Looking Ahead: Books of 2017

HAPPY 2017 FELLOW AMPERSAND-ERS!!

I hope your holiday and your New Year’s was amazing, memorable, and safe!

Have I ever told you that I write down book release dates in my planner? Well I do. And let me tell you…2017 is shaping up to be a banner year for both new novels and continuations of series I already read.

crossroadsofcanopyFirst up: Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer
Release date: January 31st 2017

Gods and goddesses are reincarnated into human bodies in this fantasy world. Humans across thirteen hierarchal colonies serve these gods. Our protagonist serves one such god, and much go in search of her newest reincarnation in the dangerous depths of their world.

I like SO MANY THINGS about this synopsis already. I’m a sucker for polytheism stories, and the worldbuilding of Canopy and the lower levels of Understorey and Floor already sound complex and interesting.

caravalCaraval by Stephanie Garber
Release date: January 31st 2017

This might sound like just another magical circus story (think Night Circus, The Menagerie, etc.) but this magical circus depends heavily on audience participation. And when Scarlett’s sister, Tella, gets kidnapped by the ringleader, and a competition is set up to reward the first person to find her…things get more complicated. There is a lot of buzz for this story already. I’ve entered several giveaways for an ARC but so far to no avail. Regardless, I will be snatching up a copy the day it gets out.

allourwrongtodaysAll Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Release date: February 7th, 2017

A time traveler from a far-advanced, alternate 2016 finds himself in the 2016 that we all know… and thinks that it’s an apocalyptic wasteland. This sounds like a very topical book, seeing as how everyone and their mother hated 2016. It also sounds super intriguing – so thank goodness it’s coming out at the beginning of this year!

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
Release date: April 20th 2017

After 2016’s City of Blades’ cliffhanger ending, I was already eager for the sequel. AND THIS ONE IS ABOUT SIGRUD! FINALLY, YAY!! I could happily read more and more books in this series for years, the world is that complex and rich.

thesongoftheorphansThe Song of the Orphans by Daniel Price
Release date: July 4th 2017

Finally the sequel to The Flight of the Silvers, a great book I read back in 2014 about a select group of people saved from disaster and sent to an alternate world where they suddenly have supernatural abilities. I remember there being a lot of adversaries as well, and I will DEFINITELY have to re-read the first book to be properly oriented for this new book.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Release date: May 2nd 2017

I am both unbelievably excited and nervous for the third book in this series. I fell so hard in book-love with A Court of Mist and Fury that I just NEED this third book to continue the amazing-ness that was that book. I am nervous because it could try to be another re-telling of some fable, or some of my favorite characters might get killed off, or it could just plain not be as good. But you can bet I will read it cover to cover as soon as I can get my hands on it.

downamongthesticksandbonesDown Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Release date: June 13th 2017

The sequel to the best book I read in 2016! I love that McGuire is going to tell Jack and Jill’s story. They were two of the bigger characters in the first book, and they seemed to have the darkest and most complex background in terms of the world they both visited. I can only hope it is just as beautiful of a story, and perhaps that McGuire will continue with other stories in this world.

Well, that’s it for now! I am excited for much more than these fine novels, but for the sake of your reading eyes, I will stop for now. What books are you looking forward to this year?!

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& Fridays: Ampersand Read’s Best Books of the Year

Ah, we’ve come to the end of another year (yeah….WHAT?!) and thus, the very important Third Annual Ampersand Read Best Books of the Year Awards! Or TAARBBOTYA if you want a title that requires an obnoxiously long acronym (here’s looking at you, A Court of Mist and Fury, or should I say ACOMAF?!) HUZZAH! HOORAY! AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!

It’s been a pretty damn good year of reading. Not that I’ve had many bad years, really. I found that I’ve read an incredible number of good sequels this year. It was quite hard to narrow it down. Without further ago (because I added some categories this time so it’s a long awards ceremony now):

Most Surprising

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens, May 2016

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I almost crowned this book in “Best Sequel” and THEN I thought it might be “Best Twist,” because this book, second in a series, feels like such a different book than the first. It has stronger characters, and this huge, sweeping plot that sets up so much for the books to come. My jaw dropped multiple times at how much I loved this book. I liked A Court of Thorns and Roses. I LOVED A Court of Mist and Fury. There is so much to fangirl about, and I became so invested in the world and the characters. Most of all, I wasn’t expecting these changes and by the end, I couldn’t see how the story could be any other way.

