But first I feel like I should admit that I don’t actually drink coffee. I’m all about the tea!
a series that’s tough to get into but has hardcore fans
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Admittedly I never would have read these books if it hadn’t been for falling in love with the tv series back when it was good (everything after season 3 is dead to me), but I ended up loving the books despite some major issues I have with Martin’s overly detailed storytelling. Because of the sheer amount of characters you need to keep track of, this is an extremely difficult series to enjoy as a casual fan – you really do have to be obsessed in order to keep everything straight. I have an exceptionally good memory but even I struggled with these at times.
a book that gets more popular during the winter or a festive time of year
I feel like Wuthering Heights is a popular one to visit and revisit in the colder months. This book is bleaker than bleak and definitely suited to more dismal weather. Side note: I’m actually considering giving this book another try in a couple of years? I read it last winter and really did not enjoy it, but the more I think about it the more I’m wondering if that was just a knee-jerk reaction based mostly on how much I disliked Emily’s prose. But I think there’s probably more merit to it than I initially thought there was… Anyway, we shall see. Definitely not revisiting it this year. I’ll give it some more time.
a favorite children’s book
I really don’t like reading children’s books as an adult and Harry Potter is a boring answer and honestly nothing else jumps out at me as my favorite book from my childhood… pass!
a book that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish
You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann. I read this recently on a whim and was very pleasantly surprised by it. I don’t think the conclusion was anything special, unfortunately, but the lead-up was so tense and chilling.
a book you see everywhere
Circe by Madeline Miller. Ok guys, I have to admit. I just don’t get the hype. I love Greek mythology, I loved The Song of Achilles, I love feminist retellings, but Circe was just… fine? I thought that Circe’s character arc was really spectacular and the way that Miller altered the conclusion of the original story I thought was fantastic, so it’s not like I disliked the book at all. But I did think the pacing was all over the place (hundreds of pages of tedium punctuated by a lot of action over the span of a few pages), and while I understand that that was intentional (to a point) in order to mirror the tedium of Circe’s immortality, I just felt like that element was handled so much better thematically than it was narratively; I just can’t forgive the fact that I was bored for huge stretches of this book. Anyway, I liked it, I didn’t love it, and it is everywhere.
a book by an indie author (a shoutout)
I have two indie author friends that I know of, and both are deserving of a shout-out:
I.M. Flippy (obviously a pseudonym) is an author of self-published romance novels; I genuinely thought I hated all things romance until I read her delightful book A Fugitive In Grass Valley. I’m not just saying this because she’s a friend (she will never see this post). I just think she’s a fantastic writer.
Callum is also an indie author and while I have not (yet) read any of his books, I’ve read a couple of short stories and think he is an incredibly talented writer. Which is also evident in his blog posts, tbh.
a book you were expecting more from
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon. I did end up giving this 4 stars, but for being one of my most anticipated books of the whole year, I have to admit it fell short. I did think there was a surprising amount of thematic depth for the short page count, and Kwon’s writing was superb, but the characters were all incredibly thin which made it difficult to get invested. I definitely think this would have benefited from 50+ more pages where the characters could have been fleshed out into more than just archetypes.
a book or series that was both bitter and sweet, but ultimately satisfying
Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee. This book about mental illness and the toll it takes on two Chinese-American sisters is absolutely soul-crushing. But it has a lot of moments of tenderness as well. I read this about a year ago, and what resonates when I think about it is the relationship between the sisters, and also the vividly beautiful setting of Ecuador. I’d highly recommend this one.
a book or series that is quietly beautiful
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve talked about this book before, a lot, but my love for it was sort of reawakened recently when Steph read it and fell in love with it. We had about an hour and a half long conversation about this book on Halloween night which imo is the best way to celebrate Halloween. Anyway, this book. Quietly beautiful is really the only way to describe it. It’s breathtaking but in such a subtle way; it really creeps up on you and gets under your skin. I’ve read this book a couple of times now (I can never remember if I’ve read it two or three times) but now I’m dying to read it again. It’s hands down my favorite contemporary novel.
a book or series that makes you dream of far off places
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman. I have… a lot of thoughts about this book and they aren’t all positive, but it ultimately won me over, and Aciman’s descriptions of Italy were some of the most evocative I have ever read. Most of my favorite memories from living in Italy somehow involve being out at night in the summertime, and there’s this one sequence in Call Me By Your Name when the characters are in Rome and they’re at a party that lasts all night and takes them to all these different restaurants and bars and then they eventually end up wandering around by some fountain and anyway, I don’t know how else to explain this but I felt that scene in my bones. Aciman knows how to bring a setting to life.
SO MANY! But this is my holy trinity: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Iliad by Homer, East of Eden by John Steinbeck.