Rummanah Aasi

Here are my favorite books of 2019. As a quick disclaimer, these books may not all be 2019 releases but I did read them in 2019. These books are  ranked according to the interest level. 

Favorite Adult Books

I read a quite a few adult titles that I enjoyed in 2019 and I am happy to report that I enjoyed quite a few titles.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin: A smart and witty homage to the Jane Austen classic featuring Muslim characters set in Toronto, Canada.

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty:  An amazing sequel that completely had me at the edge of my seat and for once I have absolutely no idea how this wonderful series will end. If you are looking for a great fantasy with a complex, multilayered story that centers on the kingdom's deeply divisive religious, political, and racial tensions.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia: A  genre-bending, highly entertaining, and enthralling mystery with lovable and quirky characters that dips into the supernatural but without losing sight to real life problems.

Favorite Children Book

I always try to fit in some children and middle grade reads into my yearly reading challenge. I loved three books this year.

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal: I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my name ever since I was little. This picture book reminds me of the story my dad always told me whenever I complained about my name to him.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang: A wonderful debut middle grade novel that explores a multitude of themes that are nicely woven into a story of activism.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson: Timely, important, and beautifully written. *Review coming soon

Favorite YA Books

Young Adult books dominate my reading pile because I work for teens as a high school librarian. I had a hard time keeping up with all the new releases for 2019. I avoided most of the hyped books because they almost always lead me to disappointment. Surprisingly a reread made it on to this list.  

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) and The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2) by Patrick Ness: I had dystopia fatigue for quite sometime, but this series is thought provoking, horrifying, exceptionally well written, and completely underrated. I hope to finish this series next year.

The Lovely War by Julie Berry: Incredibly well written and multilayered story of two pairs of lovers over the course of World War I and World War II narrated by the Greek Gods. *Review coming soon

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson: Timely, important, and beautifully written memoir in verse. *Review coming soon

There's Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon: A contemporary romance that is full of heart while also tackling fat shaming, identity, privilege, and self confidence

Favorite Graphic Novels/Manga

I read several fantastic graphic novels in 2019. I still have to review a few of them.

New Kid by Jerry Craft: New Kid may seem like another title about being the new kid in school, but this graphic novel is so much more. It is a candid and accessible story about race, class, microagressions, and the quest of self identity when you clearly do not fit into clean boxes.
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks: Rowell can make a simple story magical and Hick’s drawings make the graphic novel come to life.

Runaways Volumes 1-7 by Brian K. Vaughan: A teen centered superhero comic in which their parents are the villains. Smart, fun, and highly entertaining. 

Honorable Mentions

The following books are the ones that left a lasting impression on me that I would also highly recommend reading:

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason
If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali
The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg 

Rummanah Aasi
Description: Tuesday Mooney is a loner. She keeps to herself, begrudgingly socializes, and spends much of her time watching old Twin Peaks and X-Files DVDs. But when Vincent Pryce, Boston’s most eccentric billionaire, dies—leaving behind an epic treasure hunt through the city, with clues inspired by his hero, Edgar Allan Poe—Tuesday’s adventure finally begins.
   Puzzle-loving Tuesday searches for clue after clue, joined by a ragtag crew: a wisecracking friend, an adoring teen neighbor, and a handsome, cagey young heir. The hunt tests their mettle, and with other teams from around the city also vying for the promised prize—a share of Pryce’s immense wealth—they must move quickly. Pryce’s clues can't be cracked with sharp wit alone; the searchers must summon the courage to face painful ghosts from their pasts (some more vivid than others) and discover their most guarded desires and dreams.

