Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.


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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Moriarty, L. (2014). Big Little Lies. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 9780399167065

Annotation: Three women in a idyllic suburban neighborhood are dealing with different personal challenges as their children begin kindergarten, and they learn to lean on each other for support.

Reaction: So on the surface, this book is a mystery. It opens with interviews of the attendees of a Parent’s Trivia Night at the local elementary school where Something Has Happened, but we don’t know what yet. The main narrative arc then begins about six months before the Trivia Night, and leads us through all the events that led up to the Something That Has Happened.

But really? The mystery is secondary to the relationships between the three main characters, Madeline, Celeste and Jane, and what’s going on in each woman’s life. Which is not to say that I didn’t spend the entire book trying to guess what happened to whom, but I think this book really triumphs in it’s depiction of the friendships between adult women. In talking about this book with my own friends, that’s the one aspect that has been really refreshing; Moriarty’s characters rely on each other and become stronger through their friendship, and I don’t think that’s something you see very often in literature. And sure, Madeline is a little catty, but when it comes down to it, she’s all about supporting the women around her, even her nemesis.

On top of that, all of the characters in this book, even those we only see in their interviews and the entire class of five year olds, are all really well drawn and unique. There are a lot of characters in this book, and I think it would have been really easy for them all to become just part of the crowd, but by the end, Moriarty has told us significant details about every one.

On top of ALL that, this book was compellingly readable. I was listening to the audibook on CD in my car, and I found myself not only looking forward to long drives alone so that I could really dig into the story, but also sitting in the driveway listening because I had to find out what happened next. It was completely engrossing and emotional and funny, and oh my God, I want to be Madeline when I grow up. She’s the best. And there’s nothing I love more than when an author creates characters I want to hang out with.

Author’s website

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks.)

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Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Fraction, M., & Zdarsky, C. (ill.) 2014. Sex Criminals, vol. 1: One Weird Trick. Image Comics: ISBN: 9781607069461.

Annotation: Suzie has the power to stop time when she has sex, and she thought she was the only one until she met Jon. Together they come up with a plan to save Suzie’s beloved library, using their superpowers to rob banks.

Reaction: Describing this book to people is ridiculous. Because the premise is RIDICULOUS. It’s crazy and weird and totally awesome. It’s so much fun to read (as an adult! This is definitely not one for kids, and I wouldn’t even recommend it to a teen [but I also wouldn’t stop them from checking it out if they found it]). As my husband and members of my book club can attest, I’m not usually a huge fans of things that can be described as “weird,” but this book manages to find a great balance between weird and not-weird that really works for me.

The two main characters are great, and I would like to go out for drinks with both Suzie and Jon. And, not gonna lie, I fell a little in love with Jon the first time we meet him, too. His Lolita quoting is so sexy, and Fraction and Zdarsky perfectly capture that moment between Suzie and Jon. Honestly, it made me want to read Lolita, which is not a book I’ve ever harbored a secret desire to read.

My buds, Matt and Chip, actually do a great job of portraying their burgeoning relationship for the entirety of the book. I enjoyed watching it unfold and develop, and I especially love their epic first date when they spend a lot time talking and getting to know each other. It just feels very natural and genuine to me, and it makes me really excited to see where Matt and Chip take them in later volumes.

I also really like the way Suzie breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the reader, which is something I feel like I’m seeing a lot more often in various media, and it super works here. It really helps make the story feel intimate and as if Suzie’s having a conversation with a good friend over drinks. I also like how Suzie will actually insert herself into scenes from the past as she narrates. I find it clever and fun, but I also have a little bit of a girl crush on Suzie, so I’m not sure she can do any wrong in my book.

I know this review has already turned into an ode to how much I loved this book, but we have to talk about the art. It’s amazing. It really helps sell this ridiculous story. I really like the classic pinup vibe of the character designs and that they look like normal people. Suzie and Jon are hot, but not supermodel, superhero hot. They’re regular people hot (and most of Jon’s appeal comes from his humor and intellect). Zdarsky does really interesting things with the characters’ flashbacks, and the stopped time scenes are crazy cool. I also love the coloring here. I love everything. It’s all good.

