3 on a theme: living houses

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.

It’s a common trope, the haunted house.  But not so common when the house becomes its own character…

livinghouses

All read between October 2016 – May 2017

And the Trees Crept In reminded me a lot of House of Leaves, and both books could be on this list.  Even more so than House of Leaves, And the Trees Crept In treated the house like a character.  It also treated the trees like their own character, so it felt everything around the main character was creeping in on her in some threatening way, and feels very much alive.

The Woman in the Wall is about a young girl who feels invisible and disappears into the walls of her house.  She builds intricate tunnels so that she can move about unnoticed, walls off rooms for herself and spirits away food and sewing supplies to make clothing for her family.  The whole novel had a sense of magical realism, and it was clear that members of her family had forgotten about her and thought of the house as being alive.

The final book on this list was the one that got me remembering just how many other stories I had read about houses that felt alive.  In this case, the house in The House IS alive, brought to life by a misplaced spell, and it has raised a child up to be a boy… and it isn’t very happy when a girl comes along and tries to steal him away.

Have you read a book that fits this theme?  Tell me about it in the comments!

April reading round-up

  • # of books read: 11
  • audiobooks listened to: 4
  • ARCs read: 1
  • total page count: 3,288
  • year total page count: 15,539

I didn’t finish a lot of books in April, but I did read a lot!  I swear!  For a full list, scroll down to the bottom – the links will take you to my Goodreads reviews.

This month brought in 2 hefty tomes that I’d had on hold: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor and King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard.  I love love loved Strange the Dreamer.  There’s a librarian protagonist!  And Laini’s usual lovely prose and world-building.  I was a little disappointed that the story ended the way it did, of course that only means I will need to read the next in the series!

As for King’s Cage, I was not as enamored of this one as I was with the first two.  It felt too long and slow in the beginning.  But I will still probably continue reading this series, just like I’ll be continuing to read the Throne of Glass series.

I spent most of the month reading Queen of Shadows (another 500+ pager), but it was more because of all the other big ass books that came in from the library that kept me from finishing it quicker, because it had a good pace and I really enjoyed it.

Another long one I read was Secret Windows, a compilation of various essays on writing by Stephen King.  I’d had this one on my TBR pile since 2009 (yikes) and since I had borrowed it, and it no longer fit on my shelf after I arranged it by color, and I’m well ahead on my reading goal, I decided to read it. Besides, I felt like I needed to read a book to inspire me on writing, since this month was Camp Nanowrimo. Unfortunately I had to slog my way through this one.  I had read many of the essays before.  One of them was over 100 pages long and was excerpted from Danse Macabre, and I hadn’t liked it the first time.  The transcriptions of some of the talks he gave were fun to read, and I did enjoy some of the pieces… but his On Writing is so much better, and covers many of the points he makes throughout all these various tidbits.  Plus editing.

I also had another book come in on hold, though it was on the shorter side.  I’ve been spacing out my holds and unfortunately this month it seems they all caught up with me.  Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist felt very timely and dealt with the riots in Seattle.  Not my usual genre, and something I think I found through trying to find the source of the title’s quote.

Two of the audiobooks I listened to this month were extremely similar in style and subject – and actually had the same narrator!  The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, deals with a future where aliens have taken over, and several teens are left trying to fight and survive.  The 100 by Kass Morgan, deals with a future where several teens (or, you know, 100 teens) are sent to a destroyed Earth, where they try to survive.  I had seen both the movie “The 5th Wave” and the first episode of “The 100” TV series, and hadn’t been super engaged with either of them.  But reading The 5th Wave made me want to go back and give it another chance, because the book was so enjoyable.  I also want to rewatch “The 100,” because there seem to be significant differences.  The book was okay, it was quick listen and the plot moved right along, though the characters weren’t as memorable or deep as those in The 5th Wave.

I received a physical ARC this month from Simon Pulse, the absolutely adorable When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.  A cute summer romance that I zipped right through, made me want to listen to my Bollywood playlist again.  The book will be released May 30th.

