The Snobbery’s Naughty and Nice List 2013 Edition

Woo. Another year over and time for another list of things that didn’t suck and some that did. This year Heather will be contributing, so I’ll do my best to keep my own comments short.

Mrs Claus with the Naughty List

This will never get old. Ever.

sj’s List

  • NicecomicsImage almost totally swept my favourite comics of the year. Two brand new titles (Sheltered and Sex Criminals), and two that were new-to-me (Revival and Saga). I’m following all of these monthly now, no trade waiting for me. The Unwritten is my lone Vertigo title, I read all of the trades in a matter of days, then started buying them as they came out. I’m still waiting to read the last arc, though, cos it was a Fables crossover and I fucking hate Fables. I know, I know.
  • Naughtybad YA2013 was apparently the year for lackluster finales to YA trilogies. UNBELIEVABLY, I was not the only one who felt this way. Veronica Roth’s Allegiant and Lauren DeStefano’s Sever all garnered many, many poor reviews. I was shocked. I may have disliked them for different reasons than everyone else, but for once, I was not in the minority. Hm.
  • Nicegallagher girlsProbably my biggest surprise of the year, Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls was hands down my favourite new-to-me YA series that I read in 2013. I read the first five in a matter of days, then spent months with the agonizing wait for the finale. Take note, other authors: this is how you end a damn series. Highly recommended to just about anyone.
  • Honourable Mentions: Peter Stenson’s Fiend, Steve Weddle’s Country Hardball, Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, Justin Jordan/Tradd Moore’s The Strange Talent of/Legend of Luther Strode

Heather says: When sj asked me to contribute to Santa’s naughty and nice list, I could name five books in a nanosecond. But sj has rules, and she would only count one book per author. So instead of naming my favorite books, my list, with the exception of a single entry, consists of my top favorite authors of 2013.

Heather’s List

  • Niceheather niceI discovered the brilliance of Jasper Fforde early in 2013 with the book Shades of Grey. It was a recommendation from sj, and she usually doesn’t steer me wrong. Grumpy Grandpa Librarian raised his one eyebrow in silent judgment when I checked it out. Methinks he should read more. I loved Fforde’s work so much that I bought his books in paper copies.

    I’m a sneaky-peeper on Goodreads, back when Goodreads had something to peep at. I hated the Goodreads recommendations.

    “You liked Lord of the Rings? You might also like Lord of the Flies. They both start with the letter ‘L’ and are not actually about the Lord.”

    I had to find ways to get recommendations on my own, so I perused friends’ lists to see what they were loving, and Rainbow Rowell‘s work kept appearing. I read Fan Girl and Eleanor & Park. Rowell really gets what it’s like to be awkward. She gets it. I have an allergy to romance, but Rainbow’s work doesn’t trigger the gag reflex. None of her characters are perfect. They’re people. They do smart things, and they do stupid things, and they suffer consequences. I love characters I can root for. I also like Rainbow herself. She is funny and adorable on Twitter. Follow her now, thank me later.

    Ender’s Game. One of these things is not like the other. I loved this book. I found it in the free bin at my local used bookstore a few months ago, and I read it in a day. I cried, I cheered, I hurt deeply for this poor, poor child. But the author is not a kind soul, and that bothers me. Ender was my first five-star book of this year, but I still feel conflicted about putting him on my list.

  • Naughtyheather naughtyI’m pretty forgiving and forgetful, and I hesitate to condemn any author’s work to the pits of the Naughty List, but here you go.

    I, Saul was definitely not the book the blurb told me I was getting. It was boring and ridiculous. Like I said, I can forgive lots of things. The inexcusable bit was receiving an invitation from the publisher to join a blog tour promoting the stupid thing weeks after I had read, reviewed and passed the review on via NetGalley. If they aren’t going bother to read the feedback, why did I read the book?

    The only other name on my naughty list isn’t a book. It’s Goodreads. Don’t look at me like that, Goodreads! You know what you’ve done!

