Yesterday, I posted the list of books and graphic novels I’ve read over the past year. Today I review them for you (well, the books, anyway) in my annual Giant Ass List of Superlatives. Take note: this will not include comics. I may try to write up a mini superlative list for those, but I also have my 2015 Movie Superlatives to work on and a review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as the things I could actually conceivably get paid for, so, we’ll see.
I plan to focus a little less on the negatives this year, partially because I’ve actually met some of these people and could potentially meet more of them in the future, but also because I know I’d feel kind of shitty if something I wrote got singled out for Least Favorite Book of the Year. That being said, this is a review of sorts (admittedly, it’s oddly structured) and being honest is important to me, so I will have some more critique-y superlatives, like Worst Priorities or Least Payoff.
With that all said, let’s begin.
OBLIGATORY MY GEEK BLASPHEMY DISCLAIMERS:
1. Any book I read for the first time this year, whether it was written in 2015 or not, is eligible.
2. I’m absolutely NOT one of those people who flips to the last page of the book before I finish it, so if you’re worried about Big Spoilers, fear not. I’ve created my typical Spoiler Section even for my Superlatives. I am going to discuss the books a little, though, so if you don’t want to know anything about any book you haven’t read, well. Sorry.
3. I’m going to post a veritable shitload of favorite novel quotes at the end of this post, like, it will be absurdly long. I’m limiting myself to no more than five per book, and for some novels, that is actually absurdly hard. I post these because I love quotes and because I think they’re a great way to draw readers in, but if you happen to be an author of one of these quotes and do not wish it to be posted, please let me know and I will delete it immediately.
Now. Let’s begin. For real this time.
FAVORITE FEMALE HEROINE
Sophronia – Curtsies & Conspiracies;Waistcoats & Weaponry
Ugh, this was impossible. There were so many awesome female protagonists this year. I have a seriously ridiculous amount of Honorable Mentions. (Actually, if you want to see a truly ridiculous amount of Honorable Mentions, wait till you get to Favorite Supporting Character.) But ultimately, I had to go with Sophronia, who I just adore from Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series. She’s funny, clever, and morally flexible, all things that I generally enjoy. I like that she has her own misconceptions and prejudices that she has to work to overcome; more to the point, I like that she does start to overcome them. We get to see Sophronia grow up over the course of the series, which is cool, especially because some people only know how to tell that story by making their protagonists bratty and obnoxious at the beginning. Sophronia, on the other hand, was always awesome, so I find her journey a lot easier to invest in.
The final book, Manners & Mutiny, recently just came out, and it’s definitely on my to-do list for next year. Maybe I’ll look to see if there’s any fanfiction while I’m at it. I’m hoping for some crossover/fusion shit. I’d very much like to see Sophronia and Hermione get up to some mischief together.
Honorable Mentions: Wasp (Archivist Wasp); Hazel (The Darkest Part of the Forest); Gabi (Broken Monsters); Layla (Broken Monsters); Tara (Three Parts Dead); Sierra (Shadowshaper); Missy (The Dragons of Heaven); Constance (Girl Waits With Gun); Karen Memery (Karen Memory); Kate (Vengeance Road)
BEST EXAMPLE OF AN AUTHOR TURNING A STORY ON ITS HEAD
We Are All Completely Fine – Daryl Gregory
Horror rarely touches upon one of the most potentially interesting aspects of the genre: the aftermath, the survivors. But We Are All Completely Fine is all about the aftermath and the survivors, particularly the emotional trauma that they’ve suffered because of the various horrific ordeals that they’ve had to endure. The novella is centered around a support group of these survivors, and while it had a few third act problems for me, We Are All Completely Fine was still a great read, entertaining, massively clever, and a pretty awesome introduction to Daryl Gregory’s work.
It also directly led to me picking up one of my absolute favorite books of the year, but we’ll get back to that in a bit.
Honorable Mentions: The Dragons of Heaven; Uprooted; Vicious
BOOK I WOULD MOST LIKE TO SEE ADAPTED INTO A MOVIE
We Are All Completely Fine – Daryl Gregory; Karen Memory – Elizabeth Bear
Okay, let me just be get this out of the way: there are going to be a lot of ties in this year’s superlatives. Feel free to consider that as a sign of the authors’ talent, rather than my personal failure.
Now. Nothing quite draws me in like a metafictional horror movie, so it should come as no surprise that We Are All Completely Fine wins this award. Like I said before, I want to see more horror movies about survivors. It’s something sequels occasionally bring up but rarely follow through on. I’d also love to see some of these characters, particularly Harrison Harrison, on screen.
But I couldn’t leave out Karen Memory, either. Karen Memory is one of those books that, unfortunately, I didn’t love quite as much as everyone else because of several personal pet peeves. (They were all relatively small, but they kept adding up.) However, many of those pet peeves probably wouldn’t take place in a movie, and there are a number of things I love about this book that I’d equally love to see on the big screen. Karen Memory is a steampunk western story that would be a lot, a lot, of fun to watch. (Three words: sewing machine mecha.) Karen’s an awesome protagonist (a teenage prostitute, actually, and while prostitutes are common enough in westerns, you rarely get to see them as the main character) and the story has a huge supporting cast of great and diverse characters. A western with queer and/or PoC characters? Sign me up, please.
Honorable Mentions: His Majesty’s Dragon; Archivist Wasp; Vengeance Road; Shadowshaper; The Suffering; The Darkest Part of the Forest; Vicious; Girl Waits With Gun; Ancillary Justice
BOOK I WOULD MOST LIKE TO SEE ADAPTED INTO A TV SHOW
Harrison Squared – Daryl Gregory; Imperial Radch trilogy – Ann Leckie
So, Harrison Squared is actually a prequel to We Are All Completely Fine, and I LOVE it. It’s a Lovecraftian YA detective story centering around a snarky, biracial teenager with a prosthetic leg who’s just moved to a deeply weird and creepy seaside town with his mother, a marine biologist who quickly goes missing. Sarcastic teenagers solving supernatural crimes is kind of why I own a television in the first place. It is my happy place, my comfort food: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teen Wolf, The Vampire Diaries (well, at least in the early days). If Daryl Gregory does write sequels for Harrison Squared (which I desperately hope he does), there would be all kinds of potential for a TV show that I’d watch in a hot second.
Thing is, I’d also really like to see a TV series based on the Imperial Radch trilogy: Ancillary Justice, Sword, and Mercy, all of which I read this year. It would be hugely ambitious, and I’m not quite sure how casting would go due to the Radchaii’s single-gender society, but I also think it could be fascinating, particularly because each book sort of radically reinvents itself. Ancillary Justice, for instance, is basically one long quest for revenge, but Sword and Mercy are different types of stories entirely, and I really love when TV shows make big changes like that from season to season. I’d be particularly interested in seeing Season Three, as Ancillary Mercy might be my favorite of the bunch and definitely has the hallmarks of a great space opera show.
Honorable Mentions: Enchanted; The Dragons of Heaven; Broken Monsters; Three Parts Dead; The Suffering; We Are All Completely Fine
BOOK I WOULD MOST LIKE TO SEE ADAPTED INTO A VIDEO GAME
The Suffering – Rin Chupeco
If you’ve been paying attention to the Honorable Mentions, you may or may not have noticed this, but I basically want to see The Suffering adapted into every medium possible because it was another one of my favorite books this year, not bad for a book I bought just because I thought it might be a fun Halloween read.
