[DWJ] Best Books 2007

deborah.dwj at suberic.net deborah.dwj at suberic.net
Wed Jan 2 15:11:22 EST 2008

I don't have time to read very much because of all the reviewing,
and every year I mean to do one of these roundups and I don't,
but here goes. This is nowhere nearly as well thought out as all
the ones you folks do, so I'm sure I will be regretting some of
these or wanting to make changes almost immediately. I can't even
remember everything I've read this year, unless I put it into
LibraryThing or reviewed it.

Best book of the year in my opinion to absolutely nobody's
Ysabeau S. Wilce, Flora Segunda : being the magickal mishaps of a
girl of spirit, her glass-gazing sidekick, two ominous butlers
(one blue), a house with eleven thousand rooms, and a red dog

I haven't loved a book this much in a very long time. Wacky but
heartfelt, a new fantasy construction instead of just rehashing
the same old world building -- I am so much looking forward to
more by Wilce.

Biggest disappointment:
Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

I loved A Great and Terrible Beauty. I thought it was lush and
sensual, challenging sexual mores and opening up a gothic world
for a female coming-of-age. I was underwhelmed by Rebel Angels,
but I assumed it just had second-book-in-a-series-itis. But the
Sweet Far Thing thoroughly disappointed me. It reinscribed the
very class, gender, and sexuality tropes the trilogy had appeared
to be questioning at its outset. It was long, dragging, and
overwritten. Nothing happened, in precisely that lengthy
repetition of nothing happening that makes me not like reading
much adult fiction.

Book I was most startled to actually enjoy:
Cassandra Clare, City of Bones

Purple, overwrought, self-indulgent, starring a big old Mary Sue.
And yet thoroughly enjoyable. Imagine Stephanie Meyer's Twilight
if Bella were actually a developed character who was at all
likable. It's not that the plots are the same -- they aren't at
all, except inasmuch as they are both supernatural forbidden love
stories. But Clare has the same knack for tugging on all of my
emotional strings in incredibly obvious ways. It's not subtle,
and it's not high literature, but boy does it work.

Best surprise:
Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, Agnes and the Hitman

The first collaboration between these two was thoroughly
disappointing. So when Agnes and the Hitman was funny, sweet,
lovable, and did I say really really funny? I was surprised and
pleased. I'm not particularly fond of the heroes that the two of
them come up with when they work together -- on her own, Crusie
writes fully realized, interesting heroes, but with Mayer, I
think she writes good heroines and leaves heroes a bit more
empty. Still, this book was so funny and lovable.

Book everyone else loved that rather startled me to be so loved:
Tim Wynne-Jones,  Rex Zero and the End of the World
(Runner-Up: the graphic novel Fables series)

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Wynne-Jones could write a book
I didn't think was excellent. This book was quite enjoyable. But
it was so very nostalgic, with such a glowing view of what
clearly read to me like a version of the author's childhood (and
I thought that before I read any author's notes confirming it)
that I found it fairly distancing. Lovely, but distancing. It
read to me in that space between memoir and children's book.

Book nobody should be surprised I liked:
Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

To be honest, I didn't think this was the OMGBESTBOOKEVA!!!1!
that so many people seem to find it. Still, I really enjoyed it.
It's a good mix of tragedy and comedy, hope and realism, all
mixed up with a family and a protagonist who are likable despite
their flaws.

Books that weren't great but were plenty fun:
Alison Croggon, the Pellinor Series

Technically I read the first one of these last year. Possibly the
second one, as well. But the third one was definitely this year.
Anyway, I have an amazingly low tolerance for epic fantasy given
that I identify as a reader of primarily young adult fantasy. But
I'm really enjoying this series. It's nothing new but I like the
characters; they are rich and well developed. Prose that verges
on purple and the usual suite of epic fantasy racial stereotypes
actually worth that much of a problem for me; I still enjoyed the
likable, non-flat characters.

Most bittersweet ending:
Terry Moore, Strangers in Paradise

This long-running graphic novel series finally ended, leaving me
with incredibly mixed feelings. Over the years I've fallen in
love with Francine and Katchoo, but about two thirds of the way
through the series I feel like it lost its way. Just a few too
many Bobby in the shower surprise retcons for me to keep
following it. Still, the Unresolved Sexual Tension of Francine
and Katchoo really needed to go somewhere, and it needed to go
somewhere happy. This ending wasn't literarily satisfying, but it
warmed my cockles.

Special ranking for Meg Cabot:

Jinx was somewhat disappointing. It was a little bit dark, and I
don't think Cabot does dark very well. But this was the year I
finally got around to reading The Mediator series, and loved it
(think Buffy with ghosts instead of vampires, and with the
character in Angel's role being not angst-written and gloomy).
And I also read the Queen of Babble books and loved them. I love
how the heroine of those books has the superpower of Vintage
Clothing. Yay Meg Cabot!

Wes: "My gypsy curse sometimes prevent me from seeing the truth.  Oh, Buffy!"
Cordy: "Yes, Angel?"
Wes: "Oh, I love you so much I almost forgot to *brood!*"

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