A Geek’s Place Is In The Revolution: Stories To Help You Fight

Come and Claim ThemIt’s dark times, fellow geeks. You know it, I know it, let’s face it, we all know it. There are lots of different, and valid, ways to manage this darkness. Maybe you volunteer, or donate to causes that you care about. You can play a game, ride your bike, pet kittens. Drink heavily, and eat all the cake. The point is, you have options. Me? I like to lean in to the darkness. It helps me find the light. The following is my list of books and movies that I turn to, the stories that inspire and guide me. They are stories of perseverance, stories of war and revolution. You know, your classic tales of ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. And don’t worry, if fluffy escapism, or riotous laughter is more your thing, we have plenty of suggestions for that route too.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Handmaid's Tale CoverAnyone who has known me for any amount of time knows that Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is my hands down favorite book of all time. To explain why would likely be a huge post all on its own, so here’s the short version. While a lot of people find this book to be unendingly bleak, Offred’s story of stubborn survival never fails to uplift me. I often say “The Handmaid’s Tale is not an instruction manual.”, but as we move forward into uncertain, scary times, I think it can be. For us. Offred may look like a woman keeping her head down and just trying to get through, but she does more than that. She remembers who she is, and survives to tell her story. Sometimes, that’s enough.

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Hunger Games CoverSuzanne Collins’ absolutely brilliant dystopian nightmare is something I reread (and rewatch) all the time for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, I just need a good, full on, ugly cry. Sometimes, I want to watch Katniss Everdeen kick some fascist ass. Sometimes, I just want to experience all over again Collins’ absolutely scathing commentary on the intersection of entertainment and war. It depends on the day. The Hunger Games doesn’t pull any punches and once you’re done reading it (maybe for the millionth time), you’ll be ready to volunteer as tribute.

World War Z

World War ZI love this book so much. The documentary journalism style. The super creepy zombies. The cross-section of survivors with stories to tell. The humor. Hell, I even geek out over the footnotes. Humanity, for all its horrific flaws and poor decisions, will find a way to survive even a never-ending horde of mindless, hungry undead. Did I mention the super nerdy footnotes?

 

 

Lord of the Rings

LOTR CoverThe original, epic fantasy saving the world with magic swords and the power of friendship story. Profound and inspiring, with glorious speeches, epic battles, plus hobbits! Hobbits are great. Hobbits with pints and a ridiculous commitment to hope, even in the face of horrific enemies and truly terrible odds. I have a particular fondness for the movies myself, but you can’t go wrong either way.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter CoversThe whole series is obviously always worth reading or watching again, at any time. Let’s just be clear about that. But, in particular, books 5-7 make up one of the best primers for geeky revolutionaries of all ages. Harry, Hermione, Ron and their friends are just kids, but they don’t let that get in the way of waging a war against the Death Eaters.

 

 

Les Miserables

Les MiserablesDo I even really need to explain this? If Do You Hear the People Sing doesn’t make you feel all the emotions, I really just don’t know what to say. Vive La Resistance!

V for Vendetta

V for VendettaV is for when you really want to embrace the darkness. Beautifully paranoid and bleak, V is also an incredible elegy to humanity’s unwillingness to wither and die in the face of fascism and nuclear holocaust. Incidentally, the film adaptation also allowed me to forgive Natalie Portman for the travesty that is Attack of the Clones. But, let’s not get into that. This is a time for geeks to band together!

 

What’s your fuel for fighting the good fight, fellow geeks? Share in the comments, and we’ll see you in the trenches.

 

 

 

 

 

DCC Spotlight: Our Interview with Amalie Howard

Amalie-HeaderAt this year’s Denver Comic Con we once again had the pleasure of meeting with the awesomely amazing Amalie Howard. She’s award-winning, she’s hysterical and she creates some of the most dynamic and diverse YA protagonists appearing on your reading lists today. During Saturday’s Con session, I got to sit down with her for a little while and ask her all my most burning literary questions. Once I stopped fangirling at her, that is. Below is our interview, edited lightly for clarity, grammar and possibly to make me look less like a squeeeeeing lunatic. It is also from notes, not a recording, so there is some paraphrasing.

Amalie, I’m so excited to be meeting with you again this year and thank you so much for making the time. How are you enjoying DCC 2016?

There is so much energy and enthusiasm this year! And I love seeing all the young people, especially the girls showing their geek colors! It’s great seeing so many families here too!

That makes me wonder: If you ever see someone cosplay as one of your characters at a Con, will that be the moment where you go “Well, I’ve arrived!”? Also, how cool would it be to see someone cosplay from your books?

It would be so awesome, I would love to see that! I mean, come on, that would be amazing. Recognition is great, but validation from fans is the most rewarding.

How awesome would it be to have your books adapted for film or even a series? Is that something you’re hoping for?

Absolutely! There have been discussions about both TV and movie options, but nothing concrete yet. You know, a lot of YA has tanked because the market is getting overwhelmed with repetitive ideas, but I think we can find an audience.

Oh my god, Riven Chronicles would be amazing as a series. I can see it on Netflix or something, it’s got that vibe.

Yeah, that would be really fun. It’s got big fights and sexy romance. And everyone loves to hate the bad guys! You need a good villain.

