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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

my favourite reads of 2017

I surpassed my reading goal of 50 books this year. As  of writing this post I have read  94. Granted some of those were picture books (early in the year), I did read a lot more than I have in the last couple of years. Less stress, more time, and a  job that reminds  me how much I love books, has helped with this number.

My Goodreads stats tell me:

  • I read 18,723 pages in total.
  • My shortest book was I Need a Hug by Aaron Blabey (24  pages)
  • My longest book was Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb (853 pages)

There have been a few books that stood out to me this year. Thought I’d list them here for  posterity’s sake. (And maybe to make it look like I update my blog more than once every 2 months…)

Favourite Fiction Novel

Ginny Moon
by Benjamin Ludwig

Meet Ginny. She’s fourteen, autistic, and has a heart-breaking secret…

Ginny Moon is trying to make sense of a world that just doesn’t seem to add up. After years in foster care, Ginny is in her fourth forever family, finally with parents who will love her. Everyone tells her that she should feel happy, but she has never stopped crafting her Big Secret Plan of Escape.

Because something happened, a long time ago – something that only Ginny knows – and nothing will stop her going back to put it right… (goodreads.com)

You probably all  remember how much love I had for this novel. I still get shivers when I talk about it to another person. I think this is the best book I read all year. Another book came close, but Ginny Moon stood out over all 94 books. This novel is amazing.

Favourite Middle Grade Novel

Let’s Pretend We Never Met
by Melissa Walker

If it were up to Mattie Markham, there would be a law that said your family wasn’t allowed to move in the middle of the school year. After all, sixth grade is hard enough without wondering if you’ll be able to make new friends or worrying that the kids in Pennsylvania won’t like your North Carolina accent.

But when Mattie meets her next-door neighbor and classmate, she begins to think maybe she was silly to fear being the “new girl.” Agnes is like no one Mattie has ever met—she’s curious, hilarious, smart, and makes up the best games. If winter break is anything to go by, the rest of the school year should be a breeze.

Only it isn’t, because when vacation ends and school starts, Mattie realizes something: At school Agnes is known as the weird girl who no one likes. All Mattie wants is to fit in (okay, and maybe be a little popular too), but is that worth ending her friendship with Agnes? (goodreads.com)

I read a lot of fantastic MG novels this year, although Let’s Pretend We Never Met stands out over the rest. I don’t normally like contemporary novels, but Melissa Walker has a knack for aiming straight to my heart with her writing. It’s certainly something when a story can make me cry, and it doesn’t have to do with an animal. This story is a wonderful one about the struggles of friendship and growing up. It’s honest, funny, and well-crafted.

Favourite YA Fantasy

The Hazel Wood
by Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away?by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began?and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong. (goodreads.com)

This book comes out at the end of January but I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of it through work. The story is a dark, folk-tale that had me holding my breath through the entire read. It has twists and turns I was not expecting. I cannot wait to buy it when it comes out. As I read the novel, I kept thinking of another dark, folk-tale I loved, Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Although this particular book is YA, and Novik’s book is classified as Fantasy (adult), I still think people who read Uprooted would enjoy The Hazel Wood.

Favourite Sci-Fi / Dystopian (adult/YA)

Red Rising (book 1)
by Pierce Brown

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so. (goodreads.com)

Red Rising is a complicated addition to this list. It can fall into many categories. For the year I have been working at the bookstore, this series has been recommended to me multiple times by multiple people. I refused to try it out. Why? Because I don’t LIKE Science Fiction stories. I like fantasy. I don’t like space, and aliens and stuff. But earlier this month while I was in library picking up another book, this series was on the shelf beside it. I thought, “What the heck”, and picked up the first book. WOAH. I loved it almost instantly. The first book is closer to a dystopian novel than a sci-fi one. Books two and three of the trilogy are more sci-fi, but halfway through Red Rising I knew I was in for the long haul. These books are so well written, and the world so well crafted, that after I finished all three novels, I wasn’t able to read a few  other books I tried because I felt they were written poorly.  Something I probably would not have noticed (or minded) had I not just read three books with such rich, well-crafted writing. I admitted to my coworkers that they were right, and I was wrong. This series was fantastic.

Favourite Picture Book

Pete With No Pants
by Rowboat Watkins

Meet Pete.

Pete is gray. He’s round. And he’s not wearing any pants.

So Pete must be a boulder. Or is he a pigeon? Or a squirrel? Or a cloud?

Join Pete in his quest to answer the world’s oldest question: Why do I have to wear pants? Wait, that’s the second oldest.  (goodreads.com)

I have a slight elephant obsession. (Cue collective  gasp of shock.) The cover art, and title of this book was enough for me to pick it up off the table at work as soon as we got it in. But the story itself is hilarious, charming, and warm-hearted. The illustrations are gorgeous and this hazy, soft, calming colouring. I bought this book for myself. I love Pete. And I, too, often question why I need to wear pants.

