February 2017 Highlights

Winter is still here, but we’re dreaming of spring! And in the mean time, February is the month when all chocolate eating is justified and weight gain magically doesn’t exist! So yay for that! It also seems that the beginning of the year is ripe with tons of new releases. We both had a very tough time narrowing our list down to only three choices,  but here they are!

Serena’s Picks

16148435Book: “The Burning World” by Isaac Marion

Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Why I’m Interested: This is a very strange book in that it is a sequel to “Warm Bodies,” a novel that was published seven years ago now and has had a feature film released a few years ago on top of that. The timing is bizarre, to say the least. So this is listed based on the strength of the original that introduced us to “R” a zombie who wanted more from life and found it in his human love interest, Julie. Kate and I both read this for bookclub (check out the review here) and very much enjoyed it. But the book also felt fairly perfect as a stand-alone novel, so combine the question of “is there really more story to tell here?” with the delayed publication date…we shall see!

24763621Book: “Wintersong” by S. Jae-Jones

Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Why I’m Interested: This story features the tried and true story of a girl stolen away to an underground world by a Goblin King. But never let it be said that simply because we’ve read  one (or a million!) iterations of a story that there’s not still more than can be done if you have the right take and author. While the premises definitely sounds similar to “Labyrinth,” there also seems to be notes from “The Phantom of the Opera” with a musically inclined protagonist whose mentor is some type of Other. This is the second month in a row that has a book that references “Phantom of the Opera.” Is this a trend??

25670396Book: “Miranda and Caliban” by Jacqueline Carey

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I read and loved Jacqueline Carey’s three Terre d’Ange trilogies. I read and loathed her urban fantasy series. From everything I’ve heard, this book hearkens back to the former both in style and substance. A re-telling of “The Tempest,” this book focuses the tale on Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, a lonely girl who befriends Caliban, a wild boy that is taken into servitude by her father. This sounds like such an intriguing premises, and if Carey is back to form, than she is more than capable of bringing much beauty and heart to this strange tale.

Kate’s Picks

20600617Book: “Afterlife With Archie (Vol.2): Betty R.I.P.” by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Publication Date: February 14th, 2017

Why I’m Interested: As you all know, I absolutely LOVED the first collection of “Afterlife with Archie” comics. And finally, FINALLY, the second volume by Aguirre-Sacasa is coming out. When we left the Riverdale gang they ventured out into the zombie apocalypse, running from Jughead and his undead army. I’m still so tickled about it. I’ve just been dying to find out what happens next because I love what’s been done with these characters and I love how genuinely creepy Aguirre-Sacasa has written this story. I’m a bit worried about the collection title, because Betty is my girl and I don’t want to say goodbye to her yet!

29430798Book: “The Devil Crept In” by Ania Ahlborn

Publication Date: February 7th, 2017

Why I’m Interested: When Stevie Clark’s cousin disappears, memories and whispers in the community remind him of another disappearance he heard of, from years before. Not only did children disappear, but pets did too, and no one knows what happened. Stevie decides to try and find his cousin on his own, but maybe the truth is far worse than anyone ever expected. This sounds like a really creepy and suspenseful book, and while missing person books can be a bit heavy at times, this one has the potential to bring in more scares than melancholy. I really can’t wait to see what this is all about.

24382227Book: “Dreamland Burning” by Jennifer Latham

Publication Date: February 21st, 2017

Why I’m Interested: Though this one kind of functions outside of my usual genres, I have to say that I’m very intrigued by this book. It is a two perspective story in which a girl in modern times finds a skeleton on her property, and then nearly 100 years ago a boy finds himself in the middle of a community simmering with racial tension. The context of the story is Jim Crow Laws and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, and I am very interested to see what Latham does to interweave these two stories, and how she connects the past to the present in a number of ways.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Not Just Books: January 2017

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

new-arrival-movie-poster-615813Movie: “Arrival”