At this point we went on a rather lengthy tangent about good villains and why we love them, culminating in the conclusion that well written villains are just the best. Sadly, I failed at writing it down because we were talking a million miles an hour. We also pulled a few passersby into our conversation, and at that point, I completely failed at being an interviewer and slid right over the line into just being a fan and a nerd. I apologize to our readers for this failure, next time I will bring a recorder!

So, what’s next for you?

I’m co-writing a historical romance series for adults with Angie Morgan.

[Cue incoherent squealing] Oh my god, seriously?

Yes. It’s set in the Regency period, and the first book comes out on November 21st.

What’s it called?

My Rogue, My Ruin

That is so awesome. I really can’t wait to see what you do with that setting and writing for an adult audience! How did it happen?

Angie and I are in the same YA critique group. It started as just a fun project, to do something a little bit different and it went really well and we sold it! It’s actually a trilogy and the rest of the books will be out in 2017.

Do they have titles yet?

Yes. Book 2 is called My Darling, My Disaster. And Book 3 is My Hellion, My Heart. So they will be out in 2017 and it’s really fun to explore a different setting and writing for an adult audience.

I love the Regency setting. I’m so all about this!

Yes, it’s going to be a fun read for sure! And how awesome is that last title, My Hellion, My Heart? I love it so much.

Me too, so much. Villains and bad guys, yes!

Exactly.

What else new do you have coming up?

Dark Goddess, sequel to Alpha Goddess is out in June 2017.

Oh good! I am really excited for that! Last question: What’s it like to be so awesome?

[Amalie just laughs and refuses to divulge her secrets.]

You can find all of Amalie’s books at her website, and all of her books are available for purchase through Amazon and booksellers everywhere! She’s been an IPPY Silver Medalist, an Amazon #1 bestseller and her work has been recognized for its excellence by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and VOYA. She lives in Colorado with her family and is a secret ninja Jedi Master. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook where she is pithy and hilarious. I promise you won’t be disappointed! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go devour Alpha Goddess again.

Want to read more about Sisters in Geek’s Comic Con Adventures? Go here! And also here!

 

Our Massive To-Be-Read List

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We have a massive To-Be-Read list. Books books books! Here are the ones that we’re most excited about. Comment if we’re missing something new and exciting on our TBR lists!

KayleeFinalHere are authors that I love, and I need to read more of their work!

James S.A. Corey: The Expanse. I’m re-reading this series so that I understand anything happening in book 5. Syfy Channel is also creating a TV show of this series, premiering in December.

Ernest Cline: Armada. Ready Player One was a nerdy triumph. Armada sounds like it will be a very enjoyable read, or in my case listen. Wil Wheaton reads the audible book.

Brian K. Vaughn: Saga. Volume 5 comes out in a few weeks!

Octavia Butler: Seed to Harvest. She has beautiful sentences and fantastic ideas. This is a series of hers I keep seeing on everyone’s suggestion lists.

Jim Butcher: Furies of Calderon, The Cinder Spires. I haven’t gotten to furies of Calderon because I get distracted by the Dresden Files on audiobook. Book one of The Cinder Spires comes out at the end of September, but it is a series, so I may wait for some books to pile up.

Jenny Lawson: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things. In one month we get more serious silliness from The Bloggess.

Brenden Fletcher: Black Canary, Bat Girl. Brenden is co-author with Becky Cloonan on the fabulous Gotham Academy.

Guy Gavriel Kay: Fionavar Tapestry. Guy Gavriel Kay books are always very involved. I’m looking forward to this series.

Brandon Sanderson: The Stormlight Archive. I am excited to read this series and his Reckoners series. I loved The Mistborn Trilogy, and his stand-alone books. I was just waiting for him to get further into these series before I started…

Peter V. Brett: The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle book four). The magic and battles in this series are both so vivid.

John Scalzi: Lock In, Old Man’s War. Scalzi has great, distinctive characters, and great readers on the audiobooks.

Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham: Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar tan line. I have the audiobook read by Veronica Mars, I mean Kristen Bell.

Daniel Abraham: Long Price Quartet. Book one in these series was great. Poetry is magic! I am definitely reading them all.

Noelle Stevenson: Nimona. Noelle Stenvenson wrote Lumberjanes, and volume one of Runaways: Battleworld comes out in December.

Ted Naifeh: Courtney Crumrin. So far this is my favorite type of book, a young girl getting into a ton of trouble and being surly to adults.

Terry Pratchett: Everything. Terry Pratchett is always on my TBR list. I only have a handful of his books left that I haven’t read, and that makes me sad, but then again I’ve been re-reading, (or re-listening), to his books for years. Right now I’m doing the Discworld wizard books again, but my favorites are the Night Watch books.

New authors I want to read: Laline Paull, Robert Holdstock, Ann Leckie, Alastair Reynolds, Catherynne M. Valente.

 

HermioneFinalMy to-be-read piles grow ever scarier with each passing day, threatening to crush me under the weight of over 200 books… luckily this is mostly on my Kindle, so all crushing will be strictly metaphorical.

Despite that unwieldy list, this week sees the release the newest Louise Penny book, The Nature of the Beastand I will be bumping it immediately to the top of my list. This is the 11th installment in Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series and I won’t miss it or put it off.

I’ve also got the latest by one of my chick lit faves, Jen Lancaster’s The Best of Enemies. I can always count on Jen Lancaster for some good snarky fun.

I have a couple of books by Holly Black that I’m anxious to begin — The Coldest Girl In Coldtown, a novel, and The Poison Eaters and Other Stories, a collection of short stories. Black writes about faeries and trolls and vampires and other fantastic creatures in a way that makes them more real than romantic, and I love that.

Joseph Kanon writes amazing spy novels — so well written and genre transcending that you nearly forget you’re reading a spy novel. I’ve got three on my Kindle just calling out “Read me, Shannon, read me!”: The Prodigal SpyLos Alamos, and Leaving Berlin.

Nick Hornby is one of my all-time favorite writers and I’ve had his Funny Girl: A Novel waiting around for some love for way too long.

I’ve also got a 3-book backup by another perennial favorite, Alice Hoffman: The Marriage Of OppositesThe Museum of Extraordinary Things, and one her older books that was re-released for Kindle in late 2014, Fortune’s Daughter .

After finishing Seveneves, I want to read everything else Neal Stephenson has ever written.

I have the first four books of Brian K Vaughan’s Saga to read before volume 5 is released.

And then if I finish all of those… I’ll have barely made a dent. But then I can add Lady Killer and Stumptown to the pile!

 

AryaFinalMy pile of books to be read would be a teetering tower of danger if it weren’t for my Kindle. Here are some of the highlights of what I want to read next.

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. It has music, theatre, the end of the world, and dark, vivid language. I presume I will devour this book in a matter of days, if not hours.

The Martian by Andy Weir. Goal: read this book before the movie comes out. I’m hoping to laugh, possibly cry, and SCIENCE!

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu. Chu did a “Big Idea” post over at John Scalzi’s blog and I was absolutely fascinated by his concept of time travel for profit and avoiding paradoxes. I’m excited for this one.

Speaking of John Scalzi, I would like to read some of his actual books rather than just his epic Twitter feed and fantastic blog. But where to begin, is the question…

Much like Megan, I am absurdly excited for Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things. The Bloggess is The Best, and I expect this book to cause laughter, tears and cheering. Probably all at once.

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells. The first is his John Cleaver series, about a young man who believes he’s a monster. As you all know, I loved the Partials Sequence, and I’m looking forward to more from Wells.

And I’m still sitting on Dancing Barefoot and Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton.

Not to mention the impending arrival of my Fantasy AGE Rulebook as well as the one for Titansgrave.

Help guys! I’m drowning in literature.

 

Hopefully, you’ll see lots of progress as these are converted into reviews on our Book Reviews, if not, send help!!!! Comment if we’re missing anything you’re enjoying right now!

Never Weird? Almost…

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You're Never Weird on the Internet

Felicia Day just released a memoir. Who is she? Felicia Day is creator and star of The Guild, and co-creator of the Geek and Sundry site, packed full of web series. She also is a founder of Vaginal Fantasy, an online book club for romance books. Oh yeah, and she has appeared in Eureka, Supernatural, and Dr. Horrible!

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) is Felicia Day’s love story with the internet. (Although, they did break up that one time.) It is a story most of us are familiar with. The people you know in real life don’t want to talk about your video game poetry obsession. It is also a story about when we had to walk uphill both ways to get anything done online. For instance, funding and promoting a show before there was Kickstarter or social media, or anyone even knew what a web series was. It is an inspirational tale for people just starting to share their internet weirdness. It is a map of the potential pitfalls to creativity and sanity.

Felicia Day’s word choice is perfectly ridiculous. “Stay Puft Marshmallow of Doom!” She writes a beautiful comedy that made me laugh a bit too much to seem normal in public. What does the public know, though? With their books that don’t make them laugh hysterically?

Felicia has met some of the weirdest people, and you get to meet them too! She has such a relaxed writing style, that it feels like you’d hear all these stories drinking with your friend. Probably with some “THAT CAN’T HAVE HAPPENED!” thrown in. No really, did all of that really happen?

I realized halfway through the book that I actually met Kim Evey, producer of The Guild, at SDCC last year. She came over to say hello to my friend Tabz. I said something nervously like “Hi” or “Nice to meet you.” Now that I know how hard creating The Guild was, I need a time machine to go back and fix that. I didn’t realize there was DVD shipping hell! I’m thankful that everyone involved in The Guild stuck it out so Tinkerballa could inspire me. I always think of her when boys are giving me a tough time for being a gamer. Tinkerballa doesn’t put up with that, also can you go mine some gold for her?

Never Weird also delves into some serious drama that we all experience to some degree, when people on the internet decide you shouldn’t be allowed a viewpoint because of your sex, age, race, orientation, etc. Also, with a bit of, I’m going to have a very strong opinion about someone I didn’t even bother to google.

Felicia poses a problem in her book, that we, the internet can absolutely solve. She describes how the hateful and awful comments stick with her, but the nice comments don’t. Now having too often read the comments, I can tell you, the good comments are often all the same and not very vivid. They are often similar to “I love you!”, “Love your show!”,”You’re great!” etc. These aren’t as eye catching as hateful ones. I feel like some of our passion is lost. Let’s all take some time to make sure we write nice comments that she’ll never forget! Word choice and passion! We can do this!