So, you know, read this. But only if you don’t mind copious amounts of doin’ it in your comics.

Author’s website (Incidentally, Matt Fraction is married to the excellent Kelly Sue DeConnick.)

Illustrator’s website

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks. I’m a little behind.)


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The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Gillen, K., & McKelvie J. (Ill.) The Wicked + the Divine, vol. 1: the Faust Act. Image Comics: 2014. ISBN: 9781632150196

Annotation: Every ninety years, twelve gods come back to earth. Two years later, they are dead. In 2014, Laura is obsessed with the recently returned pop star deities and will do anything to get close to them.

Reaction: This book is excellent if you, like me, love the mythologies of religions all over the world and enjoy seeing modern uses of ancient gods. They’re very like fairy tales in that way for me, and this book does some wonderful, modern things with these relatively obscure gods and goddesses. This is not to say that you have to be super into mythology to get this book; it would definitely appeal to urban fantasy and superhero comics fans, as well. Gillen & McKelvie have pulled a lot of things together to create something fantastic, all while using a diverse cast of characters, including a couple of gender bending deities. And seriously, their lady Bowie!Lucifer is inspired, and I cannot wait to meet the male Inanna (one of my favorite pre-Christian goddesses).

I really appreciate the story centering on Laura, and that we get this crazy escapade from the perspective of a normal girl. She really helps ground things into the “real world,” and it is completely wonderful that they use a lady of color for this pivotal role. I think the creative team has done a great job of reflecting the diversity of London (and I also really enjoyed the story’s skeptic pointing out that a white girl as a Japanese Shinto deity might be problematic). The writing in this is just so smart and witty, and the art fits so well with it.

My favorite thing about the art (and something that Gillen points out in his Writer Notes about the issues), is how McKelvie really captures facial expressions. There are some panels where the characters face conveys so much and is so perfect for that moment in the story. It’s subtle and completely awesome. But you know? The big moments are great, too. McKelvie and their colorist does a great job of giving those “holy shit is getting real!” moments the impact they deserve. And I love the juxtaposition of the quiet and the major. This is probably the kind of thing that it would be really easy to give your reader whiplash with, but pacing in this never feels frenzied to me.

I finished my first read-through of this on a plane, and it was everything I could do not to slam it down on my fold out tray in anguish at the thought of having to wait any length of time for the next installment. This is another one I’m debating about single issues vs. collected paperbacks. I absolutely love it, and I really don’t know that I can wait another 5 or 6 months for the next collected volume.

Author’s website, where you can read the “director’s commentary” on the individual issues of this (search for “Writer Notes”).

Illustrator’s website

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks.)


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Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Pretty Deadly, vol. 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios (ill.). (2014) Image Comics: ISBN: 9781607069621

Annotation: Young Sissy, the girl who wears a vulture’s skin, and blind Fox travel through the Western frontier making their living telling the story of Ginny, Death’s daughter, who rides the world doling out vengeance.

Reaction: I’m not sure why I never put two and two together before this, but, dang, do I love a graphic novel Western. Like, love. Adore. Wanna read them all. I love seeing different artists’ interpretations of my native land (I’m a desert girl, through and through), I love reading how authors incorporate the history and legends of a place into a new creation, and I absolutely adore cowboy iconography. Give me a good cowboy character in a story, and you pretty much have me, hook, line and sinker. So for that alone, this book was really going to appeal to me, and add in a woman writing team and a few kickass lady characters, and this book would have to actually legit suck for me to hate it. It doesn’t suck. I loved it. I wanted to eat it up and cuddle with it and linger over it.

