Best books of 2015 (so far!)

I was trying to think of the best way to do this. Do I only talk about my favorite books published in 2015 or do I just talk about all the books I’ve read this year? Because with that qualification my lists change. So because this is my blog…my rules and I can do whatever I want.

2015 Books

  • Sunstone Vol 1 and Vol 2 by Stjepan Šejić. I can’t talk about one without the other. Šejić is crafting a beautiful love story that is wonderfully written and has gorgeous artwork. I will probably be adding Vol 3 on the next best of the year list.
  • How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz. I feel like this one is a bit of a gimme. It takes place in Santa Cruz (my town!) among other locations and it’s an interesting story about a friendship between three women that starts in college (UCSC!) and goes through some rocky times. I loved it.
  • Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski. This list is actually in no particular order, but if it was, this book would have been at the top. Right from the introduction I was impressed. There is so much information that I’m thinking I’m going to definitely go back to it. I wanted to buy a pallet of these books and hand them off to not only every woman I know, but also the straight men. Pick up this book NOW!
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. This was a fun book. It had shades (heh) of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman for me and I loved that book. I want the sequel in my hands now!
  • Half Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older. I read a lot of urban fantasy and this was such a great addition to the genre. I love that it is a blend of UF and also noir. The world building was richly developed and the characters were fully realized. I am looking forward to Shadowshaper, his YA book that takes place in the same world while I wait for the second book in the series.

Total favorite books by the month.

  • January – Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. I had a wonderful time reading this.
  • February – Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I generally am not into poetry, but this one blew my mind. I need to buy a copy for my house.
  • March – Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Mind blown with this. My first Butler and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Definitely need to add more of her to my life.
  • April – Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King. This was the YA book I would have wanted to read when I was a teenager. Real characters going through emotions that I went through. I like the fantasy stuff, don’t get me wrong, but to get such a perfect bit of what we go through, is important. I’m looking forward to holding this one for my boys to read when they’re old enough.
  • May – I can’t pick just one. May was a great month for reading.
    • No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay. Remember what I said about poetry before? I saw Kay’s TedTalk and was so moved that I immediately bought her book and devoured it. Look her up! “Hiroshima” and “B” are amazeballs.
    • Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans. Oh man. I have so many hopes for short stories and often just can’t get them. This is not one of them. I checked it out at the library and now want my own copy.
  • June – I held off from publishing this until almost the last minute just in case I was going to find a better June book. I like to keep my options open. Alas, I was right, and my weekend in San Francisco for PRIDE resulted in ZERO reading. I did buy a book, but did not read more than a couple pages while we were waiting for the parade to start. However, Come As You Are wins which I technically finished in the first part of June. See above for the reasons why.

What are the best books you’ve read so far this year? Ones written this year or just that you’ve read, back list or not count. It’s your choice! Did anything surprise you?

TBR

Recently I read a piece on Book Riot with the author talking about their TBR (which stands for To Be Read) list as if it was this ironclad thing, a ‘commitment’ in their words. If that’s how you use your TBR, more power to you. This isn’t an argument with them, on what is better. I want to explore what TBR means to me. I’ve just never thought of them that way. I’ve always used my TBR as a list of books one day I’d like to get to. I cull it quarterly. Sometimes a book that caught my eye and I added it on impulse has lost its luster. I have no qualms about removing books that have been sitting on the list forever. I’m obviously not going to read them. I do like to keep it a bit organized, but I’m not at all married to the idea they have to be read in some kind of strict order.

I did go through a phase where I added ALL the entries from all the years from 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. WTF was I thinking? I can tell you actually. I was thinking that I was coming from this very limited range of books and I wanted to be cultured and educated. It took me a bit, but then I realized…I’m really not that cultured. I read a few books from the list that made me what to bash my head against the wall. I kept a few that I really do want to get to, but the rest were cut. I’m not going to force myself through this subjective list (which ends up being way more than 1001 if you start adding all the revisions) to read books that don’t interest me. I could be reading these other really great books. I already came to terms with the fact I’m not going to be able to read all the books. But I want to try. I want to read all the books that interest me. I can’t do that if I’m stuck reading books that other people think I should be reading. I would understand if I was in the same place I was three years ago, just reading urban fantasy and mystery novels, but I read pretty widely now. I am keeping books like Jane Austen on my shelves. I have two kids and they might want them one day. I tend to do my genre fiction on e format because those tastes are pretty much mine and tend to be a little more depending on my age and what’s going on.

