Bookshine’s Best Reads of 2019 – Part 1

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Another amazing reading year! I feel so incredibly lucky to be part of the book blogging community and to have made contacts with authors, bloggers and blog tour organisers that have all introduced to me to a wealth of literary riches this year.

There have been far too many excellent books to limit myself to a top five or ten, so I have picked a top book for each month out of those I reviewed in 2019 (regardless of when they were published).  I’ve also got a couple of special mentions along the way!

As usual, this list is fantasy heavy, because, well… personal preference!  It is my blog, after all! *shrugs unapologetically*

 

Starting off from my January 2019 reviews is:  Changeling by Matt Wesolowski.

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I have Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours and Orenda Books to thank for my introduction to Matt Wesolowski, as I read this book for a blog tour at the beginning of the year.

With the unusual, radio-interview format and insidiously creepy content, this quick read stayed with me long after I laid it down.  I particularly enjoyed the way that different possibilities and perspectives are presented, leaving the reader to bring their own interpretations to the table.

If you like dark fantasy and haven’t yet checked out any of the Six Stories series then you are in for a treat!

Amazon link:  Changeling

 

Another blog tour pick in February, this time from Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources:  Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary.

Street Cat book cover

This is a clever cosy mystery with a brilliantly-conceived hook… the sleuth is a cat!  Aubrey sticks to recognisable feline behaviours, but employs that infamous curiosity to attempt to solve a neighbourhood murder.  The reader just has to hope it doesn’t end proverbially for him.

Alison O’Leary pulls this off perfectly and I can definitely see potential for a long-running Aubrey series… he’s just too clever a character to leave as a one-off!

Amazon link:  Street Cat Blues

 

March brought me a NetGalley pick from Shadow Mountain PublishingA Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore.

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This middle grade-to-teen book is something a bit out of the ordinary.

The main character, Sophie, deals with a facial difference by turning everything and everyone into something from her Big Book of Monsters.  As she struggles to deal with bullying and family life, her grasp of what is real and what is fairytale becomes increasingly muddled and her coping mechanism starts to look more like a curse.

The issues dealt with here are serious and weighty, and I definitely cried a couple of times, but the author skillfully leavens the sadness with humour and whimsy, creating a modern fairytale of hope and acceptance.

Amazon link:  A Monster Like Me

 

Another NetGalley pick from April, this time from Harper Collins UK:  Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton.

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This is a collection of six short sci-fi stories, taking the reader on a gradual progression from the near to distant future.

The author explores themes of humanity, consent, freedom and morality in relation to genetic manipulation and synthetic enhancement/modification in these beautiful, horrifyingly plausible stories.

Each story has a different tone and content, but they are all equally enjoyable – not a bad one among them – and they are neatly tied together by a certain recurring character whose moral compass is dubiously changeable, to say the least!

Recommended for sci-fi fans, or anyone looking for well-written, entertaining short fiction.

Amazon link:  Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful

 

May brought me an excellent new indie author to follow with Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams.

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The Ordshaw series is a blend of fantasy and horror with some excellent worldbuilding and very prickly characters!

It didn’t take long for Pax and co. to grow on me, and the various monsters that live ‘under Ordshaw’ are impossible for me to unsee with my mind’s eye.

You can expect a mixture of reluctant heroes, officious authority figures, videogame endboss monstrosities and tiny, but incredibly violent fae folk.  What’s not to like?!

Amazon link:  Under Ordshaw

 

In June I was honoured to review an ARC (advanced reading copy) of the second in the Wilde Investigations series, thanks to Louise Walters BooksEcho Murder by Laura Laakso.

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Another fantasy pick here, but very different from the previous.

Laura Laakso has created an urban fantasy mystery mashup that rocketed her onto my personal favourite authors last year with Fallible Justice and this second instalment is just as wonderful as the first.

Yannia Wilde balances the life she wants with the life she was born to; battling against murderers, the ‘system’ and her own health, as she deals with a debilitating chronic illness.

The worldbuilding is exquisite and the magic system is utterly compelling.  Add in unforgettable side characters like Lady Bergamon and Wishearth and you have the perfect recipe for fantasy and mystery fans alike.

Amazon link:  Echo Murder

 

SPECIAL MENTION: My special mention for the first half of the year goes, not to an author or book, but to a fellow bookblogger and the joint feature we started in 2019!

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I was chatting with Zoé O’Farrell, fellow book-blogger of Zooloo’s Book Diary fame, about…well, books, of course! During our chat it turned out that we both spent large chunks of our early teen years enthralled by a series of books published by Scholastic from 1991 onwards under the series banner Point Horror.

Personally, I devoured every Point Horror book I could find in my school and local library – some of them multiple times. I have fond memories of summer holidays spent reading these books by authors such as Christopher PikeR. L. StineRichie Tankersley Cusick and more… on the beach, in the garden, behind the sofa, but most of all, under the bedcovers with a torch and a shiver!

As we are both bookcrazy, Zoé and I decided that our towering TBR piles were just not enough, and so we hatched a plot to read all of the Point Horror books (in the order listed here), to relive some of those teenage chills and see how they hold up in our *mumbles* years. And so the Nostalgi-AAARGH joint-feature was conceived.

The feature has to fit around our busy lives and other reviewing commitments, but it is a special treat when we manage to squeeze it in and has had fantastic support from other bloggers and readers.

So far we have reviewed Christopher Pike’s Slumber Party and R.L. Stine’s Blind Date and we are both looking forward to more cheesy chills in 2020!

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Zoé’s website: Zooloo’s Book Diary

Zoé’s Facebook: @zooloobookblog

Zoé’s Twitter: @zooloo2008

Zoé’s Instagram: @zooloosbookdiary

Zoé’s Goodreads: Zoé-lee O’farrell

 

 

So that’s the first half of 2019.  Now head here to find out my top reads from July-December 2019 and for my other very special mention!

Happy New Reading Year!

 

 

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