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Books 2019

Books I read in 2019, organized by category and then alphabetically by author:

< < 2018    2020 > >

Non-Fiction—Memoir, Autobiography, Biography:

Saturday Night Widows, Becky Aikman
I somehow thought this was fiction when I started reading. It is not. When I realized it was a true story, I wondered about how the author had gotten permission from the other ladies to share their stories after the fact. Some Googling after I finished leads me to believe the group was formed with writing a book about it in mind from the start, which is not my favorite sort of thing to read. I had some trouble keeping track of which woman was which, whether because none were especially relatable to me or something else, I’m not sure.

The Size of Everything, Erin Cole and Jenna McCarthy
This memoir can be very hard to read … not because of the writing, but because so many adults failed these children. Kudos to Erin Cole for surviving and eventually thriving as an adult herself.

The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing, & Coming Out, William Dameron
The catfishing mentioned in the subtitle was a very minor part of this book; I would have liked to hear more. There’s a lot of pain to go around here.

Don’t Go There: From Chernobyl to North Korea, Adam Fletcher
I spent much of this book annoyed by the author, an annoyance born of envy, as I wished I’d been able to support myself running websites and being able to take so many trips when I was his age instead of having an office job with never enough vacation days. By the end, he seemed more mature and annoyed me less.

The Secret Race, Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
I’m not a bike racing fan, but still felt reading this was a good use of my time to learn how screwed up things were (are?) in that world.

Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, Ken Ilgunas
I read memoirs to see into other people’s lives. I am too attached to creature comforts and too scared to be people like this author. Could this author have done what he did if he were a woman? Probably not, given how the world works right now.

To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History, Lawrence Levy
This is a business memoir which would not seem to be the kind of thing that would make me cry, yet there I was, weeping away at a particularly momentous time in Pixar’s history.

Future Perfect: A Skeptic’s Search for an Honest Mystic, Victoria Loustalot
I admit I got this mainly because I saw a review from a Trump supporter who was offended by it. I connected strongly with parts of this memoir. As I read about the author’s explorations and interviews with psychics and mystics and others, interspersed with tales of her love life, I came across a few ideas that struck me as worth further contemplation. It’s a shame that the Trump supporter who wrote that review I saw didn’t finish the book, because there are some thoughts on empathy here that that person could benefit from if they were able to open their heart and mind.

The Egg and I, Betty MacDonald
I read this whole book without realizing this is where Ma and Pa Kettle come from. Not that I have much to do with Ma and Pa Kettle but those characters were something I remember older relatives talking about when I was young. This book hasn’t necessarily aged well, what with the casual racism, but it was still interesting to see the life of a farm wife in the 1920s.

Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption, Vanessa McGrady
There is a lot of backstory before the adoption of the subtitle happens. I would really like the biological parents to write their side of this story, too; there are bits of it here, but filtered through the author’s privilege. I hope the author’s relationship with her daughter goes better than any of her relationships with men did.

Hippie Woman Wild: A Memoir of Life & Love on an Oregon Commune, Carol Schlanger
The version I read had enough proofreading errors that I found them distracting enough to mention here. I was in grade school when my mom went through her “hippie” period; we never lived on a commune but did go to a cooperative school where there were no classes or much adult supervision, so some of this book did resonate with me more than it might have otherwise. I very much appreciated the afterword with updates on many of the people in the story.

Man Fast: A Memoir , Natasha Scripture
There are some nuggets here that made me think. That she worked remotely through her adventures made it seem less self-indulgent than similar quests I’ve read about.

A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport, Kate Stewart
It took me a while to get through this … I would have thought the story of a woman who escaped Nazi Germany as teen and worked in Vietnam during the war (among other things) would be more exciting in the telling. Maybe because the author never met the subject there was some distance there?

Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain, Sarah Vallance
No sugar coating here in this telling of the author’s path back from a traumatic brain injury. There is an event here that was upsetting to me as a dog lover (the author is also a dog lover) but I kept reading.

The Warner Boys: Our Family’s Story of Autism and Hope, Curt Warner and Ana Warner and Dave Boling
Conversational. Can’t imagine some of the things this family went through, and they had more resources than many families do.

Educated: A Memoir, Tara Westover
This was powerful and heartbreaking. Living as I do in the mountains of Idaho, with Redoubters and other survivalists rearing their ugly heads in some of our local Facebook groups, this resonated even deeper than it might otherwise.

