Top Five Books of 2019

It is, once again, time for the Top Five Books of the year list. This one has been especially difficult to figure out, since many of the books I have read over the course of 2019 were in a set of series and I don’t particularly feel like putting in more than one book for each.

However, I have managed to make a list I’m satisfied with, and I’m sure I will have my fair share of fun in discussing the novels in question.

5: Cress by Marissa Meyer

After reading Meyer’s Renegades last year, I was curious to see what her other series was like. I ended up getting the boxed set for The Lunar Chronicles that Christmas, so early on I had the whole series read (except for the spin-off and the set of short stories, which are still on my currently very long reading list).

Cress is the third book in the series, but I have put it here because, as far as I can recall, it was my favourite out of the four. Although, Scarlet is a strong contender. Maybe it had something to do with the titular character, or the rising stakes, or the period where Cress and Thorne were stumbling around in a dessert. Whatever the case, I found it to be an enjoyable read.

Fractured fairy tales have been popular for a while now, and Meyer hits the mark on that. The science fiction take is extremely interesting, and I liked the world building involved, even if it felt a little heavy in the first book since she was getting the setting established.

I think I enjoyed Renegades more than these books, but I can’t say whether that is because of personal preference, Meyer developing as an author, or it simply being the first novel by her that I read. Overall, though, The Lunar Chronicles is quite an entertaining series, even if the characters go through a fair amount of torture. Then again, how many books have you read where the characters didn’t have to go through a fair amount of torture?

4: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Here is the sequel to last year’s first place book-and it definitely did not disappoint. This addition to the Six of Crows duology is full of the same fascinating world building, witty banter, and intriguing characters as its predecessor. I’m not a fan of Jan Van Eck, but if you have read the books then you know that it’s probably for the best.

While Bardugo’s work didn’t rank as high on the list as last year, I still found Crooked Kingdom to be a great read. It was much more centered in Ketterdam, the fictional city of Kerch, and in turn the readers get to see even more gang operation and scheming. Which isn’t to say that many of those schemes didn’t go horribly wrong, because for the sake of plot they certainly did.

Not all of the characters receive a wonderful ending, but this doesn’t make it a downer, depending on the parts you emphasize. The protagonist by the name of Inej Ghafa had a rather nice one, in fact, and even before that the part where she was reunited with the rest of the “crows” got a smile out of me.

Unfortunately, because I hadn’t read the original Grishaverse series at that point, I was at least a little confused when characters from said series appeared. During the summer season, however, I got around to reading the Siege and Storm trilogy, which were also a good set of books. It could be the same case as Marissa Meyer and I like Six of Crows better because I read that one first, but it does seem like Bardugo has improved as a writer from when she wrote that first novel. I’m only a little bitter that a line calling the protagonist of the trilogy a martyr in this book made me convinced that she was going to die at the end.

This duology reads like a bit of a rougher fantasy, with criminals and heists and a good amount of morally questionable characters, and it makes it overall very entertaining. Now all I have to do is get through rereading it so I can actually read King of Scars which has been sitting on my desk for months.

3: Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Is it really a top five list if I don’t include Terry Pratchett? I also reread Going Postal in the past year, but I ranked that as the top spot in 2017 and I should maybe give other books a chance. That isn’t to say that Reaper Man does not deserve its place on the list.

Pratchett is talented in taking well known tropes (or something seemingly mundane, as seen in the Moist von Lipwig series) and twisting them to his liking. You don’t generally think of the personification of death in overalls as pictured above. This is the kind of thing that really gives the novel its flavour-that and, of course, the sentient shopping mall karts.

To summarize it in a way that doesn’t make it sound entirely outrageous: Death goes “missing” and this means that no one on the Discworld is actually dying. So, you have people like Windle Poons who tries to throw himself into the River Ankh to get the bloody job done already (it doesn’t work), wizards investigating snow globes, and Death learning the ins and outs of agriculture.

I suppose I failed in making any of that sound sensible. There probably wasn’t a good chance of that in the first place.

