I read some truly great books in April! I don’t have a negative thing to say about any of them.
If I Had Your Face-Follows the interconnected lives of four women. Largely about the impossible beauty standards of women, especially in Korean culture.
Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders– The story of two women and lovers who were murdered and the fight for justice around their deaths. A scary realization that even our national parks aren’t a safe place to be a woman.
Sea of Tranquility – Emily St.John Mandel’s newest book is just as amazing as everyone is saying it is. You won’t know what’s truly going on until the end, and I loved the touch of scifi.
A Far Wilder Magic– Cozy magic with just enough small town politics and romance. My second Alison Saft book of the year. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.
The Push– the best thriller I’ve read this year. This will make you terrified to be a parent.
It’s that time of year again! That time when we start thinking about everything we read in the past year—what we loved, hated, and everything in between. This year, I revolutionized my reading by keeping a reading journal within my bullet journal. I kept notes there on each book I read. I found that this helped me internalize each book, think critically about the plot and writing style, and more clearly remember the books I read throughout the year.
Looking back on my reading in 2021, here’s what I found:
My top genres were mystery and thriller, which I’ve never read much of before this year. Many of my favorite books of the year fall into this genre, including my favorite series of the year, Tana French’s The Dublin Murder Squad and Anthony Horowitz’s Susan Ryeland’s series. In contrast, I also read some really bad thrillers and came to the conclusion I prefer crime/murder mysteries over physiological thrillers. We’ll see if this genre sticks!
I didn’t read much nonfiction at all, coming in with one essay collection, Disability Visibility, and just one memoir, Flesh and Blood by N. West Moss. I love memoirs, especially, so that’s something I want to read more of again in 2022!
Let’s get to the best books I read this year, by genre but in no particular order:
The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott
Summary: In a world divided by a coup, climate disaster rages. The Rain Heron follows different characters as they try to survive as well as the appearance of a mythical rain hero.
Summary: Silvie’s dad is an Ancient Britain/Iron Age enthusiast. He forces his family to spend 2 weeks a year living in the woods with an Archeology class and professor. This year, things change.
Favorite Quote: “Without a house, it occurred to me, it is much harder to restrict a women’s movement. Harder for a man to restrain a woman.” – page 59
This coming-of-age novel manages to have a conversation about misogyny and abuse in so little pages.
Content Warnings: Physical & Emotional Abuse
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
Summary: Three sisters grow up on an isolated island with their father and mother. They’ve been told the outside world isn’t safe, and they are made to perform horrible experiments on each other. When men arrive from the outside world, they realize their parents might not be telling the truth.
Summary: This is a fictionalized account of William Shakespeare’s family and the death of his son, Hamnet, during the Black Plague.
Warning: This book will make you cry. I loved the magical element and creative liberties O’Farrell took with Shakespeare’s history.
Content Warnings: Death; Grief
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Summary: Lifelong friends and penpals Eileen and Alice live very different lives. One is a wealthy, successful author post-mental health collapse and the other has been stuck in the same job for years. When they finally decide to visit each other, tensions mount.
Don’t come at me, Sally Rooney haters. No one writes characters, dialogue, and life like Sally Rooney. This is a beautiful novel about mental health, fame, and how friendships change over time.
Thriller & Mystery
The Likeness by Tana French
Summary: When a woman named Lexie is found dead, Detective Cassie Maddox, who looks just like her, goes undercover as Lexie.
This is my favorite of the Dublin Murder Squad books so far and has dark academia elements.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Summary: Drawing Master Walter Hartright teaches art at an estate and becomes intrigued by a crime and the mysterious presence of a woman in white.
This massive book is surprisingly readable and reminded me of my love for Victiorian fiction.
Like all Victorian fiction, there are themes of madness, surveillance, and lack of women’s agency in society.
Northern Spy by Flynn Berry
Summary: Tessa’s word unravels when she finds out her sister is a member of the IRA.
This is a twisty novel about family, loyalty, and lies that helped contextualize the conflict in Ireland for me.
