I still have two books to finish for this year, but neither of them is going to become a least favorite of the year, so I thought I would get this post out of the way now! As always, this is not meant to be an objective list; none of these books are objectively “bad” but I just didn’t jive with them for whatever reason. They are…very loosely organized in order from ones I disliked least to ones I disliked most. Continue reading “Most Disappointing Books of 2019”
I haven’t done any kind of book tag in forever but this one is just short and simple enough for me to tackle, so here goes! Continue reading “End of Year Book Tag”
This is a compilation of all the things that I’ve enjoyed in my year, like music, television, films, and actors. Now that I have an entire blog dedicated to talking about books, I hardly need to include that in the scrapbook, but I still wanted to include my other new discoveries! I’m certainly not including every single thing I watched or listened to, only the things I want to remember. I always have such great fun doing this virtual scrapbook, and it’s nice to look back on it and remember what I enjoyed in particular years. Continue reading “2018 Scrapbook”
I read 92 books this year, the closest to 100 books a year that I have ever gotten in my adult life!!! It’s been quite interesting, as I’ve tried several new genres and some of my faves are quite surprising! So let’s get started!
Honorable mentions, in no particular order, include: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Freshwater by Akwake Emezi, Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott, Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills, One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus, Policing Egyptian Women: Sex, Law, and Medicine in Khedival Egypt by Liat Kozma, A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena, and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor.
And now for the countdown!!!
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: This is a spellbinding, gorgeously written book that takes various elements of the Rumpelstiltskin story and weaves it into an enchanting winter tale. Though slow-paced, it is never dull, and is told in multiple different perspectives, each of which has its own unique voice. The romances in this book are subtle and oh-so-slowburn.
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand: This little horror story is written so viscerally that it will make shivers crawl down your spine. I couldn’t even formulate a proper review for this because I loved it so much. It’s incredibly atmospheric and does a superb job balancing cosmic horror with modern-day teen friendships. And it’s sapphic.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: This is one of the best fantasy books of the year. It features superb worldbuilding and a plot heavy on war and military drama, and yet it’s incredibly fast-paced. Its main character is one of the best female heroines (or anti-heroines) I’ve seen in a long time. The magic system is innovative. It’s a dark book that doesn’t shy away from depicting horrific violence and its effect on people.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: This was such a surprise. I never expected to love this book, because it’s so outside of what I usually like. It’s a contemporary bildungsroman featuring a male character. But it turned out to be a darkly comedic and even absurd story interspersed with real tragedy. It’s also incredibly compelling despite its oddly episode plot structure; I couldn’t put it down.
Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer: I’ll just quote from my original review: “This book cleared my skin, harvested my crops, nourished my soul, and added ten years to my lifespan. It simultaneously defied all of my expectations and yet gave me everything I wanted anyway.” It’s basically lesbians and demonic cults in Victorian London, superbly written and twisty. It’s so much fun and I absolutely adored it. And that cover, Lord.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell: This book is everything I ever wanted from a neo-Victorian Gothic horror novel. It’s gorgeously written, atmospheric, female-led, truly creepy, and features witchery, semi-demonic entities, supernatural forces, gruesome murders, and shocking family secrets. And I couldn’t put it down.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio: This was one of the first books I read in 2018, and that it’s stuck with me till now says a lot, especially considering this is not my usual genre. This is such an emotive book; it was definitely an emotional rollercoaster for me. The prose is gorgeous and rich, creating an autumnal, claustrophobic atmosphere that ensnared me. And surprisingly, it touches on the havoc wreaked by toxic masculinity and winds up subverting the reader’s normative expectations. It’s quite a delightful surprise.
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber: This gargantuan historical fiction tome is a neo-Victorian classic with an unusual narrative device that shatters the fourth wall. With a 19-year-old prostitute as its linchpin, it is brimming with period details; it mimics Victorian novels not only in its narrative form but in its style and content as well. 19th-century London comes roaring to life in this novel. It’s also surprisingly hilarious and compelling; it’s over 800 pages but I couldn’t put it down. And with so many hat tips and allusions to Victorian literature, it feels like a love letter to the entire period.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: For me, this is the biggest surprise of the year. I mean, a literary fiction novel coming in at second place?? But this book absolutely destroyed me. It made me feel so strongly in a way that few books do. A modern-day retelling of Antigone set in England with an all-Muslim cast of characters, it is a nuanced examination of the effects of Islamophobia, corrupt states, imperialism, and alienation. The writing is quietly beautiful. And then there’s the ending. The ending of Home Fire is probably the most memorable, tragic, beautiful, and fitting ending I’ve ever read. It fucking wrecked me.
