Monday, December 21, 2015

Bookseller Alice Ahn's favorite books of 2015!

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: Soooo messed up. Soooo creepy. Soooo funny. SOOOOO GOOOOOOOD. Carolyn and her siblings have been adopted by a man named Father, the owner of a library whose knowledge gives him and the children unparalleled power. Now Father is gone, and the Library remains for the taking.

Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua: Like math, comics, steampunk, and historical inaccuracy? It's the historical/mathematical/graphical novel adventure with more footnotes than you can imagine for you! In our boring world, the computer gets invented in the 80s, partially due to Ada Lovelace's early death in her 30s, and partially because the actual construction of the computer would have been unfathomably massive and Babbage was already bankrupt. Now imagine if those things never happened, and Lovelace and Babbage used the computer to solve mysteries and meet other luminaries of the day.
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu: Won the Hugo this year, with pretty worthy credentials. A hard scifi book with dark, deep moralities. A video game has been introduced to the world, that takes people to a world where nothing is stable for long. But it's just a video game, right? Probably not a depiction of an actual alien world. This is fine.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh: A retelling of A Thousand and One Nights that caused me to go all flustered. Shazi's best friend gets taken by the king and killed, and Shazi wants revenge. But after being the only woman to volunteer to marry the king and survive the night, peculiar things begin to happen, and Shazi learns there's more to the story than she thought. (12+) 

The Thickety (#2): The Whispering Trees by J.A. White: A bold children's book, that is unflinchingly creepy. After the events of the first book, Kara and her brother Taff are now trapped in the Thickety, a grove of woods few people have entered and escaped. In it, they stumble on the larger plot behind all the witches and the grimoires that ensnare and consume them. (9-12)

 Other favorites!

Lafayette and the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell: So I didn't like this one as much as her other books, but! For me at least, it was fun to read under the current of the Hamilton Musical's popularity, which I'm totally not obsessed with in every way, shape, and form. It satisfied a need for a messy, humanizing depiction of the Revolution. (Also everyone should listen to Hamilton, I am not biased.)

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho: Regency era fantasy magicians with PoC, good writing, political chicanery, cool plots, also dragons? Great world building too, and Austenesque, social commentary-wise and witty diatribe-wise.

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente: A art-deco scifi noir alt-history with space whales? Basically it's early film era alt history where instead of doing the Westward Expansion, we headed out to other planets in our solar system. It's about a woman named Severin, a documentarian who went missing doing an expose on a colony that went missing on Venus. As usual by the author the book is stupid pretty as in it makes me sound incredibly stupid talking about it.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor: In the town of Night Vale, a middle aged mother of a shapeshifting teenager and a nineteen-going-on-twenty-and-has-been-for-thirty-years pawn shop proprietor begin to discover some of the mysteries of the place they live in. Not required to listen to the podcast beforehand. Weird, hilarious, and awesome. 
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie: A great finish to the trilogy that's won so many awards that I've learned about new awards in reading about how many awards it's won. Has a near perfect meld of plot and character, and explores new boundaries of conceptual and speculative morality, as scifi should - my fave of the trilogy! 
After Alice by Gregory Maguire: Alice's friend Ada stumbles into Wonderland and follows in her footsteps while Alice's sister Lydia deals with being a teenager during a time where "teenagers" did not exist as a concept, the death of their mother, and the dawning of a Darwinian reality. Definitely worth a read for Alice fans (both fans of me and of Lewis Carroll's Alice.) Joe Hill liked it too and wrote a review somewhere!

Toymaker's Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith: A new, quirky take on the story of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The mice of Boldavia have taken over the country because the main character Stefan's cousin, the esteemed Royal Clockmaker Christian Drosselmeyer, accidentally broke the barrier between the men and mice. Fun and interesting with just enough serious undercurrent to make it a bit more. (9-12) 
Court of Fives by Kate Elliot: This was the teen book this year that I had my face glued to. Jessamy lives in a duel world, the child of both the upper class, dominant Saroese, and the lower class, oppressed Efeans. Her difficulties are heightened with her want and need to run The Fives, a cultural obstacle course thingy that provides no boundaries of class/race/gender. Melds in actiony dystopian stuff with genuine commentary on social difficulties well. (12+) 
Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights by Lemony Snicket: The conclusion to the All the Wrong Questions Quartet. Some questions get answered, most of them don't. Had enough enjoyable twists and turns for it to feel thrilling, for young fans of mysteries and intrigue. (9-12) 
Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell: In Tsarist Russia, nobles take in wolves as appearance pets, and it always ends the same way: the wolf rebels, someone gets hurt, and the wolves are given to the wolf wilders, who teach them how to live in the wild again. Feo's mother gets taken under a new, arbitrary law restricting wolf wilders, and Feo journeys to St. Petersburg to find her, discovering a country on the verge of revolution on the way. An intense story with a sheen of fairytale-esque storytelling. (9-12) 
The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems: Full of heart that forces me to blubber out of my face incoherently when I read it. Diva is the dog of the landlord of an apartment complex in Paris, and Flea is a street cat (though he prefers to call himself a flaneur). When they meet, they introduce each other to their respective worlds and everything is made better WITH THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP. (6-10)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North: Came out as a trade and everyone should read it and be overwhelmed with how much funnier Ryan North is than the rest of humanity. The premise is in the title, there is a girl, she is also a squirrel, she is unbeatable. She also goes to college to blend in with the human folk with some success.

Star Wars: Darth Vader by Kieron Gillen: So I hear there's a movie coming out and it's a big deal or something. Marvel has been doing a whole slew of Star Wars comics but honestly the best one that I've been reading is Darth Vader, which takes place between Ep IV and V, detailing the circumstances that push Vader from being a small bit player in the first film to a higher commanding power in the second. Introduces a lot of really awesome new characters, including Triple Zero, a human protocol droid designed for torture while still looking like C3PO, thus making him hilarious.

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson: 2nd Volume is out and life is worth it to read it. Girl Scout camp with mysteries! Greek Gods sometimes! Giant Bear women! A conspiracy? As a Girl Scout I can confirm this book is 1000% accurate.

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