Bookish Odds & Ends, Features, Other

Top 11 Books of 2019 So Far! (January – June 2019)

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How in the heck are we over half way through 2019?!  I don’t know about you all, but I have read some amazing books thus far in 2019.

As of the end of June, I had read 67 books in 2019.  Which ones are among my favorites?  Continue on to find out…

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» The Winter of the Witch (Winternight #3) by Katherine Arden

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Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

The Winter of the Witch was the perfect conclusion to the Winternight Trilogy. The Winternight Trilogy really has it all: political intrigue, Russian folklore, magic, action, adventure, a bad ass leading lady… I cannot recommend this series enough.

You can read my mini review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: Winter of the Witch


» The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them. 

There was so much that I adored about this book: the beautiful writing, the characters, the plot inspired by Russian folklore, the magic realism elements, the frontier setting of 1920s Alaska…

You can read my mini review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: The Snow Child


» The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3) by

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THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

The Stone Sky was the perfect & heartbreaking conclusion to a series that quickly has become a new favorite. If you have not started The Broken Earth series, you do not know what you are missing! Jemisin’s writing is unlike any I’ve ever read.  The series is also very cleverly constructed.  The Broken Earth series is a very unique take on post apocalyptic fiction.

You can read my mini review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: The Stone Sky


» Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Molokia

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This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai’i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place—and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

This book was absolutely heartbreaking on so many different levels. I cried on two different occasions while reading it, and I seldom cry while reading books.

Moloka’i included themes like family (traditional and nontraditional), friendship, freedom, hope, love, religion/faith (Christianity vs. Paganism), illness, loss, and grief.  This book blew me away.  I read it along with one of my book clubs, and every member enjoyed it.

You can read my mini review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: Moloka’i


» Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

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In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

I adore how Madeline Miller weaves her Greek Mythology retellings. The more of Madeline’s retellings I read, the more I want to read Homer’s The Illiad & The Odyssey. Even though I have not read Homer’s books, from what I’ve researched, Miller stays true to the original story while creating an entirely new spin on the story.  Honestly, I hope she will continue this trend because I will read every one she comes out with.

Circe includes themes like complicated family dynamics, mortality vs. immortality, sexism/gender inequality, destiny, motherhood, sex positivity, and love. I was engaged from beginning to end.

You can read my mini review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: Circe


» The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang

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When Rin aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late. 

If I had to sum up The Poppy War in a few words, they would be epic, brutal, and morally gray.  I flew through this book despite it being 544 pages!  I cannot wait to get my hands on the second book next month.

You can read my mini review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: The Poppy War


» Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

speak

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The first ten lies they tell you in high school.

“Speak up for yourself—we want to know what you have to say.” 

From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. 

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.

Books that explore sexual assault victimization are so important, especially in the YA target age range, because they can inform, increases empathy, and challenge problematic rape culture.  Speak needs to be required reading for all high school aged kids.

You can read my mini review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: Speak


» Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice. 

I know this book has very mixed reviews due to its format, but I LOVED this book.  Since Daisy Jones and the Six is told in interview format from many different characters, many people were turned off.  Since I knew this was the format going into the book, this read like a classic rock band documentary playing out in my mind.  This book was meant for TV or film adaptation.


» The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

TheStoriedLife

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As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

We are not quite novels.

We are not quite short stories.

In the end, we are collected works.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died; his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history; and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, he can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, though large in weight—an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world. Or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. 

What bookworm doesn’t love a story about books, bookstores, and the people that love books?  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was heartwarming, funny, and emotional.  I’d recommend this book to fans of quirky characters & fans of books like A Man Called Ove.

This made for an excellent book club discussion with the moral dilemmas in the story.


» With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

WithTheFireOnHigh

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With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free. 

I adored Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut novel, The Poet X, so I was very excited to read her next book.  I listened to her first book via audiobook, and fell in love with the author’s narration.  I chose to listen to Fire on High via audiobook as well.  I loved this one just as much as her first!  Elizabeth Acevedo has a beautiful way with words & I adore her characters & plotlines.  I typically stray away from YA contemporary, but I’ll read anything Acevedo writes!


» The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

TheReadAloudHandbook

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Recommended by “Dear Abby”, The New York Times and The Washington Post, for three decades, millions of parents and educators have turned to Jim Trelease’s beloved classic to help countless children become avid readers through awakening their imaginations and improving their language skills. Now this new edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook imparts the benefits, rewards, and importance of reading aloud to children of a new generation. Supported by delightful anecdotes as well as the latest research, The Read-Aloud Handbook offers proven techniques and strategies—and the reasoning behind them—for helping children discover the pleasures of reading and setting them on the road to becoming lifelong readers.

The Read-Aloud Family is about the the reasoning and the research/evidence behind why you should be reading aloud with your children.   Since childhood literacy is a passion of mine, this book was absolutely fascinating!  This book should be read by all parents, educators, and librarians!

You can read my mini book review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: The Read-Aloud Handbook

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Which books have been your favorites so far in 2019?

Have you read any the books on this list?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

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12 thoughts on “Top 11 Books of 2019 So Far! (January – June 2019)”

  1. Excellent list! I loved Circe and Daisy Jones as well and so many others are on my TBR! I really need to try and find time to read the Winternight books this year.

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      1. Yes that’s true! I have a readathon coming up next month though, so I don’t think I’ll have time to read all three books… But I might try to make space for them in September.

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