Friday, December 30, 2016

End-of-Year Book Freak Out "Tag"

Allo, everyone! As you might recall, back in July, I did the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag as a way to sum up the first half of my reading year. And now that the reading year is (more or less) at a close, I decided to do the tag again- but with slightly modified questions.

1. Best book you've read in the second half of 2016:
Normally this would be a hard question to answer, but most of my top choices were actually sequels, and therefore fit better in the next question. So, I'm going to go with a classic- no, I mean really a classic- and say The Odyssey, which I read for Western Literature this year and absolutely loved.
Yes, it's long. Yes, it's in poetry (at least, it is if you get the best version). Yes, it can be difficult to understand at times (though it's really not that hard- I found it easier than Beowulf and even some Tolkien). Read it anyway. It's a classic and a foundation of the epic genre for a reason.

Another pretty awesome book, though perhaps not the absolute best I've read: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. (Because time-traveling pirates, that's why.)

2. Best sequel you've read in the second half of 2016:
And here we have the rest of my best-of list, pretty much! In reading order, we have:
Lady Dragon, Tela Du by Kendra E. Ardnek- I reviewed this on my blog a while back, but in summary: though this is the second book in the series, it's about five times better than Water Princess, Fire Prince, I love the characters (except Karyn, who I have complicated feelings about), and there are some pretty awesome plot twists in there.
Wingfeather Tales by Andrew Peterson and company- This collection of short stories by various Rabbit Room authors is a wonderful companion to the Wingfeather Saga. It's focused mainly on the past of Aerwiar and the colorful characters who inhabit it, but a few stories run parallel to or after the main series.
Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter- while this really wasn't what I was expecting in certain respects, it was pretty awesome, and I always enjoy more of Jackaby and Abigail and Jenny. With this story, the stakes rise, mysteries are made clear (though not too many, or else we wouldn't have another book after this), and characters (notably Jenny) grow. Is it as good as the first book? I can't say; it depends how you compare the two. But I still enjoyed it.
Beyond the Gateway by Bryan Davis- I wasn't awestruck by Reapers, the first in the series, but Beyond the Gateway was pretty great. The murky world finally gets some light, the stakes rise as questions are answered and new questions become evident, and Shanghai gets to shine now that she and Singapore aren't competing for the spotlight. Also, some of the twists are pretty impressive. Just sayin'.
Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson- It's not a book roundup without some Sanderson! This is another collection of novellas, short stories, and other miscellaneous materials from the Cosmere, most of which have been previously published elsewhere but not all of which I actually got to read before now. The highlight of the anthology was Edgedancer, which is about Lift from The Stormlight Archive, but Shadows for Silence in the Forest of Hell was a close second. Very frontier-fantasy, very exciting, very awesome. 

3. New release you haven't read yet but want to: 
All the books on my Fall 2016 Reads post except for The Secret Horses of Briar Hill would qualify- I haven't managed to get to any of them yet besides the one. I also haven't quite gotten to Fallen Star, Anne Elisabeth Stengl's latest release, yet, but as it's on Kindle, I may end up saving that one for a bit. I haven't decided yet.

4. Most anticipated release for next year: 
Is this even a question? Oathbringer, book three in the Stormlight Archive, releases next year and I can hardly wait! Based on the State of the Sanderson report, I'm thinking it'll come in the fall, though a release date proper isn't available yet. Neither is a cover. (I would like both now, please.)

Almost as exciting as new Stormlight: Megan Whalen Turner has a new Queen's Thief book coming out! In May! And it's going to be awesome! And this one has a cover and a title and everything and I'm so excited!
I'm also mildly terrified of this book, though, because it seems to be about the Medes more than Eugenides and his countries, and I'm not sure what I think about that. And I want to like it and I'm sure I will like it, but I'm not sure if it's going to be a The Thief or The King of Attolia-type liking, where I read it the first time and I love it, or if it's going to be a Queen of Attolia-type liking, where I read it the first time and don't know what to do with it and then I reread it, know what's going on well enough that I can pick up on it when it happens, and like it better. I don't know. Maybe I'm just panicking over nothing. That happens sometimes.   

5. Biggest disappointment:
This might come as a shock to y'all- it certainly surprised me- but White Sand, the new graphic novel by Brandon Sanderson, just was not what I was expecting or what I wanted. Part of the problem is the format; the graphic novel doesn't let you get inside a character's head half as well as print does, and so the story loses a lot of its magic that way. The other part of the problem . . . well, I'm not sure what it is, but the fact that I have very high expectations for anything Sanderson at this point probably doesn't help.

6. Biggest surprise:
I can't think of a single book that qualifies better for this than any others, but a few of my top picks for the category:
The Beyonders trilogy by Brandon Mull- I'd seen this series around Goodreads for about a year before I finally picked it up- dubiously- on the recommendation of a friend of mine. Though the initial synopsis made me think that the book was probably trying so hard to be original that it went straight to cheesy, the story turned out to be pretty good, and the worldbuilding in particular is better than in a lot of other books I've read.

The Lost Letters of Pergamum by Bruce W. Longenecker- this was another read for a class, a historical fiction set during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian. Though it did occasionally fall into the occasional info-dump, it was a surprisingly interesting read, and I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would.
The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope- this was recommended to me by the same person who suggested the Beyonders books, and I honestly need to trust him a little more by prioritizing his recommendations when he gives them. I'm not sure what I expected from The Prisoner of Zenda, but it wasn't what I got: an engaging, exciting, dramatic, and romantic old-fashioned adventure full of intrigue and drama. On the whole, it was an excellent story, exactly what I didn't realize I wanted at the time.

