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Hi everyone, another year’s come and gone.   Even though this year was challenging, there were lots of good books to be read.  Here are my favorites from the past year!

Fiction:

The Bear and the Nightingale (Katherine Arden):  This rich tale of a willful, unusual girl was easily one of my favorites this year.  Arden creates a vivid Russian-inspired world with a folkloric plot and a wonderful protagonist–I absolutely adored it, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Passing Strange/Portable Childhoods/ Wicked Wonders (Ellen Klages ): Klages’ work is delightful; I love her settings and characters, many of which are girls and young women trying to navigate their world; her short stories include a young woman who relates to Maleficent and a girl raised by feral librarians.  Passing Strange, her novel, features awesome space and time magic and a queer relationship in 1940s San Francisco.  I like that she tends to present ordinary matters from a slightly different perspective, and her magic and characters are intriguing.  Check out her work–you won’t be disappointed.

Sparrow Hill Road (Seanan McGuire):  This story features Rose Marshall, a young woman who was run off the road for her soul.  Since her death, Rose has helped other individuals on their quests while looking for a way to bring down Bobby Cross, the greedy soul who killed her.  The ghost world McGuire creates is just awesome, and I like that each chapter stands alone but still connects into a narrative.

Nonfiction:

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray (Rosalind Rosenberg):  I had never heard of Pauli Murray before reading Jane Crow, and man was she awesome!  Murray, a mixed race individual, was a lawyer and activist who fought for equal rights and is the first person to draw the connection between racism and sexism and laid the groundwork for the Fourteenth Amendment.   She fought for equality amid her own struggles with her gender identity, and her journey took her to all sorts of places, including a professorship at Brandeis and the priesthood.  Rosenberg has written an engaging biography about this fascinating individual; if you’re into civil rights history and/or LGBTQ history, pick this one up.

The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return A Literary Inheritance ( Anders Rydell):  In The Book Thieves, Rydell traces the story of the fate of the Jewish libraries and personal collections during the Holocaust: many were separated from their libraries and frequently absorbed into collections in Germany or other parts of the world.  He also tells the story of individuals who have worked to return these books to their rightful homes.  It was both fascinating and disturbing to see how the Nazis’ actions destroyed these collections and the continuing impact of those horrible actions.

Catastrophic Care (David Goldhill):  I read this one fairly early in the year, but it’s stuck with me.  Goldhill agrees that the health care system needs to change, but rather than advocating for single-payer care, he points out rising health care costs and argues for a new way to pay for care that does not rely exclusively on insurance; he also advocates for greater patient participation in the marketplace.  I found his book an interesting read in the healthcare conversation.

Graphic Novels:

One Hundred Nights of Hero (Isabel Greenberg):  When lovers Cherry and Hero get caught in a cruel game between two men, Hero steps in to tell stories from an all-woman storytelling collective to save Cherry and herself.  In addition to a compelling narrative, Greenberg’s unique art adds a kind of old-timey charm that makes One Hundred Nights of Hero a beautiful book and absorbing read.

Pashmina (Nidhi Chanani)-Priyanka, an Indian American teen,  is struggling to find.  She wants to know about her father and the reason her mother left India, but her mother remains tight-lipped   After Priyanka finds a pashmina (a kind of shawl), she begins to see visions of a bright, beautiful India.  Priyanka embarks on a journey to discover her family’s stories and her own strength.  Pashmina is a heartwarming graphic novel: I loved Priyanka’s story arc and the message about the importance of choice is expertly woven in.  Chanani’s expressive art excels at capturing key moments and moods; I enjoyed the book so much that I read it through multiple times!

That’s all for 2017!  Happy 2018, all!

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Best Books of 2014

Well, another year has come and gone, and, according to my Goodreads account, I read 130 books in the year 2014.  As in years gone by, it was a great year for reading.  As we prepare to ring in 2015, I want to take this time to share the books that I especially enjoyed this year.   I have linked reviews when I wrote them.  Enjoy!

Literary Fiction: Newcomer Lauren Owen’s The Quick occupies this space.  Her vampires and use of historical detail made for an engaging read.

Science Fiction:  Elizabeth Bear’s Jacob’s Ladder trilogy (self-contained ecosystem in space is the setting for a power struggle as the ship sails to colonize) and M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts (an interesting take on the apocalypse story) take this category.

Fantasy: This was a tough category because I read a lot of fantasy, but I am going to go with Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs.  The setting–a city ruined by the death of their gods–plus a compelling murder mystery made this a fantastic read.

Mystery:  Elizabeth Elo’s North of Boston takes this category.  Elo’s protagonist Pirio is a delightful spitfire, and I found the mystery and day-to-day challenges presented equally intriguing.

Nonfiction: I genuinely enjoyed Karen Abbotts’ Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy–a history of women who participated undercover in the Civil War.  You can read a review here.  I also found Julie Sondra Decker’s The Invisible Orientation to be an accessible and compassionate look at asexuality.

Manga/Graphic Novels: Again, this is a really tough category!   However, the one that stuck with me was Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (high-flying adventure centered around an awesome protagonist)

Young Adult: Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory (tells the story of a teenager with a father who has PTSD) takes this category.  Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S King also gets a nod (not going to explain this one–the amount of space I have will not do this fantastically weird plot justice.  Click on the link if you’re curious).

Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy: Pierce Brown’s gritty sci-fi story Red Rising and Jasper Fforde’s irreverent Chronicles of Kazaam take this category.  I loved Pierce’s incorporation of Graeco-Roman mythology, and Fforde’s protagonist Jennifer Strange tells a witty and thoughtful yarn.

Well, that’s that!  I hope reading this gave you an opportunity to relive your own favorites or pick something out to read in the future!  Happy 2015, all!

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