Late to the game (writing this almost a week into 2024) but I would like to share my most memorable reads of 2023. Unlike most wrap-ups I see online though, I would also like to include my least favourite books just so that I can complain about them some more. Without further ado, here is my wrap-up:
In 2023, I read 16,085 pages in 56 books (a disappointing low compared to my previous years, but university has been hard on me guys pls no hate).
Most Memorable: We Are Water Protectors by Carol Lindstrom
“Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption—a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.
Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .
When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.”
I don’t read a lot of Children’s Lit, even less so this year than others, but We Are Water Protectors stuck out to me because of the beautiful illustrations and strong message that I think makes it a beautiful story for both children and adults. This book was also included in my Ecological Literacy Capstone Portfolio in an anthology I curated on environmental education through children’s stories. Reading this story before looking at the synopsis, it was an interesting revelation that the black snake everyone fears is in actuality a pipeline. Not only does this story highlight the dangers of fossil fuel infrastructure, but it also depicts how these structures systematically oppress Indigenous peoples. Further, instilling an ecological responsibility in young readers, a responsibility often held by Indigenous peoples could help foster more ecologically and socially responsible adults. If this book comes out with a French translation, I’d love to bring it by to my friends at the daycare. 🙂
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
“When twelve-year-old Anne Shirley came to Avonlea, she quickly won everyone’s heart. Now, she’s five years older, almost a woman, and about to embark on a new adventure: becoming the teacher in her old Avonlea school. It’s an exciting year as Anne struggles to win over all her students, welcomes two new members to her family, and feels the first stirrings of love.”
I’ve had the Anne of Green Gables box set FOREVER. It is eight books in total, and I have never been able to get past Anne of Avonlea (Book 2), even though I have read the first book three times. This year was my second shot reading Anne of Avonlea and I was snoozing so hard. The first book is great, but for some reason, everyone becomes annoying in this book and the plot sort of disappears IMO. I also know there is a particular character death in this book that displeases me. Summer of 2023, I got into a kick where I wanted to finally do it, and finally read the full series. Alas, all hope was gone after Avonlea, and I can only try again next summer. I hope I can one day get them all read. For one because I would like to pass on this box set and also because I did a huge research dive on Lucy Maud Montgomery last June and she was actually really cool in real life, so I should stop sleeping on her books.
Most Memorable: The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox
“A young woman is caught up in her ideas about romance and valor in this celebrated eighteenth-century parody of Don Quixote
Beautiful and independent, Arabella has been brought up in rural seclusion by her widowed father. Devoted to reading French romances, the sheltered young woman imagines all sorts of misadventures that can befall a heroine such as herself. As she makes forays into fashionable society in Bath and London, many scrapes and mortifications ensue – all men seem like predators wishing to ravish her, she mistakes a cross-dressing prostitute for a distressed gentlewoman, and she risks her life by throwing herself into the Thames to avoid a potential seducer. Can Arabella be cured of her romantic delusions? An immediate success when it first appeared in 1752, The Female Quixote is a wonderfully high-spirited parody of the style of Cervantes, and a telling and comic depiction of eighteenth-century English society.”
This was easily one of my favourite books of the year, which is surprising because it was a book I read for class. It was hilariously dramatic, harshly realistic, and all too familiar. I’ve never enjoyed a book so old as this one before. I want to be friends with Charlotte Lennox so badly, and I want to live secluded in Arabella’s palace of books forever astray from society’s burdens. One thing that I found helped me with the old lingo though is halfway through the book I swapped the physical book for audio, and that was the best choice. I was driving to campus every day eager to put that audiobook on in my car and laugh out loud just to dissociate during my lectures and think about the real message this story was telling. I’ve written a full many essays and reflections on this book that I hope to add to my essays page in due time if you’d like to really get into the guts of this story with me. Forever thankful for sticking with my Pre-1800 lit course and having the amazing Dr. Woodworth share this book with me.
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: Myths From Mesopotamia
“The ancient civilization of Mesopotamia thrived between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates over 4,000 years ago. The myths collected here, originally written in cuneiform on clay tablets, include parallels with the biblical stories of the Creation and the Flood, and the famous Epic of Gilgamesh, the tale of a man of great strength, whose heroic quest for immortality is dashed through one moment of weakness.
Recent developments in Akkadian grammar and lexicography mean that this new translation, complete with notes, a glossary of deities, place-names, and key terms, and illustrations of the mythical monsters featured in the text, will replace all other versions.”
