Five Favorite: Books I Read in 2018

Instead of focusing on the less-than-stellar reads that made up my 2018, I wanted to highlight the five that made it great––which just so happen to all be written by women. (So freaking dope!!) I also thought that I wouldn’t have ten books to fill out a Top Ten Tuesday post but that was a huge miscalculation. Lol. Winnowing down this list was so hard.

Are any of my favorite 2018 reads your favorite, too? Let me know! To see previous topics, click here.

Five Favorite: Atmospheric Thrillers

It’s taken me a full month to digest the seemingly innocuous Top Ten Tuesday prompt villains. (Please don’t ask why because I just don’t know.) Very few books I read have capital-V Villains, and I became bored scrolling through Goodreads trying to think of more than a handful or any one type. Since it’s so chilly/borderline cold in New England now AND it gets pitch black by four-thirty, I thought I’d explore creepy, chills-down-your-spine atmospheric thrillers instead – because sometimes a place itself can be the scariest thing.

 

Do you have your own favorite atmospheric thrillers? Let me know! To see previous topics, click here.

Monthly Wrap-Up: September/October 2018

Did’ya know that I post videos on YouTube?? If not, check out my latest video below! The books discussed are:

What did you read??

Month in Review: September 2018

month in review - sept

Favorite Media

To say that The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox surprised me would be an understatement. This book swaddled me in a hand-knitted quilt, plopped me in front of a cozy fire, and then lulled me to sleep. UGH. So beautiful. Much spooky. Such romance. (Read my review here.)

Even though September introduced me to a tasty snack named Noah CentineoLove, Simon gave me a good punch to the stomach. Although it wasn’t perfect (Simon has kind of shitty, friends, y’all), Nick Robinson is just so damn quiet and perfect and longing as Simon, and I literally screamed when Blue and Simon got their Ferris wheel ride at the end of the film. Then I tweeted about it. Then I watched it again.

I’ve been on a huge Panic! at the Disco binge right now, but especially their most recent album, Pray for the Wicked, and most especially “(Fuck a) Silver Lining.” It’s just so damn catchy.

Stuff I Added to My Queue

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton is giving me a lot of the same vibes I felt after reading A Discovery of Witches, but it’s not really hard to pique my curiosity with a found-item mystery spanning centuries set in England, so… 🤷‍♀️.

Then there’s Michiko Kakutani’s The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump which has kind of flown under the radar since it was published in July, but from the introduction, it reads like a smart apolitical look at truth and democracy as it stands today. (Aka sign me tf up.)

Sometimes you just need a funny, well-written friends-to-lovers romance in your life, and I’ve heard no bad reviews about Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren. (Or, really, anything by Christina Lauren.)

I’m pretty sure I’m going to be that ~cool auntie who lives alone with her non-human companions, though, so No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol speaks to me on a spiritual level.

But then there’s Ibi Zoboi’s newest, Pride, to remind me to believe in love again. (AND OH YEAH IT’S A PRIDE AND PREJUDICE REBOOT.)

On My Radar

  • I’m volunteering at the Boston Book Festival next weekend! I’ll be listening to short fiction all day, and I’m hoping for lots of books and/or book-adjacent swag.
  • Then, I’ll be attending a librarian conference the weekend after. Perhaps more books and/or book-adjacent swag?
  • Archenemies drops on November 6th, but I’m crossing my fingers that my library will not only purchase a copy but that we’ll also get our copy early so I can read it asap. 🤞

What were YOU up to in September? Let me know!

Review: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

Title: The Witch of Willow Hall
Author: Hester Fox
Rating: ★★★★
Summary: In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall. The estate seems sleepy and idyllic, but a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to both Lydia and Emeline. All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end.


Note: an eARC of this title was acquired via NetGalley.

Do you ever read the summary of a book and think, “yeah, that sounds like something I would like”? That’s how I felt about The Witch of Willow Hall. Normally, though, books like this languish on my TBR list, something I can never quite find the time (or interest) to read once it’s been published. Months pass. Newer, more interesting books take precedence. I might eventually forget what the book was even about, only to re-read the summary years down the road and think, “meh.” And maybe (just maybe), I’ll take it off my TBR altogether.

Do not make this mistake. This book cleared my skin. It watered my crops. It set up a 401K and then invested in a robust stock portfolio.

I mean, yes, Hester Fox’s novel has its faults. Her characters can come off as overwrought and trope-y as hell: Catherine, the eldest sister, is not merely looking for marriage but scheming, using her hyper-sexuality to ‘trap’ an eligible bachelor. And Lydia – poor, good Lydia – is the naïve ingenue who is ‘blinded’ to reality and compares their sororal relationship as a catty no-holds-barred competition for the affections of the mysterious and dashing John Barrett. Then there’s the plot, which falls somewhere between historical romance and gothic horror but doesn’t convincingly meld the two until more than half-way through. We think Lydia is the witch referenced in the title but is there someone else? Does Willow Hall itself hold supernatural power? (So ~spooky, y’all.)

But listen. I started this book not expecting much, and I was so thoroughly surprised and delighted at the end result. Read during a week when the turning weather felt especially serendipitous, I felt literally and figuratively cozy – surrounded by the whistling wind and dreams of a crackling fire as Lydia and John got swept up in their own romance. At first pass, Fox writes everything so harshly that part of me wondered why a character’s behavior had to be taken to such extremes, why there was no gray between the black and white. But then, chapters later, an impulsive action would be re-evaluated or a character’s motivations would be explained and I would think, “oh, that’s why.” (Some readers will probably love the way the plot trundles forward but then others may roll their eyes at the heavy-handed foreshadowing. To each their own.)

I don’t think I can fully explain why I enjoyed The Witch of Willow Hall so much, not even to myself. Maybe it was the way the plot seduced me and I could think of no better activity than to keep reading. Or maybe that the stakes felt real, or that the characters were given agency, or simply that Willow Hall was so vividly realized I felt like I could drive there and visit. Maybe it was the tense, gothic elements or the acute remembrance of being eighteen and feeling everything so forcefully: the lows abysmal but the highs astronomical. Perhaps it was everything together, the sum greater than its parts.

Early in the novel, Lydia tries to articulate her feelings for John Barrett. “Suddenly sitting here beside him is not enough,” she narrates. “The empty place that I didn’t even know I contained is aching with want, trembling with fear that it may never be filled.” Same, sis. Same.

Top Ten: Books on My Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was books on my fall tbr! I couldn’t quite narrow down my list to ten, so below are thirteen books I hope to read in the next thirteen weeks.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green // Archenemies by Marissa Meyer // Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises by Rebecca Solnit // Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward // Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly // One Day in December by Josie Silver // The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory // Sadie by Courtney Summers

The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro // The Towering Sky by Katharine McGee // The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory // The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

New to the Queue #13

Jamie of Perpetual Page Turner started this and I love it so I’m (politely) stealing it!

I add a lot of stuff to my TBR list, my Netflix queue, and my library holds list. Here’s stuff I’ve recently added and hope to consume right now!

Stuff to Read

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead // The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner // The Memory of Forgotten Things by Kat Zhang // An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim // The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly // The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke // Tin Man by Sarah Winman // The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox // Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal

Stuff to Watch

American Animals // Chewing Gum * // Eighth Grade // Papillon // Three Identical Strangers

* I apparently added this to a NttQ post back in January 2017 and am finally watching it. LOL forever.

Stuff to Listen To

Lovett or Leave It // Pod Save the World // Slow Burn

It’sIt’s

Have you also added some of these? Have you already consumed them?? Let me know!