Books I’ve already talked about
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson
Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs: A Cybils book. A mystery set in the first colony on the moon, in 2060. It’s kind of a locked-room mystery, and the set-up is fun. But I was vaguely annoyed with a few things: the fact that there’s no way to deduce the solution, and the fact that twenty-four years from today, almost everyone is mixed race and people of northern European descent are very rare, which seems implausibly utopian for a generation and a half from now. While neither of these things completely ruined the book for me, they did keep me from enjoying it as thoroughly as I otherwise might have.
Ambassador by William Alexander: A Cybils book. I read Space Case and Ambassador back to back, which was an interesting experience. While they have some outward similarities, they’re quite different in intent and tone. I loved Gabriel Fuentes, who is definitely an 11-year-old boy but who is also a peacemaker, who as child of immigrants has a foot in two worlds, and who is chosen as Earth’s ambassador to a galactic embassy. I appreciated the way Gabe’s family and culture were woven into the story, and the way Alexander makes the real-life situation just as tense and important as the save-the-Earth strand. A lovely, thoughtful piece of science fiction.
The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill: A Cybils book. I had tried one of Barnhill’s other books and didn’t get through it for reasons that I don’t quite remember. This one I found to be really beautiful. It’s a sad book in many ways, but ultimately I felt a hopeful one (I know there are others that disagree with me here). What I remember most about this one is the particular sense of place and character that Barnhill conveys in not that many words.
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett: This one is in some ways a bit standard, but I really liked the main character and the worldbuilding is fairly intriguing. There’s a nice sense of depth to it, although I felt it paled in comparison to The Goblin Emperor. But then, most fantasy this year paled in comparison to The Goblin Emperor
Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful by Donna Bryant Goertz: An interesting book written by a veteran Montessori teacher about her philosophy in dealing with difficult children. I found her point of view thought-provoking and challenging, but I also found myself feeling a little unimpressed with how much her position is defined by being against certain things. I don’t disagree with some of her conclusions, but they are presented in a very hard-line way that I don’t really like.
Intruder by CJ Cherryh: Thirteenth Foreigner book! I liked this one especially for Cajieri, who has to deal with the very different situation in Shejidan after being returned to his parents. In addition, those parents are in the midst of turmoil themselves, which makes things even trickier. Bren, meanwhile, has to deal with the aftermath of his decisions in the Marid.
Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann: A poetry collection that’s also feminist fairy-tale retellings with a curated selection of photographs. I know of several people who I respect who really loved this one. For me it didn’t quite work and I’m struggling to say way. I think I found the fairy tales too much in service to the feminism, and at the same time found that the feminism was hitting a couple of notes very hard and not touching on others. I think there’s value in this approach, but for me the specific notes didn’t resonate and so I didn’t love it in the same way that other readers do.
Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein: More coming closer to the release date, but I loved Teo!
Wondrous Beauty by Carol Berkin: A biography of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, the American girl who briefly married one of Napoleon’s brothers. Berkin comes down a little strongly on how unique Betsy was, but all in all this is an interesting look at a fascinating life and time period.
Paladin by CJ Cherryh: Non-Foreigner universe Cherryh. Alternate universe China, if I’m reading it right (also, I think I saw someone say this was historical fantasy, but literally nothing fantastic happened so??). I enjoyed it quite a bit, especially the end. The beginning took awhile to get to where I was hoping it would end up, but ultimately this was a fun one.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: Beautiful. I don’t think the poetry in and of itself is quite as strong as The Crossover, but I also don’t think the value of this one lies in the poetry. It’s in the stories, the creation of identity through family history, through memory.
Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan: Don’t do what I did and start this one just before going to bed! It’s terrifically creepy, and I don’t consider myself someone who’s easily affected by creepiness. This would make an interesting pairing with Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song (<3) which is telling a similar story but from a very different point of view. I liked this one, which was thoughtful and atmospheric, although I felt it got a bit bogged down in the middle.
Hunting by Andrea K Host: I really loved this one–it’s already one of my favorites by Host. It’s perhaps a bit more predictable, especially if you’ve been reading through all of her backlist as I have, but in a comforting way. It’s a rare girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy story that will grab my attention anymore, but this one did. My only complaint is that I want to know more about what happens to Kiri, but hey, maybe she’ll end up with her own book.
A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintrye: I really liked Macintyre’s Double Cross a few years ago, and this one about Kim Philby and his relationships with his fellow spies sounded intriguing. There wasn’t the innate interest that WWII holds for me, but Macintyre is a compelling writer and I ended up liking it a lot.
Stained Glass Monsters by Andrea K Host: Another one I liked quite a bit, although perhaps not quite as strongly as Hunting. The worldbuilding was very interesting, but I occasionally found the magic a bit confusing (on the other hand, I was reading it late at night, so it could easily have been Lack of Brain). However, I really liked the characters, especially Rennyn, and found the resolution pretty satisfying.
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
The Orphan and the Mouse by Martha Freeman
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey
Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn
TV and movies
The Hobbit As I’ve said several time, if the hour+ battle scene had been edited down significantly, I would have liked this movie quite a bit. It’s funny to look back and remember how dubious I was about Richard Armitage playing Thorin. He did a great job, I thought (aside from the hilaribad gold-sickness sequence, which isn’t his fault, I suppose). I thought the costume designers did a nice, if slightly obvious, transition for him into this increasingly isolated and formal figure and back into Thorin Oakenshield. If the movie had been edited to be the Tragedy of Thorin, King Under the Mountain, it would have been great.
Poirot: I’ve been having fun this month watching through old Poirot episodes. I’ve seen a great many of them and read nearly all the books/stories they’re based on, but I have never gone through and watched them sequentially. Thanks to the magic of Netflix, I can do so now. And my major goal in life is now to become more like Miss Lemon.
Person of Interest: I’ve started watching the third series and I am distressed at a certain character’s death. Not so much the way it was handled as the clumsy attempt at romance which came right before. Regardless, I still enjoy this one quite a bit and intend to finish out the season soon.
Elementary: I started the second season and really liked it–I like this Holmes so much better than the Moffat/Gatiss version, which I know is terrible but there it is. And I think the writers are doing interesting things with the Holmes canon in a way that I’m happy with.
Catching Fire & Mockingjay Part 1: As previously discussed, these were favorites for the year. They’re really effective movies, which so many book to screen adaptations aren’t. And Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely superb as Katniss.