*-*-*-*-*

I read a lot of  good books this year. I did not finish more than normal. I feel a lot less guilty not continuing with a book I am not enjoying. In fact, I have found I am much pickier with my reads than I have been in the past. I no longer have patience for those cookie cutter plots. If I start a new book and feel like I have already read the story a million times, I’ll put it down and try another book. I didn’t used to be like this, although I have been out  of the reading game for a while. Now I want to appreciate what I am reading more than wanting to read what everyone else is reading. I have even abandoned some series I was following faithfully because I just couldn’t read the same story over and over. This might be a normal thing for most people, but it’s a newer thing for me.

What did you read this year that stood out among everything else you read in 2017?

Ginny Moon [book review]

Ginny Moon by Benjamin LudqigGinny Moon
by Benjamin Ludwig

Meet Ginny. She’s fourteen, autistic, and has a heart-breaking secret…

Ginny Moon is trying to make sense of a world that just doesn’t seem to add up. After years in foster care, Ginny is in her fourth forever family, finally with parents who will love her. Everyone tells her that she should feel happy, but she has never stopped crafting her Big Secret Plan of Escape.

Because something happened, a long time ago – something that only Ginny knows – and nothing will stop her going back to put it right… (goodreads.com)

I read this book over a month ago. I finished it in two evenings. I asked at work if calling in sick to finish the book would be a legitimate sick call. After all, I do work in a bookstore. Shouldn’t we get reading days? heh

I have been wanting to write about Ginny Moon since I finished it, but I couldn’t. This novel left me so breathless and in a state of, I don’t know, frozen in place sort of thing. It was an amazing book. I fell completely in love with Ginny’s voice as she told her story. I was turning pages like my life depended on reading this book to stay alive. I laughed. I was scared at times. I didn’t know who to trust. I switched between loving, and disliking, Ginny so often, but in the end, I always came back to love.

I first found out about this book because we had an announcement in the staff room at work – Staff Pick of the Month is Ginny Moon. The title alone resonated with me. Was it a name? A place? I have an instant interest in books with names like Gemma., Ginny, G-names, in the title. And the word “moon”. I love the moon. And then a few weeks later the book showed up in-store. The book has deckled pages (the ripped-looking edges of the paper.) The cover is a bright, bold reddish-orange. It called to me. I picked up the book to read the inside flap and…three sentences into the summary I knew I was buying it on my break. That night I started reading. The rest, as they say, I just told you about at the start of this post!

I knew that physically the book connected with me. I was beyond thrilled when a couple of pages into the first chapter I knew that the story itself was going to consume me. Ginny is 14 years old, and has autism. Her voice is so crisp and unique in the telling of her story. I don’t think I have ever experienced a novel with narration like Ginny’s. There is a never-ending sense of urgency in her voice. She’s a rather unreliable narrator and I didn’t know how to take her actions at all. Sometimes I felt she was sincere, other times I found her sinister. Either way, I was completely hypnotized by every word of dialogue in this novel.

Ginny’s story is full of emotion and I could feel her desperation myself. The story left me breathless and humming. My body was shaking at the end and I can’t think of the last time a novel effected me nearly as strongly as this one did. The day after I finished the book I was telling coworkers about it, and some customers overheard. I showed them the book I was talking so animatedly about and was covered in goosebumps as I explained the story. One month later I STILL get goosebumps talking about the book. It took me over 3 weeks to be able to read anything else.

I haven’t been able to put words to my physical reaction to this story, which is why it’s taken me over a month to write about it. Even now, my post doesn’t do the story justice.

Ginny is such a delight to get to know, even with the roller coaster of emotions she creates in the story. You want her to be happy, and loved, and safe. You want to know her. I least I do.

I loved everything about this novel. Everything.

Well, except for one thing: I didn’t love that it was over when I turned the last page.  I almost started to re-read it right away except that it was late and I was half-asleep. But I will read it again – after I get it back from the second person I have lent it to in the past moth.

This is a fiction novel – a debut! – but if you are mostly a YA reader, I would still suggest it as something you should pick up. There is swearing of course, but Ginny is such a rich, crisp, unique character that you need to get to know her. And this book reads like a suspense novel, but it’s not really. But it is sort of. And it’s so full of emotion – happy, sad, angry, scared, relief.