Felicia Day, you’re a fiery badass Pixie of Nerdom! (Pixies of Nerdom have comic book wings, obviously.)

If you love The Guild, read this book. If you love Felicia, read this book. If you need a funny guide to starting your own internet work and promoting it, read it. Also, internet nerds, female gamers, female nerds, this is a book about us. READ IT!

FIVE STARS Tiny-Alien

Imagine Going to Hogwarts in Gotham!

Becky-Cloonan-Interview

Becky Cloonan is a comic book writer and artist. She co-writes Gotham Academy with Brenden Fletcher and artist Karl Kerschl. Volume one collecting comics 1-6 was recently released in paperback and kindle.

Sisters In Geek: Everyone should be reading Gotham Academy. It’s character-driven, mystery-solving fun with loot. You’ve listed Harry Potter as an influence. I’d add early Harry Potter when they still talked about every flavor jellybeans, and had fun adventures. Please give us your best sales pitch, in case we have some holdouts.

Gotham-Academy-Icon2Becky Cloonan: Imagine going to Hogwarts in Gotham! I think like so many people I was left with a big Potter shaped hole in my heart when the series ended, and I wouldn’t go as far as to say Gotham Academy will fill that hole, but that series is certainly one of our touchtones. As is Batman the Animated Series, Nancy Drew mysteries, even Scooby-Doo. The book is a lot of fun, and perfect for new comic readers and long-time Batman fans alike! It really is our love letter to Gotham, folded up into a little square: Gotham City, do you like us? Y/N.

SIG: I feel that you, Brenden, and Karl have somehow won the comic book lottery. How great is it to be doing something completely NEW in the batman universe?

Becky-Cloonan4Becky Cloonan: Oh, it’s the best!! DC has been so supportive of this book too! It’s really hard to get people excited about new characters sometimes, but I’m very happy that people respond and love the kids of Gotham Academy just as much as we do. It’s also really exciting to be adding to Batman history! We are all huge fans so the book is a ton of fun, but the responsibility of making it the best we can is not lost on us!

SIG: Maps is a young girl who gleefully talks about lessons learned during role-playing campaigns, and how she needs to loot everything.  Are you ever worried about Maps being so cute that she’ll steal every scene?

maps3Becky Cloonan: Wait, you mean she doesn’t steal every scene? We’ll just have to make her cuter! Haha Maps is one of my favorite characters. She is an absolute delight to write, because she is so comfortable with herself. She knows exactly who she is and makes no apologies for it! And she likes RPG’s, so yeah. I definitely relate to her on a lot of levels.

SIG: You had a career in comics already as an artist. What made you take on writing too? Are you showing off?

Becky-Cloonan2Becky Cloonan:  *Puts on sunglasses* Actually, I’ve always written– but I think most of my more well-known books have been with writers. I’ve been lucky to work with some of the best in the business too. This is the first comic I’m writing for somebody else to draw, and working with Karl Kerschl has been just incredible. We lucked out!

SIG: Olive and team have already found a lot of secrets at Gotham Academy. I’m hoping it is a big place? Lots more secrets, and lots more comic book issues?

MapsBecky Cloonan: This is Gotham! Of course there are lots more secrets. We’ll need a lot of issues to uncover all of them, so keep your flashlight and compass at the ready.

SIG: You’ve collaborated on great comics, and created your own. What has been your biggest revelation on how to imagine and create great work?

Becky-Cloonan3Becky Cloonan: Every comic is different. They start differently, they end differently, and each process is unique to that book. I never want to repeat myself either, so I think it’s important to give enough thought and time for each new comic to develop properly. Sometimes you have a great idea, but the timing isn’t quite right— just put it on the back burner to simmer. Maybe one day you’ll get to it, maybe one day you won’t! It’s important not to be too precious about ideas, because tomorrow you will always have another one!

Check out Becky’s website! She has award winning stand-alone comics, a hilarious about page, and a lot of comic collections and series you should start.

Buy Gotham Academy Volume 1 at Amazon or check out our review if you still aren’t convinced.

Art by Becky Cloonan and Karl Kerschl

 

That Time Some Books Tried to Kill Me

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(Note: For the four of you who may have seen it before, this is a reblog of a post I wrote for my personal blog a couple of years ago. Nothing’s changed and we thought it was worthy of a Sisters In Geek post, because… BOOKS.)

Some people like a nice beach read in the summer months — something quick and easy, a book that won’t necessarily stick with you for a long time after you read it, or something that’s just fun. Other people like to go really deep and take the classics on vacation. Anna Karenina on the beach, anyone? I’m somewhere in the middle — I don’t want to struggle through anything terribly deep when it’s 100 degrees outside, but I also don’t go in for complete frivolity all summer long. So it’s usually a combination of chick lit, spy novels, and maybe one or two more challenging books just to keep it interesting. Summer is also a time when I get to feeling nostalgic, and I like to revisit my all-time favorites. And for whatever reason, my all-time favorites tend to be books that make me do the Ugly Cry.

The very first book that ever tried to break me was A Little Princess. I may have cried a bit over a book here and there beforehand, but I can’t recall one that made me do the copious snot/sore throat/uncontrollable tears weeping before this one. I was 10 years old, my parents had gone into the hardware store’s lumberyard on a Saturday afternoon, leaving me in the car to read, and came back out to find me silently sobbing over the fate of Sara Crewe.

