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Angel Picks: Best 5 of 2016

If you are new to Angry Angel Books, welcome! If you would like to read about me you can go HERE or if you have been a reader for a while and would like to help us grow, read more about Angry Angel Gifts HERE. There are so many new things coming in 2017 and we would love for you to be a part of them.

Here are my Angel Picks from 2016. These are not ranked or in any particular order. Just the best five I read this year based on my own humble opinion, and based partially on the ratings I gave on Goodreads (I’m Angry Seraph there, if you want to connect). Please note that these books are not necessarily books written in 2016, I just happened to read them in 2016. Full reviews are linked in the titles.

homegoingHomegoing (2016), by Yaa Gyasi

The story of two sisters and their descendants on different paths through history. This is a beautiful story of what family means, what struggle is, and how to find peace. I cannot wait to read more of Yaa Gyasi’s work. Her voice is an important one.

 

shrillShrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (2016), by Lindy West

Lindy West’s voice in this book provides representation and strength in a world where obesity and overweight are the norms. This book reminds us to question society’s expectations and pressures while listening to what makes you happy, no matter your weight

 

Cover Kitchens of the Great MidwestKitchens of the Great Midwest (2015), by J. Ryan Stradal

A journey through one woman’s influences on others and her movement towards independence from a past full of tragedy. This book is the beautifully told story of the ripples in her wake. What really stood out about this book was that it was about this woman without actually telling us what she was doing every minute.

bright-placesAll the Bright Places (2015), by Jennifer Niven

A young adult novel which explores grief and the mental struggles that young people deal with. We see two teens fall in love and experience loss. This book speaks to my need for truthful representation of real phenomenon in books, but that also made me question whether this book should be classified as YA. A powerful and beautiful story.

girl-with-giftsThe Girl With All The Gifts (2014), by M.R. Carey

This is the first book I have read in a long time that I feel offers a decent solution and future in a world of zombies. It explores “human” relationships, expands our understanding of what it means to be human, and shows how we can teach children to live in a world that exists, and not a world that has passed. All important lessons in our world today.

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Angry Picks: Worst 5 Books of 2016

There were several books that I forced myself through this year that made me angry when I was finished because it felt like reading them was a waste of precious time. These are the angry picks from 2016, all titles linked to their full reviews.

gfcGold Fame Citrus

This book started so well. Divided into three parts, the first part says “let’s do Cormac McCarthy’s The Road but less depressing” and then the other two parts don’t do that. I’m not sure what the other parts were doing. Books that make me think we’re going one place and then don’t make sense at all make me very angry.

lily-octopusLily and the Octopus

This book combines many things I hate, but I didn’t know it until the end. Thinking this would be similar to “The Art of Racing in the Rain” (LIKE IT SAYS ON THE FUCKING COVER) I decided ugly crying through a dog dying was worth a beautiful love story about man’s best friend. RUN FROM THIS BOOK. DO NOT WALK. RUN.

pandemoniumDelirium #2: Pandemonium

Now, you know how you have that friend who is the hot friend and you know full well you are the “normal” friend but you really want to be the hot friend? Lauren Oliver REALLY wanted her Delirium trilogy to be the Hunger Games or Divergent. IT IS NOT. The first book isn’t on this list because it was VERY good. Books 2 and 3 are VERY NOT.

requiemDelirium #3: Requiem

And book 3 gets an extra special shout out for NOT HAVING A FUCKING ENDING. Just because our main character finds a modicum of resolution DOES NOT MEAN WE HAVE RESOLVED THE CONFLICT SET UP IN THE BOOKS. Oh my god I almost threw this book out the window and simply reimbursed the library for it so no one else had to read this unsatisfying trash.

girl waits with gunGirl Waits With Gun

Now, this one didn’t make me irate, it made me pull out the classic mom line: “I’m not mad, just disappointed.” This book was so good at the beginning: independent women in a time when women were actively expected NOT to be independent facing off against a powerful man over damages owed and then…BORING REPETITIVE SNOREFEST. Maybe I should try book 2 and see if it improves.

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Angry Angel Gifts

As we move through the holidays and closer to the new year, Angry Angel Books is making plans for the future. It has been a fantastic year seeing this blog grow, and I have definitely mastered the art of the holds list at the library.

