Listorama

2015 List of Awesome: Comics & Graphic Novels

You know we've been doing our annual "List of Awesome" every year and it's always been books, but since I'm tinkering with the focus of CEFS moving forward (more on that later), I thought I'd highlight some of the things I really enjoyed this year that aren't books in these lists.

Also, I really like lists. If you've missed previous years' installments, they're all archived here. 

For the next 2015 List of Awesome, I wanted to spotlight some of the the best comics and graphic novels of the year.

2015 List of Awesome: Comics & Graphic Novels

2015 List of Awesome: Television

You know we've been doing our annual "List of Awesome" every year and it's always been books, but since I'm tinkering with the focus of CEFS moving forward (more on that later), I thought I'd highlight some of the things I really enjoyed this year that aren't books in these lists.

Also, I really like lists. If you've missed previous years' installments, they're all archived here. 

For the first 2015 List of Awesome, I wanted to spotlight some of the fabulous television that I've enjoyed this year. It goes without saying that we're spoiled for television these days--so much so, it sometimes seems overwhelming.

2015 List of Awesome: Television

Listorama: 11 Romance Novels for Clever Ladies

Recently, The Mary Sue--a website I have deeply conflicted feelings about--posted a super-ignorant, click-bait-y piece about romance novels and romance readers.

Rather than rebut the silliness (because what's the point), I thought I'd offer some recommendations for clever ladies looking to try out the genre, want to try a new subgenre of Romance or who want to revisit it after an absence. I'm not an expert, but I've read reasonable widely in the genre and appreciate that it is, in many ways, a deeply feminist field of offerings, particularly in recent years. 

The following are 11 smart big-R romances (read: happy ending of a central love story, as defined by the Romance Writers Association) I recommend for Clever Ladies who are interested in the genre. Keep in mind that there's just about something for everyone in this genre, so if there's not something that's up your alley on this list, there's probably something out there--leave a note in the comments and I'll see what I can do. 

Listorama: 11 Romance Novels for Clever Ladies

Listorama: 11 Books for the Younger YA Crowd

This week, Middle Grade and YA author Lisa Schroeder* made couple of great observations on Twitter about the importance of books that bridge the gap between younger readers and the upper young adult books that have a high crossover appeal to adults. 

Adult crossover appeal is huge in the YA market at the moment (though I question this on some level, since the numbers aren't as huge as we're lead to believe), so it makes sense that these are the books that get attention, especially in the online reviewing world. But Lisa's comment got me thinking about that space in 7th, 8th, 9th grade where there's definitely a gap in terms of attention to the appeal of that audience in online reviews. So, I thought it would be useful to put together a list. (Please add your recommendations in the comments, if you're so inclined.)

And thanks to Lisa for helping with some suggestions!

Listorama: 11 Books for the Younger YA Crowd

Listorama: 10 Favorite Fictional Couples

It’s been ages since I’ve posted one of my beloved “List-o-Rama” posts, and I can’t for the life of me recall why I quite creating them. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d revitalize Listorama and bring a few of my favorite fictional couples.

Some of these are from straight up romances, while others are from novels with significant or memorable romantic elements. No worries, though, all of these picks have either a happy ever after or a happy for now ends--no one gets hit by a bus at the end in an attempt to make the novel appear to have more literary significance. 

Listorama: 10 Favorite Fictional Couples

Gift Guide: 7 Books to Give This Year

A couple years ago, I created a series of gift guides that are still pretty popular--check them out here. I thought it would be fun to add to those guides with at least one new list for this holiday season. (I will try to do another one that I have sketched out--stay tuned!)

Buying books for other people can be a bit of a challenge. I always want to be sensitive to not imposing my taste and preferences on other people--just because I like something, doesn't mean that they'll love it too. But at the same time, I love putting good books in people's hands, so I strive for recommendations that will appeal to a broader audience. 

 

Gift Guide: 7 Books to Give This Year

Big-Ass (Belated) 2014 Summer Reading List

I started writing this post in May. Oops.

I always like to put together a highly-aspirational list of the books I'd like to read over the summer. My schedule is a bit more flexible, in theory, and so I hope for chunks of time to read. I don't really think there's a particular type of book that makes a "summer read," though I know for a lot of folks that's not the case. 

My list of 20 books (I'm so not getting to all of these--let me know if you've read any of them so I can prioritize) and my comments are below. 

Click on the book cover image for more info.