The Suffering has an interesting structure. The first section takes place here in America, and that’s the part that I think would make for a great TV show. (It would be another teenager vs. supernatural case of the week show, but with ten times creepier ghosts and dolls.) The second section takes place primarily in Japan, specifically in Aokigahara Forest, and that’s the part that would make for not only a great movie but a great video game. One part in particular, when Tark has to search through this village for the items he needs to complete a series of exorcism rituals . . . it just has such a video game feel to it. I think it’d be a lot of fun to play, especially if it was a two-player like Beyond: Two Souls. That setup would be perfect for a book like this. You’d just have to fight over whether you’d want to play Tark or Okiku.
BEST CHRISTMAS STORY
Doomsday Book – Connie Willis
Because nothing says Christmas like the plague!
Honorable Mention: Whispers Under Ground
MOST CHALLENGING READ
The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive A Zombie Apocalypse – Jennifer Ouelette
Sometimes books are challenging in awesome ways and sometimes they’re challenging in frustrating ways. Sometimes, they’re just entire books about math.
Yeah. I willingly read an entire non-fiction book about math, and not just any math, but calculus. Dude, I didn’t even take calculus in high school. I went as far as my spatial reasoning challenged ass needed to graduate, Algebra II, and moved onto a math-free and happier senior year. But I liked another book I read by Jennifer Ouelette so much that I decided to check this one out, and besides, any book that tells me it can help me win money, lose weight, and survive a zombie apocalypse seems like a book worth reading.
I’ll admit, I’m not feeling any skinner, richer, or more likely to survive Z-Day, but it wasn’t a terrible read. I really do enjoy how Ouelette writes. Still, it was pretty challenging for me, even though it was written for the everyman. I struggled with it for a while, felt like I was getting a semi-grip on things in the middle, and lost all focus at the end. My favorite chapters, not surprisingly, were about Disneyland, Vegas, and the Zombie Epidemic. And I enjoyed all the history stuff, too. Turns out I’d rather read about mathematicians being competitive little shits than parabolic curves. Or surfing.
Honorable Mentions: Little, Big; Three Parts Dead; Doomsday Book
Jonno – Broken Monsters
After I finish reading a book, I write down a bunch of disorganized notes: my impressions, frustrations, squee, etc. I do this primarily because my memory sucks and I’ll remember books better if I periodically skim through the notes and remind myself, if not exactly what happened, why a book did or didn’t work for me.
I’m telling you this because I’m just going to copy and paste my notes on Jonno here:
Oh my God, Jonno, though. Jonno is the worst. At least you don’t have to spend more than six pages at any given time with this fucker, but still. The worst. The King Dickbag of all Dickbags. Chief Asshat Supreme. The Douchiest Douche to Ever Douche.
I feel like that pretty much covers it.
Honorable Mentions: Seivarden (Ancillary Justice); Marek (Uprooted); Sarkan (Uprooted); Sierra’s Aunt (Shadowshaper); Mr. Rodriguez (Signal to Noise)
BOOK I WISH I COULD JUST FALL INTO FOR A DAY
The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two – Catherynne M. Valente
I don’t even have to explain this one, do I? I think anyone who’s read these books wants to go to Fairyland.
I’ll admit, this was easily my least favorite in the series to date (in fact, it’s also my Least Favorite Sequel, mostly because I struggled for a long time to get into it, and because the actual plot didn’t do much for me–although all the thematic shit about defying fate, man, that was awesome) but Valente’s Fairyland is infused with so much magic and humor and wonder that I’m probably always going to be a little disappointed that it’s not a real place that I can escape to.
Honorable Mentions: The Darkest Part of the Forest; Curtsies & Conspiracies; Enchanted; The Dragons of Heaven, His Majesty’s Dragon
SUPER ABILITY I WOULD MOST LIKE TO STEAL
Super Healing – Vicious; Vanstelem – Uprooted
Look, whenever I get this question on a Buzzfeed personality quiz, I usually go with something a little flashier (like shapeshifting, which would be so much fun), but really, my mutant power of choice (or NDE power, as the case may be) would totally be super healing because, like, you can’t die. Or, if you can die, it takes some serious damn doing.
So, yeah, I’d definitely pick Super Healing over knowing a magic spell that can instantly change you into super pretty clothes . . . but . . . oh, come on, that’s just awesome. Think of how quickly you could be ready for any fancy occasion! Or not fancy occasion–knowing me, I’d probably be all like, “Vanstalem!” and then walk over to the grocery store in my giant blue Cinderella dress, just cause I could.
Hazel/Jack – The Darkest Part of the Forest
I don’t know if I have any deep, analytical reasons for this. Hazel and Jack are just both great characters, and I enjoyed rooting for them to get together. I totally buy their romance, which is absolutely not something I could say about a lot of the YA I read this year. Also, Jack is a changeling, a child of two worlds, and that ends up making him a pretty good match for Hazel, like, thematically. So, yeah. I ship it.
Honorable Mention: Tark/Okiku – The Suffering; Meche/Sebastian – Signal to Noise
MOST ANNOYING ROMANCE
Nieshka/Sarkan – Uprooted; Sunday/Rumbold – Enchanted
Okay. Presumably, 99% of Uprooted readers just went up in flames. I’m sorry for that. It doesn’t sound pleasant at all.
There were a lot of things I enjoyed about Uprooted (neat twists on fairy tales, amazing girl friendships, obviously awesome spells) but unlike the majority of readers, I did not like Nieshka and Sarkan’s relationship at all. I’ve read a lot of reviews talking about how funny it is, how sexy and great they are together, and I can’t help but feel like I didn’t even read the same book. For me, Nieshka is in a vulnerable position for a long time, and Sarkan is nothing but a complete dick to her. I’ll admit, part of this is probably a personal hiccup: I definitely have a Thing about unequal power dynamics in romantic relationships. And broody Mr. Rochester types rarely interest me much anyway, like, I don’t care that much about whatever traumatic past you had: there is no cause to be this much of a flaming asshole. (Sarkan eventually improved for me a little, but only because Nieshka travelled to the Land of Total Bastards, making Sarkan look better merely by comparison.) So, yeah. I was thoroughly not into these two, and their romance took away considerably from my enjoyment of the novel.
But I struggled pretty hard with Sunday and Rumbold, too, because I just didn’t buy this romance. I wanted to. I really wanted to. But even taking fairy tales into consideration, their insta-love just didn’t work for me. A lot of my problems come from Sunday, I think, who struck me as a fairly weak protagonist with a frustrating lack of priorities. (We’ll come back to that.) I still might read the sequel because it’s from the POV of Sunday’s sister, Saturday, who I liked quite a bit more, not to mention the world presented in Enchanted was pretty awesome. But the romance fell down pretty hard for me.
Honorable Mentions: Sophronia/Felix/Soap triangle (Waistcoats & Weaponry); Sierra & Robbie (Shadowshaper); Kate & Jesse (Vengeance Road)
MOST OVERUSED WORD, PHRASE, OR PUNCTUATION MARK
Exclamation Mark – The Martian
Using too many exclamation marks has always been a pet peeve of mine, but wow, does The Martian take it to a whole other level. The book has a lot going for it (the fun premise, the tension, the breaking down of incredibly complex science), but the sheer number of exclamation marks . . . guys, I started counting them, and there were at least 166. 166 exclamation marks in a 369 page book equals roughly 1 exclamation mark for every 2-3 pages. And there’s just no excuse for that.
Honorable Mentions: “If you take my meaning” – Karen Memory; “Yer deaf” – Vengeance Road
MOST UNAPOLOGETIC LOVE LETTER TO THE 80’S
Signal to Noise – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Signal to Noise is a music lover’s dream book. Half the book (or 2/3 of the book? A sizable chunk, anyway) takes place in the 80’s, and there’s a ton of nostalgia for the decade, including but not limited to music. (The music, meanwhile, spans multiple genres, decades, and nations. I maybe got half the references?) It’s a pretty interesting book with unique magic and complicated teenage relationships. Definitely worth checking out.
ULTIMATE DYNAMIC DUO
Tark & Okiku – The Suffering
One of my favorite things about this book are the characters, specifically Tark and Okiku. Okiku is a Japanese ghost who hunts murderers. Tark is a teenage exorcist who is bound to Okiku. Their relationship is beautiful, complex and well-written, and I love their journey throughout this book. I’m saying, tears may have happened. Mostly laughter, though. They’re pretty great together, and I only wish that there were more sequels so I could read more of their adventures.
Honorable Mentions: Cas & Layla (Broken Monsters); Erik & Velius (Enchanted)
BEST SIBLING RELATIONSHIP
Hazel & Ben – The Darkest Part of the Forest
Sibling relationships can be so godamn annoying in stories sometimes, like, oh really, they’re exact opposites who can’t stand each other? One’s responsible, one’s not? What an idea. I’m always looking for siblings who have positive, interesting relationships with one another, and I really enjoyed Hazel and Ben here. They love one another very deeply, but their relationship is complicated. Their secrets and misunderstandings feel earned, never cheap, and even the occasional bit of pettiness is well-handled. There wasn’t much that I didn’t like about this book, but the sibling dynamics here was easily one of my favorite elements.
Honorable Mention: Sunday & Trix (Enchanted)
BEST PLATONIC BOY/GIRL FRIENDSHIP
Unnamed Ghost & Foster – Archivist Wasp
This one’s interesting because we see the majority of this relationship in flashbacks, but that doesn’t mean it’s not affecting.
I suppose you could read this relationship as romantic, but Nicole Kornher-Stace never gives you any clues to indicate that it is (no memories of kissing, no big L-word declarations), which I think is pretty awesome. You hear about epic love stories all the time; epic friendship stories, less so. Actually, the ghost’s relationship with Wasp is another contender for this, but they do actively dislike each other for most of the story. (I was desperately relieved their relationship wasn’t romantic, though. A number of the YA books I read this year had very forced romances in them, so it was relieving to find that this wasn’t one of them.)
Honorable Mentions: Cat & Abelard (Three Parts Dead)
Nieshka & Kasia – Uprooted; Cas & Layla – Broken Monsters
The dynamic between Nieshka and Kasia is wonderful. It’s hard to talk too much about it without spoilers, but it’s deeply gratifying to see a heroine who’s so devoted to her best friend. And what’s especially great is the scene where we get to see their secret resentments of one another without making either character some one-dimensional bitchy girl who only cares about stupid things. I like Nieshka and I love Kasia, and their relationship was easily my favorite thing about this book.
But Cas and Layla are pretty amazing too. I was a little worried about them at first–Cas, in particular–but their friendship surprised me. These two go through some shit, and they do some pretty crazy stuff for one another. Like Uprooted, the female characters in this book are also my favorite part. (Although this also includes Layla’s mother, Gabi, who is pretty damn awesome herself.)
Honorable Mention: Sierra & Benny (Shadowshaper)
The Dragons of Heaven – Alyc Helms
This is my friend’s book and it’s awesome and you should read it (especially if you like superheroes or foxes or Big Trouble in Little China), but since this particular award is for the cover illustration, not story, I don’t have to worry too much about oh no, bias! (Well, okay. I wouldn’t be all that worried anyway.)
I’ve read a lot of great books this year and there have been a lot, a lot, of amazing covers, but this might as well have said ‘MADE FOR CARLIE ST. GEORGE’ on it. It’s got a dragon on it. A fedora. It’s in my favorite colors: red and black. Even if I hadn’t known the author, I would have picked this up in a heartbeat.
Honorable Mentions: The Martian; Dream Houses; Three Parts Dead; Shadowshaper; Enchanted; Vengeance Road; Girl Waits With Gun; The Suffering; The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath
MOST DISTURBING BOOK
Dream Houses – Genevieve Valentine
Dream Houses wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, but I don’t think anyone can deny that it’s extremely effective at psychological horror. Parts of this story could easily have been quite campy and tropetastic, but instead Valentine keeps it incredibly nihilistic and disturbing. The prose is sparse and elegant and, in short bursts, wonderfully grotesque. I’d give a lot to write like Genevieve Valentine; I wanted to eat these sentences, I liked them so much.
Honorable Mention: Broken Monsters
Curtsies & Conspiracies – Gail Carriger; Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie
The Finishing School series is just so much fun, and I liked Curtsies & Conspiracies even more than its predecessor. There’s some great moral ambiguity in this book, particularly for our heroine, Sophronia. (Considering these books are all about young ladies going to Assassin and Spy School, a little moral ambiguity is certainly not amiss.) I liked Etiquette & Espionage enough to check out more, but I didn’t fall in love with this series until Curtsies & Conspiracies.
But Ancillary Mercy is pretty amazing, too. I did feel a little letdown with one element that I really can’t describe without Spoilers, but I also loved the focus on the relationships: between the crew with one another, between the Captain and the crew, and between Ship and the Captain. One chapter, in particular, hit my emotional H/C fangirl heart SO HARD. It was a pretty great conclusion to the trilogy (although I just can’t help but wishing there was more–seriously, make this a TV show!)
Murder is Bad Manners – Robin Stevens
First, I can’t talk about this book without weeping over this hideous American title. The original title is Murder Most Unladylike, but–living in America, as I do–I got the version sold in American bookstores with this abomination of a title. Kills. Me. Dead. Not in the good way.
Anyway. This is a middle grade mystery with two girl detectives, and while I struggled a little with their relationship–Daisy treats Hazel pretty horribly, which is kind of not what I’m looking for when it comes to girl relationship stories–there’s a lot to really enjoy, especially the murder mystery itself. It’s very tightly plotted with multiple suspects and a number of clues shifting your suspicion from one character to the next. I’ve seen plenty of adult novels with far weaker mysteries than this one meant for kids.
FAVORITE MODERN FAIRY TALE
The Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black
Absolutely one of my favorite books of the year, The Darkest Part of the Forest does all sorts of neat things with fairy tales and fairy tale tropes while telling a whole new story, one with awesome faerie magic, great characters, and some surprisingly creepy moments. Hazel is just a wonderful protagonist, complicated and funny and brave, and she very nearly took Favorite Female Heroine. I absolutely love where her story goes.
I read Doll Bones last year and enjoyed it a lot, but this book has definitely put me firmly on board the Holly Black train.
Honorable Mentions: The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath
FAVORITE WTF BOOK
The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath – Ishbelle Bee
This book. It’s just, it’s a delightfully bizarre jigsaw of a fairy tale. It’d told by several 1st person narrators. It’s not even remotely linear. It’s like Neil Gaiman and Catherynne Valente had a strange Victorian baby. But while it’s honestly a little messier than I’d like it to be, it’s also dark and strange and oddly charming. And the humor is a huge selling point, often laugh-out-loud and pretty morbid.
The funniest thing about this book is that you could easily pick this up and assume it’s a middle grade book. But even by creepy Coraline standards, this really isn’t MG. It’s full on dark adult whimsy.
FAVORITE YA BOOK
Harrison Squared – Daryl Gregory
You guys. You have no idea how hard it was to pick one book for this category. None.
