Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire | Book Review

★★★☆☆
January 12th – 15th

I was so excited for this book. This is the fifth installment in the Wayward Children series, and seems to be a direct sequel to the third and first books (which I didn’t like) containing the characters from the second book (which are my favorites). I’m I’m unfortunately finding a pattern with this series that I only like every other book, which isn’t fun.

Luckily, they’re short enough that I can get through them, but we’ll get into what’s actually happening here.

Following the events of the first book, Jack and Jill return to the Moors. At the start of this book, we see Jack return, passed out in the arms of Alexis, her reanimated girlfriend. But Jack doesn’t seem to be fully Jack. Instead, she’s in Jill’s body.

Part of my problem with this book is that it had a quest storyline, similar to the third book, that takes place in one of the worlds. While the quests sound fun in theory, there just isn’t enough time to flesh out the stakes and consequences, and as a result there are no stakes or consequences. The people she brings along to help her don’t even end up helping her, as she does all of the work themselves. The most they do is act against her and make it more difficult for her to continue. Even the culmination of the book, the final battle which will help Jack get her body back, is wrapped up within a few pages.

This book also contains characters I find very hard to deal with, and McGuire’s style of bouncing around to what each character is feeling can be hard to follow. The characters repeat themselves, or justify their actions verbally, because there isn’t enough time for their character arcs to do it for them. In addition, we’re constantly met with “back when she saved her world” or “when he defeated the monster in his own world”, and it feels a lot like we’ve missed out on some really fun adventure stories and are stuck.

At the end of the book, we barely get a reaction from the characters once they’ve returned to the school. Cora especially, who you actually saw struggle with being in another world and returning, doesn’t even say or do anything at the end, and we’re left to wonder if she’s going to be okay mentally after the toll The Moors took on her.

My favorite of these books have been the second and fourth books, which concentrated on one character finding their doors and going into their world. McGuire seems to do better with a smaller scope, and I hope she’ll give us more of these prequel stories in the future, as the quest storylines at the school aren’t doing it for me.

-Siobhan

2019 Reading Stats

Alright, so here it is. A recap of everything that I read in all of 2019. These stats are coming from a mix of Goodreads, which is where I track everything I read, and my personal stat spreadsheet. There’s a link to my Goodreads profile in the sidebar.

I read 13,086 pages across 48 books.

The shortest book I read was Bound by Mark Lawrence at 49 pages. The longest, also by Mark Lawrence, was Red Sister.

The most popular book I read was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, which 970,697 other people read.

My highest read genre was Graphic Novel this year at 12, and second highest was Fantasy at 7.

Most of the books I read (18) had an average page length between 300-399 pages.

36 of the books I read were in the adult age range, 11 were young adult, and I read 1 children’s book.

My average rating for 2019 was 4 stars. This doesn’t surprise me at all, because I felt like I read some really great books this year.

Most of the books I read this year were digital. 41 of them I read on my iPad. I read 4 hardcovers, and listened to 2 audiobooks. This is a huge change from last year, and all prior years, where I’d been primarily reading physical hardcover books. This stat really surprised me in how much I’m moving toward ebooks.

For some author stats, I read a pretty even split of male vs female authors. 23 were male, 25 were female. I also read from 40 authors which were new to me this year, and only 8 were authors I had read from before.

Finally, here’s my top 5 books of the year, in no particular order:

  1. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
  2. Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens
  3. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  4. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  5. Normal People by Sally Rooney

At the beginning of the year, I also set some goals for myself. I wanted to
– Read 52 books
– Read more non-fiction
– Only purchase books that I knew I’d love

I was four books shy of reading 52 books this year. I read one non-fiction book, so I don’t know that I can mark that one complete, but I was really good about only purchasing books I knew I’d love! What this meant was I really dialed in to purchasing books from authors who I loved, or series that I really enjoyed. I used the library a lot more this year. This strategy really worked for me, and I think the Red Sister series is a good example. I read the first two books from the library, right before the third one was set to come out. I decided that I loved the series enough to buy it, and bought all three books at once. I’m definitely going to continue using this strategy for physical books, as I’m just out of space on my bookshelves.

