It’s a sort of unwritten custom to post a best of the year list whenever a new year arrives and I think it’s a good way of getting this blog back on its feet. After surviving my roughest year yet with lots of personal challenges, I believe I’m slowly getting ready to turn a new page. I wouldn’t have been able to keep going without my wonderful friends and family whose support means so incredibly much to me. Life goes on, even when a loved one leaves us, and all we can do is fill our days with things and people that make us happy. I’m trying to make my grandmother proud every day, even if she’s not here to see it. Books and reading have always been a source of joy for me and I had no greater cheerleader in my obsession than my grandmother. So here’s to a new great year of reading. Let me welcome it with my favorite books from last year:
My Favorite Books Published in 2017
Without a doubt, my favorite book of last year (both published last year and older), this Russian-inspired fairy tale had so much atmosphere and told such a riveting story that it catapulted Katherine Arden onto my top author shelf immediately. Vasya is a fantastic heroine who – despite the slow loss of old beliefs – holds on to the old gods and tries to save her home, all by herself. The snowy landscape, the threat of true winter, the politics and magic and mythology all go so perfectly well together to make this book a perfect read for a cold day by a chimney (if you have one) or in front of a nice steaming cup of tea (if you don’t).
A rogue robot with a preference for soap operas doesn’t go on a killing spree – although they could – but instead helps the people they’re meant to protect survive a plot on an unexplored planet. The narration was just too damn good to not read this in one sitting! Murderbot is amazing and has so much personality that the edges between human and artificial intelligence get blurred. I can’t wait to read the sequel(s).
The follow-up to Borderline was as amazing – if not more – than Baker’s debut novel. Millie has to deal with the consequences of the events in Borderline and although a lot of terrible things happen once more, this is still one of those uplifting, feel-good series that I can’t quite explain. Millie still isn’t a perfect heroine and maybe that’s what makes her so wonderfully likable. In addition to telling another exciting story, this novel opens the world a bit and expands on what we learned in Borderline. It also made my mouth water for the third book which will come out in 2018.
Cat Valente does wonderful things with words! While I prefer her when she’s playing with fairy tales and mythology, this short novel shows that she can do comic book style narration as well. Giving the women of famous comic book heroes a voice – after their death, that is – is not only a great idea, but it also shows just how carelessly some comic books create and kill/rape/torture their female characters, simply to give the (male) hero something to do or someone to avenge. Valente shows that there’s more to these girls than existance as a tired old trope.
My Favorite Books Published Before 2017
So yeah, everybody who’s been raving about The Stormlight Archive for the last years, was absolutely right. It is the most epic of epic fantasies with characters you can actually care about and a world so large and so filled with history and mythology that it probably will take those 10 volumes to explore it all. While the first book was very much an introduction into this crazy world (although it didn’t feel like it at the time), this one digs a little deeper, grants the characters more powers (both magical and personality-wise), and shows a bit more of what the world holds in store for us. I can’t get over how much I love Kaladin, and his interactions with Shallan were my favorite bits of the book, although that probably makes me sound like a huge fangirl.
The only reason I haven’t read Oathbringer yet is that I’m waiting for Graphic Audio to do the audio version of it. The actors doing the character’s voices, to me, have completely become those characters and I hope I can experience the entire series in this format.
Oh Cat, is there anything you can’t turn into a gorgeous story? Seriously, a sexually transmitted city is the premise for this gorgeous tale, and although there isn’t much plot at first, not a single chapter is boring. Because Valente plays so much with imagery and symbolism, even chapters where nothing happens are so full of meaning that reading feels more like devouring a fantastic meal. This is a book that rivets the senses and – Valente’s weakness, in my opinion – even delivers a beautiful ending that left me happy and satisfied.
This was my surprise of the year. I never warmed to Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series because the old-man-in-a-young-body falling in love with a teenage girl trope crept me the hell out. But this collection of three novellas absolutely blew me away. Taylor invents her own mythologies and plays with more well-known legends and tells beautiful stories within them. Whether you’d like to read a modern take on Goblin Market or read about how to deal with a devil, each story is beautifully told and has gorgeous illustrations. I am beyond happy to have a hardback copy of this on my shelf. Plus, this book convinced me to give Taylor’s other books another try.
I know there are a ton of books from last year that I didn’t get to and I’m trying to catch up now. Hugo nominating season will arrive soon and I want to make informed decisions about the books that are eligible. Here’s a few from the top of my list:
- Mur Lafferty – Six Wakes
- Yoon Ha Lee – Raven Stratagem
- Nicky Drayden – The Prey of Gods
- Sarah Rees Brennan – In Other Lands
- Laini Taylor – Strange the Dreamer
- Jeanette Ng – Under the Pendulum Sun
- N. K. Jemisin – The Stone Sky
There are far more books that interest me but a bit of realism doesn’t hurt. I don’t read as much as I used to, these days, so if I manage to read half of that list, I’ll consider it a success.
Which books did you read last year that you think nobody should miss?