Friday, December 29, 2017

End-of-Year Book Freakout "Tag" 2017

2017 is nearly at an end, y'all . . . and that means it's time for the second half of my "Best of" book roundup! Once again, I'm using my modified End-of-Year Book Freakout tag because that's a lot more fun than just trying to compile a list of X favorites (and low-key angsting about how to pick one book over another because they're ALL awesome, just in different ways and yeah). So, let's go!

1. Best book you've read in the second half of 2017:
I've read a lot of good books this half of the year . . . but since this is the best book, not the best sequel, I'm going to say that this is a tie between two:

Before She Ignites is pretty unusual for the fantasy genre, particularly YA fantasy. Most of it takes place in a prison. There's not a lot of action and quite a lot of political maneuvering. A few characters have special powers, but those aren't the focus. It's not set in a facsimile of Medieval Europe but rather in a country reminiscent of some of the Pacific Islands. The main character is the Chosen One, in a sense, but that's almost an arbitrary title, and she's really an ordinary girl in an extraordinary position. And the book actually touches on some pretty serious real issues and, in my opinion, handles them well. Plus, there's dragons. What more could you want?

Weave a Circle Round is another rather unusual book, one that involves time travel and stories and a personification of the eternal conflict between Reason and Chaos. I'm very fond of the last bit. Any story with a personification of chaos is practically guaranteed to be awesome. This is Kari Maaren's first novel, but she's the author/artist of two of my favorite webcomics, West of Bathurst and It Never Rains. True to the form established in those stories, Weave a Circle Round begins as almost magical realism or very odd contemporary, with all the strangeness probably explainable by natural causes or unreliable senses . . . but then the time travel kicks in. Also as usual, the protagonist of Weave a Circle Round tends to, as the author puts it, "muddle through" her adventure, which, honestly, is what I'd probably do in her place and is quite relatable on the whole.

Also, while it's not quite as high on the list, I'd like to mention Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World, Bryan Davis's latest release. It's middle-grade, but super fun and pretty unique for a superhero novel.
2. Best sequel you've read in the second half of 2017:
I think we all know what I'm going to say here:

I'm technically still reading Oathbringer, Brandon Sanderson's latest release, but it's easily shaping up to be not just one of the best sequels of the year but one of the best books overall. We've got answers, we've got new questions, we've got increased conflict both external and internal, we've got spren both awesome (allo, Syl and Pattern!) and creepy . . .  And we've got Dalinar flashbacks, which is interesting, to say the least. Dalinar was very different in his youth from the man we know now. Also, Shallan is awesome even if she's making me a bit nervous currently. Just sayin'.

Of course, there are a few other sequels that are well worth mentioning. In order of publication:

Thick as Thieves had a distinct lack of Eugenides but managed to be awesome anyway. Plus it's a Persia-esque setting, which is pretty unique.

And The Dire King was a magnificent finale to the series- epic, thrilling, feels-heavy but not lacking in the usual Jackaby humor, with an ending that's just- I can't even. I can't.
3. New release you haven't read yet but want to: 
There are a few more of these than I'd like . . . college life is not exactly what you'd call convenient for keeping up with new releases unless you're willing to spend a small fortune every month and have a lot of storage space. That said, at the top of the list is:

The Lost Plot! The latest Invisible Library book! It's out, it's out, it's ouuuuuuuttttttt! (And I didn't realize it until earlier this week!) And I need it yesterday!

Of course, there's a few others that I'm also looking forward to. For example:

The Empty Grave is the latest and last in the Lockwood and Co. series, and while I nearly gave up on it after The Hollow Boy, The Creeping Shadow convinced me to see the series through to the end.

An Enchantment of Ravens sounds like a unique fantasy story; a bit heavier on the romance than I think I usually read, but still fun, and it's gotten great reviews from a lot of my friends.

Renegades is the latest book from Marissa Meyer. From the reviews and excerpts I've read, I'm not expecting to like this as much as I do The Lunar Chronicles, but it should still be pretty cool.
4. Most anticipated release for next year:
Brandon Sanderson is releasing another YA novel! It's called Skyward and is apparently a sci-fi take on the "boy and his dragon" storyline, involving mysterious aliens, a girl who wants to be a pilot, and a sentient (or, at least, soul-bearing) spaceship. Sanderson says that it's not in the Cosmere or Reckoners universes, but that it is in the continuity of something else he's written. So, that means it could be connected to Alcatraz, the Legion books, Perfect State, Snapshot, or The Rithmatist. I'm not sure which it'll be, but my money's on Perfect State, since the premise of that universe allows for near-infinite genres and storylines.

A few other books I'm excited for:

Ink, Iron, and Glass I mentioned in my Winter 2017-18 Reads post, but if you missed that: it's steampunk, involves writers who can bring their worlds to life, and generally sounds pretty awesome.

The Penderwicks at Last is the final book in a series I've been reading for a while now. It's contemporary, but I love it anyway, and while I'm sad the series is almost over, I'm excited to see how it ends.

And, finally, Fawkes is historical fantasy and should be pretty exciting. Plus, while I haven't read anything by Nadine Brandes yet, I've heard she's a very good author.

5. Biggest disappointment:

Shadow Run was undoubtedly the biggest disappointment of the entire year. I was promised Firefly and a very cool premise. Instead, I got the biggest mess of cliches I'd read in a long while and a romance that completely overshadowed the actual plot. Yeah. I'm still bitter, if you can't tell.

