Life of a Book Hoarder

14 Best and Worst Reads of 2019

Is it even a new year if I don’t make a post reviewing my best and worst reads of 2019?! This year they’re brought to you in one, convenient post!

I’m going to start with my favorite…type of books to talk about: books I hate!

I’m kidding, sort of. But I figure, better to get the “bad” books out of the way first and end on a high note. The books on my worst reads list are there for various reasons and I didn’t automatically add all my DNF’s. Some of the books I didn’t finish were just boring and didn’t necessarily rise to the level of awful or didn’t bother me the way other books did.

Enough preamble, let’s begin! Oh, and a reminder that these lists are in no particular order.

  1. Heartstone by Elle Katharine White – this is a fantasy Pride and Prejudice retelling with friggen’ dragons! It should have been a knockout for me, but it was so poorly executed. I was let down on both a fantasy and P&P Boo! I still think there’s a lot of potential for this idea and maybe I’ll find what I’m looking for in the future.
  2. How to Experience Death for Beginners by Jessica Branton – this book was sent to me for review and was compared to Undead Girl Gang (which is awesome) but it’s so far from that mark that I felt deceived. I couldn’t finish this book and felt bad, because the author was young when she wrote it (and it shows), but I did leave few thoughts on Goodreads because there were some issues in the book I really needed to bring up, like how self-harm is addressed.
  3. Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James – Woof. If you want my thoughts on this one, then take a look at the rant I posted. This was another DNF and just not at all a book for me.
  4. Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen – I’m thirsty for P&P adaptations/inspirations and I think I have fairly high standards for them now. I felt so disconnected from everything about this book – I’m not sure who this book is written for, unless they’re a retired Jewish person living in a retirement community in Florida. Also it was boring.
  5. Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato – WTF was this book? I thought it was going to have magical realism, but instead it was just some dude trying to write a coming-of-age story about a female. It was pretentious, boring, and muddled.
  6. Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer – Ok, so, spoiler alert, but the first book in this series made my best books list. Acceptance is the third book in the Southern Reach trilogy, but it ultimately ruined the series for me and was a massive letdown. I said it best in my review: I was like, “Oh boy, I can’t wait for the reveal about how Area X was created and what the hell it’s doing.” The book was like, “Hey, fuck you.”
  7. Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block – I took a stroll down nostalgia lane, tripped, rolled down a hill, and landed a pile of sexy, tall, slim, pale, blonde, big-breasted and fashionable rocks.
  8. Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block – Ooops, I did it again. ^^
  9. The Time Collector by Gwendolyn Womack – The unexpected insta-love and overwrought explanations (so, so, so much telling and very little showing) ruined any hope for the semi-magical plotline this book had going for it.
  10. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness – Another final book in a trilogy that really sunk the ship for me. This trilogy started strong with The Knife of Never Letting Go was unique and fun to read. The Ask and the Answer started to go downhill and Monsters of Men really tanked my opinion of the entire series. I really hate when a series (no matter the length) doesn’t finish strong.
  11. The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron – Unlike my aforementioned nostalgic reads, Merlin is a series I remember loving when I was in grade school. Sadly, as an adult I found the series both boring and convenient. Merlin is the type of “hero” who does almost nothing to progress the story or save the day, and also I was bored. I was really sad to found I’d lost my fondness of the series.
  12. The Nature of Balance by Tim Lebbon – Ugh. This book was so boring and pretentious I don’t even want to talk about it.
  13. The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause – Naturally, I haven’t posted my review for this book yet. But it’s a teen vampire romance while pales in comparisons (LOL) to my favorite Klause book, Blood and Chocolate. The characters are flat, the plot is almost non-existent, and I was bored! I’ve no time for boring books anymore!
  14. The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich – Another book that I still need to post my review for. This is a collection of shorts about women written by a man. I think it was supposed to be a commentary about men, but I really wasn’t sure how to take the tone and I didn’t find it funny or entertaining. I’m not sure who the target audience was for, but it certainly wasn’t me. By disliking it, I probably fit into the stupid stereotypes this book portrays.

I didn’t just pick every 5-star read from the year because…that probably makes sense…and I don’t wanna. I did try to avoid sequels/books from a series where I’ve loved the series overall. Why? I don’t know! But one book from a series did make it on here, because, of course, I can’t even follow my own “rules.”

