April 2016 Reading Wrapup: Part I

22 Apr

April is my birthday month, which gives me 1) an excuse to buy books I probably shouldn’t and 2) an excuse to read way more than any human should. So April started off with a real bang, and a reading pace that I definitely won’t be able to sustain the whole month! This month I resolved to only read books that I already own (both physical and digital) with no new purchases/downloads, and it’s been going really well so far… though the second half of April will be different for some very good reasons, which I’ll get to when that part goes up.

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Summertime All The Cats Are Bored, by Philippe Georget. Finished April 1st. Let’s be honest, I picked this up because of the absolutely amazing name. I saw it on the shelf at B&N and it was love at first look. It’s a noir, but a very different noir: our main detective is a homebody who doesn’t want any promotions, no one at the station really wants to do a ton of work, people make actual mistakes, there are no red herrings, and the main detective is not some crazy super-genius–the police force actually works together to solve it! It’s definitely a breath of fresh air in the mystery genre. The mystery itself isn’t really the highlight: the characters and the intricacies of the language take the forefront here.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Dream Houses, by Genevieve Valentine. Finished April 1st. I have a thing for space horror set in alien and/or abandoned space ships. It’s a very small subgenre, but man, when it’s good… magic happens. Like in Dream Houses, which is about a woman on board a ship ferrying goods from one star to another. She wakes up very early to find that the crew has been murdered, and the ship is… shall we say… not entirely sane. It’s so gorgeous. Lyrical, haunting, creepy, evocative. I loved every second of this.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Tram 83, by Fiston Mwanza Mujila. Finished April 2nd. Read for the Man Booker International longlist. I’d like to point out that I read, like, 6 books off of it and not a single one made the shortlist. Not even Man Tiger! My luck, guys, is horrible. I know I rated this book pretty lowly but it’s really on me, not the book. It’s just very… masculine? 2 guys in a club talking about women in a super objectifying way (there’s lots of child prostitution here that’s scarily normalized), there’s very little plot. It’s just nothing I like in a book and I wouldn’t have read it if it wasn’t on the longlist, so I feel kind of bad trashing it. Because the writing was very inventive and cool, but I didn’t like any of the content.

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

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The Silent History, by Eli Horowitz. Finished April 5th. World War Z meets disability. This is about a silent plague that sweeps the world: children are suddenly born unable to talk or even understand language. It’s told in snippets from many different people (everything from parents to scientists to stray people obsessed with the Silents). I don’t know if everyone will love this, but my brother is autistic so this hit really close to home and felt very important. The Silent children are a clear metaphor for both autism and deafness, and really highlight the messed-up way that our society treats disability. It’s a hard read, but wonderfully told with an absolutely spectacular ending.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Mad Ship, by Robin Hobb. Finished April 7th. I love fantasy, but I don’t tend to read high/traditional fantasy because it’s usually either too Tolkien or too grimdarkedgy for me. These books? Perfect high fantasy. Everything I’d ever want from the genre. A cool world where the worldbuilding is shown, not told. Really fantastic and diverse characters that you get SO attached to. An intricate and complex plot. Cool beasties. Lovely writing. It’s just amazing! I can’t say a single thing about the plot without spoiling the first book (and possibly some of the first trilogy), but if you like fantasy and you haven’t read Hobb…. what are you doing?? Get on that asap.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Wolf Winter, by Cecilia Ekback. Finished April 8th. This is a magical little book. It’s part historical fiction, part mystery, part magical realism. Taking place in Lapland in 1717, it features an isolated community hit by a brutal winter in the midst of a murderer running around. It’s everything I wanted from White Hunger. The writing is so lush, I was lost in the descriptions of the woods and countryside. It felt so claustrophobic, and is one of those books that induce a little bit of anxiety. Plus, witches! I read this shortly after seeing The Witch and it has a similar vibe (goats! witches! isolated houses!) so it was really the perfect time for me to devour this.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeyemi. Finished April 9th. I had so many issues with Boy, Snow, Bird, but there was no denying that Oyeyemi’s writing is absolute magic. So I was really excited to pick this up, especially because most of the stories are fairytale inspired. It’s a little bit Angela Carter, but mostly wholly unique. Each story is a glittering little gem of inventiveness. I loved some more than others, as is always the case with story collections, but it’s surprisingly cohesive: there’s lots of character overlap and the theme of keys runs through every one. I think this is a really good place to start with Oyeyemi: bite-sized chunks of her unique and spectacular style.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The North Water, by Ian McGuire. Finished April 10th. This is a super-hyped book, and I’m… kind of confused why? It was okay. It was, mainly, disgusting. Just so many scenes of violence and illness in graphic, graphic detail. I’m not at all squeamish but some of these were really hard to read for me. High ick factor. I was expecting more atmosphere: guys stuck in an arctic environment on a whaling boat! But it’s more about the bad dude on the ship and murder and maiming and rape and people getting teeth embedded in their arms and cutting open stomachs to let out pus. Well written, but a little over the top for me personally.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Eileen, by Otessa Moshfeg. Finished April 10th. This is such an interesting book. It’s a character study first and foremost, with little in the way of plot. Eileen is a very disturbed and strange girl, and we spend the book in her very odd head. The third act is drastically different, but very cleverly so. I think for what this was, it was pretty much perfect. It’s just not the kind of thing I really enjoy? I mean, I love character-driven books and sometimes character studies, but the thriller-combo with that was a little odd for me. Enjoyed it, didn’t love it.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Book Collector, by Alice Thompson. Finished April 10th. This book got a lot of hype around the same time as The Dumb House (which I loved) so of course I wanted to pick it up immediately but it took a while for me to find a copy. And the hype train didn’t lie! This little fable about a woman who marries a mysterious bookseller is just fantastic. Like “The Yellow Wallpaper” x Angela Carter, with more murder. Our narrator gets postpartum psychosis and the real draw of the book is how much we can rely on her narration. Some things are clearly fiction, but how much is the truth? Very creepy and short little read.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Collected Stories, by William Faulkner. Finished April 11th. I started this way back in the beginning of March and read roughly a story a day. I have such mixed feelings about it: there were a few stories I genuinely loved (“Two Soldiers,” “Hair,” “A Courtship,” “Crevasse,” “Golden Land,” “Beyond,” “The Leg,” and “Carcassonne”) but many I found boring or downright disliked. There’s just a LOT of racism and sexism that I found it hard to overlook even if it was just part of the time when he wrote. Also a lot of war/”the glory of the South” stuff that’s just not for me. I am happy that I read it, but very few felt worth the high effort you have to put into untangling these stories.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Islanders, by Christopher Priest. Finished April 12th. This book is compared to Murakami and David Mitchell, but I think it’s more Invisible Cities meets Abarat. It’s a blurry line between magical realism and fantasy and this book walks it finely. It’s about a group of islands (a HUGE group of islands) and the different people and cities that populate it. Each island that we focus on gets its own chapter, some short and some very long, with a few overlapping characters who appear on many of them. There’s many plot elements: a murder mystery, the history of a famous author, etc. But it’s not a plot-driven book. It’s about the evocative descriptions and the magical quality of the islands. If you liked Invisible Cities I think you’ll love this too.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Crow, by Ted Hughes. Finished April 13th. I read this “in preparation” for another book but I love crows so I probably would have read it anyway. Everything in here is just amazing, I was highlighting practically every line. There’s just so much: grief, pain, and sorrow mixed with mythology and folktales about my second-favorite animal, the crow. And what a character Crow is. In turns devious, coy, vicious, tricky, and sweet, Crow is really just wonderful to read about (if a little painful). You can feel Hughes’ grief soaking off the pages. It’s funny: I’m not usually into poetry but when I find something I love I’m pretty passionate about it.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, by Max Porter. Finished April 13th. This is the book that I read Crow for! It’s about a Hughes scholar whose wife dies, and Crow comes to take care of him and his two sons. No joke. It’s… it’s just amazing. Crow is SO accurate to the poems, and his chapters were so perfect and amazing. This book is like evil magical realism: it’s so dark and twisty and grief-laden, a rough read at points but suffused with enough magic to not make it a real downer. Highly, highly recommended–but read Crow first.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Vegetarian, by Han Kang. Finished April 15th. So, I dnf’d this book last month because I found a section of it really triggering–something I don’t usually experience with books. But it made the Man Booker International shortlist and no other book I attempted did, so I felt obliged to pick it up again. And, um, I’m not super happy I did. Once you get over the rape sections, it’s just… I don’t even know. Trying SO hard to be ~bizarre~ and ~weird~ and ~whimsical~ and ~dark.~ I mean, the writing was good so I can’t knock it down too far, but the plot went nowhere I was expecting (in a bad way) and while I did enjoy the second section, the first was horrible for me and the third was weirdly dull.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Look to Windward, by Iain M. Banks. Finished April 17th. After the incredibly disappointing Inversions, I was hesitant to pick up the next Culture book. I shouldn’t have been, because this is by far my favorite of the series (yes, more than Excession!). It shouts out to the first book, which I enjoyed because there’s barely any overlap between the series, and takes us to so many places: a strange caste-based society, one of the Culture’s magical orbitals, and a very, very unique and strange world where a scientist lives on a giant blimp-like sentient beast. It tackles some really serious questions about war and humanity while giving us a really engaging plotline. It also has probably my favorite Culture character: Kabe, the philosophical alien who plots along through the book and gives us some truly hilarious scenes. This was everything I want in science fiction.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Ship of Destiny, by Robin Hobb. Finished April 20th. The last Liveship Traders book stabbed me right in the heart. I laughed, I cried, I cried some more and cursed Hobb for making me feel such feelings. Most of all, I was shocked about how neatly all the disparate threads were drawn together. Her craftsmanship is masterful: like Peter Hamilton, there is a LOT going on in this series and you think “hmm, there’s no way this will all be nice and neat at the end.” But it is! All the threads, from the strange serpent chapters to Malta’s unexpected transformation (a character I started out loathing and ended up loving) come together brilliantly. But this book is a rough read: harder even than some of the most brutal moments of Farseer. My heart may never recover.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

