Friday, July 12, 2019

Mid-Year Book Freakout 2019!

THE TIME HAS COME. The year is half gone, and that means it's time for my biannual book freakout! In which I actually don't freak out that much, but I DO review the reads of the last six months, yell about my favorites, and save myself a bunch of effort in December.

A few stats before we get started: I've read 99 books so far this year . . . which is only slightly less than the number I read all of last year. What the actual pumpernickel. How did I do this? (I know the answer, actually: I decided to get back in the habit of reading a chapter or two or ten before bed, plus I reread the Oz books and the Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus books. That adds up fast.) That comes out to roughly 40K pages, for those who are curious, so I've done the equivalent of reading Oathbringer 32 times, Illuminae 67 times, or Howl's Moving Castle 121 times. As you can guess, that means I have a lot of material to choose from here.

Mid-Year Book Freakout

1. Best book you've read so far in 2019:

As per the usual, this one's a tie between two AMAZING books:

Masque by W.R. Gingell

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

So, on one hand, we've got a fantasy murder mystery crossed with a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales (Beauty and the Beast), featuring a heroine who I fell in friend-love with approximately five seconds into the book and a thoroughly shippable main couple. And on the other hand, we've got a steampunk adventure involving pirates and intrigue and adventure and terrifying creatures and a noblewoman-diplomat with no sense of tact and all the other things that I can't help but love. You see why I can't pick?  

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2019:

It's a three-way tie this time, 'cause I'm terrible at decisions. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME CHOOSE.

Honor: A Quest In by Kendra E. Ardnek

Staff & Crown by W.R. Gingell

The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman

Honor is the best yet of the released Bookania Quests (note that I said "released"; Hair is even better); it's got the after-ever-after angle that I can't get enough of these days. Staff & Crown is the third in the Two Monarchies series and my second-favorite after Masque. (Notably, both of these books involve Isabelle as a major character.) And, of course, I can't fail to mention my beloved Invisible Library books, especially since The Mortal Word is another proper murder mystery that involved all my favorite characters in one place HALLELUJAH.

3. New release you haven't read yet but want to: 

A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson!

I really should've read this by now, but my library is slow at getting it. I am muchly displeased. I thought about buying the OwlCrate box that was supposed to have this book in it, but I decided to save my money and get just the book later. But I'm super excited; Rogerson's An Enchantment of Ravens was one of my most-yelled-about books last year and I can't wait to see what this one has in store!

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:

This is possibly cheating because, A) it's actually five releases, and, B) one of those releases is my book. But I am immensely excited about it, moreso than I am for any other book that I'm seeing on my Want-to-Read list on Goodreads, so we're going for it. As a reminder: signups for the blog tour are still going. Your support would be much appreciated.

All that said, if I have to pick a single release that I'm not directly involved with . . .

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

I mean, Sanderson has to make this list somehow. It's practically tradition. And I am looking forward to reading this, even if Skyward isn't my favorite of his books. If his past performance is any indication, Starsight will be even better than the first book . . . and I'm holding out hope that it'll be another nomance novel with primary focus on friendships and comraderie, but I'm also preparing to be disappointed on that front.
Speaking of disappointments . . .

5. Biggest disappointment:

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

This book. This storming book. It could have been amazing. It had so much potential — dystopian fantasy, Navajo mythology, a monster-hunting protagonist. And then it squandered all that possibility by persistently muddling around in darkness and distrust and treachery and blood. At times, it went full-on horror story (enough so that I wish I could blank the book from my memory altogether, other than the fact that I shouldn't read it). Yeah. Don't try this one.

Oh, and speaking of wasted potential . . .

I never imagined that monsters, superpowers, and time travel could be so boring. It didn't help that the main character seemed to go out of his way to make himself unlikeable, or that all the other characters were equally grumpy and miserable and messy. Add on top of it that it has the same aggressively bleak and "realistic" feel as some of the books that turned me off realistic fiction when I was younger, and this is just a solid nope.  

6. Biggest surprise:

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

I picked this one up more or less on a whim and went in with low expectations, having read a lot of meh/unimpressed reviews . . . but it was actually surprisingly good? It's basically the fantasy equivalent of the road-trip-to-deal-with-your-problems that the contemporary genre loves so much, and it was rather slow-paced and meandering as a result . . . but it was also thoughtful and even philosophical at times and very much character-driven and generally a nice change of pace. It did talk about some rather heavy topics at times, and I'd rate it at the older end of YA (or possibly even NA?) as a result, but still, I enjoyed it.

7. Favorite new-to-you author:

W.R. Gingell! I found out about her through Deborah O'Carroll, tried Masque in hopes that it would cure my Invisible Library book-hangover, and fell in love almost immediately. Her Two Monarchies books are my favorite; I devoured them all within a week or so of reading the first ones. They're magical and wonderful and almost Diana Wynne Jones-ish in style. But I also really enjoy her City Between urban fantasies, which have a healthy dose of humor and mysteriousness and are generally fun.

8. Newest fictional crush/ship:

Tragically, the book-verse still insists on pairing off every interesting male character, and I try not to make a habit of entertaining crushes on people who are already taken (whether they're fictional or real — doing it with former means I have practice in avoiding drama with the latter). So, no character crushes.

New favorite ships on the other hand . . . those I've got. A few I especially like:
  •  Isabelle and Pecus from Masque. (A delightful detecting duo; they're both clever and strong-willed and loyal, but they work really well together, when they're not working around each other.) 
  • Luck and Poly from Spindle. (The most Howl and Sophie-ish couple I've ever read, other than the original. Need I say more?)
  • Robin and Eric from Honor: A Quest In. (Technically already a favorite couple of mine, but they just keep getting better.)
And there's one other couple that could make the list, but they're spoilery. Suffice it to say that they show up in the last two books (chronologically speaking) of the Abhorsen Chronicles and that I did not see the ship coming.