Next up was The Outsiders, which I think I read for the first time in 6th grade. This book changed me. I didn’t realize it until much later in life — maybe only recently. But there was so much in it that I related to even at the age of 12, and so much that opened my eyes. And yeah, it made me cry. And I think what made me cry was seeing myself in the main character. People read as much as I do growing up because they feel a little bit alone and a little bit on the outside. And obviously that’s kind of the central theme of this book — feeling overlooked.

At one point, I had read it so many times that I knew it nearly by heart. I’m a bit rusty on it now.

 

A family friend gave me Exodus when I was in 8th grade. This is the same family friend who introduced me to Monty Python, poetry, Masterpiece and the BBC, and Jane Austen, so obviously her taste is impeccable. She always seemed to kind of know my heart without me having to say a whole lot, so I’m certain she knew I would find a lot to love in this book. It’s a fictionalized account of the founding of Israel following World War II. My previous experiences with devastated sobbing at the hands of a book were a mere warm up for this one. It’s another one I’ve read at least 100 times, and I always play this game when I re-read it every few years to see how far I can get before the first tear drops onto the page. I never get past page 60 or so. And the end? Forget it. I’ve never read it through clear eyes.

I can’t think of any books that I read in high school or college that touched me the way all of these have, but almost immediately upon college graduation and moving across the country from my family came this book, Girl. It’s the story of a high school girl in Portland in the early 1990s, and the music scene in that city and Seattle. It cut right through to the heart of me and I remember wondering how a male writer could know so well what it was like to be a teenage girl. They once made a super shitty movie out of it, trying to make it a comedy. This is not a comedy. It’s not depressing, either, but it is the very definition of bittersweet.

I discovered Skipped Parts later in my 20s and Tim Sandlin remains on my list of favorite writers to this day. This was kind of what all the bookish hipsters were reading in, like, 1997 — Tim Sandlin and Infinite Jest. This book is a coming of age tale of a 13-year-old boy in a small Wyoming mountain town (faux-Jackson, really) who doesn’t quite fit in, and his first romance with a girl in his class — I don’t want to give too much away because it’s too good but ultimately kind of devastating, though not in a Fault In Our Stars kind of direction. I just love how Tim Sandlin captures the teen angst without mocking it and that feeling — again — of being the outsider. Kind of a recurring theme for me…

Sister of My Heart is so lyrical and beautiful you nearly forget later on how devastating it is. You just know from the beginning that these two girls are doomed in a way. The book begins on the night they’re born and I was sad from the get go because I just knew it couldn’t end well. But it’s GORGEOUS. You have to read it. I mean, no one dies or anything. Come on!

So yes — I picked this up after Seth Cohen referred to it on The O.C. and gave a copy to Ryan. And wow — am I glad I did. I’m normally a person who gets pissy about prize-winning books because they are never quite my thing — usually they are too deep or weird or painfully depressing, or all three. But this! This is a beautiful book about the lives of comic artist cousins who are more brothers than all that. It’s just a beautiful book — I don’t know what to say about it other than that. Really if you’ve never read it, just read it. It’s not about comics, not really. It’s about families and love and all that good stuff. It tried to kill me but really it just made me stronger. Because it’s soooooo good. (Incidentally, this the ONLY book I ever give to people. The only one. I am always reticent to be all, “Ohh, you have to read this.” But with this book — YES.)

Mockingjay was the perfect end to the perfect series. I began doing the ugly cry intermittently early on — second or third chapter or so — and then sobbed for the last quarter of the book. I hadn’t owned my Kindle very long when this book was released, and I had a terrible time figuring out how to clear the screen of tear stains. I really thought this was as bad as YA could get in terms of heartbreaking devastation, but I was proven wrong a couple of years later with The Fault In Our Stars.

So no. We weren’t going to get through this without a Harry Potter book. There are places throughout the series that make me cry — some more now that it’s all over than when I was first reading them. But the last several chapters of The Deathly Hallows make me do the ugly cry. Beginning with what Harry sees in the Pensieve after witnessing Snape’s death, and then his walk into the forest, and all that follows — holy shit! It’s like the cumulation of all the things that make me cry in books — death, love, orphans. The usual.

 Ahhh yes, The Fault In Our Stars. Killer book of all killer books. Devastating and beautiful and funny and sad, I remember reading it the first time through with my mouth hanging open, amazed that someone could do THIS with words. There is a very real part of me that loves John Green.

 

The year after my older sister died, I just wanted the catharsis of a good solid cry, so all the books I sought out provided that. Ten Thousand Saints is a painful read for about the first third and then gets into a less depressing rhythm of beauty tinged with sadness. I found the ending happy in its way. This is another one I’d love to recommend more but when people read it, they get upset because the first third is so hard to read. It takes place amidst the straight edge punk scene of the 1980s, mainly in Greenwich Village. Give it a chance!

 

Another coming of age tale, Tell The Wolves I’m Home is a beautiful story about sisters and family and art and love and all that stuff. It felt cathartic. It caused ugly crying. Of course it did, because it was about sisters who both loved and hated each other at the same time but couldn’t live without each other. For obvious reasons, I’ll never read another book about sisters again without sobbing if it’s well done. Perhaps the rest of you have better self-control.

