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2014 Media in Review

Obligatory statement about how mind-boggling it is that 2014 is over goes here. I know! I blame Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I lost so many (highly enjoyable) months to that fandom. This might suggest I'm done with it, but alas for everyone else who wants me to go back to having things to say besides gross sobbing over Bucky Barnes: I will probably be in this mess… I have just remembered Marvel released all our future dates as well as announced our wedding for five years down the road. I'm so sorry.

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renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
[personal profile] renay
When I sat down to reflect over my reading in 2012, I suspected that I would be disappointed. I had so many reading goals and wishes that didn't come to fruition. I had a lot of complicated events happen to me in 2012; returning to work, family issues, a complicated relationship with the OTW that I didn't expect, and the myriad of things that happen when you reach "adulthood" that tangle around you and leave you with no space to fit other stories besides the ones you're trying to live through.

However, even with all the things that happened, I am proud of what I managed to achieve with my reading. Coming off my degree program (and very little reading at all for pleasure), I was lucky enough to have the time to read some excellent books and to get back into the swing of reading as pastime. So often in my degree program I had to read and move on to the next book/essay and topic with only mild reflection, usually for discussion or essay points. The fact I could reflect over something was novel, and I got carried away a bit, and perhaps reflected too long instead of giving in and picking up another book. That's something to think about for 2013.

The following is a list of my favorite books of 2012. This is not a favorites list compiled of recent releases. I've faced it; I'm never going to be that reader who consumes brand new novels as they roll onto shelves. I'll be pleased to get to the majority "best of" 2012 books by 2014. This is what I read this year and loved, regardless of publishing date.

Most of these will be reviewed in the new year, after I am done recovering from the plague and can focus again. :P (Stupid plague.)

collage of Renay's best of 2012 titles

Kraken by China Miéville: Including this novel is cheating, as I read the majority of it during 2011 during my holiday break and on the cusp of the new year. I'm still conflicted over it (so many feelings) but when I sat down to think of what books challenged me, my literary perspective, and my patience (in both bad and good ways), and books that stuck and I was unable to get out from under all the way, Kraken tops the list. A story about faith, secret cults, the desire to live, and a city brought to life in the most fantastical ways, I'm not sure how it could have been more fun (well, except for the spoiler I spend time lamenting in my review). My internal feud with China Miéville and our disagreement over the phrase "acceptable loss" begins with Kraken. I'm watching you, Miéville.

Chime by Franny Billingsley: I admit I was skeptical about this title going in, even though multiple people I trust said it was definitely worth it. Turns out they weren't wrong, as this story of Briony's struggle with self-blame, depression, family and love was a startling surprise. It would be easy to believe that some of the things Billingsley does in this novel were simple to construct and show, but everything is so carefully placed — and one might argue, also obvious, even though that's not the point of the narrative — that it belies the care and depth with with Briony's struggles are portrayed to us. Chime is a beautiful novel, teeming with magic, and well worth reading.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvatar: I had never read Stiefvatar before The Scorpio Races. I missed out on the fairy novels, and skipped the wolves because of associated hype and comparisons (not sure I'm ready to challenge those comparisons yet). I also would have skipped this due to the fact that I watched Stiefvatar say problematic things about professional objective credibility and review style around the time I read it. This was definitely the case of me deciding not to judge the art by the opinions of the artist because of a post Ana made about this topic. I am very happy I let Ana's post calm me down, because later when I stumbled across this title on the shelf at the library I gave it a chance and found within a gorgeous, layered tale of privilege, survival, and a narrative of growing up into a world that's not made for you and that you're in constant conflict with. Even with certain benefits, those don't make it any easier, just different. It's a romance, yes, but also a story about the love we share even when we can't communicate it in "normal" ways.

