My Favorite Books (Of 2013)

New Year's Fireworks
2014 is coming!

Hi everybody!

I’m a little late with this, aren’t I?

Actually, more like mammothly late, but I suppose I’m nothing if not a chronic procrastinator. And generally lazy. It’ll probably say that on my headstone. (Just kidding. I’m immortal, duh. It would also say that I spend too much time joking at the beginnings of blog posts.)

But, here it is! These are some of the books I read this year that I really, really loved. It’s probably a little late to get them as presents (>looks sheepish<), but if you fancy a trip to the library while you’re on vacation, then by all means. . .

Here we go!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Why yes, we are starting with the obvious!

Eleanor & Park is not only one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year, it’s one of my favorites, period. It features two outsiders on a school bus, and comic books, and music, and love, and I could go on forever about its various awesome traits. It’s one of those books where I couldn’t even sleep after finishing it, because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The characters are all marvelously written, and Rowell has a way of writing that is seriously addictive. REALLY addictive. See also: Fangirl.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

I couldn’t read this book right before bedtime. That should say something.

At the center of The Name of the Star is Aurora Deveaux, a.k.a. Rory, who is just starting to attend a boarding school in London(!). And, on the same day she arrives in England, a murder is committed. But not just any murder–this one appears to be an imitation of one of the Jack the Ripper murders from way back when. But the murderer isn’t going to stop there, and neither is Rory after she thinks she sees the man who might be responsible. Complete with gore, mystery, romance, and FANTASTIC characters (seriously, I love the characters), this book is definitely one I really enjoyed. (I’ve just started Devilish, too, and so far it seems just as good.)

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

You know how I said Rainbow Rowell’s writing is addictive? Well, Walter Dean Myers’ is, too. Monster tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenager in New York City who’s on trial for murder. Told through Steve’s journal entries, a script he’s writing, and the rare photo, the reader is shown a detailed, eye-opening look at what it’s like to be in jail, especially when you’re as young as Steve. It’s just really, really, really good, as well as striking. I’m pretty sure Myers might be one of the best writers around. Ever.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

This book was kind of like watching the Sherlock mini-episode yesterday–it filled me with feelings that I did not know what to do with, it consumed a large amount of my thoughts, and it made me want to bawl. Oh, and it killed me a little inside, that too. But in a good way! In a really really good way!

Two Boys Kissing tells a number of stories, and it doesn’t focus on any one character or couple–there’s Avery and Ryan, who have just met; there’s Neil and Peter, who have been dating for a while; there’s Harry and Craig, who are trying to set the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss. . .and then there’s Cooper, who doesn’t really have anyone but his computer and phone and the Internet. Narrated in a very particular and enlightening point of view, this book is just filled with revelations and stories and GAH GAH GAH. (No, really, that’s how I felt while reading it.) (For good reasons.) And as if the great plot and characters weren’t enough, the writing itself is enough to make you want to cry. Go. Go read it. Go read it now.

Carmen by Walter Dean Myers

Now, I know what you might be thinking: “Hey, she already has a book by this guy on here!” Well, see how I now have two? That means you really have to read him now!

Carmen is a modern-day retelling of the opera of the same name, set in New York City. Told in script form, and even containing musical scores, it’s a really cool way of telling the tragic story. It goes pretty fast (definitely pretty fast), but the characters and the story are all great. (I especially love Carmen. She’s just so much fun to read.) I love the settings and the imagery, too, and it all just combines to make something really enjoyable and well done. Walter Dean Myers is just amazing. Hey, you, you! Go read it.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I have professed my love for John Green many a-time, and I have also now professed my love for David Levithan. And now look! A book! Written by both of them! Both!

In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, each of these authors writes from the point of view of one teenage boy–both named Will Grayson. When they meet one night in Chicago, each of their lives goes a little. . .insane. Or, at least, becomes rather different.

