So for this one, I want you to talk about you! What did you do this year that you’re proud of?
I FINALLY hit 500 followers on bookstagram. It took a lot of work and is pretty remarkable seeing as I wasn’t present maybe three months of the year. I plan to be more dedicated next year and can’t wait to see where I can go with it.
I switched from a job where career advancement wasn’t possible and I couldn’t be out about my mental health and my LGBTQ+ status. To a job with the possibility of advancement, more hours, a nicer boss, better discounts and sister stores and just generally better overall. I also got my best friend a job at the same company so that’s good.
I’ve gone leaps and bounds from where I was at the beginning of the year. Part of the reason I was absent from bookstagram and blogging for part of the year is that my mental health wasn’t doing well, but I feel a lot stronger about my conditions, and I plan to advocate more on my blog and social media about my conditions in the new year.
I learned how to read tarot this year and it’s become one of my favorite things. It’s calming and fun.
This may be a little petty but I got a few new things this year I’ve been waiting a LONG time to get. I got an Apple Watch Series 3 which I love and it really helps with my health. And I got a Nintendo Switch which I’ve been waiting like 2 years since it came out for, I’ve been playing Pokemon Sword and Breath of the Wild and it is calming and amazing.
Finally one of the best things of the year is my new kitten Elsa, I lost my 16-year-old sweet baby in 2018 and I’d been grieving since and while no one can ever replace my dear sweet departed cat, Elsa has been making me laugh and makes my heart lighter. And she was born on the death date of my belated cat which I find to be a sign from my other cat.
What about you? What were some of the highlights of your year?
Here I’m going to highlight some of my favorite posts I made this year. Don’t worry you won’t have to suffer through 11 of them, I just want to highlight a few of my favorite points on the blog this year.
The Witch Boy Review
I have a special place in my heart for this book, and this was my first blog post and one of the best books I read this year.
Anticipated Middle-Grade Books July
First time I started looking ahead at the publishing calendar.
The first time I participated in a blog tag and made a record number of post that month, and felt like a member of the bookish community.
MG Less Popular Than YA: Why?
The first discussion post I made and the first time I worked with other bookstagrammers about a topic.
And finally, 12 Days of Christmas Tag the first time I created my own book tag.
Originally I was going to do this as books you didn’t finish, but I realized that list is WAY too long. So instead I’ll focus on 10 books I wish I’d had time to pick up in 2019.
1)Guest: A Changeling Tale
This creepy book was supposed to be on my Halloween list but I just didn’t get around to it. Planning to add it to my New Years TBR.
I’ve been meaning to read more books about mental health since one of my goals is to be a better advocate for my conditions in the new year. This lovely book however I didn’t get the chance to read, is on my TBR for next year. Maybe for mental health read a thon.
3)Power to the Princess: 15 Favorite Fairytales Retold with Girl Power
Even though this was published in 2018, I love princess retellings so much I did my masters thesis on them. So when I saw this, in relation to another book I was reviewing on NetGalley, I knew I wanted to read it, but my library doesn’t have it and my request for it hasn’t been fulfilled yet so I’m stuck until a lucky paycheck in 2020.
4)All Our Broken Pieces
Another mental health book I wanted to pick up, this one about OCD.
A lovely book that I started and that time got away from me on.
This time of the year everyone wants to feel cozy. I know I do, blankets and tea help, but so do favorite books. Some of my comfort reads include
Anything by Gail Carson Levine. I especially love Ella Enchanted but I also love Fairest and the Two Princesses of Bammare. Her books are solidly written and always feature girls and women who are smart and manage to find a creative solution to the problems at hand.
My next favorite author is Margaret Peterson Haddix, I can count on her for her mysteries, twists, and smart protagonists. I also love the range of her work, I love her Children of Exile trilogy, and her Shadow Children series, as well as some of her stand alones. She’s great at coming up with new ideas.
Finally my new favorite series is by Shannon Messenger. The Keeper of the Lost Cities Series has really drawn me in this year. I’ve read it probably 8 or 9 times this year and just can’t get enough of the characters and setting.
Though I haven’t finished up this trilogy the first two books and the synopsis of the third still make it my favorite. The Witch Boy series of book was wonderful, it was one of the first books I talked about on my blog.
1) The Witch Boy
The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag and I can’t help but give it glowing reviews. Before I even get to the plot, it’s simply a beautiful book. Every character’s art is distinct, even the names seem to have a deeper meaning.
The book tells Aster’s story, Aster who comes from a family of witches and shapeshifters. These roles are gender-based are girls are witches and boys are shapeshifters. Yet deep down Aster knows he’s a witch. Despite his family’s disapproval of his interest in witchery. Aster tries to pick up what he can of witchery by overhearing lessons and trying out techniques in secret.
