We’re halfway through the year already. Incredible. It feels like it’s gone by in the blink of an eye, but it’s also felt like approximately three thousand years. Anyway.
My reading this year has been pretty steady; I’ve read 56 books thus far. At the beginning of, you know *gestures at everything* I was still reading a ton of books, but now I seem to be falling into a reading and writing slump, so there’s that. Alas.
1. The Best Book You’ve Read So Far In 2017
I can’t even express how much I loved G. Willow Wilson’s The Bird King. Not only does it have gorgeous writing and a lush historical setting, it’s got two vibrant main characters whose whose love for one another transcends the boundaries of platonic/romantic. It’s also a bizarre book that pays homage to a a medieval Persian poem about Islamic mysticism. There’s so much going on here, but that doesn’t prevent it from being funny and endearing.
2. Your Favourite Sequel This Year
Otherwise known as the only sequel I’ve read this year, but Tasha Suri’s Realm of Ash did not disappoint! The first book in this series was one of my favorites of 2019, and the sequel, while very different and following a different character, was just as good.
3. A New Release That You Haven’t Read But Really Want To
I don’t know how I haven’t managed to read N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became yet, since Jemisin is one of my favorite authors and I also have an ebook of this! I keep hearing about it and I’ve listened to so many interviews with Jemisin about it, so I don’t know why I keep dragging my feet.
4. Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half Of The Year
I literally have ARCs of all of these, yet I ‘ve read none of them! Anyway, these are all some flavor of fantasy. Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education is a contemporary fantasy about a magic school that I’ve seen described as “if Harry Potter were from the point of view of a random Slytherin.” And it’s Naomi Novik, so. The Bone Shard Daughter is your classic high fantasy, authored by a POC; early reviews sound fab. And Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark is historical fantasy set during Jim Crow times and featuring the KKK as a supernatural entity (I think?).
5. Your Biggest Disappointment
Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, but I just didn’t jive with it. I can’t help thinking that this is definitely a “me” problem rather than a book problem, because so many people who have read this are raving about it, but I found it just…barely okay. And I hated the romance. And speaking of romance: Evie Dunmore’s Bringing Down the Duke was just…really weird gender essentialism disguised as feminist historical fantasy. Etaf Rum’s A Woman Is No Man is a book by a Palestinian woman about Palestinian women that I found really poorly written on a technical level and lacking any sort of nuance about the Arab world; it only served to perpetuate really gross stereotypes.
6. Biggest Surprise Of The Year
Y’all know I’m not generally a romance reader, so I never expect to love any romance books, but Sarah Hogle’s You Deserve Each Other was such a pleasant surprise? I think part of it was that the book was very focused on the emotional aspects of the relationship rather than the sexual. It was just so sweet and wholesome. It’s also really, really funny.
7. Favourite New To You Or Debut Author
Camilla Bruce’s You Let Me In was definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year. Not only did I love the creepy plot and character dynamics in this book, but I thought her writing was lovely. She seems to have really interesting ideas; her next book is about a female serial killer. Sounds excellent!
8. Your New Fictional Crush
Not a crush per se, but from the moement he first appeared, I was absolutely drawn to bisexual disaster Yskandr Aghavn in Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire. Honestly all the characters in that book are pretty impressive, but he’s the exact archetype of character I like: self-deprecating, dry, witty, clever.
9. New Favourite Character
Silvia Moreno-Garcia doesn’t get enough credit in general, and this book is flying under the radar in a way that makes me sad, because Viridiana, Untamed Shore‘s heroine, is spectacular. The whole book is basically her coming-of-age story. She’s such an intriguing young woman; reserved, somewhat detached, ambitious, takes things in stride. By the end she’s grown even more ruthless and calculating.
10. A Book That Made You Cry
This didn’t make me cry, as I rarely if ever cry when reading, but Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa definitely made me feel some very, very heavy feelings.
11. A Book That Made You Happy
I just love Zen Cho’s whimsical writing, and The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water was no exception. This was such a fun romp of a novella.
12. Favourite Book Post That You’ve Published This Year
I’m pretty proud of my review of The Bird King, which was a book that really dug deep into my well of emotions, and I liked my 10 Series to Finish in 2020 post, though, predictably, I have made no headway whatsoever on those books.
13. The Most Beautiful Book You Bought Or Received This Year
I haven’t bought as many books this year as I thought, which is good, because I’m running out of shelf space. Actually, scratch that, I have already run out of shelf space, and I’ve started to layer my books, which I hate doing. Anyway, S.A. Chakraborty’s The Kingdom of Copper is a cover that literally almost made me cry because I love it so much. Brian Lee Durfee’s The Forgetting Moon is just a very appealing fantasy type of cover, as does Gareth Hanrahan’s The Shadow Saint. Both are so vibrant and eye-catching! Finally, Sarah Perry’s Melmoth doesn’t look like much, but in person there’s something about it that’s so vibrant and gorgeous.
14. What Are Some Books That You Need To Read By The End Of The Year
What don’t I need to read, to be honest. Even though 2020 feels kind of slow and I have plenty of time to read, I’m still woefully behind. But specifically, I’m trying to read some high-fantasy hard-hitters this year. I own all of these books, four as physical copies and two as ebooks. Not all of these are huge names – Evan Winters is a relatively new author, and the only black author on this list (the rest, alas, are white men). But Joe Abercrombie is one of the most famous household names in high fantasy, along with Daniel Abraham (though I feel like he commands more respect among a smaller crowd rather than being super popular). Of course Scott Lynch is mentioned in every single list of recommended fantasy. Bradley Beaulieu and Nicholas Eames are a little bit more indie-leaning, but I still hear their names a lot.