Nicole's Top Ten of 2019

It was such fun to look back on what I’ve read this past year and pick my favorites! Below you’ll find mostly adult fiction titles, including some standout graphic novels, as well as a stellar young adult novel (Wilder Girls!). 2019 was also the year I dabbled in reading outside my comfort zone of generally weird and spooky, venturing into the land of romantic fiction and true crime. Much to my surprise, I was so utterly charmed by a romance novel that it ended up on this list (I’m looking at you Chloe Brown). I hope that if you haven’t read one of these titles you will be inspired to stop by and check it out this winter. Maybe you will also find yourself pleasantly surprised by broadening your reading horizons *wink*. Wishing you a joyful holiday season and happy reading!

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley

Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones by Micah Dean Hicks

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

The Institute by Stephen King

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen by Marjorie M. Liu

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Megan's Favorites of 2019

It’s that time of year, again-the time when we reflect on our year of reading (mostly murder) and make a favorites list (so much murder). I have given up all pretense of creating a Top Ten List and have abandoned descriptions (follow the links for book details), which has helped ease some of my anxiety around this task. If you like mysteries, suspense, and thrillers there are quite a few here!

YA Fiction

Adult Fiction

Nonfiction

Middle Grade

Happy Reading!

~Megan

Greg’s Top Reads of 2018

The Elements of Spellcrafting : 21 Keys to Successful Sorcery
by Jason Miller

A great read for any practitioner or follower of any path. Gives some very practical tips for spellwork and working with spirits.

The Chaos Protocols:Magical Techniques for Navigating the New Economic Reality
by Gordon White

A practical guide that is based in chaos magic but has some great tips for all. Looking about how one can use your individual spiritual/occult practice to deal with the practical concerns of life.

Cover image for

The Invisibles
by Grant Morrison

Though this comic has been out for decades, it was only this year that I got to it. An absorbing graphic novel that explores themes of oppression, control, and the various prices of bucking the status quo.

Cover image for

The Ballad of Black Tom
by Victor D. LaValle

A great example of not only building on top of but expanding the source material. This book starts with the framework of Lovecraft and addresses historical and contemporary issues.

Cover image for

Sheila Hicks : Lifelines
edited by Michel Gauthier

A wonderful visual retrospective of the artist’s work, this volume explores every stage of the artist’s career. Hick’s is a master of color and form and her work is carefully reproduced here.

Cover image for

Promethea
by Alan Moore

Again another graphic novel that had been on my radar but I hadn’t gotten to. Promethea is a story that not only explores mythology and the the last 100 years of occultism but seem to reflect many of the author’s own beliefs.

Cover image for

The Power
by Naomi Alderman

Alderman’s work explores the dynamics of power and gender and how old patterns can reemerge when the world is made new again.

Cover image for

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

A collection of stories about stories, archetypes, and culturally created gender. These tales are filled with horror or uncanniness as Ortberg picks apart the very idea of a fairy tale and our own “norms”.

Cover image for

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Book one, The Crucible
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Read the graphic novel that the Netflix show is based on. There are many differences from the show and this source material and it guaranteed to help tide fans over as they wait for season two.


Clive Barker’s next testament. Volume On
by Clive Barker

A truly terrifying look at what it would be like if our creator came back. An engrossing story, but Barker definitely maintains his horror aesthetic throughout.

What we’re reading in March..

Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time by Gary Saul Morson

INarrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time…‘ve been reading two books by a literary critic that I like a lot named Gary Saul Morson.  He wrote a great book about Anna Karenina called Anna Karenina in Our Time: Seeing More Wisely, so I was curious to learn about his other work.  One book, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time, is about how certain novelists, like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, create stories that convey a sense of time as open, even if the novelist knows what is going to happen.  It also talks about how novelists represent free will in their characters, and fight against an interpretation of the world as deterministic.  The second book, Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics, co-authored with Caryl Emerson, is about the work of a Russian literary critic and philosopher named Mikhail Bakhtin, who came up with some very innovative and exciting ways of thinking about the novel as a genre.  Morson is a wonderful, lucid, and deep thinker, and I’m enjoying these books very much.   Andrew

