Voting for the Goodreads Choice Awards is in full swing! Here is how we voted:
Byron: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. It’s about a young couple that flees their unnamed war-torn nation through one of the magic doors that have been appearing all over the world. It’s the best book that I’ve read this year (so far), with every word of this fairly short novel being precisely correct and beautiful.
Byron: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Ghosts in a graveyard narrate and comment upon the unprecedented event of a living person, Abraham Lincoln, visiting his son’s grave and holding his son’s body. It recently won the Man Booker Prize and is on the Carnegie Medal shortlist. It is boldly experimental, with three main (ghost) narrators/characters and another 160 or so other characters who provide (usually brief) additional lines, descriptions, and commentary. At various points, it is thought-provoking, funny, sad, and beautiful. Completely original.
Byron: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. It’s book one of a fairy tale set in medieval Russia about a young girl who may be a witch. This beautiful story explores the roles available to women and the impact of Christianity on paganism. I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, and this story reminded me a bit of their work.
Ardis: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. This is such an amazing modern introduction of classic fairy tales, where sprites and spirits and gods large and small inhabit the world we mortals think of as our own. In a remote Russian winter home, a young girl (Vasya) struggles to balance the old traditions of home and hearth with the new intrusion of Christianity (and its believers who insist their ways must be followed). The Bear and the Nightingale is no sweet fairy tale, but a harrowing and otherworldly struggle that will ultimately determine the fate of not just Vasya but her entire family and their town.
Note: We both also voted for Katherine Arden and The Bear and the Nightingale in the “Debut Goodreads Author” category.
Ardis: Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer. This is the continuation of Palmer’s “Terra Ignota” series, set in Earth’s far future. Here, the movers and shakers of global politics, religion, finances, art, science, and society are brought together in the wake of events of the last book to ensure the continuation of a global peace that is threatening, at last, to give way. Palmer proves with “Terra Ignota” that she knows what it is to be human – to feel awe when standing at the foot of great works, to fear the onrushing storm of war, and to reach deep within yourself to find heroic strength. Seven Surrenders is made all the more miraculous as Palmer tells this truly epic global tale through a very personal human-sized narrative. Her poetry, her emotion, her philosophy make this possible.
Byron: The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. It is about a U.S. government agency that uses witches to time travel. It’s a fun book with witty main characters and breezy dialogue. The time travel mechanic is unique and clever, and the world building is intricate and consistent. Truth-be-told, I haven’t read very much sci-fi that came out in 2017. I just couldn’t get into most of the sci-fi novels that I did buy. The The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., though, was a joy to read.
Young Adult Fiction
Byron: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. I flat out adored this novel. I read it in one sitting. The love story, the nature of fandom, the sources of creativity and the pressures that can arise, the family dynamics, portrayal of mental illness….gah….I love this book.
Ardis: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. Byron recommended this book to me and I am thoroughly grateful. I think I consumed it in a single day – it almost might be more fair to say it consumed me. Eliza tells the story of Eliza, a teen writer whose webcomic has made her famous, even as she’s managed to maintain her total anonymity as the author for the years her webcomic has been running. When we meet her, Eliza’s world is about to become a lot more troublesome, as a new boy, depression, meddling parents, and a wide world of adoring fans all come crashing together in ways she never would have anticipated.
Young Adult Fantasy
Ardis: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. This book is the personal story of a young boy, Lazlo Strange, orphaned and raised in a library, who dreams of a fictional lost city. His dreams become reality in this daring and surprisingly emotional story of adventure and understanding, as Strange joins a company of adventurers off on a fantastic mission. I loved this book from the first page, and have recommended it more than any other book this year. Taylor is known for her poetic and fluid language, which is key in this book, but what shines for me in Strange the Dreamer are the rich, complex, and deeply human characters (even the blue ones).
Byron: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. A young librarian dreams of visiting a lost city. I only recently finished reading it, and I am still processing it. One thing I do know is that it’s one of the best books of 2017.