Favourite Books of 2020

2020; the year of a pandemic, of my health declining (unrelated), of spending more time with family (if you want it or not) and not to forget – thinking you will read more, but ending up scrolling through tiktok for hours instead. Ah, how much I love the dark academia aesthetic when I’m forced to be separated from my beloved reading places / libraries.

Also, you know the feeling when you were going to write reviews of all of these books, but reviews of favourites is definitely the hardest because you want to get them right and then you will be too far into the year – ah maybe just me, but the ones that is reviewed will be linked.

  • Best sci-fi/urban fantasy mix: Zero Sum Game by S. L. Huang and the rest of the series! Because of its exceptionally morally gray / villain vibes protagonist and math superpowers.
  • Best non-fiction (and audiobook): Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow for the great coverage of the Weinstein sexual abuse cases as the journalist who first exposed them and going in-depth about the women affected and the way it was covered up by major news oulets like NBC who later turned out had Matt Lauer’s sexual assault allegations of their bloody hands.
  • Best graphic novels / comics: Deadly Class by Remender, Craig, Loughridge for just being the most-fucked up thing I’ve read ever formatted as boarding school teenage villains in training.

  • Best classic: A Separate Peace by John Knowles – is it a classic? It’s very popular and written in 1959, that counts. A coming-of-age novel set right before a war with all of its moral dilemmas, with an exceptional friendship that seems pretty full of gay yearning to me, but it’s not canon.
  • Best sequel & sci-fi: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green which is the sequel to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and the sequel so much lived up to my expectations that I cried. About fame, about aliens, espionage, friends- what more do you need? Queer characters. It’s all there. It’s so well done from the one person who’s got the intersection of experience enough (science, social media, business, all the other things) to make it feel a bit too real.
  • Best poetry: Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong because it’s just amazing. So vivid, so much looking into violence and the family dynamics of being Vietnamese immigrants.

  • Best romance: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston for its fun royal/presidental gay romance. I’ve seen a couple of these stories around, but I think this one with its humor as well as real elements is a good top contender. Cute enemies to lovers trope.
  • Couldn’t get it out of my brain: Wilder Girls by Rory Power for displaying itself as a YA book with some girlpower, but otherwise normal then turning out to be pure horror and abuses of power and fairytale island forest vibes. It stuck around because it has symbolism to girls going through teenage years and puberty, but it was such a good fantasy/sci-fi plot as well. And queer yearning and girls.
  • Most surprising find: A Woman in the Polar Night is exactly what it tells you it is, but I wouldn’t have found it hadn’t I physically stumbled over it. I did not expect reading about a german woman of the 1930s going to the Arctic and then writing a memoir about it to be such a life-changing experience and at the same time describe certain things I’ve been trying to for years so perfectly.

And then I came to the major & sad realization I didn’t read any straight-up excellent high fantasy this year, or really (only) fantasy at all. That’s usually my biggest genre. I had a lot on my TBR, but most of the year something about my mental state was not ready for the commitment of the brilliant extensive world of any Philip Pullman or Brandon Sanderson book, and otherwise I did not have time. 2021 is the time!

Honorary mentions

I read the very popular harry potter marauder’s fanfic All the Young Dudes by MsKingBean89 as the last part of this year was spent thinking too much of Harry Potter again. The fanfic follows the marauder’s through their entire Hogwarts years and then into the uncoming war, getting more queer as they grow up. The writing progresses so much as well, which makes sense thinking about how much time this must have taken to write. I got very much into Harry Potter this year, despite hating Rowling, because a close friend of mine read it for the first time and found a lot of comfort in these characters as the pandemic was messing up everyone’s lives. Warning; It’s 520k words (around 1700 pages?) and I read it in two or three days, it was rough to put it down.

I also discovered the absolutely great horror podcast The Magnus Archives this year and it tells such a extensive story, with all of its great cast of character, creepy creatures and meta-storytelling.

