Saturday, January 18, 2014

Arty -- 2014: ...And This Time It's Personal

Okay, that was lame. I'm sorry. But in a way, it's sort of true, because my failure of a reading year is something of an insult to my reader's pride. So 2014 will be a throwdown between me and my ability to balance reading with school, writing, relaxation, and the dreaded new enemy - TV shows. (By the way, Hannibal is really good so far.)

My goal in 2013 was to read 125 books. Surprisingly, I managed to make it and go a bit over to 151. Whoo! The first book I read was I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak (a very good way to start the year); the last was How To Twist a Dragon's Tale by Cressida Cowell (also a very nice way to end the year).

Like Persy, I didn't have too much trouble with picking out favorites - I actually had to go back through my records to supplement my list of "yes, these are my favorites." So, without further ado:


The End of Time by P.W. Catanese
If you've known me for any length of time, you'll have heard me raving about The Books of Umber. This year was the third time I've read The End of Time and it's still just as beautiful the third time around. Fantasy

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
The Thief books have some of the best characterization/character development I've ever seen. The prose can be a bit tricksy but it's totally worth it - Gen and Irene have such arresting chemistry, while still claiming great personalities when they're by themselves. Ultimate love story. Not to mention the worldbuilding is good. Fantasy

The Selection by Kiera Cass
This is, unlike the above two books, on my list because of outstanding literary quality, but because it was just fun for me to read. It didn't take itself too seriously and the characters were still entertaining. What more can you ask a book? Dystopia (I think)

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Where do I even start with this hilarious book? While the majority of it is really, really good, the best parts happen when Aziraphale (chubby bookish angel of the Lord) and Crowley (a demon "who did no so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downward") get together and banter. Greatly recommended. Urban/apocalyptic fantasy? (I'm grabbing at straws for genres for some of these; give me a break)

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The second book in the Ascendance Trilogy, this book not only continues the story in The False Prince but makes it even better. Suspense is raised, characters are developed further, and a cliffhanger of agony is delivered. Fantasy

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Not many classics really stand up to the hype (in my extremely humble opinion), but the beautiful prose and the sheer atmosphere of this book raise it to artistic levels. Classic

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
While The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was almost as good as I'd been led to expect, the second book was better. Funnier, more interesting, more thought-provoking - and, of course, really, really fun. Science-fiction (I guess)

The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
Another book that stands up to the 'classic' label. JUST FOR THE ENDING. (Excuse the caps.) After I finished it, I just sat and tried to absorb it. Classic (because I have no idea what this would be classified as otherwise)

Surprised By Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis by Terry Lindvall
I'm not usually one for thick nonfic, but comedy plus Lewis is sure to be a winner, and this book did not disappoint. While I don't think it would be nearly as interesting if you're not a Lewis fan, for someone who is, it's barrels of fun. Nonfiction

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Atmospheric. Haunting. Tragic. It's hard to describe A Monster Calls. Easier to say read it. (I don't even know what genre this is. I suppose Fantasy is as close as it gets)

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel
Frankenstein is forever one of my favorite classics and Oppel's take on Victor's backstory is fantastic. The writing is just Shelley enough to be reminiscent but not enough to be frustrating; the characters strike the balance between original and respectful. (Well, except Konrad, the completely original twin. I have no problems with him, though.) The second book didn't quite live up to the first's standards, but the first still retains its awesomeness. Science...fiction?

Kings and Queens of Great Britain by Eric R. Delderfield
Obviously I'm not a history scholar (yet) so I'm not certain of the accuracy, but this book seemed to do a very nice, tidy job of summarizing the history of the English monarchy. It was easy to read, and the facts I do remember seem to line up with later research. Do recommend. Nonfiction

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Hello. Lewis fan here. Believe it or not, this is the first time I've read The Great Divorce and it was... unexpected. Melancholy, subtly heartwrenching. Convicting, I suppose. Classic

One Hundred More Poems from the Japanese by Kenneth Rexroth
I suppose that should be 'collected by' instead of 'by.' Again, I'm no Japanese poetry specialist (yet) but on a purely aesthetic level, these were some of the most beautiful poems I've ever read. Definitely recommended, especially to highschool teens who've read "The Road Not Taken" one too many times. (Nothing against Frost, of course. "Flower-Gathering" is my second-favorite poem. But "The Road Not Taken" is seriously overhyped.) Poetry


The How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell; Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead; the 43 Old Cemetery Road series by Kate and M. Sarah Klise; Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad; Red Dragon by Thomas Harris; The Tempest by Richard Appignanesi (manga Shakespeare); I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga; Jinx by Sage Blackwood; UnWholly by Neal Shusterman; Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Scarlet by Marissa Meyer; If I Found a Wistful Unicorn: A Gift of Love by Ann Ashford; Mythologies by W.B. Yeats; Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot; Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde; Pocket Guide to the Afterlife: Heaven, Hell, and Other Ultimate Destinations by Jason Boyett


Bluestar's Prophecy by Erin Hunter
Oh, Warriors. This past year was the year of kissing my childhood goodbye. Fantasy

The Prince and the Snowgirl by Simon Cheshire
Mindless fluff in every possible way. Forgettable. Realistic fiction? What is the name for this?

