Best of the Best: My Favorite Books from 2019

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub


Wow, 2019 has been filled with amazing books! I had an incredible year: I traveled with an “I love Lucy”-obsessed alien, visited the Starless Sea, and solved a mystery on Coney Island. And that’s just some of the wonderful things I got to experience in literature this year. I loved so many of the books I read, but I’ve (painfully) narrowed down the plethora of amazing books to a short list of favorites. In no particular order, here they are:

             Master of Sorrows ( The Silent Gods #1) by Justin Travis Call

Master of Sorrows (The Silent Gods, #1)
This book is a masterpiece. I loved everything about it. You can find my review here. If you like a good fantasy, don’t let this one pass you by.

You have heard the story before – of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who…

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The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington


As destiny calls, a journey begins.

 
It has been twenty years since the godlike Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them — the Gifted — are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their powers.

As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he and his friends Wirr and Asha set into motion a chain of events that will change everything.

To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is…

And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir. (taken from Amazon)

                     I could honestly boil my thoughts on this book down to one word: “amazing.” This book has everything I like in a fantasy (except for dragons). I immediately became engrossed in the story, enough so that I bought the sequel about halfway through reading this first installment.

The world is fully developed, and the history is fascinating. There used to be people known as augers, who wielded extreme magical abilities. They- and their allies, known as “gifted”- were defeated before the book opens. Throughout the book, the fallout from that defeat, as well as the changes in laws and how they affect the world, often comes into play.

Davian finds out he has the (now forbidden) powers of an auger. He is given a talisman, and told to follow it to learn how to use those abilities. His best friend, Wirr, goes with him. They learn that Devaed, an ancient enemy, has been marshaling his armies, and is prepared to bring war and destruction down upon everyone.

From there, things become complicated. Stakes are raised, new friends, (as well as new enemies) are introduced. Sometimes the enemies are confused with friends. Not everyone is who they say they are, and several characters have hidden agendas. I loved every moment of intrigue, every revelation, and every sword thrust. It was epic.

All of the characters were fantastic, but two really stood out to me. I loved Wirr. He was complicated and smart, and he thought ahead. He was an intriguing character because of his ability to look at the bigger picture. I also loved Caedan. He’s the very definition of a conflicted character. He has no memories, and has been accused of a horrific crime. He can’t say with certainty that he is innocent, and I adored that about him. I am a huge fan of complicated characters, and his storyline was excellent.

Another great thing about this book is that not everything was wrapped into a neat little package by the end of the book. I’m desperate to dive into the sequel and see what happens next. There are so many things that were only hinted at, and I’m curious to see how they play out. I have theories, but I could be dead wrong. I was completely off about one of the characters in this book, which was excellent. Usually I can see things coming a mile away, but this caught me off guard.

Basically, this book is incredible. If you like fantasy at all, read this book as soon as humanly possible.

Have you read this? What did you think?

The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James- ARC Review

Image result for the woman in the mirror by rebecca james
For more than two centuries, Winterbourne Hall has stood atop a bluff overseeing the English countryside of Cornwall and the sea beyond.

In 1947, Londoner Alice Miller accepts a post as governess at Winterbourne, looking after Captain Jonathan de Grey’s twin children. Falling under the de Greys’ spell, Alice believes the family will heal her own past sorrows. But then the twins’ adoration becomes deceitful and taunting. Their father, ever distant, turns spiteful and cruel. The manor itself seems to lash out. Alice finds her surroundings subtly altered, her air slightly chilled. Something malicious resents her presence, something clouding her senses and threatening her very sanity.

In present day New York, art gallery curator Rachel Wright has learned she is a descendant of the de Greys and heir to Winterbourne. Adopted as an infant, she never knew her birth parents or her lineage. At long last, Rachel will find answers to questions about her identity that have haunted her entire life. But what she finds in Cornwall is a devastating tragic legacy that has afflicted generations of de Greys. A legacy borne from greed and deceit, twisted by madness, and suffused with unrequited love and unequivocal rage. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on March 17th, 2020.

