Saturday, July 7, 2018

Mid-Year Book Freakout 2018

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Hey'a, everyone! Half of another year has come and gone, which means it's time for my my annual Mid-Year Book Freakout, in which I recap all the best (and occasionally worst) reads I've discovered so far this year. In case anyone was wondering, by the way, I've read 57 books this year. Most of those have been good (my average rating on Goodreads is 4.1 stars). A few haven't been so great, but you know. It is what it is.

1. Best book you've read so far in 2018:
An Enchantment of Ravens, hands down! This book is storming amazing. It critiques a lot of elements of modern fantasy, especially the common portrayals of Fae and romances involving Fae. But it doesn't sacrifice story or characters in order to do so; the plotline is amazing and twisty, and the characters are just delightful. So, yeah. I love it, and you all need to read it. 

A few runners-up:
The City Beyond the Glass is a dark and powerful allegorical retelling of my favorite fairy tale, "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." Plus, it's set in Renaissance Venice, which is super cool.

Illuminae is just plain amazing, and I don't know why I waited so long to read this book. I was a little concerned that it would be confusing, since it's not written in standard narrative format, but instead it ended up being super exciting and twisty and I seriously could not put it down. Also, the main characters are so salty, and they remind me of some of my friends. Except most of my really friends aren't awesome hackers . . . probably not, anyway. The sequel is almost as awesome— plot-wise, it was actually better; my only problem was that I didn't buy the romance quite as much.

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2018:
We've got a tie in this one. First up is . . .
The Lost Plot! Which, honestly, should surprise exactly no one. The day an Invisible Library book comes out and doesn't make one of my best-of lists for the year in some fashion is the day I . . . I don't know. I probably won't die, but I might be in mourning over how one of my favorite series has failed me. Anyway, The Lost Plot is high on dragons, low on fae (which is fine; I can live with that), and takes place mostly in magical 1930s Chicago which is officially my new favorite location for historical fantasy.

And the second book in the tie . . .

Song of Leira! You know, because I haven't talked about it enough on this blog already. I reviewed it earlier this month, if you want to know my full thoughts, but basically it's lovely and heartbreaking and heart-healing and amazing, and it's kind of bite-sized Tolkien but also kind of not. So. Yeah. Read it.

Again, some runners-up:
An Earthly King is the second in the Modern Tales of Na Fianna, and I loved it far more than the first book. I'm not sure if that's because I knew what to expect going in (with Blood Ties I didn't, or, rather, my expectations were wrong), or because I liked the characters better (I did!) or because it was a mystery rather than a straight-up quest, or because it felt much more like the urban fantasy it is, or all of those combined. But there you have it.

I actually read the whole Spellsmith and Carver series this year, but book two, Magician's Trial is my favorite. It's like . . . we've got politics, we've got magic, we've got assassins, we've got an engineer-inventor who's basically my new favorite character, we've got all the things you want in one book. (And what you don't have is the emotional heart-rending-ness of book three or the frustrations that come from not knowing the characters well in book one.) So, yeah. Others disagree, but I think this is the best.

(On a side note, I've given myself a new rule: never give up on a self-published series— or a series in general, but especially a self-published one— until you've read at least two of the books in it, because I almost always like the second or third book far more than the first. Not that the first isn't generally good, but often it doesn't click with me like the others do. I think it's either because the first book is hyped so much that I have unrealistic expectations or else because by books two and three, both the author and I have figured out what s/he is doing here. Not sure which.)

3. New release you haven't read yet but want to: 
Isle of Blood and Stone came out in April; it's on my shelf, but I haven't quite gotten to it yet. That said, seafaring adventure in a quest to rescue a character's brothers? Sounds fun to me.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:
New Sanderson new Sanderson new Sanderson NEW SANDERSON! Sci-fi Sanderson! With a sentient ship! I want it yesterday. Actually, no, I don't, I have too many books and too little time. But also yes. It's going to be awesome.

5. Biggest disappointment:
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. It had some good points, but for the most part, it was just angsty and unsatisfying and populated by frustrating people. I suppose that's a fairly accurate representation of life sometimes, but still. Doesn't mean I want to read about that.
 
