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Another reading year has come and gone. I succeeded in both my (revised) reading challenges, learned the value of setting attainable goals, and met Kate Elliott (SCREAMING) so I'm calling it a win.

Downsides: haven't quite managed my goal of reading enough nonfiction to have a dedicated favorites section. But I'm going to keep working at it.

2016 Releases



cover for Poisoned Bladecover for Ninefox Gambitcover for Company Town


Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott — In the follow up to Court of Fives, Jes must face the choices she made as war threatens to spill over into her regular life and split her family apart not only physically, but emotionally as well. This series is about relationships between women, women wielding power, and the complicated nature of choice. Plus, ladies being talented athletes! Poisoned Blade is an incredibly smart story that centers women and takes on colonialism with a deft hand. It's tense, brutal, and wonderfully written.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha LeeNinefox Gambit was one of my coveted 2016 releases and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. Set in a society where culture functions via people's compliance to the calendar, a group of rebels takes over a distant fortress and institutes their own calendar, which challenges the stability of the dominant culture. I had no idea what to expect from this book (and to summarize this book is a feat in itself, so it's no wonder), but Ninefox Gambit is nuanced space adventure tackling choice, power, and trust — of ourselves, our partners, and our culture. It's a spectacularly plotted space adventure and is likely to be all over the awards circuit in 2017, an honor richly deserved.

Company Town by Madeline Ashby — I have been waiting for Company Town for ages (it kept being moved) so once it came out I waited for the Intense Excitement to die down so I could read it. It was absolutely worth the wait. Hwa is offered a job by the patriarch of the company that has just purchased her town to serve as bodyguard to his son, Joel. After she accepts, a serial killer begins to murder her former co-workers. Hwa has to juggle her new life, a complicated past, and her feelings for the people she cares about most. Company Town boasts a speedy narrative packed with social and political commentary and beautifully rendered characters.

cover for This Savage Songcover for The Obelisk Gatecover for Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening


This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab — This was such a surprise, because I didn't expect to read a second book by Schwab in 2016, but so many people were singing the book's praises. Kate is the daughter of a man who has created a political alliance with monsters, and August is the son of someone who doesn't believe an alliance with them will hold. Kate and August's stories collide when August is asked to spy Kate to gain access to her father, and predictably, everything goes wrong. This Savage Song is merciless and vicious, but has a core of tremendous heart.

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin — In the sequel to the brilliant The Fifth Season, Essun begins fitting into her new community as her daughter, Nassun, led by someone from Essun's past, begins to develop her own powers far away from her mother's influence. After the surprises of the first novel, the second doesn't attempt to go for the slow reveal of a hard truth, but instead shows how difficult leadership is, how complicated parenthood is, and spins out deeper revelations about Essun's past that hint at harder choices to come. Jemisin cuts into what makes interpersonal relationships so hard in this world with incisive skill, and does so with marvelous nuance.

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda — After a brutal war and culling, Maika, a survivor of the war, chooses to infiltrate an enemy stronghold to discover details about what happened to her mother. Instead, she finds herself host to a monstrous power she can barely control, and her only true allies are a fox girl and a scholar cat. The world is richly drawn and the art and colors lend a archaic feel to a world routed by savagery. Liu's writing paired with Takeda's art perfectly showcase a devastated society that has created damaged people, a thick vein of bigotry, and allowed power to corrupt beyond redemption. It's a fierce world, full of a wide array of monsters, human and otherwise, and tons and tons of complicated women, beautifully portrayed.

cover for Mockingbird, Volume 1: I Can Explaincover for All the Birds in the Skycover for The Raven King


Mockingbird, Volume 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Ibrahim Moustafa, & Rachelle Rosenberg — I didn't know about this comic until after it's cancellation, which is a shame. It's a fun book, full of quippy characters and neat adventures, with Bobbi a solid hero at the center. This first trade is a maze, and rewards a lot of re-reading for references and in-jokes. The art and color are crisp and inviting, and the humor is spot-on. It's a shame there's only a few issues left of this, because I suspect it would have been excellent if it had been given more of a chance to find its audience. I'm glad we got what we did, though, and highly recommend this super charming adventure with Bobbi Morse.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders — This was one of the first novels of 2016 for me and I came out the end endlessly charmed. This feels like a classic story of a childhood friendship that becomes something more, tweaked by magic and advanced technology. It's twisting lots of tropes into different shapes and seeing what develops when a story is built from the new pieces. It's fun, delightful, and an interesting theory on how science fiction and fantasy might look in a future not obsessed with genre purity.

