Bookish Odds & Ends, Features

Favorite Books of 2019

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Today I am sharing my favorite reads of 2019!  I read 130 books in 2019, so narrowing down my list to only 10 books was not going to happen #SorryNotSorry

Here are my favorite 24 books of 2019….

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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

» 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.

You can read my mini book review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: Daisy Jones and the Six

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

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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.

You can read my mini book review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: The Storied Life of AJ Fikrey

» 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!

You can read my mini book review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: With the Fire On High

» 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

» Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence

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I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.
But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.
Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…

From the very first line, I was completely captivated by Red Sister.   The characters are complex.  The world is well developed and fascinating.  The plot was fast paced, action-packed, and an adventure from start to finish.  This book has everything I love in my fantasy books: bad ass leading lady, action, magic abilities, school/training setting, political drama, and an emphasis on friendships.

You can read my mini book review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: Red Sister

» A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice #1) by George R.R. Martin

GameOfThrones

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Here is the first volume in George R. R. Martin’s magnificent cycle of novels that includes A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. As a whole, this series comprises a genuine masterpiece of modern fantasy, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Magic, mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill these pages and transport us to a world unlike any we have ever experienced. Already hailed as a classic, George R. R. Martin’s stunning series is destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction.

A GAME OF THRONES

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

Game of Thrones is full of action, adventure, humor, political intrigue, plot twists, and lots of death.  I was completely engrossed in this book from start to finish.  I cannot wait to read the rest of the books in this series!

You can read my mini book review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: A Game of Thrones

» The Library Book by Susan Orlean

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On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.
In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.
Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.
Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

The Library Book is an ode to libraries, and how they are such an important staple in a community.

You can read my mini book review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: The Library Book

» The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.
Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.
Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.
At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.
But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.
In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature

 This book was a roller coaster of emotion & heavy topics.  Themes included in The Great Alone include survival, coming of age, PTSD, domestic violence, family, & resilience.

You can read my mini review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: The Great Alone

» The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

TheDragonRepublic

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The searing follow-up to 2018’s most celebrated fantasy debut – THE POPPY WAR.
In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.
With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.
But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.
The sequel to R.F. Kuang’s acclaimed debut THE POPPY WAR, THE DRAGON REPUBLIC combines the history of 20th-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating effect.

I’m happy to report that there was no second book syndrome for this epic series! The Dragon Republic was an excellent follow up to The Poppy War.

You can read my mini book review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: The Dragon Republic

» Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

OtherWordsForHome

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I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.
At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

This is such an important middle grade book because it deals with a refugee experience with mild tones of Islamophobia.  Warga handles these topics with care & authenticity

You can read my mini book review here ⇒ Mini Book Review: Other Words for Home

» Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Heroine

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An Amazon Best Book of the Month! A captivating and powerful exploration of the opioid crisis—the deadliest drug epidemic in American history—through the eyes of a college-bound softball star. Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a visceral and necessary novel about addiction, family, friendship, and hope.
When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.
The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.
With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.
But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.

This book is one the best portrayals of drug addiction that I’ve ever read.  It was raw, gritty, and deeply unsettling.

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

» The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

TheTenThousandDoorsofJanuary

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In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.
 

I adored this heartwarming story of love, grief, and perseverance.

» Brave by Svetlana Chmakova

Brave

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In his daydreams, Jensen is the biggest hero that ever was, saving the world and his friends on a daily basis. But his middle school reality is VERY different – math is hard, getting along with friends is hard…Even finding a partner for the class project is a big problem when you always get picked last. And the pressure’s on even more once the school newspaper’s dynamic duo, Jenny and Akilah, draw Jensen into the whirlwind of school news, social experiment projects, and behind-the-scenes club drama. Jensen’s always played the middle school game one level at a time, but suddenly, someone’s cranked up the difficulty setting. Will those daring daydreams of his finally work in his favor, or will he have to find real solutions to his real life problems?
The charming world of Berrybrook Middle School gets a little bigger in this highly anticipated follow up to Svetlana Chmakova’s award winning Awkward with a story about a boy who learns his own way of being Brave!

