Oh boy. It is time. Let the ‘Top Ten Lists’ begin!
The first one aligns with today’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt: Favorite Books of 2019. My chosen books are ones I read this calendar year, but they didn’t have to be published this year. I also opened it up to all genres.
I know technically this is supposed to be ten, but I feel like there were eight books that I kept coming back to, so I’m sticking with those. But don’t worry, this post is pretty lengthy so it was for the best. 😉
Alright, let’s start from the bottom and work our way up…
8 Vita Nostra – Marina and Sergey Dyachenko
Vita Nostra is a Russian dark fantasy novel centered around Sahsa, who is blackmailed into an awful and perplexing situation. A menacing figure coerces her into attending the Institute of Special Technologies instead of going to a well-known University. Sasha, along with the other students in her class, have no idea what they are studying and cannot decipher the textbooks. While experiencing this hell which she can’t leave, Sasha starts to change…
This was the first book I read this year and I’m still thinking about Vita Nostra. I have no idea if I even like this book, I can’t even think of rating it in regular terms. If I have the opportunity to reread a book in 2020 then Vita Nostra would be it. I just have a feeling it would be a different experience.
7 My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
This is a short book that packs a punch. The novel starts off with a familiar scenario of an older sister Korede cleaning up after her younger sister, Ayoola. Sisters are supposed to look after each other, but what if the mess you’re cleaning up is your sister’s third victim?
I think the reason I enjoyed My Sister, the Serial Killer is that it’s more about the dynamic between two sisters. What do you owe family? How far should you go and what should you sacrifice of yourself? Some were probably disappointed that the murders were on the backburner but I liked that the focus is more on Korede dealing with the aftermath.
6 The Golden Compass (Northern Lights) – Philip Pullman
I was an older teen when the His Dark Materials trilogy came out so I missed that boat. I decided to correct that error with the new show coming out. I really love the first book, I though Lyra was an interesting character, different from most young female leads in YA fantasy.
The worldbuilding and the mystery behind ‘Dust’ was interesting but it was the characters (Iorek!) that really kept me interested. I do think for the most part I can enjoy it separate from the other two books, but sadly the main through-line continues in the rest of the trilogy. The second book is good but ties so heavily with the last book that I don’t think I could enjoy it separately. This is all to say that I found the last book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, to be deeply disappointing. But hey, I still have The Golden Compass!
5 A River in Darkness – Masaji Ishikawa
Ishikawa’s story of his life in North Korea and his escape is distressing. A River is Darkness is a very difficult read. Your mind wants to believe that this happened long ago, and I could feel myself start to compartmentalize the awful experiences Ishikawa had. The reality is that not only are these events recent but many are currently experiencing this oppression and devastation right now.
The memoir is a living reminder that the people in power in North Korea are evil and that hasn’t stopped with the current buffoon dictator. No matter how hard of a read it is, I hope others will read Ishikawa’s story. It’s important to support those who are speaking out about the inhumane way people are being treated.
4 Recursion – Blake Crouch
Back in 2016 I read Crouch’s Dark Matter and I thought it was such a great emotional ride through the parallel universes. Recursion’s emotional core is similar to Dark Matter but now we have a journey through time!
Time-travel ain’t really my jam but I was able to stay on board for this story. I thought the logic behind the time-travel was solid to me. I know other readers can probably pick apart and find holes, but I’ll leave that for other reviewers. As long as the rules are crystal clear and they follow those rules (and any twists to those rules make sense), I’m golden.
My only negative with the nature of how time travel works in the novel is that the reader was unable to see the beginnings of the main romance. Well, kinda. Hard to explain without spoilers. It’s not a huge issue since we know the characters, it just puts a lot on the reader to fill in the gaps of these two crucial people coming together.
3 Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin
Being pregnant is difficult enough, but Rosemary might have some extra stresses. Rosemary has a brand new dream apartment, but her husband is acting strange and she can’t seem to shake the attentions of her overbearing neighbors. As one mystifying event after another stacks up, Rosemary’s concerns reach a fever pitch as she tries to understand what is happening to her… and her baby.
I wrote a review a couple months ago with my full thoughts about Rosemary’s Baby. I will restate that Levin is a master of the claustrophobic feeling, being caught in a trap and no one will believe you. I highly recommend both The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby. I can’t wait to read another one of Levin’s books!
2 In the Dream House – Carmen Maria Machado
One of my favorite books from the past couple of years was Her Body and Other Parties. I just really connected with Machado’s short story collection about the different ways violence is inflicted upon women. It was a mix of all the genres I love and had depth that makes me want to revisit it.
When I heard about Machado’s new memoir it was a bittersweet mixture. Of course I wanted more from a new favorite, it was the subject matter that struck me sad. Machado lived through an emotional and verbally abusive same-sex relationship. In the form of essays Machado takes us through these difficult years.
Machado seeks to start a conversation about a topic that is completely sidelined. And she has done it. I think this will be a book that will be talked about for years to come and I hope that others will feel emboldened to share their own stories.
1 Monstress (Book One) – Marjorie M. Liu/Sana Takeda
I read the first book of Monstress (issues 1-18) twice this year, I loved this graphic novel series so much. A dark fantasy with magicians, old gods, and human-animal hybrids set in steampunk Asia. The best part about this world is that it’s matriarchal, and it’s just so refreshing to read a fantasy with an array of interesting female characters.
Warning though, the lore is thick and the violence is aplenty. Part of the reason I reread the first book was to make sure I had the mythos down before I continued. I do think it’s worth it and I am pumped for the next volume. I have a feeling this isn’t the last time I’ll talk about Monstress 🙂
Also I fucking love Kippa!