Talk about getting the ick from something… this is my ick, shit written on slabs of rocks and stuff. I’m sorry, I know plenty of very smart (smarter than I’ll ever be) people will sit down after a long day of being a human in this world and will sit down and read a bit of randomly sparsed words and verses on a page, but that ain’t me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved reading The Epic of Gilgamesh in my first year in a class that I later dropped (whoops) but this isn’t really fun to study or read most of the time. When I reread this for a class I was enrolled in this fall…. let’s just say that class was swiftly dropped too. My first issue is the verse, I have trouble reading in verse in the first place. My second problem is that half of these stories will randomly break because of some chip in the stone tablet, some damaged book, some burnt library, I don’t know. And quite frankly, I don’t really care. I say I love books, and I sure love Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh, but this book is not my thing at all and I think that sometimes when books are so so so so old that you can’t even get a full translation, maybe we should just let it be something we don’t read. Put those tablets up in a museum and let them be tablets. Some Philosophy or Great Books major would bite my head off for saying this but I think we gotta let this one sleep. Same as the bible, like you can’t tell me we are still listening adamantly to something so old… reading Canterbury Tales this year has made me think of how weird it is we follow the same doctrine as some lil lads on a pilgrimage when one medieval pilgrim would die of fright upon seeing Time’s Square. Anyways… I think early 1600s is as far as I’ll go for a good time when it comes to reading.
Most Memorable: Beach Read by Emily Henry
“Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no-one will fall in love. Really.”
I find that contemporary/romance is usually a hard sell because of the plot. I just don’t think that there is enough to this genre alone, I like it when genres mix, like romantasy, contemporary thrillers, etc. Alone, I feel like I am reading someone’s silly little journal, especially when it is written in the first person. Goodreads always tries to push Emily Henry books down my throat because one of her books is always trending on the app. I bit last year by reading Book Lovers, which followed two book publishers and I found it BORING as ever. Turns out, I probably should not have started with that book because a lot of people did not like it. This year, I succumbed and picked up Beach Read, which seemed innocent enough. And indeed it was. Two people with the most ridiculous names possible who happen to know each other coincidentally have lakehouses right next to each other in a middle-of-nowhere town. Seriously, what are the chances? This is followed by a sequence of Taylor Swift “You Belong With Me” music video-style scenes where characters interact through their “coincidentally” aligned windows, so cheesy I am cringing. One thing that pissed me off in this book is that nowhere in this book, titled Beach Read, are the characters reading at the beach. Their houses are right off a lake, not a beach, and they are barely out there either. What a beautiful waste! Overall, the book was fine and over everything I was actually really invested in seeing what types of books these two authors would come to write. I’m trying to understand the obscene Emily Henry hype just like I am trying to understand the crazy Sarah J. Maas hype, but I don’t know if I will ever understand. In essence and in my conclusion, I think that this book is so popular because it really is a beach read, just a simple easy book to bring to the beach (which is what I did) so I think it did its job and maybe I should just stop picking at it and let it be.
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: Unsteady by Peyton Corinne
“Rhys Koteskiy is back — at least, he’s supposed to be.
During last year’s Frozen Four, the Waterfell University hockey captain, and NHL legacy, took a brutal hit that left him with a concussion and a new discomfort on the ice. Plagued by nightmares and panic attacks every time he attempt to skate, Rhys wonders if he’ll ever play again — if he’ll ever want to.
Sadie Brown is staying focused this semester — no matter what.
Currently drowning in debt, custody hearings for her younger brothers and skating practices, she’s just trying to make it to the next day. A spitfire figure skater known for her bad attitude and frequent disappearing acts, she has a reputation on campus. And it’s not a pretty one.
When she accidentally witnesses one of the golden boy hockey captain’s panic attacks and attempts to help him, a strange sort of understanding strikes up between them.
No questions asked. Just comfort.
But healing doesn’t mix with secrets, and they’re both skating a thin line, unsteady.”
God this was bad. A buddy of mine on Goodreads got the ARC of this book and hyped it up to me, a contemporary mental-illness rep of two people struggling to keep it all afloat. And indeed it was, I was also struggling to keep on reading. It was wayyyyyyy too long, in excruciating detail, and poorly paced. It read like a Wattpad novel circa 2011 and felt like that game Episode everyone had on their iPhone 4’s in 6th grade. If I remember correctly, I think this is a self-published debut, so I hope that the author uses this as a learning experience, because from what I’ve seen on GoodReads this book ain’t ranking too high for complaints similar to mine. I guess if anything it spreads the message that anyone and everyone suffers in seen and unseen ways and we should be aware of that when out and about in the world, but there are so many books that do this better, and without the worst ending ever. Off the top of my head: Wintergirls and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, or A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (if you have the guts for it). I was really going into this book expecting it to be like the mental health reps I read in middle school and high school, but this does not compare to The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan at all.
Most Memorable: Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong
The first book in a captivating new duology following an ill-matched pair of spies posing as a married couple to investigate a series of brutal murders in 1930s Shanghai.
It’s 1931 in Shanghai, and the stage is set for a new decade of intrigue.
Four years ago, Rosalind Lang was brought back from the brink of death, but the strange experiment that saved her also stopped her from sleeping and aging—and allows her to heal from any wound. In short, Rosalind cannot die. Now, desperate for redemption from her traitorous past, she uses her abilities as an assassin for her country.
Code name: Fortune.
But when the Japanese Imperial Army begins its invasion march, Rosalind’s mission pivots. A series of murders is causing unrest in Shanghai, and the Japanese are under suspicion. Rosalind’s new orders are to infiltrate foreign society and identify the culprits behind the terror plot before more of her people are killed.
To reduce suspicion, however, she must pose as the wife of another Nationalist spy, Orion Hong, and though Rosalind finds Orion’s cavalier attitude and playboy demeanor infuriating, she is willing to work with him for the greater good. But Orion has an agenda of his own, and Rosalind has secrets that she wants to keep buried. As they both attempt to unravel the conspiracy, the two spies soon find that there are deeper and more horrifying layers to this mystery than they ever imagined.
Chloe Gong is absolutely insane. I read this book from December 2022 to January 2023, so it was my first read of the year and is pretty foggy, but man something is going on here. I devoured These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends when they came out. This new series is a spin-off of These Violent Delights duology which is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Crazy enough already, this book is fantasy, science-fiction, historical fiction, young adult, romance, and mystery with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ rep. How does she pack it all in? How does it all make sense? How can you move to 1930s Shanghai? I don’t know about the last one but read the book to figure all the other ones out. This book feels like eight books packed into one because there are so many plotlines and side problems. I did not socialize when reading this during Christmas break even though I should of. The next book in this duology just came out a couple months ago, but I fear I do not remember enough from the first book to continue. I also read part of Last Violent Call this summer, which I should not have put off for so lot because a HUGE cliff hanger of These Violent Delights addressed. Also, I want to read her new book Immortal Longings, as it is supposed to be a retelling of Anthony and Cleopatra. How exciting, I’m sure Shakespeare would be eating up these retellings. One thing I do not like though, are these covers…. but I know I am not supposed to judge a book by its cover or title. It’s just hard, especially when they are ugly.
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting (and I will forget as best I can): The Ashes & the Star-Cursed King by Carissa Broadbent
“In the wake of the Kejari, everything Oraya once thought to be true has been destroyed. A prisoner in her own kingdom, grieving the only family she ever had, and reeling from a gutting betrayal, she no longer even knows the truth of her own blood. She’s left only with one certainty: she cannot trust anyone, least of all Raihn.
The House of Night, too, is surrounded by enemies. Raihn’s own nobles are none too eager to accept a Turned king, especially one who was once a slave. And the House of Blood digs their claws into the kingdom, threatening to tear it apart from the inside.
When Raihn offers Oraya a secret alliance, taking the deal is her only chance at reclaiming her kingdom–and gaining her vengeance against the lover who betrayed her. But to do so, she’ll need to harness a devastating ancient power, intertwined with her father’s greatest secrets.
But with enemies closing in on all sides, nothing is as it seems. As she unravels her past and faces her future, Oraya finds herself forced to choose between the bloody reality of seizing power – and the devastating love that could be her downfall.”
First of all, what the fuck is this title. I don’t understand why all the fantasy books published these days have got to be weirdly riddled tongue twisters including queen, crown, thorns, blade, king, blood, court, cursed, etc. Please stop. This title should have been my first warning. Actually, my first warning should have been the shit first book of this series titled The Serpent & The Wings of Night (wtf?!). I really wanted to get through this series, mainly because I hate reading a bunch of first books and never completing the entire series but oh. my. god. this was boring, redundant, and overdone. I found this plot to be entirely too similar to The Bridge Kingdom books that I dnf’ed in 2022 because they also sucked. It is crazy that this book was a GoodReads awards nominee this year lol. I think there is supposed to be a spin-off series or more books from Broadbent on this but I will not be reading, I’m sorry. Also, I’m over vampires, is this 2008? Because it sure feels like it. Robert Pattinson gives me the heebie jeebies.
Most Memorable: No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
A book that asks: Is there life after the internet?
As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms “the portal,” where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. When existential threats—from climate change and economic precariousness to the rise of an unnamed dictator and an epidemic of loneliness—begin to loom, she posts her way deeper into the portal’s void. An avalanche of images, details, and references accumulate to form a landscape that is post-sense, post-irony, post-everything. “Are we in hell?” the people of the portal ask themselves. “Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?”
Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: “Something has gone wrong,” and “How soon can you get here?” As real life and its stakes collide with the increasingly absurd antics of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy, and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.
Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.
An absolute trip is what this is. Usually when I read Literary Fiction, I have a feeling that the author is just trying to be obscure for the sake of being obscure, kinda like that art gallery full of white canvases…. Anyway, this was actually really good and also made me hate the idea of scrolling on Instagram reels for one week (Aha!). It was very spooky, and while I understood most of it, I think I want to read it again to understand it better. I also want to read it with someone else so we can talk about it so I gotta get some liberal arts kids onto this.
