3 Reviews: Homegoing, Tipping the Velvet, & A Silent Voice

homecomingTitle: Homegoing
Author: Yaa Gyasi
Date Completed: August 11, 2016
Format: Hardcopy
Rating: 4/5
Synopsis: Multi-generational story follows two half-sisters (one sold into slavery, one married to a British slaver) and their descendants.
Thoughts: Homegoing was absolutely beautiful. It was well written, and the style light enough to be quickly readable, but without the sacrifice of quality or depth. Each chapter focused on a different family member/generation, alternating between the two branches. The story did not get bogged down in detail, but looked at a highlight or defining moment of a given family member’s life. Even though each character only had one chapter, they are fully formed and fit within their time, location, and experience.

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tipping-velvet-2Title: Tipping the Velvet
Author: Sarah Waters
Date Completed: September 1, 2016
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 2/5
Synopsis: Nan King leaves home to be the dresser for male impersonator, Kitty Butler. As the attraction they have for each other grows, Nan joins Kitty on stage. Eventually, their relationship sours, and Nan must make her own way in London.
Thoughts: The good – Sarah Waters did a phenomenal job with details. The characters were fully formed, settings and scenes are in-depth, but not overwhelming, and I liked the ease with which various characters wore their gender fluidity/identity. The bad – Nan was whiny, self-absorbed, shallow, and didn’t seem to be able to make the connection between her actions and the consequences they brought about. If I had read the book instead of listened to it, the book would have hit the wall multiple times because of Nan’s oblivious idiocy. She did, thankfully, experience some redemption and happiness at the end.

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silent-voice-4Title: A Silent Voice, Vol 4-6
Author/Illustrator: Yoshitoki Ooima
Date Completed: September 20, 2016
Format: Hardcopy
Rating: 4/5
Synopsis: Shoya continues to try to redeem his childhood actions, and build a friendship with Shoko, while relearning to interact with other childhood classmates.
Thoughts: I love, love, love this manga! It is full of feels, and can be painful to read at times. Shoya is still trying to figure out how to be a better person, and has a hard time of it because old classmates (who also implicitly or explicitly bullied Shoko) keep trying to pull Shoko back onto their orbits. No single character is good or bad; all of them are a mix of the two. Even Shoko harbors a darker side. A defining event with her, forces the other characters to evaluate their flaws and behaviors. Naoka is the only character who really drives me nuts. I know there has to be a backstory as to why she behaves this way, but she is selfish, petty, and cruel.

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Emma PopSugar

With less than four months left in 2016, I am finally ready to devote my reading challenge attention to PopSugar’s 2016 Ultimate Reading Challenge. The good thing is that if I retroactively add books I’ve already read this year, I’m at 24 out of 40 categories. The bad thing is that I just realized that in addition to the Ultimate Reading Challenge, PopSugar also has smaller, seasonal challenges – like Ultimate Fall Reading Challenge. *sigh* Being the book-masochist that I am, I now need to participate in both. And if/when their Ultimate Winter Reading Challenge appears, I will have to do that one as well.

Favorites So Far

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*Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs – This book had me with it’s basic description: Jane, a recently fired, and now intoxicated, children’s librarian gets mistaken for a deer on the side of a dark road, is shot and turned into a vampire. Jane is funny, a bit clumsy, and lives on the sassy side of the fence. She has to navigate being newly undead with an oblivious Southern, micromanaging mama, a “well, bless your heart!” vampire real estate agent, and being framed for (attempted) murder. I absolutely love this series, and Amanda Ronconi is an awesome narrator.

*Bryony and Roses – One of the most original retellings of Beauty and the Beast. It is my current favorite. The curse is utterly creepy; a nice imagining of the general B&B mythology. Bryony is sarcastic and self-reliant, and the resolution once the curse is broken makes sense.

Notable Reads: A Court of Mist and Fury, Armada, Eligible, Modern Romance

Completed Tasks

1.) Fairy tale – Bryony and Roses
3.) YA bestseller – The Girl at Midnight
5.) Set in home state – The Dirt on the Ninth Grave (I am also an ABQ girl transplanted in NY)
8.) Set in Europe – Naughty in Nice
9.) Under 150 pages – Reader Abduction
14.) Finish in a day – Agent to the Stars (audiobook at 1.5x while doing chores on a Saturday)
15.) Celebrity author – I’ll Never Write My Memoirs
18.) 600+ pages – A Court of Mist and Fury
20.) Sci-fi – Armada
21.) Family member recommendation – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Library (step-mom)
22.) Graphic novel – Delilah Dirk & the King’s Shilling
23.) Published in 2016 – Homegoing
24.) Protagonist same occupation – Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs (former children’s librarians)
26a.) A book… – Her Royal Spyness
26b.) …and its prequel – Masked Ball at Broxley Manor
27.) Murder mystery – And Then There Were None
28.) Comedian author – Modern Romance
30.) Blue cover – The Rest of Us Just Live Here
33.) 20th century classic – Murder on the Orient Express
34.) Library book – Eligible
35.) Autobiography – Life
37.) Unfamiliar culture – Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back
38.) Satire – Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
39.) Takes place on an island – Into the Dim
40.) Guaranteed to bring you joy – As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

