March reading round-up

  • # of books read: 14
  • audiobooks listened to: 3
  • ebooks read: 3
  • books from the Throne of Glass series: 2
  • graphic novels: 3
  • total page count: 3,998
  • year total page count: 12,251

Well, I still haven’t beat that crazy reading streak I had in January.  It does seem that I’m reading roughly 4,000 pages a month, though, and I can attest that several of the books this month were really long (including one that will end up being in next month’s round-up).

Only 3 audiobooks this month.  The first was the YA novel Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace, which I enjoyed despite its unevenness.  The other two audiobooks were both similar in genre and tone: Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me.  Both dealt with mothers and the hidden lives of their teenagers.  Both were also interesting character studies as not much by way of action happened, but kept me hooked until the end.

Darkly amusing #bookstagram #thedinner #hermankoch #justfinished

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The Dinner was recommended to me by a friend, and it was both short and disturbing.  I enjoy disturbing.  This was the kind of real-world disturbing, a scenario showing how thin the masks of polite society are, and how easily people descend into violent depths.

One of my favorite reads this month was Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs.  This series continues to keep me hooked on the complicated political world of supernatural creatures.  Of course, Mercy Thompson is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read, and this installment revolves around that reputation.  I finished off another series just today, the Experiment in Terror series by Karina Halle.  The final book, Dust to Dust, wrapped everything up nicely.  If you enjoy those ghost hunter shows, this series is for you.

I started watching “The Man in the High Castle” last month, and binge-watched both seasons.  The book doesn’t develop the characters quite so much as the show does, and is more about the randomness of possibility and choice rather than the concept of parallel universes, but it was a thought-provoking read. (I’ll have to include Girls on Fire in next month’s round-up, since I’m still only halfway through).

On the graphic novel front, I only read 3 and they were from the same series: Harrow County.  I had read volume 1 last spring and only now discovered that a.) there were 4 volumes out already and b.) my library consortium had them all!  These are kind of horror, but also strangely wholesome?  The main character Emmy is a witch, but she wants to use her powers to help people.  She also has a familiar in the shape of a boy’s skin that speaks to her, and an evil twin, and there are lots of “haints” around who are more than ready to do evil stuff.  (See what I mean about wholesome/horror?)

Two more books in the Throne of Glass series read this month: The Assassin’s Blade, a prequel which contains 5 novellas, and Heir of Fire, book 3.  It seems like each book in this series gets longer and longer… and Heir of Fire in particular felt long, more like a setup for a grand finale.  However, it’s still really good!  Only 2 books left to go…

Finally, I got around to reading Caraval, which I received via Owl Crate.  I was pretty psyched about this month’s theme, which was circus.  I was half-expecting to receive the book Freeks, which would have better fit the theme, but Caraval had its own charm.  It’s a fun read if you don’t take it too seriously.  It’s also a beautiful book, and receiving it through the mail with lots of luxurious little goodies fit the theme of the book.  I can’t wait for next month’s box!

I may decide to include a Wattpad reading round-up at some point in the future – but probably not next month, since I’ll be busy participating in Camp Nanowrimo and hopefully cranking out the third and final Wolf Point prequel!

What have you read this month that you enjoyed?

February reading round-up

  • # of books read: 17
  • audiobooks listened to: 3
  • ebooks read: 6
  • ARCs read: 2
  • books from the Throne of Glass series: 2
  • graphic novels: 4
  • total page count: 3,877
  • year total page count: 8,253

Well, not so many books read as last month, but a lot of that has to do with February being 3 days shorter than January, as well as the fact that I took a week off from work, which means less time commuting to listen to audiobooks.

I breezed through 2 advanced reader copies, one from Edelweiss Above the Treeline and one from Netgalley.  I had some issues with Reaper by Kyra Leigh, although it was still a fast read (mostly to do with the ending).  Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta fit in well with my rewatch of the Outlander series.  It involves a history of Scottish witches using blood magic.  Reaper will be released in May and Bad Blood will be coming out next month.

In newer releases, I got to read Veronica Roth’s new book, Carve the Mark.  This wasn’t the easy read Divergent was, and for a while in the beginning I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish.  A few chapters later, once I hit Cyra’s point of view, all that changed.  Akos and Cyra’s slow burn relationship was quite enjoyable to read, so much so that I can almost forgive the fact that this ends without really wrapping up ANYTHING.

