You say good-bye, I say hello.

O HAI THERE

I know I wrote up that blog post about my decision to never again stick to a blogging schedule. But I still feel like I owe you guys an apology for disappearing for 4 whole months. I guess that, even though I knew that my interest in blogging here was waning, I still believed that I would pop by every so often—if only to share my booktube videos with you guys. (Which, incidentally, I’ve also neglected in making. Ha.) But I didn’t. And now I feel bad—sort of—for the extended radio silence.

I really should just pull the plug on this blog. I’ve been going on about it for years—or has that only been in my head?—and lately I’ve been thinking that if I really don’t have the time to commit to this, I shouldn’t do it at all. It’s not fair to you—or me—if I continue on in this halfway fashion. And if I never close this blog, I’ll never stop coming back to it, haunted as I am by wistfulness and nostalgia—a sort of wailing Cathy on the heaths of Yorkshire. (Ok, maybe that was a bit too dramatic but you get the picture.)

Anyway, what was I here for? Oh, right. A recap. I wanted to recap on the books (& comics) that I read in 2014. I was going to list them in my time-honored fashion, but 50+ books is a lot so I’m just going to point you guys in the direction of my GoodReads—which has all the relevant information, and then some:

I also filmed a video—by function a recap of my 2014 reads. You can watch it below.

Back to the pulling the plug business—I don’t see myself giving up on blogging IN ITS ENTIRETY. As much as I am drawing more these days than putting words to paper—literally or otherwise—I enjoy this process too much to give it up. I’m actually thinking about moving operations to Tumblr, a platform that I’ve come to love very much. (I should have done the move years ago. The only reason why I stayed on WordPress was because I had at some point wanted to blog professionally. Oh, youthful me.) If I do end up moving, I’ll let you know.

Otherwise, I guess this is goodbye? Yes, goodbye. I need to be firm about this. No more going back and forth. We’ve had an interesting run, WP. Thanks for the memories.

See you guys around.

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About that reading project…

Right. About that reading project I embarked upon this past summer.

As far as numbers are concerned, the reading project was a major success. Out of the 13 books on the TBR, I finished 9. Which is a HUGE deal for me, because I usually fail at these sorts of readathon stuff. #LARMonth, last year’s Banned Books Week… Granted, food poisoning isn’t something you can really control, but point is I sucked at readathons. But this time I managed to get a good chunk of my reading done, and it felt really good to accomplish that.

Other than that, though, the readathon was a fail. And I say that because the books that I read either bored me to tears, or else left me feeling frustratingly indifferent. The only two exceptions were Alex London’s Proxy—a PHENOMENAL book, you guys—and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

I made a video back in August, in which I share my thoughts on the individual titles. You’re welcome to watch it below, and subscribe to my booktube channel—although fair warning, I am not entirely sure if I will continue with it. I really like the booktube community, but I’ve realized that I’m not the most eloquent or charismatic person when a camera is shoved into my face. Or when I know that I’m being recorded. (This is probably why I often forget to breathe and do these awkward mid-sentence gasps when I leave voice mails.) Perhaps it’s only a matter of practice. But then there’s the problem of adequate lighting—I live in a cave, you guys—and background noise and I still haven’t yet told my roommates about my videos and … yeah.

Also, I’m still weirded out that my face and voice are now ON the web. For anyone to access. SCARY OMG STRANGER DANGER CUE WAILING SIRENS

 

In any case, that’s my summer reading experience for you. I hope you guys had a much more enjoyable one!

Happy reading!

Jen

SNIPPETS: “You cannot nourish the soul with data!”

“Oh, I want readers, my boy.” Mr. Baram sighed. “A world of readers I want, and yet, all I have is you. You want information, mere data, just like everyone else. That’s not reading. Wisdom? Inspiration? Phfft! Their time has passed, eh?” He waved his hand in the air. “You cannot nourish the soul with data!”

Proxy, by Alex London

Here’s a less wordy edition of Snippets for this week, because 1) I figure this excerpt speaks for itself, 2) I don’t feel like elaborating on it, and 3) the more I try to talk about Proxy the more incoherent I become, until all I end up writing on the page are variations of OMG SO GUD U GUYS BAWLING BCUZ FEELINGS. So … next time. Until then, go nourish yourself with some reading!

Summer 2014 reading list!

