Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Favorite Books of 2019

Queen's Shadow, E.K. Johnston
It's no secret I love Star Wars. (This is a fact that doesn't need to be continuously reiterated, and yet I do.) It's also no secret that my favorite character from the prequel trilogy is Padmé. I was pretty ecstatic when I heard this book was coming out, especially since I've enjoyed what I've read by E.K. Johnston in the past. This book did not disappoint. It's kind of everything I wanted from a Star Wars universe book. I especially loved that it focused on the bonds Padmé formed with her handmaidens and friends. Getting to see Sabé have a larger, more defined role was a treat. This is definitely not as action-packed as the movies, but I really appreciated the focus on the characters, and I'm really excited that Johnston is writing a prequel, Queen's Peril, to be released this summer.

Rule, Ellen Goodlett
This book was quite the surprise! I downloaded it as an audiobook from my library because it was available and it had been on my list for a while, but at the time, I didn't know that much about the story line. What I appreciated about this book was that it featured three different point-of-view characters: Ren, Zofi, and Akeylah. They're half-sisters vying for their father's throne, but they each have secrets to keep about their pasts. Even though they start out suspicious of one another, by the end of the book, they've learned to trust each other as sisters and friends. I liked this so much and wanted to get to the end so badly that I actually just lay in bed after getting home from work and listened. That's not something I usually do! And although book two wasn't quite as good (and had one aspect I really didn't like), book one was a breath of fresh air.

The Protector of the Small series, Tamora Pierce
I only recently began reading Tamora Pierce. I think I would've devoured these books as a kid, but I'm making up for lost time! The Protector of the Small series is a four-book series featuring Keladry of Mindalen, who quickly became my favorite Pierce heroine. A generation before Kel, Alanna successfully trained as a knight, although at the time, no one knew she was a girl. After the king decides to let girls train as pages, Kel becomes the first. In the first book of the series, she has to deal with a lot of sexism, but by the second book, most of the characters have come to like and trust her. Lady Knight is the final book in the series. In it, Keladry is a full-fledged knight, and she's tasked with guarding a refugee camp. I found Kel as a character to be stubborn and charming, and I found her story to be fun, adventurous, and uplifting.

Fly Girls:  How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History, Keith O'Brien
Fly Girls tells the story of female pilots in America in the '20s and '30s, focusing mostly on Amelia Earhart, Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Ruth Nichols, and Louise Thaden. O'Brien gives a lot of background on the planes, what flying was like for men at the time, and what the sexism the women were up against. He tells their stories with empathy, and I often found myself reacting out loud to the audiobook as I drove. I was elated and inspired when one of the women triumphed, and I was dismayed and nervous when pilots were crashing or close to crashing. I was also struck by the fact that O'Brien included information about what happened to these women after the heyday of flying. For a lot of them, the answer wasn't glamorous. By turns exciting and emotional, this is definitely my favorite non-fiction book of the year.

Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
This series blows me away. I listened to the first book in 2018 on a road trip and loved it but wanted to give myself some time to savor it. Also, the narrator changed between books one and two, and that was surprisingly disappointing. I ended up not listening to this one, book two, until 2019. (And yes, I got used to the new narrator.) Book one was pretty sprawling with back-and-forth timelines that could get confusing. Book two narrows the focus on Breq, who was once the ship the Justice of Toren, who had thousands of ancillary bodies but now has just the one. Here, she goes to Athoek Station, where she takes it upon herself to protect the family of Lieutenant Awn, whose fate was revealed in book one. There's also lots of tea, and the preoccupation with it made me chuckle. One of my favorite things about this series is that Breq's language doesn't recognize gender, so she's constantly referring to everyone as "she." Leckie leaves it up to you to decide what gender everyone is, basically. Even though I found book three on the bargain table at Barnes & Noble and have easy access to the audiobook through my library, I've been putting off reading it. I think it's because I don't want the series to end. 

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