Mortlock by Jon Mayhew
I don't even remember what happened in this book. I do remember wishing it was going to be over. Pity - the book is lovely, and the pages are edged in black. Fantasy

One Year Gone by Rebecca Dessertine
Supernatural supplemental novel by someone who works on the set. One word: ouch. And not in the "ouch, my emotions were compromised" sense as I was expecting. Urban fantasy (fanfic? bad fanfic?)

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
The ultimate "HECK NO" of the year. It's bad enough to read poorly executed run-of-the-mill YA dystopia; it's unbearable when it's based off of a story like "The Masque of the Red Death." I feel like going to leave consolatory flowers at Poe's grave. Dystopia

Here's to having a better 2014!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Persy -- 2014: We're Back

So did you like how neither of us were here at all in December? And most of November too? We planned that. Really. Okay, so we suck, get over it. We're busy college students. BUT we've been talking and we're both hopeful to get more reading done this year and write more about what we're reading. Hey, I'm even sucking up my pride and showing you exactly how badly I did in 2013...

My reading goal for 2013 was to read more books than I did in 2012, so 187 books. How many did I read? 56. 15,764 pages. Almost a 4th of what I read last year. I am ashamed. But I'll do better this year!

The first book I read in 2013 was Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome, and the last book I finished was the 9th volume of Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya.

Because I read so little this year, it was painfully easy to narrow down the Best Of list to 14 books. And most of them were during RAMFAP month, and have thus been mentioned numerous times already... but I'm sure y'all can get over it.


The Grace Effect by Larry Taunton
Maybe I'm biased (I know the Tauntons), but this is such a good book. Mr. Taunton skillfully weaves the story of Sasha into the effects of Christianity and grace, and I was never bored by the story or the lessons. Definitely a book to study in detail a second time through. Nonfiction/Religion

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Easily the best war novel I've ever read. Not only is it interesting, but I also found it enjoyable. The writing is amazing, and the story gripping. What really makes it brilliant is the fact that it's told by German soldier. Historical

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
It's both serious/thought-provoking and funny/light-hearted. The light tone is maintained all throughout the story, whether the main character is discussing philosophy or bugs. Definitely a book I'll read again and again, always finding something new. Science fiction

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Oh my gosh this book. OH MY GOSH THIS BOOK. Classic

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken and C.S. Lewis
Normally I don't get super excited about biographies and memoirs, but this is simply beautiful. Vanauken's writing is gorgeous and I'm pretty sure he's kind of brilliant. Anyone who has been or is in or thinks he/she's in love should read this. Nonfiction/Autobiography

I think I've mentioned this book before. Zombie/Romance

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
I just don't get tired of Shenfu and Mara and Egyptian revolutions. Historical

Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George
While it doesn't quite live up to the brilliance of Dragon Slippers, the sequel is still pretty dang good. Getting to meet a bunch of cool new dragons basically saved the somewhat ridiculous plot, and let's not forget Jessica Day George's magical ability to write perfect endings. Fantasy

Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce
I love almost everything about this book, especially the world and the characters. How can you not like a pudgy, lazy, pacifistic 12-year-old main character? And I'm still shouting for a movie with Gary Oldman as Hotspur. Fantasy

Everyone knows this is one of my all-time favorite books. Fantasy

Another old favorite. Road trips, Norse gods, punk angels, mad cow disease . . . this book is basically irresistible. Fantasy/Surreal

Yet another book that everyone has heard me talk about. Franklin' adorable, that's all I have to say. Fantasy

The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
A very very old book on depression and grief in the Christian life. It's amazing and beautiful, and I wish it was more well-known because I think everyone should have access to this. Nonfiction/Religion

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
I wasn't sure what to expect from the third book in the Seven Kingdoms series, but I was not disappointed. In fact, I was seriously scared, and could not put it down. Kristin Cashore amazes me yet again. Fantasy

**HONORABLE Mentions**

Ouran High School Host Club series (Bisco Hatori); The Passage (Justin Cronin); The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom); Maid-Sama series (Hiro Fujiwara); I, Claudius (Robert Graves); Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters (Lesley M.M. Blume); Fruits Basket series (Natsuki Takaya).


Eh, y'all remember this absolute gem, I'm sure. Fantasy

Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serraillier
Boring. Not painful to read, but only because it's an easy read. Basically, it's just boring as heck. Historical

Ancient Rhetorics by Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee
Well, it's a textbook. And it's not written overly well. And it was for a writing class. Nonfiction

I seriously hope your 2013 was better than mine.