It’s that time of year again! Time to post my favorite reads from last year. 2019 wasn’t the best reading year for me – I fell ten books short of my Goodreads reading challenge of eighty books. But I also read a lot of great books! Here are my five-star reads from 2019!
1. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng (Contemporary Fiction)
Little Fires Everywhere is a book about motherhood, secrets and the ties that bind. It follows Mia Warren and her teenage daughter, Pearl, two artistic free spirits who move to a suburb in Cleveland. Here they become entangled with the Richardsons. This book explores what it truly means to be a mother. Really thought-provoking and engrossing book!
2. Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston (New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA)
This book is like the best fan-fiction you’ve ever read! America’s First Son, Alex Claremont-Diaz, falls in love with the Prince of Wales, Henry, in this slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers romance. The book is rife with politics, humor and high-jinks. It’s clever and fast-paced, and light enough that it would be the perfect beach-read. I can’t wait to see more from this author!
3. The First (Endling #2) – Katherine Applegate (Middle Grade,Children’s, Fantasy)
In the first book of this series, The Last (Endling #1), dairne Byx worries she is the last of her kind in the world. In the second book, Byx and her friends must travel through treacherous, war-torn lands to uncover the truth behind the legend of a hidden dairne colony. Byx’s ragtag group of friends – Tobble (the Wobbyk), Khara (a human), Renzo (a human thief), and Gambler (the Felivet) – are endearingly mismatched, but must find a way to work together.
Katherine Applegate’s writing is for children but truly transcends genre. There’s something for everyone in her heartwarming tales of bravery and overcoming odds.
4. Miracle Creek – Angie Kim (Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller)
In a small town in Virginia, a Korean-American family run a hyperbaric treatment chamber, which treats various ailments, including autism. This is where a group of mothers and their autistic children meet once a week. An accident happens that will change everyone’s lives forever. The shifting alliances and secrets keep you guessing until the end about who is responsible for the accident. And it proposes the question: how far will you go to protect your family?
Truly suspenseful and un-put-down-able.
5. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Reid-Jenkins (Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, LGBTQIA)
Reclusive, aging Hollywood movie icon, Evelyn Hugo is ready to disclose the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. To the surprise of everyone, she chooses an unknown magazine reporter, Monique Grant, to write her biography.
Over the course of the book, Evelyn tells Monique the tale of her rise to stardom and the seven husbands she’s had along the way, along with revealing several stunning secrets. Very engrossing and realistic story.
6. King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) – Leigh Bardugo (Young Adult/New Adult Fantasy)
I love Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy world and this book does not disappoint. This book picks up where the Shadow and Bone trilogy left off, following characters Nikolai, Zoya and Nina.
In King of Scars, the young Ravkan king, Nikolai Lantsov, must raise money, forge alliances and stop a rising threat to the Grisha army. He is accompanied on his journey by a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller. Meanwhile, back at the palace, a young guard must take Nikolai’s place and keep up the ruse of authority.
I love Bardugo’s lush fantasy world and her writing is impeccable.
7. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman (Contemporary Fiction)
Eleanor Oliphant struggles with social skills and avoids unnecessary human contact at all costs. But things change when she meets Raymond, an IT worker at her office. The two rescue each other from lives of isolation and Eleanor realizes she is capable of finding friendship or even, love. The book reveals the deep traumas that have kept Eleanor from integrating into society.
8. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster – Jonathan Auxier (Children’s, Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Fantasy)
Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster and finding love in unexpected places. Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is a chimney sweep in Victorian London. But one day, she gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire and fears her time has come. But she is saved by a golem made of coal and ash.
9. Changeling (The Oddmire #1) – William Ritter (Children’s, Middle Grade, Fantasy)
When a goblin Kull brings a changeling baby to switch out with a real child, he forgets which is which and ends up leaving both. Tinn and Cole are then raised as human twins. At twelve-years-old, a mysterious message arrives for them, inviting them to an adventure in the Wildwood.
A story about nature versus nurture and finding out who you truly are. Charming kids’ story!
10. Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quintet #1) – Roshani Chokshi (Children’s, Middle Grade, Fantasy, Mythology)
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah is the daughter of an archeologist who works at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture. She also is known to tell a tall tale. One day, some classmates show up at the museum to catch her in a lie. This leads to Aru accidentally releasing a demon from a cursed lamp.
To fight the demon, she must find the five reincarnations of the legendary Pandava brothers. I loved the use of Indian mythology in this book and the diversity of its characters. Aru and her friend Mini are relatable and loveable. Really love all the books in the Rick Riordan Presents and plan on reading the sequel to Aru Shah this year.
11. Dragon Pearl – Yoon Ha Lee (Children’s, Middle Grade, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mythology)
Thirteen-year-old Min comes from a long line of fox spirits. But Min’s mother insists they don’t use their fox-magic. Min feels trapped by her family’s rules and expectations and her impoverished planet Jinju. She can’t wait until she can join her older brother, Jun in the Space Forces.
When Jun is suspected of deserting his post to go find the Dragon Pearl, Min runs away to clear his name. Her quest will force her to use her fox magic, cleverness and bravery to get out of hard situations.
This book was really great. I loved the Korean characters, mythology, and outer space adventures! Definitely a standout!
12. Minor Mage – T. Kingfisher (Young Adult, Fantasy)
Oliver is a very minor mage. In fact, he only knows three spells. But when the rains don’t come to his village, he must set off to bring them back. Along with his Armadillo familiar, Oliver encounters Ghuls, lost pigs, pirates and ghosts on his way to the mountains. I love this fleshed-out fairy tale. I loved the Armadillo familiar and the Cloud Herders in particular. A great middle grade read with magic to spare!
13. Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars, #1) – Elizabeth Lim (Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance)
Mai Tamarin dreams of becoming the best tailor in the land, but as a girl the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father to court, Maia poses as a boy to take his place. She and other tailors must compete to sew three magic gowns: from the sun, the moon and the stars. This impossible task is made even more impossible with scheming saboteurs and blatant backstabbing. But Mai has a trick or two up her sleeve.
I loved this book, described as “Project Runway meets Mulan”. A fun, exciting romp through Chinese culture, mythology, and court intrigue. Marketed as YA, but perfect for all ages!
14. Dragon Rider (Dragon Rider #1) – Cornelia Funke (Young Adult, Children’s, Fantasy)
When an orphaned boy meets a silver dragon, Firedrake, they set off to seek a mythical land where dragons can live in peace. Here, they meet a villain with an ancient grudge and must work together to save dragon kind.
This was a book about loneliness and found family and discovering where you belong. Unexpected gem!
15. The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly – Rebecca Ansari (Children’s, Middle Grade, Fantasy, Mystery)
Charlie O’Reilly is the only one who remembers his brother Liam. Charlie’s mother and father insist he is an only child, but Charlie has memories of his eight-year-old kid brother who once slept in the bunk above him. The only one who believes him is his best friend, Ana.
When Charlie and Ana receive a mysterious note, in Liam’s handwriting, they find themselves in a race to save Liam or risk being forgotten themselves, forever.
I love this book, about holding on to the ones we love and keeping the faith.
16. The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) – Jonathan Stroud (Young Adult, Children’s, Middle Grade, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery)
I’m absolutely wild about this series about a Ghost Hunting agency, run by three tweens. In the fifth and final book, the four young agents, Lucy, Lockwood, George & Holly find out big secrets about Marissa Fittes and the Fittes agency, all while battling ghosts and fighting off a threat of closure to their agency.
The characters are wonderfully fleshed out and the world is so interesting. These books are so fun, I’d read them all over again.
17. The Last True Poets of the Sea – Julia Drake (Young Adult Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA)
The Larkin family seems to be haunted by bad luck. Ever since their great-great-great-grandmother was the sole survivor of the wreck of the Lyric off the coast of Maine. Here, she swam to shore and fell in love and founded the town of Lyric, Maine.
Violet and Sam visit Lyric every summer. But this summer, Sam is in treatment after an attempt to take his own life. And Violet isn’t doing so great either. Partying and drawn the wrong people, she sets out to locate the lost shipwreck of the Lyric. She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone and a friend in Aquarium worker, Orion. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night, this story is brimming with heart.
All about destiny versus choice and the moments that define us.
18. The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust #2) – Philip Pullman (Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction)
This book is a sequel to His Dark Materials series. It’s set seven years after the last book, The Amber Spyglass.
In the Secret Commonwealth, an adult Lyra and her daemon Pan, struggle to navigate their relationship. Since being seperated, they have grown distant from one another. When Lyra is ousted from Jordan College, she sets off for a city haunted by daemons. Joined by Malcolm Polstead, the boy who saved her from a flood, and a host of familiar characters, Lyra will feel more lost than ever in this book.
I love Phil Pullman’s books. His writing is gorgeous and his world-building fantastic. I struggled between four and five stars for this book simply because it wasn’t my favorite by him, but he’s still one of my favorite authors and I can’t wait to see what happens in the third installment.
What were some of your favorite reads in 2019? Did you reach your reading goals?