My Favourite Podcasts 2020 Update

I used to do this series of favourite podcasts last year, and then I started uni and got friends (hahahha, more like didn’t have an hour commute anymore tbh) and stopped listening to as many. But now there’s covid-19 and well – I’m back to loving podcasts.

Podcasts previously mentioned that I still listen to a lot:

(Let me know if you want to discuss any of these, honestly! I’ve linked to where I wrote more about them. I can’t believe there’s this few now compared to before, and yet there’s so many.) Reply All by Gimlet Media, Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green, Ologies by Alie Ward, Nancy by WNYC studios (it just posted its last episode though … find me crying in the corner), the Legendarium, Cortex by CGP Grey and Myke Hurley, No Dumb Questions by Destin Sandlin and Matt Whittman, Hello Internet by CGP Grey and Brady Haran, Dear Hank & John by John & Hank Green, Delete This by Hank & Katherine Green and the Wikicast by Simon Clark and Dan Maw.

‘New’ Podcasts I Love

SciShow Tangents

  • The SciShow team: Hank Green, Ceri Riley, Stefan Chin and Sam Schulz
  • Weird and funny science facts centered around a topic, with the group (mostly Hank) going on a few weird & funny tangents as well. The group just has a great dynamic and different levels of background knowledge, making it very accessible. I still sometimes miss the video couch format of the ‘beta-version’ (in my mind) Holy Fucking Science though.

The Catch and Kill Podcast

  • by Ronan Farrow, Pineapple Street Studios
  • Made as a continuation of the book Farrow made by the same name where he goes through reporting on the revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults, but also how NBC tried to manipulate and hold him back. The book goes very much in depth on the pattern of different powerful people’s assault & manipulation, and then the cover-ups. I would recommend listening to that audiobook as well if you’re even more interested after finishing the podcast.
  • The podcast is a good ten-episode summary focusing more on just Weinstein and how the women he assaulted took brave stances to take him down, in addition to the last episode with Rose McGowan made after the verdict of Weinstein.

Two Headed Girl

  • I would probably listen to anything Alex Cox puts out tbh, but their partner Mattie Cox is so amazing in sharing his story transitioning from female to male in this podcast, taking the listener with them on every step of the way and being so vulnerable. It seems to be both a podcast to process and document this time of their life as well as explain and teach anyone who wants to listen.
  • Their own pitch is “Welcome to Two Headed Girl, a new show about gender, mental illness, and all sorts of transitions made by a couple of married queers trying to figure themselves out.” which sums it up pretty pretty good.

Lovett or Leave It

  • by Jon Lovett, Crooked Media
  • I found this podcast, while actually already knowing about Jon Lovett before, because I was trying to find more interviews with Ronan Farrow and he happened to have made a rare recent podcast with his partner Jon Lovett because of being in quarantine together. But it’s news-related, trying to bring it with some humor where possible. These corona/Black Lives Matter days it’s more interviews and segments, with jokes in between, which is a great mix if sometimes news-related things are too much.

Wind of Change

  • by Patrick Radden Keefe, Crooked Media
  • Eight episodes in total of 1990’s rock music or more specifically how and if the CIA was involved in writing the famous “Wind of Change” by the Scorpions, the soundtrack of the revolution aka Berlin Wall falling and the Soviet Union collapsing. Really, it’s a podcast about how the CIA operates, how propaganda works and how far a journalist is willing to go to figure out if a rumor from a credible enough source is true.

The Scaredy Cats Horror Show

  • by the Reply All team Alex Goldman (horror fan) trying to convert PJ Vogt (scaredy cat) for Gimlet Media. I don’t know how I found podcasts pre-university because apparently I found a lot, but since then I’ve basically just become aware as existing podcasters I listen to have started new ones.
  • It’s basically an experiment of ‘can you gradually get used to horror movies so you’re not as afraid of the really scary ones anymore’. I’ve listened to the five episodes so far without watching any of the horror movies, and the only one I truly wanted to watch out of them was Midsommar, but I have definitely brought horror podcasts and stories into my life in a bigger way, so maybe it actually worked anyway?? I’m confused about that, but it’s great. Also fun to listen to PJ Vogt actually being really scared, sorry for laughing about that, I would be too.

