2013: A Year In Books

The year's over already. It was a big year all around. Big moves in location and in career. My first year as a bookseller meant that I had a legit excuse to keep my nose in a book, and despite what my friend Kenny claims, I swear these numbers are correct. (For the record, he claims I read way more, not less.)

Quick Facts:

  • Total number of books read: 109
  • Month I read the least: January
  • Month I read the most: September
  • Poetry books read: 4
  • Short story collections read: 6
  • Picture books read: 4 (That are worth counting, at least)
  • Kids' (beginner & middle grade) books read: 14
  • YA books read: 34
  • Mystery/thrillers read: 11
  • Graphica read: 1
  • Non-fiction read: 9
  • Memoir read: 4
  • Top three books of the year: Bad Unicorn, The Snow Child, Perfect Ruin
  • Worst books of the year: The Resurrectionist & Asylum
  • Most painful cliffhanger of the year: Perfect Ruin
  • Number of series started: 18
  • Number of series completed: 2
  • Book I thought I hated but I actually wound up loving: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
  • Number of started, but currently unfinished books this year: 18
After the jump, you can see a month-by-month guide to all the books I read in 2013 (with links to any reviews I may have done for them).


Book Style: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol Kids

Merry Christmas! In today's Book Style I went with the ultimate Christmas tale: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. On top we have a cozy, grownup outfit based of off this gorgeous version illustrated by P. J. Lynch. As much as I love bright colors, this neutral palette is just as cozy as the alternative featured below with two fun and bright kids outfits based off of the BabyLit color primer version of A Christmas Carol by Jennifer Adams.


Link Love: 12.07.13

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Book Style: War And Peace

War & Peace

I've been holding onto this Book Style featuring War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy for a bit, waiting for Winter and whatnot. The sunset colors may seem summery, but they add a welcome splash to dark winter days when applied to cold weather style. A Russian fur trapper hat to honor Mr. Tolstoy's heritage and there we go. 


Link Love: 11.23.13

Unwoven Light by Soo Sunny Park


Book Style: Samuel Johnson VS The Devil

The Gates

The Infernals

The Creeps

John Connolly's Samuel Johnson Vs. The Devil series1 has been described as Terry Pratchett meets Douglas Adams and I couldn't agree more. In each book, poor Samuel must foil the Great Malevolence2 and his right hand demon Ba'al's attempts at bringing about the end of the world. Luckily, Samuel has the help of his best friends, his loyal dachshund Boswell, a pair of hapless policemen, and a not-so-evil demon named Nurd3. The second two books also feature a band of surly, thieving, but very genuine dwarfs and the put-upon Dan the Ice Cream Man. These books are pure genius and I will not listen to any naysayers on the subject. Like Connolly's The Book of Lost Things, the first and third book in the Samuel Johnson series feature gorgeous covers. I'm not a huge fan of the weird 3D style art on the second title, but I didn't want to just leave it out entirely either4.
  1. The Gates: I wanted to capture the essence of Samuel here, mismatched sneakers and all. The dachshund bag is the perfect nod to Boswell and the hot rod shirt is my subtle nod to Samuel's father's prized car that Nurd drives back into Hell to save the day. A devil necklace seemed appropriate and I thought the PBR bracelet could stand in for some of Spiggit's highly combustible brew.
  2. The Infernals: Some ice cream heels help make this outfit a bit dressier while still keeping it playful. The moon sweater is an ode to the peculiar shape of Nurd's head and, of course, a cuff bracelet for Biddlecombe's bravest constabulary. Boswell gets blinged out on a necklace this go round.
  3. The Creeps: I figured a dressier outfit was in order to attend the grand opening of Mr. Grimly's toy store as a guest of honor. That t-shirt features Einstein's physics formulae5 and the seat belt clutch could be of some use to Nurd in his job6. Boswell is silver-plated and wrapped around your finger this time and goes nicely with those viking ship earrings. Some celestial/moon themed nails tie the whole look together. Oh, but try not to squish any nosferatu eyeballs with those killer crepe wedges.
1. I honestly didn't know this was the full title of the series until I finished the third book a couple of days ago. I just referred to it as "Connolly's Samuel Johnson series" because I didn't think it had a proper name at all.
2. He is never actually called the Devil, calling into question whoever named the series... I'm looking at you Mr. Connolly.
3. And Wormwood, Nurd's oldest friend and assistant. Even if Nurd would never admit the friend part out loud.
4. Because I'm a nice person, that's why. Don't argue. I am very nice.
5. Perhaps the scientists at CERN should have looked at a few of them before they went fiddling about with the fabric of the Universe.
6. Turns out an immortal, but reformed demon with a penchant for fast cars makes an excellent automotive safety test dummy.


