I built this website purely as a portfolio to show off my work, but the more I think about it – the more I’d rather this site be a little more active! To that end I plan on peppering in more posts like book reviews or whatever else pops into my mind, along with any new work. Not on any kind of a schedule, mind you. Despite the fact that I work better on a deadline, I’m still a writer, which means (as Chuck Wendig so succinctly put it) I’m ‘a sack of cats, mentally.‘ Maybe in the New Year I can make regularly scheduled posts a goal, eh?
So maybe because I’m a mewing bag of fur and claws, I love lists and I love reflection. It brings order to the chaos in a very satisfying way, so I’m reveling in these end-of-the-decade style posts on all the socials. A few weeks ago, I created some Top Five style Instagram stories (you can find them as a highlight here) listing my favorite books of the decade (as well as comics, music, tv, and movies). Here then is a mini review of each book – and I’d love to hear your fave books of the last ten years!
Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher
God, this book. T. Kingfisher is the alias of Ursula Vernon, an author and illustrator that I’ve been following since college. She started out as an illustrator – her old website Metal and Magic was how I discovered her – and, based on the strength and humor of her art captions, soon made her way into writing. Summer in Orcus is a portal fantasy in which 11-year-old Summer encounters Baba Yaga and strikes a bargain for her heart’s desire, which sends her to the whimsical world of Orcus, where birds talk and blue scorpions light the way at night. This book will make you laugh and cry in equal measure, and contains one of my favorite quotes: “Summer’s mother believed that books were safe things that kept you inside, which only shows how little she knew about it, because books are one of the least safe things in the world.”
Clocktaur War by T. Kingfisher (Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine)
Okay this is a leeetttllleee bit of a cheat because it’s actually two books but it’s one long continuous story so I’m allowing it, and besides I’m the one making the rules here. I’m going to quote the description on Goodreads here, because I don’t think I could put it any better: “Pull three people out of prison – a disgraced paladin, a convicted forger, and a heartless assassin. Give them weapons, carnivorous tattoos, and each other. Point them at the enemy. What could possibly go wrong?” The answer is, a lot. These two books made me howl with laughter in parts, and totally broke my heart at the crux, and I tore through both in a matter of days. This is the kind of story that will have you contemplating who the heroes and villains really are, and whether those terms even mean anything in the wider world.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
While I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan thanks to Sandman, I have not read American Gods yet (I’m getting to it, I’m getting to it, so many books so little time etc etc). However, this sort of companion story about the sons of the trickster god Anansi has me chomping at the bit to do so. Mr. Nancy has died, and his son Fat Charlie’s life is about to go topsy turvy when he finds out that not only was his dad a god – he has a brother he never knew about named Spider. The madcap yet charming story that unfolds here is outstanding, somehow both effusive and emotional and yet very very British.
Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
I’m a sucker for stories about or set during WWII, and this is an utterly unflinching tale about the human side effects of war, told by protagonists you’re not necessarily supposed to like. The relationship between mothers and daughters never seems to be easy, and that’s certainly the case for Framboise, whose mother Mirabelle is still held responsible for a tragedy that occurred in a small French town on the Loire during the German occupation. Through a book of her mother’s recipes she has inherited after her death, she learns more about her mother, what really happened that summer, and how sometimes love and ferocity are intertwined.
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
A lot of time, fantasy stories written by women get shoved into the Young Adult category, which is hardly fair (no offense to the YA community). It causes too many readers to dismiss it as a whole, which is a shame, because they’re skipping out on some amazing writing and storytelling. In The Darkest Part of the Forest, Hazel and her brother Ben reside in Fairfold, a strange place where humans and fae exist side by side. A glass coffin deep in the forest holds a fae prince, asleep for eons. They both fell in love with the prince as children, even while knowing just how dangerous the fairer folk could be. The mystery of how the coffin comes to be smashed to smithereens, who did it and why, and where the prince is now will keep you riveted to the very end.
Those are my favorite books of the decade! Which books kept you glued to the pages, kept you up at night, or just plain kept you entertained?