We’ve completed month eight of the 2015 Reading Challenge! Two-thirds of the year down, one-third to go. Check out our progress since last month. Also, this month, we’re kicking off our monthly giveaway. Enter by next Friday to win Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater, Unbreakable by Kami Garcia and some cool YA swag! Please read to the bottom for instructions on how to win.
A book with a one word title — George by Alex Gino — This book made me cry for happy reasons. Read my full review here.
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit — Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko — I am dying to see Alcatraz. This book is set in the 1930’s and told from the perspective of a boy named Moose whose father is an electrician on Alcatraz, so they end up moving there. Moose’s sister (today) would be considered autistic, and the way her family supports her in a time when mental illness was kept secret was so moving. This coming of age story is funny and sweet, and I would definitely recommend it.
A book set in a different country/A book with nonhuman characters — Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor — Aliens crash land in the city of Lagos, Nigeria, and three people are pulled into the water by the alien, changing their lives. I read this book in a day because I was enjoying it so much. Okorafor was on the We Need Diverse Books panel at BookCon and I’m so glad I’ve started reading her work, because I love it.
A book with a number in the title — 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl — Ruhl has been my favorite playwright for years, so when I found out that she’d published a collection of essays, I knew I had to read it. The book is divided into sections about things like writing plays, directing plays, acting, and watching plays, and reminded me just how much I love the theater.
A book with a color in the title – for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is not enuf by Ntozake Shange — Rainbow is a color, right? This is a play I’ve been meaning to read for years, and I’m really glad I finally did. I almost couldn’t believe how long ago it had been written because of how relevant it still felt to issues today. Now I just need to find a production to go see it brought to life!
A play — Dear Elizabeth by Sarah Ruhl — The text of the play is taken mostly from actual letters that poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell sent to each others over the course of a long friendship, as well as poems. If you’re interested in the life of either of these poets, this play would absolutely be of interest.
A graphic novel — Nimona by Noelle Stevenson — I first wrote about Nimona in my list of Diverse and Feminist Webcomics, and now I’ve finally read the full graphic novel that the webcomic turned into. In short? It was just as good as I expected from reading that first chapter online, and still managed to be surprising, too. I would highly recommend this for anyone looking for a fun graphic novel to read with a strong and entertaining heroine.
Other books I read this month (but didn’t fit in any of my remaining categories) were Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, and Who Fears Death? by Nnedi Okorafor (did I mention I’m now in love with her work?).
A popular author’s first book — Mount Vernon Love Story by Mary Higgins Clark — You know Mary Higgins Clark for her mysteries, but this first novel, originally titled Aspire to the Heavens, is a far cry from the genre that made her famous. Mount Vernon Love Story is a historical fiction piece about the relationship between George and Martha Washington. It was a cute read and fun to see a familiar author tackle a different genre (even if she actually wrote this one before all the suspense stories).
A book from your childhood — Sabriel by Garth Nix — I remember doing some school project on this book in middle school and recognizing it at the time as an amazing piece of fantasy literature. Nonetheless, as I researched it for my cat-lady post, I realized I remembered nearly nothing about it and decided to re-read it. If you read this book as a kid, or even just a long time ago as an adult, you’ll definitely want to go back and revisit it. Nix’s story-telling and world-building make it worth reading over and over. It’s already a fantasy classic.
A book you own but have never read — The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov — This is one of the many sci-fi books I inherited from my dad. It is the second book in Asimov’s Robot series, though it works well as a stand-alone, too. It’s a whodunit murder mystery on a planet where people do everything by proxy and don’t actually approach each other in person, making the intimacy required to bash someone’s head in quite unthinkable. If people only interact through hologram and never in person, who could have gotten close enough to kill the scientist Delmarre? Although it took a few chapters for me to get invested in the characters, I soon found myself trying to puzzle out the murder alongside Detective Baley.
A book set during Christmas — All Through the Night by Mary Higgins Clark — While looking for Clark’s first book for the other category, I found a whole slew of novels with Christmas carol lyrics for titles. Most of them feature Willy and Alvirah, recurring characters of her other mystery novels, and some are written in conjunction with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. All Through the Night is the second yuletide book she published. It features a Christmas pageant, a forged will, and a child abandoned at birth. If you like mysteries and feel-good holiday cheer, check it out.
A play — Othello by William Shakespeare — I love me some Shakespeare, but it’s usually not what I pick up for a bit of light reading. I was glad, then, for this motivation to cross another play of the Bard’s off my list. Othello is a story of jealousy, betrayal, and the power of doubt. The ease with which Othello accepts the suggestion that his wife has been unfaithful made me want to strangle him. Yet the semi-feminist rant by Emilia about the double standards regarding fidelity and gender did a bit redeem this particular play in terms of its treatment of women.
A banned book — Animal Farm by George Orwell — This is one of those classics I never actually had to read in high school. According to the American Library Association, it is one of 46 of the Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century that are often banned or challenged, specifically for the political ideas it espouses. The novel depicts a group of anthropomorphized farm animals who overthrow their oppressive owner and turn their farm into a collective. However, it is not long before the pigs begin to give themselves special privileges and rule over the other animals, modifying their motto of “All animals are equal” by adding “but some are more equal than others.” It is a thinly-veiled metaphor for the totalitarianism that can arise out of Communism by the famous dystopia-writer George Orwell.
