Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! For me, the word “favorite” is an important part of this list. As I go through the last year’s worth of reading, I often found that some books would strike particular chords within me more deeply than others, even if, quality-wise, another book might be stronger. Of course, this just makes it all that much harder to put them in any order. But here it goes! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our “12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!”
#10: “The Wolf in the Whale” by Jordanna Max Brodsky
This was one of a few books to make this list that were complete surprises for me. It was the debut book for the author and one that had very little buzz when I first received an early copy. But boy, did it blow me away. With its unique setting of early civilization in the North American Arctic region, its compelling and complicated leading character, and the sparse, but fantastic, use of mythology and fantasy elements, this book was firing on all cylinders the entire time. The story definitely had some dark themes, and it handles a love interest with a controversial past in what I thought was a smart manner. There was a lot of crying on my part, but this unique, confident fantasy novel definitely stuck out to me when looking back over the year.
#9: “The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan” by Sherry Thomas
I love fairytale retellings. This is a mixed blessing, as I see it. On one hand, there are a ton of them, especially recently. On the other hand, because I feel compelled to read them all, I end up being disappointed quite a bit. And “Mulan” has been one of those stories that has served up nothing but disappointment for a while now. And then this book came out and did every. single. thing. I wanted. It takes enough elements from my limited knowledge of the original tale to remain familiar, but also brings in new portions of the story that make it feel refreshing. It’s definitely not Disney’s “Mulan,” but that’s also a good thing in this case. The love story is sweet, the action is exciting, and the story addresses a wide range of themes including bravery, honor, and family. If you’re looking for a good fairytale retelling, or, like me, had been waiting for THE “Mulan” version that would really hit home, definitely check this one out!
#8: “The Kingdom of Copper” by S.A. Chakraborty
This book came out in the early part of this year, way back in January. And I’ve been waiting this whole, long time for the next one! And it’s still not here! But I shall work on patience and maybe just go re-read this one in the mean time. The first book in this trilogy impressed with its complicated world-building and engaging main characters who must tread almost impossible lines of grey. Here, all that was excellent from the first book was simply expanded upon. It was also one of the smartest uses of a time jump between books that I’ve read in a long time. I was truly surprised by the direction the book went and the very real ways our main characters had both changed and stayed the same between one book and another. It also ended on one heck of a cliff-hanger, so, yeah. Back to the fretting until…oof, June.
#7: “Temeraire” series by Naomi Novik
It seems like every year I end up with at least one favorite that isn’t just one book but a series of books that I’ve blown through over the year. And this year it was Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series about dragons during the Napoleonic Wars. I’ve been a fan of Novik’s for a while (in fact, I think her most recent novel, “Spinning Silver” was my top pick last year), but I’d always held back on reading this book because of its weird premise. I mean…dragons in the Napoleonic Wars. But silly me! It’s been awesome so far. I’ve been blowing through the series way too fast for my own good, but I find everything about them so engaging that its hard to stop myself! I love the language of the books, reading like great historical fiction. The action is exciting, new, and shockingly, incredibly believable. And on top of all of that, the characters of Temeraire and his captain, William Lawrence, are an incredible duo whom you can’t help but fall in love with. I’ve already read the next in the series, so that review should be up soon! But if you, like me, love Novik’s other books but haven’t checked this series out yet, definitely give it a try!
#6: “The Bones Houses” by Emily Lloyd-Jones
I love books like this. Not only this story in particular, but books that come out of complete nowhere and blow me away. I literally knew nothing about this story when I requested In fact, looking at the cover, I was suspicious that this was going to more a “Kate book” than one for me, so if anything, my expectations were on the negative side. Oops! I loved this lovely fairytale story (sort of a retelling of “The Black Cauldron”??). For one thing, it’s a standalone, which automatically shoots it forward in my rankings. But on top of that, it perfectly mixes whimsy and horror, all while exploring topics like loss, grief, and family. The romance is sweet, and the two main characters are each strong and compelling. There’s also a fantastic goat. If you haven’t heard of this one (it seems to be flying below radar, sadly), get thee to the library or bookstore!
So that’s ten through six. Next time I will give a countdown of my top five. What have been some of your favorite reads of 2019?