April 6, 2020

A Year of Book Picks #1: 2019

I decided to embark on a 'side quest' reading journey last year just for fun where I read books chosen by some of my favorite people. It ended up being a lot of fun! I got to cross (some) books off my TBR list, and get some of my loved ones (particularly the irregular readers) involved in my reading life in a concrete way. 

I wanted to share the full list of books I ended up reading last year, as well as shouting out the folks who picked them. I meant for this post to go up at the beginning of the air, but better late than never, right? Without further ado, here are the twelve books choices that I read last year.

JANUARY: I didn't technically consult Kristin until after I'd decided to start The Name of the Wind. But she had been recommending I read this title for years, and I knew she'd approve of this pick (and can confirm that she did)! This adult fantasy novel is all about Kvothe, a talented young man turned innkeeper who agrees to tell the story of his life to a chronicler. I devoured it so quickly (and also read book two later in the year), and have now joined the many fans in the wait for the third and final installment of the series. Check out my full review!

FEBRUARY: I gave Rachel a few options from my actual TBR, and she wound up going with Roar. This YA fantasy novel centers around Aurora, a young woman who has been groomed all her life to be a queen... except for the pesky fact that she doesn't have any trace of the storm magic she needs to protect her kingdom. Her solutions seem to come in the form of an arranged marriage to a  Stormling prince, but things change when she encounters storm hunters and learns there is a third option: she can steal magic and make it her own. I wound up really enjoying this story! The characters and the plot were solid; it was actually the lore (especially the magic) I enjoyed most.

MARCH: From the options I gave DJ, he ended up picking A Crown of Wishes. This is the companion novel to The Star-Touched Queen, following the story of Gauri and Vikram as they team up to compete in the Tournament of Wishes with the hopes of being victorious at claiming the wish promised to the winner. I liked the first book in this series, but thought it was a touch too flowery for my personal tastes. This one, on the other hand, worked well for me! I loved the characters, enjoyed being back in this world and really liked the plot (because I'm a sucker for tournament tales). 

APRIL: When I asked Hannah to pick a book for me to read, she chose The Winner's Kiss. The trilogy centers around a young woman named Kestrel, who winds up purchasing a slave named Arin at the market one day. The two have a tumultuous relationship, as Kestrel belongs to the conquering race of warriors and Arin happens to be a part of the rebellion. I'm so glad this was a satisfying end to the series! It felt really good to see exactly how things turned out for these two characters, and it felt like the right ending for the series.

MAY: Kelly was the first person to pick two books for me to read. It was a sensible choice, as Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares read like one long, full narrative. The series revolves around Lazlo Strange, a young librarian who has been learning all he can about a city called Weep and whose life is changed forever when he gets the opportunity to travel to this city. This was a series I'd been meaning to read for ages and I'm happy that I can finally say I did! I'm glad I ended up reading both books back to back, as it made the reading experience richer. The pacing meanders and the writing is flowery, but I still found myself swept up in the story. Check out my series review!

JUNE: I have no idea why it took me so dang long to read The Raven King, but I am so happy that Jane (who is one of the biggest Raven Cycle fans I know) chose this series finale for me to read. I ended up rereading all the other books in the series prior to diving into this one, and it was so worth it. The series centers around a group of friends - Gansey, Ronan, Adam, Noah and Blue - who wind up teaming up to find the sleeping king Glendowr. It's magical and weird and wonderful and so very Stiefvater, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how everything ends. Like the majority of readers, the finale isn't necessarily my favorite book of the series. There are elements to it that didn't fit quite as well with the rest of the story, in my opinion. But overall, I liked it a lot and I'm so glad I can finally cross it off my TBR list!

JULY: I had a feeling Lili would end up picking one of the Schwab books on my TBR list, and I'm happy she picked A Darker Shade of Magic. (I have since read the rest of the series, and really, really enjoyed it!) This is the story of a young man named Kell, an Antari who can travel between the four different Londons of this world. When an artifact he is meant to smuggle on his journey is stolen by the thief Delilah Bard, Kell finds himself inadvertently involved in a very troublesome series of events that could spell trouble for the London he calls home. It took a couple of chapters before I got into the flow of the story, but I was so entertained for the rest of the novel. It was fun and action-packed, and I really enjoyed all the characters too!

AUGUST: Macky is the one who convinced me to read Kushiel's Dart back in the day, and it seemed natural that he would pick out the remaining two books in Phedre's Trilogy - Kushiel's Chosen and Kushiel's Avatar. I'd been intimidated at the idea of reading these novels because the first one, even though it's a favorite for me, was long and a bit dense and it took me a while to read the whole thing. But I really shouldn't have been worried! The next two books fully swept me up the way the first one did, and I was hooked on discovering what would happen next to Phedre and her friends. This series is absolutely brilliant in its depiction of Phedre's journey, and I adore it. Check out my series review!

SEPTEMBER: The Goldfinch is not necessarily a novel I would have chosen to read immediately, as I'm always curious about stories in this genre but not enough to commit. But when my cousin Carmela picks something for me to read, I generally tend to listen!  The novel is about Theo Decker, a thirteen year old kid who survives a museum attack with a very valuable painting in his possession, and just follows him throughout his life into adulthood. Now, the interesting part of this particularly experimental (for me) choice is that I actually liked the novel for the most part. Even though there are many poor choices and terrible circumstances, and though the main character isn't always likable, I found the story to be interesting in the way it was a pretty in-depth character study.

OCTOBER: My sister Mel also tends to read things that are out of my wheelhouse, and Where the Crawdads Sing is no exception. I had seen all the buzz about this novel online and was curious, so it worked out pretty well! This is the story of Kya Clark, the "Marsh girl" on trial for a murder of a beloved member of the small town she lives close to. The setting is absolutely my favorite part of the story, as I felt very grounded in the marsh and coastal areas with the author's descriptions. The story and the characters were solid, but not particularly memorable for me as a reader. Even though it's not a new favorite, I'm still glad that I was able to check it out!

NOVEMBER: My sister Rachel is the biggest non-fiction reader of our trio, and she ended up picking out a book that had impacted her a lot when she read it a few years ago: The Crossroads of Should and Must. This is a lovely, colorful hand-lettered book that challenges readers to confront the crossroads of should and must in their lives, and includes the author's own personal reflections on her experience. I liked the fact that this confirmed a lot of my own lines of thinking, and felt encouraged by the author's attitude in the book. It's now one of the books I'm adding to my list of the books that I feel could be gifted (and useful) to just about any reader!

DECEMBER: Lauren rounded off my reading year for this experiment by picking a second V.E. Schwab novel - Vicious. This is the story told in two timelines: 1) two best friends Victor and Eli are trying to figure out how to create an ExtraOrdinary (a person with special abilities like a superhero) and 2) Victor is now trying to hunt Eli down and exact his revenge for something Eli did. It read very much like an action-packed sci-fi film, and I was here for it! The chapters were short, and the alternating narratives took a little getting used to. But once it all clicked together, I flew through this story! I appreciated how Schwab was able to really give me a sense of both the characters and the world with absolute brevity in her chapters, and am glad I finally read this very popular book.

I'm so glad I wound up embarking on this particular reading side quest last year! It was really fun to read books that had been picked out for me by people I trust, and to be able to discuss it with them when I finished. I'm actually in the process of doing it again for 2020, but you'll have to wait until next year to see what books were chosen! In any case, if you have a book recommendation for me, please feel free to leave a comment! Or if you've read a book someone recommended to you recently and enjoyed it, I'd love to hear about it.


  1. I love that you're calling this a side quest, and I'm so glad I got to pick a book for you that ended up loving! It's fun to see what everyone chose for you!


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