Half the year is over and I am still expecting amazing books to come my way in 2015, but it doesn’t hurt to take a look back at my favorites of the year – so far. The Broke and the Bookish hosted the perfect Top Ten Tuesday – which I missed because I’m slow and also time zones.
2015 has been very good to me book-wise. Despite the Hugo Awards… thing… (you know), a lot of cool things have been happening in fandom and I decided to use this post only for happy stuff. If I close my eyes really hard, maybe the bad stuff disappears?
Once again, Worlds Without End is majorly to blame for my discovery of some great new authors, but I believe The Book Smugglers, Renay, and Justin Landon are the years’s biggest culprits when it comes to me buying books based on recommendations alone. Not only do they all manage to convey true passion for the books they love, they have also never let me down. Stay that way, guys. You rock my world!
Favorite books published in 2015 (so far)
Naomi Novik is stealing everyone’s heart this year. I admit if I hadn’t won that gorgeous hardback copy (with the UK cover – so shiny!), I might have overlooked the book. I’m so glad Justin pushed it on Twitter, and the rest of the world followed with rave reviews. Mine is just one among the many, many posts singing Uprooted‘s praises. Magical Poland, a dragon who is a wizard, a young girl fighting for her best friend, and general badassery by women, all set against a truly frightening adversary – an evil, ancient Wood.
I bought Bone Gap almost blindly after Renay and Ana discussed it on Fangirl Happy Hour and it was a truly magical book. Open it up, start reading, hold your breath, and don’t come up for air until you’re done. It deals with difficult themes – chiefest among them the effect of beauty (and ugliness) – but in such a lyrical way that it never feels heavy-handed. There are plot twists and amazing characters and a magica atmosphere that sucks you right in.
V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic was a lighter book than the two mentioned above, a fun adventure set in an original world with characters whose true depth is found between the lines. Parallel Londons, dark magic, a thief, a magician, and some really cool villains. I can’t wait to continue the story of Kell, Lila, and Rhy in the next book. Schwab left us with some intriguing plot threads and the hint of a romance that is totally up my alley. It’s the equivalent of a blockbuster in book form.
Favorite books published before 2015 (but read this year)
- Theodora Goss – In the Forest of Forgetting
- Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët – Jolies ténèbres (Beautiful Darkness)
- Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven
- Alaya Dawn Johnson – The Summer Prince
- The Graphic Audio versions of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy
Alaya Dawn Johnson just took home two (!) Nebula Awards and I am not in the least surprised. The Summer Prince was an excellent book that defies all genre classifications. Sure, it’s science fiction, and sure it features young protagonists – but it just doesn’t feel like your typical YA sci-fi novel, especially looking at the current climate of dystopian Hunger Games knock-offs (which, in turn, is Battle Royale YA-ified). The Summer Prince is about art, technology, about the conflict between generations, and about a young girl coming of age. The book has stayed with me throughout the year so I think I should upgrade my rating a bit. The books that stick with you after reading are usually the ones that make for a great re-read.
I should have known Theodora Goss’ short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting would wow me but I was still taken by surprise at how perfect these stories were. Goss is like “Cat Valente lite” when it comes to prose but she packs just as much emotional punch, whether her stories are about identity, about fighting disease, or simply about finding your place in the world. The language is lyrical, the characters vibrant, and I already ordered her poetry collection (up for a Mythopoeic Award this year) Songs for Ophelia.
The one graphic novel that took my heart by storm this year is a dark little thing. I bought it mostly because of my plan to read more books in French (and comics are easy because pictures). In Beautiful Darkness, the cute creatures and brightly colorful images juxtaposed with the sinister subject matter could have gone terribly wrong – but it all works beautifully. You want to look away but you can’t. I fell in love with the story, I was horrified at the things these creatures do to each other, at the rawness of their journey. This is exactly what it says on the tin. Dark and beautiful.