The funny thing is that Harrison Squared wasn’t actually marketed as a YA novel, so I almost didn’t pick it because it feels like maybe I’m being unfair to the books that were actually marketed to teenagers. The problem is that I have zero idea why Harrison Squared wasn’t marketed as a YA unless it’s because it’s a prequel to the adult novella. Because character and plot wise, this feels very firmly young adult. So I made a judgement call.
Guys. I just had so much fun reading this. Let’s see, I already told you earlier that we’ve got a fun story, a great hero, intersectionality, and Lovecraft without the overwrought prose and horrifying racism. It also has just an awesome set of supporting characters, like Aunt Sel and Lydia and Lub and Rosa and Saleem. They’re all fantastic. Oooh, and, and Harrison himself has some serious anger management problems, and he is somehow still awesome, like when does that even happen? There’s very, very little I didn’t like about this book, and picking it as Favorite YA wouldn’t have been difficult at all except that the grand majority of my favorite books this year were YA. It was pretty awesome, honestly.
Honorable Mentions: The Suffering; The Darkest Part of the Forest; Curtsies & Conspiracies; Waistcoasts & Weaponry; Archivist Wasp; Shadowshaper
Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self – Jennifer Ouellette
This book is kind of like an a la carte menu for the science of self. It’s such a huge subject and Ouellette tackles so many different aspects of it that there’s no real cohesive thesis for the whole book. Part of me wishes there was because I like a solid ending, but I also really enjoyed getting to skip around all these different topics, and I really liked Jennifer Ouellette’s writing. (Obviously, because this is the book that got me to read about calculus. Calculus.) My favorite chapters were about gender identity, genetic predisposition, and virtual selves. (Also LSD, but that chapter ended up being a little more depressing than I was expecting it to be. Yeah, I was surprised too. On the upside, did you know that Cary Grant used to do LSD therapy? I didn’t either!)
Harrison Squared – Daryl Gregory
I have nothing really new to say here. I think, ultimately, it was just the most fun I had reading with the least amount of problems. That’s kind of what it all boiled down to for me. I think the only flaw I had with the whole story is that one thing, one relatively minor thing, was pretty predictable. Beyond that, this was like comfort food in book form, and if I ever meet Daryl Gregory (and actually get my mouth to open), I’m going to demand sequels or threaten a siege of devastating ankle attacks, like a lazier and more ineffectual version of Misery. I will have my further adventures of Harrison Harrison in the deeply weird, little town of Dunnsmouth.
Here are the remaining books in my Top 10 Reads of 2015, in absolutely no particular order.
2. The Suffering – Rin Chupeco
3. The Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black
4. Three Parts Dead – Max Gladstone
5. Curtsies & Conspiracies – Gail Carriger
6. Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie
7. Archivist Wasp – Nicole Kornher-Stace
8. We Are All Completely Fine – Daryl Gregory
9. Vicious – V.E. Schwab
10. Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes
We have plenty of superlatives still to go, but these ones contain Spoilers, so beware!
Okay, everyone. Last chance to look away because we’re starting with the Death Spoilers right away.
Mary – Doomsday Book
Again, I’m just going to copy and paste my reading notes for this one:
But nobody got me more than Mary dying off screen. She was my favorite character, god dammit. She hated Christmas carols, and didn’t know that her nephew wouldn’t want sweaters, and was practical and understood priorities in the face of an epidemic unlike virtually EVERYBODY ELSE. The one character I wanted to live, and she died off screen. And I knew it, too, several pages before they actually tell you, and I kind of wanted to throw the book across the room. It’s not an actual problem I had with the story, but for fuck’s sake. ONE CHARACTER.
Doomsday Book has grown on me over time, but it’s probably for the best that I didn’t read it before Clarion West, or I would have probably spent Week Three just glaring daggers at Connie.
Honorable Mentions: Sparkles (Broken Monsters); Okiku (The Suffering)
Rosemund – Doomsday Book
Seriously, Connie Willis basically just hates you and wants you to cry. (In case it wasn’t clear, Doomsday Book also wins for BOOK THAT MADE ME CRY LIKE A BABY. What’s amusing about this is that I think the last book to win this award was a couple of years ago, Passage. Guess who wrote that?) She kills off everyone from the past: babies, children, pets. I mean, she wipes out an entire village. But while Mary was the only character I desperately wanted to save, Rosemund’s death was still deeply affecting and very well done, especially because she seemed like she was doing better and, then, suddenly, she was gone.
Honorable Mentions: Marek (Uprooted); Awn (Ancillary Justice)
Breq – The Imperial Radch trilogy
Man, this was hard. I’ve apparently read a lot of books this year where people have survived ridiculously impossible scenarios: Mark Watney in The Martian, Kivrin in Doomsday Book. Hell, Tara falls from the freaking sky in Three Parts Dead, and she wasn’t even in the top three nominees. But still, I had to go with Breq, the bazillion-year-old ship who is all but destroyed except for one ancillary unit. Her origin story alone is enough to make her an Ultimate Survivor, but that she survives the whole trilogy at all is pretty incredible, not just because of the scene in Ancillary Mercy where she loses one of her legs (she gets a new one), but also because I could easily have seen this epic space opera series ending with her death (Actually, nobody really dies in Ancillary Mercy, which was kind of shocking but also very welcome.)
Honorable Mentions: Mark Watney (The Martian); Kivrin (Doomsday Book); Tara (Three Parts Dead); The Group (We Are All Completely Fine); Tark (The Suffering); Kagura (The Suffering); Wasp (Archivist Wasp)
BEST BOO-YAH MOMENT
Wasp gives the Catchkeep-priest to the Upstarts – Archivist Wasp
Wasp is a great heroine, and you’re basically waiting the whole book for her to kill her nemesis, the abominable Catchkeep-priest. But when she exposes the true extent of his villainy to the whole town and gives him to the upstarts to slaughter (the way he has forced them to slaughter each other), you know, it’s even better. It is a quintessential BOO-YAH moment.
Honorable Mentions: Ms. Kevarian kills Denovo (Three Parts Dead); Sierra yells at her awful aunt (Shadowshaper); Layla whales on Travis (Broken Monsters); Gabi shoots Clayton (Broken Monsters); Victor thoroughly enjoys trying to kill Eli (Vicious)
CREEPIEST MOMENT OR SCENE
The Doll Hunt – The Suffering
Picking the creepiest moment in The Suffering is, frankly, a giant pain in the ass, but ultimately I had to go with the opening scene, where Tark and the ghost-doll play what’s basically a ritualistic version of hide-and-seek where the winner stabs the hell out of the loser. Specifically, the moment where the doll’s body bursts open and multiple yellow hands start coming through it, reaching for Tark.
Guys. This book is so damn cool.
Honorable Mentions: “Dead and gone and bones” – The Darkest Part of the Forest; The pit of dead, crawling bodies – The Suffering; Killers with dead children on their backs – The Suffering; The King turns Wednesday into a goose to eat and tries binding her human shadow to his – Enchanted; Birth in the mirror – Six-Gun Snow White
Sunday is upset that Rumbold didn’t come for her when he’s busy fleeing his Evil Giant Father (the very same one who ate his mother and wants to eat Sunday’s sister, not to mention probably kill them all) – Enchanted
See, this kind of thing is exactly my problem with Sunday. Rumbold and his awesome best buddies are fleeing from the evil King, like, they are literally in the process of trying not to die. They frantically climb down a beanstalk, ending up at Sunday’s home, and what does she think? “He had come, as she hadn’t dared hope he would. He had come, but he hadn’t come for her.”
