Top Ten of 2019

This is actually my 4th or 5th attempt at a Year’s Best list. A few were too long (one had 25 books) others were too short (5 books), some too restrictive and others too broad. I was going to do a 2019 Only list, but I ended up scrapping that last. While most of my favorites for the year were released THIS year, this year I probably read more newly released books than ever before. And while only 3 of my Top 10 come from before this year, they include 2 of my Top 3. So I cut it to 10. I could probably throw in a few honorable mentions, but then I’d invariably get carried and we’d be here all day. So it’s 10. Just 10. There’ll be links to both the Goodreads page and my reviews for each book, in case you’d like to check out either. Otherwise, I hope you’ll enjoy the list and maybe comment. While I liked most of 2019, the end was just painful. Horribly, terribly painful. I hope that whomever and wherever you are, your year was much better, and ended more gracefully. Can’t wait for 2020! But first, here’s to 2019:

10. Beneath the Twisted Trees – by Bradley P. Beaulieu (2019)

GoodreadsReview

To begin the list, Beneath the Twisted Trees is Book #4 of the Song of the Shattered Sands. Out in 2019, it was a fantastic ride filled will vivid storytelling and epic world-building. Continuing the story of Çeda on her journey to destroy the Kings of Sharakai, I cannot recommend this series enough. Bradley Beaulieu’s attention to detail has always been on-point, but The Shattered Sands impressive still.

9. The Imaginary Corpse – by Tyler Hayes (2019)

GoodreadsReview

Again thanks to Angry Robot for this ARC! I’d never even heard of Tyler Hayes at all until I got this book—but the Imaginary Corpse absolutely blew me away. An imaginative and fun world filled with adorable and cuddly characters, including one of my favorites of all time: Tippy. Combining the dark noir of the classic gumshoe with the cuteness and fun of something out of the Great Mouse Detective, I’d recommend this story for pretty much everyone, easily one of my favs for the year!

8. Age of Legend – by Michael J. Sullivan (2019)

GoodreadsReview

I hated the ending to Age of War soooo much, I threw the damned book at the wall. I loved the Age of Legend so much, I had to keep myself from starting the Age of Death right upon finishing it. A darker beginning gives way to an epic adventure—a Michael J. Sullivan specialty. My main issue with this book comes with its own warning: there’s a cliffhanger (another Sullivan specialty), so you’ll likely want to read the next one right away. Which, if you didn’t back the Kickstarter, might be an issue. So maybe wait until February to read them. Or prepare to suffer the consequences.

7. Blackwing – by Ed McDonald (2017)

GoodreadsReview

Blackwing was originally published in 2017, but served as my intro to the Ed McDonald, and the Raven’s Mark trilogy, which concluded in 2019. It actually took me three tries to get past page 30, but once I did, I was captivated. A thrilling adventure in a new world—Blackwing definitely puts the… ‘A’ in adventure? Something like that. Whatever. If you haven’t read it, it’s really cool.

6. Soulkeeper – by David Dalglish (2019)

GoodreadsReview

I loved Dalglish’s Shadowdance series—and while Skyborn underwhelmed me—Soulkeeper won me back. If I’d needed winning back, I guess. A new fantasy adventure, with a classic fantasy appeal, this book nailed the characters, the world-building and the nostalgia for me. The only thing I took issue with was the dialogue, but it wasn’t a detail that ruined the story. Didn’t even leave a bad aftertaste. Can’t wait for Ravencaller in 2020!

5. Walking to Aldebaran – by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2019)

GoodreadsReview

I’m usually hit-or-miss on novellas and short-stories. Anything that half-asses a proper length adventure. For Adrian Tchaikovsky, however—I’ll make an exception. A light but surprisingly deep read, Aldebaran follows smartass astronaut Gary Rendell as he explores an alien artefact at the edge of our solar system. I loved the adventure and wit, the exploration of the unknown, the tone Tchaikovsky uses to describe the world, even didn’t mind the shortness of the tale—really my only issue was the price.

4. Fallen – by Benedict Jacka (2019)

GoodreadsReview

The tenth Alex Verus book is my favorite thus far. We’ve hit a pretty good stride with that, as so were Books 7, 8 and 9 upon their releases. Fallen is the best of the bunch, though. As Alex’s adventure nears its completion, the story is getting deliciously dark (though not Grimdark), enough to convince Verus that a dozen books is enough. I assume, at least. Ten books down, and Alex must become something else, something MORE, in order to move forward. I love the direction this series has gone and can’t wait to see where it goes next!

3. The Fall of Dragons – by Miles Cameron (2017)

Goodreads • Review

The final book in the Traitor Son Cycle leads off my Top 3. The Red Knight has gone through trials and travails; found and lost and found love once more; crossed untold lands, worlds, filled with mysterious and terrifying beasts; fought battles, wars and emerged bloodied, but unbeaten. And yet the enemy remains. Fall of Dragons is the epic—and immensely satisfying—conclusion. If you haven’t read it—or any of the other Traitor Son books… well, they’re just amazing. It’s an epic, incredible, awe inspiring adventure. Sometimes the detail and language can be a bit dense, but by Book 5 I was more than used to it. I’m not a fan of endings; I know that all good stories must end, but sometimes I wish the adventure would just continue forever and ever. Fall of Dragons ends well. It isn’t necessarily happy—but it’s such an ending! A must read.