Here’s a complete list of the books I read this month:

  1. Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
  2. Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing by Stephen King
  3. The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1) by Rick Yancey (audiobook)
  4. Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
  5. A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting by Guy Delisle (graphic novel)
  6. Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1) by Laini Taylor
  7. The 100 by Kass Morgan (audiobook)
  8. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris (audiobook)
  9. Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4) by Sarah J. Maas
  10. King’s Cage (Red Queen, #3) by Victoria Aveyard
  11. Devil’s Pass (Seven, #6) by Sigmund Brouwer (audiobook)
  12. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (ARC)

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

A post shared by Kate (@spoffk) on

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?

when bookworms get earworms

The first book that ever really got a song stuck in my head was If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth.  The title is taken from a Wings song, “Band on the Run.”  If you didn’t know, reading the book would tell you that Wings was a project of Paul McCartney’s after The Beatles, and the main character Lewis is pretty much obsessed with them and with music in general, although his story is happening in the 70s and so he can’t just download them.  Anyway, everytime I looked at this book’s cover, the song started playing in my head…

It seemed to be a bit of a trend that year, as I came across I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson.  Never actually read the book, because every time I saw this book in the library it was full on David Cassidy and the Partridge Family and I just couldn’t do it.

So, of course, I’ll include the song below so you can have it stuck in your head, too.

After that point, I had songs on the brain every time I saw a book title.  That’s the only way I can explain why every time I saw the cover for Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi, I got Metallica’s “Through the Never” stuck in my head.

Twisting

turning

through the

Ever Night!

Thankfully, I stopped getting songs stuck in my head so regularly.  But recently it’s come back.  I blame the advanced reader copy I received of Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta.  Of course.  Taylor Swift.  You KNOW that’s going to get stuck in your head.  ‘Cuz baby now we’ve got bad blood…

And then, while I was reading Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, I couldn’t stop hearing Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.”

And then another Taylor Swift song swooped in while I was reading After the Woods by Kim Savage.  Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods? Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet? In the clear yet? Good.

It comes to a point where I’m relieved to finish one of these books, just so I can get the damned song out of my head.

What books have given you an earworm?

 

 

3 on a theme: books within books

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.

Well, I started this blog post with three recent titles, then I kept finding more.  I’ll try to keep it to these three, because their inclusion in the novels felt more important to the plot than some of the other fictional titles.

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All read in December 2016-January 2017

The premise of Melanie Raabe’s The Trap includes a mention of the fictional book right on the cover blurb: “I know who killed my sister.  I wrote this book for him.”  The narrator, an author, writes a book called Blood Sisters about her sister’s murder in an effort to lure the murderer, a journalist, to her secluded house, where she plans to get him to confess.  There are chapters from the fictional book, which later one wonders how closely these chapters actually follow the truth.

A fictional book called The Bubblegum Reaper brings together two teens in Matthew Quick’s Every Exquisite Thing.  The fictional novel involves a teenage boy who falls in love with a twin who talks to turtles, only he isn’t sure which of the identical twins he’s in love with.  The characters, in their obsession with this book, discover that the author lives nearby and after striking up a friendship with him, also discover that The Bubblegum Reaper seems to be a thinly veiled story of his own life.  Every Exquisite Thing reminded me a LOT of The Fault in Our Stars, which has its own fictional novel, An Imperial Affliction.  Still no idea why the book is called The Bubblegum Reaper.

Finally, and you knew I’d be back to talk about this one, A List of Cages features an entire SERIES of fictional novels: the Elian Mariner books, which sound suspiciously like The Little Prince to me (and I just finished reading Everything, Everything, in which the main character reads and re-reads The Little Prince).  I haven’t actually read that book, so I could be way off, but basically Julian uses these books both to remind him of Adam, and to escape into the stars much like Elian Mariner does.

I often find that characters in books read other books, and most of the time they are real books that exist.  Obviously, authors are readers and they want to pay homage to the books that inspire them.  The use of a fictional book gives the characters the ability to interact with the authors’ lives – obviously, The Trap wouldn’t have worked with a real novel, because it’s all about the author, and the same for Every Exquisite Thing (and The Fault in Our Stars).  For A List of Cages, I think the reason for using a fictional series is largely for one scene, in which one of Julian’s classmates asks what he’s reading, and he gets excited to talk about his favorite books, and we as the reader don’t know what level these books are until the classmate makes a terrible comment, and suddenly we realize that high school freshman Julian is reading books meant for elementary school children.  In that way, The Little Prince wouldn’t have worked, because many adults read it.

Lots and lots of other books include fictional works.  Probably the coolest example of this is Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, in which the main character writes fanfiction for the Simon Snow series (it bears close resemblance to Harry Potter).  So many people were writing fanfiction for this fictional series that Rainbow Rowell actually wrote the fic Cath was working on, and it was published as Carry On Simon.  Doesn’t always happen, but I sure would like to read The Bubblegum Reaper!

Addition, 3/10/17: Found another one!  Currently reading The Man in the High Castle, wherein there is a book titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.  I keep getting the feeling that there is a parallel universe where people read the book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which refers to a fictional book called The Man in the High Castle.

 

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?