Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Goodreads Choice Awards 2017

So, Goodreads surprised at least me today by starting their 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards before November officially starts. But you know what? That just means the fun will begin a little earlier this year.

Voting has officially begun, so you can go ahead and start making your opinions known by supporting your favorite books of the year. These awards are decided completely by readers, which makes it the only book award of its kind.

As usual, I must start with the Best Fiction category, which for me ends up being tricky because while two DSN books made the cut, neither of their posts has gone up yet. I have read Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and can absolutely attest to how good it is, so it will be getting my vote. It is a story of two refugees whose adventure takes magical turns as they enter through doors that take them to different locations around the world. Unfortunately, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is still in my perpetually growing "to read" queue and will have a post in early January. I am sure it is fantastic, but voting for a book I have not actually read feels incredibly wrong. 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins will get my vote for Best Mystery & Thriller, but only because it is the only one of the nominated books that I have read. It is not a bad book, it just is not as good as it could be. Also, it seems to suffer from readers remembering just how good The Girl on the Train was. Usually I do not have any books to vote for in this category, so getting even just one is a good showing for me.

Finding historical fiction that I actually wanted to read was a bit of struggle for me this year. Even so, I managed to pick two novels that have shown up in the Best Historical Fiction category. Lisa See's The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane explores the deeply revered tradition of tea making in China, but my vote will actually be going to The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. Sure, it is another women in World War II book, but it is a good one. However, I can see fierce competition coming from both Moonglow by Michael Chabon and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. 

Best Science Fiction is another category I tend to be hit or miss on, but this time I managed to pick American War by Omar El Akkad and Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. One is a story of the U.S. after its second civil war, while the other takes place in a sort of post apocalyptic Europe where a giant bear terrorizes everyone (no, really). Although I did not place it under the science fiction heading when I wrote about it, I will go with American War on this one.  

I am pleased to see Dot Hutchison's The Roses of May in the Best Horror category, a sequel to The Butterfly Garden, which was nominated last year. Once again Hutchison has created a mysterious and terrible serial killer that puts its victims in seemingly impossible situations. Her ability to create realistic, but strong heroines is one of the many reasons I have become a faithful follower of her work. I have high hopes for this one, but with Stephen and Owen King's Sleeping Beauties also nominated, I have to admit that chances of a win for Hutchison are slim.

There will be a write-in vote for Jenny Lawson's You Are Here for the Best Memoir & Autobiography category. Part self-help, part graphic novel, and part adult coloring book, Lawson provides coloring pages that she herself created and used in the past when she was feeling particularly out of control or lost. It makes for a fantastic travel companion.

And for what is possibly the first DSN to make it into the Best History & Biography category ever, I pick The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. It is the story of the women who worked as dial painters during World War I, using radium to do so. Today we can all immediately realize the problem with this, but at the time, radium was still being billed as a wonder substance that was even safe enough to ingest. Yeah, awful.  

Choosing for Best Graphic Novel is tough because I have to choose between Sarah Andersen's Big Mushy Happy Lump, and Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer. Andersen's second collection of comics once again explores life for the modern book-nerd animator as she hilariously attempts to ward off procrastination, self-doubt, body-image issues, and unwanted body hair. Wires and Nerve is the first entry into a new graphic novel series that follows the events of The Lunar Chronicles. I actually think I will go with Andersen on this one, though both have the potential of making a decent showing.

The Best Debut Goodreads Author category is always fun, and this year proves to be no different with El Akkad's American War making its second showing in the nominations, and it is joined by Caraval by Stephanie Garber - the story of a young woman attempting to navigate a dangerous game in order to find her sister - as well as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - the story of a young unarmed black man killed by a police officer and the tense aftermath that follows. For me, and I imagine for many actually, it is no contest. Thomas gets my vote and I pretty much expect it to win, though I could be proven wrong.

And of course, my favorite category ends up having the most DSN books nominated. Best Young Adult Fiction has a record seven books nominated, with Thomas' The Hate U Give leading the way. The first to join it is Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. In his latest novel, Green explores mental health in today's youth as his protagonist almost constantly fights the urge dress and redress a wound she herself recreates so as to avoid infection. And then there is Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner, a book that follows Carver Briggs as he attempts to live his life without his three best friends after they were tragically killed in a texting and driving accident. Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi is such an utter delight that it makes me wish I could vote for two books. Rishi is a boy who cannot wait to meet someone, get married, and start a family, all of which are things that Dimple would rather stay away from. So when these two must work together at a camp for students interested in coding, it is a near constant push and pull as they attempt to make it through the summer. YA queen (at least to me) Sarah Dessen also makes a showing with her latest, Once and for All. Louna Barrett knows from working for her mother's wedding planner business that happily ever after is hard to come by, and she is no less skeptical when distracted and unreliable Ambrose attempts to change her mind. A List of Cages by Robin Roe is a bit of a heart breaker, but it is worth braving Julian's troubled life at home and Adam's ADHD to experience this one. And finally, there is One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, which I actually do not have a post for, but one will be coming in early December. After high school student Simon dies mysteriously during detention, the primary suspects are the four other students that were in the room. But nothing is as its seems, and everyone has a secret that Simon was ready to expose.

Oh goodness, so many choices that I had to start a new paragraph. I may have already voted for it in the Best Debut Goodreads Author category, but even so, I will once again go with Thomas' The Hate U Give. It is just that good.    

Garber's Caraval shows up again in the Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction category and is joined by Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer. While I had to make the difficult decision to not continue with the series, I will still vote for the latter as it is incredibly imaginative and unique. Lazlo Strange gets the amazing opportunity to travel to the city of Weep as part of a team attempting to save it. But it turns out that while he knows a lot more than people realize, he actually knows very little about who he is.

And there you have it: 20 books over 11 categories have made it from the DSN family. Plus, the second round will see the addition of five more books for each category, so that will be interesting. 

The first round of voting ends Sunday, November 5th, with the second round starting the following Tuesday. Happy voting!

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