As the year comes to an end, I asked our regular bloggers to pick two books for 2019 — their favourite book published this year, and the best book from the past that they read in 2019. Read the first post in the series.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
The 2019 release that stole my heart is Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House! A good murder mystery, secret societies, occult rituals, and a young woman trying her hardest to survive in a world making that nearly impossible — what else could you need? Bardugo’s writing is visceral, powerful and haunting and this story will stay with me for a long time.
I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman
An oldie but goodie that took the spotlight is Alice Oseman’s I Was Born for This — an in-depth look into the fantastical world of celebrity culture, boy bands and fangirls. Nobody understands today’s teens quite the way Oseman does and her book is a testament to that. Raw, powerful and honest, I’ll be recommending this for a long time.
Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow
I have to admit that I judged this book by the cover before I even had a look at the blurb on the back: it’s a tapestry of colours with a fantastic title and before I knew it, I had bought the book. Imagine my delight when the story delivered on the promise of its packaging, and then some: a wonderfully immersive story with a strong believable heroine. Starting us off in early 20th century America, we follow January, a young girl of mysterious origins, as she navigates her socially constricting (i.e. in a racist and class-divided society) upbringing under the guidance of a wealthy bene(?)factor. Her freedom as a young woman and answers to the questions of her origin are provided by her unique talent of finding and opening doors — doors to different worlds… Rich, vivid, scintillating story telling at its best. I can’t wait to see what Harrow will do next!
Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series by Tad Williams
The first major modern redefinition of the epic fantasy genre since Tolkien. Yes, at first glance Tolkien is all over this: an ancient evil, dragons, elves, fallen kings, trolls, epic battles and the inevitable everyday-man/kitchen-boy-turned-hero. But Williams then takes all that and infuses it with new life. In parts, he subverts old tropes that you think you know from masters like Tolkien; in parts he enhances them, modernizes them, plays with them, interweaves them. For me it’s a comforting read, because he draws on the familiar of our world (Vikings, Celts and many more) and on the familiar of worlds created by authors before him: it feels like coming home. At the same time, it is an entirely new adventure with a whole new mythology and incredibly real characters. Watch out for Williams’ new trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard, and find out how Osten Ard and its people have fared since the events in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.