According to my half-a-minute internet search, on July 1st we’re halfway through the year, so what better moment to do this Classic™ tag.
1: Best book you’ve read so far this year.
It kinds of saddens me that I don’t even have to struggle with choosing, but my favorite book so far this year is A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. How often do you read political intrigue that actually surprises you, or worldbuilding that actually feels unique, and how many of these books have a slow-burn f/f romance and also powerful, smart female characters other than the main character or her love interest? I was going to love this book no matter what, with this premise, but the way this book was… relevant to my situation as an Italian person who is constantly in contact with American culture made everything even more personal.
2: Best sequel you’ve read so far this year:
I’ve read only four sequels so far this year, Ruse, In an Absent Dream, Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven and Leah on the Offbeat.
Of these, the best one for me has been without a doubt In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire – not only it’s a great novella on its own, with an amazing audiobook, and made me think about so many things, it’s also great as a sequel because it made me want to continue the series: after not liking Down Among the Sticks and Bones and not caring that much about Beneath the Sugar Sky, I was on the verge of quitting, but I won’t. I actually want to reread the previous novellas to see if my opinion about some things has changed.
3: A new release you haven’t read yet but really want to
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He – one of the few hyped YA fantasy books that came out this year I’m actually interested in, and I haven’t even tried it? It’s not like I have to wait for a sequel to read it, as we don’t even know if there will be one.
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi – another of those few! I keep seeing mixed reviews and it seems to be so polarizing that I’m not even sure what I’m getting into. However, I loved Chokshi’s previous YA fantasy duology so much, I hope I won’t feel so differently about this one.
Middlegame by Seanan McGuire – I have no idea what this is about and I’d like to keep it that way until I actually read the book, but despite my constant avoidance of the synopsis and of every single review of this, I’m really interested in it and hope to get to it before the end of the year.
4: Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
I just posted a list of them! Of all of them, my most anticipated is probably Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, because it’s known that queer space fantasy is my favorite genre (let’s be honest for a moment: Ninefox Gambit is space fantasy).
However, to not be repetitive, I’m going to talk about two books I’m really looking forward to that didn’t make it to the list, one because there was another book by that author already – the anthology Of Wars, Memories and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard, which apparently will have a new f/f novella in it! – another because I forgot to add it to my TBR when I heard about it and so forgot it when I wrote the post – Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, which is a YA book about a trans black girl from a trans black author that is in some way about monsters and denial, and isn’t that A Premise
5: Biggest disappointment
With my DNF-what-doesn’t-work reading policy, I’m reading less and less books I dislike, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t find any disappointing ones. Honestly, the sequel novella Glass Cannon by Yoon Ha Lee was in itself kind of a disappointment (it was at odds with the tone of the rest with the series and just felt weird overall, even without the exposition problem), but as the short story collection Hexarchate Stories as a whole was not, it didn’t register that much.
The disappointment I felt more strongly this year was Wilder Girls by Rory Power. It did many things right, but I can’t ignore a) how simplistic and underdeveloped the attempt at metaphorical cli-fi horror was and b) how underdeveloped and emotionally flat the characters were (as Hermione would say, they had “the emotional range of a teaspoon”). They really did feel like words on a page.
6: Biggest Surprise
I have two of them! My favorite kind of surprise is requesting an ARC of a book I’m interested in but that I don’t think I’m going to love, and then the book proves me wrong! Sometimes I love being wrong.
- Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali is one of the best contemporary books I’ve ever read and the demonstration that one can write about marginalized young people and what they face without making everything a tragic story. This is such a happy book about Muslim teenagers in love – an adorable happy story, just with a background that isn’t always as happy (it tackles Islamophobia and also follows a character who was just diagnosed with multiple sclerosis).
- I almost thought that I wasn’t going to read anything by Amy Rose Capetta ever again, after being disappointed by Echo After Echo and being annoyed at the existence itself of The Brilliant Death. But The Lost Coast was amazing, and so queer, and such a welcoming story about the importance of community and acknowledging your own power.
7: Favorite New Author (Debut or New To You)
I thought I was going to have to repeat myself and say Arkady Martine, but technically I read two of her short stories last year, so she isn’t exactly new to me! My answer for this one is Victoria Lee, author of The Fever King, possibly the best dystopian book I’ve ever read.
There are those books you like, there are those books you love but in a… distant way? You think about them, but they don’t follow you. Then there are those that take root in your brain. I thought about The Fever King every day for at least a month and a half, which… usually doesn’t happen. I can only count two other books (or, should I say, two series) that did the same to me for longer. If you’ve been here a while, you probably already know which ones I’m talking about.
8: Newest Fictional Crush
I always feel weird about this question, as I don’t even get crushes on real people, so I’m going to see it as “character I’m very into, even though they’re kind of evil”, because that’s the closest I ever get to something like that.
And the answer this year is Nineteen Adze, “whose gracious presence illuminates the room like the edgeshine of a knife”, from A Memory Called Empire, because what can you expect from me when it comes to very morally ambiguous and just as competent female characters (I’m in love.)
9: Newest Favorite Character
Millicent “Millie” Roper from Borderline by Mishell Baker. She’s such a well-written, complex, and sometimes horrible character. I loved her and her voice so much, and I will always like reading about a main character who is impulsive and really good at lying (it makes for interesting plot developments). Also, she’s an amputee who lost her legs in a suicide attempt and has borderline personality disorder, and I had never read about a character who was either before.
10: A book that made you cry
None, but the one that got closer was The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum. And… probably for the wrong reasons? I loved this book, but I found the idea of some things the characters wanted from their future so upsetting that I was in a really weird place emotionally for a few hours.
11: A book that made you happy
Second place for the “which book made you cry” question is Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee, because I did seriously almost cry of happiness after I finished this. This story gave me so much joy, I had almost forgotten books could do that. And Nim!! Such a shapeshifting disaster of a 13-year-old, she was one of my favorite protagonists this year.
12: Favorite adaptation
This time I can answer, because I’ve seen two! To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Love, Simon. Honestly, as adaptations, they were both really good? As story, I enjoyed Love, Simon more, but that’s more because romance-focused stories on a screen are never that much my thing. As aesthetic/setting, however, TAtBILB was more interesting, and maybe I like Lara Jean as a character a bit more than Simon (don’t really care for her love interests, though).
13: Favorite post you’ve written
On Ratings and Being Critical. I probably should have made the message about “appreciating books more the more you read instead of the expected contrary” clearer, but I still really like it.
14: Most beautiful book you bought or received so far this year
If we’re talking about physical copies, then definitely Monstress Vol. 3 by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda. The art in this series is one of the best things I’ve ever seen, and there’s one specific panel (at the beginning of Issue/Chapter 14) in which there’s a villainess sitting on a throne (I!!!!) and wow that was attacking me personally
If ebooks count, then it’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. The art in this one… so soft. Those panels. So much emotion. I almost want a physical copy just for that, I hope they translate it.
15. A book you want to read before the end of the year:
AHAHAHA all of them
But it would be nice if I managed to read King of Scars before the year ends! I won’t count on it because I still have to reread Ruin and Rising, which I have no intention of doing anytime soon (…it’s so not a summer book)
Also: I’m going to make at least another attempt at reading The Fifth Season or The Traitor Baru Cormorant (two books I know will be difficult to read for me emotionally) before the year ends.
How is 2019 going for you? Have you read any of these?