All posts in Recs

16 Jun

MK’s Top 25 Books

In Personal,Questions Answered,Reading,Recs,Short Stories by MK England / June 16, 2015 / 0 Comments

So, someone over on my fandom blog decided to take me up on my offer of personalized book recommendations for the summer. Except they are an omnivorous reader, so they just wanted my top five favorite books.

First of all, you should probably never ask that question of a librarian unless you have lots of time on your hands.

gif-belle-books

But here’s the problem with asking me specifically for my Top X Books of All Time: I either adore what I read, or I put it down. There’s rarely an in-between. There are SOME books that I forced myself through for the sake of school, and some that I enjoyed in the way you enjoy cotton candy dissolving into nothing. But the books that stick with me are the ones that really engage me intellectually or emotionally, or inspire the writer part of me stylistically. I do have some favorites that I enjoyed purely for a fun story, interesting world, and great characters, but that’s a separate list. This is the list of favorite books that affected me in some way. Most links will take you to Amazon, except in the cases where the book or story is available for free online somewhere. In no order whatsoever:

  1. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA, realistic, Native American)
  2. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (adult, sci-fi, literary)
  3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA, realistic, rape culture)
  4. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (adult, sci-fi classic, stylistic influence)
  5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (YA, LGBTQ+, romance, realistic)
  6. The Raven Cycle by maggie-stiefvater(YA, fantasy, realistic, stylistic influence, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  7. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (YA, sci-fi, LGBTQ+, screwed up/filthy/awesome)
  8. Little Brother by mostlysignssomeportents​/Cory Doctorow (read it for free on the author’s website! YA, tech, hacking, cyberpunk)
  9. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (adult, sci-fi, weird, graphic novel, parenthood, nsfw)
  10. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (YA, feminist, realistic, humor)
  11. Channel Zero by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan (gritty, dystopian, tech, awesome art)
  12. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (adult, military sci-fi, hilarious)
  13. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (YA, fantasy, feminist)
  14. His Majestey’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (one of the founders of the OTW!, adult, fantasy, alternate history, LGBTQ+ subtext)
  15. Local by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly (adulting, travel, setting as character, 20-somethings)
  16. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman (adult, literary, quick read)
  17. The Scorpio Races by maggie-stiefvater(YA, celtic mythology, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  18. Sold by Patricia McCormick (YA, human trafficking, novel in verse, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  19. Young Avengers (2013-2014) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (YA, Marvel universe, LGBTQ+, just…so good)
  20. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan & various artists (YA, Marvel universe, LGBTQ+)
  21. X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole (adult, sci-fi, Star Wars, fighter pilots)
  22. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona (YA, Marvel universe, Muslim hero)
  23. The Knife of Never Letting Go by patricknessbooks(YA, dystopia, hard to explain, just read it, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  24. The P.L.A.I.N. Janes by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg (YA, art, social change, nonviolent protest)
  25. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (J/YA, wizards, y’all know this one)

BONUS short stories:

Yet More Bonus Selections under the cut. Seriously, just stop me. What books have affected or inspired you? Tell me in the comments!

Read more →

03 Mar

Read All the Things: 6 Novels for Superhero Fans

In Reading,Recs by MK England / March 3, 2015 / 0 Comments

Superheroes are being found outside the pages of comic books more and more often lately. From what I hear, literary agents are being swamped by superhero manuscripts, thanks to the success of the Marvel Comics movie universe and the DC comics TV universe. It’s not totally new, though; superhero novels have been a thing for several years, though they’ve never quite acquired trend status. Regardless, there have been several good offerings that are certainly worth your time, whether you’re a comic book fan or not. Below are six superhero novels (YA and adult) published within the last six years that you may want to check out:

The Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson
(2013-2015, Delacorte Press — Young Adult)
The author of the acclaimed Mistborn Trilogy has turned his worldbuilding prowess to the realm of superheroes. The Reckoners series begins with Steelheart, the story of the dark days following the rise of the Epics, humans with powerful abilities and intriguing weaknesses. The second entry in this series, Firefight, was just released on January 6th, 2015. The series has a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating humor that really appeals to the man-creature, who rarely reads anything that isn’t a Redwall or World of Warcraft novel.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
(2013, Tor Books — Adult)
You won’t find any black-and-white heroes and villains here. This noir-style novel follows two brilliant college roommates who turn to archenemeses, each with their own twisted plan for revenge. Victoria Schwab has written several books for both teens and adults. Vicious was one of Publisher’s Weekly Best Fantasy Books of 2013.

Hero by Perry Moore
(2009, Disney-Hyperion — Young Adult)
Thom Creed has three secrets. He has superpowers. He’s gay. And the league of heroes that kicked his dad off the squad have invited him to join. He wants desperately to keep it all from his disgraced father, but heroes who want to do good can’t hide for long. Hero is the only original novel written by screenwriter and director Perry Moore before his death in 2011.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
(2014, Putnam — Young Adult)
Shelf Awareness called it “Game of Thrones meets X-men”; a 14th-century historical fantasy take on the exile and persecution of super-powered mutants. Marie Lu is the powerhouse author behind the bestselling YA trilogy Legend.

