I hope you have a few days of down time left in the year to curl up with a good book and get lost in another story/life. Or if you still have traveling to do, take that time to listen to a great audiobook. Maybe you will find something in my list of favorite reads. I started reading again in 2019 for the first time in ? oh, ten plus years. Why did I ever stop reading? I set a goal to read 24 books for the year, 1 fiction and 1 non fiction each month. I surpassed that and read/listened to 94 books so far this year. I hope by the 31st that number will be 95 or 96. I read 17 books in print all the way through with no help from audio versions. I listened to 19 audiobooks (no print version to read.) The other 58 books were read and listened to – usually a chapter or two read at night and a chapter or two listened to in the mornings, with more listening on days that I had a lot of windshield time at work. So the read+listen usually works out to reading about 40% of a book and listening to 60%.
Here are my favorite reads/listen of 2019, in no particular order.
1 When God Doesn’t Fix It- Laura Story– Audible version. The narrator did a fabulous job. Laura Story presents her struggles with her husband’s brain tumor and disability and admits what many Christians don’t want to- we struggle, we doubt God, we have questions. We don’t want the church to see that, but sometimes those are the very things God wants to use most. I was so convicted throughout this story, at times I wanted to sit in the floor and weep bitterly. This should be required reading for all believers and Christians. I absent mindedly put this in my que with no expectations, but God had a purpose for me reading/ listening to this one. 5 stars
2- The Story Teller’s Secret Sejal Bedani Get the tissues. A beautiful story of fate and true love. A story of accepting and overcoming ones circumstances. Ravi is such a delightful and loyal character.
3 Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens– (audio version via Scribd) I still think about Kya and this story! It’s a good one if I’m remembering it months later. I tried to stick to a budget and since I could not find a cheaper version of a used copy, I opted to listen to the audio version of this on Scribd because of all the hype. The narrator is excellent. The story is every bit as good as it is hyped up to be. I instantly felt compassion for Kya and wanted to cheer for her at all stages of her life. Kya is abandoned by mother and then the rest of her family by the age of 10 and resides in the marshes of North Carolina alone. Dubbed “the marsh girl” and scorned by the town people, Kya finds a life for herself among the sea gulls and other marsh life. A young man takes an interest in her beauty, inner and outer, and teaches her to read. Then he too abandons her. Along comes another young man, and then allegations of murder. A beautiful and painful story of survival, human nature, coming of age and more. 5 stars
4 The House We Grew Up In– by Lisa Jewell- I read this through Scribd. I listened to the audio version a bit, but found it to be a more enjoyable read than to listen, so I read this one. This is a very enjoyable book that covers a lot of mental health issues including suicide and hoarding. I had never thought about hoarding as a mental health issue until this book. Other issues include homosexuality, obsessive compulsive disorders, adultery and all the family members coming to terms with a tragedy that changed all of their lives and separated them until another event brings them back together again years later. Heavy issues, but presented in a light-hearted entertaining manner. 5 stars
5 Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah- Kindle Unlimited book. Alternated between reading and audio version. Joanna Teale is a graduate student returning to her research after the death of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer. Gabriel Nash is a recluse who lives near Jo’s rental. Nash struggles with depression and family issues. Ursa, a little girl who claims to be an alien in a human body, shows up at Jo’s. Jo seeks Gabriel’s help in identifying her and trying to find her family. The three form a bond that makes choices about their future difficult, but ultimately brings healing to all. Some parts are funny and entertaining, and other parts are heartbreaking. 5 stars
6 The Overdue Life of Amy Byler– by Kelly Harms- Kindle Unlimited- alternating between reading and audio version. This was a book that I thought might be a bit silly based on the description, but I ended up loving it! So entertaining. Any woman struggling to maintain her identity as a woman first above all of her many other roles will identify and appreciate this book. All the fashionistas out there will also totally appreciate the 15 year old daughter’s attempt to pick out clothes for her mom’s trip, as well Amy’s friend’s attempt to makeover Amy. Make sure you read this one this summer. 5 stars
7 The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni– I read this free as a Prime reads after my Kindle Unlimited subscription expired but it’s available with either. A new release and the first time I’ve read or heard of this author but it won’t be the last. Charles Jenkins is a retired CIA agent who is called back up for what he believes to be an assignment to Moscow. He thinks he is saving lives and serving his country but nothing is what he was led to believe and he then has to fight for his life and then fight his own country for his freedom when he returns. This one will have you on the edge of your seat. Five stars. After this one, I read several of Dugoni’s Tracy Crosswhite series books too and enjoyed them.
