Top 10 Reads of 2019
December feels like it was 10 years ago. Among everything that’s happened in the last six months, I realized that I never shared my favorite reads from 2019. If you, like me, are in need of something really good to get you out of your stress induced reading slump, consider giving one of these a try.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman Nina works at a bookstore and hangs out at trivia nights with her friends. Her mom sends occasional postcards from her travels, and everything is right with the world. But then the father Nina never knew dies, and suddenly she has family members coming out of the woodwork, all of whom want to get to know her. Worse, her trivia nemesis seems interested in getting to know her better. All Nina wants is peace and quiet. Can she adjust to a new normal? This one was delightfully quirky and funny, and I made it my very first staff pick at the bookstore when I started working there. More people should read romantic comedies.
May Bird Warrior Princess by Jodi Lynn Anderson (Full Review) This is the final installment in a children’s trilogy about a girl who gets sucked into the land of the dead, known as the Ever After, and has to find her way home. After two books, May and her hairless cat, Somber Kitty, have only just returned to the land of the living when the unthinkable happens. A prediction about the end of the world, and the Ever After, comes true. This whole series blew me away. The character development, the world building, was all phenomenal. The first book honestly creeped me out, but I kept coming back for more. May grows from a scared child into a brave young woman, capable of taking on the “big bad”, along with all of the ghouls and monsters out to get her. With the help of some friendly ghosts and monsters of her own, May is the kick-butt heroine kids need.
Well Met by Jen DeLuca (Full Review) Emily has just moved to town to take care of her sister and niece when she is thrown into participating in the local renaissance faire. She tries to keep an open mind, but Simon, one of the organizers, just will not let any missteps slide. Which would be frustrating enough if he didn’t look so good in pirate’s leathers. Now Emily is trying to balance caring for her family with the topsy-turvy events of her weekends, and she’s not completely sure she can keep up. First of all, a rom-com at a renaissance faire?! With a side of bookstore?? Sign. Me. Up. I read this in one sitting, and I was very happy with how well the relationship was written. It was real, and characters had good boundaries, and I just loved it so much. 10/10, will reread regularly. The sequel, Well Played, is due out Sept. 22nd, 2020.
The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark (Full Review) Agent Hamed al-Nasr and his partner Agent Onsi investigate a mysterious tram car in this alternate universe, early 1900’s Egypt set novella. Humans and Djinn live in quasi-harmony in the city of Cairo, where magic makes mass transportation and many other things possible. Women are gathering to fight for the right to vote, and the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities deals with anything out of the ordinary. This novella blew me away. I was captivated from the first page, and when it ended I desperately wanted to know what case the agents would be assigned next.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill For as long as they can remember, the people of The Protectorate have given up a baby to the evil witch who poisons the forest so she will let them live in peace. That’s just the way it is. For as long as she can remember, Xan has rescued a child from the same grove of trees every year and brings them to the villages far away from the poisoned forest. As she travels, she feeds them star dust to keep them full and healthy. Xan is getting old though, and one year she makes a mistake. She feeds an infant moon dust instead of star dust, and just like that the little girl is en-magicked. Now Xan, her swamp monster Glerk, and her dragon Fyrian have a little witch on their hands to train and care for, and to keep safe from the dangers looming in the long silent shadows of the forest. This magical middle grade novel was both heart wrenching and heart warming at the same time. Mystery and truth were so tightly wound that I could hardly tell one from the other, which made the ending that much sweeter.
Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny (Full Review) A man wakes from a coma, at first unsure of who he is, but then sure of one thing. He is Corwin, a son of Oberon, and a rightful heir to the throne of the one true world, Amber. If only he can remember how to get back there. This book so tightly winds world building with character development that it is hard to separate one from the other. What is true and what is imagined? Who can be trusted, and how does our world factor in to Amber? With vague ties to Arthurian and Merlinian legends, the 10-book Chronicles of Amber series is one every fantasy lover should pick up.
Gift of the Shaper by D.L. Jennings (Full Review) On a routine trip into the neighboring town of Lusk, Thornton and his best friend, Miera, barely escape from black-clad thugs who claim to want something other than money from the pair. Their return trip moves even more dangerous, and by the time they reach Highglade, Thornton’s father is nowhere to be found. Convinced the thugs have kidnapped him, the young apprentice will stop at nothing to find the only family he has. This debut novel was just the quest fantasy I needed. Wars, prophecies, and gods are all wrapped up in a neat package with great world building reminiscent of Tolkien. The sequel, Awaken The Three, hits shelves August 11th, 2020.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Full Review) A story of faeries and witches and demons who try to push the seasons around for their own gain, Spinning Silver is a masterpiece of interwoven storylines. Heroes all, Miryem, Wanda, and Irina must band together to bring nature back into balance and return peace to their families and their kingdom. This was the second book I’ve read by Novik, and while I think this one was slightly harder to follow, given the mutli-POV, it was so interesting to see similar people react to things in totally different ways.
Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston (Full Review) This whirlwind adventure takes the old-as-time story of Anastasia and launches it into space, where it takes on a life of its own. This book was my second staff rec pick when I was the bookstore. It’s so well written, and all the characters are such colorful individuals that I just couldn’t help loving them all. Lots and lots of queer and POC rep in this one too! The sequel and end of the duology, Soul of Stars, is now available as well.
Temptation Ridge by Robyn Carr (Virgin River #6) Luke Riordan is a retired Blackhawk Pilot, ready for some peace and quiet in the mountain town of Virgin River. Shelby is ready to get back to living after five years of caring for her very sick mother. She’s just settled into her uncle’s home in Virgin River when she meets Luke and sparks fly, but their difference might be too much for them to overcome. I love just about all of the Virgin River books, but Luke and Shelby’s story has a very special place in my heart. They’ve both been through a lot, and come from military families, and there’s also a 13-year age difference rearing it’s ugly head to keep them apart. If you’re looking for a happy ending despite the odds, this whole series is for you.