From there he makes friends and has to deal with relics of his family’s past and their prejudices and how they affect him and the family in the current day.
2) The Hidden Witch
The Hidden Witch was a great follow up to The Witch Boy, after his adventures with an old family enemy, Aster is finally getting the chance to learn witchery with the girls in his family. However, some of his family still hold their old prejudices making things more difficult for Aster than they need to be. Aster feels like he is being scolded for no reason but with the help of his cousin Juniper, Aster connects with his grandmother who offers him special lessons, these lessons come at a price though. This book expanded the world of the Witch Boy and dealt with some of the problems left unfinished by the last book in a constructive way.
3 The Midwinter Witch
The conclusion to Ostertag’s The Witch Boy trilogy, Ariel and Aster must face dark magical forces as Vanissen Midwinter Festival near. Aster looks forward to the Midwinter Festival where there will be competitions in witchery and shapeshifting. This year will be the first year he gets to compete as a witch so he’s extra excited to everyone he’s grown into his power. But he knows that showing the whole family, the Midwinter Festival is also the Vanissen Family reunion, that is he’s defying tradition won’t be easy.
I can’t wait to read this as it seems like a great conclusion, tying up all the story lines from the previous two books. Definitely on my TBR if I don’t get to it this month, then in the new year.
So I read lots of books with twist endings but I’m going to highlight three. Also 50th post for the blog. Woo!
1) The Greystone Secrets: The Strangers
I’m usually pretty good at figuring out mysteries in books, especially Middle-Grade books. Which I suppose is to be expected, however, I’m delighted when I’m surprised. The Strangers kept me guessing right till the end. I will say that Margaret Peterson Haddix is usually pretty good about mysteries and again she doesn’t disappoint. This was by far my favorite book of the year when it came to surprises.
2) Small Spaces
Arden’s narrative is well-paced, and I didn’t figure out the mystery till close to the end, which I always love for scary books. My only problem with it is that it’s too short and I wanted more. I love that the monsters are mysterious and the main villain is not what they seem.
3) Dead Voices
This was maybe even creepier than Small Spaces. The group has to face sinister forces by themselves, and they can’t trust what is around them. I love the false starts and different twists throughout the book. And the where the people they think are good end up being evil and the other way around.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my bookish friends gave to me, five golden rings!
We’ve all read plenty of books this year that were worth their weight in gold, but I want your five favorites! They don’t have to have been published in 2019, just read by you in 2019. Ignore the awards, pick your favorites that were ignored by Bookstagram and all the other bookish sources.
1)The Witch Boy
I’m not exactly sure how much press this book has gotten but I haven’t seen it on IG that much. It is the sweetest story about a family where boys are shapeshifters and girls are witches, and there is a boy who wants to be a witch and who has to break tradition to save his family.
My favorite mystery book of the year, I didn’t see it discussed on bookstagram as much as I would have thought. It tells the story of three children and a kidnapping that shakes up their whole world. There are so many twists and turns it kept me guessing through the whole book which most books don’t.
The sequel to The Witch Boy this book is a great followup as Aster is finally getting the chance to learn witchery with the girls in his family. However, some of his family still hold their old prejudices making things more difficult for Aster than they need to be. He deals with new enemies and old family prejudices. It’s a great plot and I can’t wait to see the total story resolved in the Midwinter Witch.
This middle-grade novel expands upon the three years between Frozen and Frozen II. It’s got an amazing plot and expertly explores the world of Frozen and I’m not sure why it hasn’t gotten any recognition.
Conceal Don’t Feel‘s basic premise is that Anna and Elsa have never met. Or so they think? Having lived separate lives, Elsa as Arendelle‘s sole heir and Anna as a regular girl in a village. Elsa notices something is afoot with her parents when she overhears them talk about a mysterious girl, a secret, and curses. It’s another great Frozen book that’s gotten almost no press and the Twisted Tale series is great so I’m not sure why.
On the second day of Christmas, my bookish friends gave to me Two Turtledoves. What was the best set of books or best bookish couple you read about this year?
The best dueology I’ve read/am in the process of reading is the Cassidy Blake books by Victoria Schwab.
City of Ghosts
City of Ghosts was my first introduction to Victoria Schwab‘s work. I loved it from the introduction.
The main character Cassidy is just looking forward to a vacation at the beach. She needs a break from the ghosts that demand her attention both around her city and at school. Her break with her family is blissfully free of ghosts, except for her best friend, Jacob, who happens to be corporally challenged.
Her parent’s ghost hunting show takes her Edinburgh where she makes friends (enemies)? and catches the attention of one of the cities’ most powerful ghosts. She’s going to need her new friend and Jacob’s help if she wants to stand a chance against the powerful ghost because Cassidy must face this ghost and win. Cassidy doesn’t realize until it is too late what the ghost really wants from her: her life.
