Maybe it was too much sugar. (I really know better than to have a pastry for breakfast.) Maybe it was just the kick in the pants that I needed.
I signed up for a weeklong writing retreat in August. Time away from everything to work on writing. But it’s not just that, but in the afternoons, you work with an author/mentor on your writing. In this case, it’s Rachel Beanland, author of Florence Adler Swims Forever, which I quite liked back in 2020.
Well, I can’t go into this writing retreat with work older than some of my cats. So it’s time to dust off the keyboard and make some progress. I’ve started pecking away at a couple of new projects, one fiction, one non. I don’t know that they’ll go anywhere, which is why I’m not giving any more details just yet – I want to see what sticks first.
I’m back to close up the year with the rest of my top 10 reads. I did manage to squeak in a few more books after my initial post – (The Holiday Swap was cute) but none of them cracked that top 10 marker for me.
5. In a Holidaze – Christina Lauren Why it makes top 10: This book was cute. It’s a sappy, saccharine sweet romance that almost makes your teeth hurt and definitely makes your “foot pop”.
But that’s not enough to make top 10 necessarily. Sweet romances are a dime a dozen, but this one had a premise that I adored. It’s timey-wimey, jeremy bearmy, time travely. Honestly, if they had just pushed the concept a little further (I think they gave up on it just a pinch too early) it might have crept up my list even further. As it is, top 5 for the year? Not bad. Plus, it’s one I actually want to revisit … maybe on a yearly basis.
4. The Midnight Library – Matt Haig What makes it top 10: If I only counted the books I read in January this year, this would have been my number one pick. Unfortunately, this year had some really tough competition. I loved that this book made me think. It’s one of those books that, without being too preachy, makes you want to sit down and think about your life. The way it’s written, it feels like a series of short stories, each with it’s own moral. Interesting concept, great execution. Worth your while, if you haven’t read it already.
3. Under the Whispering Door – TJ Klune What makes it top 10: What largely sells this story for me is the concept, because it’s not something I see a lot of. But it’s the execution that brings it home for me, and this story has heart in spades. I have to admit, it was a book that took me a little longer to get through than I would have expected, because at times it feels heavy and sad. But the payoff was fantastic. I can’t stress enough how difficult it was for me to rank my top 5 books, because they each were incredible in their own ways.
2. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – VE Schwab What makes it top 10: A girl who has immortality, with the caveat that no one can remember her? I mean, it was clever and well-written and completely binge-worthy. I still think of it on a regular basis almost a year later. Moreover, it got me hooked on VE Schwab as an author. (Their other books don’t necessarily have the same feel, but are really good and totally worth reading.)
Firekeeper’s Daughter – Angeline Boulley What makes it top 10: This book is an incredible read. It does such a great job at bringing the Native American culture off the page – the story impeccably makes you understand (and love) the culture, without feeling like an information dump. It manages to have enough turns to keep things interesting without becoming cliche. The characters are all challenged and have growth – but while you care about everyone else, it’s very clear that this is Daunis’ story. It’s a YA, but that doesn’t mean that it shies away from difficult topics or is an overly easy read. I loved it from beginning to end, and this is a story that I think should be required reading. While I loved the other books on my list, there isn’t another that I think should be required. That is why not only does this book hit my top 10, it snags the number 1 spot this year.
I make this list with the caveat that there’s ten days left in this year and it’s theoretically possible that I could find a book that would knock another off of this list. However, I don’t see it as being likely, so here we go:
10. The Good Sister – Sally Hepworth Why it makes top 10: This was one of the most intense thrillers I’ve ever read, because the characters felt so realistic. I knew something was off from pretty early on (and knowing that this wasn’t just a book about two happy sisters was an obvious clue) but I had no idea how much the revelation would knock me off my feet. If nothing else, it’s one of the BEST examples of an unreliable narrator I’ve ever read.
9. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo Why it makes top 10: This one took me a little while to get into. When I listened to it on Audible, I hadn’t read anything else in the Grishaverse, which put me at a disadvantage. But once I got my bearings, it became an incredibly fun fantasy heist novel. Bardugo builds some very compelling characters, and you’re rooting for them even when they’re working against one another.
8. Hour of the Witch – Chris Bohjalian Why it makes top 10:Hour of the Witch punched me in the gut several times. It has some intense spousal abuse and gaslighting. But through it all, I was rooting for the main character like none other. The story had me guessing which way it was going to turn out until the very end, and it was a very I MUST FIND OUT HOW THIS ENDS read.
7. The People We Keep – Allison Larkin Why it makes top 10: Simply put, one of the best “found family” books I’ve read. Even when the main character is making absurdly frustrating decisions, your love for the supporting cast will keep you rooting for her.
6. For The Wolf – Hannah Whitten Why it makes top 10: I read this book in less than 48 hours. Unless it’s a very tiny book (and this wasn’t), that deserves some recognition. It’s a wonderfully twisted fairy tale that takes Little Red Riding Hood and fleshes it out into a super interesting mythos. Never did I think I would be wanting Red to get together with the Wolf, but this book made that happen. I CANNOT WAIT for the sequel.