Nerdy Books

Yep, it’s that time of year again for many of us. Break out the pencils, way too expensive (and heavy) text books, and get ready to take some notes, because once again the school year is upon us.

If you’re looking to show off just how much of a nerd you are (and let’s get real, sometimes it’s fun to be a little over the top when it comes to bookish nerdery), these books will help get you off to the right start. All links lead to their book reviews, unless I haven’t reviewed the book on here, then the link will take you to the Goodreads page.

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The Martian (Andy Weir): I know, I know! I can hear you now: “Anna, how many lists can you put this book on?” and the answer is a lot. But honestly, as much as I loved this book, it’s hard to keep up with at times! The spot on science challenges the best of us. You’ll learn a lot reading it (especially about potatoes) and have a great conversation starter to boot.

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Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune (Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell Jr.): I never reviewed this for the blog, but this is one of my favorite non-fiction books. I really wish that it was more widely read. It’s about Hugette Clark and her family. How her family got so much money, how they spent it, and how that impacted American society. I learned so much from this book and my country by reading it. It covers an incredible amount of time too. It’s not as long as you’d think, but well worth the read. Again, another way to start off a really interesting conversation, but also a way to learn what many US history classes have overlooked.

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The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien): Now I’m not talking about the first book (which isn’t called LotR anyway). I’m talking about the version that Tolkien originally intended, all three books in one, a plethora of appendixes, and glorious maps all leading up to world building that helped re-define a genre for generations to come. One, it’s a much more cohesive read. The publishers broke the book into three to keep printing costs down making the end of the first two books rather jarring. Reading the book as intended makes a big difference. Two, if you loved the movies, you’ll get a new appreciation after reading. Thirdly, it’s cool to be able to see just how much influence this book has had, not just in the bookish world, but in the world outside of it too. But if all of that’s not cool enough, Tolkien created his own language for the elves from scratch. That alone is enough to solidify its place on my list of nerdy books.

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Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World (Kathleen Ragan): This is such a cool collection of folktales. While it does lack diversity in stories from certain areas, overall it’s a strong and powerful collection. Each story comes with an introduction and each section is prefaced with a map so that you know the geographical location the stories come from. It’s a fantastic book to add to any personal library but is also a great nerd book thanks to the variety of stories and cultures it covers. After all, why have one story when you can have 100?

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A Madness of Angels (Kate Griffin): Ok so this might not seem like your typical “screams nerd” book. But I really think that’s only because it doesn’t get enough love. The world building is amazing and I know my inner nerd delighted in the complex magic system and how everything so beautifully tied into the real world. It also is a book that makes you think. There’s a plethora of plot twists for one and secondly there’s a layered mystery as well. On top of all that, you also have to figure out just how reliable of a narrator Matthew Swift is. It’s a sophisticated book and I think it deserves a place on any urban fantasy lover’s shelf.

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Bookish Recap: July

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This month has been a pretty good month book wise! I got a plethora of books for my birthday and read and reviewed a couple of books.

But this recap also brings some news. August is the last month I will be doing book blogging. I will keep the blog up for archival purposes, but I will no longer be posting. Not to mention, I worked hard on those reviews and I would hate to just delete them, especially if someone could stumble across them in the future and find a new favorite book.

This has been a long time coming I think. I have had so much fun sharing my bookish thoughts with y’all and thank you so much for your support over the past year or so. While I have loved so much about book blogging, it’s time for me to go down another path. I can’t write and self publish, work, go to school, and keep up my book blog. I also know that in the past health issues have made it a struggle to post. Something had to give. While I very much enjoy blogging, writing is my ultimate passion.

I will still review books, but through my author website, and only when a book really grabs my attention. My author blog will update once a month starting in September for those of you interested.