 

Disclaimer: Not gonna lie. In the six months I have been working at the bookstore, this is the first Staff Pick I have ever really been interested in, or bought. Sure there have been others that I have contemplated perhaps trying, but in the end never picked up the books. I’d have gravitated to Ginny Moon as soon as I saw it whether or not it was the company’s staff pick. Once I started reading it I felt like a tuning fork had just been rung inside me. I vibrated, hummed. My love, and passion about, this book has nothing to do with the staff pick sticker on the front in my store. It’s 100% pure and genuine. I bought this book. I didn’t borrow it from work, or the library. I bought it and I shall cherish it as part of my personal library until the end of time.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here [book review]

The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness

What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions. (goodreads.com)

I am going to try my best to blog about the books I read this year. I miss writing about books. My course last semester on Editing for Children and Teen books, and my being back at the bookstore has made me excited for reading once more. I might not write about every book I read (and here’s hoping I read MANY in 2017!) but I want to write about those that I enjoyed.

I like starting off the year with a book that makes me happy. And I like starting the year by reading – and finishing – a book. Makes me feel all accomplished (and is a lovely way to relax!)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here is an interesting sort of book. I discovered it while showing a customer something else at work. It was on the staff pick wall and something about it hooked me. I bought it before the store closed that day because I knew I NEEDED to read it on my day off the next day. In fact, I started it New Year’s Eve, but I am pretty much dead from this flu so I didn’t manage to finish it before I needed to go to bed.

I am writing about this story because I keep thinking about it. First of all, my instinct that I needed to read this book was spot on. I devoured it. I liked it a lot. But parts also bothered me. See, the book is sort of a weird mix of YA urban fantasy and a contemporary issues (mental illness) novel. The story is about those kids who aren’t the chosen ones. The bystanders in a story about Chosen One Teens who battle and save the world from apocalypses. There is very little reference to those Chosen Ones (called “indie kids” in this book) though. The story, to me, was more about teens who had regular issues just trying to cope with life.

Mike, for instance, the protagonist has OCD, and his older sister is recovering from an eating disorder. Their father is an alcoholic and more-or-less checked out of life and family, but still living with them because their over-achieving, running for political office, mother doesn’t want to ruin the perfect family vibe. There’s a very poignant scene between Mike and his therapist towards the end of the book that made anxiety/OCD/mental illness very real, and raw. I loved the way the author describes the struggle with accepting medication to help calm anxiety and see it as a failure to be ok on your own. There are comparisons between medical and “accepted” illnesses (like diabetes, or cancer) and those not being seen as failure.

So as a story about teens dealing with Real Life things, and mental illness awareness, this was a rather good book.

Where the book lacks, in my opinion, is within the idea of it being about the kids who aren’t the paranormal saviours. Sure each chapter starts off with a paragraph about what’s going on with the Indie kids (who all have those fancy, weird names that characters in paranormal novels tend to have. I was rather amused by the five or so kids who had the name Finn. That does seem to be a popular name in those types of books. I always refer to those strange names as Soap Opera Names.) but once that little summarized Indie Kids storyline is over, it’s back to Mike and his gang of friends. His best friend, Jasper, happens to be one quarter God of cats (long story), but refuses to be an Indie kid. Other than that, and the occasional news of the death of one of the Indie kids (as they fight the impending apocalypse that we don’t really know anything about), and the random explosion of an auditorium, and the school – we don’t really have much bystander reaction to whatever else is going on that’s paranormal and/or The End of The World. I’d have liked a little more interaction between the indies and the normal kids who just want their school to not blow up before graduation.

The other part of the story that stuck out to me was Mike’s interaction with the new guy, Nathan. Mike takes an instant dislike to Nathan as he only transferred to the school six weeks before graduation and seems awfully suspicious. Much of Mike’s dislike for Nathan has to do with jealousy as the girl he’s mooned over since the dawn of time, Henna (Finnish, not an Indie Kid name!), has feelings for Nathan. But from Mike’s point of view, Nathan does seem suspicious, and could possibly be the reason for whatever battle the Chosen One kids are battling. Mike is a pretty unreliable narrator at this point and I did have to keep guessing what Nathan’s deal was. Turns out I was off by a long shot, and even though Mike’s friends are annoyed with him for always suspecting the new guy who has suddenly joined their group, I have to say I’m Team Mike on this. In a small town, where all these strange paranormal things keep happening, a new person who smoothly sails in at the same time everything (“everything” they claim is going on, of which we don’t really know about) is going on, can be a rather suspicious deal. I get where Mike’s paranoia comes from 100%. I don’t think his friends were very fair to him about his reaction because it made sense to me.

I love that my instinct about this book was on point. As a novel about mental illness and dealing with teenage issues, I think this story stood out to me. I wish the actual part about how the normal kids just want to get on with their lives and not have to worry about all the paranormal apocalyptic stuff going on was a little more present in the story though. It was certainly a very interesting way to tell a paranormal story in a short, summarized paragraph per chapter, but I wish there could have been more obvious signs that stuff was happening around the normal kids.

I am content with the first book I have read in 2017. It made me feel. It made me think. It was enjoyable to read. And I have a feeling that my bookstore job might bankrupt me. 😉