There were obstacles, mostly in the fact that I am admittedly poor and had to wait on those new releases from the library instead of purchasing them straight away. I read at the speed of Lucille Ball trying to shove chocolates into her mouth, but the supply of chocolate was not quite as fast.

lucy-chocolate

I’ve been brainstorming and while I know many blogs go for straight donations, that didn’t feel right to me since my blog isn’t very far reaching right at the moment. My mind kept returning to how thankful I was about your readership and the library for helping me to have access to so many good books, and came up with this idea.

giftsreturn-to-senderdonation

Angry Seraph Amazon Wish List

I created an Amazon wish list with some upcoming 2017 releases. If you would like, click the link above and take a look around. I’m going to be keeping a very close watch on popular books in 2017 and keeping this list updated. If you are interested in a book you don’t see on the list, just message or post on Angry Angel Books on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

So how will it work? If you enjoy my reviews and want to contribute to my site, choose a book to purchase or pre-order and the site will send it directly to me. When purchasing or pre-ordering make sure to leave a gift message to indicate one of three things.

  • This is a gift! Buying a book for me to either keep or donate or gift as I will. I love books! Please include your address so I can send a thank you note. gifts
  • Send it back to you so you can read it! Want me to read and review it first? Great! Want the book you bought for yourself afterwards? Fantastic! In the gift message please give me your name and shipping address and I will send to you right away once the book has been read. return-to-sender
  • Donate! If you would like this book to be donated to a specific organization or library, even if it’s near you, please include the info in your gift message or DM me on Twitter or Facebook and it shall be done.

donation

This is something I want to continue through 2017, and whether people use this or not I will be continuing to review and enjoy books that I hope you enjoy as well. There are more new additions in the works, but this was the first one I could share now. 🙂 Happy Holidays!

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The Mothers

mothers

Brit Bennett’s book The Mothers is one of the realest books I’ve read in a long time. So many elements of this book would happen in real life exactly as they are described. I appreciated how she treated the delicate matters of the book with the attention and realism they were due instead of trying to paint a pretty picture or offer up convenient happy endings.

The three main characters Luke, Aubrey, and Nadia all follow their own paths and are affected by the choices of the others. Luke is an aspiring football player who becomes injured and has to get a job and return home. Nadia is a high school student who is overcoming her mother’s suicide and planning to attend college. Aubrey is a survivor of rape and domestic abuse, living with her sister and finding comfort in the ministry at Upper Room Church. Luke’s father is the pastor at Upper Church, and Nadia’s parents attend Upper Church when her mother commits suicide and then her father begins serving much more fervently. The stories of these three are very tightly intertwined.

Nadia begins a secretive relationship with Luke in her senior year and becomes pregnant. She wants to get rid of the baby and so Luke goes (unbeknownst to Nadia) to his parents, admits what he has done, and they give him the money to give Nadia for her abortion. After getting the abortion everyone moves on but wonders what might have been.

Mothers are all throughout this novel. Nadia as a former mother. The effects of her mother’s suicide. Aubrey’s mother’s decision to stay with her rapist and abuser, necessitating her escape. Luke’s mother’s decision to fund the abortion. And throughout the book we hear commentary from a heavenly “WE,” the matriarchs of the church, the older ladies who have seen things.

I saw myself in Aubrey; escaping a past that I have to try to be better than. I saw myself in Nadia; making tough choices in order to better myself but also still wondering what might have been, constantly in motion and wandering. I saw myself as Luke, a could-have-been that has to find a way to redefine my life to match my current reality. Tackling all these personal journeys is difficult enough, but doing it in the midst of a close knit community that is all too enthusiastic about being nosey and offering judgement makes living very tough and complicated.

This book was a beautiful read; my only complaint was that it was not another world for me, not an escape. Echoes of my own experience resonated throughout the pages and there were some chapters when I began crying without realizing it, remembering something from my past. I’m sure that tonight I will dream of this book, and wake up with tears wet on my cheeks.

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Gold Fame Citrus

gfcI’m writing this review on Friday night after a week of preparing to go on winter break (I’m a teacher) so my brain is pretty fried. I will say this though, I don’t think that being overworked contributed to my reaction to this book at all. (Spoilers towards the end. Fair warning.)

When it starts you think it’s going to be like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but before full apocalypse sets in. Then it becomes a story of a changing landscape, where people need only adapt and accept the waterless world in which they live. The ending strips this visage from our eyes and exposes the harsh reality that there is no hope, only restocking, refueling, and retreat.

I don’t think I’m smart enough to understand what this book was about. Well, I take that back. I’m smart enough to understand, but I don’t think I’ve read enough of the books or seen the movies that the author credits as inspirations in her acknowledgements to get the references. Was this book an inside joke? An homage to all these other things she loves? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I guess, but I’ll readily admit that I was not part of the club that got it.

I lived in the Southwest for 3 years and I loved it. I still miss it. The beginning of this book is totally a possible future for that area of the country, but then it takes a sharp left turn and never recovers despite its auspicious beginning. I’m upset I didn’t just put it down once I realized that I wasn’t enjoying it. Life is too short to spend time reading books that you don’t enjoy.