This is probably a bit late to the game, but I went to see “Arrival” at a late showing theater and it blew me away. The trailers for this movie were all over the place. The first one I saw, I literally had no idea what this was about. The second one I saw made it seem like an alien invasion action movie? Having seen the movie now, I can understand the challenge of creating a preview of this movie. This cerebral sci-fi movie knocked the breath out of me at every turn with its gorgeous visuals, moving score, discomforting realizations, and deep insights. It also left me thinking for many days after seeing it, which, I think, was its primary goal. I can’t recommend this one enough. While it’s likely out of many theaters, if you can possible catch it at a late-run theater, I definitely recommend it for the big screen.

mv5bmtuxmjizodi0nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdk3oti2mdi-_v1_uy268_cr30182268_al_Netflix Series: “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

Yes, yes I featured the trailer for this on a list a few months ago, but now it’s here, and I’m loving it! Now, that being said, I’m not sure this one is for everyone. The series fully embraces the wackiness and corniness of the books, so at first even I was a bit put off by the strangeness of this world. The acting of the kids is also a bit stiff in the first episode, but improves as they are given more to work with. But, in no surprise to anyone, what carries the series is Neal Patrick Harris’s performance. The moment he shows up (and it sadly takes a good bit in the first episode), you can almost feel the story take a breath of fresh air and settle into itself more fully. He’s so committed to the camp and wackiness of this character, at times even managing to make a completely evil character rather pathetically sympathetic. If you liked the book series, this is well worth your time. If you didn’t…maybe not so much.

how-did-this-get-made-podcast-cover-thumb-q33uloPodcast: “How Did This Get Made?”

I know this is a favorite podcast of Kate’s as well, but I got to this list first with it, so I get to talk about it! Sometimes it feels good to watch trashy movies. And sometimes it feels even better to listen to other people describe their experiences having to watch trashy movies and telling you all about how truly trashy the movie really is. This podcast is so fun. I haven’t watched half the movies they talk about (cuz…obviously…most of them are awful!), but my enjoyment is not affected in the least by this fact! Listening to them ponder the whys, hows, and wtfs of these films is so much fun. And sometimes, just sometimes, you catch yourself wanting to go out and find yourself a copy of “Sharknado 2” just because how did that get made?!

Kate’s Picks

15099342_1818297575122609_3345333340906455040_nWeb Series: “The Boulet Brothers’ DRAGULA”

Yep, the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” dry spell is still in full effect. But luckily, I was able to find a show that would quench my thirst this past month. “DRAGULA” is a web series produced and starring The Boulet Brothers, a shock and horror drag act that emphasizes the edgy and filthy aspects of drag. They decided to put together a “Drag Race”-esque show that would showcase ‘freaky’ drag, putting a number of drag queens together to compete in looks, performance, and challenges (like being buried alive, eating brains, and other squeamish things). Fashion, horror, and lots of dark humor pepper this show, and it gives me (after?)life!!! But just a warning: it’s not the the squeamish or easily offended. These ladies are hardcore in the ‘filth’ aspect of drag…

mv5bmtc3mjewmtc5n15bml5banbnxkftztcwnzq2njq4na-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Stargate: SG-1”

While I’m definitely a geek, when it comes to Sci-Fi I am far less knowledgeable than my husband is. So when I confided in him that I’d never actually seen any of the “Stargate” TV shows, he demanded that we watch “SG-1” immediately. Though it took me a bit to warm up to the show (I mean, really, parasites have to be the main antagonist?), I’m now all in. Richard Dean Anderson is a joy to watch, playing Jack O’Neill with the proper amount of disdain, snark, and, yes, pathos (the episode “Cold Lazarus” had me sobbing from start to finish), and while Michael Shanks will NEVER be Daniel Jackson to me (James Spader or get out), the two of them play well off each other and bring the characters to the TV format pretty well. And the new characters, specifically Tilk, an alien who has joined the team, are well written and fit in with the mythology!