The Magnus Archives

  • by Jonathan Sims and Alexander J. Newall from Rusty Quill
  • There’s a 173 episode back catalogue as of right now, but after a few days I’m 35 episodes in and hooked. It’s a horror podcast with a huge fanbase (and soo much good fanart). As far as I’ve figured, it starts out really episodic with different people coming into the magnus archive to tell about their supernatural experiences and get them investigated, and then the archive itself is attacked and it gradually becomes more of meta storytelling. Would recommend it even if you’re not such a big horror fan, like me. The stories themselves (at least at the start) are not that horrifying, but the storytelling is just amazing.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power | Review

I’ve gotten so into horror after reading this book, which I did for hours during the night as I couldn’t sleep. I was visiting my boyfriend and he absolutely thought I was a bit more strange trying to explain this book and how well it balanced between fantasy and horror in a unique way. Most of this unique feeling I think came from the perspective, it all being about and told by teen girls. Anyway, I’ll get back to that.

Pages: 357

Genre: young adult (don’t agree), horror: disease & body horror, lgbt (queer girls, slight f/f relationship, but a lot of yearning), some mystery vibes, set in a boarding school on an island. quarantined (which will be a genre i guess).

Warning: it has a lot of trigger warnings, pls search them up before reading

Synopsis

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five: five stars

here’s me arguing it’s not YA

This book has amazing cover art, but I think it did the book a diservice, along the fact that it’s branded as young adult. I feel like this is a larger conversation that I keep having, but not everything with teenage characters (especially female) is YA! It doesn’t have a great rating at goodreads (3.58) and I think it’s because people isn’t expecting what they get unless they’re like me that added this to their TBR as it was released a year ago and then now saw one book blogger (don’t remember who oops) saying it was more horror like, which got my interest again.

the friend-group & characters

SO! An all-girl high school on an island where most of the teachers die off on the beginning of the the two year quarantine, where everything starts up pretty simple and then reveals so much more complex moral, practical, society & science-related questions. It’s reveal after reveal and a constant search for who is the good & bad guys, which gives the mystery vibes. There’s a strong queer friend-group & chosen family trope, but not with likable characters. Think about it – unlikable female characters, violent at that. Most reviews I’ve read lists that as a main issue they had, but I feel like a lot of this book is the experimentation of fierce, reckless, dangerous girl characters, who also have other sides to them. Some of it can be excused to this disease they’ve all got and are dying from, the Tox, mutating their bodies in graphic, unique and eerie ways. But they’re also shaped by living in a two-year life & death situation, along with maybe not being the perfect complacent & normal main characters in the first place.

I WAS SHOCKED at having seen one girl of the friendgroup having been described by the main character Hetty in one adoring (almost worshipping) way the whole time. And then we got the other girl’s narrative and she was so different, with clear sociopathic/violent tendencies. But still it was revealed during a situation where you as a reader wanted to feel bad for her, which is when I truly cheered for this duality this book accomplished.

the island setting & writing

Every description was done so well and fit the mystery and horror aspect as the island they’re on takes as much part as any character. It makes so much sense with the quarantine aspect, the fact that one of the characters has a dad she hasn’t seen in a year living in those woods. The woods are alive and overgrown, as is the mutated animals, which is a threat. I’m just surprised by how much the author got into one book tbh. It’s also a lot of fun to read, surprisingly!

conclusion

This book has the mystery, murder, dark humor and boarding-school vibes of Maureen Johnson’s ‘Truly Devious’ mixed in with any dystopian bad-government, mutated animals, body horror you can think of, all with a good dash of forest aesthetic and eerie, descriptive writing. It’s one of my new favourite books and I would totally recommend it. Just don’t expect it to be YA or to like most of the characters.

