Choosing a ‘Best Of’ list when it comes to books is hard. I read a lot of great books this year, and took something away from each of them. But, when it came to whittling down the list, there was a pretty clearcut selection that stood out. These are the books that gave me the biggest reading feels or stuck with me the most. The books that made me think, made me laugh, or made me want to shout “Go read this!” to whoever would listen.
I’d also like to give an honorable mention to the two amazing anthologies I read this year, Footsteps in the Dark, and Heart2Heart Volume 3. Both were fabulous collections of stories and authors. And, to the wonderful, feel-good Christmas stories I read this season. 2019 gave us so many fantastic holiday romances, including ‘Nathan Burgoine’s Faux Ho Ho, Christina Lee’s Beautiful Temptation, and Hank Edward’s Snowflakes and Song Lyrics, to name just a few.
Jules’ Best of 2019
Upside Down by NR Walker/Narrated by Glen Lloyd – N.R. Walker has written an intensely romantic book, and done it entirely with flirty looks, hand holding, and a bit of making out. There is such a sweet purity to the story—sixty-five instances of some form of ‘motherfucker’ aside—due in large part to the pressure of sex being removed from the equation. I loved how Walker handled Jordan’s coming to realize that maybe ‘Asexual’ was a good label for him, and loved that so much of the content was educational, yet not dry or preachy.
Upside Down—and the audiobook in particular—is easily one of my favorites of the year. And as far as I can tell, this was Glen Lloyd’s first audiobook narration, at least in this genre, but I certainly hope he gets more gigs, because he was such a pleasure to listen to. I truly can’t recommend it enough.
Poetry in Motion by Samantha Wayland – I loved what Wayland did with Travis’s storyline, from his struggles with getting through his poetry class and the reason why, to his injuries and not wanting to give up playing the sport he loves—the only thing he thinks he’s good at. It was all so touching and told with so much emotion. Barnaby’s fear when Travis was playing after he found out the extent of his injuries was so real. I literally felt sick to my stomach right along with him in a couple of scenes.
Another thing I loved, that I know the author has probably already heard a lot about, was all the buildup for Jack and Grady’s story. I need that book like yesterday! Theirs was a very strong secondary storyline. Not overpowering…but, smartly played up. I’m certainly chomping at the bit for that book to get written. But, in this book, I absolutely adored Jack and Barnaby’s friendship, and how Barnaby and Grady got close as well. All of the friendships were fantastic and added so much to the story.
In fact, there were tons of things that made Poetry in Motion fabulous. It was fun, and sexy, and incredibly touching.
Heartsong by TJ Klune – When I started this journey with the Bennett pack—including Ox, and Gordo, and Team Human—and all the inhabitants of Green Creek, I had no idea how absorbed I was going to become with this series and these characters. In fact, I don’t know if TJ Klune himself knew entirely where his characters were going to take him when he began Ox’s story arc back in Wolfsong. But since then, Klune has given us Gordo’s story in Ravensong, and now, with the release of Heartsong, the story is picked up from Robbie’s point of view. I absolutely love what Klune does with this book. He starts us out in one of Robbie’s dreams, where Robbie is hearing voices, and seeing the same alpha wolves, but can’t make heads or tails of what it means. He’s disoriented. Lost. And, in the beginning of the book Klune purposely and, in my opinion, expertly, keeps the reader disoriented and lost as well. I know I, along with other readers, was unsure of the timeline, or what was going on initially, but once I realized the way things were unfolding, I was blown away.
Deosil (Whyborne & Griffin: Book Eleven) by Jordan L. Hawk – Eleven books! That’s incredible. And, even more incredible is that with every book it seemed like the bar kept getting set higher and higher, and Hawk kept meeting it. I can’t imagine the pressure he must have felt to get this last book right. I mean, it’s the last book…you’ve got to get it right, ya know? Well, I know I’m just one opinion, but I can’t imagine a single reader disagreeing with me…he absolutely got it right. Deosil was every single thing I could have wanted for this final book. It’s the whole package. It met every one of my expectations, and even surpassed them. I can’t wait to reread the series someday and get to experience it all again. Thank you, Jordan L. Hawk, for giving us these characters and taking us on this journey. I will forever love Whyborne and Griffin, and of course Christine and Kander and all the rest. Widdershins knows its own.
Tallowwood by NR Walker – Walker did an incredible job with this book. I was beyond fascinated with the police procedural aspect and with the mystery itself. I was not exaggerating when I said I couldn’t put it down. The story was fast-paced and suspenseful, but also thoughtful and tender when it came to things like August’s grief over the loss of his boyfriend, or Jacob’s closeness with his family and love for his home. I adored both August and Jake. August is smart and fierce and dedicated. Jake is also all those things, but on top of that, he’s an absolute ray of sunshine. And I loved how he was exactly the person August needed in his life. Also, the romance was masterfully paced. The buildup was so perfect, and the guys were so great together, that even though it was maybe secondary to the mystery, the romance was an integral part of the story.
I can’t recommend this book enough, guys. My pulse was racing, my palms were sweaty, and at the end my heart was full. I really loved it so much.