I’m currently about 3/4 of the way through with this and loving the plot and can’t wait to finish it up.
Cassidy Blake‘s and her corporally challenged best friend Jacob’s adventures pick up after their dangerous adventures in Scotland. Now they are in Paris, filming the next episode of Cassidy’s parents show The Inspecters. While Cassidy hopesParis isn’t as haunted as Eninghburgh her hopes are dashed when she learns about the ghosts hiding beneath Paris in the Catacombs.
And when Cassidy awakens a strong spirit from the Catacombs, she must rely on her growing skills as a ghost hunter, as well as new and old friends. Together they must solve a mystery before the spirit Cassidy unleashed becomes strong enough to be free to haunt Paris forever.
On the first day of Christmas, my bookish friends gave to me a partridge in a pear tree! We are talking about standalone books for our first day of the challenge.
By and far mine was the graphic novel Pilu of the Woods.
In my review of the book I talked about
“Pilu of the Woods is about a young girl, Willow who is trying to understand her emotions after the loss of her mother. Willow and her sister Linnea are both dealing with the loss differently, Linnea is older and trying to step up into a maternal role, while Willow is becoming more introverted.
Willow is being bullied at school and lasing out. This leads to a fight between her and her sister where Willow runs off into the woods with her dog Chico. Both Willow’s parents really love plant life and her father is an ecology professor of some type so Willow feels at home in the woods. She used to go on walks there with her mother as well, and pick her mother’s favorite flower, the magnolia.
While she is walking in the woods after her fight with her sister Willow happens upon another girl who has run away, named Pilu. Pilu is a forest spirit, coincidentally a magnolia tree spirit. Pilu has run away because she feels like she’s never listened to among her twelve sisters. She also feels like her mother, responsible for forest duties, doesn’t really care about her. She is now lost and doesn’t want to go home.
From her walks, with her mother, Willow thinks she knows where Pilu is from and Willow gets Pilu to agree to at least try to go home.
Along their walk back to the magnolia grove Willow talks about nature and tells Pilu about her sister, mother, and father. Their talks about nature are as much talks about emotions as anything, and one central theme that comes up is monsters. Monsters are what Willow calls her ‘negative’ emotions but I think they could very well represent trying to control mental illness.
From her experience when she lets them out, bad things happen, such as the last time she talked to her mother she said something she thought was mean, the things she says when she gets into a fight with her sister, or the negative effects of defending herself from a bully at school.
The monsters are represented in the artwork by these green shapes in jars that appear behind Willow in each scene.
As Pilu and Willow make their way back to the grove it starts to rain more and Pilu’s emotions start to come out. She’s nervous about going back home and nervous that her mother doesn’t want her, Pilu claims that Willow knows nothing about being lonely.
Willow gets angry and her ‘monsters’ start to come out. She tells Pilu that she thinks her mother will always be there and that the ‘monsters’ can’t hurt her.
Then the ‘monsters’ start to show up. Pilu and Willow appear surprised and start to run from them.
As she and Pilu run from the monsters Pilu asks if they are dangerous, and the two get to talking about Willow’s monsters. Pilu wonders how they could be dangerous if they are Willow’s since Willow herself isn’t dangerous. Pilu also notes that the monsters might be lonely since Willow has been trying to ignore them.
As the monsters catch up to Pilu and Willow, the monsters capture Pilu and Willow realizes she has had it all wrong about the monsters. That ignoring them has just made them grow bigger and stronger. Willow thinks back to what she discussed with Pilu about how no one likes to be lonely and makes a choice about how she will deal with her monsters that is the most important one in the whole book.
After that it’s a blur, Willow wakes up at home and the rest of the story is told in flashbacks. Willow eventually ends back at home and apologizes to her sister who apologizes to her. Willow leads Pilu back to the grove where her mother and sisters have missed her. This is the same grove the Willow used to visit with her mother. Pilu gives Willow a magnolia flower for her trouble and tells her to visit again.”
The book, however, leaves you with the distinct question of whether any of Willow’s adventures with Pilu were real or not. Or simple her out in nature dealing with her emotions over the loss of her mother. Is Pilu simply the embodied spirit of something her mother loved (magnolias) there to help her along, in processing her feelings of loss and guilt? The author doesn’t make it clear, though they do hint to perhaps it being a real adventure when Willow’s father comments on a magnolia that Willow brought back, a gift from Pilu, being out of season. But I think it’s really up to the reader to decide.
This is my favorite standalone of the year due to the way it talks about processing emotions, and how those emotions can feel very much like real things. And how the line between grief/mental illness and the real world is very narrow.
The book handled these issues with a deft hand and was one of my favorites from the art to the topic at hand.
Come back tomorrow for the second day of Christmas, where we talk about our favorite pairs of things!