The Raven King by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Cycle, the story of Gansey, Blue, Ronan, Adam, and Noah, and their search for a Welsh king buried along the ley line in their sleepy Virginia town, wraps up in the final volume of this series. What fascinated me was that I thought this was going to be about one thing and it ended up being about something totally different. This series is about time and friendship and love and the power of dreaming. The Raven King was somewhat about exchanges for power, and this last volume reminded me of the quote from Le Guin: "We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings." You think Stiefvater is telling one story about the past, but when really, she's telling one much closer to home. It's sweet and tenderly executed. It's one of my favorite fantasy series ever.

cover for The Star-Touched Queencover for Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1 BFFcover for Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous


The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi — Maya is cursed by the stars, with a horoscope that tells her entire family that she's destined for a marriage that will lead to death. Rebuffed by everyone but her younger sister, Maya spends her time learning and reading, until the day her father chooses to arrange a political marriage for her. But the marriage she expects isn't the marriage she gets. The Star-Touched Queen is a book about magic, memory, and trust. I loved Maya and the side characters, especially the women (and one horse) who help guide Maya to her true self. This is mysterious and tense and wonderfully told. (But if you have issues with lies/misdirection in het ships, please get someone to spoil parts of this novel for you.)

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1 BFF by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, Natacha Bustos, & Tamra Bonvillain — Lunella Lafayette is incredibly smart, but sent to the edge in desperation as she searches for a way to escape her Inhuman DNA. It threatens to change her forever as Terrigen Mist floats around her city, forever altering the people that have it at random. She finds a potential solution in an object from the past, but she also finds a giant dinosaur and the enemies that want this MacGuffin for themselves. The art in this first volume is colorful and energetic, but doesn't detract from the fact that Lunella is struggling with being highly intelligent. She's trapped in an environment where her skills aren't being challenged which leaves her free to work herself into panic about her future. It's fun to watch her succeed, frustrating to see her have setbacks, and the cliffhanger at the end of this volume left me clawing at my face. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is a gut punch of a story, insightfully capturing how difficult it is to be young and intellectually isolated.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon, & Ian Herring — Kamala Khan is my favorite superhero: idealistic, empathetic, and a strong person who cares deeply about her community. This story picks up after the Secret Wars event, throwing more curveballs at Kamala than ever. She's an Avenger, her best friend is dating someone new, her brother is getting married, and she still has to do work as a standalone hero. Plus, she has school and all its obligations, as well. It's enough to overwhelm anyone, even the awesome Ms. Marvel. This comic always couples real-life struggles with supernatural struggles in a nuanced way, using both to weave together one of the best superhero stories going right now. The art is always consistently beautiful and G. Willow Wilson writes Kamala with insight and compassion. This was a pure delight and made me want to reread the whole series.

cover for If I Was Your Girlcover for Superiorcover for Gemina


If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo — After an incident in her old town, Amanda decides to go live with her dad to get a fresh start. She's looking forward to making a new, normal life for herself, but struggles with the fact her dad wants her to be less outgoing to be safe. Amanda has to learn how to trust people again, too, while navigating high school, family, a new romance, and being trans. This is a slice of life story that pits Amanda against the world as herself — the reality of what it took to get her to this point is in the past, which we see only through quick flashbacks — and shows how she rises to the challenge. This is a beautiful story about a girl who wants to live and be happy on her own terms and manages to do it even when the world tries to grind her down. Parts of this were so realistic (especially with regards to being different in the South and how people react before and after they know the real you) that it took my breath away. Amanda is wonderful and charming and the outcome of her story is lovely and pitch perfect.

Superior by Jessica Lack — My favorite piece of short fiction this year was this adorable story about Jamie, the assistant to a superhero, and Tad, the assistant to a supervillain, and their meet-cute and subsequent romance. But there's something about Tad that Jamie can't quite figure out, and the whole story will really resonant with those of us who have faced unpaid internships, hard choices about who we want to be, and love interests who send really mixed signals. This is a super cute story and I would read a ton of things set in this world.

Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff — A companion novel to last year's Illuminae (which I didn't read until this year), Gemina is a fast-spaced thriller set on a space station that's taken over by a large tactical team in order to bury incidents that took place in Illuminae. Hanna, the station captain's daughter, and Nik, a member of a crime family, must work together to save everyone from the people who took over the station plus a rogue alien menace. This is told the same way Illuminae was, through chat logs, emails, and descriptions of video, but it's leveled up by the presence of art by Marie Lu, which really gives it extra depth (Hanna is a artist who keeps a journal). Filled with great characters, moral dilemmas, fight scenes, and reality-bending plot twists, I highly recommend it.

cover for Babylon's Ashescover for The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Mancover for Saga, Volume 6


Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. Corey — The sixth book in the ever-growing Expanse series is about the aftermath of a universe-altering terrorist attack and how the victims from every side come together as allies to declare war on the attackers. There are dramatic fight scenes in space, heartwarming reunions, teamwork, but also the tough parts of war: losing friends, having to choose who lives or dies, and having to face that bigotry that made the division between people won't be easily eradicated with a win on the battlefield. All my favorite characters got a chance to shine in this volume, and I loved the complicated way the book approached war, finding personal truths, and hope. If you like space politics and awesome ladies, this is the series for you.

