What Spines Ya Crackin'? πŸ“š (BOOK spines, that is)

Book spines! I swear I meant BOOK spines! I get that I’m a fantasy author with a penchant for the darker tales (though you cannot accuse me of publishing any tragedies, those will never see beyond the deep, dark reaches of a digital filing cabinet). But come ON.

It’s now 2024. The last time I updated anyone on my reading progress was last year, when I had read 26 books in the first quarter of 2023. My dismal math skills aside, this was a shock to me. And by the end of the final quarter of 2023, we were sitting pretty at … πŸ₯ πŸ₯ πŸ₯ … 90! This is quite the adjustment from my original January plan to read (checks notes) exactly ONE book per month. One. 1. Uno. Un. Not two. Not three. Not zero. One.

I believe this perfectly exemplifies my apalling habit of underestimating my capabilities for fear of overtaxing myself. Step two of this pattern would be to grossly overcompensate and try to read like 100 books by the end of the year. That would have meant reading 13 books in the last 2 weeks of the year, and that would have been ridiculous. I’m glad I at least have enough awareness to realize that and I only tried to read 4 books on vacation instead of 13, thank you very much. The thing that continues to shock and baffle me was that I wasn’t supposed to have any reading goals or expectations this year, and I still almost hit 100 books in a year. When I set out to read at the beginning of 2023, whether I finished forty more books before December 31st, 2023, or whether I didn’t touch a single spine (digital, physical, or otherwise), I was supposed to be satisfied.

And by rights, I should be satisfied. I mean, look at some of these highlights!

  1. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (sci fi)

For someone who really doesn’t care much for science or math, this book was incredibly (incredulously?) excellent. If you like The Martian by the same author, or if you, like me, watched the movie and didn’t even think to read the book, this is another great introduction to the worlds of Andy Weir. The science in this book felt so approachable that I didn’t mind even the more in-depth explanations, and the way the main characters interact is such a wholesome, heartwarming, and nerve-wracking look at new relationships.

  1. Vicious by V.E. Schwab (sci fi, fantasy)

Who else can make you want such good things for such bad people? Stories that make you ask β€œWho’s the bad guy here?” are some of the most potent and powerful things, probably because it feels so much like real life. V.E. Schwab’s characters are so imperfectly human; it’s refreshing right up until it makes you feel like you’re staring into a mirror.

  1. The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by S.A. Chakraborty (fantasy)

Captain Amina al-Sirafi loved her job as a treasure-hunting pirate nakhudha, striking terror into the hearts of her crew and landlubbers alike. She thought she’d put that all behind when she settled on solid ground to keep her daughter safe, but legends, it seems, never die and she is soon threatened into returning to her old life in order to keep her family safe.

  1. The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud (middle grade fantasy)

This is the ultimate found family story. I know Scarlett and Browne are the main characters, but lemme tell you, Grandpa Joe and his granddaughter Etty absolutely stole the show. I loved Scarlett and Browne’s banter and arguing and shenanigans, of course, and the way Browne made up excuses and tried to talk himself out of every little thing was absolutely hilarious. But Joe and Etty brought a softness and vulnerability to Scarlett and Browne’s mad, dangerous escapades across the Wessex land-and-sea-scape, and made beauty shine through the delightful chaos.

  1. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (mystery)

Have you ever wanted to read the journal entries of a 70-year-old woman you’ve never met named Joyce? Well, now you do. Thursday Murder Club is not at all what you think it is β€” it’s a thousand times better. It’s a group of seniors that get together at Cooper’s Chase to take advantage of the fact that people are ageist. They run circles around the police department in a race to solve a local murder or two (although the police may not be aware they’re in a race at first). It’s the secret lives of your favourite grandparents, solving crimes and giving their friends the love and dignity they deserve β€” not with gunshots and martial arts and epic action scenes, oh no. With simple life experience, cleverness, and a bottle of wine or two.

  1. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang (thriller)

I haven’t managed to put my thoughts to paper for this book yet. Reading Yellowface is like watching a train wreck happen in slow motion. There’s literally nothing you can do about the devastation about to unfold except sit back and watch. In a class I’m taking right now, we’ll soon be talking about character likability, and why (if) that’s important for writing good books. Based on this book alone, I feel like I can say with confidence, “No, the characters don’t have to be likable at all in order to write a good book.” I hated almost everyone in Yellowface, including and especially the main character … and that’s kind of the point. You also get to see a lot about how the publishing industry works from an author’s perspective because of the context of the story, and that’s pretty interesting if you’re a nerd like that.

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