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: After Dark
“A sleek, gripping novel of encounters set in Tokyo during the spooky hours between midnight and dawn, by an internationally renowned literary phenomenon.
Murakami’s trademark humor, psychological insight, and grasp of spirit and morality are here distilled with an extraordinary, harmonious mastery. Combining the pyrotechnical genius that made “Kafka on the Shore” and “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” international bestsellers, with a surprising infusion of heart, Murakami has produced one of his most enchanting fictions yet.
At its center are two sisters—Eri, a fashion model slumbering her way into oblivion, and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny’s toward people whose lives are radically alien to her own: a jazz trombonist who claims they’ve met before, a burly female “love hotel” manager and her maid staff, and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman. These “night people” are haunted by secrets and needs that draw them together more powerfully than the differing circumstances that might keep them apart, and it soon becomes clear that Eri’s slumber—mysteriously tied to the businessman plagued by the mark of his crime—will either restore or annihilate her.
After Dark moves from mesmerizing drama to metaphysical speculation, interweaving time and space as well as memory and perspective into a seamless exploration of human agency—the interplay between self-expression and empathy, between the power of observation and the scope of compassion and love. Murakami’s trademark humor, psychological insight, and grasp of spirit and morality are here distilled with an extraordinary, harmonious mastery.”
I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Everywhere I go I get bombarded with Murakami. Now typically it is Kafka on the Shore, which I have yet to read. Actually, I have never heard anything about After Dark. The only reason I read it was because a bundle of books I bought off Facebook Marketplace came with a copy. This is the type of Literary Fiction that I do not understand. I made it all the way to the end, and I felt the same. What. is. going. on? Why should I care? I think I need to read the SparkNotes for this one or something. But also what I was picking up on was kinda sexist, maybe it’s just me. I’ll get around to more Murakami sometime, but if someone wants to read this and explain it to me maybe I’ll come to like it. Reading this felt like a fever dream… with no plot, or maybe some? I can’t pick up on anything. Radio silence over here.
Most Memorable: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Wapole
First published pseudonymously in 1764, The Castle of Otranto purported to be a translation of an Italian story of the time of the crusades. In it Walpole attempted, as he declared in the Preface to the Second Edition, “to blend the two kinds of romance: the ancient and the modern.” Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos, the novel was an immediate success and Walpole’s own favorite among his numerous works. The novel is reprinted here from a text of 1798, the last that Walpole himself prepared for the press.
It’s melodramatic. It’s totally gothic. It’s got a little spooky to it. It’s full of angst. There’s a Castle. What more do you need? I love The Castle of Otranto because it is the papa of one of my favourite genres: the gothic! Oh, how marvellous. The story itself was okay, but what I liked most was how I could see where later gothic authors that I’ve already read drew inspiration. It was also crazy to learn about Horace Wapole and Strawberry Hill – what an eccentric dude. I love eccentric dudes, strawberries, and gothic literature. I’d like to think me and Horace would have been good pals. Well, I am a woman so maybe I am too “intellectually dense” for folks in Horace’s time. I could always slap that nonsense out of them. I don’t know, they’d probably start back up the burning of women at the stake if I showed up there yapping nonsense like I do now (R.I.P. all the Salem Goodys, I miss y’all every day – remember to be careful of ergotism from rye bread guys!) …how do I always manage to bring everything back to The Salem Witch Trials?
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation.
Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person’s inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality—an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications.
When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society’s archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will.
This feels a lot like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, which I have yet to read but have seen snippets of for the last two years. There’s a one-star review on GoodReads that says “this book was essentially about them reading books in the library while we read them read” and it was so true. This emerging dark academia genre, probably due to Harry Potter and Donna Tartt, is still pretty new to me, and from my limited experience of it, it sounds like it sucks. I dnf’ed this book at 150 pages because I could not care less. I usually try and push through but what is the point? Also, the Internet was already buzzing about the second book, and if I finished this one then I would obligate myself to read the second one – no thanks. Might I also say that nothing happened in the 150 pages I read? At least nothing to note, which is weird because some people will die for this book. I didn’t feel it at all. I also stopped reading it only to pick it up again to try and get through which is when I stopped at 150. So I tried twice if that counts for anything, sorry Olivie Blake.
Most Memorable: Quit Like a Woman & Ejaculate Responsibly (There’s a tie for this section!)
The founder of a female-focused recovery program offers a radical new path to sobriety.
“You don’t know how much you need this book, or maybe you do. Either way, it will save your life.”—Melissa Hartwig Urban, Whole30 co-founder and CEO
We live in a world obsessed with drinking. We drink at baby showers and work events, brunch and book club, graduations and funerals. Yet no one ever questions alcohol’s ubiquity—in fact, the only thing ever questioned is why someone doesn’t drink. It is a qualifier for belonging and if you don’t imbibe, you are considered an anomaly. As a society, we are obsessed with health and wellness, yet we uphold alcohol as some kind of magic elixir, though it is anything but.
