Goodreads Best of 2019 Nominees I’ve Read

  • FICTION:
    • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood A beautiful follow up to one of my all-time favorites, The Handmaid’s Tale. Review here.
    • Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane This novel follows two men who were NYPD beat cops and then how their families intertwine when they happen to move into the same neighborhood. This was a well-written examination of family dynamics, mental health, love, and forgiveness. It was really hyped up on #bookstagram, and was a BOTM selection for June. I gave it a 4/5 stars because it was a little lengthy for me, but very well done.
  • MYSTERY & THRILLER
    • The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth This book was an absolute surprise to me! I was expecting a thriller but it was much more of a family examination. It ended up being a heartfelt story that showed that there are always many, many sides to the truth. There were multiple perspectives which really underscored that you need to see the world from someone else’s point of view, and it was an astounding look at trying to understand one another. 5/5 stars
    • Lock Every Door by Riley Sager This was an AMAZING thriller set in the fictional NYC hotel The Bartholomew. Sager did a phenomenal job of not only creating a creepy setting, but also creating a twisty book that completely blindsided me. 5/5 stars!
    • An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen An interesting thriller about a professor running a psychological study and the person she uses as a subject…and how the study isn’t what it seems.
    • Miracle Creek by Angie Kim I wouldn’t have put this one in the thriller category, personally. This read like a courtroom drama with a lot of family dysfunction. It was certainly well-written, but I wasn’t in love with it like many people were. 4/5 stars.
    • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides This book BLEW MY MIND! I read it in less than 24 hours! The author’s writing style was compulsively readable and impossible to put down. The twist was PHENOMENAL! I really don’t want to blow it, but it was just so, so great. The writer uses some different, slightly unconventional writing strategies in order to create the twist. I’ve seen others say that the twist was too predictable for them, but honestly, I felt blindsided. Absolutely worth all of the hype! 5/5 stars
    • The Whisper Man by Alex North The Whisper Man was a the nickname of a serial killer that terrorized a town in the English countryside about 20 years ago, and when some new crimes that look like the work of the Whisper Man — who got his name by whispering in the victim’s bedroom windows at night — the detective from the original case goes back to work. This novel is not just a creepy atmospheric novel of a serial killer (and possibly ghosts?). It is also an exploration of how far a parent would go for their child, how parental relationships change over time, and how to deal with loss. It absolutely kept me on my toes the whole time and I was able to read it in only two days. 4/5 stars.
    • The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware Rowan takes a job as a nanny for three young girls in rural Scotland, where her only company is often her charges and the caretaker of the house, Jack. This novel is written as a series of letters from jail, where Rowan has been charged with the murder of one of the girls. There were so, so many twists & turns and I was stunned by how well this one was done. A definite winner for me! 4/5 stars.
  • HISTORICAL FICTION:
    • Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid This book holds a special place in my heart as my first ARC. I wrote a review article about it for Candor Magazine — check it out!
    • The Huntress by Kate Quinn This was a wonderfully written historical novel about Nazi hunters and a mysterious woman who enters the life of a Boston teen. 5/5 stars!
    • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert  I LOVED this novel of 1940’s New York City! Our main character Vivian takes on a job at her aunt’s low-budget theatre after dropping out of college. She meets a lively cast of characters at the Lily Playhouse and this novel is all written as Vivian looks back on her past and how she learned what life was all about. 4/5 stars
  • FANTASY
    • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo Quite possibly my favorite book of 2019. I am so looking forward to the rest of this creepy, gothic series about ghosts & the occult at Yale. Review here.
    • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern Her first book, The Night Circus, is one of my favorite books EVER. This was written just as beautifully, but I just…don’t understand this one. Definitely need a re-read, but initial rating is a 4/5.
  • ROMANCE:
    • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren I am sad to report that this is my first CLo book, but it will NOT be the last! This was a hysterical enemies-to-lovers tale filled with wacky characters, a little bit of steaminess, and lush descriptions of tropical locales. 4/5 stars for me!
    • The Bride Test by Helen Hoang A cute, steamy, #ownvoices novel that gave a voice to characters with autism and the Vietnamese community. Esme & Khai have great chemistry and it was an adorable read. The fact that Esme was chosen by Khai’s mom felt strange to me, but only because it’s really not part of my culture. It was a little far-fetched and over-the-top, but sometimes the best romances are. 4/5 stars
    • Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center A cute, but somewhat predictable, romance novel. This is the 3rd book I’ve read by Katherine Center and they’re always enjoyable & lighthearted. I like the ‘twist’ at the end and everything is resolved. 4/5 stars.
  • DEBUT NOVEL:
    • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow I loved this debut novel that took you in and out of other worlds & doorways & stories. Beautifully done and a pleasure to read. Review here.
  • YA FICTION:
    • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo This book will resonate with SO MANY teens. It examines family dynamics, teenage parenthood, poverty, race, and sexuality, to name a few. Gorgeously written descriptions of all of Emoni’s cooking were the icing on the cake — pun intended! Review here.
    • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys Ruta Sepetys has taken another era of history often overlooked and written a beautiful story of oppression, young love, and sacrifice. Her short chapters and jumps in character perspective make this a quick, compelling read. She deftly includes quotes from documents about Franco & this era in history in between chapters so that the reader can quickly get an understanding of the historical context. I never felt lost; Sepetys is marvelous at weaving a story into meticulous research. I loved each character, up until the triumphant end. 5/5 stars
    • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas Angie Thomas is the queen of realistic YA fiction. She has yet again created such vivid and authentic characters and a book that is compulsively readable. Her books should be required reading in late middle school/early high school! 5/5 stars
  • YA FANTASY/SCI-FI
    • Wilder Girls by Rory Power I absolutely loved this story of survival and female relationships. It was a creepy, gory story, intertwined with a mystery. Hetty and her fellow classmates at Raxter Island School in Maine are living with an unknown disease called the Tox. They are sent supplies based on the generosity of the Navy, but secrets are hiding underneath all the levels of survival and struggle. They’re not only trying to survive the elements, the disease, and wild animals, but it almost becomes the hardest part to survive each other. 4/5 stars

