Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read in 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is:

Top Ten Books I Read in 2014

(in the order that I found them while searching my GoodReads page)

Boxers (Boxers & Saints, #1)Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know absolutely nothing about the Boxer Rebellion so Yang’s “Boxers & Saints” is really the introduction to this part of history for me. I haven’t read “Saints” yet though, so I’m not quite sure how fair it is to review this book alone. But I loved “Boxers”. Beautifully drawn and easy to understand. I will post more once I have read “Saints”.

Reality BoyReality Boy by A.S. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is a reason A.S. King gets my “favorite author” tag. She has yet to disappoint me when it comes to realistic fiction about young adults facing difficult situations. Notice I didn’t say difficult young adults or troubled teens. These are stories of good kids who have dealing with life as best as they can.

“Reality Boy” is about a young man who, as a child, was featured on a reality tv show and became infamous for defecating around his parents house. Now he is in high school, and as you read the story you find out about what happened in that house his entire life and how he is dealing with it now.

It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a tragic story. Gerald has been damaged by his family and it’s sad to read about how it all happened. This may not be my favorite of King’s books, but it is still a solid story. Adults and teens should read her books and sit down to discuss.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, #4)Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

World War I was hard to understand even when people were living through it. You sort of gloss over it in history classes because there is no clear-cut “bad guy” like in World War II. World War I was a mess, not only when it came to who was allied with who, but also because of all the new technology that was emerging so we had lots of different ways to kill each other.

Nathan Hale has managed to condense it all down to 124 pages and it works! I came into this book only knowing WWI from watching Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as a kid and basic high school history lessons. Even though it feels like he is being goofy, assigning different animals to each country really helped keep the players clear.

This is a fantastic introduction to The Great War, for kids, teens, or adults. I know I learned so much.

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein StoryThe Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek Tiwary
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a MUST read. Not just for Beatles fans, Brian Epstein’s story is still relevant today and even if you are not a huge fan of the Fab Four, you will enjoy this beautiful graphic novel biography.

I’m not sure what else to say about this book. It gave me so many feels, a roller coaster of emotions and by the final page, I was starting to get a little choked up. Even though I knew how it all ended, it was just so heart-breaking.

This is the 2014 Eisner Award Winner for best non-fiction graphic novels and it definitely deserved the award.

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you can LISTEN TO THIS BOOK. Having Wil Wheaton read this out loud may be the best thing that could have happened to this story. It is definitely written by a geek for a geek. If you grew up during the 80s or have a passion for classic video games, 80s movies, and geek culture, you will love this book. Otherwise, you might just be mildly amused by it.

The story itself is the usual hero story, the poor, uncool kid who manages to rise up against the evil empire. There’s a reason we see that story all the time though – it works. It speaks to us. And it is SO satisfying when it all ends, even if you knew it had to end the way it did. The journey is so much fun.

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very sweet book and a very quick read. It’s funny but I tend to not like these kinds of stories, but Zevin’s writing was very accessible and it was just the right length.

Perfect gift for the book-snob in your life with lots of references to literature and popular culture in the current book world.

SecondsSeconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t know what it was about “Seconds” but I just loved it. I think I loved how you don’t exactly love the main character, she has some major flaws (which is apparently O’Malley’s speciality – crafting characters I am both frustrated by but identify with too?)

Honestly, I didn’t know anything about this book except that it was the new Bryan Lee O’Malley and I loved going into it totally unaware and being surprised by the twists and turns.

SistersSisters by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another strong story from Raina Telgemeier’s childhood that will still strike a chord with tween today because siblings, especially little sisters, will always have a very unique dynamic. And growing up will never be easy. Plus a family road trip and reunion? Always traumatizing, no matter when it happened. Smile is still my favorite but Sisters is really good too.

Saga, Volume 3Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great entry in this series. This volume has lots of action and ties up a few plot lines while setting up some new ones. Staples art is fantastic, as always, and Vaughan manages to work in plenty of humor no matter how dire the situation.

Definitely considering buying these when they are published in hardcover sets.

