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So far, 2017 hasn't been a banner reading year for me. I've read quite a lot (47 books at the time of writing) but haven't found as many heart-stopping, must rec favs as I did in 2016.

Even so, I've read enough wonderful books to put together both a Top 10 & an Honourable Mentions list for the year so far, so it can't have been all that bad. Here's what I've loved so far in 2017.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: Everyone who has ever recommended this book even vaguely near me was right. It's the ultimate slow-burn, character focused crime story and as such was the perfect fit for me. I've had to deliberately ban myself from burning through Tartt's other two novels right away.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee-Shetterly: An absolutely fascinating look at the history of the African American women who worked on the development of aerospace technology. I found the history of these women's work during WWII just as interesting as their work on the space program, but perhaps most enthralling of all was the story of how they built and maintained a supportive black community.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett: A deceptively simple story of the relationship between three young people in a small town, an abortion, and an affair. This material could have easily turned melodramatic or preachy but Bennett's low-key style, attention to detail and willingness to acknowledge complex, seemingly conflicting, emotional truths comes together to create a beautifully subtle work.

After Atlas by Emma Newman: After Atlas is a strong follow up to Planetfall and a fantastic addition to the noir science fiction subgenre. Although the world-building was, as in Planetfall, intricate and interesting it was Detective Carlos Moreno's voice that really made this story for me. Carlos is one of those characters I'm really upset that I'll never meet again (a little bit like Rosemary from A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet).

The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard: The thing I keep coming back to about this series is that it's so original. Mainstream fantasy just doesn't have anything even approaching the inventiveness of The Dominion of the Fallen books. There are dragons in the Seine for goodness sake! Aliette de Bodard has also created a world heart-warmingly different from the default fantasy setting; one populated by lesbians, gay men, transgender characters, and Vietnamese people. This strong sequel takes a very brave leap by largely cutting ties with the world of The House of Shattered Wings and moving just a few characters into a totally new world as de Bodard shifts from focusing on the internal world of the Houses to investigating the surrounding Houseless communities and the Dragon kingdom.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl: Stylistically, Everfair is a very brave book; constantly changing perspectives, killing characters off-screen, and jumping through years of time in the space of just a few chapters. It's also a re-imagining of a historical period many readers will know nothing about (at least, I only vaguely knew about King Leopold and the Belgian colonisation of the Congo). All that bravery, and the many lines of smart, social commentary that run through this book deserve to earn it an army of dedicated fans. I was also really into Lisette and Daisy's romance.

The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin: This book is sneaking into this list right on the line as I only finished it last week but once I'd read it I knew it had to be included in my Top Ten. The development of the core relationship between mother and daughter is so artfully done. I loved the perspectives Jemisin chose to employ. And I'm a huge fan of Essun's character. I watched on with equal mixtures of horror and delight as the story progressed. However, I do want to warn that there's some dead-naming in here, and that the fate of Alabaster, a gay man, is painful.

Bombshells, Vol. 2: Allies by Margueritte Bennet, Laura Braga & Mirka Andolfo: Bombshells really grew on me over the course of its second collected volume. In Allies the series is freer to do its own thing. It gets out from under the burden of rebooting and introducing origin stories. It slowly brings most of the main characters together so they're not all doing disparate things. And it breaks away from being quite so indebted to its origins as a spin-off comic from a pin-up toy line (the fashion is there but I felt that fewer panels were influenced by the male gaze in this second volume). I particularly loved the introduction of the Home Front Batgirl team who are tasked with keeping Gotham safe while Kate Kane is away on her mission. They're spunky and their uniforms are so cute but they're also hard-nosed defenders of justice!

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: A solid development in the continuing subgenre of 'the problems with past portal fantasies'. Every Heart a Doorway presents a great take on what happens to children when their portal fantasy spits them back out again. It also pushes back against the old-school idea that only certain children get to go on these kind of adventures (in this book there's a trans character, a genderqueer character and the protagonist is asexual). And there's a murder mystery to boot. I'm really excited for the follow-up, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, because Jill's sister Jack won my heart so completely and that book is all about their messed up sibling relationship.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi: I'm generally a huge fan of Oyeyemi's work, and I found plenty to love in this weird, elusive set of (often vaguely linked) magical short stories. This collection is full of gorgeous imagery and prose. There's a great story about rage-fueled magic called " 'Sorry' Doesn't Sweeten Her Tea" which I think many people of my acquaintance would enjoy.

Honourable mentions

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor: Dinosaurs, the Library of Alexandria and Shakespeare! Jodi Taylor does not mess about when it comes to time travel adventures. I'm a little bit addicted to this series.

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link: It took me a couple of stories to warm up to this collection because, while each new story was rich and interesting, they all seemed to abruptly cut off rather than end naturally. However, the further in I went the more firm favourites I found. "The Lesson" is an extremely emotional story, all focused around an island wedding, about friendship, love, and becoming a parent. "Secret Identity", "Valley of the Girls", "Origin Stories" and "Light" are also strong, creepy, sometimes sad stuff. I love Link's ability to conjure whole worlds, and convince me that I never want to leave them, in such a short amount of pages.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann: Another intriguing story from American history that I knew nothing about. Grann reveals the chilling and calculated plot to steal the extraordinary wealth of the Osage Native Americans. Not only is the story of this murderous crime spree interesting in itself but Grann provides plenty of background to the historical period (racial attitudes at the time, legal hooks that snared the Osage, the history of the Pinkerton agency).

