2014 Year-End Review: A Belated Post

How now, multiverse?

2015 was a stealthy little bugger. We’ve failed to write anything new this year, because LIFE, but we promise we’ve been reading!

KUBI:

Here, belatedly, are Kubi’s favorite books for 2014:

2014-favorite-reads-kubi

  1. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  2. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  3. Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig
  4. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
  5. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  6. Edge of Tomorrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
  7. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
  8. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
  9. Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes
  10. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  11. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
  12. Levels of Life by Julian Barnes
  13. The Prestige by Christopher Priest
  14. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
  15. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

HANNA:

Here, belatedly, are my favorites for 2014:

2014-favorite-reads-hanna

A huge chunk of last year was spent hoarding books, worrying about shelf space, attempting to restrain my impulses, devouring YA novels like cake, and making feeble attempts at writing substantial posts.

I had the good fortune to find and hold in my hands some of the most gorgeous works of art such as a signed first edition of Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art by Christopher Moore, which is a thing of beauty and a rollicking good read, and Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock. Someone at work thrust the latter into my hands after learning that I love to read, and I’ve been in love with this series ever since. Nick Bantock is one of my favorite visual artists, and it’s always a delightful treat to find his books on display.

Another one of my favorite artists is Chip Kidd, who is responsible for some of the most clever and unforgettable book covers. I am always in awe of Chip Kidd’s work, and he did a masterful job with the art direction and design of The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. It is a deliciously terrifying book, and I loved everything about it.

Sometimes, you come across a book that seems thoroughly in tune with your thoughts that it seems as if the universe conspired to have you read it at that particular moment, just when you needed it the most. Both The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen and Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba cut me from all angles and provided a much needed catharsis. These books are two of my favorite things on this planet, and I thank my lucky stars that they have made their way into my little corner of the world.

2014 also took me on a wild romp across space and time with stellar fantasy novels such as the unbefuckinglievably fantastic Vicious by V.E. Schwab, and the wonderfully silly Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor provided a satisfying conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which introduced me to Karou and her magnificence.

I was fucking stunned by the sheer genius of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I love Locke and the Gentlemen Bastards with all of my heart, but I especially love the book’s language, wit, and magnificent cussing. Scott Lynch is a word painter, and I can only dream of writing something as perfect as this:

“Some day, Locke Lamora,” he said, “some day, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee. And I just hope I’m still around to see it.”

Speaking of sublime writing, I loved Just Kids by Patti Smith for its shockingly beautiful prose, and I underlined the bejeezus out of Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I savored every gorgeously written sentence of Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, which provided heartbreakingly beautiful vignettes about a long relationship and a faltering marriage. I unabashedly adored The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin for its charm, exploration of relationships, and emphasis on books and reading. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger is damn near perfection, and I will always be in awe of how each story was written in such easy grace.

Finally, Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor was the perfect happy potion for a year in shambles. It is every bit as lovely and magical as it sounds. Laini Taylor has a beautiful way with words, and I devoured all of it with great relish.

It fills me with pleasure that I didn’t miss any of these books, each of which is a gift to this world, and made last year a little bit nicer.

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2014 Year-End Review: A Belated Post

Kubi’s 2013 Year-End Review

I spent a lot of 2013 working and trying to get my thesis off the ground. There were months when things got so tight, it was a wonder I got any reading done at all. I would read a chapter or two before falling asleep or immediately upon waking up; I would read on jeeps, in airplanes, or in line to pay the bills; basically during any stolen quiet moment. I turned in some serious reading while waiting at the airport. On a field trip to Bantayan Island in Cebu, I took a chunk off the tome that is The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. Now, I associate travel to the island with chapters of that book.

Last year, I stopped worrying about the number of books I could finish. I took on books that challenged me (in terms of both scope and scale) and was rewarded for it.

Kubi Best Reads 2014 (1)

I had a renaissance with epic fantasy, and The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss were a revelation. I read the first two volumes, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, a third and final still forthcoming. They were compelling reads, not least because of their endearing protagonist Kvothe and the colorful storytelling. There’s also the added bonus of watching Pat Rothfuss turn fantasy tropes on their ear.

Probably no other book permeated my reading life as pervasively as Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. Books I and II were gripping enough, but by the time I got to Book III, I was fighting for every chapter. There is a clumsiness (even repetitiveness) to the writing that I speculated could either be deliberate or due to some fault in the translation. Maybe it read better in Japanese? It was a struggle but finish the magnum opus I did. Despite feeling like I was being dragged to the finish line by my hair, my brain wailing “No more!”, it was extremely satisfying to get this book under my belt. There were figurative trumpet sounds and confetti.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was a shock of sublime writing. I highlighted that woman’s sentences with manic frequency, which actually slowed my reading progress. When I realized I would have to highlight entire pages, I made do with marking them with post-its. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman was a complicated experience in which I rebelled and ended up getting swept away. I unabashedly love Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home, with its superb prose and poignant exploration of family.

