Well folks here we are at the end of another year. I've laughed, I've cried, and I've definitely hit my reading goal. Let me tell you all about my 2019 stand outs.
The Downstairs Girl
I loved this book so much. Jo Kuan is a Chinese-American girl living in Atlanta in the 1890s. She and her caretaker, Old Gin, secretly live below a family that runs a newspaper. When she overhears that the newspaper is doing poorly, Jo decides to secretly contribute as an Agony Aunt. This book has it all, from family mysteries to horse racing, and the story is perfectly paced. The writing is beautiful too, with strong characters and lush settings. Lee gives us a clear snapshot of a time and place in American history. This is my fiction pick for 2019, and honestly I would reread it again in a heartbeat. It was that good.
Ziggy, Stardust & Me
Y'all remember how I read Blood, Water, Paint last year and it broke me? This did the same exact thing. Set in 1973 in Creve Couer, MO, Ziggy follows the life of Jonathan Collins, a high school boy just trying to survive. His mother died when he was young, his alcoholic father is trying to "fix him," and the bullies at school make his life a nightmare. To cope, he listens to David Bowie and imagines Ziggy Stardust helping him out, and the new kid Web is making things a little better. I will warn you that Jonathan's journey is a hard, heavy read; there are scenes of sexual assault and conversion therapy. But this is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time.
Red, White, and Royal Blue
This is what I want all Hallmark movies to aspire to be like. First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz falls in love with Prince Henry of England, a man he thought he despised. And now the pair must keep the relationship a secret or risk an international scandal. First and foremost, this is romantic as all get out, but it's also funny and tender and refreshingly open and honest. Consider it a balm for your aching heart.
Have I talked about this book before? Yes. Will I continue to talk about this book? You betcha. I'll scream it from the hills if I have to: GOOD TALK IS INCREDIBLE. A graphic memoir about how her son asks increasingly difficult questions about what's on the news, Mira Jacob weaves together her answers to her son and her own childhood memories. The art is excellent and the stories flow one right into the next.
I loved Carry On. I read it in one (1) day, which is quite the feat considering it is a lengthy book. So I was curious if book two would deliver on all the Simon Snow goodness. My friends, I am here to tell you that Wayward Son is just as good, if not better than the first book. We find our heroes heading to America in an effort to get Simon out of his funk and check on a friend who hasn't been answering phone calls. As they head west to find their friend, they run into all sorts of magical beings, and a whole new set of magical guidelines. The world of Simon Snow and Co is fascinating to me, and I think Wayward Son paints a much clearer picture of what's happening. Now that Rowell has found her groove, I can't wait for book three to come out.
Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory
This little book of short stories blew me away. The stories are all equal parts outlandish scenarios and brutally honest glimpses of life. But then again, when you're the creator of BoJack Horseman, these kinds of stories come naturally. What was so suprising was how beautiful the writing was. There were moments where I had to stop the audiobook, look up the line in the book, and copy it down for later. It was that good. I highly, highly recommend listening to the audiobook. The voice talent is incredible and features people like Raul Esparza and James Urbaniak. "rufus", "Missed Connection-m4w", "More of the You That You Already Are" and "A Most Blessed and Auspicious Occasion" were all standouts for me, but really this whole book is a gem.
And that's all she wrote! Have a Happy New Year, and I'll see you in 2020!