I do make a monthly TBR as you probably aware of if you read the blog regularly. I take books of my TBR shelves (I have separate bookshelves for the unread books and the read books) that look the most interesting to me at this time. Sometimes I get to them, oftentimes they stay on the shelf for the next month or they get removed for awhile. This sounds crazy probably, but I found I get through books a lot quicker if I have a (somewhat loose) plan. The only hiccup tends to come in the form of my ebooks. I like both my print books and my ebooks, yet the physically of the print books tends to cause me more panic to read them. Because I can see them literally piling up where my e books are really just ones and zeros on this nifty electronic device. That’s a dilemma for another day though. It doesn’t stop me from picking random books from either medium though. I tend to have an ebook going on each of my apps, Kindle, Kobo, and Scribd as well as an audiobook on the Audible app.

But again, I never feel like my book choices aren’t spontaneous. I still randomly pick a book of any of my shelves. In fact I raved about a book I’d read so well to my friend that I just went and picked it up off my shelf for a reread (note: it’s The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey). TBRs do help me also with my diversity goals. I’ve already noticed if I get too spontaneous, due to the problems in publishing, I end up with a pretty narrow batch of authors (hello all straight white people). I do tend to lean more to women authors automatically so that part isn’t problem for me, but like I said, my book picks by other marginalized authors suffer.

How do you treat your TBR? Is it something you HAVE to stay committed to? Is it fluid? Is it just a list of books you’d someday like to read? A list of books to keep track of?

July TBR

I updated the TBR shelf a little early since the husband and I are leaving for San Francisco tomorrow for Pride weekend. I generally don’t take a lot of print books on vacation anymore, as it’s a lot easier to slip the iPad mini in my bag. We’re taking the train up so I do need something to read. I’ll have these lovelies waiting for me when I get back.

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You may notice some from last time that I didn’t quite get to.

  • The Grace Keepers by Kristy Logan
  • Henna House by Nomi Eve
  • The Scarlet Sisters by Myra MacPherson
  • The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
  • The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
  • The  Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
  • Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
  • Kindred by Octavia Bulter
  • Lexicon by Max Barry
  • The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
  • The Bees by Laline Paull
  • Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce
  • Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
  • Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novick
  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  • I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

I also have a hell of an ebook TBR going so we shall see. I tend to have more front list on my e reader. Not counting my Scribd books which I use more whimsically, some of those are going to be:

  • The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
  • The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
  • The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
  • The Novice by Taran Matharu
  • Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra
  • The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak

You can always check my Goodreads shelf on the sidebar to see what I’m reading currently.

 

Week Between the Pages

This week has been pretty fucking good for books. I loved every single one (one exception but it is strongly in like).

Finished:

  • Come As You Are by Emily Nagasaki. I’m going to keep coming back to this one. I can feel it. It’s already made me realize things about myself that I had no idea about. I want to buy a stack of them and hand them out to both the women AND the men in my life.
  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. A great story. I might finally getting on the YA bandwagon if there are more books like this one. A girl friendship that doesn’t involve them tearing each other down and actually helping each other? Sold.
  • Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin. An interesting read about a woman who quits her job in books (I can haz?) to become a carpenter’s apprentice. I didn’t love it, but I applauded her bravery. It’s scary to quit something you’re good at to to something brand new.
  • How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz. This one was my favorite of the week. Possibly the month. All the books I read after this one have quite the challenge to overcome. It takes place, among other locations, in Santa Cruz which is my town. Lutz uses real streets and it was fun to go, yup I’ve been there. Another book about friendships between friends, this one is a lot more complicated than Under a Painted Sky’s as adult friendships inevitably become although it felt a lot more real than some of the other ones where it’s over some weird misunderstanding or jealousy. Did I mention I loved this book?
  • The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim. My knowledge of Korea is sorely lacking I realized as I read this one. I have been trying to get to this book for awhile now and I’m glad I finally did. It’s beautifully written and the main character’s struggle with her family’s traditionalism and religion and her own desire for education and progression is well developed.