I also got my hands on History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund, which has been on the hold shelves at my library for months.  It wasn’t quite as thriller-y as the jacket blurb makes it out to be, but the tension throughout and the descriptive passages made this a worthwhile read.

The graphic novels I read this month can be split quite evenly into Awesome and Pretty Good.  In the Pretty Good category: The Monstress is an award-winner, and has gorgeous artwork (the story itself is a bit too confusing and complex for me), and Trashed (by the author of My Friend Dahmer) was part memoir and part lecture on landfills.  In the Awesome category: Paper Girls 2 had all the greatness of the first volume, and Reindeer Boy by Cassandra Jean was cute as all hell.

In vintage YA, I discovered a horse series that I hadn’t read: Flambards, by K.M. Peyton.  It was delightfully old-fashioned, I suppose because it was written in 1967 and takes place in the early part of the century.  Since I would have to interlibrary loan the rest of the books, I attempted to watch the TV series, but that was really too old-fashioned for me.  Guess I’ll never find out if Christina marries William or Dick.

And finally, I finally read Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (immdiately followed by Crown of Midnight) and I was a near-instant convert!  What took me so long??  In a way, I’m sort of glad I waited, because it means I get to read them all at once. Up next is the prequel, The Assassin’s Blade.

my top 10 werewolf books*

*that I didn’t write

Books about werewolves have a huge advantage over werewolf movies: they don’t have to deal with special effects, which means they can be great without needing a big budget.  That being said, there are a lot of cheesy werewolf books out there (and many of them are in the romance genre…).  This list includes both YA and adult novels.  

 

 

#10: Wolfbreed by S.A. Swann

6449596This book deserves a better cover.  I suppose here is where the idea of a budget affects werewolf novels in a similar way as movies.  This seems designed to appeal to fan of paranormal romance, but it’s actually more historical fiction or fantasy.

In the Middle Ages, an order of monks discovers a litter of werewolf pups, and kept them alive to use as weapons of God.  Years later, one of the weapons, Lilly, has escaped.  She’s found by Udolf, a man with one arm, who tries to help her.

I’ve read (or tried to read) other historical werewolf novels, and thus far Wolfbreed is unique for its time frame.

 

#9: Unleashed by Kristopher Reisz

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A gritty teen werewolf tale that broke away from the post-Twilight werewolf trend. The story is about more than changing into wolves and having superpowers – it’s about finding your voice rather than being a “hand-licker” or someone who tries to please other people.  If City of Bones by Cassandra Clare had more of a focus on werewolves, it might have made my list, but this novel has that same feel – the urban fantasy, about werewolves living in the city.

Fun fact, I named one of the werewolves in my Wolf Point series Misty based on one of the main characters in Unleashed.  (Another character is named Daniel, but he’s not named after the Daniel in this story).

 

#8: Frostbite by David Wellington

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One of the few true “horror” novels on this list, I had originally bought Overwinter (the second book in this two book series) before realizing I needed to read this one first.

There’s plenty of action as a woman named Cheyenne barely survives a wolf attack and is brought to a man named Powell for help.  When she learns Powell wants to kill her, she runs, and that is when she discovers that Powell is a werewolf, and so is she.

 

 

#7: Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

49041You might think it silly, but I do think the werewolf culture presented in this series is strong and well-developed.  Yes, there has been controversy about this being cultural appropriation, but based on other instances of Native American culture in young adult literature, I find this to be one of the least problematic.

Jacob’s nature as a werewolf is only hinted at in the first book, and it’s New Moon where it becomes central to the plot.  New Moon is also where Edward is MIA and Jacob and Bella’s friendship begins to grow.  Jacob is literally the best part of New Moon, because he pulls Bella out of her months-long catatonia (or moping, as one might call it).

 

#6: Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

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The Alex Awards celebrate adult novels with young adult appeal, and I was a new YA librarian when I heard about this particular book on the list.

