Happy New Year, friends!!
I took a little vacation from posting, but I am back and I am so excited for everything that 2023 will bring. I've got a lot of fun stuff coming up!
But before we get t0o deep into 2023, I want to finish out my year of reading with my book reviews for December! I read quite a bit, considering I also finished out my fall semester, had exams, moved back home, and wrote 30,000+ words in order to finish drafting my WIP- but more on that later!
I read a lot of fun stuff this month; I read 5 books, 3,389 pages!
If you feel called to any of these reads, I've linked each image to my local independent bookstore, Bookmarks NC. Aspire to shop local as much as possible in 2023!
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by JK Rowling - 9/10
I love this book so much, and it really does tie everything together so nicely at the end. I do wish Rowling had written a book, even if it was a novella, about the years after the Battle of Hogwarts. I'd love to see Ginny and Harry get to properly fall in love, Hermione and Ron's first year of dating, and the rebuilding of Hogwarts after Voldemort. I just think it would be so lovely.
There are a handful of scenes in the book that are so lovely that I'm devastated didn't make it into the movies. I kept a list throughout as well as quotes.
Dudley telling Harry he didn't think he was a waste of space.
“They think I’m a waste of space, actually, but I’m used to —”
“I don’t think you’re a waste of space.”
If Harry had not seen Dudley’s lips move, he might not have believed it.
Harry reading the letter from his mum in Grimmauld Place
Dear Padfoot, Thank you thank you, for Harry’s birthday present! It was his favorite by far. One year old and already zooming along on a toy broomstick, he looked so pleased with himself, I’m enclosing a picture so you can see. You know it only rises about two feet off the ground, but he nearly killed the cat and he smashed a horrible vase Petunia sent me for Christmas (no complaints there).
Luna’s paintings of her friends in her bedroom (this one absolutely crushed my heart)
Luna had decorated her bedroom ceiling with five beautifully painted faces: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville. They were not moving as the portraits at Hogwarts moved but there was a certain magic about them all the same. Harry felt they breathed. What appeared to be fine golden chains wove around the pictures linking them together, but after examining them for a minute or two, Harry realized that the chains were actually one word repeating 1,000 times in golden ink. friends… friends…friends…
Ron and Dean giving Dobby clothes right before they buried him (and this one ripped it right out)
Harry wrapped the elf more snugly in his jacket. Ron sat on the edge of the grave and stripped off his shoes and socks, which he placed upon the elf’s bare feet. Dean produced a woolen hat, which Harry placed carefully upon Dobby’s head, muffling his batlike ears.
Harry defending McGonagall against Amycus Carrow
“It’s not a case of what you’ll permit, Minerva McGonagall. Your time’s over. It’s us who’s in charge here now, and you’ll back me up or you’ll pay the price.”
And he spat in her face.
Harry pulled the Cloak off himself, raised his wand, and said, “You shouldn’t have done that.” As Amycus spun around, Harry shouted, “Crucio!” The Death Eater was lifted off his feet. He writhed through the air like a drowning man, thrashing and howling in pain, and then, with a crunch and a shattering of glass, he smashed into the front of a bookcase and crumpled, insensible, to the floor.
“I see what Bellatrix meant,” said Harry, the blood thundering through his brain, “you need to really mean it.”
“Potter!” whispered Professor McGonagall, clutching her heart. “Potter — you’re here! What — ? How — ?” She struggled to pull herself together.
“Potter, that was foolish!”
“He spat at you,” said Harry.
“Potter, I — that was very — very gallant of you — but don’t you realize — ?”
A Thousand Heartbeats, by Kierra Cass - 9/10
Cass really spoiled us with this book. Until I added magic to my book, the writing I felt closest resembled my general theme was The Selection series. It's definitely our world-adjacent and I just love her storytelling style. This was her longest book to date and it was absolutely gorgeous from the storyline (enemies to lovers and a princess who knows how to sword fight) to the cover and endpapers. I just loved it, though it took me a little while to get through. There were many funny moments as well as truly sad ones and characters so vividly written that you had to either love them or hate them. Definitely would recommend it to a friend!
The Priory of The Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon - ???/10
This is gonna be a long review so buckle up, friends, because I have a lot to say.
Honestly, I didn't know how many stars to give this book because I have a hard time trying to say whether or not I liked it. So here's a pros and cons list for you.
I use that term lightly-while there was a fair amount of "her womb is more important than her", this was, largely, a female-run society and most women were offered the utmost respect. Queen Sabran wasn't questioned by her kingdom- she just ruled. It was refreshing, and I did like the number of badass ladies we got to read about and hear from- most of them were responsible for winning the war against an evil dragon. Go, badass ladies!
-Something for everyone
One of the people who told me to read Priory told me that if I liked dragons and lesbians, I'd like it. This book had sorcery, fire magic, royalty, alchemists, lords, swords, and indeed, dragons and lesbians. I wish there had been more of a focus on the relationship between Ead and Sabran, but what we did get was lovely, and not fetishizing lesbians in the way that books often do, fantasy in particular. It was unexpected when the two fell in love, but I happily read every word that they were together.