Currently reading

  • The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. For some reason I was thinking this one was YA and I was resisting it because I wanted fantasy with some steam, not just some stolen kisses. I’m not far enough for the steam, but I read on Goodreads Tiffany Reisz was raving about the first book so I’m thinking if my personal kink hero loves it, it has to have something naughty in it. This is 3 books plus a novella so I might be in trenched in it for awhile.
  • Desperate Duchesses by Eloisa James. I devoured her fairy tale series and wanted to try more. There is something about this one that keeps turning me off though. I’m going to try to read a bit more, but so far, it’s not hitting the right notes.

Books Acquired

  • The Marriage Game: a novel of Queen Elizabeth I by Alison Weir. I have been trying to keep my book acquisitions to a minimum right now, but I couldn’t resist a book about the Tudors. They’re a weakness. I don’t know why. There’s just something about this family that sparks my interest. Also it’s a library book so it makes it easier that it’s not here to stay.

What has your reading week been like?

June TBR

As you can tell the TBR shelf has been rotated out! Some are still there from last month, specifically the feminist/women’s study type books like Birth of the Pill and Flow. In my efforts to read a good chunk of my print books, I did a count of the books that appear to be “fun reads.” Ones that appear to have not a very complex plot or wording. You won’t find any classics here (I’m looking at you James Joyce) or immersive historicals like Bringing Up the Bodies. Sometimes you want to just roll with the plot or the characters and not decipher’s metaphors. I could be wrong on a few of these, but when I do a pull like this, I try to trust my gut. I’m often gleefully surprised.

Some of the titles I’m looking forward:

  • How to Start A Fire
  • Under a Painted Sky (not pictured)
  • Hammer Head
  • The Anchoress
  • Lexicon
  • Henna House
  • Kindred

I really need to make sure I get to my library books this time. I’ve been bad the last few times and just renewing them until I can’t anymore then having to return them unread, but that feels like a whole different topic for later.

Are there any books on your TBR you’re hoping to get to this month? Any suggestions on my shelf that I didn’t mention that you think I’d really enjoy?

Variety is the Spice of Life

Once upon a time I didn’t read literary fiction. I didn’t even know literary fiction was a thing. My drug of choice were romance novels which later turned to romantic suspense then paranormal romance then to urban fantasy. When I was hooked on a specific genre I had a pattern: discover a new author then read EVERY book listed on the bibliography page. Which was fun in the pre-Internet days because sometimes the books would be in a series or trilogy, but the bibliography would be alphabetical so who the hell knew if that book you just got was the first in the set or maybe the last. I can’t tell you how many times I read a book only to get to the next one and find out I should have read it first.

How fast I would go through books back in the day.

These days I find I don’t binge on authors as much. If it’s part of a series and they’re all published I will read them, but to read their entire bibliography back to back? Not so much. Case in point, I read all of Sarah MacLean’s Rules for Scoundrels series, but haven’t dug into her backlist yet. Not because I didn’t like her writing, but because I did. I like having those books to come back to. Same with Octavia Butler. I read Parable of the Sower then immediately snatched up Parable of the Talents, but have yet to read Kindred or the Patternmaster series. I think the only reason I can do it still with a series is because to me a series is one big story broken into chunks. And don’t give me this b.s. about how your book is a standalone but it’s part of a series. Half the time when an author says that, there is so many references to previous books that you need to know about that you can’t enjoy the story. At least in my experience.

Don’t do this. Just tell people to go read the first book(s).

 

I tried to do it with Indu Sundaresan and Chitra Banerjee Divakruni. I loved their books and wanted to read them all, but I found in my old age I have to swap around. Read a little of this and read a little of that, then I can come back to the first author or even type of book. I can’t read a lot of historical fiction in a row these days. If it’s literary fiction I can’t read too many of the same kind, I have to swap the story a bit.

My immediate TBR is a hodgepodge of titles right now. I mentioned a few on the last post. I have everything from satire by Christopher Moore to historical fiction by Eugenia Kim to science fiction by Octavia Butler to a lot of feminist non fiction. I like to see where my mood takes me.

Have you ever binged an author’s backlist back to back? What’s your M.O. to your TBR?