Essentially, Sharp Teeth is an epic poem.  Unlike Beowulf or The Odyssey or other epic poems teens are forced to read in high school, this one is about werewolves.  Werewolf poetry is rare, despite some of the earliest works about werewolves being poems (“Bisclavret” by Marie de France was written in the 12th century).  So you get to feel like you’re reading something literary, instead of pulpy.

 

#5: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

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This was the first book I ever read by Maggie Stiefvater and it made me a total convert.  Her writing is poetic without being over the top purple prose, and I loved the idea that these werewolves only changed when it got to be too cold.

I’ll admit that I read this shortly after reading Twilight, and there is a heavy focus on the romance.  But there’s no love triangle, and Grace and Sam are so sweet with each other.  Plus you get to hear both of their perspectives.  In later books, you get to hear from others in the pack, like Isabelle and Cole (who get their own book later in the series).

 

#4: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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You’ll hear me gush about Patricia Briggs later in this list, so it might not mean much now for me to say Jennifer Lynn Barnes is like the YA version of Patricia Briggs.

Bryn isn’t a werewolf, but she was raised by a werewolf alpha after he saved her from a werewolf attack.  And she has to work within the pack rules to figure out why everyone’s telling her to stay away from Chase, who was also attacked in a similar way as Bryn herself was.

Another bonus: this is a trilogy, not an endless series – although I would have gladly read more!

 

 

#3: Cry Wolf (and the entire Alpha & Omega series) by Patricia Briggs

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Just a note: I’d recommend reading the prequel novella “Alpha & Omega” (contained in the anthology On the Prowl) before reading the first book in this series.

Patricia Briggs has created a wonderfully complex world of werewolves.  Her other series explores the wider world – which includes fae, vampires, witches, and various other paranormal beings.  This series really focuses on werewolf politics and pack structure from the perspective of a werewolf alpha, Charles, seen by most of the werewolf community as an assassin, and Anna, a rare werewolf omega.

Omegas are so rare, in fact, that the pack who turned Anna believed she was simply the lowest of the low in pack order, when instead she’s actually outside the order.  This means Anna was abused in her pack, until Charles saves her.  And it’s their romance and the way they heal each other that makes this series so wonderful.

 

#2: Moon Called (and the entire Mercy Thompson series) by Patricia Briggs

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That’s right, another series by Patricia Briggs!

Don’t let this cover fool you.  This is the best werewolf series out there – and thankfully, the covers of the later books move away from the paranormal tramp-stamp aesthetic.

Patricia Briggs builds a fantastic world full of paranormal beings.  Mercy isn’t actually a werewolf, she’s a shapeshifter, but she ended up being raised by werewolves.  More specifically, she was raised by the Marrok, the head of all the werewolf packs in North America.  She is able to sense magic, and has ties to the werewolves through pack bonds, which makes her able to maneuver the many sticky situations she finds herself in.

There’s a ton of folklore in the history of the werewolves, which is explored in Shifting Shadows (a collection of the short stories and novellas based on this world). There’s also some romance, and realistic handling of things like rape and violence.  You don’t have to read this series to read the Alpha & Omega series, but it certainly helps.

The only reason I don’t have this series at the top of my list is because it did take me a while to get a feel for Briggs’ writing style.

 

#1: Blood & Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

30324This little book is my favorite werewolf novel.  Please, do not watch the movie (or, if you do, know that the movie bears very little resemblance to the book).  Published before the Twilight phenomenon, it’s a young adult story of a female werewolf, Vivian, who falls for a human boy.  What I really loved about this was that it didn’t hold back from exploring the savage lives of werewolves, where Vivian is expected to vie for the alpha’s attention (competing with her own mother), and she’s proud of what she is and expects the boy she loves to love her wolf form too. You’ll have to read it to find out how he reacts, but pretty much everything about this story surprised me.

 

There you have it!  My top ten favorite werewolf novels.  There were quite a few close calls – Hemlock Grove came thisclose to making the top 10, and I would have loved to add Sisters Red.  What is your favorite werewolf novel?

January reading round-up

  • # of books read: 20
  • audiobooks listened to: 5
  • ebooks read: 6
  • nonfiction read: 2
  • ARCs read: 1
  • books from the Experiment in Terror series: 4
  • books from the White Cat series: 3
  • vintage YA: 3
  • total page count: 4,376

I did a ton of reading this month.

