Best of 2016!

Best Books, favorites, Uncategorized

2016 wasn’t an amazing reading year but no matter what kind of reading year it is, a few will always emerge as my favorites. Eve @ Eve Messenger’s Otherworldly Endeavors kindly tagged me in a “Best of 2016” tag and I’m going to try and incorporate it into my favorites!

So here are some of the best that will not be mentioned in my favorites.

Books so Fun They Felt Like Reading Parties

Image result for i hate fairyland

The main character reminds me of the bitch from Cats Don’t Dance both physically and personality wise. This graphic novel also reminds me a lot of Wreck it Ralph but for adults.

 

Related image

omg she was so evil..

dsc_0008

Excerpt (my picture)

Image result for dragon slipper

There’s a princess, dragons, a prince, political scheming and old-school fantasy characters. Young Carolyn would have been ecstatic. Present Carolyn was still pretty ecstatic

 

 

Best Female Protagonist

Is it weird to say that my favorite is Wonder Woman? I found and fell in love with her this year. She stands for everything I have come to love in my changing life: wonder and courage but also the utmost compassion.

Best Book Boyfriend

Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables. I just think he is funny but also very honorable and loyal. I love him.

Best Cover

anne1

Look how gorgeous this Puffin edition is?? I borrowed it from library just so I can take pictures of it. Oh and read it.

anne.png

How exquisite.

Favorite Audiobook

Image result for scrappy little nobody

I kind of love her voice and her sarcasm “voice” is so similar to mine.

The #1 Book No One Else Seems to Like But Me

Image result for the vegetarian

Plenty of people like this book I know but just as many people don’t like it. 

I’m also adding categories:

Best Play

Image result for rabbit hole play

An unexpected look at the different ways people deal with grief. 

Best Graphic Novels

Image result for the legend of wonder woman renae de liz

I’ve read so many WW comics this year and I don’t understand why this character is so hard to write about. But thankfully this one did not disappoint.

Image result for paper girls vol. 2

I like the idea of your future self meeting your younger self which is exactly what I got in this sequel. Also a ton of action and a stellar ending.

Now on to my favorites of 2016!! I’ve only included 8 this year and there was never any doubt that they would end up on this list. Banners will all link to my review =)

untitled-design

Best Small Press Standalone

Author: Silvia Moreno Garcia

I find it funny how glad I am to leave my high school days behind but somehow want to read about characters that are finding themselves in high school settings. Maybe it’s the accuracy and grace with which Garcia portrays teens with a not-so-great home life navigating high school. But I think more than anything, I love coming-of-age stories that illustrate friendship in all its frustrations but ultimately its glories. A stand out story that features magical realism and the weaving of folklore and music.

untitled-design-1

Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

I just loved my coming-of-age this year. Like Signal to Noise, it’s not a straight up contemporary but includes hints of science fiction that blend together so nicely with its more realistic aspects. This book is standout among its type because it gives layers to all of its characters, the bully is not just the bully because there needs to be a bully in a YA contemporary and the brother doesn’t exist just to be an asshole, even if you don’t like them, you can sometimes glimpse an understanding of them. It is pessimistic but inspiring all at once and so genuinely written, it will be hard not to love.

6

Best Plot Twist

Author: Marisha Pessl

Night Film was so deliciously creepy and eerie. I loved the mystery, the suspense and that plot twist at the end was so mind boggling. And to top it all off, it gives such a unique reading experience with its addition of articles and blogs and photos interspersed throughout.

6-1

Best Worldbuilding

Best Setting

Author: Becky Chambers

Whenever I think about this book, I think about how wondrous this world really is (as cheesy as that sounds). It’s also one of those books where you just sit in awe at how they could create a world like this, a world so teeming with possibility and comfort you kind fo wish it was real. Becky Chambers just turns your expectations of gender, orientation, culture, and identity upside down in the most unexpected and wonderful ways possible. It sort of harkens back to what Star Trek use to be, a low-stakes (for the most part) heartwarming scifi opera.

6-2

Author: Jung Yun

As Shelter progressed, it grew a lot more intense that I expected. There’s that sense of claustrophobia and ominous foreboding. The main character is also deeply flawed as main characters go but what it does best is explore the intersection of family fidelity and individualism that a lot of Asian cultures face and explores the extent of human endurance.