 

Reading Challenge Progress

97/175 Books

14/33 Series Books

34/50 TBR Books

17/15 Different Countries

March 2016 Reading Wrapup

7 Apr

Another month, another late wrapup! It’s a trend, I tell you. But hey, some people did their February wrapups just a few days ago, so I don’t feel that bad about it. Actually I do, so let’s just pretend this is totally on time!

March was an amazing reading month for me, my best ever. However, until I actually looked at my stats at the end of the month I felt like it was going rather slowly. Odd, right? It’s probably because my nightime reading (which is all on Kindle) was kind of slow due to some chunkers. But my daytime reading, which is physical books (and a new addition to my reading routine) more than made up for that. Since this is a long one hit the jump to get started!

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Review: One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left To Hide, by Christian Kiefer

14 Mar

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Last year I read Christian Kiefer’s The Animals, which made it onto my list of favorite books. After that emotional rollercoaster I was of course looking forward to any new books from him, but the blurb for One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left To Hide would have grabbed me no matter who wrote it. It is about an installation artist named Frank Poole and his wife Caitlin who are attempting to turn an entire subdivision into an art piece. Painted all white, sealed away, and left to remain perfect forever. It is told in a rather unusual format: it is a scene-by-scene description of a documentary, and you know how I feel about strange book formatting. I just can’t resist it!

I am a pretty fast reader, but this book took me several days to get through. I’d read 50 pages, put it down to think, and that was it for the day: definitely unusual for me, but this is not a book you devour in one sitting (though its length, 193 pages, definitely makes that possible). It’s a slow, thoughtful read, which is funny because the pace of the documentary is actually quite quick. It’s also a beautiful book: the cover is matte white and the words are glossy, which of course fits with the all-white subdivision theme. I’d take a picture of my copy but it’s a mess: post-it notes sticking out of dozens of different locations.

One Day Soon reminded me from the very beginning of one of my all-time favorite novels, House of Leaves. The inscription reads:

Let us be clear. The time you spend reading these words will not be returned.

Ominous right from the start! I’d hardly call it a horror novel but there is a huge sense of unease through the book. We bounce from the subdivision project to Frank and Caitlin talking about their past to cut-up images of American life. Endless descriptions of identical houses, stores, malls. Which brings to mind another of my favorite books, Invisible Cities, a text that is merely descriptions of cities (but also so much more).

Buildings and landscapes without beauty. But is this not America?

On the surface there seems to be a critique of the same-ness of American life, of how a Starbucks looks identical no matter where in the country you are. And that’s certainly one angle of it: how same-ness makes us feel, shapes our actions. But Frank’s intention is not to draw attention to that corporate mentality, but to preserve something perfect. All of his installations (and we get to see many of them over the course of the “film”) are about saving a moment in time, a perfect moment that can never go wrong or move forward into uncertainty because it is behind glass and protected. Protected from time. Which of course plays directly into the name of the novel, which is also the name of Frank’s subdivision installation.

While the story itself is compelling and thoughtful, I found the real allure of the book to be the way it’s told. The documentary format allows us to travel to places a traditional narrative would not let us, flashing between past and present with dizzying speed. It is narrated mostly in the second person, with the narrator (who seems to be the documentary itself at times) using “we” and “you” to create a sense of intimacy–and also unease.

Perhaps Frank is not present now. Perhaps there is no interviewer and no film and no web of text to scrim over this illusion. Perhaps there is not even you.

