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!