#AMonthofFaves: Reading Outside My Comfort Zone

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December means it’s time for Tanya’s #AMonthofFaves over at Girlxoxo and this year the event is co-hosted by Estella’s Revenge and Traveling with T.

2015 has been a year where I read from two genres that are somewhat outside my comfort zone. I think I read quite widely, but up to now I have for the most part given two giants in the book world a wide berth: Young Adult and Fantasy literature.

YA scared me off because my impression was that it was inevitably paired with romance. I can stand romance thrown in here and there and make exception for a few books, but yeah not everyone is romantically inclined and the stuff is everywhere. But a few books I enjoyed this year were YA and they convinced me to read more next year.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

I really liked this one, the atmosphere, the narrative style, the what’s-going-on? I expected a bit more from the hype, but that always builds up expectations way too much, and it’s a really interesting one regardless.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

One the the best books I read this year, beautifully written, and even though it’s a love story there is hardly any romance. I usually make exceptions for diverse books, but this is a YA love story I would have probably also read if it was about a straight couple.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

A fantastic premise and an enjoyable book, though I do wish the author  would have used the setting more. My interest in the love story with the Prince was basically zero, so I skimmed a few pages. But at least Cinder saves herself.

As for fantasy, I was mostly fine with science-fiction, but the images of fantasy lit I had in mind were dwarves, fairies, elves, epic epics that hardly ever end, drawn-out battle scene that make me yawn. I know, I know! But I think some of the older covers are also to blame. I’m still not especially interested in all of that, but thankfully I read some amazing books this year that chipped away at my ignorance. Not sure where they fall in the categories fantasy and speculative fiction, but some had fairies and unicorns, so there.

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

This is the 5th book or so in the series and I enjoyed all of them. They are not perfect, I’m glad we left the friend zone problem in book 1. The characters are wonderfuly diverse, Aaronovitch makes whiteness visible and Peter Grant is one snarky apprentice. Also, in this one there were unicorns. Invisible unicorns. And fairies. And it was grand!

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

This one Eva wrote about and I just had to give it a try. It’s kind of urban fantasy with magical realism and Caribbean folklore. There’s post-apocalyptic Toronto, drug lords, family ties, voodo deities, sketchy organ donation and strong Black women. I’m up for that!

Rosemary and Rue Seanan McGuire

Another recommendation by Eva. Maguire sets up this really cool world of fairies and those unfortunate enough to be born changelings, who will always be outsiders. One changeling, Toby Daye, goes into the PI business and I gave it a try because of the mystery angle. But I really liked the world-building, critique of hierarchies and the PI thing, though things turned much darker than I expected. I think urban fantasy is my comfort zone in fantasy so far 🙂

What did you read outside your comfort zone this year? Any recommendation for YA minus romance and good fantasy reads? I know I’ll want to read more of these genres now!

 

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25 thoughts on “#AMonthofFaves: Reading Outside My Comfort Zone

  1. Yay fantasy!
    I always recommend Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series, as that was my very first foray into fantasy as a teenager – oh so very many years ago!
    NK Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor you know already, but have you tried Octavia Butler? Naomi Novik? I also recently liked A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear.
    Also, a YA series I thought was quite good (a bit angsty) was Maggie Stiefvater’s the Raven Cycle

    1. Yay thanks for the recommendations! I loved her left hand of darkness or sth so will have to try the Earthsea series. Yes love Octavia Butler! Pacing myself do I still have some if her stuff to read 🙂 Novik is on my tbr, will take a look at the others you mentioned!

  2. YA minus romance? Reality Boy by AS King, The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I never think of the Hunger Games as romance but it is there amidst all the survival stuff.

  3. If you like fantasy you MUST read Robin Hobb. Her trilogies are amazing. I wasn’t particularly fond of this genre until recently but when a friend recommended The Farseer Trilogy I became a fan of this author.

  4. I’m not sure I’m the best person to give you advice as I love a bit fantasy with elves, dwarfs, fairies and talking animals galore! Although I’m like you in the sense I am not a fan of heavy romance or extended fight scenes. Perhaps you might like George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, which the Game of Thrones TV show is based on. I know plenty of people who don’t usually do fantasy who love that. It is like the best, gritty historical drama you can think of…with dragons thrown in!

    1. Thanks, Jessica, I will have to try Game of Thrones after I’m done with the thesis. Too afraid I won’t be able to stop myself after reading book 1 😀

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Sarah! Hope you’ll find some YA and fantasy books that’ll make you come out of your comfort zone. I promise they are worth it 🙂

  5. In which Jenny is paralyzed by choice because YA and fantasy are SO my comfort zone and choosing just a few is super hard. But okay! I will try! Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys is sort of set up as a romance, but there’s actually not that much romance in it. It’s much more about friendship and fast cars and finding dead Welsh kings. Kekla Magoon is a fantastic amazing glorious YA author who should be way more famous, and both How It Went Down and The Rock and the River are incredible and devastating YA novels with no romance at all. I have more recommendations but try those first and see what you think, and then I can tailor future recommendations based on what you think of those ones. Oh, God, Martine Leavitt’s everything but particularly Tom Finder and the Dollmage. Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief and, esPECially, the books that follow it.

    In fantasy: I absolutely cherish Robin McKinley’s Sunshine and reread it constantly. Read that. God it’s good. Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters if you want something horribly creepy and strange and wonderful (but creepy! be warned!). Jo Walton’s Among Others, if you want something where you’ll never be sure if the magic is real or not. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell — I know it’s super long, but the trick about that book is that if you like the first two chapters, you’ll like the whole book; so you actually don’t have to make very much of a commitment if it turns out it’s not for you.

    1. Haha omg thanks, Jenny! Thanks so much for all your recommendations!I’ll have to give Stiefvater a go now, I was hesitant because it seemed it was all about teen romance. Kekla Magoon goes on my list, too, what a cool name, and love the summary of the books already.
      I have Walton’s boo on Scribd, yay and I really liked Strange and Norrell 🙂
      Thanks for making my tbr explode 😀 I’ll definitely come to you for more recs once I’ve ventured further into YA and fantasy!

  6. Oh my gosh – I actually want to read the books on your list. I don’t know how I haven’t read that book by Nova Ren Suma yet – but I loved her other book, Imaginary Girls. And Cinder was another book I loved. Try the other books in the series – they are just as good.

    1. Haha, yay! Ooh, I will have to try her Imaginary Girls next! Thanks, I definitely want to continue with the series, and I think the last one is out now, so I don’t even have to wait 😀

  7. A YA book I read this year and really enjoyed was called The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. It’s the first in a series The Shades of London. It’s a paranormal mystery, and it’s super fun. An American girl goes to a London boarding school, she almost dies in a choking incident, and subsequently she discovers she can see ghosts. Also, there’s a Jack The Ripper copycat killer running around. It’s really good! (I think there’s a teensy but of romance involved, but nothing major.)

  8. I love this post, Bina. 🙂 ‘Aristotle…’ and ‘Cinder’ have been in my list for a while. Now I am reminding myself to read it soon. Thank you for sharing this lovely list.

    The only YA I read this year was ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. It was not bad. I am not a fan of romance too. When my friends raved about ‘The Notebook’, I wore a long face, and stayed silent. 🙂 But, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ agreed with me.

    I’m not sure if ‘A Monster Calls’ and ‘The Graveyard Book’ are considered YA. But, I loved them.

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