This year, I want to:
– Read 52 books
– Read the 5 oldest books on my Goodreads TBR
– Read from 10 different countries

The individual goals I set for myself were to read specific books. Those books were ones I’m really looking forward to, but unfortunately didn’t get to read.
– Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
– Shades of Magic (Series) by V.E. Schwab
– Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
– Circe by Madeline Miller

Though these are all books I do want to complete, I’m going to choose a different batch this year for my goals. This year those are:
– The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty
– Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence
– Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia
– Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
– The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

I’m excited for this year of reading. I have a lot of content planned for posts, and I’m excited to see where this year takes us.

Happy New Year!
-Siobhan

December Recap | 2019

A blog post? On a Monday?

This is something new that I’m trying this year. The aim is to have recap, stat, and other types of content on Mondays, as well as having weekly reviews on Fridays. There are a lot of books that I’m really excited to read in 2020.

As for December, I didn’t get to complete any books during the month, and took the time for the holidays to spend time with my family and focus on work. I’m excited to jump back into reading in January, and my January TBR will be posted in a few weeks!

-Siobhan

Wilder Girls by Rory Power | Book Review

★★★★☆
October 31st – November 8th

I’ve heard about this book a lot. I’ve heard it described as a female Lord of the Flies, but spookier and weird. I guess if you aren’t super familiar with a more speculative horror genre, and you’re in the YA demographic that this book is aimed at, that’s a fair comparison. To me, a more apt comparison is Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, a book which I was not a huge fan of.

This book was different enough from that in ways that I liked, but also still had the atmosphere and descriptions which were my favorite part of Annihilation. I think Rory Power did a great job bringing a different type of horror genre to a young adult audience, and I hope that this introduces a lot of YA readers to horror books as something they can continue to enjoy.

This book takes place on Raxter, an island off the coast of Maine and home to an all girls boarding school by the same name. The island has always been slightly strange, with blue crabs and flowers that turn black after being picked. Now, there’s the Tox, a sickness which changes the girls and makes them wild. Hetty has her eye sealed shut and blooms over it. Byatt has a second spine. Reese has a hand with silver scales.

There are others, girls with two hearts, silver hair that glows, each one unique and slightly stranger than the last. The island is twisted too, with trees that grow too fast, and animals that are far more feral than they used to be.

This book reads almost as a slice of life into the strange world that these girls live in. It takes place a year and a half after the Tox began, as their numbers continue to dwindle and a cure seems less and less likely. Secrets are uncovered and things begin to change again. This book is about friendship and more than friendship. It’s about relationships with parents, and closing people out, and letting people in. It’s a slow burn, a slow story, and a slow progression.

I liked this book a lot. It was weird, and cool, and ominous, and gory. It’s a book that I would recommend to people who like horror and not having all the answers to all the questions, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

Rory Power has another book coming out next year, and if it’s anything like this I think I’ll really enjoy it.

-Siobhan

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens | Book Review

★★★★★
October 30th

This book has been on the top of every list since it came out at the end of August last year. It’s received extremely high praise, and I’ve been on the list to loan this book from the library for about 30 weeks.

At first glance, this isn’t my type of book. I’m not usually into historical fiction, the cover screamed that it would be a somewhat slow-paced read, and I couldn’t figure out a time where I would be in the mood to try it. But the description hinted at a mystery, and I just can’t resist a good mystery.

I’m so glad that I read this book. It was heartbreaking, and beautiful, and dark, and scientific, and showed me that I can love historical fiction, I just have to find the ones right for me.

The novel is told in two timelines, one starting in 1952, following Kya, a young woman who is slowly abandoned by her Mother, siblings, and Father until she is living alone at the age of seven in a shack at the edge of a swamp in North Carolina. She learns to take care of herself, never going to school, and dodging any police or social services who come to try and take her away.

Kya is locally known as a bit of an urban legend, the Marsh Girl. The town believes she’s dirty, crazed, and won’t go near her, or help her for that matter. Kya eventually makes some friends, Tate, a boy a few years older than her who teaches her to read, write, and some basic math, and eventually a boy named Chase. At some point though, everyone seems to leave Kya. Though she’s a bit immature as a character from the amount of time spent alone, there’s a maturity to her actions and to her love of nature that’s really beautiful to read about.

In 1969, Chase is found dead and the local police force (and town) begin to suspect that Kya had something to do with it. The investigation is very one-sided, and the town seems more hellbent on pinning the death as a murder than in finding out the truth about what happened to him.