In newer releases, I finished up Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital, which was fascinating not quite in the way I had anticipated – I had thought Bellevue was mostly a mental hospital – but still learned a lot about the early days of medicine in America and about the various plagues that swept through New York City.

Freeks, by Amanda Hocking, was an impulse add to my reading list when a stack of new books came up from the library’s tech services and one I had forgotten to put on hold for myself, A List of Cages, was on hold for someone else… The circus/carnival/sideshow theme of course was calling to me.  I like her writing style – it’s easy to read, and fun.  This one took place in the 80’s so there were tons of 80’s references.  I personally think the title is a little cheesy but it fits.

I also read an ARC of Hellworld by Tom Leveen.  This was the kind of post-apocalyptic story I love, where monsters hinted at in ancient religious texts are unleashed – a sci-fi horror thriller.

Another newer book I loved was Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman – it completely deserves the National Book Award!

I blazed through 5 audiobooks.  Three of those were Holly Black’s White Cat series, which were narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, and were short and fun to listen to.  Patient Zero was much longer, and yet I blew through that one as well.  Then I listened to Every Exquisite Thing, by Matthew Quick – so, so good.  So quotable.

Three of the books I read this month were “vintage YA.”  The first was The Executioner, a book I thought I remembered reading as a teen back in the 90’s.  Not sure if I actually did… let’s just say the characters weren’t exactly memorable and the mystery didn’t make much sense.  The second, a donation that appeared in my box at the library, was Attitude Problem, which had even bigger plot holes and possibly even flatter characters.  The third was The Woman in the Wall, which was a bit of strange magical realism.  What all of these books made me nostalgic for were the days when you could read a book in a matter of 2-3 hours.

Stealing some reading time at the laundromat #reading #bookstagram #laundry

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I downloaded the rest of the books in the Experiment in Terror series, which I last left off in 2014.  Still just as good two years later.  The premise is two ghosthunters, each with the ability to see ghosts, team up for an internet show.  The sexual tension is insane, and finally I got to the part where Perry and Dex get together!  Naturally, not without Sasquatch, zombies, and plenty of ghosts.  (That’s Into the Hollow, book #6, that I’m reading at the laundromat above).  I also found myself binge-watching “Paranormal Lockdown,” which gave me the Dex & Perry feels.

And finally!  I got to read A List of Cages, which is officially my favorite book this month. Might be my favorite book for the rest of the year, too.  It was so heartbreaking and lovely.  Highly recommended!!

3 on a theme: brotherly (and sisterly) love

I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.

I’ve become accustomed to YA books that heavily rely on romance.  So YA books that do not have a romance as the central theme stand out to me, and within the past month and a half, I read three such books, and they all focused on sibling relationships.

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Cuckoo Song, which I wrote about in my last 3 on a theme post, focuses on the relationship between two sisters.  Ha – you might have thought it would be the relationship between a brother and a sister, since my last 3 on a theme post was about brothers.  But the actual plot of Cuckoo Song is about Tris, a changeling, who her little sister Pen realizes is not the real Tris.  Fake Tris and Pen’s relationship develops in a positive way, even improving the relationship between Pen and Real Tris.

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics starts out like it’s going to involve romance – Amanda sneaks out of the cabin to be with Henry, and lies to her sister Emily about it.  Amanda also lied to Emily about seeing a demon last winter, so Emily doesn’t really trust her.  But after their family moves to the prairie and Amanda miscarries her baby, Emily pulls through for Amanda.  In the end, it’s all about Amanda and Emily fighting to survive and save their family.

In A List of Cages, which I just finished last night (a book you will be hearing about a lot because I loved it so much), the focus is on two foster brothers.  Julian and Adam are both only children, but Adam’s used to the foster kids his mom brings home, but Julian is different, especially because Adam keeps finding himself in Julian’s life.  While this book has a little bit of a romance between Adam and his girlfriend, the story alternates between Adam and Julian’s voices and is most definitely about their relationship and how it saves Julian’s life.

When I think back to my teen years, I’d have to say that my relationships with my brothers and sister were far more important than any romantic relationship I had.  Really, they knew me best, both because they lived with me and because my friends at school only saw a little part of me, the one I wanted to show them.  With siblings we can usually fight loudly and make up easily, annoy each other to no end yet still be there for each other to play with.  It makes me happy to see that sibling relationships are continuing to be important in YA novels.

