Congratulations, dearest readers: you all made it to 2018! If your year was anything like mine, it was a roller coaster that was done before you even finished strapping yourself in. While most of it was a parade of bizarre news and awful weather, the year did have its bright spots. For me, one of the best perks of 2017 was all the books!
A quick confession: I’d actually taken a bit of a break from hardcore reading the past few years. Not to say I stopped reading entirely—an author that doesn’t read is like a scientist who doesn’t research, after all—but I had a hard time sticking with books that didn’t instantly grab me (or, if we’re being honest, fanfiction). I kept telling myself I was too busy to commit to a book, or that I was sick of over-analyzing stories after college.
Then “Bones and Bourbon” was accepted by Ninestar Press (and releases in three months, that’s so soon I can’t believe it), and in order to better get to know fellow readers and authors in my community, I volunteered to be a judge for the Rainbow Awards. Plus, I resumed social media and met all sorts of other authors on Twitter and Goodreads, ended up at the San Diego Comic Con and found more books, and so on. To make up for all the time lost, I threw myself headlong into reading, and now?
Now, I’m going to share with you my top ten favorite reads of 2017! There’s no particular order to this list; just a collection of books I enjoyed this year, from mainstream to indie, genre or otherwise.
The Animal Man Omnibus, as written by Grant Morrison
This whopper of a comic collection was what kicked off 2017 for me, being my 2016 Xmas gift from my partner. For those who don’t know what’s so special about Grant Morrison’s take on Animal Man, I won’t spoil the fun, but if you’re a fan of deconstructing superheroes, underutilized characters, and comic book metanarratives, Animal Man is a treat. I especially recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics (especially since they’re technically in the same universe…)
Can’t Hide From Me by Cordelia Kingsbridge
The first book I read for the 2017 Rainbow Awards, and one of my favorites to boot. This thriller has the perfect balance of conflict and romance, as its secret agent protagonists try to avoid both a killer and the threat of falling back in love with each other. All the characters are entertaining and well-developed (and diverse to boot!), the action is on point, and the use of tension is masterful.
Haunting Muses, anthology curated by Doreen Perrine
Four words: Lesbian Ghost Story Anthology. The premise alone is exciting, but all the stories within were so good! The definition of ghosts ranged wildly, from literal apparitions (some of who were the titular lesbians, but not always) to memories, ancestors, or even the faint reminders of a long-lost relationship. There are funny stories and dark ones, romances and tales of terrors, and even the sweetest zombie love story I’ve ever read.
Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
I’ve been meaning to read more Seanan books for awhile now, having only experienced her pseudonym Mira Grant (and some of her music, actually). Discount Armageddon was one of the most fun reads I had, where just the protagonist’s view on life is enough to lighten the narrative. I also loved how many less-common creatures were used (or invented, such as the cuckoos), and how the few familiar creatures we saw were given unique twists—and being the worldbuilding geek I am, I loved all the realistic biological details. Hail!
Fire Sea by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
The third book in the Death Gate Cycle, Fire Sea wasn’t a quick read, but definitely a worthwhile one. Each book takes place on a different world, and this one is a slowly dying planet whose inhabitants utilize necromancy and the strength of the dead in order to keep the living alive. The concept alone was fascinating, but add in two rival protagonists who must work together to survive, even with conflicting ideas on what should be done with the knowledge of necromancy in their inter-planetary war? Moral AND magical conundrums, a delicious combination.
Sweet Blood by Dusk Peterson
Sweet Blood is a special entry in this list, because while I didn’t like all of it, it gave me the most to think about out of all the books on this list. It’s the fifth book in a series, is technically five novellas strapped together into one book, and starts with a sadistic torturer punishing one of his own—but while it’s certainly not for everyone, there’s such wonderful craft past that opening! Inspired by historical prison reforms, this novel brings up important moral questions about redemption, sacrifice, how to balance tradition and revolution, and so much more. Even minor characters have intriguing developments, there’s worldbuilding even in minor details like the presence of hot cocoa in the dungeon, and that sadistic torturer I mentioned? He’s so multifaceted and developed that he became one of my favorite characters. Still trying to wrap my head around that one.
The Ancient Magus Bride by Kore Yamazaki
I jokingly call this my guilty pleasure manga, but I admit, I’m a sucker for anything with properly dark faeries and magic. Not only is this series well-researched in regards to British folklore and detailed with its unique brands of magic, but it’s a story of hope overcoming despair, be it saving endangered dragons or just learning new magics at home. Plus, who doesn’t want to smooch the powerful, naive eldritch wizard with a skull head?…Just me, huh?
Hearts of Darkness by Andrea Speed
Another book that, while not perfect, was flat-out fun to read. The protagonist is a master supervillain’s son who comes into his own as he doublecrosses other villains and heroes alike, with the help of overpowered gadgets and an adorable assassin sidekick. The evil plans don’t experience too many hiccups, but sometimes, it’s fun to just watch a protagonist be openly wicked as he crushes his competition throughout the city. Plus, one of the “good guys” that gets thwarted is basically Batman, which I found outright hilarious.
Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields
First off, bonus points for not only having prominent aliens in this sci-fi story, but having almost all of the POV characters be aliens. Especially when those aliens come from such vastly different worlds and backstories (and are all apparently inspired by different types of fungi to boot)! I also like that as the plot goes on, ripples and repercussions arise across the different POVs, especially across the radio transmissions heading many of the chapters. It’s such a cool technique to holistically tie all the storylines and settings together.
Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson
First off: that art. Just look at that art a long moment. Then go read the comic and see how much more of a gut-punch the plot is, its gorgeous art refusing to shy away from the visceral and terrifying. You would think that animals solving occult mysteries would be cute and quirky like a Scooby Doo knockoff? Read this comic and let your perceptions be ripped apart to shreds. Then give your pets a nice, long hug.
And now, as a bonus entry:
Utter Fabrication: A Historical Account of Unusual Buildings, curated by Dawn Vogel and Jeremy Zimmerman
Okay, this one’s cheating a little, because I have a short story in it, “The Orpheus Well.” Of course I’m going to like it. But even if you completely ignore my story, all the other entries are so good and diverse! From haunted spaceships to disappearing bike racks and fantastical hideaways, this anthology explodes with cool ideas and nifty words. Little touches like the transition markers and the extra artwork show what a labor of love this was; I’m honored that I got to be a part of it.
There’s the verdict, dearest readers. Now, onto all the books of 2018—including mine!