I’m back! Well, I’ve been here the whole time, but the blogging unfortunately fell to the wayside. So, let’s start with a quick recap of what I’ve been up to since March of last year, in order of occurrence, and then we’ll jump right into my ten favorite books of 2017 (actually eight books and two series). Ready?
- Writers & Authors published my guest post, “7 Reasons to Embrace the Author Reading.”
- Married my favorite person in April at Como Conservatory.
- Took part in Promo Day, hosted by Writers & Authors, with a webinar called “The Basics of Self-Editing.”
- Stepped into a new role at Avant Garden as assistant manager, allowing me to devote more time to Inkstand.
- Joined a local writers group called Women of Words (WOW).
- Spent a day at Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival and met some wonderful people.
- Attended a few Professional Editors Network (PEN) seminars in the Twin Cities, including one on the new edition of the Chicago Manual of Style.
- Attended a reading and book talk by Amy Tan.
- Attended a reading by David Sedaris.
On to the books. (There may be light spoilers here.)
- The Split Worlds series, by Emma Newman (Between Two Thorns, Any Other Name, All Is Fair, A Little Knowledge, All Good Things)
- In these books, Newman imagines a world that has been split into three parts: Mundanus (the non-magical modern world), the Nether (where the Fae-touched can live forever, unaging and socially stuck in the Regency era), and Exilium (home of the Fae). The series follows Catherine Rhoes-Papaver, who before the story begins has fled the stifling Nether society she was raised in. Needless to say, that doesn’t last long. Throughout the series, we see the problems caused by splitting the worlds—insane sorcerers, jealous Fae and their competing Great Houses (the families they patronize), a society that runs on the virtual enslavement of others, and the secret Elemental Court that controls a good chunk of Mundanus. It’s complex and compelling, with wonderful characters and a plot that hooked me from the first page and never let go. (My review of the first book can be found here.)
- Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older
- I’ve gone on at length about this book before, because it’s fantastic. Sierra is a teenage muralist in Brooklyn, juggling family responsibilities, time with friends, and school. But then a weird thing happens at a party, and paintings start to cry. Before she knows it, Sierra is caught up in the middle of it. Besides the wonderful story, I appreciated Older’s filling the book with diverse characters and bringing to light issues we see in the news every day.
- Bright Lines, by Tanwi Nandini Islam
- There’s a lot going on in this debut YA novel, but it’s so worth it. When the story begins in Brooklyn in the summer of 2003, Ella, an orphan who lives with her aunt, uncle, and younger cousin, Charu, is home on break and struggling with some mental health issues and her sexuality. Charu is only just finished with high school and navigating relationships and the desire for freedom. Meanwhile, their friend Maya is, unbeknownst to their parents, staying at the house to escape her father’s overbearing rule. Anwar, the father owns an apothecary and harbors inappropriate thoughts about the woman next door, and their mother, Hashi, runs a salon and is seemingly kind of oblivious to all this. Needless to say, things go south, and the story follows the family as they travel halfway around the world in an attempt to knit their lives back together.
- Welcome to the Goddamn Icecube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North, by Blair Braverman
- This one was on my reading list for a while, and I’m so glad I finally read it. Braverman is a wonderful storyteller, writing of her time in Norway at a folk school, mushing dogs for tourists on a glacier in Alaska, and coming back to Norway to live and work for a time. Much of the book revolves around a need to prove herself—against the wilderness, against the men she encounters, and against the fear holding her back. It’s not terribly fast-paced, but it is certainly thought-provoking.
- Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters
- This one was just fun. I heard of the Amelia Peabody series years ago, and the first in the series did not disappoint. Set in the Victorian era, Amelia is a sassy spinster who takes no flack from anybody—even (especially) from people trying to look out for her best interests. In this book, Amelia has decided to take a tour of Egypt. It’s the time of great discoveries, and of course she gets herself embroiled in a dig gone awry. It’s a good mystery, and quite funny.
- The Clothing of Books, by Jhumpa Lahiri
- Originally titled “Il vestito dei libri,” The Clothing of Books began as a keynote speech given at the Festival degli Scrittori in Florence, Italy. Here, Lahiri writes a love letter of sorts to book covers, and her sometimes-complicated feelings toward the covers on her own published works. As a publishing professional, as a reader, and as a person who loves books, I thought this was absolutely lovely.
- American War, by Omar El Akkad
- When the second Civil War begins in 2074, Sarat is a young girl living in Louisiana. Tensions have been high between the North and South over the use of fossil fuels, and when the fighting nears, the family is forced to flee to a refugee camp. While their mother finds work to support themselvels, Sarat and her brother, Simon, try to find places in this new world. Simon finds the rebel fighters, while Sarat finds a friendship with a man who treats her as an equal—a recruiter to the cause, it turns out. The war between the states eventually ends . . . but never for Sarat.
- The Broken Earth trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin (The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky)
- Jemisin sets the bar so high for other sci-fi/fantasy writers. I was already a fan of her writing, but this series blew me away. Essun is an orogene, revered and feared for her power to sense—and in some cases, still—earthquakes. When a world-ending quake ushers in a new Season and destroys much of Sanze, she is exiled from her town, forced to find her own way in the chaos. She’s on a mission to find her daughter, but must confront the past she’s tried to forget first.
- Everyone’s A Aliebn When Ur A Aliebn Too, by Jomny Sun
- Despite the unconventional spelling and grammar in this graphic novel, the message is heartfelt and so lovely. The book follows Jomny, an alien left on Earth by his fellows to find and research humans. He meets all sorts of interesting creatures, and we see that humanity manifests in many ways. Though we come in many shapes and we all see the world differently, we all share the need to love and be loved, feel safe, be proud of who we are and what we do, and connect with others. This book definitely deserves more than a passing glance.
- The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley
- This book was released a couple years ago, but it is still timely. Hurley writes of the need to make space in the science fiction and fantasy book world for women, and especially women of color and other diverse voices. Some of her essays focus on feminism in pop culture, others are more personal, and still others focus on specific problems and possible solutions within science fiction/fantasy circles. This book probably isn’t for everyone, but I would recommend it for people who are more interested in those genres and how we can be more inclusive.
I’m curious to hear if you’ve read any of these. If so, what did you think?
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Cracked open @anna.violinista's gift for some Christmas Eve reading, and it's signed! This is a delightful, surprisingly deep, quick read that I will be recommending to everyone who wants something a little quirky that'll speak to their heart. . . . . #jomnysun #everyonesaaliebn #bookstagram #amreading