Because life is so incredibly busy, I hadn’t been planning on participating in any of the many wonderful reading challenges in existence around the book blogosphere. (Beyond hosting my own, the Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge, of course.) But when I received a GoodReads invitation to Socrates’ Finishing the Series Reading Challenge, I couldn’t resist because it fits in so well with my already established (in my head) reading goals for 2013. It’s incredibly simple. Choose a single (or multiple) book series you’ve previously started to finally finish reading during 2013. I already have a GoogleDoc of all the series I’m reading and was saying to myself, “Amanda, finish at least a few of these in 2013,” and doing that in the context of the fun that is a book blog reading challenge just makes me happy.
I’m currently reading 26 series. I know, I know. I’m not going to challenge myself to all of those, because then I’d only be reading series books all year. :-P But I am signing up for the highest level of the challenge: Level 3: 3 or more series.
So what am I pledging to finish?
- Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead
#3 Succubus Dreamsreview 1/31/13, 5 stars
#4 Succubus Heat
#5 Succubus Shadows
#6 Succubus Revealed
- Y: The Last Man series by Brian K. Vaughan
#8 Kimono Dragons
#10 Whys and Wherefores
- Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler
John Cleaver series by Dan Wells
#3 I Don’t Want to Kill Youreview , 3/2/13 3.5 stars
- The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
#2 Children of God
Katherine “Kitty” Katt series by Gini KochI will not be finishing this series, due to severe dislike of the third book. It’s a permanent dnf.
#3 Alien in the Familyreview, 10/3/13 2 stars
#4 Alien Proliferation
#5 Alien Diplomacy
#6 Alien vs. Alien
#7 Alien in the House
#8 Alien Research
For the Katherine “Kitty” Katt series, it is not yet finished, so I’m only pledging to books that are projected to be published before the end of 2013.
I also reserve the right to give up on a series if it starts nose-diving before the end.
Phew! That’s a lot of books…but it would also make a serious dent into my series list. So fingers crossed that I have good luck with it.
If the challenge sounds like a good match for you, be sure to check out the official challenge page!
My one regret last year when summing up my year in reading was that the 5 star reads didn’t get enough attention. So! They are getting their own post this time. Please note that if the 5 star went to a book in a graphic novel series, I am just listing the whole series. If it’s a non-graphic series, then the individual book is listed with a note about what series it is in. With no further ado, presenting Opinions of a Wolf’s 5 Star Reads for 2011!
The Book of Night Women
By: Marlon James
Publication Date: 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: slavery, Jamaica, resistance, evil of capitalism
This is the story of Lilith. A mulatto with green eyes born on a plantation in Jamaica to a mama who was raped at 14 by the overseer as punishment to her brother. Raised by a whore and a crazy man, all Lilith has ever wanted was to improve her status on the plantation. And maybe to understand why her green eyes seem to freak out slave and master alike. Assigned to be a house slave, Lilith finds herself in direct contact with the most powerful slave on the plantation–Homer, who is in charge of the household. Homer brings her into a secret meeting of the night women in a cave on the grounds and attempts to bring Lilith into a rebellion plot, insisting upon the darkness innate in Lilith’s soul. But Lilith isn’t really sure what exactly will get her what she truly wants–to feel safe and be with the man she cares for.
If someone asked me for a book that truly makes the reader feel the desperation of being trapped in an evil system with no escape, this is the book I would hand them.
The Call of the Wild
By: Jack London
Publication Date: 1903
Genre: Historical Fiction, Animal Perspective
Themes: animal rights, human/animal relationships, the nature of nature, Alaska, Canada, evil of capitalism
Buck is a spoiled southern dog enjoying a posh life when one of the family’s servants steals him and sells him away to be a sled dog for the Alaska gold rush. Buck soon goes from an easy life to one of trials and tribulations as the result of humans fawning over a golden metal, but it might not be all bad for him in the wild Alaskan north.
