It’s hard to believe I’ve been away from this blog for a year. Like, an entire year. And when I say “hard to believe,” what I mean is “SO SO SO SO SO embarrassing.” I thought I would keep up with reviews and insight and blah blah blah.
We see how that turned out.
So, as a recap of the last 12 months (!!!!)…
Personal life: not much has changed, and everything has changed. Finished the MA program, so I’m officially a Master of Literature, which is pretty cool. Other personal things have happened, but frankly nobody cares about that, so let’s just say that things have broken and things have been repaired and somewhere along the line I just kept going.
Professional Life: Am currently on the (halfhearted) search for a new job — have already received one rejection within 48 hours of submitting my application, which was a blow to the ego. Onwards and upwards, though, right?
Reading Life: BUSY. My last update here (ugh, it makes me so sad that I’ve been such a lousy blogger… this is why I’ll never get famous for my online presence) was about how much I’d read so far in my Reading Challenge 2016. I was pretty proud of myself for being at about 15/63. Um… I completed the challenge, no sweat. According to Goodreads, I read 121 books last year. To be fair, there were some graphic novels thrown in (all of Saga over the course of, like, three days and it was AMAZING), and some books were really short and fluffy, but I also read all of the Hogarth Shakespeare books that have come out so far, along with very popular picks (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Girl on the Train, the Miss Peregrine series). My greatest success, however, was the completion of Ron Chernow’s incredible biography of Alexander Hamilton. Yeah. I read that. And I was, and still am, very proud of myself for it.
Seriously, I read so many amazing books last year, I’ve got to give a list of my favorites (and one quick sentence of why they’re my favorites) from the 2016 challenge.
The Shepherd’s Life and The Shepherd’s View, James Rebanks — Beautifully written books about the life of a shepherd in the Lake District; The Shepherd’s Life is nearly all prose, divided up by season and graced by the occasional picture, while The Shepherd’s View is a collection of photographs of a shepherd’s life with some stories attached — both are stunning.
The Miss Peregrine Series, Ransom Riggs — I mean, come on. Read the books and see why I love them. But don’t watch the movie and expect it to live up to anything the books created.
For the Glory, Duncan Hamilton — A lovely biography of Eric Liddell, the English Olympic runner made famous in Chariots of Fire — it focuses more on his life beyond the sport, but ties it all together with his love of running
A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab — THIS IS MY FAVORITE FANTASY BOOK OF THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS. Like, right up there with Harry Potter, no joke. I started on a whim late one night because I liked the cover and was housesitting and I ended up staying up past probably 3 a.m. to finish because it’s so much fun. And no, I haven’t read the second one yet (A Gathering of Shadows) because the third one (A Conjuring of Light) comes out later this month. And I know I’m going to go through major withdrawals if I have too much of a gap between them.
A Wild Sheep Chase, Haruki Murakami — Recommended by a dear coworker, this is fun and mysterious and a perfect introduction to Murakami — I definitely want to read more of him because of this.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling — I don’t care if the format made people hate this, they’re wrong. It’s charming and magical and I freaking love Scorpius Malfoy. Period.
Commonwealth, Ann Patchett — If you read The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and haven’t read Commonwealth, get on it. The Nest was fun, but the story of a dysfunctional family is told so much better in Commonwealth, mainly because Ann Patchett is an incredible writer and has written enough that you can see the difference in the craft itself. SO SO SO GOOD.
The Gentleman, Forrest Leo — Hilarious Victorian-era novel about a man who sells his wife to the devil and must adventure to save her — but with some twists along the way. They sell it as a “Wodehouse/Monty Python” style novel, and they’re right. Bertie Wooster would be proud of Lionel Savage.
Walking the Nile, Levison Wood — This man is a British Indiana Jones, no joke. He’s wicked cool, smart, and funny, and his adventure to walk the length of the Nile is incredible. Also, it’s available in paperback.
Saga Volumes 1-6, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — Seriously, just read these books.
The Inquisitor’s Tale, Adam Gidwitz — Cute, adventurous, thoughtful — it’s a great book for 10 and up. Set in the 13th century, three children go on a quest to save copies of the Talmud from destruction in France, and they’re accompanied by a holy dog. It has the flavors of Canterbury Tales, but with the magic and joy of a children’s book.
Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson — Funny and touching book about Jenny Lawson’s struggles with mental illness — but even when you know you shouldn’t be laughing, she makes you find the lighter side of the situation.
Yes Please, Amy Poehler — FOR THE LOVE OF HUMANITY, READ THIS. Amy Poehler is so funny and so smart and so inspiring and I just love it.
My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell — Charming book about Gerry’s life on Corfu and his discovery of his love of animals. It’s the basis for the PBS series The Durrells in Corfu and it’s utterly delightful. Plus, Durrell wrote lots of books about his adventures with animals, so if you like this one, there’s more.
A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness — Heartbreakingly beautiful. Just read it — it’ll take you, like, two hours. And you’ll weep.
The View from the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman — Neil Gaiman’s collection of nonfictions is enchanting. Pick it up and read however much, then take a break and read one of his novels, then come back. Or you can do adult things, like laundry and cooking and your job, before you return to another piece. He is the man.
Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow — If you’re ready to commit to a seriously intense historical book, this is the one. Chernow is thorough but not boring, and he brings the Revolution era to life. I liked Hamilton so much that this year I’m going to read Washington because I trust Chernow’s writing. Even though it’s another 900 pages. You better be good, Ron. (Don’t worry. I trust you. Really.)