I mentioned previously that I made it my unofficial summer goal to read more classics. But then That Slate Article went live, and for a moment I contemplated pushing the classics aside to read exclusively YA because I was seriously bothered by the article and really wanted to do something in the spirit of protest. But then I knew that if I did do that, I would regret the loss of an opportunity to play catch-up with the classics. So now I’m compromising by deciding to do BOTH. I haven’t decided if this is yet another one of my have my cake and eat it too moments, or a genuinely good idea. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, here are the books* that I’m planning to read:

Young Adult…

  • Proxy, by Alex London
  • Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina
  • This Song Will Save Your Life, by Leila Sales
  • The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer
  • Beastly, by Alex Flinn
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
  • The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
  • Wonder, by R. J. Palacio

Classics…

  • Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
  • The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
  • The Bluest Eyes, by Toni Morrison
  • Othello, by William Shakespeare
  • The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury [not pictured above]

*I would like to thank my housemate and fellow bookworm, whose generosity in granting me free rein of her personal library made the majority of this reading list possible.


Readers — What are you planning to read this summer?

Of grapes and oranges

Pardon the photobombing by my new Arya figurine. She arrived from Westeros yesterday and is still acclimatizing to our world. Yes Arya, this is a phone. Yes Arya, I am taking a picture with my phone. Yes Arya, there’s a camera IN my phone. OKAY OKAY I’LL LET YOU PLAY WITH IT LATER JUST LET ME TAKE A PHOTO OF THESE BOOKS FIRST.

+ +

Huzzah, I’ve finished two books! But alas, I’m writing on them briefly because  I have several more posts queuing in my drafts folder, and I want to get them out by next week, so without further ado, let’s get cracking.

Five Quarters of the Orange and I got off to a good start. Harris’ prose was fantastic—lean, descriptive, and oh so lyrical. And the premise seemed interesting, the reading experience promising. Young Framboise, with all her wild tomboyish ways, was an easy drop in the bucket. I love spirited heroines, and I warmed up to ‘Boise perhaps all the more quickly for having a stubborn, difficult, embittered mother who was as frustrating as she was tragic. I enjoyed her romps through the countryside, the frankness with which she, now as an old woman, looks back at her escapades. Children are cruel, she admits, and I nodded in agreement, thinking back to my own childhood and the stuff we did. But about halfway through the book, my patience began thinning exponentially. There was no growth in the characters, little variety in the message that old Boise wanted to get across. I get that Boise had a difficult mother, that her mother had chronic migraines and a hatred for oranges that bordered on paranoia. But dang it Boise, DID YOU REALLY HAVE TO GO ON ABOUT IT I GOT IT LIKE A HUNDRED PAGES AGO. Last night, I ended up skimming the last few chapters—the chapters that I wish Harris had fleshed out because dang it, it was interesting. Way more interesting than the repetitive flashbacks we were saddled with. (Also, who doesn’t like a revenge tale between elderly underdogs and douchebaggy relatives?) But to its credit, Five Quarters made me ponder—about my own childhood, my own complicated relationship with my mother, about children and mothers in general, and how the past has a tendency to repeat itself.

The Grapes of Wrath reminded me of The Jungle—a family of honest, hardworking folk trying to make ends meet in a barrage of unfortunate events inflicted upon them by a force outside of their control. But unlike Jurgis and his family, whom I felt were unnecessarily victimized by their author, the Joads are strong characters who met each disappointment and trial with dignity and perseverance. No matter what happened they pushed forward, not allowing themselves to wallow in self-pity. I wouldn’t say this book is inspirational—it was intended to be a scathing critique of corporate greed, of the economic inequality in American society. But I do admire that family. And I love Steinbeck. I loved the prose in Grapes, how it’s so matter-of-fact, yet lyrical. The first chapter, when the narrator describes the condition of the parched land and the hard-pressed farmers, rings of epic poetry like The Iliad and Beowulf. I also appreciate Steinbeck’s frankness in his depiction of the harsh realities of the time. What happened to those tenant farmers was terrible: the banks seizing their land, kicking them off. Doesn’t matter that they lived and died on that land, worked the land, raised families on that land. With the foreclosures that happened only a few years ago, it makes me wonder if things haven’t really changed.