I listened to this on audiobook. I generally do this while cooking or cleaning my apartment. I distinctly remember being in the middle of washing my dishes, stopping, and going to lay down on my bed and cry. No one could read this book and doubt that animals have their own inner lives and emotions. It so powerfully depicts both that and the possible bond between animals and people. Everything I have always felt between myself and the animals I love is so perfectly depicted here.
By: Mary McCarthy
Publication Date: 1954
Publisher: Harvest Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: women’s rights, GLBTQ, women’s colleges, relationships, NYC
A collection of women graduate from Vassar in the 1930s. Their friendship is known collectively as “The Group,” and their distinctive Vassar education has given them a distinctly liberal view on the world. How this changes with time as they repeatedly encounter societal expectations and relationship problems are told through a series of vignettes that focus in on moments in their lives over the seven years after graduation.
This book addresses women’s issues in the 1930s and 1940s that are, honestly, too frequently too often issues today as well, through a series of vignettes that pop into the various women’s lives at different points in time. This unique way of telling their stories is what makes this book such a powerful read.
Hetalia: Axis Powers
By: Hidekaz Himaruya
Publication Date: 2008
Genre: Graphic Novel–Historical Fiction
Themes: international relations, world history
The nations involved in WWII and the events leading up to it are personified as over-the-top manga characters and through manga-style scenarios the historic events leading up to WWII are explored. The future of the nations after WWII is also explored. For example: Russia’s dilemmas with his sisters the Ukraine and Belarus, Canada’s persistent ability to somehow be invisible to most of the rest of the G8 nations (and also to be mistaken for America), and Japan-kun and America-kun visiting each other’s homes and attempting to reach a cultural understanding.
I actually squee when I see the manga version of America online. I heart him so much. I heart the whole series so much. This series is the reason I got distraught when TokyoPop went out of business. Read it. Even if you aren’t a history person. It is hilarious!
Hunger (Riders of the Apocalypse, #1)
By: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Themes: anorexia, bulimia, mental illness, winning inner battles, suicide
Lisabeth Lewis thought it was just a nightmare. Death coming to her when she tried to commit suicide with her mom’s antidepressants and offering to make her Famine–one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse–instead of letting her die. It’s just all way too ironic, her as Famine. After all, she’s fat. She has to watch what she eats very carefully. The Thin voice tells her all the time exactly how many calories each bit of food is and how much exercise it’ll take to burn it off. Yes. Lisabeth Lewis is fat. So why would Death assign Famine to her anyway?
I still love how Kessler depicts the inner battles that go on in mental illness via the fantastical appearance of Death and the Riders of the Apocalypse. It makes it more relatable and understandable for teens struggling with those issues.
I Am Hutterite
By: Mary-Ann Kirkby
Publication Date: 2007
Publisher: Polka Dot Press
Themes: role of religion in family life, understanding your past, communal living, Canada
Mary Ann Kirkby recounts her unique childhood in her memoir. She was born into a Hutterite family. The Hutterites are a religious sect similar to the Amish only they believe that living communally is a mandate for Christians. Mary Ann recounts her childhood both in the religious sect (her particular group was located in western Canada), as well as the journey and culture shock she went through when her parents left the Hutterites when she was nine years old.
This is the most unique memoir I read all year, and I read a lot of them. Not only is the Hutterite lifestyle and community fascinating, but Kirkby also pulled off the rare feat of speaking about her childhood and difficult times in her life without ever once coming across as bitter.
By: Stephen King
Publication Date: 1986
Themes: growing up, growing old, phases of life, Maine
In the late 1950s in the small town of Derry, Maine, children are being mysteriously murdered. Seven misfit and outcast kids band together to face It, and they think they’ve beaten it, but 27 years later, the murders return. Vaguely remembering a promise they all made, the now adults return to their hometown of Derry to face It again.