The Lion Lies Waiting by Glenn Quigley – Awww…. Love, love, love. So good! Especially the last quarter of the book. It kept gaining momentum, and ended really strong. So much love for our dear Robin Shipp – and Edwin, and Duncan, and everyone else in Blashy Cove. This book took some of the Merryapple folk on an adventure to Blackrabbit Island, and things got pretty intense!
I adore the world building, and Mr. Quiqley’s alternate universe version of these islands off the Cornish coast. There’s some steampunk elements that are very cool, and a bit of fantasy woven in there, too. And, I completely love how he bucks gender norms, giving us female doctors and butlers and lawyers, and that diversity, inclusivity, and tolerance are what’s known and expected.
Another gorgeous book! I can’t wait for more from this author!
Dine With Me by Layla Reyne – I think people who truly love books and reading will get this…You know how some books are, for whatever reason, just the right book at the right time? Like, maybe it’s not even the best book you’ve ever read, but it was perfect in that moment? Layla Reyne’s new release, Dine With Me, was like that for me. It was the book I didn’t even know I needed this weekend, and I utterly adored it. The story spoke to me from the moment I saw the cover and read the blurb, and Reyne totally delivered. The premise was unique and fun, the characters were so easy to fall in love with, and it didn’t hurt that it combined three of my favorite things: food, wine, and the holidays! Oh, and travel!
There is lots of emotion, from many different sides, surrounding Miller’s sickness, and how he decides to cope with his diagnosis. The friendships are so close and full of love and respect. There is so much love and support from everyone’s families, whether for Miller or for Clancy, who is at a crossroads himself with regard to his career. And, the romance between Miller and Clancy is so swoony and sexy. I absolutely loved them together. This was a fantastic book that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for a well-written, touching, romantic story, that is also a love letter to food.
Soul on Fire by Tal Bauer – Admittedly, my knowledge of the people and history of the Congo, the Ebola virus, military operations, etc., is limited. Bauer’s, on the other hand, is obviously not. The research is seemingly impeccable, and the writing is so vivid and richly detailed. I was immersed in the jungle, the camp, and into Elliot and Ikolo’s terrifying race through the forest to catch Majambu. Bauer did an incredible job with both Ikolo’s and Elliot’s backstories. The narrative was so powerful when describing both of their struggles with racism and being seen as less than. As young men, they both struggled with their value and place in the world, albeit from completely different parts of the globe. Now, however, Ikolo is very sure of himself and his path, and that is intoxicating to Elliot. Not to mention the attraction that is waking up needs that Elliot has pushed down and ignored for years. Granted, the romance development was lightning quick, but it worked. I enjoyed watching the connection grow, and their chemistry was excellent. I was totally engrossed in this book from start to finish.
We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra – The language in the book is so poetic and gorgeous. Henstra uses words, imagery, and emotion to keep the reader on the hook. There was the briefest moment or two where I was worried that I couldn’t get past the awkwardness of the letters, but then I’d be sucked in by some passage and realize I couldn’t imagine the story being told any other way. I loved the slow buildup of the friendship and the romance, and the way the guys told each other things through the letters they maybe couldn’t say in person. And, I loved both Kurl and Jo fiercely. I read the book while on vacation a couple of weeks ago, and it got to the point that I couldn’t put it down. I was so invested in the guys and their journey, I had to keep going to see where they ended up.
This book isn’t going to be for everyone. There’s no doubt that some people won’t be able to get past the strangeness of them writing letters to each other and describing events where they were both just present. It definitely took some getting used to, and, as I said, suspension of disbelief…But, I LOVED it. I hope some of you are willing to give it a try!! Because the pay off is so worth it.
Gideon (Finding Home: Book Three) by Lily Morton – Full disclosure: I one thousand percent expected to hate Gideon for the first ninety-three percent of this book. He was a complete ass hat in Milo, and I absolutely hated him. I thought Lily Morton was going to have to do some serious work to win me over. You guys know what I’m talking about, right? When you feel like there is NO WAY the author is gonna make you like some character?? Welp…she did it. And, it took her all of about three pages! I don’t know if my memory is just that short, or if she’s just that good, but I was sympathetic toward this jerk right from the start! Morton is crafty, though…In Gideon, she right away takes the pressure off our dear title character by giving us someone to hate even more. But we’ll get to Frankie later…
In this series Morton’s style feels effortless. With humor, snark, heat, and swoony, swoony romance, every book in the Finding Home series is such a mood lifter. I feel like I say “This one is my favorite!” every time I pick one up, but this one might actually be my favorite. I loved the cruise and all the settings in the first half—there is a whole bit in Nice that is so, so lovely. I loved all the scenes at Chi an Mor, and every interaction with Milo, Niall, Oz and Silas. And, the epilogue gives us a perfect little glimpse into the future.
2 thoughts on “Simply the Best: Jules’ Fave Reads of 2019”
We have a lot of common books so maybe I’ll look further at those I haven’t read!
Ooh – yay! I hope you discover some others you love! :)