Monthly Archives: December 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten of 2013

toptentuesdayThe Topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Books I Read In 2013. It was particularly hard to narrow it down this year, so I broke it into handy categories.

Debut Author

1. Suzanne Rindell- The Other Typist

16158600 I love novels with twisted characters, and this one definitely delivered.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Helene Wrecker- The Golem and the Jinni

15819028One of the most astonishing books I’ve read in recent memory, I just want to gush about it all of the time. It takes two characters from disparate cultures and uses them to tell a gorgeous, haunting, and thoroughly American story.

 

 

 

 

 

Short Story

3. Karen Russell- Vampires in the Lemon Grove

13531832Karen Russell can do no wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya- There Once Lived A Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself

15808782Amazing title, amazing stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nonfiction

5. Reza Aslan- Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

17568801A deft and moving exploration of the human Jesus, before he was Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Robert Kolker- Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

16248146A compelling and tragic mystery that humanizes women who are easy to stereotype and marginalize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sci-Fi/Fantasy

7. N.K. Jemisin- The Killing Moon

11774272I didn’t read nearly as much fantasy as I’m used to this year, but this is an incredible world and Jemisin is one of my new favorite authors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. John Scalzi- Redshirts

13055592Absolutely hysterical.

 

 

 

 

 

Literary/General

9. Adam Johnson- The Orphan Master’s Son

13641972Ah. Maze. Ing. Seriously, if you read one book off this entire list, read this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Louise Erdrich- The Round House

13602426A devastating and beautiful coming of age story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And oh, who am I kidding, of course there were more than ten. Here are my runners-up:

Mary Robinette Kowal- The Glamourist Histories (1-3), Kazuo Ishiguro- The Remains of the Day, Stacey Schiff- Cleopatra: A Life, Tanith Lee- The Silver Metal Lover, Justin Cronin- The Twelve, Courtney Milan- The Duchess War, Rainbow Rowell- Eleanor & Park, Cassandra Clare- Clockwork Princess, Marissa Meyer- Scarlet, Bill Bryson- A Short History of Nearly Everything

It’s a listing time of year. What were your faves?

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Christmas Deals

I was given some giftcards for Christmas, which means I plugged them right into my Nook and have been looking at ebooks all morning. (I refuse to spend more than about 6 dollars for an ebook, so gift cards are my best friend). And so far I’ve found two really great deals to pass on to you all.

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and Crewel by Gennifer Albin are both 2.99 on Nook and Kindle!

Shadow and Bone is the first book of the Grisha series:

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Crewel is the first book of the Crewel World series:

Incapable. Awkward. Artless. That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: She wants to fail. Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and used her hidden talent for a moment. Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her dad’s jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because tonight, they’ll come for her.

Both these books have rave reviews and I’ve been wanting to read them for a long time. I have no idea how long this price will last (both of their sequels are more expensive), so get them soon!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Things I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me

toptentuesday

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is the top ten bookish things I wouldn’t mind Santa bringing me. I’ve really got to work on my nerdy librarian closet, and there’s lots of other book related swag I’d love to have. Santa, are you listening?

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1. This cardigan.

2. This dress.

3. This skirt. 

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4. This cuff. 

5. This necklace. 

6. Mini direwolf!

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7. Shakespearean Insults mug

8. This shirt. 

9. This print. 

10. Subscriptions to Poets & Writers and Writer’s Digest, and various other magazines that I always mean to subscribe to but then get lazy about.

What kind of book swag do you need in your life?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite New Authors

toptentuesday

The subject of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten authors new to me in 2013.  I read a lot of new to me authors in 2013. Some of them I immediately read a second time, a third, a fourth. Two of them had my favorite debuts of the year, and I can’t wait to see what they write next.

1. Kate Atkinson

2. N. K. Jemisin

3. Mary Robinette Kowal

4. Courtney Milan

5. Jo Nesbo

6. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

7. Suzanne Rindell

8. Rainbow Rowell

9. John Scalzi

10. Helene Wrecker

Who are the best authors you were introduced to this year?

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Book Talk: Stuck in a Rut

{In which I haven’t finished or enjoyed a book for way too long, and so I babble and use a bunch of gifs.}

Ok, so I guess I’m stuck in a rut.

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I usually finish about two books a week. But so far in December I’ve only finished two total, and one was a reread of The Hunger Games, which barely counts. It’s not that I’m not reading. I have an insane TBR pile, and I’m slowly making my way through. But I can’t seem to finish anything, and it’s driving me crazy.

Part of it is that I’ve spent half of this month sitting in doctors offices. Part of it is the holidays– there’s plenty of shopping and baking and wrapping to do. But most of it is that I just can’t seem to find a book that catches my interest for more than two seconds.

The rest of it is that I’m tackling this monster:

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When I saw this crazy, crazy title, I knew that I had to check this out. Little did I know that instead of being a parody of any kind, Nietz plays the premise straight. It’s also published by a Christian science fiction imprint, which is a whole breed of the industry I never anticipated existing. As such, it’s fascinating–there’s a lot of interesting culture clashes and philisophical debates going on. But this sucker is long. 622 pages of long, and not in a little mass market either, but in full on trade paperback. It’s like Russian-novel sized Amish vampire adventures, and no matter how much I read it never seems to make a dent.

