Sunday, July 3, 2016

Best Of 2016 (So Far)

Gif of a redheaded white woman popping straight up in bed to announce it's her birthday.

It was my BIRTHDAY yesterday, friends! The DAY of my BIRTH!


I spent it hanging around with people and eating trashy things, so I figured I’d bump my traditional birthday/middle of the year Best Of (So Far) post back a day. Here it is, featuring all my 4.5- and 5-star reads for 2016 to date in the order I discovered them:

Gif of a dark-haired Latino man in an orange jumpsuit biting his lip in a sexy fashion.
to the sky without wings by leupagus - 5 stars

I know. I read a fic, and I loved it so much that it’s a prime contender for my overall Best of 2016 list. Who even am I?

This one’s also notable in that it uses a trope that normally squicks me out: the "I knew them when they were a kid and I was an adult but now they’re an adult and I want to bone them" thing. (It squicks me out so much that I've never bothered to learn its proper name.) Most of the time, I run across this and I'm like, "Ew." Here I was like, "Okay, whatevs."

It helps that all the desperate longing we see on the page comes from the younger person.

Speaking of which, the fic's about Poe Dameron having this massive crush on Luke Skywalker for pretty well his whole life, and I've always disliked Luke. (He's so whiny, then so full of himself, then so whiny and full of himself.) HOW DOES LEUPAGUS MAKE ME LIKE THINGS WHAT IS THIS SORCERY.

I bought Tiny Poe because of this fic and I ain’t even sorry.

Cover of Deadline, featuring the title scrawled in red on a rusty, blueish wall.Cover of Blackout, featuring the title spray painted in black on a grey brick wall.
Deadline and Blackout by Mira Grant - 4.5 stars

I’m the world’s biggest sucker for a How Stuff Works book, meaning the Newsflesh series is firmly in my wheelhouse. It's all about how people a) survive and b) disseminate information after the zombie apocalypse. Hello, gorgeous. The only reason I haven't also listed FEED here is that I read it in late 2015, disqualifying it from all 2016 Best Ofs

Newsflesh, too, uses one of my usual So-Squicked-Out-Oh-Gods-No tropes, but I shan’t tell you what it is because it’s a pretty major spoiler. If you don’t care about spoilers, you can surely find the relevant information elsewhere on the internet.

Cover of Ad Eternum, featuring a man standing in shadow while a red rainstorm rages around him.
Ad Eternum by Elizabeth Bear - 4.5 stars

It took me ages and ages and ages to finish Elizabeth Bear's wampyr series, but I got there in the end. I adored the conclusion, obviously, but I'd rather not go into detail because it's all tangled up with spoilers and high emotion. One of those.

You should totally read these books if you’re into queer alternate histories with mysterious events, vampires, and forensic sorcerers. Start with NEW AMSTERDAM.

Cover of Commercial Suicide, featuring a half red, half white mask against a grey background.
Commercial Suicide by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie et al - 4.5 stars - Review

This’s the third volume of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE. It’s a puzzle series, so you don’t want to start here. Go back to the beginning.

I loved it deep in my soul because it’s messy and full of answers that breed more questions, and because the Tara issue is wonderful, and because it ends with a total !!!!!!!! moment, and because the guest artists are fabulous, and because the issue McKelvie draws is full of visual remixes and that’s the sort of thing I geek the fuck out over.

Cover of Carry On, featuring the yellow and blue silhouettes of two boys poised to kiss above the silhouette of a castle.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell - 5 stars - Review

Listen, it’s a commentary on Harry Potter and on fandom in general, and it's got strong ties to FANGIRL, and it’s a queer love story in which one of the parties is a jackass vampire.

As if I was ever gonna be able to resist it.

Cover of Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew, featuring five teenage girls of various races dressed in piratical garb.
Captain Raven and the All Girl Pirate Crew by Jeremy Whitley, Ted Brandt, and Rosy Higgins - 4.5 stars


It’s really great, okay?

Cover of Liesmith, featuring a greyscale image of a young black man in a hoodie brandishing a spear.
Liesmith by Alis Franklin - 4.5 stars

I started to write about LIESMITH immediately after I read it, but I went off on a tangent about how thirteen-year-old me remained spoiler free for Norse mythology and spent the whole damned introductory text rooting for Loki only to get a very nasty shock, and I, um, got distracted.

What you need to know is, this is post-Ragnarok Norse mythology set in Australia. It’s really queer. Everybody respects each other’s boundaries. Everybody does geeky stuff. It delighted the hell out of me.

And it’s yet another book that uses a trope I always figured I'd shy away from; namely, My Billionaire Dinosaur CEO Boyfriend (sort of).

It’s awesome. I promise. It’s digital-first, too, which means it’s only $2.99, which means you should totally buy it.

Cover of Skip Beat volume 36, featuring a young Japanese man with the jacket of his three-piece suit slung over one shoulder.
Skip Beat! Volume 36 by Yoshiki Nakamura - 4.5 stars

I still love the hell out of SKIP BEAT! as of volume 36. That probably says it all.

Hey, you know what I want for my birthday? For you to buy yourself literally anything on Amazon using my referral link so I'll get a bit of credit towards more digital SKIP BEAT!. I've got enough for volume 37, which drops in September, but I've gotta think ahead to volume 38's eventual release.

You could get LIESMITH! LIESMITH is a super good choice, and I promise to spend my $0.12 commission wisely (ie, on digital SKIP BEAT!).