Inevitable fangirling over Cress and The Lunar Chronicles

This is one of my bloggery problems: I don’t like to write about a book if I haven’t first written about its serial predecessors. It’s a continuity thing, I guess. And also, it’s a tricky balance providing enough information about the previous books for the current book to make sense, but not giving away too much as to spoil said previous books. But I’m willing to make an exception for Cress; partly because it was such a fun, action-movie-of-a-book; partly because I want to blog more.

So. Cress. It’s the newest and penultimate installment in Marissa Meyer’s entertaining series, The Lunar Chronicles. The series is set in the future, where after two World Wars Earth has consolidated into six political conglomerates. The moon has also been settled—and rechristened Luna—and is ruled independently of the Earthen Union under an absolute monarchy, headed by the conniving Queen Levana. Although Earth has experienced a long stretch of peace since the fourth World War, political tensions are mounting. A terrible plague has ravaged Earth for decades, and scientists have still to discover a cure for it. On top of that, Levana has been pushing for an alliance with the Eastern Commonwealth, a move that its crown prince Kaito is all too wary of, knowing the lunar monarch’s hunger for power.

And from there, stuff happens. (Trying to avoid spoilers, heh.) Basically, our leading lady Cinder—cyborg and gifted mechanic, also mutual love interest of the dashing Prince Kai—realizes her true identity, and sets off on a mission to stop Queen Levana from taking over Earth. Along the way, she befriends Cadet Captain Carswell Thorne—your typical scoundrel-of-a-space-captain with a heart of gold—spirited pilot Scarlet Benoit; ex-street fighter Wolf; and compassionate Dr. Erland, who knows more than he lets on.

Cress picks up shortly after the dramatic conclusion of its predecessor Scarlet. Team Cinder has barely escaped the clutches of Queen Levana, stalling for the present in neutral orbit above Earth, aboard Thorne’s beloved—and very much stolen—Rampion ship. After the events of Scarlet, Team Cinder is now certain of Levana’s true intentions: taking over Earth, using an alliance with the Eastern Commonwealth as a strategic foothold. With Kai’s hands tied up in politics, it is up to Cinder and her friends to stop Levana and avoid all-out war with technologically-superior Luna. Assistance comes in the form of Cress, a young but genius hacker imprisoned aboard a satellite. In her possession are recordings that could expose Levana’s schemes. Eager to escape her prison and help Team Cinder, Cress offers to come onboard the Rampion to hand over the evidence. But her jailbreak goes horribly wrong, and Team Cinder scatters.

And from there, stuff happens.

A lot of bloggers have raved that Cress is the best book in the series so far. And after finishing the book last week, I have to agree. Meyer’s writing has gotten much tighter. And I’m impressed by how she was able to introduce and flesh out Cress’ story arc while balancing those of the other characters. It’s no easy feat, juggling four plotlines. In ways, Cress reminds me of a slick, edge-of-your-seat action/espionage film: lots of adrenaline-pumping scenes, lots of high-risk plans gone wrong, lots of unexpected setbacks.  There’s plenty of humor too. And man, there’s so much worth fangirling over. I LOVED Iko’s new development. And OMG, Cress being … well, you know. Did any of you guys see it coming?? Cress/Thorne is my new OTP. (Sorry Cinder/Kai. I’m still rooting for you guys, but Cress/Thorne have so much more character development. And their relationship is so sweet, I luff it.) AND PRINCESS WINTER AAAAHHH. I am SO looking forward to reading more about her in the next book. She’s such an interesting character! Meyer wrote her SO well. I love how she’s so innocent and yet unsettling and kind of creepy. (That menagerie scene you guys, AMIRIGHT? And there being blood on the palace walls??) I’m curious as to how she’s going to fit into the overall story arc. And I want to know more about her story—how she got those scars, why she is the way she is, why Jacin is so loyal to her.

I don’t think I’ve said this before, but I highly recommend The Lunar Chronicle series. I’ll be frank, I actually didn’t expect too much from it when I first heard about it a couple of years ago. All the other Nanowrimo novels that have made it big in the market hadn’t appealed to me, or else got such mediocre reviews that I didn’t bother reading it. The Lunar Chronicles, I’m happy to say, well exceeded my expectations. Meyer is a genuinely good writer. She entertains her readers without compromising quality. And unlike a lot of YA novels I’ve encountered, she takes an intriguing story idea and delivers it well. If you like fairytales with a twist, or YA sci-fi, give these books a go. I double dog dare you to not like them.

