Friday, December 29, 2017

Good Riddance, 2017

Welcome to Dragon's Library's 10th Annual Year in Review!

As I take a moment to reflect back on my year in books, I can't help but think about how difficult 2017 was in general, and how much everyone seems to be looking forward to putting its misery behind us and harnessing the momentum of the New Year. I also can't help but notice that my reading habits are not that impressive (thank you very much, Netflix) and that I need to focus more of my overall energy on serious reading.

As always, this isn't an exhaustive list of everything I've read. I know I missed a dozen picture books, at least, and possibly some short middle grade novels, and I don't blog books that I've already blogged before, so favorite novels that I reread often aren't included in the count. Plus there's at least one book I read in ARC that won't be available until next year, so I'll blog it later. Single issue comic are not included in the count, only trade paperbacks (and one Gary Larson collection).

And now, Dragon's Library Year in Review:

Picture Books: 57
Middle Grade/YA: 21
Non-fiction: 2
Novels: 6
Graphic novels: 17
Short Story Collection: 1
Memoir: 2
Not easily categorized: 1

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Walls around Us

Written by: Nova Ren Suma

First line: We went wild that hot night.

Why you should read this book: This dark and cunning ghost story weaves a tangled thicket of murder and revenge, twisted through time and sprouting from the fertile soil of the Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center in upstate New York, almost all the way to the Canadian border. Told in dual point of view, the story splits between the quiet and detailed observations of Amber, a girl long locked up in the facility for the murder of her abusive stepfather, and Violet, a talented ballerina with her sights set on Julliard, with nothing in her way except for the memory of her one-time best friend, Ori, who was sentenced to Aurora Hills for murdering two girls behind the dance studio. In the place where their worlds collide, both girls will find justice, although perhaps not in the way they hoped to find it.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've forgotten your own crimes.


Written by: Raine Telgemeier

First line: One Double-Back combo, one Cheeseback with fries, a Double Napoleon shake...

Why you should read this book: Cat loves her little sister Maya, and she knows the family's move from sunny southern California to the foggy, windswept northern part of the state is essential to keep Maya's cystic fibrosis under control, but she doesn't like the gray skies or the ubiquitous ghost stories that cast a constant shadow over her new home in Bahía de la Luna. When her new neighbor, Carlos, insists, and then proves Bahía de la Luna's ghost stories are all real, and her new friends want her to participate in the town's extensive Day of the Dead festivities, Cat feels nothing but fear of death. Maya and the others embrace the presence of the dead, but Cat will need more context to bridge the gap between the memory of her grandmother and the possibility of her sister's demise.

Why you shouldn't read this book: People who don't need to dwell on ways in which being dead might be better than being alive.

Real Friends

Written by: Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

First line: When I was little, I didn't worry about friends.

Why you should read this book: Whether you were a kid in the eighties or you're a kid right now, you can probably identify in some part with Shannon's journey from innocence to experience as she navigates the world of shifting grade-school friendships. Shannon only ever wants the friendship of her first, best friend Adrienne, but to stay close to Adrienne, she has to appease the whims of "the group," the popular girls who seem more confident, more mature, and more willing to play games with other's emotions than Shannon will ever be. When Adrienne leaves the district, Shannon feels stuck on the edges of the group, until she finds out who she really is and how to be real friends with others.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're still the mean girl.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Paradise Lost: A Graphic Novel

Written by: John Milton and Pablo Auladell

First line: Sing, heavenly muse...I thence invoke my aid to my adventurous song, that intends to soar above they Aonian Mount...while it pursues things unattemped yet in prose or rhyme.

Why you should read this book: The ultimate Old Testament/New Testament mashup fanfic, the epic Paradise Lost, here presented in graphic format, tells the story of Satan's fall from heaven and his subsequent corruption of Adam and Eve. What is Satan's gripe with god, and why does he want to punish people so much? The answers are all spelled out in this gorgeous, twisted, dark, and inventive volume.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe depicting the face of a god is true blasphemy.

No More Dead Dogs

Written by: Gordon Korman

First line: When my dad was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, he once rescued eight Navy SEALS who were stranded behind enemy lines.

Why you should read this book. Scarred by his father's pathological need to lie about everything, middle school jock Wallace Wallace becomes a compulsive truth teller, to the point that he's now looking at indefinite detention because he refuses to say anything nice about his English teacher's favorite book. Banned from football practice and forced to attend rehearsals of a play based on said book, Wallace finds his alliances shifting as his teammates become frustrated with him and the drama kids start to warm up to his ideas. It's a lot of silliness punctuated by bouts of seriousness, good for a wide age range of young readers.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're one of those English teachers who possesses the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about every book you've ever taught, and you brook no dissension from your ignorant students.

The Butterfly Hunt

Written by: Yoshi

First line: Once there was a boy who was surprised by a butterfly.

Why you should read this book: A big, beautiful yellow lepidopteran becomes one boy's person white whale as he pursues the creature with an increasingly unhealthy obsession, capturing dozens of other butterflies in his determination. By the story's end, the butterfly no longer symbolizes joy and wonder, but rage and captivity, and the boy reassesses his idea of possession. A quiet story with a warm moral.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are a brilliant lepidopterist.

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley

Written by: Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat

First line: Everyone wants to live forever.

Why you should read this book: While it looks like a children's book, it's one of those stories that seems to be aimed at adults, comparing the way a rat is deliriously happy, or at least completely accepting, of everything that comes its way, while humans are never satisfied with who they are or what they have. Riley, and all the rats he knows, are beautiful and happy and everyone loves them and they don't want for anything in the world; plus, rats are happy for a comparatively short span while humans have the potential to be dissatisfied for decades. It's fun to read and kids seem to enjoy it, probably because it highlights the ridiculously of human culture.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are having an existential crisis.

American Gods

Written by: Neil Gaiman

First line: Shadow had done three years in prison.

Why you should read this book: What becomes of the gods of a people when the people move on? Gaiman imagines dozens of deities surviving in the harsh and unbelieving land of modern America, and the lengths they will go to just to continue existing. Ex-convict Shadow, betrayed by those he loved and alone in the world, takes a new position as manservant to the Norse All-Father, Odin, known in America as Wednesday, and learns the secrets of the country rarely shared with ordinary tourists.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're pretty adamant about the one god.


Written by: Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

First line: Seen all them lights, boys?

Why you should read this book: It was some years ago that I met Jacen Burrows at a comicon and talked with him about collaborating on The Courtyard with Alan Moore; only after I brought Neonomicon home did I realize that The Courtyard was only the beginning of a much longer story, and that this book included it as a first chapter. This is Moore's take on the C'thulhu mythos, brought into the 21st century and festooned with way more specific details than Lovecraft ever provided his audience (we're talking graphic, even for the format). Several FBI agents chase leads that they believe will lead to drugs or sex crimes but, in fact, drag them pretty deep into encounters with arcane knowledge, elder gods, madness, and death.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're squeamish.