December 31, 2013

Here Are The Books I Read In 2013

Over on Talking Time, I did something I hadn’t really done before: I kept track of everything I read, and wrote little blurbs about what I thought every time I finished one. I figured I’d transfer it over here for safekeeping. So here’s all 46 books I read in 2013, and a little something about what I thought about them. Enjoy.

January (1)

    Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

(A… comedy? It was a strange little story. I stayed engaged the whole way through, but it didn’t totally rock my world.)

February (2)

    Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. Laws

(A gift from the boyfriend, it’s a really interesting look at Tabletop roleplaying through an actor’s eyes, using acting-based analysis to offer tips on proper DMing.)

    A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

(I had like 5 students write about Lemony Snicket last semester, so I felt I needed to investigate. I would have loved these as a kid, if this is any indication. If they were cheaper to grab on my kindle, I’d probably devour the whole series. Just simple fun children’s lit, with a really strong female lead, which I appreciate.)

March (2)

    The Yoga Stripper: A Las Vegas Memoir of Sex, Drugs and Namaste by Laila Lucent

(I read a snippet on a website, and I love a good naughty memoir, but the writing teacher in me ruined a lot of this. I hated how it was laid out and jumped around constantly. But it wasn’t bad, perse. Just… rough.)

    Here’s Looking At Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math by Alex Bellos

(Completely amazing. Math written about by a dual major Math/English dude, it explains Math in a way that will get you excited about it, especially if you still have some math knowledge lingering.)

April (10)

    Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

(I love Fleming. He is so amazingly sexist and racist. I laughed the whole way through Casino Royale, and I did even harder in this one. It’s just amazing that someone once thought it was okay to write this way. How times have changed.)

    Needle in the Groove by Jeff Noon

(Jeff Noon is one of my literary heroes. In this book, he’s writing a novel, but it’s kinda poetry, but it’s kinda song lyrics? I thought it was a failure, in the beginning, but by the end, I was totally into his experimentation here. If you like his work, a must read. If you’re interested in him, start with Vurt.)

    The Key to the Kingdom by Jeff Dixon

(So terrible. So bad. And in such an unbelievable way. The book forgets its own plot points, has the dumbest hero I have ever experienced, and the “dramatic ending” is just so fucking off the rails I could barely breathe from laughing. It’s amazing to me that this book is like… well reviewed. Wow.)

    Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith

(Like, the entire time I was reading this book, I felt like I was becoming more anxious sort of sympathetically? I know how it feels to be really nervous and crazy, and this captures a lot of that perfectly. Wasn’t so much humorous as the descriptions claim, though. It was alright. No complaints.)

    Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

(It’s sort of attempting to be a murder mystery with a strange perspective, one of a character with dementia, but really it ends up just being kinda depressing. What draws you in is trying to understand the characters, less than the mystery aspect. They are some well-made characters.)

    Moonraker by Ian Fleming

(I want to give Fleming an award for “Most Improved Over Previous Novel.” Casino Royale was ridiculous because Bond did nothing but eat fancy food and get lovesick. Live and Let Die was ridiculous because AMAZING CONSTANT RACISM. This was… an alright little book. Not great, but a fine read. Good job, Fleming! I look forward to seeing if you go off the rails again.)

    How To Succeed At Aging Without Really Dying by Lyla Blake Ward

(Man, I picked this up as it seemed like an interesting little book of essays, but it was so weird. The first part was like… something such as “Have you noticed bubble packaging is hard to open?” for 4 pages, and then would end with a really painfully not good pun, and this coming from someone who likes most puns. Later, the essays got more essay-like, and were better, but overall, I wouldn’t recommend this.)

    Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc. by David Sedaris

(I love David Sedaris, and his new book is completely fantastic, as expected. It gets more political at times than he has in the past, and as usual, his fiction, this time in the form of several monologues by characters sprinkled throughout the book, didn’t do much for me, but damn. The man knows how to write a funny essay!)

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

(Randomly inspired to investigate these classic books. Was a quick read, and fun enough. It was interesting to see how it deviated from what I knew of the story. We’ll see how completely strange the rest of the novels get, as I’m sure I’ll slowly work my way through them, knowing me.)

    The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

(Man, the end of this book. Man, what? I had peeked at a plot summary before I read it, so I knew what was coming, but it was still kind of insane whiplash. Who allows their name and gender to be changed and just goes along with it, even though it wasn’t their will? Glinda, is it really “good” to change someone back who doesn’t wish it? Man, what. Such a strange look at gender politics in this book. I’m betting Ozma of Oz won’t deal with anything I’m having issues with, either. Ozma will probably be a totally different character. Lame!)

