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Many of my friends know that I do the Clarion West Write-a-Thon each year. I always figured it was as close as I’d ever get to taking the six week long writing bootcamp. This fall, they started offering one day workshops. All I had to do was get a weekend off work, and the money to spend a weekend in Seattle. Thanks to my tax returns, I’m going. I’m finally going.

To cut to the chase, cheap flights are long flights with layovers, so I needed to select which books I would haul on the plane with me. I like to have choices, but it’s only one weekend, and I don’t want to weigh myself down too much.  I picked books based partly on weight, partly on subject.  I have a childrens book, a graphic novel, a science fiction novel, and a non-fiction book.  Most of these are slender volumes, and even the novel is shorter than the average science-fiction novel.

Redshirts, Rachel Rising, Fortunately the Milk, and Writing the Other
Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman
A wild goose chase of a story about a father who goes out for milk and gets an adventure.

Rachel Rising: Winter Graves by Terry Moore
The continuation of the Rachel Rising comics series, with demons, witches, and Rachel, who cannot die.

Redshirts, by John Scalzi
Exactly what it sounds like: the story of everyday people in a starship fleet, and the constant danger they face.  Also, it won the Hugo.

Writing the Other: A Practical Approach by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward
How to write people of who are different from yourself with believability and respect.

I might add one more novel, but I think this list is diverse enough to keep me entertained.

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I am not a book critic.  I am a young adult librarian, a geek, and a writer of speculative fiction.  This  results in a favorite book list that is mostly speculative fiction and young adult.  Don’t like those things?  Then maybe you should find a more boring book list.  This book list is full of horror and comedy, and love and murder, and magic and space ships and teenagers.  With that in mind, here are my favorite reads of 2014:

Adult Fiction

16148398 Saga by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples(graphic novel)  This one really puts the graphic in graphic novel. It’s full of weirdness and sex and violence and everything else you can think of.  But like the rest of Vaughan’s work, it’s mesmerizing and compelling, with low key commentary on what war and prejudice can do to people, as well as love.

Imagine Romeo and Juliet hadn’t killed themselves. Imagine instead that they ran off and had a baby. Okay, now imagine that they’re both alien species whose respective planets have been at war for generations. Still with me? Marko is a soldier from the moon Wreath, and Alana is a soldier from Wreath’s planet, Landfall. They’ve been at war for so long that war now stretches across the galaxy, making many other planets its battleground. But this doesn’t keep Alana and Marko from getting married and going into hiding to have their baby. Now, both of their respective planets want them dead, and maybe the half breed baby too while they’re at it.

18214414The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Book 2 of the Cormoran Strike murder mysteries.  Strike and Robin take on the case of the missing writer, who everyone seems to hate. The real question seems to be who didn’t want Owen Quine dead?  And on top of trying to solve the crime, drama bubbles with Robin and Matthew setting a wedding date, and Strike’s ex-fiance too.

So far, I love this series.  Strike is an interesting character, and Robin is adorable.  also I keep looking for hints of the real author, J.K. Rowling, and wondering.  How interesting that this murder takes place in the writing world, something Rowling is intimately familiar with.  How much is made up, and how much is based on Rowling’s own personal experience?  The detective in me wants to know it all!

Injustice: Gods Among Us by Tom Taylor(graphic novel)17671993

What if Superman lost his infallible moral compass, and began doing evil things in the name of good.  Is he still a hero?  A tragedy causes Superman to change the rules of the superhero game, and the Justice League is along for the ride. Based on the back story of a video game, this stuff is dark and twisted.  It really stretches your moral muscles as a reader, as you try to decide who is right and who is wrong, and where exactly does the line between good and evil lie?

18005582Rachel Rising by Terry Moore(graphic novel)

I think this was on my list last year, but it remains a good series.  The story begins to take shape even as events spin out of control. Rachel and Jet start to uncover some of Zoey’s past, and the witches move forward with their plan. The last page. . . gah!  I can’t say, but prepare yourself!  As dark and twisted as Injustice: Gods Among Us is, it doesn’t stab you in the back and leave you crawling a bloody trail across the floor so you can read the next issue like Rachel Rising does. 

11324166

Timeless by Gail Carriger

A satisfying ending to one of my favorite series 🙂 Lord and Lady Maccon travel to Egypt with their young daughter, the skin-changer Prudence. Prudence causes all kinds of trouble, Alexia is particular about tea, Ivy wears more terrible hats, Tunstall writes a weird play, vampires cause trouble, and most importantly, we learn more about the past of Alessandro Tarabotti and his faithful servant, Floote.  More and more of all the things I love!  This series maintained it’s fantastically ridiculous, rollicking adventure feel from start to finish!

