15 Literary Fiction Books to Read in 2020

Y’all know I struggle with literary fiction, but one of my goals for 2020 is to read some more ~literary~ books. What do I mean by literary? I think the connotations of “literary” usually indicate well-written or experimental prose and a somewhat serious narrative dealing with serious, realistic topics. Or something to that effect. Not all the books on this list are hardcore literary; many, in fact, fall into that nebulous category of “upmarket” fiction – which is, as I understand it, literary fiction with a more commercial appeal. I think it’s a good mix!Read More »

Monthly Wrap-Up: December 2019

  • The Wicked King by Holly Black (★★★★★)
  • The Poison Master by Liz Williams (★★★★★)
  • The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black (★★★★★)

MONTHLY TOTAL: 3
YEARLY SO FAR: 87

A rather paltry number of books read this month, which is fine. For various reasons December was not a super productive month for me, but I’ll get into that below when I talk about some life updates. In any case, I managed to finish a series (the Folk of the Air), which felt very productive, as well as read an older fantasy novel. So, in all, though I didn’t read a lot, I’m happy with what I read.Read More »

Books I Need & Want to Re-Read

Before book blogging, I used to do a lot more re-reading. I had some staples, books that I loved and that made me feel good, that I would read once a year, or once every couple of years, including Harry Potter and the Sweep series. Now, however, there are so many books out there that a part of me can’t help but feel re-reading is a waste of my time, which is obviously ridiculous, as I’m not, like, trying to win a reading contest or anything; reading is something I do for enjoyment. But still.

In any case, the other reason I used to re-read a lot is that I have a really, really, really shoddy memory. If the book is packed with worldbuilding, as a lot of fantasy books are, that makes it even more likely that I will forget 90% of what’s going on. Given that most fantasy books are series, this becomes a problem, and it’s why I struggle to finish series unless I read them one right after the other.

Case in point: the following is a list of books I need to re-read just to be able to continue with the series. The list after that is books I really want to re-read soonish purely for enjoyment and also because they’re short and I’m certain I would get through them quickly. And finally, the last list will be books that I want to re-read at some point, also for enjoyment, but there’s no rush.


I Very Much Need to Re-Read These

Do you notice that these are ALL fantasy? The Traitor Baru Cormorant‘s sequel just came out this month, and while I remember the gist of it, I need to read it again to fully experience the sequel. The City of Brass‘s sequel comes out in January and all I remember is that I hardcore shipped two of the characters, but I’ve forgotten everything about the complex politics. Truthwitch and Monstress both have sequels sitting on my shelf, but I’m debating waiting for the whole series to finish before delving back in because they’re both pretty dense, worldbuilding wise. I have the first three books in The Diviners series on my Kindle, but I feel like I should wait for the fourth and final one? Queen of Blood and Daughter of Smoke and Bone are both done, so there’s nothing holding me back except myself, I guess.

I Would Very Much Enjoy Re-Reading These 

I have not read the sequel/companion to Simon yet, but I really just want to re-read the book purely for the joy of it. I read it in like a single night and I feel like I got through it too quickly. I wanna re-read it again knowing the big reveal. I read Saints and Misfits entirely on my phone, in ARC format, and even with that I adored it, so I want to re-read it as a book. The Beautiful Ones is one of my favorite books of all time, and I want to re-experience it’s gorgeous language more than anything else. When the Sea is Rising Red is an odd YA fantasy book that I remember adoring but don’t remember much else about. Dreams of Shreds and Tatters is a Lovecraftian horror type story and I feel like I would appreciate it and understand it way more now.

I Would Like to Re-Read These At Some Point 

I do remember I liked Uprooted, but I also remember that it was hard work to get through. As was Six of Crows and its sequel, actually. I adored The Shadowed Sun, one of Jemisin’s lesser known books, as well as The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, her debut, both of which I actually enjoy more than The Fifth Season, so I would like to read them again at some point. I read Kissing the Witch years ago and remember literally nothing about any of the stories in there. As for Pride and Prejudice, I read it in high school and remember that even then I enjoyed it, and my tastes have changed very much since then, especially regarding classics, so I really would like to read it again!


