Top 10 Reads of 2019

Can you believe that 2019 is over? It feels like only a couple weeks ago that I was setting goals and getting excited for the year. And now, it’s all over. It went by quickly.

Today, I’m posting my top 10 reads of 2019. I know, I know;I should be doing top 19 books of 2019, but I feel that kind of dilutes the list. Ten is a good, strong number. This list is in no particular order, although the first on the list is probably my favorite.

If you’ve been around this blog awhile, you probably know how much I love A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer and Beauty and the Beast retellings in general. This one blew me out of the park. A highlight of my year was meeting Brigid Kemmerer and getting to tell her how much I loved the book. I just wish I had done it more eloquently.

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston remains one of the most romantic book I read this year. It was so lovely. The letters the boys wrote each other thrilled me to death and made me melt into a little pile of goo. I cannot wait to reread it.

I was skeptical about Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid book because I’ve never read anything like it before. But it was amazing. There were so many lines that touched me. They were like poetry (and I’m not talking about the songs). This is the only book that I’ve ever tabbed so I could go back and reread the lines whenever I want. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a masterful writer.

I’d always assumed Caravel by Stephanie Garber book just wasn’t for me. I’m not much into high fantasy and thought that this would be that. But, I gave it a try and loved it. I love Scarlett and Tella so much! They are both so strong and fierce, each in their own way. I loved watching Scarlett navigate the world of Caraval, trying to get it to conform to rules that it never did.

Spellbound by Allie Therin combines Prohibition with magic and mystery. It also has a very sweet romance and one of my favorite tropes, when one character becomes fiercely protective over another and incredibly loyal. I cannot wait for the next one.

Any Old Diamonds by KJ Charles

K.J. Charles hands down writes the most romantic declarations from the most unlikely characters, and she manages to make them totally believable. Any Old Diamonds was so good. It’s got intrigue, silliness, kickass female characters, and a very believable and romantic love story. Do I have time to reread it?

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnnelly was a surprise. I had never heard of it, but thought I might enjoy it. It was hard to stop listening to. The story was so well crafted and intricate, and the characters, especially Isabelle, so interesting, that I was swept into the world. I love when “evil” characters are given motivations and stories of their own, especially when that backstory doesn’t necessarily make excuses for their behaviors, just explains them.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Now, technically, The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner doesn’t come out until next year, but I read it this year and loved it. A group of people who are brought together by their love of Austen, and who play out the stories in new, original ways? Yes, please.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia was a book I literally could not put down. I read it in a few hours, I was so engrossed. I love reading about people who are involved in fandom in some way and who struggle to participate in the real world. Eliza was sympathetic and understandable. I loved this story.

A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian was probably the only het romance I read that I didn’t get in a giveaway. I love so many aspects of this novel. I loved that the female lead was bisexual and a writer. I loved the male lead and his struggle to do what was right and follow his heart. I loved how it tied back with a another novel of Sebastian’s. It was just great.

What were some of your favorite reads this year?

Review: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Title: Interview with the Vampire

Author: Anne Rice

Publisher: Balltaine Books

Genre: horror

Source: used bookstore

Publication Date: April 12, 1976

Louis, a vampire, tells the story of his long life to an unnamed interviewer. Starting with his human life on a plantation in New Orleans and spanning through the twentieth century, Louis tells of a life of love and loss.

I feel that to summarize this book, you either have to tell nothing or everything. I’m going with almost nothing because a) I think the story is so well known, it’d be redundant and b) less is always more. So… that’s my summary.

I still really love this book. When I struggled to get into it, I thought maybe my love for the story had faded and was just a high school obsession. But, no, once I sat down and really gave it my attention, I was enthralled. I read almost the whole thing in one sitting.

I love Louis. He’s my favorite vampire, and I’m very sad that the rest of the books are about Lestat, because I’m not as interested in him. Maybe rereading The Vampire Lestat will change that, but I doubt it. There’s just something so soulful about Louis, so broken and lost, and that draws me.

