Jessica Day George

Friday, January 23, 2015

Best of the Best of the Best 2014!



Aloha! I'm writing this post from my private cabana on Disney's Castaway Cay!

...

No, just kidding. I'm sitting in my bed and I need to shower.

Anyhoo! I know you're all dying to know: What did Jessica love in 2014? What books moved her? What movies thrilled her?

WAIT NO MORE!

I now present to you: THE BEST OF 2014 ACCORDING TO MOI!

Beginning, as ever, with the movie picks:

Movies for Grownups:

Guardians of the Galaxy (So much to love, from the story to the humor to the action to the characters themselves. We ARE Groot!)
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (I had to watch it twice to really appreciate it. It really leads in so well to the Lord of the Rings movies.)
Interstellar
Maleficent
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Winter's Tale
Live. Die. Repeat. (aka Edge of Tomorrow)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Chef
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Monuments Men

Movies for Kids:

The Lego Movie
Big Hero 6
The Secret of Kells (This movie is several years old, but I finally saw it, and it was gorgeous!)
Muppets: Most Wanted
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Planes: Fire and Rescue

And now, the books! BOOKS! BOOOOOOOOKS! So many good books this year! So many! As those of you who follow me on Goodreads know, I actually made my goal of reading 160 books in 2014! I'm so proud of myself! And so pleased, too, that I discovered so many great books!

Also, for the most part, these lists are all ten-way ties. To choose which one I liked better, LANDLINE or ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, is simply ridiculous, because they were both amazing, and so different. It's like asking which I like better: steak or dark chocolate.

Books for Grownups, Fiction:

LANDLINE - Rainbow Rowell
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE - Anthony Doerr
THE BONE CLOCKS - Brian David Mitchell
THE ROSIE PROJECT - Graeme Simsion
WINTER'S TALE - Mark Helprin
THE HUSBAND'S SECRET - Liane Moriarty
THE SILKWORM - Robert Galbraith
DANIEL DERONDA - George Eliot
GIDGET - Frederick Kohner
DEATH OF A POLICEMAN - M. C. Beaton

Books for Grownups, Fantasy/Sci fi:

SOME KIND OF FAIRY TALE - Graham Joyce (Graham, who was so kind and hilarious and wonderful, passed away this fall after a long battle with cancer. If you haven't treated yourself to one of his gorgeous books before, start with this one.)
MY REAL CHILDREN - Jo Walton
WORDS OF RADIANCE - Brandon Sanderson
ANATHEM - Neal Stephenson (It took me two tries to get into this book, because the language is so different, but once I did . . . WOW.)
THE SLOW REGARD OF SILENT THINGS - Patrick Rothfuss
THE BONE SEASON - Samantha Shannon
BLOOD OF TYRANTS - Naomi Novik
ODD THOMAS - Dean Koontz
FARTHING - Jo Walton
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS - M. R. Carey

Books for Grownups, Nonfiction:

THE EGG AND I - Betty MacDonald (I loved the movie as a kid, and just recently discovered that it was originally a book, which was autobiographical, and by the author of my beloved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books!)
EVERY LIVING THING - James Herriot
AS YOU WISH - Cary Elwes

Young Adult, Fiction:

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN - Jandy Nelson (Definitely for older teens and adults, but so beautifully written and heart-breaking, it's my pick for the Printz Award!)
THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE - Leila Sales
WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE - Trish Doller
NOT IN THE SCRIPT - Amy Finnegan (Amy is a good friend of mine, and this debut YA book of hers is simply to die for! A fabulous rom-com!)
THE EAGLE OF THE NINTH - Rosemary Sutcliff
MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME - edited by Stephanie Perkins
THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE - Julie Berry
SKINK - NO SURRENDER - Carl Hiaasen
THE CHAPEL WARS - Lindsey Leavitt
THE OUTSIDERS - S. E. Hinton (Nope, I've never read it before. Yep, it was great!)

Young Adult, Fantasy/Sci fi:

DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS - Laini Taylor (Gorgeous ending to this trilogy!)
MIDWINTERBLOOD - Marcus Sedgewick (The Printz winner, and so deserving of it!)
A BREATH OF FROST/WHISPER THE DEAD - Alyxandra Harvey (The first two books in the Lovegrove Legacy and I couldn't put them down!)
IN THE SHADOWS - Jim diBartolo and Kirsten White
IN THE AGE OF LOVE AND CHOCOLATE - Gabrielle Zevin (Another great trilogy ender!)
THE SHADE OF THE MOON - Susan Beth Pfeffer
BLACKOUT - Robison Wells
CHASING POWER - Sarah Beth Durst
STEELHEART - Brandon Sanderson
AFTERWORLDS - Scott Westerfeld

Middle Grade, Fiction:

