Well, we can hardly believe it but it is both the last full day and last Tuesday of 2019. Today’s TTT prompt is favorite reads of the year but since we have already discussed our favorite reads of the year, we decided to narrow it down and talk about some favorite reads from our wheelhouses.
If you have been with us from the beginning you will remember that we discussed we each discussed some of the books that we just have to read no matter how long our TBR are (see Haley’s wheelhouse here and Emily’s wheelhouse here).
1. Cults: The Marriage Pact by Michelle RichmondThe Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
Published by Bantam on July 25, 2017
Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact, and most of its rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples--and then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life, and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.
This book delivers exactly what it promises. A newly married couple gets invited to join an exclusive group called The Pact, whose sole purpose is to strengthen the marriages of its members. But then, when one of our protagonists break the rules, what first seemed like a wonderful gift turns into a terrible curse. Its fast paced and completely out there but it was such a fun, intense read.
2. Body Horror: Bloom by Kenneth OppelBloom by Kenneth Oppel
Published by HarperCollins on February 11, 2020
The first book in bestselling author Kenneth Oppel’s explosive new trilogy
It was just rain.
But after the downpour, odd black plants begin to shoot up.
They. Are. Everywhere.
They take over fields and twine around houses. They bloom and throw off toxic pollen—and feed.
Strangely, three Salt Spring Island teens seem immune. Anaya, Petra and Seth. What’s their connection? What’s their secret? A week ago, they wouldn’t have thought they had one.
But they’d better figure it out fast—the invasion has already begun.
I was actually very surprised by this middle grade sci-fi, horror novel. First of all, I don’t think there is enough MG horror in the world and, second, Oppel is not afraid to go there. Plants literally go down people’s throat and strangle them. Basically think The Ruins the middle grade edition. All the characters are amazing and it’s the first in a trilogy. Bloom comes out in March 2020.
3. Thought Provoking Commentary: Poet X by Elizabeth AcevedoThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Published by HarperTeen on March 6, 2018
A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
I started and finished this quick little book in a day. It was so good! There moments where I paused as I felt heard by the words Acevedo wrote on the page. It was so emotional and poignant and I’m so glad it was one of my final reads of 2019.
4. YA Fantasy: Ashlords by Scott ReintgenAshlords by Scott Reintgen
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on January 21, 2020
Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders--skilled at alchemy--who must compete at The Races--the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.
Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they've raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.
Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That's all legal and encouraged.
In this year's Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest--a champion's daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary's son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?
I finished this one quite recently as well and I’m still replaying one of the final scenes in my head. All of the POVs were unique and flawed but I couldn’t help rooting for them for different reasons. Also, the magic system is complex and the alchemy of the phoenix horses was absolutely gorgeous. Out January 21 2020.
5. Stories with a Twist: The Wives by Tarryn FisherThe Wives by Tarryn Fisher
Published by Graydon House on December 30, 2019
New York Times bestselling author Tarryn Fisher delivers a pulse-pounding, fast-paced suspense novel that will leave you breathless. A thriller you won’t be able to put down!
Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.
But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.
What follows is one of the most twisted, shocking thrillers you’ll ever read.
You’ll have to grab a copy to find out why.
I got this one early thanks to Book of the Month and it kept me guessing until the very last page. This is also a fantastic book about a fringe polygamist group which earns double points for checking multiple wheelhouse boxes!
1. Any Book with a BOTM Logo on the Spine: A Woman is No Man by Etaf RumA 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.
This book made both of our top books of 2019 lists and for good reason — it is just amazing. I admit that I got it out of the library rather than from BOTM (at first, anyway, I’ve now purchased it so I can loan it out) but I picked it up from the library because I knew it was a BOTM read, so that totally counts! As soon as I finished I was pushing it onto friends and family, most of whom read and also really loved it. I honestly cannot recommend this one highly enough.
2. Well-Researched Historical Fiction: Pachinko by Min Jin LeePachinko by Min Jin Lee
Published by Grand Central Publishing on November 14, 2017
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant--and that her lover is married--she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan's finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee's complex and passionate characters--strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis--survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.
I adored this novel and listened to it on audio this year. It’s a novel that spans four generations set primarily in Japan, but following Korean immigrants. It was so well-researched and I felt like I learned a lot about this time in history while also enjoying a beautiful story that really tugged at my heartstrings.
3. Fairy Tale Retellings: A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid KemmererA Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers, #1) by Brigid Kemmerer
Published by Bloomsbury YA on January 29, 2019
An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here.
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.
This is yet another novel that keeps coming up on this blog and I have HIGH hopes for the sequel that’s coming out next month. This is a gorgeous Beauty and the Beast retelling mixed with what felt to me like a bit of Tam Lin. Even though it follows familiar beats, it has a lot new going on — the heroine has cerebral palsy and the hero is kind and yet still cursed. It’s a beautiful story and even though I read it early in the year it has stuck with me all year long.
4. Original Magic Systems: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn MuirGideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #1) by Tamsyn Muir
Published by Tor.com on September 10, 2019
Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you'll ever have with a skeleton.
The Emperor needs necromancers.
The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.
Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won't set her free without a service.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon's sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.
This was maybe a bit more horror than is usually inside my wheelhouse, but lesbian necromancers are a whole new part of my wheelhouse I never knew existed. Although necromancy isn’t anything new in fantasy, it was the complex way it worked in this world, with slight variations for each person that really stuck with me.
5. Long Urban Fantasy Series: The Elemental Assassin Series by Jennifer EstepSpider's Bite (Elemental Assassin, #1) by Jennifer Estep
Published by Pocket Books on January 26, 2010
My name is Gin, and I kill people.
They call me the Spider. I'm the most feared assassin in the South — when I'm not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.
Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I'm out for revenge. And I'll exterminate anyone who gets in my way — good or bad. I may look hot, but I'm still one of the bad guys. Which is why I'm in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I'm battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction... especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.
I read a lot of great new urban fantasy this year, but I wanted to give a shout out to a new series I started this year that I’ve been really enjoying — the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep. This follows assassin Gin Blanco, an assassin with the elemental powers of ice and stone. I read the first three in this series this year and it has definitely made my list of series I’ll return to — especially since there are 18 books and counting already!
What About You?
Let us know some of your favorite wheelhouse reads of 2019! Did you discover a new aspect of your wheelhouse this year? Let us know in the comments!