The writing is very dense, and it’s a lot different from things that are written today in genre fiction. It made getting into the book hard, because I’m not used to such rich descriptions and huge blocks of texts. As difficult as it was, once I adapted, it flows beautifully. There were a few things that made me pause, little inconsistencies in the text, but I put that down to an either an unreliable narrator (because Louis is, in the end, not the most reliable of people) or me reading to quickly.

So, in the end, I was swept away into this incredible world that Anne Rice created. I loved the characters, especially Louis and Armand. Claudia is interesting, too, and horrifying in so many ways. The story is complex and the writing is beautiful.

Yes. If you like vampires and haven’t read it, I recommend that you give this a try. So many of the books being written today (including mine) were influence by this book and it’s always good to see the origins of some of the mythology. If you’ve already read it… isn’t it time for a reread?

Weekly Wrap-up | December 29

Wow, this week has gone by super quickly! On Monday, I drove home to spend the week with my parents for Christmas/Hanukkah/Mom’s birthday. It was a really fun week. We did Christmas with my brother on Christmas Eve. On Christmas, we had a long, leisurely morning before going out to lunch, then doing Christmas. I got new books as presents, which is always so awesome. The next few days were full of shopping and relaxing. I went to Barnes and Noble and got a couple books I’ve been wanting for awhile. Today, I’m driving back home. I’m sad to leave, but I’m also happy because I miss my cats. I’m also getting excited for the new year.

I bought Atomic Habits and The Beautiful. The rest were gifts. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is signed and personalized by the author. I’m thrilled with my holiday haul.

Monday: Finale by Stephanie Garber (review)

Wednesday: WWW Wednesday

Thursday: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner (review)

Saturday: Snippet Saturday – Dark Goddess

Monday: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (review)

Tuesday: Top Reads of 2019

Wednesday: WWW Wrap-up

Thursday: Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco (review)

Friday: 2019 Wrap-up

Saturday: Snippet Saturday – Dark Goddess

What are you reading this week? Did you meet your 2019 goals? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Snippet Saturday – Dark Goddess

It’s Saturday, which means it’s time for me to post a section of my WIP, Dark Goddess. Dark Goddess is a vampire novel about a girl who discovers in her past life, she was the very first vampire. Now, everyone wants to kill her or worship her, and she’s not sure which is worse. I hope you enjoy this snippet!

Previously Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6 , Part 7 , Part 8, Part 9

He turned and sat on the edge of the bathtub.  “A stake works, but only if you get it right through the heart.  A cross doesn’t kill.  It’s used as defense.  And it depends on the vampire.  Gabriel is one of the Faithful, so crosses wouldn’t affect him.”  The very idea of a cross hurting the very devout Gabriel almost made him smile.

“What’s the Faithful?”

“The Faithful are Kali’s children and those created by her children.”

She sighed and lifted one hand to her forehead in a familiar gesture.  Vampires don’t get headaches, but some of Kali’s followers could try the patience of a saint.  Kali of old had adopted the gesture whenever she was profoundly irritated.  “And what is the difference between the Faithful and a regular vampire?”

“The Faithful follow life by the code of laws set forth by Kali in thirty-three A.D.  Other vampires don’t.  That is really the only difference.”

She looked at him as one would a madman.  With an expression that clearly said she was regretting even thinking the question, she asked, “Anything important about the year thirty-three A.D., or did you… did she pull it out of thin air?”

“There is a significance.  It’s very soon after Kali claims she met Jesus Christ.”  He took a deep breath, wondering if he should utter the next blasphemous part; the part that, at one time, he had almost believed.  “The man whom Kali also claims may or may not have gotten the idea for his divine birth from one of her more… earnest children.”

It only took her moment to make the connection, which heartened him.  Yes, she had the memories, even if she didn’t believe them.  “Gabriel.”

He nodded.  “Never mix Greek slaves and devout Jewish women, you said.  To which I replied…”

“Never doubt the visions of the pure, for through them the Lord often speaks.”  Her eyes went wide, hands flying to her mouth as if to take back the words.

