Saturday, December 31, 2016

December Site Update and Year in Review

Well, the last ten reviews of 2016 have been archived and cross-linked on the main site.

Looking back, it wasn't the greatest of years on many levels (perhaps the understatement of all time). I thought I'd take a look back on my reading year.

The year started off with some decent reads that linger well in the memory. Jess E. Owen's Song of the Summer King, a magical tale of gryphons, still has me wanting to read the sequel. Kennedy Warne's Let Them Eat Shrimp introduced me to yet another global environmental disaster, with some few shreds of hope that people might wake up in time to change things. And I remembered why I loved Katherine Applegate when I read her delightful, deceptively simple The One and Only Ivan.

I went on a Princeless binge this month, enjoying the first two volume collections of Jeremy Whitley's trope-inverting fantasy comic books. Thanks to a discounted eBook, I finally read the first published Discworld novel by the late, great Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic. And I had my greatest reading surprise of the year when a nonfiction book about sports and history became one of my favorites: Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat, about the underdog college rowing team that went all the way to the Berlin Olympics.

This month, I ranged from new publications to classics. Behind the Canvas, Alexander Vance's middle-grade art fantasy, was the first 2016 publication I read in the year. Then I ranged back to the mid-20th century with Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. I also finally explored the world of English rabbits in Richard Adams's Watership Down... little realizing that Adams would be following the Black Rabbit at the end of the year.

April proved a generally disappointing month. High hopes were dashed when I read the first Sharing Knife book by Lois McMaster Bujold, Beguilement; after reading so many positive things about it, my own reaction was profound disappointment.

After a dull April, my reading selections picked up in May. James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small remains a classic worth revisiting. Jeff Vandermeer's peculiar writing advice volume Wonderbook informed and inspired.

This month brought me one of the year's most amusing reads, Platte F. Clarke's Bad Unicorn. It also marked a personal reading milestone as I finally crawled across the finish line on the unabridged Moby Dick, Melville's "experimental" classic... an experience I now never have to repeat.

Not all classics need be tiring slogs though; July introduced me to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, which still brings thrills and twists more than 70 years after it was published. I also took a trip down memory lane when I found a half-price copy of Dragon Magic, an Andre Norton fantasy my impatient childhood self never finished. And I discovered how lyrical an autobiography could be in Beryl Markham's West With the Night.

Another month running the gamut from old works (Clifford D. Simak's City) to new (Anthony Ryan's The Waking Fire.) Erin Bowman's Vengeance Road gave new life to Westerns, and Jack Horner's How to Build a Dinosaur explored new and exciting discoveries and possibilities in paleontology. I also finally "met" the noted, popular author Sherman Alexie with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

I learned the hard way that nostalgia should sometimes be left alone when I read Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, and found the book less wondrous than my memories of the movie. I also explored the roots of modern fantasy with Fritz Leiber's still-readable first collection of tales about the iconic heroes Fafhyrd and the Grey Mouser in Swords and Deviltry. And I got around to George Orwell's Animal Farm, blissfully unaware how prophetic it would prove.

Old-fashioned adventure yarns are alive and well in David D. Levine's throwback-style space fantasy Arabella of Mars.Mac Barnett's picture book How This Book Was Made made for delightful reading. And Elizabeth Bear's Range of Ghosts explored beyond the usual pseudo-European roots of fantasy as it mined Asian and Mongolian myths. Finally, I hit the nostalgia bin once more to reread a childhood favorite, Norma Fox Mazer's Saturday, the Twelfth of October.

A gut-punch of a month, all in all, in which I only managed to read four books, about the lowest monthly total since I've been keeping this blog. Wade Albert White's The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes provided some much-needed levity, as did Joshua Hale Fialkov's King: The Graphic Novel.

The year closed out with another graphic novel binge, this time Joshua Williamson's and Andrei Bressan's Birthright series. Ink and Bone, by Rachel Caine, struck a little close to home with its alternate-future fantasy world in which knowledge is controlled by a corrupt global force. And Peter Brown, whom I'd only known from picture books, moves to longer-form middle grade work with his imaginative The Wild Robot.

And that wraps up the year in review. The previous summaries glossed over several excellent (and less-than-excellent) titles, naturally, but they're a rough look back at what stands out in my memory after twelve months and numerous reviews.

Onward to 2017!

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