The 2019 Reading List.
2019 already! Let the reading begin. 2018's list is available as well.
Like the 2018 list, this list is separated by genre, author, and when applicable (like historical books), by time frame. New books are added constantly and are highlighted in pink.
* = No.
* * = Eh.
* * * = It's good. I'm not sure it'd be the first to come to mind as a recommendation though.
* * * * = This is a highly recommended book.
* * * * * = I don't know why you're even reading this rating. Just go buy it!
The Stolen Crown, by Susan Higginbotham: * * *
Many of you know about my obsession with the War of the Roses, and this book is from the perspective of Katharine Woodville, the sister of the woman who became Queen Elizabeth, wife of Edward IV. It was a good book in regard to having a different protagonist rather than Edward or Elizabeth, and that added depth to the entire situation...but I wouldn't say this was my favorite book ever written about that era.
Three Sisters, Three Queens, by Philippa Gregory: * * *
I love Philippa Gregory. This story was interesting--it was about Katherine of Aragon, the queen of Henry VIII (the first one) and Henry's younger sisters, Margaret and Mary. All three became queens in their own right, and the competition between their countries wasn't easy. The nuances between sisters was dramatic and interesting to follow but the characters were a little two dimensional in comparison to other books of Gregory's.
Anna of Kleve, by Alison Weir * * * *
Alison Weir is a really reputed historian and writer. Her works are well-researched, insightful, and creative when they fill in gaps, as any fiction author should, that occur in history books...And this book is no exception. Anna of Kleve, or more popularly known in the West as Anne of Cleves, was the wife that Henry VIII divorced because she was ugly. I kid you not. By all historical accounts, she was pretty but plain (whatever that means). He supported her as his "sister" after the annulment, but she died in poverty after her finances were cut by Henry's successors. This story follows her time in Kleve, her first love, a secret she held as she got married, the fear she had as she was married to Henry who had a reputation of beheading wives already, and how she navigated life in a terribly tumultuous court. Amazing book.
The Taming of the Queen, by Philippa Gregory: * * * *
After Henry VIII divorced his first wife, beheaded his second, was widowed by his third, divorced his fourth, and beheaded his fifth...he married Kathryn Parr, a wife with different religious beliefs than him and who was in love with another man. After her husband's seriously questionable marital history, she had to protect herself and that meant some intense maneuvering to gain favor in her husband's court. I really liked this book...it described so many of the crazy beliefs of 15th century English citizens and how a woman's role shifts with her husband's whim.
The Heretic Queen: A Novel, by Michelle Moran: * * * *
In 2018, I read the first novel in this sequence about Queen Nefertiti--a relation of King Tut and famed ancient queen of Egypt. Now, this story follows her niece, Nefertari and how she rises from being a relation of the fallen and disgraced Nefertiti to become the Chief Queen of Ramesses the Great, the king who built all the ruins we still see today in Egypt. The book follows her rise from a playmate of Ramesses, to a competitor of his first wife Iset, to the Chief Queen, and I loved the way this book was written. It really comes alive and the politics of the Egyption court were brilliantly described. You could feel the competition and everything at stake as Nefertari fought for power. Highly recommend.
Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution, by Michelle Moran: * * * *
I'm just going to admit that the French Revolution is interesting to me as a history geek but not my favorite historical time. I can't keep track of historical figures quite so well. But I AM a huge fan of Michelle Moran's writing--her history is spectacular. There isn't much out there about Madame Tussaud's life (accurately, anyway), so it was interesting to see how Moran weaves together a story about Marie, the woman who would become Madame Tussaud, her first love, her time at court as a model maker, and how her family ran a "museum" of wax figures with insanely quick turnaround times that they used like a newspaper to convey recent events. Loved this book.
Rebel Queen, by Michelle Moran: * * * *
"AUR MAIN HOON JHANSI KI RANI!" Sorry. Every time I hear the words "Jhansi ki rani," (or Rani/Queen of Jhansi), I think of Kajol barking those words in K3G at an innocent man trying to introduce himself. The actual Jhanski ki rani was a queen born in India who was left on the throne when her husband died. The British were making a run at taking over India, and her kingdom, and she raised both a female and a male army to fight back, leading them directly into battle. Told from the perspective of Sita, the Rani's favorite, the story details the experiences of being a member of the Rani's all-female guard, how the British occupation began to form, and how the queen strategized to win before her kingdom erupted into war. It's an amazing book...and one that as an Indian, I loved reading, for the descriptions of a country I haven't seen without tech, with a rich history that I am still learning about.
