General Thoughts,  Pop Culture

2019 in Book Reviews

I originally set a goal on Goodreads to read 100 books in 2019. When I surpassed that goal before the end of the year, I upped the goal to 125. As of December 31, I have read 150 books in 2019. This does not include how many times I’ve read my own books or read books with my daughter. I recently reread “Caroline’s Lighthouse” and “Jordan’s Sister” just to review why I write. I published “What I Learned That Summer” in August, so I’ve read through it several times in the last year while getting it reading for publication.

That’s a lot of books! Here’s a collection of the covers from this year.

With this many books, it’s hard to come up with a top ten, but here goes. Below are my top ten for traditionally published.

  1. “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger.

    I didn’t think I could love a book as much as Krueger’s “Ordinary Grace,” but I now know that it’s possible since reading this book. I adored this story of Odie’s journey from orphanhood to family. He’s an elderly man recalling the summer of his 12th year when everything changed for him during the Great Depression. Setting out on a journey with his older brother and two friends, Odie learns life lessons and endures more than any child should ever have to in this poignant tale. Krueger’s writing style is poetic and heartfelt as always. This is a delightful read.

  2. “Where The Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens.

    I loved this story of Kya and all she had to endure to survive. The writing style was poetic but not overdone, and the story was engaging. Once I started this novel, I didn’t want to put it down. I look forward to more work from this author.


  3. “The Last Ballad” by Wiley Cash. (*Bonus: I got to meet him at Books in Bloom in Eureka Springs, Arkansas in May of 2019.)

    “The cemetery is where you leave things behind. You aren’t supposed to go home with anyone in your arms or anything in your pockets.”

    With beautiful lines like that, how can anyone not enjoy Wiley Cash’s writing? In this fictionalized tale based on a true story, Cash explores the tragically short life of Ella May, a textile worker during the Great Depression to sets out to help unionize the workers. So much beauty and sadness are packed into this novel. The characters are interesting and the story was engaging enough to keep me reading late into the night.

  4. “I’m Fine and Neither Are You” by Camille Pagán.

    The character of Penny is my spirit animal from two years ago. A working mother and wife who is about to lose her mind from constantly pretending that everything’s fine when it isn’t. It takes a death to shake her up enough to speak up and fight for her happiness. I highly recommend this story to women who are trying to have it all but feel like something is missing. Pagán’s writing style is superb.

  5. “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman.

    I adored this book. I loved the writing style and socially and emotionally-stunted Eleanor. With so many things happening online these days, it’s easy to imagine a young person suffering from depression and loneliness in silence. Eleanor’s story is tragic, but she’s able to pass as a normal, although eccentric, person for most of her adult life. Stumbling into a friendship is awkward and weird for Eleanor. When her walls break, they break hard and Eleanor is in danger. Her new friend can only do so much to help.

  6. “Finding Dorothy” by Elizabeth Letts.

    I adored this story. After picking it up last night, I found myself going back to it many times today to finish it because the story was so engaging. I loved reading this fictionalized account of Maud Baum’s early life and her interactions with Judy Garland on the set for “The Wizard of Oz” after her author husband’s death. This is a beautiful story that I hated to put down.

  7. “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell.

    I loved this book so much! It was messy and scary and lovely, just like first love. I adore the characters of Eleanor and Park, especially the fact that they’re not your stereotypical beautiful people. The dialogue felt realistic, and I loved the fact that the story takes place in the 1980s before social media and cell phones. I recommend this book to people who enjoy YA novels with realistic characters and sweet recollections of first love.

  8. “On the Come Up” by Angie Thomas.

    After reading and loving “The Hate U Give” by Thomas, I was anxious to read what she put out next. I was not disappointed. However, if readers try to compare this story to THUG, they will be disappointed. These are two very different novels, and both are outstanding writing in my opinion. I loved the character of Bri. She’s not perfect, but she’s trying her best to succeed, not only for herself but for her family. Bri’s a poet, an artist, trying to make it in the rap scene. This story contains a lot of drama and raises more awareness on some issues kids in our world are facing. I highly recommend this one.

  9. “The Hating Game” by Sally Thorne.

