Hello friends! If you know me at all, you likely know that I read a lot, which is why I opted for making my yearly favorites and least favorites lists bi-yearly in 2019. This means that at the beginning of July, you’ve already gotten my favorite reads of the first half of the year, and today I am here with the best books I’ve read in the second half of 2019.
Comparing my first and second half ‘best of’ lists will show you two things (1) I’ve gotten better at formatting 😅, and (2) I read more outstanding books in the second half of the year than in the first. Today I brought you 24 books I genuinely wish to highlight and shout about, while in July, I had only 17 to show you, even though I read approximately the same number of books in the first and second half of the year (72 vs. 75)
Of course, the best can’t exist without a worst category, at least least for me, so you’ll get all of my disappointing reads in the second installment of this post, coming on Saturday.
But for today, let us concentrate on the most outstanding novels I read in the past six months! ✨
HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME
by Sonia Hartl
Have a Little Faith in Me would 1000% make it onto my top ten books list of the whole damn year, and I need you all to give it a chance. In an attempt to get back together with her ex, CeCe signs up for a religious summer camp with her best friend, Paul, despite not being religious herself. Seeing her ex with another girl prompts CeCe to fake a relationship with Paul, changing their friendship in unexpected ways. Guys, this book is both humorous and serious – it’s laugh-out-loud funny, but it also deals with important subjects, like consent and sex ed, and it focuses on female friendship.
edited by Elsie Chapman
Friends, Hungry Hearts is hands down one of the most precious books I’ve ever held in my hands. It contains 13 stories from 13 authors with different cultural backgrounds, each centering around food, aka the best thing in the world. Besides making me very-very hungry and curious to try all the food I haven’t yet, it also felt like a warm, comforting blanket I could hide under. It’s the perfect read for winter, and it deserves all your love and support, so seriously, go and buy/borrow it.
Quick note: I’m including Hungry Hearts in the contemporary section, because it feels contemporary, but it does have fantasy elements.
COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES
edited by Sangu Mandanna
After how much I adored Hungry Hearts, I knew I needed to give a chance to more anthologies – in the past few years I’d convinced myself they aren’t my cup of tea, but man, I was wrong, and these two masterful anthologies proved that. Color Outside the Lines features interracial love stories, and I have to say, each and every one made me feel all the feels. Fear, hope, grief… this collection has all those emotions and more, and is bound to make you both sad and happy (but mostly happy!)
Note: Similarly to Hungry Hearts, Color Outside the Lines contains fantasy elements in some of its stories, but it deals with real life issues.
MYSTERY AND THRILLER
THE LAST WORD
by Samantha Hastings
I’ll die screaming about The Last Word, aka the most charming novel I read in 2019. The year is 1861, and Lucinda has been an avid reader of Mrs. Smith’s serial, thus she is understandably devastated to hear of the author’s passing… that happened before she could wrap up the serial. Not one to give up, Lucinda sets out on a journey with the help of her childhood friend, David, to find out more about the mysterious author and to possibly discover the ending of the unfinished story. Can we all agree that childhood best friends turned enemies to lovers is a superior trope? Hastings made excellent use of that trope and created a story that was both swoony and fun, something I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.
🧡 Related post: Seven Lighter Mystery and Thriller Reads
LOCK EVERY DOOR
by Riley Sager
Riley Sager is one of the best mystery-thriller authors I’ve ever had the chance to read, and he (at this point, unsurprisingly) delivered with his newest novel, Lock Every Door. Needing the money, Jules takes the position of an apartment sitter at a luxurious and incredibly private building, not realizing the dangers that lurk there. Lock Every Door is a captivating, edge-of-your-seat novel that continuously surprised me with its twist and turns and had me engrossed in the story from start to finish. I couldn’t recommend this (+ Sager’s previous books) enough, I seriously couldn’t.
TW: mention of suicide, an instance of self-harm
🧡 Related post: My Review of Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
SOMETIMES I LIE
by Alice Feeney
To begin with, all we know about Amber Reynolds is that (1) she is in a coma, (2) her husband doesn’t love her anymore, and (3) sometimes she lies. Having the main character in a coma is a unique concept and it’s done magnificently in Sometimes I Lie. We see Amber struggle to piece together what is going on around her, while we also get the events leading up to her being in a coma. It’s dark and kind of disturbing, and it’s probably one of the most twisty novels I’ve read this year. There are twists upon twists upon twists, and all of them are well-written and surprising.
UNDEAD GIRL GANG
by Lily Anderson
Undead Girl Gang is a novel I’d describe as pure delight – yes, it deals with grief and losing a friend, but it has so much more going on than that. Mila Flores doesn’t believe that her best friend, Riley, killed herself, so she turns to magic and brings Riley back to life. The only problem? Mila also resurrects two recently deceased mean-girls who are pissed about being dead, and want to know what happened to them. Mila has seven days to figure out what happened to the three girls before the spell ends, sending them back to their graves. Undead Girl Gang is a superb novel that concentrates on female friendship, letting go, and making new connections.