Both John Green and David Levithan are insanely good writers on their own, and I loved their characters and the plot. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is hilarious, but it also has a measure of seriousness too, as well as some really, really good quotes, about everything from best friends to depression. (Pretty much all the books on this list have amazing quotes.)(“Some people have lives; others have music.”) So, I’m going to tell you what I’ll probably tell you about any of either of these guys’ books–read it! Now! Soon! Soon-ish! ASAP!

Please?

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Ah, Good Omens. The funniest book ever written about the end of the world. Period.

I brook no arguments.

Possibly my favorite parts of this book (okay, definitely my favorite parts of this book) are Crowley and Aziraphale. (Who I ship as much as I ship John Watson/Sherlock.) Crowley is a Bentley-driving, sunglasses-wearing, mischief-making demon. Aziraphale is a book-loving, cocoa-drinking angel. They’re pretty much one of the best duos ever written about. They also don’t want the world to end.

This book is about how they attempt to prevent that from happening, and along the way, the reader is introduced to a number of interesting and rather singular characters. For instance, there’s Shadwell, a Witchfinder Sergeant. There’s Anathema Device, a psychic. There’s Adam; he’s the Antichrist. All of these characters are hilarious, they’re written really, really well, and the plot is great, and do you see where I’m going with this?

So those are some of my favorite books that I read in 2013. I hope you all are having a great holiday, and here’s to all the books coming out in 2014!

Bye!

P.S. Here’s a really, really amazing video to look at and pass around:

P.P.S. Terry Pratchett has said that he would like Benedict Cumberbatch to play Aziraphale if Good Omens were to be adapted into a movie. >freaks out<

The Project for Awesome 2013!!!

Hi everybody! Yesterday marked the beginning of the Project for Awesome for the year 2013, and it ends today. The Project for Awesome is an effort on the Internet to try to make the world a better place–people make videos talking about certain charities, and others can vote for these videos, comment, and donate. It was started by John and Hank Green, the vlogbrothers of YouTube, and it’s a really amazing event.

For my video, I focused on So Others Might Eat, which is an organization that focuses on helping the homeless. I’m posting my video here, but you should definitely check out the P4A’s website, where there are a ton of great videos to take a look at, and there’s more information about what the project is about, etc. And, yay, there’s a livestream going on at the vlogbrothers’ YouTube channel! So, feel free to take a look, and hopefully I’ll be back with a new book review soon. Have a great day!

P.S. Sorry about the horrible quality and video editing! I need a bit of practice. . .

Books! Free Shipping! What More Do You Want?!

Hi everyone! For all you holiday book-buyers out there, Powell’s Books has free shipping with guaranteed delivery by December 24 until noon tomorrow PST!

Books books books books books!

Sorry. It’s hard to rein in sometimes.

BUT, even better, you can also peruse the literary wonders of the world in your local (independent?) bookstore. Or take a look at AbeBooks, where you can buy from individual sellers.

Happy shopping!

Oh, and take a look at IndieBound to find the independent bookstore closest to you!

Diversity in YA Lit–We Need It!

DiversityHello everybody! >throws snow in your face< Seasons greetings!

Heh heh. Aren’t I hilarious?

So when I first started Girl Knows Books, when I was but a wee elementary school student who was vastly dorky and ignorant of many, many things, I did not see the book world as incredibly complicated. At all. I had a vague idea of the process that goes into creating a book, and that those books got shipped to bookstores and stuff and people bought them, and they liked them or didn’t like them, etc., etc. But over the years, it’s being revealed that there is so much more–more and more facets to consider and pay attention to. The book industry is a big place, and there are many different things that are a part of it and the books we read.

One of these revelations came when I was surfing the Internet (as I am terribly wont to do) and I came across this amazing Tumblr, created by Young Adult authors Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo. This Tumblr focuses on the diversity found in Young Adult literature, and, too often, the lack thereof. And there is a lack, trust me.