Soon I Will be Invincible by Austin Grossman
(2008, Vintage Books — Adult)
A supervillain super genius and a rookie cyborg super hero co-narrate this story, populated with stand-ins you’ll quickly recognize. All the usual themes are here — power and responsibility, etc. — but with a healthy dose of realism and emotional honesty. Grossman is a game designer and comic connoisseur, and his love for the medium shows.

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld
(Forthcoming Sept. 2015, Simon Pulse — Young Adult)
This novel was co-written with Westerfeld’s two Australian author friends, Margo Lanagan and Deb Biancotti. They all met at a pub every Thursday to talk about how to make superpowers a fresh and interesting concept, and Zeroes is the result. Six teens, all born in the year 2000, possess a new kind of superpower that makes them anything but heroes. Pre-order it today!

In addition to the above, rumor has it that Marissa Meyer, famed author of the Lunar Chronicles (which I love), used NaNoWriMo 2014 to begin work on a new superhero trilogy with the working title The Gatlon School for Vigilantes. Everything about the project is subject to change, considering it hasn’t even been drafted yet, but you can read her initial announcement here.

Got any other superhero novels you want to share with the world? Post them in the comments, my dear creatures!

 

20 Jan

Things I Loved in 2014

In Gaming,Personal,Recs by MK England / January 20, 2015 / 0 Comments

I’m terrible at making ranked lists of any kind. Really, truly terrible. I will agonize over list position, over whether my list really captures ALL THE THINGS, over every tiny decision. So, I’ve decided to save myself the agony and simply make a list of seven things that made my brain and soul happy in 2014.

This list is in no particular order, nor is it all-encompassing.

Grasshopper Jungle
by Andrew Smith | Feb. 11th, 2014 from Dutton
In the style of Kurt Vonnegut, with a front row seat inside a teenage boy’s brain (and all that entails). This book is filthy and demented and I loved every second of it. It is not for the faint of heart.

Dragon Age Inquisition
November 18th, 2014 from Bioware/Electronic Arts
Though this game made me rage over its buggy brokenness and I had a few issues with quest bloat, it was still a completely fantastic experience that I loved to pieces. I’ve adored this franchise from the start and I was much happier with this offering than the lukewarm-yet-enjoyable Dragon Age 2.

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition
August 19th, 2014 from Wizards of the Coast
I wasn’t a 4th edition hater like so many. It had it’s appeal, and was great for certain types of players. Fifth edition, though, is a return to an older style of play that I find very satisfying. Combat feels dangerous again, and though I’m having a hard time switching my brain back to that level of caution (and old spell mechanics), my favorite thing about the new edition is the character building section: ideals, flaws, and backgrounds all make for a more in-depth character creation experience, which I love to use to brainstorm characters for my own original writing, too!

Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (the Successful Kind)
by Holly Black | Short story in Lightspeed Magazine, September 2014
Holly Black is a well-known writer of middle grade and YA fiction, and while her stuff has never been my particular taste, I know she’s a super-cool lady and I respect her a whole lot. This story is a departure from her usual work, though; it’s a fun YA space opera written in the second person voice. Odd, but interesting for this particular story. As with most Holly Black stories, this one takes a turn for the dark at one point, but stick with it for a really cool ending.

Starfall
by Saundra Mitchell | Short story from Lightspeed Magazine, September 2014
Can you tell I love Lightspeed Magazine for short fiction? I don’t have much to say about this story other than ‘read it’. This one has a bit more literary tone, and the atmospheric feel ended up inspiring a short story of my own. It all starts with a supernova.

Young Avengers
By Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie | 2013-2014 from Marvel Comics
The most recent run of Young Avengers began in 2013 and wrapped up earlier this year, and I just. I. Look, the Young Avengers are my favorite superhero team, and this run was SO FULL OF GOODNESS. Fun adventures, lots of snark, gratuitous punching of things by Miss America Chavez – can you ask for more? This is a great one for those looking to add more diverse graphic novels to their to-read list. The team is overwhelmingly queer (which is obviously a huge driving force behind my love for them) and quite racially diverse. I won’t give spoilers, but you’ll have to read for details.

Ms. Marvel
By G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona | October 28th, 2014 from Marvel Comics
Kamala Khan is a 16-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim girl living in Jersey City who idolizes Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel). This series is groundbreaking for a whole lot of reasons, but it’s close to my heart because I work at a library in New Jersey with a lot of South Asian Muslim girls, and I love that I can put this book in their hands. And it’s GOOD, too. G. Willow Wilson is a fantastic writer, and Alphona’s art is perfect for the tone of the series. Issue one hit in February 2014 and the series is ongoing.

Guardians of the Galaxy (movie)
August 1st, 2014 from Marvel Studios/Walt Disney
I went into this movie with no expectations on a day when I really needed a laugh, and I came out of the theater an obsessed fangirl. Yeah, it had its problems, but it’s exactly the sort of over-the-top sci-fi camp that I love. I’m working my way through many years of Guardians of the Galaxy comics now, too. Very different, but an interesting part of the Marvel Universe that I’ve not read much of before. In the meantime, this is my new sick-day-feel-better movie.

What do you think, creatures – did any of these scratch your itch in 2014? Anything not listed here that you adored? 2014 may be over, but it’s never too late to enjoy the spoils of the year. Let me know your thoughts and recs in the comments.