This Year In Review: An Introduction
2019 has come to an end, and it was honestly one of the most stable years of my life. I had the same job and lived in the same place for all of 2019, which is not something I could say of the previous few years. I did have some struggles with my health, mainly in the form of relentless fatigue. In July, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and started sleeping with a CPAP machine . This has helped me greatly. I also have a thyroid disorder that I was diagnosed with in 2013. I had a lot of struggles related to that. On the plus side, I’m finally starting to get settled into my home for two years, Columbus, Ohio, and am finally making friends here, as well as going out more when my health permits. I also.rediscovered my love of reading. I wouldn’t say I read a lot, but I read a fair number of books, and decided I wanted to do a list of the books that really stood out to me this year. Please note these are books I read in 2019, and not necessarily books that came out in 2019.
Books I Enjoyed This Year: A short list
An Amazon Best Book of the Month! A captivating and powerful exploration of the opioid crisis—the deadliest drug epidemic in American history—through the eyes of a college-bound softball star. Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a visceral and necessary novel about addiction, family, friendship, and hope.
When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get there.
The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good.
With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue.
But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.
This is probably the weakest book on this list. I do have to confess though, I have a huge soft spot for it. Heroine details a teenager spiraling into drug addiction in a compelling and interesting narrative. My only real complaint is the characters are a little underwhelming compared to other books on the list. That said, they were still fascinatingly flawed characters that I really enjoyed. One plus side for me is this book is set in Ohio. There were so many references that I picked up on. This is not what I call an easy read, and goes some very dark places. However, if you like dark books (I do!) I can definitely recommend this one.
Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead.
Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.
A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.
But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.
Like Heroine, this is one of the weaker books on the list, however, I still really enjoyed it.This book is definitely a slow burn up until 66% point, upon which the twist happens. This twist is incredibly good, and it is one that I absolutely did not see coming. I don’t blame anyone who isn’t able to make it to that point–personally I nearly dropped it–but the payoff is so worth it.
Recently separated Toby Fleishman is suddenly, somehow–and at age forty-one, short as ever–surrounded by women who want him: women who are self-actualized, women who are smart and interesting, women who don’t mind his height, women who are eager to take him for a test drive with just the swipe of an app. Toby doesn’t mind being used in this way; it’s a welcome change from the thirteen years he spent as a married man, the thirteen years of emotional neglect and contempt he’s just endured. Anthropologically speaking, it’s like nothing he ever experienced before, particularly back in the 1990s, when he first began dating and became used to swimming in the murky waters of rejection.
But Toby’s new life–liver specialist by day, kids every other weekend, rabid somewhat anonymous sex at night–is interrupted when his ex-wife suddenly disappears. Either on a vision quest or a nervous breakdown, Toby doesn’t know–she won’t answer his texts or calls.
Is Toby’s ex just angry, like always? Is she punishing him, yet again, for not being the bread winner she was? As he desperately searches for her while juggling his job and parenting their two unraveling children, Toby is forced to reckon with the real reasons his marriage fell apart, and to ask if the story he has been telling himself all this time is true
Fleishman Is In Trouble seems like one sort of story, but in reality is three completely different types of stories. The most apt comparison I can think of is to Gone Girl, although the tone in this book is much more light-hearted and whimsical. Don’t be fooled though, this book will absolutely punch you in the gut. I have a really hard time with most literary fiction as allegories and metaphors usually go right over my head, but I still got a lot out of mileage out of this.
There are so many ways the world could end. There could be a fire. A catastrophic flood. A super eruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one. What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen.
Despite Ellis’s anxiety — about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of her loved ones — the two girls become fast friends. As Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, she learns there are secrets Hannah isn’t telling her. But with time ticking down, the search for answers only raises more questions. When does it happen? Who will believe them? How do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?
Katie Henry, the author of Heretics Anonymous, delivers an engrossing and thoughtful tale about how people survive — with some faith in family, friends, and maybe a few prepper forums.
I discovered author Katie Henry this year, and she’s become one of my favorite authors. I love this book’s depiction of mental illness, as it has one of the most accurate examples of intrusive thoughts that I’ve seen in a YA novel. Katie Henry also does a fantastic job of examining religion against the backdrop of the modern world, as her young adult character comes to terms with the role it plays in her life. While I do think the characters of Heretics Anonymous were better developed, the characters in this book are still fun and delightful. This book is not afraid to explore some tricky dynamics between Ellis and her family, especially that of her mother. It also deals with the stigma against homeless people, which I’ve never really seen before in YA novel. Overall, a very satisfying read.
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.
Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.
Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.
I apparently, despite being white as fuck, am a sucker for stories about someone reclaiming their cultural heritage. Which is was Darius The Great is Not Okay seems like on the surface, but in truth, it’s so much more. It’s a story of friendship, of family, of finding your sense of identity, of living with mental illness, and a love letter to both tea and Iran. I enjoyed this book a bunch, and am very excited for the sequel, Darius the Great Deserves Better, coming out in 2020!
A half-Japanese teen grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school in this debut novel.
Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.
But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.
From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.
Starfish is a lot like Darius the Great. It’s a story about reclaiming heritage, about finding one’s sense of self, dealing with mental illness and about family and friendship. The big difference is in this story, the main character comes from a family where the relationships are strained, and the mother is abusive. This book deals with some very dark subject matter, but the story handles it with finesse and grace, and manages to end on an uplifting note. This is definitely my pick for my favorite book of the year.
And that’s it! I’m definitely hoping to consume and write about more media in 2020. Hopefully, I will watch more movies, play more video games, read more books, and all that jazz. We’ll see how that works! For now this is me, signing off until next time.