We present our list of the Top 10 Best Books of 2019.
Top 10: A Darker Shade of Magic (V. E. Schwab)
Geek Score: 2.85/5.00
“The stone, my rose.” Astrid’s soultry tone poured between Rhy’s lips “Where is it?”
“What do you want with it?” Kell growled as the two guards dragged him to his feet.
“To take the throne, of course.”
“You already have a throne,” observed Kell.
“In a dying London. And do you know why it dies? Because of this city and it’s cowardly retreat. It thrives while we perish. “Chapter 11-4 Masquerade
There are three Londons. Grey London, a city without magic, Red London where magic and life are revered, and White London, a city slowly being drained of life. “A Darker Shade of Magic” is the first book of the three-book series featuring Kell, the only magician who can travel between three Londons. One night, he stumbles into a setup with a forbidden token from a forgotten city: Black London. The doors between the three separate cities are closed long ago, but there is a scheme to open it, and only Kell has the ability to stop it.
The magic here is next level Harry Potter magic. While as a Potter fan, I do not agree with the other techniques of wizardry here, V.E. Schwab has written a captivating story of a world filled with magic. The details are astonishing but the words woven in its pages are nothing short of magical.
Top 9: The Trials of Apollo: The Tyrant’s Tomb (Rick Riordan)
Geek Score: 2.96/5.00
Frank raised his piece of firewood to Caligula’s face. The emperor fought and trashed, but Frank was stronger–drawing, I suspected, on everything that remained f his mortal life.
“If I’m going to burn, I might as well burn bright,” he said. “This is for Jason.”
It’s not easy being Apollo, especially when you’ve been turned into a human and banished from Olympus. On his path to restoring five ancient oracles and reclaiming his godly powers, Apollo (aka Lester Papadopoulos) has faced both triumphs and tragedies. Now his journey takes him to Camp Jupiter in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Roman demigods are preparing for a desperate last stand against the evil Triumvirate of Roman emperors. Hazel, Reyna, Frank, Tyson, Ella, and many other old friends will need Apollo’s aid to survive the onslaught. Unfortunately, the answer to their salvation lies in the forgotten tomb of a Roman ruler . . . someone even worse than the emperors Apollo has already faced.
The fourth book of the Trials of Apollo series has a much more clearer narrative and interesting story than the last one. Lester here is funnier, and the battles are much more captivating. The trivia regarding Greek gods and how Riordan wove them into his story is, as usual, amazingly superb and that’s what makes this book special. And of course there’s the Arrow of Dodona and some singing.
Top 8: Emporium (Adam Johnson)
Geek Score: 3.04/5.00
“I’m a Cancer, you know,” I tell her. “So it’s hard for me to talk. And I have all these weird dreams, not the ones with the Sony Girls – ha-ha – but mostly where I mow the lawn. Sometimes I just wash the car, like Gupta! But there’s this voice in my head, and Lt. Kim thinks that once we get it to go away, I’ll stop worrying that the good things in life are destined to fail, like you and me. But I’m up in this satellite dish, and I’m thinking: what if this is the voice that still believes things can be okay, that believes in good and warns me from bad? It wants to protect me, just like the United Nations.”
There is something familiar with Johnson’s stories that I could relate to, and somehow eases my sadness. One of the stories, “The Canadanaut”, about a group of scientists tasked to stop Russia from invading space, left me with a sense of emptiness but a pride for the surviving character. “The Jughead of Berlin” is another sad story of a drunk pilot but the odd familiarity of the setting made me think of home in some way.
The sadness and emptiness of the stories are apparent in each of the pages, as well as, the quirky humor of the author. I didn’t like science fiction books and this is not one of them, but in this world Johnson created, it seems like it: the imaginary places, the odd jobs of teenagers, the technology.
Top 7: A Thousand Boy Kisses (Tillie Cole)
Geek Score: 3.05/5.00
Rune’s pupils had all but consumed his crystal-blue irises. “No! Stand right here. Stand right here and tell me.” He took in a long breath, and, losing all control, he shouted, “Tell me why the hell you left me all alone!”
“Who are you right now?” I glanced down at his fingers, still around my wrist. Feeling my throat close, I said, “Where is the boy I love?” Risking one more look at his face, I whispered, “Where is my Rune?”
“You want to know where that boy went?” I swallowed as he searched every part of my face—every feature but my eyes. “You want to know where your Rune went?” His lip curled in disgust. As if my Rune was someone unworthy. As if my Rune wasn’t worth all the love that I had for him.
Leaning in, he met my eyes, his stare so severe that shivers darted down my spine. Harshly, he whispered, “That Rune died when you left him all alone.”
One kiss lasts a moment. But a thousand kisses can last a lifetime. One boy. One girl. A bond that is forged in an instant and cherished for a decade. A bond that neither time nor distance can break. A bond that will last forever. Or so they believe.
When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind. Why did the girl who was one half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation? Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent. When he discovers the truth that Poppy is dying, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.
There was a slow build-up in the first few chapters and the lines are cheesy as expected in YA novels. The lines are lacking depth, I felt it was targeting to be the next “A Walk to Remember” but the wisdom part did not move me. However, the story was captivating and will keep your interest until the end. I am a fan of Poppy and Rune.
Top 6: Girls of Paper and Fire (Natasha Ngan)
Geek Score: 3.23/5.00
I recall Mama’s saying: Light in, darkness out.
Perhaps it works another way, too.
Fire in, fear out.
“Let me help,” I say steadily. I take a step forward. “You’re going to kill the King, and I’m going to help you do it.”
Wren tenses. “I told you the other night. No.”
