Monday, January 30, 2017

Some of My Favorites From 2016

2017 may be well and truly underway by now, but since it’s been a while since I last posted, I thought I’d take a moment to look back on some of my favorite reads from last year.

New Favorite Series: The Amory Ames books, by Ashley Weaver
These books are so much fun. Amory Ames, a well-to-do uppercrust-y British lady in the ‘20s-’30s, solves murder mysteries and contends with her flirtatious and flighty husband, Milo. Though by the third book the romantic tension that came from her estrangement from her husband has been mostly resolved, the mysteries are interesting enough and her and Milo’s relationship sweet enough that I stuck around. Three books out so far, and I can’t wait for more! Thanks to Susan for turning me on to this series!

Best Non-Fiction Book: All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, by Rebecca Traister
Everyone should read this book, regardless of their sex, but especially, DEFINITELY if you are female. It doesn’t matter whether you are single or attached, gay or straight (this is starting to ring a bell—I feel like I’ve written this for the blog before), rich or poor—it’s a book about feminism and what it’s like to be a woman in the world, what it’s BEEN like to be a woman in the world since time immemorial. It seems to go without saying in our current political climate that there are those who feel threatened by the titular “rise of an independent nation” of females, and this book will empower you to fight back.

Best Graphic Novels of the Year: Too Many to List, Nearly
I read a *lot* of graphic novels last year, and loved most of them. I’ll try to limit myself to one line about each that I’m featuring here.
• Lumberjanes: Female friendship and the fun adventures of summer camp, with a delightful dose of the supernatural and humor added to the mix.
• Bitch Planet: Just what the doctor ordered for reading on 11/09/2016. That was probably the only day in my life when I have seriously (and I mean seriously) considered getting a tattoo, and it was going to say “non-compliant.”
• Paper Girls: More female friendship + supernatural, but with more of a sci-fi bent and some good old fashioned ‘80s fun. It’s kooky! It’s crazy! I loved it! (Also, it seems to live in the same ballpark of my brain as Stranger Things, for what it’s worth.)
• Monstress: Scary/sad/icky-at-times ruminations on war in a fantasy world, but with truly stunning art and an ever-deepening world that continues to draw me in. It’s kinda like a blend of manga and American comic traditions, and the result is completely unique.
• Rat Queens: I just discovered this series in 2016, and I really, really love it. The female friendships (which seems to be a theme for my 2016 graphic novel readings) are hilariously real, and the good-natured pokes at the fantasy genre made me laugh out loud while reading. I know there has been some weirdness regarding the continuation of the series, but I really hope it does continue.

Best Series Ender: Morning Star, by Pierce Brown
The Red Rising series has been one of my absolute favorites of recent years, and though this final entry may not have eclipsed Golden Son as my favorite of the series, it was very, very good. There’s one thing that came up at the end that I’m still ambivalent about that I’m not going to talk about here because spoilers, but it was a sweeping, emotional end to a fantastic trilogy. I’m looking forward to seeing what the author does with this world next.

Best Soul-Nourishing Heart-Book: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik
Starting this book felt like sinking into a feather bed. I felt the same way reading it that I did reading some of my favorite books from my childhood—Ella Enchanted, especially—but in a more mature way, if that makes sense. I’m sure it’s already been said in the jacket blurbs for the book, but it is fairy tale for grown-ups, and perfect. I can’t think of one thing I would change about it. The engagement I felt while reading it, the intense need to just not.stop.reading, and the happiness I felt after finishing it—I just haven’t felt that way about a book in a long while.

Best New-to-Me Series: The Shades of Magic Series, by V.E. Schwab
If Uprooted nourished the historical fairytale side of my reading personality, The Shades of Magic books nourish the slightly darker, sharper facet of said personality. These books are witty, and wise, and harrowing, and FUN. I love them. A Darker Shade of Magic and Uprooted are the two books I bought for everyone for Christmas, and everyone knows that when I get militantly insistent about reading a certain book, I must really, REALLY adore it.

Best Book That Nourished Yet Another Facet of My Literary Personality: The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath, by Ishbelle Bee
So, if I had to pick a couple authors to typify these various sides of my literary personality, one might be the Gail Carson Levine/Megan Whalen Turner/Elizabeth C. Bunce side (the side Uprooted appeals to). Another might be the Holly Black/Neil Gaiman side (where The Shades of Magic gets mentally filed for me). And yet another, the present one, would be the Catherynne Valente side. I love books that are magical and poetic and feel like they speak directly to me, touch my heart, in the way that art can. Mirror & Goliath has that sort of sensory language and intense imagery, and at times feels almost stream-of-consciousness (though the storytelling is still quite clear!), similar to some of my favorite Cat Valente stories. It is a beautiful book, and I loved it.

So those were some of my favorites from last year, and here, very quickly, is a preview of the books I’m most looking forward to in 2017!

What were some of your favorite reads of 2016? What are you looking forward to reading in the year to come? Hit up the comments and let us know!

**Where did the books come from? Glad you asked! Purchased: Rat Queens, Morning Star, A Darker Shade of Magic (well, library, then purchased a copy), and A Gathering of Shadows. Library: The Amory Ames books, All the Single Ladies, Bitch Planet, and Paper Girls. ARC from publisher: Lumberjanes (physical copy) and Monstress (digital copy). ARC from publisher, then either purchased or checked out from library: Uprooted (ARC, then purchased) and Mirror & Goliath (ARC, then libraried). As ever, much as we are grateful for review copies, our reviews are uninfluenced by the source of said copies, or by anyone else, for that matter.

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