 

I didn’t read The Perks of Being a Wallflower till after the movie came out — I hadn’t seen the movie, but I had heard a lot about it, and honestly I’m just more likely to pick up a book first than see a movie based on said book. So I read this, and it damn near killed me in its perfect depiction of a shy bookish boy trying to figure out his high school years and cope with some tragedy in his past that he keeps buried.

This passage was probably my favorite part:

“I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled. There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. Doing jumps and having races. And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up someday. And all of those little kids are going to do the things that we do. And they will all kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn’t.” 

But then, there is also this…

The Dovekeepers is a fictionalized account of the events at Masada after the Romans drove all the Jews out of Jerusalem. Because it is Alice Hoffman, it focuses on the women — four particular women whose paths cross when they are given the task of caring for doves. Also because it is Alice Hoffman, it is lyrical and beautiful and even as I was sobbing my way through it, I was marveling at its beauty. The fantastic thing about this book, being based on a historical event, is that you know it’s not going to end well, so you go into it with clear eyes. That doesn’t make it less devastating, but at least you can brace yourself.

I keep telling myself that, anyway.

Which brings us to this little gem. Eleanor and Park. I knew it was going to break me the minute Eleanor walked onto that damn bus and started reading Park’s comic books. It’s got all my favorite things in a book — teenage misfits, music, books. I related the most to Park, not to Eleanor — I think I was a lot like Park back in high school. Possibly still am.

Also it had this to say about music…

Anyway. Like they always say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Now I’m a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. Maybe about your own favorite books worthy of an ugly cry…

Your Kindle Is Now Full: A Guide to the Amazing Authors of Denver Comic Con

Denver Comic Con this past weekend was an amazing, inspiring and utterly awesome experience. There are too many great memories and interactions to pick any one favorite, but a definite highlight for me was meeting and chatting with some very cool local book authors. Some we were able to sit down with formally and do interviews and some we just chatted up at their booths, or on the con floor. Look for our in-depth interviews soon, and keep your eyes peeled for all of our upcoming reviews of the novels, comics and short stories we picked up at Con. For now, here’s a list of the talented and engaging book authors we met this past weekend, to give you a taste of what we’ll be reading for the next, well, ever. We’ll do comic book writers separately, because there are a lot. We hope you find someone or something on the list that’s right up your alley!

Amalie Howard– Amalie writes super cool YA across a lot of different genres, playing with the themes of identity, self acceptance and the occasional fighting of demons. Like you do. I’m starting with Bloodspell and Alpha Goddess, two of her stand alone titles, but she writes series as well, if you want to dive into something longer.

Sue Duff– Sue is the author of the ongoing YA series, The Weir Chronicles. Of a planned 5 book series, the first 2 are available now. The Weir Chronicles has magic and mystery set in our modern-day world of cell phones and social media. Her imagination is as deep as her commitment to her characters. If you’re into illusion, earth sciences and trying to save the world from destruction, this might be the series for you!

Gail Wagner– Gail writes a series for young adults about demon fighting leprechauns. Do I really need to say more? Who doesn’t love demon fighting leprechauns? On the off-chance that’s not your thing, Gail also has a series starting with Let Her Sleep about dreams, love and the raging battle between Good and Evil. I think it doesn’t have any leprechauns, though.

Amanda Strong– I plan to start reading Amanda’s books with her series The Monsters Among Us. Because I like things that are scary and mysterious. I think this series just might keep me guessing. If paranormal romance with angels and demons is more up your alley, I say check out her other series The Watchers Men, starting with The Awakener. That one is for sure going on my list too. Right after I’m finished with letting Hidden Monster scare the crap outta me.

DelSheree Gladden– Relationships are so complicated when you’re young, especially when one of you is invisible. I’m excited to check out Delsheree’s Aerling series. Delsheree clearly has a love for all things supernatural, and I’m betting anyone with a hankering for something out of this world will find something they like in Delsheree’s collection. She has, I believe, 5 series started and available to date.

Dan Wells– Dan writes about teenagers who, among other things, might be serial killers or have to save the world after the apocalypse. You know, typical kid stuff. He also has non YA books for a twist on all YA, all the time vibe of this post. I’m excited to get started with the Partials series, because I can’t say no to the end of world, and after that, I plan to read The Hollow City about a man who finds out that some of the monsters he thinks he’s hallucinating are totally real.

Bonnie Burton– Bonnie is the author of the absolutely fabulous Star Wars Craft Book, which is fun for all ages. I’m going to be diving into her non-fiction book Girls Against Girls, which while geared towards YA readers, I think is going to be valuable information for any age. She also does about a million other things that are awesome and if I listed them all, we’d be here all day.

What all these fantastic authors we met this weekend have in common is this: They’re awesome, they’re passionate about what they write, they had no problem with us fawning over them all weekend at Con and they were all about as kind and lovely as you want a human to be. And I’m not just saying that cause they gave me bookmarks and stickers and googly eyes. I’m saying it because I love people who love books, and these people love books.