How do you guys feel about re-reading? Do you do a lot of it or are you too often seduced by brand new unread books like I am? What are the books you really want to re-read?

Gothic & Victorian Classics TBR

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When I was younger, I really hated classics and had resolved never to read them, so convinced was I of my dislike for them. Now, after having read several classics, I can’t say that I’m head over heels in love with of any of them, but I do appreciate their literary merit, so I’ve been doing my best to expand my repertoire of classic novels (I owe it all to Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which prompted my read of War and Peace). In the past two years, besides War and Peace, I’ve read Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey, Jane Eyre, and Rebecca (the only one I genuinely enjoyed, with no reservations).

Over this past year, as I’ve been writing my Fulbright application, I’ve rediscovered my teenage love for all things Gothic. I was a very emo teen, obsessed with horror and the macabre. I’m very intrigued by the Gothic literary aesthetic and all the anxieties it conveys about gender, class, race, imperialism, and much more (plus there’s so much draaaamaaaaaa). To that end, I’ve resolved to read several of the more well-known Gothic novels that have contributed to the construction of the genre. I have also rediscovered my love of the Victorian era, so I’ll also be looking to read classic books set during that time period, even if they may not be Gothic per se.

Another reason I really want to read these books is that there are a ton of modern-day novels that are based on these classics. I know that I don’t have to read the original books to enjoy the modern stories, but I would like to have that background. In another post, probably in mid-September, I’ll talk about my autumn TBR, which will consist of more modern Gothic stories!

Anyway, of course I want to share all these books with y’all, but I also want to have a super organized reference list of what I want to read; sometimes Goodreads just doesn’t cut it!


The Short & Pressing Reads

Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley: Reading this right now! Often touted as the first sci-fi novel, it is also heavily associated with Gothic lit.

The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) by H.G. Wells: This is the only book on this list that’s a bit of an outlier. It’s not really Gothic fiction, rather more sci-fi and horror, but it was written in the late Victorian era, plus there’s two (!) books I want to read soon based on it, and it’s super short. Will probably read this next!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson: This is one of the most well-known works of literature in the Western world, considering how often it’s referenced! I’ve known about it since I was a child. It is supposed to encompass the urban Gothic feel of Victorian London pretty well! Will probably read this soon!

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde: A book I want to read soon is based on this! But also, this seems to be a truly beloved classic and is hailed as one of the better, more readable Gothic novels. I really want to read this before October!

The Vampires

Carmilla (1872) by J. Sheridan LeFanu: Funny story. I was supposed to read this in a college class but I…didn’t. I need to remedy that. It’s a precursor to Dracula with lesbian undertones. Yes please!!!

Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897): Do I even need to explain? This is like…a must for anyone who wants to know anything about Gothic lit. I’ve avoided it because I’m not a huge fan of epistolary novels (a running theme in Gothic lit, joy), but it’s high-time I read it!

The Vampyre (1819) by John Polidori: Remember the ghost story competition that prompted Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein? This was one of the other short stories that competition produced. This came before pretty much any famous vampire lit in England.

The Blood of the Vampire (1897) by Florence Marryat: This novel is less well-known than its counterparts; perhaps it was overshadowed by the publication of Dracula in the very same year. It tells the tale of Harriet, daughter of a voodoo priestess and a mad scientist, who seems to sicken everyone she comes into contact with. Could she have the blood of the vampire running through her veins?

The Major Leagues

The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole: Often thought of as the very first Gothic novel, it tells the tale of Manfred, who sets out to marry his dead son’s virginal bride to be. It’s supposed to be super weird and super creepy and it’s the novel equivalent of the FIRST!!1! comment.

The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) by Ann Radcliffe: Otranto and Udolpho go hand in hand; if Walpole “invented” the Gothic, Radcliffe both perfected it and popularized it. This gigantic book tells the tale of young orphan Emily, who is trapped in a strange castle with an unwanted suitor and various other terrors.

Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) by Charles Maturin: Another massive book, it tells the tale of Melmoth, who has sold his soul to the devil in exchange for added life. Now he wanders the earth, desperate to find someone who will take over the covenant he made. Written by an Irish clergyman, Melmoth the Wanderer is a series of stories within stories that gradually reveal Melmoth’s life that supposedly ups the macabre and horror in the Gothic genre.

The Monk (1796) by Matthew Lewis: This trails Otranto and Udolpho as one of the major classics of Gothic lit. It’s filled with macabre and disturbing things like murder and incest, all about a monk who succumbs to temptation.

Foreign Lands

 The Italian (1797) by Ann Radcliffe: The mother of a young Italian nobleman is dead-set against the woman he wants to marry, and so she enlists a demonic, scheming monk to put a stop to the engagement, and he is willing to resort to all manner of horrific deeds to accomplish the task. Sounds sensational! Takes place in Italy.

Zofloya or the Moor (1806) by Charlotte Dacre: A tale of the downfall of a woman whose vices apparently exceed that of The Monk! One of those vices is her attraction to her Moorish servant. Lust! Revenge! Murder! Racism! Adultery! Satan! Rage! All the classic hallmarks of the Gothic tale. Takes place in Venice.

The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) by Eliza Parsons: So this actually predates both Udolpho and The Monk, but is not nearly as well-known as either of them. It’s about a young girl trapped in her menacing uncle’s castle, which hides a terrible secret about his wife. Takes place in Germany.

Vathek (1786) by William Beckford: Probably chock-full of Orientalist nonsense, this book is about a Caliph who makes a terrible deal to sacrifice everything for power, culminating in a nasty fate. It’s weird, it’s obscure, it’s grotesque, it inspired Byron and Lovecraft. Takes place in…the Middle East?? Somewhere?

Frightening & Frightened Women 

Lady Audley’s Secret (1862) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon: Possibly more Victorian than Gothic, this highly sensational novel features an alluring female villain who has a secret that threatens the very fabric of Victorian society!!! Melodramatic and probably underwhelming to modern readers? Most likely. Do I still want to read it? Definitely.

The Turn of the Screw (1898) by Henry James: A very famous story about a governess who is haunted by some phantom specter who seems determined to steal the children, who don’t seem to be frightened of whatever it is. Very classic! I know literally nothing else about this book.

Uncle Silas (1864) by J. Sheridan Le Fanu: Part Gothic tale, part psychological thriller, this book is about young orphaned Maud, whose devious uncle plots to kill her and steal her fortune. Supposedly very disturbing and atmospheric and well-known in Gothic circles.

The Woman in White (1869) by Wilkie Collins: Another well-known classic, one I always confuse with Turn of the Screw for some reason! I have literally no clue what this book is about except it involves a ghost woman dressed in white. Also it’s long, but I will persevere.


This post took SO LONG to construct, omg. Do come talk to me about these books! What are your favorite Gothic tales? Which Gothic books do you most want to read? Are there any modern adaptations of these classics that you love and adore? Isn’t the 19th century fun??

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Cover Buys

top-5-tuesday

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm. This week’s topic:

FEBRUARY 6TH – Top 5 Cover Buys

Now, I don’t actually buy a ton of books, so I just talked about the books that I added to my TBR because of their cover. Not just because of their cover, though – their summaries enticed me to, but the major draw was the cover.  I…kind of overdid this a bit, since I have nine and not five books, but oh well. Pretty covers and all.

Does anyone see the pattern? Because I sure do! It seems I love really detailed, busy covers with a ton of color and pattern-work.  I think the exception is The Crimson Ribbon? I especially love it if covers are bordered in the corners (I’m sure there’s a word for this), like Under the Pendulum Sun (the only book here I actually own, purchased without reading the summary, because THAT COVER), Jane Steele, A Curious Beginning, and Beast.

