Current Favorite Books

11:24:00 PM

   I've been a bit less of a reader this year, however, I have gotten through a few books that I really really loved, some of them becoming movie adaptations. Here's my top picks for last year and this year so far, with part of their Goodreads blurb followed by my own two cents.

"Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive..."

At first, I was really iffy about this book, specifically the writing style- most of the chapters are entries made by Watney himself, in his own words so to speak, and can be very casual and, well, non-writer-y. However, I quickly found myself sucked into his story, laughing at his jokes and waiting with baited breath to witness his fate. A somewhat unusual but fantastic read that will make an amazing film, full of both humor and science.

 "Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history."

This book quickly became one of my all-time favorites. The author researched every detail so well and mixed it with fiction that it reads like an eloquent, real account of history and discovery. Several different characters and story lines are followed and entwined. I was completely absorbed in it, imagining the beautiful described cities and surroundings, breath catching at perilous uncoverings and chases. By the end, I felt like I had come to the finish of a long journey with an old friend. I highly recommend this book for fans of history, especially that of Dracula and European countries, and mysteries.

Enchanted, Inc.
Shanna Swendson

"Katie Chandler had always heard that New York is a weird and wonderful place, but this small-town Texas gal had no idea how weird until she moved there. Everywhere she goes, she sees something worth gawking at and Katie is afraid she's a little too normal to make a splash in the big city. Working for an ogre of a boss doesn't help..."

I'll admit, I came across this series when looking for NYC-based fictions. I was delighted to find it to actually be a very fun, whimsical read, hooking me for the rest of the series. Katie is a fun, plucky character that I enjoy reading about, and this book sets up the plot for the rest of the books very well, without feeling like just a filler. An absolutely pleasant, girly yet interesting read.

Shadow and Bone
Leigh Bardugo

"Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee..."

The Grisha Trilogy is set in a world with an artistic take on a Russian theme, landscapes and buildings beautifully described, and culture coming to life. The author created a truly ornate and rich world within the book, and I couldn't help feel pulled into the forests, palaces, and battlefields. Not only is the culture interesting, the plot is also very unique. You'll feel the bite of characters' arguments, warmth of sweet interactions, the sound of music at balls, the twinkle of  exotic outfits and jewelry, and the heat of duels. I've yet to read the next book in the series because I so dread moving towards finishing it!

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers 
Mary Roach

"Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them."

You'll cringe. You'll shudder. You'll set the book down and walk away for a bit. Maybe pet a cat, look at some nice flowers. But eventually you'll have to come back to see what happens next in the lives of the dead.
I did all of the above, along with passing bits of the book on to unsuspecting victims (family). This book is not merely about the journeys of cadavers from table to coffin; it goes through all kinds of post-mortem situations, from becoming med school experiments to crime scene dummies to plastic surgery canvasses, as well as exploring the many paths a body can take to be "laid to rest". The author is a highly curious, upbeat individual who manages to present the darkest information with a sense of positivity and peace. It made me squirm, it made me uncomfortable at times, and it made me very iffy about being embalmed, but I find this an essential read for a gentle yet poignant take on the body once you are gone, and the ways you can help the world even then.

The Raven Boys
Maggie Stiefvater

"“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her..."

Book 1 of the Raven Cycle, The Raven Boys introduces our main character, Blue, as well as the mysterious boys of Aglionby and their secrets. I was completely bewitched by the first chapter, learning of Blue's world of psychics and eccentric relatives. The entire book has a feeling of magic to it, like walking through a hazy moonlit field--or graveyard. The plot is interesting and unique, tying in each character one by one until everything converges. The Aglionby boys--the Raven boys--have their own distinct personalities and interactions, often humorous and fun. I laughed, and I felt their pain, and their hope. So if you like mysterious school school boys, offbeat magical girls, kooky psychics, and age-old mysteries, definitely check out this series.

The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman

"After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own..."

Being my first Gaiman book, I was unsure of what to expect, but was delighted by the narrative style of the story; it reads almost as a child's book would, somewhat eccentric and simple, while still carrying a full plot and interesting characters and scenes. It is another richly-described book, from graves to the town to mysterious other worlds, and the ghosts of the cemetery and their stories. Several scenes struck me in that way a good book should, giving a feeling of wonder and nostalgia and pure magic. It is something even the non-horror or spooky genre readers will enjoy and take something from.

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