vh1_antm_keyartTV Show: “America’s Next Top Model”

So I have pleasant, pleasant memories of watching “America’s Next Top Model” in college. I am not at all fashionable or ‘with it’ when it comes to the ins and outs of the fashion industry, but there is something about “Top Model” that I love. The photo shoots, the beauty, the clothing, the models, I like all of it. But I have to admit, I also like the drama of Tyra and the house infighting. Regardless, there is a brand new iteration of “ANTM” that has rebooted the show and the concept. Long gone are the days of the social media scores and Kelly Cutrone (THANK GOD ON BOTH COUNTS). We’re back to the basics of fashion and the potential of the aspiring models. Yes, I miss Tyra. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of drama.

Lift Every Voice And Sing: Books About The Civil Rights Movement

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everyone! Given that today is a celebration and remembrance of one of the most important voices in American History, we thought that we would share with you all some books about the Civil Rights Movement. Some may be familiar, others may not be as well known, but all of them give a voice to this movement, the people within it, and the importance of the ideals at it’s heart.

29844341Book: The “March” Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Top Shelf Productions, August 2013 (Book 1), January 2015 (Book 2), and August 2016 (Book 3).

Kate has talked about this book before on this blog, and it has a clear place on this list. John Lewis, one of the key people in the Civil Rights Movement, decided that he wanted to tell his story, and he did it in graphic novel form. These books talk about his early days as an activist, the Sit Ins, The March on Washington, Freedom Summer, and Selma, amongst many other key moments in the movement. Lewis is honest and candid about his time during this movement, and this book shows the horror, the sadness, the determination, and the hope.

5201814Book: “Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice” by Phillip M. Hoose

Publishing Info: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, January 2009

Though many people have heard of Rosa Parks, they may not have heard of Claudette Colvin. Colvin also refused to give up her spot on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, months before Rosa Parks did the same thing and became a Civil Rights Icon. Colvin, unlike Parks, was not only largely forgotten by history, she also was shunned for her actions and mostly ignored by community leaders. But she then became an figure in the Browder v. Gayle case, a court case that challenged Jim Crow laws in Montgomery. This book tells her story within the context of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Montgomery itself.

92057Book: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Malcolm X, Alex Haley

Publishing Info: Ballantine Books, 1965

Both a celebrated and controversial figure, Malcolm X was an important force and speaker within the Civil Rights Movement. This book is his story, as told to Alex Haley (the author of “Roots”), and it covers his early time as a hustler and goes all the way through his conversion to Islam, his position during the Civil Rights movement, and his stances on how to gain freedom within a racist society. Haley eventually added a section to the book after X’s assassination. Malcolm X is still considered a polarizing figure to this day, but to have his story in his own words is invaluable, and continues to serve as inspiration and education about the fight for Civil Rights.

824499Book: “A Wreath For Emmett Till” by Marilyn Nelson, Phillip Lardy (Ill.)

Publishing Info: HMH Books for Young Readers, January 2005

Though Emmett Till’s murder happened in 1955, it is considered to be one of the moments in history that helped set off the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till was a fourteen year old boy who was murdered for whistling at a white woman, and his death and the aftermath his told in poem form in this award winning picture book. The poetry is beautiful, told in a crown of sonnets, and it both captures the horrific nature of the crime, the injustice of the court ruling, and the despair and sadness of a child who was murdered with no consequence.

How are you guys celebrating and remembering Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday? Let us know in the comments!

That Takes Me Back: Some Favorite Reads from Childhood

So we were feeling a bit nostalgic this week, thinking about how we’ve loved reading our whole lives, and how books can leave lasting impressions. Both of us have our favorite books now, but we also had our favorite books when we were kids. So we thought that we would share with you some of the standouts from our childhoods, and what it was that made them so magical.