That’s the big announcement, but let’s get back to the fun stuff! Back to the recap:

This Month’s Posts:

Bookish Posts:
Book Haul: Birthday Style
TBR List: Publisher Style

Book Reviews:
The Daemonaic (4 star review)
Seeds of Eden (3 star review)

Next Month:

As I’ve said, it will be my last month posting. But it will be full of book reviews! I’m participating in two book tours (a NA paranormal romance, and a YA paranormal historical fiction) and I’ll be re-reading and reviewing one of my favorite books as well. It will be a bitter-sweet month, but I’m looking forward to sharing the posts.

Book Haul: Birthday Style

Earlier this week was my birthday. I am one of the lucky bookworms who has friends and family that usually gives me books for my birthday (or gift cards to buy more books). No exception this year! This year actually blew the record out of the water as I got a whopping 13 books! Some books were given to me directly and some I got through a gift card.

Some of these books are old favorites and some are ones I’ve been wanting to read for ages. Hopefully you’ll find some new books that interest you to add to your TBR pile. If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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From bottom to top:

Auto Repair for Dummies (Deanna Sclar): Ok you might be wondering why I was thrilled to get this book, but it’s because despite loving cars, I know very little about them. This book is an excellent starting point and despite reading only a little of it, it’s already been a big help.

The Last Herald Mage Trilogy (Mercedes Lackey) Three books in one here! This is a series I have been meaning to pick up for ages, and to have it in such a beautiful edition makes me even more excited to read it. Lackey is one of my favorite authors, not to mention the fact that one of my friends swears by this series. I’m saving it for when school starts cause heaven knows I’ll need some high fantasy!

Batman and Psychology (Travis Langley): Batman is my all time favorite superhero. Psychology is one of my top three favorite subjects. Batman and psychology? Yes please! I’ve been meaning to check this book out for ages and am so happy to finally be able to indulge in my nerdery.

Private, Invitation Only, and Untouchable (The Private series, Kate Brian): Some of y’all might remember me talking about the Private series in one of my previous posts, but this series is one of my all time favorites. It’s a 13 book series and I had all of them. Until I moved and lost the first three books in the series. Unable to go back and re-read the first part of the series, I was never able to finish reading the series period. This has been a problem for the past two years. Now it’s fixed! I now have the first three books in the series, which completes the set. You can bet once I have my reading log cleared I’m binge reading this series.

The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins): Honestly I had no idea that Wilkie Collins was a writer until I ran across him in Drood (Dan Simmons). When I found out that not only was he a real person, but he wrote mysteries, I was in. Not to mention he was a contemporary of Dickens. I finally have Collins’ masterpiece. I’m saving this as one of my October reads.

The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas, and The Oath of the Vayuputras (The Shiva trilogy; Amish): I had never heard of this series until a friend of mine gave them to me. I’m always looking for new authors and more diverse reads and this trilogy covers both! The series follows the adventures of Shiva and blends the history of India with the rich mythology of the country. Not only that, but my friend also has the series, so we can essentially read it together then fan-girl over it.

Last but not least, Coraline (Niel Gaiman): Now I have read this book before. But there is something so special, and so unique about Coraline’s story that I had to add it to my collection (yay gift cards!). While you’re more apt to find it in a middle school library, the story is timeless. Dark, spooky, and yet endlessly hopeful, Coraline is really the sort of story that you carry with you. I’m so happy I got to add it to my bookshelf.

And that is it! Although I still have enough on my gift card to buy one more book, that’s all the books I have at present…and frankly about all the books that I can fit in one picture!

Any of these books catch your eye? Have any book recs for what I should get with the last of my gift card? I’d love to hear about your summer reads or book hauls so far, so don’t be afraid to leave a comment.

TBR List: Publisher Style

So I’m not sure how many other people do this, but there are some publishers that I pay a lot of attention to. Firebird is an excellent example and a number of my favorite books have been published by Firebird. When I see a book on a shelf with the Firebird logo, I pick it up. I might not always read it, but there’s a much higher chance I will. This has actually helped me discover new authors, so this strange reading strategy has its perks!