The Boy Between Worlds: A Biography, Annejet van der Zilj, translated by Kristen Gehrman
Note that the photo section in the middle of the book contains spoilers for later events in this true story. I found this well written and well researched and I learned some things about WWII.

Non-Fiction—Everything Else:

The Sadist, the Hitman and the Murder of Jane Bashara, George Hunter and Lynn Rosenthal
I guess my reading of the Swedish true crime book led this one to show up on my recommendation list. Even though this crime took place in metro Detroit when I was living there, I don’t remember hearing anything about it. Guess it wasn’t on NPR. A sad and infuriating story. There’s some repetition in the telling here that detracts from the unfolding of the tale.

The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator, Joakim Palmkvist, translated by Agnes Broomé
I appreciated the detail about how the Swedish justice system works. I didn’t appreciate the repetition of some parts of the story; they didn’t seem to add to the dramatic effect but rather made me feel the author didn’t trust the reader to remember things. I am confused by the author’s bio, which says he’s living under a protected identity, yet has a photo and lists the city where he lives. How does that work?

Fiction—Romance, Erotica, and Urban Fantasy:

Fate’s Edge, Ilona Andrews
I enjoyed returning to this world. I had sort of forgotten who some of these characters were, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the story. I had a few plot quibbles, but when don’t I.

Steel’s Edge, Ilona Andrews
Figured I’d go ahead and read the last in this series while the world was fresh in my mind. I liked it.

Clean Sweep, Ilona Andrews
Just picked up this series from a favorite author. I liked it. I did spend most of the book thinking one of the heroes was married (having confused him for another character) and therefore not a possibility for a romantic interest (barring discussion of polyamory, of which there was none).

Throttle Me, Chelle Bliss
(read as part of the Tasted and Tempted collection)
I could have sworn I read a later book in the series that this book kicks off, but remembered nothing about these characters from that book, so that was confusing. Apparently there are two series about siblings running a tattoo shop, and the other one was also in this same collection.

Broken Toy, Tymber Dalton
This BDSM series is so much more realistic and so much healthier for all the characters involved than 50 Shades.

A Clean Sweep, Tymber Dalton
It amused me that this installment of a favorite series had pretty much the same title as the book I’d just read (Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews). This is the rare book that kept me up late reading. I liked the setup more than the main relationship, probably because the former hit close to home while the latter did not.

Rest for the Wicked, Cate Dean
The Girl, Lola St. Vil
Twin Souls, K. A. Poe
Darkangel, Christina Pope
I read these as part of the Paranormal 13 collection, which I’m slowly working my way through. I decided I needed to get these logged before I forgot what I thought about them, but too late; they’ve already slipped from my memory, which seems odd, as when I got to the book about the mermaids that seemed familiar … I looked back at my logs and found I’d read it on its own in 2014. So maybe my shorter term memory is failing, which is a scary thought. So I’m getting these titles in here now, and maybe I’ll go back and refresh my memory and make comments later but probably not. I do intend to get the rest of the books into the log in a more timely manner.

Wolves, C. Gockel
I liked the human main characters, could have done with a bit more world building on the non-human side of things, and somehow missed the “Part 1” in the subtitle and so was frustrated by the non-ending. It was this that made me decide to not continue reading the Paranormal 13 collection; too many cliffhangers.

Blood Bond: 1
Blood Bond: 2
Blood Bond: 3, Helen Hardt
Read these in the Unchained: Blood Bond Saga, Part 1 collection. It’s my fault for not researching this better before I read it: it’s a serial, not a series. The same things happen over and over and the main plot barely moves forward. Numerous hints are dropped about ominous goings on but none of them really pay off in the course of these three installments. The hero is traumatized and deals with that in the least productive way possible, hurting other people along the way. The heroine is apparently under the influence of forces beyond her control because no reasonable woman I know would invite the hero into her life in the way she does. I don’t plan to read on.

The Mistress of Pemberley: An Erotic Pride & Prejudice Sequel, Delaney Jane, Chera Zade, and A Lady
I found myself wishing these authors had left Jane Austen’s characters alone. Sure, write a kinky erotic novel set in Victorian England, but make up your own characters.

I Think I Might Love You, Christina C. Jones
Picked this up because I’m trying to expand my horizons when it come to authors. This was a quick fun read.

Storm, Nina Levine
(read as part of the Tasted and Tempted collection)
Having read two now, I’ve decided that MC novels are not for me. Especially not ones like this, where the MC guys kill folks with no legal repercussions and treat their women in ways I don’t care to see. This particular one did some stuff at the end that I found manipulative to the reader.