On failing #LARMonth and reuniting with Murakami

So. #LARMonth. All I have to say is a big, fat LOL. Why I ever thought I was going to finish not one, but THREE full-sized books, in the space of a month is beyond me. But as frustrating as it is, not meeting my goal, I guess it’s better that I shoot high and land lower than aim low in the first place and … end up not reading at all? Or maybe I just need to stop being so dang ambitious and just accept the reality that I, however much I wish otherwise, just don’t have the sort of time to read more than a novel or two every month. Or maybe I just need to crack down on my time management and actually READ instead of mindlessly drifting through the web, window-shopping for clothes I don’t actually need.

But anyway, no more crying over spilled milk. I did at least complete ONE book last month: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. This is my first Murakami in a while, and to be honest I wasn’t sure how well I was going to receive it. Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know about my love-hate relationship with Murakami. (The books, not the author.) Even after all these years, I still regarded Murakami with a wary eye. For all my frustrations with his style, my biggest gripe has been with his protagonists—his tortured, angst-ridden protagonists with their fistfuls of insecurities. While I’m not at all against characters with inner struggles and turmoils, I can only take so much before I feel the overwhelming urge to reach into the pages of the book, grab the protagonist squarely by the shoulders, and violently shake them out of their pity party. But to my great surprise—and, frankly, relief—the protagonist of Wind-Up Bird had none of the emotional hang-ups I was expecting. He has his faults, certainly, but Toru is even-keeled. Bland at times, I’ll admit, and perhaps deluded. But … normal. And normal is a good thing every now and then. Refreshing too, when Murakami is concerned.

I’m still not sure if I like the book or not. The story itself was interesting, what with all the bizarre encounters with bizarre characters, all the excursions into a parallel dream world, all the philosophical musings on the nature of relationships, life and death, etc. One scene in particular stuck with me. It’s a flashback of Toru’s first date with his girlfriend—now wife—Kumiko. While at the aquarium, Toru suffers a panic attack in the jellyfish exhibit, and they leave. While Toru calms himself down outside, Kumiko reflects:

What we see before us is just one tiny part of the world. We get into the habit of thinking, This is the world, but that’s not true at all. The real world is in a much darker and deeper place than this, and most of it is occupied by jellyfish and things. We just happen to forget all that. Two-thirds of the earth’s surface is ocean, and all we can see of it with the naked eye is the surface: the skin. We hardly know anything about what’s underneath the skin.

I think Kumiko was reflecting on life, and how we often forget how much of life is actually full of things that scare and confuse us, but I couldn’t help but also see this as a reflection on human nature. (Or rather, on being human. Or being human with other humans.) When we meet someone, and bond with someone, we think over time that we’ve figured them out, that we know them completely. But in reality, that’s not the case. We don’t really know them, not as intimately as we think. All we know about them is what we’ve been able to observe through our senses. We don’t actually know what goes on figuratively beneath their skin.

Emotionally, however, the book left me wanting. I thought at first that it might have been the lack of closure at the end, but looking back I think it’s because I couldn’t find anything to care about. I didn’t care about the characters—save for Toru’s pet cat, and weirdly enough the titular wind-up bird—didn’t care about what was going on in their lives, didn’t really relate to any of them. I was actually relieved when I finished the book, not because of any conflicts resolved, but because I WAS FINALLY DONE WITH THE DANG BOOK OMG.

All in all, Wind-Up Bird was an all-right reunion with Murakami. I did enjoy it more than most of his other books, but I think this will be my last Murakami for a while. Maybe ever. (I should just stop with this book, right? I clearly don’t enjoy his work. I honestly don’t know why I keep on insisting on trying one more book, one more book. NO 1Q84 I WILL NOT READ YOU STOP TAUNTING ME FROM MY READING LIST ALL ONE THOUSAND PAGES OF YOU MY GOSH ONE THOUSAND PAGES THAT’S REASON ENOUGH TO NOT READ YOU.)

Actually, I think I will stop reading Murakami from now on. Someone please hold me to that. Please? MY FUTURE SELF THANKS YOU IN ADVANCE.

Okay, sleep deprivation kicking in liek whoa. I’ll end this while I’m still lucid. Somewhat.

Good night.

In which we kick off the new year with some questionably feasible ambitions of the literary persuasion

So, I’ve set my GoodReads Reading Challenge at 40 books. Quite the jump up from last year’s goal of 25. (Which I technically met, but I feel like I didn’t because a good chunk of the tallies were comic books. Ha.) But I’m feeling hopeful, and I’m feeling ambitious. Also, life is short and there are way too many books that I want to read.

