books and reading · reviews

Best Books of 2017

I read over 400 books this year, if I’m including picture books. I read a lot of stuff, and some of it was great. Some of it was terrible. These are the best books I read this year.

33375622Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado: A collection of short stories that blends realism and science fiction, humor and horror. These stories are all knockouts, racing towards conclusions while keeping the reader riveted. Subversive, feminist, and unforgettable. I can’t wait to see what Machado does next.

30231763 Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller: Another short story collection makes the list, with Mary Miller’s excellent collection of stories about women on the brink of something. At times claustrophobic, and at other times blisteringly acerbic, this collection of women all in search of different things was one of the best and most accomplished collections of the year. I loved it.

30304222There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker: A collection of poetry that uses pop culture references (and a lot of Beyonce references) to explore black womanhood in modern day America. This is intersectional feminism at its most sharp and inciting, and it’s a must-read, even for those who don’t dabble much (or at all) in poetry. 33876540

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter: Part legal thriller, part coming-of-age novel, the debut novel from actress Krysten Ritter knocked my socks off. She hooked me from the first pages and didn’t let up until the story’s gripping, violent end. This is a knockout of a novel, one that demands to be read. I can’t wait to see what Ritter offers next, whether it’s a film or TV project or another novel. Seriously, go read this one.

32940879Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed: The island is the only safe space left in a world that is burning. The fathers run the island, and their daughters are the wives-in-training in this dystopian fiction piece from Jennie Melamed. The book is a gripping account of a patriarchy gone wholly wrong (well, I mean, all patriarchal societies are), and Melamed’s tight prose makes this a haunting read, especially given the current political climate. Comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale abound, but this one stands on its own.

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Grit by Gillian French: Darcy Prentiss and her sister and their cousin work the blueberry fields in the summer in rural Maine. Darcy knows how to have a good time, and her reputation reinforces that. But all of this is her way of distracting her from the secrets she’s keeping, including one about the disappearance of her ex-best friend. This slow burn of a novel had me riveted from the start. It was a surprise of a book, one I just picked up out of a stack of new arrivals at the library, and I was so pleasantly surprised.

32075671The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Starr Carter is there when her best friend is shot and killed by a cop. He wasn’t armed, but the media surrounding the event becomes an absolute circus. Starr isn’t sure whether standing up and saying something is the right thing to do. One of the most buzzed about books of the year, this fresh, smart, moving take on racialized police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement is required reading.

 

 

What did I miss?

 

 

 

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books and reading · reviews

Favorite Picture Books of 2017

2017 was the year I got really, really into picture books. I tried to read as many new ones as I could get my hands on, and I started figuring out which authors were my favorites, as well as really sharpening the library of titles I can choose from when it comes to storytimes. These are my favorite picture books of 2017:

34137106A Different Pond by Bao Phi: This semi-autobiographical picture book features Phi as a young boy, fishing with his father in Minneapolis. The story is contrasted with Phi’s father talking about fishing in his homeland of Vietnam. Gorgeous images accompany Phi’s lovely prose. It’s a striking, moving story, and it features some beautiful pictures of Minneapolis’s Lake Street.

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Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin: A little girl brings her stuffed fox to the playground, and a real fox steals away with it. The illustrations in this wordless picture book are so beautifully drawn, and the story so sweet that it’s impossible not to be sucked into it. Totally marvelous.

31145060Stay: A Girl, a Dog, and a Bucket List by Kate Klise: Eli the dog has been with Astrid the girl since she came home from the hospital as an infant. Astrid is getting older, and so is Eli, so Astrid decides they need to complete a bucket list of experiences together. These things include eating together at a restaurant and sliding down a slide at the playground. This novel, written and illustrated by a pair of sisters, made me ugly cry. But it’s also one of the sweetest, smartest picture books I read this year. The story perfectly encapsulates the love between humans and canines, and I completely loved it.

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The Storm Whale in Winter by Benji Davies: Noi is waiting at home while his dad takes one last journey to the sea to fish before winter settles in. But a storm comes in and Noi’s dad doesn’t return, so Noi sets out to look for him. When Noi gets stuck in the icy sea, his whale friend comes to the rescue. I actually read this sequel before Davies’ original tale, and I loved both so much. A sweet story about friendship and family, this moving little book is guaranteed to satisfy kids and adults alike.

31145118Out! by Arree Chung: Everyone in the family is ready for bed after a long day, except for the baby. When Jo Jo the dog goes to check on the baby, she finds that the baby wants OUT. Shenanigans ensue. Repetition of the same word and fun, colorful illustrations make this a crowd-pleaser, and yes, I love picture books about dogs. It’s a whole thing.