I don’t think much needs to be said about the perfection that is Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. A novel set after most of humanity has died comes with a lot of expected tropes, most of which Mandel subverts. She opts for a more positive outlook, for a world that isn’t just defined by brutal survival and constant mistrust, but one where people still work together, where they make art, where they keep alive the things that were important to us before the apocalypse. It’s not completely without fault but after making me cry several times, I still closed the book with a smile on my face and filled with hope.
I had read Sanderson’s book Mistborn: The Final Empire a few years ago, enjoyed it, and never continued the series. Now I stumbled across Graphic Audio and decided to splash out and buy the damn things. It was money well spent – I am completely in love with the “movie in your mind” thing. I can’t tell if I would have enjoyed the story as much if I had just read it myself, but with the actors, the music, the sound effects, and the narration, it was nothing short of perfect. It really made the trilogy into an event. Then again, Sanderson does deserve praise. He is known for planning his long (and I mean long!) stories meticulously and it really shows. The plot twists were fantastic, they came out of nowhere, but they didn’t feel cheap either. You won’t find any “Luke, I am your father”s here, the prophecy trope is subverted about a billion times, and in the end, I didn’t just like the books for their twists’ shock value but for the characters that had quietly grown on me over the course of 1000 pages.
Favorite stuff inFandom
Other than books, the year has had its ups and downs. I will not discuss the Hugo Awards because I’ll either end up crying or laughing hysterically. All I can do is hope that this year’s mess made enough people aware of the awards that next year, more people nominate and vote for the stuff they love.
Among the random things I loved this year are these:
- Fangirl Happy Hour
- Sarah Faire and the House at the End of the World and Clockwork Phoenix 5
- Mad Max: Fury Road
Ana and Renay’s biweekly podcast Fangirl Happy Hour is everything I love. They talk about books, movies, TV shows, and fandom. Whether they agree or not, they each have interesting things to say, and when they do love a thing, they love it hard. It’s pretty much impossible not to go out and buy the books they talk about. I love, love, love these two – and not just because they’re responsible for some of my favorite reads ever.
I backed two Kickstarters this year and it’s difficult to say which I’m more excited about. Abigail Larson has been one of my favorite artists for years and Sarah Faire has been on my Goodreads wishlist forever. Unfortunately, a limited amount of books was printed (also funded through Kickstarter) and no more copies were available. Until now! Naturally, I pounced, I backed, and I am now eagerly awaiting this gorgeous little book.
Clockwork Phoenix 5 baited me with a Cat Valente book, but I am just as curious about Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney and the subscription to Mythic Delirium as well as the dozens of other goodies coming my way. I probably won’t see any of the books until next year but that just means I get to spread out my excitement a bit more, right? Right.
My unexpected movie crush of the year is Mad Max: Fury Road. What a joy to watch! When you go to the movies and think you’ll get a vapid action movie (which, you know, is fine) but you are then confronted with a thing of utter beauty, with characters like Furiosa, that’s when you fall in love. My boyfriend and I have seen the movie twice now and it was almost better the second time around. I loved how the two protagonists, Max and Furiosa, say very little but communicate so much. I loved how pretty everything looked – a landscape that is mostly dead was turned into a piece of art. This isn’t the kind of movie where all the best bits are shown in the trailer. Trust me. You want to watch it! The story is amazing, I am completely in love with both Max and Furiosa, and I left the movie theater with a rush of endorphins and a big fat smile. So shiny, so chrome!
Stuff to look forward to
We’ve only hit the halfway mark of 2015, so here a few things coming up that I’m still madly excited about:
- Catherynne M. Valente -Radiance
- N.K. Jemisin – The Fifth Season
- Tor.com’s upcoming novellas (all of them!)
- The movie Pan
- STAR WARS: The Force Awakens
I hope that many more cool things will come my way during the rest of 2015 and I’m relying on my favorite people on the internet to point me in the right direction. Now I still have some challenges to catch up on. And you guys – go watch Mad Max!