Eerie and compelling, this is a perfect rainy day read. I had a hard time putting this book down; I was so completely immersed in the odd, spooky story of the Winterbourne women.

This book took place in two separate times, with the narrative switching easily back and forth. Alice went to the Winterbourne estate in 1947 to become a governess (why is it always a governess in spooky stories?), the previous governess having vacated the position abruptly. Alice immediately falls in love with everything about Winterbourne, from the two children she nannies to the widower who also lives there. However, all is not idyllic. Something is off, and things start to spiral out of control.

In many ways, this made me think of The Turn of the Screw. At times, I wasn’t sure whether Alice was the most trustworthy of narrators. As she descended into madness (or did she?), it became more and more difficult to discern what was really happening. The changeable nature of both the book and Alice were fascinating.

The other part of the narrative took place in present day and followed a woman named Rachel. She learns that she’s inherited Winterbourne, as well as a host of unanswered questions about who her relatives were. I didn’t connect with her character at all; in fact, she really annoyed me for a good chunk of time. I didn’t like that she was so wishy-washy. The parts with her in it were less interesting to me than the parts about Alice.

The atmosphere of the book was excellent. There was something about the way it was written that conveyed tension and a sense of wrongness, without ever overdoing it. Each word was placed with care and used to great effect.

My big quibble with the book is that the female characters had terrible taste in guys, every last one of them. I really couldn’t understand what the draw was to the widower, in particular. He was a world-class jerk. However, the rest of the book was excellent.

I highly recommend this one.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Adult Fiction Edition

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

I’m back with my final post of books that would make great gifts. I’ve already written posts suggesting gifts for picture book readers, middle-grade, YA, and adult nonfiction. If you’re interested in reading those posts, I’ll put the links at the bottom. Here are five suggestions for adult readers:
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

This prose in this book is gorgeous. I’d recommend this to anyone who appreciates good writing with a sense of wonder liberally thrown in. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time.

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Holy guacamole, this book is fantastic! There’s heart (and gore, of course). It’s fun and engrossing. Any fantasy reader will love this book.

Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by G.M Nair

Image result for duckett and dyer dicks for hire This book is flat-out hilarious. I buddy read this one with Beth at beforewego…

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The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

Image result for the friday society

Set in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician’s assistant. The three young women’s lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It’s up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling too much attention to themselves.

Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures. (taken from Amazon)

                               A friend of mine loaned this book to me, and I’m so glad she did. Entertaining, a bit silly, and full of things that explode, this book is a ton of fun.

What first interested me in this book was the steampunk aesthetic although, after reading it, I’d call it steampunk light (that’s a term, right? Well, it is now). The Friday Society follows three incorrigible ladies as they attempt to solve a murder.

The plot was the weakest point in the book. That’s not to say it wasn’t there, just that the twists weren’t all that twisty, and the perpetrator was easy to call. That being said, it didn’t dim my enjoyment in the slightest. In fact, it allowed the characters to shine through.

And what characters! Some of the situations these girls got into were hilarious. It did get a bit over the top from time to time, but it never went into full-blown ridiculous mode. Nellie was the most charming of the bunch, and also a magician’s assistant. Michiko was training to be a samurai (probably the hardest part of the book for me to believe), while Cora was the lab assistant for a scientist. She was my favorite. She was snarky and sarcastic, but also competent and confident in her abilities. It was a good mix.

Another thing that I appreciated about the book was the lack of over-the-top, saccharine romance. There were ye random love interests, but they kind of hovered in the background, instead of taking the focus away from the main characters. I’m glad it didn’t descend into mooning over potential boyfriends, since I truly hate that sort of thing.

Be aware that this is one of those books with a vaguely Victorian English flair that’s layered under decidedly modern vernacular. It was a bit jarring at first, but once I stopped thinking of this book as attempting to be a period piece (it’s not), the juxtaposition worked well.