6. Biggest surprise:

I don't normally read contemporary; quite honestly, I associate it with romantic fluff, overblown teenage angst, boy/friendship drama, and questionable content. So, while I enjoy John Green from vlogbrothers and such, I was a bit nervous when I ended up reading Turtles All the Way Down so I could review it for my college newspaper. Yet this book is honestly one of the better ones I've read this year; it's powerful and poignant and philosophical, and, yes, there's angst and drama, but it's well done, and the story touches that deeper Reality which is so vibrant in the good spec-fic I love. Plus, there's a refreshing lack of romantic fluff (even less than in most fantasy novels) and, other than one scene, not a lot of questionable content either.

7. Favorite new-to-you author:
I'm going to go with Kyle Robert Schultz, author of The Beast of Talesend and the rest of the Beaumont and Beasley books. I've only read the first of these books, but it was wonderful and mysterious and steampunky and a brilliant mix of fairy tale and original material and yeah. I want to read the rest of the series yesterday.

8. Newest fictional crush/ship:
Um. I don't really have any new crushes or ships that I feel strongly about? So instead I'm just going to say that Charlie and Abigail from Jackaby are still one of the best things ever, as is Shadolin Shallan x Adolin) from the Stormlight Archive. (Shaladin shippers, I refer you to literally every interaction between Shallan and Adolin in Part 1 of Oathbringer.) Also, I knew (spoiler for Ghostly Echoes + The Dire King) Jackaby and Jenny were a thing, but I didn't realize just how much I like them as a thing until I read The Dire King.

9. Newest favorite characters:
Oooooh. Definitely new people here.
  • Nick, Cordelia, and Crispin from The Beast of Talesend are absolutely perfect and I love their personalities and character dynamics and interactions and YES.
  • Cuerva Lachance from Weave a Circle Round is . . . I don't even know how to properly describe her. She's mysterious and enigmatic and strange and amusing and terrifying and does things because they're impossible and might be one of my favorite parts of the book.  
  • I rediscovered how awesome Ransom from C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy is. I have some friends who really like him, and yeah, I can see why. I'm also 99.9% certain that he's based off Tolkien, so . . . yeah.
  • Eddie, Damocles, and Gilbert from Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World are all also awesome in their own way: Eddie's super relatable for a 12-year-old boy, Damocles is . . . he's a character and I sometimes don't quite know what to do with him, but he's interesting and I love him, and Gilbert is just fun. So, yeah.
I feel like I should have someone from Harry Potter on here, since I finally started reading the series? But while I do quite like certain characters (*cough*everyWeasleyeveryes*cough*andalsoHagrid*cough*), I'm not sure if they make the top list? Plus I read so many AU and headcanon sort of things on Pinterest that I don't always know what in my head is real about the characters and what's just something that someone else came up with. It's a problem. 

10. A book that made you cry:
No crying, but while reading The Dire King, the conclusion to the Jackaby series, I did much "Nonononono"-ing. Also some quiet screaming, not-so-quiet keening, and possibly a bit of whimpering. The book killed me with feels, basically. I'm still not over it.

11. A book that made you happy:

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans is absolutely adorable, ok? It's got a precocious young girl and a crotchety old lady dragon and a lovely mixing of magic and reality and just makes my heart happy in general. The rest of the series is good too, but the first book is undoubtedly the best.

12. Favorite book to film adaptation you've seen this half of the year:
Um. I rewatched the LOTR extended editions. Does that count?

13. Favorite post(s) you've done this half of the year:
I really enjoyed finally writing my Plantser's Guide to Worldbuilding! Also, I wrote a thing. It involves food, love, and magic, and what else do you really need in life?
14. Most beautiful book you've bought/received this half of the year:

I'm going to take a moment to gush again about the prettiness of the new version of Do You Take This Quest? Story-wise, it's still not my favorite of the Bookania Quests, but the cover is my favorite; I love the purple and the watercolor feel and the softness and it just makes me happy for some reason.

15. Any other books you want to babble about for any other reason?
As per the usual, a few books that I still need to read even though they're no longer really recent releases:

Exiles by Jaye L. Knight remains on my TBR list, despite the fact that I've owned the book since September. I hope to fix that by the end of break, though. And eventually I need to break this wait-forever-to-read-Ilyon streak that I have going.

 The Last Magician came out in July, but I haven't been able to get ahold of it until now because libraries are uncooperative. Also, college. I checked it out from the library yesterday; hopefully I'll manage to read it before break ends.

I still haven't read The Lord of Chaos or any other Wheel of Time books, despite the fact that I own significantly more of them. In my defense, they're long and not half as exciting as Sanderson, and therefore I have to work myself up to them.

Also, I finally got ahold of the whole Spellsmith and Carver series, including an actual physical copy of the first book, so I really want to read those . . . I just have to find the right time, when another book isn't higher priority.

And there you have it! Feel free to borrow this tag for your own end-of-year posts or to answer in comments any of the questions that piqued your interest. I'd love to hear what you've been reading lately!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 


  1. Now I have Weave a Circle Round and An Enchantment of Ravens and the Dragon's Guide one on my TBR... Thanks, Sarah ;) (I'm also hoping to read Nadine Brandes' Out of Time trilogy - if the library would hurry up and get the sECOND BOOK. Ugh.)

    AHH THE LOTR EXTENDED EDITIONS! I wish I could watch them xD
    - Jem Jones

    1. Good. :D And yes, isn't that annoying when libraries give you one and then refuse to give you the others? :P Hope you can get it soon!

      I wish you could too- any reason you can't? Just that you don't have them? Or something else?

      Thanks for reading!

    2. I just don't have them. Neither does the library. :'( They've become a bucket list thing! (THE DRINKING CONTEST. EOWYN'S SONG. At least I have YouTube...)

    3. Oh, that's the worst. I hope you can get ahold of them somehow! (The drinking contest is the best, as are all the extra Legolas-and-Gimli-friendship scenes.) True, YouTube is better than nothing . . .


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