Last Unicorn Tour

Last Unicorn Tour
Justus, Peter S. Beagle, + me (also the debut photo of my shorter than Mia Farrow's haircut)

Last night I had the ultimate pleasure of attending The Last Unicorn Tour when it hit Seattle. My friend (and coworker) Justus and I headed down to the Cinerama after work. I should mention that this is Justus' absolute favorite book. Ever. The evening started with a signing session that we skipped on the advice of our newfound friend, Ashley, who had attended Saturday night's event as well. She advised us to just hop out right before the credits and get in line for the post show signing. So with that reassurance we settled down to enjoy some of Cinerama's epic chocolate popcorn and chat. At 7:30 an amazing question and answer session began which lasted an hour and included some great stories from Peter, the most adorable question from a little girl, a baby signing (for real), and a surprise proposal from an audience member (not to Peter, but to her partner). It was so great. Next we got to watch the film, which is a blast from my childhood and gave me warm fuzzies all over. Finally we got to chat with Peter while he signed my book and Justus' poster and multiple books. I have completely over simplified the whole experience because it really was so grand and I am so glad I decided to go. 


Book Style: Death, Dickinson, And The Demented Life Of Frenchie Garcia

Death, Dickinson, And The Demented Life Of Frenchie Garcia

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez is such a great, heart-breaking book that gives you so many feels and then ends up comforting you in the end. Frenchie is a recent high school grad who is in the midst of a serious, an unacknowledged depression after being rejected from the art school of her choice and witnessing her best friend become attached at the hip with his new girlfriend. Oh, and she's probably suffering from some serious issues that resulting from the suicide of her high school crush the morning after they spent a whimsical night getting their fortunes told, plunging into the ocean, attempting to steal a duck-shaped boat, and choosing ice cream at the local Walmart. Frenchie eventually works her way through her grief by talking things out with her imaginary friend, Emily Dickinson, and reliving the infamous last night with a new, flesh-and-blood, acquaintance. I wanted to put her in the outfit she would have worn that night. This had to include her spiderweb tights and a rock concert appropriate tee. Yellow combat boots are perfect for Frenchie, although her's would probably be splattered with paint. The fortune cookie necklace is meant to represent the fortune teller and the nail polish is called "Ice Cream Social". The grave ring is all about the graveyard at the end of the street where Frenchie often seeks respite and the company of Emily. And since the cover gave them to me, some great skull accessories were in order. 


Book Style: Beowulf


I couldn't put together a Beowulf outfit without going for a modern warrior princess look. Daggers on the cuff, bloody skulls on the fingers, and nordic-looking dragons through the ears are the accessories that top off an outfit featuring knee-high gladiator sandals, a drapey maxi skirt and tank, a tribal bralette, and a fierce should chain. A purse would be too dainty with something like this, but a modernized fanny pack looks utilitarian and tough and blends in like a belt would. Oh, and that nailpolish? Yeah, the color's called Boudicca. Now she would have never have encountered all the problems Beowulf did.