Altogether, this was a fun romp of a book. If you’re looking for a fun, fast read, this book is for you.

Have you read it? What did you think?

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas- YA Edition

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

I’ve now done lists of books that I think would make great gifts for both children and middle-grade (click on the colored words to read those posts). Now I’m moving on to YA. I didn’t read a ton of YA this year, but I did come across some gems that would make excellent gifts. Without further ado, here are some of my suggestions:

Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake

Image result for three dark crowns series box setImage result for five dark fates

This series started with a roar and ended with a bang. It’s everything a darker fantasy should be. These will make a great gift for anyone who likes their fantasy to have a darker edge. I rave about it at length here.

Two Like Me and You by Chad Alan Gibbs

Image result for two like me and you

This book was absolutely charming. It’s about two teens and the elderly man they help ‘escape’ from a retirement home. They get into some hilarious hijinks, but the…

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas 2019- Middle-Grade Books

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub


The other day I listed some picture books that would make fantastic gifts (you can find that post here.) In this post, I’m moving on to upper elementary and middle-grade books. After all, it’s good to continue to cultivate a love of reading.

The Origami Yoda Files by Tom Angleberger

My oldest has read this series multiple times. He loves these books! They’re fun stories, and have directions to make cute and simple origami Star Wars characters.
Cool side note: my son has written two fan letters to Tom Angleberger- and received two handwritten notes back! I’m more than happy to support authors who not only write quality books, but take the time to answer their fan mail. My oldest was over the moon.

Image result for origami yoda seriesNot so long ago, in a middle school not so far away, a sixth grader named Dwight folded an origami finger puppet of Yoda. For…

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Bookish Naughty or Nice Tag

I’ve seen this tag floating around (actually, I’ve been tagged by a few people), but I’m just barely getting around to it now. Better late than never, right? This tag originated on Jenniely’s fantastic blog. Click on the name to check it out. Credit for the awesome graphic also goes to her. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Bookish Naughty or Nice Tag

Rules

  • Tag & link the person who tagged you
  • Tag and link me/this post (if you would be so kind, I love reading your answers!)
  • Tick/cross off the ones you’ve done

Tag another 10 people!
Received an ARC and not reviewed it? Naughty!
I’ve only done this once. I didn’t finish the book because it was much too harsh for me and, since I didn’t get far in at all, I opted to let the publisher know that I wouldn’t be reviewing it since I couldn’t give an informed opinion.

Have less than 60% feedback rating on Netgalley? Nice
I’m at 84% right now, which is about normal for me. I am hoping to do a little better after things slow down but- let’s face it- things don’t really slow down in my house. The color of the chaos changes, but that’s about it.

Rated a book on Goodreads and promised a full review to come on your blog (but it never did)? Nice

The only reason I’ve never been guilty of this is that I am constantly forgetting to add my finished books to Goodreads. I’m horrible at keeping track of what I’ve read in any given year.

Folded down the page of a book? Nice

Of course I don’t fold down pages! I’m not a monster!

Accidentally spilled on a book? Nice

I haven’t spilled on a book this year. I get so sad whenever I mess up a book that I’m overly careful about it. I’d probably pull a book out of the way of a spill before I’d save the laptop. That shows rather poor judgement on my part, now that I think about it…

Didn’t finish a book this year? Naughty
There were a few that I didn’t make it through this year. Most of them were due to content (I don’t read rape or child abuse and I really don’t like being surprised by that showing up in a book) , but there was one that was just too boring for me to make it through.

Bought a book purely because it was pretty, with no intention of reading it? Nice

I read every book I buy, eventually. It might take me a very long time, but I don’t buy books without planning on enjoying them.

Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else? Naughty
I don’t think that makes me naughty. I think that makes me awesome. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Skim read a book? Naughty
I skim past sex scenes in books (they’re just not my bag).