When Holly Whitaker decided to seek help after one too many benders, she embarked on a journey that led not only to her own sobriety, but revealed the insidious role alcohol plays in our society and in the lives of women in particular. What’s more, she could not ignore the ways that alcohol companies were targeting women, just as the tobacco industry had successfully done generations before. Fueled by her own emerging feminism, she also realized that the predominant systems of recovery are archaic, patriarchal, and ineffective for the unique needs of women and other historically oppressed people—who don’t need to lose their egos and surrender to a male concept of God, as the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous state, but who need to cultivate a deeper understanding of their own identities and take control of their lives. When Holly found an alternate way out of her own addiction, she felt a calling to create a sober community with resources for anyone questioning their relationship with drinking, so that they might find their way as well. Her resultant feminine-centric recovery program focuses on getting at the root causes that lead people to overindulge and provides the tools necessary to break the cycle of addiction, showing us what is possible when we remove alcohol and destroy our belief system around it.
Written in a relatable voice that is honest and witty, Quit Like a Woman is at once a groundbreaking look at drinking culture and a road map to cutting out alcohol in order to live our best lives without the crutch of intoxication. You will never look at drinking the same way again.
Quit Like a Woman is a conversation I’ve been wanting to have forever and the first time I’ve heard my thoughts recapitulated. I sincerely do not understand drinking culture. No, I am not religious; no, I’m not an alcoholic; no, I’m not a loser (well…); but yes, I see a positive correlation between me reading too many dystopian fictions in my early juvenescence and my “incredulous” attitude towards drinking. It’s weird that we condemn so many other drug uses, but the average person consumes 10 drinks a week. Whitaker also talks about “wine moms,” drinking and the patriarchy, and the consequences of this widespread normalcy. Alcohol always makes me think of the Soma in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, because it is just a bandaid or a mask, so why are we all expected to partake in it? Why are we all supposed to hide?
One thing I will say I do not like about this book is that the end section felt like an advertisement for the author’s new rehab/AA for women. Her argument at first was compelling as it turns out typical AA is less effective for women, as the values preached in AA are often characteristics that women already possess due to gender roles and the patriarchy. However, the end of the book felt like it came with a discount code and a phone number to “reserve your spot now!”
All in all, this was one of my favourite non-fiction reads of 2023, mainly because I finally felt heard. I’ve never taken an interest to drinking, and even the most intellectual, most “woke,” most radical people have said “wtf.” at my statement. Because if you don’t drink you’re either pregnant, an alcoholic, religious, or a loser. I hope I’m not a loser and I know I’m not the three others, so I wonder why it’s such a crime to be awake and real?
In Ejaculate Responsibly, Gabrielle Blair offers a provocative reframing of the abortion issue in post-Roe America. In a series of 28 brief arguments, she deftly makes the case for moving the abortion debate away from controlling and legislating women’s bodies and instead directs the focus on men’s lack of accountability in preventing unwanted pregnancies.
Highly readable, accessible, funny, and unflinching, Blair builds her argument by walking readers through the basics of fertility (men are 50 times more fertile than women), the unfair burden placed on women when it comes to preventing pregnancy (90% of the birth control market is for women), the wrongheaded stigmas around birth control for men (condoms make sex less pleasurable, vasectomies are scary and emasculating), and the counterintuitive reality that men, who are fertile 100% of the time, take little to no responsibility for preventing pregnancy.
The result is a compelling and convincing case for placing the responsibility—and burden—of preventing unwanted pregnancies away from women and onto men.
So I had never heard about this book before but one day I was walking in the library and I did a double take, because I’m sure I had read the title of that book on the endcap wrong. Turns out, I had not. Good job getting noticed, Blair, I’ll give you that. I’m very surprised I had not heard of this book before because a lot of my research has been focused on the Abortion Caravan and R. v. Morgentaler during my undergrad. What is absolutely shocking is that throughout this book I read mad facts, facts that no one wants to hear and no one will listen to. Because it is all too well known that birth control should first be a woman’s responsibility, not a man’s. After all, who will face the consequences of unprotected sex? Not your buddy Joe. The premise of Blair’s argument is that it is entirely more reasonable to expand research on and encourage people to take more male birth control. However, the issue with this idea is that it would require men to care about the consequences of their actions on another person… and I laugh as I am typing this. I also laugh when I look at the list of ways hormonal birth control has affected women and I see that the testing of male birth control has been slow and arduous because men “have been experiencing adverse symptoms.” The list of which Blair provides is just a fragment of the tarp shelter-sized sheet a woman gets with every birth control packet. Anyways, really eye-opening, really depressing, and really shocking to the people who see you reading a book with this title – even though it makes perfect sense once you read the book. This, just like Quit Like a Woman, is another book of ideas that should not be mentioned; or, the Voldemort of our society. If I do talk of these obscenities, I am shunned by men and (surprisingly) women alike and BAM back to the stake or the noose I go, and we are BACK to The Salem Witch Trials references, man I’m on fire. Let’s keep these coming.