 

3 books on a theme: brothers who died in the war

img_3252I am often reading between 3 and 5 books at the same time, and occasionally there’s a theme that might not be remarkable in one book… but when I see it in three books, I take notice.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters included among its characters a set of brothers, one of whom is “killed in the war” (the war being World War I).  Stephen’s ghost returns to haunt the narrator and resolve some things that happened between the brothers.

Shortly after reading this one, I read Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, which took place shortly after the end of World War I, and featured another brother killed in the war.  Sebastian “returns” via letters that are deposited in a desk, and haunts his fiancee as well.

Then I started reading an advanced copy of The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, and yet another dead brother showed up.  No World War I this time, as the story takes place in a fantasy universe, but Fox dies in the war, and his sister brings him back from the dead.

Coincidence?  Maybe.  In any case, very strange that three books I read within a month’s time had brothers who died in a war and then returned from the dead.

the YA horror novel aesthetic

You could say that every genre has its own aesthetic, but lately the YA horror genre has been taking aesthetic to a new level – beyond cover design, or even typeface and chapter headings.

The first YA novel that did this really effectively was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – a novel which some might argue isn’t really horror.  But even if it is fantasy, it’s super creepy fantasy with invisible monsters that eat children.

Using real photographs, Ransom Riggs created a story.  The photographs became a kind of evidence for the text.  Sure, you could read the story (or listen to it on audiobook) without looking at the pictures, and you’d still get a creepy fantasy tale.  But the photographs were what drew me in.  They were mysterious, and did I mention real?  Of course, they were originally created using Victorian-era special effects, but the idea of finding these strange images made me as a reader feel just like Jacob, sifting through his grandfather’s collection.  The page layouts were even made to look like scrapbook pages.  I’ll call this style the Old-Timey aesthetic.


Quickly after the publication of Miss Peregrine’s, I began to notice other YA horror books using images and elaborate page design to draw readers into the story.  The Asylum series by Madeleine Roux had images that looked like they were found on the tiled floors of an old asylum.  Also included were images of scribbled notebook pages akin to what the narrator was finding and/or writing.

I enjoyed the feel of this series even though I didn’t enjoy the story as much – and part of my lack of enjoyment of later books might have been reading them as ebooks, which made them feel somehow less authentic.  I also found that some of the images were clearly photoshopped which made them feel less authentic than those in Miss Peregrine’s.


In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters also uses photographs to great effect – a look at the copyright page shows that most of the photos are from the Library of Congress.  These photos are entirely separate from the story, but mirror the events: seances, spirit photography, army hospitals, and flu victims, all of which ground the story to the time period.  The author did a great job of doing that through her writing, but the aesthetic of the book took it that much further.  You can see that the chapter headings also had a 1920s flair.

YA horror novels about historical events have a great advantage by the ability to use photographs.  But there’s another YA horror aesthetic that doesn’t.  I like to call it the House of Leaves aesthetic, where even the words on the page are arranged to lure the reader deep into a troubled protagonist’s mind.

(If you haven’t read House of Leaves, it’s a very complex story within a story within a story (perhaps even two more levels deep here).  There are footnotes, there’s word art (see image on right), there are hidden codes.  It took me months to read this book.)

Dawn Kurtagich’s novels The Dead House and And the Trees Crept In (UK title: Creeper Man) were definitely inspired by House of Leaves and have many similar elements – the word art, and the story within a story.  There are journal pages and words crossed out.  In The Dead House, the novel is meant to look entirely like a compilation of files and journal pages and transcripts.

Both of these books are very psychological in nature, where the characters question their own sanity, and the disordered fonts/cross-outs reflect that – while the appearance of “official documents” and files lend an authenticity to the story.

This aesthetic isn’t limited to YA horror (see House of Leaves, also the horror/comedy novel Horrostor which is laid out like an IKEA catalog – the story takes place within such a store), and it certainly isn’t limited to horror, but it seems the genre most befitting this type of treatment are horror novels.

And I love it!

(Did I miss any other examples of YA horror aesthetic?  Please let me know in the comments!)