Big-Ass (Belated) 2014 Summer Reading List

Storify: My Under the Radar YA Recommendations

A couple nights ago Dahlia of The Daily Dahlia tweeted asking for recommendations for good "under the radar" young adult novels. Being one who cannot ever resist the opportunity to book push, I jumped in with some of my favorite recommendations (Racquel beat me to the punch with one, Burning by Elana Arnold). 

Be sure to visit Dahlia's post on her blog with a roundup of the the most commonly recommended books and also visit the hashtag on Twitter--you know, in case your to-read pile isn't enormous enough. 

Here are my picks in Storify form, including links to blog posts on CEFS (or an Amazon page for more information). Thanks to Dahlia for prompting this fantastic whirl of enthusiasm for lesser-known novels.

Storify: My Under the Radar YA Recommendations

The Official 2013 Clear Eyes, Full Shelves List of Awesome

Each year, we here at Clear Eyes, Full Shelves put together a list of books that stood out to us over the last twelve months as particularly full of awesome. Last year's list had a whopping 24 titles.

Let's see if 2013 can match up, shall we?

The One Sarah Recommends to Anyone & Everyone:
Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

The red light blinks. Welcoming me home. What’s the exact opposite of blaze of glory? I look around my dusty Subaru, cut-off jeans, and think: me. This. This is what the exact opposite of a blaze of glory looks like.”

 

The Official 2013 Clear Eyes, Full Shelves List of Awesome

Ten Reading Wishes for the New Year

At the beginning of 2013 I wrote a post about hopes for the new year, and I thought I'd continue that pseudo-tradition for 2014. Looking at last year's wishes, a number of them still stand, particularly the need to end the denigration of books read by women as "mommy porn" and the like; my weariness over the dramarama train in the book world still stands; and I'm still fed up with the digital versus physical reading debate, which seems to have no end in sight and is utterly unproductive. 

In the next couple weeks I'm going to talk about some deliberate changes I'm hoping to make to my reading (and writing about reading) habits in the new year and we're pulling together our 2013 List of Awesome at the moment. And, we already have a super-fantastic guest scheduled for a podcast later this month, so things are happening around these parts.

Ten Reading Wishes for the New Year

List-O-Rama: Embracing the Weird

I have a soft spot for bizarro stories. You know what I mean, the weird, but captivating, tale that you never fully understand but like nonetheless. Here are a few of our recommendations for the next time you want to embrace the weird.  

Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge (Candlewick, Oct. 8, 2013)

“‘Oh dear,’ said Jesus. 

Walker was able to ask ‘What?’ They’d stopped in front of a Balk’s Hardware. A sign in the window said, 

ALL KINDS OF NAILS

Jesus stared at his hands. ‘I mean nails are a miracle and God is in them, but they still give me the shivers.’”

Ron Koertge specializes in strange stories and he's an author whose books reliably work for me. Koertge's known for his verse novels, but this is more of a fractured prose (my term) style that works for this odd little story of a boy who seeks, and receives, divine intervention in coping with his brother's death. This is an irreverent little story with one of the more unusual doses of magical realism I've read. It's a short book at 128 pages, so if you're looking for something completely outside your normal wheelhouse that'll make you laugh, check out Coaltown Jesus.

I also recommended Koertge's Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses, a collection of fairytales retold in poetry, if you're looking for more Koertge weirdness.

Read the rest --> 

 

List-O-Rama: Embracing the Weird

Five Thoughts on Maggie Stiefvater's The Dream Thieves

The second installment in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle series, The Dream Thieves, is out today and I've been pondering just how to write about it. I've come to the conclusion that this series is so very complex, while also being subtle, that it's nearly impossible for me to "review" the books in this series in a traditional sense. 

In lieu of an actual exhaustive review of The Dream Thieves (you can read our not-review of The Raven Boys here, by the way), I thought I'd completely cop-out and provide you with a list of five things I'm still pondering after reading The Dream Thieves.

 

#1 The Dream Thieves is even more dreamy and atmospheric that The Raven Boys.  

It was mint and memories and the past and the future and she felt as if she’d done this before and already she longed to do it again.

These novels are rooted in their atmosphere, intricate mythology and tangled relationships that they're going to either work for readers or leave them wondering what the hell they just read. And I mean that in a good way--I adore this series and believe it's different from anything else on the shelves at the moment. Reading this series feels more like I'm experiencing the story, rather than reading a book--it's just that immersive. 

