Tuesday, April 19, 2016

10 Books That Will Make You Laugh

I like when books make me feel things, and I know that a lot of readers agree with me. It's why we aggressively recommend the books that have turned us into sobbing messes. However, I think as a whole, we think of feeling things while reading as feeling sad or angry or frustrated. Why don't we put a little more focus on the books that make us happy? I was very glad to see that this week's Top Ten Tuesday (a weekly feature at The Broke and the Bookish) was top 10 books that will make you laugh. So take a break from the tearjerkers, sit back, and relax. (You'll laugh till you collapse! This is what happens to me now that Animaniacs is on Netflix.)

1. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (Shades of London #1) - Maureen Johnson is one of the funniest YA authors I know of. I don't think I've ever read a book by her that hasn't made me laugh. This one just happens to be the one I read the most recently. I'll admit that this doesn't really look like a funny book, but don't be fooled. It's wonderful.

2. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh - If any of you haven't checked out the blog Hyperbole and a Half (which unfortunately hasn't been updated in a long time), you're missing out. It's one of the funniest things I've ever read. This book contains some blog posts and some completely new content, and it made me laugh so hard I cried multiple times. And there's another book, Solutions and Other Problems, coming out later this year!

3. The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare - If you're looking for something that's exclusively funny, then this might not be for you. But this has so many hilarious conversations that it would be a shame not to include it. Plus, it has Will Herondale, one of the funniest characters I've ever read about.

4. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson - This book didn't make me laugh out loud as much as some of the other books on the list, but I'm always at least smiling when I'm reading this. (And there are a few hilarious moments, too! Otherwise, it wouldn't be on the list.) Ms. Marvel has achieved the rare, beautiful balance of being both amusing and genuinely thought-provoking.

5. The Heist Society trilogy by Ally Carter - This is another one where the humor is mostly in the interactions between the characters. When you get a bunch of professional teenage thieves together to plan a heist or two, there's going to be quite a few laughs. And Ally Carter always knows how to mix humor and action.

6. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson - I had to include Calvin and Hobbes. This is probably my favorite comic strip of all time. And I'm counting it as a book because there are plenty of books, too.

7. The Princess Bride by William Goldman - I'm willing to bet that even if a lot of you haven't read this book, you've seen the movie. If so, you know what you're getting into here, and you know it's going to be a fun time. And if you haven't, what are you doing? Go watch it now. Stop reading and go watch. Trust me.

8. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - Did you really think I was going to get through an entire post about humor without mentioning Terry Pratchett at least once? Good Omens is the funniest book about the apocalypse you'll ever read. To give you a taste, the main characters are (in the book's own words) Aziraphale, an angel and part-time rare book dealer, and Crowley, an angel who did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards. What's not to like?

9. Dave Barry is from Mars and Venus by Dave Barry - Okay, so anything by Dave Barry will probably make you laugh. I just happened to pick this one because it's one of the books that introduced me to Dave Barry's humor and because it's a collection of his newspaper columns, which means that it's really easy to pick up for about five minutes whenever you need a laugh. I read the column about the first Thanksgiving every year, and it still makes me laugh.

10. The Distance Between Us by Kasie West - I happen to have almost exactly the same sense of humor as Caymen, the protagonist of this book, so it made me laugh quite a lot. I'm not sure whether that'll be the same for everyone who reads this post, but if you're a fan of sarcasm and dry humor, read this immediately.

What are some of your favorite funny books? Which do you like more: when a book makes you laugh or when it makes you cry? Tell me in the comments!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The YA Lover's Guide to Classics

I mostly read YA. It's what I'm the most consistently interested in. Still, every once in a while, I dive into the admittedly intimidating world of classics. I definitely don't like every classic that I read - see my school reading list for just a few examples - but I've been surprised by more than a few books.

There are a lot of people who are like me in that they usually reach for YA. Some of those people have probably decided that they want to stick with YA, and that's completely fine! I will be the last person to ever judge you negatively based on your reading taste. But maybe some people want to branch out a bit more, and that's great, too! And if some of those people don't quite know where to start, I hope that this post will help. I picked a few YA books and found classics that remind me of them.