“You remember.”  It wasn’t a question.

She shook her head.  “No.” Her head shook again, then she said, “Isn’t that, like, an affront to your religion?  Gabriel said you’re a priest.  How can you believe God may have spoken to a vampire?”

“It’s no more an affront than a vampire being Catholic.”

“Gabriel was Catholic?”

He smiled at her and tested the temperature of the water.  “It’s a long and complicated tale, but, yes, Gabriel considers himself Catholic.  It’s how we met.  His pursuit of religion brought us all together.”

“I think we have time for a long story.”

“I’ll tell you after you bathe.  Here’s a change of clothes and all else you may need.”  He indicated the bag he’d set on the floor.  “I’ll make you something to eat.

Kali tugged at one of her matted curls.  She looked so sad and lost, confused and hopeless.  So unlike the confident vampire he had once known.

He wanted to comfort her.  He hated that feeling.

“I’ve got first aid supplies in the other room.  When you’re clean, I’ll bandage the worst of your injuries.”

“Why are you being so nice to me?  You’re just going to kill me, right?”

“Yes, but not for four more days.  I see no reason for you to suffer.”  Then, before she could ask any more questions, Garrison left.

Review: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Title: The Jane Austen Society

Author: Natalie Jenner

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Genre: historical fiction

Source: NetGalley

Publication Date: May 26, 2020

United by a love of Jane Austen, a group of people come together in the small village of Chawton, the final home of Jane Austen, to preserve Jane’s Austen’s home and legacy. Along the way, they’ll discover friendships, love, and a deep connection to one another that will last a lifetime.

This was such a lovely, lovely book! The characters were wonderful. They were vividly drawn and so strong and unique. They were a group of intelligent, hard working, serious, and introspective people who not only loved to read Jane Austen, but who have internalized her lessons and philosophies.

I loved the parallels drawn between the books and the characters and their relationships. My favorite, as ever, was the Persuasion reference, because I love me some love letters and this book delivered that with a vengeance. While not quite as romantic as Captain Wentworth’s to Anne Elliot, it was a near thing. I also really enjoyed the Emma story line and the interplay between the two characters all the way through. None of the relationships came as a surprise (well, one did, but that’s because I misread a situation early on), but that was fine. Being familiar with Austen and her stories and seeing the parallels made the journey a delight.

This is a very gentle book with an easy flow. Once I started, I didn’t want to put it down. I felt I knew the characters intimately and that I’d be seeing them in real life. I could picture what was happening and felt quite swept up in it. It’s just a wonderful story with beautiful characters and a very satisfying ending.

YES! If you love Jane Austen and like stories about people working together for a common cause, I think you’ll like this story a lot.

WWW Wednesday

Merry Christmas everyone! And Happy Hanukkah, if you celebrate! It’s the most wondrous time of the year. It’s also Wednesday, which means it’s time for WWW Wednesday. WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Each weeks, participants answer three questions:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:

Recently finished:

Reading Next:

I’m supposed to start reading Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown, because my mom gave it to me a weeks ago and wants to discuss it with me. However, I forgot to bring it to my parents house when I came here, so I’ll probably end up starting something else. Maybe I Thought it was Just Me by Brene Brown, because my brother gave it to me for Christmas. Or, I’ll hit Barnes and Noble because I got a gift certificate for Hanukkah. So, I’ve got lots of possibilities. 🙂

What are you reading today? Any great bookish gifts? Let me know!

Review: Finale by Stephanie Garber

Title: Finale

Author: Stephanie Garber

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Source: sister

Publication Date: May 7, 2019

The Fates have been freed from the Deck of Destiny for two months, the same amount of time that Legend has been on the throne. As the Fates grow more powerful, they begin turning their vengeance on the people, playing cruel and deadly games. In the midst of this, Tella must decide who she can trust: the boy she loved, who doesn’t exist, or the Fate who won’t leave her alone. Meanwhile, Scarlett discovers a terrible secret that may change everything she knows about herself. Together, Scarlett, Tella, Julian, and Legend must make choices that will change their destiny’s forever.

