Favourite Reads of 2019; Part One

Title in white on pale starry skies

2019 was an amazing year for books. Not only did I read a lot, but I loved so many books – my average star rating was just under 4 stars. This made writing this list almost impossible because how was I supposed to choose only 10?

I didn’t.

I’ve had to split this list into two parts as there were so many great books. The second will go live in a few weeks. The majority were released this year, with a few backlist and 2020 releases in the mix (I know!). For a few, my reviews have lower star rating than I’d give it now because my opinion has changed with time and, in some cases, re-reads.

I have read all but one of my TOP 10 ANTICIPATED 2019 BOOKS, (haven’t read Children of Virtue and Vengenace, because it’s been pushed back and back and I’m waiting for the paperback). However, only four of those books have made it onto either part one or two. That’s how good a reading year this has been.

The caveats for this list are:

  1. I had to have started and finished a book in 2019
  2. I had to have read the book for the first time in 2019
  3. An author could only appear once on this list

This list also counts for Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly mean, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun.

10. THESE DIVIDED SHORES, by Sarah Raasch

book cover for THESE DIVIDED SHORES: a smashed R lies in then sand as a wave sweeps past

Hang on, you’re saying, your most anticipated book of 2019 only comes in at number 10? Yes – that’s how strong a reading year it was.

I utterly adored this book – it has everything I wanted from these sequel: more plant magic, more betrayals and more time with the characters together. They must fight Agrid before Grace Loray becomes a colony again, and all free will is wiped out. But trying to strike an alliance between the Raider syndicates is almost impossible as the divisions are deep.

The characters all have incredible arcs, and the duology wraps up in such a satisfying way. Thank goodness it was a fat book so I could spend as long as possible in their world before having to leave it.

9. A THRONE OF SWANS, by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr

Book cover for A THRONE OF SWANS: A dark throne with carvings around it sits behind the title, a white feather hovering.

This is a 2020 release you HAVE to pick up. Written by a duo of UK sisters, this fantasy is not one to miss!

A THRONE OF SWANS is a political fantasy set in a sweeping world where the nobility can shape shift into birds. Only an accident means Aderyn can’t, and if anyone discovers her secret, she loses her home, position and possibly her life. To make maters worse, the nobility are scheming over the throne and Aderyn is caught up in it.

The layers of deception and the impossibility of knowing who could be trusted made this a tense read.

8. WILD SAVAGE STARS, by Kristina Pérez

Book cover for WILD SAVAGE STARS: a girl in white stands on a rock in the dark, her dress blowing about. the title is emblazoned across the image

The second book in Kristina Pérez’s SWEET BLACK WAVES trilogy, WILD SAVAGE STARS is an excellent tale of love and secrets as Bronwyn faces the consequences of her attempts to make her cousin happy marrying a foreign king. If her deadly secret gets out, it’s her life and her cousin’s at stake – not to mention war between their kingdoms.

With deft writing that makes you care for all the central character until your heart feels too full – and too likely to break – this is a masterclass in emotional tension. The king being duped is too nice, Bronwyn’s desperate love for her cousin putting her in horrible situations and the world well drawn.

7. THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS, by Laura Weymouth

the light between worlds

It is rare for a book to make me cry, but I sobbed buckets while reading this one. It’s such an emotional book – both desperately sad but also slightly hopeful. Inspired by Narnia, this debut looks at grief and struggling to adjust once you’ve returned through the wardrobe. Susan finally gets explored beyond “she was a the let down”.

Having been transported to a magical land during the Blitz, Evie and Phillipa have been “home” for 6 years. Evie wants to return, but Phillipa wants to settle here, but when Evie goes missing, her hard-fought for peace shatters.

There are strong content warnings for suicide, self-harm and grief in this book, but it’s well worth the read.

6. THE KINGDOM OF COPPER, by S. A. Chakraborty

the kingdom of copper

The second book in the Daevabad Trilogy just edges THE CITY OF BRASS off this list. THE KINGDOM OF COPPER is an intricate web of loyalty and schemes, as Nahri and Ali fight for their homes, lives and beliefs. It’s either a book to read in as short a space as possible, or one you have to read with a notebook to remember all the ins and outs of what’s going on.