This post works the other way, too. If you're an avid classics reader who's somehow found your way onto my blog, maybe you'll want to try some YA! (Or not. As I said, sticking to one genre is totally cool.)

So, without further ado, consider this your guide to bridging a little bit of the gap between YA and classics.

If you like the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare, try A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
So maybe there's not a lot of direct correlation here. You won't find demons or Shadowhunters or anything paranormal in Dickens. But Dickens is referenced so many times in this trilogy that I had to draw the connection. A Tale of Two Cities is the only Dickens novel that I've read so far, but I found it just as engrossing as any of the Shadowhunter novels. Direct parallels include a love triangle that doesn't completely annoy me.

If you like the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, try The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles.
If you're like me, reading the Percy Jackson series sparked a long-lasting interest in Greek mythology. Why not go back to the source material? Considering Oedipus's circumstances, I'd be surprised if he's actually mentioned in any of Rick Riordan's Greek mythology books, but I like these plays (Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone) the most out of all the Greek classics I've read.

If you like any John Green book, try The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
This is a bit of a strange one, because I like John Green's books a lot more than I liked The Catcher in the Rye. Even so, I see a lot of similarities in their writing style. Slightly pretentious teenage main character fills the novel with his musings, which are sometimes annoying and sometimes world-shakingly profound, and goes on some kind of bizarre adventure. I wouldn't pick up The Catcher in the Rye if you're looking for an action-packed plot, but if you just want a slice of life, this might be your cup of tea.

If you like YA in general, try The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
Okay, so maybe I'm cheating a little bit with this one. But I couldn't think of a more modern YA to go with it, and it would have been a shame to leave it out. This is the perfect book to bring YA and classics together, because it's a YA classic! (Well, The Catcher in the Rye is probably a YA classic, too, but this one feels much more like YA to me.) If you're a YA reader who doesn't want something too different, or a classics reader looking for some YA that's still considered a classic, this is for you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Book Math

A couple of months ago, Raeleen of padfootandprongs07 on YouTube did a challenge that I though was really interesting: book math. Which books would you fuse together to make another book? Would you subtract a book from that? She challenged people to figure out what multiplication and division would be, but I didn't quite get that far. Maybe if I do another one of these.

I decided to give it a try, and I came up with three pretty good equations, and I wrote a bit of an explanation for each of them. This is much simpler (and much more fun) than actual math.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children + A Death-Struck Year = In the Shadow of Blackbirds
  •  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - creepy historical fiction with photos throughout the book. The photos in Miss Peregrine's are a bit more directly related to the plot, but they're important in both books.
  • A Death-Struck Year - the setting (the West Coast of the U.S. during the Spanish Influenza), and a main character who wants to help others.

We Were Liars + A Madness So Discreet + The Darkest Part of the Forest + The Raven Boys = The Accident Season
  • We Were Liars - solving a mystery that doesn't even feel like a mystery in the first place. Clues are slowly revealed, but nothing substantial, and you probably won't know what's actually happening until the last few chapters.
  • A Madness So Discreet - something that I can't reveal because MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BOTH BOOKS. But also the general creepiness.
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest - the blend of paranormal/fantasy and contemporary, and the overall tone. An ordinary setting where extraordinary things don't feel quite so extraordinary.
  • The Raven Boys - again, the blend of paranormal and contemporary, but also the core group of main characters being a fascinating group of friends. Each person has their own story.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix + Twilight + Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda = Carry On
  •  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - a Chosen One's final year at (or not at) a wizarding school. In any case, his final adventure.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - a ton of other things about Harry Potter. This could have really been any Harry Potter book. Sure, there's parts of Carry On that are a lot like earlier Harry Potter books, especially the school, but let this one represent all the super-dark things that come with Harry Potter.
  • Twilight - vampires and weird obsession before a romantic relationship. Seriously.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - clueless, gay protagonists named Simon. And a bit of sweetness.
I have a LOT more ideas, so I think you'll be seeing some more of these posts in the future. And if you're thinking of giving this a try, go for it!