Speaking of books that I want to read, I’ve decided this morning that I’m participating in LARMonth, or Long-Awaited Reads Month. After hearing about it from Sasha and Carina, I thought it would be a good way to kickstart the year, and get cracking at my ambitious 40 books. Here is the line-up. I’m pretty nervous, to be honest.

  • Originally, I wanted to tackle Murakami’s 1Q84. But when I thought about it—really thought about it—I realized that 1,000+ pages is definitely not feasible this month, what with the other novels that I’m planning on reading. So I opted instead for a shorter—and older—Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It’s still quite thick—600+ pages, lest I’m mistaken—but much more doable than 1Q84. Plus, I’ve been wanting to read this for far longer. Only fair, right?
  • Elizabeth Elliot’s A Chance to Die has been a stop-and-go read for years. Picked it up way back in 2007, picked it up again in 2012. Both times, I was unsuccessful at finishing it. But third time’s the charm, right? I look forward to returning to Amy Carmichael. She was such a character, and so passionate for the Lord and His work. I seriously wish I could have met her and, you know, been friends. There’s always heaven, right?
  • Finally, finally will be finishing Descartes’ Meditations.

On top of these, I’ll continue on with Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath—really enjoying it so far—and I’ll maybe even throw in a comic book or two. (City of Owls heeeeeeey.)

It’s going to be a good month.

2013: A year in review

Finished:

  • I am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding
  • Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
  • Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer
  • The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John Le Carré
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Bookseller of Kabul, by Åsne Seierstad
  • The Defining Decade, by Meg Jay
  • After Visiting Friends, by Michael Hainey
  • Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
  • Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
  • A Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin
  • Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • 1776, by David McCullough
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 1, by by Gene Luen Yang
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 2, by Gene Luen Yang
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 3, by Gene Luen Yang
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search, Part 1, by Gene Luen Yang
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search, Part 2, by Gene Luen Yang
  • Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
  • American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
  • Boxers, by Gene Luen Yang
  • Saints, by Gene Luen Yang
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
  • Batman: Year One, by Frank Miller
  • Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol
  • The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • A Storm of Swords, by George R. R. Martin
  • Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, by Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search, Part 3, by Gene Luen Yang
  • If You Bite & Devour One Another, by Alexander Strauch
  • Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, by Prudence Shen
  • Journey of Heroes : the Story of the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, by Stacey T. Hayashi
  • John Adams, by David McCullough

Abandoned:

  • The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

Still reading:

  • Walkable City, by Jeff Speck
  • Meditations on First Philosophy, by René Descartes
  • Batman: The Court of Owls, by Scott Snyder
  • Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: Blood, by Brian Azzarello

I’m feeling extra nostalgic tonight. I finished John Adams yesterday with a rather heavy sigh—because this awesome man whom I’ve gotten to know over the span of some 600 detailed pages has died; because this book which I’ve slowly read over the course of a year and a half is finally, reluctantly, done—and tonight I’m getting ready for my upcoming holiday travels. I’m also thinking ahead to New Year’s Eve, of the excitement it brings for the coming new year, as well as the sadness that always comes with saying farewell. Needless to say, many feels are being had tonight.

And then there is this post, where I’ve put together all the books that I’ve finished, abandoned, or (sadly) am still chugging through. Looking over the titles, I have to say this year has been a strange one. There have been some heavylifting with Anna Karenina and Descartes; some delightful tromps through YA territory with The Lunar Chronicles and The Fault in Our Stars; and a very surprising yet very delightful introduction to the world of … comics. Till this year, I’ve never ever touched a single comic book in my life. Manga, yes. Saturday morning cartoon strips, yes. But never comic books. I just never had an interest for them. The artwork always put me off. (Something about the harsh colors and the gritty overall quality.) And then there was my prejudice and snobbery, which believed that comics were nothing in comparison to the profound themes, beautiful narratives, and stimulating discourses on the human condition that I found time and time again in my beloved novels and high-brow classics*. It wasn’t until I was introduced by my friend to the amazing work of Gene Luen Yang that I came to my senses softened up considerably. Yang’s work showed me that comics can be visually beautiful AND intellectually stimulating—something that Yang talks about more in his very interesting Charlotte Zolotow lecture—not to mention, FUN. And if Yang himself, whom I quickly came to respect as a creative, likes comic books then surely they can’t be all that bad. Needless to say, the rest is history. I’ve since gobbled up some Batman, the majority of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, and even started on the new Wonder Woman comics. (Not entirely happy with what they did to Diana’s origin story, but that’s stuff for another entry.  And anyway, the artwork is pretty.) I’ve also read some contemporary original stuff, like Anya’s Ghost—loved the artwork—and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong—EEEEEE FAITH ERIN HICKS. Slowly getting into O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim too. The number of comic books in my to-read list keep on growing, and I don’t have any plans of it slacking. I’d love recommendations, so please throw them my way!