This is the kind of weird meta horror I live for in books. Seriously, this book felt like it was written just for me: we even get a sly nod to Majer from The Animals (“a grizzly stands to look out through the glass”). It’s quirky, unusual, strange, and packs an emotional wallop.  I could go on for pages and pages about how much I love it, but I’m sure that would get a little dull after a while so I will end with this: if you like strange fiction, read this book.

One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left To Hide will be released on March 22nd, and you can order a copy here.

[ARC provided by the publisher, all ideas and thoughts are my own]

February 2016 Wrapup: Part II

5 Mar

The first half of February was an absolutely amazing stretch of reading for me, but things slowed down towards the second half. This is probably because I put off my series reading and had to squeeze in a lot of big books in the last two weeks of the month (and didn’t even finish one of them until March!). So let’s dive right in.

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The Dumb House, by John Burnside. Finished February 17th. This is a super hyped book that it took me ages to read, mostly because I had to get a physical copy (I read mainly ebooks), and I wanted the UK cover because I’m picky. But finally! I can’t say that it was everything I expected because it was so much more than I expected. It’s billed as a story about a man obsessed with language who decides to raise children in absolute silence to see if they develop speech. Creepy, right? But that doesn’t actually happen until the last third of the book, and the first two might actually be more unsettling and disturbing. It’s like Lolita x Oedipus Rex x American Psycho. Just chilling, beautifully written, and disturbing in the best way. I loved this even more than I was expecting, which was surprising cause my expectations were already sky-high.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie. Finished February 17th. I read And Then There Were None and Murder On The Orient Express last year, my first Christies. And I enjoyed them thoroughly. So why not read another? Sadly, I just didn’t feel the same way about this one. It’s kind of hard to get past the rampant racism, but even so I just didn’t find it very compelling. The mystery was neat, and I love how it was wrapped up (clever as always), but it took SO long to get to the murder and I felt like a lot of the buildup was unnecessary. There was a lot of interaction between characters but not much character development: I didn’t feel like I really knew anyone. Okay, but nothing special.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Supernatural Enhancements, by Edgard Cantero. Finished February 19th. Another book I’ve been wanting for ages but had to get in a physical copy because of the strange formatting. This book is told in letters, notes, film footage, telegrams, cryptograms, and more. It’s about a ~spooky house~ which is, like, my #1 book buzzword because of House of Leaves. This actually is less about a haunted house (though trust me, there’s a haunted house) and more about secret societies. It’s like a really creepy National Treasure–secrets upon secrets and clues that lead to nothing but dozens of other clues. It’s a very inventive, clever book that’s told in the kind of quirky way that I love.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Royal Assassin, by Robin Hobb. Finished February 20th. Book 2 of the Farseer Trilogy, and by far my favorite! I just love these books. There’s something magical about them. They’re slow, character-driven fantasy and if that’s your jam, read them! Right now! The characters are so rich and complex, the world is really great, the worldbuilding is so subtle and fantastic, it’s dark without being ~wow grimdark so edgy.~ This was my favorite of the three probably because of Nighteyes, the world’s best wolf. Plus, so much happens! These books have a strange quality where they feel slow and meandering but at the same time a TON of stuff happens. So it’s both slow and fast paced? Hard to explain, but executed so well. Hobb is really a master of the craft.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Girls on Fire, by Robin Wasserman . Finished February 22nd. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I found lacking in this book. On the surface, it was great. I love the “destructive, consuming female friendship” trope, the writing is really gorgeous at places (though not consistently so), the plot was definitely a page-turner, I loved how complex all the characters were. But. I’m not sure how real they felt. On the one hand, they’re wonderfully fleshed out and feel like real people when we’re in their heads. On the other, they do things that make no sense with what we know about them. I felt a big dissonance between their inner monologues/personalities and actions, with Hannah/Dex in particular (but towards the end this happened with Lacey and Nikki too). It’s a little *too* unbelievable, and verges on Lifetime movie drama when you get to the climax. It really took me out of the book: I was like, “really? There’s no way this is happening.” But not at all in a good, surprised kind of way.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Felines of New York, by Jim Tews. Finished February 23rd. This was a total impulse purchase. I was at B&N, I saw cats, I saw New York, I was sold. This is, of course, a riff on Humans of New York. But with cats. Basically hilarious quotes with pictures of amazing cats. What more could I want? It was really funny, much funnier than I was expecting, and of course there were so many cute kitties. A+ cat humor.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Bats of the Republic, by  Zachary Thomas Dodson. Finished February 25th. THIS BOOK. I have so many emotions, guys. So. Many. Emotions. This might be my favorite book of the year so far. It’s so hard to describe: it takes place in two timelines, one in frontier-era America and one in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic (? maybe) America 300 years later. Both storylines revolve around an unopened letter (which is actually in the physical book, but you can’t open it until the end). It’s told through letters, illustrations, phone conversations, and actual narrative. It’s an “illuminated novel” and in full color, which means basically every page is gorgeous. It’s so meta and recursive and weird. There’s literally a book in the book that looks like it was just scanned in. It’s… it’s perfect. If you like weird, quirky, meta, clever reads, PICK THIS UP. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Lovecraft Country, by Matt Ruff. Finished February 25th. Lovecraft is one of my favorite authors, and I have struggled for years with his rampant racism. On one hand, he was a product of his times. On the other, racism of that level is never excusable. But at the same time, his incredible xenophobia is what crafted his amazing world: the fear of the other drives almost every one of his stories. So how to come to terms with this? Enter Lovecraft Country, a book that takes Lovecraftian elements and mixes them with a cast of black characters in Jim Crow-era America. What’s scarier than Cthulhu? Cops who want to shoot you because of your skin color, that’s what. This is a really clever, inventive book that takes two very different kind of horrors and melds them together perfectly. I do think it was a little light on the horror aspects, and I wish there was more of a focus on crazy monsters (it was more Lovecraft’s cults and weird houses), but I really enjoyed this. A very different and important take on Lovecraftian fiction.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Excession, by Iain Banks. Finished February 27th. I decided to take a brief break from Farseer to tackle the 5th Culture book. And, finally, it gave me what I had been wanting from the beginning! A truly varied, large cast of characters. Strong horror elements. Philosophical questions. Twists and turns. A detailed look at weird aliens. Main female characters. Space mystery. Plus we got so much of what is, to me, the heart of the Culture novels: the droids and Minds. Who are just… oh my god, I never thought I’d love robots so much. This was so close to 5 stars for me (I felt the two different plot “strands” didn’t meet up neatly enough at the end, which knocked it to 4 1/2) but this made me very excited to read the remaining 5 books.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

I also got 90% into the last Farseer book, but alas, I couldn’t actually wrap it up until March!

