2019 has not been great; both reading-wise and personally it was not what I had hoped for. Though the bookish bit wasn’t not great because there were no fantastic books – there absolutely were! – but I didn’t read as much as I wanted to. I only finished 73 books this year, which is a lot less than I’m used to from myself. 2019 also was a year where I reread more books than usually but I also read more audio books this year – something I definitely want to try to continue in 2020. (On the upside it felt a tiny bit easier to choose 10 books out of 73 rather than if I had read 150 books or so, so there’s that.)
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston was as amazing as everyone had said it would be. There was a lot of hype around this book before it was published and right before I dove in, I was nervous I wasn’t going to love it because my expectations were so high. But the pages just flew by and all of a sudden I was at the end of the book and now I can’t imagine my life without either Henry or Alex in it. In a world where fascist and populists seem to win a lot of elections this was a breath of fresh air. Also loved, loved, loved the audio version.
Orientation by Gregory Ashe was probably the most intense book I read this year. Not just because the story itself is intense but also because this book was everything I could think about when I was reading it – I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I had to put the book aside and felt like I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to uncover the mysteries it held. It’s full of surprises, twists and turns I did not see coming and O M G if you like mutual pining and the slowest of slooow burn then this is absolutely for you. So glad I saw Carol from Writing Bookish Notes gush about it on social media because both Orientation and Triangulation are breathtakingly awesome.
Kitten by Jack Harbon. I’m so glad I discovered Jack Harbon this year because everything I read by him I loved. I went back and forth whether to add Daddy to this list, Unwrap Me or Kitten. In the end I choose Kitten because it was my first book by this author. Also I simply adored Kit – he’s so sassy and opinionated but also has a very sweet side too. Definitely recommend this office romance!
The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale. I’m kind of cheating a bit with this because it wasn’t a new read in 2019. This book was rereleased by Carina Press and I did read it when it was previously published. But a bisexual indie rocker and a fiddle player on tour. Close proximity. LOTS of sexual tension and chemistry. What’s not to love? Seriously this is one of my all time fave wlw romances and just needed to be included on this list.
Reverb by Anna Zabo. I haven’t read a book by this author that I did not like. After Syncopation and Counterpoint Reverb was the perfect conclusion to the series. Mish is a badass. I fell in love with her when I read the first two books in this series and was really excited to get her story. I defintely was not disappointed. Also can we please take a second to just look at this gorgeous cover? It’s so vibrant. And the fierceness and energy it transports? Breathtaking.
Writing Her In by Holley Trent is such a lovely polyam romance set in the publishing world. I particularly loved the different relationships between the main characters and how they all evolved at a different pace. Especially Dara figuring out that she isn’t on the asexual spectrum, but actually only attracted to people of her own gender was handled so beautifully. What I loved the most though, was how Writing Her In didn’t just center an allosexual relationship. Dara and Adrien are happily married and love each other deeply but they don’t have a sexual relationship. That romantic and sexual attraction aren’t intertwined is something we see so rarely still in romance.
Not Dead Yet series by Jenn Burke. This one is so very special to me in ways I am not comfortable sharing with everyone. (Sorry.) But I think I reread the first book about 5 times or so (I’m really not sure, because at some point this year I’d just start it again when I was finished). I love Wes, Hud, the gang and their adventures so much because they let me escape for a little while. And even though the series also made me cry a lot, it also brought me joy in a dark time. This series will forever stay with me.
Edge of Nowhere by Felicia Davin was probably the book that surprised me the most? I found out about the series when I saw a promo post on instagram for book 2 (and because I like to read series in order) I bought this to read first and it was awesome. I still have to read the second one, but I’m hoping I can find time early next year.
American Love Story by Adriana Herrera. To be honest I could have listed either of the books in the series because they are all so fucking honest, complex and gorgeously written. Herrera isn’t afraid to tackle uncomfortable topics and manages to pair this with a love story you can’t help but root for. Patrice’s and Eastons story is one I think everyone should read.
Play It Again by Aidan Wayne was so. freaking. adorable! Such a cute, fluffy, feel-good story with charming and totally relatable characters. As asexual person I really appreciated how Wayne handled Sam figuring out that he’s asexual. It happened naturally and that it was such a non-issue for either of the characters. Play It Again became one of the books I’d read if I needed a pick me up and in the end it always leaves me with a couple happy tears and a big smile on my face. Because of that it had to be on this list too.