Take a look at this picture:

"Diversity in Children's Books" by Tina Kugler
“Diversity in Children’s Books” by Tina Kugler

Then take a look at this infographic from First Book:

Lack of Diversity--First BookBoth of these show deeply troubling facts about children’s books–there is a distinct, gaping hole in their diversity. A HUGE hole. A MAMMOTH hole.

A VERY VERY VERY VERY NOT GOOD HOLE.

While these aren’t dealing with YA literature, the same is true there, as well–while YA is full of vastly different stories, plots, and settings, the diversity of its characters is. . .well.

But it’s not even just in YA or children’s.

In the Combined Print & E-Book Fiction (adult) bestsellers list of The New York Times, out of 124 authors, 3 were people of color. And there were NO African Americans.

There are more and more examples of similar situations. (Like this.) It’s definitely a problem.

I think one of the best things about books is the fact that you can see yourself in them. When you’re reading about a character and you realize that they feel something you thought only you felt. When you don’t feel alone. When you see your culture represented. When you see yourself in the book.

That feeling is great. But without diversity, how are more people going to be able to experience it?

Diversity--GlobeNot to mention the fact that it’s pretty amazing to be able to look at a bookshelf in a library or store and see all the different colors and facets of the characters, white, black, Latino, Asian, straight, gay, transgender, boy, girl. Humanity, reflected in the written word.

This problem even extends to book covers, too. There have been books that feature characters of color that have white people on the covers, or covers designed so that the race of the model is hidden. Author Ellen Oh writes here about the huge amounts of gorgeous white girls on books. It’s just more disheartening.

We need diversity to show the beauty of the many, many cultures present on Earth, and to help show that everyone (everyone) is beautiful, no matter what they look like, what they identify with, etc.

Luckily, though, there’s hope. The Diversity in YA Tumblr, for instance, is great for getting the word out about diversity-related issues, and also spotlights diverse books and book covers. (Here, they’ve collected diverse book covers from 2013 YA lit.) Getting people to know about it is important to finding a solution. While the lack of diversity is incredibly sad, and it would be great to see the numbers increase, there are a lot of amazing books that feature diverse characters. Maybe they just need more attention, so they can reach more people. There’s Walter Dean Myers’ books. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman. Two Boys Kissing by David Leviathan.

Really, this is just sort of a post that resulted from me wanting to talk about this, and I apologize if it’s disorganized. But seriously, check out those links. There is A LOT to see. (You can also see more about that illustration and infographic here and here.)

What diverse books do you know of? If you leave them in the comments or email me, I’ll put them together into another post!

Have a great day!

Literary Quote of the Day: “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” –Maya Angelou

P.S. Two posts? IN ONE DAY?! >falls over< You probably shouldn’t get used to it.

Why I Love Reading

Hi everybody! So this week I traveled back to ye olde elementary school to talk to a group of 6th grade students about blogging (and, of course, books). They’ve just read Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick, and their teacher, the exciting Mrs. P., plans on them having blogs of their own. (Which sounds pretty neat, ’cause BLOGGING.)

Anyway, one of thBook Hearte things their teacher wanted me to talk about is why I love books. To me it’s sort of a fact of life that reading is amazing, and that kids should be encouraged to do it. So it feels a little odd to articulate why I love it, when I’ve loved it for just about as long as I can remember. Still, when I was thinking about this for my presentation, I was like “Why not write a blog post about it?”

I must warn you, though, that this is probably going to be rather rambly and most likely not incredibly organized, due to the fact that it’s Friday and I’m not insanely focused right now.

Sigh. I try. . .sometimes.

AHEM. To continue!

Reading is. . .difficult to explain. It’s not exactly like watching a movie, or going to a concert, or hanging out with friends at a frozen yogurt joint. Reading is like this place inside my mind that can feel quiet and exciting, achy and elating, and captivating in a very black-holey sort of way.