Reading Challenge Progress

50/175 Books

7/33 Series Books

15/50 TBR Books

12/15 Different Countries

February 2016 Wrapup: Part I

16 Feb

Ah, February, the month of love! And reading a lot of books. I don’t know why this year has gotten off to such a good start, but I’ve been a reading fiend! And I haven’t just been reading a lot of books, I’ve been reading a lot of good books. My goals this year (focusing on my TBR, series, and authors from many countries) have me tackling things that I almost always love. I mean, if a book has been on my TBR for 1 year+ and survived all my purges, I’m probably going to like it. And that’s definitely been the case so far!

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The Bands of Mourning, by Brandon Sanderson. Finished Feb 1st. After finishing Shadows of Self last month, I absolutely had to read the next Wax & Wayne book. At first I was kind of skeptical about this series. I am sorry for doubting you, Lord of Fantasy Brandon Sanderson. This book is just… amazing. The plot goes in really weird places I was never expecting. The character development is ridiculously good. I can’t say anything about the plot without spoiling 5 other books but it’s safe to say that I am going to die waiting another year for the final installment.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Mistborn: Secret History, by Brandon Sanderson. Finished Feb 2nd. A surprise Mistborn book! This one takes place during the first trilogy, and gives us a peek at what was going on behind all the big events. I have mixed feelings about it: on one hand, I loved all the Cosmere mythos we got and I loved the characters. On the second, it kind of spoiled some of the mystery and I almost liked it better before I knew what happened “behind the curtain.” But I still liked reading it? Very confusing!

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Shadows For Silence In The Forest Of Hell, by Brandon Sanderson. Finished Feb 3rd. I was really on a Cosmere kick at the beginning of February. This is one of Sanderson’s novellas that doesn’t directly tie into any of his book series, but it does contain bits and pieces of Cosmere info. I feel like Sanderson is not at his best in short format: there’s not enough time for character development or his signature twists (though we do get some of both). I liked this, but didn’t love it. The world was amazing though and I’d love to see a full-length novel set in the Forest.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Suicide of Claire Bishop, by Carmiel Banasky. Finished Feb 4th. This book is hard to describe. It has two plotlines. One is about a woman named Claire in the 1950′s (and onward) who has a portrait painted of her but the artist paints Claire committing suicide. The second plot is about a schizophrenic man named West in the present time who becomes obsessed with Claire’s portrait and is convinced that the artist who painted it is also a (young) woman he knows. Claire’s story takes place over decades and just gets more and more bleak. West’s takes place over a week or so and his madness becomes more and more pronounced, coinciding with Claire’s downward spiral. It’s a strange, beautiful novel with the lightest touch of magical realism and a heavy focus on personality, identity, and madness.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Our Endless Numbered Days, by Claire Fuller. Finished Feb 5th. A girl is kidnapped by her father who takes her out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and tells her the world has ended. It’s a horror/survival novel which is right up my alley. I love bleak, depressing stories! I love horror! I love the woods! The writing here was gorgeous and lush, and while I had a few issues (mainly I felt like it was way too short) I was just in love with it. Though I will admit that I only picked this up because the title is an Iron & Wine lyric (and also because of the hype).

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Into The Forest, by Mark Z Danielewski. Finished Feb 5th. THESE GODDAMN BOOKS. I am so wrapped up in this strange little world, even though I have basically no idea what is going on. I love all of it, even the incomprehensible bits. If you like weird, experimental, postmodern fiction this is a must. Also if you like cats. Potentially very creepy and evil but cute cats.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud. Finished Feb 5th. I hate The Stranger. “Oh, woe is me, I’m so ~tortured~ and filled with ennui that I have to kill a guy to feel anything!” Lol no thank you. So this book, which is about the unnamed man who was murdered (and set in a universe where The Stranger was published as nonfiction, so clever) was everything I ever wanted. It’s philosophical, clever, witty, deep, moving, and at times shocking. I’d recommend this to anyone who has read The Stranger, whether you love it or hate it. It’s an excellent companion novel/counterpoint.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Thing Itself, by Adam Roberts. Finished Feb 7th. Have you ever felt like a book was written just for you? The Thing Itself starts out with a The Thing/At The Mountains Of Madness sequence with scientists in Antarctica when ~strange things~ start to happen. After that it skips back and forward in time, giving us many different perspectives though the main storyline centers on one of the scientists. And it involves philosophy and sentient computers and so many references you could get lost chasing them all down. It’s hilarious and sad, with a very strong focus on the “what ifs” that science fiction is such a good platform for. Plus it tackles the Fermi Paradox. What’s not to love?

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Fifty Year Sword, by Mark Z Danielewski. Finished Feb 8th. I have this weird quirk when it comes to authors I love. I have trouble reading all their books, and tend to pick one to “set aside” and read “later.” Later usually = never, because I have this strange fear of running out of their books. I actually got this book in the original pressing of only 1,000, not the re-release. I have had it for AGES. But I read House of Leaves and Only Revolutions and Danielewski used to publish so slowly that I was terrified there would be no more, and I would have already read this–my last book of his. But with The Familiar, which is going to have 25 (!!) more volumes, enough to last me many years, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have to read this. So I finally did! If you like Danielewski, you will like this. It seems like most people don’t, and that’s understandable, but I love weird, experimental, and creepy books. So of course I adore him. I actually think this is his most accessible text: sure, the format is a little strange, but you don’t need to dissect it to understand what is happening and the core story is really straightforward. Plus, pretty pictures. It might be a good introduction if you’re put off by the density of HoL, the strangeness of The Familiar, or the downright bizarre journey of OR.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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The Way Inn, by Will Wiles. Finished Feb 8th. This has been on my TBR for ages, and I never paid much attention to it. But there is a reference to it in The Thing Itself, so of course I bumped it right up to the top! It’s the kind of book I love (for the most part). A quirky book where there’s a ~spooky hotel~ that’s bigger on the inside. It also has some nice discussions about the same-ness of modern life. It gets very strange, but for some reason the ending fell a little flat for me. It was weird but not as weird as I wanted? If that makes sense. I loved the first 2/3rds but I do wish the author had pushed the envelope a little bit more towards the end section.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Demon Theory, by Stephen Graham Jones. Finished Feb 10th. If you like House of Leaves and The Raw Shark Texts, this book is always the next one recommended. And those are two of my favorite books (top 10 favorite, serious business) yet I never read Demon Theory? What is wrong with me, seriously. This book is about a trilogy of horror films: or rather, it’s a scene for scene description of a trilogy of horror films. It’s super meta and I freaking love horror movies. And books centered on fake media. And footnotes. And did I mention horror movies? This book was just… perfection. Everything I want.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami. Finished Feb 11th. There are only a few Murakami books that I haven’t read, and I am trying to get over my “leave one book unread per author” thing and tackle the remaining ones. This is a short story, really a children’s tale, with some gorgeous illustrations. Like many of his shorts it’s… really weird. And it has the Sheep Man! It was a little too short with not enough explanation for me to really love it, but it was an enjoyable read.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. Finished Feb 13th. My first series book of the year! Unlike last year, I’m not set on reading each series straight through so I took a short break from Culture to read the first Realm of the Enderlings book. So how do I describe this? It’s a fantasy, but it’s majorly focused on the characters. There’s worldbuilding, but it’s not “hey here is how things work!” It’s subtle and you learn so much just from character interactions. The plot is very much in the background. The magic is fresh but also feels very classic. I see already why people are so crazy about this series. If you like character-driven fantasy and slow burn plot, you absolutely have to pick these up.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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American Housewife, by Helen Ellis. Finished Feb 13th. This was a real impulse read for me. The description kind of sounds like Desperate Housewives but with more murder, so I was all about it. And it was! Kind of. This is a collection of clever little short stories that very much work as satire on modern life in America. It’s absolutely hilarious in a grimdark sort of way. You know, if you think people possibly getting eaten by mutant housecats and a reality show about dumpster diving are hilarious. Highly recommended for people who like comic darkness and short stories.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Dare Me, by Stella Rhys. Finished Feb 14th. I have been really sick for the past few days and reading got really difficult. I picked up the next Culture book and read the same page 5 times (!!) before I accepted that I needed to read something stupid if I was going to read. So, for Valentine’s Day, a romance! The blurb sells this as the story of two kids who played twisted truth or dare. That’s, like, 3 scenes in the book. It’s really your stereotypical romance/erotica with a ~so rich so handsome so perfect~ dude and a ~mysterious past gorgeous SO TORTURED~ girl who the universe just keeps trying to keep apart. It’s dull and predictable and the girl’s “mystery past” was so freaking stupid I wanted to die. But, um, it could have been even worse? And hey, this is only the fourth below-3-stars book I’ve read this year, so it’s hard to be mad about that!