What are some of your book math equations? What about different equations for the same book? How would you add more complex math into this? Tell me in the comments!  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

An Explanation

I haven't been a particularly active blogger lately. You can probably tell that from the fact that it's now more than a week into April and my March wrap-up isn't up yet. And as much as I'd like this post to say that this was a short-term thing and that I'll be back to posting multiple times a week starting now, I can't do that.

Why not? There's the fact that I'm a lot busier right now than I thought I would be. I thought that second semester senior year was supposed to be easy, but there's just so much going on right now that I can't find the time I want to write new posts.

There's also the issue that writing is taking me a lot longer than it used to because of another fun development of the past few weeks: I have tendinitis. I injured myself playing piano right before my school band's competitive season. I'm supposed to be using my left hand as little as possible, which includes both piano and typing. I can type one-handed, but it takes me about three times as long as normal typing. Not as much time to write + slower typing = not very many posts.

I didn't think I'd need to make a post about this because the tendinitis was supposed to be cured in a week. I figured that I'd still be busy, but that the bigger of my two problems would be solved. But then I wasn't pain-free for a week and a half. And after another week, it got even worse than it was before. I'm going to be seeing a hand specialist soon, but I still have no idea how long it will last. That means I'll be typing slowly for the foreseeable future.

I'm still going to be as active in the blogging world as I can. That just probably won't be as much as before.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Book Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: These Shallow Graves
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Series: N/A
Length: 488 pages
Published by: Random House Delacorte
Publication date: October 27th, 2015
Diversity: none confirmed (see review for more details)

I was pretty much guaranteed to like this book. It had so many things that I love to read about. Gilded Age New York? Check. Aspiring female reporter? Check. Historical insane asylums? Check. A mystery, particularly one that becomes increasingly complex but still manages to tie everything together at the end? Check and check. Even considering only the things I could see from the blurb, this book practically SCREAMS Clara! And I was not disappointed.

Firstly, I have to talk about the setting. The turn of the 20th century is one of my favorite times in American history, especially in New York. Jennifer Donnelly certainly did her research. This book makes New York come alive. I didn't expect so many aspects of the city and of the time to be explored, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even with all that, it never felt to me that the book was covering too much at the cost of its cohesiveness.

I also loved how complex the mystery was. Nothing is as straightforward as it appears to be. But at the same time, I never found myself struggling to keep track of what was going on or who knew what. This mystery also had an interesting mix of being predictable and completely surprising me. I saw most of the big reveals coming, sometimes as much as hundreds of pages in advance. But the way the smaller details came together surprised me, and it was these things that made the mystery truly spectacular.

On a related note, this book had absolutely no filler scenes, despite what its length might suggest. There are plenty of things that seem nice but unnecessary, and then they all come back later in very exciting and clever ways. I don't know whether this counts as vague foreshadowing or just connecting things really well, but I loved it either way.

Despite all this love, I do have a couple of bad things I need to say about this book. Firstly, I am so sick of love triangles, especially when the main character spends so much time dwelling on the situation. I understand how this one was (mostly) necessary, and how it emphasized a larger theme in the novel, but I was bored. Her choice was pretty obvious.

Secondly, for a book set in the heart of the American melting pot, this book had amazingly little confirmed diversity. This book addressed a lot of social issues, most of which had to deal with poverty, which was good (and very necessary, considering the setting). However, in terms of actual diversity, there were a few Yiddish words, which would imply a Jewish character or two...but that was about it. And it wouldn't exactly have been difficult to include a diverse character in a book with this setting.

Overall? This book was great. I didn't quite enjoy every second of it, but by the end, I was so invested in everything that was going on that I didn't put it down for the last hundred pages.

What kinds of books are you guaranteed to like? Any recommendations of books similar to this for me? Tell me in the comments!