This year has been a good year reading wise. I’ve read 64 books (65 if I finish the last 2 hours of My Sister, the Serial Killer at work today) which is by far the most I’ve read in a number of years. It was also a good year in terms of 4 or 5 star reads. Without further ado, here were the top 5 best books I read this year, in no particular order.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez – This book y’all. If I could push copies of this book into everyone’s hands, I would. This may just appear at my friend’s houses because it was so good. This story follows Julia and her family after the death of her sister Olga. Olga was the perfect daughter that Julia’s parents wish she was. When looking through things in Olga’s room, Julia discovers that her sister may have not been as perfect as everyone thought and vows to get to the bottom of it. It’s a story about grief, sisters, immigrant parents and their expectations, cultural expectations, and I have never felt so seen when reading a book. Seeing Julia call her parents Ama and Apa, and the family relationship dynamics were just so similar to my own growing up that combined with the beautiful writing, there was no way this was not ending up in my top picks.
Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim – Sabrina Benaim is one of my favorite slam poets. Her performances always leave me in awe of how much of herself she’s willing to bare and this collection of poems is no different. My only disappointment is that it is not available on audio, but quite a few poems from this collection (including my favorite, explaining my depression to my mother, a conversation) are available to watch on youtube. I related to so much of this book and there are so many lines that have stuck with me. I find myself reaching for it on bad days and I’ve probably re-read it 10 times this year.
The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – Sometimes I read a sci-fi book that reminds me why I love sci-fi. This book was one of them. I had seen it floating around but I didn’t know that it was sci-fi. The covers can be a bit misleading based on the edition. But this is a fantastic story of finding your people in places that you least expect it. In this book you follow a ragtag crew of people who fly around punching holes in space to create wormholes. The characters are wonderful and I loved the exploration of how a myriad of different species would get along and how AI fits into society. SO GOOD.
Sadie by Courtney Summers – This book will be on many people’s best of lists I’m sure. I listened to the audiobook and I’m pretty sure that people got sick of my gushing about it. The first thing to note is there are some heavy trigger warnings for this book. I feel like that’s the case with most Courtney Summers books, but for sure there’s warnings for physical and sexual abuse and assault, and child exploitation. This book is told in two perspectives, Sadie’s and West McCray’s. West is doing a podcast about the story of Sadie and her sister Mattie and there are fully produced podcast segments for each of West’s episodes. If you want to get an idea of the story but the triggers may be too much for you, check out The Girls podcast by Macmillian. It was released in conjunction with the books and is the same podcast featured in the books. This story is hard to read but an important look at how people (specifically young girls) can fall through the cracks of society when they don’t have money or fame to back them up.
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake – This is another book that will likely be on a lot of Best of lists as well. It’s also another difficult YA to read with a massive trigger warning for sexual assault. No joke, this book caused me some issues and I’m not easily triggered, so tread lightly. In this we follow Mara who is dealing with the aftermath of her twin brother Owen being accused of raping his girlfriend Hannah, who also happens to be one of Mara’s best friends. Mara has to deal with wanting to believe Hannah, but also wanting to believe her brother that she loves couldn’t be capable of doing something so terrible. She struggles with her parents and their refusal to even entertain the idea that Owen could be guilty and her school’s reaction to all of this too. There’s talk about victim blaming and believing women and it’s all so beautifully written.
Honorable mentions: Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno, Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw, A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole, and Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl.
Like I said earlier, this was a good year in terms of the quality of books I read as well, so my worst books of the year is only a Top 3. Or bottom 3 depending on how you look at it. Again, in no particular order, the worst books I read this year.
Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon – I really wanted to like this book. I really did. It had so many things that sounded so good. Bad ass girl friendships, a Motorcycle Gang, a forbidden romance. and INTRIGUE set in the South. It follows Tourmaline and Virgina. Tourmaline is the daughter of the leader of the Wardens, the local big bad motorcycle club and Virginia, somewhat indentured servant to Hazard the biggest attorney in town. Hazard sends Virginia to befriend Tourmaline to take down the Wardens and the two wind up with an unlikely friendship. I just don’t know why this book didn’t work for me. It’s definitely a slow burn, but it was just too slow for me. I wound up DNFing it at about 60% because I just found myself not invested in any of the characters regardless of how good the setting was.
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri – Oh this book. I had such high hopes. A Book of the Month pick that was billed as a queer f/f romcom set in NYC. Normally I love Book of the Month books, but this was just so bad. We follow Katie, the straightest of straight girls as she meets and winds up falling for Cassidy, the butchiest lesbian. Seriously it’s Shane from The L Word hooking up with a straight chick and reads like it’s an experience the author had, just played up and called fiction. The characters are super one dimensional and for all of the talk of gender fluidity in the book, Cassidy is only ever implied as non-binary, but the book never comes out and says she is and always uses she/her pronouns. Katie is portrayed as a stereotypical pretty former sorority girl who gets blackout drunk constantly and hooks up with rando dudebros but has never had good sex and doesn’t know what sex toys are. And she’s only ever described as straight until she falls for Cassidy and then she’s a full blown lesbian. There’s a lot of biphobia in this as well from Cassidy and her friends. Hard pass this one and save your time.
Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir by Jill Bialosky – I always feel bad for not liking memoirs. It almost feels disrespectful, like I didn’t like someone’s life. This is Jill’s history with the poetry that has had the biggest influence in her life. Told with the poem and then the story of how that poem influenced her and what it meant to her, I was there for the beginning half of this book. But then it veered into a weird pretentiousness of “oh people haven’t read these obscure poems by largely unknown poets, the uncultured SWINE” and suddenly I was bored to tears. I was glad that I checked this out of the library before purchasing. Pass and go read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo instead.
Well, that’s it for this round of Best/Worst. Tell me in the comments what books you loved or hated this year. I hope your reading year in 2018 was great and that 2019 is fantastic!