Quote with slight spoilers:

Anti-heroine & Action in the Cas Russell Series by S. L. Huang

The series so far (2020) consists of Zero Sum Game #1, Null Set #2, Critical Point #3

Pages: 336, 312 and 368

Genre: thriller/mystery type of book with some science fiction aspects, mostly in people with ‘superpowers’ (used for more bad than good)

It’s truly going into the pile (in my head) of favourite books.

Synopsis

For the first book as to not spoil anything;

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…
She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five: five stars, four stars, four stars

I was looking for a character like Cas when I started this series, which I think is the clue to liking it. What you’re dealing with is mob/cartel level of action and bloodbath, where the side characters are everything from cops turned ‘personal investigators’ to trained assassins and sharpshooters. Not to mention the whole ‘evil organization’ thing going on, which turns out to actually have a whole epic scheme going on. The bad reviews I’ve seen has made me angry in that they’re mostly people who hate the cold calculated voice that Cas brings to this, but surely they’re warned that this isn’t some young adult book and that she’s grown up with this level of violence, even as the lack of knowledge of her background becomes a bigger and bigger plot point.

Cas is deadly, supernaturally so, with some question-marks at the end of that remark. The more science fiction and supervillains with powers parts comes through in the second and third book more, but I liked it. The math parts I expected to be bad from the synopsis, but they were an interesting part of her abilities, and plays a good role in the books. As the math lover I am, I would’ve wanted even more of it, but it’s like drizzled in there so that it can be ignored by those who would want to. It adds a bit of magic, almost.

The level of action, the mystery of Cas’ past, the level of gray area of morality (turning completely black at some points), the bad guys with a conscience – it all really made me love this series. The ‘superpowers’ are original, the writing funny in a dry way. It has everything I was looking for in a fast-paced, but exciting read. But then I do love the character of Rio as well, the emotionless being he seems to be. I mean who can’t be interested after a sentence like this –

“Ms. Russell,” said Dawna delicately, “I am not sure you are fully aware of Mr. Sonrio’s skills. His ability to be effective—it borders on the unrealistic. He has destroyed entire governments. Leveled armies. Found and obliterated terrorist cells the intelligence agencies of several continents were chasing their tails trying to pursue. He has altered the course of nations. A lone man.” Her voice was calm, factual, and very serious. Huh. So that was what Rio did in his spare time. I’d had no idea he was that impressive. I’m not going to lie: I was jealous.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston | Book Review

It’s the cutest enemies to lovers story ever!! With royals! Or gay royal and bisexual son of president! American & british culture intertwined at its very best.

Genre: contemporary, lgbt: m/m romance

Pages: 420 pages

Synopsis

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of the family and state and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to ben? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? , how will history remember you?

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five: five stars!

I’m just going to gush about how much I liked this book, tbh. I read it so fast and felt like I overdosed on cuteness.

The characters really bring this story, with its political intrigue, making out in the white house and private security trying to catch up with these stupid college-age and not very discreet adults. The sneaking around, the enemies to lovers trope forced on by pretending to be friends after making quite the scandal by their feud, it’s just all great. There’s romantic correspondence in the form of emails, talking about everything from popculture (so well-done as well) to the prince talking about his probably gay princes and king relatives of the past and how they didn’t have cameras following them around.

I didn’t think the main character being bisexual instead of gay would mean this much to me, but it really showed me how it isn’t a thing in most queer books I read, or at least not done in such a good way. There is something different to the questioning of someone who is bisexual, and how Alex briefly has to consider whether he could fall in love with a girl and not have this thing hanging over his very promising political career that he’s worked so hard for. It showcases how his and Henry’s experiences is similar, but also so very different. And then we also get such good and too relatable quotes like (I’ve definitely come to this conclusion more than once myself): “Straight people, he thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves that they’re straight”.

My only problem with this book was how I really wanted them to go deeper on the politics game, but I realize that’s not what this book was and would’ve made it less mainstream. So *shrug*.