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Next Next Again

I am finally reading the last book of my first Next Next Hold List (The Rook by Daniel O’Malley). It has taken me 7 1/2 weeks to read most of my 20 books because my attention was diverted by too many other books (isn’t that always the case?). Of my original list of books, I’ve finished only 13. Four books I returned unread. Either because once I flipped through them they lost their appeal, or because I had already maxed out my renewals. The other three books I started, but didn’t finish.

Returned Unread
The Night Circus (Still want to read)
Notorious RBG (Didn’t catch my fancy after flipping through it.)
Infectious Madness (Husband said author spent too much time writing about what the book will be about as opposed to just writing it.)
Dead Wake (Still want to read)

Unfinished
Ivory and Bone (I have a hard time with first person present. The story was boring and the characters uninteresting.)
One Piece Omnibus, Vol 34-36 (The whole thing is starting to feel redundant.)
And I Darken (Lada is obnoxious and tries to hard to be her strong/evil self, Radu is whiny and annoying. The story plodded, and after skipping around reading a few pages here and there, found that I had no desire to read the entire book.)

So…Now that my completion was only marginally successful, and because it is entirely impossible for me to learn my lesson regarding book-eyes being larger than book-stomach, I have refilled my Next Next Hold List with 26 more books. Yay! I am blithely ignoring the dozens of books hanging around my house, desperately waiting to be read.

gentleman ghoul-to-do gilded-cage hopefuls ice-cube it-happened-one-autumn jungle-of-stone magonia nerve paper-and-fire sabriel silent-voice-4 big-tiny city-and-city clash-of-eagles naked-in-death prom-goer regulars school-for-unusual-girls winter woman-in-cabin-10 constance-verity geeks-guide hemingses-of-montecello

The Gentleman – A poet accidentally sold his wife to the devil and has to get her back – Wodehouse/Monty Python-style
The Gilded Cage – American girl inherits English estate with her brother. Brother dies; is it murder? Is she crazy?
A Silent Voice, Vol 4-6 – Continuation of Shoya’s change from a bully to a reformed friend.
Paper and Fire – Library controls dystopian world. After surviving initiation, mistakes are made and the Library is after them.
Magonia – Sickly Earth girl joins the sky, finds powers, finds war.
Naked in Death – Romancy murder mystery.
Sabriel – Sabriel must rescue her father, save the world, and learn of her destiny.
It Happened One Autumn – Buccaneer seeks English peer for marriage, romance and betrayal ensue.
What’s a Ghoul to Do? – Ghostly problems and a murder.
The Woman in Cabin 10 – Agatha Christie-type murder mystery on a luxury cruise ship.
The City & the City – Rich city, poor city. Both overlap the same physical space. A murder investigation crosses the cities’ borders.
The Hopefuls – Upwardly climbing young Washingtonians ruin marriage and friendships.
The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion – An interstellar adventure to rescue an abducted prom date.
The Big Tiny: A Built-it-myself Memoir – Revamp life, scale down to tiny size, find emotional freedom.
Clash of Eagles – Romans invade North America.
Winter – Snow White gets the Lunar Chronicles treatment.
The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love – High school geek crush + New York Comic Con.
A School for Unusual Girls – Regency era girl’s school reforms the ton’s embarrassments into spies.
Jungle of Stone – Explorers discover the lost civilization of the Maya.
The Last Adventure of Constance Verity – Sick of saving the world, Constance Verity wants to reset her destiny.
Nerve – Live streaming game of dares gets out of control.
Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube – California girl sets out to survive in Alaska and Norway.
The Regulars: A Novel – Girls take drug to make them pretty, but at what cost?
The Hemingses of Montecello – Jefferson’s other family and descendants.

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Reading Decathlon – Gold Medalist!

In late July, I was struck down by a reading rut, the result of struggling to finish a much anticipated book that left me almost totally disappointed.  When my sister sent me a link to Epic Reads’ Reading Decathlon a few weeks later, I realized it might be the perfect way to break free of the funk and clear out my library pile to boot.  I decided to go whole hog and attempt a gold medal by reading 10 novels in 10 days.  I chose my books strategically, taking into account length, readability, and due dates.  I also picked up 5 graphic novels as a contingency plan, so I could at least claim silver if the gold became unreachable.

