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<

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I’m Irritated. . .To Say the Least

Rainbow RowellI have professed my love for Rainbow Rowell and her book Eleanor & Park often, and her brand new book, Fangirl, is also great. But now, there’s something new that’s been sweeping through the book world–she’s been censored.

Rowell was scheduled to give a talk in front of students of a school district in Minnesota, and also at some libraries. Eleanor & Park has been one of the most-buzzed-about books to come out this year, as far as I can tell, but now the talk has been cancelled. Now, this angers me for a few reasons:

  1. Banning books is never a good idea in my opinion; it’s a violation of freedom of speech.
  2. Eleanor & Park is, frankly, amazing, and should be read the world over.
  3. Not only is it one of the best books I’ve read, it’s also important. So. Freaking. Important.

Eleanor & Park has just so much fantastic-ness and so many things to say. The main characters, Eleanor and Park, are both unique in their neighborhood and different from those around them. Eleanor’s fat; Park’s one of the very few Asian kids in the Omaha area they live in. Eleanor faces bullying and domestic abuse, and Park has to deal with who he really is inside and how that conflicts with what others think he should be. It portrays the lives of these two so truthfully and honestly, and the fact that is has been challenged just makes me so, so upset.

What was it challenged for? Profanity.

And yes, there is a lot of profanity. A lot. But to contest it for something like that, when what’s really in its content is so much deeper and vital and should be heard, is utterly ridiculous and, excuse me, stupid.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Another shocking thing about it? The librarians who orchestrated the event in the first place have had people advocating for them to face consequences for doing this. This horrible thing, allowing students to hear someone talk who wrote a book that has such a meaningful story. It has bad words, for God’s sake!

>TEARS OUT HAIR IN FRUSTRATION<

But that is not the only book to be challenged recently.

Meg Medina, who was also going Meg Medinato give a talk at a middle school, has had it cancelled due to her book, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, another tale that confronts bullying. She was supposed to speak at an event about bullying, but oh no! Bad words!

I understand that people can be very uncomfortable with the use of profanity, and just don’t like it. But not seeing the real meaning of these books’ stories, just the four- and three-letter words used, is ridiculous and wrong. And I have to say, if these kids are in middle school or high school, it’s highly likely they’ve heard those words used already. A. Lot.

These books are important, and lots of kids are facing challenges similar to those faced by the characters in them. And that feeling when you see yourself in a book, and realize you’re not alone, is wonderful. Or, at least, reassuring. These authors would both probably have great things to say, to the people who most need to hear them. But now, it looks like they won’t get the chance.

These challengers are missing the point, missing the meaning, and now those kids are going to miss out.

And that’s what makes me really angry.

You can read more about this news here, and the author’s websites are here and here. Another great article with thoughts on this topic is here.

My review of Eleanor & Park is also here.

(That’s way too many “here”s for one post, isn’t it?)

But anyway, this was kind of a vent-post. And a you-should-know-about-this post. And I suppose I’ll end it right here, because my mind seems to have fallen victim to the sleepiness that any rainy September day can induce.

So anything said from here on out could possibly be used against me, nefariously. Or, at least, it wouldn’t make sense.

bdjbafkabfkjabfvkjsbvfk

See?

Over and out! Have a great weekend!

P.S. Banned Books Week is next week, so mark your calenders! And also, read Eleanor & Park. And Fangirl. That’s an order, people!

P.P.S. I want to read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass now.

Literary Quote of the Day: “Censorship is telling a man he can’t eat a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” –Mark Twain

Presenting. . .BEA!

Hi! So a couple weeks ago I was in NYC for few days. What for? BEA of course!

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BEA, a.k.a. Book Expo America, is a yearly convention attended by sales representatives, editors, book buyers, book sellers, and many other people who work in publishing. And, of course, some of my favorite people ever–authors!

BEA has taken place in the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York for the last few years, and this year was no different. I have to say, the Javits Center was kind of overwhelming to walk into. Mostly because it’s huge and I was walking into Book Expo America. So, just a little overwhelming!

So anyway, as I was getting over the entire holy-crap-holy-crap-holy-crap-holy-crap-holy-crap phase (which took a while), we (that is, my parents and I) walked the floor.

Here’s basically what BEA looks like: Everywhere there are booths. Booths, booths, booths. HarperCollins booths, a McSweeney’s booth, Scholastic booths, here a booth, there a booth, everywhere a booth-booth. So yeah, there were A LOT of booths:

The Smithsonian Books booth.
The Smithsonian Books booth!
A Scholastic booth--one of several, I recall.
One of the Scholastic booths.
Welcome to the Chronicle Books Empire of Booths: Way More Advanced Than The Romans. Cuter Logo, Too.
Welcome to the Chronicle Books Empire of Booths: Way more advanced than the Romans. Cuter logo, too.