Kate’s Picks

39988Book: “Matilda” by Roald Dahl

Publishing Info: October, 1988

Why I Loved It: While I really liked a number of Roald Dahl’s books when I was a kid (particularly “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), the one that stood out for me most was “Matilda”. It appealed to me in a number of ways, most particularly that she was a little girl who liked to read, and was pretty lonely (as I had few friends in childhood, though my family wasn’t the absolute worst like Matilda’s is). So “Matilda” served as pure escapist fantasy for me, as the lonely, bookish girl also had magical telekinetic powers. It remains as my favorite book by Dahl, as Matilda is spunky and smart and a true role model for girls everywhere.

176690Series: “Fear Street” by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: First book published 1989

Why I Loved It: My love of horror goes all the way back to my childhood. And since I’ve already gushed about my other favorite, “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark”, I will talk about my other big horror influence: “Fear Street”. I started with “Goosebumps” when I was in third grade, but quickly graduated to the “Fear Street” series because they were more challenging and a lot scarier. I loved the scandal, the murder, the intrigue, and the WONDERFULLY tacky and now dated covers. R.L. Stine published a number of regular “Fear Street” books, and a few off shoot series like “Ghosts of Fear Street”, “Fear Street Super Chillers”, and “Fear Street Nights” (reminds me of “Baywatch Nights”). They were formulaic and repetitive, but man did I love them to pieces.

3729060Series: “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” by Ann M. Martin

Publishing Info: First book published August 1986

Why I Loved It: And on the exact opposite side of the spectrum, my other big series of my childhood was “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” by Ann M. Martin. I think that what I liked about it was that it was about a bunch of tween girls who had responsibilities and deep and lasting friendships. I would go to Barnes and Noble and usually leave with the newest in the series, and boy did I have my strong opinions about all the girls (Mary-Anne was the best, Stacey was the worst). And I also liked the inevitable soapy storylines that came up every few issues, involving boys, drama, and family. I also loved the spin off series “Baby-Sitters Club Mysteries”, which usually had some kind of potential danger or supernatural element. It always goes back to the creepy for me.

Serena’s Picks

156171

Series: “The Mandie Mysteries” by Lois Gladys Leppard

Publishing Info: First book published May 1983

Why I Loved It: This series was pretty much my entrance drug into the world of long-running mystery series featuring spunky heroines. And man, there are even more of them than I remember (I’m sure I didn’t read them all, but I loved the first 12 or so that I did get through!). There are like 40 of these suckers, it turns out. They’re fairly simplistic mysteries, of course, but I found very fun as a young reader. Especially the inclusion of the troubles her cat Snowball always gets into, and my early shipping heart’s love of Mandi and Joe’s interactions.

118754

Book: “The Raging Quiet” by Sherryl Jordan

Publishing Info: April 1999

Why I Loved It: And this, my introduction to the joys of historical fiction! This book falls into the young adult category more than children’s fiction as it deals with some challenging themes. But oh I loved it! I still re-read it once every year or so. The story focuses on Marnie, a young girl who comes to live in a new area due to a forced marriage. After she is suddenly widowed, she is viewed with fear and skepticism by the local villagers, but finds friendship with another outcast of society, Raven, who she learns is deaf. It’s a powerful story of the challenges of being different in a time when that was often looked upon with fear and hatred. It’s a lovely story, but also a tough read at times.

444332Series: “Song of the Lioness” quartet by Tamora Pierce

Publishing Info: September 1983

Why I Loved It: And finally, my first fantasy love. It’s pretty impossible to talk about 80s/90s popular young adult fantasy without the Alanna books coming up. And for good reason! I absolutely loved these books as a kid. Alanna is a spunky, heroine who constantly defies the expectations and limitations that are placed on her as a young girl, and eventually woman, who dreams of being a knight and having her own adventures. I’ve re-read this series a few times as an adult, and I’m even more impressed by the topics it covers that are so great especially for young women readers (it covers the importance of birth control even!) all while never losing its sense of fun, fantasy, and adventure.