Reading is very complicated, at least, the feelings it can give you are complicated.Keep Calm-Read

One of the best feelings I can ever get from a book is getting to be completely captured by one, when my mind is empty of everything except for what’s in front of me, on the page. It’s like a thick, hazy cloud of happy-book-ness. It’s like being asleep, almost, in that it’s kind of warm and fuzzy and I need to rub my eyes once I surface again. It’s completely losing yourself in an ocean of words.

Only imagine the ocean is made out of puppies and laughter and Florida sunsets and the way your grandmother’s lotion smells.

 

That’s kind of what reading is like for me. That’s what reading can be.

And that’s just really, really awesome.

>shakes head out happy-book-ness fog<

Not to mention the fact that you are never going to run out of books. There is always more to discover. There is always something new to be tried. I might have run out of Humphrey Bogart movies. >sobs< I might have run out of Halloween candy. >sobs again< But books? Books are never going to fail me.

There’s always something else to love.

(And always more fictional characters to fall in love with, but that’s beside the point.)

Plus, writing is an art—and sometimes you’ll come across a book that’s like looking at a really amazing painting or listening to a fantastic song. There are book forms of Beethoven. Books where, even though the plot and characters may seem more at the forefront of your mind, the writing itself  is utterly beautiful and strong. (FYI, if you’ve ever heard of Two Boys Kissing by David Leviathan. . .that’s what it’s like. The writing literally made me want to cry sometimes, it was so heart-achingly wonderful.) There is nothing like getting sucked into a masterpiece, people.

Dr. Who Quote--BooksAnd to return to the subject of how many books there are, they’re all so varied. (Young Adult and children’s books in particular, I think, but that’s just me.) As I’ve mentioned before, there’s the hugely important issue of a lack of diversity (I’m hoping to get a post out soon), but if we’re talking plot, genre, setting, etc., let’s just say. . .wow. If you were to make a patchwork quilt of all the books in the world, you would get something pretty crazy.

Like, out of this world crazy.

There are books like Eleanor & Park. There are books like A Birthday for Francis. There are books like Monster. I could go on forever.

And reading is one of the best ways to connect with anyone, ever. And I don’t just mean when you see someone reading a book you like and something like this happens. (Although that is pretty amazing.) I mean when you’re reading a book, and something happens–a character feels something only you thought you felt. You realize what it was like to be a Jew during the Holocaust. You get to see the life of a slave.

There’s so much you can learNelson Mandela--Educationn, gather and feel. It’s a way to realize what people went through, and to empathize with humankind. (Here’s a great post on something similar to this.) Honestly, reading seems like one of the most human things a person can do.

And while that’s definitely not all there is to reading, I think it’s a good start.

I hope you all have a great day!

. . .12 days to Christmas. . .12 days to Christmas. . .

 

Literary Quote of the Day: “When I get a little money, I buy books. If any is left, I buy food and clothes.” –Desiderius Erasmus

(Many more quotes about reading here.)

P.S. The kids I were talking to were fabulous. Do you know how many hands went up when I asked them who loved to read? A LOT. If you guys are reading this, you were great. Like, “made my day” great. Good luck with the blogs!

P.P.S. Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela. There’s a really great short documentary about him here.

Boys in Books Are Better, or, the YouTube Video That Says Everything We’ve All Been Thinking For Ages

If you’ve ever been wondering what I’m looking for in a husband. . .

>sobs uncontrollably<

And I’m so sorry for the big lag between posts! I have several sitting in my Drafts box that will hopefully be finished soon. In the meantime, I just had to share this because I saw the title and was immediately like, “Yeah, I’m going to like this. And blog it.” Even if it disses Hufflepuff. Hufflepuffs are great!

ALSO! The Project for Awesome, which is a big charity movement on YouTube, is starting soon! Learn more here!

Hope to be posting again soon, and I hope everyone has a great day!

P.S. You can buy it here!