2019 in Books

What a whirlwind 2019 has been for reading. I didn’t quite set out to read this many books when I began, but I just plowed through one after another, consuming like an all-you-can-eat buffet. I don’t know that I’ll keep up this pace going forward, but it was fun for a while.

What a whirlwind 2019 has been for reading. I didn’t quite set out to read this many books when I began, but I just plowed through one after another, consuming like an all-you-can-eat buffet. I don’t know that I’ll keep up this pace going forward, but it was fun for a while.

And while I don’t think I read any life-changing books this year – nothing that I’m telling all of my friends to read – I do think the quality of the books I read was altogether higher than years past. I wasn’t surprised when my average rating was higher despite my not having any major stand-out books.

It was a good year. A wild ride. A whole lot of reading, so let’s get into it…


Books read:

54


Pages read:

17,118


Average Page Length:

317


Longest Book:

The Hearts Invisible Furies by John BoyneThe adopted Cyril Avery’s story of finding identity in a world he’s only ever been adrift in. 


Shortest Book:

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck – A classic story of a boy restlessly anticipating having his own horse.


My Average Rating:

3.7


My Highest Rated Books (5 stars):

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory
Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey


My Lowest Rated Books:

Way Out Here by Richard Leo (2 stars)
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck (2 stars)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1 star)
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (2 stars)
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (2 stars)


Goodreads Highest Rated Book of my 2019 Books:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (4.52 average rating)


Goodreads Lowest Rated Book of my 2019 Books:

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (3.5 average rating)


My Favorite Book of 2019:

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John BoyneThe adopted Cyril Avery’s story of finding identity in a world he’s only ever been adrift in. 
The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory (first runner up)
A realistic fictional story of Miriam, a German who discovers her father’s ties to Auschwitz as he lies on his deathbed amidst the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (second runner up) – A fictional oral history of one of the biggest bands of the 70s.


The Book(s) that Changed the Way I Think About Something:

Motherhood so White by Nefertiti AustinNefertiti’s true story of the adoption of her black “crack baby” as a single, black woman.
The Heart’s Invisible Furiesby John Boyne The adopted Cyril Avery’s story of finding identity in a world he’s only ever been adrift in.
Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace: A True Story
by Debra Moerke – The true story of a foster care situation that would both bind and change two families forever.
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford LarsonThe true story of Rosemary Kennedy, based on Kennedy family documents, letters and journals, being hidden away for being different and lobotomized at the age of 23.


The Book(s) I’m Most Likely to Recommend to Others:

The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne – The adopted Cyril Avery’s story of finding identity in a world he’s only ever been adrift in. 
The Rabbit Girls
by Anna Ellory – A realistic fictional story of Miriam, a German who discovers her father’s ties to Auschwitz as he lies on his deathbed amidst the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Daisy Jones & The Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid – A fictional oral history of one of the biggest bands of the 70s.
Into Thin Air
by Jon Kraukauer – The true account of Jon Krakauer’s Mt. Everest Climb amidst a ravenously deadly storm.
Recursion
by Blake Crouch – The science fictional story of preserving memories, the curation of False Memory Syndrome, and the opportunity to re-experience memories.


The Book(s) I’m Least Likely to Recommend to Others:

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Way Out Here by Richard Leo


The Scariest Book I Read:

Watching You by Lisa Jewell (I wasn’t really one for scary books this year, so this is really not that scary.)


The Happiest Book I Read:

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms


The Saddest Book I Read:

Murder, Motherhood and Miraculous Grace: A True Story by Debra Moerke


The Funniest Book I Read:

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper


Broken Down by Genre:

Historical Fiction: 12
Nonfiction: 9
Young Adult: 9
Literary Fiction: 7
Memoir: 6
Chick Lit: 5
Mystery/Thriller: 3
Classic: 2
Sci-Fi: 1


If you’ve made it this far, you must be a reader as well. Please comment to let me know your book recommendations!

Book Review – Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace

Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace is Debra Moerke’s true story of the stations God has called her to in life, be it a profession, a relational role, or a major traumatic hurdle. Debra and her husband had fostered numerous children, but none affected her life quite so much as the Bower children did. When tragedy strikes, and the Bower children’s mother, Karen, calls from prison asking a colossal favor of the Moerkes, Debra has to decide whether she’s all in for what she believes or not. Can she extend a miraculous amount of grace from one of the darkest episodes of her life? What does this mean for her family? And how can you even move forward from such a traumatic mile-marker?

