The Best Books of 2019

The Best of 2019

Every year I list the books which I gave 5 star reviews on
Goodreads. These are not necessarily books that were released in that year, but books that I read in that year.1 I provide a brief synopsis and include a quote from my Goodreads review.2

Unfortunately, I was a real shitty reviewer in 2019. I had set a goal of reading 85 books, but stopped actually listing my reviews in early spring. This is disappointing for a number of reasons. It makes this post a little more difficult. It means no clever quotes for you. Most importantly, it means that I didn’t support the authors by posting reviews which could boost their sales.

The last one is an easy fix. As soon as I finish and post this, I’ll be going on Amazon and giving each of these books the great reviews that they deserve. The other two are a little more difficult. For the purposes of this post, I will be picking out the books which I should have given glowing reviews to and telling you all about them. As with previous Best Of posts, the books are presented in no particular order. Also, as with previous posts, I will not be including Dragon’s Roost Press titles.

The Toll by Cherie Priest
Priest is one of the brilliant authors whose work I will buy without needing to know anything about it. It doesn’t matter what genre she’s writing in, I’m picking up the book and reading it. I’ve never been disappointed.

The Toll has a modern setting with a southern gothic vibe. When one half of a couple disappears on the seventh of only six bridges, the lucky reader is introduced to Staywater, GA. The town looks like a sleepy, dying place on the surface, but here there be magic, witches, the supernatural, and a history of disappearances (and appearances). As always, Priest’s use of language sings a song of dread which will leave you creeped out enough that you want to keep on reading. The characters are alive and believable.

Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste
Do you want to win multiple awards including the Stoker for Best First Novel?
4 Because this is how you win multiple awards. The novel shuttles between the present and 1980. Things are not well in Cleveland, Ohio. There is a strike looming on the horizon at the local plant. Relationships, as always, are difficult. The young women of Denton street are beginning to rust like corroded metal.

Kiste creates a world where the bizarre things which are happening seem perfectly, if not normal at least believable. The characters are completely believable. The reader is totally drawn into the world. I would normally shy away from anything as trite as saying a book was difficult to put down, but this is definitely the case here. In the previous review I mentioned authors whose books I pick up automatically. With
Rust Maidens, Kiste moved into this category with one book.

The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick
by Mallory O'Meara
This is not only a biography of Milicent Patrick the creator of the Creature From the Black Lagoon and film pioneer, but a story of someone dedicated to revealing the truth of Patrick’s life. O’Meara shows an amazing investigatorial capacity, tacking down the sometimes illusive history of one of the unsung masters of early horror cinema. The book alternately tells the story of Patrick and O’Meara, showing the parallels of these two women in the film industry. A fascinating, entertaining, and at times infuriating (due to the chauvinism both women had to endure) story.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Necromancer. Need I say more? Probably not, but I will.
Gideon the Ninth takes the best parts of scifi, mixes it with sword and sorcery, tosses in a healthy dash of horror, and adds some of the best characters I’ve read in year placed in an amazing plot. I was so happy to find out that this was the first book in a trilogy. I was devastated when I learned that the other two books have not been published yet.5

Bone witches. Cavaliers. Political intrigue. Mystery. Death. I can not describe this well enough. Just go get the book! You’ll thank me.

In the Quiet Spaces by C.E. Young
Sometimes you need a break from the craziness of the world.
In the Quiet Spaces provides words which calm the spirit, words to meditate on, words which will move you and give you peace. Everyone need these words sometimes. Fortunately, you can now carry them with you.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Unless it’s your first time here,
8 you know how much I love Ray Bradbury, especially the Green Town series. In this novel we explore childhood, age, and desire. There is the desire of the young to be older, the desire of the adult to reclaim their youth, and the desire of the master of Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show to grant these wishes...for a price. Brilliant story-telling by a master in his prime.

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire
Some books create memorable characters. Some books create amazing plots. Then there is Seanan McGuire who created an entire mythology which is not only fascinating but coherent. This is a story you know, but McGuire expands upon in the best way possible. It is the story of Rose Marshall -- The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, The Phantom Prom Date, The Girl in the Diner.

We not only get the story of Rose, the ghostly hitchhiker, but the other ghosts who inhabit the road, a phantom diner, and even the ghosts of roads themselves. And then there is Bobby Cross, the immortal driver who is after Rose.

The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken
I have seen this described in other reviews as
Ocean’s Eleven in Space, but this is so much more. This novel takes the best parts of a heist story and combines it with fascinating sci-fi concepts. The characters collected for this heist are all genetically altered, specially evolved individuals lead by Belisarius, a Homo quantus with amazing mathematical and physical insights. The specialized people and the creative plot points -- including trying to smuggle an entire war fleet -- makes this a great read.

Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by Neil Gaiman, artwork by Chris Riddell
A collection of inspirational material about art and its creation from Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell. If you work in a creative field, or even if you just enjoy reading well written material, you need to pick up this book.

1 Because it’s all about me.

2 See footnote 1.

3 Because even when it’s about other authors, it’s about me.

4 Full disclosure, I met Ms. Kiste at the
HWA convention last year. I even shared a reading block with her and Valerie B. Williams. More about that con can be found here.

5 I have preordered the second title.

6 And get the hardcover because underneath the dust jacket is a cool foil imprint of a skull wearing glasses (which makes sense once you read the book). As if this wasn’t cool enough, you know how some books have gilded edges? This one has blackened edges!

7 I heard about this on the
Reading Glasses Podcast hosted by Brea Grant and author of the previous book Mallory O’Meara.

8 Hello!