Link Love: 11.09.13

[image found here]


Book Style: Lunar Chronicles




I am absolutely obsessed with Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series. Every book is a retelling of a classic fairy tale, but the whole series is such a beautifully complex thing that weaves all of these wonderful characters together. And it's sci-fi! I recently finished reading the advanced copy of the third book, Cress (oh, the perks of being a bookseller) and it is just as amazing as I expected. I decided in honor of the upcoming February release date for Cress and to bide my time until Marissa writes the fourth title, Winter, I would make a Book Style for these three. I decided I would base each outfit around the main titular character and try to stay true to their essence. There might be some spoilers for Cinder and Scarlet here, but I'll try to steer clear of giving too much away for Cress.
  1. Cinder - Obviously, this one is Cinderella. Cinder is a 16 year old, cyborg mechanic in New Beijing. Her best friend is an android named Iko. She's pretty tough and isn't really the girly type. I gave her some combat boots and a handy hip bag for practicality. The kimono-inspired blouse is a nod to New Beijing's prevalent Asian styling. A wrench ring represents her mechanical inclinations, Iko gets some love with the adorable robot earrings, and a lunar-esque necklace hints at Cinder's true origins.
  2. Scarlet - Red Riding Hood is really a feisty 18 year old French girl whose grandmother has gone missing. She forms a tenuous alliance with a street fighter who goes by the name "Wolf" in order to track her down. Scarlet is a natural beauty who never bothers with fancy clothes; they would only get in the way on the farm. Comfort is key here. Of course she needed her beloved red hoodie (isn't the asymmetry on this one amazing?) and I couldn't resist tracking down a tomato tee so she could wear her love for Wolf proudly. Some French-inspired nail polish just for fun. Ditto for the Red Riding Hood necklace. The rocket ship watch will help keep her on time for her produce deliveries and amuses me since that's where she ends up. The lunar earrings were essential for my sanity here.
  3. Cress - Rapunzel needs a major haircut if she's ever going to impress the man of her dreams. She also goes by the name Crescent Moon, Cress for short, and she's been held captive performing high tech espionage for the Lunar queen on a lone satellite for most of her life. Cress is the girliest one of the bunch so she gets a dress for her petite self. She also ends up needing some decent footwear, so I provided these great strappy sandals. The bandana is to tie that notorious hair back, but it's also a nod to something I won't reveal for you yet, same for those eye earrings and military jacket. Spoilers, as River Song would say (I will never apologize for mixing my fandoms. Never!). I love the jewelry here. While the two Earthen (well sort of, in Cinder's case) girls get lunar jewelry, the Lunar girl gets a necklace to represent the swirl globe she's been gazing longingly at for years. And doesn't that ring remind you of long, silky tresses?
In conclusion, if you haven't read this series yet, stop what you're doing and go to your bookstore and grab Cinder and Scarlet now. Now, I say.


Book Style: Great Expectations

Great Expectations

I couldn't do a Great Expectations Book Style without making it a wedding dress in honor of Miss Havisham! If you're a traditionalist who believes a bridal gown must be white (or white-ish) then feel free to pretend this is a bridesmaid outfit. Playing with all of these moody blues was fun, and blue is supposed to be a traditional wedding color. I playfully added the handcuff bracelet in honor of Pip's benefactor's rather sordid past. The amazing wedding cake is another nod to the benefactor's stint as a sailor.


Book Style: Confessions Of A Teen Sleuth

Confessions Of A Teen Sleuth

Confessions of a Teen Sleuth by Chelsea Cain is a brilliant Nancy Drew parody and is one of those books that I constantly recommend to people in a reading rut. Nancy Drew always evokes sexy-secretary chic in my mind and the blush tones of this cover really let me play with that ladylike theme. I went with some traditional detective garb with the fedora and trench; I think the tweedy wool of the skirt also says private eye. The magnifying glass necklace is a lovely finishing touch.