It worked out perfectly – starting at approximately 7pm on August 14th and ending at 7pm August 24th, I made it through 10 books AND got my reading mojo back.  Here’s what I read:

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – This continuation of one of my all-time favorite series was fantastic.  Though a play script is obviously considerably bare bones compared to a prose novel, I had no trouble becoming immersed in Rowling’s magical universe again.  The new characters (offspring of the original kids) were fun to explore, and the story itself was compelling.

 

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Hot Milk – The plot outline of this short novel appealed to me on a personal level – a stagnating 20-something struggling with relationships old and new and not particularly healthy.  I appreciated some of the interactions between the main character and her hypochondriac mother and enjoyed the setting in coastal Spain.  It’s an odd, poetic book, but ultimately not wholly engrossing for me.

 

2571656713 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl – This book was rough.  I have seen it touted as darkly clever and funny.  Dark – very.  Clever – sometimes.  Funny – not nearly as much as it needed to be.  She makes some truly wry and concise observations, but there isn’t enough humor to balance out the negativity.  An intense book doesn’t have to be funny, but this one shouldn’t be recommended as a comedic look at the darker aspects of body image.

 

24832518The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love – This book was just plain sweet.  It’s a quick, easy read with utterly relatable characters and a refreshingly realistic take on relationships both platonic and romantic.  Also, the story is set mostly at NYC Comic Con so it’s chock full of nerdy fandom references from across the board.

 

5618698Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs – This is a highly entertaining read.  The main character is snarky and relatable, and the story is reasonably compelling.  It doesn’t provide anything revelatory in terms of vampire fiction or gothic mystery, but sometimes it’s nice to pick up a book that isn’t trying to be groundbreaking and just allows you to read for pure pleasure.

 

25663844Every Anxious Wave – High Fidelity + scifi-lite.  My coworker recommended this book to me, and I have since recommended it to a couple of friends.  It’s an imperfect story, but a fun ride.  I connected with all of the main characters and enjoyed the loving attention paid to music and music fans.  The time travel aspect and the associated rules (or lack thereof) was a neat tool, even if I found the characters’ interactions with it a little frustrating on occasion.

 

23019294A Head Full of Ghosts – I LOVED it.  This is one of those books that’s just brimming with that sense of creeping unease.  Can any of the characters be trusted?  Is there really something paranormal going on?  It called to mind (likely intentionally) Shirley Jackson, and her way of building suspense out of simplicity.  I had to put this book down to do other things more often than I wanted to, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a long time after I finished.

 

23719481Mr. Splitfoot – I started this book and then put it down for weeks and weeks, unable to force myself to continue, but unwilling to DNF.  Ultimately I’m glad I pushed through – it’s a well-written character study touched with some magical realism.  It was a bit of a slow start, but it builds into a fascinating story involving cults and ghosts and questionable people.

 

21979832The Girl from Everywhere – The idea of traveling through time and space using a pirate ship and some maps is just awesome.  However, the execution wasn’t completely satisfying.  The mechanics of this method of travel are never really explained, which is supposed to be justified by the protagonist’s father withholding the secret of Navigation from her so she won’t leave him.  Also, there were many interesting characters whose backgrounds were only teased at.  But the setting in 1800s Hawaii was fun, and I liked the incorporation of the local mythology.

 

25489012The Road to Little Dribbling – I enjoy reading Bill Bryson’s books.  A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country, and of course the first I ever read, Notes from a Small Island, are all included on my list of favorites.  I was excited to read his latest, and it was generally pleasing.  He still has his dry humor and his ability to relate interesting facts without making them boring, but man, is he grumpy.  As often as I laughed out loud (which happened frequently), I also found myself rolling my eyes a bit whenever he went off on one of his many self-righteously indignant tangents.  Still, it was nice to revisit England from his perspective.

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YALSA’s The Hub Challenge 2016

2016 Hub Reading Challenge Finisher Badge

YALSA’s The Hub Reading Challenge has crossed my radar in the past, but I never did anything more than note its existence. My foray into reading challenges last year with Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, brought The Hub’s challenge to the forefront when it scrolled across my Facebook page in January. Like Read Harder, it pushed my reading boundries, but The Hub pushed them further because there were specific books that needed to be read instead of categories. The vast majority of the books listed never even crossed my radar as potential reads.

