Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Recent Reads and TBR Coming Attractions

Once upon a time, I had a college professor who suggested that we should free-write 200-400 words after reading a book, just so that we could easily remember our initial impressions of it. We read a lot, and it all inevitably started to blend together without a little cheatsheet. Back in the day, before things like "followers," I created this blog with the intention of recording thoughts like these, to help me remember what I got out of any given story (books/movies/TV). It's relatively easy, saved for eternity, and even SEARCHABLE! If anyone else benefits from my ramblings on a given story or idea, then bonus! The only problem is, I got lazy, and now there's a huge gap in my memory.

A lot of writers I know seem to have a goal of reading about 100 books a year (roughly two a week). I've done alright keeping up on my reading, but I've gotten lax in keeping notes, to the point that in some cases, if a book doesn't make a really strong impression, I sort of forget that I already read it and go through the embarrassing moment of "that kind of sounds familiar...??? :( :( :(." And then I lose my street cred.

For the past several months, I've been sportsball blogging here, freelance editing, and writing my own stuff. That's all been lovely. But my early New Year's Resolution is to be a bit more organized in my reading. Here are a few lines about my recent reads and what I hope to get to in the next few weeks.


* THE INFINITE SEA by Rick Yancey
I read these two books back-to-back and nearly got genre whiplash, but I adored them both.
THE INFINITE SEA is the second installment in the 5TH WAVE series. It's a sci-fi thriller told from several different first person POVs. I was a little hesitant to embrace some of those perspectives at first, but they each proved worthy and won me over in the end (some were even just very brief flashes inside a character's mind). This book is creepy as hell, and makes excellent, heart-wrenching use of the word "owie" in the first chapter. Loved it, would recommend it.

ISLA, on the other hand, is a sweet love story that recalibrated my brain after being chased by alien monsters for ~300pages. By comparison, some readers might say "nothing happens" because we've grown to used to the pattern of "everything is going so well... and then there's a MURDER (or other catastrophic disaster)." Spoiler alert, no one gets murdered in ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. I kept waiting, waiting for something truly gruesome and terrible to happen, and stuff did go wrong, but it shifted what felt like "high stakes" in my mind. It was real and funny and voicey and so different than anything else I'd read for awhile, with it's lack of death and pestilence, that I voted for it hard in the Goodreads "Best Young Adult Fiction" category. A completely refreshing reading experience that basically revolves around, "the guy I've been crushing on for years just noticed me, and now I'm afraid he'll be kicked out of our boarding school."

* IF I STAY by Gayle Forman
I mostly read this because the movie was coming out, and were it not for the movie, this is probably one I'd accidentally forget I'd read. It was fine, there was nothing "wrong" with it, it just wasn't my thing. Compared to the other things I'd read before and after, it felt like there wasn't a lot happening, other than the narrator trying really, really hard to convince us that she loved classical music and was unashamed. But the movie looks beautiful, so I'll probably try to catch it at some point. This book is popular for a reason, so I'd like to know if there's something I just missed, so seeing it through the movie-maker's eyes might shed some new light.

* GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn
I gave in to peer pressure and read this like everyone else. I was especially in to this after I learned that Gillian Flynn lives one neighborhood away from me in Chicago. I mean, what if I cut her off in traffic some random day, or take the last marble loaf while she's standing behind me in the Starbucks line? Anywho, GONE GIRL was especially interesting to me because I suspect she was partially inspired by a couple of local missing wives cases from a few years ago. Like the rest of the world, I felt like the book ended a few chapters too late, but overall, by far my favorite "grown up" book I've read in a long time. (Speaking of grown-up books, I also gave in to the peer pressure and gave OUTLANDER a try, if nothing else so that I could better follow Lori M. Lee's live-tweets of the TV show.)

Probably the most satisfying reading experience I've had in a very long time. I devoured these books after they were recommended to me by my friend Emery Lord, and then she got to enjoy watching me completely melt under their power. It's the best kind of character driven fantasy story, told in third person, about a female assassin, imprisoned for her crimes, and then released on a condition that she participate in a competition (small-scale Hunger Games). So often in fantasy, world building is the star, but in the first book, these people hardly leave the castle (which is made of glass, mind you). There are late-night murders reminiscent of a game of Clue, there's friendship and betrayal, backstabbing and kissing, hints of magic, EVERYTHING. I loved these books so much my brain melted, can't wait for the fourth one.


* RUN TO YOU (PARTS IV-VI) by Clara Kensie
So, I moved twice in the last year, and during most of that time I was a tablet-only reader for practicality purposes. Once we finished the last move, I basked in the opportunity to at last read "paper" books again. And that was right about the time the last three installments of these psychic serial killer romantic thrillers came out (e-reader only). They've been there waiting on me, and I want badly to read them because the first three were a lot of fun and Clara is so talented. If only I were better at reading multiple things at a time, I'd have done it already.

I met Lori at Chicago's 2014 Spring Fling and have been looking forward to this one ever since. It's been at my bedside taunting me and I'm furious with myself for not getting to it yet.

For people who read this blog back when I actually posted to it, you might recall that Diana Peterfreund won my favor by nailing a YA sci-fi retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel and officially earning a special place in my heart. Every since, I've been wanting to visit her other work, especially this one (a similar YA sci-fi retelling of Persuasion).

* INTO THE FIRE by Ashelyn Drake
I've been working as a freelance editor for Month9 Books for several months now. Month9 specializes in young adult speculative fiction, and has developed some pretty cool stuff, especially considering that it's a small press and has only been in operation for two years. Since I'm still one of the new kids, I've been scrambling to catch up on their list, and they've (or, I guess "we've?") been busy. This is one (which I did NOT work on) that keeps jumping out at me as potentially special.

* MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME by Everyone Ever
Several years ago, beloved authors John Green (The Fault in Our Stars), Maureen Johnson (13 Little Blue Envelopes) and Lauren Myracle (The Infinite Moment of Us) worked together on a holiday compilation called LET IT SNOW, which will soon be a major motion picture (in my mind, it will look kind of like the young adult version of Love Actually). Since I fell so in love with LET IT SNOW, I was more than ready to impulse buy MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME, featuring several of my favorite writers. Holly Black (I adored The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and have been wanting to try Doll Bones). Ally Carter (The Heist Society series makes me very happy). Stephanie Perkins (already gushed about how much I loved Isla, and Stephanie actually edited this beast). And NINE OTHERS, one story for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which is why this is a "Do not open until after Thanksgiving" item for me and mine.

So now you tell me - what are your recent reads and what's missing from my TBR pile?

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