Don’t get me wrong; I sometimes like simple, minimalist designs as well, but there’s just something about this style that makes me feel like the artist is taking full advantage of the fact that they’re, well, an artists.  You know? Pretty much anyone can make a decent minimalist cover design, but these covers here take some serious skill.

P.S. I have to give a shout-out to The City of Brass and the two books in the Dreamblood Duology.  They don’t really match the style I discussed above, but they’re absolutely gorgeous and take some serious artistic skill too.


P.P.S.
If I ever get a book published and I get to have some say over the cover, I’m showing them this post.

The Writer’s Tag

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Nobody tagged me for this, but I saw it on Reading Every Night and thought it looked like fun! I’ve been writing a lot more recently.  Not only has the quality of my writing improved, but so have my habits. I’ve become more at ease with the kind of writer I am and what works for me.

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

I write mostly fantasy! I tend to flit between YA and Adult, or fall in that nebulous category right in between, but usually it’s fantasy. Although I do have one women’s fiction/romance work that’s hidden deep within the recesses of my laptop and shall not be seen by any human eyes for a long, long time, if ever.

A lot of the topics I write are things that I want to see in books, so, female friendships, lots and lots of female characters, f/f relationships, men and women being friends and just friends, diverse characters, non-western fantasy settings, women who are not defined by romance, trope subversion, and lots of magic.


How long have you been writing?

For a while! I wrote my first completed short story when I was…twelve, I think? It was a murder mystery called “Jealousy Can Be Murder.” It had a cover page with Microsoft Word images. It was really, really terrible. Right around the same time I started writing Inuyasha and Harry Potter fanfiction.


Why do you write?

I love creating different world and different characters. But I also need to write, because if I don’t, my head gets so cluttered with different thoughts and plots and people that I can hardly think straight. I daydream a lot, and a lot of those daydreams turn into my stories. If I don’t get them on paper, they drive me insane.


When is the best time to write?

There’s never one specific time; it really depends on my mood. Sometimes I’ll be all fancy and go to a nice coffee shop (rarely), but most of the time I’m just sneaking in time to write whenever I can. Usually it’s during my free time at work. Sometimes it’s weekend evenings when the house is quiet.  Sometimes it’s at night after I’ve come home from work. I’ve found that it’s good to write whenever and wherever and not tie it down to a certain aesthetic or anything.


What parts of writing do you love and hate?

The parts of writing I love are…

  • Creating new characters and giving them names and descriptions and personas
  • Creating maps of new worlds and world-building in general
  • The initial burst of energy and inspiration when I can’t stop writing
  • Making pretty sentences

The parts of writing I hate are…

  • Plotting.  I loathe plotting and I always worry that I’m terrible at it. There’s just so much thought that needs to go into plotting, you know? It’s like, is there enough conflict? Do the characters have realized arcs that mesh with the plot? Is there an inciting incident, climax, etc? Is it interesting enough? Is it fast-paced? Is there a twist? Where’s the twist? Is the twist shocking enough? Does everything make sense? It’s obviously the crux of the novel but I’m so insecure about it.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Whenever I’m “blocked” it’s usually just because I’m stuck with something to do with the plot. This usually comes in the outline stage, since I’ve discovered I don’t like to start writing unless I have a completed outline. Anyway, whenever this happens, I either go read another book to get some inspiration or try to find inspiration from something else. Pinterest is great for that.


Are you working on something at the moment?

I’m working on many things! I have a fantasy WIP that I’m pretty serious about; it’s fully outlined and I’m halfway done writing it. Once I’ve edited it I want to start querying for agents with it, so fingers crossed. I have a bunch of other WIP novels in the works, and also a bunch of short stories.


What are your writing goals this year?

  1. Finish my current WIP, edit it, and start querying.
  2. Finish the two short stories I’ve been working on since forever.
  3. Outline another WIP.

I don’t quite know who to tag (I suck at tagging anyway), but if obviously if you feel like doing this, go forth, and pingback to me so I can read your answers!