In which I finally found the books I've been looking for!
1. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (audio) - LOVED it! I added this book to my wish list quite some time ago - and in fact I can't remember exactly where I picked up the recommendation. I was really excited when I discovered that it'd been added to the library's digital audio services, because I needed something to listen to while working on a Christmas project. It was soooo much fun. In some ways, it's very typical of a specific type of fantasy - unexpected person inherits the throne - but it's distinguished by the fact that it has real heart. Listening to audio was a plus and minus. On the one hand, Addison uses a lot of made up names that I would have mispronounced in my head. On the other hand, I had a lot of trouble keeping track of who was who because of the strangeness of the names as well as the similar sounding titles she used. That's a quibble, though. This was Addison's debut novel, and I look forward to what she does in the future!
2. Ink and Bone, Rachel Caine - This was also a friend suggestion. I'll admit to a tad bit of nervousness when I went to the author's ibooks page and saw the titles and covers of her other books. (dreadful looking stuff...YA of the worst degree) but nevertheless I checked it out from the library and gave it a try. I'm so glad I did. I was caught up from the very first in the very unique world that Caine has created. Furthermore, as a book person, I have to say that I felt extra-invested. Can't wait for the sequel! It's not by any stretch a perfect book, but I appreciated the originality in the ideas and the fact that it swept me away. (You aren't imagining it...I had originally posted this last month. Made it about 1/3 of the way through, but didn't have time to finish. As the bulk of it was read this month, I transferred the entry to this post.)
3. Gossamer, Lois Lowry (audio) - Oh my oh my oh my. This was such a treat! It's a very little book - 3 hours, which classifies it as a novella - and the reader was absolutely lovely. Gossamer is a beautiful little fairy tale, which is both very imaginative and extremely heartwarming. May have even cried a little bit while listening to it in public! Really need a hardback copy for my special bookshelf.
4. The Grownup, Gillian Flynn (audio) - This much buzzed about, recently released short story was a lot of fun....but I will admit that I figured out a big component of the story fairly early on because of the name that Flynn gave to one of her three main characters. There are times when an English degree and a fondness for a certain type of classic literature comes in handy!
5. Across the Nightingale Floor, 6. Grass For His Pillow, 7. Brilliance of the Moon, 8. The Harsh Cry of the Heron (audio & print) - The first of these beautiful books was recommended to me by a very dear friend who happens to be a brilliant writing. Knowing what she writes, and having read books that she's recommended in the past, I was a bit surprised when I looked up them up and discovered an adventure/fantasy series set in a version of feudal Japan. (This is perhaps silly of me, because my friend happens to also have a deep love for all things Japanese.) The books are absolutely gorgeous, the writing lovely, and the characters are compelling. If I had one quibble it's that they tend to end rather abruptly....lots and lots of build up, and then a resolution that seems almost too swift at times. I'd really like just a bit more so that the entire reading experience feels more complete. I'll also say that the last chapters of the fourth book infuriated me. I get why they happened the way they did...but still. Combined with that, my opinion of one of the main characters swung wildly back and forth, and I'm trying to figure that one out. It's a bit unusual for a character to be lovely at times and maddening at others, and it felt like an inconsistency problem. There is one more book in this grouping, a prequel, and I'm saving it for later on this winter.
9. The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu - This book has made it onto multiple best of 2015 lists. I almost laughed when I discovered it's another version of a fictional feudal Japan! This time around, it's a sweeping look at power struggles and war, with petty gods stirring up the pot. It's a rather long book, and my complaint here is that it's on such a grand scale that I truly had trouble making an emotional connection with it. There were just too many characters who came in and out, and too many events to keep track of. I had a bit of trouble keeping track of who was who at times, which is unusual to me, and I really didn't get sucked into the narrative until about the half way point. I finally put my finger on it...there's a slight detachment to the writing, which I think may have been on purpose to mirror the involvement of the gods (?). A worthwhile read, but I wish I'd taken it on at a time of year when I was less preoccupied with life in general.
10. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith - Charming and sweet, but there's not much more I can say about it. I read it out of curiosity because it comes up on book lists all of the time, and I do understand why...but it was maybe a bit too light for me.
11. The Demon in the Wood, Leigh Bardugo (short story) - I adore Bardugo, and I love her 'short stories' (too long for that title, really, but too short to be a novella). I was looking for fairy tales to finish up the year, and happily found this!
12. Twixt Firelight and Water, Juliet Marillier (short story) - Exact same as #11...adore the author, wanted fairy tale...same difficult length categorization.