I think DeConnick has written a really solid origin story with this volume, and I enjoyed the way Ginny’s mythology and Sissy’s life entwined. This was a great way to introduce a bunch of characters, who I hope will turn up again in future volumes, and to set up any future adventures Ginny has. I loved that the ladies really took the lead in this story, and except for blind Fox, the men pretty much took a backseat to the women. And while I hesitate to call this a multicultural title, DeConnick does give a pretty meaningful role to Sarah (is that her name? I don’t have the book in front of me and nothing I’ve found on The Internet mentions her), Fox’s black lady-friend, who also happens to be a total badass. I hope future volumes include even more diverse characters.

The art in this is also fantastic. Rios does a great job bringing the desert to life and Jordie Bellaire’s colors (another lady on this team, woot!) are crazy good. All the art is lush and detailed and really helps draw you into the story, and I found the team’s use of panels (lots of small panels indicating rapid movement and long narrow ones to pick out pivotal moments) really propels you through the many action sequences. My only complaint is that Rios (or someone) is a huge fan of the EXTREME CLOSEUP, and I feel like at least once very two page spread there was a panel or two drawn really close into whatever’s happening. Unfortunately, it almost starts to feel like one of those “Do You Know What This Is?” games where stuff is really highly magnified and looks completely alien; most of the time I could not tell what was happening in those close up panels. Thankfully, the surrounding panels usually did a good job of giving me an idea of what was happening, but it was off-putting and pulled me out of the story every time it happened.

Overall, this was a great read, and I’m definitely looking forward to what comes next. I also think it would be really interesting to compare this Western to another Western from Image East of West, which also uses Death as a character. This is a book I would give to adults or older teens who love Westerns, fantasy or strong heroines. (I wish more people would ask me for graphic novel recommendations; there are SO MANY goods ones out right now!)

Author’s website

Illustrator’s Flickr

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks.)


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2014 in Review: My Top Reads

Looking back at my year of reading, I’ve read a lot, thanks to book clubs and graduating and not having a job for awhile. Plus, I’m now in an organization that puts out monthly reviews, which gets me even more excited to read and read and read and … I’m discovering over and over that my literary eyes are bigger than my stomach. Because no matter how many books I read there are hundreds more that I WANT to read, and I have to remind myself regularly that there’s nothing wrong with not being able to read everything ever.

I do feel fortunate that of all the books I read this past year, I rated nearly 20% of them 5 stars and only a handful 1 or 2 stars. However, that many 5 star books makes it difficult for me to narrow it down to my top picks for the year. Some are re-reads of past favorites, like Sandman, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Time Traveler’s Wife, some are sequels in series that I’m super excited about and in love with (Hello, Stormlight Archive and Saga) and others are massively popular hits; I mean, we’ve all already read The Fault in Our Stars, right? So … I guess it really isn’t that hard to figure out which were my ultimate favorites this year.

Originally, I thought this was going to be my Top Five of the year, but I read too many good freaking books, so have a Top 5% (in no particular order):

(All images from Goodreads.com

(All images from Goodreads.com)

Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez – First of all, this cover is phenomenal, and thankfully, the story within backs it up. The main character, Valentina, is tough and smart and conflicted. The plot hooked me right away, and I couldn’t wait to read more about what happened to Valentina and see what she was going to do next. And I LOVED the ending. I think it would have been really easy for this to end unsatisfactorily, but Martinez gave us an ending that really feels true to the characters she created, and I thought it was wonderful.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta – This is, hands down, my favorite book that I read this year. In fact, I read it twice within a couple of months because I love it so much. This is one that I try to recommend as much as possible, to people who are looking for a great YA novel after finishing The Fault in Our Stars or If I Stay, to people looking for a good audiobook, and all my friends have heard about it around 50 times. It’s so good, and y’all need to read it, seriously. Read it. (Be warned, the first 100 pages or so are a little confusing, but it picks up quick after that!)

Landline by Rainbow Rowell – I love Rowell. She’s a great storyteller, and her characters are so wonderful and real, and I want to read everything by her. I made the mistake of starting this one (her newest) right before bed, and ended up reading it in one sitting (by the time 5am rolled around, I was really thankful I wasn’t working at the time). Her writing is smart and funny and wonderfully consumable; all of her books have sucked me in and left me thinking about the characters for days afterwards. (Incidentally, I also gave one of Rowell’s other books, Fangirl 5 stars this year, and I gave Attachments 5 stars last year [actually, Attachments might be my favorite of hers that I’ve read {I’ve yet to read Eleanor & Park}], so basically, you can’t go wrong with my gal Rainbow).

