My Favorites of 2019

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a good Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, etc. (or you at least had some relaxing time off). I had a pretty eventful year in general and I mean that in a good way. It is now time for my annual list of favorites across all creative mediums. I got a bunch of new books over break that I will be reviewing soon. I hope for the best for all of my followers in 2020! (Note: these are probably not in chronological order. I know my book list is rather short but I did not consider everything my favorite. Also, leave me your favorites of 2019 in the comments.)

Books

  • The Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab
  • This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Trials of Apollo series by Rick Riordan
  • The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Villains duology by V.E. Schwab
  • Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Movies

  • Captain Marvel (dir. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck)
  • Avengers: Endgame (dir. Joe and Anthony Russo)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (dir. Jon Watts)
  • John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum (dir. Chad Stahelski)
  • Zombieland: Double Tap (dir. Ruben Fleischer)
  • Shazam! (dir. David Sandberg)
  • Polar (dir. Jonas Akerlund)
  • Jumanji: The Next Level (dir. Jake Kasdan)
  • Frozen II (dir. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee)
  • Toy Story 4 (dir. Josh Cooley)
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (dir. Dexter Fletcher)
  • Fyre Fest: The Party that Never Was (dir. Chris Smith)

TV Shows

  • The Mandarlorian, Season 1 (Disney +)
  • Stranger Things, Season 3 (Netflix)
  • Doom Patrol, Season 1 (DC Universe)
  • Swamp Thing, Season 1 (DC Universe)
  • Supernatural, Season 15 (CW)
  • The Flash, Season 6 (CW)
  • Batwoman, Season 1 (CW)
  • Arrow, Season 8 (CW)
  • Supergirl, Season 5 (CW)
  • Black Lightning, Season 3 (CW)
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths: Five Part Crossover (CW)
  • Nancy Drew, Season 1 (CW)
  • Good Omens, Season 1 (Amazon Prime)
  • The Boys, Season 1 (Amazon Prime)
  • The Witcher, Season 1 (Netflix)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 3 (Netflix)
  • Jessica Jones, Season 3 (Netflix)
  • Lucifer, Season 4 (Netflix)
  • The Punisher, Season 2 (Netflix)
  • The Umbrella Academy, Season 1 (Netflix)
  • His Dark Materials, Season 1 (HBO)
  • Russian Doll, Season 1 (Netflix)
  • Queer Eye, Season 4 (Netflix)
  • The Umbrella Academy, Season 1 (Netflix)
  • The Haunting of Hill House, Season 1 (Netflix)

Music

  • Norman F*cking Rockwell by Lana del Rey (album)
  • Wasteland, Baby! by Hozier (album)
  • WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? by Billie Eilish (album)
  • Beetlejuice: The Original Broadway Musical (album)
  • Six: The Musical (album)
  • Doom Days by Bastille (album)
  • Blinding Lights by The Weekend (single)
  • Nightmare by Halsey (single)
  • Graveyard by Halsey (single)
  • I’m Too Sensitive for this Sh*t by Hayley Kiyoko (EP)
  • Landfall by Claire Wyndham (single)
  • DEATH STRANDING: Timefall (Original Music from the World of Death Stranding) (album)
  • CHAMPION by Bishop Briggs (album)
  • Cheap Queen by King Princess (album)
  • Hallucinations by PVRIS (album)
  • Don’t Call Me Angel by Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey (single)
  • Destroy Me by grandson (single)
  • FEVER DREAM by Of Monsters and Men (album)
  • Happiness Begins by Jonas Brothers (album)
  • For The Throne (Music Inspired by the HBO series Game of Thrones) (album)
  • Free Spirit by Khalid (album)
  • Sing to Me Instead by Ben Platt (album)
  • Hadestown: The Original Broadway Musical (album)
  • Truth Hurts by Lizzo (single)
  • Artemis by Lindsey Stirling (album)
  • K – 12 by Melanie Martinez (album)
  • The Birth of Violence by Chelsea Wolfe (album)
  • Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief: The Musical (album)