REVIEW: The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood

The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood is a historical fiction novel based on the real-life Dionne Quintuplets, born in 1934 in a small farmhouse in rural Canada. The novel is written as a bunch of fictional journal entries by one of the quints’ nurses, Emma, with actual news articles interwoven throughout the novel. I thought it was an interesting and well-done way to present a real life story to modern readers.

This book started off REALLY strong. I loved the way that the author included actual news articles into the story. I really felt the stress of keeping FIVE infants alive (all the feedings, cleaning, washing, etc. etc). It made me so upset to see a mother torn apart from her children, and how these innocent children were exploited from birth by almost everyone around them. It was really heartbreaking. I loved learning about the quints, and essentially watching them grow up. I did a lot of googling to learn more about them, and their story is really tragic. Here‘s an article about the last remaining sisters.

Image result for dionne quintuplets

Unfortunately, the ending was abrupt and didn’t really fit well with the tone of the rest of the book. I was not thrilled with the dull ‘romance’ that the author tried to pull together and I certainly didn’t like the way that the author rushed to tie-up loose ends by smushing all of the correspondence together at the end. The ending incident was not fair because it essentially accused a real person of a fictitious crime.

The ending ruined the book for me. I was ready to give it a 5 star rating until the last 50 pages or so. While it is worth reading to learn about this historical tragedy, I think the author needed to change the ending to make sure it fit into the story much more seamlessly. In the end, I gave this 2.5/5 stars.

REVIEW: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

I LOVE a good downfall-of-the-United States story, and Wanderers was A GOOD ONE. It was a long, epic tale of science fiction, politics, and the resilience of humanity.

Shana wakes up one morning to find her sister, Nessie, sleepwalking, and unable to wake her. Other sleepwalkers join, and Shana and other loved ones ‘shepherd’ the ‘flock’ of sleepwalkers through the United States. These sleepwalkers cannot be stopped and will ignore any obstacle in their way. Scientists from the CDC are working non-stop to figure out what’s going on — why are the sleepwalkers impenetrable to needles? How can they survive without food? Why are others around the globe growing sick?

In addition to the medical mystery surrounding the walkers, we also see the affects of a right-wing splinter group that take advantage of the chaos swirling around the country, and act upon the racist things they were only saying privately. This was an interesting inclusion because I feel like it was really speaking not only to the current political climate, but because it’s an area not often explored when reading these types of massive apocalyptic novels.

