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Best of 2017

Hey everyone, it’s time to list the best books I’ve read this year! There were some really great ones and I hope you find something you like in these recommendations. I won’t be able to be blogging about YA books next year because of my Printz duties – eeeeeek! – but I’ll try to write more about library programming and adult books.

I hope to have a personal update posted soon.

Cheers!

Best YA

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry – You know I love a historical fiction about a supposed heretical Christian sect in 13th century Province? Don’t you? I guess I didn’t know I needed that in my life, but this is incredible. It treats the issues of Christian women mystics, the abuses of the Catholic church, and faith in general with such tact and skill.

The Reader by Traci Chee – A fantasy where reading is outlawed and has a sweet meta-narrative. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee – Need an 18th century Continental gay road trip novel? Of course you do, read this.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds – Jason Reynolds can do no wrong. Every book he writes is a winner. This one is a verse novel about a teen taking a long elevator ride trying to decide to whether or not to avenge his brother’s murder. Heartbreaking, real, incredible.

I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez – A great novel about not fitting in. Perfect for anyone who has ever felt way that. I have a feeling there’s a lot of people like that.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – If this doesn’t win the 2018 Printz I’ll scream. Incredible story about family, police brutality, friendship, and more. Everyone should read this.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner – Another great one about feeling like you’re destined for better places, but don’t know how to get this. It will probably break your heart.

Thor loves snakes, so he’d probably like The Serpent King.

 

Best Adult Books

How to Read a Dress by Lydia Edwards – Utterly fascinating with beautiful pictures. Great for anyone interested in fashion even in the slightest.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby – Some of the most hilarious writing about anxiety, staying inside, and falling in love.

The Stone Sky and the whole Broken Earth series by N.K Jemisin – This is a great conclusion to the series. If you’re not on board with N.K. Jemisin and you like fantasy and sci-fi, you’re seriously missing out.

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Leznevich – A hard, sad book that mixes true crime journalism and memoir. Not for the faint of heart or those not willing to examine their feelings about the death penalty and the nature of evil.

H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald – You wouldn’t think a book about training a hawk and T.H. White would be so emotionally resonant but really is. Also, the author reads the audio book and it is very lovely.

Hullo, I am birb.

 

Best Series – not necessarily my favorite on their own, but consistently great series

Giant Days by John Allison – This comic consistently makes me laugh out loud. The characters are such gems. Perfect for anyone who has friends.

The Expanse Books by James S. A. Corey – It’s always fun to see what scrapes Holden, Amos, Naomi and company are getting into. Every book is better with characters like the foul-mouthed UN ambassador Chrisjen Avasarala and huge marine and badass lady Bobbie Draper.

Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers – A deceptively simple and fun sci-fi series that ends up being more heart-felt and deep than it appears. If possible, I liked the sequel even more than the first one and can’t wait for book three.

Oh wait, you should also watch “Jane the Virgin” because it is very very good.

Best Comics

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun – A cute, weird little book that would melt the coldest heart.

Spinning by Tillie Walden – A beautiful comic memoir about figure skating, friendship, and coming out.

Unstoppable Wasp by Jeremy Whitley  – Nadiya is the cutest and it’s a shame this was cancelled. As they say, “Comics will break your heart.”

Favorite Games:

Clank! – I love this game. It’s a bit goofy but I like the card drafting aspect as well as the movement around the board. Lots of stuff going on, but super fun.

Century Golem – Cute golems and quick to learn gameplay = a sure hit for me.

Gloomhaven – I wasn’t sure I was going to like this at first because the box is very large and that’s intimidating. But it’s like a premade, RPG-light game that is easier to grasp and more fun than I anticipated.

Elevenses – Yes, it’s a game about having tea but somehow my friends and I have managed to turn it into something very obscene. I don’t know how, but it’s a delight.

Cat Lady – Cats! In a board game! What more do I need to say?

#lifegoals

 

Other great things:

The Adventure Zone and other McElroy products – If you’re looking for a D&D podcast that is both hilarious and very emotional, check out the Adventure Zone. It’s so great. The McElroys seem like such good, good brothers if I ever find out they’re sexist or racist trash I’m going to be heartbroken.

Kesha’s Rainbow – Friends, this album is soooooooo good. It is legitimately good. Don’t discount it because you don’t like pop music, Kesha has pipes and the writing is top notch. Thanks to Renata for getting me to listen to this all the time!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Amazing! If you didn’t like it because you wanted it to be like the original series, then fine. But you gotta accept that a franchise is going to evolve… Anyway, I loved it. Rey is a badass, Luke was a real character with motivations and demons, Rose WAS THE GREATEST, Poe was still super hot, Finn was a delight, and I loved how a main message of the movie was to listen to women and people of color.

