Kate’s Top 5 of 2019

You’ll notice I am posting half the books Beth posted. She reads more than I do. She also reviews more than I do because she’s an objectively better blogger. In my defense, this year I did move to the other side of the US and start a new job. But, we all know that even without that, Beth still would have read more and reviewed more.

Thus ends the confessional/self-flagellation portion of this Top 5.

This year really feels like five years sandwiched together. So, when I went to look to see what I’d read this year, I was surprised that the books from earlier this year were read this year. Insanity. But, three of them still made the Top Five!

  1. Circe by Madeline Miller. Oh, man, this book. I loved it so much. I loved Circe’s voice, I loved her as a character, I loved the soft tone of the novel. The writing was so good. Ugh, more tales like this, please.
  2. Early Riser by Jasper Fforde. I read this this year. I can’t believe that was this year. I liked this bit of speculative fiction, even if I have some reservations about some of the biology. What if humans hibernated? Well, Jasper Fforde has a possible answer. This is a fun book.
  3. Firebug by Lish McBride. I ripped through this selection for my Pop Culture Homework Assignment. Absolutely shredded it. It is the tale of a woman that can start fires. She works for a vampire! What could go wrong? Many, many things and I loved the story woven around them.
  4. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. This book about sadness and loss and relationships and home and life was… *chef’s kiss*. So good! And, it’s not very long, so get out there and read it, people! I suspect that there will be more reading of Banana Yoshimoto books in my future.
  5. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. Another book I read in the first half of the year. I also tore through this one. The characters were great, the central conflict was interesting and compelling. The writing was good. I’m interested in what Rogerson does next.

Wow, folks, that’s it. That’s 2019. I’m a little flabbergasted this year is over!

Review: An Enchantment of Ravens

I finished this book in January’s 24 in 48. And, it was so good. Why am I just reviewing it now? So I can link to it in my Top 5.

This novel is the story of a woman painter, Isobel, who is patronized by fairies. She paints portraits and is always very careful about what she does and what she asks for as payment. That is, until she meets Rook. Then, as it happens in fantasy novels, they get a little close, they get a little familiar, the portrait makes Rook’s people question his authority and then! Bam! Action! Conflict! Excitement!

I really enjoyed this novel. I liked Isobel as a character so much. I liked Isobel and Rook’s relationship. I liked the outside characters enforcing the bs that drove the central conflict. This was a really fun book and I look forward to reading more from Margaret Rogerson.

Beth and Kate read Rainbow Rowell Books

Hello and welcome to October! I talked Beth into a read along of sorts for this month. It is the most wonderful time of the year! It’s Autumn! Halloween approaches! Break out your books with wizards and vampires in them because this month I’m reading Carry On and Beth is reading the sequel Wayward Son both by Rainbow Rowell!

What I’m Reading Now: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I am also not reading these in a certain order and I hope Beth doesn’t mind. She’s been trying to get me to read this since it came out. Want to know how I know? I have Beth’s hard copy of this book; she loaned it to me ages ago and it’s just been in a stack of TBRs near my bed since then. So, I thought maybe I’d start with this one and then I could give it back to her when I see her next.

Review: What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Ben and Arthur have a chance meeting at a post office and they hit it off before Ben disappears in the middle of a commotion caused by someone proposing to their girlfriend. They then go on this epic journey of trying to meet again, in a city of around 8 million people. Can they meet? Will it be as magical as they think it will be? Can they get it right? Should they even bother if Arthur is just a summer intern and is on his way back to Georgia in a couple of months?

Folks, this book was so earnest and touching that it actually physically hurt my cold, cold, cynical soul. Making it to the end of this book was a journey for me; I may be a different person now. A slightly less cynical person. Ladles and Jelly spoons, Friends and Enemies, the power of literature!

Seriously, though, this was a really fun, really touching story written from two different points of view. It is about being open and trying your best in relationships and about saying what you want and admitting when you’re wrong. It was well worth the read. I’ll even forgive it for getting enormously catchy pop tunes stuck in my head.

Once again, shout out to my local library for hooking me up with this audiobook!

What I’m Listening to Now: What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

I have this audiobook courtesy of one of my local libraries. Huzzah! This is the pick for this month’s teen book group at the local Barnes and Noble (that is attended entirely by adults, many of whom are either employees or former employees, so the discussions are excellent). The meeting is next week, so I have to get a wiggle on with this one. (Which is both exciting and annoying because I’m really into Pachinko right now.)

Quick Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Lethal White is the fourth Cormoran Strike novel and it begins with Cormoran being visited by a mentally ill young man named Billy who tells him about a murder he believes he witnessed as a child. Before Strike can get into the specifics, Billy flees the office and sends Strike, and his partner Robin Ellacott, on a mission to satisfy his own need to make sure that Billy is okay and that no one is getting away with murder. The tale weaves in and out of London. It ends up at protests (it is set before the London Olympics) and in the Houses of Parliament. It reintroduces characters from Strike’s past. The mystery, in the end, felt a little forced. Or, maybe that Strike just can’t let some things go felt forces. I don’t know. I didn’t love this. In fact, now that it has tied up some story lines relating to Robin and her partner Matthew, I may be done with this book series. We’ll see. I do still very much like both Robin and Cormoran. If you really loved the previous books, I say give this one a go, but if you were only so-so on them, I’d say pick something up you are more interested in.

Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This was an impulse grab that I picked up at the library wayyyy back in January for 24 in 48. I’d read Junot Díaz before, but this is the book that he seems to be known for so I figured it was time that I read it. It tells the story of Oscar de León, nicknamed Oscar Wao, and his family in the Dominican Republic under Rafael Trujillo. The novel is really interesting, the narrative is given by two narrators, Yunior is the main narrator and there are some first-person interjections from Lola, Oscar’s sister. I had to look up a little background, I know very little about the Caribbean (or the US’s interventions in the Caribbean…) but I don’t think you necessarily need to do that in order to appreciate the novel. There is a lot of code-switching into Spanish, which I felt really helped you keep a sense of place in the narrative. And, Oscar is so. very. nerdy. So nerdy. There are geeky references aplenty in the story. I really enjoyed that. There was a little misogyny in the narrative that rubbed me the wrong way (but that’s not a problem of the novel but a wider problem. I was particularly troubled by it in the geeky references…but again, I’m particularly bothered by it in geek culture in general.)

I really enjoyed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I’m really happy that I read it.

Review: Chronicles of a Radical Hag (With Recipes) by Lorna Landvik

This is the story of Haze Evans, a columnist at a local paper, who suffers a sudden stroke. Saddened by this tragic event happening to their friend, and unsure about what to do with her column at the paper, the staff decide to go back to the archives and run Haze’s columns (and some of the responses) from when she first started writing for the paper. This novel was a touching look into the town of Granite Rock, Minnesota.

The novel was a little slower than I would have liked. But, the only thing that I have to compare it to recently is Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, and it was definitely faster paced than that. Also, the writing was much tighter, which I appreciated. I really enjoyed meeting all of the characters and watching the different relationships grow and be illuminated. I’m a soppy, kind of water-works sort of person, so I did cry a few times reading this. I think the best part of the story, though, is Sam’s growth through the novel. Sam is an intern (and the son of the editor) who comes to work for the summer and is assigned the task of helping to sort through the columns and responses. Because the columns start in the ’60s and come forward in time to 2016, a lot of ground is covered and a lot of touchy subjects in American history also make an appearance. I felt like the novel treated the subjects it raised humanely and with dignity and that it really touching to read.

If you like stories that take you through a town, then this is a novel for you. It was touching, well-written, and enjoyable.

I got this book as an ARC from edelweiss.