SUPER BEST BOOKS OF 2013

Heather and I don’t always agree on what we read, but this year we agreed on two books that were our very best reads.

They were…

best of

Chris Holm’s The Big Reap and Justin Robinson’s City of Devils! We both reviewed each of these titles and they totally blew us away. You can read our reviews for The Big Reap here and here, and for City of Devils here and here.

In fact, we loved them so much and want you to love them too that we are giving away a copy of each! Thanks to Kate at Candlemark and Gleam and Vicky at Angry Robot, we have a paperback of each book to give away to YOU! All you have to do to enter is comment below and tell us what your best books of the year were. On January 3rd, I’ll put all the names into the Hat and draw two lucky winners. Super easy, right?

Definitive Top Ten All-Time Desert Island Works of Speculative Fiction: the Novels

Whoooo, boy.  Kate sucked me into this thing yesterday (as Kate quite frequently does) wherein Matt Wallace decided to have us all make lists of our #DTTATDIWSF.  I haven’t read Kate’s list because I’m contrary and don’t want her to influence my decision.

Specfic is difficult to nail down, and so I’m just going with my gut on this one, guys.  In no particular order, these are the books I’d take with me were I stranded with only 10 novels.

  1. The Long Walk – Richard BachmanThe Long WalkI know, I know – you’re probably all shocked that THIS is the Stephen King work I chose.  It was really hard (twss!), but I finally decided on this one because it’s self-contained and the list specifies novels, which I think would mean I can’t take 6 books (cos why would I want WaG with me on a desert island?  I WOULDN’T) in one spot.  Since there is no (yet) single volume containing the whole series, I choose this one.
  2. Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron – Jasper FfordeShades of Grey
    Taking the “what if?” part of speculative seriously, my FfordeFfangirling comes into effect here.  Shades of Grey takes place at an uncertain time in the future, wherein a caste system has evolved based on what section of the spectrum you’re able to see.  The greys are (obviously) lowest on the totem pole.  This is supposed to be part of a series, but as Fforde has several other series going at the moment, I already feel as if I’m on a desert island waiting for him to write more.
  3. Job: A Comedy of Justice – Robert HeinleinJob
    I read this for the first time probably before I was old enough to really GET it.  The “What if…?” here is something you can probably guess from the title, but it’s a lot funnier and more irreverent than the biblical tale of Job.  Same overall premise, though.  Funny and thought provoking, and still my favourite Heinlein.
  4. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adamsh2g2Fuck you, I’m not picking just one.  I want them all and I can HAVE THEM ALL.  So there.  I’ve written enough about these books that I don’t need to tell you again why I love them.  If you haven’t read them, I feel really sad for you.
  5. The Man in the High Castle OR A Scanner Darkly OR The Penultimate Truth – Philip K Dick
    Shit, shit, shit.  This is one where I can’t decide.  If I HAD TO…I would probably pick A Scanner Darkly.  HAD TO.  But if I REALLY had my druthers, I’d take this:
    pkd 5 novelsBecause the Library of America kicks ass and knows exactly what I want.  SO.  I take this.  FIVE NOVELS.  Suck it, monkeys.
  6. The Lights in the Sky are Stars – Fredric BrownLitSaS
    WHY HAVEN’T YOU READ THIS YET?!  This book captures all of my feels about the space program, why I’ll be a “Starduster” for life, and gave me a character I have empathized with like no other.  Go.  Go read this.  Now.  NOW, I SAID.
  7. The Windup Girl – Paolo BacigalupiWindup GirlA lot, a lot, A LOT of people gave up on this book after a certain scene at the very beginning.  Too bad for those people, I say.  Because while it’s pretty horrific to read (especially if you’re like me and your imagination plays everything as a movie in your head), it definitely sets things up in a way that lets you know you’re not in for a pretty story.  It’s not pretty.  It’s pretty horrible, actually, but that’s definitely why this book works.  This is one of those books that I finished and didn’t know whether to start it over again or just give up on reading for a while.  Yeah.  Like that.
  8. The Flame Alphabet – Ben Marcusflame alphabetI’m just going to go ahead and say it.  This book has a low rating overall (not even 3 stars on goodreads) because people didn’t fucking get it.  The blurb makes it read like some sort of psychological thriller, which is NOT WHAT IT IS AT ALL.  This book is beautiful and haunting and I am so glad I read it with Heather because we had some of the liveliest text conversations about it.  Don’t read it by yourself.  Read it with someone you enjoy discussing books with (even if you’ll hate the thought of talking once you get into it), because reading it alone is such a waste.
  9. City of Dreaming Books – Walter MoersCoDBI have already professed my love for this book in all the words I can manage here.  I’m sad it took me as long as it did to find it, and it’s a treasured favourite already.  I would move to Zamonia if I could, were I not worried about being the only human in a land full of…other creatures.  If you haven’t yet picked up this one based on my recommendation, I just can’t do anything for you.  Sorry.  If you don’t love it within the first 10 pages, chances are you won’t love it at all and that means (to me) that you’re just dead inside.
  10. Saga – Brian K VaughanSaga1I know.  I KNOW.  I know it says NOVELS and I am fully aware that this is a COMIC.  But I’m not going to even try to compile a list of Desert Island SpecFic comics and I want to take this with me, damnit.  Look at that cover.  Yes.  That is a woman breastfeeding (the child she is giving birth to on the first page).  Listen.  I <3 Fiona Staples with all of my little fangirl heart and as long as this whole desert island situation can hold off until BKV and Ms Staples have finished this series, I will TAKE THE WHOLE DAMN RUN WITH ME.

