I’m more than a little late on this one, but before July slips away I couldn’t resist filling out the Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag for the third year in a row. Honestly 2019 has been a disappointing year of reading for me so far. I’ve read a lot of great reads but very few that blew me away. With just five months left of the year there are only 4 books or series that I can see making my year-end list of favourites. I’ll have to step it up! But first, a reflection on the first half of the year in books:
Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2019
Hands down it’s Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe. I very rarely read nonfiction, but this narrative nonfiction work about the disappearance of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten, during the conflict in Northern Ireland known as “the Troubles” is so engaging that I had trouble putting it down and have since recommended it to countless friends and coworkers. One of the most unsettling and informative books I’ve ever read, it contextualizes the events of the Troubles and the day-to-day existence and trauma of those who lived through this period. Say Nothing will haunt me for a long time to come.
Question 2 – Your favorite sequel of the year
Two of my favourite trilogies wrapped up this year. I can only imagine the pressure an author must feel to stick the landing of their series, but both of these authors brought their respective stories to a close brilliantly. Amnesty, the final part in Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough Dossier series focused on its characters to explore recovery from trauma and how to move on in a bittersweet but perfectly appropriate finale. Katherine Arden’s Winter of the Witch focused on Vasya, one of my favourite fictional characters, maturing into her powers and her slow-burn relationship with the Winter King. Although the pacing was at times uneven, I was engaged throughout and found the story deeply moving.
Question 3 – A new release that you haven’t read but really want to
Three new releases that have caught my attention, but that I haven’t picked up yet are:
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon – Measuring in at a whooping nearly 900 pages, this is a doorstopper of a book that almost feels like a throwback to the massive fantasy epics of 10-20 years ago BUT it’s written by a woman and the reviews I’ve read say it’s worth the time investment.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine – This one got a lot of buzz as a clever, intricate sci-fi debut involving political machinations. All of these things appeal to me so I look forward to checking it out!
The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson – I’m not sure it even counts as new anymore since it came out last October, but I’m still dying to pick this up! I LOVED The Traitor Baru Cormorant but wanted to re-read before moving on in the series and I haven’t done it yet. This year for sure!
Question 4 – Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – I feel like every book blogger is talking about this book! I keep checking back waiting for it to be added to the Toronto Public Library catalogue so I can place my hold, but honestly the buzz has been so overwhelming that I might just buy a copy because this book sounds right up my alley!
The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang – Last year The Poppy War was one of my favourite books – a fantasy debut that was refreshingly diverse, was set in a brutal world, and featured a ruthless, not traditionally likable heroine. I look forward to continuing Rin’s story in this sequel.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – At this point I will read anything Leigh Bardugo chooses to write, so I am all in for her adult fiction debut!
Question 5 – Your biggest disappointment
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie. I ADORE Leckie’s Imperial Radch Trilogy and the standalone novel set in the same universe (Provenance) so my expectations were sky high for her first fantasy novel but I was just so damned bored! I strongly considered DNF-ing and only didn’t so I could write my review on how much I disliked this book. Others may find it experimental and brave but I hated it.
Question 6 – Biggest surprise of the year
My big self-set challenge for this year was so read the Nebula nominees, which included novellas. I’d previously always thought that novellas weren’t my thing, but it turns out I was just reading the wrong ones! I read some brilliant novellas this year. I had a good inkling that I would adore Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series since they’ve been so acclaimed and the summary really appealed to me, but I was surprised by how much I loved Kate Heartfield’s Alice Payne Arrives and Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach. As a bonus, both authors are Canadian!
Alice Payne Arrives and its sequel are pure time travel fun with a lesbian WoC highway(wo)man protagonist who, along with her scientist lover, robs unsuspecting men who behave inappropriately towards women. What’s not to love?
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach is an ecological novella that cleverly imagines how time travel technology could be used for profit, while exploring generational differences in a sensitive way. Also, it has an asexual secondary character!