Feelings while reading this book: i might’ve cried a bit, but i felt all the feelings, and love it so so much. the writing was so satisfying. such a feel-good queer novel while also having so much conflict.

I need more cute enemies to lovers books right now, with all the political intrigue I can get, preferably queer ones. Please send all your recommendations.

Platonic Love & “I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You” by Yumi Sakugawa

Before reading this book I have a confession to make.

I’ve been really missing two friends that I’m having to stop myself talking about way too much in front of my family now. I’m more attached to them than they’re to me, not that I would ever admit it to them. Only that I did to one of them, the last day before I left the city because of corona, saying that sometimes I made dinner just because he was cooking. (okay we might also be flatmates, let’s be sure no one from real life ever finds this blog, shall we?) Only one of us had been drinking and it was not me, so I wonder where that courage came from. I’ve been actually searching for what my fucking problem is. Dodie Clark (a singer/youtuber) recently made a post with a caption about how she’d been obsessed with Shannon Barry as this better version of her, before they met and actually became friends. Like a friend-crush, but also jealous of. It reminded me of my situation, but both the friends are guys, so it’s not like I’m jealous and comparing myself. Well, only a little. They’re so damn smart. Anyway, enough of my troubles and let’s read this book and hopefully get some clarity or relatability.

After reading this book.

It’s like an adult kids book! This book is filled with interesting and cute, simplistic illustrations, the writing is so precise and everything just describes and/or states for future generations how friendships and friend-crushes are these days, where half or more of the relationship happens online. It also describes my situation nearly perfectly. How many times has I been so excited that the other person also struggles to fall asleep and is willing to discuss cults or strange books we read way too young.

It’s just the perfect little graphic novel. I’m shrugging in real life right now, because I don’t know what more to say. Here’s an example;

I really liked the open end, and hope from the bottom of my heart that these cuties will be best friends forever. I might also have had a online movie night with the two friends, and one of them (the one that seems most detached and independent normally) drunkenly said that this was the best moment of his week. So I’m taking that as a sign that even if we are bad at communicating all three of us, like the nerds we are, I’m not solely imagining this friendship to be bigger and stronger than it is. I might not go in for hugs anytime soon though, because last time I tried two of us was leaving for France and the last friend looked like I’d hit him, he was so confused. Totally worth being the dumb, attached one sometimes for seeing a glimse of the genuine shock on his face.

In summary, read this book if you can get your hands on it, absolutely worth it. It’s short and something I would totally buy in actual book form just to have around as a thing that warms my heart.

Also, a thing that I’ve been doing way more recently is texting friends (or telling them face to face when that was a thing) if I’m thinking about them or think they’re particularly cute that day. Like actually showing affection. I’m reserving that for everyone but these two friends though. They get scared easily, and there’s always a risk they’ll tear up if you bake cake for their birthdays. Fuck, I miss them.

A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter | Book Review

A new book on the list of all-time favourites.

Genre: nonfiction, memoir, travel to the Arctic

Pages: 224

Synopsis

In 1934, the painter Christiane Ritter leaves her comfortable life in Austria and travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, to spend a year there with her husband. She thinks it will be a relaxing trip, a chance to “read thick books in the remote quiet and, not least, sleep to my heart’s content”, but when Christiane arrives she is shocked to realize that they are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, battling the elements every day, just to survive.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies… But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic’s harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

This rediscovered classic memoir tells the incredible tale of a woman defying society’s expectations to find freedom and peace in the adventure of a lifetime. 

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five: five stars

Reading this book was an experience, one that made me actually want to take a trip further north than Norway, to experience the Arctic for myself. Which sounds both dumb and unrealistic, but truly read this book if you want to understand why.

This book is special because of many reasons. It’s a memoir from 1934 by a german woman, the painter Christiane Ritter. Her husband has already fallen in love with the Arctic, and she decided to uproot her comfortable and rich life and see what it’s all about herself. He warns her about how isolated it really is, but it’s almost as if he’s forgotten the big change from normal city life already, becoming used to having to fend for himself, to have no one to turn to when the hut gets covered in snow, and travelling great distances to search for a better stove to cook on.

