Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The List of Shame

I woke up like this.

I guess I lied about not making anymore posts this year. I was trying to be positive with my notable books list and with the exception of Slade House by David Mitchell, I really liked all of the books I listed. But as the day went on, I thought maybe it was time to throw a little shade. In no particular order, here is the List of Shame:

Book That Was the Equivalent of Telling Your Dog You Will Take Them to the Park and Then Taking Them to the Vet: Trust No One by Various

I was so excited when I found this book. I was two days away from payday but overdrafted my checking account to purchase it. That's how excited I was. Those of you who knew me in high school and college know that The X-Files was my life. I went to my first ever convention - an X-Files convention - in 1998 and just being in the same room as Gillian Anderson was like finding god. But this book... The intent is good, but the stories all read like bad fanfiction, and not even sexy bad fanfiction. "Mulder and Scully went to a small town and there was a lot of sexual tension and at one point Skinner calls to yell at them, but wait, they're not supposed to be hanging out together so Krycek shows up to spy on them, right? But then Mulder solves the case and Scully makes up some science but when they try to get proof of this alien thing, all they find is a smoking Morley cigarette. The end." It was like the authors went to an X-Files wiki and crammed every X-Files related word into a thing that resembled a story. Biggest letdown ever.

Book That Was Like a Really Good First Date Until You Lean In For the Kiss and They Say They're a Trump Supporter: Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowels

This book crapped all over itself in the last chapter. I was so on board with this book. It starts out with this poor kid who breaks his middle finger in gym class and now has to wear a cast that flips everyone off. Every chapter focuses on a different student and they are all interconnected. One chapter might show a student being terrible and the next would make their actions sympathetic due to information we did not previously have. You know how it works. This book had all the feels. It really sent the message across to be compassionate because you never know what another person is dealing with. Until the last chapter. The last chapter is about one of the teachers reflecting on how much she hates her job because all of these kids are little shits. Why? Why was this chapter in there? It completely ruined the rest of the book.

Book That I Had to Stop Reading Because I Was in the Hospital and Didn't Need Anything Else to Cry About: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

I love Margaret Atwood and maybe it isn't really fair of me to put this book on the List of Shame. I was stuck in the hospital after surgery and on several different pain medications and antibiotics. I started this book and it made me so depressed. I couldn't finish it. It's about a couple who are trying to make their way in a world that has experienced economic collapse. I didn't even get to the part where they sign on with a sketchy corporation. I'm sorry, Margaret. I have every intention of giving this another shot.

Book I Had Every Intention of Reading Until Matt Damon Ruined Everything: The Martian by Andy Weir

This book seemed interesting. I wanted to read it but it got lost in the shuffle of the 8 million other books I also want to read. But then everyone started reading it. And then Matt Damon made a movie. And everyone started saying they were going to "science the shit" out of things. I don't care how good it is or how much you think I will like it. I already hate the main character and everyone who has read it who now thinks they're Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Book That I Read Against Everyone's Better Judgment But Still Don't Quite Regret: Life and Death: Twilight Re-imagined by Sephenie Meyer

I read this book so you wouldn't have to. I did it for you, dammit! The gender bending was silly and actually disproved all of the things Meyer wanted to say. Bella and Beau could feel the exact same things about the exact same situations but they will be perceived differently because gender is something we all perform even if our performance is not performing it. Gender exists and in and of itself it is not a bad thing. No point on the gender spectrum is any better or worse than another and it's okay for a male character and a female character to react differently to things. The gender bending wasn't done well - there were a lot of pronoun changes and name changes but overall it was ineffective. Beau was just as much of a potato as Bella was. But, I can't bring myself to regret reading this or the original series. It's just a thing that happened.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's the 2015 Notable Book List!!

Oh hi, Jujubee!
I usually do a best book/worst book blog post at about this time of year. And because I am hella lazy with this blog, it appears to be the only post I will do this year.

However, I'm going to do things a little differently. There were so many books in 2015 that I had strong opinions about for many different reasons that I'm just going to go through the most notable ones and give them their own categories. So, here is my list of most notable books in 2015:

(Disclaimer: not all of these books were written in 2015 - they are books that I read in 2015.)

Prettiest: Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson

This was a really excellent story but Dodson is also a book designer and he pulled out all the stops with Bats of the Republic. This book has gorgeous drawings and handwritten chapters. The pages are nice and thick and there is a super secret envelope in the back that says DO NOT OPEN. The cover is so silky smooth and pretty that I had a hard time reading it instead of petting it with my face.

Best Under the Radar Graphic Novel: Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

This was probably the most fun thing I read this year. Rat Queens mocks and pays homage to the culture of Dungeons and Dragons. It also tackles some complicated character development and Serious Issues all underneath a thick layer of straight up debauchery.