 

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell: A girl gets lost in the snow on her way home 29102937from school and encounters a wolf pup, separated from its pack. She helps him find his family, and then they return the favor. This simple, nearly wordless picture book had me crying, and so much of that is due to Cordell’s ability to express a myriad of feelings in his pen-and-ink-and-watercolor illustrations. I loved this compelling book about kindness.

What picture books stood out to you this year?

books and reading · pop culture

October 2017 Recap

I can’t believe October is over and we’re into November. I’m sad that my favorite month of the year has come to a close. Here’s how October shook out:

Books:

Total: 34
Picture Books: 25
Middle Grade: 2
YA: 3
Adult: 4
Fiction: 34
Non-Fiction: 0
Audiobooks: 2
Total Pages Read: 3079

Favorite Reads in October: 

31931941Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia: I just loved this sweet story about a weird girl and a weird boy who meet and form a friendship. I loved the exploration of the online world merging with the real world, and I thought that Zappia did a nice job of blending two very different stories together. I think this is one of the best YA books I’ve read this year.

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare: A super fun regency33259027 romance featuring two strong characters and genuinely scorching chemistry. This wasn’t my first Dare novel, and it won’t be my last one, either. The first in a new series, this is definitely one to check out, even if you’re not a regular reader of romance.

 

Viewing

Total Movies: 2
New: 2
Re-Watch: 0

Favorite Movies in October: 

None. I watched 47 Meters Down and Kong: Skull Island, and both were DUMB.

Other Things I’ve Been Watching:

I’ve been re-watching Sex and the City, and I’m up to season 4. The show is still funny in many ways, and I do love the female friendships that center the series, but there are things about it that have not aged well at all. It’s really transphobic, and it’s still maybe the whitest thing on television?

We’re still watching The Office, and we’re in season 6, which apart from Jim and Pam’s wedding, is a pretty unremarkable season. It’s starting to be a slog, but I think we’re both determined to finish it.

 

I’m hoping to get a few more movies in this next month (I’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s no way I’ll meet my year-end goal), and read some more titles on best of lists.

 

books and reading · pop culture

September Recap

September was a busy month, which meant considerably less reading and watching of all sorts of things. Here’s how the month turned out:

Books:

Total: 15
Picture Books: 6
Middle Grade: 1
YA: 4
Adult: 4
Fiction: 14
Non-Fiction: 1
Audiobooks: 1
Total Pages Read: 2169

Favorite Reads in September:

25062038Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert: Colbert’s sophomore novel about a girl back from boarding school for the summer who is grappling with her brother’s mental illness as well as her own burgeoning bisexuality could be a heavy-handed “issues” book, but it isn’t. The novel is actually an understated, compelling look at a bunch of things that happen when you grow up. It’s a strong second book, and Colbert continues to be an author to watch.

You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner: A 25701463compelling story about a deaf girl being mainstreamed at a hearing school after getting booted from her Deaf one, Gardner’s smart novel about street art, passion, and feeling like an angry outsider had me turning pages waiting to see how it shook out. I think this is one of the best YA books of the year and will resonate with a lot of readers.

Viewing

Total Movies: 3
New: 3
Re-Watch: 0

Favorite Movies in September: 

the_big_sickThe Big Sick: I loved loved loved this fictional take on Kumail Nanjiani and his now-wife Emily’s relationship when she got really sick with an infection. It’s funny, sweet, weird, and heartfelt, and I found it totally charming. I watched it twice in a row, I loved it so much. One of my favorite movies of the year, absolutely.

 

Other Things I’ve Been Watching:

I watched all of season 1 of The Good Place and absolutely loved it. I think it’s smart and funny and totally weird, and I can’t wait to get more into season 2.

We’re still watching The Office, and we’re in season 4, which is definitely a creative slump for the show. But there’s still some good stuff coming, so I’m hopeful the boyf will stick with it (his track record is not great when it comes to finishing shows.

I also watched 3 seasons of You’re the Worst and looooved it.

That’s it, really. I’m hoping to read more genre fiction in September, and try to squeeze in a few movies, too. My movie watching ratio is absymal.

books and reading · pop culture

July 2017 Recap

This is how the month of July shaped up for me in terms of reading books and watching movies (okay, a lot of TV).

Books:

Total:  51
Picture Books: 33
Middle Grade: 1
YA: 5
Adult: 12
Fiction: 46
Non-Fiction: 5
Audiobooks: 2
Total Pages Read: 5568

Favorite Reads in July:

 

32195204The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter: I’ve already extolled the virtues of this one, but it’s still a stand-out read for the month. I think it would make a great movie, too.

This House, Once by Deborah Freeman: A great picture 30312840book with sparse text and gorgeous illustrations. There was something so beautiful and simple about this one. I just loved it.

Perennials by Mandy Berman: I think this was a 32148219really strong debut, and Berman will be an author to watch. There’s a lot of good stuff here, and the characters have stayed with me long after I finished the book.

