Hello everyone and welcome to Thursday Tea Time with Haley and Emily, a feature where we spill the tea and share our thoughts about what’s going on in the world of books and reading. Today, we are diving into the Gooodread’s Choice Awards and why we can’t stop talking about them.
For our discussion today about the Goodreads Choice Awards, we decided to highlight some titles we really love from the list, but also chat about some controversy surrounding the Awards.
First off, let’s talk how we picked the titles we are going to highlight today. We have each picked one title we have read and loved, one we can’t wait to read and then collaborated and selected one adult pick and one YA pick that we both adored and think should be on your radar.
Book I LovedRecursion by Blake Crouch
Published by Crown Publishing Group (NY) on June 11, 2019
Memory makes reality.
That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.
That's what neuroscientist Helena Smith believes. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious memories. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.
As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.
But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?
Recursion by Blake Crouch was a surprising read for me. Initially, I was intimidated by the heavy sci-fi label. If that is your only hang up about this book, rest assured. The science fiction lingo is quite deep BUT Crouch does a phenomenal job explaining things clearly and succinctly so that even people like me, who were scared into the world of humanities for fear of Physics and Calculus, can understand and appreciate it. Overall, Recursion is a thought-provoking, emotional read that asks some hard questions and deserves to be on every reader’s bookshelf.
Book I Can’t Wait to ReadRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on August 14, 2019
A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...
First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.
The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.
As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?
Since the deal was first made, Red White and Royal Blue has received nothing but rave reviews and I am here for all the hype. A New Adult, m/m romance with an enemy to lovers trope sounds like my kind of book to curl up with on a cold winter night. Have you read it yet? What did you think?
Book I LovedSorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 4, 2019
All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.
Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.
As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.
This book took me completely by surprise and I loved it so dang much. It’s a YA fantasy set in a world where librarians are called Wardens and they protect libraries full of partially-sentient grimoires that transform into monsters when released. Our heroine, Elisabeth, has been raised in a library and training to be a Warden her entire life. She has been taught that sorcerers are evil and believes it with all her heart — until she meets Nathaniel Thorne. This has a great hate-to-love storyline, but the main part of the story follows attacks on the Great Libraries and the mystery of who is behind it. There are definitely hard-to-read elements of this story, including torture and confinement without consent, but the characters are just wonderful and believable and perfect. Thorne’s “sidekick” demon Silas is one of the most perfect characters I’ve read this year and I swear-to-goodness if this book doesn’t have any kind of spin-off or sequel, I will cry.
Book I Can’t Wait to ReadThe Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published by One World on September 24, 2019
Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.
So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.
I bought this book the moment it came out and it’s been sitting on my bedside table taunting me ever since. Ta-Nehisi Coates is an amazing non-fiction author who writes compelling pieces about race and social justice and the scourge of white supremacy. This is his first fiction work and is a speculative fiction set during slavery with a heavy dose of magical realism. I know it will be beautifully written and I can’t wait to see what Coates does with this topic in the world of fiction.
Picks We Both LovedA Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
Published by Harper on March 5, 2019
This debut novel by an Arab-American voice,takes us inside the lives of conservative Arab women living in America.
In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya is starting to meet with suitors. Though she doesn’t want to get married, her grandparents give her no choice. History is repeating itself: Deya’s mother, Isra, also had no choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. Though Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between the lives of Deya and Isra, she begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her community.
It is not clear to us how to start writing about this perfect little gem of a book. This, unbelievably, is Etaf Rum’s first novel and it explores the pain of holding secrets and how trauma can travel through generations. The story follows a few different timelines within a single conservative Arab family that primarily lives in America during this story. We follow the stories of the women, from the grandmother, to the daughter-in-law, to the daughter. We see how the pain of being a woman in this conservative environment –often literal pain, but also figurative pain — affects each of them differently but also creates a shared understanding. This book was a perfectly drawn picture of this family while also being a powerful social commentary. And, Emily here, I have literally pushed this book on multiple friends and every, single person I have made read it has LOVED it. I feel like we aren’t doing it enough justice here, but let me just say it’s absolutely my favorite book of the year so far and we both really think you need to read it!A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers, #1) by Brigid Kemmerer
Published by Bloomsbury YA on January 29, 2019
Fall in love, break the curse.
Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she's pulled into a magical world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.
Before you write this book off as just another (of millions right?) Beauty and the Beast retelling let us tell you about this amazing novel. Not only is it modernized, but our protagonist is a strong lead who doesn’t allow cerebral palsy to slow her down. Also, she isn’t exactly thrilled to be held against her will; which, in our opinion, makes her that much more likable. Plus the “Beast” is a Prince most of the time and is a really good guy and the relationship between them is perfectly swoony and believable. Pick up your copy before the sequel comes out in January!
What We Can’t Stop Thinking About
Okay. Can we talk about why we are voting on the best books of the year and its still 2019? What are we supposed to tell those books that get released in December? I mean sure, I guess you could technically incorporate this December’s releases into next year’s best of, but who’s going to remember this time next year what they read in December 2019 (okay, outside of active Goodreads users). Let’s be honest with ourselves, Goodreads should have posted the choice awards a month from now. But we digress.
In this aspect, the adult section is pretty well covered. But, when you move into the YA and Middle Grade, it kind of feels like invitations have gone out and you weren’t invited. They gave YA two categories and Middle Grade one. Not that Goodreads is going to listen to two, lowly bloggers but seriously, changes need to happen and Amazon/Goodreads needs to realize that they are sending a clear message to all of us readers, and its not a good one.
The Romance Nominations are BS
The problems with the romance category are many and varied, but we will try to summarize them here in brief. First, a romance book — by definition — has to be one where not only is a romance the main focus of the story, but there is a happily ever after ending. These two aspects literally define the genre. Goodreads consistently overlooks this in their nominations (heck, past winners haven’t met this definition) and continues to nominate women’s fiction in this category. More troubling, the nominations don’t include any mass-market paperback — where the overwhelming majority of romances are published — and did not include a single historical romance, which consistently are conistantly bestsellers within the genre. It’s also overwhelmingly focused on white, straight couples, and with all the great POC and queer romances being written, you would think they could have found a few to represent the genre. Basically, they should rename this category Women’s Fiction and stop pretending like they are actually representing the romance genre because these picks most definitely do not.
So what do you think?
Do you agree with our favorites? Have you read any of the nominees that you think we should pick up ASAP?
ARE YOU AS MAD ABOUT THE ROMANCE NOMINEES AS WE ARE?
Come chat with us in the comments — all bookish gossip and opionions are welcome!