Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top Three 2015 Releases

I read more this year than I had in many, many years before it. Even before my kids were born, I was a recreational reader at best, spending a lot more time perusing blogs and rereading the same three or four novels. My word for 2015 was write, and I did, but the one thing I've learned is that writers need to read, and there is a LOT of good stuff out there to get excited about.

So many books touched me this year, but I really want to highlight three that were released in 2015. I mostly read YA written by women, and these three books are no exception. Some books are important to me because they're page-turners, some for their love triangles (I am SUCH a sucker for a good love triangle), and others because something about the plot or structure helps me in my own writing. These three were special on the merit of their stories.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Goodreads summary: Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson...Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

There is SO MUCH GOOD in this graphic novel. I immediately identified with Nimona because she's a chick in a comic with hips and thighs and a belly on her. I was never interested in cosplay before I read this book. The way Nimona looks features exactly zero into this story, which is also refreshing. (She's actually a shapeshifter, so she can look any way she wants. She mostly turns into animals.) Then I started warming to the nuanced relationship between the "evil" Balister Blackheart and the "hero" Sir Goldenloin (YUP) and then I just realized that I was head over heels for all of it, all the relationships and the mishmash of science and magic and Nimona herself, an unsexualized, bloodthirsty, adorable female protagonist with thrills and flaws and humor. (Bonus points: the creator, Noelle Stevenson, is the best on Twitter (@gingerhazing). I cried reading her thoughts of seeing girls in The Force Awakens)

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Goodreads summary: Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right. Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up. Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

I was waiting for this one. This was my year of Rainbow Rowell- I read Fangirl around this time last year and went bananas. Early in 2015 I flew through Landline and Attachments, started following Rowell on Twitter, and realized what Carry On truly was: a novel featuring the characters and plot that were the basis of all the fanfiction in Fangirl. It's a departure for Rowell, with all the fantasy and magic, but she weaves it into a modern society with this world building that I really enjoyed, and of course, the characters are what makes it worth loving. Penelope Bunce is my opposite and I admire her hardcore and she might be my favorite book girl I met this year. This is the only book I've read twice in 2015, and I know I'll be reading it again soon.

Lair of Dreams (& The Diviners) by Libba Bray

Goodreads summary: In this heart-stopping sequel to The Diviners, Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray takes readers deeper into the mystical underbelly of New York City. (I'm only sharing the last paragraph because this is a sequel and I sincerely suggest you read The Diviners before diving into Lair of Dreams.)

Libba Bray was the YA keynote speaker at the Boston Book Festival this year, and I heard her speak before I had ever read any of her books. She was hilarious (Talking about her process: "I don't outline. I had fourteen outlines for Lair of Dreams. The thirteenth was called 'Help Me Baby Jesus.' The fourteenth was called 'Jesus Can't Help You.'") and engaging, and when I got home I started reading the first in her most recent series, The Diviners. The book is meticulous and sprawling, set in the 1920s with a large and diverse cast of characters. The background is researched to death (in the best possible way) and the details flesh out a world that you basically inhabit while reading the book. I particularly liked the slang. Sam calling everyone "doll" kind of did me in. Add in a hit of magical mysticism and I was hooked. Like, stop at the bookstore on the way home to pick up Book Two hooked. Lair of Dreams continues with the same characters you come to love and has the same loving attention to detail as the first, with a disconcerting echo of some of the scary social issues we're dealing with today. I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

There were other books that stuck with me this year that didn't make the list because they weren't published in 2015 OR had some major problems but I loved them anyway: Evil Librarian, When You Reach Me, The Awesome, The Darkest Part of the Forest. You can see all the details on my Goodreads year-end round up here

Here are some other year-end book lists to spark your interest: book punks, 100 damn good books of 2015, new york times notable children's booksthe mother of all lists (this is a HUGE list of OTHER top book lists, so get some coffee and have at it)

What was your favorite book you read this year? More importantly, anything you have your eye on for 2016? I'm ready to fill up my TBR pile. Here we go.

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