Cover of A Gathering of Shadows, featuring a black-coated figure brandishing two knives as they hover above a sea oc grasping red hands.
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab - 5 stars

When I first finished A GATHERING OF SHADOWS, I declared myself unready to say anything more about it than, "I LOVED IT SO MUCH SO MUCH SO MUCH!!!!"

It’s been a couple months now, so I feel prepared to tell you I loved it because it’s got sailing, queer folks, siblings, characters who’ll do anything, and MAGICAL FUCKING SPORTS.

I like sports stories. Especially magical ones.

It's worthy noting, too, that Jenny correctly intuited that part of my love sprang from how there's MOAR RHY here than in the first book. Excellent work, Jenny. You have passed this Friendship Test.

Cover of The Raven King, featuring a deep blue Irish Elk with ravens swirling around his antlers.
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater - 6 stars - Review

I don’t even care that this book may not actually be perfect. It’s fucking perfect.

I had to add it and the rest of the Raven Cycle to my Ultimate Favourite Books list, meaning fully half of said list now consists of two four-book series in which queer assholes do dream magic. I’ve got a weirdly specific bookish type.

(Seriously, if you don't wanna buy yourself anything from Amazon you can tell me about all the queer-assholes-doing-dream-magic books as your birthday present to me. Obviously I already know about the Raven Cycle, and Sarah Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths is the other series on my Ultimate Faves list so you needn't worry I've missed out on it.)

Cover of The Kingdom of Gods, featuring a palace hovering above a stormy sea while a shadowed figure looks on from above.
The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin - 5 stars

Obviously my desire to keep THE KINGDOM OF GODS to myself won out over my desire to write about it outside of Murchie Plus Books.

Can I tell you I like how Jemisin pulls out all the stops with the queerness here, though? Her Inheritance world has seriously queer roots, but in the first two books you can maybe ignore them if you want to be one of those ghastly people who denies others’ genders and sexualities. Here, only the most willfully oblivious person could pretend this ain’t super-duper queer.

Oh, and THE KINGDOM OF GODS also uses two tropes that follow me around lately. One's a pretty big (albeit totally guessable) spoiler; the other is Secret Islands.

Cover of Echo, featuring the silhouettes of three children between the symmetrical silhouettes of four trees.
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan - 5 stars - Review

I had so much trouble not bawling in the street over this gorgeous, gorgeous book. It's the best children's novel I've read in years.

If you’re a hearing person, you should listen to the audiobook of ECHO. The story has music at its heart, and it’s so, so cool to be able to experience each song the way the characters do.

Cover of Yotsuba Volume 8, featuring an excited, green-haired, pale-skinned girl perched on the shoulders of a shaggy-haired Japanese man with a resigned expression on his face.
Yotsuba&! Volumes 1-12 by Kiyohiko Azuma - 4 to 5 stars


Since you really do need to know right now, here're the basics: Yotsuba is a small girl who moves to a new town and sets out to explore it, either in company with the older girls who live next door or alongside her dad and his friends. The tagline is Enjoy Everything, and Yotsuba totally lives up to it. Every volume is packed with wonderment.

Also, her neighbour Fuuka dresses her up as a pumpkin for Hallowe'en and it's absolutely the cutest thing in the entire world.

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay - 5 stars - Review

Every year for the last ten years, I’ve read at least one amazing book in June. This year’s June Books were YOTSUBA&! and CHILDREN OF EARTH AND SKY.

The latter feels special because TIGANA was one of my first June Books, along with Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. And of course, it's a deeply special book on its own account. It's lingered with me, and I expect it to keep that up for quite some time.

So, those are my faves. Tell me yours, please.


  1. I have to think about my favourites. I read a lot of good books in the first 6 months of the year!!

  2. This is a great selection, thanks for sharing! I knit my son a Yotsuba&! hat one year. It looked like her hair. :)
    My best books (5 stars) for 2016 so far are: Herman Hesse's Wandering which made me cry several times, especially when I tried to read passages aloud to my husband; Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda in which I learned about surreal poetry; Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard - I live next to a creek so this one was personal; The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth which has an unreliable narrator in a pseudo-language; Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot; Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman that does an excellent job of portraying mental illness; Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente (who is also my favorite author); and It Blows You Hollow by Diane Seuss-Brakeman. I'm happy there's more poetry in my list this year!

    1. Oh my goodness, I'll bet that Yotsuba hat was painfully cute.

  3. Ack, I forgot! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

  4. I got really excited that you said I passed a Friendship Test. YAY ME I AM HAPPY FOR ME. And I am also happy to hear that you are reading fic and loving it these days. Me too! Our lives are changing, Memory! Who knows what we will recommend to each other next!

    1. I knew the Friendship Test would make you happy!

      To be honest, I've still only read five fics in my entire life and like three of them were super short, but I will read more. Promise.

  5. Look at you, having such a wonderful first half of your year and such a wonderful birthday! You deserve all of it.

    Also, I must read the Inheritance trilogy. You made me buy it, after all! And Jemisin is so lovely.

    Oh, and Goodreads has been recommending Mira Grant to me basically since I joined, so I ought to try out the Newsflesh series soon.



    Also, wow, so many awesome books! I see some I've read, some I've been meaning to read and some I've never heard of. (I'm totally adding NEW AMSTERDAM to my wish list. And I really must get around to reading that Star Wars fanfic.)

    I'm also super pleased you liked Alis' Wyrd books so much.

    1. I really think you'll love NEW AMSTERDAM! If you want a preview the first novella, "Lucifugous," was originally published in Subterranean Online. There used to be a free audio version kicking around, too, as part of Subterranean's podcast.