When I was in middle and high school I used to read a lot of books published by DAW. In fact, almost all the books I read were either published by DAW or by Firebird. I haven’t really read a lot of books from any one particular publisher as of late…until I took a look at my Goodreads TBR list. The majority of books that I had recently added were from DAW.

So here’s a list of books that I’m looking forward to diving into that just so happen to come from the same publishing house.

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The Serpent’s Shadow (Mercedes Lackey)

A retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by one of my favorite authors. Sign me up! While it’s not my favorite fairy-tale, I am a sucker for any fairy-tale retelling. Lackey blew me away with The Fire Rose, so I’m looking forward to seeing what new things are added to the original.

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Green Rider (Kristen Britain)

While coming home from school after a fight she’ll most likely get expelled for, Karigan meets a man who is shot through with arrows. He has a “life or death” letter for the king and luckily for the dying messenger, Karigan is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Roped into delivering a message she doesn’t know the contents of, Karigain can only trust her horse. Add assassins to the mix and you have a really promising fantasy book! This is the start to a series that I’ve been wanting to read for ages. Hopefully it’ll live up to my expectations.

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The Birthgrave (Tanith Lee)

I honestly have no idea why I haven’t read anything by Lee and considering what a power house she was in the sci-fi/fantasy sector I really have no excuses. But this book has such mysterious undertones. A woman wakes up in the heart of dormant volcano unaware of who or what she is. As she travels through the brutal world she fights to discover who she is as well as find the mysterious Jade…and avoid an evil god who can’t leave her alone. It’s the start of a series too so hopefully this will be a new favorite of mine and I’ll have a new series to dig into.

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The Broken Crown (Michelle West)

So this series leads into a second series and strangely enough I stumbled upon the second series first. But I’ve learned that reading books in order is important, and why read one series when you can read two? This book promises magic and political intrigue which I am totally here for.

No doubt about it, looking at the publisher is a rather atypical way of finding books, but it can bring about surprising results. Are you a fan of any particular publisher or is that the last thing you notice?

10 Books You Shouldn’t Read if You Hate NaNoWriMo

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Aaah yes. It is finally November. Personally this is one of my favorite months, not only because I get to spend time with family during Thanksgiving, but because of NaNoWriMo.

For those of you not familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November people from around the world try to crank out 50k words during the month of November. The first Harry Potter book is a bit longer than that (at 70k)  to give you a size comparison. Another thing that makes NaNoWriMo so cool is that it’s a non-profit organization that helps promote literacy world wide. To be a part of that is a pretty cool thing!

Throughout this month I’ll be doing weekly posts on writing and NaNoWriMo in general. Fret not, the usual book reviews will still be around (posted on Fridays).

There is one damper on this excitement though. Every year without fail, there’s a group of very vocal people insisting NaNoWriMo is horrid, no one should try it, and no, they’ve never tried it themselves they are proud to say. Why would they? After all, they want to write real stories.  Not only are their posts just plain wrong and lacking in facts, the authors of the posts, knowingly or not, are insulting those who dare to try it.  Usually these insults are covered up with a quick complement, but it goes right back to the insulting soon enough. I’ve even seen a post where someone said it made them sad and dissapointed to see how many authors wasted their time each year trying to draft a novel in one month.

I understand that NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. I’ve met quite a few people who have tried it and it just didn’t work for them. I’ve met others who have heard of it but know that trying something like that just isn’t for them. That’s fine and completely understandable. But these people gave it a go, or looked into the idea of it, and while they realize a month of writing frenzy isn’t for them, they still manage to respect those who do it (or try to).

Despite all the awesome people out there, both participating and encouraging from the sidelines, sometimes it’s hard to ignore the nay-sayers. That’s why it’s always inspiring to look at the list of authors who published their NaNoNovels.