Sorry about all the extra posts – who knew I could read so many books in a year? Hang tight, one more post coming this year!

And finally, my last book of the year. I won this one on Goodreads and it has all the making to be a book that I would love – memoir, motherhood, foster care – three things I’m very intrigued by.

Book 54:
Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace: A True Story
by Debra Moerke

Genre:
Memoir

Published:
October 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace is Debra Moerke’s true story of the stations God has called her to in life, be it a profession, a relational role, or a major traumatic hurdle. Debra and her husband had fostered numerous children, but none affected her life quite so much as the Bower children did. When tragedy strikes, and the Bower children’s mother, Karen, calls from prison asking a colossal favor of the Moerkes, Debra has to decide whether she’s all in for what she believes or not. Can she extend a miraculous amount of grace from one of the darkest episodes of her life? What does this mean for her family? And how can you even move forward from such a traumatic mile-marker?

Favorite Quote(s):

“My encouragement was to not wait for government agencies to do the work of caring for people around us. We can be a part of changing lives by showing we care and demonstrating that with love and action.”

“Suddenly, I realized I had no business wrestling with Karen’s sin. I had my own to deal with. Like Paul the apostle, I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I should. And yet, like me, Karen had the promise from God to forgive her and cleanse her from all unrighteousness. I had to remember that.”

“But life isn’t a fairy tale, and we are not owed blissful happy endings. We are called to run the race marked out for us until we are called heavenward, and that, I was assuming,”

– Debra Moerke, Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
326

My Overall Rating:
4.5 – Well rip my heart out. First, I read this book in 5% bursts while up at night with my son. I cannot recommend you read it while holding your baby. Waterworks. Every night.

Literally my only complaint about the book is that it got a little preachy at times. However, I could tell it was intentional, and I’m grateful there are people who are as audacious in sharing their faith as Debra. God was mentioned on almost every page.

I am so impressed with the things Debra has done with her life and so grateful she chose to share her story. I have hopes of one day doing foster care, and reading her story was a great reminder of the challenges that calling can bring but also of the opportunities it brings. Every new day is opportunity to be a light in this dark world. Debra lived into that in even the darkest of times. She forgave in a situation where many could likely not fathom forgiveness, and then she went further to extend a miraculous amount of grace because the Lord would want her to.

This book challenges its readers to consider where they might extend grace, where the Lord might be calling them to, or what the Lord might be showing them in their dark times. It’s not just for mothers. It’s for those who want or need to be reminded that God calls us to stations in our lives that are challenging and dark and fruitful and opportunistic. We choose where to go from there…

Book Review – The Glittering Hour

The Glittering Hour is the story of high-society’s flapper-girl Selina Lennox getting involved with penniless artist Lawrence Weston despite her better judgement. With the financial stability and social status secured in Rupert Carew – who was all but handed to Selina on a silver platter – Selina had to choose what mattered most to her in life and where she could carve out her best future. It’s a story of love, choice, tragedy and riches. A story of secrets and mystery. A story of truth.

My last Book of the Month book of 2019, and my last historical fiction read for hopefully a while, because wow, there’s been a lot of those this year.

Book 53:
The Glittering Hour
by Iona Grey

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
December 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Glittering Hour is the story of high-society’s flapper-girl Selina Lennox getting involved with penniless artist Lawrence Weston despite her better judgement. With the financial stability and social status secured in Rupert Carew – who was all but handed to Selina on a silver platter – Selina had to choose what mattered most to her in life and where she could carve out her best future. It’s a story of love, choice, tragedy and riches. A story of secrets and mystery. A story of truth.

Favorite Quote(s):

“We’re all going to die sometime – that’s a fact. And the only thing we can do to cheat death is to live properly. Bravely. Love wholly. Living, instead of just existing.

– Iona Grey, The Glittering Hour

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
480

My Overall Rating:
4 – The slow start on this one had me thinking it was a secure 3, but the further I got, the more invested in the story I became. Rich people are always kind of fun to read about, and especially rich people from the 20s/30s (1900s that is…), so it had that going for it the whole time.

However, once the story really picked up, I was genuinely trying to guess what the outcome was going to be and I think that’s always a good sign. While I was able to figure out maybe a third of it, the other two thirds took me by surprised and got me emotionally involved. I was seriously rooting for certain characters and was pleasantly content with the conclusion of their story.

