Books Read in 2014: Greatest Hits

First – thank you Dunc for posting a list just like this: stuff she wanted to mention sans any sort of ranking or premade form. I do not read enough to create a list of best books of the year or anything like that. So this is just about ME! And it’s my blog so why not!

These are all of the books I read this year (well, I didn’t put all the picture books down because that list would be insane…).

And here are the stand out titles:

Book I Picked Up But I’m Not Sure Why: Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
I’ve always liked Alan Cumming but I’m not a rabid fan or anything. But for some reason when I got wind of his memoir, I put myself on the hold list for it. And when it arrived on my desk at work, I felt compelled to read it. And I did, in under 3 weeks which for me is pretty good. He manages to take a very personal story, a story that could just be one of woe and misery, and transform it into one of overcoming and making the best of things. I couldn’t put it down.

Book Everyone Loved and I thought I would hate it but…I loved it!: Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
If Stephanie hadn’t told me to pick this one up, I probably would have ignored it. I tend to find when review sites are raving about books that take place in bookstores, I am underwhelmed. But she convinced me to read it and the books can only be described as charming. Lots of in jokes for book fans.

Books I Learned a LOT From: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood AND Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat
Both of these books have a target audience of middle grade readers but I learned a heck of a lot from reading them! ‘Treaties’ is about World War I, which is glossed over in most textbooks because, let’s face it, it was a clusterf*ck. Hale manages to show the confusion but also make it a bit clearer. It was quite an endeavor, trying to cram that entire conflict into one book, bu the managed to do it.
‘Red Madness’ will give you all the backstory on why our white breads are pumped full of random vitamins and also show how the more things change…the more they stay the same.

Material Elevated by Audiobook Narrator: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton
Seriously, the king of nerds reads a book about geek heroes playing video games in a virtual world? It was beautiful.

(Honorary Mention to Kristen Bell reading ‘Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line’ for not just reading the book but doing impersonations of her co-stars whenever possible).

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2014


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

Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2014 (books, blogging or otherwise)

1. My Goodreads Reading Goal for last year was 60 books and I managed to beat that goal! Now, granted, many of those books were graphic novels for children and picture books. But if I’m going to count such things, I should increase my goal!  So next year I’m going to take it up to 75!

2. Schedule more blog posts!  I am just now getting into the habit of scheduling these Top Ten Tuesday posts and it’s been a lot of fun knowing they would go up each week and that this blog wasn’t sitting empty. I definitely want to keep participating in this weekly meme and maybe add a few more to the list.

3. Update my website! This has been on my to-do list for over a year now, whoops!  I mean, look at this poor thing, it’s just SAD!  If anything, I should just make one of my blogs live at the URL…though which one???

4. Stay more up to date on what is going on in the world…and mostly I think I just might start watching ‘The Daily Show’ again. The real world is depressing but I really need to be aware of what is happening, especially with elections on the horizon.

5. Cook at least one new thing a month…then blog about it? Okay, maybe just the first part of that. My comfort level with cooking has grown exponentially over the past three years. Maybe I’ll start pestering friends for easy to medium difficulty recipes I can try out.

6. More “professional” blog posts. I have another WordPress blog that is supposed to be where I post about Librarian kinda things. And I have opinions but I just tend to share them with co-workers but I really need to post more there than just storytime plans. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Just wish there was a helpful meme like this one for librarian posts…maybe I can start one!

7. Along those same lines, type up some more professional looking book reviews, especially for those random picture books I flip through all the time. When I was working on my MLS I took a class that taught me how to write professional reviews! I should put that to good use.

8. Sell some stuff. I have a lot of stuff. I am a collector of things. Not a hoarder, but I tend to get excited about tv shows or movies and buy ALL THE THINGS. And then years pass and I’m sorta over it. Most of what I want to sell are Star Wars prequel items that I bought during midnight madness things. Won’t get a ton of money, but any money would be good.

9. BUY A HOUSE. This is a big huge goal for this year. I’m so done with apartment living. I know that owning a house is a lot of responsibility, but I would be willing to take that on for all the perks of not sharing a wall and a floor with other people. It’s not that I am particularly loud, but I want to be able to play Dance Central and Rock Band and not worry about bothering anymore…except Tim. Oh wait, I don’t worry about bothering him!