Question 7 – Favourite new to you or debut author
I FINALLY read Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series of novellas and I have absolutely no idea why it took me so long. I AM OBSESSED. Snarky pretends not to care introverted robot who would prefer to be watching its favourite TV shows but actually cares a whole lot and has to keep saving its stupid humans? Sign me up!
Question 8 – Your new fictional crush
Question 9 – New favourite character
Hands down the answer is Murderbot. I adore Murderbot. I probably relate to it a little too much for it to be healthy. I will read anything Martha Wells writes about Murderbot. Runners up are Billy from Daisy Jones & The Six, who I found so empathetic and engaging, and Elma from The Calculating Stars. Her mathematical brilliance, drive to achieve her goals, ability to reflect on how she could do better when it came to women-of-colour and those from less privileged backgrounds, and her severe social anxiety made her such a well-rounded and interesting protagonist.
Question 10 – A book that made you cry
Once again, these two brilliant conclusions to trilogies. The emotional catharsis was A Lot. And honestly even the description for Amnesty when it was released was enough to make me emotional (DO NOT READ THE DESCRIPTION FOR AMNESTY IF YOU HAVEN’T READ AMBERLOUGH AND ARMISTICE, IT IS SPOILERY), so was there ever any doubt that the book would make me feel all the feelings?
Question 11 – A book that made you happy
The True Queen by Zen Cho. Sorcerer to the Crown was such a delightful read and I absolutely adored this sequel as well. It’s well-paced, with more plot twists throughout than Sorcerer to the Crown and the writing remains witty, often with tongue-in-cheek. The return of Prunella and Zacharias filled me with delight, and I loved the expanded roles of some minor characters from the first book, and the introduction of new characters like Muna, a young Malaysian woman in search of her sister.
Question 12 – Your favourite book to movie adaptation that you’ve seen this year
I don’t know if I’ve seen any to be honest! I don’t tend to watch a lot of films though.
Although not a movie, I’m very much looking forward to watching the adaptation of Good Omens.
I also started watching The Magicians this year and binge-watched the DVDs in record time for the first three seasons and it was my happy place. I absolutely loved it. And then season four came along and if you’ve missed what went down about the end of the season, including the shameful treatment of mental health issues, queer characters, the actors involved, and the fanbase then you’re lucky. It’s soured my entire view of the show to date and I haven’t been able to watch it back since, which is a shame because the weird and frequently ‘just for the hell of it’ weirdness of the show, the musical episodes, and the friendships between the characters were exactly what I wanted in a show.
Question 13 – Favourite book post you’ve done this year
It’s been a rough year for me with the winter that never ends kicking my SAD into high gear and then a summer that has been incredibly humid and stressful at work so I haven’t had the time or drive to blog. I’m hoping to write a few non-review posts in the next few weeks that I’m looking forward to as things finally quiet down for me at work.
I’m most proud that I completed my challenge of both reading and reviewing all of the Nebula nominees for Best Novel and Best Novella before the awards were announced. Read my coverage here.
I finally found the words to write a review of Amberlough, one of my favourite books.
And I’m honestly pretty pleased with how my less positive review of The Raven Tower turned out.
Question 14 – The most beautiful book you have bought/received this year
The Amberlough Dossier series have some of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen in my life. I also bought a keeper copy of Robert Jackson Bennett’s Foundryside and I love the cover design on it.
Question 15 – What are some books you need to read by the end of the year
I’d really like to work through some of my owned but not read backlist of books. That includes reading Royal Assassin, the second in Robin Hobb’s Farseer series, Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers, Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, The King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, The Regeneration Trilogy (Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and Ghost Road) by Pat Barker, and reading some of Mary Renault’s work for the first time.
As well as a few re-reads so I can continue with series – The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson and The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold – and a few classics. I’m hoping to tackle Rebecca (for the first time) and Frankenstein (which I haven’t read since I was 19) this Fall.
How’s everyone else’s reading year going? Are you having better luck with your book choices than I am? What should I add to my TBR that you absolutely loved and think I would too? Comment and let me know!