Best Graphic Novel on Everyone's Radar: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

I first discovered Stevenson through the Hawkeye Initiative, where she drew Hawkeye in all of the ridiculous poses that male artists think female characters can do. Maybe if those female characters didn't have spines or digestive tracts... Anyway, Nimona is both adorable and serious - the two are not mutually exclusive. It's a story about belonging and doing the right things or the wrong things, and maybe some dragons.

Best Sequel: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I'm not going to spoil this book - it's a sequel. But this was the sequel that all other sequels should aspire to be. I could not put it down. The first book (The Queen of the Tearling) was good, but this was better.

Most Haunting: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

This is Link's latest book of short stories but the first one I read. I then promptly devoured everything I could find by her. If fiction writing had an uncanny valley, her work would be in it. This book in particular left me with a deliciously creepy feeling without being able to articulate the exact point of creep factor.

Best Book With Realistically Queer Characters: A Crown For Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

Sure, this is a sword and sorcery fantasy book but the queerness factor is as real as it gets. Or, as real as we all wish it were in our own world. No one is tragically gay or secretly trans. Everyone is out and open and no one gives a shit. The main character is bisexual. A side character is both asexual and gender queer. Another character is a cis woman with a glorious mustache. And a male character is in an arranged marriage with another dude. Oh, and there are guys who like girls and girls who like guys - everyone is sexually happy and the one thing no one kills anyone over is the junk in their pants. Or skirts. Or whatever.

Best Book That I Read to Myself in the Voice of Someone Else: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

I am a late comer to the land of Night Vale, but when I fell for it, I fell hard. This book is not a story of Cecil, but I read the entire thing in Cecil's voice. It's the story of Jackie Fierro, eternally 19, and Diane Crayton, mother of a shape shifting son. They are both haunted by slips of paper that say KING CITY and the constant appearance of a weirdly smiling man. Is King City real? Who is this smiling creeper? And what is with these plastic flamingos all over town? Read, if you dare - but whatever you do, don't get the book from your local library.

Most Interesting Non-Fiction: The State of Play, edited by Daniel Goldberg

You don't have to be a gamer to read up on gamer culture and games theory, or sympathize with the victims of Gamergate. This is a book of essays from all walks of gaming that looks at all of the ways in life that we play. And what is play, really? From Call of Duty to Depression Quest, this book looks at all of the ways that games impact our lives.

Weirdest Author: Ainslie Hogarth

This year I read her second book, The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated) and Hogarth has maintained her WTF-ness after her first book, The Lonely. I read this book in one sitting and it occasionally made me nauseous. Noelle has a job at the Boy Meets Girl Inn, which is also the scene of several grisly murders, including her own. Don't worry - that's not a spoiler. Trust me. She also has a hideous and growing scab on the back of her head and an awful father. There's a pick-ax involved, but also some cats. Oh god, I just remembered the cats.

Book That Made Me Angriest at Book Club: Slade House by David Mitchell

I liked this book but I didn't want to. I had to read it for a book club I'm in. But I got mad at what a literary asshole David Mitchell is. Who writes whole passages of a book in French without translation? I mean, that was The Bone Clocks, but Slade House is an offshoot of The Bone Clocks. All of Mitchell's books are offshoots of each other, but in really stupid ways.This is a book about immortal soul suckers and their victims. I am a very smart person, and even I had to take notes to keep things straight. Whatever. Just fuck off with your unoriginal time jumping premise, David.

Best Wrestling Book: Wrestling For My Life by Shawn Michaels

I read a lot of books about professional wrestling this year. I liked wrestling a lot as a tween and teen in the late 80s and early 90s. I've gotten back into it in the last couple of years. Michaels was one of the baddest heels when I was a kid, and this was before the Attitude Era. He's written a decent memoir here of finding god, getting clean, and continuing to enjoy a career that makes sticking with god and staying clean kind of hard.

Fine. If I Really Have to Have a Favorite Book (OMG it is so good!): Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

I love 'chosen one' narratives. I can't help it. Wish fulfillment fiction can be so satisfying. Rowell takes the chosen one narrative and messes with it so hard. The character of Simon Snow first showed up in Rowell's book Fangirl (which is also amazing and has cover art by Noelle Stevenson) and is the subject of eight books by fictional author Gemma T. Leslie. In Fangirl, Cath writes slash fic about Simon and his nemesis, Baz, as they attend a magical boarding school a la Harry Potter. Carry On is the the eighth book in the series even though books 1-7 actually don't exist. Simon has to save the magical world, but how? And from what? Baz has to stop him because... reasons? I don't want to give away more than that. But this book is so delightful and also mind-bendingly meta.