“Yes.” I close the distance between us, my fingers sliding between hers. “When the world denies you choices,” I say, echoing her words to me that night in the rain-filled garden all those weeks ago, “you make your own.”
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire. Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara, the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest to be one of his Paper Girls. Inside the palace, an explosive plot threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
A unique read, and a special story with enough depth that will make it stand out. Natasha Ngan’s “Girls of Paper and Fire” is a brave take of our modern world woven into a mythical one as it delves into issues of what we as people are facing now. One thing that this book teaches us is that we need to make choices, as we look ahead to the future. What wind kind of world do you want to have?
Top 5: Verity (Colleen Hoover)
Geek Score: 3.88/5.00
“I don’t regret writing it because my only intention was to eventually help other writers, but I do regret writing about Harper’s death just days after it happened. My mind was in such a dark space though, and sometimes, as a writer, the only way to clear your mind is to let the darkness spill out onto a keyboard. It was my therapy, no matter how hard that may be for you to understand.
“Besides, I never thought you would read it. Beyond that first manuscript, you never read anything I wrote.
“So why…why did you choose to read that one? “
“Verity” is about struggling writer Lowen Ashleigh who accepts the offer to become a ghostwriter and complete the remaining books in a successful series of bestselling author Verity Crawford, who sustained an injury and is unable to finish it. Arriving at Verity’s home, she meets the author’s husband Lowen. They had this forbidden relationship as expected with a man and a woman alone in a huge house, but the catch here is that Lowen discovered Verity’s diary and the secrets written on it will upturn her and Lowen’s world. This is a romance novel made deep by discussions of psychological philosophies, ethics, and relationships. This book will drive you nuts, who is the villain in this story, and how do we define that word?
Top 4: The Future of Us (Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher)
Geek Score: 3.96/5.00
For about twenty seconds, my monitor freezes. Then the white box snaps into a tiny blue dot and a new webpage fades in. It has a blue banner running across the top that says “Facebook.”
Then, just under the blue banner, something makes me shiver. Next to a small picture of a woman sitting on a beach, it says “Emma Nelson Jones.” The woman is in her thirties with curly brown hair and brown eyes. My stomach tingles because this woman looks familiar.Too familiar.
It says Emma Nelson Jones went to Lake Forest High School. She’s married to someone named Jordan Jones Jr. and was born on July 24. She doesn’t list the year, but July 24 is my birthday.
It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma discovered Facebook online. The social networking site made them glimpse their future. As they live their lives to conform to what the site tells them they would become, they ended up changing both their present and their future. Millennials will feel nostalgic about the technology of the ’90s with this book. The concept is not new but there’s something cool about making Facebook as central to the story, using the social networking site to show that our actions in the present affect our future.
Bronze Award: Picture Us in the Light (Kelly Loy Gilbert)
Geek Score: 4.09/5.00
He hooks his leg over mine and then, without warning, rolls over so he’s pinning me against the ground. I can feel his heart beating against mine, which means, probably, that he felt it when mine picked up. He grins in my face.
“Get off me,” I say. My voice comes out kind of squeaky. I move feebly underneath him, not enough to actually shake him off.
“I’m trying to open up here and share my genuine fears and you’re just brushing me off. You’re probably going to get to RISD and find a new best friend, huh? Just replace me?”
I am hyperaware of every centimeter of him against me. And at the same time my mind is a raging mess of color and chaotic form, a Jackson Pollock painting splashed across the whole thing. I manage, “No.” Then he rolls off me.
I’m out of breath. What am I supposed to make of that?
Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there’s much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined.
The chronology of this story was a bit of a headache at first, but the way the story of Danny and his family was unveiled made this book a compelling read. I know the focus was Danny’s family but the slow buildup of his relationship with Harry was frustrating, I mean come on Harry, just say it! “Picture Us in the Light” is a heartbreaking story of a family torn by tragedy and how it affects the ordinary life of a boy who was left in the dark to protect him from harm.
Silver Award: History is All You Left Me (Adam Silvera)
Geek Score: 4.45/5.00
I was standing a minute ago, rocking back and forth, crying for my favorite person to bust out of the casket and hug me. I look up, and Jackson’s eyes find mine. For a second, it almost feels like we’re about to race into the hole to join you. Being buried alive has got to be better than whatever comes next.
This is the moment of the end. This is where we give up hope on reversing time, where we abandon finding a cure to death, where we live in this Theo-less universe, where we say goodbye.
But I can’t. It is goodbye for most, but not for me. Never me.
Author Adam Silvera packs a powerful emotional punch in this multilayered story told partly in flashbacks by Griffin, who’s mourning the sudden death of his best friend and first love, Theo. Griff’s narrative, addressed to Theo, goes back and forth between the past and present, echoing the alternate universes that they used to ponder.
Beyond the story of Griffin and Theo, “History is All You Left Me,” is about making peace with the past. While people couldn’t have an awesome story that Griffin had with Theo, his musings towards making sense of what happened will guide readers experiencing, in one way or another, the same challenges he faced. With a hope that Griffin’s journey will help you along the way.
Best Book of 2019: The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris)
Geek Score: 4.52/5.00
The train stops again. It is pitch-black; clouds block out the moon and stars completely. Does the dark portend their future? Things are as they are. What I can see, feel, hear and smell right now. He sees only men like himself, young and on a journey into the unknown.
It was World War II. In 1942, Lale Sokolov’s story began as he rides inside a cattle train, a ride that will take him to Auschwitz-Birkenau, a concentration camp that was a witness to the worst and the best of humankind.
There are stronger stories about the holocaust and the fact that it was not written by the narrator and it was turned as a non-fiction take a toll on the overall feel of the story, but genuine desire of Lale to tell the world the horrors of his experience makes the book a powerful novel.