 

 

 

Viewing

Total Movies: 4
New: 4
Re-Watch: 0

Favorite Movies in July: okja
Okja: My mom emailed me after watching this late once night and told me I had to watch it immediately; then she called me that night to talk about it some more. So, I watched it. And I loved it. It’s sad and beautiful and weird and sneaky and wonderful. It’s definitely worth your 2 hours.

Other Things I’ve Been Watching:

I’ve been slowly slogging my way through ER Season 2, and that’s been an experience. Everyone looks so young, and every episode feels so long!

Because I’m a masochist, I’ve been rewatching Dawson’s Creek, mostly as background noise while I do other things. It’s still terrible, and every character is total garbage except for Pacey, and yet somehow I can’t quit it.

 

 

 

books and reading · pop culture

February 2017 Recap

This is how the month of February shook out for me. These are the things I watched and read:

Books:

Total:  39
Picture Books: 35
Middle Grade: 0
YA: 2
Adult: 2
Fiction: 37
Non-Fiction: 2
Audiobooks: 0
Total Pages Read: 2848

Favorite Reads in February:

23613983Run by Kody Keplinger: A lovely story about two best friends on a journey of self-discovery, this novel treated a slew of difficult topics with respect and care. Disabilities, GLBTQ issues, and socioeconomics are all explored in this novel, and Keplinger continues to grow as a writer. I really enjoyed this one.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems: A 490867lovely, funny, too-true story about a little girl and her stuffed rabbit. This one was a total hit at storytime, and I loved reading it on my own, too.

28818921Difficult Women by Roxane Gay: This short story collection, like virtually all short story collections, has some knock-out chapters and some forgettable ones, but on the whole it’s a captivating look at a bunch of deeply flawed, deeply human women. Not every story here works, and there are times when virtually all of the men in all of the stories are completely one-dimensional monsters, but on the whole it’s compelling stuff.

 

Movies:

Total: 5
New: 5
Re-Watch: 0

Favorite Movies in February: 
lion_ver5Lion: I ugly cried through most of this one, but on the whole I also loved it. Sunny Pawar is great as the young child in the first half of the film, and Dev Patel is great as the older version. There’s some gorgeous shots of scenery throughout the film, and the narrative is compelling enough that I placed a hold on the memoir that the film is based on.

My reading and watching of new movies was way down in February, which is disheartening. I can blame stress and life changes, but it’s also just laziness. I’m hoping that March is a better month for the consumption of new media, but since I’m also packing and planning a move for April 1, I’m not…optimistic.

books and reading · reviews

Best Books of 2015

 

These are the best books I read in 2015.  Links go to my review, if I wrote one.  Without further ado:

21853636All the Rage by Courtney Summers: I said in my review that Courtney Summers is a damn treasure, and that remains true.  Her writing grows and gets stronger with every novel she publishes, and this is her best one to date.  Gritty, raw, furiously angry, and emotionally resonant, this is a heart-stopper of a book that will grab readers and won’t let go until the last page is turned.  Put this in the hands of teenagers and adults alike, everywhere.  This one tackles rape culture, girl culture, and everything in between.

 

 

18369851Infandous by Elana K. Arnold: One of the most striking, disturbing novels I can remember reading in quite some time, Elana K. Arnold’s Infandous is not for the faint of heart.  It is, however, a huge success of a novel, full of absolutely gorgeous writing, solid characterization, and the all-too-real pain of growing up.  Interspersed in the narrative of Sephora Golden are versions of fractured fairy tales that will have readers clamoring to seek out other versions.  All of this works exceedingly well, resulting in a novel that is beautiful, upsetting, memorable, and kind of perfect.

18304322Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: Julie Murphy’s book is notable for many reasons, but perhaps it’s most noteworthy for its enormous heart.  Willowdean is a refreshing narrator, full of love for herself and her weird Texas town.  Full of heart, humor, and a ton of great romance, this is a fun read with a great message for teens, and it will be gobbled up by readers because it’s so much fun to read.  A true delight of a novel, Murphy is an author to keep an eye on.25330323

 

See You Next Tuesday by Jane Mai: I just
discovered Mai’s work in December, but she’s already made a huge impression on me.  Working from her own life, Mai crafts mini-comics about her depression, anxiety, bowel movements, and her dog, Stinky.  The result is a hilarious, sad, and brilliant look into a mind full of chaos.  Mai is one of my best discoveries of 2015, and I hope she publishes more work soon.

18659623Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: This is a graphic novel with teeth and more than a little bit of a bite.  Carroll wrote and illustrated all five stories in this collection, and she draws from folk and fairy tale, but provides sharp twists and takes on each of the stories.  Creepy, memorable, and wholly engrossing, the illustrations are striking and the sparse prose will keep readers up at night.  This is a lot of fun and offers a lot to think about late into the night.