(Seriously. Throw them my way. DON’T KEEP A GIRL WAITING.)

There were some excellent pieces of non-fiction that I read, like Half the Sky. It was a major eye-opener, and I had hoped to write about it after I read it this summer. It shook me, with anger as well as great sadness, to learn of the horrid injustices that are actually taking place in the world right now: sex trafficking, forced prostitution, FGM, the like. It also made me feel incredibly helpless in the face of all this evil. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not skilled in any way that could enable me to be in Cambodia busting pimps and brothel owners, or help survivors rehabilitate. I’m just an office-working bookworm who may or may not be addicted to Twitter. But I suppose that even the small things we contribute in assistance can amount to something. So here goes: If you haven’t already, please read the book, or watch the documentary by the same name. Learn more about these issues. Pray. Give financially should you feel compelled. Spread the word. Talk to people about these things. Do what you can to help.

I haven’t formally put together my literary goals for 2014. I just know that I want more non-fiction, more history, more comics, more challenging stuff. And okay, some YA stuff too if they’re well-written. Pretty much the same as every year. We’ll see. Feel free to throw recommendations my way. I feel like I don’t really know what’s out there in the world of novels anymore.

Must get to packing, so I’ll end this entry here. Thanks again, friends, for sticking through another year on this blog, complete with spastic posting schedules and entries that had absolutely nothing to do with books! I promise you I’ll try very hard to write solely on literature, although fair warning that I’ll throw in an entry or two on movies. I can’t limit myself to just books, I’ve realized. I love stories in all its forms: books, plays, movies, poetry… and yes, comics too.

Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy, and productive new year to you all!

<3 Jen

* How I thought this, when I grew up watching—and LOVING—the cartoon adaptations of X-Men and Batman, amongst other wonderful shows like Gargoyles and Darkwing Duck, is beyond me.

And now we ramble about children’s books

Is anyone else pretty excited over NPR’s book list this year? Because I am. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to book lists, much less ramble-blog about them, but this particular list elicited so much feels that I didn’t see any other way to channel the brimming enthusiasm than to translate them into somewhat-cohesive thought here on the oh-so-welcoming, oh-so-unsuspecting pages of the blog. So here we are. And honestly, I think I’m this excited because the list features children’s books. Or rather, books that I’ve read as a kid. Or a tween. Or a teenager. Basically, during my growing-up years. It’s the nostalgia. It’s the memories. The sheer sense of magic and unadulterated delight that I just can’t seem to replicate now that I’ve grown up.

///

The House on Mango Street → I’m actually thinking about re-reading this. The feelings I have for it from high school English class was none too positive—too bleak, I think was my verdict—but I wonder if that was because I was still too young then to fully appreciate the book. (Or in other words, too obsessed with Regency England and Harry Potter to care about anything else.) Now that I’m a proper grown-up—or something close to it, heh—I should be able to better relate to and tackle with the social issues that the novel addresses.

To Kill a Mockingbird → Gah. How is it that I like it so much, and yet barely remember anything about it? Due for a re-read, this book is. Perhaps in honor of Banned Books Week?

PoppyPoppy! You were read to me—well, to my class—by a lovely and wonderfully kooky librarian named Miss D— who drank way too much soda. (I think Pepsi was her favorite.) She read from you every week when we would visit the school library. She would do a different voice for each character. And she was so animated. And I loved that small little library. I remember it dimly-lit, for some reason, although I’m sure the overhead lights were on full blast. I remember certain feelings: coziness, bliss, unadulterated delight. Gosh, I wish I could go back.