If someone asked me why I love pulp, what makes a horror writer like King so popular, I’d talk about this book. King eloquently addresses something everyone goes through–being a kid, growing up, growing old–without the reader even really realizing it until the book is done and wraps it up in spine-chilling horror. You relate and learn and your true fears are acquiesced all while being entertained.
By: Upton Sinclair
Publication Date: 1906
Publisher: Simon & Brown
Genre: American Classic
Themes: socialism, worker’s rights, animal rights, evil of capitalism, Chicago, social justice, vegetarianism, debt slavery
In the early 1900s Jurgis and his soon-to-be family by marriage decide to immigrate to the US from Lithuania. Having heard from an old friend that Chicago’s Packingtown is where a working man can easily make his way in the world, this is where they head. Soon the family find themselves deep in the horror that is the regulated in name only meat packing plants. Dominated by a society that circulates entirely around greed and wealth for the few at the expense of the many, the family and individuals within it slowly fall apart. But is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
It still baffles me that when this book came out all anyone could talk about was food safety. I believe Sinclair did a great job demonstrating the plight of the blue collar worker, as well as the horrors of animal slaughter. This is a classic that deserves that label.
The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist, #1)
By: Rick Yancey
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Themes: New England, the nature of evil, relationships
A New England town’s oldest resident dies leaving no known surviving family. His journals end up at the university where a professor loans them to a writer friend. In the first three folios, we learn of young Will Henry whose father and mother died in a terrible house fire leaving him to the care of his father’s employer–Warthrop. Warthrop is a monstrumologist. He studies monsters, and people arrive in the middle of the night for his help. One night a grave robber arrives with the body of a young girl wrapped in the horrifying embrace of an anthropophagus–a creature with no head and a mouth full of shark-like teeth in the middle of his chest. Will Henry, as the assistant apprentice monstrumologist, soon finds himself sucked into the secret horror found in his hometown.
I still can’t get the damn image of the anthropophagus out of my head. Also the characters of Will and Warthrop will forever live on in my head. New England horror done exquisitely.
Rage (Riders of the Apocalypse, #2)
By: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Themes: mental illness, self-injury, bullying
Melissa Miller is your typical 16 year old–mom, dad, annoying sister, a jerk of an ex-boyfriend–with one small difference. She deals with her emotions by cutting herself. She keeps a razor in a locked box in her closet and pulls it out when she gets overwhelmed. One night she accidentally cuts too deep, and Death shows up with an option. Either die now or become one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse–War. Missy chooses the latter option, and as she gets to know the other Horsemen and her job as War, she starts to realize she needs to face the rage inside her.
I periodically find myself thinking back on the climactic scene of this book, which in a fantastical manner depicts a self-injurer facing the anger inside herself. If someone needs to understanding self-injury and doesn’t want to read the academic work on the topic, this is the book I would hand them.
Touched by an Alien (Katherine “Kitty” Katt, #1)
By: Gini Koch
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Daw Books
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Themes: aliens, FBI, intrigue, Arizona, action, sex
Katherine “Kitty” Katt manages to get released early from a dull day of jury duty only to find herself confronted with an angry man who sprouts wings and starts flinging knives from their tips toward everyone in the vicinity. Kitty attacks and stops him and quickly finds herself sucked into a world she was unaware existed. A world of alien refugees defending Earth and themselves from a bunch of fugly alien parasites. She soon discovers her ordinary parents are more involved in this secret world than she would ever have dreamed. On top of that, she’s increasingly finding herself falling for one of the alien hunks who announced his intentions to marry her almost immediately upon meeting her.
Aliens in suits? Check. Some lines and scenes pop into my head at odd times and make me laugh? Check. Favorite paranormal romance series to date? Triple-check.