Cold Pressed by Allison Temple, Unscripted by J.R. Gray, Shadows You Left by Jude Sierra & Taylor Brooke, Clean Break by Erin McLellan, Truth by His Hand by Casey Cameron
I guess there was something in the air in 2019 because this was also not a good year for me either. The first half of the year, reading wise, was alright. I didn’t get to review as much as I’d like, because I was in my final semester of coursework for my PhD program and entering not only conference season, but my exams. Still, I think I did okay, all things considered. But at the end of June I suffered a concussion and struggled with post concussion syndrome for months. I wasn’t able to start reading again until maybe October? And even then I had to take it slow. November and December were big healing months for me, but not so much that I’ve been able to get back into the swing of writing reviews, which requires some kinds of thinking that I still struggle with. I also don’t remember a lot of details about some of the books if I read them prior to the concussion, especially if it was close to it. But I do remember that I loved these books. There are also a lot of YA books on here, as I’ve begun reading a lot of YA.
I did listen to a lot of audiobooks during my recovery, particularly when I couldn’t do anything but lay in bed staring at a wall all day. So some of my picks will be for audio titles.
Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. This book is a beautiful, emotional, and nuanced YA novel about family, self and self acceptance. It beatuifully examines the ways in which mental illness can affect lives and relationships in lovely, emotional and layered ways. I love love loved the cultural journey the author takes us on, and how this teaches us so much about what home and family can mean. I cannot wait for the sequel.
How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters. Another amazing YA book that takes a wonderful approach to the examination of the ways in which we struggle with perception of self and the ways in which external lables that come from the outside world affect how we see and understand ourselves. I found the storyline about Remy’s family and the nuances of adoption narrative particularly moving.
Reverie by Ryan La Sala. Man, this book is a fucking trip. A gorgeous, inventive, imaginative, special trip. I wasn’t expecting to be so captivated by this book. This book is such a unique journey and as soon as I started it was like, oh man, strap in for the ride. It’s so well written and so much fun I really hope y’all take the time to pick this one up.
Red, White & Royal Blue by McQuiston. This is one of my favorite books of all time, hands down. I have probably read it twelve times, and after my concussion, listened to the audio three times. Kudos to the audio btw. McQuinston does such a fantastic job at writing the chaotic mess that is Alex, the steady longing that is Henry. Their love story is just such a well written up and down journey. Their chemistry is fucking ridiculously off the charts, there were times my stomach was actually swooping when I read them. The cast of characters in this book are brilliant. The humor is spot on, I laughed out loud so often. I would write a sonnet to this book.
A Lesson in Thorns by Sierra Simone. To switch gears from a load of YA and NA, let us go to the lush, gorgeous, sensual, and frankly dirty (the best kind) of journey Simone takes us on. I am a huge fan of the author’s work. It is hard to write things that are this explicit and sexy and also have such powerful and interesting storylines as well. This book introduces us to the world of Thornchaple and is the start of a series I cannot wait to read more of. Also, the audio of this book is really, really fantastic. Definitely recommend.
American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera. This is a hard one for me, because I read this one shortly before my concussion, and I don’t remember much (I could recite the blurb for you). I do remember that I was so moved by the author’s handling of conversations of ethnicity and race, of erasure and of privilege. So many conversations between the MC’s spoke so directly to my own experiences, I felt really seen. It’s a lovely love story, but it’s a lot more than that. Herrera is really doing something very special with this series, and I encourage you to pick these up.
What if it’s Us (audio) by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli; narrated by Noah Galvin and Froy Gutierrez. I haven’t read this book–I listened to the audio very shortly into my recovery, so I really don’t remember much of this. I do remember that this was hands down one of the best narrated books I listened to while recovering (I listened to a lot, since I was confined to a dark room, unable to tolerate light, conversation, movement, or doing anything but staring at a wall listening to things). I know that the story was really cute and had a lovely, very realistic ending that left me feeling hopeful for the characters. I am excited to read the story in the future and re-immerse myself in the world. This time being able to remember more!