Book Style: Belle De Jour

Belle De Jour

For Belle de Jour by Anonymous (or as we now know, Dr. Brooke Magnanti) I was tempted to go with a full on bedroom-only outfit, but then I thought about how I generally feel sexier all dolled up for the evening prior to sexytime and went with a date outfit instead. I took Belle's advice and decided that luxe and classy was the way to go, but I went more for a downtown feel. These heels are pure cheek, what with those great legs as heels detail. The metallic nail polish is a fishnet pattern, which itrès à propos.  And, of course, some designer lingerie is a must.


Book Style: The Night Circus

The Night Circus

Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus has been a surprising hit. It's also been fodder for a lot of criticism. While I won't get into too much nitpicking, I think it suffers from a "Twilight" complex: a lot of buildup for some very lackluster action with some blank slates for characters. The cover is perfection for the story though. You really know what kind of tale you're getting into here. I stayed true to the red, white and black color scheme (that is also integral to the plot). I love that this peplum ballerina top conveys the feeling of a circus tent. Lots of stripes, glamour, and an acrobatic charm necklace complete the look.


Book Style: The Parasol Protectorate






For the Parasol Protectorate series I was challenged to match the very strong color palettes of the five books. In truth, the covers were what drew me to the books in the first place, I love when something appeals to me inside and out! I made sure to include an umbrella with every outfit as an homage to Alexia's omnipresent and well-armed parasol.
  1. Soulless: I went for a modernistic, steampunk-inspired evening outfit. That skirt is perfection. Can I rock a bustle in the bookstore?
  2. Changeless: Fun with patterns. And do you see those shoes?
  3. Blameless: Sophisticated schoolgirl charm. Alexia would definitely approve of that laser-cut umbrella.
  4. Heartless: This is a great office-friendly summer outfit. Take note of the wolf bracelet. Lady Maccon must represent.
  5. Timeless: I could totally see Dita von Teese in this marigold sheath dress. Totally chic and timeless.


Link Love: 10.19.13

[image found here]


Book Style: The Hobbit

The Hobbit

For one of my favorite books, The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien I thought a camping-friendly outfit would be in order. Or, you know, a bed and breakfast in the mountains outfit... The whole vibe is in honor of the trek that Bilbo and the dwarves make from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain. That was a lot of nights sleeping rough. I love the dwarven shield on the belt buckle and the lovely Tolkien-inspired pendant. And the dwarves shirt is something that needs to be in my closet now. 


Book Style: A Tale Of Two Cities

A Tale Of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is quite honestly the only (non-modern) Classic I ever remember liking. Probably because it sated my high school Francophilia and had some legit history going on with the whole French Revolution thing. I remember being oddly invested in the story which never happened (or happens still) with Dickens. I chose lots of nods to Paris and London with this weekend-chic outfit. Who says you have to look like a schlub to run Saturday errands? Also, those of you who have read the book will get the earrings' reference to the blue eyes.


Book Review: Let's Catch Up, Shall We

I've been super delinquent about posting any actual book review on here for the past couple of months. Part of it is due to the fact that I've been reading so much, on average two books a week; you may have noticed that I had to up my book goal for the year since I already surpassed 52 titles. I've also been reading a lot of publisher galleys for titles that won't be available for several months and I don't want to rub it in your faces. But, I figured it's time to play catch up and give you a brief rundown of some of the best things I've read since early August.

I'm a little late to the Miéville game, largely due to his rather vocal Tolkien bashing. I was convinced that anyone who hated the fantasy epics of my childhood would not appeal to me as an author. But, when my coworker, Casey, told me that Kraken was like American Gods but better, I called him a blasphemer and then started reading to prove him wrong. Only one problem with my plan, he wasn't wrong. I don't know that it's *better* than American Gods, but it's definitely on par. I love the language and how authentically British it all feels. Now I'm faced with the problem of catching up on the rest of his books. This is the book for you if you like anything Neil Gaiman has ever written but want something just a little different.