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

 

Reading Challenge Progress

41/175 Books

5/36 Series Books

11/50 TBR Books

11/15 Different Countries

 

January 2016 Reading Wrapup

1 Feb

So, I’ve kind of already blown one of my bookish resolutions: two reading wrapups per month. I mean, I do have reasons: I had a family member in the hospital, stressful apartment shit to deal with, and just general crappy life situations going on. So, no time (or rather too much stress) to write that Part I and Part II. But, thankfully, it didn’t affect my reading! In fact, January was my best reading month ever. I read 26 books. 26! If I read that much every month, I’d hit over 300 books this year. Which definitely isn’t going to happen, but I’m still pretty happy with it. And since this is going to be an epically long roundup it’s under the cut, so hit the jump to get started.

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Reading Goals For 2016

9 Jan

2015 was a great reading year for me, but I’m always looking for ways to improve my reading experience! So, of course, I have a new set of goals for 2016. I know for a lot of people having a number, or really specific goals, can be stressful or ruin reading for them. But personally I find goals & challenges really motivating, so I’ve set up quite a few for this year. Not as many as last year (for example, I am not going to be doing a specific page number goal–though I will be tracking how many pages I read), but enough to keep me on track.

First off, I’ve set my book goal for 175, up from the 150 last year. I did get about 15 books past that in ’15, but I have some clunkers on my list this year so I don’t want to overdo it.

Like last year, I will be doing a series challenge. But instead of the 12 series I aimed for last year, I will be tackling 3 big ones in 2016: Iain M. Banks’s Culture, Robin Hobb’s Realms of the Enderlings, and Stephen King’s Dark Tower. These are of course subject to change if I start one of them and dislike it. Though I do have a few smaller series (3-4 books) I’d like to get to, I’m not going to put them on my list of goals but I’ll count them if I finish them!

Perhaps most importantly (for me), I’m doing a TBR challenge. My TBR is massive (170+ books), so my goal this year is to read 50 books off my TBR. This shouldn’t be an issue at all, since the books on it are all ones I want to read. Basically, I need to stop adding every new book that catches my eye to the pile and focus on what I know I want to read. Of course this leaves lots of wiggle room for new & impulse books!

From last year, I’m carrying over the big book challenge. I’ll be reading Infinite Jest, Gravity’s Rainbow, and Ulysses. My problem last year was the time commitment these books take up, but I have a solution! I do all of my reading at night before bed, but for these I’m going to devote 30 minutes to an hour during the day to reading one of them (or other hefty books). This way I can take my time without worrying about all the books I am “missing out on.”

Last but not least, I’ll be doing an around the world challenge. I want to read books written by authors from 15 different countries. To be honest, this one won’t take any extra work: between my other goals and the Man Booker International longlist coming out soon I should be set. This is more so to track how diverse my reading is. I’m also going to be attempting to read more diversely in terms of content: hopefully I’ll get to some poetry & non-fiction this year, though I’m not making that a set goal.

So that’s it for 2016! It might seem like a lot, so we’ll see if these change as the year goes on, but at the moment I’m really happy with what I have set up for the months ahead.

Makeup Goals For 2016

4 Jan

It seems like every month on this blog I get farther and farther away from my initial goal: books and makeup. The books are going stronger than ever before, but it’s no secret that I’ve dipped off the makeup front significantly. It’s not that I don’t have anything to blog about: it’s that I have too much! I get absolutely overwhelmed when coming up with post ideas. I want to swatch all my highlighters, but I have so many that I’d have to break it up into multiple posts. Do I do it by indie/drugstore/mid-high end? Powder, cream, and liquid? Maybe by color (gold, white, pink/rose, purple, peach, blue…)? And then there’s the time I’d have to dedicate to swatching 150+ highlighters (yes, I know, I have too many). And that’s just highlighter! What about blush? Eyeshadow? A collection post? Perfume comparisons by scent type? It makes me anxious just thinking about it! I get too overwhelmed to even do posts on new collections.

But this year I really want to focus on using what I have rather than acquiring new things. If I think of it as swatching for myself (aka “oh, I’d really love to have picture comparisons of all my highlighters”) it becomes a bit easier to think about! And if I think about how I’d want it organized for convenience rather than how some amorphous audience would want it, the choice is clear: by color. It’s still a huge undertaking, and I’ll probably start with smaller projects (bronzer, indie lip products, liquid lipstick), but it seems like a mountain I can climb rather than one that will kill me on the ascent.

Speaking of using up my collection, this also means cleaning out things I don’t need. Yes, decluttering! I’m never going to be one of those people who empties out 50% of their blush and gets rid of 20 palettes (the thought alone hurts my heart!) but I want to get things that I don’t use/have gone bad/don’t work for me out of my collection. Do I need that dried-out eyeliner I’ve had since I was 16? No! To start out my “I’m actually going to declutter” resolution, I’ve started with a problem area for me: mascaras.