LIAR & SPY - Rebecca Stead
WEST OF THE MOON - Margi Preus
HOMECOMING/ DICEY'S SONG - Cynthia Voigt
CHARLOTTE'S ROSE - A. E. Cannon (This book is hard to find, and has been out several years, but it is just gorgeous, and fans of Little House on the Prairie will love it!)
THE SECRET OF THE FORTUNE WOOKIEE/THE SURPRISE ATTACK OF JABBA THE PUPPETT/PRINCESS LABELMAKER TO THE RESCUE/EMPEROR PICKLETINE RIDES THE BUS - Tom Angleberger (Basically, if you haven't read this series, you really must!)
THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING - Maryrose Wood
LIFE ON MARS - Jennifer Brown
THE SPY CATCHERS OF MAPLE HILL - Megan Frazer Blakemore

Middle Grade, Fantasy/Sci Fi:

THE HERO'S GUIDE TO STORMING THE CASTLE - Christopher Healy
NIGHTMARES! - Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
THE NIGHT GARDENER - Jonathan Auxier
THE MAGIC HALF - Annie Barrows
IRON-HEARTED VIOLET - Kelly Barnhill
THE SEARCH FOR WONDLA - Tony DiTerlizzi
THE WIDE AWAKE PRINCESS - E. D. Baker
THE PRINCESS IN BLACK - Dean and Shannon Hale
THE QUIRKS: WELCOME TO NORMAL - Erin Soderberg
THE FAIRY TALE MATCHMAKER - E. D. Baker

Graphic Novels:

TREATIES, TRENCHES, MUD, AND BLOOD - Nathan Hale
EL DEAFO - CeCe Bell
SISTERS - Raina Telgemeier
WHY GRIZZLY BEARS SHOULD WEAR UNDERPANTS - The Oatmeal
DRAMA - Raina Telgemeier
RESIDENT MAD SCIENTIST - Howard Tayler
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 1: COSMIC AVENGERS - Brian Michael Bendis
ANDRE THE GIANT - Box Brown

Picture Books: 

SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE - Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett
MOO! - David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka
GASTON - Kelly DiPucchio and Christian Robinson
HUG MACHINE - Scott Campbell
THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES - Brigette Barrager (My daughter has had the Princess Matching Game based on this for years, and I just realized that there was a book featuring this beautiful art, and the princesses are all flower names, too!)
UNI THE UNICORN - Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Brigette Barrager
WAITING IS NOT EASY - Mo Willems
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS - Jan Pienkowski
THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH - Mo Willems
FOUND - Salina Yoon


Monday, December 1, 2014

HO. HO. HO. (Or: How to Shop for a Booklover)



Over the years, I've done a number of posts on my favorite Christmas books and movies and music. I'll let you peruse the blog to find those lists, because this year it's time to do something a little bit different.

It's time to do some holiday shopping.

I do, in fact, enjoy shopping. I particularly enjoy shopping for presents for other people. It gives me a thrill to find something I know that someone else will love for Christmas. Notable exceptions include my husband, Webmaster Mikey, who is a) picky and b) buys himself whatever he wants the second he wants it, and my brother Jason, who is . . . pretty much exactly the same. "I got you a panini maker!" "Ugh, I have like, five of those!" "Here's a shirt!" "Meh, I probably wouldn't wear that."

GAH.

But other people are great to shop for! Particularly my kids! My kids love everything they receive! They even like getting clothes! It's fantastic!

So that made my holiday shopping pretty easy this year, which means I have ample time to help you, dear reader, with your shopping lists! Especially since I have been up in arms about Gifts for Book Lovers, or what passes as a Gift for a Book Lover According to Entertainment Weekly. Now, I've been a subscriber to EW for almost twenty years now. I like movie gossip, mm hmm yes I do. It's true that I occasionally I think, "Wow, they are either super out of touch with the average human being, or am weirder than I thought," but mostly it's been a good relationship. EW is where I learned about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, one of my favorite books of all time, and Penelope, one of my favorite movies of all time, and where I go for all things Hobbit movie related.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, they published their Holiday Gift Guides, as they do every November. These are broken into categories like, For the Music Lover, For the Film Lover, etc. And the very first one? For the Book Lover. Huzzah! What excitement!

But I looked at the products on that page, and I squinted, and I checked the heading to make sure I was reading the right list, and I blinked a few times . . . and it didn't change. There still wasn't a book on that list. There were, in fact, things on that list that no self-respecting book lover would even purchase for someone else.