9. Newest favorite character:

Have I raved enough about Isabelle from Masque yet? She's smart and stubborn and sneaky; she has a head for intrigue and mysteries and making people do and think as she wants; she loves food and friends and fashion; and she's just so fun to read about. Plus, when I first met her, she's twenty-eight and happily single and probably would've stayed that way for the whole book if Lord Pecus wasn't such a good match for her. Basically, she's fabulous and I would be quite happy to be her, honestly.

A few other favorites who I absolutely love:
  • Melchior from the Two Monarchies series. (He's dashing and clever and dramatic and was temporarily a cat; what more could you want?)
  • Captain Grimm from The Aeronaut's Windlass(A noble rogue of an airship captain whose tactical ability is only outweighed by his loyalty to his crew and his courage in the face of danger. He's arguably the best part of the book.)
  • Gwendolyn Lancaster, also from The Aeronaut's Windlass. (Again: smart, stubborn, clever, but with emphasis on the stubbornness. She and Isabelle would probably get along, though Gwen isn't half as subtle as Isabelle can be.)
  • Athelas from the City Between books. (How could you not love a tea-loving, scheming fae who knows far more than he lets on and is, in general, a reasonably sensible person?)
  • Sabriel from the Abhorsen Chronicles. (She's smart and practical and generally a protagonist who I appreciate very much. She may not know what she's doing, but she'll get stuff done all the same.)
  • Mogget, also from the Abhorsen Chronicles. (He's a cat who's really more than a cat. What more could you want?)

10. A book that made you cry:

Um. I don't know. I guess I'll say the Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor. It didn't make me cry, per se, but it did have some parts that made me sad and others that made me very angry, so it counts. Right?

11. A book that made you happy:

Paws, Claws, and Magical Tales anthology

I should probably stop yelling about the Two Monarchies books for a bit, so I'm going to spotlight this one instead. I mean, it's a whole anthology about magical cats and cats in magical situations; that's pretty guaranteed to make anyone happy. There's one story, "Whisker Width" (H.L. Burke), that I especially like and wouldn't mind ending up in the middle of.
(Also, Spindle, Masque, and Staff & Crown, but I said I'd stop yelling about Two Monarchies books.)

12. Favorite reread this year:

(This is replacing "favorite book-to-movie adaptation you've seen this year" because I never have a good answer for the original question.)

Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

I don't think this surprises anyone, but I am so glad I decided to reread these books. I'd forgotten how awesome they are and also how much I love Leo. Leo is great. So's Frank. Anyway. And they really do go in the category of books-that-are-better-the-second-time-round, mostly because you semi-remember what's coming and you can say "Oh, I see what you did there" and also "Ok, it's fine; you know they survive." So that helps too.

Also worth mentioning: my reread of L. Frank Baum's Oz series. These were some of my favorite books when I was younger, and it's interesting to reread them now — they're way more bizarre than I remembered. Still good books, though.  

13. Favorite post you've done so far this year:

My post on The Only Blind Dates I'll Ever Go On, in which I sing the praises of my college's Blind Date With a Book event! Runner-up: my post a few weeks ago on whether steampunk is sci-fi or fantasy. Both were fun to write, though for very different reasons, and let me yell about something that excites me.

14. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year:

I haven't bought many physical books this year, but I did find The Aeronaut's Windlass at my local used bookstore recently. So that's pretty fabulous. I'm going with that one. (Also, I got Firefly!!!)

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Lots. And I have no idea which ones I'll actually read because lately I've had a policy of "read what you feel like reading" instead of "must read all the newest releases." (The exception, of course, is when I have a book that I agreed to review.) But a few that are on my list include:
  • Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean. (Asian fantasy that comes recommended by C.G. Drews; it sounds super cool and I meant to read it last summer but didn't have time.)
  • The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen. (More Asian fantasy, this one based on the Mongols. Like Empress, I meant to read it last summer and then didn't.)
  • All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis. (I don't read much dystopian anymore, but this sounds cool, so I'm making an exception.)
  • Hertz to Be a Hero by Bryan Davis. (I keep forgetting this book exists, but I really enjoyed the first one in this series, so, yeah. I need to read it.)
Whew. That was a lot of books. How's your reading going so far this year? Any books you really loved (or were really disappointed in)? Please tell me in teh comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)


  1. Something tells me I should read Two Monarchies...
    99 books is a good tally for half the year!
    I've read about as many books for the half of this year as I had the whole of the last, but --of course-- I still want to read even more.

    1. Storms yes you should. :D
      Of course! No matter how many books one reads, it's never enough . . . especially since I think most of our TBR lists just keep getting longer. Oops.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Welp, my TBR list just got a little larger. XD

    I had been planning on reading more historical/non-fantasy fiction this year, and have several books on my physical TBR shelf (mostly the Theones and Patrick O'brian), buuuuut I've only read, like three or four non-fantasy things so far. :P

    I loved Naomi P. Cohen's "Circus Phantasm". Even though I bought it purely for the cover, I got around to reading it sooner than I thought I would, and man was it good. Siblings, a circus, magic, drama, dragons. Well, dragon.
    Not quite as magnificent as Malcolm Blackfire, but they're similar in temperament.

    1. Heh. Sorry not sorry?
      That sounds cool! If you find any that are especially good, let me know. :)
      Ooooh, cool. I shall have to look that up. Thank you very much!


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