I am a mascara hoarder. It’s embarrassing to admit how old some of the ones I regularly use are (3 years! what the hell self!). I have a bunch of untouched minis and I plan to get into rotating them out every 3 months like I’m supposed to. I’ve left myself 2 open full size (1 high end, 1 drugstore) and 4 open minis to work through for the next 3 months, mainly to acclimate myself to 1 mascara at a time rather than a different one every day. After that? They’re all getting tossed (aside from Bad Gal Plum, which is unuseable but I keep for sentimental value).

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See all that mascara? I was using ALL of that. Like, rotating every day for half a month before I repeated. That’s not good at all! I have long, thick lashes so most mascaras do a great job at giving me volume + length. It doesn’t take much. So from now on, I will have 1 drugstore full size and 1 high-end/mid-end mini open at a time (because I like to layer). That’s IT. No buying more minis before I run out of the ones in my stash, either, and they should last a full year.

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And that’s what I am keeping! Top row is opened and will get tossed in 3 months, bottom is all my unopened minis + primers. Which I am going to start using, because why not? I have them and they were free.

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Then I got a little destash-happy and cleaned out some more stuff! The face wash & moisturizer are ancient, and I’m never going to use them. They’re also organic (aka “who needs preservatives?”) and have started to smell off. Why was I hanging on to them? Who knows, but they’re gone now. Same thing for the scrub: I actually love(d) it, but I was hoarding it and now it’s gone funky. I’d rather use up things I love and have experienced & enjoyed them than let them go bad and have the product wasted. The mask burned my face pretty badly, so I don’t even know why I kept that around…

Favorite Books of 2015, And A Year In Retrospect

4 Jan

2015 is over! It’s funny, years passing didn’t used to mean a whole lot to me, but now that I’ve started doing yearly reading goals it’s an exciting time. A time to celebrate the achievements of the past year and set goals for the future! Those goals will be in another post because come on, no one wants to read 5+ pages of me rambling.

This year I met almost all of my goals. I read 191 books out of my initial goal of 150. I read 72,025 pages out of a set goal of 45,000. I got through 12 series (a total of 56 books), which was right on track with my goals for one a month! I didn’t hit my goal to get through big books I’ve been putting off (only did 1 of 4) but I’m overall very satisfied with my reading this year. I hit so many different genres, and there was a pretty good diversity in terms of author’s gender, sexuality, and home nation.

So, let’s talk about my favorites. Given the number I read there was no way I could do one of those concise, 10-book lists like many people. So I decided to sit down, comb through my list (excluding re-reads, of course), and write down every one I really loved with an idea to trim it down to about 20 at the end. Well… I made my list, and it was only 19! Yeah, I was pretty proud. Instead of adding another book I just went with my gut. So these are my top 19 favorites of 2015! In alphabetical order, because I’m not going to pick favorites. These were all fantastic.

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The Animals, by Christian Kiefer: You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel like your heart just got ripped out of your chest. I had basically no expectations going into this novel and it blew me away. It’s bleak and depressing but full of am amazing amount of emotional punch. I actually cried reading this: in fact, I cried reading 4 books this year (and, of course, all of them are on this list!). The Animals skirts a lot of genres, dipping its toes into grit-lit but never quite settling there because there is more… humanity and connection here than you’d expect from grit-lit. I mean, I grew emotionally attached to a bear in this book. And I’m terrified of bears.

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The Blue Fox, by Sjón: This slim little volume is part fairytale, part family drama, part survival-adventure, and part pure magic. The writing is simple but amazingly lyrical, and the plot manages to have many twists and turns given how few pages it covers. There’s a strong undercurrent of folklore and magical realism here, and while I suppose you could consider this a moral tale it’s quite twisted and emotional. The characterization manages to be incredibly well done given how little the author gives himself to work with: there’s a disabled girl here who isn’t even alive in any of the scenes, yet manages to be absolutely amazing and compelling.

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Broken Harbor, by Tana French: I honestly never thought a Tana French novel could surpass In The Woods for me (and yes, I’m working on those Dublin Murder Squad posts!). Yet somehow, Broken Harbor did. This book takes the “is there something weird/supernatural going on here?” theme that ran through ITW and shoots it into overdrive. This book is really a combo horror-mystery, and it’s spooky as hell. And the main mystery is, of course, combined with a fantastic lead detective with a… colorful home life, to say the least, with an element of madness that just amplifies the creep-factor of the main murders.

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The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro: This seems to be a very divisive book. Fans of Ishiguro’s more mainstream books like The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go generally don’t like it, and I can see why. But my favorite Ishiguro books (The Unconsoled, A Pale View of the Hills) contain a streak of strange unreality. The Buried Giant takes this and runs with it: it’s technically a fantasy book, and includes things like dragons and giants and demons. However, fans of fantasy were also disappointed because it’s not exactly a swashbuckling adventure. The story focuses on an elderly married couple and their search for their son… and also their memories. This is more a book about memory, war, and love than it is about dragons or adventure. And while it’s an Arthurian tale with characters borrowed from that world, there’s nothing epic about it. This is a slow, character-driven tale that has an absolutely heartbreaking conclusion that had me in tears. If you like unusual, slow, fairytale-like fantasy I highly, highly recommend this!

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Dead Beat, by Jim Butcher: The Dresden Files was my second-favorite series that I discovered this year, and of course one of the books was going to make it into my favorites list. It wasn’t even a debate which one: Dead Beat encompasses everything I love about the series. The characters are absolute perfection (Butters~), the fantasy aspect is great (necromancers! the Wild Hunt! the Erlking!), the story is riveting with some nice twists & turns, it advances the meta-plot, and most importantly it has the greatest action scene I’ve ever read. It’s just… if you like urban fantasy and haven’t read this, what’s wrong with you?! And if you don’t like urban fantasy, give it a shot: it’s a genre I don’t particularly enjoy, except for the Dresden Files. Which is pure magic.

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The Evolutionary Void, by Peter Hamilton: I am a longtime fan of Peter Hamilton. I devoured Pandora’s Star & Judas Unchained in my late teens, but somehow I hadn’t read the follow-up trilogy. Well, okay, I know exactly how. I bought the first book the day it came out, read it, and by the time the second one came out I forgot everything that happened. And re-reading a 800+ page book is no small feat, so eventually I gave up. This year I re-dedicated myself and read all of them in a row. What an amazing ride! I didn’t think I could love a book of his more than Pandora’s Star, but this came hella close. All of the parts come together perfectly in the finale, every stray thread wrapped up and every character proven useful to the plot. Of course characters are where Hamilton really shines and this has some great ones. But my favorite thing (aside from, you know, everything else I loved) was the incredible easter eggs from Pandora’s Star. My favorite character came back in the most perfect way imaginable. Peter Hamilton, how even are you so amazing.