There were also a few stages for special presentations, etc. And then there was the Autograph Area, where authors would sign their new books (!!!):

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Which, of course, didn’t make me happy at all. You can see some of said authors below!

The really amazing and nice Walter Dean Myers, author of many, many books for children and teens. See that medal he's wearing? He's the Ambassador for Young People's Literature!
The really amazing and nice Walter Dean Myers, author of many, many books for children and teens. See that medal he’s wearing? He’s the Ambassador for Young People’s Literature!
Kate DiCamillo, the awesome author of "Because of Winn Dixie," "The Tale of Despereaux," and (this is a particular favorite of mine), "The Miraculous Jounrey of Edward Tulane"!
Kate DiCamillo, the awesome author of “Because of Winn Dixie,” “The Tale of Despereaux,” and (and this is a particular favorite of mine), “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were also authors signing in their publishers’ booths, such as. . .

Larry Kane, famed journalist and broadcaster. This is him with his new book, "When They Were Boys," an account of the Beatles' rise to fame. Kane was the only American journalist with the Beatles at every stop on their '64 and '65 tours of America, and is referred to as the "dean of Philadelphia. . .news anchors.
Larry Kane, famed journalist and broadcaster. This is him with his new book, “When They Were Boys,” an account of the Beatles’ rise to fame. Kane was the only American journalist with the Beatles at each stop on their ’64 and ’65 tours of America, and is referred to as the “dean of Philadelphia television news anchors.”
Brandon Sanderson, the hilarious author of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians! (Which I loved. And reviewed. Forever ago, but still!) He was signing copies of his first novel for teens, "The Rithmatist."
Brandon Sanderson, the hilarious author of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians! (Which I loved. And reviewed. Forever ago.) He was signing copies of his first novel for teens, “The Rithmatist.”
Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, an online comic, during the signing of his book “My Dog: A Paradox,” which is SO TRUE. WARNING: NOT appropriate for kids, and only some of his other comics are appropriate for teens.
This is congressman John Lewis, a really, really, really, REALLY amazing guy who was one of the most avid and foremost supporters of the Civil Rights Movement, during which he sustained more than 40 attacks, injuries, and arrests. He was there signing a sample booklet featuring an upcoming graphic novel called "March: Book One,"an account of his experiences with the Movement, which I am very much looking forward to reading.
This is Congressman John Lewis, a really, really, really, REALLY amazing guy who was one of the most avid and foremost architects of the Civil Rights Movement. He was there signing a sample booklet featuring his upcoming graphic novel, titled “March: Book One.” This is an account of his experiences during the Movement, which I am very much looking forward to reading.
Ransom Riggs, author of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," a really cool and creative book that is, yes, rather peculiar. The sequel comes out in January 2014!
Ransom Riggs, author of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” a really cool and creative book that is, yes, rather peculiar. The sequel comes out in January 2014!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, BEA isn’t just for freaking out about the authors there. Those attending it exchange business cards, talk about work, and, you know, actually DO work–that’s what most of the people there are sent to do! Of course, a lot of the time, people are also finding their friends and catching up.

This might seem kind of obvious, but there is just so much to see at BEA. SO MUCH. The presentations, the authors, the booths. (Which, by the way, I don’t even feel like I should be calling booths. Some of those things are HUGE. They’re like Booths 2.o.) Anyway, it’s A LOT.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s stuff like this:

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And this:

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AND this:

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A truck. Full of books. With penguins all over it.

Which is probably one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. It’s like someone just took everything awesome in this world, mashed it together, waved a magic wand over it and POOF! Book truck!

Also, BEA doesn’t always end when the center closes its doors for the day. Sometimes there are events set up for afterwards, too. One of these was We Are Young: Tumblr Does YA at BEA, a party and reading at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe featuring Eliot Schrefer, Ruth Baron, and. . .Rainbow Rowell! Who, if you’re not sure, is the amazing author who wrote the equally amazing Eleanor & Park. (Which you should go read. Like right now.)

Anyway, Eliot Schrefer was reading from his book Endangered, Ruth Baron was reading from her book Defriended, and Rainbow Rowell was reading from (of course) Eleanor & Park. I didn’t take many pictures, but this is what it looked like from the front door:

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We didn’t get to stay for the actual reading, BUT. . .

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AND. . .

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She was at BEA the next day, signing ARCs of her newest book!*

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So those two occurrences made me rather giddy.