There were two levels to this challenge: read 25 titles or read them all. I contented myself with reading 25 titles, earning the Finisher Badge. I ended up reading 36 books across 11 categories. I double-dipped several of those categories because some of the books were listed multiple times (e.g. Echo was listed in both Odyssey Award and Top Ten Audiobooks). I fell in love with several books, listed below under “favorites”. Others I had a hard time finishing – Six of Crows and Trashed. And yet others still I found oddly compelling even if I still don’t know exactly what I think of them – Bones & All and The Ghosts of Heaven.

Favorites
(Yes the descriptions are lifted from previous posts. There’s only so many times you can write a blurb about a book.)

lumberjanes 1 lumberjanes 2 echo illuminae

*Lumberjanes, Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy & Lumberjames, Vol 2: Friendship to the Max Lumberjanes is now one of my new favorite graphic novel series. It’s geeky and weird and has a skewed sense of humor. I want to be a Lumberjane. I want to go to camp and have Indiana Jones-like adventures.  I like Girl Scouts, but we don’t have awesome badges like Pungeon Master (“The best kind of punishment”) and Jail Break (“Run as fast as you can”), and we never had crazy camp adventures. Well…I never did at least. My daughter swears there is a 6 foot tall turkey wandering around her Girl Scout camp.

Riley is by far my favorite character. Her sanity is on the far side of left, which makes her great as comic relief. She reminds me of Betty from Rat Queens (another graphic novel series), but with a lot less drugs and candy.

*Echo – This is hands down one of my favorite books of the year. I have recommended it to anyone half willing to listen to my shill. The story is beautiful and haunting, with a bittersweet ending. I cried multiple times. It absolutely must be listened to as an audiobook. Each sub-story has a different narrator, all very good at creating their characters. And given that a harmonica is what ties everything together, music is incorporated, which enhances the magical/fairy tale-like aspects.

*Illuminae – I freaking LOVE Illuminae. Flaws are easily overlooked once the story gets rolling. And hoo boy, does it roll. Aden (the ship’s AI) is amazingly creepy as a riff on Hal9000, if Hal9000 started to develop emotional sentience. And had access to Reavers. This is definitely a book that needs to be listened to. There is a full cast along with sound effects, and both are used exceedingly well to enhance the tension. The “little birdy” scenes later in the book gave me the heebie-jeebies.

List of Read Books

  1. Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger
  2. Lumberjanes , Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson
  3. Lumberjanes, Vol 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson
  4. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
  5. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Monroe
  6. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  7. Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee
  8. Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown
  9. Ms. Marvel, Vol 2: Generation Why by Willow G. Wilson
  10. Ms. Marvel, Vol 3: Crushed by Willow G. Wilson
  11. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  12. Trollhunters by Daniel Kraus and Guillermo del Toro
  13. Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
  14. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  15. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  16. Charm & Strange by Steaphanie Kuehn
  17. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  18. SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jilliam Tamaki
  19. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  20. Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis
  21. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  22. Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
  23. Trashed by Derf Backderf
  24. The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
  25. March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
  26. A Silent Voice, Vol 1 by Yoshitoki Ooima
  27. A Silent Voice, Vol 2 by Yoshitoki Ooima
  28. A Silent Voice, Vol 3 by Yoshitoki Ooima
  29.  The Boy in the Black Suit by Jasyon Reynolds
  30. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
  31. Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman
  32. The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  33. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  34. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  35. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
  36. The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

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August Books

August saw a notable uptick in books read. I was no longer on my workcation, and thus had more time to read and binge listen. It was definitely a mixed bag of books this month. Some I absolutely loved (Homegoing and Starlight), and others I had to force myself to finish (Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend and Sex Criminals). There were also a few books I wasn’t able to make myself finish (Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, Ivory and Bone, and And I Darken). The thee main characters in Confessions were two-dimensional cliches, Ivory was written in first person present, which I find horrible to read. Plus it wasn’t that interesting. I would have overcome my disdain if it had been an interesting story. Darken was blah. Lada became annoying and felt like a caricature. Radu was too whiny.

Ten of the books listed here I read for the Reader Decathlon. My thoughts on them can be found here.

Audiobooks (15)

there were none spyness 1 spyness .5 spyness 2 spyness 3 spyness 4 spyness 5 spyness 6 spyness 7 spyness 8 spyness 10 grave 10 sleeping giants predict irration murphy's law

The A Royal Spyness series was a light, somewhat fluffy mystery series. The books are fun to listen to, but I recommend doing so in small doses – don’t binge listen or the flaws will get very annoying. There really isn’t any character growth across the 10 books, Queenie needs to disappear from future volumes, and Georgie’s obtuseness and poor decision-making abilities start to grate. Katherine Kellgren, however, was a phenomenal narrator. She could easily switch accents and genders. Predictably Irrational focused on the fact that while people think we are rational beings, they really aren’t. We are easily manipulated and tend to make decisions that aren’t always the best even if we “know” what we’re doing isn’t the most efficient or logical decision. Murphy’s Law was the first book in another light, somewhat fluffy mystery series. I liked it, but I’m not making the mistake of binge listening to it as I did with A Royal Spyness.