8 Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover – I lucked up on a hardcover copy at my local thrift store for $1 and the audio version became available on Scribd so I alternated between listening and reading. Tara Westover was born to an anti- government survivalist family and did not go to school until she was 17. Once she made the decision to go and seek another life, she was transformed. This book is real and raw! A great reminder of the varied backgrounds we come from. Some people say they could not put this book down. I had to put it down and walk away from the anger it stirred in me over the treatment she endured from her father and one brother and sometimes her mother. This book meets all the hype. Another must read. 5 stars
9 Beneath the Scarlet Sky- Mark Sullivan- This was in my kindle unlimited que forever and I kept skipping over it. I have no idea why. A historical fiction based on a true story, it deals with World War II in Italy. Oh my! It was a good refresher in history and such a beautiful story about family, love, and coming of age. Pino Lella is an Italian boy forced by his family to join the Germany army. He sees and does things in a three year period that can never be unseen. Spoiler alert: He uses his position in the German army to turn spy. It also gives him an opportunity to find his true love. This is a must read. 5 stars I read via Kindle Unlimited and listened to parts on Audible. It’s a long book but I liked it better than The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
10-Ask Again, yes by Mary Beth Keane One of my amazing books for the year. – (audio version via Scribd) I try not to read too many reviews and form too many opinions about a book before I read it. I do pay attention to which books are recommended over and over again but try not to read too much into the reviews. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes it’s bad. I read the description and synopsis on Amazon of this book several times and although it seemed interesting, I expected some shallow drama. Now days lots of people get offended by the least of things so I just assumed this would be some shallow “tragedy” that split the two families apart. Boy was I wrong! This is about so many issues on so many levels and the main characters are deeply developed as to their thoughts and feelings about everything. I don’t want to create a spoiler for you, but this book delves into love, family, tragedy, suffering, mental illness, infidelity, alcoholism. It also touches on what law enforcement officers struggle with in dealing with their daily jobs and trying to separate home from work. This is a well written book that gives a very real, raw and right look at real struggles that people deal with. Kate and Peter are childhood neighbors and the best of friends. As they become teenagers, they realize they may be more than friends but are separated by a tragic incident that forces their families apart. Reunited as adults, they explore that tragedy and the imprinting of their childhoods. I was totally pulling for Kate and Peter the whole time, and deeply saddened for Peter. I did not like Anne at all but by the end found reason to find compassion for her too. Frank makes a bad decision along the way, and while not excusable, it is totally understandable. We don’t get a glimpse into all of Brian’s whys but he had his struggles too. Get a box of tissues when you start this one. 5 stars
11-The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah I found a hard copy at my local thrift store. I started this one near the end of July and it took me a month to finish because it’s a long read, but so worth it. Get the tissues for the end of this one too, unless you have my reaction. I finished this one and looked at my husband and said, “well, that p!sses me off.” lol It didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted for one of the heroines but what an awesome story. It’s the story of two sisters in France and their roles in World War II. Also my first book by Kristen Hannah but I’m ready to dive into the rest of her books. 5 stars
12 The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides audio version via Scribd. This one made my Scribd subscription worth its fee two or three times over! The narrator is awesome. A psychological thriller about a woman who killed her husband and hasn’t spoken a word since and the therapist who is determined to get her to speak and unlock the reason why. I don’t want to spoil it but there’s such an unexpected plot twist I actually said “what?!” out loud in the car when it was finally revealed. 5 stars