Primates by Jim Ottaviani – This book is a graphic novel look Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas, how they came to study primates and what they did to advance what we know about them. It’s a great introduction to these women for middle grade (and older!) readers, and it presents the information in a fun, accessible way. I think this could be a great book to use in a classroom and could easily encourage kids to do more reading on their own about primates or these scientists. Also, the reveal of Dian Fossey’s fate (murdered by poachers) left me sobbing in bed at the tragedy of it, though the book, thankfully, doesn’t come right out and say that she was murdered by poachers; Ottaviani handles it delicately and age-appropriately.

East of West by Jonathan Hickman – The story in this graphic novel is a little weird, but it was interesting, and I enjoyed this take on the apocalypse. But what really appeals to me about this book, and what has me recommending it to people is the art. I love the art SO MUCH. I love the image of Death as a long, lanky cowboy, the fight scenes are stunning, and the use of color is really well done. I spent more time than usual just enjoying Nick Dragotta’s art as I read this, and it’s what made me want to continue the series.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Adichie has created a completely compelling and thought provoking story in Americanah. She spends a lot of time talking about race and feminism in America through the lens of a non-American black woman, and I found it really eye opening and encouraged me to examine my own white privilege. But even more than that, the characters were so well written, and I was always anxious to see what happened next with them.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan – I read this at the beginning of the year, so my memories are a little hazy, but my one line review gives me a pretty good idea of how I was feeling when I finished: “This book is just so damn beautiful and heartbreaking.” I do remember how I felt so powerless, right along with Sahar, and I really liked this portrayal of LGBTQ issues in a country that is so different from the US. I wish I could better remember how Farizan wrote the transgendered characters Sahar encounters, but I do remember liking that Farizan made it a point to draw a distinction between being gay and transgendered, and that gender reassignment surgery would not magically fix Sahar’s problems, in large part because she was not born in the wrong body.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley – This book follows two girls, one black, one white, in 1959 Virginia, as the local high school integrates for the first time. It shows us the torment Sarah experiences as one of the first ten black students to attend the white high school, and her inner turmoil as she comes to grips with the fact that she likes girls. And we follow Linda, as she reevaluates all the beliefs she’s held her entire life, and it makes the reader examine the how and why beliefs are formed and whether they are true beliefs or not. I really liked this book for the way it showed how the Civil Rights Movement was something very personal for the people involved and put a (fictional) face to the struggle.

(If you’re looking for even more lesbian coming of age stories, check out The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a great book about a growing up lesbian in a small town in the ’90’s.)

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay – This was sort of the year of my feminist awakening, and I’m trying to make it a point to try to read more books about feminism in our modern culture. This book came on my radar during the Goodreads Choice Awards voting, and the title and simple cover really grabbed my attention. This book was really an engaging read, and Gay’s style makes even her essay about competitive Scrabble fascinating. As I noted in my initial review on Goodreads, not every essay spoke to me, but they were all well written and thought provoking. This is another one that encourages the reader to examine his or her own privileges and view the world from different perspectives.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – After reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which is hilarious and wonderful, I was not expecting how different this book would be, and I think We Were Liars helps demonstrate Lockhart’s range as a writer. There’s very little funny here, and the suspense kept me obsessively reading from the first page. This book was supremely compelling and the big reveal is a total gut punch. It’s really well crafted, and the characters manage to be pretty unlikable yet totally fascinating.

What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend by Lissa Rankin – I feel like the title of this book tells you everything you’d ever need to know about it. It was fascinating and had a lot of helpful information about various issues concerning one’s lady business, as well as a lot of hilarrible (hilarious and horrible) anecdotes that make you feel a lot better about whatever weird things are going on with your junk. I think there’s good information in here for anyone who possesses a vagina, and Rankin has answers to the questions you didn’t even know you had.