Novels (11)

entreat me rose dagger homecoming wild swan hex hall royal experiment mt char summer hill pterodactyl spare pirates sunshine

Entreat Me was an interesting take on Beauty and the Beast. It wasn’t bad, but definitely not my favorite retelling (that place is held by Bryony and Roses). The Rose and the Dagger was a decent sequel. The duology as a whole wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Not books I’ll ever reread. Homegoing was beautiful. I plan on writing more about it in a review (to post later in September). My sister told me to read A Wild Swan, and she was right to. The fairy tale retellings were beautiful and dark and fractured. The tone reminded me of Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty. I also agree with her regarding the Beauty and the Beast retelling – messed up and thought provoking. Hex Hall was alright, interesting enough that I’ll read (or at least skim) the sequels. A Royal Experiment was a fascinating look at George III and his epic failure to bring monogamy and morality back to the British court. Queen Charlotte especially was unable to step out of the role he wanted of her, to the ultimate detriment of her relationships with her children.

Graphic (5) / Manga (1)

one piece 31 LJ 4 paper girls sex criminals 1 east west 1 starlight

I’m still plugging away at One Piece. I like it, but it isn’t a series I need to devour.

Read Alouds (2)

tree house 11 polar bears past bedtime

 

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2016 Audiobooks (First Half)

Audiobooks is a new category for me this year, as I only started listening to them in earnest towards the end of 2015. They wouldn’t have even blipped on my radar if it hadn’t been for Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge. One of the categories was to listen to an audiobook (Yes Please! made the ungodly long drive from Buffalo, NY to Minneapolis, MN bearable, especially since we drove straight through).

Favorites

echo nice girls fangs illuminae scary mommy

*Echo – This is hands down one of my favorite books of the year. I have recommended it to anyone half willing to listen to my shill. The story is beautiful and haunting, with a bittersweet ending. I cried multiple times. It absolutely must be listened to as an audiobook. Each sub-story has a different narrator, all very good at creating their characters. And given that a harmonica is what ties everything together, music is incorporated, which enhances the magical/fairy tale-like aspects.

*Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs – I came across this book in a Book Riot post about good audiobooks to run to, and I have to agree. It had me with the concept of a fired children’s librarian who is mistaken for a deer on the side of the road at night, and is shot and left for dead. She is  turned into a vampire, and the hijinks begin. The fact that the story is on the funny side of crazy, and that the narrator, Amanda Ronconi, is fabulous kept me listening. I ended up binging on Molly Harper/Amanda Ronconi audio pairings.

*Illuminae – I freaking LOVE Illuminae. Flaws are easily overlooked once the story gets rolling. And hoo boy, does it roll. Aden (the ship’s AI) is amazingly creepy as a riff on Hal9000, if Hal9000 started to develop emotional sentience. And had access to Reavers. This is definitely a book that needs to be listened to. There is a full cast along with sound effects, and both are used exceedingly well to enhance the tension. The “little birdy” scenes later in the book gave me the heebie-jeebies.

*Confessions of a Scary Mommy(copyed straight from the initial post this blurb appeared in) If All the Single Ladies and Spinster should be on all women’s TBR lists, Confessions of a Scary Mommy needs to be right there with them. Women face pressure to get married and have children. And once those children have arrived, to be a perfect, self-sacrificing mother. Motherhood is full of barf and judgment, and while we love our children, it is very hard to reconcile society’s expectations that we completely subsume our needs to those of our family’s. Scary Mommy shows the warts, embraces the warts, and tells you that it is normal to be an imperfect mother.

*Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – I’ve already made it well-known that I love this book, so instead of waxing poetical about it again, it’s getting an honorable mention.

Fiction
A Dirty Job
Secondhand Souls
Waistcoats & Weaponry
A Christmas Carol
Trollhunters
Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf
The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride
The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf
Nice Girls Don’t Live Forever
Ready Player One
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Nice Girls Don’t Bite Their Neighbors

Dramatizations/Multi-Cast
Neverwhere: BBC Dramatization
Carmilla
Dracula
The Graveyard Book
Turn of the Screw

Nonfiction
Not My Father’s Son
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
You’re Never Weird on the Internet
Life
Modern Romance
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain
The Republic of Pirates

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