Enchanted has a few very nice things going for it, but I basically wanted to murder Sunday at this point.
Honorable Mentions: Pretty much everyone but Mary (Doomsday Book); Karen cares about Priya and only Priya (Karen Memory); Jonno gets his girlfriend killed (Broken Monsters); Alice doesn’t care that her sister slept with her husband, unless her sister had her husband’s baby, in which case suddenly Alice and her husband aren’t fated anymore? (Little, Big)
The Easy Defeat of Anaander Mianaai – Ancillary Mercy
So, Ancillary Mercy was one of my favorite reads of 2015, but I did find myself a bit disappointed by how Anaander feels like she falls by the wayside. In a way, it works because the whole point is that no matter how important and untouchable she seems to everyone else, the Pressger could take her and her bazillion copies all out in a second. And I do love how the story resolves with the Republic of the Two Systems. Still. Anaander is built up so much from the beginning of this trilogy as the chief antagonist that when she’s kind of just cast aside as irrelevant, I don’t know, I just felt like something was seriously lacking. I needed something else from her here, something that gave her some sort of relevance before she was ultimately outplayed by Breq.
Honorable Mentions: Constance doesn’t become deputy until the last page (Girl Waits With Gun); Whole third act falls a little flat (Girl Waits With Gun); Muddled Final Battle (Broken Monsters)
FAVORITE SUPPORTING CHARACTER
Cat – Three Parts Dead; Kasia – Uprooted
I tried. I tried really hard not to have any more ties. But I just couldn’t pick between these two.
In a book chockfull of amazingly well-developed and complicated characters, I was probably the most impressed with Cat, who you assume is one kind of person and turns out to have so much more going on. You’ve never read a junkie quite like Cat: she gives up parts of her life to Justice (the capital ‘J’ there is literal, not sarcastic) and then ends up having to chase bigger and bigger highs because of it. She is fascinating and really not like any character I’ve ever come across before.
But Kasia is pretty much the primary reason I gave Uprooted four stars on Goodreads, even though the big romance that everybody loves so much drove me absolutely insane. Kasia, like Cat, starts out as a familiar trope but ends up becoming so much more. I love not only her friendship with Nieshka but her own development over the course of story. At the beginning, she’s the pretty, perfect girl, the stereotypical Chosen One (only not to be chosen at all), but by the end, Kasia is this totally awesome, badass wood knight. I struggled with Uprooted a lot more than most people did, but if Naomi Novik ever wants to write a spinoff about Kasia? I’d be there with bells on.
Honorable Mentions: Aunt Sel (Harrison Squared); Norma (Girl Waits With Gun); Mary (Doomsday Book); Sidheag (Waistcoats & Weaponry), Lydia (Harrison Squared); Lub (Harrison Squared); Merry Lee (Karen Memory); Tomoatooah (Karen Memory); Marshall Reeves (Karen Memory); Ms. Kevarian (Three Parts Dead); Abelard (Three Parts Dead); Jack (The Dragons Of Heaven); Si Wei (The Dragons Of Heaven), Ship (Ancillary Mercy); Lesley (Whispers Under Ground); Cas (Broken Monsters), Erik & Velius (Enchanted); Mitch (Vicious); White & Walnut (The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath)
A Maturely Handled YA Love Triangle – The Suffering
One of the things that happens when you read and watch a lot of stories is that you become super familiar with how they play out. Tropes are great when subverted or examined, but the annoying ones often play out so straight that you can predict what’s about to happen because you’ve seen it a bazillion times before. That’s why it’s always nice when an author can surprise you. And nothing is more surprising than a YA love triangle that doesn’t suck.
Tark and Okiku’s relationship itself is enormously complicated (you know, with her being dead and all) and is never fully resolved or defined by the end of the book, which I really enjoyed. But Tark also begins dating Kendele, a human girl, during the story, and while there’s some confusion on Tark’s part and envy on Okiku’s, it never gets melodramatic and stupid. And Tark’s relationship with Kendele ends, not because she turns out to be some mega bitch or evil or dies, like you’d expect. They’re just going different placeso, and that’s superb. It’s so nice to see a YA book not add needless romantic drama BS when it’s really not required.
Honorable Mentions: Mitch lives! (Vicious); No one really cares when Eli’s Girlfriend dies (Vicious); Nobody dies (Ancillary Mercy); No romantic relationships (Archivist Wasp); Cas isn’t that awful BFF you initially think (Broken Monsters); Missy’s kids aren’t tragic and dead (The Dragons of Heaven)
FAVORITE OPENING PASSAGE/QUOTE
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”- Uprooted
I was already interested in reading this book because of all the praise I’d heard about it (and because fairy tales! And because I’d really enjoyed reading His Majesty’s Dragon earlier in the year.) But it was flipping to that opener in the bookstore that made me like, “SOLD.”
“In the summer of 1887, my grandfather stole a clock. He trundled it out in a wheelbarrow and loaded it into a pony and trap, and off he went with a click-ity clop. A big smile stretched across his face like a chalk line drawn by a child on a blackboard, wonky and unsure.
The clock was six feet high
and the shape of a coffin.” – The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath
“I’m pretty much fucked.
That’s my considered opinion.
Fucked.” – The Martian
“What I remember are tentacles. Tentacles and teeth.” – Harrison Squared
“This is the first murder that the Wells & Wong Detective Society has ever investigated, so it is a good thing Daisy bought me a new casebook. The last one was finished after we solved The Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie. The solution to that, of course, was that Clementine stole it in revenge for Lavinia punching her in the stomach during lacrosse, which was Lavinia’s revenge for Clementine telling everyone Lavinia came from a broken home. I suspect the solution to this new case may be more complex.” – Murder Is Bad Manners
“God wasn’t answering tonight.” – Three Parts Dead
“You cannot argue with Fate, whatever Candlestick says, she thought. You can only defy it.” – The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
Once again, Catherynne M. Valente’s prose is gorgeous, just goes straight to my heart. September is afraid of who or what she’s becoming, afraid of the future that she’s seen a flesh and blood glimpse of, and the moment where she literally smashes her fate with a hammer, it’s absolute perfection, just beautifully done. I’m about fifteen years older than September and, clearly, I’ve never been to Fairyland, but I still find her journey weirdly and wonderfully relatable even now. The idea that September destroys her fate rather than accept it (or try and argue it into submission) is just really lovely and easily one of my favorite moments in the whole series.
And now, as if this post wasn’t long enough, here are the bazillion other quotes I loved from this years’ books. (Apologies, certain quotes are a bit scrunched together for space/clarity.)
“What you learn as you get older is that the world is old, and has been old for a long time.” – Little, Big
“Also, I might be entertaining the idea of tamping down on my nihilism. Just a bit. Not because life is not meaningless–I think that’s inarguable. It’s just that the constant awareness of its pointlessness is exhausting. I wouldn’t mind being oblivious again.” – We Are All Completely Fine
“The old man was already half astronaut, with his breathing masks and plastic tubes and tanks of onboard oxygen.” – We Are All Completely Fine
“Is it ever over? Do we ever get to just . . . win?”
Harrison chuckled. After a moment he said, “When I was a kid I used to play soccer. This was in San Diego, before we moved to Dunnsmouth. It was this park district league, and they didn’t keep score. Losing would be bad for self-esteem. So at the end of the season, every player got a ribbon. A blue ribbon, stamped in gold, that said ‘Participant’.”
Martin looked at the glasses in his hand. “Fuck.”
