Posted in Books

My Favorite Books of 2019

I meant to publish this yesterday for Top Ten Tuesday.

Instead, after three family Christmases and a miserable four-hour ride in a cramped truck, I stayed in bed and read all day.

As a consequence, some last-minute books snuck their way onto my Top 10 list.

It’s a Cinderella story and a plot twist all in one!

2019

Texts From Jane Eyre and Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Daniel M. Lavery*

I liked this book enough to gift copies to my friends.

The Little Women conversation was very gratifying. I felt seen.

Laurie + Jo or Single Jo. These are the only options.

Get Friedrich out of here.

 

* Lavery initially published this book under a name he no longer uses, hence the lack of accompanying book image.

 

Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey

Magic for Liars

Technically, I finished this at 12:45 AM on January 1st, 2020.

Since I read the bulk of it in 2019, I’m counting this as a 2019 read.

I appreciated this book so much.

So many books I read have interesting premises but no soul.

This book had a lot of feelings in a world that I didn’t want to leave.

I know I read this on the LAST DAY of 2019, so recency theory is at play, but this book had one of my favorite endings of the year.

Bittersweet, just the way I like it.

Also…THERE WAS A BI BOI. Or a pan boi.

Either way, a NON-MONO BOI.

 

How to Be Alone (If You Want to and Even If You Don’t) by Lane Moore

img_1002

This book touched some really deep places in me.

It gave me closure for an awful 2017 friend breakup that I hadn’t been able to process.

I am forever grateful.

 

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Laura Dean

I don’t want to oversell one of the plot twists, but…

…I SCREAMED.

I read a lot of great graphic novels in 2019. This was the best one.

The emotional honesty was really refreshing.

 

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

(CW: rape, sexual assault)

Stars

I had to lock my feelings about this book in a box and put them away. Otherwise, I would not have been able to function.

This book has nuance and commentary and excellent representation.

It’s heartbreaking and so well-done.

This book gave me the words I needed to come out, so of course it’s going on the list.

 

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper

(CW: racism, rape, misogynoir)

Eloquent Rage

Every single one of the sentences in this book is a gorgeous work of art.

I finished this book very recently and I’m struggling to verbalize the impression it left.

All I can say is, “Wow.”

If you want a comprehensive understanding of intersectionality, this is your book.

 

Astro Poets: Your Guides to the Zodiac by Alex Dimitrov and Dorothea Lasky

Astro Poets

I chose a number of “fun” books for this list because they made me laugh and provided a helpful distraction.

Dimitrov and Lasky gave me a joyful breakdown of the zodiac, which was what I needed after the chaos of NaNoWriMo.

This book was fun and fast and helpful. It earned a spot on my “Nonfiction/Reference” shelf.

 

In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado

(CW: physical and emotional abuse)

In the Dream House

Super ambitious, very well done.

I’ve never read a memoir in this style; Machado killed it.

This book was creative without being gimmicky and very brave in its content.

I am in love with the writing style.

 

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

RWRB

WHAT DO I EVEN SAY??

This book covered a lot of territory, but it did it right!

The ending ACTUALLY made me weep. I WAS NOT EXPECTING THIS.

This book gave me so much hope for 2020.

My heart is full.

 

Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson

TYSI

This is the only new favorite I reread this year.

The rep is SO GOOD.

The anxiety rep is really moving, but what really got me was the on-the-page demisexual rep.

Johnson likened demisexual attraction to turning on a dimmer switch, which made me cheer. Yes! Accurate! This is how it feels!

Then Martin the Surprise Bi described his attraction to different genders and I loved it. More bi bois!

I’m so glad this book came out.

2019

That’s my list. I’ll have more 2019 posts coming in the next few days.

See y’all later. I’m off to watch Cats.

Posted in Books

BOOK REVIEW: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

The premise: At the start of the book, fraternal twins Noah and Jude are best friends despite being opposites; Noah is shy, likes to draw, and folds in on himself, while Jude is more outgoing, feels comfortable around others (especially boys), and prefers making sculptures. Three years later, the two no longer speak and have almost switched personalities: Jude is on a boy boycott and Noah is now popular and athletic. Both are miserable. Told in alternating perspectives chronicling the past and the present, the twins figure out how to love their messed-up family, each other, and themselves.

Go buy a copy of this book immediately. Immediately.

I’m always amazed by Jandy Nelson’s writing. She is full-stop, italicized-and-underlined, jaw-drop, face-plant awesome.

She’s better at expressing emotions than I am at verbalizing them. She nails the most obscure emotions by writing off-the-wall descriptions about planets or moons or flying into the ceiling. When I read her books, I feel everything her characters feel and more without having to be persuaded. And she makes it seem easy (it’s not).

To be honest, it took me a while to get into this book, which starts in Noah’s perspective. Being in Noah’s head is so bizarre I thought for a while he had synesthesia. Despite its weirdness, the first chapter sets up Noah’s odd worldview and his family dynamics.

Then Jude’s chapter–taking place three years later–hits and everything is terrible.

After the time skip, Noah and Jude’s worlds are drastically different. I was shocked that so much happened so quickly without knowing why. The book’s organization sets up an intriguing mystery that lets readers slowly piece together exactly what went wrong with Noah and Jude’s family.

