Top nine reads of twenty-nineteen

Thursday, January 16, 2020



Twenty-nineteen was the year I gained the right to purchase wine at any hour of the day, the year I started my dream job by freelance editing novels starting with an outrageously kind author, the year I lost my teenage metabolism, the year I fell in love renounced it fell in love again and renounced it twice, the year I became a line dancing fiend with the parents and brother I love more than anything, and the year I accepted that time with my favorite people was by far better than time spent alone. Before I tear up, I want to thank each of you who read my blog and follow my Instagram because I feel that I finally found my niche in whatever it is I've been attempting on here since 2015 and your support means more than I can type up.
I may be fifteen days late, and we may be in full swing of 2020, but these are some of my favorite posts to read and videos to watch, so later is better than never. Here are my top nine reads of twenty-nineteen.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

     Outlander is the series I always subconsciously wanted. I discovered a few things about myself from this series--apparently, I love historical fictions, I love adult fiction, and I'm actually Scottish. That last one came from my mom's passion for ancestry combined with our binging of the tv series. It's filled with history that is relatively accurate as compared to many historical romances. And many might not consider this series to be a true romance if only because it doesn't follow certain "rules" that most romances follow, but I believe Diana Gabaldon mastered the balance of romance to action so that both characteristics of the story drive you forward as you read rather than relying on one or the other to make the reader crave the next chapter. Too often I find myself only rooting for the romance or only for the action, but I was truly invested in every part of this book and instantly picked up the sequel.


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

     Many a year ago, I read Fangirl. Because I'm in my junior year of college, I'm craving a reread, but Carry On has been on my tbr for the longest time so I decided it would suffice. However, it did far more than suffice.
     As a humble follower of the Harry Potter cult, I appreciate the similarities and the creative differences of Rainbow Rowell's story. For those who haven't read Fangirl, the main character is writing a very popular fanfic of a book series very much like Harry Potter, and Carry On is her fanfic. It is incredibly well done with a fun magic system and a quirky magic world similar to the Potterverse. There is also a sequel coming out, or that may have already come out, that I am not so patiently waiting to get to.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman & Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

     These books came to me at a time when I really needed them. I was very stressed about school and career things, boys and friends, and these books really helped me slow down and, to risk being cliche, see the small magic in life.
     You may have seen Practical Magic or read it many years ago, but I hadn't yet heard of it, although my mother and grandmother both adore the movie and I may still be bitter that they kept such a beautiful thing from me. I read The Rules of Magic first which is a recently published prequel to Practical Magic. It follows the two aunts from the original story as they age from children until Sally and Gilly end up at their door. Practical Magic then follows Sally and Gilly as they grow.
     Both stories are written with a unique beauty and rhythm that I've determined could only come from the mind of Alice Hoffman. She crafts her characters with such imperfections then follows them through their entire existence to see how they might make the best of them. The magic of these stories is heavily based in the wives tales we've all most likely heard as well as small bits of every day magice such as planting rosemary by your garden gate for luck. While the stories delve into witchcraft to certain extents, which is always gripping, the magic is so beautifully simple that you can't help but feel that it might truly exist.


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

     I accredit my chance discovery of this book to Outlander. Had I never had that great experience with historical fiction, I may never had left the thrift shop with this book in my arm. And this is yet another book that fell upon me at the perfect moment. I was missing inspiration and was falling out of reading, but the particular writing style and formatting of Anthony Doerr brought it all back to me.
     This story follows a young, blind French girl and a young, inventive German boy in the midst of World War II. As their countries are torn apart by war, they're forced into circumstances entirely out of their control. Watching both characters age and grow throughout the development of the war is enlightening, and Anthony Doerr's writing made entire ages feel still not enough. The chapters average just over a page long, so through such small snippets and time jumps, the story of the two characters' lives from two different spots of Europe are slowly woven. I'm still often struck by my love for this story and the heartbreak it caused for many nights and more than one glass of wine.


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

     Russian folktales was something I never assumed I had an interest in. And I've decided 2020 is the year I will stop assuming things because, apparently, I love Russian folktales. Katherine Arden produced a charming blend of fiction adventure and traditional legends that reads like a wonderous bedtime story. I'm a devoted learner of mythology, so the lore, of which I had never learned, was fascinating. Even the landscape and the way of life was completely unique because either my reading scope is severely limited or writers don't utilize Russian culture nearly enough.
     Here we follow a young girl with a love for traversing the woods outside her home and taking any path that might fall underfoot. But as winter grows as suffocating as her stepmother and the spirits of the woods are dying, Vasilisa must decide whether she will leave her family to protect herself and the spirits or follow her stepmother's orders and lose her treasured freedom.


Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

    Reading Frankenstein in my nineteenth-century novel course, an experience that will have a separate post, made me realize a lot of similarities between Mary Shelley's life and the story of Stalking Jack the Ripper. Perhaps I'm just a nerd who thinks too hard about the stories I read, or perhaps I'm on to something. If you happen to know anything about Kerri Maniscalco's inspiration for the novel, I would love to know.
      You may have spotted that this story is primarily composed of historical fiction, but this story was hauntingly enticing. I could hardly put it down, even as bodies were sawed and sewn and battered and bitterly described. The author's detail for peeling skin made my skin crawl in the most delightful way. Not only is there a gruesome amount of gore as expected, but there is also a fantastic mystery brewing underneath it all, literally hidden in the corpses. I'm almost ashamed of how much I thrived off the gore and haunting feeling, but I'm not ashamed of how deeply involved I was in the mystery and the twisting relationships that make anyone a suspect. This may become a yearly Halloween reread.


Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

     My first experience with Brandon Sanderson was Mistborn, and I now understand why he's so prominent in the book community. He writes a fantastic adventure with more growth than most others of the genre. Many adventure/fantasy novels are plot-driven and goal-oriented, but Brandon Sanderson adds the right amount of character investment to provide a sincere amount of growth in each of the characters.


Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

     My last full read of twenty-nineteen was more than I could have expected. If you've followed me for a while, you'll know I'm not intrigued by YA romances. But again, this will be the year I stop making assumptions because my assumptions are bad. The story of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler is a classic in and of itself, but in a YA romance, it's addicting. Their slow burn was absolutely infuriating because I was so enamored with both characters and I could not fathom as to how they could not love each other. Once again, the historical political intrigue combined with the unraveling star-crossed love had me buried in the pages up until the end of the year.



“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

Charles W. Eliot



For a complete list of what I read this year, see below.

~ ~ ~ ~

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My Life as Noah by Victoria Anders

My Life as Marlee by Victoria Anders

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

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