6. Biggest surprise:
Ok, so I picked up The Wrath and the Dawn on a whim, thinking "Oh, yeah, my blogger friends like this; I'll probably enjoy it," but I didn't expect to love it that much. And then the sequel, The Rose and the Dagger, is arguably even better. They've both got gorgeous ancient-Persian culture and characters who somehow manage to be reasonably non-infuriating and lovely bits of magic and a romance that worked out suprisingly well AND DOESN'T TURN INTO THAT ONE LOVE TRIANGLE. This is actually a significant accomplishment, as you can tell, and it just made me love the books more.

7. Favorite new-to-you author:
Margaret Rogerson is amazing, and she writes books that are intelligent and exciting and easily readaable in one sitting, and apparently she's working on a second book (unreleated to An Enchantment of Ravens), and YES. Well, not so much YES on the unrelated-to-Enchantment bit, but still. 
 
8. Newest fictional crush/ship:
Newest favorite ship is obviously Rook and Isobelle from Enchantment because they are perfection. Isobelle is generally sensible, sensible enough that she recognizes her foolishness in her initial crush on Rook, but then they end up falling in love properly through shared adventure (definitely one of the better ways to fall in love, since it has a way of bringing out the best and worst in a person). And Rook is thoroughly dramatic but also so protective and they're just fun together, ok?
A few other lovely ships that I discovered this year:
  • Auric and Lotte from Spellsmith and Carver.
  • Shazi and Khalid from The Wrath and the Dawn.
  • Nick and Cordelia from Beaumont and Beasley.
  • Kady and Ezra from Illuminae. (These two are seriously adorable, just FYI. And Ezra is a hopeless romantic, and Kady's just like "you're ridiculous but I love you anyway.")
  • Wilhelmina and Etzel from the Bright Empires series. (I don't know if these are an official ship, but if they aren't and they don't end up together by the end, I will be SO MAD.)
In terms of fictional crushes, Marcus Altair is still awesome, available, and alive. I'm pretty sure this is a small miracle. I intend to enjoy it while it lasts.

9. Newest favorite character:
Favorite-favorite character? Rook again. He's excellent (but I'm not about to say so to his face, because he's vain enough as it is). Isobelle, Nick, Kady, Lotte, Shazi, and Wilhelmina are all on that list as well, just not as high.
  
10. A book that made you cry:
Eh, I got nothing. I did get major feels over some bits of Illuminae, though, so we'll go with that.

11. A book that made you happy:

Not a book but a whole series: the Beaumont and Beasley books! Much like the first book, they're also delightfully hilarious twisted fairy tales, though there's a bit of some other not-quite-fairy tales mixed in there too. Book one is officially on my shortlist of reads for when I'm upset and need to be not-upset in a hurry, and the rest probably would also qualify. (Ok, book three is a little depressing at points, but it's fine.)
Runner up: The Penderwicks at Last, even though it's the last book in the series and I procrastinated on it so hard. It was a delightful ending, and it brought the series full-circle in a way that I thoroughly appreciated.

12. Favorite book to film adaptation you've seen this year:
Oooh! I've actually got something for once! My sister and I watched and rewatched The Lord of the Rings extended editions back in January— her first time, my third or fourth. We were going to rewatch the Hobbit extended editions too, but we didn't get around to it. Maybe if we have time this summer we can do that . . . haha. I'm hilarious.
 
13. Favorite post you've done so far this year:
A few of my favorites:
14. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year:
It's a tie between these two:


An Enchantment of Ravens (yep, again).

The Burning Page.

I got both of these at a book fair for pretty cheap, and I hope that I'll get to go back sometime in the next few weeks. We'll see how that works out.
 
15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Still haven't gotten to Lord of Chaos; oops.

I need to read Dread Nation by the end of the summer; I meant to finish it months ago but had to return the library book.

Of course I'm super excited for Skyward! (New Sanderson!!!!)

How's your reading been so far this year? What are your favorite books of this year? Any new ships or favorite characters? What's a book that really surprised you? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

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