Monday, December 2, 2019

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2019

According to Goodreads, I read 64 books this year, but that's not completely accurate. There were a few books I read a few chapters but didn't finish for one reason or another. When you're living with multiple chronic health issues, life is too short to spend time on books that you don't fall in love with after the first few chapters. I have SO many books in my TBR pile, and I have so many stories I want to write myself, I've stopped feeling badly about not finishing a book.

That being said, I have found some gems this year! It was difficult to narrow down my top 10, but as usual, the way a book made me feel is at least as important to me as whether it was well-written and engaging. All of these were both!

Book Dragon has to pose with many books on my Kindle now, since I no longer have the extra funds to purchase all the paperbacks I'd like to have, so most of my reads are ebooks these days. There's nothing like a realio, trulio book you can hold in your hands and hug when you especially love the story!

So, here are my top ten reads for 2019, beginning with #10 (and an honorable mention):

11. (Honorable Mention) is The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Since I read mostly indie-published fiction now (most by members of the groups Flinch Free Fiction, The Fellowship of Fantasy, and Catholic Teen Books), and wish to support that community, I rarely rank big trad-published books here, but this one was such a powerful story, I had to mention it! This broken young character has so much grit, and her situation is so heart-rending, you'll be rooting for her every page of the story. Set in England during the early days of World War 2. I've been reading it out loud to my 8 year old granddaughter, and it's hard not to try to read it with a British accent....

10. The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch by T. M. Gaouette
The situation of these foster children really tugged at the heartstrings of this former foster parent and is an unforgettable story!

9. One Leaf Too Many by Julie B. Cosgrove
I haven't read many mysteries, but this cozy mystery (a standalone first in a series, but you'll want to continue it...) combines genealogy, humor, fun friendships, and danger in a great story!

8. Blossom on the Thorn by Loretta Livingstone
Though this is the 3rd in a series, it can be read as a stand-alone. It's a beautiful and meticulously researched historical novel set in 12th century England. The series has time-travel elements, but this one is an earlier story of some of the beloved characters and will tug at your heart!

7. Elfling by Corinna Turner
I have to say that Ms. Turner is one of my new favorite authors! I read several of her books this year, and though I really like her dinosaur dystopian stories, this one touched my heart a bit more. Plus it's a pseudo-medieval fantasy England, which are always my favorite settings. Similar to the MC in The War That Saved My Life is a young scrappy girl living hand-to-mouth on the streets, and her character arc alone makes this book worth reading!

6. 3 Things to Forget by Cynthia T. Toney
I have really enjoyed the entire Bird Face YA contemporary series. The MC is so human, so lovable, and grows so much, it makes me want to cheer! This book could work as a standalone. It's set mostly in Alaska and has strong themes of family and loving our neighbor.

5. Sand and Storm by Stella Dorthwany
Even though this magical fantasy sort of wraps up with a not-quite-cliffhanger ending (which irritate me quite a lot), the writing is so stellar, I had to include it in the top 10. It's Indiana Jones meets Dune with nonstop action of the nail-biting kind, not one but two love triangles, and a very cool magic system that makes you FEEL the sand between your fingers. The cover is gorgeous but doesn't really hint at all the action, so I was pleasantly surprised! Don't miss this if you love fantasy!

4. I Am Margaret by Corinna Turner
I am pleased to be able to show the new cover of this amazingly powerful novel! I rarely read dystopian because it seems so depressingly possible, but this one grabbed me by throat and would NOT let me look away from a sometimes horrifying look at a possible future. It challenged my faith (in the best way) and made me think (also in the best way). Since my review, the book is supposed to have edited out some of the language, and I'm anxious to buy a paperback of this new edition so I can update Book Dragon's review. Younger and sensitive readers need to be cautioned that there are disturbing scenes of torture (a martyrdom) but they will challenge you to ask yourself, "Could I hold firm in my confession of Christ in that situation?"

3. The King's Trial by M. L. Farb
This book came highly recommended, and I was NOT in any disappointed! It's a Christian fantasy with so many quotable lines, I had to buy the paperback (and promptly loaned it out to keep the recommendations going). It's hard to believe it's the author's debut novel, it's SO well-written with great world-building and characters who grow on their journeys. The best part about it is the faith elements, which are integral to the story and gently encourage and admonish the reader.

2. Heart of the Curiosity by H. L. Burke
It's no secret that H. L. Burke is one of my favorite authors, and for me, this was her best book this year. This wonderful steampunk is part magic, part mystery, and part coming-of-age while dealing with serious subjects in a very effective way. The characters wormed their way into my heart, and the magical setting in an old, mysterious theatre was a feast for the senses. As in most of Ms. Burke's stories, there is some romance going on, too!

1. King of Malorn by Annie Douglass Lima
Since the Annals of Alasia are my new favorite fantasy series, I was thrilled when Ms. Lima released the long-awaited fifth book, which picks up a few years after Prince of Malorn and has all my favorite characters! At first I was puzzled over her choice to tell the two kings' stories from other characters' points of view, but it was very effective, and I eagerly burned through the pages, kind of surprised when it ended, I was SO immersed! Even though it's 554 pages long, it does NOT feel long at all. There is so much going on, but Ms. Lima masterfully orchestrates all the pieces of the story and brings them together by the end for a satisfying conclusion.

I hope you will try some of these books and love them as much as I do! Happy reading!