Call me easy to please, but I highly enjoyed this book. The Fates were deliciously terrifying, and the mysterious objects that Tella has to find are amazing. I loved the interplay between her and Legend and her and Jacks. To tell the truth, I was a little more interested in Jacks this round than Legend because I love me some obsession and Jacks had it in spades. I mean, don’t get me wrong; Legend is obsessed with her, too, but he didn’t quite have the evil edge to it that makes it wonderful to me. I could see how that storyline was going to play out, whereas the one with Jacks, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

I have to say that I wish there had been more of Scarlett in the novel. Her story line was slightly more interesting than Tella’s, in my opinion, but most of the focus was on Tell and her troubles. I wish there had been a more equal distribution of the chapters; it seemed like there was more Tella. And that’s not a bad thing! I love Tella. But Scarlett had so much going on, and I feel it could have been explored more deeply.

Overall, this was a satisfying ending to the Caraval trilogy. It was magical, exciting, and romantic. And the ending was just perfect.

Hell yes!

Weekly Wrap-up December 22, 2019

This week was so lovely. I had the week off from school, and I got a lot of relaxing done. Monday and Tuesday, I had appointments and ran/went to the gym, but on Wednesday, I woke up with a deep desire to do nothing. And, by nothing, I mean sit and read. So that’s what I did. I opened up Interview with the Vampire and tore through it. When I was done, I went to the library for The Vampire Lestat (and Queen of the Damned, but my library doesn’t own a copy). It was a magnificent day.

Thursday, I started my day with a run. About five minutes in, I came across a small dog that was in the park. I tried to get it to come to me so I could see its tags, but it ran away. I started running again, only to stumble across the dog once more. The dog ran off, but stopped at the end of the block to bark at me. Then, it ran away and disappeared. I rounded the corner and started running down the block. Then, I heard barking behind me. The little dog had gotten a slightly bigger friend and they both chased me down the street, barking their heads off. I kept running faster and faster, absolutely terrified (all the while cognizant that this was a ridiculous situation). Finally, I decided to stop and see what happened. I did, and put my hands up for some strange reason. The dogs stopped, too, barked at me a little more, and then ran off. So, yeah, that was an adventure.

Reading wise, I finished three books, Interview with the Vampire, Capturing the Devil, and The Jane Austen Society. I wrote a little bit, but not as much as maybe I should have, and I even got to the movies yesterday. So, it’s been a very nice week.

Monday: Her Majesty’s Necromancer by C.J. Archer (review)

Tuesday: Dear Santa, I’d Like these 5 Books!

Wednesday: WWW Wednesday

Thursday: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Friday: Festive Christmas Book Tag

Saturday: Snippet Saturday

Monday: Finale by Stephanie Garber (review)

Tuesday: nothing

Wednesday: WWW Wednesday

Thursday: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner (review)

Friday: TBD

Saturday: Snippet Saturday

How was your week? Any great books or daring adventures? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Snippet Saturday

Previously Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6 , Part 7 , Part 8

Kali limped slowly after him.  There was fear written across her face as they approached the door to the room.  “I thought you weren’t going to rape me.”

The one thing she had no need to fear was the one she was preoccupied with.  “I told you once, Kali, your virtue is safe with me.  I will not violate you in such a manner.  However, we need rest, and you need medical attention.”  He unlocked the door and pushed her ahead of him.

“So, take me to the hospital.”  She collapsed almost as soon as she crossed the threshold.

Garrison left her on the floor as he locked and bolted the door behind him.  “I think not.”  He hesitated a moment before he bent over and picked her up.

She made a small noise of protest as he adjusted her body against his but did not struggle. In fact, she relaxed against him as he carried her across the room.  Her eyes slid shut and she allowed her face to rest against his chest, and a small sigh, the puff of air caressing his neck.

It should have been strange. It should have been unexpected, this display of something so much like trust.  And yet, so little had changed.  This Kali was so much like the one he had known all those years ago. She even smelled the same underneath the vomit: that powdered musk combined with an earthy, clean scent that reminded him of the night.  Holding her, like this, was familiar, too.  Something he had done years ago.