Completely missed your Goodreads goal? Nice
Because I’m so bad at remembering to use Goodreads, I set my goals pretty low. I surpassed it this year and – even cooler- I added a good chunk of what I read. That’s only because Beth at Beforewegoblog reminded me about it, but still. Progress.

Borrowed a book and not returned it? Naughty
When I was young, I hid a couple favorites from the library. They may have “accidentally” been added to my shelf.

Broke a book buying ban? Naughty
I wouldn’t say that I spend too much money on books, but my husband has remarked that my book addiction is more expensive than an addiction to hard drugs would be. Hmm…maybe I should try harder to reign it in. Nah.

Started a review, left it for ages, then forgot what the book was about? Naughty
I’ve only done this once. I felt so horrible that I’ve not done it since.

Written in a book? Naughty
I write in my Bible, but that’s it.

Finished a book and forgotten to add it to Goodreads? Naughty
I do this all the stinking time. I honestly don’t know exactly how many books I’ve read this year, I just have a ballpark figure.

Borrowed a book and not returned it to a friend? Naughty
I still need to return a Who Was? book that I borrowed for a subject I was teaching my oldest. My toddler tornado has fallen in love with it, though, so I’ll probably just buy a new copy for my friend and keep the other one for him. Sorry, Amy.

Dodged someone asking if they can borrow a book?Naughty

I’ll give books, but I don’t loan them. I used to, but they were always either returned in horrible condition, or not returned at all. Now I’m like Gollum: “My precious!”

Broke the spine of someone else’s book? Nice
I would never do such a horrific thing!

Took the jacket off a book to protect it and ended up making it more damaged? Nice
I usually don’t even take the jackets off.

Sat on a book? Naughty
I sit on them, I fall asleep on them, I fall asleep and drop them on my face (ow!). Basically, I’m a mess.

I got “naughty” on twelve out of twenty. Gulp. I guess I’m just a bad egg.

What about you? How did you do? I’m not tagging anyone in particular, but if you choose to participate, please remember to tag the creator, and me as well, so I can see your answers.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas- Books that would make great gifts (picture book edition)

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

It’s getting to be that time of year. The time of year where, if you’re like me, you start to think about what book/s you’d like to give as gifts this year. I try to buy my children at least one book every Christmas. My youngest is a toddler, so I’m pretty well-versed in picture books. Here are a few that would make wonderful gifts.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, illustrated by Joe Bluhm

Image result for mr morris flying books

This charming story is about the magic of books, so of course I love it. The language is pretty, yet simple, and the illustrations are absolutely wonderful. I love sharing this one with my kids.
The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

Image result for the duckling gets a cookie

Our family loves the Pigeon books. There are several, but this one is my personal favorite. The words are simple and written largely, so new readers can…

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The Royal Gift: 2019 Two Giftens Edition by Drae Box- ARC Review


                  Five days to save him.

Five days to find a thief, rescue her village’s one line of defence – a magic dagger – and return home. Could Aldora do it? She didn’t know the first thing about tracking a thief, and barely knew any of the kingdom’s geography.

Accompanied by a talking Prince of the Cats and a law enforcing soldier that’s a trouble magnet, Aldora’s future is forever changed. (taken from Amazon)

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

This was an interesting experience for me. I did not care for it myself, but I think that the author will improve and the next endeavor might be really good. The ideas were creative, but the execution needed a little work.

First of all, the reader is dropped right into the middle of the story without any setup or explanation. I was actually confused enough to wonder if I’d missed a previous book that explained everything. While it does clear up as time goes on, it was a very disconcerting start.

I did appreciate the uniqueness of the book. The Prince of Cats was a fun character, although, like the others, he needed more development. It felt as though I was reading a first or second draft and not the finished book.

That being said, the premise is interesting, but the end product needs tweaking. I didn’t hate the book, but it wasn’t for me.

Have you read it? What did you think?