Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 book 202

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
OK, so you all know I am a major HP fan, like I even like the epilogue and don't mind that everyone marries the person they started dating at like age 15. But I will forever give side-eye to the major Invisibility Cloak-related retconning here. And don't even get me started on Dumbledore. Even in death, Dumbledore gives rambling exposition-filled crybaby speeches. I would like him so much more if an editor had had a slightly heavier hand here! And Snape just can't be redeemed--fine, he (and Draco) aren't purely evil, but they are still both total jerkfaces. High five for awesome lady battle scenes though. And for a world so rich and full that it makes me wonder if they have like, wizard optometrists. (Where does Harry get new glasses from?? Can wizards just fix eyesight? Wand laser eye surgery?)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 book 201

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I think my feelings about this book are still a little bit colored by being so rudely spoiled before it came out, though I do appreciate how well Rowling matches up teenage hormonal drama with a big ol' exposition dump. It's all very gripping, despite a few moments of melodrama (I hate when Dumbledore gets all teary and cheesy). Sometimes I wish this series was told from Hermione's point of view--wouldn't that be hilarious, especially here?

Monday, December 26, 2016

2016 book 200

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Sometimes I like this book more than others--sometimes I can't deal with CAPS LOCK TEEN ANGST HARRY POTTER, and sometimes the message of resistance really resonates with me. This was . . . one of the latter times.  Plus, the introductions of Luna and Tonks, more screen time and badassery from Ginny and Neville, and a lovely poignant ending all combine for a very satisfying reading experience.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016 book 199

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I guess it shouldn't surprise us that Rowling started a mystery series after the Harry Potter books--this one in particular is structured JUST like a classic mystery novel, which I think is why it's so strong. But packed with lots more magical adventures, of course, which makes it even better!

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 book 198

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Remember when we were all waiting ages and ages for book 5 to come out, and had endless debates over which HP book was best? And I think a lot of us thought book 4 was "better" but that this one was our FAVORITE. It's where Rowling really starts to expand the wizarding world and its backstory, and also it is just awesomely action-packed (and Hermione gets to shine!). I admit that the werewolf revelation was never a shock to me--I took Latin in middle school, and we all had Latin names (I perpetually added on to mine, so by the end of 8th grade my Latin name was Claudia Olivia Lana Diana Saturnia Aventina Frumentumvir), and one of my good friends was [Latin version of her first name] with the middle name Lupa. And we used to draw little wolf faces on our notes. So if there was one word from Latin class I remembered, it was the word for wolf (and "Remus"--come on! be a little subtle!!). It doesn't matter, this book fits together so well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 book 197

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Closing out the year by rereading some Harry Potter seems like a fine idea to me. I actually plan to reread the series fairly often but then am like, eh, I don't wanna reread Chamber of Secrets, and then I just stop! Because I'm a completist, and because there's so much here that's important for the later books so I can't just skip it, but also there are so many annoying parts in this one. I mean, I reread the first one back in September and am just now getting to this one, AND it took me a few days to read. This book needs more Hermione!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Favorite stuff of 2016!

2016 was not a great year by any stretch of the imagination, but there were some bright spots.

I did read a lot of really good books this year, but not many that I flat-out LOVED. So first up, here are my top five favorite books of 2016--plus two more that will be released in early 2017! And then some other things I loved this year. :)

Top Five Fave Books (+2!)
-- Louise Erdrich's LaRose
-- Melina Marchetta's Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
-- Maggie Nelson's The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial
-- Emma Straub's Modern Lovers
-- Jacqueline Woodson's Another Brooklyn

Plus two:
-- Kayla Rae Whitaker's The Animators
-- Shannon Hale and Dean Hale's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World

Top Five Fave Albums
-- Eric Bachmann, Self-titled
-- Beyonce, Lemonade
-- A Giant Dog, Pile
-- Lady Gaga, Joanne
-- Ladyhawke, Wild Things

Top Five Comics
(I am seriously behind on my comics to-read pile, so I am probably missing something awesome that came out in 2016--oh well!)
-- Ghosts (by Raina Telgemeier)
-- Lumberjanes (ongoing)
-- March (by John Lewis et al)
-- Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (ongoing)
--The Wicked and the Divine (ongoing)

And finally . . .

Number One Clothing Item Purchased
-- Sherpa cardigan from The Gap. So freaking cozy.

Oh, and also this. We all need comfort food to cuddle in these troubled times.