It’s obvious that it’s written in another time from Christiane Ritter’s position in life, but the emotion she conveys through very sparce wording was really breathtaking. I know enough about the cold emptiness of certain landscapes that I felt I could recognize it, and the feelings the vastness brings after you get over its overwhelming fear of isolation.

Everyone should give this book a chance, it won’t be for everyone’s taste, but it earns its place among my favourite books of all time because of its uniqueness. Why did I feel like this contains lessons in writing as well. I really wanted to add some quotes, but I left the beautiful book filled with markings at home by the university, and as its closed for now, this will have to do.

My feelings reading this book: fear on Christiane’s behalf, then impressed & mindblown. I really loved the third person with them most of the time, the Norwegian, who Christiane talks about the strange customs of. He represented my norwegian heart too well.

Rereading All For The Game Series by Nora Sakavic

The Foxhole Court – The Raven King – The King’s Men

What do you do when you’ve got five exams looming over you? Reread 1225 pages, divided over three books and two days. Yeah, I’m not a person to have many regrets, but that doesn’t mean it was a good idea.

I love this book series so much! And not everyone does. It’s a book series that people seemingly more often either love or hate.

There’s a few things you have to suspend your belief over to enjoy these books (which are clearer to me now that I’ve read it more than three times); one of the guys, Andrew, is on medicines that doesn’t make sense. Also the sport – exy – is made up. Which is great because you don’t need to know anything about it! It’s self-published and a bit rough around the edges as a book, but also that’s part of what makes it so great.

TW for rape. I’ve seen this book compared to the Captive Prince trilogy by C. S. Pacat, but I’ve read both and think that comparison is complete bullshit. Captive Prince was violent if a whole different way and full of excuses for that violence. The only thing similiar is how actions in the first book of both series are looked at differently after finishing the third book. Which is a good reason to reread it!

The characters are what I love most about this series. It’s a group of misfits being forced to cooperate and in the process forming a family, a type of book I’m a sucker for. I like the second and third book better than the first one, just because Neil is developing into putting his trust in a few people and you also see how close they’ve become. I’m also posting my first review of the foxhole court; written in 2016, but it still portrays my feelings rereading it.

Neil Josten

I still relate too much to this main character. I mean, Andrew is interesting in a way that I’ve found all characters like him. After this book I read Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater, where Ronan Lynch is another character with tendency to be scary that I love. But Neil hits me still in a different way, where he has this urge to run away all the time and have created unhealthy coping mechanisms out of necessity. This book is just about how fucked up abuse can make you. His circumstances is soo very unlikely and special, like out of a hollywood movie, but if you take it down a few levels it’s themes that I’ve not found as central in other books I read. Especially not in this YA-ish format (it’s not young adult though).

The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic | Review

I wrote a review after reading this book series for the first time in 2016, and found it on goodreads after rereading this series again. So enjoy my unfiltered thoughts from seventeen-year-old me about this book series I truly still love;

Pages: 237

Genre: Young Adult – lgbt characters (gay and demisexual character(s)).

Synopsis

Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He’s short, he’s fast, he’s got a ton of potential—and he’s the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.

Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn’t need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.

But Neil’s not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil’s new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can’t walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he’s finally found someone and something worth fighting for.

My thoughts

Four out of five stars

Rating out of five stars: four

I couldn’t put this book down. Sports! Friends forming a family! Dramatic misfits! Such cute (with that I mean hardcore) characters!

First, let us get this out of the way: this book sucks the first pages. Probably the first two chapters, or even longer. But do not give up on it, because the rest of the book is completely worth it. So is the rest of the series, which I read in less than twenty-four hours.

