My Year in Books 2019

2019 was another good year for reading. I read 53 books. That is about one per week. Not too bad. Besides, I also read the New York Times from Friday to Sunday and the Time Magazine, which we have subscribed to. So my actual reading volume is even higher. My favorite genres last year were fantasy novels and cozy mysteries. I also am a big fan of series. Every now and then I try to read something different, but I always return to my preferred kinds of books. Last year I even tried to challenge myself to read more wide-ranging [here], but failed miserably. The least said about this challenge, the better.

Let’s have a closer look at my year in books 2019 (I am not taking “Harry Potter” into account here because I have read it many times before and just love love love all seven novels).

Favorite novel in 2019

Helen Scheuerer: “War of Mist (The Oremere Chronicles)”*

War is here.
Toxic mist drives all life to the brink of destruction and the conqueror queen, Ines, has her talons in the kings of the realm.
Bleak, having discovered her true heritage, must now scour the lands for the one thing that might save them all.
But the search is a treacherous one – and it will push her to the very limits of endurance.
Amidst secrets, lies and the intricacies of battle, Bleak and her companions learn just how far they’ll go for the ones they love. But will it be enough?
As deadly forces grapple for power across the continents, families, friends and allies unite to take one final stand.
Explosive revelations, heart-wrenching betrayals and breathtaking magic soar in the epic conclusion to Helen Scheuerer’s bestselling trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles.

I love that fantasy series where mostly women are the protagonists and heroes and totally recommend it. This last book ties up all the loose ends – I knew most things about the characters from the other two parts. Former alcoholic Bleak has become much more likeable so that I felt I could concentrate more on her strength and the conflict itself. I liked that there were several surprises and not everything seemed as it eventually turned out to be.

Favorite non-fiction book in 2019

Michelle Obama: “Becoming”*

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

I normally don’t read biographies, but found this one compelling. Michelle Obama tells so many of her life events and it made me like her even more. I also found interesting how black people live in the U.S., what problems they encounter or, in this case, also what her grandparents and parents experienced. Obama does talk about both positive and negative events.

Most anticipated book in 2019

Lindsey Kelk: “I Heart Hawaii”*

Join Angela and Jenny in the series finale of the bestselling I Heart books, on the balmy beaches of Hawaii.
When Angela Clark’s best friend Jenny invites her to join a press trip to Hawaii, three days of sun, sea and sleep sounds like the perfect antidote to her crazed life.
At work in New York, she’s supposed to be the face of Having It All. But the only thing Angela feels she excels at is hiding in the printer cupboard, eating Mini Cheddars and watching Netflix on her phone and if this is living the dream, she’s more than ready to wake up.
A few days away with Jenny sounds like exactly what she needs but Angela’s talent for getting into a scrape guarantees nothing goes to plan – and not even the most beautiful beaches, blue skies and daiquiris will get her off the hook…

I am a huge Lindsey Kelk fan and love especially her “I Heart …” series [I first blogged about it here in 2012]. Unfortunately, this is the last part of the series … but I immensely enjoyed to follow Angela around one more time. When I read the novel in summer just after we had moved, I suddenly realized that Angela “used to live” only a block away from where we are now. She went to our diner, etc. That made this last book even more special to me. Else, I really enjoyed how Angela tries to be all grown-up and responsible, but  knows she actually isn’t or at least not all of the time. I even laughed tears, e.g. when her horse bolts while they are on their way to a mountain top on Hawaii. Now I am more sad that the series has finished. But I know that I also like Kelk’s other novels and can’t wait for new ones.

Best recommendation in 2019

Katharine McGee: “American Royals”*

What if America had a royal family?
When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne.
As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling.
Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her.
And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

I heard about “American Royals” on the Bad on Paper Podcast. Grace and Becca did not only mention that novel several times, but they even recorded a whole episode to discuss it with the author. I found the premise so intriguing that I reserved the e-novel at my library. Once I could finally download it at the end of December I read it within two days. It is more of a YA novel and absolutely entertaining. To me it read a bit like a modern gossip magazine because every chapter is told from the view of another of the main characters. I now can’t wait for the next part to be published.

Weirdest book in 2019

Jenny Zhang: “Sour Heart”*

A fresh new voice emerges with the arrival of Sour Heart, establishing Jenny Zhang as a frank and subversive interpreter of the immigrant experience in America. In this debut collection, she conjures the disturbing and often hilarious experience of adolescence through the eyes of Chinese American girls growing up in New York City. Her stories cut across generations and continents, moving from the fraught halls of a public school in Flushing, Queens, to the tumultuous streets of Shanghai, China, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. In the absence of grown-ups, latchkey kids experiment on each other until one day the experiments turn violent; an overbearing mother abandons her artistic aspirations to come to America but relives her glory days through karaoke; and a shy loner struggles to master English so she can speak to God.
Narrated by the daughters of Chinese immigrants who fled imperiled lives as artists back home only to struggle to stay afloat — dumpster diving for food and scamming Atlantic City casino buses to make a buck — these seven stories showcase Zhang’s compassion and moral courage, and a perverse sense of humor reminiscent of Portnoy’s Complaint. A darkly funny and intimate rendering of girlhood, Sour Heart examines what it means to belong to a family, to find your home, leave it, reject it, and return again.

This is a short story collection about Chinese immigrants to the U.S. While I liked some of them, I mostly found them just really weird. On the one hand I found it immensely interesting to read about Chinese people’s experience when they arrived and lived in New York City. On the other hand some stories freaked me out, like when school girls harass each other or when families land on the street because the father rather spends his money for his mistress. This book definitely made me feel ill at ease several times, but that again is also what I sometimes want from a really good book. To show me a totally different world and perspective.

Least favorite book in 2019

Diane Mott Davidson: “Dying for Chocolate”*

Meet Goldy Bear: a bright, opinionated, wildly inventive caterer whose personal life has become a recipe for disaster. She’s got an abusive ex-husband who’s into making tasteless threats, a rash of mounting bills that are taking a huge bite out of her budget, and two enticing men knocking on her door.
Now determined to take control of her life, Goldy moves her business and her son to ritzy Aspen Meadow Country Club, where she accepts a job as a live-in cook. But just as she’s beginning to think she’s got it made–catering decadent dinners and posh society picnics and enjoying the favors of Philip Miller, a handsome local shrink, and Tom Shulz, her more-than-friendly neighborhood cop–the dishy doctor inexplicably drives his BMW into an oncoming bus.
Convinced that Philip’s bizarre death was no accident, Goldy decides to do a little investigating of her own. But sifting through the unpalatable secrets of the dead doc’s life will toss her into a case seasoned with unexpected danger and even more unexpected revelations–the kind that could get a caterer and the son she loves. . .killed.

I am not sure why I didn’t like this novel. It is one of my preferred genres, it had all the main bits to it. And still, I just didn’t like it. I couldn’t identify with Goldy at all because to my mind she is an overprotective mother. Every now and then she even is a doormat for other people. The crime case was not that exciting either. I wonder if it was the fact that I first read the second part of this series or that the novel is actually quite old (published in 1992), but I was just unable to appreciate this book.

My Year in Books 2019 - janavar

If you want to follow my book journey this year, have a look at my Goodreads account.

What books have left an impression on you last year?

© janavar

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