Note: I apparently haven’t review this yet, since I read it before this whole blog thing took hold. Hopefully I’ll get to that soon.

2. Crowfall – by Ed McDonald (2019)

GoodreadsReview

Where Blackwing (#7, pay attention) began the Raven’s Mark trilogy, Crowfall ends it. Though I didn’t love Ravencry, both Books 1 & 3 effectively blew my mind—more than enough for them to make this list. But where Blackwing suffered from the uncertainty that begins a new series, Crowfall shows that McDonald knew where he was going with it. Or maybe he got, really, really lucky. All the pieces of Galharrow’s adventure came together in this book, and the resulting story was amazing. There’s little more that I can say except: Read this. I loved it, and I hope you will too.

1. The Ember Blade – by Chris Wooding (2018)

GoodreadsReview

In a year where most of my favorite reads were new releases, my top choice harkens from the year prior. The Ember Blade is an epic tale, 800+ pages of classic fantasy adventure. A new world to explore, new characters to know and love, new details, new subplots, new love, new loss. Book 1 of the Darkwater Legacy was a coming-of-age epic that had it all—fantastic creatures, villains, heroes, love, purpose and adventure, so much adventure! While I wasn’t completely sold from the start, about a quarter way through my time with this tome, I was way past stopping. While it may seem like a classic coming-of-age tale, The Ember Blade mixes new with old, light fantasy with dark, to come up with something amazing and special—something that I hope you’ll love just as much as I did.

Books I couldn’t finish in 2019

I DNF a fair amount of books, whether I’m not in the right mood, or not sleeping well, or they don’t speak to me. Or maybe they just suck. In 2019 I started and failed to finish 21 books, though I’d read 1 of them before. Of these, 9 were by authors I’d previously read, and 2 were by Yoon Ha Lee. I hope to give 9 of them another shot, but for sure will get back to 4 of them. In addition to 10 books that began new series, I failed to get through one Book #2, two #3’s, and one #4.

Here are a few notable ones:

1. Ghosts of Gotham – by Craig Schaefer

What began as a thriller with supernatural elements took a hard turn into fantasy and it was so abrupt that I… lost it. The story. Or the plot. Or the… whatever. I tried to continue, but everything was completely different. It was like beginning a totally new story at the halfway mark. It was really weird. DNF on page 213

2. The Dark Blood – by A.J. Smith

After I was fairly critical of the Black Guard, A.J. Smith reached out to me saying he was sorry I didn’t like it, but hoped I’d be willing to give his world another go in the future. The world-building was actually really good in book #1—not my problem with it at all, so I acquiesced. Book #2 was actually a lot more enjoyable. Until I got to the end of the first part and just kind of drifted away from it. Eventually it got shelved, and I’m not really sure why. Hopefully I’ll get back to it soon, but we’ll see. DNF at page 111

3. An Easy Death – by Charlaine Harris

After trying to force my way through this for 1.5 months, I finally admitted it wasn’t working. Thing is, I can’t for the life of me tell you why. It’s only a 300 page book, after all. I’m really gutted by this because I’ve heard such great things about it! I just couldn’t get into it. Recently I’ve had issues with losing focus on books, so I’m hoping to revisit it later. Maybe I’m feeling a bit burned out this year. DNF on page 132

4. The Quantum Thief – by Hannu Rajaniemi

I’ve always wanted to read the Jean le Flambeur series, but that’s not likely to happen anymore. Truth is, I found The Quantum Thief boring, unfocused and disjointed. After the first tenth I couldn’t’ve even told you what was happening, or what HAD happened. DNF at 11%

5. The Buried Giant – by Kazuo Ishiguro

I got this as a library book and was intrigued by some much of it. The description, the cover, the first chapter…. then we got to the actual story. I think. It was… dry, to say the least. Very little happened. I lost interest and eventually the loan expired. Doubt I’ll ever get back to it. DNF at 14%

6. Nation – by Terry Pratchett

I love Terry Pratchett’s work! From Discworld to the Carpet People, Dodger and more, I love his humor, wit, adventurous writing and creativity. Ergo, Nation was quite the surprise. I wasn’t in love with the beginning, nor the middle, but I powered through because… well, because it was by Terry Pratchett! I was certain that the story would get better, and I’d start having fun. Except I never did. DNF at 74%

7. Magebane – by Stephen Aryan

This is another one I’ll give multiple more attempts. I’ve loved everything Aryan’s offered thus far and the end of his second trilogy should’ve been a no-brainer. But after my third attempt to get past page 50 failed… I shelved it. For now. DNF at page 43

8. Brief Cases – by Jim Butcher

I’m in Dresden Files withdrawal. That must be it. That’s the only reason I can think of to have a Dresden-themed, Jim Butcher book on this list. The only solving it has got to be a full-length new adventure. The short stories are good, interesting and all but… they’re just not doing it. Plus, I’d read the Bigfoot ones before. DNF at 28%