Book Review – The Beantown Girls

The Beantown Girls is about the Red Cross Clubmobile girls who served coffee and donuts overseas to soldiers in the second World War. For women wanting to do their part in the war, heading across the ocean just to be seen by and talk to soldiers was a simple yet obviously dangerous task. Beyond coffee and donuts, they brought the soldiers a level of familiarity and comfort they were missing being so far away from home, risking their lives for their country and living on next to nothing.

The Christmas season has me raking in all sorts of Amazon Prime no-rush digital rewards, and I am just on the prowl for good books like it’s my job. Number 52 did not disappoint. Not one bit. And also, I would have never thought that I’d be someone who would read 52 books in one year, but here we are.

Book 52:
The Beantown Girls
by Jane Healey

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
February 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Beantown Girls is about the Red Cross Clubmobile girls who served coffee and donuts overseas to soldiers in the second World War. For women wanting to do their part in the war, heading across the ocean just to be seen by and talk to soldiers was a simple yet obviously dangerous task. Beyond coffee and donuts, they brought the soldiers a level of familiarity and comfort they were missing being so far away from home, risking their lives for their country and living on next to nothing.

Favorite Quote(s):

“How best to honor those we’ve lost? By not being afraid to live life and take risks, by daring to open your heart to possibility. By taking a chance to begin. Again.”

– Jane Healey, The Beantown Girls

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
361

My Overall Rating:
5 – Ok, so it has it’s sad parts – it’s a WWII book – BUT… this was a largely happy WWII book, and I really loved that. Previous to this book, I didn’t know the Clubmobilers even existed. They played such an interesting and necessary role in the war, and I’m really glad to know our country thought of such a thing in that time.

I also found the blend of historical accuracy and fiction to be just perfect. The characters’ stories were so heartfelt and the overall narrative shed a different light on life overseas, teaching me new things and showing the positive sides of serving your country amidst the many dark sides.

Book Review – One Day in December

One Day in December is a missed connection story between Laurie James and a man she locked eyes with at a bus stop one day in December. Spanning a decade, this story explores the intricacies of love at first site, reunion, friendship and growth.

People loved this next book. There was a lot of hype when it first came out. I don’t generally buy a brand new book, so I waited it out and found it in a Little Free Library about a year later. And in case you’re wondering, I did not read it in one day in December…

Book 51:
One Day in December
by Josie Silver

Genre:
Chick Lit, Holiday, Romance

Published:
October 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, One Day in December is a missed connection story between Laurie James and a man she locked eyes with at a bus stop one day in December. Spanning a decade, this story explores the intricacies of love at first site, reunion, friendship and growth.

Favorite Quote(s):

“You tread lightly through life, but you leave deep footprints that are hard for other people to fill.”

– Josie Silver, One Day in December

Awards (based upon my brief research):
#1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller
A Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick

Pages:
390

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – There was a phase of my life where I read a lot of Mary Kay Andrews, Katie Fforde and Sara Strohmeyer, and I think this book fits right into that category. It’s not overly romantic – not gross – but a really cute, feel-good love story. Think Hallmark Channel movie (in fact, how is this not yet a Hallmark Channel movie?). My issue with those types of books is that they read fast, and they’re really light and fun, but I don’t really gain anything from them as a reader. They’re purely escapist reads, and I think I’m at a point in my life where I want more.

SOMEWHAT OF A SPOILER ALERT —- I also really disliked that the author has the reader rooting for a divorce to happen in the story. Like, you made your bed, now lie in it.

Book Review – The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars is the fictional story of one group of women who road into the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943 as a part of the Pack Horse Library Project, Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library. Delivering books to those in remote regions of Kentucky, these women saw all kinds of characters and watched stories unfold as they passed out stories to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. In their quest, they’re toughened up, bonded together and the center of the town’s controversies.

To be honest with you, I wasn’t thrilled with the November selections for Book of the Month, but I chose this next read because I know it was highly anticipated. I loved Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You series, but this was my first go with her down the historical fiction road.

Book 50:
The Giver of Stars
by Jojo Moyes

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
October 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Giver of Stars is the fictional story of one group of women who road into the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943 as a part of the Pack Horse Library Project, Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library. Delivering books to those in remote regions of Kentucky, these women saw all kinds of characters and watched stories unfold as they passed out stories to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. In their quest, they’re toughened up, bonded together and the center of the town’s controversies.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Look outwards, Alice […] Not much point worrying what the town thinks about you – nothing you can do about that anyway. But when you look outwards, why, there’s a whole world of beautiful things.”