Just take a look at the books I decided were my favoritest faves:

  1. Mary B. by Katherine J. Chen – Not only is this book an excellent sequel to Pride and Prejudice, but it finally satisfied my need for JUSTICE FOR MARY! I don’t know why, but I just hate how undervalued and underdeveloped Mary is even in the source materials. And in most of the Austen-inspired books I’ve read she gets the short end of the stick, if she’s written at all. I can’t wait to re-read this book!
  2. In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire – I love the Wayward Children series and this is my second favorite of the 4 I’ve read (the 5th came out recently and I can’t wait to get my little mitts on it). It really fleshed out one of the characters from the first book and I loved the Goblin Market.
  3. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer – As I already mentioned above, I loved this book. It was whacky and weird and like nothing I’ve read. I loved exploring Area X with the biologist (and I’d seen the movie so I think it made it easier for me to imagine what few parts the film brought from the book). It was very atmospheric and I love me some atmosphere.
  4. Old Baggage by Lissa Evans –I feel like it’s been a little while since I read some historical fiction I really loved (or I’m a jerk and I’m just forgetting a favorite from last year.) I really enjoyed the relationships portrayed in this book and it gave me some feels at the end so that’s a bonus!
  5. The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin – Another historical fiction read by one of my favorite historical fiction authors. I was really digging the female-centric stories and relationships I found in this and Old Baggage. The early Hollywood era is one I enjoy reading about and this gave me Evelyn Hugo vibes even though it was set earlier (I’m pretty sure) and based on real ladies.
  6. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley – This is everything I want from a YA fantasty. A compelling heroine (who isn’t constantly describing her own luscious hair and eyes, and the eyes of every handsome man who is instantly in love with her), a great plot, a quest, magical items, intelligent animal companions, and as an added bonus, it broached the subject of mental health too!
  7. Trail of Crumbs by Lisa J. Lawrence – I think this is a very important book that deals with consent, underage drinking, bullying, family, and friendship. Yet rather than make this a very bleak tale, Lawrence was able to give readers some hope. I highly recommend this for those who enjoy contemporary YA.
  8. Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk – I love graphic novels, especially middle-grade ones about friendship and magical girls (a la Sailor Moon, Sakura, etc.). This book is funny and sad and creative and definitely would have added to middle-grade Millie’s fantasies of having a magic notebook and getting powers like Sailor Moon.
  9. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – I don’t usually read novels of the ‘slice of life’ or ‘character study’ variety but at the recommendation of my mum I picked this up; I’m so glad I did. It’s a wonderful story, sometimes funny, sometimes painful, and another read that takes a look at mental health.
  10. To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers – I just love everything Becky Chambers writes at this point.
  11. Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno – Another YA title on my list! I love witchy reads and queer romances and this combined the two. It also had the depth and heart that I find is common in middle-grade.
  12. Full Throttle by Joe Hill – This collection ranges from spooky, to touching, to downright scary and I loved most of what I read. Shorts collections can be hard and I find that my enjoyment varies from story to story, even when they’re all written by the same author. Overall this was an awesome collection and one I heartily recommend.
  13. Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton – dhjkhfgdfhgadlghf. I LOVE THIS BOOK.
  14. Skull-Faced Bookseller Honda-san vol 1 by Honda – This manga is about a skull-faced bookseller in Japan (as the title implies). It’s delightfully bookish and bizarre. It was just so wonky that I couldn’t help but love it and I look forward to the next volumes!

~

There you have it, my best and worst reads of the year! And it’s a coincidence that there happened to be14 of each. I honestly just looked back through my reading spreadsheet and thought about the books that I really didn’t enjoy and the ones I did and made note. It wasn’t until writing this post that I realized I had the same number for each.

So whaddaya think? Agree or disagree with any of my choices? Are you interested in reading something because I loved or hated it?

*cover images from Goodreads

22 thoughts on “14 Best and Worst Reads of 2019”

  1. Greetings, Milliebot! I’m slowly catching up on my blog reading and very much enjoyed your best/worst review. Mary B. looks pretty interesting and I may check it out. Did you know there’s ANOTHER recent book about the neglected Bennet sister? It’s by Janice Hadlow and is called “The Other Bennet Sister;” I just read the review this morning (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jan/11/the-other-bennet-sister-janice-hadlow-review). I’ve been thinking of reading Eleanor Oliphant; it’s nice to see you enjoyed it. As for “The Hollow Kingdom” — I read it last fall and thought it was one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long, long time!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for sharing about the Hadlow book – I’m definitely going to read that; I’m a firm believer that Mary is misunderstood and deserves more of the spotlight! I’m so excited haha. I definitely recommend Oliphant when you get a chance. I’m glad you enjoyed Hollow Kingdom too – I haven’t seen anyone else talk about it! I love it so much. I laughed a ton and cried too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “dhjkhfgdfhgadlghf” is such high praise for a book. lol! Can’t wait to read Hollow Kingdom.
    Surprisingly I ended up liking Black Leopard, Red Wolf. I nearly DNF’d it though. The only reason why I kept reading is because I was buddy-reading it. I started liking the story probably halfway through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you BLRW – that’s quite comeback from an almost DNF! I don’t think I could have made it halfway through though. I’m thinking James just isn’t an author for me.