Review: When the death of Vincent Pryce, one of Boston's most wealthy and eccentric man drops dead at a fundraiser, he leaves behind an epic treasure hunt through the city with clues inspired by his hero, Edgar Allen Poe. Groups of mystery solvers come together in hopes of finding the big prize and splitting the riches amongst each other. One those is our heroine, Tuesday Mooney, best prospect researcher on Boston General Hospital's fundraising team, a "bizarro know-it-all tall girl" with the aura of a grown-up Wednesday Addams. Despite her reputation as a formidable, reclusive goth vibes, Tuesday embraces her introverted lifestyle. She actually does have friends, but she keeps them at  arm’s length. Her friends include her current best friend Dex Howard, a gay, karaoke-obsessed financier who is perpetually unlucky in love; Tuesday's neighbor Dorry Bones, a motherless Somerville teen who looks up to Tuesday as her role model; and Abby Hobbes, a Ouija board–wielding classmate who disappeared during Tuesday's teenage years and whose ghost haunts Tuesday incessantly. The Pryce treasure hunt is exactly what Tuesday is looking for in order to break out of her banal life and if she can exercise her detective muscles, solve the puzzle, and win a big cash prize-even better. The hunt is not what it seems as she comes into contact with the Arches who do not have a friendly relationship with Pryce and her partnership (or propective relationship) with the strange but charming tycoon Nathaniel Arches sink or buoy her chances of success?
  I absolutely loved Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts. It is a genre-bending, highly entertaining, and enthralling mystery that dips into the supernatural but without losing sight to real life problems. All of the characters are dealing with issues of their own ranging from loss to self-acceptance to struggles with intimacy. While there is an over-arching Pryce mystery, there are also mysteries within the Arches family and the disappearance of Abby Hobbes, Tuesday's best friend. I loved following Tuesday and her pals as they ran all around Boston uncovering clues about Poe to solve the crime. There were also plenty of 80s and 90s references that I relished in the book that gave the story character and did not make it feel so dated. I also liked the slow burn of possible romance between Archie and Tuesday. Racculia's writing is funny, poignant, charming, and romantic all at once. Almost all of the mysteries are nicely wrapped up and kept me turning the pages and on my toes. I really hope we get to see these characters again in a new book.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and sexual situations are mentioned. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Just as Aven starts to feel comfortable in Stagecoach Pass, with her friends and schoolmates accustomed to her lack of “armage,” everything changes once again. She’s about to begin high school with 2,300 new kids to stare at her. And no matter how much Aven tries to play it cool, nothing prepares her for the reality. In a year filled with confusion, humiliation, fears, loss, and just maybe love, can Aven manage to stay true to herself?

Review: I love Aven, the spunky, snarky heroine of the Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus and I was thrilled to learn her story continues. In the first book Aven is learning how to settle in Stagecoach Pass, Arizona with her lovable adopted parents and find friends. In this follow up sequel, Aven confronts her biggest challenge yet: surviving high school without arms. Once again she will be stared at because of her missing arms —and her feet, which do almost everything hands can (except air quotes to accent her sarcastic retorts). Aven resolves to be “blasé” and field her classmates’ pranks with aplomb, but a humiliating betrayal shakes her self-confidence. Even her friendships feel unsteady. Her friend Connor’s moved away and made a new friend who, like him, has Tourette’s syndrome: a girl. She can not help but feel anyone, especially Lando, her friend Zion’s popular older brother, who is being nice to her has an ulterior motive. The author expertly captures the universal awkwardness of adolescence, especially with Aven's self awareness of her visible disability. Along with themes of bullying and changing friendships, Aven also deals with tougher topics such as death and aging, but warm, quirky secondary characters lend support. There are a few after-school special moments in the book, but it did not distract me from the book because I love Aven's and her friends. I look forward to seeing Aven again and I really hope for another book in this series because it will be hard to say goodbye to these characters.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Scenes of bullying. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Roll with It by Jamie Sumner, Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff
Rummanah Aasi
Description: From the moment she first learned to read, literary genius Darcy Wells has spent most of her time living in the worlds of her books. There she can avoid the crushing reality of her mother's hoarding and pretend her life is simply ordinary. But when a new property manager becomes more active in the upkeep of their apartment complex, the only home Darcy has ever known outside of her books suddenly hangs in the balance. While Darcy is struggling to survive beneath the weight of her mother's compulsive shopping, Asher Fleet, a former teen pilot with an unexpectedly shattered future, walks into the bookstore where she works...and straight into her heart. For the first time in her life, Darcy can't seem to find the right words. Fairy tales are one thing, but real love makes her want to hide inside her carefully constructed ink-and-paper bomb shelter. Still, after spending her whole life keeping people out, something about Asher makes Darcy want to open up. But securing her own happily-ever-after will mean she'll need to stop hiding and start living her own truth--even if it's messy.

Review: Darcy Jane Wells is a bibliophile who works at a bookstore and likes to memorize lines from her favorite classics. Most of her friends and love interests are main characters from her favorite books, but she has one in real life best friend, Marisol, who is the only one who knows Darcy’s secret—her mother is a hoarder. Brokenhearted and traumatized by the abandonment of Darcy’s father, her mother is the image of perfection in public, but their small San Diego apartment is filled to the brim with her compulsive purchases. Darcy’s only refuge is her bookshelf-covered room. Darcy has lived a sheltered life and has most people away in fear of her secret leaking out. With the help of Marisol, Darcy is going to attempt to live her senior year and come out of her shell. There is a potential love interest Asher, who is dealing with his own trauma and illness and a mysterious, magical used copy of Peter Pan, which seems to understand and echo Darcy's inner most thoughts.
  The author's portrayal of mental illness is thoughtful and well executed, and the characterizations of even background characters are fully developed. I loved the friendship between Darcy and Marisol, which definitely passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. The romance is also swoon worthy, but it too has a realistic aspect to it too. As a fellow bibliophile I also loved the numerous literary references and nods in this story too.  The Library of Lost Things is a sweet, bookish romance that will give  readers all the feels.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and scenes of underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Words of Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
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