Let’s get one thing out of the way right away. This is not a very objective book list. This is the list of books which I loved the most in the last year. As previously mentioned, my brain has been a fairly strange place in the last year, so what I like is pretty much the epitome of “your milage may vary”. I hope I don’t have anything that’s objectively poorly written on this list, but I can’t really tell any more? Let’s just say it tilts even further to the cozy side of the scale than usual. PLEASE DON”T BE MAD AT ME.
With the traditional apologies out of the way, in no particular order…
House of Hades, by Rick Riordan, a.k.a. a group of talented teenagers battle against impossible odds to save the world. Hilariously.
In case you didn’t know, Rick Riordan’s Heroes Of Olympus series mixes Greek and Roman mythology into the modern age. End of the world prophecies, estrange parents who happen to be gods, the spirit of that local fountain could come alive and scream at you, and there are definitely people out there who view your death as entertainment. *throws popcorn as confetti* And it’s so goooooood. Even more than his other series, Heroes deals excellently with issues of adulthood that you face in your teen years, including the consequences of previous actions, owning your identity, and owning your hopes for the future. I think this is my favourite book of the series so far.
A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis, a.k.a. a diary of what happens when someone you love dies.
This is an extraordinary depiction of grief. It was written by C. S. Lewis, an acclaimed theologian, who kept a diary after his wife died. It’s a slim book, but it took me six hours to read it because I kept crying so hard I couldn’t see the pages. I’d have to go, make some hot chocolate, get my breathing under control, and then come back. He wrestles very honestly with theological issues of suffering. How can God be good and let things like this happen?
It’s written in a very emotional cerebral style, if you can picture that, and it’s definitely not for everyone (we read it in class and I think half the class found it boring and/or melodramatic (theological reflections on suffering, always a fun class)), but it rang very true to me.
Stolen Magic, by Stephanie Burgis, a.k.a. kat saves regency England (again) and finds a partner in crime and is generally THE AWESOMEST THING GOING.
I love this series. It’s takes place in a Regency England with magic, and Kat Stevenson is right in the thick of it. Being the youngest child of an impovished vicar hasn’t yet stopped her from saving England and finding her siblings spouses they actually love, and it doesn’t stop her in this book. There’s smugglers! Romance! Terrible parents who get what’s coming to them! New foes! New relatives!
I would pay so much money for the adventures of Kat in Scotland.
The Princess Curse, by Merrie Haskell, a.k.a. Herbology will save us all, including the dead.
Take 12 Dancing Princesses, blend with Hades and Persephone, add a heavy dose of what an actual person living in the middle ages would think, and hey presto! You get FAVOURITE BOOK. Also, and I think this is an important distinction, you get a European-Based fantasy instead of a *sniff*, “european based fantasy”. When you actually go to the source texts, you get a very different story than when you go to other fantasy books which are three levels of self-referential down. (I also like those, but let’s not pretend they’re actually based in folklore.)
The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson, a.k.a. seeing the shades of the dead just brings in ENDLESS trouble, you guys.
I really like Maureen johnson’s writing. She has wonderful characters and dialogue, which is totally what I’m here for, and she’s FUNNY. And by being funny, she tricks you into not noticing she’s dealing with painful subjects until they slam you in the heart. In this book, the characters deal with the outfall from the last book, and that means PTSD. It’s a wonderful treatment of depression and grief and anxiety, and it still manages to be funny.
I choose to believe the last few pages of the book are not canon.
On a Red Station, Drifting, by Aliette de Bodard, a.k.a. honey in space no-win situations ABOUND, the key is to embrace them.
I don’t really know how to describe this one. It’s set in a vietnamese-influenced future, where family obligations, duty and preference all come into agonizing conflict. There appears to be no way forward, particularly because the two main characters refuse to work together or see each other’s sides. And then the bottom really falls out of things. I categorize this as a cuddly book, in the same way that Crime And Punishment is cuddly.
The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson, a.k.a. in an alternate world where drawings can come to life and eat you, friendship and stubbornness are your only hope. Oh, and extensive study.
So I love school stories. I am starting to acknowledge that about myself. A story where what you’re learning is setting and also plot? Yes please. And this one has disillusioned old professors, mysterious parental secrets, crazy world building (the USA is an archipelago? The train runs on springs? Drawings can come to life?), and oh yeah, murders. #SOLD
A Civil Campaign, by Lois McMaster Bujold, a.k.a. your tactical mastery is so far from helping you with matters of romance.
It’s a comedy of errors in the future. Miles Vorkosigan tries to woo a bride and finds out it’s extremely difficult. Meanwhile his cousin Ivan’s old flame has come home very differently than she left, his brother is trying to convince his girlfriend to stay with him while her family would prefer to kill him for sullying her virtue, and also some old guys are trying to take over the government again. (And while I have no idea who those people on the cover are, the bugs ARE significant. heheheheh.)
Also Known As, by Robin Benway, a.k.a. teen spies find high school in new york is really hard and friendship is rad and EVERYONE IS TRYING TO KILL HER.
I also love teen spy stories, but I’m picky about them. I want my teen spies saving the world to be realistic. (Hush.) This one has wonderful dialogue, delicious characters, and it still reads as though it’s possible that these people could really be out there, infiltrating a New York high school somewhere. Like, the characters aren’t fabulous at EVERYTHING, just at a few things. And who am I kidding, I’d read it just for the dialogue. I’m easy.
The Cat Who Walked A Thousand Miles, by Kij Johnson, a.k.a. finding your family is really hard when you’re a cat in japan and everyone thinks you’re a demon.
It’s a heartwarming story about finding your home, and what stories are for. She does a remarkable job of getting inside a cat’s experience. From the gifs, you MAY have noticed that I’m pretty fond of cats? Let’s be honest, It’s just a matter of time until I become a crazy cat lady, and this story has brought me further along the path. P.S. This one is very different than other Kij stories I’ve read. Do not go from here to Spar. Or Ponies.
Honourable mentions go to Enchanted and Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits. A fairytale mashup romance (WEDNESDAY I LOVE YOU) and a comic about an Avenger with the worst luck ever, no superpowers and some great friends. And some bad enemies. (Bro. Bro. Seeeeriously Bro.)