There.  My Definitive Top-Ten All Time Desert Island Works of Speculative Fiction (for now).

I know I missed a bunch, but I kind of don’t care.  I’m pretty happy with this list.  What books are on yours?

“The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick Alive”

I feel kind of guilty using that quote (one of my favourite opening lines ever, btw) today, when this post isn’t even ABOUT The Thief of Alwaysbut it totally fits, so…sorry Clive Barker.  I do plan on re-reading it this year, just not this month.  Because I have OTHER PLANS for this month.

february

That’s right, I’ve decided to catch up on the numerous zombie books I’ve been holding onto for no real good reason, so February is now ZOMBRUARY.

reading_challengeAt last count, I had 20 unread zombie novels (I’m not counting the comics yet, cos there are more of those than I care to admit), and if I can keep up the pace I had in January, I should be able to get through all of them, along with my re-reads of The Shining, Night Shift and The Stand with Heather and my re-reads of Fforde with the Heathers (that makes ME Veronica! HAHA!).

So, anyway, I plan on MOSTLY reading zombie lit this month.  I guess I’ll find out if it’s possible for me to get tired of zombies, since I always said it would never happen.

I realize I’m way behind on reviewing things I’ve actually read (and/or even just updating my YoRWtFIW page), but I’ll get around to it at some point.

Or not.  At this point I really don’t know.  I guess we’ll find out together, won’t we?

What are your reading plans for this month?

YoRWtFIW

Fforde Ffangirling In Effect

I’ve made absolutely no attempt to hide my extreme ffangirliness when it comes to the work of Jasper Fforde.  I’d read the dude’s grocery list if he decided to stop writing ffiction (I wonder how long I can keep this up?), and I’ve been pushing everyone I know to read him since I ffirst discovered his work.  I haven’t done an inbox purge in quite a while, and the oldest email I could ffind was from a ffriend of mine in March of ’11 that read:

So I popped in to Forbidden Planet today. What has two thumbs and a signed copy of The Eyre Affair? THIS GUY!

Because I pressured him into it of course.  At that point, I’d been pressuring him about it FFOREVER and he finally caved.  Because that’s the way I roll.  I don’t know how to just mildly suggest something.  I will bug the shit out of you until you give in because you just want me to shut the ffuck up about it, already.