If you love dragons, there are some really beautiful and intricate descriptions in this book and I just loved that whole concept. I thought it was an interesting dynamic that half of the world wanted to kill dragons while the other half thought of them as gods and competed for the ability to be able to ride one. It was very How To Train Your Dragon, and y'all know that HTTYD is the hill I'm willing to die on.
My god, this book was long. The Priory of The Orange Tree is a brick at 832 pages; it could have been at least 300 pages shorter and would have been better, if only because readers would have spent less time trying to get to the freaking point. Even though I've read some hefty books this year, most of them have been at the end of a series. For example, I didn't mind reading the 1,000-page conclusion to the Throne of Glass series because, at that point, I'd already read the other 7 books; I was invested. And I even thought that book would have been better if it were shortened; some books are so long that by the middle, you forget what happened in the beginning. The result is that readers miss some of the really good foreshadowing that was done early on because by the end, they forgot it was there. In my opinion, no book needs to be over 800 pages. Split it in half, and give us a sequel. I'd rather buy two books than struggle through one. I had a hard time getting myself to read a book that was this long, and after reading it, I don't think I'd do it again, not for a standalone.
Overly Complex Language-
I try to learn something from every book I read, and this book taught me some cool stuff- but it also told me what not to do. If you have to have a 26-page glossary at the back of the book of all of the names and objects you created, you've gone overboard with the world-building, and it's time to cut some stuff. I'm truly surprised that no agent or editor told Samantha Shannon this- when there are thirty foreign-sounding names to keep track of in a single scene, readers stop paying attention to the plot because they're trying to remember who's speaking. It drove me nuts, and I probably missed a lot of really well-written stuff just because I was trying to keep up. Similarly, half of this book sounds like the author swallowed a thesaurus before she started typing- if I have to google five words on every page because I've never heard them before, it stops being a reflection on my vocabulary and starts being a reflection on the writer and how smart they were trying to sound. Not every word has to be flowery and pretentious. You lose 3/4's of your audience if you expect everyone to understand every fancy word for something that could be simply described.
I really like a dual POV novel, and I love writing them. But this book had four perspectives that were not labeled at the beginning of each chapter, so you just kind of had to figure it out by yourself; writers: PLEASE label your points of view. Your readers will thank you for it. Often, the perspective would change in the middle of a chapter with no warning, one of my biggest book pet peeves. Honestly, two of the perspectives could have been almost entirely eliminated, and it would have been a better book as it would waste less time. Yes, all four people end up in the same room by the last 50 pages, but I spent the first 780 pages trying to figure out how their lives would intertwine. It just was so annoying, and while I liked Tané's chapters, she and Niclays Roos didn't play a big enough part in the book to get as much page time as they did. Neither did Loth for that matter, but he at least spent time with Ead, who, in my opinion, was the main character.
For the life of me, I will never understand why this man was given 25% of the page time. He's a bitter old man, a traitor, and steadfastly an asshole to most of the people he came across. Shannon kept trying to redeem him by making him gay, cutting off his arm, and harping on the fact that his lover was dead but I just couldn't find it in me to care. Call me heartless. I hated the guy.
A lot of people love this book, and I read it because I got some really good recommendations. I think if I had to give it a star rating, I'd say 5/10. There were parts of it I enjoyed and I do want to say- I have no intention to bash the author. It takes guts and courage to write an 800-page fantasy novel, and this is coming from someone who just finished drafting a 500-page fantasy novel. I just don't think I'll be able to bring myself to read the even longer prequel, coming out in February of 2023.
A Dash of Salt and Pepper, by Kosoko Jackson - 9/10
First and foremost, this book was absolutely hilarious. I had a highlighter permanently affixed in my left hand because there were so many hysterical one-liners.
Second of all, if you're looking for excellent black, queer love stories, look no further. I believe that this is Jackson's second book of this nature and I definitely have the other one on my TBR! This book has such great representation in so many ways and I loved that this book celebrated black and queer joy in a way that didn't fetishize or tokenize it.
Kosoko Jackson does an excellent job of writing compelling characters that you want to root for, and there was no part of this book that fell flat for me- I read most of it in one afternoon. I'm hoping to interview Jackson for my blog this year, so stay tuned!
Babel, by R.F. Kuang - 7.5/10
I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I read Babel while I was on vacation in Cancun last week. I have to say, it was really well done. This book has a really cool dark academia vibe that I think a lot of people are drawn to; it's set in 18th century London, at Oxford College, and toes the line between fantasy and reality in a really cool way- it was like nothing I've ever read before. There was so much actual history interspersed with magical elements that sometimes it was hard to discern what was real and what wasn't. It was very intricate and there was a lot of content about languages because the heart of this story is about translation and different cultures at a time when colonization was rampant. Three of the four main characters were characters of color- Robin, our third person narrator, who was Cantonese, Ramy, who was from Calcutta and was Muslim, and Victoire, who was Haitian. I liked the representation in this book as well and it was presented in a very real, non-sugar-coated way. This book was intense and intellectual, and I can see how it might not be for everyone- at times, it was so intricate that I lost focus, but overall, I really enjoyed it!
And that's that! I read 71 books in 2022! I might do a post of my favorite (and least favorite) books of 2022 if I have time over the next few days!
What was your best book 0f 2022? Let me know in the comments!