***SPOILERS BELOW***

Also the book was all about them and this kid Ig and then they just left her with those nomads and drove off into the sunset and one and maybe both of them commit suicide? I’m confused? Was this book about hope in the face of tragic circumstances? About taking risks for the sake of the children? That children are our future? I. WAS. FURIOUS. when they just walked away. OK crazy desert people, you can have this kid that we gave up everything for, bye now!

Ugh. I’m going to have to try her other book Battleborn because this one was an epic fail for me but I do want to give Watkins another chance.

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Challenge Accepted!

 

Suit up fellow angels! 2017 is about to crash down around us like a Steinway falling from a moving company crane and I am trying my hardest to find things to look forward to and to engage in that will help me survive what is coming.

In that spirit I present the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Located on Goodreads, it encourages readers to diversify their reading habits to include a variety of books. This year’s challenge looks like this:

1. Read a book about sports.

2. Read a debut novel.

3. Read a book about books.

4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.

5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.

6. Read an all-ages comic.

7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.

8. Read a travel memoir.

9. Read a book you’ve read before.

10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.

11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.

12. Read a fantasy novel.

13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.

14. Read a book about war.

15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.

16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.

17. Read a classic by an author of color.

18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.

19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey (From Daniel José Older, author of Salsa Nocturna, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, and YA novel Shadowshaper)

20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean, author of ten bestselling historical romance novels)

21. Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay, bestselling author of Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, Marvel’s World of Wakanda, and the forthcoming Hunger and Difficult Women)

22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng, author Everything I Never Told You and the forthcoming Little Fires Everywhere)

23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of the Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series, including The Unquiet Dead, The Language of Secrets, and the forthcoming Among the Ruins)

24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi, author of sci-fi novel Ascension)

There are 24 challenges and 12 months, with a more than reasonable two books per month. I’m gonna give it the good old college try, why don’t you join me?

Remember I’m on Goodreads as Angry Seraph, on Twitter as @angryangelbooks, and now on Facebook! I’m working on making my Instagram something more than just “Here’s a pic of the book I just read!” but I’ve discovered I basically suck at Instagram so it’s a work in process.

Just two more reviews this year and then my inaugural Top 5 Angriest Books of 2016!

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The Regional Office is Under Attack!

regional-officeThis is one of the weirdest books I have read all year. No background is provided for the current situation and we are asked to take for granted that the organization that works out of the regional office helps to stop forces of interdimensional darkness from harming the Earth. I chose to read it kind of like X-Men except instead of Professor X we have Oyemi, instead of Cerebro we have Oracles in their kiddie pools of blue goo, and instead of mutants we have girls, LOTS of girls with different kinds of powers that aren’t really explained either, just that the Oracles tell Oyemi and her sidekick Mr. Niles where to find them and they “recruit” them into service. The girl soldiers travel across time and space and dimensions, all as directed by the regional office.

Focus is given to two girls in particular: Rose and Sarah. Rose is recruited by the attackers and Sarah is recruited by the regional office directly, specifically Mr. Niles. Rose is trained with a group of women tasked with overtaking the office, and Sarah acts as Mr. Niles’ right hand woman. He offers Sarah the chance to get revenge on the people who abducted her mother years ago, and to help her with that he gives her intelligence, resources, and a nanotech mechanical arm. Constant references to multiple popular movies and superheroes help guide us through both perspectives of this attack.

Interwoven with the actual action, there is a research paper type narrative which brings together evidence and conjecture to theorize why this attack happened and how the office fell. This paper presents us with the historical information in a scattered fashion to help support the forward motion of the rest of the book. I’m not sure who would be writing such a paper or why, but it serves its purpose.

If you don’t look too deeply or demand to know too many details, this is a fun, action-packed book. You’ve come in just as the battle is beginning! It’s like finding The Avengers or Pacific Rim on a TV station and deciding to watch even though they are on the final battle and you’ve never seen the movie before. It’s exciting even if you don’t know how they got to where they are.

If you do look deeply, you’ll notice that despite the overwhelming feminine power theme, men control much of the action. The female superheroes are sent on their missions by Mr. Niles, and a man named Henry was found by the oracles as a way to enhance their recruitment techniques; Henry can convince these girls to do anything! Also the focus on just Rose and Sarah doesn’t seem to have a purpose. Without deep back stories we could have heard from many more of the agents: Emma, Jasmine, any of them. Why the story had to go between only Rose and Sarah escaped me, and without details on the rest of the team on either side it was difficult to invest emotional energy in the story. Most stories can be divided into plot-driven and character-driven, but this book seems to be something completely different.

Despite this, Manuel Gonzales gives us a fun, fast, exciting battle where we see just what people are capable of. I recommend this book if you have time to just blast through it. It’s a good time.