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson: This was lovely, lovely, lovely. Johnson's writes such vivid landscapes and images that even I, who lacks all visual imagination, could see her world unfolding before my eyes. And everyone loves a story with a travelling cat companion, right? However, the highlight for me was the explicit way she wrote a space for older women into this story. Not only does she send her heroine off on a journey to rival that of male dreamers but she builds a background of self-sufficiency into her Vellit's history, and has her think critically about sexism. Some parts of this story made me a bit emotional.

The Bone Readers by Jacob Ross: An absolutely cracking new crime series for readers like me who want lots of psychological character creation and captivating, distinct voices. I only wish it were a bit better about depicting all the women in this story as fully rounded people. Quite a few dead women and gay characters in this book.

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Moseley: And I have similar feelings about the first book in the Easy Rawlins series. Great voice, plenty of time spent creating characters, great handle on including social background but an odd attitude to female characters at times. However, I want to read on in this series because Easy is such an intriguing man.

And, in case you're interested, here's some of the visual media I really enjoyed this year.

Other Media

Wonder Woman: I still really have too many emotions to talk about this film coherently but I loved it, and I saw it three times in cinemas, and I will absolutely be buying the DVD. The fact that this film exists, and that no one can ever take that away from me, is magical.

Hidden Figures: I got so emotional when I saw this film (even though I felt like the film skewed way more 'white folks helped out' than the book). Seeing Taraji P. Henderson play this inspirational big screen role was amazing. Seeing the women "chase" a police car and dance with joy was fantastic. And 'Get the girl to check the numbers'! Just… I mean I know that wording is far from perfect but it makes me lose it every time. Honestly, like Wonder Woman, the fact that this film was made, and that we get to keep it, just astounds me.

Fences: I saw Fences at the theatre a year ago, and the story became an immediate favourite of mine. To get to see such a well-cast, well-acted version on the big screen was a dream come true. Both of the leads are acting at the top of their game. Yeah, what could be better than Fences for when you want to be emotionally destroyed?

The Lego Batman Movie: This is the Batman movie I have always wanted. Emo Batman to the max with bonus dudebro life lessons. In fact, I am a heretic and liked this better than the original Lego Movie. However, this film also showed that creative teams really can squish queerbaiting into anything. That was not a lot of fun.

Moana: Great songs, great story, great resolution which subtly differed from almost every other Disney ending. Moana 2, now please.

Kubo & the Two Strings: Upfront - the voice casting for this story set in a magical version of Japan is a huge white-wash. I knew nothing about the film going in but it's pretty easy to pick up straight away that a lot of the big Asian characters are voiced by very well-known white actors. The animation and story are charming. The whole tone is emotional, soft and bittersweet. Yet the film is also gripping, and once I started watching I never wanted to look away. Still, good to go in with that knowledge about the cast I think.

Black-ish (Series One and Two): This is such a fun family comedy! If you haven't watched it yet I encourage you to do so before the spin-off starts. I love all the Johnsons (although obviously Bow is my favourite). The star talent in this series is just unbelievable. And I desperately want companies to develop more shows for all the regular cast to star in.

Master of None (Series Two): I ill-advisedly blasted through this series in less than a week which was stupid because now there is no more and I am sad. Nevertheless, Dev's journey through life is lovely, even when it's at its most difficult, because it rings true. And I was a huge sucker for Thanksgiving which charts Denise's coming out and her relationship with her mother.

iZombie (Series Three): iZombie has reached its silly season where almost nothing has consequences because magic-science, everything is being shoe-horned into a familiar format, and the creative team have obviously grown too attached to some of their characters. Still, I love everyone in this room! I really wish the Dominatrix case hadn't been the central string of this series (I hated that episode) but otherwise - yay, iZombie.

Goals, goals, goals

I don't have any huge reading goals this year except that I want to read more chromatic authors (with a particular focus on chromatic women) than last year. I'm working to try and make sure at least half the books I read this year are by chromatic authors. Right now I'm tracking at 21 books by chromatic authors and 26 books by white authors so that's going pretty well.

I'm also trying to keep up my yearly goal of reading more books written by women than men. Right now my totals are 29 books by women, 13 books by men, and 5 books by creative teams containing men and women (these are mostly graphic novels). I'd love to vary this up a bit though and read more books by non-binary people - throw me suggestions if you've got them.

I'm also trying to make sure I read more widely in terms of genre/type. So, I want to read more non-fiction than last year (which shouldn't be difficult considering I read four non-fiction books last year). Not just SFF! Don't always reach for the YA! Maybe try some short stories! I own a decently varied collection of books when it comes to topic and genre so this shouldn't really pose a problem.

I'm trying not to be too tough on myself when it comes to this goal but switching up genres is important for keeping my goal to read more chromatic authors on track. Currently, I've got far more unread contemporary novels by chromatic women lying about than unread SFF by chromatic women. And I should be trying to read more widely in other genres to become a more useful bookseller anyway.

So that's what I've enjoyed so far this year. What have you been all about in the first (long, so long) six months of 2017?

Date: 2017-07-20 01:07 pm (UTC)
oracne: turtle (Default)
From: [personal profile] oracne
Hmmm, I think I shall put off the sequel for a while, then, until I'm in a better place. My TBR is enormous, anyway.

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