THE CARROW HAUNT
by Darcy Coates
The Carrow Haunt is part mystery-thriller, part horror, but it’s a wholly entertaining read from start to finish. Remy, the tour guide of Carrow Haunt, is asked to host seven guests for a week-long stay at the house. Excited about the possibility of finding proof for the existance of the supernatural, she agrees but will soon come to regret that decision. I love haunted house novels and movies, and The Carrow Haunt really stood out for me with its well-written characters and chilling atmosphere.
by Kimberly McCreight
I went into Reconstructing Amelia with low expectations, but I shouldn’t have worried. The novel follows Kate whose daughter, Amelia, jumps off her high school’s roof. Kate, while baffled by her daughter’s suicide, accepts the police’s conclusion.. that is, until she starts to get messages that claim Amelia didn’t kill herself. I have to say, despite my slight problems, Reconstructing Amelia is one of the best mystery-thrillers I read in 2019 – it’s fascinating and intriguing, and even though the final twist didn’t surprise me, the book was filled with shocking scenes and is well-worth reading.
THE LOST MAN
by Jane Harper
The Lost Man is easily one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read, even though it concentrates just as much – or even more heavily – on Nathaniel and his family as it does on the mystery. Cameron, the middle brother, is found dead and while the death is ruled a suicide, Nathaniel cannot help but wonder – did someone from their family or employees kill his brother? I think the best thing about The Lost Man is the journey the characters, particularly Nathaniel, go through. He has a lot to realize, understand and reflect on, and he grows and evolves so much in the course of the novel.
THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK (LONDON CELEBRITIES #4)
by Lucy Parker
Friends, I’m convinced, convinced, Lucy Parker can do no wrong. Her London Celebrities series is funny, endearing and emotional all at once, and I’m always eagerly awaiting her next book. (Next up is Headliners, and you’ll get all the details about it here, because I’m part of the blog tour!) The Austen Playbook was yet another fantastic addition to the series that made excellent use of the enemies to lovers trope, and swept me off my feet completely. The story centers around Freddie, an actress, who is currently working on a play that’s plot is decided by the audience as the actors are performing it. I love this book and its characters with all my heart, and I highly recommend the series to anyone and everyone, especially if y’all like rom-coms.
🧡 Related post: Why I Love the London Celebrities Series by Lucy Parker
DON’T YOU FORGOT ABOUT ME
by Mhairi McFarlane
Don’t You Forget About Me was my first book by McFarlane, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last. It’s an emotional, beautiful little novel that made me feel so much for Georgina, the heroine. As a teen, Georgina went through something horrific and she can’t help but feel like those events are at least partially responsible for her problems in life. She is forced to revisit her past when she meets Lucas, her slightly awkward high school sweetheart, now a swoon-worthy man who wants nothing to do with her. Don’t You Forget About Me was a cute novel, but more than that, it was a heavy look into how one’s past can influence their life well into the years.
(highlight under this line for a trigger warning!)
TW: graphic description of sexual assault
GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN
by Talia Hibbert
Man, 2019 was a good year for romance, and nothing proves this clearer than that it was the year one of my all time favorite romance authors – Talia Hibbert – was traditionally published by Avon. Get a Life, Chloe Brown is the first in her new series, and I’m eagerly awaiting future additions to it, as well as anything else she will publish in the future. Anyhoo, Get a Life, Chloe Brown tells the story of chronically ill Chloe who, after going through a near-death experience, creates a get a life list, and asks for guidance from her hot, single neighbor. It’s a funny and cute novel that dives into deep topics as well, and that deserves all the love in the world.
TW: abusive partner
🧡 Related post: My Review of Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
THE WALLFLOWER WAGER (GIRL MEETS DUKE #3)
by Tessa Dare
At this point I’m convinced that Tessa Dare, one of the reigning queens of historical romance, can do no wrong. Her novels always feel like a warm hug – they are vivid, humorous and charming reads that are always a pleasure to read. The Wallflower Wager sees us arrive to professional pet-collector Penny’s story, who is forced to pair up with Gabriel, her new neighbor, to find loving homes for her beloved animals. This book is filled with so many laugh-out-loud scenes that I couldn’t count them, and will cheer you up in no time.
TW: sexual assault
THE ONES WHO GOT AWAY #1 – #3
by Roni Loren
The Ones Who Got Away series is such a fun, wholesome experience that keeps breaking my heart but always pieces it back together by the end of each book. The first novel centers around Liv who, after being traumatized by the high school shooting she went through, never expected to return to her home town. Now, more than ten years later, she is back for a documentary and so is her high school boyfriend, Finn, who she’s never managed to forget. Each book features different main characters – although the four female leads of the series are close friends, so they appear in each others’ books – and all three books are excellent.
WORK FOR IT
by Talia Hibbert
Talia Hibbert’s first venture into M/M romance was, obviously, excellent. She’s given so much thought and care to these two characters – charismatic Olu and gruff, shy Griff – and made me adore them from the first page. After going through a traumatic experience, Olu is scared of people using him and disregarding his privacy, and, in an attempt to rediscover himself, decides to join in on a small town harvest. There he meets soft-hearted Griff who, despite being one of the loveliest people, is the town outcast, which confuses and angers Olu, who finds himself caring more and more for the kind-hearted man. It’s a sweet and emotional read that comes highly recommended from me.
by Jen DeLuca
Well Met is such a wholesome, cute novel – I keep using the same handful of adjectives in this post, but argh, bear with me – and I’ve been gently pushing it at all my friends who enjoy romance. It centers around Emily who goes to live with her sister, April, to help her recover after her accident. Emily joins the local Renaissance fair with her niece, and is immediately put off by the main organizer, Simon. You guys, it was impossible not to love this incredible enemies to lovers novel that also offers great family dynamics, as Emily and April are getting to know each other as adults for the first time.
THE A.I. WHO LOVED ME
by Alyssa Cole
Y’all, I don’t – or didn’t? – like audiobooks, but when I heard about The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole, a novel released only as an audible exclusive (at least for now), I knew I had to make an exception. Alyssa Cole is one of my favorite authors, and The A.I. Who Loved Me is a fun mix of sci-fi and romantic comedy that 1000% made chores bearable. It follows Trinity who starts to fall for her slightly weird new neighbor, Li Wei, without realizing that he is, in fact, a robot. I expected to be charmed by the story and characters – which, yes, I was – but I was surprised by how, well, surprising the novel got towards the end. I adored the big reveal, and I can’t wait to get more like this (or, really, anything) by Alyssa Cole.
🧡 Related post: Why I Love Alyssa Cole and her Reluctant Royals Series
BEST FANTASY + SCI-FI
RUSE (WANT #2)
by Cindy Pon
I’ve raved about the Want duology quite a few times on the blog, and yet, I still feel the need to (gently) shout, “please, read this, friends!” Throughout these two novels Cindy Pon takes her readers on a vivid, but mortifying journey into a highly polluted world where only the rich are able to purchase full body suits, aka the only thing that will filter the air you breath. Poor people tend to die young due to respiratory diseases and massive chunks of the world are controlled by rich businessmen, including the man behind the creation of said body suits. It’s a brutal look into a possible version of the future that feels especially scary in today’s world.
GREENBONE SAGA #1 – #2
by Fonda Lee
I’ve always been more or less reluctant to read high fantasy, particularly adult high fantasy. These books are so long, so intimidating that it takes a lot of courage (for me) to pick them up. After hearing loads and loads of praise for the Greenbone Saga, however, I’ve set out to read Jade City and Jade War, and friends, it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. These books are intricate, richly written and they pack so many surprises that I could barely put them down. I was engrossed, more engrossed than I’ve been in a long time, and I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend giving the series a chance.
ONLY ASHES REMAIN (MARKET OF MONSTERS #2)
by Rebecca Schaeffer
The Market of Monsters series is one I’ve mentioned a lot of times on the blog, because it’s one of my all time favorites at this point. The series centers around Nita, a girl who dissects supernatural beings’ bodies so the family can sell the body parts on the black market. It’s a dark, gory series, filled with morally gray characters who are incredibly complex and vivid. I loved the characters, the world, and all the twists and turns of the plot Schaeffer gave us, and I would highly recommend the series to anyone who enjoys fantasy at all.
🧡 Related post: Why I Love Market of Monsters by Rebecca Schaeffer
THE FIFTH SEASON (THE BROKEN EARTH #1)
by N. K. Jemisin
I’ve read many-many books, so – even though tons and tons stand out each year – it’s rare when I can say with certainty that a novel is unlike anything else I’ve read before. This time, though, I can safely make that claim. The Fifth Season is in a class of its own – it’s a dense, complex high fantasy that’s effortlessly diverse (the poly-amorous relationship that was simply accepted without anyone frowning upon it? 😭 BEAUTIFUL.) and just so darn enjoyable. Jemisin’s writing is perfect; she makes the world and characters come to life. I was so wholly engrossed in the novel and the characters and I can’t wait to read everything else by the author.
THE BURNING SHADOW (ORIGIN #2)
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
I was a huge fan of the Lux series, but Armentrout really outdid herself with the Origin novels so far. The Darkest Star and The Burning Shadow are even more entertaining than the Lux novels, and they are certainly more twisty. The Burning Shadow in particular served me surprise after surprise and kept me on the edge of my seat all through. Oh, and the romance is so damn precious!? I adore Evie and Luc – both individually and as a couple – and it was a pleasure to see the gradual growth of their relationship.
HIDDEN LEGACY #1 – #3
by Ilona Andrews
I debated putting this series in the romance section because it is paranormal romance, however, the authors created such an intriguing, unique magic system that it deserved a nod in the fantasy section. Private investigator Nevada is forced to team up with Rogan when she is tasked with the impossible mission of bringing in a powerful magic user. Their attraction is palpable, but it takes a lot for these two to get to the point where they can enter into a relationship, and I loved how the romance was slow-burn but still a pretty strong part of the series from the start.
Did you have a good reading year? Was your first or second half of 2019 better? What were your favorite books of the whole of, or the second half of 2019? Have you read any I mentioned?