“Congratulations,” Harrison said. – We Are All Completely Fine
“Sidheag could be quite crass, the result of having been raised by men, or Scots, or soldiers, or werewolves, or all four.” – Curtsies & Conspiracies
“No, what’s a man like down there?”
“Oh.” Sidheag wrinkled her nose. “Unimpressive. They have – ” she gestured towards her own nether regions with one hand – “a sort of dangly sausage – lacks tailoring.”
“Yes, like it wasn’t fitted into its casing properly. And hairy.” – Curtsies & Conspiracies
“The students sensed the tension and were embarrassed. Really, he should try to hide his animosity. It wasn’t done to allow emotions to impact anyone else’s enjoyment of a meal.” – Curtsies & Conspiracies
“While genes are deterministic up to a point, they are far from destiny. (Except, I learned, when it comes to earwax consistency. Your earwax is your destiny.)” – Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self
“Oxytocin is often called the “cuddle chemical” or the “love drug,” both rather nauseating nicknames stemming from its role in fostering social bonds between people, making them more caring, affectionate, or generous – but only with members of their own tribe. It makes them react harshly to perceived outsiders, which is why psychologist and author Carol Tavris has described oxytocin as the “cuddle your own kind and to hell with the rest of you” chemical.” – Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self
“You never knelt to get anywhere. You are where you are because you’re fucking capable, and willing to risk everything to do right, and I’ll never be half what you are even if I tried my whole life, and I was walking around thinking I was better than you, even half dead and no use to anyone, because my family is old, because I was born better.” – Ancillary Justice
“I didn’t get where I am by having reasonable goals” – Ancillary Justice
“You can guard this secret door and act as a communications relay,” said Nightingale. “And in the event you hear us screaming, you can come rescue us.” – Whispers Under Ground
“But that meant that in the event of a work-related call Molly would answer the phone downstairs and then inform me by silently standing in my bedroom doorways until I woke up out of sheer creepiness.” – Whispers Under Ground
“Was it better to die in the illusion of sunshine and warmth or face death in a cold darkness of reality? Was it better to die in happy ignorance or terrified knowledge? The answer, if you’re a Londoner, is that it’s better not to die at all.” – Whispers Under Ground
“I don’t know whether they believe in magic, but I know for a fact they believe in psychological evaluations.” – Whispers Under Ground
“I’ve never been one of those people who tells everyone they’re fine and tries to climb out of their hospital bed. Feeling as shit as I did is your body’s way of telling you to lie the fuck down and take in fluids – preferably intravenously – so that’s what I did.” – Whispers Under Ground
“Sophronia found herself more worried about how to respond to an imagined Felix kiss – the amount of pressure, what if there was excess saliva, where to put one’s hands? – than she was about dealing out death. Although the concerns were oddly similar – amount of pressure, what if there was excess blood, how to keep one’s gloves clean?” – Waistcoats & Weaponry
“There was no one to serve the food. No one to respond to the bell rope. No one to open the doors. No one to clip the wicks and replace the candles. No one to turn down the gas. No one to carry the wood and lay the fires against nighttime chill. Worse of all, there was no one to refill the champagne glasses. The party was ruined. The evening was considered a loss. The whole week was looking pretty bad. How on earth would they function? What were they to do? No one could imagine life without servants.” – Waistcoats & Weaponry
“Espionage, Sophronia had learned, was tough on petticoats.” – Waistcoats & Weaponry
“If anyone saw Monique, a well-dressed woman of quality, dangling from the doorway, they apparently assumed everyone had difficulties in life and moved on.” – Waistcoats & Weaponry
“What she said was “I want a man who stays out of my way.” – Waistcoats & Weaponry
“It was tempting, lying next to him with our complimentary bloodstains, to just give in and drive home with him and pick a bedroom, live in between silences for the rest of my life.” – Dream Houses
“That seems strange, because just from the application process I can tell that’s a backwater assignment, but sometimes you meet truckers with three doctorates. People have reasons to keep moving.” – Dream Houses
“Hope made you shaky. Depair was practical.” – Dream Houses
“But there was no telling if that was true. I hadn’t spoken to him since that hang-up, when I first told him I was going to Gliese. Didn’t even know where he was living now, some half-realized house he probably hated. If something had happened to him, I didn’t know. I couldn’t feel a thing. If I died he probably wouldn’t feel it for three years, when the feeling reached him the same time the light did.” – Dream Houses
“I’m living for absolutely nothing; you think it would be easier to die.” – Dream Houses
“Well, I would have struck him, but I would have had to get up. You have no notion how difficult it is to arrange skirts when sitting down; it took me five minutes together the first time.” – His Majesty’s Dragon
“I wanted to come, and if I hadn’t, they would have been all alone, and nobody would have ever known how frightened and brave and irreplaceable they were.” – Doomsday Book
“He said they felt carrying on as usual will help keep up morale.”
“We’re going to perform several pieces on the handbells,” Mrs. Taylor said. “It’s hardly a substitute for a peal, of course, but it’s something. The priest from Holy Re-Formed is going to read something from The Mass in the Time of Pestilence.”
“Ah,” Mr. Dunworthy said. “That should help in keeping up morale.” – Doomsday Book
“That morning, while Mom had fought with Grandpa, Aunt Sel had asked me to bring her a glass of wine—it was nine in the morning—and when I’d delivered it she’d handed me a ten dollar bill and said, “I dislike children, but I do appreciate decent service.” – Harrison Squared
“Mom is Terena, one of the indigenous peoples of Brazil. Which means that her people – my people – were nearly wiped out in A.D. 1500 by Europeans who looked a lot like Dad. He was Presbyterian white (like “eggshell” and “ivory,” “Presbyterian” is a particular shade of pale.)” – Harrison Squared
A woman who could have been her older sister stood at a metal table wearing a bloody smock. She held a huge silver fish, perhaps three feet long, by its tail. The creature twitched weakly in her grasp. Suddenly she plunged a knife into the belly of the fish and ripped down.
I dropped my bowl.
The serving lady, still holding her ladle aloft, scowled at me over glasses that perched at the end of her long nose.
I raised my hands. “That’s it. I’m done.” – Harrison Squared
Lying to children, I understood, was an adult’s first job. – Harrison Squared
“Well, the ancients though that the planets were stars.” He worked the spatula under the egg and turned it. “People call Venus ‘the evening star.’ Then again, people used to think the Ashen Light came from Venusians lighting huge fires to burn their crops. That theory’s not in favor these days.” – Harrison Squared
“Girls in my profession know a little too much about men. The ones who want to know a woman as a person are fewer than you’d hope, and most of those don’t even realize it about themselves. They don’t care who a woman is, or what she’s scared of, or who she wants to become. They think they want a woman, but what they really want is a flattering looking glass wearing lipstick and telling them what they want to hear.” – Karen Memory
“It’s comforting when God lets you get away with something once in a while. And a little unnerving. You start to wonder what he’s got set up for you next and why he’s softening you up, like.” – Karen Memory
“But that was a problem for if I lived through today. And right now, I was going to go get Peter goddamned Bantle if it was the last godamned thing I did. – Karen Memory
“This sensation of listlessness, weariness, stupidity, this disinclination to sit down and employ myself, this feeling of everything being dull and insipid about the house! I must be in love.” – Emma
“I am quite enough in love. I should be sorry to be more.” – Emma
“Emma denied none of it aloud, and agreed to none of it in private.” – Emma
“Changelings are fish you’re supposed to throw back. A cuckoo raised by sparrows. They don’t quite fit anywhere.” – The Darkest Part of the Forest
“Whether that person was your brother’s best friend or a sleeping prince in a glass prison or a girl who kissed you at a party, the moment you wanted more than just touching your mouth to theirs, they became terrifying and you became terrified.” – The Darkest Part of the Forest
“I was going to save Fairfold.”