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: A Memoir of Jane Austen by James Edward Austen-Leigh
James Edward Austen-Leigh’s Memoir of his aunt Jane Austen was published in 1870, over fifty years after her death. Together with the shorter recollections of James Edward’s two sisters, Anna Lefroy and Caroline Austen, the Memoir remains the prime authority for her life and continues to inform all subsequent accounts. These are family memories, the record of Jane Austen’s life shaped and limited by the loyalties, reserve, and affection of nieces and nephews recovering in old age the outlines of the young aunt they had each known. They still remembered the shape of her bonnet and the tone of her voice, and their first-hand accounts bring her vividly before us. Their declared partiality also raises fascinating issues concerning biographical truth, and the terms in which all biography functions.
This edition brings together for the first time these three memoirs, and also includes Jane’s brother Henry Austen’s Biographical Notice of 1818 and his less known Memoir of 1833.
So I picked up this book this year in preparation for a course I was taking on Jane Austen. The course was literally called Jane Austen. I figured reading this would provide me with all I needed for the course. Turns out, this biography is a joke because it was written by Austen’s family to try and fix up her reputation post-humously. In the Jane Austen course, I learned that this biography was not relaying an accurate depiction of Austen’s life; rather, it was looking to restore her image for Victorian-era readers. I find it sad that some people will read this book and think this is what Austen was really like when we can see through her letters to friends that she was very much the opposite. I’m glad I was educated on the issues shrouding this biography and that Austen isn’t a goody two shoes like Austen-Leigh portrays her to be.
Most Memorable: Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein tells the story of gifted scientist Victor Frankenstein who succeeds in giving life to a being of his own creation. However, this is not the perfect specimen he imagines that it will be, but rather a hideous creature who is rejected by Victor and mankind in general.
Does this one really need an explanation? But also, let me explain:
I don’t really care for rereading books, but I am maybe at my fifth or sixth reread of Frankenstein now. This year, the reread was for school, as I was taking a course on the Romantic Period. I strongly prefer the 1818 text over the 1831 edition so I keep on rereading that one. I did a creative project this year where I tracked the emotion patterns of Frankenstein and the Creature and looked at how they interacted with one another and with the weather in the novel. During my Romantics course, we learned about the Romantic sublime aesthetic, which is a name for something I have loved forever but did not know had a name. This project was a way to analyze the sublime, but I also found out some new things in my reread. Walton’s emotion patterns at the beginning of the novel are similar to Frankenstein’s emotions during his period of madness when building the Creature. I have a nice big essay all about this that I will eventually get around to posting on here. I still love this book so much. Can’t wait to reread in 2024 lol. I’m already seeing an interesting compare contrast with the book I’m reading right now titled Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy.
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare
Cordelia Carstairs seems to have everything she ever wanted. She’s engaged to marry James Herondale, the boy she has loved since childhood. She has a new life in London with her best friend Lucie Herondale and James’s charming companions, the Merry Thieves. She is about to be reunited with her beloved father. And she bears the sword Cortana, a legendary hero’s blade.
But the truth is far grimmer. James and Cordelia’s marriage is a lie, arranged to save Cordelia’s reputation. James is in love with the mysterious Grace Blackthorn whose brother, Jesse, died years ago in a terrible accident. Cortana burns Cordelia’s hand when she touches it, while her father has grown bitter and angry. And a serial murderer is targeting the Shadowhunters of London, killing under cover of darkness, then vanishing without a trace.
Together with the Merry Thieves, Cordelia, James, and Lucie must follow the trail of the knife-wielding killer through the city’s most dangerous streets. All the while, each is keeping a shocking secret: Lucie, that she plans to raise Jesse from the dead; Cordelia, that she has sworn a dangerous oath of loyalty to a mysterious power; and James, that he is being drawn further each night into the dark web of his grandfather, the arch-demon Belial. And that he himself may be the killer they seek.
Awkward, but I used to LOVE the Shadowhunter books… I haven’t read any in like three years. Well, I read Chain of Iron when it came out and it was okay. The main reason I wanted to reread it was because the final book in this trilogy, Chain of Thorns, was released this year (or last?) and I wanted to wrap up the series but did not remember a thing from book two. So, I embarked on a journey to read these 650 pages and I barely made it through. I think – and this is hard to say – I am over Cassandra Clare. Shocking, because I now have half a bookshelf dedicated to all the Shadowhunter Chronicles. I really thought I’d be reading this series until the end – I think Clare announced that there is one more trilogy left after this one. But I have yet to read book 3 of The Last Hours and I currently have no interest in continuing to read. All these characters feel the same as the OG characters from The Mortal Instruments and I’m getting all these characters mixed up. I will say that I think my favourite series was The Dark Artifices and The Infernal Devices. TLH just feels like it’s already been done before, idk.