UnSouled (Unwind, #3)UnSouled by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The thing that makes me LOVE the “Unwind” series is how Shusterman takes what could have been a one-note songs and turns it into a symphony. Even though this takes place in a not-so-distant future, everyone who reads this book will be forced to think about a variety of issues we are facing right now, every day.

While the seed of Unwind is the “what if the abortion war ended with people being allowed to get rid of their teenagers” as the story has progressed the theme has gone on to question science, war, leaders, government, terrorism and so much more. It’s what makes this series so disturbing yet so fantastic.

Of course, being that this is book 3, there was a lot of things being set up for the grand finale that will be book 4. Right now, this book gets a tentative 4 stars out of 5 because Book 4 will decide if this was all worth my while.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

I’m joining in on The Broke and the Bookish popular book blog meme Top Ten Tuesday. How could I resist making a list?

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2014

So, apparently this was the year of just reading sequels and new books by favorite authors because I don’t have a lot of new-to-me people. I did manage to throw together five authors who pleasantly surprised me this year.

(in the order that I saw them on my GoodReads list)

Gabrielle Zevin – I’d seen her books in the YA collection and had always meant to pick one up, but I’m happy my first experience with her writing was in the charming Stories Life of A.J. Fikry

Dana Simpson – I almost didn’t pick up Simpson’s bright pink book with a unicorn on the cover. I’m always suspicious of bright pink books. Then I noticed the Unicorn’s name was Heavenly Nostrils and it was blurbed by Peter Beagle…and I needed to know more!

Ernest Cline – He gets me.

B.J. Novak – I always liked him on The Office (US) so I really had to listen to his book of short stories.

Vivek TiwaryFifth Beatle blew me away on several levels, but the writing really made all the difference.

G.M. Berrow – This person writes the My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic children’s chapter books and does a wonderful job. I mean, it’s still a book targeted towards 2nd-4th graders but they are fun to read and there is so much there for fans.

Books read in November 2014

Books read in November 2014

You guys, I read not one but TWO grown-up books in November!!! I KNOW! Neither of them blew me away, but the fact that I managed to finish two novels targeted for adults…I feel so accomplished! It means I have at least two books I can now recommend to adults who ask for suggestions LOL.

Anyway, here is November’s list:

I Am JazzI Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a tricky book to write. The idea of gender identity for a child is not something easy to explain (not that it’s really that much easier for adults). I think the author did the best she could to get the idea across on a level that would make sense to another young child.

But, as other reviewers have said, she examples of why she must be a girl weren’t quite solid enough and I could see them confusing some younger readers who are comfortable with their gender but don’t like the things that they are “supposed to” according to the toy people. As a kid (and today still) I loved Star Wars, video games, action movies and Ninja Turtles but I didn’t have any gender identity issues.

It is hard to communicate what it must actually feel like for a transgendered child to know they are being treated as the wrong gender. This book does it’s best to get that across and I have to applaud the effort. Hopefully this will pave the way for even more titles with similar themes and issues to help young children start to understand the multicolor rainbow of a world we live in and maybe grow into more tolerant teens and adults.

My Little Pony: Rarity and the Curious Case of CharityMy Little Pony: Rarity and the Curious Case of Charity by G.M. Berrow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute story. Rarity is probably my least favorite pony so I wasn’t as engaged in her story, but it was cute and Rarity fans will love it. Adults will spot the Single-White-Pony story line coming from the start but it’s still a fun read for fans of the show.

Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!: A Gamer's AlphabetAttack! Boss! Cheat Code!: A Gamer’s Alphabet by Chris Barton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I saw this on the cart this morning and KNEW I would love it.

This is NOT an ABC concept book so you probably don’t want to buy it for that pre-reader. But if you have an elementary school gamer in your life, then this would make a fantastic gift (or a new geek parent).

Also, I love and adore Joey Spiotto’s artwork. Always have. His style is so easy to spot.

Gotham Central, Vol. 1: In the Line of DutyGotham Central, Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty by Ed Brubaker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That was an intense read. If the Gotham TV series had the same premise, I would actually be interested in it. Good cop drama.

