The lovely Steph over at Lost Purple Quill tagged me in this book tag, which looked like a great way to review the highlights of my reading so far this year. Thanks Steph! I’m not going to tag anyone because I know this one has been making the rounds and I haven’t kept up with who has already been tagged, but if you want to do this, please consider yourself tagged!
1. The Best Book You’ve Read So Far In 2017
I could choose a couple of books here, but I’m going to go with Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I fell in love with this moving tale of a multi-generational Korean family living in Japan between 1910 and the 1980s. The prose is eloquent yet clear, the characters are incredibly likable, and I loved learning about this period and place in history that I knew so little about. Pachinko was recommended to me by Rachel @ Pace Amore Libri (thank you Rachel!) and was a monthly pick for a bookclub we’re both in, and I couldn’t be more thankful. This is one book that I would recommend to just about everyone!
2. Your Favourite Sequel This Year
My other five-star read so far this year is V.E. Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light, the final book in her Shades of Magic trilogy. Like any final book in a series, A Conjuring of Light was a book I both couldn’t wait to get my hands on and read with anxiety that it wouldn’t live up to expectations, or that the plot wouldn’t wrap-up in a satisfactory way. I shouldn’t have worried – A Conjuring of Light was everything I hoped it would be and more, although bidding goodbye to the characters I so loved was difficult.
3. A New Release That You Haven’t Read But Really Want To
I’ve been looking forward to Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue since a friend gushed about it a few months back. Fortunately it’s in transit to me from my local library, so I’ll be able to read it later this month!
4. Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half Of The Year
Another one that I’ve heard rave advance reviews of is E.K. Johnston’s That Inevitable Victorian Thing, which will be published on October 3, 2017! I was already excited about reading this book before I read anything by Johnston. Now that I’ve read and loved Exit, Pursued by a Bear, I cannot wait to get my hands on this one!
5. Your Biggest Disappointment
There are a few books that all turned out to be disappointments for me, mostly for the same reason: they had great concepts and gorgeous covers, but the execution didn’t live up to the promise of the material. Those books are:
-> Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – This was a textbook example of great concept, poor execution for me. The author switches genders of the typical prince-princess story to give readers a lesbian couple, but plays every other trope straight for a very conventional story. The book also lacks almost any world-building, so it’s fun at the surface level but cracks start to show as soon as you look at it with a closer eye.
-> Everfair by Nisi Shawl – I admired the ingenuity that went into this alternate history/steampunk Belgian Congo novel, but it’s a debut novel and it showed. Everfair reads more like a series of vignettes than a novel with a plot, and often skips over action scenes with important moments happening off the pages of the book. It also never grabbed me emotionally.
-> The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich – It wasn’t a bad book. I gave it 2.5 stars and even enjoyed reading it since it was a short enough read that I didn’t feel like I had wasted my time, but the world wasn’t thought through and the author didn’t seem to know whether it wanted to be a unique YA dystopia or a pure satire. This lack of direction meant the execution was sometimes sloppy.
6. Biggest Surprise Of The Year
Swing Time was the first Zadie Smith novel I’d ever read, a book I picked up mostly because of the dance theme I’d read was a big part of the novel. I think that’s a bit misleading, dance doesn’t play nearly as heavily into Swing Time as I expected, but I still REALLY enjoyed the book, rating it a solid four stars. This was a very pleasant surprise because after requesting the book from my library I read some goodreads reviews, even from people who enjoyed the book, that didn’t recommend it as the best choice for a Zadie Smith newbie and I had started to second-guess my decision. Fortunately, Swing Time worked for me, and I hope to read more from Zadie Smith in the future.
7. Favourite New To You Or Debut Author
One of my favourite books of the year to date is Katherine Arden’s exquisite and evocative historical fantasy The Bear and the Nightingale. It was a hell of a debut, with prose that hooked me from the very first page and characters I fell in love with, especially Vasilisa, a protagonist who is wild and brave but also compassionate towards others. This book made a fan out of me. I will happily read anything else Katherine Arden releases into the world… especially the planned sequel (set for release in early 2018)!
8. Your New Fictional Crush
I don’t know that I really have one? But I think the closest would be James from M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains. James was one of my favourite characters in the novel. He’s studious, constantly looking through his books, and works hard to earn his success. He’s a terrific actor, who usually plays princes and heroic roles, and he’s well liked by his friends. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s also described as handsome, although from a biased source (his closest friend Oliver). I also have a giant girl crush on Irene from Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library. A competent librarian spy who uses precise grammar and practical quick-thinking to complete her missions? Sign me up!
9. New Favourite Character
A toss-up between Breq/Justice of Toren in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series and Vasya in Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale. Breq is an enigmatic presence initially, brusque and determined to complete her mission of vengeance, but always fascinating and resourceful. A music-loving millenia old spaceship AI inhabiting the body of a single human “ancillary”, in Ancillary Sword, she’s diverted somewhat from her vengeance and relishes trying to help out the victims of inequality on one planet and challenging the presiding ideas about class and what is respectable. Arden’s Vasya is introduced as a child, but even as a girl she’s singular among her family because she can see the household spirits and interact with them. Free-spirited and bold, Vanya is also kind, trying to help those around her and obviously caring deeply for her family and her siblings. Caught between doing what is expected of her as a woman and doing what’s right, she’s a new favourite character of mine.
10. A Book That Made You Cry
Well, although A Conjuring of Light certainly made me tear up, as did Pachinko and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, and the end of City of Miracles, the only book so far this year to make my I Actually Cried shelf on Goodreads is M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains. I suspected I would enjoy the book, but I really didn’t expect the novel to be as moving as it was! Even when I could guess where the plot was going, I cared about the characters enough that the narrative still tugged at my heartstrings, and I loved the ambiguous ending.
11. A Book That Made You Happy
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. The best way to describe these books, particularly the first of the Wayfarers series, is that they are Hufflepuff books. They’re books that are comfortable and cozy, without ever feeling manipulative or overly fluffy. They’re books about people being nice to one another and how you choose your family and protect them. Although they both have somewhat rushed and overly neatly tied up endings, I loved reading both books and they definitely made me happy.
12. Your Favourite Book To Movie Adaptation That You’ve Seen This Year
I can’t judge on a comparison level since I don’t think there are any where I’ve both read the book and seen the movie this year. I haven’t read the book, but I saw the Hidden Figures movie about female African-American mathematicians employed at NASA, who play integral roles in launching the program’s first space missions. The movie was fabulous! It made me smile and I loved all of the leading characters. I’m not much of a non-fiction reader, so I don’t know if I’ll ever read the book, but I enjoyed this immensely.
13. Favourite Book Post That You’ve Published This Year
I was pretty proud of the books I ultimately came up with for the T5W topic ‘Books For Your Hogwarts House’. I selected books that seemed quintessentially Ravenclaw to me, and my choices seemed to go over well!
14. The Most Beautiful Book You Bought Or Received This Year
It has to be A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab! I adore the covers on this series, and this beautiful hardcover is no exception. The online bookstore was selling signed editions for only fifty cents more than an unsigned edition, so my copy is signed by the author too!
15. What Are Some Books That You Need To Read By The End Of The Year
So so many! Some Rachel recs are definitely on this list – especially East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. I also REALLY need to start reading Robin Hobbs’ series, so I think those are the top of my list!