There were subscriptions to electronic reading services that deliver books to your e-reader, which seems okay, except that you can't choose the book or even the genre, it's a total crapshoot. You might get the latest Dave Eggers, you might get a cookbook, you might get . . . I honestly don't know. There was a baby onesie that had the EW logo on it. Which is cute . . . and has diddly poop to do with being a book lover. There was tea. Because all book lovers drink tea, amirite? And then, my personal favorite, a bookmark. Sounds like a good idea, right? I can always use a new bookmark! I love bookmarks! But this one was made out of filigreed brass, which is heavy and slick, two things that aren't that desirable in a bookmark, and it ended in a sharp point on one end, and that point was a pen. That couldn't be capped. That's right, it was A HEAVY, SHARP, SLICK, INK-FILLED BOOKMARK.

What is the WHAT, EW?!

I mean, seriously! It was honestly like they couldn't find someone who actually read actual paper books to ask, so they grabbed some random freebies they'd been given in the past year and slapped them on the page.

I just . . . I can't even. I'll stop now, and instead present you with a list of REAL gifts for the book lover in your life!

Ahem.

1. A book.

Can't go wrong there, right?

Don't know what title to get? Ask them! Say: "What book are you really excited to get your hands on?" I can guarantee that they'll tell you!

Or, here's an idea: Say that your friend raves on and on about The Hobbit, or Jane Eyre, or A Little Princess. Is there a new anniversary edition of that book? An illustrated edition? I just found darling little "pocket-sized" versions of Tolkien's books, with his original art on the covers! And I just helped someone at the King's English (I was a bookseller for a day, it was fabulous, btw) find an anniversary edition with new color illustrations of The Secret Garden for her grandchildren.

You can also purchase gift cards for their favorite bookshop, and let them have the joy of picking out a book themselves! Or do they like authors who are still alive? Check that author's website: It may be possible to get signed and personalized copies of the author's books! (Ahem. You can order my books, all signed and stamped and personalized, via the King's English Bookshop.)

2. A bookcase.

This could be pricy, but a number of people on Twitter brought it up. So, if you're a parent or a spouse of a book lover, how about it? How about a bookcase, maybe with a new book to go on it? Bookcases are kinda important, if you're a chronic biblioholic.

3. Bookmarks.

Yep, bookmarks. Even after my rant. But they are still useful. My favorites are the kind that have a tassel, or maybe some beads dangling from them, and there are infinite varieties that don't weigh five pounds and leak ink. There are book tabs that you can use to mark favorite pages. There are bookmarks with quotes on them, and bookmarks with jokes on them, cartoon and movie and book characters and even Justin Bieber! You must know a little bit about your book lover's habits or likes and dislikes! Get them a fun bookmark! Or, do they lose bookmarks a lot and complain about it? Do you see them marking books with scraps of paper or even a square of toilet paper? (We've all done it, don't judge.) How about getting them a whole bundle of bookmarks? I once got a whole packet of cheap little bookmarks with dragons on them for Christmas, and they were my favorite thing. I was a teenager, and lost bookmarks on a daily basis. They seemed to be in endless supply (though eventually I lost them all), but because of the cute dragon picture I really did make an effort not to leave them in library books.

4. Jewelry/clothing/book bags.

Check out www.outofprintclothing.com for starters. They feature a vast array of t-shirts, sweatshirts, baby onesies, socks, tote bags, wallets, notebooks, you-name-it, all featuring the original covers of classic books, portraits of authors, or favorite characters. They also have "library wear" that features library cards or banned books. Get your book lover a Pride & Prejudice t-shirt. A book bag that looks like an old-fashioned library card. Socks that feature banned books with the titles blacked out. A "doubleplusgood" necklace inspired by Orwell's 1984. So many fun things! Also, for every product sold they donate a book to a school in Africa.

Another good place for bookwear is Etsy. Do a search for "book jewelry" or "Jane Eyre" or whatever it is you're looking for. I have a bracelet that I love that has a favorite quote from Little Women on it: "She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain." Awesome, right? There are scarves with the entire text of Hamlet printed on them, or the map of Middle-Earth. Lockets with romantic quotes from Jane Austen. Beautiful prints of book covers, or book quotes, or even quotes about books. Embroidery. T-shirts. SKIRTS. No lie: there is a person who makes women's skirts with typewriters on them, or books, or the covers of classic books. The fabric must be custom made, and they are awesome (and under $50!). Etsy is chockfull of fun things for book lovers!

5. Notebooks/diaries.

Is your book lover also a writer? How about a list maker? I love to get notebooks! I use them to jot down ideas for books, or names that I might want to use in a story. I also like to carry one around in case I need to write down the name of a book or an author I might want to read. There are also a lot of fun journals and diaries geared toward book lovers, too, where you can make lists of favorite books and what they meant to you, or keep track of what you want to read or have read in a more organized fashion. These are usually found in the diary section of bookstores.

All right! Did that help?

GOOD.

Now, go do some shopping!

And remember: 'Tis always better to seek out the local bookstore than to click that button on Amazon!

(And if you're wondering about the picture at the top of this post: It's a Christmas book camouflaged against my Christmas sheets.)