Podcasts

  • The Last Podcast on the Left
  • Red-Handed
  • Wolverine: The Lost Trail
  • Motherhacker
  • RNZ: The Worst Sitcom Ever Made
  • Queer as Fiction
  • Passenger List
  • My Favorite Murder
  • Behind the Bastards

Favorite Events of 2019

  • Seeing Freestyle Love Supreme on Broadway where Lin-Manuel Miranda performed live (!!!!)
  • Getting floor seats to a Jonas Brothers concert and touching Nick Jonas (!!!!)
  • Starting (and surviving) fall semester of grad school
  • Visiting the Mansfield Reformatory (where they filmed the Shawshank Redemption)
  • Seeing my little sister graduate from high school and start college
  • Successfully working two jobs at once over the summer (I know a lot of people do that and don’t have the same luxury as I do of having an optional part-time job but I did not think I would be able to handle it as well as I did)
  • Successfully being a teaching assistant for two courses
  • Not crying that much over things (lol)

Whatever I am, Let it be enough: Reviewing A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I’m coming at you with (probably) my last book review of the year. I’m planning on doing my annual favorites list after Christmas. I have a stack of books that has grown considerably over the past couple of months. At the university I go to, we have a table where people can put books they want to give away. Obviously, I checked it every day and will continue to do so. All the while, I am hooked on V.E. Schwab’s series, Shades of Magic. Now, let’s talk about the second book, A Gathering of Shadows.

It’s been four months since Kell, Delilah Bard, and Rhy faced off against the Danes in White London. Since then, Delilah had run off with the handsome sea captain, Alucard Emery. Now, Kell and Rhy prepare for the Essen Tasch, a magical tournament created to unite the kingdoms. All the while, something dark stirs in White London and can only return to life by destroying another London.

I absolutely adored the first book in this series and this second one was still enjoyable. The pacing was a little slow in the beginning, as it went back and forth between Delilah and Kell. There was some great world building, along with plenty of action when it was needed. Schwab does an excellent job fleshing out the other cultures without just making them “others.” The plot is still very grounded in Kell’s story, which is endlessly enjoyable. Like I said, the novel was slow for a bit but once it got going, I couldn’t put it down. I am incredibly excited to keep reading this series. I still recommend Shades of Magic if you want a “new adult” series that keeps the balance between entertaining magic and an intriguing storyline.

I Have Built a You in Me: Reviewing This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Hey everybody! Well, it has been a decent chunk of time since I’ve been on here. Fortunately, I am reaching the end of fall semester so I will be doing a lot of catching up during the winter break. Next semester I will be teaching a class so I will definitely be blogging about that. Thankfully, I was able to get a hold of this novel as I had seen it everywhere and was ever so curious. So, let’s talk about This Is How You Lose the Time War.

Red is deadly, resourceful, and relentless on the battlefield. She comes from a future ruled by the Agency, a post-singularity technotopia. Blue is strategic, cunning, and just as deadly. She belongs to Garden, an omnipotent and omniscient consciousness contained within all organic matter. The two agents are sent by their respective societies to stop the other from changing the future. Red and Blue, however, begin a correspondence that transcends time and space. Soon, they will have to choose between the future of their worlds and their own futures.

I was incredibly intrigued by this novel upon seeing it online and I am so glad I was able to get my hands on it because I loved it. This novel combines the abstracts and language of poetry and the thrill and action of science fiction. It is a fairly short novel at just under 200 pages. I became emotionally invested quickly in the characters. The language of their letters is fascinating. They feel like real people in a sense, the way that Blue and Red express their emotions through humor or angst. I don’t plan on making this review too long as I don’t want to give away too much. I do recommend this novel if you are looking for a quick read that will captivate you with its world building and poetic structure. You don’t have be a huge sci-fi fan either to enjoy this book. Also, bonus points if you wants a book that features LGBTQ+ characters.

To Travel, To Dispel, To Heal: Reviewing A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I’m coming back at you with another book review sooner than I anticipated. In truth, it is because I had a really hard time putting this book down. I have reviewed two other novels by Schwab, so feel free to check out those. Now, we are starting a new series and I’m going to tell you all about A Darker Shade of Magic.