To learn more about Denver Comic Con and their partnership with Pop Culture Classroom, check out their websites here: Denver Comic Con Pop Culture Classroom

Life’s Too Short to Read Bad Detective Novels

Detective-Novels

Let’s just get this on the table right now: You’re going to hear the Sisters In Geek talk a lot about addiction. But not, like, drug or alcohol or sex addiction. It’s going to be more like, “We are addicted to all of the things like books and comics and movies and superheroes and games and Funko Pop toys and dragons and…”

Sorry. But we are addicted to things. And one of my addictions is detective novels.

My addiction to detective novels was a natural progression from the years I spent obsessing over Harry Potter. Some people might have found their solace at the ending of the Harry Potter book era in the world of fantasy books, others by immersing themselves in YA dystopian and paranormal fiction, still others moving on to Outlander, or even to paranormal romance. Me? I was looking for something more… well, more British than all of that. I wanted a voice that sounded like it came from somewhere inside the United Kingdom (I was not choosy about specific locales), and I wanted quintessentially English backdrops, and talk of full English breakfasts and phrases like “faffing about”.

And if you think about it, Harry, Hermione and Ron were kind of starring in detective stories all along – nearly all seven books had a mystery they had to solve, as part of the overarching grander mission of the series as a whole. My initial attraction to Harry Potter stemmed, at least in part, from a childhood filled with the Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown (did other girls read those or was that just me?). There was something about the first three books that read like books about young detectives and so it was partly out of nostalgia that I picked them up in the first place. And it was never really the magic that kept me coming back for more – it was the writing, the characters, the laughs, the vivid settings.

So post-Harry Potter, the things I was looking for in books were a tall order. But I found them in detective novels. And let’s be real: the body counts in murder mysteries don’t even approach Harry Potter levels. In the beginning, I stuck primarily to British authors and British detectives, but eventually I expanded my horizons to places like Italy and Greece and Canada.

I’ve learned a few things from reading these books: Learn some basic self-defense skills. Always check the back seat of your car before you get in. Always carry a weapon that you know how to use when you go to meet a potential bad guy alone. And? Life is too short to read bad detective novels. So, if you’re in need of a book fix, check out some of these:

Adam Dalgliesh, by PD James. I actually cried when PD James passed away earlier this year. Her series about Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh was my first post-Potter foray into detective novels and I have never regretted my time spent reading any of her books. There were fourteen books in this series at the time of her death, and she had also written a few volumes in a spin-off series, as well as a couple of standalones (including the Pride and Prejudice fanfic, Death Comes to Pemberley). Her writing is filled with the kinds of details often missing in mediocre detective fiction, and she created characters you can always relate to – which in some cases is horrendously disturbing. Start this series with Cover Her Face.

Alex Delaware series, by Jonathan Kellerman. Alex Delaware isn’t a detective per se – he’s a psychiatrist who consults to the LAPD on murder cases that require profiling. Mostly he works with a grumpy detective named Milo Sturgis, and the cases can get pretty grisly, which I dig. Sometimes there are serial killers! Obviously this is not British in any way, shape, or form, but I started reading the series when I was pregnant with my son and can’t quit them. Kellerman has written a spin off series about another detective, as well as a few standalone novels that are also quite good. In this series, he’s just published the 30th volume, so if you’re into it, it can keep you busy for a while. Start with When The Bough Breaks.

Commissario Brunetti, by Donna Leon. These books take place in Venice, and the detail of Brunetti’s work and everyday life in that most fascinating of Italian cities are so addicting that it’s easy to forgive Leon for occasional transgressions into the formulaic. The first several books were published in Europe before being made available in the U.S. so there are 24 volumes in the series. Start with Death at La Fenice.

 Cormoran Strike, by Robert Galbraith (wink wink, nudge nudge). It’s early days with just two volumes published in this series, but I think the compelling cases and the characters of Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin were enough to cement it on my list of must-reads. And it rather proves my point about how one is meant to follow up Harry Potter with detective fiction. If you get what I mean. Start with The Cuckoo’s Calling.

Inspector Armand Gamache, by Louise Penny. Louise Penny’s series about Chief Inspector Gamache of the Surete de Quebec has the most in common with the work of P.D. James, both in style and tone. She allows the stories and the mysteries to unfold slowly, letting the reader into the lives of the characters in the small Quebec town of Three Pines. I have a literary crush on Jean-Guy Beauvoir. There. I said it. Start this series with Still Life.

Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series, by Faye Kellerman. I discovered the writer wife of Jonathan Kellerman in the library one day – their books are shelved next to one another (imagine that!). Faye Kellerman writes about a different branch of the LAPD, featuring a murder investigator named Peter Decker and his wife Rina. Decker’s home life as an Orthodox Jew is central to the story and it’s been fun following along as his family grows up. This series just saw the publication of the 22nd book, with a 23rd to follow in October 2015. It amuses me to imagine the Kellermans trying to one-up each other with grisly death scenes and publication deadlines. Start this series with The Ritual Bath

Precious Ramotswe, by Alexander McCall Smith. Smith is a Scot who grew up in Botswana and his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series starring the incomparable Precious Ramotswe is set in that country, in a small city on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Precious sets up as a private detective and goes about solving mysteries both large and small. This series is more about people and Africa than it is about murders and serial killers, and the voice of the central character is a delight. If you try these and like them, you’ll also be a fan of Smith’s other work, including the Isobel Dalhousie books and the 44 Scotland Street series. Start with The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

 Ruth Galloway, by Elly Griffiths. I was sad when I finished reading all the Inspector Gamache books so my friend gifted me the first book in this series about forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, a 40-something university professor who is called in to assist Norfolk police with their discovery of a set of ancient bones. My friend knew I would love them and I do – I haven’t stopped reading since beginning a week ago, and I’m nearly finished with the first six books in the series. Luckily the seventh comes out in May of this year, but I don’t what I’m supposed to read after that. Start this series with The Crossing Places.