Five Thoughts on Maggie Stiefvater's The Dream Thieves

3 Recommended Creepy Reads

I enjoy novels with a bit (or a lot) of the occult and ghost-y elements. As you know, I am a fan of the creepy, so those elements fit the bill perfectly. I've recently read three that I enjoyed and thought I'd share my thoughts with you.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

•Portland, Oregon–––––October 14, 1918•
The day before my father's arrest, I read an article about a mother who cured her daughter of the Spanish flu by burying her in raw onions for three days. 

Thus begins a truly fine fantastic debut novel about sixteen-year old Mary Shelley Black. Her father’s been arrested for treason, her boyfriend’s fighting overseas, influenza threatens to deplete the population–it’s a fearsome world, a bleak reality for Mary.

Cat Winters captivated me with her unusual historical novel, In The Shadow of Blackbirds.

Interspersed throughout the book are photographs of the era. Images of this bleak period in American history bring stark life to the words skillfully woven into a story of a young girl who sees the spirit of her lost love crying out to her as she struggles to maintain her own balance in a world twisted with fear and injustice.

Read the rest! 

 

3 Recommended Creepy Reads

List-O-Rama: 9 FNL-Worthy Football Books

Growing up in a village (literally, it’s officially a chartered village) in Western New York State, I didn’t have much in common with most people in the community. My family was one of 4 Asian families in town. Most people my age hadn’t even heard of the country from which my parents hail, Korea (the Forgotten War, indeed). We were non-religious in a place with 4 churches that dominated the quaint downtown square on...you guessed it...Church Street. We were white collar in a predominantly blue collar/rural region.

But one thing I had in common with everyone else was my love for the Buffalo Bills, the NFL team that played in a stadium a located a scant 45 minutes northeast. During football season, our school walls were plastered with articles and photos on the Bills from the local newspapers. We had mini pep rallies where each class had to make up a song to go with a different player. A particularly catchy one my fourth grade class came up with went, “Andre Reed, he’s number 83! When the ball gets thrown, he’s sure to receive!” 

I know. We were so clever.

In the early 90s, my family moved to Buffalo itself, right in the midst of the Bills glory days when they, as everyone probably already knows, made it to four consecutive Super Bowls, but didn’t manage to win one. In the years since, as life has taken me 2500 miles away from my hometown, my attachment to the Bills has never waned, despite their current ignominy as a team in the throes of a 13 year playoff drought, the longest in the NFL. 

A strange thing happened though, something that I never expected. While I was always a fan of the Buffalo Bills, the football team, I was not necessarily a fan of football, the sport itself. But, with the help of my SHO, who understands football in a way that I never will, I’ve grown to appreciate its complexity, its strategy, its status as the ultimate team sport, its unabashedly arrogant theatrics, its history, and its place in our country’s history, both as a pastime and microcosm of American culture and society.

Unfortunately for me, the football season, both for college and the NFL, is relatively short, the regular season spanning only four months from September through January.

Fortunately for me, in addition to the countless number of football documentaries available on Netflix (Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is a particular favorite of mine), there is a plethora of books on football for me to read during the off-season. This is especially handy now, when every other sport that I enjoy is also on hiatus, a convergence affectionately known as Laura’s Summer Sports Slump.

A lot of books on football are more akin to reference guides, covering stats and exciting topics like the development of the West Coast Offense. However, my favorites, as follows, are the ones that aren’t just about football, but about the special, everyday moments that make up life.

Just like FNL.

List-O-Rama: 9 FNL-Worthy Football Books

List-O-Rama - My Path to Book Abandonment

Goodreads always has an interesting story to tell when they release data about their users’ behavior. (It’s also a bit creepy, but part of what we give them in exchange for using the site--but that’s a subject for another day.)

Their most recent data dump was all about why readers give up on a book. 

This is an interesting topic to me because after a lifetime of being a compulsive book finisher--I believed I was obligated to finish reading something I started--I am now a committed book abandoner. It’s funny, I can remember very clearly the first time I said to myself, “You know what? Life is too short to read something that’s making me miserable,” and close a book without finishing. It was The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and I hated everything about it (your results may vary). 

Here are my most common reasons for saying adios to a book.

 

 

List-O-Rama - My Path to Book Abandonment

List-O-Rama: Thinking About Summer Reading

Summer reading tends to be feast or famine for me.

My work schedule gets a bit weird, so I alternate between no free time and loads of it. As a result, I tend to be a bit more random with my reading choices (which is saying something, since I specialize in random and don't keep a reading "schedule" like many folks do) and binge on series or authors and try a lot of stuff out that piqued my interest that I previously passed up due to business, etcetera.

Here are a few (actually, a whole lot) of books I'm thinking about tackling this summer.