“You can’t save a place. Sometimes you can’t even save a person.” – The Darkest Part of the Forest
“Ben had been sword fighting with her all day. He had a plastic He-Man sword that their mother had brought home from the secondhand store, along with a book on King Arthur’s knights with stories about Sir Pellinore, who’d supposedly been one of the Folk himself before he joined Arthur’s court, the story of Sir Gawain breaking a curse on a loathly lady, and a list of the virtues knights had – strength, valor, loyalty, courtesy, companionship, and devotion.
Hazel had received a baby doll that, if you filled it with water, you could squeeze and make it pee, even though she’d wanted a sword like her brother’s.” – The Darkest Part of the Forest
“Back then, it hadn’t seemed weird to Hazel to have the same imaginary boyfriend as her brother. – The Darkest Part of the Forest
“Gods, like men, can die. They just die harder, and smite the earth with their passing.” –Three Parts Dead
“The key difference between gods and men in the matter of their dying was that men possessed only two deep obligations: to the earth, from which came their flesh, and to the stars, from which came their soul. Neither earth nor stars were particularly concerned about the return on their investment.” – Three Parts Dead
“The Guild has zero tolerance for accidents.”
“They fire you if you have a wreck?”
“It involves fire, yes.” – Three Parts Dead
“Is that strange?” Aev asked.
“Yes,” she said. “It makes you the most stupid, single-minded collection of religious fanatics I’ve ever come across. I mean,” she amended as growls rose about her and green eyes narrowed, “I could not imagine ever doing something like that, but it’s terribly sweet.” – Three Parts Dead
“As I groggily came to, I wonder why I wasn’t more dead.” – The Martian
“For tonight, I have to get back to Three’s Company. I stopped last night in the middle of the episode where Mr. Roper saw something and took it out of context. – The Martian
“I knew that’d be an issue when I was planning this little road trip, so I came up with a brilliant plan that didn’t work.” – The Martian
“It’s a strange feeling. Everywhere I go, I’m the first. Step outside the rover? First guy ever to be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hadn’t moved in a million years!” – The Martian
“I’m calling it the Watney Triangle because after what I’ve been through, stuff on Mars should be named after me.” – The Martian
“She has smooth, light brown hair and masses of freckles, and she keeps something hidden in the bottom of her small trunk that I thought at first was a torture device but turned out to be an eyelash curler.” – Murder Is Bad Manners
“Another shrimp insisted that it was not the government at all, but a secret organization that had something to do with the East. She looked at me rather fearfully as she said that, as though being from Hong Kong made me the East in human form and therefore untrustworthy.” – Murder Is Bad Manners
“So now we need to be clever; we need to put ourselves into the mind of the killer. If you had a body to hide in Deepdean, what would you do with it?”
“I wouldn’t kill anyone in the first place,” I said.
“All right, don’t be clever,” said Daisy. – Murder Is Bad Manners
“I’d figured right. The apothecary turned out to be the Incense Master for the Oakland branch of the Shadow Dragons, and not at all pleased that the ritual Lao Chan had sent him had interrupted Cake Boss.” – The Dragons Of Heaven
The first leap is always the hardest. Once you get into the rhythm of the running, fear goes out the door. Momentum hurls you forward when common sense might scream Stop you fool! The secret of flying is forgetting to fall.
We should all learn so much from cartoons.” – The Dragons Of Heaven
“Am I wrong?”
He was wrong, on almost every count. The ends didn’t justify the means. The how and why of doing a thing mattered. Sleeping with the enemy was just asking for karmic STDs, and Argent was as crooked as Lombard Street. Everything about this situation screamed “It’s a Trap!” in Admiral Ackbar tones.” – The Dragons Of Heaven
“Growing up, I’d heard all sorts of romanticized bullshit about women loving being pregnant and glowing and such. Now I knew it for what it was: propaganda to make sure the human race was propagated. Being pregnant sucked donkey balls. I just wanted it to be over.” – The Dragons Of Heaven
“She woke my deepest girly-girl instincts regarding unicorns.” – The Dragons Of Heaven
“Translator Dlique was saying, very earnestly, “Eggs are so inadequate, don’t you think? I mean, they ought to be able to become anything, but instead you always get a chicken. Or a duck. Or whatever they’re programmed to be. You never get anything interesting, like regret, or the middle of the night last week.” – Ancillary Sword
“Say exactly what we told you to and nothing will go wrong, they said. Well, it all went wrong anyway. And they didn’t say anything about this. You’d think they might have, they said lots of other things. Sit up straight, Dlique. Don’t dismember your sister, Dlique, it isn’t nice. Internal organs belong inside your body, Dlique.” She scowled a moment, as though that last one particularly rankled.” – Ancillary Sword
“For my part,” I replied, “I find forgiveness overrated. There are times and places when it’s appropriate. But not when the demand that you forgive is used to keep you in your place.” – Ancillary Sword
“Sedation,” she began.
“Oh, no. She has to be awake for this. But don’t worry, I choked her pretty badly, a few minutes ago. She won’t be able to scream very much.” – Ancillary Sword
“She talks too much for a girl who is almost dead.” – Girl Waits With Gun
“She spent the better part of every evening with her newspapers, stashing clippings in drawers all over the house for future use. It was not unusual for one of us to go looking for the sugar or a pincushion and instead find an announcement titled “Diplomat’s Wife Impaled on Fence.” – Girl Waits With Gun
“He’d also agreed to be betrothed to the Archduke of Varsha’s daughter, a girl of nine who had evidently impressed him a great deal by being able to spit across a garden plot. I was a little dubious about this as a foundation for marriage, but I suppose it wasn’t much worse than marrying her because her father might have stirred up rebellion, otherwise.” –Uprooted
“Listen, you impossible creature,” he said. “I’m a century older than – “
“Oh, be quiet,” I said impatiently; of all the excuses he might have used.” – Uprooted
“I’m glad,” I said, with an effort, refusing to let my mouth close up with jealousy. It wasn’t that I wanted a husband and a baby; I didn’t, or rather, I only wanted them the way I wanted to live to a hundred someday, far off, never thinking about the particulars. But they meant life: she was living, and I wasn’t.” – Uprooted
“She kissed me again and held me once more, and let me go. It did hurt more. It did.” – Uprooted
“If you defeat an opponent, that’s one thing, but if you beat him about the head with his grandfather’s cut-off hand, that’s just cruel!” – The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
“I’m frightened! I have to turn into him! He’s already been all the Saturdays it takes to be that Saturday, but whatever happened is still coming for me, I still have to stand up for the hurts and the grief that made him and I can’t not do it, but knowing I will is like looking at a hot stove and knowing you’re going to touch it, knowing you’re going to burn, and feeling the blisters and the peeling before you even reach out your hand. I have to feel it now, all the time, and I don’t even know what the stove is.” – The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
“Dying is a very poor way to end a conversation. No sportsmanship at all.” – The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
“Midnight snackery is primal, like a wolf in the wood, hunkering down over her kill.” – The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
“But fading murals and crying murals were totally different flavors of weird.” – Shadowshaper
“Sierra’s policy on cute boys, and really, boys in general, was this: ignore, ignore, ignore. They usually ruined all their cute as soon as they opened their mouths and said something stupid, and she had more fun hanging out with Bennie and the crew anyway.”- Shadowshaper
“You can’t assume Robbie’s on our side.”