Four Londons exist along side each other and only few can travel between them. Kell is an Antari, one of the few who possess the magic needed to travel between these Londons. Officially, he works as a royal ambassador between the kingdoms. On the side, he smuggles magical artifacts across the worlds. When an item from Black London, the fallen London, comes into his possession, he finds himself in much more trouble than he anticipated. While trying to hide this item, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a professional thief and pirate, who forces him to take her to his London. The two must return the artifact to Black London and keep it out of the hands of those who mean to use it to destroy the boundaries between the Londons.

It has been a minute since I have gotten so invested in a novel from the very first chapter. Schwab excels at world building and this novel is no exception. The action and pacing are steady and suspenseful. The characters are charmingly imperfect. The magic rules in the world are well thought out. This book certainly is violent but not in a gratuitous way. It has the kind of exciting magical duels I’ve only really seen in the likes of Harry Potter. This novel is for the more mature fantasy seeker who is ready to move beyond the magic of YA novels. I highly (highly!) recommend this novel if you are looking for an awesome fantasy and adventure novel with a nice dose of magic. A Darker Shade of Magic delivered on all fronts for me.

To devour what they left behind…:Reviewing The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Hi everybody! I know, I know. It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to finish this novel, but I’m super excited to share this with you. Lately, I’ve been on a historical mystery kick. I feel the genre is very under appreciated. Despite this book taking me forever to read (not because of length, but because I’m lazy), it was absolutely worth my time. Now let’s talk about The Shadow of the Wind.

Daniel Sempere was just a young boy when his father took him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He immediately found himself drawn to The Shadow of the Wind, written by the enigmatic Julian Carax. Being the son of a bookseller, Daniel uses his father’s connections to find more books by Carax. Soon, he finds out that all of Carax’s books have been destroyed and he may have the only remaining book of Carax. Daniel’s search for the truth reveals the dark and tangled web of Barcelona, full of murder, lies, and forbidden love.

Zafon’s twisted and intricate novel is worth the deep dive that requires to read it. Admittedly, it can be a bit of the struggle to keep up with the plot as so many characters are being introduced at every turn, but it all ties together in the end. There are points in this book that made me audibly gasp. Some people might say I’m spoiling the book by saying it has plot twists, but they are amazing plot twists. It is a mystery, after all. That is part of the genre. This novel is immersive, suspenseful, and thoughtful all at once. The atmosphere of Zafon’s depiction of Barcelona in 1945 is enough to pull the reader into the story. The novel has bits and pieces of many other genres, which is what makes it so interesting to read. I highly recommend The Shadow of the Wind to just anyone at all as it has something to satisfy every reader and will keep you hanging on until the very end.

This Is My Design: Reviewing Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Hi everyone! I hope you forgive my absences. I am bogged down with academic reading now that (obviously) has to be a priority. Thank you all so much for 400 subscribers! Wow, I still can’t believe any of you are interested in what I have to say. Since I have your attention, I will be giving you my review of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, which is the novel that first introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter. I am a huge fan of the television show, “Hannibal,” so I had to read one of these novels. Also, since we are creeping towards October, it felt appropriate to do a horror/thriller novel.

Will Graham risked everything in order catch the ingenious and dangerous Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Graham was ready to start a normal life when he was called upon to catch a killer called the Tooth Fairy, who has murdered entire families. In order to find him, Graham must first understand him. Only Hannibal can help him enter the killer’s mind. Will Graham must risk it all, once again, in order to catch this new monster

I had read this novel previously and, upon revisiting it, forgot how genuinely uncomfortable it made me. I mean that in the best way, though. Any good murder mystery novel should give the reader visceral feelings and Harris succeeds at that. Even though Lecter isn’t technically a threat, he still looms over every page of this novel. It feels as though we are watching Will Graham outrun him while still trying to catch the “Tooth Fairy.” Graham and the other “good guys” are relatable and sympathetic while still being morally grey. The novel is wonderfully suspenseful. It is not afraid to reveal the gruesome details. Even in a clinical language, the descriptions of the crimes still give you chills. The cat-and-mouse game keeps you hanging on until the end. I would then recommend Red Dragon as a good fall read for anyone looking for a thrilling and complex mystery.

If you want me to talk more about “Hannibal,” the television show, I will happily create a post about that where we can have a discussion.

Bring Back God, Then We’ll Talk: Reviewing Only Human (Book Three of the Themis Files) by Sylvain Neuvel

Hey everyone! I’m back at it again with another book review. I hope you all missed me. In exciting life news, my grad school orientation is happening this upcoming week as I’m writing this. I’ll definitely try to give some more life updates about grad school, if anyone is interested. For now, let’s talk about the final book of The Themis Files trilogy.

It’s been almost ten years since Dr. Rose Franklin, Vincent Couture, Eva Reyes, and General Govender were transported to the alien world of Esat Ekt. They successfully returned to Earth, only to find a war between Russian and America raging on. With the use of alien technology, the human population is doomed to destroy itself unless Rose and the rest can find a way to stop it.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this sci-fi trilogy as I haven’t read one that had such a strong human element that balanced out the fantastical sci-fi elements. I will admit that this novel did feel slow in the beginning as it goes back and forth between them discovering their new alien home and them being interrogated in Russia. I did enjoy the parts of Esat Ekt, though, and how it felt so similar to the world as we know it. It almost gave the feeling of walking into your living room, but everything was moved two inches to the left. Another element I enjoyed about this book is how it was able to include the very timely topic of racial profiling and interning people just because of their ethnicity. Some people might see it as preachy. I, however, appreciated how Neuvel was able to integrate it into the story without it feeling like it was coming out of nowhere. I was also able to appreciate Neuvel’s take on familial relationships and what it means to be a family. Only Human was nice, solid ending for Neuvel’s trilogy. Overall, I found the trilogy immensely enjoyable and would recommend it to all sci-fi fans, especially fans of giant robots.

Book Characters I Would Fight IRL

Hi all! I’m not here because I’ve finished a book. Instead, I have been inspired by BookTube. Several BookTubers I watch have made similar videos to this and I thought I would join in. Yes, I will talk smack about your favorite character. Feel free to fight back as I take down your favorite character or feel free to agree with me.

Severus Snape: “Hi, my name is Snape and my crush dumped me so I’m going to be a dick to children.” Ugh, this man pisses me off to no end. Allan Rickman gets all the kudos for giving us a great performance, but the character himself is such a douchebag. He had decades to get over Lily and accept her choices. They could have easily remained friends, but instead, Snape chose to be a bitter jerk who has thing for betraying people. I love a complex character as much as the next person, but we need to agree that Snape made bad life choices.

Sherlock Holmes: I’m a huge fan of the original Sherlock Holmes series. I’ve read all of those stories and spin-off novels. I’ve watched many live action adaptations. If I ever met Sherlock Holmes in real life, I would punch him in his smug face. The hubris of the man is ridiculous. If it weren’t for Watson, I would probably not enjoy those books at all. Holmes spends most of his time making people prove themselves to him for absolutely no reason. As much as I love the asshole genius trope, I also hate the asshole genius trope.

Amy and Nick Dunne: I thought Gone Girl was an interesting novel in the way it showcased two of the worst protagonists ever. Nick and Amy are both equally garbage human beings and I’m so glad they ended up together because they deserve each other. I get that they are supposed to be written that way and I truly found that interesting. It was also so incredibly frustrating to read too. They were both just horrible people in every way. It’s hard to read a book where you can’t root for anyone involved in the plot.

Bella Swan: I hated her when I was a Twilight fan and I still can’t stand her. Let’s ignore Edward and Jacob for a second because at least they had interesting characteristics. Bella had nothing going for her. She had no personality. She wasn’t unique in any way, shape, or form. No will power of her own. She never really comes out of her shell or opens up in any way. Let us not forget the time she flung herself off a cliff to get Jacob’s attention. I feel so bad for Kristen Stewart to this day.

Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish: Of all the scumbags in all of Westeros, I think Littlefinger takes the cake. While Joffery Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton were sadistic assholes, at least they were interesting to watch in the same way you would watch a slasher movie. Littlefinger, on the other hand, just showed up to pull some scummy, backhanded move that only provided something for himself. Every other person in Game of Thrones had some sort of solid alliance or something to fight for, but not Littlefinger. Like Snape, he also spends most of his time being bitter over a childhood crush that rejected him. He was just made me feel gross whenever he was on screen. (Also, I would have nominated Ramsay Bolton but, let’s be real, I would absolutely not fight him.)

Holden Caulfield: Oh my god, talk about being whiney. I couldn’t stand this kid. Don’t get me wrong: I understand that he was going through some stuff and he’s only a teenager. But, holy cow, nothing gets better if you just whine about it. Even as a teenager, I understood that. Also the kid thought way too highly of himself. I would absolutely punch out anyone who thought so highly of themselves for no real reason. Holden’s attitude is a classic case of “ugh I don’t want to be like everyone else. I’m different because I think.”

Humbert Humbert: Lolita is already such a hard book to read and to have such a garbage narrator makes the whole thing even worse. What else is there to say other than he preys on a young and vulnerable girl for a majority of her life? It’s disgusting and I would happily fight this guy in a back alley.

That’s all I of the characters I can think of for now. Maybe I’ll do a part two or I’ll do a list of movie and/or tv show characters I would fight. Hope you enjoyed this.

The Masks We Wear Betray Us: Reviewing The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Hi everyone! I hope you all missed me. I have finally had some time to read and I am so happy to be talking to you all about this book. This is one of those novels that I picked up, read the back, and said “This is mine.” I have grown up on murder mysteries so I was drawn to this like a magnet. Needless to say, I’m excited to talk about Stuart Turton’s debut novel, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Evelyn Hardcastle is a young and beautiful heiress who is returning home after nineteen years. She doesn’t know that she will be murdered again and again. Aiden Bishop must solve her murder in order to break this loop. Every time the loop begins, however, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Aiden must fight to save Evelyn and himself before time runs out.

Before I begin, I just want to say I’m going to be pretty vague as I really don’t want to spoil this book. I was absolutely enthralled from page one. I had such a hard time putting this book down. Turton does an amazing job inserting twists and turns that will make you stop in order to put together the puzzle he presents. It’s also very interesting to have a main character who has to rely on the character traits of others. Aiden Bishop is somehow personable protagonist with no discernible personality traits. It’s a wild ride, needless to say. If I were to best describe this novel, it would be a combination of Groundhogs Day, Freaky Friday, and an Agatha Christie novel. The novel is so full of surprises that I’m afraid to talk about it anymore. I highly recommend reading The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle as you will get whiplash from the plot. I absolutely love this novel and, as a huge murder mystery fan, this was definitely an exciting new take on the genre.

It’s Hope That Keeps Us Afloat: Reviewing The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Hello again everyone! I have returned after a bit of a hiatus (aka I was busy and too tired to commit to a longer novel). Anyways, I’ve been sitting on this particular novel for a while. I had never read one of Atwood’s before this. I may try The Handmaid’s Tale eventually, but I thought this was a good start since I am a big fan of Greek mythology. This novel is also fairly short, so it was an easy enough read. Anyways, here are my thoughts on The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.

Penelope has always been known as the faithful wife of Odysseus, the great hero and traveler. Now that she’s in the Underworld, she no longer has to keep up appearances. With time to reflect, Penelope recounts the events of the Odyssey in her own words. Joined by the twelve maids that Odysseus and Telemachus killed, Penelope reveals what really happened during the ten years Odysseus was lost at sea.

Atwood certainly does not hold back in her novels. The Penelopiad is a mix of the avant garde, the theatrical, and the realistic. It is easy to get lost in the speculation of myth. Atwood provides a blend of feminist theory and fantastical details in this reimagining of The Odyssey. Through her writing, Atwood gives a new life to Penelope and her maids as they deal with the injustices inflicted upon them. Though these stories may be myth, there is still some reality in there. If you are a fan of Greek mythology, then I would recommend this novel. The Penelopiad is a short, profound novel about how the truth gets twisted and how women, even fictional, can fall victim too rumors.