Most Memorable: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson’s beloved gothic tale of a peculiar girl named Merricat and her family’s dark secret
Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate. This edition features a new introduction by Jonathan Lethem.
There’s something about creepy girl hated by whole village that I really enjoy reading about… wait a minute, are we going back to… The Salem Witch Trials?! Just kidding, but also not, The Crucible was great. Much like The Crucible, The Northern Light, Where the Crawdads Sing, etc, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is about a family estranged from their community and having to suffer because of it. Much like Wapole, it is filled with the gothic and I love it. Starting now I will only serve my blackberries with sugar. I read this stepping into fall and it was such a spooky fall vibe… gosh I wish I could be as mysterious as these books but I’m such a yappedy doo dah.
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
“Twelve times a week,” answered Uta Hagen when asked how often she’d like to play Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In the same way, audiences and critics alike could not get enough of Edward Albee’s masterful play. A dark comedy, it portrays husband and wife George and Martha in a searing night of dangerous fun and games. By the evening’s end, a stunning, almost unbearable revelation provides a climax that has shocked audiences for years. With the play’s razor-sharp dialogue and the stripping away of social pretense, Newsweek rightly foresaw Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as “a brilliantly original work of art–an excoriating theatrical experience, surging with shocks of recognition and dramatic fire [that] will be igniting Broadway for some time to come.”
This is a play, so not really a Short Fiction, but other than this book I only had Animal Farm on my list of short reads for the year and I actually really enjoyed that one. This one, not so much. I have walked away with more questions than I started with. I don’t really get the hype. I stupidly thought there would at least be some obscure reference to Virginia Woolf in here, but I picked up on nothing. This is a book where I set it down and say “am I dumb?” and “do I even know how to read?” In elementary school if I told them this they’d bring me down a reading level… maybe I need to step back. Sorry to the Albee fans.
Most Memorable: Unfortunately, none this year (I only read 2 YA books)
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: Powerless by Lauren Roberts
She is the very thing he’s spent his whole life hunting.
He is the very thing she’s spent her whole life pretending to be.
Only the extraordinary belong in the kingdom of Ilya—the exceptional, the empowered, the Elites.
The powers these Elites have possessed for decades were graciously gifted to them by the Plague, though not all were fortunate enough to both survive the sickness and reap the reward. Those born Ordinary are just that—ordinary. And when the king decreed that all Ordinaries be banished in order to preserve his Elite society, lacking an ability suddenly became a crime—making Paedyn Gray a felon by fate and a thief by necessity.
Surviving in the slums as an Ordinary is no simple task, and Paedyn knows this better than most. Having been trained by her father to be overly observant since she was a child, Paedyn poses as a Psychic in the crowded city, blending in with the Elites as best she can in order to stay alive and out of trouble. Easier said than done.
When Paeydn unsuspectingly saves one of Ilyas princes, she finds herself thrown into the Purging Trials. The brutal competition exists to showcase the Elites’ powers—the very thing Paedyn lacks. If the Trials and the opponents within them don’t kill her, the prince she’s fighting feelings for certainly will if he discovers what she is—completely Ordinary.
Alright, this was giving The Hunger Games vibes and since I loved those books, I wanted to try. But MAN, this is way too much like every single YA dystopian fiction… to a point that I felt like this book was a ChatGPT wordsmash of all the NYT bestsellers in the Young Adult Sci-Fi Fantasy section. It’s got a plot, sure – and that counts for something because my biggest ick is when books don’t seem to be going anywhere. However, this plot was read before, by me, in other books. Some of the rules for this competition too I’m like “where is the line drawn between inspiration and plagiarism?” It feels like Lauren Roberts really liked Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, and Victoria Aveyard and then just said “ok I want to make one too.” I think this is her debut, so I don’t want to be too mean. Especially since this book is so hyped and also I could never write a book lol. But no for me. Also, I saw the ending coming from a million miles away, I feel like I have already read this book so there are no surprises left!
Most Memorable: Canterbury Tales
The procession that crosses Chaucer’s pages is as full of life and as richly textured as a medieval tapestry. The Knight, the Miller, the Friar, the Squire, the Prioress, the Wife of Bath, and others who make up the cast of characters — including Chaucer himself — are real people, with human emotions and weaknesses. When it is remembered that Chaucer wrote in English at a time when Latin was the standard literary language across western Europe, the magnitude of his achievement is even more remarkable. But Chaucer’s genius needs no historical introduction; it bursts forth from every page of The Canterbury Tales.
If we trust the General Prologue, Chaucer intended that each pilgrim should tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two tales on the way back. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.