You know who’s (mostly) immune to my pressuring?  Heather D. I’m pretty sure I’ve been bugging the crap out of her about reading Fforde for as long as we’ve known each other, and she only just gave in in December.

While it makes me happy that she ffinally gave in (and LOVED HIM), it makes me a little sad that my powers don’t work on everyone.  She must be a Toydarian.

Sorry, guys, I had some wine in the tub, so the RAMBLING is also in effect.

[looks ffor the point she knows she had somewhere]

Oh!  Right.

So, I re-read The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book (the ffirst two books in the Thursday Next series) during the move/Time of No Internet (yes, it deserves to be a Proper Noun), and Heather L AND Heather D both read the ffirst book at approximately the same time.  This was a ffirst read ffor both of them.

I ffeel the need to digress a moment and tell you all that I ffirmly realize that Fforde may not be everyone’s cuppa.  I mean, just because I love something, doesn’t mean that everyone else will (even if I know I’m right).  Keeping that in mind, I read, while beset by worries that one or both Heathers would decide I was ffull of it and think I had no idea what I was talking about.

Luckily, this did not turn out to be the case.  They both loved it.  THEY BOTH LOVED IT.

Now, the two Heathers don’t necessarily always have a lot in common as ffar as books go, so this means that I chose something as one of my All Time Ffavourites that might just appeal to more than a small group of people, yes?

So I thought.

And, like most masochists do, I went looking ffor the people that would dare to disagree with me.

Most of the one star reviews ffor The Eyre Affair made some sense.  If literary puns and alternate universes (with time travel!  and blackjack! and hookers!) aren’t really your thing, you probably won’t enjoy these books at all.  But if you still have the sense of humour of a child, and make the occasional That’s What She Said joke, and are ffairly well read, then you just might enjoy these for what they are.

BUT THEN!

I ffound a review saying that the book was “horribly written” and “a bit hot mess [sic]” and saying that the author “did not do his research.”

This left me scratching my head.

The reason for said head scratching was that…I mean, if you actually read the book (and if you’ve actually read any of the books referenced), you’ll see that Fforde is just as big a literary ffanboi as any of us.  His research has been done, and it was done so that he could purposely tweak OUR past to ffit the past of the world he created.

Does that make sense?

Maybe it doesn’t now, because (as I said) I had some wine in the tub.  What I’m saying is that Fforde knows his shit (Schitt, hee), and BECAUSE he does, he’s so successful at turning it all on its head.

So seeing someone say that there needed to be more research made me (quite ffrankly) a little ragey.

BUT I KEPT MYSELF UNDER CONTROL.

No, really.

I totally did.

I saw in her comments that people had tried to explain that this was an AU, and she brushed them off, so I thought “Well, hell.  Maybe she just doesn’t know what an AU is?” and tried to expand on that ffor her.

But she tried to take it back and say that it was just about the writing.  The horrible writing.

I DON’T KNOW WHY I TRY TO REASON WITH PEOPLE ANYMORE.

I think I’m just going to start being a megatroll and leave it at that.

[deep breath]

YoRWtFIW

The Snobbery’s Naughty and Nice List 2012 Edition (Part V)

So I saw a comment in my twitter feed last Wednesday (the day the previous installment was posted), where someone was wishing that people would stop posting Best Of lists.  The bitchy contrary part of me immediately said (yes, out loud) “MAKE TEN MORE LISTS!!!!”  Now (and partially because Em is totally a bad influence) I’m trying to come up with increasingly ridiculous lists.  You might see some.  OR YOU MIGHT NOT.  You might also get a round of posts full of foul language after my dad makes me go see The Hobbit next weekend.  I DON’T KNOW YET.  You’ll have to wait and see.

ANYWAY, this post is going to cover things I read this year that I loved that didn’t make it onto the last list.