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Plus, while I’m academically interested, it’s kind of…not that good? I honestly can’t decide whether I like it or not, and keep making pros and cons lists. On the pro list, it’s clear the Nietz actually researched and thought about causes and effects of vamparism. It isn’t blanantly anti-science like some Christian titles I’ve come across. And as I mentioned before the culture clash between a very insular, isolated people and the cosmopolitan universe-hoppers they are forced to rely on for help has a lot of interesting dramatic payoffs.

As for the cons. There is a ton of information about the Amish faith, and it is boring as all get out. There’s a reason I don’t read Amish romance after all. And the big one. A character who works on the ship, about halfway through, boldly declares to her love interest that, alone in their athiestic society, she is a Christian. Not one of those crazy wild Amish types. The RIGHT type of Christian. And then she starts to evangalize.

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My buttons. You just hit all of them.

I loathe books that preach to me. I want to stop reading. I want to stop reading so much. But I promised I would finish it, and I’m actually kind of interested in how the vampire part of the plot resolves, despite myself. So all in all, I’m thinking way too much about this stupid book and it’s giving me headaches and nothing else on my reading radar seems willing to come to my rescue.

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I’m partway through N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms for the readalong being hosted by The Little Red Reviewer. And I’m enjoying it. But it is a dense book and I’m finding difficult to get lost in it, or stay reading more than a few chapters at a time. My awesome brother got me a bunch of used books at a used book sale where he lives, but I’m having guilt about ignoring things that have been on my TBR shelf since before I moved–eight months ago. And the library books. Oh god, I’m drowning in library books. All of them I want to read, but none I want to read right now.

So, what do you do when you get into a book rut? Switch up genres? Go back to old favorites? Completely give up and go binge on Scandal?

Yeah. Probably that last one, honestly.

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Review: Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir

cover34984-mediumTitle: Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World

Author: Alison Weir

Rating: 4 stars

Elizabeth of York is hot property right now. I don’t know what confluence of events occured this year, but the long overlooked Elizabeth of York is the subject of Philippa Gregory’s popular new novel The White Princess, featured in the BBC/STARZ series The White Queen (based on Gregory’s Cousins’ War series of novels), and now is the subject of a new biography by Alison Weir, billed as the first modern biography on the subject.

I was predisposed to enjoy Elizabeth of York. When it comes to nonfiction, my two favorite things to read are histories of the Wars of the Roses and biographies of queens and other female leaders. And I’ve enjoyed books by Weir before, including The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Eleanor of Acquataine: A Life, The Princes in the Tower, and The Wars of the Roses. Elizabeth of York is as well crafted as these others, and sheds light on a figure who is often ignored in favor of her more infamous contemporaries and descendants. So I was glad to find Elizabeth of York as engaging as I hoped.

Elizabeth of York is certainly easy to overlook. Despite being seen by many as the rightful claimant to the English throne after the disappearance–and murder–of her two younger brothers, there was no question at the time of her ruling in her own right, and it is easy to see her as a passive pawn in the game between Richard III and Henry Tudor that ended with the establishment of the Tudor dynasty.

But through her interpretation of the available evidence, Weir argues that Elizabeth was more political than she is given credit for. She was not immune to the plots and schemes of the age, and worked diligently to make sure that she would end up on top no matter who won the contest between her uncle Richard and Henry. Once she was safe in her queenship, she did not make waves, and Weir submits that this, too, was political expediency, and not just a factor of Elizabeth’s kind, demure personality.

Unfortunately, even with this argument, it was hard not to see Elizabeth as a little bit…well, boring. Her mother, Elizabeth Wydeville, and mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort, were much larger forces of personality. Pretenders to the throne claiming to be her youngest brother kept popping up to steal the focus of the story away. And Elizabeth was so pleasant and quiet that she was often in danger of becoming a background character in her own story.

What Weir does best with this book, I think, is handle the second part of the title, a Tudor Queen and her world. The domestic realities of the Tudor court are presented here in a way perhaps better than I’ve ever seen before. There’s an immediacy to the worldbuilding (I borrow the term from genre fiction, but I think it’s easily as valid to describe setting a historical scene) that makes these people seem as if they lived yesterday, instead of five hundred years ago. Details such as what they wore, ate, and built could easily have been boring, but there was significance to be found in every inventory list, in every account book.

The realities of marriage between Elizabeth and Henry VII were also fascinating. Henry VII was a contradictory man. He was intensely proud, and insistent that he been seen as King in his own right, rather than by his marriage to the Yorkist heir. He was insecure on his throne, yet the founder of one of the best known dynasties in Western history. And while he is often portrayed as dour, suspicious, and cold, Weir argues that the marriage between him and Elizabeth eventually grew to one of mutual admiration and affection. A faithful and fruitful marriage is certainly not the first thing one thinks of when thinking of the Tudors, and it was interesting to see their relationship in that light.

If you’re at all interested in the Tudor world, you are going to like this book. If you are beginner in the era, there are perhaps more exciting subjects to start with. But it’s past time for Elizabeth to get some spotlight of her own, and there’s a lot to like about this biography.

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