By: Ninni Holmqvist
Publication Date: 2006
Publisher: Other Press
Themes: old age, socialism, Sweden, medical research
In the Sweden of the near future women who reach the age of 50 and men who reach the age of 60 without having successfully acquired a partner or had children are deemed “dispensable” and sent to live in “a unit.” These units appear at first glance to be like a high-class retirement home, and indeed they have all the amenities. The residents, however, are required both to participate in medical experiments and to donate various organs and body parts up until their “final donation” of their heart anywhere from a year or a few years after their arrival in the unit. Dorrit arrives at the unit depressed, but accepting of her fate as the result of her independent nature, but when she falls in love, she starts to question everything.
This is a book that I literally cannot stop thinking about. It left me with no clear answers, but tons of questions. I also think of Dorrit and her friends every time I have a steam after working out, just like them.
The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles, #2)
By: Anne Rice
Publication Date: 1985
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Themes: resiliency, searching for love, European history, Egypt, rock stars, New Orleans
Lestat, the maker of Louis and Claudia, takes center stage here to tell his own origin story, as well as explain why he has chosen to come out as a vampire rock star in the 1980s. Starting with his beginnings as a rural member of the ruling class prior to the French Revolution, we discover the origins of the Vampire Theater, as well as the origins of vampires themselves.
I just really love Lestat. You can vamp me and carry me around forever with you, dude.
The Walking Dead
By: Robert Kirkman
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel–Horror
Themes: creation of a new society, living in fear, unjust wars, truthiness, self-protection, zombies, Georgia, survival
When cop Rick wakes up from a coma brought on by a gun shot wound, he discovers a post-apocalyptic mess and zombies everywhere. He sets off for Atlanta in search of his wife, Lori, and son, Carl, and soon teams up with a rag-tag group of survivors camped just outside of Atlanta.
I’m still working my way through this series, but it just progressively gets better and better. Although the beginning is cliche, it does not take Kirkman long to become unique, surprising, and thought-provoking.
Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth About Cow’s Milk and Your Health
By: Joseph Keon
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Genre: Nonfiction–Science and Health
Themes: health, Standard American Diet, animal rights, veganism, cancer, heart disease
Joseph Keon seeks to combat the cultural myth of dairy being a necessary part of a healthy diet perpetuated by the milk moustache ads with his book citing multiple scientific studies that have been swept under the rug by those being paid by the dairy lobbyists. Although Keon cares about animal welfare as well (and there is a chapter on the suffering of dairy cows), the book predominantly focuses on debunking multiple myths surrounding human consumption of dairy: the overly-hyped “need” for calcium, that dairy is good for children, and the idea that dairy prevents disease. Keon additionally alarmingly shows the various chemical, virus, and bacteria contaminants commonly found in dairy. Citing multiple scientific studies, he unequivocally demonstrates that contrary to what the dairy industry and government want you to think, dairy is actually bad for your health.
Oh god, how am I still eating dairy after reading all of these facts? I am going to get cancer…..gah! Damn you, cheese. Damn you.
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
By: Jung Chang
Publication Date: 1991
Themes: Chinese history, women’s rights, China, communism, revolutions, concubines, foot-binding
In this memoir, Jung Chang recounts the lives of herself, her mother, and her grandmother growing up in pre-communist, revolutionary, and communist China. Mixing extensive historical facts with intensely personal remembrances, Jung Chang presents a vivid portrait of real life in China.
This is the book that jump-started my interest in China and learning Chinese history. It is a stunning memoir that covers three generations during the time period that made modern China.
Y: The Last Man
By: Brian K. Vaughan
Publication Date: 2003
Genre: Graphic Novel–Scifi–Post-apocalyptic
Themes: gender, gender norms, organization of society, Boston, United States, Israel, coming of age
The world is changed overnight when all the men and boys in the world mysteriously drop dead. Factions quickly develop among the women between those who want the world to remain all female and those who would like to restore the former gender balance. One man is mysteriously left alive though–Yorick. A 20-something, underachieving magician with a girlfriend in Australia. He desperately wants to find her, but the US government and the man-hating Amazons have other ideas.
Another series that I am currently in the middle of. It is also steadily improving from the first volume. It is colorfully illustrated, consistently funny, and thought-provoking.