Godsgrave (and Nevernight) by Jay Kristoff: Do you know the sort of book that just makes you happy to read? Like you genuinely look forward to when you can sink back into the world because it just fills you with indescribable joy? That was Godsgrave for me; I legit looked forward to my commute and didn’t want it to end so that I could keep reading. This is such a strange fantasy series in many ways: it’s written weird, it has footnotes, and it’s really, really funny (and dark, too, quite dark, but also funny). But what sets it apart for me is its worldbuilding, which is so very dense and rich with minute details. Not only is our main character fantastic, but the series is full of minor characters with their own arcs and vivid personas, and there’s an amazing f/f relationship!!! Honestly, this is just such a thrilling book (and series) that I could just gush about it forever, but I’ll stop now.
For whatever reason, the books below just didn’t jive with me. Some I disliked intensely, some I was very meh about, and some I just expected way more from. And the countdown begins:
10. JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte: It took me months to read this book. I appreciate its literary significance and I liked Jane’s character, but I found it way too long and incredibly boring. I didn’t get any sense of Gothic atmosphere and there were literally only like (2) scenes where I felt genuine enjoyment. I also found the writing needlessly overwrought.
9. THE WICKED COMETH by Laura Carlin: Ugh, I wanted so much more from this. It was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. It’s a neo-Victorian lesbian thriller and yet it manages to be one of the driest, most soulless books I’ve ever encountered. Neither of the heroines had any hint of personality and the plot was ridiculous. It was such a slog to get through.
8. CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi: I found this book to be aggressively mediocre. It’s got intriguing worldbuilding, but its plot and characters fell completely flat for me. I had a lot of issues with the way it incorporated trope after trope without doing anything new or different. It also read more middle grade than young adult, which was jarring when the themes were so adult. And the writing was…not great, to put it mildly.
7. STALKING JACK THE RIPPER by Kerri Maniscalco: I so wanted to like this purportedly Gothic YA thriller. It started out okay, but for a short book, it’s really slow-paced and could not hold my interest. And the heroine read like a college girl from 2018 inexplicably transported to the Victorian era.
6. THE WICKED DEEP by Shea Earnshaw: This book was just really, really bland and utterly forgettable. What should have been a tense, creepy tale about witches turned out to be a sappy romance that I didn’t care about. It’s also very slow, with almost nothing happening for the first three-quarters of the book.
5. ONLY HUMAN by Sylvain Neuvel: This is the conclusion to the Sleeping Gods trilogy, and I have to say that my reading trajectory for the series went totally downhill for me. I really enjoyed the first book, was lukewarm about the second, and really did not like the third. I feel like it went completely off the rails here, with the plot veering into really weird territory. And it was boring.
4. THE PISCES by Melissa Broder: I enjoyed the merman storyline in this book but hated everything else. This is very much a “it’s me not you” situation, though. From the first page this book is viscerally crude and gritty. I felt like it was trying too hard to be lurid or ~edgy or whatever and in the end it just made my skin crawl with how deeply unpleasant and depressing it all was. Which is a shame, because I really enjoyed the mythological aspects, but in the end all the weird sordid details of the heroine’s life ruined it for me.
3. SOMETIMES I LIE by Alice Feeney: So many dream sequences. The heroine is in a coma for most of the book and so much of it is just nonsensical pontificating and dreams. The characters made no sense. The twist was cool, I guess, but it was overshadowed by a bunch of other really weird and ridiculous twists. In the end I was just really, really annoyed by this book.
2. WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart: This is a book that relies entirely upon its final twist, so when that twist is ridiculous, the entire thing falls apart. Nothing happens in this book aside from the main character trying to remember what happened to her, with little plot or clear progression of events. The final twist was a complete disappointment. This book was a complete waste of time.
1. AN UNWANTED GUEST by Shari Lapena: I really hated this book, because it had the potential to be great! It’s a locked room mystery, but the writing is awful. This is some of the worst writing I’ve ever seen. It’s clumsy and awkward and stiff. The dialogue is corny and melodramatic. And it’s boring as hell.