Mata Hari's Last Dance, by Michelle Moran: * * *
The story follows Mata Hari, the famous exotic dancer in WWII who was accused of being a spy. It's an interesting look at her though the book doesn't quite fill in the gaps about why Mata Hari makes the choices she does--in fact, she seems a bit dense at times and thats frustrating when you don't know what her motivations are.
American Princess, by Stephanie Marie Thornton: * * * *
Stephanie Marie Thornton is a phenomenal writer. I read two of her books in 2018. and this historical fiction about Alice Roosevelt, the daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt was a treat. She was an unconventional lady--I read about her after I read the book and she was just as badass as the book made her out to be...eccentric, privileged, and sassy as hell, Alice Roosevelt was known as the American Princess. She married a senator, had an affair, had a child by her married lover and then survived into her nineties, to stir up drama in DC until her death. I'd highly recommend this book--I love the way Thornton tells the stories of women behind the men who made history. Truth be told, I think they're more interesting.
The Inside City, by Anita Mir: * *
I wanted to like this book. I even read the whole thing. But this tome of a character named Awais, who had a prediction placed upon him in utero that he would bring a change to the life of his mother...The story explores his mother's expectation, the oversight of his younger sister's mathematical gifts, the burgeoning partition between India and the British Empire, which ended in the creation of India and Pakistan, and the discovery of Lahore's famed Inner City by Awais, a complex legend whose history has been passed down from one keeper to the next. Awais' knowledge saves many lives but will it save his family's? The story's description was compelling but there was no fulfillment at the end. Perhaps it's my own lack of understanding, but I felt misled by the description of the inner city, the ties into the story and the endings of the story itself. It had interesting insight into the partition but as a whole...I don't know if I'd recommend this book to anyone.
Duchess: A Novel of Sarah Churchill, by Susan Holloway Scott: * * * *
You all have heard of "The Favourite," the movie the won tons of awards last year about Queen Anne and her frenemy Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough. Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz play the two women in history. This book chronicles Sarah Churchill's rise from being an impoverished woman at court to becoming the Queen's right hand, lover, and influencer. It was an AMAZING book. If you've seen the Favourite, I highly recommend this story to get a more human and less exaggerated glimpse of Sarah Churchill (and the Queen) and to understand their bizarre dynamic. Susan Holloway Scott is an exemplary writer.
A Spark of Light, by Jodi Picoult: * * * * *
Abortion is a hot topic. Whether you are pro-choice or anti-choice, this book has perspective. Following a group of people at a health center that provides abortions--some are there for health screenings, others for birth control, and still others for abortion--and who are caught in the hairs of an active shooter (also there for his own reasons), this book makes compelling cases all around and makes you delve into character histories. I loved it.
Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarty: * * *
This book was both comical and interesting and mildly irritating all at the same time. Nine strangers are at a health retreat for their own purposes, without contact to the outside world and with their sets of issues...an author with a failing career, a famiy dealing with loss, a couple who has won the lottery and whose values no longer align. Chaos ensues. Each character was interesting on their own but some certainly deserved more backstory than others. Plus, there were times that the plot got a little too outrageous and felt more like a farce, as if it didn't fit with the story.
The Newlyweds, by Nell Freudenberger: * *Amina meets George online--she, a girl from Bangladesh looking for a life in America and a guy to marry, while George is sort of a white savior jerk who bores the living hell out of me. I won't lie, I think I went into this book with one expectation and came out with another, so my review of it is more likely because of that than the writer's talent, which is wonderful. The story is along the lines of literary fiction, and describes Amina's cultural struggles, her attempts at bringing her parents to the US, the expectations both cultures have on her (with Americans deeming her a week immigrant, while Bangladeshis deem her as the one "who did things her own way")...it's a worthwhile read to understand the immigrant experience but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as an uplifting, happy, or even particularly entertaining read.
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng: * * * * *
This book is going to become a series starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington on Hulu (Seriously. Cannot. Wait.)! And it deserves it. Based in Shaker Heights, one of America's first planned communities aimed at imparting race relations, values, equality, and structure to life, Mrs. Elena Richardson and the lives of her four children intertwine irrevocably with new Shaker Heights residents Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl. It's incredible to see how the nuances of "forgetting race" still manage to make their way into opinions about people, how rich and poor can be used as judgments, how idealism and realism can clash, and how all of this crashes together in this incredible story of people and their secrets. I'd highly recommend this book. SO GOOD.
Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors, by Sonali Dev: * * * * *
Anything by Sonali Dev is like literature crack to me. I can't get enough of her books. A story set in the Bay Area with an Indian-American political family making a run for governor, this story pulls from Pride and Prejudice, right down to the somewhat unlikeable but freakishly intelligent and driven Trisha Raje, and the uptight and prideful DJ, who don't recognize their feelings for each other. Each character stands out on their own, and Sonali does such a masterful job of weaving Indian culture into American elements...all mixed with food!
Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin: * * * *
A little social commentary here...we rarely see Muslim characters simply living their lives in books. They are usually in a war zone or terror-related or an accessory character in a book, and the Western-Eastern relationship, let alone some nuances in Islam, are hardly explored...until this book. I'm from Hyderabad (so are some of the characters), and I'm from India (as are most of the characters) yet I felt woefully ignorant reading this book. Following a budding relationship between two very different twenty-somethings who are Muslim, the book and the drama is amazing!
Crazy Cupid Love, by Amanda Heger: * * * *
Am I biased when I put my friend's book on blast? Probably. Is Amanda Heger actually talented? Yup. I did a full book review on the blog, so you can check that out there, but this story follows a couple of Cupids--people whose ancestors were Greek Gods, who help people fall in love by gently hitting them...until Eliza Herman, who is a walking accident, has to fill in for her dad and help the family business and embarks on a love story of her own with her childhood crush, Jake.
I Never Fancied Him Anyway, by Claudia Carroll: * * *
I loved this book! It was a little outrageous at times, but the premise is fun--a psychic named Cassandra works for the paper and gives advice to those seeking a little otherworldly help with their problems. When she meets Jack Hamilton, she suddenly knows he can change everything for her--except he's dating her best friend and her visions go away whenever he's nearby. This story takes place in Ireland, so I loved the sense of humor and different expressions used. It's a really fun read to escape into, even if some of the characters lack depth.
Who Do You Love, by Jennifer Weiner: * * * *
Rachel and Andy meet in an ER while she undergoes treatment for a congenital heart defect, and tells him a story while he's being treated for a broken arm...and the entire story follows these two through their lives. The book is a beautiful representation of love over time, how connections can transform us, and how relationships shift as life does. I loved the characters and their transformations, and enjoyed the entire story. I found myself rooting for them a lot--Jennifer Weiner does a great job with this book and I'd recommend it if you want to feel your heartstrings pull.
Star-Crossed, by Minnie Darke: * * *
I liked this book! It's about a journalist and skeptic named Justine, who reunites with her actor friend and firm believer in astrology, Nick. When Nick explains that he follows the astrology reports in the paper Justine works for, she decides to manipulate the horoscopes to guide him to her...and chaos ensues. The story itself was a funny one, with a lot of Australian lingo thrown in, and fun imagery. The descriptions of star signs are a bit excessive here and there--but it's definitely something you can overlook if you get lost in the story. All the seemingly random characters end up coming together and I love when authors are able to tie together all these random details into meaningful interactions, so I was a fan of this story!
One Plus One, by JoJo Moyes: * * * *
JoJo Moyes is an excellent writer. No question. And she did it again with One Plus One. Jess is a stepmom whose husband has done a vanishing act, her stepson is being bullied and her stepdaughter is a mathematical prodigy whose only shot at a prestigious school for gifted children is winning a Math Olympiad...enter Ed, a nerdy millionaire who is on hiatus from his company for royally screwing up. It may be his single unselfish act in life to drive his family to the Olympiad, and maybe fall in love with Jess. The story itself is so natural and endearing. This is a gradual build. And Jess' tactics as an impoverished mom to save money are a challenging look at what happens when you save money on a cent-by-cent basis to survive. Loved this book.
I'm Fine and Neither Are You, by Camille Pagan: * * *
Penelope is a wife who does it all, and feels underwhelmed by life. Whereas her best friend Jenny coasts through life. When a tragedy occurs to Jenny, making Penelope realize life wasn't perfect after all, she is forced to confront that her marriage to Sanjay isn't what it was and the two of them decide to create a top-three list of things they wish they could change about the other and implement it...The result is a serious attempt at saving a marriage that might be doomed. I actually did enjoy the book. It was somewhat predictable but it did have a lot of nuance about parenting, differences in partnering up with someone, how to work through it and the issues you face while you do. I'd recommend this book.
Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner: * * * *
This amazing book follows a pair of sisters through their lives in the 60's until now. Jo is the rebel, and Bethie is the "good one", raised in a perfect two parent household...until the traumas and tribulations of life begin to transform them as they go to college, face major turning points in American history like Vietnam, communes, the second wave of feminism, and more. They end up very different than how they started, and this richly textured story is a fabulous read. It's so filled with depth, and the storylines clash and come apart so beautifully. Highly recommend.
The Last Post, by Renee Carlino: * * *
Okay...I'm conflicted. This book is about Laya, who is reeling after the tragic death of her adventurer husband Cameron. She is so ensconced in grief and loss that she posts Facebook messages to him every day about how much she misses him...her father's employee Micah sees these posts and decides to show Laya life is worth living again, and their love story begins with him reading these posts for more information and Laya feeling betrayal at any attraction. I liked the book on some level--I'm a sucker for good love stories or an interesting plotline. The love story is built well. But Micah is a stalker. He's a bum until he sees these posts and the creepy way he inserts himself into the narrative didn't sit well with me. That's why it's 3 stars, because while the story and writing are great, a key part of the plot promotes some pretty unhealthy behavior.
You Were There Too, by Colleen Oakley: * * * *
I'm not a book crier but this one had me close. Mia, the loving wife of Harrison, has a wonderful relationship with her husband. It's one of the cutest literary pairings I've ever read, in fact. They move to the suburbs however, and their magic hits a snag. Mia has been dreaming about another man for years, one she's never met but has a powerful connection to in her dreams...and in this middle-of-nowhere town, she meets him, just as Harrison and she are going through a marriage crisis. What ensues is a story about love, fate, what's "supposed to be" and what's not, and the realizations it takes as you sort it all out...I'd recommend this book to anyone. It's a fabulous read with a lot of thinking points.
Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice, by Paula Byrne: * * *
Did you guys see the movie adaptation of this book, called Belle? It stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and it's incredible. I read this book anticipating a historical fiction, given the movie was a compelling story...nope. Just a history book with some speculation. But the subject herself, Belle, is fascinating. Raised in England as an illegitimate daughter, she was a half-black girl during the time of slavery and abolition. Deemed lesser than most society, she also grew up being raised by a noble family--in fact, her surrogate dad is one of the most famous judges of all time in English history--one who made a call on slavery that had to, in some way, be influenced by his affection for his daughter of color. The book itself was okay but raises many, many questions about slavery, history, the cruelty, and its influence on nations other than the United States.
The Girl Before You, by Nicola Rayner: * * (coming May 27, 2019)
This book was all right...I wasn't a huge fan. I do like suspense, and this book does build it well. But something about the story's plot felt so disjointed and the ending wasn't remotely fulfilling because it was so rushed. There are multiple narrators, which is cool for perspective, but when the ending of the book came, it was very out of the blue and not in a "WTF! I didn't see that coming!" but a lackluster "Well, I didn't really see that coming...and I don't get it." Maybe check it out if you like suspense but I probably wouldn't recommend this book.
The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You, by Lydia Fenet: * * * *
Lydia Fenet is the Global Director of Strategic Partnerships at Christie's Auction House, a legendary company that (like Sotheby's), auctions prized works of art and so many other priceless valuables. Her book is about commanding a presence in a room, but also about cultivating success through confidence, the development of your voice, and building your "Strike method." As an auctioneer, Lydia hit a gavel when her auctions began and it prompted silence...and that is the basis of her Strike Method theories--if you create a voice and action so powerful, it can quiet the room and you'll be the most important person there. I loved this. It was exactly what I needed. I'd highly recommend.
Bossed Up: A Grown Woman's Guide to Getting your Sh*t Together, by Emilie Aries: * * * * (coming out on May 21, 2019)
I loved this book in so many ways--namely, that it provides doable, actionable strategies for leveling up your life as a woman who is in business of some sort. It also provides fantastic insights into confidence, owning a room, and making sure that your talents are seen as assets. Emilie Aries, the author, is a podcaster, speaker, writer...she knows what she's talking about. The only catch that I hated with this book is how much the Bossed Up brand was mentioned and "sold" to the reader as a solution to problems. However, overall, the strategies were ones I'd recommend for anyone who needs assistance with self-advocacy skills, preventing burn out, and cultivating a strong identity.