This is a book about family, but not only the biological one. It is about the importance of support and friends, how they can change your life and you change theirs. “The foxhole court” family is not perfect; they are a bunch of misfits thrown together with only one common goal: to be champions & make people stop laughing at their Exy team. That is: except for Andrew, because he is an uncaring, high (and protective) jerk.

“The Palmetto State University Foxes were a team of talented rejects and junkies because Wymack only recruited athletes from broken homes. His decision to turn the Foxhole Court into a halfway house of sorts was nice in theory, but it meant his players were fractured isolationists who couldn’t get along long enough to get through a game.”

And yes… this is a sports book about a sport that does not exists outside of “The foxhole court”s cover. Exy is completely fictional, but seems like a mix between lacrosse and… Rugby, perhaps? A more violent twist to the sport anyway. It seems like making up a sport was preferable in how certain rules and the whole sports culture had to be different from what we know, for this book to be what it is. We already have Quidditch, so why not Exy. Easier name to spell too. Fictional sport or not, this book has an authentic i-will-do-anything-to-be-the-best feel and passion, which I like. Nothing better than jealousy and threats to motivate you.

There is no romance in this book, for reasons you will realize if reading the rest of the series. I found this really refreshing? There is a lot going on with backstories, trying to get these fucked up teens on a straight path and be sort of friends/teammates. There is definitely enough drama to go around anyway. A lot like the raven cycle, this book has the notion of a coming romance, but is too busy that it is of importance.

“Hope was a dangerous, disquieting thing, but he [Neil] thought perhaps he liked it.”

I will be the first to admit that this book got some problems, much like the characters in it. I love “The Foxhole Court” and its characters anyway, with flaws and all. Uncommonly, the series only gets better from here, and at the end of the first book, it was pretty exciting already. It was an easy read, but with dept as well. And with a squad you will love.

Favourite Fantasy Books | Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl to bring bookish friends together. A new topic is posted each week.

Reviews are linked (as always)!

I didn’t do the Top Ten Tuesday last week, so I’m switching out this week’s topic for that one. They’re not in any order, because that’s too much of a burden.

THE YA FANTASY

Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a book I read I was a kid and fell in love with. It really shows nuances and someone being strong, but also doubting themselves. The main character Katsa goes through a lot of shit, she’s abused by her king uncle and made into a killer, but she has such a conscience and urge to protect people. Also the world, with it being visible through discolored eyes who has magical abilities, made for a really interesting setting.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, where Black is the ultimate author on fairy/fae fantasy and incorporating different creatures with modern people and culture.

FOR EVERYONE

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is a underdog story with thrilling heists by a diverse & amazing team that become like family to each other. The kick-ass deadly Inej and the ruthless team-leader Kaz gives this story its own feeling, along with a great plot.

The Golden Compass and His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman is becoming a classic with its great coming-of-age story with a kickass girl named Lyra in a world where humans have an animal attached to them.

The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson is the gateway drug into Brandon Sanderson’s books, with plotline and characters that will blow you away, but also approchable, easy writing to follow and a young adult vibe. Sanderson is the fantasy authors I’m not afraid to overhype.

Moon Called and the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is the best urban fantasy I’ve read. Awesome female characters is apparently my type here.

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is filled with dragons from around the world and dragon-trainers. Novik had another bestseller “Uprooted”, but this was the first book I read from her and it’s just everything you expect fantasy to have and does it soo well. DRAGONS FIGHTS HUMAN’S WARS!!!

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman because I can’t really put the edda on this list, can i? I love Gaiman’s style of writing, but I don’t always match with his stories, or rather plots. I do love (and know pretty well) norse mythology and this retelling was really magical.

FOR THE EPIC FANTASY-LOVERS

The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is my favourite books ever. It just is. I feel like people love or hate these books based on how much they like the main character especially, but there’s just so great writing that really speaks to me and I can reread it so many times and still discover new tidbits with foreshadowing and secrets.

Words of radiance and the rest of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson is yet my favourite book and series by Sanderson, it just blew all my expectations away and every expectation of what epic fantasy is in general.