– Jojo Moyes, The Giver of Stars

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
400

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – I was super intrigued by the concept of the pack horse library – I love that that was a thing back in the days, and I like to think that if I lived during that time, I would have signed up to ride the minute the opportunity became available. That being said, from the historical side, I would say it was very lightly historical. There weren’t really any major historical events recounted in the book other than the library.

From the story side, it was just cute. It was a nice, easy read, but it wasn’t ripping me apart or making me cancel my plans to stay home and finish my book. I got more into the story in the last quarter of the book when the plot picks up, but until that point it wasn’t anything I was going to push on my friends.

Book Review – The Man with No Borders

The Man with No Borders is the fictional story of Jose-Maria Alvarez reflecting on his life from his death bed. His past is filled with struggles, secrets and salmon. As he attempts to come to terms with the life behind him, his memories flood his mind and push him towards the ultimate decision of whether or not to accept who he is, what he’s done and how he’s affected his family.

If you have a Kindle and you’re not a part of Amazon First Reads, you need to get on that like now, because you’re missing out. This next one was my (FREE) August Kindle book from First Reads… And it didn’t come out until September.

Book 49:
The Man with No Borders
by Richard C. Morais

Genre:
Literary Fiction

Published:
September 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Man with No Borders is the fictional story of Jose-Maria Alvarez reflecting on his life from his death bed. His past is filled with struggles, secrets and salmon. As he attempts to come to terms with the life behind him, his memories flood his mind and push him towards the ultimate decision of whether or not to accept who he is, what he’s done and how he’s affected his family.

Favorite Quote(s):

“It is the nature of old age, I am discovering, to remember the entire panorama of the past, everything from those difficult memories we spend a lifetime trying to suppress, to those inconsequential moments that seemed so trivial at the time, but now, with hindsight, take on added meaning and weight.”

“…the key is not to lie to yourself about the crimes you have committed, but to try and let in what you have done and why you did it at the time. That’s the path to forgiving yourself.”

– Richard C. Morais, The Man with No Borders

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
307

My Overall Rating:
4 – I love it when a book has just the right amount of weird. I knew the gist of this story going into it, but there were mystical elements I could not have predicted – things I’ve never really seen in a story before, yet not so far out there that I struggled to see it. I think there are seasons in our lives where we choose to see and believe different things and the author represented that to a T with the addition of two characters who played a significant role in the end of Jose-Maria’s life.

On top of the unique elements mentioned above, the story tugged at my heart strings. Jose-Maria didn’t always have it easy. He was pushed and tempted. He had big choices to make that impacted every step of his life.

His story made me think about the things I choose to do with my life now, about my relationships, and about the things I will choose to reflect upon in the end. We will all have regrets, but reading the thoughts of someone in the latter stages of life (and even on the dying end) points the reader toward a subtle reminder that we get to choose whether or not we accept that. That’s a powerful message. Now put that message in Spain/Switzerland and it’s powerful and cultural.

Book Review – Travel Light, Move Fast

Travel Light, Move Fast is a collection of reflective stories from Alexanda Fuller’s time with her parents in the wake of her father’s death. Having never lived a conventional lifestyle, the Fullers lived in 20+ locations (most in Africa) in the duration of Alexandra’s childhood, moving for various reasons and experiencing a whole gamut of cultures.

A memoir nab from my library’s Book Bingo event where I seriously brought home the book bacon, this next one was fun!

Book 48:
Travel Light, Move Fast
by Alexandra Fuller

Genre:
Memoir, Cultural

Published:
August 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Travel Light, Move Fast is a collection of reflective stories from Alexandra Fuller’s time with her parents in the wake of her father’s death. Having never lived a conventional lifestyle, the Fullers lived in 20+ locations (most in Africa) in the duration of Alexandra’s childhood, moving for various reasons and experiencing a whole gamut of cultures.

Favorite Quote(s):

“‘Make a plan,’ Dad always said. ‘And if that doesn’t work, make another one and if that doesn’t work, you’re probably the problem.'”

“Anyone who wants to start a war should have to spend the night in a hospital with the boys who come back from it.”

– Alexandra Fuller, Travel Light, Move Fast

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
240

My Overall Rating:
3 – This one was hard for me to rate. There were moments I was literally laughing out loud – moments when I had to go back and read portions out loud to my husband because they were so funny. The writing was done well. I think she probably portrayed the “characters” very accurately given the amount of transparency she appeared to utilize. But as a whole, there wasn’t much story to it – it felt mostly like a nice tribute to Alexandra’s parents.

It’s short, and the funny parts were worth it, but I can’t say it was an above-average memoir.