The Redwall series → You were introduced to me by my then-good friend, G—. (We’ve since fallen out of touch.) She liked horses, I liked dogs. And she introduced me to you. And I loved you as much as my little heart could love you. I remember a number of characters and places: Martin the Warrior, Matthias (whom I had a bit of a crush on; which I now realize is weird, given that he’s Mattimeo’s DAD; but egads guys, what can I say? I had a thing for mice who were brave and noble and chivalrous and stuff), Swartt Sixclaw, Sunflash the Mace, Mariel, Salamandastron, Redwall Abbey, Marlfox, the moles with their ridonkulously thick accents, and THE FLIPPING BLACKBERRY CORDIALS YOU GUYS I SERIOUSLY WANTED SOME WHENEVER THEY WERE MENTIONED.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl → A very dear book. The one of two books that my parents allowed me JUST THIS ONCE to purchase through our school’s weekly book orders. It’s also what started me journaling.

The Graveyard Book → So… not quite a blast from the past, as I read this a little under a year ago. Ha. But I wanted to mention it all the same. Neil Gaiman, sir, don’t stop being awesome.

The Harry Potter series → If you haven’t yet read this, I just have two questions for you:

1. Why are we still friends?

2. WHAT ARE YOU DOING JUST SITTING AROUND GO AND READ IT GO GO GO

A Series of Unfortunate Events → I remember when the series was kinda sorta all the rage, and my sister would come home wanting to fangirl with me about Violet and Klaus and Sunny and omg Count Olaf that sinister old weasel. And I, too engrossed in Harrypotterland, would shoo her off, telling her I couldn’t care two pennies for her ill-fated orphans. Now, ten years later—and ten years wiser—I am happy to report that I have seen the light, my dear Snicket fans, and regret not getting into the series earlier. I really like Snicket’s writing. It’s smart, ticklish, a masterful blend of dry wit and dark humor that also pulls at your heartstrings. I go into a bit more detail here and here.

Little Women → A birthday present from an old friend. ♡ Loved Jo. Loved Laurie. Irrationally believe—still!—that one day, the plot in the book will magically change and Jo and Laurie will get together like they should have all those many years ago.

Walk Two Moons → Another dear book. I re-read this in the recent past, and actually enjoyed it more than when I first read it in middle school. I think it’s because as an adult, and as someone who understands life just a little more, I could appreciate how Creech could express so much with so little. As a middle schooler, I remember understanding that Sal’s mother left the family, that Sal’s dad had a girlfriend, that Sal had a pretty kooky friend. But I don’t think the emotional depth of it all—the grief, the stigma of being an outsider, the wondering if life will ever be okay again—sunk in properly until recently.

Catherine, Called Birdy → Oh gosh, this book. Made me laugh so much. I think I came across it during junior high. I liked Catherine and her attitude. Her expletives were also quite a hoot. (“Corpus bones!”)

Peter Pan → I read this while in college, actually. And to my great surprise, I thoroughly disliked it. I appreciated it for its legendary status. And hello, how could I NOT at least respect it as the original to the much-loved Disney incarnation? But I didn’t like it as a novel. The pacing was too slow, the overall tone too whimsical, too wandering—as if Barrie was writing the book in the thick of a drowsy haze—and it was so beyond different from what I had come to love over the years.

The Chronicle of Narnia series → I’m on the fence about Narnia. While I enjoyed certain aspects of the series—the humor, the Christian allegory, the adventures—I also think that, in terms of story quality, the books were weak, and too artificial, too contrived; the world of Narnia too shallow, too sterile. But I do have fond memories associated with this series. I used to read this to my sister every night.

His Dark Materials seriesHIS DARK MATERIALS, GUYS. I know Pullman meant for this series to be a sort of eff you to Lewis’ Narnia series—and by that, an eff you to Christianity as a whole; or something to that effect—but I still liked it. I was fascinated by the concept of dæmons—totally wanted one—the richness of his alternate world, the mythology, the near-tangible wonder that emanated from the very fabric of the story. Queuing this for a re-read…

Matilda → One of my grade school teachers would reach to us from this after recess every day. I loved her for it.

The Egypt Game → When I was really young, I fancied myself an aspiring Egyptologist. Ancient Egypt fascinated me, and I remember gobbling up as much as I could on Egyptian mythology. (The Eyewitness book was a favorite resource.) Naturally, when I spotted a novel about kids who were into Ancient Egypt, I had to read it. Sadly, I don’t remember a thing about the story. But I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed it.