Early in the year, I read World War Z: An Oral History by Max Brooks in preparation for the Brad Pitt flick (haha). It’s a very sober take on a genre I count on to revel in its humour (ironic or otherwise) and caricature monsters. It is incisive yet brimming with heart, and I was happily surprised.

In short stories, I was blown away by J. D. Salinger’s Nine Stories. You know how, in short story collections, there are hits and misses? Well, here, all you get are hits. Each of the stories is a high, sustaining a superior reading experience throughout. This book transformed me both as a reader and a writer.

Kubi Best Reads 2014 (2)

Though not quite as transcendent as Nine Stories, I thoroughly enjoyed This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. In a notebook, I wrote of his style: “I finally understand what ‘lyrical’ means.” I also read my first Raymond Carver this year, Hanna’s copy of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. I guess it is a thing with Carver where he has to punch you in the heart? I found a copy of Cathedral a couple of months ago so yey, more beautiful pain.

As usual, it was a good year for young adult and children’s literature. I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen (and even anyone who won’t) that they should read Daughter of Smoke and Bone (and succeeding books thereof) by Laini Taylor. There is Prague and Marrakech and angels versus chimaeras and forbidden luuurv.

After a lengthy, fruitless search for The True Heroine, I finally found her in Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I also did a lot of crying-for-catharsis this year, the Ugly Cry Face making special appearances for Hold Still by Nina LaCour, The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay, and Where She Went by Gayle Forman. I took to Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl betterthan her other YA heavyweight, Eleanor & Park. Alas, the hype killed the latter for me, and I’ve promised to read it again when the dust has settled.

Kubi Best Reads 2014 (3)

I read Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman in October, at the end of an exceptionally hellish week. It was an oasis for my imagination, which was drying up due to my being severely tired and burned out. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, which I finished during the post-holiday slump at the beginning of the year, had the same rousing effect. It is a wise old thing, and I declared that my future kid would read it.

Sometimes, the powers-that-be conspire to send you a book so totally aligned with your current thoughts and feelings. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami was that kind of a book. Looking back, I was lucky I was paying attention. My other non-fiction favourite this year is A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, which told me “[not to] worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg was a purchase late in the year. I’m so glad I managed to get a copy, because it is absolutely gorgeous and strange. It is an ode to stories and the way they keep us breathing. The ongoing fantasy comic Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples was a recommendation from the boy, who correctly predicted that I would go crazy for it. And finally, my copy of Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav is a mess of post-its and bleeding hearts.

I didn’t expect it or think it possible, but 2013 turned out to be such a meaningful reading year. I’m not opposed to a repeat, but right now, I’m just thankful. The curtain is about to fall on my academic circus, my friends, so 2014 should largely be focused on finishing my thesis. But I will find those quiet moments, the precious gaps amid the chaos, where I might read a story or two.

This was a post by Kubi who is still looking for the right book to start out 2014.

Kubi’s 2013 Year-End Review

Hanna’s Year-End Review

It was another year filled with beautiful stories and magic.

2013 was a particularly busy year, but procrastination allowed me to read some of the most incredible books that have, in one way or another, made a significant impact on the way I read, write, observe, and create.

Here are my favorites for 2013:

Hanna's Year-End Review(Click the photo for a larger view)

1. Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins – Beautiful imagery, words that jump right out of the page, and masterful storytelling. I’m happy that these poems exist.

2. Hold Still by Nina LaCour – Heartbreakingly beautiful.

3. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin – Remarkably creepy and seductive. Also, Noah Shaw. And I want a brother like Daniel.

4. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor – A gorgeous and satisfying read.

5. The Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner – I know this is cheating because there are actually four books in this series, but these stories are so delicious and I want them all. Also, Eugenides is boss.

6. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – I was a mess of rainbows after reading this book. Read my review here, where I gushed about it and tried to articulate my feelings about, and for, Eleanor & Park.

7. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – Spectacularly clever and magical.

8. The Avery Shaw Experiment by Kelly Oram – I can’t with this book.

9. Graceling by Kristin Cashore – I want to be Katsa when I grow up.

10.Abarat by Clive Barker – Reading it felt like I was part of a magical mystery tour.

11. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay – Images of broken flowers, cracked eggshells, and blue roses spring to mind. There was a multitude of pauses and tears, and it made me forget about sleep.

12.The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – It conjured up memories of being a kid and being afraid and trying to remember and trying to forget. I’m still thinking about it. (Read Kubi’s review here, where she tried to sort out her feelings about this book and say thank you to one of our most beloved word painters.)

13.Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – It was like I sneezed, my soul escaped, and Rainbow Rowell caught it.