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Summary: Carly drops out of college and travels to the haunted town of Fell, New York to investigate the disappearance of her Aunt Viv 20 years earlier.
There are some really terrifying ghost scenes in this, but this is ultimately one of the most heartwarming thrillers I’ve ever read.
Content Warnings: Sexual abuse
Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Summary: A woman, Cecily, disappears from Branlow Hall and the answer is hidden in a book by the late mystery writer Alan Conway. The family asks his ex-editor, Susan Ryeland, to find Cecily.
This book-within-a-book may be even better than the first book in this series! The plotting and double mystery is so cleverly written.
Yolk by Mary H.W. Choi
Summary: Jayne moves from Texas to New York for college and to flee from her first generation Korean parents. There she reunites with her older sister, June, who reveals she has cancer.
This is one of the most intense and emotional books I’ve ever read. Unlike other tear-jerker YA books that deal with cancer very badly, Yolk treats it with respect.
Content Warnings: Cancer; Eating Disorders
The Valley and the Flood by Rebecca Mahoney
Summary: Following the death of her best friend, Rose struggles with PTSD. One day, trying to escape her grief, she ends up in a strange town that she can’t leave.
Warning: You won’t have a clue what’s going on for the first 100 pages or so, but this book is so creative, emotional, and interesting that you’ll want to keep reading. It’s all one big metaphor for PTSD.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
Summary: In a futuristic world destroyed by climate change, Kasey searches for her lost sister, Cee.
This book asks big questions about science and humanity, such as, if we don’t act to save the world now, when will we? And, when will we hold big polluters responsible? But at the center of all this is the complicated relationship between two sisters.
The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
Summary: A group of kids try to survive a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by flu flies.
I loved everything about this book. It’s about sacrifice, found family, hope, survival, and it had a huge twist that blew my mind.
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danworth
Summary: Dual timelines one-hundred years apart follow creepy happenings and strange deaths at The Brookhants School for Girls.
Admittedly this book could have been a lot shorter, but this sapphic mystery includes some of the best characterization I’ve ever read in YA.
The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters
Summary: When Natasha’s sister Rochelle disappears, she turns to the witchy girl, Della, who lives by the woods where she went missing.
Set in rural Tennessee, this is a really atmospheric and original fantasy/mystery with LGBTQ+ rep.
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Summary: A fantasy based on Pre-Columbian American mythology.
This is a complex, perfectly paced fantasy that follows multiple characters. One of the biggest problems I usually have with fantasy as an adult is the length, and this book didn’t lag for one second. Black Sun ended on a huge cliffhanger, and I can’t wait for the sequel.
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
Summary: When orphaned siblings Anna, Edmund, and William are forced to leave London during World War II, they make a pact to find a new family in the countryside. Instead, they’re placed with several horrible families. Their only solace: the library .
If you liked: The War that Saved My Life
I binged this cozy middle grade treasure in one sitting. This is a great story about found family, the tenacity of children, and how books can save lives.
Happy reading! I’m excited to see what 2022 brings and hope that everyone has a great year, reading wise and otherwise.
Hi, everyone. I’m finally done with my first year of grad school, and you know what that means– I get to read for fun again!
Deeplight starts out as a slow burn. At first, it turned me off a little bit, but I know Frances Hardinge; she’s one of my favorite authors! She is a masterful worldbuilder, and she spends the first 100 pages exploring the world of Deeplight and letting you dig into the mind of her characters in order to set up a powerful punch later.
Synopsis: Deeplight follows Hark, a fifteen-year-old boy who’s a little lost in the world. He just feels like a sidekick to his longtime friend, Jelt, until he’s put on trial for a crime and sold as an indentured servant. If you couldn’t tell from the front cover, the story is set on an island, called Lady’s Crave, where thirty years ago, the sea gods “turned on one another and tore each other apart.” If the islanders are lucky, they can find relics of the dead gods called “godware,” which are powerful and valuable. Hark just so happens to find a heart, which saves the life of Jelt. But when it starts to change Jelt, and not in a good way, Hark searches for answers with the help of a girl named Selphin and an old priest named Quest.
I think this is the first book I’ve read by Hardinge that has a boy narrator instead of a girl. I will admit: I kind of wish the story was told from the perspective of Selphin, a girl he meets on his journey. I connected with her character a little more than Hark.
The plot picks up a ton during the second half of the book, and I found myself really appreciating how she set up the world in the first half. Hardinge’s plot always goes in a direction I’m not expecting, and her books (including this one!) are always the epitome of fantasy, always delving deep into her dark, imaginative world and filling them with masterful descriptions. And this is why she’s one of my favorite authors!
I love the morally grey characters, and how Hardinge focuses on a toxic friendship, a topic not often explored in fantasy. I think the character arcs were great. Hardinge also created a world where deaf culture is normal and accepted, and the characters often use sign language to talk to each other. Overall, this book is a well-drawn, imaginative sea story that travels in unexpected, vivid directions.
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. I’m currently on an extended Spring Break, and my classes have all been moved online for the rest of the semester. While I’m bummed about that, it means I have more time to read and post on here. Without further ado, let’s start the review!
A dark, gothic fairytale retelling? Very up my alley!
Annaleigh lives in Highmoor, a manor on an island by the sea where the people worship a sea god. She used to be one of twelve sisters, but four of her sisters have died tragic deaths. When Annaleigh’s younger sister begins seeing ghosts, she believes that her last sister to die was actually murdered. In between dancing in myserious balls with her sisters, Annaleigh works to uncover the dark truth.
I really enjoyed this book! I it had a lot of twists and turns, and while I guessed two of the major plot points, the rest, particularly at the end, were great and surprising.
I loved the cast of sisters. They felt very Jane Austen to me, especially when they prepared to go to the balls. Craig’s descriptions of Highmoor and the world around them brought this fantasy world to life. I loved the octopus imagery and the descriptions of the sea. While most of this book was dark and gothic, there were fun ball and festival scenes in between. I also enjoyed learning about the gods and mythology of this world.
I should’ve known from the book’s description, but this book is full of (in-depth) murder and death. So if you’re not into any type of horror, then this isn’t for you.
My only critiques are that the romance was a little too underdeveloped and cheesy for my taste, and the dialogue in certain scenes felt a little flat. But if you’re looking for a fun fairytale read that doubles as a horror/murder mystery book, then pick this up! Its beautiful cover is never leaving my bookshelf.
Happy New Year’s Eve! And what a year it’s been! Anna’s highlights were starting work full time, getting married, and adopting her dog! Alexis started her MFA program, got a short story accepted for publication, and adopted her cat!
Here are some of our favorite books of 2019:
The Glass Castleby Jeanette Walls
Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Normal People by Sally Rooney
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
The Witch Elm by Tana French
In the Woods by Tana French
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Goldfinch by Donna Tart
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
The Wildlands by Abby Geni
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
The Book of Dreams by Nina George
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
Grim Lovelies by Meghan Shepherd
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
I’m finally getting to the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles series. I’m 300 pages in and completely swept up once again into Kvothe’s story! I’m finding that it mimics the first book maybe a little too closely so far, but I’m excited to see the direction it goes. Will Patrick Rothfuss ever finish the third book?
I’m also loving We Are Okay, a novel that’s deep, character-driven, and introspective in a way that YA novels sometimes aren’t. I’m finding the slow pacing a great contrast to an action-packed fantasy.
I was a little hesitant to read The Star-Touched Queen. I had high hopes for Roshani Chokshi’s newest book, The Gilded Wolves, which came out earlier this year. And unfortunately, that book fell short for me.
The Star-Touched Queen takes place in two fantasy kingdoms called Bharata and Akaran. When main character Maya turns seventeen, her father, the Raja of Bharata, seeks to marry her off in her order to bring peace to his kingdom. The land of Bharata believes in horoscopes, and Maya’s horoscope speaks of death and a doomed marriage. When Maya is forced to choose a husband, she chooses a cloaked king named Amar who takes her to his strange and empty kingdom of Akaran.