 

Most Beautiful

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

I’ve got a thing for beautiful stories. Stories that maybe aren’t the most action packed, maybe aren’t the most succinct or as brief as they could be, but damn do they know how to place and write a sentence. McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway does a lot in a small space. At just over 150 pages, it’s rather short for a novel. It takes a lot to set up the world of a book, let alone a book where children fall into other worlds: you must set up dozens of other little stories (the worlds the children fall into) in the one big story (a safe haven for them to meet others like them). But the language evokes such feeling in this novel; it is small but talks about very big things.

Best Start of a Series

nevernight

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

The sequel to Nevernight does not even have a name yet, and it is already on my calendar to be ready to buy it. The writing style/language is polarizing: you either jump in with both feet and love it, or you fight the book the whole way. I ate it all up with a spoon, and now I want more. The premise of the story – a Hogwarts-style school for assassins where someone starts killing off the students – is just the tip of the iceberg. It is funny and beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. Can August 2017 get here sooner?!

Best Sequel

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

I was kind of hoping the sequel to last year’s brilliant City of Stairs would be from the perspective of Sigrud – the ass-kicking muscle to Shara’s quiet politician. But war general Turyin Mulaghesh does just fine, expanding the already vividly complex world Stairs began, and turning it a bit on its head. Second books in a series often slump, and are just a bridge to the final act. This sequel turns everything up to eleven, and I can’t wait for City of Miracles, out in April.

Honorable Mentions

So. Many. Other. Contenders. Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo’s sequel to last year’s stupendous Six of Crows was just as good as its predecessor, shipping all the best ships and hiding all the right secrets from readers until just the right moment to shock and awe us.

And Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman was crazy great as well. But I’m in love with the series, so I went into reading the sequel a little biased.

Best Cover

Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman,.

Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman,.

Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

I just….so much work goes into these books! There’s art, there’s story, there’s graphics and diagrams and just so so SO many hours of genius. You only get an inkling of how involved the creation of these books are when you look at the covers, but it’s a good inkling. The transparent, watercolored dustjacket, the censored sections of files, revealed only in bits and pieces, the layout of it all: AMAZING.

Honorable Mentions

Smoke by Dan Vyleta features a beautiful painting by Claude Monet that is so atmospherically PERFECT for the novel and place in time. Plus, the colors are just plain pretty. We Could be Beautiful by Swan Huntley is highly reflective – a stray sunbeam and you could blind passerby if you were reading in public. But its subtle play on an out-of-focus yet still beautiful subject, and suggestion of a mirror is the perfect choice for a book that deals a lot with image and impressions.

Best Character

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Jesper from Crooked Kingdom (and Six of Crows)

Ooh a toughy. Not only do I have to narrow a choice down to a book I read this year, but to a single character that I liked “best.” Which is essentially impossible, because there were so many good guys and gals and monsters to choose from. And everyone in Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom is amazing. But I came to find Jesper to be one of my favorites. He’s the witty banter-er of the group, the comic relief. But he also has a complex backstory, and I feel like he could have a spinoff series of his own (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!). Plus he and Wylan are adorable.

Honorable Mentions

Too many to count. General Turyin Mulaghesh from City of Stairs, Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury, Darrow from Morning Star, and Nancy from Every Heart a Doorway to name just a very few.

Book I Most Want to See on Screen

Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

AGAIN. Can you imagine this movie? I can. It would be AWESOME. I am a sucker for clever characters whose plots are one step ahead of me, and I love that in the movies that I watch, too. Scenes in these books seem to play out very cinematically. Now who wants to direct?

Best Book I Read All Year

I couldn’t actually pinpoint just one (although I will in a moment for the sake of the awards. THE SHOW MUST GO ON!). I read so many books this year that I really liked, that it feels almost dishonest to say “I liked THIS one the best at the time of year/the week/the mood I was in that I read it.” Morning Star by Pierce Brown capped off the Red Rising trilogy so, so well. City of Blades and Gemina were superb sequels to series that I drool over. Nevernight was a fantastic start to what is probably going to be a beautiful friendship between me and Jay Kristoff’s new series.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire was just straight up amazing, and for how short it is, I know the book will stay with me a long time. The characters, the themes, the unbelievable potential for more stories: fantastic