My favorites so far of 2019

Just over halfway through 2019, and 2019 has seen some great book releases. I’m highlighting my favorites. Please note: this list is not in any particular order.

Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig 

Caleb Roehrig’s third book is a fantastic foray into the world of sophisticated crimes–all committed by teenagers. Margo Manning is well known for who her father is, the CEO of Manning Corporation. But Margo Manning’s crimes are well known too–from art theft to jewel heists. Did I mention the drag queens? Yes, the crimes are committed by Margo, Liesl, Anita, Electra, and Dior. All highly trained in the art of various combats with Margo’s access to high tech tools through her father’s work, they haven’t been caught yet.

Death Prefers Blondes begins right in the middle of a heist at the Los Angeles Museum of Fine Art. This book will immediately draw you in and will not let you go until you have finished the very last page.

Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan

One year after a serial killer terrorized the small coastal town of Camera Cove, Mac is trying his best to move on. He has just graduated high school, reuniting with some of his childhood best friends to dig up a time capsule. One member of the friend group cannot be there because Connor was the final victim of the serial killer that has not been caught.

After going home, Mac decides to finally open up a bag of comics that Connor had left on his door on a day that ended up being the last day of Connor’s life. In there, Mac finds a small note that tells him that Connor may have actively been investigating the serial killer.

Instead of moving on, Mac begins to investigate this. Under the guise of seeking items for a rummage sale, he begins to make contact with each of the victim’s families to search for clues that the police may have missed.

Obsessive search for a serial killer? What’s not to love.

Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Paris. 1887.

Nathalie has gotten a job as the morgue reporter for a newspaper. Every morning, she finds herself waiting outside of the public morgue waiting waiting to view the bodies for the day. Her job is then to write a brief report about the bodies and submit it.

But things don’t go as planned. After 2 weeks on the job, she views a body who has been so brutally murdered that she touches the glass separating her and the victim. Instantly, she is transported to a scene where the murdered girl is still alive. She views this as if in a dream, and when she is pulled back out of it, she is still in the morgue.

Soon it becomes clear that there is a serial killer on the loose, and perhaps Nathalie can use her newly discovered ability to find them.

A combination of thriller, historical, and a touch of fantasy. Spectacle is the brilliant debut novel by Jodie Lynn Zdrok.

Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

Deposing Nathan begins in conference room of a state’s attorney office. Nate had been involved in a fist-fight that led to his former best friend Cam stabbing him in the gut with a shard of ceramic.

Just how they got to that point is the question. While the book takes place over the course of just a few days, the back story takes up the course of nearly a year. The design of this book is unique; it goes back and forth between remembering that we are hearing Nate tell this story inside of the state’s attorney office and figuring out what exactly happened between him and Cam.

This story is remarkably well done and carefully handles the internal conflict of a person of faith and what the church teaches versus what he feels.

Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner

Sam Jones hopes that college can be a fresh start for her. But right now, she’s still stuck in high school–the awkward girl who doesn’t quite fit in, even among her friend Will’s group of gamers.

Zoe Miller meanwhile fits in just fine, but her friends have no idea what her home life is like.

When Zoe visits the art room to find a piece for a student led production, she meets Sam. Sam doesn’t want the attention, but she eventually says yes to letting the painting be used.

What neither expected was a friendship to form.

This is an honest look at intense friendships forged in fire and carried out significantly through text messages (although it’s not done by the characters, this is true for other forms of social media messaging as well). The misunderstandings, the difficulties, the greatness–it’s all there and all so realistic.

 

Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley

Pup Flanagan comes from a big family. He’s the youngest of eight kids, and with all of his in-laws, future in-laws, nieces, and nephews, there’s 28 of them.

But one of them is gone. Lost. Dead.

Almost almost three years prior to the start of Sorry For Your Loss, Pup’s brother Patrick died of meningitis. Since then, one of the three beds in the upstairs attic of the Flanagan boys’ room remains empty. Patrick’s picture on the wall has been replaced with a drawing of a cherub instead.

Every Sunday, all the members of the Flanagan family gather for dinner. But still, there’s that missing piece.

This is a fantastic book about how grief can carry on and about finding your way to live through it.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson

Dino was friends with July. But then something happened that changed that.

But now there really is no chance for them to repair their friendship because July is dead.

Until she’s suddenly not quite dead after all. Not dead but not alive, July and Dino have to figure out what’s going on because July’s dead-not-dead moment has made it so that other people have stopped dying even when they should be dead.

Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson

Brave Face is Shaun David Hutchinson’s memoir about his high school experience and early college experience when Hutchinson experienced difficulties with coming to terms with who he is and with the struggles of mental illness that also occurred. A brutally honest memoir, Hutchinson does a great job including content warnings for the things that he went through which I appreciated as a reader. As I read, despite the fact that we are very different people, I was struck by how similar some of the things that we have gone through were. And it gave me hope that if someone else could survive it, so could I.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Jules has not had an easy life. Her sister vanished about eight years ago. Then her mom began struggling with health problems at the same time her dad was laid off. Then both of her parents died.

Now, Jules finds herself suddenly laid off and recently split up from a boyfriend who was cheating on her. She’s having no luck finding a job, and she’s staying on the couch of a friend.

So when an ad comes up that an apartment sitter is needed, Jules jumps on the opportunity. When she arrives at the address, she discovers that it’s a storied place that was used in the setting of her favorite book. She feels that something is off when she’s offered $12,000 to stay in an apartment for three months, but the money is too good to pass up.

Within hours of moving in, Jules starts to get a weird vibe from the place, and despite warnings not to, she begins snooping about.

She learns about past disappearances in the building, and she begins to realize that something sinister is afoot.

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Told over the course of 1989 and 1990 during the middle of the AIDS crisis, Like a Love Story is a brilliant novel. Told in three parts, Reza, Judy, and Art, this story is a compelling historical look at what it meant to be gay during the middle of a crisis where gay people were demonized as they were dying from a disease that disproportionately affected them as the government mostly refused to take action.

Reza struggles with his identity, Judy struggles with belonging, and Art fights back against AIDS while living with parents who are conservative.

As soon as I finished this book, I wanted to read it again.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga 

Jasmine Warga’s first middle grade novel and her first told in verse is a beautiful story about Jude who leaves Syria when things become more dangerous where she’s living. She ends up in Cincinnati with her mother, living at her uncle’s home.

I still struggle to put into words just how beautiful this novel is, but it’s so beautifully told.

Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Sophie and Peter have been best friends for year. Deep down, Sophie has feelings for Peter, and when the opportunity comes up for her to donate a kidney to him so that he has an opportunity to live more fully, having been on constant dialysis for years, Sophie does so willingly, hoping but not expecting that it would make a difference in their relationship.

But as Peter begins to live in his life post-transplant, he finds that he’s attracted to someone else, a boy.

Our Year of Maybe delicately explores unrequited love and friendships that turn toxic, and it’s beautifully told.

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake

Sunny has a second chance at life after she receives a heart transplant. She has plans for her new life: find a new best friend, do things that she could never do before, and kiss a boy.

Sunny went through a friendship break up before she got her new heart, and it was for the worst reason. Sunny is learning that she thinks about kissing other girls, but she learns that other girls don’t necessarily think that way. And sometimes, those other girls are immensely cruel about it.

On top of that, for the first time in years, Sunny’s mother comes back into the picture, and Sunny struggles with this.

A beautifully told story about coming to terms with who you are, this middle grade novel is not to be missed. (It also compliments really well with Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Our Year of Maybe.)

The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg

Max and Jordan know who they are. They both know that they are gay.

Jordan’s mother has been struggling financially and decides to resurrect her husband’s old food truck. But neither Jordan or his mother know the first thing about running the food truck. When Max meets Jordan as Jordan’s mother is melting down, Max becomes roped into helping out on the food truck as a cook.

Jordan and Max begin working together on the food truck, becoming friends and exploring becoming more than friends, but both are struggling.

Max has a secret that’s eating away at him. And Jordan is having to parent his mother and may be losing his house.

Beautifully told story.

That’s Not What I Heard by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Did you hear? Teddy and Kim broke up. The it couple who seemed like they would always be together has suddenly broken up, and now the entire school is taking sides.

Told in third person but through multiple perspectives, That’s Not What I Heard is an absurd and hysterical story of what can happen when people get overly invested in other people’s relationships. I laughed out loud throughout the book, and it’s just so fun.

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

Josie and Delia are best friends living in Jackson, TN. Each Friday night, for the past year and a half, they slip into their horror show host personas, Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, to film segments that will air inter-spliced with a horror movie of Delia’s choosing from her father’s grand collection of VHS tapes that he left behind when he left her years ago.

As the end of their senior year approaches, they find out that they have been invited to attend ShiverCon, a horror movie/tv show convention in Florida. Delia finds out that Jack Devine, a horror show host from the 1970s that helped launch other careers, will be there, and she wants to meet with him to help their show launch into something that could be a career.

Add into this mix an 18 year old MMA fighter that Josie meets while performing a dog wedding, Delia’s search for her father and then hesitance to reach out when a PI does, and a lot of humor, and you’ve got a pretty wonderful book.