      I really love Hollow Kingdom. I haven’t laughed or cried so much over a book in a long time. I really want to reread it already!

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  3. In an Absent Dream was one of my favourite 2019 releases – it might be my favourite in the series (hard to pick!). I also read The Hero and the Crown last year but I didn’t really get it haha. I read Summer of Salt last year as well and enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 100% agree on Annihilation / Acceptance. I thought that the end was a HUGE cop out. Though I did like the bits with the lighthouse keeper.

    Also 100% about Heartstone. It seemed so promising! Lord Darcy, Dragon Rider! Alas.

    Adding Mary B. to my list – sounds like an excellent read. And if you love P&P adaptations, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev is one of the best I’ve come across.

    PS: I am still working my way through the copy of Black Leopard, Red Wolf that you sent me. Reading it is like being in a fever dream. I just kind of turn my mind off and read a few pages before bed most nights. (And then when I pick it back up, I’m like, what the fuck is going on? And need to reread the last page.) The plot is finally starting to pick up, but part 2 has been slooooooow going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I hate when a series ends with like, so many unanswered questions that it’s a big fuck you to the reader. I had a really hard time picturing things at that point too. The first book felt really atmospheric and even the second was ok. I also liked the keeper bits though.

      I hope someone else writes a fantasy P&P so we can try again lol.

      Mary B. makes me so happy. I had a library version so I need my own cuz I really wanna reread. I hope you love it! Also I’m pretty sure I bought Other Flavors over the summer so I should put that on my Austen Month TBR.

      Haha god bless, I can’t handle books like that, hence why I passed it on. Is his dangle still a main character? 😉

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      1. Austen month?!?! When? (I have accidentally become TSR’s official P&P retellings person, so maybe a binge is in order… If you have recs of really good ones, I am definitely interested.)

        Uh, his dangle hasn’t made too much of an appearance recently. My last reading experience was, “Where did these hyena witches come from? I thought he was in the haunted tower with the bounty hunters…” (it was a flashback, explaining why he hated another bounty hunter, but I had missed that key detail on the first read) On the plus side, it does help me sleep since I it puts me in a weird trance mode.

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        1. I’ve dubbed February Austen Month (I’m the only participant that I know of lol) and every year I read her works, stuff inspired by her and I watch various adaptations (sometimes really bad). This reminds me I should start thinking of my TBR. I’m already watching Sanditon on PBS and enjoying it. I can deff recommend stuff in you’re interested, Feb or any other month lol.

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          1. We’re trying to read African American authors in Feb this year, otherwise I would join you. But YES to recommendations! I don’t know if I’m picky or if a lot of them are just…not that good, but I haven’t had much luck with P&P retellings/spinoffs.

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          2. You could read Pride by Ibi Zoboi, it’s a decent YA retelling. Lol also you can make Austen Month any month. I just picked Feb cuz of the theme of love in her books and also I love her work.

            But yeah, I’ve read a lot of adaptations, I think, and many of them aren’t great 🤣

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          3. I read Pride last fall. It had some cool things going on – in terms of atmosphere, I thought it was wonderful – but I thought the romance side was a bit lackluster. (Not a problem if you’re not reading it for the romance, but I review books for a romance website, so…)

            I don’t know if I’m a pretentious snob or what, but my thought is that most people don’t really **understand** what makes P&P work, so when they try to adapt it, they fall short. Also, the Wickham plotline is hugely important thematically to the original and really difficult to translate to a modern setting. I have a lot of thoughts about Wickham.

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          4. Yes, Pride fell short for me too. It was decent but the characters were lacking. The Lizzie was so abrasive. I wanted to root for her but it felt like she flew off the handle and was just hating Darcy and company for no reason.

            Haha I must be a pretentious snob too then cuz I do think a lot of adaptations miss the cleverness of the original. They just slap a hate to love trope in there and call it a day. Yes, I agree about Wickham! You’re right, I never thought about how you can’t really translate like, a ruined girl and forced marriage into our times.

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