Non-fiction

8452971The History of Science Fiction by Ron Miller

I read this in preparation for a talk I was giving on the history of the science fiction short story.  This was a really excellent history of science fiction up until the year it was published, and gave me gobs of information for my presentation. My only complaint is the author’s lack of extra information about female authors like Mary Shelley. He talks about them, but neglects to give dates and additional information. Otherwise, it’s pretty comprehensive, even talking about conventions and fandom!

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach32145

All you ever wanted to know, and probably a bunch of stuff you didn’t(unless you’re like me and want to know all of the things), about what happens to dead human bodies. What happens if you donate your body to science? What is the history of human dissection? How are funeral traditions and human body disposal changing? Also, some sordid tales of weird cadaver research and unusual uses for dead bodies. If you’re twisted and/or fascinated with death, this is a fun read! But if you’re squeamish at all. . . don’t do it!

Children’s non-fiction:

1090379The Christmas Menorahs by Janice Cohn, Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

Based on the true story of a small town in Montana that banded together to show love and support in the face of hate in 1993. All the more touching because it is based on truth, and surprising to hear that such senseless bigotry occurred in my lifetime. This is a good holiday story for older children of Jewish and Christian faiths since it features both, and promotes the real spirit of the season: hope and love.

 

Teen Fiction

13206760Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles carries on with the fairy tale theme: Little Red Riding Hood is Scarlet. Scarlet’s grandmother has been kidnapped, and if you were paying attention in Cinder, you might recognize her name. And just as in the fairy tale, Scarlet finds herself trusting a wolf. But don’t worry, Cinder isn’t forgotten, and we follow her escape from the New Beijing prison with a new friend of dubious integrity.  Keep looking for the fairy tale references, because they’re positively rampant!

13206828Cress by Marissa Meyer

Am I obsessed with the Lunar Chronicles?  Maybe.  Remember Cress from the Lunar communication chip in the first book?  Well, she has been trapped in a satellite orbiting Earth for years, isolated from both Earth, and her home planet of Luna. So when Cinder and Carswell Thorne contact her, she’s overjoyed. She’s especially excited to meet the charming and daring Captain Thorne. But as it will, things ago awry and there are attacks and escapes, shoot outs and mind battles, and unwise romance. I wasn’t a huge fan of Cress herself, but Thorne is fun, and there are some great fan service moments for Cinder and Iko 🙂 So I’m happy.

17675462The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue comes from a family of psychics, and it’s an accepted fact that if Blue ever kisses her true love, he will die. But Blue herself is not psychic. She only helps focus psychic energy. So when she sees the ghost of a boy who will soon die on St. Mark’s day, she is surprised. The ghost belongs to a raven boy, one of the students at the exclusive all boys school in her small Virginia town. Blue hates raven boys, but feels compelled to try to fight fate and save this one. Could he be the true love she’s destined to kill?

This story has so many layers, and each character is real and complex. Plus, it has ghosts, psychics, and other paranormal stuff that was so creepy it gave me goosebumps.

8884616Black Heart by Holly Black(Curse Workers #3)

I will admit, I put off reading this book because I was afraid to find out how it ended.  Things never looked bleaker for Cassel and Lila than they did at the end of Red Glove, but they got worse in this book.  Cassel sold his soul to the Feds, and now there’s hell to pay, with his addiction to conning and lying, and being in love with a mobster’s heir apparent.  So many times I was afraid, certain that Cassel couldn’t survive this one, and then he’d find a way out so he could get into even more trouble.  Cassel and Lila have such a weird, unhealthy relationship, but knowing that they are both doing the best that they know how to makes me want to root for them.  Want MOAR!

15790833Game by Barry Lyga(I Hunt Killers #2)

Book 2 in a graphic horror series. Jasper Dent is the son of a notorious serial killer who has escaped prison. The police want his help in a serial killer case in New York, and then things get really interesting. As in horrifying. Especially the end. Totally hooked. Need book 3!

6567017Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Two high school boys named Will Grayson, one straight, one gay. Gay Will is in the closet, with a secret online boyfriend, while straight Will does his best to avoid relationships. Straight Will’s best friend, Tiny Cooper, has enough relationships for the both of them, and then some! And when both Will Graysons meet in Chicago, worlds collide.

A hilarious, touching story about love in all it’s many beautiful forms. With singing.  Highly recommend the audio book.

Children’s Fiction

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires(graphic novel)

A graphic novel about Binky and his quest to be a real space cat.  Above all costs, he must protect his humans from alien attack.  Very6348133 cute.

 
19565411Gaston by Kelly Dipucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson

The story of a French bulldog in a family of French poodles, and a French poodle in a family of French bulldogs. While this story sort of reinforces stereotypes about bulldogs and poodles, it’s only sort of, and it’s really fun to read out loud and perfect for story time. I mean, the poodle family is Fifi, Foofoo, Oh-La-La and Gaston.  Tell me you aren’t dying to read that sentence aloud.