Nevertheless, Reaper Man continues to showcase Pratchett’s unique sense of humour and ability to write some of the oddest lines. He and Douglas Adams throw me for a loop, but in a good way. If you can get past the giant mall that tries to take over the city, it is a thoroughly enjoyable book.

2: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

Technically speaking, this is another book that includes Terry Pratchett, but I couldn’t very well leave it out and Neil Gaiman contributed just as much. The mini series for this novel came out last year, and I had to read the book before we could watch it, which has resulted in it coming up very high on the list.

Good Omens features an angel and a demon who must work together to locate the antichrist and prevent the oncoming apocalypse. There was a minor problem with this plan, however, because due to an elaborate switcheroo during his birth, they had the wrong kid for eleven years. It may have been a little embarrassing.

Gaiman and Pratchett have an intriguing plot, a myriad of characters with hilarious dynamics, and of course the novel will fight tooth and nail to make you laugh. There was the thing with the maggots, however. It could definitely use less maggots.

This story is delightfully weird and fairly fast paced, and I enjoyed reading it a lot. The TV show was also very good (although it, too, could prosper from a little less maggots).

1: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Last, but far from least, is Megan Whalen Turner’s The King of Attolia. Funnily enough, I originally found this series while trying to figure out a title for one of my stories, Thief. I was curious as to whether any published books shared that name (given that it’s quite simple), and The Queen’s Thief series was the result. I’m glad that small moment of serendipity led me to her books.

This is the third novel in the series, and it introduces Costis, a poor guard who will forever have readers’ sympathy for having to deal with Eugenides the way he does. It is difficult to really explain the plot, however, without the background of the previous two books. More so without huge spoilers.

I can say this, though: these books are credited for their political machinations, world building, and twists. Rightfully so, because it reads like one huge puzzle. Turner makes it highly descriptive and immersive, and the novels keep you on your toes since they can be a bit tricky. Throw in the fantasy setting and a bit of good old fashioned Costis exasperation, and The King of Attolia makes for a great book.

I do truly like this series a lot, and I think it deserves its ranking for 2019. I’m looking forward to the final addition to the series, which you can probably assume will make it onto the next list by the end of the year.

Honourable mentions: Going Postal by Terry Pratchett, Siege and Storm trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, The Stranger by Albert Camus, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, the rest of The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, and the rest of The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner.

Back From the Dead

You are standing in the middle of a cemetery. It’s currently midnight, fog is rolling through, and a wolf howls in the distance just to get the feel of the thing. You’re there to pay respects, perhaps. To visit a long dead friend or family member.

You are just about to leave when you hear a strange noise from a nearby grave. Because there is no ‘you’, and only a vague character whose purpose is to forward the plot, you approach the noise with no sense of fear or questioning. The dirt shifts. The ground beneath your feet begins to rumble. Thunder and lightning crash. Then, a hand (decayed and green and not very pleasant at all) strikes up, and proceeds to pull out the rest of its accompanying body.

Instead of immediately going for your brains, the zombie pulls a laptop out of its grave and grunts as it leans against the stone. You hear the sound of typing, and watch as it takes no notice of you.

“Hello?” you say, because there’s not much else to do about it.

The zombie looks up, surprised. “Oh. Hello.” Then it looks back at the screen.

There’s a pause.

“Aren’t you supposed to be dead?” you add.

“Hey, leave me alone, can’t you see I’m blogging here?”

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen and the general void of the Internet. This blog is back from the dead – or, more accurately, what seems to have been a year long hiatus. However, the posts on here should become fairly more regular now.

For Lent this year, I will be working every day on this blog. I’ll probably try and get out a new post each time, but it may also end up as editing occurring on certain days or other behind the scenes work. It’s meant to act as some type of self improvement (and perhaps enact more discipline then, say, a year long hiatus).

So, in the following weeks there will be excerpts, musings, a new five books of the year post, and more. Although, there won’t be any more ridiculous zombie stories, I promise.