I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING

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Book reviews and worming my way into summer reading list revisions

OK, so I’m been seriously slacking. No posts in almost three weeks?! Sorry, guys. Sadly, I don’t have a good excuse either. The start of football season (which now includes an ignominious Pats loss to the Cardinals by a missed field goal)? The fact that on Sundays I now have to do 7+ mile runs? Or that I play the ridiculous app “DrawSomething” with my friend on our smart phones? Yes, there’s still time for writing, but apparently I haven’t noticed that.

But, I have read a bunch of books, and here’s what I think of them:

What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt – The story of what happens when a powerful, magical chain containing the last of a alien peoples’ art lands in the (totally embarrassing) lunchbox of 6th grader Tommy Pepper. Pepper has recently lost his mother and his family has never recovered from it and the Valorim, the alien people, are losing their lives as they know them. The losses there are mirrored nicely in alternating chapters within the book. It was good. Schmidt, I think, is at his best when he’s writing about the effect of terrible and yet universal emotions on young teens. So the book really shines in those chapters and is an interesting companion to the Valorim chapters. I don’t want to say that I was disappointed by this book because I wasn’t really. It just wasn’t as amazing as Okay for Now or The Wednesday Wars. (Those are the books which I’m trying to get onto the summer reading lists. One of the reading specialists at the schools that I met at an open house this week loves Schmidt’s books and wants to hear my reading list recommendations! Quality and reading level appropriateness for the win!) But it is still better than most book written for the middle grade audience, so still read it.

The Man Who was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton – So I read this because every once in a while I ask my dear boyfriend to choose a philosophical book for me to read. In the past I’ve read Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be, Thus Spake Zarathustra by Nietzsche, and Plato’s Symposium and I liked them all a lot more than I thought I would, especially the Nietzsche and Plato. (I was annoyed by how much Nietzsche hated women, but what can you do?) This was the next selection and it’s basically a novel where everyone is an anarchist, and also a policemen, and it’s all a big joke. Apparently, it’s a great satirical novel. I think I just didn’t get it. Maybe I wasn’t sure what it was satirizing? Or that I thought it would be more humorous? I don’t know. It was interesting and perhaps those smarter than me will get it.

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake – This is the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood, a YA ghostie novel that scared the crap out of me. In the first book, Cas is a ghost hunter who sends murderous ghosts to rest but can’t seem to kill Anna Korlov. She’s been murdered and cursed by her witch aunt and can’t control her rage. Anna ends up saving Cas and his friends from a terrible voodoo guy and Cas falls in love with her. In book two, Anna is stuck in hell being tormented by the terrible voodoo guy and Cas has to try and save her. The book was good in the way that it was nice to be around the characters again, but Cas is so mopey the whole time it was a bit like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. You know how in HP5 Harry and Ron can’t along and they are gloomy and moody? And you want to smack them and tell them to get over it because they have to save the world from Voldemort? It’s a little like that. I hope that they make a third book so that it redeems this one a little bit.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray – I LOVED Bray’s book Beauty Queens – seriously, I think it’s the best satire/send-up of contemporary celebrity and reality show culture ever – but I did not like the kick off to her popular Gemma Doyle series, A Great and Terrible Beauty. But she has a new book out about the 1920s and she’s coming to the Brookline Public Library this Friday for a book signing. Luckily, aforementioned delightful boyfriend has a parking space in Brookline and I have the day off. So, I decided to read another of her books, not the new one yet, to see what else she has written. So I read Going Bovine and I loved it. It’s the story of a high school loser who gets mad cow disease (well, the human type: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) and is convinced to head off to Disney World to try and save the world from the terrible fire giants and the Wizard of Reckoning. Or is he still in the hospital after all? Either way he encounters a dwarf, the Norse god Balder stuck in the body of a yard gnome, a magic screw, a particle collider, jokes about Brane cosmology that I partly got because of Dan Simmons’ Ilium and Olympos, an MTV-esque spring break party, New Orleans jazz, drag queens, creepy used cars salesmen, and an angel. It’s quite hilarious. I recommend it!

Lastly, I listened to The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb – This is the story of how three men in the 1950s tried to become the first to break the 4 minute mile barrier. Englishmen Roger Bannister, Australian John Landy, and American Wes Santee all try to do it first and the book skips back and fourth between each man. I personally think Bannister is the most interesting because he was committed to the idea of the amateur athlete and was in medical school while training to run faster for a mile than anyone had ever done before. Definitely inspiring as I’m struggling to run a four minute HALF mile.

As for right now, in book world I’m reading Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, a new YA novel based on the Poe story and I’m listening to Confederates in the Attic about writer Tony Horwitz’s (husband to Geraldine Brooks, if you care about that sort of thing) sojourns in the South and his quest to find out why remembrance of the Confederacy and the Civil War are so important and current there. It’s simultaneously hilarious, sad, insightful, and terrifying. A definite to-read, I think.

That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll be back soon with some thoughts about back-to-school librarianship after a few more open houses I get to attend!

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