negative reaction to it, but they're reactions seems to come from the fact that it isn't a novel. But it's not supposed to be a novel! The two stories in the book work like short stories do. They're not about plots and character development, because you need long-form stories to be able to do those things. These stories are an exploration of idea; they're metaphors and feelings turned into stories.

If you've never read any Joey Comeau before I'd probably recommend checking out some of his other work first, but if you're already a fan than you should definitely give this one a try.

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