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes: Out of all the characters I met this year, Zinzi December still fascinates me the most. Looking back, Zoo City feels like a criticism on the propensity of our culture to sort people into harmful categories and in doing so, write them off as people, period. Being less politically-minded about the South African culture contained within this novel, I know there's many undertones I missed, but I look forward to that day when I can reread it and learn more — both about Zinzi as a character and about the world she inhabits for lack of other chances. Also, as a bonus, it reminds me of Ghost, starring Patrick Swayze, and the narrative does a similar thing that is both brilliant and blood-curdling, because I can remember as a child being terrified. It's been such a long time since I book took me back to that place. This book is an urban fantasy crime thriller with philosophy at its core and I wish everyone (EVERYONE!) would read it.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvatar: It may be weird that Stiefvatar appears on my best-of list twice. I couldn't help it; it was unavoidable. I loved every moment of The Raven Boys, from Blue and her unruly and nontraditional family to the family that Gansey chooses to surround himself with (my favorite trope!) and protect while he searches for a lost king. The main conceit that all the blurbs use undersell this novel. I don't think Blue's true love, or her potential first kiss, or even the fact that Blue suddenly sees spirits after years of the lack of the ability is as central to the narrative of this book as it likes to think it is (maybe later books in the series?). In fact, I find it's mostly used in the opposite way it comes across in the beginning. The Raven Boys is a story about boys that Blue loves, yes, but not in the way it teases you to believe. Blue's journey with Gansy is illuminating, thoughtful, and heartbreaking and the end will make you want to go back and start all over from the beginning. ♥

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin: For many, their introduction to N.K. Jeminsin was with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which I have not yet read (even though I have owned it for over a year). This, however, was mine, and placed Jemisin on my "WTAF ARE YOU WAITING FOR" list. A gorgeous story of two sister cities at odds, priests who stalk the night and judge the corrupt in the name of a goddess of dreams, and the way dreams themselves can undo us if we choose to treat them as an acceptable reality, I was hooked from the beginning. Little kidding: I was so intrigued that instead of putting the book down (which I often do with fantasy when I get lost amid names and places I have no previous context for) I put down roots and grabbed a notebook to takes notes with and shoved my way through the first 150 pages and kept right on sailing when I stopped stumbling over the intricate and thorough worldbuilding. This doesn't reflect badly on the book, but instead on me as a fantasy reader — I'm woefully out of practice, but this book was worth the extra effort for me and I'm so pleased I didn't give up. I would have missed out.

Total: 40
Novels: 22 (55%)
Short Story Collections and Anthologies: 1 (2.5% — oops)
Manga: 16 (40%)
Nonfiction: 1 (2.5% — I really want to do better here next year)
Classics: 1 (2.5% — I've faced it. This will always be low unless someone co-reads something with me.)
Fantasy: 15 (37.5%)
Science fiction: 6 (15%)
Young adult: 8 (20%)
Middle grade: 1 (2.5%)
Short fiction / Novellas: 0 (sjdakshdasd this was a goal for 2012! Ultimate fail.)
By women: 17 (42.5% — and, much like Ana, and I not at all ashamed of the lack of gender parity in my reading for the same reasons she cited and also my own.)
By men: 6 (15%)
Re-reads: 11 (27.5%)
By new to me authors: 17 (42.5%)
Favorite authors discovered this year: Lauren Beukes, N.K. Jemisin
Least favorite book of the year: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman, or as I like to call it, ~ENERGY DRAGONS~: A Study in Cultural Appropriation by a White Lady
Best reading month: January. I read seven books this month. New year is good for something!
Worst reading month: March and December, with one book apiece. I can't explain March, but December makes 100% sense. I work retail, December is hell. It's impossible to concentrate on reading when you spend your days seeing humans treat each other like animals and service people even worse. You don't want to be around anyone, not even fictional people.

My full reading list is available here in super geeky glory.

My goals for next year are to read more widely and in places I might not necessarily have gone before. I want to read more older science fiction and fantasy (I've had my eye on the Hugo lists pre-1980s, for example). I want to pick up more nonfiction, even if I don't end up reviewing it. I want to catch up on One Piece (OMG One Piece, you are probably a zillion volumes by now). I am considering spending some time on Homestuck, now that I understand (sort of) how it's meant to work. I want to try more literary science fiction and fantasy — the pieces that get fancy covers with no hint of magic or rockets and featured on morning shows. Also, I have a hankering to read more about film and the way things are shot, too, so I can spend more time discussing movies and television with Jodie and understand more things Clare posts. And, as always, I want to read more women in every single genre. However, this year I am going to focus heavily on science fiction, because I love science fiction the most. I think making a point to pick up one science fiction novel by a woman each month is doable, since I can slide it into other goals.

In closing, Ana and Jodie both have posts up at 2012: The Year in Review and Top 20 for 2012 and they both read a lot of great, fascinating things, too. I dare you to read their posts and not add something to your to-read list.

Until next December! \o/


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