Nelson’s writing benefits from having two drastically different narrators. It was fascinating to see how each twin dealt with romance and grief and to compare their differing–and often faulty–perspectives on the same events. The title comes from a game invented by the highly competitive twins where they divide up the world–Noah takes the oceans but keeps the flowers, Jude keeps everything but gives up the sun, etc. The game underscores their complicated relationship; the twins love each other and have fun together, but always with an underlying spirit of intense competition.

The twins make poor decisions yet remain likeable. In other books, I can be overwhelmed by the amount of tension and conflict. Every event in this book contributed to the tension, ruining relationships and sometimes killing characters, but nothing that happened felt unnecessary. Each thing that happened tied into the eventual conclusion, leading to satisfying resolutions to every plot thread.

The plot thread that stuck out to me was Noah’s relationship with his dad. Gay, artistic, and sensitive, Noah has never felt accepted by his sports-loving father. In the latter half of the timeline, they bond over animal documentaries and tennis. Noah is both elated and worried that their fragile peace will be ruined when he comes out of the closet. Of all the storylines–romance included–this one was my favorite because it was treated with such delicacy. Noah’s dad isn’t a bad guy–he’s just a stranger in his own family, at a loss at how to interact with his two gifted kids. The culmination of Noah’s coming out story provided one of my favorite endings in recent YA history.

This is a book I want everyone to read and talk about, and one that has earned a spot on my shelf. Here’s a list of instructions inspired by one of the books best quotes:

  1. Buy this book.
  2. Read it.
  3. Make a wish.
  4. Take a (second or third or fourth) chance.
  5. Remake the world.
Posted in Books

MAKE-YOU-CRY MONDAY: Ronan Lynch

Let’s talk about book characters, shall we.

I’m going to straight up spoil all of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, so ye be warned.

Ronan Lynch is hands down my favorite Raven boy. Here are some of the things Ronan has to worry about:

  • His father was murdered and Ronan was the one to find the body
  • He’s been banished from his childhood home and forbidden from seeing his mother
  • He’s plagued by nightmares and has the power to bring the creatures in his dreams back with him
  • His older brother hates him and is always on his case

If that wasn’t enough angst for one, person

  • He’s gay, in love with his presumed enemy, and harassed by a homophobic acquaintance

I might be in love with Ronan’s pain. I identify with characters who have a lot of self-loathing. Ronan perfectly embodies what it’s like to carry this guilt and self-hatred without coming across as whiny. He’s also brutally honest and really funny – the series’ best scenes have something to do with him.

The following is a scene from The Dream Thieves that made me cheer when I read it. After Ronan’s younger brother is kidnapped, Ronan tries to bring back a dream creature capable of defeating the unstable Kavinsky. My favorite lines are in bold.

He closed his eyes in relief.

It would be all right. They would give him a weapon, and he would wake and destroy this dragon of Kavinsky’s before anything else happened.

In the blackness of his closed lids, he heard: tck-tck-tck-tck.

No, thought Ronan. Not night horrors.

But there was the rattle of their claws. The chatter of their beaks.

Dream to nightmare, just like that.

There was no real fear, just dread. Anticipation. It took so long to kill him in a dream.

“This won’t help,” he told the trees. He knelt down, bracing his fingers in the soft soil. Even though he knew he couldn’t save himself, he couldn’t ever seem to convince himself to stop fighting. “This won’t save anyone.”

The trees whispered, Quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit; occidentis telum est.

(A sword is never a killer; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.)

But the night horrors were not a weapon Ronan could wield.

“I can’t control them!” he shouted. “They only want to hurt me!”

A night horror appeared. It surged over the trees, blocking out the sky. It was like nothing he had dreamt before. Three times the size of the others. Reeking of ammonia. Glacially white. The claws were yellowed and translucent, darkening to red tips. Pink veins stood out on the tattered rag wings. Its red albino eyes were tiny and furious in its wrinkled head. And instead of one ferocious beak, there were two, side by side, screaming in unison.

On the other side of the lake, Adam held up his hands, pointing at the sky. He was an alien version of himself. A dream version of himself. Lightning struck the stone beside him.

Like a heart, the ley line jerked and spasmed to life.

Cabeswater was alive.

“Now!” Adam shouted. “Ronan, now!”

The night horror hissed a scream.

“It’s only you,” whispered Orphan Girl. She was holding his hand, crouched down next to him. “Why do you hate you?”

Ronan thought about it.

The albino terror swept in, talons opening.

Ronan stood up, stretching out his arm like he would to Chainsaw.

I don’t,” he said.

And he woke up.

Need cheering up?
Ronan has a pet raven named Chainsaw and it is adorable.

Also, this happened:

Ronan’s bedroom door burst open. Hanging on the door frame, Ronan leaned out to peer past Gansey. He was doing that thing where he looked like both the dangerous Ronan he was now and the cheerier Ronan he had been when Gansey first met him.

“Hold on,” Gansey told Adam. Then, to Ronan: “Why would he be?”

“No reason. Just no reason.” Ronan slammed his door.

Gansey asked Adam, “Sorry. You still have that suit for the party?”

Adam’s response was buried in the sound of the second-story door falling open. Noah slouched in. In a wounded tone, he said, “He threw me out the window!”

Ronan’s voice sang out from behind his closed door: “You’re already dead!