What about you? What were some of your favorites from your childhood? Let us know in the comments!

January 2017 Highlights

Happy New Years everyone! Christmas is over and January has arrived, that time of year where we really should be in the gym working off the the cookies, but instead just want to curl up with all the new books we got for Christmas! And avoid the bitter, bitter cold. The year ahead looks great for new books, so let’s start things off right with our list for January.

Serena’s Picks

28962896Book: “The Cold Eye” by Laura Anne Gilman

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I haven’t reviewed it yet on this site, but the first book in this series, “Silver on the Road,” was one of my favorite reads in a long while. It’s essentially a fantasy western novel featuring a great heroine and unique magic system. The first book was almost a travelogue and had a very apprentice/mentor story line as Isobel learns her role as the Left Hand (pretty much a magical enforcer). I’m excited to see where the author takes this story! There were a lot of strings left hanging, especially with regards to her companion Gabriel’s back story.

28818314Book: “RoseBlood” by A. G. Howard

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Why I’m Interested: This is a risky pick because it’s another one of those that is based on an original classic that I loved and so as all the more opportunity for disappointment. This time, a modern re-make of “The Phantom of the Opera” featuring a female Phantom? I think? I love this story, especially the musical version, so I’m intrigued by the idea of a young adult retelling of it. Of course, it could also be hugely disappointing based on these same high expectations and I’m also a bit unsure about its being set in the modern era? (Will there be texting and stuff??) But I can’t not check it out either, so we will see what comes of this!

30037275Book: “Heartstone” by Elle Katharine White

Publication Date: January 17, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I can’t help myself! Whenever I find a re-imaging of “Pride and Prejudice” I just have to read it, no matter that I’ve been burned so many times in the past! (And also, there are always exceptions like “Shades of Milk and Honey” that I mostly liked and the brilliant “Death Comes to Pemberley” that I very much liked). Anyways, this is yet another retelling somehow mixing Jane Austen’s classic tale with tons of magical beasts. Sounds kind of like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” except insert gryphons, direwolves, and dragons in there instead of the zombies. Could be fun! Could be awful! Only one way to find out!

Kate’s Picks

29430791Book: “Little Heaven” by Nick Cutter

Publication Date: January 10th, 2017

Why I’m Interested: Nick Cutter is an author who has intrigued me, but i haven’t been able to read his last few books. With “The Troop” it was because it was parasite themed, and I am NOT here for that! With “The Deep” it was ocean horror based, and I’m not here for that either (unless sharks are involved, otherwise nope)! But now this one sounds like wilderness, paranoia horror, and THAT I am here for! He’s had a lot of good buzz, and so I’m finally stoked that my neuroses can be held at bay as I read this one.

29244734Book: “X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate” by Johnathan Mayberry

Publication Date: January 3rd, 2017

Why I’m Interested: BECAUSE DUH! It’s “The X-Files”! Also, it’s a story about Scully when she’s a teenager! I love both Mulder and Scully, but I think that of the two Scully is the more interesting one. One of the reasons for that is that she is a skeptical and grounded scientist, but she is also deeply religious. And this story goes back to her teenage years and tries to give origins to why she is a skeptic, with a backdrop of Satanic Panic and murder serving to set the scene. I am beyond excited for this. And not just this, because….

29244700Book: “X-Files Origins: Agents of Chaos” by Kami Garcia

Publication Date: January 3rd, 2017

Why I’m Interested: BECAUSE THERE IS A SECOND ONE FROM MULDER’S SIDE! If I find Scully the more interesting of the two, I find Mulder to be the more relatable of the two (I am such a believer, or at least want-t0-believer). So of course I’m also going to read this book! Is this a cheat to pick both? NO. They’re totally different stories from different writers. The description for this one is just as vague as the one for Scully’s, but I don’t even care because I will be on board for this no matter what.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Serena’s Favorite Reads of 2016: Picks 5 Through 1

The end of the year is upon us, and we are about to embark into 2017. Given that we both did a lot of reading this past year, and had a lot of opinions about what we read, we thought that we would reveal our top picks of the year this entire week! Today I’m finishing my countdown with my top 5 favorite books of the year!