The world is lush, full of dangerous magic and sitting alongside our 19th century. You will have firm ideas of which pair you ship, and that ship will be tested regardless of who you pick. Not to mention the massive twist at the end…

5. ONE OF US IS LYING, by Karen M. McManus

one of us is lying

I consider ONE OF US IS LYING a “gateway” book, as it kick started my love of YA mysteries earlier this year. It’s an addictive read, that balances an edge-of-the-seat mystery with brilliant character development despite the short book and the four POVs.

The premise is amazing: five students walk into detention, but only four walk out. The surviving students all have secrets the dead one was about to reveal, so who killed him?

It’s very twisty, with masterful control of information, and the “solution” was so surprising.

4. THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE, by Samantha Shannon

Book cover for THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE: A roaring blue dragon wrapped around a crumbling tower.

This book is a mammoth, barely edged off “longest book read this year” by a matter of pages. It weighs 1.2kg, so make sure you’re not trying to hold it up while you read!

A feminist retelling of George and the Dragon, THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE is a world-spanning fantasy where dragons rise, empires falls and the truth is buried deep beneath the ego of a long-dead knight. I loved the high fantasy feel of this book, where quests and crowns are undertaken by women and men alike. Plus the world is vivid, researched in painstaking detail because Sam Shannon is not one to shirk on her world building, even if the reader never sees the years of research behind the naming conventions.

3. THE UNBOUND EMPIRE, by Melissa Caruso

the unbound empire

This finale was everything I was hoping for: schemes, stakes, more time torn between Marcello and Kathe, and more creepy awfulness from Ruven. We see more of Zafira’s magic, and the terrible choices Amalia must make in war.

THE UNBOUND EMPIRE is political fantasy at its finest, complete with government scheming, looming war and actual elections! Amalia must step into her mother’s shoes as war rumbles away at the border, fighting for her home but also trying to get her mage bill passed to gain greater freedoms for Zafira and the other mages.

2. BLOODWITCH, by Susan Dennard


BLOODWITCH is a mid-series installment that left me gasping for more, unable to put it down until I’d finished the last page. I love Soz’s books, and this series is one of complex world and antagonists who aren’t evil villains, but rather people in the way of our heroes as they fight to find one another.

There are more POVs this time, which means the world and lore can be explored further. The first pay offs for the many hints scattered throughout the series come, revealing just how expansive Soz’s plan for this series is. If you haven’t read SIGHTWITCH, you will miss several OH moments.

1. A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER, by Holly Jackson

a good girl's guide to murder

My favourite book this year wasn’t fantasy?

I have not been able to stop thinking about A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER all year, and that’s why it’s my top book. I keep wanting to pick it back up and re-read, in fact it was the first book I re-read this year. I also got to help Imi (Imi reviews Books) create a “which UKYA character are you?” quiz by working out Pip’s answers!

It’s a murder mystery – obviously – and one that’s full of layers. Pip is very much like me – an over diligent student who struggles to let things go. I connected with her immediately. Not to mention the fact that it’s set in the UK, so the schooling and exams are what I’m used to. It made it feel very familiar.

US, this book is coming your way in 2020 – please do yourselves a favour and pick it up!

What were your top reads this year? How hard was it to choose?

13 thoughts on “Favourite Reads of 2019; Part One

  1. I want to read The Priory of the Orange Tree soon and I own it in hardcover. Yes, it’s… intimidating and I should definitely be careful with that brick.
    Also, glad to hear that about Kingdom of Copper! I loved The City of Brass and can’t wait to see what happens next.
    Great list, and happy new year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read One Of Us Is Lying last year and Two Can Keep A Secret this year, and I loved them both. She’s definitely one of my new favorite authors! I hadn’t heard of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, but I’m intrigued. I’ll have to check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

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