LOVED this graphic novel from the illustrations to the story.  A wonderful depiction of the struggles of middle school.

» Emily of New Moon (Emily #1), Emily Climbs (Emily #2), &

Emily’s Quest (Emily #3) by L.M. Montgomery

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Emily Starr never knew what it was to be lonely — until her beloved father died. Now Emily’s an orphan, and her mother’s snobbish relatives are taking her to live with them at New Moon Farm. She’s sure she won’t be happy. Emily deals with stiff, stern Aunt Elizabeth and her malicious classmates by holding her head high and using her quick wit. Things begin to change when she makes friends: with Teddy, who does marvelous drawings; with Perry, who’s sailed all over the world with his father yet has never been to school; and above all, with Ilse, a tomboy with a blazing temper. Amazingly, Emily finds New Moon beautiful and fascinating. With new friends and adventures, Emily might someday think of herself as Emily of New Moon.

If you enjoyed Anne of Green Gables, you’ll enjoy this series too!

» Educated by Tara Westover

Educated

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Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.
Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.
Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

This memoir was absolutely heartbreaking & horrifying.  Educated makes for a perfect book club selection.

» All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney

AllAmericanMuslimGirl

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Allie Abraham has it all going for her—she’s a straight-A student, with good friends and a close-knit family, and she’s dating cute, popular, and sweet Wells Henderson. One problem: Wells’s father is Jack Henderson, America’s most famous conservative shock jock…and Allie hasn’t told Wells that her family is Muslim. It’s not like Allie’s religion is a secret, exactly. It’s just that her parents don’t practice and raised her to keep her Islamic heritage to herself. But as Allie witnesses ever-growing Islamophobia in her small town and across the nation, she begins to embrace her faith—studying it, practicing it, and facing hatred and misunderstanding for it. Who is Allie, if she sheds the façade of the “perfect” all-American girl? What does it mean to be a “Good Muslim?” And can a Muslim girl in America ever truly fit in?
ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM GIRL is a relevant, relatable story of being caught between two worlds, and the struggles and hard-won joys of finding your place.

This was a beautiful coming-of-age story about a girl that is struggling with her identity and feels the need to hide her true self.  I loved the growth of the main character, Allie, from start to finish.  I also think this book does a beautiful job of laying out what Islam is, and what it isn’t.

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Let'sChat

Did you read any of the books on my list?  If so, what did you think?

What are some of your favorite books of 2019?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Favorite Books of 2019”

  1. Speak is one of my favorites and I haven’t read it since junior high. I bought the 20th anniversary edition recently and I’m really looking forward to rereading it after all this time. 🙂 Have you read Shout, her collection of poetry that came out last year? Similar themes.

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  2. So many good books! I’m so glad you enjoyed The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic (which was #2 on my list for 2019)! It’s such a great series that presents a brutal look at warfare and imperialism. I can’t wait for book 3. 🙂

    I always like to warn people about A Clash of Kings; it’s much slower than A Game of Thrones, focusing more on politics and character-building… but a lot of it is build-up that pays off tremendously in book 3 (which is, by far, the fandom’s favorite book in the series!)

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  3. Some great books here.
    I’m glad your review and mentions of the Snow Queen urged me to read it. It didn’t make my favorites list, but it was one of the best written books I read in 2019.
    I’d like to read The Stories Life of AJ Fikry and I am curious about the Red Queen.

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  4. Educated and The Great Alone were fantastic books! I had to read Hannah’s book for my book club and am so glad it was chosen as I don’t know if I would have picked it up on my own.

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  5. Fantastic list! Circe, Daisy Jones, With The Fire On High and The Great Alone are favorites of mine as well, and most of the others are on my TBR.

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