14.Turn Around Bright Eyes by Rob Sheffield – This provides glimpses into various parts of Rob Sheffield’s life that are familiar to me. I want to write about music like he does. Or at least become his karaoke buddy.

15.The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart – Incredibly clever and a delightful read. I want to go on more adventures with The Mysterious Benedict Society.

16.It’s a Magical World by Bill Watterson – Calvin and Hobbes, always and forevermore.

17.City of Thieves by David Benioff – A rollicking tale of war, survival, desire, friendship, and eggs. Also, a very impressive chess game.

18.Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary – It’s a wonderful little book that I wish I had read when I was a kid.

This was a post by Hanna, who wants more time to read and write and eat dumplings.

Hanna’s Year-End Review

Year-end Favorites at The Exchange 2012

2012 was relatively quiet here at The Exchange, updates coming few and far between. But we have been reading 🙂 Last year, we:

  • finally met Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald);
  • walked the streets of Barcelona with young Daniel and the intrepid Fermin (The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon);
  • danced under the moonlight in Fairyland (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – for a little while by Catherynne M. Valente);
  • fell in love with Henry and grieved with Taylor (Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson);
  • basked in David Levithan’s loving, glowing words (The Lover’s Dictionary and Every Day by David Levithan);
  • wondered at the curious baubles in Maira Kalman’s mind (The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman); and
  • watched June and Wes collide in their own Big Crunch (The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman).

In 2012, there was pain to go with the joy. The world lost Ray Bradbury, Maurice Sendak and Nora Ephron, among others. They are loved and will be missed.

We are, as always, excited for a fresh slate of books and reading. Let the revels begin!

This was a post by Kubi and Hanna, wishing everyone a fantastic New Year!

Year-end Favorites at The Exchange 2012

Hanna’s Favorite Reads in 2012

It’s been a rather busy year and there was barely enough time to pick up a book and get lost in it. But I’ve read some of the best books in 2012 and it’s extremely difficult to narrow down the list. So here are eighteen of the most remarkable books I’ve read this year:

  • 1Q84 (Book One) by Haruki Murakami
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
  • Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  • Enough About Love by Herve Le Tellier
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman

It was a year of magic and magnificent stories and remarkable things. Here’s to another year of spreading the love for good books and reading!

Hanna’s Favorite Reads in 2012

Kubi’s Year-end Review

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I read more books in 2012 than any other year I’d tracked my reads. I’m surprised, but pleased, because I was awful busy. Although I will say, there was this one golden stretch where I felt like I had found a balance between my reading and the stuff I had to do for work and school.

Also, towards the end of the year, I learned to earnestly read e-books and am glad for it. I thought the slight disconnect between reader and page would throw me off, but was happily wrong. Certain books even in digital form still made me want to rip out my heart (Second Chance Summer, I’m looking at you). Anyway, here are my favorites for 2012:

  1. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – The glittering Twenties descending into the Depression, the complicated bonds of men and women, and well, the rules of civility.
  2. Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl – A discerning palate’s coming of age. Ruth Reichl is wicked cool and a damn fine writer.
  3. Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield – Or, the one where I wish I could write about music the way Rob Sheffield does.
  4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – Jane Austen was being funny and Catherine Morland is loony.
  5. Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson – I like travel books, and they’re even better when drawn. Made me wish I could draw.
  6. City of Thieves by David Benioff – You must read it just for the chess game.
  7. The El Bimbo Variations by Adam David (with Josel Nicolas) – Clever. Very clever.
  8. The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami – I didn’t understand a lot of it, but the words just trickled so amiably into my brain.
  9. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente – September went to Fairyland-below and all I got were all the stupid feels. I need the next one, poste haste.
  10. The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson – This is my favorite Maureen Johnson book (and that’s saying something because she’s written a couple about Europe).

This was a post by Kubi who is plotting her reading year.

Kubi’s Year-end Review

Collective Favorites of 2011

Last year was, indeed, a good year for reading but it was also the busiest and most stressful year that we’ve had so far. Naturally, we turned to books and films for refuge.

Our mutual favorites for last year are those that have made us squee with delight and giggle like blushing school girls with crushes:

  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
  • The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen
  • What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
  • This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
  • Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

For last year’s collective favorites, click here.

Collective Favorites of 2011

Kubi’s Favorite Reads in 2011

2011 was a busy year for me. I moved back to The Big City, jumpstarted my academic train wreck career, and took on a new job. It’s been tricky in the way of finishing books, as demonstrated admirably by my meager list. But I’ve been lucky, because I only ended up reading books I either liked or loved (thanks, in large part, to Hanna and her always spot-on recommendations). So, without further ado, my favorites for 2011:

Another challenging year awaits, but “I have my books and my poetry to protect me.”  My fine wordly friends, it is always a pleasure. Read forth!

Kubi’s Favorite Reads in 2011