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Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Maroh, J. (2013). Blue is the warmest color. Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press. ISBN: 9781551525143

Annotation: After Clementine’s death, her partner Emma reads Clem’s diary from when they met and began to fall in love and learns about the struggles Clem had accepting her sexuality.

Reaction: Whoa. This book is intense. It’s beautiful and completely tragic, and Maroh tells you up front that there’s no happy ending here.

The art is beautiful and done in muted colors, except for the bright pops of blue here and there, which mark important people or events in Clem’s life. The art really adds to the wistful, reminiscent tone of Clem’s diary.

This book is a wonderful, moving narrative about coming out and accepting oneself and first love, and I think it’s the kind of thing that could be therapeutic for teenagers on the same journey, but there are a couple of sex scenes, so I would probably only give it to teens 16 and up. Clem’s coming of age story is also pretty universal and is likely to resonate with any adults who remember the anguish of falling in love for the first time.

Awards: Prix du Festival d’AngoulĂȘme for Prix du Public (2011), American Library Association Rainbow List (2014)

Author’s Website (in French!)


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Mercedes Thompson (series) by Patricia Briggs

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

(I originally wrote this when Frost Burned (book 7) first came out about a year ago, but it’s been languishing in my drafts ever since. Book 8, Night Broken was released earlier this month, so I thought this would be an excellent time to actually publish this bad boy.)

You know that series that you devour in like two weeks and then wait anxiously for the next installment? And that book/series that is your totally guilty pleasure reading (except you don’t actually feel that guilty)? Well, the Mercedes Thompson books (written for an adult audience) are that for me. I happened across the first audiobook, Moon Called, a couple of years ago, when I was browsing for books to listen on my walks to work. I was a little skeptical about it, as I tend to be about any vampire/werewolf book I’ve never heard of before, but the premise sounded interesting, and I was getting it for free from the library, so why not? Also, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ll read just about any werewolf/vampire novel. I love the genre, lordy.

Well, I loved it. LOVED. I read or listened to the next five books as soon as I could get my hot little hands on them, even buying books four and five because the library copies were already checked out. I then went on to read Patricia Briggs’s Alpha & Omega series, which is set in the same world.

Mercedes Thompson is a Walker, a Native American shape changer who turns into a coyote. She owns a garage and lives next door to the local Alpha werewolf. In the first book, a young werewolf shows up at her garage looking for work. A few days later, he’s dropped on her doorstep, dead, and she takes it on herself to find out where he came from and why he was killed. Hijinks ensue.

Each subsequent book has Mercy getting into all kinds of trouble, involving various supernatural villains, including vampires, wizards, and the Fae. One of my favorite things about these books is that, while they reference the previous books, I don’t feel any great need to reread the earlier books when a new one comes out. Each story is self contained and stands on it’s own, so I don’t have to worry about remembering what happened two books/years ago.

When I got the email from Audible that book 7 had just been released, I bought it immediately. Starting it was like going back to visit old friends. I love the cheesy, punny, snappy dialogue, and I love the way the action started within thirty minutes of the beginning the book. And I preordered book 8 from Audible, waiting with great anticipation for when I could spend some quality time with characters I’ve grown to know and love.

The Mercy Thompson books live in a sub-genre of fantasy in which ladies who have some supernatural abilities get into trouble, kick some bad guy booty and fall in love. I love that genre, I generally find the plots fun and engaging and the characters pretty decent, but after reading books in AT LEAST six or seven of these types of series, the concept gets a little stale. But you know what? I will always come back to Mercy. Maybe it’s just because she was one of the first experiences I had with this kind of book, but I find her stories exceedingly readable and the characters all really relatable and interesting.

Sidenote: I have listened to most of these books on audiobook, and I love them. The narrator is wonderful, and after about 5 or 6 books, she is the voice of Mercy to me. And I was able to download most of the audiobooks through my library’s e-audibooks provider Overdrive.

Author’s Website