Jussi Adler-Olsen is my new favorite Scandinavian mystery author. His detective, Carl Morck is the best curmudgeonly, Wallander-esque detective out there. I also love, now that I'm getting into the second book in this series, that he doesn't have a formula to his books, making them each unique and delightful. In The Keeper of Lost Causes, Carl is recovering (but not if you ask him, if you ask him, he's just fine) from the all too recent ambush he an his team encountered. One partner is dead and the other is paralyzed and begging Carl to help him end it. In the midst of his personal turmoil he is "promoted" to the head of a brand new cold case division nicknamed Department Q. Carl comes out from under his personal rain cloud when he realizes that one of the cold cases may not be so cold after all. 

The phrase "Roald Dahl meets Harry Potter" has been used to describe John Connolly's Samuel Johnson series and I think it's a perfect synopsis of these delightfully dark tales. If you haven't read The Gates, you really should first, or else you won't get some of the great character development that happens in The Infernals. The third in this comedy-of-errors apocalypse series is due out this month and I can't wait to see what's next for middle schooler Samuel Johnson and his intrepid dachshund Boswell.

It's been a while since I braved the world of YA vampires, but I have to hand it to Holly Black, The Coldest Girl In Coldtown is a lot better than most. I wasn't sold on the appeal of the mysterious vampire that Tana falls for, especially after it turns out that he lies to her throughout almost the entire book. And I'm also a bit torn on the ending; without spoiling too much, let me say that I don't get why Tana makes the decision she does. If you like supernatural thriller/romance, this is a nice read, although I might wait for the paperback to learn all about how Tana survives the massacre at a sundown party that killed off several of her classmates and left her saddled with a turning ex-boyfriend and a mysterious and dangerous vampire on her hands. Also, someone explain the title to me, it doesn't *really* make sense.

Once upon a time I danced ballet, and I still retain a great fascination with the whole world of dance, so this title isn't as far out in left field for me as you might think. It's a fictionalized account of the life of prima ballerina Tanaquil "Tanny" Le Clercq with her husband, the (in)famous New York City Ballet director, George Balanchine. The novel covers their courtship (she was his fourth or fifth wife depending on how you do the math) through her polio, rehab, and ultimately their divorce. It's a fascinating read, just bear in mind that it is a novelization and not a biography.

Remember Cinder? Well this is the next in the Lunar Chronicles, Scarlet. It's just as amazing. This one follows Scarlet, who you probably guessed is Little Red Riding Hood, as she and a suspicious street fighter names Wolf track down her kidnapped grandmother. Along the way their story becomes entangled with Cinders who is now an escaped convict. I just finished the third in the series, Cress, and am now impatiently awaiting the fourth... But since the third isn't even officially published yet, I've got a lot of waiting to do. This series is my new obsession. I love finding all the parallels to the fairy tales and the scifi setting is perfection. 

Neil Gaiman never fails to disappoint and The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no exception. It's perfectly magical and equally creepy. My friend/coworker Justus told me not to read it before bedtime unless I wanted some disturbing dreams, and she was absolutely right. This tale follows a young boy who befriends an odd family of women (daughter, mother, and grandmother) after he finds the dead body of his family's lodger in their stolen car. His adventures with his new friend quickly lead to his entanglement with a malevolent force that is bent on destroying the world. It's a quick read, but it's magical.

Kelly Williams Brown is my new hero. Seriously. This book immediately went on the list for my holiday pick, it's that good. This book is hysterically funny while being dead helpful. Kelly offers real, practical advice with a side of wit that (sort of) softens the blow when you realize what an idiotic, sheltered yuppy you are. If you are in your twenties or you know someone who is, this is the book you/they need. (Fair warning, she has a potty mouth, just like me.)

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez has the most deliciously grandiose title. I've seen this book compared to Paper Towns by John Green and the similarities are there. This is a much more goth version. It also deals beautifully with how horribly un-normal grief can be. Frenchie is coping, well not really, with the suicide of her long-time crush Andy by alienating herself from her friends and spending time in the neighborhood cemetery talking to her imaginary friend, Emily Dickinson. One night, with the help of a new acquaintance, she decides to relive the one (and only) night she had with Andy, the night before he died, in an effort to move past it all.