Sam and Dave Dig a HoleSam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I cannot wait to use this for a preschool visit and see the kids’ reaction to Sam and Dave digging past the underground treasures. I love Klassen’s artwork. Plus, “spectacular” is such a great vocabulary word.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the CosmosStar Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cute picture book biography about the life of Carl Sagan. I love the art style. Great gift for the little astronomer in your life, or any child with an interest in space and reaching for the stars.

RevivalRevival by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this lost a star because of the hype and everyone saying it was a “return to form” for King. The bar is set very high when reviewers say things like that.

The book was very readable. I did actually finish it, as opposed to Mr. Mercedes which I started then set aside. King still writes very well, but the story I was hoping for came too late. And the ending felt like it would have been better suited for a short story or novella instead of a 400 page novel.

Not his best, but not his worst. I just wanted so much more.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Volume 1My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Volume 1 by Katie Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This comic is great for kid and adult fans of the My Little Pony series. Katie Cook includes lots of little inside jokes that only older fans will get (there is an EVIL DEAD reference!!) but the story will appeal to anyone who has enjoyed this series. SO MUCH FUN!

The FuriesThe Furies by Natalie Haynes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars really. I’m not sure how to categorize this book or even rate it really. The fact that I finished an adult book is a pretty big deal for me since I tend to stay in YA. But I really did enjoy Natalie Haynes’ writing style and the story did pull me in. I sorta knew where it was going by about halfway through, but then I kept reading because I wanted to know the specifics.

Star Wars Force Awakens trailer thoughts

Teaser Trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I can’t help it, I’m so giddy. I am staying optimistic about this, I am hoping that this will be a labor of love from the crew.

Just hearing those main titles and realizing I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS STORY IS ABOUT makes me happy.

(though I am a little concerned with that Sith’s lightsaber…I mean, those exhaust vents on the side seem unsafe…he might chop is OWN arm off…)

Now just to wait a year…

quick thoughts: Dragon Age Inquisition

Meet Allora! She’s my Dalish Elf Rogue in Dragon Age Inquisition.

I’ve managed to log several hours in DAI now and the size of this game is a bit overwhelming. I feel like the Bioware team spent the last few years playing through the Bethesda games after they were finished crying over all the ME3 hatemail and trying to figure out how to top themselves. At times, I worry the game is too big, that it took too many pages from the Oblivion/Skyrim gamer’s guide instead of just being a Dragon Age game. We will see how I feel once the story is over.

So far, I’m really enjoying the game. There are a few things I’m not quite sure they changed (um…being able to choose stats? wha?) and a few things I’m underwhelmed by (I can’t get excited about crafting items, feels too much like work) but overall I’m having fun. I’ve died a LOT but the world is so open that it’s easy to just walk away from an area for awhile and level up a bit before facing it all again.

***SPOILERS BELOW THIS LINE****

Continue reading

what I’ve been watching…

We are all caught up on Parks and Rec now. OMG THE FEELS! I can’t believe there are only 13 episodes left.

I have to say, those six seasons may have had a few rough spots. but overall it is a fantastic show. It’s smart and funny and poignant and omg I am going to cry SO HARD when that finale airs for the same reason I was a mess when the Angel finale aired. I won’t just be mourning the end of the show itself, but the end of a place a on TV where I felt I belonged, writers that got me. Are there any other shows on TV right now that are on the same wavelength???

I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls, then writing up discussion posts for and then utterly failing to comment on my own posts!!! **sigh** But I really am enjoying being back in Stars Hollow. I keep meaning to get my thoughts down but…Xbox.

We started watching the anime Noragami, which is streaming on Netflix. It’s about a “stray god” and his search to find some worshippers. It’s relatively light, though you can sense a certain darkness waiting around the corner. I’m not a huge anime watcher but I’m really enjoying this one. We also started Kill la Kill last week but our friend Mathew wants to watch that with us, so we have to wait until Thursday to continue that one. It feels like the sibling of FLCL, though slightly more linear. ONLY slightly.

2015 is going to be an epic TV year. P&R finale, Justified finale, Hannibal returns, Community returns and, of course, Game of Thrones will be back!