Friday, December 27, 2019

End-of-Year Book Freakout 2019!

Here we are again: the end of another year and another six months of books to recap (counting from the time of my mid-year book freakout)! I actually am freaking out a little in this post, 'cause I've read some amazing books in the last six months. But we'll get to that in a minute.

A few quick stats before we get started: I have read a total of 130 books and 38,656 pages this year, plus a little bit because I have a few reading days left in the year. (For those of you concerned: I'm finishing out the year with assorted rereads, namely the Six of Crows duology and the Illuminae Files and maybe the Reckoners trilogy, so there's no risk of my discovering something amazing and then regretting the fact that I couldn't include it in this post.) That's significantly up from last year's count, which was 107 books and 33,968 pages. My average rating, on the other hand, is down from last year, only 3.7 versus 4.1. Apparently, I read better books last year. Oh well. About 31 of this year's books were in this half of the year, which is only about a third of what I read in the first six months — though that does make sense, since the second half of the year contains two low-reading months (July and November) and fall semester kind of killed me.

1. Best book you've read in the second half of 2018:

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
I read this book shortly after Christmas break started, and I haven't entirely stopped screaming about it since. Not internally, at least. It's like someone crossed The Invisible Library with Howl's Moving Castle and then added a dash of the Abhorsen Chronicles to round it all out. It's amazing. It's got a stubborn, fierce, indomitable apprentice librarian and a dashing, disreputable, snarky sorcerer and magical books and equally magical libraries and high stakes and action and romance and just so much awesomeness. I'm probably going to end up rereading it sometime early next year; it's just that amazing. If you haven't read it yet, go grab it now.

A few runners-up, though none of them come anywhere near the amazingness that is Sorcery of Thorns:

Death Be Not Proud by Suzannah Rowntree
It's a non-magical murder mystery retelling of Snow White set in Jazz Age New Zealand. And Suzannah has managed to figure out Megan Whalen Turner's method of keeping secrets from you even when you're really close in character's heads, and she does it to excellent effect here.

What If? by Randall Munroe
This is nonfiction, but it's really fun nonfiction! Basically, the author/artist of xkcd answers all kinds of weird science-ish questions in serious (though snarky) ways. There's a lot of explosions and things lighting on fire. It's awesome.

2. Best sequel you've read in the second half of 2019:
I honestly didn't read a lot of sequels to things this half of 2019. On the upside, that means it's not as hard to choose a book in this category.

I quite enjoyed both books in this duology, but I may have liked this one a little more. It's hard to say. I like the relationships and the world, and Arynne and Kay are both pretty great characters. 

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

The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman

I honestly didn't realize this was out until a week or two after its release, which is tragic because I'm intensely excited for more Invisible Library. It's got Irene and Kai and a heist and Fae/dragon partnerships; what more could I want?

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson
Lower on the priority list, but I do want to read this sooner rather than later. Though maybe later would be better, given what some reviewers have said about the ending cliffhanger . . .  

4. Most anticipated release for next year: 
Oddly enough, this was my most anticipated read for this year too:

Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Come on. I want more Eugenides. If this gets put off another year, I'll . . . well, I probably will end up being too distracted by other books to notice, but eventually, I'll realize it and be sad. Y'know how it is.

Also releasing next year: Stormlight Archive #4 by Brandon Sanderson! It has a release date! And a tentative title! (Rhythms of War, if you hadn't heard.) Though not a cover. But it's coming out November 17 of next year, and I can't WAIT. The only reason it's not my top most anticipated read is that technically I've been waiting for Return of the Thief longer. 

5. Biggest disappointment:

Ugh. I hoped that this would be a fun contemporary-fantasy with an Asian setting, and it was all of that . . . except for the fun bit. I actually ended up DNFing it because I disliked the main character so much. Life is too short for arrogant annoyances like this one.

6. Biggest surprise:

 Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
So, I finally decided to get with the times and read the rest of the Grishaverse books (the ones that aren't Six of Crows, mostly so I could read King of Scars) . . . but Shadow and Bone did not thrill me, so I was honestly expecting a succession of meh books until I got to my Crows reread. But then Siege and Storm ended up being really good? And, yeah, it was mostly because of one character, but it still counts.