Wendig does a phenomenal job of tying together all of the threads — the neo-Nazis, the shepherds & the flock, the CDC — in a way that is mostly understandable to the reader (I did have some trouble with the science, especially the artificial intelligence, because those are topics I just don’t know a ton about). While there aren’t any real people named as characters, I could see that he pulled inspiration from a number of current politicians and celebrities, often the most problematic ones. I really thought this novel was well-done, though a little lengthy. If you want to see one way the world ends, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out. 4/5 stars for me!

April 2019 Recap

  • Final Girls (Riley Sager) – 4/5 stars: a quick read with a great twist! I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, so I would have liked a little more connection with them in order to bump this up to a 5.
  • Vox (Christina Dalcher) – 5/5 stars: I breezed through this one in a day! This dystopian world which tried to silence women was a tough read during this day & age, but it was fascinating to see how it all played out.
  • The Perfect Couple (Elin Hilderbrand) – 4/5 stars: This author is amazing at making me feel like I’m on Nantucket with her writing! Throw in some Emily Giffin vibes & some really intense family drama and you’ve got yourself a fantastic beach read.
  • Miracle Creek (Angie Kim) – 4/5 stars: Lots of threads going on here: racism, honesty, immigration, family dynamics, betrayal, illnesses, infertility, and disabilities. They’re all woven together over the course of a murder trial. A courtroom drama & mystery all in one, reminiscent of earlier Jodi Picoult.
  • The Bride Test (Helen Hoang) – 4/5 stars: Esme & Khai have great chemistry and it was an adorable read. The fact that Esme was chosen by Khai’s mom felt strange to me, but only because it’s really not part of my culture. It was a little far-fetched and over-the-top, but sometimes the best romances are. Thanks to Berkeley & Goodreads for the free ARC.
  • The Last House Guest (Megan Miranda) – 3.5/5 stars:
    This was my first book by Megan Miranda and while I hope it won’t be the last, I can’t say it was a really great read for me. I found it difficult to connect to any of the characters and while there were some good twists at the end, I felt like the multiple locations/rental houses made it difficult for me to follow along with the whole time. Thanks to NetGalley & Simon and Schuster for the advanced e-galley.
  • Lost Roses (Martha Hall Kelly) – 5/5 stars: WW1, especially the Russian side of things, is an era of history I don’t know much about. This novel swept across Russia, Europe & back to the US, telling the story of 3 women torn apart by war, disease, and rebellion. Phenomenal storytelling! I can’t wait to read Lilac Girls, her previous book, and I’m pretty disappointed in myself that I haven’t gotten to it yet!
  • The Perfect Girlfriend (Karen Hamilton) 3.5/5 stars: The main character was a little wacky (and it’s really quite an understatement) and the whole ending wrapped up a little too ambiguously for me.
  • Born A Crime (Trevor Noah) – 5/5 stars: Just phenomenal. I just wrote a post reviewing it HERE: https://mommingandreading.com/2019/04/28/born-a-crime-trevor-noah/
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Born a Crime — Trevor Noah

I was so excited to find this on the shelf at Savers a few days ago — and I finished it in about a day! I LOVE The Daily Show and I think Trevor Noah puts a great spin on politics. However, I’ll admit that I don’t know much about South Africa or apartheid. Noah did an amazing job of providing context prior to each chapter of the laws, social norms, and what life was like in South Africa.

Trevor’s mom is arguably the most important character in the book — she was strong, resilient, rebellious, and in the purest form, wanted nothing but for her son to have a better life than she had growing up. Trevor was born while apartheid was still in place, a time where a white man & a black woman having a child together was literally illegal — hence Trevor being ‘born a crime.’ His mother worked so hard for Trevor, and to “feed your body, feed your spirit, and feed your mind.” (pg 71)

Trevor was constantly straddling races while growing up, and learned that language was a way to code-switch between the different ethnic groups which he belonged in. He credits this ability as a tool that helped him survive his life in South Africa. If you could speak the language, you could find common ground.

Trevor is only a few years older than I am but I found this memoir of his life in South Africa made me feel like my life experiences are completely inadequate! I guess that’s one of the reasons I love reading so much — I get to learn about other experiences in beautiful and thought-provoking ways.

If you haven’t read Born A Crime yet, I highly suggest you do! 5 star read for me, absolutely. I also know that he reads the audiobook, so if you’re someone interested in audiobooks, it’s been recommended to me in that medium as well.

Finally, I loved this clip of Trevor Noah traveling with his Daily Show crew to visit his grandmother in Soweto — enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1s5iz6ml-qA