Monday, December 12, 2016

2016 book 196

Elle Katharine White's Heartstone
I don't know why I keep trying to read these reworkings of classic texts--I always get distracted comparing the new version to the original (and usually finding the former wanting) and can't get caught up in the story. When I heard that a Pride-and-Prejudice-with-dragons had made the LibraryReads list, I thought maybe this would be good--maybe it would be more Jo Walton and less Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But it is more in the mold of the latter--the characters are all themselves but with vaguely fantasy-ish names (Aliza and Leyda Bentaine instead of Elizabeth and Lydia Bennet, Darcy is Daired, etc), and the high-class people ride dragons and fight gryphons and whatnot. Maybe I would have liked this more if it used the source material somewhat subtly, but it sure didn't.  And White takes out all the funny parts! Things do pick up toward the end--but that's Austen's doing, not White's, who adds in a heap of dragon-battle-drama that I wasn't super interested in--though the Wickham-character stuff worked better in this than in some other versions I've read. Anyway, this is fine or whatever, but I'd recommend sticking to the original. B.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in January.

Friday, December 09, 2016

2016 book 195

L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle
Nicole Cliffe was tweeting about this book a couple months ago, so of course I immediately wanted to reread it--it's one of my childhood favorites--but Christina suggested we read it in our book club, so I held off. I am interested to see how our book club likes it--three of us are like serious stans for it, and the others are totally unfamiliar. One friend actually texted me recently to say "Valancy is a major downer, I am 20 percent in, should I keep going?" and I was like . . . yeah . . . but on this reread I see that Valancy doesn't get more awesome till right after that! So I hope she read on. Anyway, I have read this many many times and still love it--though I always wonder what made Valancy the L.M. Montgomery character I related to most, even when I was a kid. Like . . . hm. But anyway, I love this story and I love the little funny bits. It makes me want to go hang out in the woods in Canada and look at nature. Valancy 4-eva!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

2016 book 194

Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns
Blake's latest has a premise that feels like a lot of other books I've read recently (particularly Sarah Beth Durst's Queen of Blood): it's a fantasy world where the queen always gives birth to triplet daughters, each with a magical gift, and when they are sixteen, one becomes the new queen and kills her sisters. But when you are reading library e-books, sometimes you end up reading something you might not otherwise choose. Anyway, I found parts of this fairly gripping and parts super cheesy--I was entirely uninterested in the love triangle presented here, but liked the two underdog sisters and their friends pretty well. The end was mostly very frustrating, but I guess I am intrigued enough to read the followup when it comes out. B/B+.

2016 book 193

Jordan Stratford's The Case of the Missing Moonstone
I borrowed this first book in the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series (which features young Ada Lovelace and young Mary Shelley solving crimes together--an author's note does explain how this is historically inaccurate in every way, but sure) from a local almost-nine-year-old. She told me, "I solved the mystery pretty early on, so I bet you will too, but it's a good story anyway." Thank you for your confidence in my detective skills, local child! Anyway, she was right--the mystery is not at all hard to figure out, but this is a fairly enjoyable story--perhaps more for almost-nine-year-olds than thirtysomethings, though. Like as an adult, I thought it was creepy that Percy Shelley is the tutor of the girls here (Mary has been aged down, but he has not)--although their future marriage isn't mentioned, an adult obviously knows about it and can't help but be weirded out. I guess in the end (and because of the end!) I was more annoyed by the (many) historical inaccuracies than charmed by a pair of girl detectives. B.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

2016 book 192

Rachel Aaron's No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished
The third Heartstrikers book has more complicated dragon/family/magical politics, and then brings governmental politics in to boot. I think it suffers a little from having the two main characters largely apart for the majority of the book, though appreciated getting to see more from various lady dragons as a result (I enjoy all the dragon sibling relationships). This does also have a little more speechifying than I might usually want in a fantasy series (like, shut up and get on with the plot), but it's still good fun. And as usual, Aaron sticks the landing, leaving me eager to read the fourth one whenever it's released. B/B+.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

2016 book 191

Rachel Aaron's One Good Dragon Deserves Another
The second book in Aaron's Heartstrikers series (after Nice Dragons Finish Last) is more of the entertaining same: lots of dragon politics (and family politics), magic, action, adventure, etc. It felt a bit overstuffed at one point but Aaron does a good job tying all the threads together for a pretty great ending. I am looking forward to the third. B/B+.