7. Favorite new-to-you author:
Haven't really got one, but I did finally read a full-length novel by C.M. Banschbach (Oath of the Outcast, if anyone is wondering), and it was pretty good, so . . . does that count?
8. Newest fictional crush/ship:
Ok, so if we're being 100% honest, I am crushing a little bit on Nikolai from the Grishaverse books. Not, like, hardcore, but . . . y'know. If he were real and asked me out, I would seriously consider saying yes. (The answer would probably depend on where he was in his character arc, to be completely honest.)
Also, ships. Glorious ships. I don't have a ton of new ones, but I have one that I'm really enthusiastic about, and that is —
  • Elisabeth and Nathaniel (Sorcery of Thorns). They remind me of Sophie and Howl in all the best possible ways, and they compliment and play off each other really well, and they have each others' backs and protect each other and . . . oh, stars. I love them, ok? I love them so much.
  • Kay and Arynne (Ice and Fate duology). I normally get really annoyed by the whole forbidden love/betrothed to one person but fell in love with someone else drama, but it works really well with these two. They've got a good dynamic overall.
  • Alina and Mal (Shadow and Bone trilogy). Ok, I have gotten the impression that this ship was not a favorite with a lot of readers, but I liked it. Yes, Alina and Mal had some communication issues, but no more than any other standard YA couple. And I really wanted the childhood best friend to win for once in the romance.
9. Newest favorite character(s):
I feel like I'm probably going to repeat myself a bunch here, but let's go anyway, 'cause I want to yell about Sorcery of Thorns more.
  • Elisabeth (Sorcery of Thorns). Elisabeth is magnificent. She's blunt and straightforward and 100% ready to fight whatever the heck she has to in order to save the world, and she's also quite brilliant about figuring out the best way to go about things . . . but she's also very human? Basically, I would like to be her, please and thank you very much.
  • Also, Nathaniel (Sorcery of Thorns). Nathaniel may be my new favorite magic disaster boi.  He's sassy and brilliant and pretends he doesn't care but clearly does. And he reminds me of Howl from Howl's Moving Castle. Obviously, I love him immensely. And he manages to have angst without being annoyingly angsty, which is nice.
  • While we're on the topic, Silas (Sorcery of Thorns, where else?) is pretty great as well. He's . . . complicated? But he reminds me of a cross between Calcifer, Mogget, and Alfred Pennyworth, he's a magnificent balance of "actually super dangerous and probably a bit evil if not kept under tight control" and "secretly intensely noble," which is great. 
  • We also have to mention Sturmhound (Shadow and Bone trilogy). I love this man. He's snarky and clever and cocky in a fun way, and he has a knack for brilliant, dramatic, perfectly-timed entrances, and he's astonishingly practical and straightforward. But he's also noble and brave and reasonably sacrificial and just generally excellent. Also, did I mention he's the captain of multiple (flying!) privateer ships? Basically, he's a stellar example of one of my favorite archetypes, and I love him.
  • Moving on to some books that I haven't yelled about yet: Hesina (Descendent of the Crane) is a lovely protagonist, even if her POV sometimes feels a little detached. She's a princess trying to uncover the truth of her father's death and trying to do what's best for her people . . . and she struggles so much, but she's trying so hard, and I just appreciate her, ok?

10. A book that made you cry:

Hello, yes, we were just talking about this! This book is very good if you like political fantasy-mystery, which I do. And it's got a lot of interesting family dynamics and motivations, which I appreciate. And it's just generally excellent until you get to the end, in which the author basically shatters your expectations and breaks your (and Hesina's) heart . . . at which point it's still good, but it hurts. 

11. A book that made you happy:

The Game by Diana Wynne Jones

This is a clever, short novella that's really hard to talk about without spoilers, but it's delightful and has an excellent twist on some mythological stuff. Also, more family stuff. It's lovely.

12. Favorite reread this half of the year

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
Did I just read this for the first time in January? Yes. Did that stop me from rereading it over Thanksgiving break? No. Do I have regrets? Only the fact that I stayed up too late basically every night of break because I was reading it, but otherwise, no. Captain Grimm and Gwendolyn and the Spire are worth it.

I may also have reread Spindle and Masque, despite the fact that I just read them for the first time last February . . . they're good books, ok? And they're excellent de-stressors, which is what I needed, and Howl was back in Virginia, and I'm saving The Beast of Talesend for when I catch up on all the Afterverse books at once.

13. Favorite post(s) you've done this half of the year:
Probably my post on what happens when an AI tries to do my job. But I also had a lot of fun with my posts about books I'd give to the Mechanical Heart characters, AUs I wish were real, and magic powers I want for mundane reasons.

14. Most beautiful book you've bought/received this half of the year:

Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson
My parents got me this for Christmas, and I'm quite excited to read it. The cover is more gorgeous in person, but it has this nice texture and debossing and it's just really well done. And given that it's Andrew Peterson, I'm pretty sure the content will be just as beautiful as the outside.

15. Any other books you want to babble about for any other reason?
As per the usual, I'm taking a moment to mention the books that I wanted to read this year but which got pushed aside by other books:
  • Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean. This is the second year that this book has been on this list. I actually won an ARC of this from Emma over at Awkwordly Emma, which makes me feel even worse. The main reason for the holdup is the Blood in the Snow sequel — any time I'm starting to write or really involved in writing something in a more specific subgenre, I get caught in this weird tension between "I want to read other books in this subgenre so I can see how those authors did things" and "I don't want to read any other books in this subgenre because I'm worried I'll pull too much from those books," and the latter almost always wins.
  • A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigit Kemmerer. This one moved up several spots on my TBR list because of the cover — I absolutely love it and I used it a lot in one of my graphic design projects this past semester. Unfortunately, that same project didn't leave me any time to actually read the book.
  • The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen. Again with the problem of reading the subgenre I'm writing. This one probably would've been better, since it's based in Mongolia instead of China, Korea, or Japan, but . . . yeah.
  • The Faraway Castle books by J.M. Stengl. I actually own the first four of these now — I heard that book 4 is a King Thrushbeard retelling, and that pushed them up the priority list a bit. Not enough for me to actually have set aside time to read them, though.
What were your favorite 2019 reads? Any favorite rereads? Or major disappointments? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)   


  1. I am SO glad you loved Sorcery of Thorns. And Sturmhond. He is the only redeemable part of the Grisha trilogy for me. I still really need to read Descendant of the Crane; hopefully I'll get to it in 2020!

    1. I look forward to hearing what you think of Descendant of the Crane. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Ulp. I'm halfway through Descendant of the Crane. Perhaps I need to be scared.

    I have read The Secret Chapter! It is not my favourite Invisible Library novel (I think books 3–5 top this one for me) but it was good.

    And based on your recommendation I have given Sorcery of Thorns to the teen reader who asks me for book recommendations at the library, and put it on hold for myself. XD

    1. Perhaps.

      Good to know. I mean, I'm not sure anything can top the magnificence that was The Lost Plot, but I'm still excited. xD

      WHOOP WHOOP. Also, I feel like getting to recommend books to people would be the absolute best part of being a librarian.

      Thanks for stopping by!


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