Episode 8: The Most Wonderful Books of the Year


Carrie: Welcome back, lit nerds! I know it’s been a while. We are so excited to be back here around the christmas holidays to talk about our favorite books of the year. 

And we have some new people joining us. We’re so excited for them to be here on the team with us again. I’m Carrie, your host, and I’m going to kick it over to our first new person, Daniela!

Daniela: Hi, I’m Daniela! This is my first time on the Modcast; I am really excited. If you hear a gerbil in the background, it’s just my cat. 

Diany: Hi, I’m Diany, and I am also a new member. And I’m also very excited to be here in the Modcast. 

Forest: As always, I am Forest. I’m not new, but that’s okay. Um, yeah. 

Lane: Hey, everyone! I’m Lane. I’m returning, and I’m so happy to see new faces here. 

Leigh Ann: Hey, everyone. I’m Leigh Ann, and as always I know I’m your favorite Modcaster, and have been for a long time, but I am also very happy to welcome our new members to join us and talk about our favorite books tonight. And, hopefully, moving forward they’ll still be with us. 


Carrie: I think something–Okay, so this is the pitfalls of doing this remotely, thanks to Covid. 

You may not have heard our last recent member, Lexys, because I think the mic got muted for some reason. Lexys, you want to reintroduce yourself for us? 

Lexys: Okay, now I’m unmuted. I’m sorry. Um, I’m Lexys, I’m new, and I’m not very tech savvy! 

Carrie: That is okay, that is okay. We are all having to pivot! 

Um, if you’ve been catching up on our blogs, you’ve noticed that we’re all having to pivot, tech savvy or not! Um, the new brave world of Covid-19 is making us do that, and one of the ways that we’ve pivoted this year is, um–at least, I know I did–I was able to read more books this year. 

I was sharing, um, with the team earlier that I set a reading goal every year, and my reading goal this year was a hundred books. Um, so that was my goal. Um, Forest’s eyes just got really big. 

I don’t know. I mean, generally speaking, how many do you think you–books you read this year? 

Forest: Are we counting like, actual books? Because, you know, I’ve read a lot of like, hardcore, like, school…PhD books that I’m supposed to be reading for classes. Like, the classics, and so in between that, I read, uh, pretty terrible smut on Kindle Unlimited. 

Carrie: Preach, sister! I, I eat and drink a lot of that junk food, too, like–

Okay, I’m just gonna confess right here on the Modcast: I read a lot of really bad RH romance, paranormal romance. Um, yeah, I’m just gonna leave it there, and if you don’t know what RH romance is, you’re probably too young to be listening to this podcast. And don’t go look it up, let me just say that. 

Forest: It adds a little spice…

Daniela: Yeah, I recently read, uh, Den of Vipers because I found that genre and I was like, I am all about this! So you guys are not alone, trust me. I’m in the same, same world as you guys are in. 

Carrie: Well, it is good to be among friends, for sure. So we have a lot of books to choose from. Um, I know I personally had, um, about a hundred books I had to choose from, and I narrowed it down to like my top five. And then I had to pick one. 

So let’s go ahead and like, launch into those. You know. I’ll go first, give you a little time to think about what your favorite book is for the year. Um, and I have to say that my top favorite book–and it was also the longest book I read this year–is Sarah J Maas’ Crescent City number one, “House of Earth and Blood.” 

Huge Maas fan. I have read everything that she’s written, from Throne of Glass, which is about

eight books long, to Court of Thorns and Roses, which I’ve already pre-ordered. My Court of Thorns and Roses number four, which is coming out in February! 

Um, this book threw me for a loop because, I kid you not, within the first probably 20 pages maybe, maybe 20 pages, they kill off the main character. Like: boom, dead, she’s gone. And like, she was set up as a like, hardcore, like–I’m gonna cuss here–badass female character. Her name is Danica McKellar. She is a wolf shifter. She’s like the leader of her pack. She’s the alpha. 

And they kill her off in the first 20 pages. And she is the best friend of, um, uh, Bryce Quinlan. (I had a blank for a second!) Uh, Bryce Quinlan’s best friend. And so, um, the whole story, one, is like, of course, there’s like, you know, fantasy, and this, you know, really big fantastical role that Maas likes to write. But Danica’s ghost is kind of like, that overshadowing factor of Bryce all the way through. I mean, she’s like, having to like, overcome this grief, and it’s been like, five years have passed, and Bryce has to make the decision to–what they call the Drop, which is to, um, drop down into her immortality because she’s half human, half fae. Um, and so I’m not gonna spoil the end, but there are hunky angels, and um, really um, spitfire sprites, and just really great world-building. 

And I don’t know when the second book of this is coming out, but I really hope, I really hope that she does not do what she did with the Court of Thorns and Roses, and switches the romance because I’m really all about Hunt Athalar right now. 

So I highly recommend that you check it out so that we can nerd out about how Sarah J Maas is just a powerhouse for fantasy right now. 

What about you, Daniela? What did you read this year that you really liked?

Daniela: Okay, so I actually for the first time in a really long time have, um, read more than quite a few books. So if this is the first time I’ve actually set a goal for myself, so I read 52 books this year, which was a huge challenge for me because every single year before that, it was just like, Jane Eyre was just running unopposed. So it was just like, constantly like, Jane Eyre,

Jane Eyre. And um this year, it’s a new one, so, um, Jane Eyre can rest this year. 

So um, my pick for this year was, um, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I’ve had the hardest time saying his last name because I–I don’t know, I just didn’t know it would sound like that. But um, I’m obsessed with this book. Um, I feel like this book feels like a warm hug, which I think everybody needs right now. 

So this book just feels so good, um, but now I do want to mention there are some trigger warnings. Um, there is a mention of suicide. Um, and there is a lot of depression within this book. Um, so those are some themes that it touches, and um, if those are triggers for you, then I definitely would not like–I would stay away from this book. 

Um, but this book just makes me really happy, you know. It was one of those books, um, that I kind of like, contemplated. I was like, is this number one? But I just kept going back to it just being like, no, like, that’s it. And just because of the fact that it kept coming up and up in my head, I was like, it has to be this one because I’ve pushed–I’ve bullied so many people to buy this book. Like, I am in the middle of like, harassing my sister to finish reading this book because I–I feel like everybody needs to read this book because it just makes me so happy. 

Um, so what this book is about, is it’s about a library. It’s kind of like, some fantastic kind of like,

mythical type of library where um, the main–the main character, her name is Nora Seed, she finds herself in this library. And within the library, she meets a kind of like, a librarian spiritual guide who guides her through this library and introduces her to all these different types of books. And within each of these books, um, there are–there are lives that she could have lived. 

So um, every book is a portal to a different life that she could have lived. Um, and it kind of basically, um, shows her like, what would have happened if she didn’t make this one decision. And I think that’s such an interesting thing because I think so many of us kind of get hung up on those what ifs. 

Like, what if I would have done this? What if I would have done that? And I feel like this book really made me think of like, 15 year old Daniela, and made me think like, what–would she have been disappointed of 26 year old me? Like, what–would she have been like, I can’t believe you didn’t do that! You know? 

So this book really makes you think about that, and it makes you say, who cares? Who cares what you would have done? Because this is your life, and it kind of makes you value that. It makes you value the importance of the now. 

And I think that’s something–especially like, this year, it’s something that I’ve been just like, so

hung up on. Like, oh my god,

like I can’t believe this is our life now. But it was–it was just so interesting. It made you really live in the now, and it’s–it’s one of those rare books that I just

feel like, like I went through like, a spiritual journey on like, I–I felt like a completely different person after this book was over. 

And, um, this book is considered a sci-fi, but something that I think is really interesting is that, um, it’s–it still takes place in like, our traditional world. I want to say it things place–takes place like, in some little town in England. Um, but it doesn’t feel like a sci-fi, so you don’t really have to think so much of the science and the logistics. 

It’s just really as simple as, oh you go to this portal and you enter another life, like, period. And I think that’s really interesting because sometimes, as much as I like–I love sci-fi don’t get me wrong–like, I am all about like, those magical worlds. It kind of gives you a kind of, gives you like, a time for your brain to rest and kind of not think so hard on like, wait, how did–how’d they get over here? What’s this world called? You know. You aren’t thinking so much of that. 

It’s just kind of like, it’s just a really a relaxing novel that I completely fell in love with. Um, I’m definitely looking at what other books this author has written because I’m just obsessed with their style of writing. Like, it just–it’s–it feels like the type of writing that I just, I really like, connect with. And for that reason this book is just my number one. 

So um, I’m gonna pass it on over to Diany and see what your favorite of the year is. 

Diany: Hi, everyone! So um, my favorite book…It was really tough to make a decision as well because, like Daniela, I always go back to reading the classics and, you know, reading classics that I haven’t read before. Um, surprisingly, this year I did went to a new genre, and it was non-fiction. Um, but like always, I always have to go to find my favorite poetry because that is

what I always lean into. 

Um, and the book that I recommend is Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace. And um, I love her. As, you know, a poetess, she really talks about, you know–also trigger warnings–recovering from abuse, recovering from toxic relationships, recovering, you know, from eating disorders, you know. But she really promotes, you know, with women, you know, uh, you can recover from all this. You are your–you can write your own fairy tale. And that’s what, uh, her series for this poetry collection is. 

Um, so it came out in March, and it was a really good read at the beginning of the pandemic when everything was, you know. We were at a really dark place, and it’s like, um, okay. So she promotes that message of, you know, you can make your own happy ending. Yes. It might–life is not really a fairy tale, but you, you–You can write your own fairy tale. You can write your own happy ending. 

Um, and things seem dark right now, and we have gone through this and that, and, you know, whatever dark place we are in, uh, she says, you know, it’s okay. We–It’s our life. We are, you know, our own author of our own life. 

Um, so I really love that about her, and my favorite, um, poem is about that and feminism. Um, she talks about, you know, it’s–We as women, we can, um, be whichever person we want to be. We can wear the heels. We can break the heels. We can wear the dress. We can burn the dress. You know. 

So I love that. And you know, that positive feminist message, which she says, um, what is not healthy, though, is when we bring–bring other people down for whatever we enjoy, whatever we love. And you know, if, you know, we love our body that’s great. Don’t promote that message, promote body positivity. Don’t, you know, judge a woman because, oh, she’s overweight or she’s not eating enough. 

Um, so I really love those messages that she brings in this book, and you know, and in her other

collections as well. Um, the past series, I think it was called Women are Some Kind of Magic. Um, and she is actually writing the sequel to this, or coming up with the sequel of this one soon, so. I think it is um, Shine Your Icy Crown, that’s the name of it. So I’m really excited to read that one as well. 

Um, so yeah. I’m gonna send–give it to Forest now so we can hear her favorite book of the year. 

Forest: Okay, so originally, I was gonna go with like, um, a classic book because that’s mainly

what I’ve read in the past like five months of my life, which has been stressful, but that’s okay. 

But I’m gonna be, uh, talking about Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare–and you’re not gonna be able to see it because of the freaking screen. But it’s in her new, um, trilogy within her um, her Mortal Instruments series and world and stuff, and she keeps expanding it. And this one, Chain of Gold, was the–is the second in The Last Hours trilogy, and so the third one will be coming out in March of 2021. And I will be unavailable that day all day, so nobody talk to me because I will be binge-reading. 

Um, but basically it’s about–it’s Victorian-era London, and there’s demons and there’s angels and there’s other worlds and all fighting each other. And it’s like a ghost that’s gonna come back to life and marry somebody and support this whole bloodline and it’s freaking crazy. But you know what’s amazing? I get really excited about it. 

Um, but it’s very good, and I believe she’s coming out with another series after that, which is going to take place in…18? 2018? I hope because I think that’s the next in the lineup. I could be totally wrong, but who knows. 

All right, I’m going to go ahead and pass it to Lane now. 

Lane: All right, so my favorite book this year was nonfiction, and it was Uncomfortable Labels:

My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman by Laura Kate Dale. 

And, you know, everyone has been talking about trigger warnings. There are a lot in this one, of course. As a trans woman, she really struggled with suicide, and she also struggled with drug and substance abuse, so of course if you’re not comfortable with that, don’t read it. But I do highly

recommend it because it’s just a really good insight to what she experienced during her transition, in her childhood, dealing with her autism, all that stuff. 

And it–I have a best friend who’s trans, and I thought I understood what she went through, but

of course I had no idea until I read this book. And like I said, it’s just a great read. At times it’s very factual. She includes a lot of, um, information that has been taken by survey takers, stuff like that, but then at times it feels like you’re at a sleepover with her, and you’re just friends, and she’s telling you about, you know, the crazy times that she had in college. And it’s just really fun. You get to really know her as a person. 

And I highly recommend it, especially if you don’t know anything, or if you think you know something about trans women and men. It’s very eye-opening and definitely worth it. 

So, all right. And now I’m going to hand it over to Lexys. 

Lexys: So the one that I chose that was my favorite of the year, and it kind of helped me get through the pandemic and stuff, it’s um, called Naturally Tan by Tan France. You might be familiar with him from Queer Eye

And um, it just–it’s really interesting seeing it not–not just from his perspective, not just from the gay perspective, from–but from the Pakistani perspective. And a lot of the book talks about how um, he–he went through a lot of issues growing up with racism, which doesn’t get talked about a whole lot in the show even though they have two persons of color, and so it’s just a really, really good read. 

And it got me through a rough period because his sarcasm and wittiness just made things a whole lot better. So yeah, that’s–that’s my book. Thank you. 

Leigh Ann: Okay! Thanks, everybo–Thank all of you for sharing your books. I definitely have

some to add to my list for next year. Um, obviously, we’ve saved the best for last. Um…

The book I read this year that turned out to be my absolute favorite is A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe. I will preface this by saying I am not a fan of YA, but the reason I keep reading stuff like that is because I find stuff like this. I discover A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe. 

And this was–this is her debut novel. It was published actually on October 13th of this year, so it’s a brand new book. Um, but it’s just–This is one of the best feminist YAs I’ve ever read in my life. Like, I’m not a big fan of like, the romance love triangle things, but this one actually did it

really well. Um, and I’m just gonna read like, the quote on page 28 that made me know that this was the book for me. Okay, so: 

“No illness. No want. No death. The philosopher’s stone gave everything humankind wanted but did not believe we could have in this life. With such a reward it was not hard to see how so many great minds had wrecked themselves in its pursuit. But though these legendary outcomes transfixed me as much as any other adept, the lesser consequences were just as alluring. If we achieved this, we would become more than just women, even successful ones. There would be no more depending on patrons. No one would dare exclude us from any academy or salon. No one could deny our value. We would have respect. And not just from other alchemists, from

the men who thought even male alchemists were fools and frauds. As much as I had longed for it, I had never really believed we would come this close.”

Okay. So if you couldn’t tell, this story is about alchemists. It’s about a mother and daughter who are alchemists try–just striving to create the philosopher’s stone. But the thing about this philosopher’s stone is that, you know, the power corrupts you. It corrupts your mind. You go

pretty much cuckoo if you start getting closer to it. 

So the closer you get to creating the philosopher’s stone, the more hallucinations you have, um, the more people will try to lock you up and basically kill you. Um, and it’s just really, really good.

Her mother comes so close that her mind breaks down, so it becomes the daughter’s task to create the philosopher’s stone and keep it out of the hands of evil men. So the pacing is great, the romance is great, the plot twists are amazing. I definitely recommend it. 

And that’s gonna be it for me!

Carrie: Awesome! 

Wow. Oh gosh. I’m…I…I’m gonna have to read from now until like, I have to go back to work on

January 4th. 

Like, I don’t know what I’m gonna do with my time, but now I know! 

So all right. Well, I don’t know about y’all, but I have a lot of books I need to start reading now. Um, every single one of you shared such great books, and I’m not a big fan of like, non-fiction, but now I have to read um, your book, Lane. Like, that’s gonna go to the top of my pile. And I’m a huge Amanda Lovelace fan. Um, The Midnight Library has been on my recommended list

for a very long time, and I live and love YA, so I know I’m going to have to read Leigh Ann’s. 

Anyways, I could go on forever, but you probably want to start reading now, Modcasters! Please take a–check out of any one of these recommended recommendations from tonight. Um, if you have a book you think that we should be reading, let us know because we’re just a bunch of lit nerds here!

We hope you are staying safe, warm, and healthy. We’ll catch you next time. 

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