Here’s 10 popular books that started off as NaNoWriMo novels:

To see the list of every author that’s published their NaNoNovel check it out on the NaNoWriMo site. Warning, the list is long. The list I drew from was the traditionally published list. But there’s also a list of self-published authors, many of which wound up winning awards for their NaNoNovels. If you have time and are looking for a new read, I recommend checking out both lists and seeing what you find.

Bookish Recap (October)

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Oh man I feel like this month was a total bummer book/blogging wise. October is known for its surprises and I don’t suppose that should surprise me. Despite the twists this month had for me, I did manage to read two books. While I wasn’t completely blown out of the water by either, I enjoyed them. Both offer fresh takes on old tropes.

Cuckoo Song (Frances Hardinge; 4 stars)

KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale (NISIOSIN; 3 stars)

I certainly have a preference for Cuckoo Song. It’s dark, atmospheric, and the writing style is just my type. The story touches so many elements, mental and physical health, family issues, and different kinds of love. It’s one of those books that makes you view old things in a new light.

That’s not to say that KIZUMONOGATARI: Wound Tale wasn’t a fascinating read in its own right! I haven’t encountered vampires in that light before, and learning about the Japanese culture was awesome. It was a fun, but unusual read.

I also wound up starting quite a few books. While I might not be able to review them all before the end of the year, I certainly plan to finish them before the year is out. Next month is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I’ll be doing some writing focused posts. I always planned for this blog to be both a writing and a book blog, so I’m using the upcoming month as an excuse to start integrating writing, including my own, into the blog. Fret not, the book reviews aren’t going anywhere!

I’ll be aiming for two posts a week again during November. Ideally a post on writing and the second post will be a book review. I’ll be doing a lot of re-reads during November because re-reads are quicker to get through, but I haven’t reviewed any of the books on the blog (except for The Martian, hahah, I’m obsessed!). So expect new reviews on some of my favorites!

While not the grand reading month I had planned, at least I got some good reads in and was able to use them towards the Cornerfolds Horror Challenge.

What is YA? (Book Talk)

Call me late to the party, but I had a good laugh a while back when I discovered that Dan Brown is rewriting his hit book The Da Vinci Code for the Young Adult (YA) crowd. Apparently this version will be less complex plot wise, have a more accessible vocabulary, and will be shorter.

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After cracking up I started scratching my head. This doesn’t make sense. You see, when I was in middle school (age range is 12-15), this book came out and it felt like everyone but me was reading it (I preferred Terry Brooks’ Shannara series). It wasn’t a book I was super interested in so I never bothered. And as I heard what my peers were saying I became grateful I never tried it, as what I was hearing wasn’t all that positive. For the most part, many of my peers were just reading it for the controversy. From my understanding, the same happened with the adult readership. It was only long after the Da Vinci Code craze died that I ever met anyone who enjoyed the book for what it was.

So why is Brown making it into a YA book? Obviously there’s the fact that the book is close to his heart, not to mention the potential money this book could bring. But considering how there’s a very large number of people who just felt “meh” about the book, and with “meh” movies based on the series, it seems like a dumbed down YA version puts too much on the line for both Brown and his publisher. Why not just write an all new book, separate from The Da Vici Code, for young adults? Why go this route?

I think it boils down to the fact that no one actually knows what YA is. Heck, before I wrote this out, I wasn’t sure I knew. So I decided to hit Facebook and a few other places including Goodreads reviews to see how people defined Young Adult lit.

Ask a teenager who reads YA what it is and you’ll get a pretty good answer. “YA is books about teenagers and their lives/adventures in all kinds of settings and situations.”  Cool. Ask adults that read YA and you’ll get pretty much the same answer. Ask an adult that doesn’t read YA and you get a pretty different answer. I’ve seen criteria ranging from not as intelligent, not as long, and less mature themes.

But as someone who’s read YA books from age 7 onward that just doesn’t add up.