 

If you want a list of books that’s probably more educated than mine, I recommend this one from io9.com.  Happy reading!

My cousin is in sixth grade, and he emailed me last week asking if I could suggest any books for him to read.  Of course he’s already finished the Harry Potter series and he wants more of the same.  He told me some of his recent favorites were:

Maximum Ride series by James Patterson

Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix

The Gatekeepers by Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz

Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale

and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

Based on this, I went nuts and created a long list of books he might like.  I thought I would post it here so other people might see it.  I put stars next to the books I’ve read and loved.

All over good book:

*Holes by Louis Sachar

Stanley is wrongly convicted of a crime and sent to a detention camp called Camp Green Lake, where the fact that there is no lake is only the first mystery.

Funny books:

*Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka

Three boys take accidental trips through history to meet pirates, cowboys, and ancient Egyptians.

*Diary of a Wimpy Kid(Book 1) by Jeff Kinney

Greg Heffley’s journal is full of wacky ideas, silly cartoons, and the social struggles of middle school.

Fantasy books:

The Amulet of Samarkand(Bartimaeus trilogy book 1) by Jonathan Stroud

Nathaniel is a magician’s apprentice who summons a djinni to steal the Amulet of Samarkand, and finds that he has summoned up much more than just a djinni.

Artemis Fowl(book 1) by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl plots to kidnap a faerie and ransom her for faerie gold, but his plan does not turn out to be as simple as he had hoped.

Book of Three(Prydain chronicles book 1) by Lloyd Alexander

Taran, the assistant pig-keeper, longs to be a hero and have adventures.  One day he runs out to catch the pig, and catches trouble, adventures, and heroes as well.

*Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Young Eragon raises a dragon from an egg, and must then set out on a quest to free the land of Alegaesia.  Note: this book was written by a 15 year-old boy, and inspired by several other books on this list.

*The Golden Compass(book 1 of His Dark Materials) by Phillip Pullman

Lyra and her animal companion Pantalaimon live in another world where children are disappearing, horrible discoveries are being made in the north, and Lyra is walking right into the middle of it all.

Inkheart(book 1) by Cornelia Funke

Meggie’s father has the amazing ability to bring book characters to life when he reads aloud, but is this a gift or a curse?

*James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

James longs to leave the home of his dreadful aunts, but he never imagined that he might leave inside a giant peach, or the strange adventures that he might have.

*Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville

Jeremy Thatcher wanders into a strange magic shop where he buys a dragon egg, but he finds that keeping a growing dragon is even harder than keeping a secret.

*The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe(book 1 of the Narnia Chronicles) by C.S. Lewis

Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter were playing hide and go seek when they walked through the back of the wardrobe and into another world, a world drowning in endless winter with a dangerous prophesy about four children…

*The Lost Years of Merlin(book 1) by T.A. Barron

A boy with no memory of his past washes ashore with his mother and discovers that he has magical powers, but the magic is too difficult to control, and he must begin a quest to discover who he truly is, and who he is destined to become.

*Redwall(book 1) by Brian Jacques

Matthias the mouse wants to be a great hero like Martin the Warrior, and now that Redwall Abbey is under attack by rats, he may be the woodland creatures’ only hope.

*Wee Free Men(book 1) by Terry Pratchett

Tiffany Aching is a farm girl who is about to discover that she is a witch, that dark powers are conspiring against her, and that the most fearsome of all the faerie folk want to help her: the wee free men.

*The Witches by Roald Dahl

An orphaned boy’s grandmother told him all about the witches, and how they like to kill children, but when he finds himself stuck in the witches annual meeting, he will need to remember everything his grandmother told him to get out alive.

*The Wizard of Earthsea(book 1) by Ursula K. LeGuin

Ged wants to be a great wizard of Earthsea, but his pride and the darkness that stalks him everywhere he goes may kill him first.

Science Fiction:

*City of Ember(book 1) by Jeanne DuPrau

Lina and Doon know that the City of Ember, the only light in all the world, is about to go out, and they are certain that if they can decode a damaged message from the past, they can escape.

*Dragon’s Blood(Pit Dragon trilogy book 1) by Jane Yolen

Jakkin dreams of being more than the bond slave that he is, so he steals a baby dragon with the hope that he can raise it up to be a successful pit fighter, and buy his freedom.

*My Teacher is an Alien(book 1) by Bruce Coville

Peter and Susan learn that their teacher is an alien, and he seems to be planning an invasian…

Scary books:

*Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline was bored the day that she found the door to another world, and it seems better than her world until she learns the horrible truth.

*Goosebumps by R.L Stine

In this series, each book is a stand-alone story about a kid who finds out that there really are mad scientists, monsters, and other things that go bump in the night.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

A small boy wanders into a graveyard after his parents are murdered, and he is raised by ghosts, werewolves, and vampires. (tribute to Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book)