Honestly I could probably go on for days because, you know… BOOKS! But I’m going to leave you now with a handful of other author suggestions, and a few that you might want to just skip, because life’s too short for bad detective novels.

 Honorable Mentions: Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily mysteries; Anna Dean’s Dido Kent mysteries; Susanna Gregory’s Matthew Bartholomew mysteries; Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series; Agatha Christie (obviously!); Arthur Conan Doyle (duh!); Edgar Wallace.

Proceed With Caution: Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series (formulaic and racist in later volumes); Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford books (dated sexism); Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series (a little hard-boiled for me, but still good reads); Petros Markaris’ Inspector Costas Haritos series (takes place in Athens, well written, but dour as hell).

Don’t. Just Don’t: Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan books (this annoying private detective is the one who prompted this list); Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels (just because they’re best sellers doesn’t make them good – stick with the Amazon tv series). And finally, under no circumstances do I recommend that you ever read any of Jonathan and Faye Kellerman’s collaborative books. They are… not good.

So. I need something new to read. What are everyone else’s favorites??

 

What is a Taste Review? Nom Nom Nom

How often has a friend convinced you to read a book they loved, and you hated it? A simple star rating, or a “you must read this” recommendation just isn’t enough to know if you’ll love a book. Everyone has things they look for in books. Our taste review breaks down all the important details of a book, to let you know if it has what you love, and warn you about things you might hate.

We’ve set up our Review page so that you can choose what type of book you want for your next read. There are even custom graphics so you can eyeball what a book includes without even clicking on the link to its details. Here’s an example:

DEMO-GOT3

In the top row of icons we show basic information about the book, and what it contains. The bottom row warns you about things that may make you hate this book.  A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is a perfect example, since it contains all the warnings we created.

Let’s go over what these handy icons mean. First we give you the all-important information of whether a book is a stand-alone, Stand-alonepart of a completed book series, Series-completeor part of an incomplete series that is still being written.Series-incomplete Then we describe whether the point of view is in the first person POV-1st-final or the third person. POV-3rd-final  Third person includes omniscient, limited omniscient, and objective point of views to simplify things. We also include the sex of the main POV character, using the male and female symbols. If there are multiple POV characters, such as in A Game of Thrones, then you’ll see both the male and female symbol.  Next, is the tone of the book serious Serious-finalor light-hearted Light-hearted? We define the tone by what the voice of the book is like in stressful moments in the book. When the characters are in danger is the tone worried or joking? We found for the most part, books are serious. However, if you prefer books where the author is being ridiculous during climactic scenes, search on light-hearted books. Terry Pratchett has personally written over forty light-hearted books.

Since most books do take serious moments seriously, it is good to know if the book has funny moments. We indicate how much humor there is with HAs.  A Game of Thrones is only occasionally funny so it has one HA. Books that have comedy throughout get three HAs.

Finally, we get to the love, sex and violence. The icons will be missing if there isn’t any, but we like those things, so don’t worry. Love and sex are represented by an obvious heart and sex text. If we indicate there is sex, that means there are sex scenes, not just between chapter sex. The violence we break up into types of combat.

Small-scale  This represents small-scale combat, that has fewer participants.

Large-Scale-cleaned-up This one is for large-scale army vs army combat, or larger group combat.

All the above icons are things you can search on to narrow down the type of book you’d like to read. However, we also created warnings for the things that we’ve found annoying at times. Obviously, if the star rating is high, we’ve loved the book despite these things. Still, in recommending the book, we feel it is only fair to warn you if any of the following happen.

square-characters-at-risk CHARACTERS AT RISK! You’ll spend a lot of time worrying about your favorite characters. They may all survive, but still, you spent all that time worrying.

Tissues-Warning-Stop-Sign68-4 TISSUE WARNING! Don’t read this book in public, and stock up on tissues.

Complex-Plot4COMPLEX PLOT! This is a book you may have to take notes on while reading, then re-read it, then still not agree with 90% of other readers as to what actually happened. Although this is a warning, some readers may look for this kind of book. Who wants a predictable or easily understood plot anyway?

ICKICK FACTOR! Something grossed us out and is disgusting. On the Taste Review post we’ll have a hidden spoiler field, where you can check what the gross thing is. This is a good place for us to warn you of violent baby death, rape, or animals genetically engineered to have the faces of dead friends.

Slow-Pace5SLOW PACE! This warning applies to books that have less plot progress for their size than normally happens. Some of us have no patience for plots that after five books seem to have made little progress. However, slow paced books can get very detailed, and describe every conversation, have deeper character development, and spend more time on world building. For some, a slow paced book may be exactly what you are looking for.  You can decide for yourself if this or any other warning is positive or a negative.

Now go search our reviewed books for your next read.

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