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchison

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun…Sixteen-year-old Elena is the product of a virgin birth (it’s a real thing with a scientific explanation).  She also hears voices and can perform miracles (there is no scientific explanation for this).  Elena is just trying to navigate normal high school crushes and family drama, and she really doesn’t have time to save the world.  Also, she’s not really sure she should be saving it. This is a truly bizarre and thought-provoking novel for fans of A.S. Kind and Libba Bray’s Going Bovine. Megan

The Feminist’s Guide to Raising a Little Princess: How to Raise a Girl Who’s Authentic, Joyful, and Fearless – Even If She Refuses to Wear Anything But a Pink Tutu  by Devorah Blachor

The Feminist's Guide to Raising a…This book is really all about the importance of being a good role model as a parent and letting your child be who she wants to be.   The book dives into the history of the Disney princess culture and how it has evolved over the years and has affected our culture, specifically our young daughters. I found the book to be somewhat lacking in concrete insight for navigating the logistics of fostering my child’s authentic self while she is very drawn to the imagery and excitement of princess culture.  Beth

I Hate Fairyland by  Scottie Young

I Hate Fairyland Volume 1: Madly Ever After…Do you love/hate fairy tales? Hero journeys? Landscapes made of candy? Have you ever wondered what would happen if Dorothy hadn’t found her way back to Kansas? Then you will enjoy this graphic novel. I hate Fairyland (Volume 1) follows the story of Gert, a green haired, ax wielding, foul mouthed, middle aged 6 year old (In Fairyland, time goes by but you don’t age). Gert hasn’t really taken the conventional path to finding her way back home and after a few decades of failed riddles and violent vendettas she may have worn out her welcome. A hilarious, graphic-graphic novel.  Greg

 

March. Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

March: Book One by John LewisThis autobiographical graphic novel relates the early life of Senator John Lewis from his rural upbringing on an Alabama farm through his early involvement in the Nashville Civil Rights Movement.  March does a very nice job of providing the larger context of the movement and what is happening outside of Nashville and Lewis’s immediate world.  However, the authors manage to keep the story from losing focus of Lewis personal experience and the impact that creates.  This is done in part by having the story told from Senator Lewis’ own voice as he provides an impromptu tour of his office on Inauguration Day, just before President Obama is about to be sworn into office for the first time.  A fascinating and powerful read. Trent

 The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen When Johanna Langley’s father Sir Hugo suddenly dies, Johanna wants to understand what happened to him during WWII. He was a British bomber pilot who was shot down over German-occupied Tuscany near the town of San Salvatore. Local resident Sofia Bartoli tended to his needs at severe risk to herself, family and village. When Johanna visits San Salvatore 30 years later, no one remembers her father or wants to talk about Sophia. A treat for fans of historical fiction. Emma

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American…This book has been on my radar for several years, and being the chosen book  for One Community Reads, I  finally dove into it, and I am so very happy I did.  This is a grim read but a necessary read.  Author, Matthew Desmond does an excellent job of engaging the reader in a piece of non fiction.  He introduces the reader to eight families in Milwaukee living in poverty and struggling with eviction.  Readers learn about the business and culture of evictions, while getting a glimpse of what it’s like to live in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee.  Many residents are spending more than half of their meager income on housing.  For most, what money is left after paying rent simply isn’t enough to get by, hence, starts a downward spiral leading to evictions.  The fates of the eight families in this book are in the hands of two landlords.  I couldn’t help but feel that there is blood on the hands of everyone.  Desmond spent years living in these neighborhoods, painstakingly taking notes and recording events.  I highly recommend this book to everyone. Mary

Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel…Having several friends and family members who suffer from anxiety, I wanted to read a book to help me understand and empathize with them. Monkey Mind, so far, has done the trick. It is an extremely eye-opening memoir about the onset and treatment of Daniel Smith’s anxiety disorder. He intersperses stories about his own life with research and writings about anxiety from scientists and philosophers like Kirkegaard and Freud. When the audiobook starts to feel overwhelming (because Daniel Smith’s rehearsals of his absurd, painful, and self-destructive thought patterns can be just that), I remind myself that this is how it is to live with anxiety, and that I am one of the lucky ones who can turn off the audiobook and walk away. The book is not 100% heavy and dramatic, though — Daniel Smith’s dry humor about the situations he finds himself in is one of the strengths of the book. Trigger warning: the author does not shy away from sharing a story about how he was raped at 16, and while he documents what happened (in my opinion) tactfully, it is still distressing. Lindsey