Book Review – You Me Everything

You Me Everything tells the story of Jess and her 10-year-old son, William, and their summer vacation in France at William’s dad’s hotel. In an attempt to strengthen the bond between father and son, Jess agrees to spend the summer in the vicinity of Adam, her ex-boyfriend to give her son the father he’s yet to have and needs.

Amidst their vacation runs summer flings, dredged up pasts and secrets. Can Adam be the father William needs? Will the truth about the past be revealed? And can the secrets of the future change fate? It’s cute. It’s funny. It’s heart-wrenching.

So I was new to Goodreads only like 18 months ago and therefore like five years late to that party. However, I was there in time to catch wind of this book when it was first coming out. I added it to my “to read” list and later found it for $2 at a library used book sale. Steal!

Book 47:
You Me Everything
by Catherine Isaac

Genre:
Chick Lit, Contemporary

Published:
May 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, You Me Everything tells the story of Jess and her 10-year-old son, William, and their summer vacation in France at William’s dad’s hotel. In an attempt to strengthen the bond between father and son, Jess agrees to spend the summer in the vicinity of Adam, her ex-boyfriend to give her son the father he’s yet to have and needs.

Amidst their vacation runs summer flings, dredged up pasts and secrets. Can Adam be the father William needs? Will the truth about the past be revealed? And can the secrets of the future change fate? It’s cute. It’s funny. It’s heart-wrenching.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Whatever life might through at me, right now, there’s this – I’m alive.”

– Catherine Isaac, You Me Everything

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
368

My Overall Rating:
4 – I’ve been thirsty for a great novel – something fun yet meaningful – and this one made a great run at satisfying that thirst. Is it chick lit? Yes, I suppose it is, but it was so much deeper than summer romances, rekindled love and French vacations. It tapped into life’s big questions while making me laugh and cry and turn page after page needing to know more.

If I didn’t have two kids at home, I could have sat down and read this start to finish in two days. It was an easy read due to writing style, and a page-turner due to content. There were very few parts that I could have done without – parts that were too cutesy or useless information – yet those few are keeping me from my fifth star. As a whole, solid. Much more solid than I even thought it was going to be. I would put it on a similar level to Ask Again, Yes, but maybe more for girls than the latter.

Book Review – Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter tells the story of Joe and Rose Kennedy’s reaction to having an intellectually disabled daughter in the early/mid 1900s. Born into the rich and famous Kennedy family, the beautiful Rosemary had everything going for her… except her disability. At a time when disabilities as such were not well dealt with by society, the Kennedys did what they could to keep Rosemary hidden away for public relations purposes as they sought political power, even stooping to the level of having her undergo a lobotomy in hopes of “curing” her. However, they could not predict the outcome her life would have on their family. It’s possible her plight was not in conjunction with the “Kennedy Curse”, but rather a blessing to their family and to society as a whole.

Book Club’s November pick was another non-fiction. I wasn’t jumping at the gun for another non-fiction, myself, but I can’t say I was disappointed necessarily…

Book 46:
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
by Kate Clifford Larson

Genre:
Nonfiction, Historical, Biography

Published:
October 2015

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter tells the story of Joe and Rose Kennedy’s reaction to having an intellectually disabled daughter in the early/mid 1900s. Born into the rich and famous Kennedy family, the beautiful Rosemary had everything going for her… except her disability. At a time when disabilities as such were not well dealt with by society, the Kennedys did what they could to keep Rosemary hidden away for public relations purposes as they sought political power, even stooping to the level of having her undergo a lobotomy in hopes of “curing” her. However, they could not predict the outcome her life would have on their family. It’s possible her plight was not in conjunction with the “Kennedy Curse”, but rather a blessing to their family and to society as a whole.

Favorite Quote(s):

“None of us can understand the ways of Almighty God—the crosses which he sends us, the sacrifices which he demands of us. But he loves us and He has a particular plan in this life for each of us.”

– Kate Clifford Larson, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for History & Biography (2015)

Pages:
320

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – Ok, so this book made me cry. Rosemary’s story is so tragic. But also, I think I just read a 320 page research paper. I mean, I did. That’s exactly what it was. I struggled with the writing style, but the story was incredibly interesting.

Despite my 3.5, slightly above average rating, I would recommend this book because it challenges what you might believe about people with special needs. How are we to react to them? What is their role in society? What would this look like in my family? The Kennedys had the world at their fingertips and they still didn’t know how to deal with the cards they were dealt.