My Best Books of 2019
I have read a lot of books this year. In fact I have read 275 books that I reviewed on Goodreads, plus however many more that I DNFd without reviewing or which were second reads. That’s a lot of books.
You could just trawl through my reading (here and feel free to follow or friend), so I’m not going to list everything or this will be the world’s longest post. I’m going to do this by eccentric classifications of my own choosing, not just genre, because I can.
Ready? Sharpen your credit card, here we go.
Most Read Authors
I read nine of Therese Beharrie’s romance novels this year. Nine. She does lovely South-Africa-set romances—low heat, some angst, but overall with a deeply comforting feel. Go on, get A Wedding One Christmas, you know you want to.
In second place, I read six by Jackie Lau—modern diverse Canada-set romcoms, mostly, with lots of family. Try Grumpy Fake Boyfriend, which is one of the great titles of our times.
And I read five of the magnificent Beverly Jenkins who needs no introduction from me. Rebel, the start of her new series, was a marvel.
I also glommed the first five of Mick Herron’s terrific Slough House series, with a group of failed spies doing boring admin led by the appalling evil-Falstaff Jackson Lamb. Not comfort reads *at all* and I’m still building up the moral fortitude to read the latest one, but terrific.
Talia Hibbert’s terrific Get a Life Chloe Brown has met with much-deserved praise for its diverse rep, feelgood plot, and blend of serious issues with a proper romcom. I can’t wait for the next book.
Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin is a Muslim take on Pride and Prejudice, with a really lovely fundamentalist religious hero. That is not something you get a lot. Bright, breezy, immense fun.
AJ Demas is one of my favourite historical romancers for her delightful alt-ancient Mediterranean queer stories. Sword Dance has a house party, a sinister plot, a spy, a soldier, a lovely romance and a mickey-take of Greek philosophers. A pleasure.
For something completely different, Wilding by Isabella Tree is non-fiction (and you don’t get much of that under feelgood) about turning land back to the wild and seeing how nature recovers left to itself. It’s a fascinating, hopeful read.
Plaintive (Is that what I mean? Books with sadness as well as joy)
Not for Use in Navigation by Iona Datt Sharma is a really excellent SFFR collection of stories—haunting, beautifully written, deeply imagined. Don’t miss this one, it’s very, very much worth your time.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow is a triumphant historical fantasy using Mayan myth. Compelling story, fantastic characters. One of my favourite SFF of the year with a bittersweet, wonderful ending.
Lord of the Last Heartbeat by May Peterson is a spectacular debut with densely beautiful writing, a gnarly mystery in a fantasy world, and a wonderful m/nb romance. A sad feel, with the characters weighted by loss and pain, but the light shines through and takes us to a triumphant happy ending.
Another romance that gets us to the HEA via heavy lifting is You Me U.S. by Brigitte Bautista, a really excellent, realistic f/f set in seedy Manila. The heroines drink too much, have sex with other people, and one of them is trying to get a green card marriage. It’s brutally real, which makes the way they finally forge themselves an ending all the more joyous. I loved it.
Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O’Neill is…okay, it’s a set of lit-crit biographies of various famous Australian writers. Except they’re fictional ones, and actually this is a magnificent meta sarcastic takedown of literary twerpery, with some bonkers running jokes, lots of extremely clever interlacing, and a hidden plot which…all I can say is, don’t skip the index. Which is not a sentence I’d often write. Extremely clever and very very funny.
The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall is an absolutely glorious Holmes/Watson riff where Holmes is a drug-addled pansexual sorceress in a Lovecraftian-fantasy world, Watson is a gay trans man refugee from a puritan nation, and the whole thing is just a mad, delightful romp. Intensely enjoyable.
Every book by Saad Hossain is a gem, if you like your gems violent, unpredictable, disturbing, and plotted by a maniac. The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday puts djinn, nanotech, and a detective story through a blender to tremendous effect.
And for a wild card, the forgotten classic Fowlers End by Gerald Kersch set in 1930s London. I described this as Dickens on meth in my review and I stick to that; I also highlighted so many hilarious bits that my ereader crashed. Absurd, scabrous, sweary, awful, laugh-out-loud.
I reread the entire Johannes Cabal series by Jonathan L Howard for the nth time. This is a fabulous 5-book urban fantasy about a sarcastic necromancer with no social skills. It riffs gleefully off Lovecraft, is immensely readable, and has a surprising amount of heart under the violence. Deeply enjoyable.
I also reread the wonderful Astreiant books by Melissa Scott. A pure pleasure, tracing an m/m couple (policeman and blade for hire) in the matriarchal fantasy city of Astreiant. Understated romance, great mysteries.
And I glommed the entire oeuvre of T Kingfisher all over again, for the comfort of their marvellous imagination, kindness, sharp-edged morality and terrific wit.
I currently have two books on sale. Get Band Sinister (feelgood Regency fluff) or The Henchmen of Zenda (swashbuckling pulp adventure) for 99c/p everywhere till 20 December!
What can I say, other than “Curse you, KJ Charles!”
Okay, so the idea of a romance novel set in Caledon made me one-click the Therese Beharrie title. I have been to Caledon, well lets be honest, I have driven through Caledon. Even though I realise that people living in Caledon must have romances, it seems a very unlikely setting. Adding to that, that it’s a inter-racial romance and that it’s reportedly gooood, just makes this more intriguing.