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Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff: Few books inspire as much passion in me as Fates and Furies. Something about this book struck a deep chord in me: the writing is beyond gorgeous, the characters are fantastically complex, the plot unfolds in incredibly unexpected ways and it’s deliciously meta. I’m on a warpath when it comes to pushing this book on people: if you know me in person, I’ve probably tried to get you to read it. I feel all fuzzy thinking about it: it’s one of those books you could re-read a dozen times and find something new each go through. And the main theme, of what makes an event “real” and how perception affects reality, is pretty much my absolute favorite. Oh, and the book-in-a-book…. which is also present here. It’s seriously perfect, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.

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A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay: 2015 was not a great year for horror (unlike 2014, which was spectacular!) but I did find some great reads. Including the amazingly-meta House of Leaves-inspired A Head Full of Ghosts. It’s about a possibly-possessed girl who gets a documentary made about her, but it’s the telling of the story that is so compelling. We get the story from the “possessed” girl’s sisters, the filtered experience of a reporter, and a series of blog posts that dissect the documentary on its 10-year anniversary. There are so many references to other horror novels and movies, far more than I could ever hope to catch, but there are some pretty clever ones from my favorite horror book of all time (House of Leaves) and an absolute whammy from We Have Always Lived In The Castle. It wasn’t a perfect book, and I had a few issues with it, but my overall enjoyment and the high scare-factor (that sun room scene oh my god) overrode all the (small) negatives.

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Hyperion, by Dan Simmons: Hyperion is a book I picked up over a decade ago and never finished. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because the first story (The Priest’s Tale) was just 2spooky4me. I have a high scare tolerance but man… that one got me to the bone. I decided to finish the book (and series) this year and, yeah, The Priest’s Tale is just as unbearably freaky the second time around. But Hyperion is also awe-inspiring, heartbreakingly sad, tense as hell, and absolutely magical. This is everything science fiction should be: the main concept does not override the plot, but serves to provide a platform for an absolutely amazing story. While the over-arching plot is great it’s the tales from the pilgrims that make Hyperion shine. Definitely one of the all-time scifi greats, even if the sequels never quite reach its fevered pitch of intensity.

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The Incarnations, by Susan Barker: I love fiction set in Asia, and while my particular area of focus is Japan (especially when written by Japanese authors) I love China too. Or rather the idea of it: with the current censorship from the Chinese government, it’s hard to find modern fiction set in China that really feels like it’s set there, rather than the author just choosing it as an “exotic” set piece. The Incarnations is compared to David Mitchell frequently, and it deserves this high praise: it tells the story of a series of incarnations between two people over a thousand+ years of China’s history. It really feels steeped in culture, and every detail (from historical accuracy to the modern food) is well-researched. Of course none of this means anything if the story isn’t great but oh man is it compelling. It’s part historical fiction, part mystery, and totally amazing. Though all those damn dumpling descriptions will make you hungry, so have a snack ready when reading.

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A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara: This book tore me apart. It’s a devastating read, and contains pretty much every trigger imaginable (self harm, substance abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, mental illness, suicide, and more!). It’s amazingly hard to get through, and there’s one scene where I had to physically put down my Kindle because it was too much. Yet for all this book rips your heart to shreds, it’s just… it’s perfection. I loved it so much. Even though it made me cry (multiple times). The characters are the most fleshed-out and realistic I’ve ever encountered in fiction, and while it’s uncompromisingly brutal it’s well worth the read if you have a strong stomach. One of my favorite books of all time, and probably my favorite read of the year.

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Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov: The one “big book” I wanted to read this year that I actually got through! Sure, it isn’t big in terms of length, but it’s one of the most beloved books of all time. That kind of thing makes me nervous. But I shouldn’t have been, because I loved it. I think this is the best execution of the unreliable narrator I’ve ever read: while it’s clear Humbert Humbert isn’t telling us any of the truth and constantly lies to himself or misses incredibly important details, you at times almost find yourself siding with him. Which is truly masterful writing, because it’s about a child rapist who is practically proud of his actions. It’s also downright hilarious at times, a stark contrast to how sad and tragic the overall plot is. The writing is, of course, the star: every sentence is pure poetry.

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The Magician King, by Lev Grossman: The last of the 4 books that made me cry! You’d think the first book in the series, The Magicians, would be on my list. But oh. My. Lord. This book takes everything I loved in the first (super meta, references to fantasy classics, twisted plot, characters you love and love to hate, beautiful writing & worldbuilding) and amped them up to 11. The story here is darker than The Magicians: much darker. Julia’s summoning scene was unbearable to read. But the character growth here is fantastic, and of course it’s more of one of my favorite worlds. Definitely my favorite of the trilogy, though I truly loved all of them. This was my favorite series discovery of the year.

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The Queen, by Tiffany Reisz: Tiffany Reisz is the queen of my heart. I love everything she does, but nothing comes close to the Original Sinners series. Nora is one of my all-time favorite characters, so this book was kind of bittersweet. It’s the end of the series–or at least for a while, since Reisz has since announced that it will continue at some point in the future. So it’s just goodbye for now, not goodbye forever. But man was it hard for me to say farewell to these characters and their world.

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Quicksand, by Junichiro Tanizaki: It’s kind of shocking that I love Japanese literature so much but hadn’t yet read any Junichiro Tanizaki. I certainly fixed that in 2015, and while I liked everything of his that I read Quicksand holds a special place in my heart. Like its namesake, it lures you into a sense of complacency and then you find yourself sinking into absolute madness. It seems like a simple premise: woman cheats on her husband with another woman. But the plot here gets so amazingly, dementedly complex, and it seems like every page there’s a new twist in the plot. It just gets worse and worse for the characters until we’re far into magical realism territory because it’s just so unbelievable–yet because the burn is so slow, you’re never taken out of the core story. It’s a masterfully constructed novel.

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Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch: Another “you ripped my heart out but I loved every second of it” novel. That seems to be a theme of the year, no? Another theme: liking the second book in a trilogy the best. This actually seems to be the least-liked Gentleman Bastards novel but I loved it so much. There’s a heist (of course), pirates, a fantastical casino, plots, sabotage, character development, world development, interesting magic, fantastic female characters, a super interesting twisty plot, and of course more Jean x Locke bromance. It’s everything that makes the series unique and interesting on hyperdrive.

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Satin Island, by Tom McCarthy: This might be the weirdest book I read this year, and it was also one of my favorites. It has no plot, and it barely has characters either. What it does have is some amazing discussion of anthropology, which I have a degree in so of course it was right up my alley! It’s really a series of interconnected stories that answer one of the big anthro questions: how does perception affect reality? What version of an event is the true story? If you like weird philosophical texts that focus on meaning and connections rather than, you know, everything else you’d expect in a book, you might love this! But probably not. I mean, it’s so weird. How did this even get published.

