Me and The Others

all of us

Emeline’s 2023 Reading Review

A correction:
Last year, I shared 8 books I loved, but I actually had 9 five-star reads of 2022.

Ancillary Justice is the highly acclaimed debut novel of Ann Leckie. The premise is that the main character, Breq, is the last body of a spaceship which was embodied in captured prisoners of war, and she is going to get revenge on The Empire. It does some fun things with personhood and gender, and I found the ending a real delight. I enjoyed this book in 2022, and this year got Dad to read it, and he passed it on to Anton and Andreas.

This book is one of several that has made me notice a trend of acclaimed debut novels followed by good, but not as good sequels. I theorize these sequels are perhaps being rushed to publication to try to take advantage of the spotlight. I haven’t noticed this trend so distinctly in more experience authors, or slower publishing authors like Megan Whalen Turner.

In 2023, I read 75 books, and had 11 five-star reads, which is a slight improvement over last year.

The first three five-stars reads is a trilogy, The Scholomance by Naomi Novik. I’ve enjoyed Naomi Novik’s online writing before, but I struggled with her novels previously, they didn’t seem to contain the unpredictable, self-aware wit I was expecting. This trilogy was everything I had been hoping for from Novik. The Scholomance plays on the young adult stories of chosen young adults in dangerous magical schools, but it refuses to be stuck there, each book grows exponentially from the before. Perhaps I am generous with these books because they kept me entertained during travel from Wales to California, which I always find at least mildly harrowing, but such is the risk of enjoyment based ratings.

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu is a contentious five-star rating between me, myself and I.

I loved The Dark Forest and I hated it.

I found the prose plain to the point of ugly, the characters dull, the first half of the book nearly unbearable.

And yet.

The plot is slow, but the ideas are incredible, and I’ll be thinking about them for years.

I bought the audiobooks for the Murderbot series as part of a Humble Bundle deal and had a great time relistening. The Murderbot Diaries are a sci-fi series with a security construct (part human, part machine, is owned by a company) lead. It’s fast-paced, funny, and relatable, and even though it’s set in a dystopian capitalist future, it’s never dreary with it.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer is the first book in the Terra Ignota series, and Perhaps the Stars is the fourth and final book. The series is set in the mid-future where Earth has ultrafast transport that allows anyone to travel across the world in a couple of hours, and countries as we know them no longer exist. There are a lot of interesting ideas in the series around gender, family, identity, and social change. While it didn’t always hit the mark for me, it usually did, and I was so glad to have read them. The books have a lot of extremely tough content, so if you have any sensitives, I’d check the trigger warnings, you can find them for the first book at the bottom of the page here.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley is a coming-of-age vampire romance, which is not a book I expected to be in my top books of the year, but I just a had a blast reading it. I love it when monsters and romantic leads are weird, and this combines the two in a way I adore. The female lead is a young, but adult woman, which I appreciated. It’s set in an alternate, post-post-apocalypse setting, which adds some interesting texture. It’s not a long book, and it’s a standalone, so it’s not a big commitment.

Mother of Learning: Arc 4 is the final part of the single massive story, Mother of Learning by nobody103 (writing as Domagoj Kurmaić). Mother of Learning is a fantasy time loop story, it’s not deep, but it’s well crafted and a fun read. It hits all the elements I want in a time loop, while also having good characters, character development, and consistent worldbuilding. I enjoyed all four parts, but the conclusion was satisfying enough to put it as one of my favorite reads of the year. You can read it for free on RoyalRoads, or buy it on Kindle where it has better editing.

I can hardly imagine it’s possible to recommend This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone to anyone new, but I will try regardless. This Is How You Lose the Time War is a poetic epistolary novella around two enemies, written by each author separately, as they leave each other notes. They are agents of a time war, each side simultaneously on the verge of winning/losing, and also trapped so that neither side could ever win. The prose is beautiful, especially to listen to, and the dialogue between Red and Blue is delightful. The book is incredibly weird, and the better for it.

This year I learned that the most valuable element to a book to me is the extent to which it’s doing something interesting. My lowest rated book of the year, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was my least favorite primarily because it was unforgivably bland, which was impressive given it was set during the Jazz Age in Mexico and dealt with Mayan Gods. Whereas Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, had far worse prose, characters about on par, and was one of my favorites because it was interesting.

I hope everyone had a good year of reading in 2023, and I wish upon you a new favorite book in 2024!

Categorised as: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.