The Vision, Vol 1: Little Worse Than A Man by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, & Jordie Bellaire — I didn't expect to love The Vision as much as I did, but this graphic novel is tremendous. Vision creates a family and they attempt to fit into human society, but we know going in that it doesn't work and ends in catastrophe. We get to watch the slow breakdown of Vision's dream as his wife Virginia, and his kids Viv and Vin, stumble and fail to follow his plan. The collection asks: what is humanity, anyway? What counts as human? I loved the way it answers this question. This is some top-notch science fiction and is not to be missed if you like artificial intelligence.

Saga, Volume 6 by Fiona Staples & Brian K. Vaughan — Every trade volume of Saga I read ups the drama and the stakes for me, and this volume was no different. The struggle of Alana and Marko to keep their family together continues in this trade, and deals with reconciliation, forgiveness, goodbyes, and the consequences of seeking revenge. It's so hard to talk about this series this far in because everything is a spoiler, but I continue to love everything about the world Staples and Vaughan created here and think this is one of the greatest space operas I've ever read.

Honorable mentions: Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West, Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire, Runtime by S.B. Divya


Pre-2016 Favorites



cover for Binticover for Gemsignscover for Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person


Binti by Nnedi Okorafor — Binti is the first of her people to leave the Earth, to attend a prestigious university in space. On the way, her ship is attacked, and Binti's life, already changed forever, changes again dramatically. This novella is a marvelous exploration of different cultures, friendship, and learning to be who are you away from your home. Imaginative and lovely.

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter — After a century of genetic manipulation, the people who have had their DNA altered have finally secured their rights as people, not property. But the companies that used to control these "Gems" don't want to go down without a fight. This is a political thriller set during a political conference to determine whether or not the Gems are "normal", as multiple groups attempt to control the outcome. I loved the characters, and given the state of the world today, as people argue for their humanity, this book felt like a very timely piece of commentary on how we attempt to dehumanize one another. Wonderful and incisive.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes — I didn't know what to expect from this book, because I don't watch any of the shows that Shonda Rhimes writes. What I discovered, though, is a brilliant woman who, like anyone else, struggles with making space in her life for the important things and struggles with the fear of the unknown and things she can't control. This is a wonderful book about being a mom, being a creator, and being a person who cares about their internal happiness. Heartwarming and inspirational and recommended to all creative people.

cover for Downbelow Stationcover for The Steerswomancover for Mars Evacuees


Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh — As war looms, control of Downbelow Station becomes a integral part of controlling the outcome. As refugees of the war pour into its ports and strain resources, the Konstantin family must struggle with political forces that would take the station hostage and control the planet below, as well. A slow-burn political thriller that carefully reveals its full hand to the reader, my favorite parts were the compassionate character relationships, the bond of family, and the determination of friendships between the people and the native species on the planet. It's long, plotty, and full of human cinnamon role Josh Talley and his uber crush (totally reciprocated) on a married couple (don't @ me).

The Steerswoman by Rosemary KirsteinThe Steerswoman is so easy to spoil! Rowan is a Steerswoman who travels around collecting knowledge, and on her way home discovers that certain knowledge is being kept from her order, and teams up with a woman from another culture to do some sleuthing. A great adventure with ladies who are drastically different but care for each other, this is a quick read with an excellent twist at its core.

Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall — Alice's mother is a hotshot pilot in the war against the aliens who have come to Earth and are slowly turning the environment into a winter wonderland. Alice is resigned to her fate, assigned to a training station on Mars so she can eventually go into the service herself. But when she reaches Mars, her and her friends are thrown into the war way earlier than they intended, and Alice must step up and be her own hero to protect herself and save her friends. This is an adorable, action-packed romp with a group of smart kids who face problem-solving and also certain death with a good dose of optimism.

cover for A Darker Shade of Magiccover for Forgotten Sunscover for The Scorpion Rules


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab — Kell is one of the last who can travel between all the different Londons, and Delilah is a thief from Grey London. When their paths cross after Kell makes a mistake, and Delilah chooses him as one of her targets, the adventure is on to save not only one London, but all of them. When I think of frolicking fantasy adventure, this is definitely the type of book that comes to mind. It's fun, brisk, and had just the right touch of darkness. The character relationships shine and the grudging partnerships are just the right about of grudging. If you're looking for a lively fantasy caper, I highly recommend this one.