~o~

Mrs Claus with the Naughty List

~o~

sj’s TIP TOP FAVOURITE Books Read in 2012

moers

ALL THE WALTER MOERS!

Susie DMed me in August, telling me she’d suggested my name to Tara as someone who might be interested in a blog tour she (Tara) was setting up for the upcoming Labyrinth of Dreaming Books.  “Have you/would you be interested in reading Walter Moers?” she asked.

At that point, I’d never even heard of him, but City of Dreaming Books sounded like something that was right up my alley, so I said I would be THE MOST INTERESTED, SEND ME ALL THE BOOKS! (um, paraphrasing)

I fell in love with CoDB within the first few pages.  Like, hard.  And then I got angry.  Because I couldn’t believe that NO ONE HAD BOTHERED TO TELL ME ABOUT THESE BOOKS BEFORE NOW!  There are very few authors who can write something that feels like it was written expressly for me.  The further I got into that book (and then subsequent books), the more I realized I was reading the exact sort of thing I’d ask someone to write for me – y’know, if that sort of thing were okay.

Walter Moers has been added to my list of “ZOMG, CAN’T WAIT MUST READ NAO!” authors.  There aren’t many on that list, so I hope he realizes what an honour it is to be there.  Hee.  Also, there are two other books already translated into English that I haven’t read yet, but I’ll be buying those for myself right after the holidays, when it’s okay to spend money on myself again.

Unless someone wants to buy me presents, then you can get me The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear and Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures.  Just sayin’.

~o~

My New Favourite Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde

I’ll admit that I’m a little bit of an asshole about this.  Not EVERY BOOK can be my favourite, but every time I finish one of these I say “Nope.  That one’s my favourite.  Forget the rest, this one is the best.”  I REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME!  Which kind of surprised me, because on paper, this book should have been one of my least favourites in the series.

It didn’t have ANY of the stuff I loved about the last few books, and it was set entirely in Swindon, which should have been the kiss of death…but somehow it wasn’t terrible.  No, in fact, it totally rocked.

I cried, I laughed, I wanted to punch things.  Isn’t that what we all hope we’ll get from our books?  That kind of emotional response, something that just makes you glad you know how to read?

By the time I got to the last page, I had a huge smile on my face and knew there was no way I’d be able to review it impartially.  Do me a favour, if you hate these books, please don’t tell me.  I get wildly irrational, and wouldn’t be able to pretend to be nice to you anymore.

He spent his life immersed in books to the cost of everything else, even personal relationships. “Friends,” he’d once said, “are probably great, but I have forty thousand friends of my own already, and each of them needs my attention.”

~o~

balrog

Obviously this summer wasn’t my first, tenth, or even twentieth time reading through Tolkien.  It was, however, the first time I’d attempted to read it with a group.  It was also the first time I’d actually tried to commit my thoughts on these books to writing.  Everyone that participated gives me warm fuzzies.  Thank you, so much for joining, for reading, for drinking along with the movies, for writing your own posts, and just for showing up to keep me from talking to myself.

Truly.  Thank you.  <3

(If you didn’t participate in the group read/watch, but are still interested in reading the posts and comments, click on the Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog menu right below the header.)

~o~

friends rule

So, this is a bit of promotion for some friends I love dearly and am incredibly proud of.  Volcanoes is Nicole‘s third book in her Grace Murphy series, and it’s her best yet.  I can’t review it because I’m FAR TOO CLOSE to it, but I can tell you that I love Grace (even when she’s an idiot) and I’m incredibly happy just knowing these books exist.

…AND THEN!  The lovely Amy had a book of poetry published this year!  AND IT’S SO GOOD!  I don’t usually read poetry but Amy made me want to read more.  No, seriously.

Go buy both of these books.  Or not.  But I think you should.

~o~

That’s all for today!  These are the books I loved the very very most in 2012, I hope you all had just as many new reading loves this year, too.  Thanks for reading.