Jenni Fagan's The Panopticon is another amazing look at the horribly raw and unflinching emotions teenagers face. Anais Hendricks has been part of the system since birth. First she was an orphan bouncing around to different foster homes. Then, after an all too brief sojourn, she was thrust back into the world as a drug-addled juvenile delinquent following the murder of her beloved adopted mom. Now the police suspect her of bludgeoning an officer nearly to death, an accusation that Anais cannot deny nor confirm, and have shipped her off to the Panopticon pending trial. Anais is brutally honest in everything from sex to drugs to her love of vintage fashion. Combined with Ms. Fagan's habit of writing in Scottish brogue, Anais ended up sounding like a sexed-up version of Brave's Merida in my head. I was rooting for her in the end.

Ashley Cardiff is pee-your-pants funny. She reminds me a lot of Sloane Crosley. Maybe I just dig young, female wits. Night Terrors is a collection of true anecdotes that all, loosely, revolve around sex and relationships. I found myself relating to so many of her stories, especially when she acknowledged how much her upper-middle class whiteness colors her world. If you need a good laugh, I definitely recommend this one.

So the Italians are weird. I've decided. I've also realized that as much as I loathed If on a Winter's Night a Traveler back in January, I need to amend that because it's been growing on me ever since. Niccolò Ammaniti's Let the Games Begin started out with me feeling like this book was going to be way more academic and intellectual for me to enjoy. Then the sad, little Satanic cult popped up and I was intrigued. Next everyone ended up at this house party hosted by a megalomaniac who is attempting to buy his way into the hearts of the upper echelons of Italian society. He's planned a lavish weekend party that the floundering Satanic cult leader is hoping to sabotage to stake his claim in the annals of the infamous. If this doesn't sound weird enough yet, just wait until the mutated, Soviet defectors pop up. It's a brilliant farce and a mad-capped comedy of errors. Enjoy.

Somehow I never read anything by Catherynne Valente before, which is such a shame since I now know how wonderful she is. This is a collection of her short stories and poems; the perfect introduction to her work. You can get a real feel for her love and understanding of Japanese folklore here. Also, she is a genius with words; just try reading her description of a sunset in the titular poem without being awed. Thank you Catherynne for getting me excited about poetry for the first time ever.

Laurie R. King does historical mystery better than anyone else I know. She never fails to make the 1920s come alive for me while I'm engrossed in one of her page turners. This is technically the second book featuring Harris & Bennett, but I never read Touchstone, so I don't think you need to. This is also the only non-Mary Russell book of Ms. King's that I've ever read. I need to remedy that shortly. This thriller is set in Montparnasse in the '20s and is appropriately gruesome for a book featuring the Grand Guignol theater.

I have two problems with this book: (1) I dislike the final cover. You can't give me neon coral on the publishers galley and then expect me to be okay without it. Although, admittedly, this cover makes more sense for the story of the Hursts and their complete and total dysfunction. And (2) This book was incredibly anxiety-inducing. I had to force myself through a few chapters to get to a point where I couldn't stop reading. Ignoring those two personal issues, it's an amazing psychological thriller. A bit Mommy Dearest meets Girl, Interrupted. Please read it so we can discuss how disturbingly creepy Will and Josephine's relationship is. Please.

I really thought this was going to be a twist on Pinochio and Anne Ursu does a sneaky job of playing into that idea for the first half of The Real Boy. But it's not. And the true delight comes once you get past that mental hurdle and engross yourself in an original tale for the middle school set about magic, friendship, and loyalt

This is one of the best, quirky titles I've read in years. It makes you think, right after it frustrates the hell out of you. This book is new to the states and I'm so thrilled to have Keith Ridgway's Hawthorn & Child here now. The titular detectives are charged with piecing together obscure clues for some seemingly unrelated crimes. This book is about examining unfinished business. If you're a person who needs closure, don't even think about reading this, although I'm still going to recommend it to you. Over and over and over again.