May (9)

    Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum

(Well, Ozma wasn’t a different character from Tip, perse, but seriously, no adjustment, no anything is seen, which just saddens me. What she went through at the end of the last book would really mess a person up! Outside of my personal holdups, though, this is more of the same, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, really. This book certainly has some very creepy moments, though. Enjoyable, to be sure.)

    Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Line by Brendan Keogh

(I want more long form close readings of games like this, and I want more games to aspire to be worthy of long form close readings like Spec Ops: The Line attempted to do.)

    Escape by Perihan Magden

(Really repetitive, but on purpose. The entire book is clearly supposed to make you feel on edge. And it did! I can’t say I enjoyed it, perse, but I’m glad I read it. It succeeded at putting me in the head of some really messed up people and drowning me in their world.)

    Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum

(The amount of overwhelming in-your-face retconning that happens in this book just feels insulting and stupid. I understand Baum says Oz and such is a “fairy land” and thus he can do whatever he wants, but that doesn’t involve rewriting the past stated in your own books! I lost a lot of respect for him as a writer with this one, basically.)

    Pixel Juice by Jeff Noon

(Collection of short stories. A few in, I realized I had read this before and totally forgot! A few of the best stories stuck in my head, but there were plenty that had totally slipped out. Still, with so many stories tying in to his other novels, this isn’t a place to start for people who haven’t read his stuff.)

    Storm Front by Jim Butcher

(Now everyone can stop telling me to read this book! I always resisted due to connections to exes of various sorts, and it certainly didn’t blow me away [] but I understand why the series has fans, to be sure. The book felt very… over-inflated though. Like it needed to ratchet the danger up EVEN HIGHER constantly, which left it feeling a bit silly to me. But I bet that’s something that’s fixed as the book is no longer a one-off but a series.)

    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

(I have used Mary Roach’s essays in my classes often, and think she’s awesome, but never dove into her books before this. This book is fantastic, entertaining, and really interesting. I also had to take breaks and was really uncomfortable reading it, not because she did a bad job, but just because of the subject matter! She makes the subject matter interesting and sometimes funny, but it’s still kinda tough to read about some of these things. Still, if you can handle the topic, highly recommended.)

    Naked Came The Stranger by Penelope Ashe

(Oh man. Oh man. This book. Oh man. Written to mock and make fun of horrible, churned out “big money” writing full of terrible sex. A huge number of reporters wrote this in a week, each taking one chapter. It makes no sense, it’s offensive, it’s terribly written, and it was apparently a huge hit. Read this and despair… but in an entertaining way.)

    Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming

(My Bond exploration continues with another nice book! I really wonder what happened between Live and Let Die and Moonraker, as that book, and this one, almost seem like they are written by different people. Suspense, actually action… Bond fired his gun for the first time in this one! The action cut away when non-relevant things were going on! Fleming is learning! It’s neat to see.)

June (3)

    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

(You all were talking about it in the “Whatcha’ reading” and I realized I had never read it, and tried it, and HOLY FUCK WHAT A BOOK. What a hilarious and incredibly affecting and gut-wrenching novel. If you were like me and haven’t read this, you HAVE to. You just have to.)

    Air Force Gator by Dan Ryckert

(See, you gotta follow up something so literary and classic with something completely fucking stupid. It’s the only way, clearly.)

    [Citation Needed] 2: The Needening: More of The Best of Wikipedia’s Worst Writing by Josh Fruhlinger and Conor Lastowka

(A cheap, quick look at some really terrible writing and I was once again very entertained. Who wouldn’t be?)

July (2)

    The Disappearing Spoon And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean

(A title so long my Kindle cannot properly display it. This book starts out really slow, if you know your high school chemistry, but then quickly blossoms into awesome stories of scientists and interesting facts about the elements that I certainly didn’t know and found captivating.)

    Falling Out of Cars by Jeff Noon

(Was not expecting a weird post-apocalypse sort of scenario when I started the book, but that’s what I got. I thought the ending was weak, but I’m still in love with Noon’s writing. The narrator, Marlene, really connected with me. I’ve felt lost like that, with nothing to hold onto but words, and those too fading away…)

August (4)

    From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming

(Man, the beginning of this book is bonkers. Like over a third of it is just pointless backstory about people in SMERSH! It’s crazy. Overall, the actually story itself is not TOO bad? Not up to the improvement Fleming’s been having though. Also, dunno what’s up with the CLIFFHANGER ENDING.)