I was scared as shit going into this, because I was not ready to read in Middle English. Turns out, it really was not bad at all. Tough at times of course, but I would just like to sincerely thank Harvard Chaucer for having my back last semester. My favourite tales? The Franklin’s, The Wife of Bath’s, and The Miller’s Tale (I was laughing so bad at this last one). If anything, I learned that medieval literature really isn’t that bad and can be funny. For some reason, maybe the victorian prudes, I always thought that olden day folk were no nonsense people, but it seems like they sure liked to laugh at farts. What a refreshing revelation.
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: Time Is a Mother
In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.
The author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, winner of the 2016 Whiting Award, the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize, and a 2019 MacArthur fellow, Vuong writes directly to our humanity without losing sight of the current moment. These poems represent a more innovative and daring experimentation with language and form, illuminating how the themes we perennially live in and question are truly inexhaustible. Bold and prescient, and a testament to tenderness in the face of violence, Time Is a Mother is a return and a forging forth all at once.
This collection was not terrible, and I am sure it took a lot for Vuong to compose these, maybe this is a case of right place, wrong time, but I was not feeling it. Strange because I really enjoyed reading Vuong’s novel On Earth Were Briefly Gorgeous. Vuong’s style is so much like Yanagihara’s in A Little Life and they just make me sad all the time. I think a huge contributor to my interpretation of this poetry collection is that I listened to it as an audiobook, which I rarely do for verse. Maybe I wasn’t getting enough out of it to truly appreciate it. I don’t know. Like I said before, I’ve always had trouble with verse, especially the nuanced and obscure modern insta poetry style.
Overall BEST & WORST
Most Memorable: Tender is the Flesh
Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans —though no one calls them that anymore.
His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.
Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.
THIS BOOK. Is insane. INSANE. It is the only time a book has made me feel so physically sick I thought I was going to throw up. Yet, throwup bowl beside me, I continued to ravage this read. It took me a long time to get through this book because it was written in such terribly excruciating detail, but I was so invested and so filled with hope that perhaps things would get better. I think it is really that hope that Bazterrica embedds in the narrative that keeps the readers going, at least it did for me. This is also probably my fist contemporary dystopian horror, so I must take on more of this genre in 2024 because it was so good and so bad all at the same time. I had to switch from audio to physical so many times because reading would make me queasy but no way was I eating lunch with this on the aux oh my god. Please read this and talk to me. When I try and tell people to read this book they look at me like I am insane, and I probably am. It’s so good though! And in a sick way I loved how I was so obsessed with reading something that made me feel so foul. Side note: I still can’t eat meat without thinking about this book, be warned.
I Wouldn’t Mind Forgetting: Iron Flame
“The first year is when some of us lose our lives. The second year is when the rest of us lose our humanity.” —Xaden Riorson
Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College—Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.
Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is–unless she betrays the man she loves.
Although Violet’s body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, she still has her wits—and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.
But a determination to survive won’t be enough this year.
Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College—and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end.
This is a new series that has been dominating the charts this year, and I will admit, where Powerless fell through Fourth Wing did not. Definetly was not as good as other books I read this year, but the vibes really brought me back to my reading roots (aka Veronica Roth box set from Costco era). Ending of the first book was very much Jennifer L. Armentrout coded, which I hated so much because I do not like Armentrout’s book (I say “book” even though I know she has many because you can not tell me the From Blood and Ash series is not just one book tumbled over six times). Anyways, I did not have high hopes for book two of The Empyrean and wow I was right for that. First off, the book was a 1600 page ebook. With long bouts of absolutely nothing of relevance. Main character is moping and fighting over the same argument the entire 1600 pages with principal secondary character (à la style Armentrout) and also… what I hate the most is that everyone seems to love this main character with absolutely no redeeming qualities that they will die for her, which makes no sense at all. Further, Violet spends maybe 600 pages of this book getting upset because a friend died last book saving her and everything is her fault yadiyadayada and yet she continues to put herself in harms way and refuses to listen to orders… then everyone is like “oh it wasn’t your fault lad died last book, Violet” euheum?! She has no business having so much influence. And stop justifying her recklessness everyone! Gotta also remember this girl is in second year of dragon school, I mean why is she negotiating with officials… I seriously do not understand how this went from a cool Harry Potter and Divergent spoof to a hard to read 1600 page argument for the dimwitted. I think this series is supposed to be 6 books total… I’m sorry what else are y’all gonna be talking about if book two is already a spiral plot? This was also my last read of 2023, which I think also added to the disappointment factor, because why am I ending the year on such a terrible note??? beurk.
For whatever it’s worth…
I’ve read some good books this year and I’ve also read some really junk books. This is only some of them, I wish I had the time to nitpick them all; however, I am back to university tomorrow, which means no blog, no reading for fun, and no free time. Gosh the days are long and arduous! Much like Tender is the Flesh, I troublesomely love so ardently something that is so harsh on me: school. Welp, what can you do? (I can’t wait to graduate.)
Let’s hope for a 2024 filled with good books, and maybe a couple junk ones too to keep it interesting!