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

Where I Lost Her by T. GreenwoodEight years after many failed fertility treatments and a tragic adoption, Tess is still grieving and bitter as she visits her childhood friend in her hometown in rural Vermont. Torn between her great love for her best friend’s two daughters and her jealousy of the life they lead, as well as the growing rift in her marriage, Tess’ visit is fraught with emotion.  While driving home from a late night liquor store run, Tess sees a small, wounded half-naked little girl in her headlights on the dark country road.  When she stops to help, the girls disappears into the woods.  As Tess calls together the community to search for her, she finally finds a sense of purpose until those around her begin to suspect she was drunk,  broken-hearted and imagined the whole thing.  This book is a great look into grief, relationships, healing and what matters in life.  Sara

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Spoonbenders: A novel by Daryl GregoryIn the 1970s, the Amazing Telemachus family toured the U.S. as psychic performers, led by patriarch/con-man Teddy and the genuinely talented Maureen. Debunked on national television, they lost their notoriety. Twenty years later, they’re all struggling with real world problems, albeit with a psychic dimension. Irene, a human lie detector test, can’t maintain a relationship and has brought her son Matty home to live with her father. Raconteur Frankie, who practices telekinesis, can’t get his business off the ground and is in hock to a local mobster. Buddy, the youngest, sees the future, and is steadily working to prevent it, even if it means building holes in the backyard. Told in alternating chapters from each character’s point of view, this quirky tale of family, mobsters, the CIA and first love, is a hoot – funny, crazy and tender. I listened to it on audiobook and it was a treat! Dori

 

 

 

 

Greg’s Top 10 for 2017

First off is a book I previously reviewed, Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three. As the title describes this is a three books of short stories in one not so compact volume. This had to make my list for the sheer variety it offered fans of horror. Much like Barker’s films there is a balance of psychological and visceral horror. Recommended for the horror fan who needs an introduction to Barker’s writing.
 –
Cover image for               Cover image for
I know I am cheating a bit with these picks but these two volumes are distinct enough in their tone and their personal achievement to deserve their own spot on this list. A retelling/reworking of the Hercules myth, David Rubin’s graphic novel The Hero breaks new ground in the telling of this millennial old story. An odd combination of ancient and contemporary motifs (there are ancient Greek news casts) Hero keeps the reader on their toes. Book One focuses on the labors and the development of Hercules as hero. Book Two takes a darker tone and starts asking what happens when the campaign is won and yet life, and its tragedies, continue on. A humanizing take on a hero who’s story is told again and again.
 –
Cover image for
Possibly a very bold claim, but for me, this collection was the work that got me interested in poetry again. I am a working visual artist who has had a desire to investigate poetry but just didn’t seem to be my medium or speak my own creative language. Smith’s work shares many of the research veins that I am interested in and gave me a gateway to the work and the art form of poetry. A Finalist for the National Book Award, these poems are both challenging and enjoyable.
 –
Cover image for
What can I say, I am sucker for short story collections that explore magical realism. Russell gives us everything from lemon sucking vampires to a silk factory who raw material comes from silkworm/human hybrids. More so than any of the other short story collections on this list Vampires offers the readers stories are truly a mixed bag of setting and tone. I haven’t had a chance to read Russell’s novel Swamplandia! but from how much I enjoyed this work its on my reading list.
Cover image for
If you are familiar with Sedaris’ work you know that you are in for more of the same awkward, funny, cringe-worthy, and relatable stories. Told in his signature style, Sedaris focuses on the minor (and so minor) faux pas, social foibles, and daily disasters that everyone else will forget about but will mar you for life. Like all his work, I recommend reading before large family gatherings, for perspective.
Cover image for Norse mythology
If I had to give Gaiman’s work a subtitle it would have to be “Translated for Clarity and Entertainment.” Master storyteller, Gaiman makes traditional Norse and Northern European mythology digestible for a wider audience. If you ever attempted to read traditional translations of Norse sagas you know that they can be a bit dense and at times confusing. This is a great introduction to the Norse religion and for fans of Neil Gaiman’s wider body of work.
 –
Cover image for The drunken botanist
Maybe too dry (pun intended) for some, I found The Drunken Botanist an informative and intriguing romp into the history of alcohol and the cultures that made them. I enjoyed this book as an audio book while on a long drive to a conference and think it may be its best in that scenario. Filled with moments of “huh didn’t know that” and the science to back it up, Stewart’s work is great material for parties or possible future games of trivia.
Cover image for Wuvable oaf
A subversive and unconventional take on the idea of a romantic comedy. We follow Oaf Jadwiga (former professional wrestler, owner of a cat sanctuary and maker of stuffed animals) as he tried to catch the eye of black metal front-man Eiffel. Now what would be romantic comedy without a few mishaps? Oaf has to deal rival bands, exes (his and Eiffel’s), and cats with emotional problems. With moments of tenderness, gross out humor, and an in your face attitude this book was always surprising.
Cover image for Black Hammer :
If you enjoyed the Alan Moore’s Watchmen’s take on the world of cape crusaders there is a good chance you will enjoy Black Hammer : Secret Origins. Lemire’s take on a super hero team takes a decidedly dark psychological tone. Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien are the a superhero team who have been trapped in a reality that they cannot escape. Rather than Superman’s Phantom Zone, their prison takes the form of a small rural town. This first volume gives us a look into the hero’s previous lives, the baggage they hold, and how they cope in a world where they have little to do but reflect.