“Adult books are longer!” Well the longest book I’ve read just so happened to be Insomnia by Stephen King, which coincidentally is an adult book. It’s a whopping 787 pages. Until I read Insomnia, the longest book I had read was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, at 759 pages. Most of my YA reads are around 500 pages. Trust me, there is no lack of long books in the YA genre. And many of these are parts of series. The latest release in the Throne of Glass series (Empire of Storms) is 704 pages.  As each book in the series has been a bit longer, I wouldn’t be surprised if the final book in the series wound up being close to 800 pages. Clearly if readers weren’t into long books there wouldn’t be so many in YA lit. But that’s what the readers want and that’s what the publishers provide.

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I would say that content might be a deciding factor in separating Young Adult from Adult books but that’s not it either. Why? Cause Wintergirls is a book about eating disorders. Speak is a book about rape. The Raven Boys has a couple of f-bombs in it and talks heavily about abusive home situations. We Awaken is a book about young women discovering sexuality and love. And I haven’t even talked about Gossip Girl (for the sake of space, I won’t). These books all assume the reader is intelligent and can see the problems presented. These books have mystery, high drama, and great depth. As a whole, YA literature regularly tackles the most complex and pressing problems of our society, in and out of fantasy settings.  True, the approaches will vary between adult and young adult books, but I find that young adult books talk about hard issues just as, if not more often, than adult books. I’ve seen some adult books take a sensitive topic such as abuse and handle it horribly. I have a long list of Young Adult books that handle the same topic beautifully. Now don’t say “well then, it’s the fantastical elements!” cause there’s plenty of adult books that are straight up fantasy or have fantastical parts.

The Matthew Swift series, or The Night Circus, or anything by Stephen King are all great options if you’re looking for fantasy or otherworldly in your adult reads. The Lord of the Rings, The Plucker, The Fire Rose, and the Shannara Chronicles are all fantasy books intended for adults. With Lord of the Rings and the Shannara Chronicles, you’ll see a crossover in audience. Why? Because despite these books being geared towards adults, young adults love them too, and that attention helps these books stay in the spotlight. You’re welcome.

So what makes Young Adult lit, young adult? Ultimately it’s the point of view. Katniss’ story in The Hunger Games trilogy was about war and politics, death and oppression, and plethora of other mature themes. But the story is categorized as Young Adult because that’s what Katniss is. In the first book she’s only sixteen. While the Matthew Swift series is high fantasy in a modern urban setting, it’s told from an adult perspective and therefore is considered adult (not to mention it has a grand deal more cursing than anything in The Raven Cycle). While adults and young adults alike adore the high fantasy elements of Lord of the Rings, Frodo is an adult, causing it to be categorized as an adult fantasy.

Perhaps adult books can curse more and go into more depth when it comes down to sexual themes. But part of the beauty of Young Adult literature is that the authors have found ways to talk about and share those experiences through implication. And sometimes that’s far more powerful and personal than what an adult book can give with an in depth description. Whatever “limitations” the genre has, readers and authors of Young Adult fiction have made those rules into something that makes the genre special and one of a kind.

So does Dan Brown need to write a young adult version of The Da Vinci Code? Nah. But then again, no one needs to re-write a book for an older/younger crowd.  But for whatever reason, that’s what’s happening. I just hope that one day authors and publishers learn that we readers don’t need or want things dumbed down for us. We want books that challenge us, that meet us where we’re at, and tell us to go further. I feel like for those who did enjoy The Da Vinci Code, that book has done that for them already, which is wonderful. But if many young adults aren’t interested in the book as it is, I doubt they’ll be interested in it if the plot remains the same and things are made “young adult friendly.”

Everyone, regardless of age deserves and wants a good story. Adults read YA lit, and young adults (which has a massive age range) read adult books. The idea that either adult or young adult books need to change to be credible or readable is both sad and ridiculous. Good stories are good stories and they shouldn’t have to change to become valid for different groups.

What’s your take? How do you define YA lit on a personal level?