I didn’t think I read a lot this month…but apparently I have! Funny how time can both fly and stand still…
A book by a female author — Never Never by Brianna Shrum — It was quite difficult to get through this book, I hate to say. I LOVE Peter Pan, I think the story is fascinating, and I was super excited to hear something from Hook’s point of view. But I didn’t love how some of the characters were portrayed, and I really didn’t enjoy the lack of strong female characters.
A book of a beloved author that you haven’t read yet — The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Claire — This is the sequel to another The Iron Trial, a book I wrote a review of when I picked it up at least year’s BEA. My critiques still stand: not nearly enough women in general, and the women that are a part of the book are kind of annoying and a bit useless. But aside from that, the story was your typical magic story, and was enjoyable.
A friend-recommended book — Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton — Kayla recommended this to me (and really, she recommends so many books to me, it was hard to pick the one to put in this category), and to be honest, at first it was difficult to get into. But by the end I couldn’t put it down. The story reads like a regency-era novel, hitting at all the important aspects of life at the time…except the characters are all dragons. Which is awesome and unique and fun and amazing. I suggest you pick this up. And give it a shot — it might take a while, but you’ll be sure to love it!
A book that is at the bottom of your reading list — Blood Lite II: Overbite edited by Kevin J. Anderson — It’s not that I didn’t really want to read this book, it’s just that I’m not brilliant when it comes to anthologies. I love cohesive stories, so disconnected short stories throw me off a bit. However, I really did enjoy this book. It was a comic-horror book (weird, combination, right?), but somehow the stories kept me wanting to read page after page. It’s a good book to pick up if you want to be simultaneously shrinking away from the pages and laughing at the stories.
A book based entirely on its cover — Graceling by Kristen Cashore — I have been seeing the beautiful cover of this book for a while, and never picked it up. But when I was in my local library a few days ago, I found it finally grabbed it. I now have the next two books, and I’m just itching to keep reading! Katsa is a Graceling, someone who is blessed with special powers. While some Gracelings are incredible bakers or swimmers, Katsa’s Grace is killing. As she struggles with her own identity, she finds that opening up and having friends isn’t as hard as it might seem. Oh, and she’s tasked with finding out who kidnapped one of the ruler’s fathers. It’s well written, and fast-paced.
A book set in a different country — The Book Seller’s Daughter by Pam Rosenthal — A romance about a strong willed woman who has met some hard times, but refuses to be kept down in a society that can’t stand to see a woman as strong or independent. This was a sweet easy to read romance that would definitely make a great summer read.
A book set in a high school — Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky — Wow! This was an amazing book. I really wasn’t too surprised, though, because I saw the movie and that was an excellent interpretation of the book. There were a few insignificant differences, so I can honestly say that the book and movie were both very good.
A book with a color in the title — Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente — A really great retelling of the Snow White story, set in the old West. Her father, Mr. H., obtains a Crow woman from her family using nefarious means just so he can have her to himself. Gun That Sings dies in childbirth leaving her half-breed daughter in a cold cruel world. Snow White is a very different character from past interpretations. She grows to be a strong woman who slings a gun, rides a horse, hunts, mines for rubies, and loves to gamble and drink whiskey. Despite the differences, the original is still in there, still teaching and giving valued lessons.
A book that made you cry — Kitty Saves the World by Carrie Vaughn — I can’t believe it’s over, but if it had to be, this was a really great ending.
A book with magic — The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead — The last book in the Bloodlines series. Okay, now I really am sad. This was my favorite of all Mead’s series. I loved Sydney and Adrian and all the other characters that were in their lives. Sydney was an especially great character because she had so many strengths, like being smart and talented in chemistry and witchcraft.
A graphic novel, that also made me cry — The Marvels by Brian Selznick — Selznick has done it again. He has made me cry happy and sad tears. The first section of this novel begins in 1766 and is told entirely through pictures, no words at all and it’s the story of the Marvel family, a kind of family tree, but we’re left hanging at the end of this section. The next part jumps to 1990 and is all words introducing a different family. Finally Selznick ends the book in the style of a graphic novel, no words again, but this time we finish the first story. I love the way Selznick is able to go at a story from two different directions and then neatly tie everything together at the end. He is just a marvelous story teller and author who has never disappointed me as a reader.
A book by an author you’ve never read before — Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar — A beautiful historical fiction romance that takes place in Persia 446 to 424 BCE. The story begins with Sarah, a young Jewish girl living in Persepolis. She lives with her scribe father, a widower, who takes no notice of his young daughter. Sarah wants nothing but to get her father’s approval, so she works very hard to teach herself to read and to write. In her success she attracts not only her father’s attention, but the attention the King’s cupbearer, her cousin Nehemiah. Her father begins teaching her more languages and she becomes proficient. Sarah then becomes a scribe herself. This story has a religious undertone, but despite the time period and religious aspects, it makes way for a strong female character who has confidence in her own intelligence.
A book written by an author with your same initials — The Irish Devil by Donna Fletcher — Great summer read. Lots of sex and romance.
A play — The Diary of Ann Frank (Play): Adaptation by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich — This play form brings to life Ann’s words. I shared this play with my 8th grade class this year and watched as they grew to appreciate her struggles as an active young Jewish girl removed from her life and being hunted. The play takes place over two years of her life as she goes from being a child to a teenager and struggles with living in such close quarters with strangers and family and being completely dependent on the kindness of family friends. The play doesn’t dwell on her capture, it just shares the discovery of her diary and the hope her father finds there.
To enter this month’s giveaway, please click on the link below!