Still Life, Louise Penny — A great first mystery set in a quaint Canadian village. Gamache is a lot like Poirot, and Penny is excellent at crafting the mystery and the inhabitants of the village, and you can’t help but want to continue with the series.
Three Dark Crowns, Kendare Blake — Probably my most pleasant surprise from 2016, this teen novel is the first in a series and follows three sisters in a land where only one of them will survive to become queen. There’s some romance and some teen clichés, but it’s fun and exciting and I’m actually curious about the next installment. And that’s saying a lot, considering how few teen books I actually get through in a year.
So much for writing a sentence about each. Sorry. This is what happens when I’m away for a year! I’m sure after wading through that flood of words you want to hear an update on this year. Guess what? Here it comes!
Reading Challenge 2017
So far I’ve gotten 22 books finished, not all of which will be a part of my official Reading Challenge log. And, once again, I’ve read some graphic novels, which I count in numbers but not as real accomplishments because I usually devour them in a sitting. What books have I gotten through so far, you may ask? Good question. Here are some highlights.
Thrill Me, Benjamin Percy — An amazing collection of essays on writing. He’s funny and smart and full of pop culture references, which makes it more fun.
Reality Is Not What It Seems, Carlo Rovelli — From the man whose Seven Brief Lessons on Physics was so perfectly charming, this book was actually what he wrote first and is a longer explanation of physics. I have nearly no brain for science, but I understood a lot of what Rovelli explained, and it helps that he is an expert writer. You don’t have to be a physicist to enjoy either of his books.
This Savage Song, V.E. Schwab — I wanted to read this because it’s Schwab and I love her from the one other book I’ve read of hers. Again, I stayed up way later than intended to finish because WOW. It’s an older teen novel about monsters and destruction and love and it’s, like, freaking fantastic. I’m only irritated that the second book isn’t out yet because I just want to hide away and read it. Can I also point out that I love that this “series” (The Monsters of Verity) is only going to be the two books? That’s such a nice change from the usual teen series. YOU GO, VICTORIA!
I Hate Everyone, Except You, Clinton Kelly — Yes, the What Not to Wear guy. His essays are funny and sassy and even inspiring. It just made me love him even more than I did when he was on TLC.
Home of the Brave, Katharine Applegate — Beautiful young reader book told in poetry, it’s the story of a boy from Sudan who comes to America and is faced with the challenges of being an immigrant in the land of the free. Even though it’s a quick read, it sticks with you.
Rogue Heroes, Ben Macintyre — I love Macintyre. I love every book he’s done. This one is a little different because it’s not about one specific person or operation, but rather about the creation of the SAS, one of Britain’s most elite military groups. The first half is full of their adventures as desert pirates, and the second half becomes much darker as the men, who have already been involved in the war for so long, come to Europe and face horrors beyond what they saw in Africa. So well written, and really an incredible story.
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline — I was disappointed in how little development seemed to take place, but I enjoyed the adventure of a video game addict on the hunt for an Easter egg. It’s the kind of book that had moments of clarity, but is mostly a good pick for teenage boys (sorry, boys!). I would be interested to see if the movie that’s due out sometime soon will make it more fun.
Listen, Liberal, Thomas Frank — I don’t care what side of American politics you fall on, you should read this. You want to know how the election of 2016 came to the conclusion it did? Yeah, Frank tells you. And the crazy thing is, this book was out long before November 2016. It’s like nobody cracked it open and thought he had some good points. Which he does.
Walking the Himalayas, Levison Wood — The next adventure installment of our hero of the Nile. Wood’s books are meant to accompany the documentaries aired in the UK (and I think on Discovery Channel at some point), but the books on their own are both great. Himalayas is a little more focused on the people he meets than the places, I think largely because he’s in more populated areas, but it’s still amazing. And the things he goes through to achieve his goal is just unbelievable. Great adventure read.
Dare to Be Kind, Lizzie Velasquez — A lovely book from a wonderful person (it comes out in June). Lizzie’s story is often difficult, but her encouragement to be kind is something I think we should all be aware of. There were moments when I was waiting for a more explicit connection to kindness in her stories, but it’s still well worth the read if you get a chance.
I’m Your Biggest Fan, Kate Coyne — Funny collection of Coyne’s (mis)adventures as a celebrity journalist. Some stories are cringe-worthy, some sweet, all fun to read. It’s kind of my guilty pleasure book so far.
the princess saves herself in this one, amanda lovelace — A wonderful collection of poetry told through four sections (princess, damsel, queen, you). I say it’s a must-read for women between 18-30, and probably lots of people outside that demographic should read it, too. Because it’s just a good collection. And it comes out next week!
Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman — PERFECTION. I love mythology, I love Gaiman, and the combination is heavenly. He chooses great myths to tie together in a loose kind of novel, but manages to keep the humor and the complexity of a mythology together. And it just came out today!
If any of the books I’ve mentioned sound good to you (and I hope at least one of them does), be sure to ask about them at your local indie.
This post is now getting close to the unmanageable length, so I’m going to try to wrap up quickly. (If you’ve read this far, I’m sorry. If you haven’t, you probably made a good decision.) My goal this year is to be better about updating, so we’ll see how that works. I also hope to stretch myself a little further in this reading challenge, because that’s what made last year’s so much fun.
I’m working on The Once and Future King (which I am so enjoying) and a few other little ones, so hopefully at some point I’ll have a reason to post again. Until then, allow me to leave you with a quote from the forever-fantastic Terry Pratchett:
“If you have enough book space, I don’t want to talk to you.”