The Gentlemans Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I literally read this one days before I was injured. But wow. It was so fucking good. Can I swear? I’m going to swear. It was fun, it was a ride and a half, and it was so emotional. There are a lot of layers packed into this book, a lot of love and complexity–these things aren’t easy to write, at all. This is definitely one I’m going to be re-reading soon.
Jack of Hearts and Other Parts by L. C. Rosen. This book is super underrated in my opinion. There are definitely difficult themes that the reader should be aware of going in. However, I think there is definitely a lack of unapologetic sex positive work that approaches sex like this book does. It also really does a great job at exploring friendship and the complexity of trying to match who you are on the inside, and how that feeling can be right and good, with how the world perceives you on the outside, as well as the consequences that can come from that clash. This book is so well written, I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting.
Hither Page by Cat Sebastian. Oh god, can we take a minute? This is another pre-concussion haze situation, but I do remember reading this book and thinking how the author had outdone herself again. I’m a huge fan of their work but this one was just so lovely. I really appreciated the approach to trauma, the hilarity of small town life, the community and love and how as humans we are just faulty beings who need love.
It must have been something in the bookish air in 2019, because I, like my co-bloggers, didn’t have the best reading year. I was able to make my Goodreads goal of 75 by the skin of my teeth and I am happy about that, but like any good bibliophile, I’m always wishing for more time and more focus.
That said, before we charge onward into 2020, below are just some of the incredible books I loved this year.
Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz. To put it bluntly, this thing effed me right the eff up. It’s the brutal gay merperson + ailing sibling mashup of your dreams (or more accurately, your nightmares) and I hung on every word.
The Fever King by Victoria Lee should be read with extreme caution, as it deals with very heavy topics, but it absolutely should be read. The pacing is exquisite, and Noam and Dara got under my skin like so many stubborn splinters.
Lord of the Last Heartbeat by May Peterson. This debut satisfied my flowy prose requirement for a good six months. It’s pretty much a revelation; a study of worldbuilding in tight quarters. Rhodry + Mio 4ever.
Raze by Roan Parrish. Has a Roan Parrish book ever before been the *least* angsty inclusion on a list? Methinks not – but as her work goes, this is a fairly easy (though no less beautiful) examination of love, self worth and redemption. A must-read.
Heartsong by TJ Klune. I do believe Mr. Klune would take it as a compliment when I say he is a jerk for writing this sucker. How dare he?! You can’t just rip our Green Creek hearts out of our chests in book 3, throw them across the constraints of time itself, and then sit back to smugly watch the destruction! Spoiler: He can, and he did. *crying emoji*
Too Much Is Not Enough by Andrew Rannells. This is a wonderful and moving memoir that follows the author from Omaha, Nebraska to the bright lights of Broadway/Hollywood. It’s told with wit and self-deprecating warmth; the perfect break when you’re feeling tired of fiction.
How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones. While technically in the same genre as the title above, this couldn’t be more of a different story: that of a Black queer boy in the deep South, the astonishing things that happen to him, and the frankly unquantifiable ways in which he deals with and ultimately escapes them.
Spellbound by Allie Therin. I just loved this Prohibition-era fantasy romance between (yes!) a grumpy but magical homebody and the extremely charming sunshine human who recruits him for a mission. The supporting characters are also interesting and well written.
Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this book since I read it months ago. It was terrifying and exhilarating, and the tension builds up on a *razor* thin wire. Phewwww. Prepare to have your mind blown.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett. A book about an HIV-positive teen girl! And she’s Black! And queer! I mean! (Seriously, though, this was so funny, different, and important. Ms. Garrett is going to be a star.)
The Dreamers series by Adriana Herrera, the Not Dead Yet series by Jenn Burke, Oz by Lily Morton, Clean Break by Erin McLellan, Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.
Favorites of the Year Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Adriana Herrera Aidan Wayne Allie Therin Andrew Rannells Anna Zabo Avon Gale Becky Albertalli Camryn Garrett Casey McQuiston Cat Sebastian Felicia Davin Gregory Ashe Hannah Moskowitz Holley Trent Jack Harbon Jenn Burke Julian Winters L.C. Rosen Mackenzi Lee May Peterson Roan Parrish Ryan LaSala Saeed Jones Sierra Simone TJ Klune Victoria Lee Zack Smedley