It’s that time of the year when I go all “but where has the year gone” etc. You know the drill. This year, I started commuting pretty much 5 hours a day and that means I read SO MUCH. And I read SO MUCH MORE than I actually had a chance to review here. SO I am going to do a listicle here with mini-reviews of the book mountain I read but never got around to reviewing.
The Cold is in her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale – A YA novel that was marketed as “inspired by the myth of Medusa” but beyond the story having oppressed girls and snakes in it, I thought it was so far away from the original legend as to be disappointing. With that said, I enjoyed it for what it actually was: a book about the horrors of patriarchy and about cursed girls with snakes in their hair fighting to find a place in the world.
There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool – “A prince exiled from his kingdom. A ruthless killer known as the Pale Hand. A once-faithful leader torn between his duty and his heart. A reckless gambler with the power to find anything or anyone. And a dying girl on the verge of giving up.” Now, THIS was an amazing read and I am surprised I didn’t see more people talking it up. In fact, it may well be one of my top 10 of the year, it subverts every possible trope of epic fantasy YA, it has tons of queer characters, I never knew what the story was going to throw at me and I just loved all five main characters a lot.
Riverland by Fran Wilde – This one is a MG book about two sisters who discover a river under their bed that takes them to a different world. There they discover the power of stories to get through the trauma and fear of living with abusive parents. Beautiful and harrowing– I lived in fear for the girls’ lives but am glad to report they find the help and support they need in really realistic ways.
The Long Ride by Marina Budhos – I read this lovely book so I could write a feature about the author for Kirkus (which you can read here). Based on a true story about middle schoolers who were bused from Queens to a school one hour away in the 70s. It is a story about belonging, identity and inclusivity following three mixed-race best friends Jamila, Josie and Francesca. Reminded me a lot of Rita Williams-Garcia books too.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – I was so confused because I have seen so many people referring to Rebecca as a romance to wit: NO. NOPE HAHAHAHA. HELLO NO. It is a horror story about two self-involved sociopaths, the unnamed narrator who doesn’t care her husband was a wife-murderer and the aforementioned wife-murderer. I loved it because it was so fucked-up and a super great story about unreliable narrators with a girl who becomes so obsessed with another woman she creates this whole thing in her mind. I joke but I am not lying.
Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols – This book gave me a bit of whiplash, it was all over the place. It had a really cool premise too: astronaut lady is the only one of her crew to survive SOMETHING she doesn’t recall and comes back to Earth years after everybody thought she was dead. Her husband has moved on, her daughter is a teen and as she tried to readapt to life, she keeps getting blackouts. So, part Science Fiction, part Horror, then it becomes an out-of-nowhere romance then it becomes a rush to find out the mystery behind actual first contact, with a super easy fix for an ENORMOUSLY COMPLICATED problem. It started really well but was very uneven.
Soon by Lois Murphy – A horror novelset in a small Australian town, where a mist attacks people, but only at night and only if you are outside your house. The story opens with only a handful of people still living there, pretty much everybody else is either dead or left. And here is the thing: the three main characters, the only ones left and our heroes, stayed behind only because they are three elderly, retired people who can’t AFFORD to leave. So this is a horror story about CAPITALISM and even though it made me uncomfortable to read it from the perspective of an older white dude with his white dudey thoughts, I thought it was a surprising, inspiring take on an old trope. And with a banging ending.
All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell – TW: Rape. Based on the author’s own experience, this book was a difficult one to read but ultimately hopeful and rewarding. Ava is a child rape survivor still struggling with what happened to her years ago, trying to find a way forward while falling in love with a girl. One day she finds the body of a girl in the woods and the rest is left best to be recounted by herself. Her narrative is candid and brave and gosh, there is a graphic masturbation scene that is masterful: both in how it is a frank scene about something that is considered taboo but also in how it approaches Ava’s PTSD.
Minor Mage by T.Kingfisher – This was so MUCH FUN. I love Kingfisher’s books and this one was about a 12-year-old boy who is only a minor mage knowing three or four spells but who is nonetheless told by his little village that he needs to go off on his own (or rather, with his familiar armadillo) to find some rain. There are of course, terrible and fatal dangers on the way and a lot of feelings to work through (were the villagers FAIR in sending off a LITTLE BOY on this dangerous adventure?). This reminded me a lot of Diana Wynne Jones!
Top Marks Murder by Robin Stevens – Woe is me. This is the second to last book in the Wong and Wells series and I am NOT READY TO SAY GOODBYE TO HAZEL AND DAISY. I am simply not. This book sees the girls back at Deepdean where together with their friends they need to unveil a new murderer who attacks within the school. Another delightful entry in the series, one that shows how much – and how fast – the girls have grown up and how the adults around them are finally, paying attention and paying respect.
I think this is it now, for the year, from us. Taking a mini-break to relax and well, read more.
Happy holidays and see you in 2020!
Shelleyrae @ Book’d OutDecember 20, 2019 at 6:36 am
Gosh that a long commute, especially in the UK! At least you can enjoy reading.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Emma @ Miss PrintDecember 20, 2019 at 3:18 pm
See, I liked There Will Come a Darkness but have actually been surprised by the attention it’s gotten (especially the Morris Award shortlist) as it didn’t strike me as an exceptional read so much as a fun read.
AnaDecember 23, 2019 at 6:18 am
@Emma – how funny!!! Seeing it getting a Morris Awards nod was cool to me.
@Shelleyrae – Happy holidays to you too!
basketballDecember 27, 2019 at 4:13 am
Her husband has moved on, her daughter is a teen and as she tried to readapt to life, she keeps getting blackouts..
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Anne SimonotJanuary 9, 2020 at 8:26 pm
I really enjoyed Vessel but have to agree with the points you made about it. Especially how easily her “problem” gets fixed. Still, I’ll be looking for the sequel, if there is one.
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StephanieJanuary 26, 2020 at 7:05 pm
Thank you for all your fabulous reviews! Only warning I’d add to There Will Come A Darkness – it’s the first of a trilogy, which was a serious blow when I got to the end and hit a massive cliffhanger. And a whole eight months until the next one comes out, I won’t be able to stand it!
legendMarch 1, 2020 at 11:56 am
catch your FB videos live, so I often open tabs to remind myself to watch them on replay when I get a chance. It will be SO very nice to have an archive here— and still photos for reference! Hooray! Thank you! (P.S. I’m so excited to see you blogging again :))
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Johnson MayMarch 17, 2020 at 4:13 pm
Love these book recs! I’ve read a couple, but I’m glad to add to my list.
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Body CheckupApril 6, 2020 at 4:23 pm
This was so MUCH FUN. I love Kingfisher’s books and this one was about a 12-year-old boy who is only a minor mage knowing three or four spells but who is nonetheless told by his little village that he needs to go off on his own (or rather, with his familiar armadillo) to find some rain.
Reading Round-Up: Lots of Books – Tremendous Life BooksMay 3, 2020 at 6:59 am
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caleigh toyJuly 28, 2020 at 3:59 am
This year, I started commuting pretty much 5 hours a day and that means I read SO MUCH. And I read SO MUCH MORE than I actually had a chance to review here. https://friv2020.io
Alice PriceOctober 16, 2020 at 10:11 am
Riverland is far the best book I have ever read second by The Kite Rinner https://abc.com
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