It’s down to my last three!! Let’s go…

6-3

Best Sequel

Author: Libba Bray

Libba Bray’s writing is so, so underrated. It takes a couple of years between her books but you know that each second of her writing time is dedicated to details of making 1920’s New York seem as real as possible. I also really respect the diversity of her characters and that she doesn’t blame the historical period for not including people from other walks of life.

6-4

Favorite Series

Author: Marie Rutkoski

This is the third book in The Winner’s Trilogy and while I loved her writing in the previous two books, this third book just showcases how exquisite her writing is. It just hits all the sentimentality and the dramatic that I love in writing. The plot was even more intense than ever and it was almost the perfect conclusion I wanted from this series. Kestrel will always remain one of my favorite female characters of all time. I will be rereading this series for many years to come.

6-5

Most Devastating Read

Author: Bryan Stevenson

I always save my favorite book for something that worms its way into my heart and opens it in unexpected ways. Last year, it was A Little Life and this year, it’s no less emotional in Just Mercy. This book talks about those who have always been sidelined and talks about them with such compassion. This book broke my heart and really forced me to think about the laws that I have always  stood by and turned them upside down.

Those are my favorite books of 2016! I’m accompanied with that same sense of sadness and hope that follows me at the end of every year. Let me know what you think of my choices. I want to thank you all for reading my blog this year. I have so many plans for this blog for next year and I hope you’ll be there with me. I hope you’re having a wonderful New Year’s Eve and I will see you next year in 2017 😉

sigfinal

 

 

 

Mini Book Reviews: Memoirs (and my favorite book of 2016?)

book review, mini book review, Uncategorized

I’m really excited about this post because I gave all of these memoirs 4-stars which is a feat especially for me and this year of books. I love all of these and would highly recommend them.

Yes Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

Image result for yes chef marcus samuelsson

For some reason, I’m not all that into cooking but I love reading about food and the making of food. That appetite was probably fed by watching Ratatouille. My favorite part of that movie being, you guessed it, the food. In fact, my favorite scene of the movie is when Remy is adding all these ingredients to the soup that Linguini leaves out. So I initially wanted to read this because it’s the memoir of a professional chef but Samuelsson is quite the renowned chef having appeared on Masterchef and was a guest chef at Obama’s first state dinner.

Born in Ethiopia but raised by Swedish middle-class parents, Samuelsson was first exposed to extravagant home cooking through his grandmother. From there, he worked at some well known restaurants in Austria, Switzerland, and New York. Samuelsson is able to evoke this sense of coziness of his grandmother’s house but effortlessly conveys a dog-eat-dog world at Restaurant Aquavit where the upper chefs consistently humiliated the young chefs and one mistake could get you fired. It makes his memoir feel so rich and diverse. There’s no doubt that what makes Samuelsson so compelling to me is his undying ambition probably because it is so different than mine. He can come off as an arrogant asshole but I liked that he talked about the sacrifices that ambition takes. Few people are willing to work 16 hour shifts 6 days a week with little pay and endure humiliation to reach the top of the cooking world. Samuelsson could not even attend his father’s funeral. Besides the cooking though, his life is so interesting. He talks about how he reconnected with his birth father whom he thought was dead his entire life. He has lived in Switzerland, France, New York and has traveled the world trying out and currently owns a restaurant. He talks about all of this with such passion and occasional bouts of humility and it was quite inspirational in many ways.

Another thing that stood out to me was the fact that he wrote such a perfect balance between cooking and food jargon and his life stories. I feel like whenever you read about another professional not familiar to you it can become tedious because there is so much vocabulary you don’t know but Samuelsson combines it with enough context to make you want to look it up yourself. It’s a lovely ode to food.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Image result for scrappy little nobody

I’ve been a fan of Anna Kendrick ever since I watched 50/50 (an awesome comedy about a guy who has cancer). She’s absolutely hilarious on Twitter; I love her self-deprecating but snarky humor and we both like red pandas so I mean we are obviously soul sisters. Obviously..