    I adored this book. Lucy and Josh’s love story that evolves from hate is hilarious and heartbreaking at times. I enjoyed Thorne’s writing style and her ability to write sex scenes that didn’t make me laugh with the ridiculousness of the words involved. I look forward to reading more work by Thorne in the future.

  10. “Tin Badges” by Lorenzo Carcaterra.

    I enjoyed this book very much. Retired Detective, Tank Rizzo, becomes guardian to his teenage nephew after the death of his younger brother. Tank is a “tin badge” who works in a consulting capacity for the NYPD to help solve cold cases. With his nephew–a computer wiz–and a band of unlikely heroes, Tank sets off to solve a sexual assault case with ties to a big-time drug cartel. I like Carcaterra’s straight-forward writing style and short, manageable chapters, which made this novel a quick read. It was action-packed, so I had a hard time putting this down. *Note: This refers to the 2019 edition.

Indie Books
Next is my list of remarkable independently-published works for the year. I always like to list them separately not because they don’t live up to the traditionally-published work but because I know the depths these authors go through to share their work with the world. Are the stories perfect? Of course not. But, spoiler alert, none of the tradionally-published work is perfect either, even with the money behind the marketing and editing of the work.

  1. “The Death Doll” by K.D. Carter.

    I really liked this historical fiction novel. It was fast-paced, so I read the entire thing in a couple of sessions. Set in the late 1600s, a young woman goes to the North American colonies to live with her uncle after the death of her father. While there, she shakes up the rules at the Puritan household. Friendly and charismatic, Kate makes friends with a local widower and his daughter, as well as a runaway slave all while falling in love with a sailor. Just when she feels her life is working out beautifully, Kate is put on trial for witchcraft and everything is back in flux for her. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I was happy with the resolution.

  2. “Getting Over You” by Jaxson Kidman.

    I read most of this book on a plane while traveling for work. I adore this story of Josie and Crosby and all they had to endure to find each other again. If you like fate-based stories with heat, this book is a great read for you.


  3. “Broken Tomorrows” by Sarah Krewis. (Note: This is a republication/rewrite of a previous novel by the same author using a differnent pen name of K.T. Daxon.)

    Sarah Krewis weaves a tale of love and loss for lead character, Gabby Lawsen in this heartbreaking love story. When it comes to Gabby, she’s definitely not perfect. She makes a lot of mistakes just like any real human being does when it comes to matters of the heart. As Gabby deals with the consequences of her actions, she learns from her mistakes and develops her strength by the end of this story. The men in the novel, Parker and Landon, are also flawed individuals, as each has his good and bad points. Each man leaves his mark on Gabby’s heart.
    You might think this is just a standard love triangle when you’re first reading, but you’re wrong. This novel ends with a huge cliffhanger that makes me anxious to read the sequel the moment it’s released to find out about these characters. I read this whole novel in one day because I just couldn’t put it down.
    It’s obvious that this author put a lot of thought and hard work into this novel. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

  4. “Murder is a Debate” by Brandy Nacole.

    This was a quick-read YA mystery novel about friends from different worlds. Nora and her friends enjoy solving murder mysteries in a club they’ve created. But things are a little too close to home when someone at Nora’s school is murdered and the details of the case match a murder mystery she created. Desperate to learn who might be framing her for murder, Nora sets off on an adventure to find the truth.
    I enjoyed the straightforward writing style of this author. The story flowed well, and the characters were enjoyable. Just when I thought I knew who the murderer was, the author surprised me.

  5. “Pretty Hate Machine” (Special Task Force: GREEN MAJIK#1) by Don Templeton.

    This book starts off strong with action and adventure and takes a complete turn with some fantasy and magic mixed in. For readers who also enjoy fast-paced action movies, this is the book for you. The novel is well-written and has well-developed characters. I look forward to reading more of this author’s work.

  6. “The Lists” by Meka James. (from the “Not Broken” series)

    It was nice to catch up with Malcolm and Calida from “Fiendish” and “Not Broken” in this novella. This was a fun, quick read. Note: For mature readers only; this novella contains explicit sexual content.

What was your favorite read of 2019? If you’re like me, it’s impossible to pick just one. I can’t wait to see what reads 2020 has in store for me.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

Featured image: Designed by Freepik
Author book covers owned by publishers and authors, used for review purposes only.

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