The story that follows is a blend of Hades and Persephone and Beauty and the Beast.
This book claims to be YA fantasy, and despite the almost-insta-love, I found it to be so much more than that. Chokshi’s writing borders on magical realism. She blends reality with mythology in a way that might annoy or confuse some readers. But it is Neil Gaiman-esque in a way that I love. Chokshi’s writing shines in her worldbuilding, magical descriptions, and in her dialogue. Her writing is otherworldly and atmospheric.
This book is full of Indian mythology and folklore, including strange creatures and reincarnation. Chokshi weaves kingdoms together and writes dark, death-like imagery, with large sprinklings of magic throughout.
I want to give this book 5 stars, but it’s not quite there. While I was completely absorbed by the story and the world, Maya and Amar’s characters are lacking. Maya’s main characteristic is that she no longers wants to be shunned, and she wants freedom. While I like this about her, I never felt like I had a full grasp of her personality, not to mention what she wants or doesn’t want in life. While Amar is an interesting character, again, I feel like Chokshi never gives him enough of a personality.
However, this is the first book in a series, so I hope later books give Maya and Amar a chance to build into rounder characters. However, I noticed that the next books in the series don’t even focus on Maya and Amar.
I loved this book, I just wish Chokshi’s character development was better!
We are the Ants is a difficult book to explain and to “place”. This is technically “science fiction”, and I say technically because it blends reality and fantasy. I love that it defies genres! The reader is left to wonder what is real and what is not. I’d warn potential readers not to the read the book jacket copy, because I want them to enjoy the mystery and surprise.
Trigger warnings for self harm, sexual assault, and suicide. This is a BIG part of the book so please don’t read this if that’s something too close to home.
I felt such a connection to the characters, particularly the narrator and protagonist, Henry, a teenage boy who is faced with a big decision: should he save the world or allow it to be destroyed? When we meet him, he’s overcome with grief over losing his boyfriend. I was so invested in his story as he comes to terms with his grief and mental instability and battles many forms of bullying and harassment. Henry’s grief and mental health manifests itself in a totally original way that I thought worked so well.
This is also just “angsty” enough to be believable but not shallow or stereotypical in any way, a problem I sometimes have “drama” in YA. We are the Ants depicts horrific reality of mental health. This book doesn’t shy away from critically examining the demands our society has on teenagers. The amazing part is that Hutchinson explores all these themes through the unique lens of alien abduction and the impending apocalypse.
We are the Ants is one of the best YA novels I’ve read in awhile! I highly recommend it!
I was hesitant to read this. I put it on hold at the library so I would have time to think about it for a while, and a month later, I got an email that I could pick it up. And I decided, you know what? Why not!
For those of you who don’t know, last year, my lung spontaneously partially collapsed twice, a couple months apart. After the second one, I had surgery to adhere my lung to my chest wall so that it won’t ever happen again. But because of this, Five Feet Apart was super relatable for me. I found myself knowing how horrible it is not to be able to breathe, to literally feel your lung keep you from taking a deep breath as it fills your body with pain.
That being said, I do not have cystic fibrosis, and I can’t begin to know what it feels like to have a terminal illness. But this book brought back a lot of memories and feelings, and I identified with parts of Stella and Will’s ordeal.
Now, onto the review. I don’t have much to stay about the book other than well done. This is definitely this generation’s The Fault In Our Stars. The story is told from two different perspectives: Stella’s and Will’s. I love alternating POV’s and I found it worked really well for the story. And while I wasn’t a huge fan of Stella or Will’s characters at the beginning, I really enjoyed their journeys and their full character arcs by the end.
The writing style is very conversational. I enjoyed how the authors had the characters use so much modern technology because it felt very true to people/teenagers in real life. I will say that yes, parts of this book are cheesy, and yes, I guessed the ending halfway through. But Stella and Will’s relationship moves at an appropriate pace. I liked all of the characters’ backstories and motivations.
All in all, I think this is a solid YA read that achieves awareness of cystic fibrosis while telling a good story. I’m excited to watch the movie!