This celebrity memoir is in my humble opinion a little different from other celebrity memoirs because instead of telling me their whole life story, she only told me snippets of some of the more entertaining stories of her going into theater and being an actress and how she got into the acting world because let’s face it I don’t want to hear every single thing you did as a child.

The best part about this memoir to me is that listening from her perspective you get the sense that she was almost thrust into this world because she always seems surprised that she has acquired recognizable fame but it just helps readers be put into her shoes, what it’s like for someone who has only become “famous” recently. She knew she loved acting but she didn’t know what it came with so to speak. I really liked the parts when she was talking about the first time she went on a red carpet (Twilight) or the first time she got a hair stylist.

I highly, highly recommend the audiobook for this. Anna Kendrick has such a sharp, clear voice and you can really feel her sense of humor based on what she emphasizes or when she lowers or raises her voices for certain parts when it’s suppose to be funny. Of course, if you don’t like Anna Kendrick, it’s not the book for you because her trademark is very apparent but even if you have a passing interest in her, I highly recommend.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Image result for just mercy bryan stevenson

This might actually be my favorite book of 2016 because it changed me a little bit. The author, Bryan Stevenson, is a lawyer representing people on death row and life imprisonment and he recounts his experience working on these cases with the case of Walter (a wrongly convicted death row prisoner) as an overarching case throughout. His words are taut with tenderness and the self-righteous passion of what he felt justice should be. I have always believed the saying that no matter how bad a childhood a person has, he/she still has a choice to be good so there are no excuses for criminals to use their past as an excuse. But reading the accounts of the people Stevenson has represented (most of them poor and nonwhite), you realize that what they’ve been through shapes their actions so much and even after they had been convicted, the justice system continued to fail them.

One case in particular was especially heartbreaking to me: Trina grew up with an abusive and alcoholic father who repeatedly beat her, her mother, and her siblings. When he beat her mother to death, some of her siblings ran away. She ran away to her sister’s and her husband’s place but ran away again when her husband was sexually abusive. One day, she decided to sneak into some friends’ house at night; she couldn’t see, lit a match and set fire to the house killing everyone inside. She was thirteen when she was sent to life imprisonment. In jail, she was raped by a guard and became pregnant with a son. She had been repeatedly hospitalized for mental illness and intellectual disabilities which worsened when she was incarcerated. Though Stevenson does not excuse the crimes these people have committed, he pleads for the system and us to show compassion to those who might not want it or even to those society deems unworthy of compassion and mercy. These cases add a human touch to the abundance of legal procedures and trials that Stevenson employs to get these people out. These cases only prove that our legal system is fueled by racial and gender politics instead of being as objective as it needs to be. Stevenson covers all of these procedures and rulings as well as his experiences trying to protect those convicted though legal ruling. The result is equal parts frustrating and touching.

sigfinal

 

November 2016 Wrap Up: Romance! Crime! Angst! Anna Kendrick!

Uncategorized, wrap up

I had a lot of plans for my November TBR and I got to only…1 of those. This is why I don’t do TBRs. There are two that I will have a mini review for in December so look out for those but the rest I’ll mention my thoughts here.

Image result for 'night mother

‘Night Mother by Marsha Norman (2/5)

This month’s play selection was a little disappointing even though the premise sounded so interesting. It’s about a grown daughter who has decided to commit suicide so she goes over to her mother’s house to tell her this and to set things in order before she goes. At first, I thought the mother-daughter dynamics were really interesting especially with the mother knowing her daughter was going to commit suicide that night but as it progressed, it just became more generic and bland.There’s a backstory that is slowly revealed throughout but the characters were not engaging enough for me to really feel the need to know that backstory.


The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (4/5)

Image result for the sympathizer

“Fun” Storytime with Carolyn: To put a hold at my local library, I have to pay 25 cents. I put a hold for The Sympathizer and couldn’t read it until a few days before it was due and when it was due, I couldn’t renew it because someone else had put a hold on it..So I had to return it and put another hold on it because it’s so popular, it was the only way I could get it -_- so basically I put

a hold on it the first time for no reason. But enough of my first world-problems, the good part is that I really liked this book and I have a full review here.