Darkest London Series by Kristen Callihan

I picked up the third book in Kristen Calligan's Darkest London Series at ALA earlier this year, not realizing that it was part of an ongoing series (I started reading Winterblaze and was promptly confused). I find myself more and more intrigued by historical fantasy (is that what the sub-genre is called?) and this one while having pretty trashy covers, comes highly recommended by several folks whose taste I trust.

Amazon | Goodreads

The Paranormal YA Series Enders

I have a weird habit with series endings: I kind of hate them. There's so much pressure for series to end "right" and in the case of paranormal YA, since there's not a lot that I love, love, love, with Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade trilogy, Rachel Vincent's lengthy Soul Screamersseries and Kim Derting's Body Finder quartet, it's not just series ending stress I'm facing--I'm also looking at not having a lot left in the genre that intrigues me.

Shade Series on Amazon | Goodreads
Soul Screamers on Amazon | Goodreads
The Body Finder on Amazon | Goodreads

List-O-Rama: Thinking About Summer Reading

Verse Week List-O-Rama: For the Verse Averse

We know despite our saying over and over again that verse novels are absolutely nothing to fear, some of you may still be nervous about trying out a verse novel.

As a result, I thought I'd point those of you who may want to ease into verse to some traditional novels with poetic or verse elements. Similarly, easing into verse novels with books for the younger set can be a fun way to test out the form without committing to a long, complex verse novel for teens or adults.

Once you've tried a few of these on for size, head over and give our Verse Week 2013 podcast a listen for more first-verse recommendations.

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder | Simon Pulse (2013)

Lisa Schroeder is well known for her verse novels, but her most recent YA novel, Falling for You, is told in prose format, but contains loads of poems (the narrator is a teenage poet) that are key to the story. I really, really enjoyed this book, but I will warn you that the summary, cover and title aren't particularly related to the actual story. This is really a novel about finding family where you least expect it.

Review | Amazon | Goodreads

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley | Knopf Books (2012)

Graffiti Moon is one of my favorite all-time books, it just so perfectly captures that type of night that can only happen the summer after high school. Told from multiple points of view, Graffiti Moon includes a perspective entirely in poems. Some of my favorite moments are the poems evoking the Melbourne night--they're absolutely vivid.

Review Amazon | Goodreads

Verse Week List-O-Rama: For the Verse Averse

Verse Week List-O-Rama: Got History?

While novels in verse tend to focus on contemporary settings and situations, historical novels in verse, like May B--which Sandra reviewed earlier today, historical fiction has a pretty strong hold in the verse format as well. 

Let's take a look at a few.

Crossing Stones by Helen Frost | Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2009)

Laura highly recommends this novel in verse by Helen Frost which chronicles the experiences of two families during World War I. ​The main character, 18-year old Muriel, becomes interested in the women's suffrage movement, so it's a good choice for folks who are also interested in women's history.

Amazon | Goodreads

Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards | Knopf Books (2010)

I recently bought this slim novel in verse which focuses on two teens in the late-1800s who cross class barriers to forge a friendship, and eventually a romance. Their happiness is threatened when the Johnstown flood sends 20 million gallons of water into Johnstown, Pennsylvania. ​This definitely falls into the "poetic" side of the verse novel spectrum.

Amazon | Goodreads

Verse Week List-O-Rama: Got History?

The Top Ten Lyrics from Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience

One of my favorite things about running this blog is that as owner of said blog, I can write about whatever I damn well please.

In that spirit--and as a service to the world--today, I'm counting down the top ten best ​lyrics from Justin Timberlake's new album. ​Someone had to do it, right?

#10

And now it's clear as this promise
That we're making
Two reflections into one
Cause it's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me
--Mirrors

Mirrors is kind of narcissistic if you analyze it literally, now that I think about it, but still... Anyway, I'm going to go with the belief that this is a song about Justin & Jessica and the idea of two halves of the same whole, yada yada. 

Bonus: This is a rare song which is better with the video--and not just because of the crazy dancing at the end.​

#9

C'mon and dance,
C'mon baby dance with me
Take my hand,
Get on the floor
C'mon baby dance with me
Please don't hold the wall
Please don't hold the wall tonight
We're gonna do it all,
So please don't hold the wall tonight
--Don't Hold the Wall

I'm conflicted. What do you do when Justin Timberlake encourages you to dance, dance? I mean, you'll never be able to match JT's moves, so that's a lot of pressure. However, I suspect that Justin also doesn't judge bad dancing, as long as you're feeling the music or what have you. ​

The Top Ten Lyrics from Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience