It’s that time again! The end of a year. The end of a decade. It would be straight-up insanity for me to try and make a best-of list for that, so the end of a year.
I’m going to do things a bit differently this year, since there is an
approximate actual mountain of books that I loved this year. These are in no particular order. Just 20 uh, 25 (look, it got out of hand) books that I really enjoyed in 2019.
And so, I give you THE BEST OF 2019 – as Kristen sees it. ^_^
The Hanged Man by K.D. Edwards
SURPRISE! Wait… what do you mean this isn’t a surprise? Oh, I’ve not shut up about this book for 2 months? Oh. Well that’s because it’s amazing. I think I’ve said that before though. ^_^
This book was phenomenally written, and it gave me the entire gamut of emotions throughout its course. This is one of those books where I come for the characters but stay for the action. I love the characters in this series. Brand and Rune have one of the best relationships ever.
This series is not scared to take your emotions and kick them in the fucking face. As much as I will squee about how adorable this series is, it is set in a world in which very bad things happen to good people. That said, this is also a book in which there is love, and support, and hope for the future. It presents me with characters so endearing that I can’t help but want the very best for them, gives them backstories or puts them in situations that smush the fuck out of my emotions, and then rounds it all out by having other characters be there for them; ready and willing to love and support them, snark and all.
Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff
This book made me laugh, and it made me cry, and it made me laugh-cry. Mia and friends get up to ridiculous shenanigans in this volume, and I was highly entertained by the entirety of it. But this is also the finale to a series that has given me some serious feels in the past, and this is no exception to that. I got the feels. Hard. But I don’t think I’ve never read a book that was so self-aware and hilariously self-deprecating like this one, while still being feelsy whenever it’s necessary. Jay Kristoff is a phenomenal writer, and he’s written a phenomenal trilogy!
This is a book that, if you know me at all, I will recommend like I tend recommend the Heartstrikers series, or the First Law series. Yes, oh gods above and below yes, please do get this book and the two before it……….. in audio. Because the narrator, Holter Graham, nails it. Nails. It.
Less a book and more an experience. A fantastic close to the Nevernight series.
Ioth: City of Lights by D.P. Woolliscroft
I liked this one even more than Kingshold. I am more familiar with the characters to start with, and so it felt like coming back to a well loved series after a long break. A long self-imposed break, perhaps, but still long (it wasn’t actually that long, it just felt long).
The writing was solid, and flowed nicely. This one was never boring, and the pacing was very good. It’s hard sometimes, with a book from several points of view to stay at a good pace without becoming confusing, but this one manages. We even get to see this one from the point of view of some of the common people of Pyrfew, the enemy nation constantly on the brink of war with Edland. We see how the people live, and how they see their emperor, which was interesting, and gave a really nice look at the other side of things.
There are plenty of twists and turns like that in this series. A few things that I did not expect to happen at all happened and unexpectedly got me in the feels pretty good. If you liked Kingshold, you will very likely like Ioth, City of Lights as well. A wonderful dive into a different part of the world, with all the characters I loved from the first volume returning for shenanigans all over the world.
The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan
This book was fantastically written, with great characters that I rooted for from page one. Guerdon is a fascinating setting to read about. Alchemy is prevalent in the city, from bombs and the mysterious alkahest to the Tallowmen – men and women that have been turned into literal walking candles, who serve as more or less the city watch… if the city watch were insane and rather stabby people made of wax. There are subways and trains and things. In a way, the atmosphere of the city brought to mind Mieville’s city of New Crobuzon. A grubby-feeling secondary world with industrial revolution era technology. I really enjoyed the vibe.
This book has a fascinating setting, awesome and unique characters, and a really original and well executed idea. There were twists and turns and all kinds of interesting stuff happened. It kept me reading until well into the wee hours every night.
Five Unicorn Flush by T.J. Berry
I started this one late one night before bed, thinking that I could just stop, sleep, and then wake up refreshed to go to work. That was my first mistake. Before I knew it, it was 3am and I was having a lot of trouble putting this one down for that sleep thing.
Despite all of the things that the main character, Jenny has done in her life, both good and bad, I couldn’t help but cheer for her. She’s so snarky and has a comeback for everyone, and she absolutely doesn’t let anything (or anyone) hold her back. The ship AI in Jenny’s ship, the Stagecoach Mary, is also snarky AF, and the dynamic between them was pretty awesome.
There’s lots of action, and plenty of it is absolutely hilarious. I have a lot of stuff in this book highlighted just for making me laugh. It’s funny in all the right places, but it’s also serious when it needs to be, and takes on some serious and deep situations. There were times that my feels got suitably jostled.
The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen
This one was recommended to me by a couple of the folks at the Fantasy Inn. It is based in, or rather adapted from a podcast called The Bright Sessions, and follows Caleb, a high school football player who suddenly manifests the ability to feel other people’s emotions. At his therapist’s suggestion, he befriends Adam, an emotional boy whose emotions don’t really feel like everyone else’s. They’re more comforting. Even when they aren’t.
It was a fantastic piece of writing that gave me all sort of the feels. It was super enthralling, and has one of the best depictions of major depression I’ve ever read. I wanted all of the good things for Caleb and Adam.
Listening to the podcast isn’t necessary to find enjoyment, in fact, it’s more likely to make you want to listen to it if you haven’t. I listened to this entire audiobook in one sitting because I could not stop.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
This one is on a lot of people’s best of lists because this is a phenomenal book. Every time I picked up this book, it was like falling into the world of January Scaller.
Part of this book is a kind of book-within-a-book and you’d think that would be a little confusing, but it never is, at all. It was a wonderful piece of writing, getting to experience January reading this book as she read it. As things all started coming together, and were revealed, it was a bit exciting.
This book definitely poked me in the feels a good number of times. Sometimes in a good way, and sometimes in a more sad way. But all the same, when books make me emote about make believe people, we’re probably looking at a good book.
The last chapter/Epilogue had me doing some #AwkwardWorkplaceSobbing that I had to explain to the boss. You’ll have to read it to find out for yourself whether it was the good kind or the sad kind. ^_^
Witchmark by C.L. Polk
This book was a lot more than I expected it would be. I anticipated magical healing with gay romance, and what I got was fucking bonkers feels-damaging twists and turns… and magical healing and gay romance. So a total win, to be sure.
This takes place in a world very similar but also quite different to our own, right around World War I. Miles Singer is a doctor at a veteran’s hospital, but what most people don’t know is that he can heal people with magic. He’s gotta keep that on the down low though, due to magic being forbidden to pretty much anyone but the nobility. If they catch him, they’ll undoubtedly try and capture and use him for his abilities.
I don’t often find myself reading an entire book in one sitting. Audio yes, but not usually print. I read this from cover to cover in one sitting because it just kept surprising me. This book poked every feel I’ve got. A fantastically written story.
Breaking Chaos by Ben Galley
The whole Chasing Graves series if I’m honest here. I’ve really loved how fast paced and fun this series has been. It’s dark, when it needs to be. There’s all kinds of gruesome murder and what have you. I mean the entire premise of the thing includes a great deal of death in various forms, but it never takes itself entirely seriously, and that is what has made the whole story such a winner for me. Even the informational quotes at the beginning of chapters have a few laughs in them.
The writing was immersive and descriptive, with imagery that sometimes made my eyes widen with a bit of awe at the comparison. That said, I never found it overly descriptive, or to the point where it was boring or just gross. But using the image of a pomegranate thrown against a boulder as a simile for… well, something much grosser than that, was brilliant use of language. At least… I thought so. I can imagine the city of Araxes and its many denizens fairly well.
I love Caltro, and have loved him through this entire journey. This whole series was fantastic!
The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
This is a fantastic bit of writing. All kinds of twists and turns and ups and downs happened throughout this one, and I didn’t see most of them coming, but I ultimately sat glued to my seat much of the time. When I got to reading it, I was immersed and on the edge of my seat for most of my time with it. Kuang really knows how to ramp up the action and intrigue. This was a very difficult book to have to put down.
I absolutely loved this one, as I did The Poppy War, even when they hurt my feels (maybe especially then). At times, it deals with really tough subject matter, and it gets dark AF on the regular, but then, this book is inspired by actual history, and war, famine, drug abuse are a huge part of that history. You can see a lot of real life in this particular fantasy, which hit me right in all of my feelings.
Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw
When I first picked up Strange Practice, I had assumed (from the cover really), that it took place in a Victorian England. It does not. Though it does take place in England, the Dr. Greta Helsing series is a modern day Urban Fantasy.
And I love it. Love love love.
Vivian Shaw has created such an awesome world in these books, combining old school vampires (and vampyres – there is a difference) and werewolves, mummies, and other ghoulies with modern society, and modern medicine.
In this particular volume, Greta takes over leading a secret health spa for mummies in France, and of course, shenanigans are abound, because they are always abound where Greta is concerned.
I really hope this world doesn’t end in a trilogy. I would read all of the books about Greta.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Honestly guys, this book kind of ruined me a little bit. It has all the ups and downs and so on and so forth that most romances do, and I was emoting really hard by the end. The last 2 hours or so of this book was a roller coaster of emotions. I will get misty-eyed occasionally about books, but this one actually made tears happen. I was honestly *very* curious how this one was going to achieve a happy ending, considering the position these two are in. Seems rather impossible, in these times. But this book takes place in 2020, and assumes that a liberal woman has been the president since 2016.
This was one of the most entertaining, enthralling, well-paced, and feels-jostling romance novels that I’ve ever read, and I think I loved it even more as an audiobook than I would have as a print book, because the narrator really gave it all kinds of flair when it needed it to just make it extra amazing. Probably one of my favorite books ever, now.
Faycalibur by Liam Perrin
As was the first volume in this series, this was an excellently written book with many chuckles to be had within its pages. I sat down to start it before bed one night and before I knew it I was nearly halfway through and it was way, way past my bedtime. But I couldn’t stop reading, because Thomas and Philip are so much fun to read about.
Sir Thomas is a character that you can’t help but root for. I wanted him to win the day, the lady, all the glory and everything else, and having characters to like is really what submerges me into a story.
There were plenty of twists and turns here, it wasn’t too short, and it wasn’t overly long. T’was exactly as long as it needed to be. There are accents that are written in a way that they just happened in my head, and this one left me with a few unanswered questions, but not in a cliffhangery or irritating way. More the way that indicates that the next volume can’t come soon enough!
Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri
This is the sequel to Empire of Sand, one of my favorite books, and follows the adventures of Mehr’s sister Arwa. She is recently widowed, being the only survivor of a brutal massacre, but ends up in the emperor’s court, where the emperor is dying and his children are starting to circle a bit like vultures.
Arwa meets Zahir, who is the illegitimate son of the emperor, and as such he is mostly hidden away. He is researching the Realm of Ash – a way of regaining the memories of your forebears to see if he can find a way to heal the emperor.
This book was absolutely beautifully written, and took me on a fantastic journey through the past and present of Arwa’s life. I wanted all of the very best things in the universe for her and Zahir. They were such easy protagonists to cheer for. This was easily one of my favorite listens of the year.
Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse
This is the continuation of the story of Maggie Hoskie, a Diné monster hunter who lives in a world that’s been ravaged by what is called the “Big Water” – a massive flood event that has decimated much of the United States.
I liked this sequel just as much as I liked book one. Maybe even more than, when I really sit down and have a think on it. I listened to this one all in one sitting, starting it at work and actually listening to it through the evening. It was fantastically written and hard to take breaks from.
I love a good Urban Fantasy, and while I don’t always go in for the dystopian ones, this series is a very good example of that genre. Dinétah is an interesting setting to explore, and this volume takes us outside of the massive walls that have been erected around it into the bigger world. I really, really enjoyed the antagonist in this one (as an antagonist) because in this particular case… given the whole dystopian nature of the world, you can’t 100% disagree with all of his ideals.
The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker
There was some really interesting and unique ideas here that I think were fleshed out very well. It really gave me a solid image of this rough and hard seafaring society, while using unique terms for bits of the ships, or ranks of the crew, or even the sun. It wasn’t ever hard to understand what those things were, even if the words were unfamiliar. Humans aren’t the only creatures in this world, either. There is a race of bird-people in this one known as the gullaime, and ships in the fleet usually have one of them aboard, as they can control the wind. The ship featured here is no different in that, as there is a gullaime aboard, but this one is extremely aggressive, and refuses to speak to the shipwife, or anyone else, and just stays in their cabin all day.
A very well written nautical adventure that made me feel like I was on the seas myself at times. RJ Barker has some fantastic worldbuilding here, with this unique but very easily imagined world of sailors that also seems to revolve around fertility and the bearing of children, in its way. I really ended up cheering for Joron, and warmed up to Meas as well after a time. Joron was a character who I felt became better and better as the story went on, from a drunkard to quite a clever man, willing to risk his life for his crew. I wanted these sailors to succeed in their endeavor to hide (or protect) the first dragon seen for ages.
Fate Lashed by Josh Erikson
This was a well written and fast paced sequel, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. By about the halfway point, I was totally hooked! It was an exciting romp through a few different locales with all kinds of baddies on the tails of the protagonists.
This one was something like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom meets a Final Fantasy game. I often think that many books would make really great movies, but I think that this series would make an amazing anime. Someone should get on that!
The narration was again awesome. Josh Erikson puts emotion where it needs to be, and emphasis where it needs to be. That’s one of the pros of having an author be the narrator. Not all authors are good narrators though, but I’m glad to say that this is one author narrator who pulls it off very well! The last 1/4 or so of this book was full of emotion and I got suitably misty-eyed.
And so, all told, this was a really fun sequel to Hero Forged, which forges the way (#notsorry) for many, many more adventures for Gabe and Heather and whichever company of odd heroes they manage to recruit when the time comes.
Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian
I don’t read quite as much romance as I do fantasy, but some months it’ll get nearly equal. Hither, Page was one that I picked up and devoured in one sitting. I’ve really enjoyed Cat Sebastian’s books thusfar, and this one is absolutely no exception. This one is a whodunnit in a small village in post WWII England. Leo Page, a spy, is sent to the village to solve a murder and while there he meets the local doctor, James Sommers, just trying to find a normal life again after the horrors of war.
I liked how supportive Page was to James, and all and all how this book handled PTSD in general. These two were there for each other when needed. Watching the romance between them come together was rather adorable, and this was a fantastically written bit of historical romance. I hope for more in this series soon.
The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes
I absolutely loved this one. How could I not love a book about a stuffed triceratops detective?!
This book was… it was heartwarming, it was feels inducing, and it was just… so wholesome and sweet and adorable. I’m not sure what I was expecting in a murder mystery featuring a stuffed dinosaur detective, but I sure wasn’t planning on having so many feels about him, and about a hand, and an icicle, and a little blob of rainbows. But here we are. This book made me laugh, and it made me smile quite often.
The mystery stayed mysterious. The characters stayed interesting. The book flowed really well, and I had a really hard time putting it down. I’ve already recommended this book to people that I know don’t normally read, or don’t normally read fantasy, but who I feel just need a little bit of Tippy the Triceratops in their life.
Everyone needs a little Tippy the Triceratops in their lives.
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
This book is absolutely beautifully written, for starters. It’s also often indescribably weird… but not in a bad way. Not at all.
Red and Blue are both strange and interesting people. They are human, or, at least humanoid (most of the time. At least one of them is a shapeshifter, you see). Both female, and both either genetically modified and grown, decanted, and heavily modified with cybernetic implants.
So, it is obviously super unique, and it was, in fact, unlike anything I’ve ever read in my life. Seeing these two women get closer and closer, and their letters get more and more intimate as the book goes on was really, really enthralling. The letters were absolutely stunningly written (but then, so were the parts between them), and I was clamoring for the next one and the next one as the book went on.
There were times that I would have literally no idea what was going on, but, and this is going to sound odd, but stay with me here… it was all part of the experience. It was an awesome read!
The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon by Benedict Patrick
I quite liked this tale. It was absolutely unique, and was unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Min and her crew were full of interesting people, like their artificer Jedda, who loves Eshak, which is a game somewhat like chess (I think) that creates magical pieces the more you play it.
Brightest was another character who I enjoyed a lot. This man who has been, not stranded, but a willing resident of the Darkstar Dimension since he and his people were stranded there years and years ago. He is… eccentric. A collector of things that he has collected from the many rifts he has visited.
It was quite well written, and well edited. It flowed well, and was never boring. There was always considerable shenanigans happening. The ending wrapped this story up while leaving plenty of room for further adventures, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
Any Old Diamonds by K.J. Charles
This one follows Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes – Alec Pyne. His father, a wealthy duke whom he hates (for good reason) is about to gift his wife (whom he also hates) with a huge set of jewels, and Alec, who is just about fed up with their shenanigans, hires a pair of jewel thieves to steal it.
He befriends one of the thieves, Jerry, in an attempt to get him inside the duke’s home without too much suspicion. Of course, their relationship goes from ‘sort-of fake friendship’ to ‘way, way more than sort-of fake friendship’ before long.
And it is glorious!~
This is one of the first books that I read this year, and I have to say that it (and The Magpie Lord) set off a grand adventure into pretty much the entirety of K.J. Charles’ bibliography. That’s how much it captured me. Love. Love. Looooove.
Priest of Lies by Peter McLean
I called Priest of Bones ‘Peaky Blinders but fantasy’ and this one very much runs with that vibe as well, and that is not at all a criticism. Tomas Piety is such an interesting and fun character to read about, and I love that his exploits are in the first person so we get his snarky opinion on everything as the story progresses.
This was once again a really well written and well paced book! Tomas seems like a reliable narrator, but he also doesn’t always have all the information. In this volume, he is not much different than he was in the first, aside from that his territory in Ellinburg is much, much bigger. He still has rivals though, and he meets them with the same cold, business-like demeanor as he always has.
I thought this was a great addition to the War for the Rose Throne series, and I am very excited to see what else is in store for Tomas, Billy, Jochan, Bloody Anne, and the rest of the Pious Men.
Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs
This was an insta-preorder, as these books tend to be, for me. It’s pretty safe to say that I’ll enjoy a book about Mercy pretty much any day of the week, but this one was even better than quite a few of the more recent previous installments, in my opinion.
Also, that Dan Dos Santos cover tho. Hrrrng.
This one had werewolves (obviously), but also witches, vampires, and of course, most importantly: pygmy goat zombies. Very important.
This volume doesn’t pull punches though. There is some legitimately disturbing shit happening in the Tri-Cities, and this particular volume of the story gave a lot more insight on witches and their magic and how bonkers evil they can be. It was amazingly done. I can’t wait for more of Mercy’s story. And Adam… cuz they’re adorable together, there I said it. ^_^
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
As this book is by GGK, it goes without saying that it is beautiful. But I have to say it anyway: goddamn this is a beautiful book.
Once I sat down with it, I couldn’t stop reading it until well into the wee hours of the morning. Kay’s prose is absolutely gorgeous, for a start, and the way it forms a story slowly but so intricately really puts the comparisons of Kay’s work to tapestries into perspective. It really is rather like having a story woven into a tapestry around you. The characters were so well built that I was emoting hard for them right from the start. Even characters that didn’t show up quite as often, such as the healer Jelena, or the rich and rather frivolous nobleman Antenami Sardi were so well written even in their comparatively brief appearances that they seemed to just emerge fully-formed into the story whenever needed.
So all told, this book was amazing. It was beautiful and rich. It was evocative and thought-provoking. It was tear-jerking and smile-inducing. It was so damn good.
So, there you have it. These are some of the best books I read this year. More than one became a favorite of all time. 2019 was a fantastic year for books, even if it wasn’t awesome for much else. ^_^
Happy 2020 to all my followers, all my twitter people, all my discord people, and all of you who have somehow made it here to look at all my squeeing. You all are awesome! ^_^