7. Favorite new-to-you author:
Maybe a surprise, since he hasn't come up on this tag yet, but Rick Riordan. My roommate convinced me to read the Percy Jackson series, and I, on a temporary Greek kick, said that I would- finally. I finished the first series and I'm about halfway through Heroes of Olympus. First series was better, so far- though certain characters in the second series are pretty awesome. And there was a giant mechanical dragon in The Lost Hero, so I'm all for that.

8. Newest fictional crush/ship:
Favorite ship is a tie between Reutra and Amberite, both from Lady Dragon, Tela Du. Reutra- Rueben and Petra- is just adorable; there aren't nearly enough childhood-friendship-turned-to-romance stories in fantasy. And Amberite- Amber and Granite- is sweet as well, but it also makes me sad; Granite and Amber truly do love each other, but Amber has found something she loves more, and in doing so, she's doomed them both. Newest fictional crush . . . don't really have one? As per the usual, everyone who I might crush on ends up with a very definite love interest by the end of the book, if it isn't obvious from the start, so I don't even bother.

9. Newest favorite character:
. . . I'm going to pretend there's an s on the end of character, because storms, no, I can't pick just one.  A few favorites who I've met over the last six months include:
  • Ferrin, Jasher, and Drake from the Beyonders trilogy
  • Caprion and Burn from the Cat's Eye Chronicles
  • Percy Jackson from the series bearing his name, as well as possibly Piper and Leo from the Heroes of Olympus series- haven't decided about them yet, but I'm pretty sure at least one of them will end up making the favorites list. Also, from the same series . . . I really like Hermes. Maybe he's not always the greatest parent, but I don't know; I like him anyway.
  • Silence from Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, because she's storming awesome. (Not Lift-style awesome; the other kind of awesome.)    

10. A book that made you cry:
Um . . . I'm coming up empty on this one. As I've stated before, I don't generally cry over books.

11. A book that made you happy:
Absolutely the Enchanted Forest Chronicles- the first two in particular. They're wonderfully quick, fun reads with a nice mix of humor, magic, and whimsy. (Also, they have dragons. You can't argue with that.)

Another book that I just read a couple days ago which would also qualify:
Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal, which I got for Christmas, wasn't quite what I expected, but it was still a delightful little story with a fairy-tale feel to it. Also, Halcyon is absolutely awesome and reminded me a bit of Bard Eanrin at times, so- yeah. It made me smile- and, in more than a few cases, giggle.

12. Favorite book to film adaptation you've seen this half of the year:
Um. Let's see . . . OH! Merlin probably counts as book-to-film, right? Even it's technically a medieval-legends-to-TV-show adaptation? And even if it kind of doesn't pay a great deal of attention to the original legends anyway? It's a great show, at least so far as I've watched. (I mean, yes, I still have to finish the first season, but I figure it probably just gets better from here? Particularly as Merlin can't possibly become less of an idiot than he is at the beginning of the show, and if I like it even when he's being stupid, I'll probably enjoy it more when he knows what he's doing.)

13. Favorite post(s) you've done this half of the year:
I still really like the Fairy Tale Retellings That Need to Be a Thing post that I did back in September, and the Character Christmas Tag makes me a bit happier than it possibly should. I'm also very pleased with I Wonder . . . and Why I Love My WIP.

14. Most beautiful book you've bought/received this half of the year:
Cover-wise, I think it's a tie between these two:

Anyone want to help break the tie? Which do you think is a prettier cover?

Content-wise, there's no question: The Wingfeather Tales takes the prize.

15. Any other books you want to babble about for any other reason?
Just a few books that are on my TBR-soon list, even though they've been out for a while:

Samara's Peril by Jaye L. Knight (yes, I know, it was featured on my mid-year roundup too; shame on me; I'm just mildly scared of having my heart shattered into a hundred small pieces, because The King's Scrolls hurt very much)

Twinepathy by C.B. Cook (which I beta-read the first half of, actually, but had to stop on because of time commitments)
Plenilune by Jennifer Freitag (which I just got for Christmas)
What are some of your favorite books, characters, and other bookish things from this past year? Any other recent releases that I need to make sure I have on my TBR list? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)


  1. I assume you read Lost Letter of Pergamum for a New Testament class? :P That's what I'm doing this Spring semester. It's hard to find good Roman historical fiction, so I'm tentatively excited.
    As for info dumps... xD It's hard to avoid them in fantasy or historical fiction. Sometimes, if you love the world, they can even be fun. At the very least it's amusing to watch the author go into complete and total nerd mode.

    1. Yep, I did. And Lost Letters is very good; I think you'll enjoy them.
      Yeah, I agree- it's just when I already know the stuff that it bothers me. (If I don't know the stuff, it doesn't always register as an info-dump because I'm also going into nerd mode.)

  2. I remember reading The Prisoner of Zenda for a writing course. I liked it! They made a film out of it, in the 50's I think.

    I know I've heard of the Lost Letters of Pergamum before, but it's driving me crazy trying to remember where.

    Two of my favourite books read this year have been How Green Was My Valley and Call the Midwife. That, and a book called Queen Elizabeth's Wooden Teeth, which uncovered historical fallacies.

    1. Google says earlier than the 50's, but I did not know that until now. That's cool.

      Ouch. Always annoying when that happens . . .

      Coolness. I may have to check out that last one; I enjoy history stuff.

  3. I've wanted to read The Prisoner of Zenda for a while, and I really should read The Odyssey. :) It's a good thing you do these posts- they're always a good reminder of what I want to read.

    1. Definitely read both of those! (If you read The Odyssey, get the Robert Fitzgerald translation, in poetry. 'Tis the best.) And I'm glad I can help! Thanks for stopping by!


I'd love to hear your thoughts! But remember: it pays to be polite to dragons.