Really, probably the best thing about BEA and all the special events that come with it is the fact that so many of the people there actually care about books. No one is going to scoff at you for loving what you love, no one is going to say books are dead, no one is going to say they much prefer video games (I think), etc. For once, it seems like the world thinks books are important, while too often, it appears otherwise.

Remember earlier, when I said authors are some of my favorite people ever? It’s not just authors. It’s all the editors, agents, sales reps, book sellers, book buyers, and everyone else at BEA who help keep the book world moving. And, of course, the readers. The fourth grader engrossed in Percy Jackson at the library. The nurse rereading Great Expectations during his lunch break. The teenager staying up way too late to finish the The Diviners. They help too!

Also, some of these people work largely behind the scenes, and I mean LARGELY. Without a dedicated sales rep, an agent, or a good publicist, a book may never make it to your shelf. So they deserve some credit!

But I digress. The point I’m making is that at BEA, it’s like you’re living in some surreal universe where books are actually given their due, as valuable facets of our world. And that’s pretty freakin’ amazing.

Although, you know, I could be exaggerating. I did spend the last two years of my life trapped in the dismal depths of middle school, after all. (Although I did meet a lot of great people there. . .but again, I digress. I need to stop doing that.)

Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll be making it to BEA next year, but here’s a tip for you: One day each year, it’s open to the public! You’ll have to pay, but still! It’s BEA, after all!

I suppose that about winds it up for this post. That took a while! Everyone have a great Monday! (And don’t tell me that “great Monday” is an oxymoron. There are exceptions!)

P.S. Here’s the BEA website, and here’s their blog, The BEAN.

*An ARC is an Advance Reader’s Copy, or the nearly-final stage of a book before it’s published. They’re very very close to what the book will be when it’s actually put on the shelves, but they usually have a few typos or maybe a slightly different quote. They’re also called Advance Uncorrected Proofs, Advance Uncorrected Galleys, etc.

Literary Quote of the Day: “We walked silent/to the buses, awed by the power of words.” —How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson

Eleanor & Park

GAH. THIS BOOK. THIS. BOOK. Ergasmergh. Just. . .just ergasmergh. Really.

OK, collecting my thoughts, collecting my thoughts, gimme a sec. . .JUST ONE SEC. . .OK. I think I’ve got it. Let’s do this.

So, just a little while ago I started hearing really good things about this book. It’s currently being featured on Figment (a writing site for teenagers), and has gotten a ton of good reviews. (Including one from John Green, might I add.) So I decided to get it from the library and read it. (Plus, look at the cover art. That is some EPIC cover art.)

Eleanor & Park, written by the talented Rainbow Rowell, is the story of two sixteen-year-olds that meet one day in 1986. Eleanor has just moved to Omaha and needs a seat on the bus. Park is the only one who lets her sit down, very reluctantly so. Eleanor, well, she’s weird. You can tell. And Park, as one of the very few Asian kids in his entire school, already doesn’t fit in. And some chubby, oddly dressed redhead isn’t really going to make life easier for him. So he plugs in his Walkman and drowns everything out. Eleanor doesn’t talk to him, and he doesn’t talk to her.

Gradually, though, they do start to interact a bit. It starts with comics. It gains speed with music. And before you know it, they’re in love.

The one thing that really stuck with me about this book was the characters. Not just Eleanor and Park, but the others as well. Eleanor’s only other friends at school, DeNice and Beebi, are funny and extremely likable. The other kids on the bus, as well as the schoolteachers, are striking and unique. But Eleanor herself was probably my favorite character. In the second chapter, when she’s deciding to brave the bus and the merciless kids who tease her, and thinks, “Oh, fine. The children of hell shan’t go hungry on my watch,” I immediately thought, “I love her.” Her sarcastic comments are some of my favorite moments throughout the whole book. The things she and Park go through together are also amazing, and some of the things they say to each other might have made me actually stop reading and go, “Squueeeee!” Because they were–and are–that fabulous. And squee-inducing.

And though the ending might make you cry, or at the very least make you want to eat a whole tub of ice cream, reading this book is just so incredibly worth it. The main characters, though imperfect and not your oh-so-conventional pretty-girl and pretty-boy couple (which is great, because I wouldn’t like them nearly as much), will have you cheering for them the whole time. And their story is one that is entirely worth your time. So read it. Excuse me, I need to go eat some ice cream now.

Literary Quote of the Day: “‘The least boring Batman story ever, huh? Does Batman raise both his eyebrows?'” –Eleanor in Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

P.S. If you STILL aren’t totally convinced that you HAVE to read this book, take a look at John Green’s review in the New York Times.