Megan’s Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2016

  1. Lady Killer by Joelle Jones. By day she’s the perfect housewife and mother, but at night Josie is a ruthless killer for hire.

lady-killer

     2. Giant Days by John Allison.  On their own at university for the first time, Esther, Susan and Daisy become fast friends.

 

   3. Rat Queens vol. 3: Demons by Curtis J. Wiebe. The Rat Queens are a gang of hard-drinking, death-dealing, killers for hire.

rat-queens

 

4. Lumberjanes vol. 3: A Terrible Plan and Lumberjanes vol. 4 : Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson. The gang of campers have more adventures at Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types!

 

lumberjanes lumberjanes4

5. Descender, vol. 2: Machine Moon by Jeff Lemire. In a universe where androids have been outlawed, a young robot and his companion struggle to survive.

descender

6. Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt. As awesomely weird as My Dirty Dumb Eyes.

hot-dog

7. Saga, volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan. The story of star-crossed lovers and their daughter continues in this bizarre sci-fi/fantasy blended saga.

saga

8. Heart and Brain: Gut Instincts by The Awkward Yeti. These comic, starring analytical Brain and optimistic Heart perfectly illustrate the constant battle between heart and head.

heart-and-brain

9. Prez, vol.1: Corndog-in-Chief by Mark Russell. This a frighteningly timely political satire.

prez

10. Mooncop by Tom Gauld. A simple, lovely, and melancholy story about human colonization of the moon.

mooncop

 

Happy Reading!

~Megan

 

Megan’s More than 10 Top Picks of 2015

Normally I love making lists of books, but I agonize over these end of the year favorites lists. After reviewing all the books that I read this year I discovered that this is the first time in many years that I read more adult (non-YA) books that YA books. Does this mean I am a real grown-up now? I hope not! I also noted that this was a year dominated by science fiction, fantasy, and amazing graphic novels.  Ok, let’s get started!

  1. The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones.

string diaries

2. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

fatesfuries

3. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.

mistborn

4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

uprooted

5. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. (This is a bit of a tease as it isn’t due out until March 2016)

26154406

6. Bingo’s Run by James Levine.

bingos run

7. Lock In by John Scalzi.

lock in

8. The Martian by Andy Weir.

martian

9. Descender, vol.1: Tin Stars by Jeff Trillium.

tin stars

10. Rat Queens, vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery and vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygot by Kurtis Wiebe.

rat1 rat2

Of course, I can’t finish this list without mentioning some of my favorite YA books.

laborden salt to the sea walktheearth wrath Everything everything fixer Wicked will rise Under a painted sky all the rage all the bright places

Happy Reading!

~Megan