Hello, bookworms! I know it’s been quiet on the blog when it comes to book reviews. It was a busy year at work, and so writing any kind of review on the blog––books I enjoyed reading for fun––fell by the wayside. But I’ve been keeping track over on Instagram, and I am so happy to share that reading for quality instead of quantity the last few years is really paying off! This year was full of four- and five-star books, and below I’m sharing my absolute favorites!
Empire of Gold || The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue || Part of Your World || The Huntress
The Book of Gothel || A River Enchanted || Babel
Over the summer I shared my reviews for the first four books (check it out!). This fall I read the last three, with reviews below. I loved these books to pieces, and I think it’s such a great representation of my reading taste overall. Magical, inspiring, sweeping emotions; hilarious, honest, and real; intriguing, tense, and curious.
Curious about my thoughts? Read the reviews after this break!
The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne: A beautiful reimagining of Mother Gothel in 1100s Bavaria, backed with history and myth, and perfect for fans of Once & Future Witches, The Bear & the Nightingale, and Brothers Grimm fairytales. This starts off a little slow, but it’s so exquisitely written you can’t stop reading. It began solidly historical, layered with rich detail of Bavarian life and culture, with crumbs of magic and lore sprinkled throughout to pique curiosity. The lines between Christian, Jewish, and pagan beliefs are blurred in this trying period of medieval history. And then…the magic builds.
You spot not just the beginnings of the Rapunzel story, but also Red Riding Hood and Snow White and several other tales. Droplets of origin stories twist around in this book as Haelewise escapes her closed-off town for the Tower, and the Tower for a convent, and the convent for the castle. I even looked up the historical figures she met on the way, and it was so cool to see how they wove together. This book was like reading the life of a saint. (And can we talk about that ending?!)
Incredible. Marvelous. A fairytale all on its own.
A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross: If you loved Daughter of the Forest or The Harp of Kings—basically, Juliet Marillier—this is a book for you! While Marillier’s fantasy is inspired by Irish Gaelic lore, Ross’s adult debut is inspired by Scottish Gaelic lore. A young musician (Jack) is called back to the isle from the mainland, tasked to help the heiress (Adaira) of the eastern clan find missing girls. The heiress’s cousin (Torin) is the clan’s captain of the military, and his wife (Sidra) is the healer. We follow these four in their quest to solve the mystery and prevent all-out war with the clan of the west. Woven into the fabric of this novel is magic, enchantments, secrets, and the fair folk of the isle.
Ross’s writing has a rhythm, an atmosphere, something beautiful and nostalgic and truly magical in these pages. I’m looking forward to reading the second book and following my favorite character (Sidra! She gave me such Sorcha vibes (iykyk)). Most of all, I wanted to read this book instead of work. I wanted to read this book instead of watch TV. I wanted to read this book instead of socialize. My thoughts were consumed by this story and these characters for a week—I’m so glad I picked this up!
Babel by RF Kuang: In a word: Astounding. I adore 19th c British literature. The dichotomy and duality and hypocrisy interests me—it is a time of change and revolution, and the literature of the time was experimental and dramatic and soapy. So when I started reading Babel, I thought immediately of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. The dramas, the detail, even the cheeky play with character names (Playfair and Lovell are anything but playing fair or loving). I later learned RF Kuang read David Copperfield as a resource for writing Babel, and I applaud her ability to evoke that language and style. I think it really brought the atmosphere to life by emulating that!
A good portion of the novel covers the friendship between Robin, Ramy, Victoire, and Letty. Their ups and downs throughout their undergrad, the late nights and long lectures, boating excursions and shopping trips, cafe hours and studying in the library, all within the comforting bubble of Oxford. It’s warm and magical in its own way, even without the magic of translation and silver-work. But I also call myself a life-long student—I enjoyed the lectures they sat in, I loved learning the etymology and seeing how different words from different languages connect and develop. At times it would be a little pretentious, but I enjoyed the college spirit of it all.
Then, while you swallowed some sprinkling of the racism, hypocrisy, colonialism, and hardship sporadically before, Kuang waits for the reader to be fully immersed before dousing the dreamy quality with gasoline and lighting it all on fire. You feel the tension build, and then you get to the middle, and this narrative explodes. It’s thought-provoking, eye-opening, painful, beautiful, full of rage and heartbreak, uncomfortable, honest, and yes it’s also full of hope.
Now you may be wondering: What was your top favorite of 2022? That’s too hard. But I will say that I wept reading two of these books in particular, and I will push them into readers’ hands for a long time. Incredibly well-written, remarkable triumphs. I am in awe. These two books are: Babel and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue!