Sirius’ Best of 2017
I usually put my most memorable reads (from those I reviewed at DA) on my Best of Lists and this year is no exception. As you can see the list is not very long, but those were truly the books that stuck with me and hopefully will continue to be great reading experiences over the years to come.
“Days Without End” by Sebastian Barry.
From my review:
“Sunita posted an essay on her blog about starting to read the books that were long listed for Man Booker Prize this year. She previously introduced me to so many amazing books so of course I briefly looked through the reviews on some of the ones she mentioned and your book caught my eye.
It mostly caught my eye before any other books on the list because one of the reviews I saw hinted that our narrator and John Cole were more than brothers in arms, that they also were lovers. I said it before – while I do not choose my reading material *solely* based on whether it has gay/bi/lesbian couple in it, it is often an extra bonus that may help me decide to pick up the book. And honestly I was just thrilled that the book longlisted for important literary prize also may have gay love story front and center.”
I *loved* this book – brilliant atmospheric writing and great love story. It was very violent and for that reason I am not sure if I could ever reread it, at least not the whole book, but it was probably my most memorable book of the year. I usually do not grade the books on my Best list, but this one is an exception.
“A Taste of Honey” by Kai Ashante Wilson.
I have read this novella as a part of my Hugo package and I could not forget it ever since. I mean I am not saying that I was thinking about it every day 24/7 but when I sat down to put my “Best of list” together, it came to my mind almost immediately.
From my review:
“The language is so beautiful and I thought that the language itself played an important part in the story. I cannot reveal more details because I feel most of the revelations about this novella would be VERY spoilerish. I do understand that it makes the review vague and less satisfying unfortunately. I wish I could quote from the ebook, but I cannot because as I said I have not bought the story, I read it as part of the Hugo reading, but please do check the sample and see if the writing is for you.
I loved the settings – the story mostly takes place in the fictional country of Ollorum as the blurb describes it for you where Aqib and Lucrio meet. I thought Ollorum came to life based on some African influences, and no, I cannot place it within specific real country context unfortunately. Dallucam seemed Rome inspired.
I said previously that I am not sure if the story belongs to the Romance genre despite having a gay love story front and center; however, there is also not much of the development of the relationship going on – they fit well together, but they fell in love pretty fast, so there is that. I didn’t think it made the story any less beautiful by the way.”
“The House of Binding Thorns” (Dominion of Fallen #2) by Aliette De Bodard
I once again have to thank Sunita for introducing me to this author and also to thank Janine because they reviewed together the first book of this trilogy. I loved their review and loved the first book too, however I was not sure if I would be reading the second book because well, I got too attached to several characters in the story and I was not sure whether any of them would survive the trilogy. I am so happy that I gave second book a try. First and foremost I am now feeling more hopeful about a better ending for some of my favorite characters (although of course I have no way of knowing what author has in store for them), but this book also ended up having a gay love story (or at least love story between two male species so to speak) front and center and I loved it.
From my review:
“Apparently they are supposed to negotiate the marriage between Asmodeus and one of the dragon princes – I hesitate to call Asmodeus gay, but those who read the first book know that he used to have a male lover, another Fallen who died as part of what happened. Come to think of that since we know that Fallen can change bodies, does their gender even matter? I think the very strong implication is that they cannot change bodies every day at will, that it only happens between their lifetimes, so for now Asmodeus is very much male and very much prefers male lovers, so he sends his envoy to negotiate stronger ties with the dragon kingdom and get himself a consort.”
“One Fell Sweep” (Inkeeper Chronicles #3) by Ilona Andrews
Ilona Andrews had been one of my favorite authors for years now. I have not loved all her books, but there were *a lot* of her books that I did love and “Inkeeper chronicles” is shaping up to be one of those series. .
“ I really enjoyed the first part of this online serial, which you offered for free on your site every week for several months and have now published as a complete book. I also read and enjoyed the second part of the story but after thinking it over I decided to not review it simply because I really hated one of the characters, who clearly was not supposed to be a bad guy (at most I felt you wanted me to think he had shades of grey, but overall was a decent guy who would do anything to stop the war). I was afraid that he would be pulling strings behind the curtain in this book as well, and I guess he did help set certain events in motion. However, thankfully for my enjoyment, he at most appeared very briefly in this part of this story. Even if events went into the general direction he may have wanted to, I never felt that he robbed Dina of her agency here.”
I think I would classify the book as a romantic fantasy, but I really liked how Dina and Sean’s relationship developed and how they managed to negotiate a couple of very important things in between all the war action. I adore Dina and I think I love her even more after this book, if that is possible. I liked that she did not play games where her love life was concerned. She may have hesitated over whether it was too fast to fall for Sean even thought they had been through so much, but she let him know that she loved him. And I loved Sean too. I did not mind at all that Sean went to do his thing in Book One and for most of Book Two he and Dina were not really together – I thought he needed to obtain experience in the world Dina grew up in, even if lots of that experience was very painful. But I really liked them together in this book. I think they make great partners.
There wasn’t a character in this book that I did not like – Armand and Maud were fantastic. Helen was great. I am usually perfectly okay with children in the stories if they fit in the story (same as any adult character, really), and Helen, besides being funny and fierce and vulnerable after what she had been through, acted like a *five year old* girl. She was not meek at all, but she did not act as if she knew more than the adults did, she did not try to give adults advice. She acted the way a little girl with her magical upbringing and her human upbringing should act.”
“Tap-Dancing the Minefields” by Lyn Gala.
I reviewed this story relatively recently however considering that I already reread it several times I think it would a safe bet to say that it belongs on my Best of list. This SF adventure and m/m romance was skillfully written and kept me entertained till the last page.
From my review:
“So, we have a young soldier ( twenty year old) George Tankersley aka Tank joining the army and Tank who spent his formative years in New York gets to join a strange army base in Alaska.
The story is written in third person limited POV and it switches between Tank and Colonel Clyde Aldrich, which to me worked perfectly. I think I understand why the author needed Clyde’s POV in addition to Tank’s – Tank was not a very reliable narrator, but I will be curious to hear what other readers think.
Almost from the outset we learn that Tank has a past, but the author kept teasing and hinting as to what kind of past he had and once again it was *not* something I imagined. I also really liked that the story of what Tank endured as a teenager kept coming in tantalizing bits and pieces instead of coming as one or two long info dumps. I do not like info dumps, I understand that occasionally those might be necessary, but I still prefer when the writer does something else and creative choice made in this book was something I really enjoyed.”
“Illegal Contact (The Barrons #1) by Santino Hassell.
This was the first book in the trilogy of the sport romances and now when the second book is out I am going to assume that the third book will be about the third guy in the trio of best friends who are all famous football players in the fictional “Barrons” team.
From my review:
“I *really* liked that both Noah and Gavin had reasons to behave the way they did. Of course Gavin would be irritated with Noah for being so ignorant about football when football is the thing he loved the most. Football saved him from miserable childhood, gave him friends, some as close as brothers would be, and of course gave him wealth. And it made sense to me that Noah, who needed money so badly for several reasons, would at first be irritated with the famous athlete who had so much of it and seemed to have trouble managing his money in addition to his temper.
As an aside, I also really liked that Gavin was shown as a flawed but nevertheless a likeable human being. Yes, he truly let his temper get the best of him enough to get in trouble with the law. But once again there were reasons for his behavior and I understood it very well.
Slowly but surely they begin to understand each other better and maybe make allowances and develop attraction for each other. I think overall it took a few months for them to fully understand what they meant to one another.”