Forgotten Suns by Judith Tarr — The Surprise of 2016 for me, this space opera about a long dead civilization and a imprisoned king, let loose by a hopeful young woman who then follows him on a quest for his people is fabulous. Psychics, sentient ships, aliens, and powerful women feature in a terrific adventure as our heroes are chased by a corrupt government and military. I loved all the women in this book so much; they're all so different and complicated and determined. I love how this book mixes science fiction and fantasy together to create something so interesting.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow — In a world controlled by a mad AI, world leaders must sacrifice their children to outposts as a check on them not going to war. If they choose to fight, the children's lives are forfeit. Greta is almost done with her time, approaching her eighteenth birthday and freedom. Then a new boy is brought in, and everything she thought her future would be changes. This novel is a sharp jab to the solar plexus, filled with a quippy AI villain, the consequences of war, and the hope for peace. I cried through the end of it, a complete mess, and loved every second. Beautiful.

cover for The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**kcover for Illuminaecover for The Vagrant


The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight — This was one of my first nonfiction books of 2016, and it stuck with me. I haven't always managed to take the advice it outlines, but I do give it a shot and it's helped me quite a bit to be less caught up in decisions, to say no more often (but nicely), and to take care of myself and my mental health. It's totally worth it for the great No Fucks chart, too. Even though it's a parody, I've never read the book it's poking fun at and it stands up wonderful on its own, so definitely recommended if you read self-help books and like to laugh.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay KristoffIlluminae is the first book in the series, the book that preceded Gemina in my 2016 favorites. I didn't read this until earlier this year, but I loved it. When Kady's planet is attacked, and she has to flee into space while still being pursued by the attackers, everything changes when a rogue virus is discovered. Kady has to work with her ex-boyfriend and a mad AI that's lost control of its directive to save herself and as many people as she can. Told in chat logs, emails, and other documents, this is slower, more horrific story than Gemina that builds the tension until the very end.

The Vagrant by Peter Newman — The Vagrant is traveling toward The Shining City to return a magical sword owned by one of the The Seven, Gamma, who tried to defeat a horde of demonic forces before being felled by their power. He has only himself, a goat, and a baby, and moves through the world careful of the monsters that lurk everywhere. I really wanted to read this because of the dude with a baby. I expected grimdark, but it's not really grimdark; this book has a wonderful optimism spread throughout, a hope for the future that is missing from other grimdark I've tried. Plus, the friendships (and queer romance, because this is the hill I will die on) were excellent. Two thumbs up.

Honorable mentions: A Passage of Stars by Kate Elliott, My Love Story!! by Kazune Kawahara & Aruko, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Statistics


I'm happy with my stats this year, because my women writers reading challenge really helped me read new voices. I also discovered that including comics in my numbers is a headache because if you read a collection and have 94629472 dude artists (totes the average for any Marvel collection), you're screwed. I'll probably track comics separately next year to prevent my brain from exploding. Dear Marvel, Hire More Women Artists, Writers, & Colorists, Holy Moly.

My women writers percentage is higher than it's ever been. I don't expect to reach that next year; I'm doing a space opera project and will likely read more men, but I do plan to read women outside space opera, too, especially in nonfiction. I'm also thrilled about my POC stats, which is the highest it's ever been since I started making an effort to read POC. I can thank my women writers challenge for that, too — I tried to pick up books by WOC for every white woman I read. My plan of deliberately adding lots of POC to my TBR so I always have available options by great writers pays off again!

July is often my best reading month. Maybe because of the half year mark giving me a boost in motivation? I'll take it!

Anyway, the percentages won't add up perfectly because several of my tracked categories overlap.

Total items read: 148
Short fiction: 7 (5%)
Novels: 40 (27%)
Anthologies & Essays: 4 (0.6%)
Comics (issues): 34 (23% — I'm going to try to lower this next year by backing off the pull list, she says, right after the America Chavez comic showed up in Previews)
Graphic Novels & Manga: 51 (34%)
Non-Fiction: 15 (10%)
By Women: 126 (85% — super happy with this number! Thank you, reading challenge.)
By Men: 51 (34%)
By POC: 71 (48% — happy with this even though I wanted to make it to 50%. Still great!)
Most read genre: Science Fiction
Most read publishers: Marvel, Viz Media
By new to me authors (prose): 45 (30% — wanted to hit 40%, but this is good, too.)
New Releases: 31 (21%)
Favorite writers discovered this year: Charlie Jane Anders, Erin Bow, C.J. Cherryh, S.B. Divya, Tananarive Due, Yoon Ha Lee, Marjorie M. Liu, Sophia McDougall, Nnedi Okorafor, Shonda Rhimes, Meredith Russo, Stephanie Saulter, V.E. Schwab, & Judith Tarr
Best reading month: July (20 items)

I hope everyone had a great reading year!
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