Sunday, June 16, 2013

Books of 2013 (Part I)

I said I would do a post when I read 10 books, so here I am.

Yes. It has taken me this long to read 10 books. But in my defense, blah blah, law school, etc., blah. You've heard it all before. Same excuse. I'm now three weeks deep into my internship at the FCC and enjoying living in DC. I love the kind of law I do and am unbelievably fortunate to have found a career that I like (and will also subsidize my income-less writing habit), essentially as a result of dumb luck. I made it out of 1L alive and did it without being in danger of failing out. I am one-third of the way to being a bonafide lawyer, guys! If anyone is ever curious about law school because you're thinking of attending, I would be happy to talk to you. Many people in my real life have been asking, so I thought I'd extend the offer here.

I'm cutting back my goal of 50 books or something I had at New Years to a more manageable 30 books for the year. I know that does not sound like a whole lot, but being realistic and acknowledging that I self-imposed a schedule that will basically erase all free time next semester, I anticipate reading for pleasure is going to come to a screeching halt once fall semester begins.

So without further ado, these are the books I've read so far in 2013. (Linked the ones I did reviews for.)

1. Every Day by David Levithan
2. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
3. Son by Lois Lowry
4. Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
5. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
6. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
7. Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss
8. Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
9. Just One Day by Gayle Forman
10. The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Best of the bunch: Please Ignore Vera Dietz. If you couldn't tell, I read a lot of A.S. King. People say she is the female John Green, to which I agree in the sense that they have similar writing styles and do soulful, quirky contemporary. John Green's books are funnier. A.S. King's might be more serious. But whatever the comparisons, King writes great books, and Vera Dietz is best in show for her. It's no wonder that the book won a Printz Award (I don't always like Printz winners, but I can get behind this one). Although the other two are excellent and you should read them too if you like YA contemporary, Vera Dietz is solidly good without tipping toward being too self-aware of its own quirkiness, which is a danger with King sometimes. My pet peeve with YA contemporary is that sometimes it gets too into its own tongue-and-cheek, hipster, cutesy whackiness, and I have little patience for try-hards. Regardless, I think you would be hard pressed to find a YA author today who does magic realism better in contemporary. It is my dream that she and John Green will co-author a book a la Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Surprise favorite: Me Before You. I can't really pick a favorite between this one and Vera Dietz, so I'm going to cheat and call this my surprise favorite. Because I had never read anything by Jojo Moyes before, but honestly, British authors who make it across the pond don't tend to disappoint (Before I Die by Jenny Downham? One of my favorites forever, and just picked it off the shelf randomly by sheer luck). I've read some gimmicky books this year that have tried to be tearjerkers, but this one doesn't have a whiff of manipulation. It is unflinchingly honest. It is about the best kind of love, but it isn't romantic. I hate both covers and whoever did them should leave the business. I've rarely seen covers that are so misaligned with the tone of the book. Seriously terrible, and I am sorry for the author. But anyway. Please read. Just a heads up, it has to do with assisted suicide, so if you are truly uncomfortable with that, then you might want to look elsewhere. But if you are curious and want to take a chance, you won't regret it.

Biggest disappointment, runner up: Son. I don't expect everything to live up to The Giver or Gathering Blue, and Lowry usually is not a hit-or-miss for me, but Son was just incoherent. It did not need to exist, and the plot was all over the place. There was no real climax, and it suddenly descended into serious allegory territory with no explanation. If you a diehard Lowry fan, which most people are, I won't discourage you from reading it, but it won't give you closure (which I didn't even need) and it won't give you satisfaction. But Lowry is a good writer, so whatever. I give her a pass, after a storied career of writing brilliant literature.

Biggest disappointment, actual: The Madness Underneath. WHY, MAUREEN? JUST, WHY? I loved The Name of the Star, and I so rarely like thrillers or mysteries. You'll remember, I ranted and raved about it. The plot was tight, the characters were finely drawn, and it was a rollicking good time for all. What happened? The Madness Underneath had no character development, absolutely no plot to speak of, and the pacing was about as wonky as you can get. Nothing happens in the first half of the book, but the worst is when the climax overcompensates for the nothingness of that first half by being super overly dramatic, and here is where I'm talking about total, blatant gimmicks to manipulate the reader's emotions. Except I had no emotions, because I literally could not have given two flying fucks about anyone in this book. This makes me tragically sad. I still believe Maureen is wonderful, and The 13 Little Blue Envelopes duo is so high on my list of charming travel books (and totally outdo Just One Day, which tries to be fun and travelly, but hits nowhere near the excellence of Envelopes and Amy & Roger's Epic Detour). I think she does quirky charm best, but The Madness Underneath needed coherence, structure, and a firm, black line from one event to another--the book could not deliver on that. I truly think this is the end for me and this series. Another is coming down the pipes, but I won't be there for it. The Name of the Star will have to be enough.

I am at 10,000 words on my WIP and trucking along. Hope to get a nice big chunk of it out of the way by the end of the summer.

A few books next on my list. I just bought the paperback of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Super, super excited about this; have been waiting for it to come out on paperback for the LONGEST TIME. Intend to buy The Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher (author of Incarceron). She is one of the few authors--maybe the only one--who writes completely anticlimactic endings, in my opinion, but I will find the book worthwhile x100000 because the rest of the book is so mind-blowingly good. I mean, she can legit end in the middle of a sentence, and I won't care, because she is a genius at plotting. Both Incarceron and Sapphique forced me to read most of the book in one sitting, as I couldn't bear to put it down, not even for a second. Also thinking about reading Railsea by China Mieville (author of Un Lun Dun). I enjoyed Un Lun Dun a great deal, and he writes those fun, fantasy children books that you just want to stay in forever, but I do remember that sometimes he gets a little too crazy. With him, I feel like the plot is constantly teetering between being the right amount of infectious adventure and being utterly batshit insane. Sometimes, he straight up flies off the rail into batshit insane territory. So we'll see.

Finally, I saw the MG fantasy The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and I'm not gonna lie, it looks kind of adorable and fun. It has a book-loving dragon. That alone probably seals the deal for me.


  1. These sound like great books and congrats on the writing. I have been looking to read something new maybe I will jump into a few of these.