Rescue Me,
Going Commando,
From Ashes,
Shattered Pieces,
Inked in Vegas,
Flash Me, K. M. Neuhold
Read all of these in March as parts of the Heathens Ink Box Set. Note that in the box set, there are extras which are not placed in chronological order, so some contain spoilers for books one won’t have read yet if one is just reading the box set in the order in which it’s presented. The world of Heathens Ink is very inclusive, though if you like female characters alongside the gay male ones, there are very few of those. The editing here could be way better; there are lots of stray commas, missing commas, unnecessary apostrophes, homonym errors (breaks vs. brakes, for instance), and some logic problems (such as a character who doesn’t know another’s last name despite having spent a fair bit of time reading his Facebook posts). I can’t say these were pleasant reads, as there’s a fair bit of hard content (a mass shooting, a suicide attempt, kids kicked out of their homes for being gay/trans/pregnant), but they are good enough that I did finish reading the whole box set. I’m undecided about seeking out more from the author; I’m feeling some ick about a straight woman writing gay male romance. Of course writers can create characters that aren’t like them, but this series gave me some whiffs of fetishization of the gay male, and that doesn’t feel good. Quite possibly this is a me problem, not a content problem, but there it is.

A Mate for the Beta, E. A. Price
A lot packed into this novella between the romance and the murder mystery. Neither is really given enough space to unfold at a realistic pace, but that’s not unusual for this type of fiction.

In the Unlikely Event, L.J. Shen
I couldn’t really find a way into this. I liked some of the quirkiness of how it was written, but the characters and the plot were just not something I could connect with.

The Birthday Bitch, Amelia Stone
The 2019 story the author sent out as a birthday present to her mailing list. Fun, light, good read.

Twice the Growl, Milly Taiden
Quick read. Could have used more world building and character development. Some quirks of phrasing that struck me as odd: “chunk of hair”, “swallowed a gulp”, “sucked down a gulp”, “air tripped in her chest”.

Best Bondage Erotica, edited by Alison Tyler (P)
I didn’t feel especially engaged by any of the stories; maybe I need I need to be invested in a relationship between characters first and there wasn’t a chance to do that with the length of these offerings.

The King, J. R. Ward
Every so often I’ll go back to this series and find that it hasn’t gone back to the simpler stories I appreciated in the earlier days. Now there are so many subplots competing with each other that I have trouble focusing on any of them. I did enjoy seeing the changes in the structure of vampire government in this one, so that’s something.

Miss Dalrymple’s Virtue, Margaret Westhaven (P)
This 1988 Harlequin Regency Romance came to me courtesy of cleaning out a relative’s library. There was something comforting about knowing pretty much how it would unfold, with no tedious sex scenes to get through.

Fiction—Everything Else:

A Transcontinental Affair: A Novel, Jodi Daynard
(I appreciate when a book reminds me in the title if it’s fiction or non-.) I chose this based on the outraged reviews by some narrow-minded folks on Amazon; generally if it upsets bigots, it’s a book for me, and that was indeed true in this case. I’m not sure how realistic the ending was but it gave me happy thoughts and I need those so I’m good with it.

The Frame-Up, Meghan Scott Miller
I was on board with female geek lead character. Wish it hadn’t been first person narration. Wish there hadn’t been a couple of huge coincidences to move the plot forward. Yet I enjoyed reading it enough that I’m considering getting the sequel when it comes out in July.

Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
I liked this a lot. I didn’t like everything that happened, probably because I liked the main character so much that I felt bad when things didn’t work out for her the way I wanted. The ending left me with hope, though, which I much appreciated.

I’m Fine and Neither Are You, Camille Pagán
Seemed realistic. Having worked in Ann Arbor for a while (though A2 is not named), there was a familiarity to the setting I found comfortable.

The Vine Witch, Luanne G. Smith
Really enjoyed this one: the setting, the characters, the world building, the magic. It felt complete, not begging for a sequel, but I’m glad there is one coming (not ’til June 2020, which seems a long way away).

Randomize, Andy Weir
The Last Conversation, Paul Tremblay
You Have Arrived at Your Destination, Amor Towles
Emergency Skin, N.K. Jemison
Summer Frost, Blake Crouch
Ark, Veronica Roth
Read these bundled together as the Forward collection. I should have written about them as I finished them as now they’re all jumbled in my head.

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