13- The Wife- Alafair Burke Read and listened on Scribd. Another great thriller. Angela Powell has a successful husband and thinks she has successfully remained in the shadows hiding a secret past until he is accused of sexual assault by two women. Was it assault or an affair? Who will Angela believe? How far will she go to stand by her husband or to protect herself? 5 stars
14 Then She Was Gone-by Lisa Jewell. Wow, just wow. Parts of this were predictable but you couldn’t quite figure it all out, so you were hooked. It’s well written with characters that draw you in as well. Laurel’s daughter Ellie goes missing. Her body is later discovered but there is never any resolution for the family as to how she disappeared- runaway or kidnapping. The reader learns the secret before Laurel but there are still surprises for the reader. An excellent thriller/mystery that also explores family dynamics and how this family fell apart through this tragedy. I read and listened via Scribd. 5 stars
15 Gone Girl by Jillian Flynn- I picked this up in hardcover from the thrift store. I had not read any Jillian Flynn books before this one. It has great reviews so I decided to give it a try. I took it along on our vacation because we had a six hour drive each way. Wow! This one is over 400 pages and I finished in one week. It would normally take me a month to straight out read a book this length without the help of an audio version. So, it’s that good! None of the characters are the type you will fall in love with, but you get sucked into wanting to know why and how Amy disappeared and once you know, you just have to know how it ends. It’s a great mystery/thriller with lots of twists. 5 stars
16 True Places by Sonya Yoerg A great snub at our materialist world! Suzanne Blakemore runs away from her overscheduled and completely normal life for a few hours one day, and encounters a girl from the woods. The girl has no family that can be located so Suzanne takes her in. Iris prefers solitude and has little knowledge of material things. Who teaches who about life here? Suzanne discovers her true self through her efforts to civilize Iris. 5 stars
17 The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod One of my first reads of the year and I have to credit this book with my continued desire to read. One of the steps to transforming your day and life is to read some everyday. This is a great motivational book, but you have to put the ideas into practice. 4 stars
18- Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall A beautiful story of how God works. Every Christian or anyone curious about how God uses the people who cross our paths should read this. A beautiful story of faith. 5 stars
19 The Morgan Dane Series There are six books in this series and I love them so the series itself is making my list. Here are reviews of four of the books.
What I’ve Done by Melinda Leigh I’ve quickly became a fan of this series. I rated it three stars, even though I’m a total fan of the main characters Morgan and Lance. This one had way too many retaliations and attacks by the killers they were chasing to be believable. One good blow would have been enough, but the far fetched attacks on the characters just got to be too much. I’d still recommend it, but be aware that there are some unbelievable things. Overall, Leigh’s work is still credible and she does her homework about the law enforcement community.
Secrets Never Die – I jumped right into this one so I could finish this series before my Kindle trial expired in April. One of the kids Lance coaches witnesses the shooting of his stepfather and flees. The sheriff’s secures warrants for the kid and hunts him down, while Lance and Morgan search for the real killer. This one didn’t disappoint and kept my attention the entire time. I rated it five stars.
Her Last Goodbye– A crime thriller with lots of twists and turns. Morgan and Lance are just so likeable. This is book 2 in the series.
Save Your Breath by Melinda Leigh Book 6 in the Morgan Dane series. It was a brand new release in September and I jumped on it since I’ve read all the other books in the series. It didn’t disappoint. Morgan and Lance have some crazy, action filled events while looking for Lincoln’s new girlfriend who has disappeared. The ending may bring you to tears. There is such a human, family element to these characters. 5 stars
I didn’t purposefully find 19 for 2019, but it worked out that way. I’ve read a lot of good books this year but they just can’t all make the list. These jumped out at me when I reviewed my Goodreads list.
Did you get some Amazon gift cards or cash for Christmas? Go buy yourself one of these.
Linking up with Show Us Your Books Favorites of 2019.