End of Year round-up
Number of new books read this year: 93
Number of books reread this year: 12
Number of books by women, trans, and nonbinary people read this year (only including new books read): 74
Number of books by BIPOC read this year (only including new books read): 35
Breakdown by genre:
–Fiction: 70 (fantasy: 26; literary fiction: 10; historical fiction: 9; romance: 7; non-fantasy YA: 6; mythology: 4; fairytales: 2; science fiction: 2; supernatural: 1; mystery: 1; children’s literature: 1; classics: 1)
–Nonfiction: 15 (memoir: 4; science: 4; history and culture: 2; self-help: 2; autobiography: 1; essays: 1; anthropology: 1)
–Graphic novel: 3 (fantasy: 3)
–Short story collection: 1
–Poetry: 4 (novel in verse: 2; book of poems: 2)
First book of the year: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Last book of the year: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
Best books of the year (in no particular order):
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy
The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Infinite Country by Patricia Engle
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divinia by Zoraída Córdova
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (review below)
Transcendent Kingdom (review below)
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (review below)
December New Books Read
Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo***
Book Hangover Alert**
King of Scars Duology book 2 of 2, Grishaverse
CW: body dysmorphia, reference to sexual assault, suicide, war, violence, grief, death, racism
The second King of Scars book! Loved it! I won’t say much about this one because I don’t want to give any spoilers. There was one death I felt like was unnecessary and I was pretty mad about it. I am a big fan of how Bardugo writes her male characters. I saw a TikTok about how Kaz is a male character written for the female gaze and I think the same can be said for Nikolai. I would go more into that but spoilers. I loved that we got to spend more time with characters we know and love from other Grishaverse books. Will there be more after this one??? I think the answer is probably yes.
4.5/5 charming thieves
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: n-word, anti-black racism, AIDS epidemic, body dysmorphia, lynching, domestic abuse/violence, transphobia , sexual assault, colorism
Stunning. I loved it. Just last month I read Passing by Nella Larsen which is a Harlem Renaissance classic that addresses the subject of passing and colorism so it was interesting to read The Vanishing Half right after. I loved how Bennett developed each of her characters. They were each so nuanced and distinct and flawed. I loved the bittersweetness of the whole story and how there wasn’t a neat resolution–even though some part of me wanted a neat resolution, I think that wouldn’t have felt as true. I also loved Jude and Reece’s relationship and how Bennett explored LGBTQ+ relationships and identity in the 1970s without that being the main focus.
5/5 long lost sisters
The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo***
CW: racial microagressions
I keep saying on this blog that I don’t read many romance books but I guess I read 7, which was my 4th largest fiction subcategory this year. I didn’t love this one, but it wasn’t bad. I thought the most interesting parts of the story were the relationships Hannah, the main character, explored with her father’s family as she got to know them, and how she learned to connect with her Nigerian culture. I wasn’t really that into the love interest and I almost didn’t even need that plot line. I loved the way Hannah came to self-acceptance and love by the end of the story. I guess I would have appreciated a little more Nigerian culture. Hannah didn’t really get to do any real sightseeing in Lagos other than visiting the slum Lawrence is from. The socialist in me also feels like the Jolade family could be doing more charitable work. They mention a scholarship program for kids in the slum, but considering how rich they are, it does seem like they could be doing a bit more, or be a little more self-aware about the vast economic inequality. And Hannah, being someone from a less privileged background and someone for whom charity and volunteering is so important, I felt should have explored that more. Also, just to nitpick, why did Igharo have to keep using the words “flapping” eyelids or eyelashes? Just say blinking. Ew.
3/5 also long lost sisters
The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker***
Keeper of Night Duology Book 1
CW: racism, body horror, gore, gruesome death of an animal, death
I was really intrigued by the fantasy world Baker created based on Japanese mythology. I loved the idea of the Reapers and the Shinigami and how different cultures deal with death. I also liked the exploration of the two sides of the protagonist’s identity (British and Japanese) as she tries to find belonging, though I do think that even more exploration would have been better. I was disappointed by the characters. Overall they were pretty one-dimensional and the author’s efforts to make them morally gray, while interesting, ended up just making them unlikable. Ren, the protagonist, also doesn’t really change by the end of the book. She has one moment where she realizes the error of her ways, but no real change in her character happens. It also made me think a lot about Paulo Freire’s quote, “The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors,” from The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I know this book is the first in a duology, but I would have liked to see Ren move from oppressed to oppressor to liberated. Instead she only makes it to oppressor and I don’t feel like I liked the book enough to read the second one and find out if she develops any more.
3/5 nine-tailed foxes
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: addiction, depression, suicide attempt, n-word, anti-black racism, animal testing (scientific)
I loved Gyasi’s first book, Homegoing, so I was really excited to read this one. It was so beautiful. I love her writing style. This book was quiet and contemplative, exploring the protagonist’s effort to reconcile her religious upbringing with her scientific work, and through that understanding, then come to terms with the loss of her brother and her relationship with her mother.
5/5 Ensure addicted mice
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: homophobia, sexism, AIDS epidemic, alcoholism, death of family members, suicide and doctor assisted suicide, cancer
I couldn’t put this book down. I talked a little about morally gray characters in relation to The Keeper of Night and I didn’t think it was done very well in that book. Here it’s done much better. Celia and Evelyn are certainly flawed characters who sometimes make questionable choices but I was always rooting for them throughout the book. I loved reading about how the characters had to navigate their identities in relation to their careers, and I think the book addresses a lot of things that are still sometimes a bit taboo in Hollywood. The book was a gorgeous, luscious exploration of the glitz and glam of Hollywood in the 1950s-80s as well as the darker side lurking beneath.
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
Book Hangover Alert**
Throne of Glass Series book 7 of 7
CW: torture, PTSD, slavery, death, war
The glorious finale! This wasn’t my favorite book of the series but I did enjoy it and I was definitely satisfied with the ending. I did think the book was a little long and I don’t know that it was actually necessary to the plot to make the characters suffer so much before the end. I still would have been satisfied with the ending even if the characters hadn’t been tortured and driven to hopelessness. Overall a wonderful conclusion to a sweeping fantasy series.
**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.
***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read Rule of Wolves to see more LGBTQ+ representation in fantasy. Read The Vanishing Half to learn more about passing and what it’s like to juggle biracial identities. Read The Sweetest Remedy to learn about connecting with one’s roots and again juggling biracial identities. Read The Keeper of Night to learn about Japanese mythology. Read Transcendent Kingdom to enjoy one of the best African writers working today. Read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo to learn more about LGBTQ+ identities while working in Hollywood in the 1950s-80s.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.