I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve read so far this year, and I’ve been making reviews for the advanced copies and did the Mid-Year Book Tag for YouTube, but I wanted to spend a little more time talking about my favourite reads of the year so far and collect those thoughts in one place. I did a video version of this last year for what I believed to be the best books of the year (so far), but since then I’ve accepted that some of the books I love to read may not necessarily be the best of books. This list will be in no particular order, just vaguely chronological, so let’s begin!
Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore
Lakelore is a contemporary fantasy that tells the story of two neurodiverse and nonbinary teenagers, emphasising the importance of friendship and finding people who accept you for you. I cannot emphasise the importance of both the neurodivergent and nonbinary representation, but mostly how significant it is to show families and friends that are supportive on the page.
This is an #OwnVoices novel and the author’s note states that these characters are written from their own experience of living with a neurodivergent brain and their lived experience being nonbinary and Mexican-American. There’s also a mention of how the author feels like they are exactly what some people think of when they think of ADHD, but how they also burn themselves out trying to mask the less pleasant symptoms. It was incredibly refreshing to read about this experience, and it was incredibly important and valuable to me specifically to read about people who simply existed with neurodivergence without their story revolving around finding a ‘cure’ or being a burden to the people who surround them.
This book has a 4.1 star rating on Goodreads and I gave it 4 stars.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh
This was a beautiful read with some fun side characters, a vibrant world, and a truly wonderful introduction (for me) to Korean folklore.
Chloe Gong described this book as ‘a tale brimming with love’ and I do think that that’s the most accurate description. It’s a story about family and friendship and loyalty from the start: the opening scene is Mina sacrificing herself to save her brother and the girl he loves. The world is creative and lively and gorgeously written in a way that makes it feel like it was written by a fantasy writer with decades of experience but still accessible to readers who are new to the genre. We meet a lot of characters very quickly at the beginning of the book, but it’s not overwhelming and all of them feel unique and distinguishable and relevant to the story.
This book has a 4.2 star rating on Goodreads and I gave it 4.5 stars.
The Kings of Nowhere by C.G. Drews
I miss the months I spent reading this book when the chapters being released weekly became the highlight of my week, but I’m so proud and in awe of what the author has achieved with this project as someone who has been following their social media and writing journey for longer than I can remember.
This book was as close as you can get to unputdownable for a book that was published a few chapters at a time each Friday. Drews has an incredible talent for metaphors and capturing abstract emotions and finding the perfect words to describe something that usually feels so indescribable. Jeremy’s character felt like a slow burn in a sense: we were introduced to him in the first book and had an idea of his personality, but his narration added a new perspective, especially as the new side to him unfurls little by little with each chapter. And every single one of those chapters was a personal attack and a stab in my chest. All of the De Lainey’s feel like fully fleshed out characters and have distinct personalities, something that is important to note as there are so many of them. Avery’s support system for his autism is such a beacon of hope and there isn’t a moment where anyone tries to ‘fix’ him or give up on him.
This book has a 4.9 star rating on Goodreads and I gave it 5 stars.
The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones
This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and I do not have the words to express how pleased I am that it both lived up to and exceeded my expectations.
This book explores more of the world that was introduced in The Bone Houses and the Welsh influences and folklore were the perfect choice for a horror-influenced novel. The epilogue and the final scene from the final chapter contain references to The Bone Houses and I was audibly squealing when I caught on to what was happening (it was beautiful to read). The main character describes herself as someone who is saved by stubbornness rather than bravery, and I’ve never related to a character more.
This book has a 3.9 star rating on Goodreads and I gave it 4.5 stars.
Unraveller by Frances Hardinge
I am in love with Frances Hardinge and you should be too. This is one of those books that I could gush about forever: the style of the writing, the beautiful twisted woods aesthetic, the characters who are all interesting and dynamic and complex and leap off the page. Everything is a masterpiece. I enjoyed reading this so, so much.
Hardinge is one of the greatest fantasy authors I’ve read when it comes to giving her characters realistic flaws and allowing them to acknowledge and work through them. The side characters are also unique, well-developed, and interesting, no matter what amount of time they spend on the page. The world is sprawling and lush and full of detailed care. It’s one of those books where not a single element of it is grounded in reality, yet somehow it just works.
This book has a 4.4 star rating on Goodreads and I gave it 5 stars.
(I will say now that these numbers are correct at the time of filming, but I read most of these books as advanced copies and they all came out this year, so there aren’t years worth of data going into the ratings.)
- Deeplight by Frances Hardinge – the story moves like the sea, crashing it’s way through that makes you want to never put it down.
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – a very strange little book and one of the only books I have read so far this year that has made me excited to read again.
- These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong – the author’s love letter to Shanghai, to Shakespeare, and to her younger self.