Perhaps, in some distant way, explainable only by magic, she remembered his embrace as well.  Or, more likely, she was just exhausted.

“Where did your shoes go?” he asked as he set her on the closed toilet lid.

She rubbed her nose, dried flakes of blood falling off her skin.  “I took them off at the bar so I could get my pants off.  G-Gabriel took me out of there without giving me the chance to put them back on.  Because.  Because you started killing people.”

He winced and started the bathwater.  Thus far, he hadn’t actually killed anyone, although the guilt still ate him.  He was an excellent shot and had practiced for years so he could complete this mission with as few deaths as possible.

Not that this care would matter once the public saw what he would do to Kali.  If the police captured him, Garrison had no doubt he would be put to death.  The horrors he would have to visit upon her would ensure the death penalty no matter how careful he was with the lives of others.

Of course, he doubted he would ever be tried in a court of law.  The Faithful would get to him first.  They would show him no mercy.

Behind him, Kali sniffed.  He glanced over his shoulder to find her staring at the ceiling, her jaw clenched.  A tear slid from her eye, and she flicked it away with a sharp movement.

“You killed him,” she said.  Her voice was painful to hear, rough from her screaming and choked from tears she tried to hold back.  “That boy.  Gabriel.”

Gabriel had been seventeen when he’d been turned, hardly older than she.  That had happened over two thousand years ago.  Theoretically, a girl as young as she should see him as well older than herself, simply due to the wisdom and maturity he’d gained through the years.  However, Gabriel simply refused to lose any of the innocent purity that was characteristic of him and made him seem so young, no matter how many years went by.

“Gabriel is not dead,” he said after a moment. 

“Right,” she said with a snort.  “Because when you smash someone with your car, pump them full of bullets, and pummel them with a crowbar, all they need is a nap and some chicken soup.  He’ll be fine.” 

“Nothing about Gabriel is natural.  He might spend an hour or two recovering, but he’ll be fine.  That is what vampires do.”

She snorted again.  “Vampires.  Right.  I forgot.”  She chewed on her lower lip before she asked, “So, how do you kill a vampire?”

“Not with bullets, cars, or crowbars.”

“You need a cross and wooden stake, right?”

Any thoughts? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Festive Christmas Book Tag

I saw this tag done over on Kerri McBookNerd’s blog and thought it looked like fun. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a tag, so I thought I’d do this one.

A fictional family you would like to spend Christmas dinner with?

I think it’d be fun to hang out with Percy Jackson and his mom on Christmas. I’m fine with eating blue food instead of Christmas colors, and they seem like they’d be fun to be with.

A bookish item you would like to receive as a gift?

I really want a Kindle, but today I found this:

I already keep track of my books in a spreadsheet and on GoodReads, but I’d love a book journal to keep a hard copy of what I read. I love that this has two pages per book with lots of information and room for notes.

Bah Humbug. A book or fictional character you’ve been disappointed in and should be put on the naughty list?

I’m going to go with Severus Snape. I love him to death, and understand that he can be a good man without being a particularly nice one, but sometimes, I’m so disappointed in him, especially as a fellow teacher.

A book or a fictional character you think deserves more love and appreciation and deserve to be put on the nice list?

Two things have been making me thing of this Robin Hood book a lot lately: I caught part of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on Wednesday, and this book is far superior, but it put me in the Robin Hood mood and, b) one of the characters in my current WIP has white-blond hair like Robin in this book. Anyway, I haven’t met many people who have read this and I’d love to gush about it with more people.

Red, Gold and Green. A book cover that has a wonderfully Christmasy feel to it.

I think this is the only book that I’ve ever read that’s explicitly Christmas themed. But, yeah, Christmasy cover!

A book or series you love so much, you want everyone to find under their Christmas tree this year so they can read it and love it too?

This was my favorite book of the year. I want EVERYONE to read it.

Tag, you’re it!