This book hurt to read. It was heavy and sometimes hard to get through, but the scientific aspects were a good way to pull the reader out of the hard-hitting plot. Delia Owens love of nature and animals definitely came through the page, and I wasn’t surprised at all to find that she had spent a good amount of time studying in Africa. Her fondness of the nature in the south is just as present in this book, and it quietly shows the importance of marshland to the reader, not just to those Kya interacts with in the book.

I would definitely recommend the audiobook. I listened to about half of the book this way, and it was a great way to get some of the pronunciations and slang that I was unfamiliar with.

I’m in awe that this is Delia Owens’ debut. I can’t wait to see what else she writes, and to also check out some of her non-fiction work.

-Siobhan

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware | Book Review

★★★★☆
October 24th

The Turn of the Key is the fifth book by Ruth Ware, and the first that I’ve read by her. I definitely feel like I started off on the right foot.

This book was creepy. It had suspense, mystery, and an element which left you puzzling whether or not it was supernatural, or if there was a logical explanation for it. The main character we have is Rowan. Following a rough childhood, she became a nanny and began working at a daycare. After finding an advertisement for a nannying job with a salary she can’t say no to, she leaves London and moves to the Scottish highlands to work for a family in a remote, and extravagant house. The parents are aloof, busy, and flustered by the departure of the previous four nannies they’ve hired.

As Rowan starts her new job, she begins to wonder if the nannies left because of the parents, the slightly aloof and creepy children, or something more sinister happening in a house with a lot of history.

This book is told in an epistolary format, as Rowan writes letters to appeal to a lawyer she wants to represent her in the trial for the murder of one of the children. Most of the time that I was reading this, I forgot that it was written in this format, and liked the reminders of the jumps in time we were experiencing.

Maybe it’s because I read the book in one day, but I found myself so hooked into the plot and Rowan’s actions (and her assurances that she was innocent), that I didn’t have time to theorize or try and figure out what the twists were. I was along for the ride, and found the plot twists, surprising and very well executed.

This was the thirteenth thriller/mystery/horror book that I’ve read this year, and is definitely towards the top of the list. It’s the book that surprised me the most. From what I’ve seen and read about Ruth Ware’s other books, this is her best so far. I’m reluctant to go back and read some of her older novels, but if they have any similar twists to this one, I definitely want to give them a try.

-Siobhan

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager | Book Review

★★★★☆
October 22nd – 23rd

Jules has no one left.

Her parents have both died, and her sister has been missing since she was 19. Jules is living and working in New York City, struggling to stay afloat after losing both her job and her boyfriend (and therefore apartment) in one day. Enter an ad to be an apartment-sitter at one of New York’s oldest, most prestigious, and most secretive buildings: The Bartholomew. The ad is vague, but the rules are extremely strict. No nights away from the building. No bothering the tenants. No visitors. No photos inside. No exceptions.

But if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

This is Riley Sager’s third book, and the third one that I’ve read by him this year. At this point, I feel like I can immediately identify one of his novels. They’re very formulaic. There will always be a female main character, with a dark and twisted past that they don’t want to initially talk about. Their struggle will parallel the horror that they face. They’ll be wrong about something, or have a complete misconception about the events that have transpired in the past to them.

Lock Every Door is no different in this regard. Even though all of Sager’s novels have been standalones, beginning one feels like returning to something. I enjoy the tone that he conveys, his subtle clues at what’s going on towards the beginning, usually as a completely innocuous detail, which makes you go “Oh, that’s what that was about” after the twist is revealed.

I liked Jules’ character. She’s struggling, she’s alone, and she’s desperate. All of those things make her an easy target for the horrors she’s beginning to face. I enjoyed seeing how each of the characters in this book were involved in the mystery, and this book ended up surprising me and taking a sharp turn towards an element I thought was only slightly too far-fetched. My biggest complaint was how grand the scale of this book was compared to Sager’s first two books, and how a few of the elements towards the end were things which could really only happen in fiction. That sort of ending drew me out of the realistic setting, tone, and characters I’m so used to from Riley Sager’s novels.

Riley Sager announced his fourth book, titled Home Before Dark, which comes out in July of next year, and it’s definitely one of my most anticipated books of next year so far.

-Siobhan