Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it! This week, the Debs are looking back at some of our favorite books of 2017. Choosing favorites is always tough for me when it comes to books, and limiting myself to 2017 releases only helped a little. But here goes — a few of my favorite reads from this past year:
Roar, by Cora Carmack: This book absolutely blew me away. I picked up the ARC while working at a bookshop over the summer, and I couldn’t put it down once I started. Roar features one of the most innovative magical systems I’ve seen in quite some time, based on storms, and I loved the heroine. Her emotional landscape really resonated with me. The book does give in to some tropey-ness, but it’s tropes I dig, so that didn’t fuss me in the slightest. I fell in love with this world and its magic, and I can’t wait for the sequel.
Secondborn, by Amy Bartol: This was an Amazon Prime Kindle First book for me, and I was utterly drawn into it. In some ways, it’s fairly standard dystopian fiction — if you enjoyed The Hunger Games or Divergent, you’ll both enjoy this and see a lot in the overall structure that’s familiar. The use of technology makes it stand out, though, and the book’s action keeps up a clipping pace.
Buried Heart, by Kate Elliott: The thrilling conclusion to the Court of Fives trilogy. I fell in love with this series a few years ago and have eagerly followed Jessamy’s adventures. Elliott has created a compelling fantasy world, where she explores issues of racism and social change through the eyes of her mixed-heritage heroine, Jessamy. What I really enjoy about these books is that, despite the narrow POV, you still get the sense of a massive world, one that has evolved over time and which still has a lot of evolving to do. The sense of scope is magnificent.
Gilded Cage, by Vic James: This book explores the question: If magic were a real thing in our world, wouldn’t the magical people just rule everything? What we get is like an ultra-dark Downton Abbey. In this Britain, the magical elite rule everything, and the non-magical commoners literally spend a decade of their lives as slaves. Gilded Cage follows two families, one elite and one common, whose lives intersect in a time where rebellion foments and the system is starting to break down. The book is political, elegant, and compelling.
Beyond the Empire, by KB Wagers: Another trilogy-concluder, and this one keeps up the frantic pace and unflinching action of the whole Indranan War series. This book sees gunrunner-turned-reluctant-empress Hail Bristol dealing with the weight of power as she has to wage war to save her empire while also hunting down the man responsible for almost wiping out her family. I loved watching this character figure out how to mentally and emotionally reconfigure herself, while still not losing sight of who she is. The Indranan War series is fascinating, multicultural space opera, and the whole trilogy is well worth indulging in. (KB Wagers was our guest on the blog back in October, so check out her interview if you missed it the first time around!)
Leia, Princess of Alderaan, by Claudia Gray: Okay, I haven’t actually finished this yet; I’m in the middle of it right now. I love it, though. Leia has been a lifelong heroine and role model. I’m not the target age for this YA novel, but I love the look at pre-A New Hope Leia. I also love seeing more of Alderaan, which has always been “my” planet in the Star Wars universe. Bail and Breha Organa are seriously under-appreciated heroes, and in this book, we see them grappling with the realities of what rebelling against the Empire will cost. We also get some glimpses into people and places that figure into The Last Jedi (Amilyn Holdo, in particular, who in her youth seems to have been Luna Lovegood in space). For my brand of geekery, this book hits all the right spots.
Looking at this list, some of my overall tastes become… wildly apparent. I like rebels. I like socio-cultural revolutions. I like power struggles. I like all of those things to be led by incredible female characters. I like the underdog, but I also have an inescapable affinity for aristocrats. Those six books have different settings, different tones, but a lot of similar themes. So here’s one book that isn’t like the others. I mostly read in-genre these days. There’s so much to keep up with in the world of SFF that it’s hard to draw myself out. When I do, it’s usually for something historical, fictional or non, or for a fluffy feel-good romance. But every once in a while, I encounter a nonfiction book that strikes me:
Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing, by Ben Blatt: Despite how bad I am at math, I’m a bit of a statistics geek. I find them fascinating. Marrying them to writing? Perfection. This book explores the habits and tics of famous writers from the past century or so. How many of them obey writing rules like avoiding adverbs or not talking about the weather? Do male and female authors write differently? How does pronoun use track across genres and overtime? Must you always avoid cliches and idioms in order to be a bestseller? I highly recommend this book to other writers — it’ll get you thinking in some interesting ways about your own patterns of word use.
As I write this, Christmas is actually still a few days away; by the time the post goes up, I expect I’ll have a whole stack of new books to read. 😉 The next time y’all hear from me, it’ll be 2018 — and I couldn’t be more pleased about that. Good riddance, 2017; don’t let the door hit you on the way out. 2018, please, be brighter, and come in bearing good luck.