I started this book in a secluded cabin in the Missouri wilderness where the absence of light pollution at night allows one to see the band of the Milky Way. Like any book that opens with a hunting scene, I almost put this one down after the first pages. I read to escape the violence against animals too common in the world. But I felt a deeper message here, and being unplugged from media and away from the press of human civilization I felt prepared to take this on.
It’s rare to find a book that so closely validates my beliefs about nature, animals, and humanity’s troubling place in it all. I come away from the experience of this book feeling sad but moved, and pulled very far out of my comfort zone. I don’t believe the violence, especially at the climax, is justified, even in this fictional world–but I think that’s the point.
Oppression of women and animals and the connected violence go hand in hand here, as they often do in reality. Even though I really broke two rules of my reading for escapism here, the comparison was satisfying … even as it filled me with grief. I feel changed by this book, that someone here gets it, not just me. Maybe a lot of someones get it. And even as the story progressed into the awful things men do to women and animals, balanced on the other side was such a poignant expression of compassion for nature. It made me sad at the reality we’ve created, and hopeful that someday there might be enough people who follow this understanding to tip things for the good of all who share the earth.
ONCE THERE WERE WOLVES
by Charlotte McConaghy
Amazon | Goodreads | Charlotte McConaghy’s website
I have never identified so much with a character. Her thoughts were my own, long before I picked up this book. Writing it must have been an act of catharsis for the author, because that’s what it was for me as I read it. Some might call the ideas in these pages thought-provoking, esoteric, unconventional, maybe even antisocial. But to me, it’s validation of an obvious truth that so many cannot see.
DRIVE YOUR PLOW OVER THE BONES OF THE DEAD
by Olga Tokarczuk
Amazon | Goodreads | Olga Tokarczuk’s website
This book’s cover hooked me, but its characters kept me reading. They came alive on page one and never relented. The plot was unique in a quiet sort of way. Straightforward, poignant writing and excellent dialogue. There was wit on every page even with the dark subject matter. Exactly my kind of book. Added bonus: it was set in my neck of the USA! Rare to find in fiction and very cool to read!
WHERE THE FOREST MEETS THE STARS
by Glendy Vanderah
Amazon | Goodreads | Glendy Vanderah’s website
(Please read the reviews for trigger warnings if you’re sensitive to certain things. This story features the worst of human nature, but it’s not graphic.)
So romantic I could die.
That’s my review for this extraordinary book.
Should I try to explain the depth and evolution of character, the beautiful turns of phrase, the unending love, and the real peril suffered by these characters? No review or blurb could do it justice. The book’s blurb itself doesn’t touch on any of this (I read the blurb again after finishing the book and wanted to laugh—no no no, not even close to what happens in these pages). And with its previous cover (imagine your typical historical romance cover with a bare-chested man, hair blowing in the wind), it’s not something I’d normally pick up.
This is the most tortured of heroes, thrown straight into his own version of hell. A heroine who sticks to her morals in the most challenging of trials, her head held high. Two people who need each other with the intensity of Cathy and Heathcliff, but who wouldn’t dare play games or hurt one another intentionally. The plot itself is unrelenting, and the setting is epic—from an insane asylum, to a haunted castle, to a bustling city, and back again.
This book went on my All-Time-Favorites and Favorite-Love-Stories shelf before I was even half finished, and the final half only strengthened its place.
FLOWERS FROM THE STORM by Laura Kinsale
Amazon | Goodreads | Laura Kinsale’s website
There is no book more perfect than this. I will think about it every day for the rest of my life.
DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST
by Juliet Marillier
Amazon | Goodreads | Juliet Marillier’s website
Here’s the book that has been ruining all my writing progress. It’s the kind of story that forces you to slow down and savor every word of the enviable prose. And then when you’ve finished, you’ll have to start over at page one just so you can read it again with the knowledge you have gained at the end.
Quietly twisted, to horrifying, to bitterly sad, with the most fitting ending I never expected. What a perfect horror story. It left me perfectly unsettled just as it should have. Exceptional on every level. My favorite read of the year.
(For those of you who are sensitive to animal cruelty, skip a few pages when rabbits are mentioned. It’s not graphic, but the details are haunting enough for me to wish I could unread.)
THE GIRL FROM RAWBLOOD by Catriona Ward
Amazon | Goodreads
Here’s another magical story I couldn’t put down. Part of me was bothered by the idea of capturing and caging mythical sea horses, and that feeling only seemed to get worse as the story went on.
But I think that’s kind of the point. It adds to a darkness in this book that wouldn’t be so pronounced without it, and in that darkness this love story shines so bright.
One of my favorite concepts in love stories is when the differences between two people create the perfect connection, a meant-to-be team, and each brings something to the other. Where each person guards the other, keeps them safe from their demons. They don’t just love each other, they need each other in a life-or-death way.
And there’s so much more going on in this plot which I don’t want to mention for fear of ruining the magic.
THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater
Amazon | Goodreads | Maggie Stiefvater’s website
Characters so real and honest that when tragedy strikes it’s shocking and chilling and so utterly traumatizing. Five hundred stars. Because it’s that damn good. Don’t read this book unless you like reading books with a hand over your mouth and a storm in your heart. But yes, do read it, because the writing is too good to miss.
There are some lulls in the plot early on, and at times it’s a serious slow burn, building lives and characters with lots of talk of ballet. I’ll admit I almost set it aside. Don’t set this book aside. Keep going. Once you reach the thick of it there is no option to set it down until you reach the end.
I read books to find complex, real characters who temporarily–and sometimes forever–become a part of me. I read books to find raw human struggle and survival and portrayals of deepest love. This book has all of that.
THE MAN I LOVE (THE FISH TALES BOOK 1) by Suanne Laqueur
Amazon | Goodreads | Suanne Laqueur’s website
This book has everything I love to read (and write). Ancient magic, underground war. Detailed modern setting with an undercurrent of fantasy. A hero haunted by the past. A heroine with her own demons. Both hunted, both fighting. Reluctant allies. Equals. Soul mates. LOVE LOVE LOVE.
If you like my books, you have to check out this series. Right now the first book is only $.99 on Kindle!
THE SCRIBE by Elizabeth Hunter
Amazon | Goodreads | Elizabeth Hunter’s website
I wrote a review on Goodreads immediately after finishing NOBODY BUT US, and although it’s a bit frantic and simple, I can’t come up with anything better. So here it is. This book will gut you. In the best way possible. And right now it’s only $3.99 on Kindle.
OH MY GOD. I hate this book. I love this book. Five screaming stars. Thank you to the author for having the courage to do that. Poignant, explosive, so brutally romantic.
I do have to add, though, that if you’ve read my books you know my definition of “romantic” is a bit, uh, weird? Twisted? Gory? I’m surprised I don’t get hate mail over what TB does to Liv in Chapter 33 of THE ALIGNMENT.
NOBODY BUT US by Kristin Halbrook
Amazon | Goodreads | Kristin Halbrook’s website