“What side are we on?”
“Our side. We on our side.” – Shadowshaper
“For the first time in a while, Sierra was struck by how much her face resembled her mom’s: that sharp chin, her full lips. The thought was somehow exhausting and beautiful at the same time.” – Shadowshaper
“Sweat poured down Sierra’s body, giving her brown skin a shine she could only hope was sexy and not gym-class gross.” – Shadowshaper
“She never knows what to do with her hands. This is probably why so many people smoke. Why they get fucked up at parties. A beer is something you can hold onto.” – Broken Monsters
“Layla makes it too easy. Gabi mangles pop culture on purpose to get under her skin. Somehow this has become an acceptable shorthand for ‘I love you’.” – Broken Monsters
“Keep your options open, his parents told him, but they didn’t tell him that growing older is about your options shutting down, one by one.” – Broken Monsters
“Isn’t there supposed to be a good cop?”
“We’re short-staffed.” – Broken Monsters
“Cas, I’m sorry I was a bag of dicks.”
“Lay. I’m sorry you were a bag of dicks too.” They’re grinning at each other. “And I’m sorry I was a bag of dicks.”
“You were a truckload of dicks! A whole convoy of trucks loaded with dicks crossing into Canada.”
“That’s a lot of dicks. Do you think you need a permit for that?”
“I think Canada probably has an embargo on dicks.”
“That’s why they’re so nice. No dicks allowed.” – Broken Monsters
“People were supposed to cry at weddings; they just weren’t supposed to cry because they suspected that the bride was going to die.” – Enchanted
“Sometimes I forget that assholes have children too.” – The Suffering
“It would be a really bad idea to let this person loose.”
“How bad of an idea?”
“Kicking-Hitler-out-of-art-school bad.” – The Suffering
“There’s a skeleton clinging to my ass, and Okiku chooses this moment to quibble over semantics.” – The Suffering
“The air changes. Then that invisible spider crawls up my spine, tickling the hairs behind my neck. I have come to know this spider these last couple of years. It whispers there’s something else in the room, breathing with you, watching you, grinning at you.
I hate that damn spider.” – The Suffering
“I tiptoe along the walls, where the wood looks firmer and the foundation appears unscathed. Okiku, who likes being unfair, simply sails across the gaps.” – The Suffering
“For some reason, this is the moment I know I’m gonna be all right; that the hurt might never fade, and my heart might always long for a stubborn cowboy with squinty eyes, but I’ll make do. Sure as the sun will rise. – Vengeance Road
“I would like to point out that as soon as Lieutenant Ekalu let you know that actually, your intended compliment was offensive to her, you immediately stopped trying to be nice.” – Ancillary Mercy
“There are two parts to reacting aren’t there? How you feel and what you do. And it’s the thing you do that is the important one.” – Ancillary Mercy
“You don’t need to know the odds. You need to know how to do the thing you’re trying to do. And then you need to do it.” – Ancillary Mercy
“We sit here arguing, we can hardly agree on anything, and then you go straight to my heart like that. We must be family.” – Ancillary Mercy
“What fun! Are there more verses?”
“Nine hundred and ninety-eight of them, Translator,” I said.
“We’re not cousins anymore,” said Sphene. – Ancillary Mercy
“And maybe that’s all a ghost is, in the end. Regret, grown legs, gone walking.” – Archivist Wasp
“Its deadpan and her sarcasm sailed straight on past each other, strangers passing on a dark road in the night. – Archivist Wasp
“She kicked the wall. In her semi-ghostly state, she found this profoundly unsatisfying.” – Archivist Wasp
“It was rare that she was supposed to release a ghost, but what she was meant to say when she did so was this:
I am the Archivist. Catchkeep’s emissary, ambassador, and avatar on earth. Her bones and stars my flesh; my flesh and bones Her stars. I am She who bears you, She who sustains, She to whom your dust returns. You have lived well. I release you. Do not ghost my way.
What she did say was: “Back into the soup with you, troublemaker. Next time, pick some place smarter to haunt.” – Archivist Wasp
“Don’t quote me Nietzche. I showed you Nietzche.” – Signal to Noise
Getting Shakespeare’s sonnets and complete works for your fifteenth birthday was like getting a sweater from your mom for Christmas: bullshit. – Signal to Noise
“How could I miss someone I hadn’t seen for half my life before he died?”
“Because you look like you miss him.” – Signal to Noise
“I’m supposed to be putting away the ham.”
“You had ham?” Sebastian asked.
“What do you want?”
“I want to take you for a ride around the block.”
“I want to put away the ham.” – Signal to Noise
Meche buried her face in her pillow.
She felt Sebastian’s fingers on her shoulder; tried to shove him away and failed, then lay still and blinked.
“I hate this city,” she told the pillow, because she wouldn’t tell him. – Signal to Noise
“You don’t understand,” gasped Eli. “No one understands.”
“When no one understands, that’s usually a good sign that you’re wrong.” – Vicious
“Truth be told, Victor didn’t care for graveyards, either. He didn’t like dead people, mostly because he had no effect on them. Sydney, conversely, didn’t like dead people because she had such a marked effect on them.” – Vicious
“―Self-righteousness,” Victor said. But when Sydney looked confused, he added, “He heals. It‘s a reflexive ability. In his eyes, I think that makes it somehow pure. Divine. He can‘t technically use his power to hurt others.”
“No,” said Sydney. “He uses guns for that.” – Vicious
“You can’t kill me, Victor,” Eli said. “You know that.”
Victor’s smile widened as he buried his knife between Eli’s ribs.
“I know,” he said loudly. He had to speak up over the screams. “But you’ll have to indulge me. I’ve waited so long to try.” – Vicious
“Little one, what do you want to do?”
“I want to meet Mr. Fingers, and I want to see Mr. Loveheart’s collection of time machines, and I would like a piece of the chocolate cake.” – The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath
“You shot her because the sponge cake was unsatisfactory?” Goliath says, bewildered.
“Of course. I’m a connoisseur of homemade cakes, you know. Now come along,” and he motions us to the door.
“You’re insane,” bellows Goliath.
“Of course.” – The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath
“I should warn you. My carriage doesn’t understand the concept of time.” – The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath
“I took my revenge,” she said quietly.
Her words were so soft. Her teeth were so sharp. “I burnt his ancestral home to the ground. I killed his parents and his sister. I hunted him down, played games with him, toyed with him, butchered him and ate his heart.”
“Do you think that was perhaps an overreaction?” I asked, stupefied.” – The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath
“It’s such a shame–we are so similar, Loveheart. Why kill me?”
“Because I have standards,” he says.” – The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath
“Please,” I whispered. “Don’t be mean to me. I’m good. I promise I’m good.” That sounded babyish and nonsensical out of my own mouth. I tried again. I spit in my hand and held it out like I’d seen Mr. H do with horse breeders. “If you love me, I’ll love you back,” I bargained.” – Six-Gun Snow White
“What’s dead but a little slower than living?” – Six-Gun Snow White
“For myself I thought: This is how you make a human being. A human being is beautiful and sick. A human being glitters and starves.
I worked hard to be as human as possible.” – Six-Gun Snow White
“You can tell a true story about your parents if you’re a damn sight good at sorting lies like laundry, but no one can tell a true story about themselves.” – Six-Gun Snow White
And . . . well, hell, that’s finally it. If anyone actually read this whole thing, well, congratulations and thanks, I guess. And if you have any of your own favorite reads or superlatives, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.