    The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

(Here’s a classic that’s been around my peripheral vision that I got gently pushed into trying, and it was quite nice! This was a weird deluxe edition with a little novella at the end and all kinds of extra material… it was a nice way to experience this story for the first time. Light, breezy, and fun. A good book, though I could poke at it if I really wanted to nitpick. Also, random thought, it’s kinda silly how much past me would think all the extra material (interviews and such) in this book was stupid, and how much current me enjoys it. Times change, I guess.)

    To Be Or Not To Be by Ryan North

(I’m sure I’ve missed a couple endings, but I’ve given it a thorough read, and it is quite a fun little book, and I am 100% glad I backed it. The end.)

    B^F: The Novelization of the Feature Film by Ryan North

(This came with the previous book! I had started reading that blog but lost track of it! So this was a good reason to just read the whole gosh-darned thing, and it was lovely, and hilarious, and [warm and] wonderful.)

September (6)

    Dr. No by Ian Fleming

(More Bond! It was… alright. This book is clearly where the concept of the crazy Bond supervillian with the evil deathtrap lair comes from. Bond, of course, had horrible sexist thoughts throughout, but the book omitted the scene from the film where Bond basically rapes a lady and laughs about it, so that’s nice.)

    Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

(A friend of mine told me this was his favorite book ever, and I should read it, so I did, and it was cute, and funny, and fun, and lovely, and I would recommend it to basically anybody who likes to read a book.)

    It’s Kind of a Cute Story by Rolly Crump and Jeff Heimbuch

(Yeah, more Disney stuff. I’m still obsessed. Still, it was a pretty neat look behind the curtain of a lot of stuff I love, so I really can’t complain!)

    Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

(Man, this was weird. I really don’t know what to think about it. At the very least, it seemed to have very little thematic connection between the weird little stories that led up to anything. Glad I looked into it, but yeah… huh.)

    Soulless by Gail Carriger

(Oh man, shivam was so right about this book and me. Oh man. I have not read a book this fun and this sexy and this smart in a long time, and I am shocked and VERY pleased that they were somehow all in the same book. So good.)

    Changeless by Gail Carriger

(Yep, more of the same. I am pleased. Ending makes me annoyed in “I love the characters and am invested way” but not in the “I am someone who studies literature and this is not well done” way which I think is about the best way for something like that to be, even if annoyed. I feel for all these characters. That’s awesome.)

October (1)

    Blameless by Gail Carriger

(More fun. More awesome. I have not cared about characters, even fairly minor background characters, this much in a long time. They are fun to read about, and I care when things happen. These books are just completely awesome.)

November (2)

    Heartless by Gail Carriger

(The series continues to be lovely, though less sexy than before! Heh, though for good reason. Onward to the last one.)

    Timeless by Gail Carriger

(And now I’m out of this series, which is bittersweet. I can respect ending when things are done, and it feels pretty done! But I was having so much fun and want more. Oh well, so it goes. Heh. READ THIS SERIES, SERIOUSLY.)

December (4)

    Thy Neighbor’s Wife by Gay Talese

(What a strange book. While sometimes the tone of how it describes sex gets unquestionably hilarious, this is an extremely interesting and person book of history about the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s, and I’m very glad I read it. It’s dense and long, but good.)

    Felidae by Akif Pirincci

(That weird German cartoon you may have seen on Youtube is now a book! Well, uh, it’s the book that film was based on. It has an interesting tone in the narration, but wasn’t as divergent from the movie as I expected. I look forward to reading Felidae On The Road sometime.)

    Earthbound by Ken Baumann

(Baumann obviously should have written a memoir instead of trying to force all his memories into video game criticism. The amount this book is not about Earthbound, given it’s title, is ridiculous, and it’s kind of oddly organized besides. In no way recommended, especially if you want to, say, read a book of criticism about Earthbound that approaches that game’s text with any sort of insight or usefulness. I really hope the rest of the Boss Fight Books stuff is like… much much different than this.)

    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien

(I had always meant to read this book, especially after I saw the movie after some prodding and had many issues with it. As expected, those were totally addressed and not issues in the book, and man, Mrs. Frisby is such a wonderful protagonist. A heroic mother in a realistic way. It’s such a fun book, and I would have loved it as a kid.)

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