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When We Were Animals, by Joshua Gaylord: I really didn’t expect a young adult book to end up here. It’s a genre that has totally lost my interest, and I tend to skim over any releases that are tagged YA. But all the good reviews (and the compelling plot description) swayed me to pick up When We Were Animals and I am SO thankful I did. This book is ethereal and fantastical, an amazing twist on the coming-of-age story. It’s as wild as its premise makes it out to be, but amazingly deep and with some fantastic characters. I assume it’s YA because of the age of the main characters, because there’s nothing simplified about the writing (which is AMAZING), plot, or characters. I was so enthralled with this book, and I absolutely devoured it.

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The Wide, Carnivorous Sky, by John Langan: I know a lot of people don’t like short stories, but they might be my favorite writing medium. Especially horror & new weird short stories, which these definitely are. This book plays with the format & boundaries of the short story: there’s a play, a movie, and a classroom lecture, along with classic throwbacks to Lovecraft & Poe. The monsters are classics as well (vampires, werewolves, zombies) but the structure of each one is just so fresh and interesting. Every twist was pleasantly unexpected, and I loved every one of these stories. John Langan has quickly moved up on the list of my favorite horror authors, and I can’t wait to catch up on his other books and, of course, to read what he has coming out next!

So that’s it for 2015! As you can see, my favorites were kind of all over the place: literary fiction, fantasy, science fiction, horror, short stories, classics, romance, mystery, young adult, historical fiction, and urban fantasy all had books on the list. And 6 of them were from series I read this year, making me very happy with my decision to hit so many! So what were your favorite books of the year?

December 2015 Wrapup: Part II

1 Jan

I can hardly believe it’s the end of December, but another year has come and gone. With the holiday rush I didn’t have as much time as I usually did for reading this half of the month, and I spent a large chunk of time traveling (4 weekends in a row away from home!), but I still made a decent dent in my ever-growing digital pile of books.

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Alice, by Christina Henry. Finished December 16th. This book is not for those with weak stomachs. It is, in a way, a retelling of Alice in Wonderland: but it is much more so a totally fresh story that uses the world & characters of Alice as set pieces. Alice here is a girl freshly escaped from a mental institution, and there are particularly demented interpretations of the March Hare, the Walrus, the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, and many other familiar faces. This book is absolutely jam-packed with horrific violence against women, but manages to not be exploitative or titillating at all, which is really quite a feat. It’s definitely a hard read, but the writing is beautiful and I loved this dark, violent spin on Alice. Especially Christina Henry’s take on the White Rabbit, who was my absolute favorite part of the book.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

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Lisey’s Story, by Stephen King. Finished December 19th. Onward in my quest to read every Stephen King novel! I know a lot of people dislike “new” King but Revival is probably in my top 3 favorites of his works, and I’ve really enjoyed Doctor Sleep and his newer short stories so I wasn’t hesitant about diving into this. Like most of his books, Lisey’s Story felt comfortably familiar. There’s a character who is a writer, strange & surreal supernatural elements, a psychotic but very human bad guy, a very well fleshed out female main character, and of course something sad happens to an animal. I think the book is overly long, though that’s probably a criticism you can levy about most of his books (especially the more recent ones) but it held my attention all the way through. There’s a scene towards the end that’s one of the most gruesome he’s written, and given the premise (writer’s widow finds out some spooky supernatural stuff) I was not at all expecting the dark direction this turned in.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

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Summer, by Edith Wharton. Finished December 20th. Sometimes I feel intensely guilty when I read a classic and don’t particularly enjoy it. Then I have to remember my love for many classics (Dracula, Great Expectations), and that not liking one of them doesn’t make me some kind of uneducated trollop. But man did I feel guilty for not liking this book. I mean, it’s Edith Wharton, it deals with abortion in a time where that was a forbidden topic, it’s a feminist text. And… I mean, I didn’t hate it. The language was beautiful and I got lost in Wharton’s descriptions of the countryside and mountains. But I found the main character insufferably naive but also incredibly fat-headed–not the best combo. The plot was kind of meandering, and Victorian-style romances have never been my thing, so I guess it wasn’t a shock that I found this so-so.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

 

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Poinsettia, by Tiffany Reisz. Finished December 21st. This short holiday-themed novella is part of the Original Sinners series, one of my favorite of all time, so of course I devoured it right before Christmas! It deals with one of the main characters in a time period we’ve never seen him during, which was great, along with a character who was named but never appeared on-page. It was short but sweet–or rather, bittersweet, because it deals with some surprisingly heavy topics that I wasn’t expecting. And perhaps the best part: in the intro, Reisz states that The Queen is “the eighth and final (for now, not forever)” in the series. Which means… more books in the future?! More Nora? Yes, please.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

 

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Among Others, by Jo Walton. Finished December 23rd. My dad has been asking me to read this for about a year now, and I have no idea why it took me so long. Okay, I do know why: the cover reads as total chick-lit, and the premise doesn’t sound the least bit interesting to me. But I adored this! It has a wonderful fairytale feel, but walks a thin line between “this is totally magic!” and “um, is this girl a little unhinged?” The magic system is absolutely beautiful, the fairies are suitably creepy, and the plot is just the kind of slow-paced, character-driven fantasy I adore. But the second layer to the book is what makes it great. Our main character reads a lot of scifi, so the book is sprinkled with discussions & commentary on scifi classics, along with a playful play dance along the barrier between fantasy and science fiction. If you like magical reads that make you wistful for your childhood, but still manage to remain firmly in the “adult” side of the genre, I highly highly recommend this.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

The Unnoticeables RD 1 selects A

The Unnoticeables, by Robert Brockway . Finished December 26th. This short novel is a jaunty ride through the 70′s punk scene in New York combined with some splatterpunk horror-comedy centered around a particularly terrifying take on angels. The writing here is irreverently funny and really carries the book along: it reminded me strongly of Sam Pink and Peter Stenson, which is high praise. It kind of tapers off in intensity towards the end and I feel like the plot wasn’t as strong as the characters, writing, & monsters deserved, but I really enjoyed it and am definitely looking forward to whatever Brockway works on next.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

 

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Last Days, by Adam Nevill. Finished December 29th. Oh, Adam Nevill. I can’t quit you. The Ritual is one of my favorite horror novels despite HUGE flaws, and Last Days suffers a similar fate (without being anywhere near as compelling as The Ritual). The first half is strong and creepy, with a slow-burn horror. The second half is a huge, tedious info-dump. Literally dozens upon dozens of pages of one character telling another what’s “actually going on.” Along with relevant info we get a ton of irrelevant tidbits that have nothing to do with the actual plot (including about 20 pages spent describing a painting. No joke). Then, inexplicably, the ending switches into an action flick, removing all of the mystery from the supernatural element and making it almost goofy. There are soooo many issues with this book, which makes me sad because the first half of The Ritual is perfect horror. Yet it seems like Nevill is incapable of building that amount of horror again, let alone finishing a book without derailing it.

Lipstick Rating 2 Full