 22567184Pick Number 5: “Den of Wolves” by Juliet Marillier

“Den of Wolves” Review

Juliet Marillier is one of my absolute favorite authors, so it’s no surprise that any book published by her will most likely end up on a list like this. This year we had the final (what looks to be the final, at least) book in her “Blackthorn and Grim” trilogy. I’ve really enjoyed this whole series as it represent a combination of many of Marillier’s staples (lyrical writing, an Irish historical fantasy setting, romance/adventure) and mixes it with new aspects (two lead characters, both older, a healthy dash of mystery/suspense, and a much slower burn romance). While I’m sad that the series seems to be over, “Den of Wolves” was an excellent final chapter for Blackthorn and Grim.

40158Pick Number 4: “The Queen of Attolia” by Megan Whalen Turner

“The Queen of Attolia” Review

Many of the books I’ve already listed have been the final entry into a series, so this is perhaps a strange choice as it is the second book in an ongoing series (there have been two that followed it with a third on its way this spring). But this book was really a game changer for the series. “The Thief” was brilliant with its sudden reveal towards the end of the book, but that just set the bar all the higher for this book. How do you keep your series interesting when the cat’s out of the bag with regards to your protagonist’s brilliance? Further, Whalen Turner sets the stakes even high by attempting a complete 180 with the villain of the previous book, bringing to life the nuanced and complex inner-workings of the Attolia herself. This book highlights how to do YA political fantasy right.

City of StairsPick Number 3: “City of Stairs” by Robert Jackson Bennett

“City of Stairs” Review

This book caught me completely off guard. It had been on my list for a while, but honestly, whenever I looked at it I was put off my an uninspiring cover and rather confused book description. But man, this book was great. It’s lead characters were brilliant: Shara, a “Hermione Granger” like chatacter, and her “secretary,” Sigrund, a giant Viking of a man. The world-building was amazing and creative: a world full of complicated history regarding colonialism and religion. Philosophical musings! Witty mannerisms! It was great. It’s technically the first in a series, but can also be read as a stand alone. I have to admit, it was such a high that I’m still scared to pick up the second. Maybe in 2017…

9591398Pick Number 2: The “Fairyland” series by Catherynne M. Valente

  1. “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making” Review
  2. “The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There” Review
  3. “The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two” Review
  4. “The Boy Who Lost Fairyland” Review
  5. “The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home” Review

Look, I had to just include this whole series, other wise the entire list would have just been populated with individual entries for each, and no one wants that! The “Fairyland” series features some of the most beautiful, creative writing that I have read in…maybe forever. It’s a modern day “Alice in Wonderland” with more heart. September, Saturday, A Through L, and the many friends (and enemies!) they meet throughout the story are just so brilliant. Valente walks the perfect line between nonsense and poignant wisdom. What could have come across as saccharine in another author’s hand, instead reads as a beautiful and insightful look into childhood, friendship, love, and growing up.

311326Pick Number 1: The “Amelia Peabody” series by Elizabeth Peters

  1. “The Crocodile on the Sandbank” Review
  2. “The Curse of the Pharaohs” Review
  3. “The Mummy Case” Review
  4. “Lion in the Valley” Review
  5. Deeds of the Disturber” Review
  6. “The Last Camel Died at Noon” Review

Second verse, same as the first! All ten entries could have been just this and the “Fairyland” series, essentially. But truly, I do find it fitting that my top two spots went to a young adult fantasy series and a historical/mysteries series, covering all of my loves! This series made it to the top spot based on the pure, unadulterated enjoyment that all of the books delivered. There are probably other entries on this list with stronger, over all writing. Other books with more creative worlds. Still others with more complex plots. But none of them were as much fun to read as all six of these have been so far. What’s most impressive is the longevity of the series. It was easy to worry that the “shtick”  could wear off with repetition. How could the books retain their charm? Wouldn’t the wittiness of the characters become tired? Just how many murders can happen around this family? But hats off to  Elizabeth Peters. Thank you for bringing Amelia Peabody to life.