10. BUY A HOUSE! I know this is on there already but I can’t think of another one and this is a HUGE DEAL!!!!! So, yeah.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing This Year

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 Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing This Year

I will say upfront that, as a librarian and a slow reader, I don’t typically request books for Christmas. If you give me a book, it doesn’t have a due date, and therefore tends to fall to the bottom of the to-read pile. Seriously, doesn’t matter HOW much I want to read the book, owning it means I will never read it.

The kinds of books I have on my wishlist are ones that I want for my collection, so they are usually very pretty, sometimes pricey, and a bit more for perusing rather than reading. So if Santa must stop by the bookstore, these are the titles I would love for him to search for:

I collect non-fiction titles about Joss Whedon and his works and there were a few published this year I would like to have:

Joss Whedon: The Biography

Joss Whedon: A Creative Portrait by David Lavery

Reading Joss Whedon by Rhonda Wilcox

If I really like a graphic novel, I tend to want it in hardcover to keep forever:

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Saga Deluxe Hardcover Edition by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Volume 4

And I have a soft spot for collector’s editions in any of my major fandoms:

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller (Jim Henson Archives Series)

Adventure Time Totally Math Poster Collection

Books that teach me to make stuff:

Tequila Mockingbird

Technically not a book, but based on a book!

BBC Radio: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere

Christmas Viewing, Day 1

Put lights and Tinkerbell up on the tree. Will decorate for reals when everyone is here tomorrow. #christmas #tinkerbell #decorations #disney

I have so been in denial about the holiday season. December has flown by and the weather in Maryland has been unusually warm. I just haven’t been in the holiday spirit. I did get all my shopping done and I’ve had a tree in the apartment for two weeks now. It was a totally naked tree with no ornaments on it, but it was here! But tonight, we put the ornaments up! And with only six days left until Christmas, it felt like it was time to break out the Christmas episodes! And because I’m a blogger, I feel compelled to share it with you!

Phineas and Ferb: A Christmas Vacation

Short Summary: Phineas and Ferb plan an elaborate “thank you” gift to Santa but it all seems for naught after Dr. Doofenshmirtz uses his evil ray to put everyone on Danville on the Naught List!

Thoughts: The best cartoon series the Disney Channel has ever produced, this Christmas special is as fun as any episode of Phineas and Ferb. Lots of humor for kids and adults. No real religious themes, this episode was more about actually saying Thank You to Santa and appreciating the gift givers.

Parks and Recreation: Christmas Scandal

Short Summary: Leslie is pulled into a sex scandal with local congressman, meaning she has to lay low for awhile. The P&R crew attempt to handle her day to day schedule on have some difficulties doing a good job.

Thoughts: Christmas is more of a backdrop to this episode. The main event that Leslie is excited about is the Christmas tree lighting and April tries to figure out what gift to give Andy. But really the holiday takes a backseat in this one and focuses more on the ridiculous coverage of the scandal that never happened. Hilarious as always, but not heavy on the holiday themes.

Psych: Gus’ Dad may have killed an old guy

Short Summary: Gus’ parents are upset that he is still friends with Shawn. When they are suspects in a murder, Gus and Shawn decide the best way to prove that they are “mature” adults is to use his “psychic” powers to solve the case and get them off the hook. Also, it’s Christmas.

Thoughts: Another episode with a Christmas backdrop, but still a lot of fun to watch. The side plots of Juliet inviting Lassiter over for Christmas are hilarious. And Shawn and his Dad’s little “guess the gift” game is cute. Again, the holiday itself doesn’t play a huge part but it’s a well written episode with a good mystery.

Raising Hope: Toy Story

Short Summary: Jimmy and Burt sell “Baby Sneezes” dolls way over market value, Virginia obsesses over getting Hope into the “Living Nativity” – hilarity ensues.

Thoughts: This show has always surprised me with it’s crassness and sweetness. This episode is no exception with some really funny moments. The Christmas holiday plays a major role and so does our culture’s obsession with the “hot toy” and status.

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.