The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson (3/5)

Jeannette Winterson is quite the name in literary fiction but I thought The Stone Gods was just ok. The best part of the book was her writing as it was probably some of the best writing I’ve read this year. It’s a literary scifi novel set far off into the future where Earth has been destroyed and we have moved to another planet. It follows a woman named Billie and she’s a reporter who meets a robot named Spike and it’s their love storyImage result for the stone gods essentially. But the book is more like 3 novellas packed into one because each section of the book follows a reincarnation of Billie and Spike and their subsequent love story. Her writing feels very modern but this book is also an ode to nature so the writing also feels ethereal and references old myths and legends. It’s a humorous satire on the damage, we as humans, do to our planet and the
same mistakes that we inevitably make over and over again. The scifi aspects with the plastic surgery and all were a little gimmicky to me and felt too obvious (if that makes sense) and sometimes it felt as if her writing was just jumping from one place to the next without any cohesiveness.


Smut by Karina Halle (3.75/5)

If you’ve been following my blog the past couple of months you’ll know that I’ve been looking for a light and fluffy romance read that I could actually finish from beginning to end. I was having no such luck because true to stereotype romance is so satImage result for smut karina halleurated with the same cliches and carbon copy characters just with different names. This month I finally found a cute NA romance read that wasn’t offensive and didn’t bore me to tears. It’s about a woman named Amanda who dreams of becoming a published author. She’s in the same writing class as Blake, the hot and (arrogant of course) guy who gets paired up with her for a project. And things go from there. I really appreciated the slow burn haters-to-lovers trope executed very well. I also appreciated the minimal description of the other person’s physical features. The story was adorable, the heroine actually has a professional goal and works for it (!), the side characters were all fun and quirky, there was no contrived drama for angst purposes, so many nerdy references, and of course, my favorite–witty banter between our two main characters. Love it.


So for these next few books, I’m going to have separate reviews for them in December but they were definitely my favorite reads of November.

Image result for scrappy little nobody anna kendrickImage result for signal to noise silvia moreno-garcia

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (audiobook) (4/5)

Signal to Noise by SIlvia Moreno-Garcia (4/5)


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Doestoevsky (3/5)

Image result for crime and punishment cover

For some reason, I thought this classic was basically going to be a guy meditating in jail for the entire story. And I was totally off..so off..In terms of the story, I definitely liked the individual parts more than its sum. There are some really thought-provoking ideas in this like what makes a criminal or even if certain criminals have a right to commit crimes. The main character had such an interesting dichotomy. He wants to be a part of society but at the same time transcend society because he has such a disdain for it. Everyone else was pretty bland. The stream of consciousness is really well done.

 


Graphic Novels

Sensation Comics: Wonder Woman Vol. 2 by various authors and artists (3.5/5)

Image result for Sensation Comics: Wonder Woman Vol. 2So I’m completely obsessed with Wonder Woman now. I recently watched the 2009 animated movie which I have some mixed thoughts about it but that’s gonna be for my movie wrap up. This comic is different from other comics I’ve read because it is essentially a bunch of short stories about Wonder Woman (flash fiction if you will) each by a different author and artist. I really like that because if you don’t like the art or the story, it will only last for a few pages. As with any medium like this, you’re gonna get some you like and some you don’t but overall I thought this was a really good introduction to Wonder Woman and what she stands for. I particularly enjoyed Noelle Stevenson’s story.

 


Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Cook (3/5)

Image result for harrow county

This is my favorite graphic novel in terms of artstyle. It is drawn using watercolor and the colors are blended in a sort of mosaic fashion that just blends so well. But it has this “scritch-scratch” that stil has those crisp lines that I really like. I can’t describe it!! I’m not an art person! What is art!! Anyways, the story was only ok. It’s a light horror story about a girl who is believed to be a witch reincarnated. I felt like the story lacked a strong plot and moved too quickly for me to become invested in the characters.

 

 
Image result for harrow county

I have a lot of books I want to get to before the end of the year (ah!!) so hopefully December reading is just as good or better than November’s. December is also exciting because I’m reconstructing my blog!! So if you see a lot of changes in terms of look, you’ll know why. I’ll keep you updated! Otherwise, let me know what books you read in November and what your reading plans are for this last stretch of 2016!

sigfinal