So there’s my list. So many great reads in just one year! Challenge to you, 2017.

 

 

 

Serena’s Favorite Reads of 2016: Picks 10 Through 6

The end of the year is upon us, and we are about to embark into 2017. Given that we both did a lot of reading this past year, and had a lot of opinions about what we read, we thought that we would reveal our top picks of the year this entire week! So today I’m going to countdown from ten to six.

22840421Pick Number 10: “My Lady Jane” by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

“My Lady Jane” Review

My first pick is this quirky, historical comedy that completely blindsided me. It was a book that I had thrown on to a Highlights lists simply based on the wackiness of the plot synopsis (Lady Jane Grey’s story re-told in a manner similar to “The Princess Bride” and featuring a love interest who turns into a horse during the day). But it sold me! It sold me on solid writing, hilarious dialogue, a great heroine, and just the right amount of camp to become a real page turner. Just teaches me not to judge a book based on the weirdness of its description!

18068907Pick Number 9: “Court of Fives” & “Poisoned Blade” by Kate Elliot

“Court of Fives” Review & “Poisoned Blade” Review

Ok, so this is kind of cheat-y, but I literally rated these two equally in my reviews of them both, and as they are part of a series…yeah, I can justify this decision all day long, if you want! Featuring a spunky heroine, a diverse and unique world, and lots of action (not just the typical fantasy fare of sword fighting and such, but actual sports competitions) these two books were a blast. As a few more cherries on the top, it presented a YA heroine who has her priorities in the correct order and a love interest/romance plot that is believable and enjoyable.

17378527Pick Number 8: “The Raven King” by Maggie Stiefvater

“The Raven King” Joint Review

Kate and I read and reviewed this entire series, and it was one that only got better as it went along. So, while I loved them all, I chose to feature this, the last book in the series, as my pick for this list. Enough can’t be said about Stiefvater’s skills as a young adult fantasy novelist. Her writing is so incredibly poignant and lyrical, her world-building is unique and often quite dark and daring, and her characters always pull at the heart strings. The balancing act that she pulls off with this series (especially with nailing an ending in this book that she had been laying the groundwork for from the very start), featuring so many distinct characters, perspectives and voices, all while never losing her way with a complex plot, is truly impressive.

27190613Pick Number 7: “As I Darken” by Kiersten White

“As I Darken” Review

I’m pretty sure I featured this book in the same bizarre “Highlights” post that included “My Lady Jane” and pretty much for the same reason: too weird not to read! And again I was blown away by another fantastic story! What if Vlad the Impaler was a woman? And she had a brother? And they had a complicated relationship, made all the more complicated by growing up as royal hostages and developing feelings for their mutual friend, the prince who will one day rule? This book is dark and deeply lovely, setting up complicated characters whose struggles are heartbreaking and wonderful.

The Last Mortal BondPick Number 6: “The Last Mortal Bond”

“The Last Mortal Bond” Review

I reviewed this entire trilogy on the blog, but only read this, the last in the series, for the first time this year. As we all know, sticking the landing is challenging in the best of situations. Even more so here, as Staveley had set up his three protagonists, the siblings and children of the recently passed Emperor, as at odds with each other, each one with different pieces of a very large puzzle at their disposal. The world building and plot are driven by a complex web of different political, religious, and cultural perspectives, so if you’re in the mood for detailed high fantasy that does have an ending not only in sight but in print (coughGAMEOFTHRONEScough), then this series is for you!

So that’s ten through six. Next time I will give a countdown of my top five. What have been some of your favorite reads of 2016?