Top Ten Tuesday -My Top Books of 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday will be the final instalment of a series of lists I have been doing over the last couple of weeks which highlighted some of the authors and books I have been most impressed with this year. So far, I have looked at my favourite audiobooks of 2019, favourite debut novels of 2019, my favourite new-to-me authors and my favourite pre-2019 books I read this year. I have covered a pretty interesting range of novels in these lists, but as this is the last Top Ten Tuesday of 2019, it is time to showcase my absolute favourite releases of the year.

I think we can all agree that 2019 has been a pretty amazing year for books, with a huge range of incredible releases coming out across the genres. I have had the great pleasure of reading or listening to so many outstanding books this year, and quite a few of this year’s releases have become instant favourites to me. I have to admit that I somewhat struggled to pull this list together, as there were so many books that deserved to be mentioned. Therefore, because I’m a soft touch, and because the quality of the books I read this year is so impressive, I have decided to expand this list out to 20 entries. These 20 books are my absolute favourites from 2019, and I would strongly recommend each and every one of them to anyone who is interested.

There is a going to be a bit of crossover between the below entries and the other lists I mentioned above, as I have featured some of these books before. In particular, several appeared on my Top Ten Favourite Audiobooks of 2019 list, as I enjoyed a great many of my favourite books this year on audiobook. In addition, I also featured some of these entries on my Top Ten Favourite Books from the First Half of 2019, which I ran back in July. As a result, I may have mentioned a couple of these books several times before on my previous lists, so I have kept the descriptions below a little brief. That being said, I managed to include a few books that haven’t made any of the previous lists for several reasons, and I think that this Top 20 list contains a pretty good range of novels that really showcases the different types of books I chose to read this year. I decided to leave off my usual Honourable Mentions section, as the extra 10 entries kind of make it unnecessary. Here is the list, with my ratings for each book included:

Top Ten List (no particular order):

 

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson – Five Stars

Starsight Cover 2


Rage
by Jonathan Maberry – Five Stars

Rage Cover


Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City
by K. J. Parker – Five Stars

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover


The Night Fire
by Michael Connelly – Five Stars

The Night Fire Cover


The Bone Ships
by R. J. Barker – Five Stars

The Bone Ships Cover


Spaceside
by Michael Mammay – Five Stars

Spaceside Cover


Supernova
by Marissa Meyer – Five Stars

Supernova Cover


Commodus by Simon Turney – Five Stars

Commodus Cover


Red Metal
by Mark Greaney and Hunter Ripley Rawlings – Five Stars

Red Metal Cover 2


War of the Bastards
by Andrew Shvarts – Five Stars

War of the Bastards Cover


Blood & Sugar
by Laura Shepherd-Robinson – Five Stars

Blood & Sugar Cover


Dark Forge
by Miles Cameron – Currently Unrated

Dark Forge Cover

The first entry on this list I haven’t had the chance to write a review for yet. Dark Forge is the sequel to 2018’s Cold Iron, which I quite enjoyed earlier in the year, and this second book is a gripping and exciting read. I am probably going to give this book a full five stars in the future; it’s a fantastic novel to check out.

Tiamat’s Wrath by James S. A. Corey – Five Stars

Tiamat's Wrath Cover


Recursion
by Blake Crouch – Currently Unrated

Recursion Cover

Another really good book that I need to hurry up and write a review for. Recursion is a clever and compelling read that I really enjoyed, and I am planning to rate it five out of five stars.

The Unbound Empire by Melissa Caruso – Five Stars

The Unbound Empire Cover (WoW)


Howling Dark
by Christopher Ruocchio – Five Stars

Howling Dark Cover


Usagi Yojimbo – Vol 33: The Hidden
by Stan Sakai – Five Stars

Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden Cover


A Little Hatred
by Joe Abercrombie – Currently Unrated

A Little Hatred Cover

Another currently unrated novel that I will probably end up giving five stars to. A Little Hatred is actually the book I am currently listening to, so I have not had a chance to write anything about it yet. That being said, I am over two-thirds of the way through it at the moment and it is clearly an outstanding novel which also does a fantastic job of continuing Abercrombie’s entertaining The First Law series.

Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn – 4.5 Stars

Thrawn Treason Cover

I had to include at least one Star Wars book on this list, and Treason is easily my favourite Star Wars book of 2019. I cannot wait for Zahn’s next book, Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising, which should be pretty epic.

God of Broken Things by Cameron Johnston – 4.75 Stars

god of broken things cover

 

Well that’s my 20 most-favourite books of 2019. It turned out to be quite a good list in the end, and I am very glad that I was able to highlight so many fantastic books. 2020 is also set to be another excellent year for amazing reads, and I will be examining some of my most anticipated books for the first half of the year next week. In the meantime, let me know what your favourite books of 2019 are in the comments below, and make sure you all have a happy New Years.

Usagi Yojimbo – Vol 33: The Hidden by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden Cover

Publisher: Dark Horse Books (9 July 2019)

Series: Usagi Yojimbo – Volume 33

Length: 200 pages

My Rating: 5 out of stars

While there are a number of great books and comics coming out this year, one of the releases that I have been most keenly looking forward to was this year’s volume of Usagi Yojimbo. Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai is a fantastic comic book series that utilises Japanese style, characters and history into an excellent series. This series is one of my favourite bodies of work, and I will move heaven and earth to get each instalment, and I especially loved last year’s volume, Mysteries. I was pretty darn excited to get the 33rd volume, The Hidden, and powered through it the afternoon that I received it.

Usagi 166.jpg

The Hidden continues the story of Miyamoto Usagi, a wandering ronin samurai who lives in a version of medieval Japan populated by anthropomorphic animals. Usagi’s life occurs in the early 17th century, during the Edo era of Japan. This is a pretty interesting time period to set a story, as with the land mostly at formal peace thanks to the rule of the Shogun, many samurai have been forced to roam the land without a master to serve. Usagi, a highly skilled samurai based on the legendary historical warrior Miyamoto Musashi, has been forced to live the ronin lifestyle after the death of his lord. Wandering the roads and seeking employment as a Yojimbo (a bodyguard), Usagi encounters all manner of rogues, bandits and criminals, as well as a number of supernatural foes from Japanese folklore.

The Hidden is made up of issues #166-#172 of the series and is actually one of the rare Usagi Yojimbo volumes to feature just one single adventure rather than multiple interconnected or standalone stories. This volume also continues to pair Usagi with Inspector Ishida for the entire volume. Ishida, who is essentially a Japanese Sherlock Holmes (although based on real-life Honolulu policeman Chang Apana), is a recurring character within the Usagi series who has appeared in multiple volumes, often for just one issue or adventure. However, after teaming up to investigate a murder a couple of volumes ago, Usagi has been living in Ishida’s town and assisting him with his investigations. As a result, Ishida has become a secondary protagonist for the last two volumes, with Mysteries, for example, focusing on the two solving several different crimes.

Usagi 167.jpg

This new volume starts with a brand-new case, when two samurai are pursued into the city and brutally murdered. When Usagi and Ishida discover crucifixes on the dead samurai’s bodies, they quickly realise that both the victims where Kirishitans (Christians). Christianity, which has been bought into the country by European missionaries, has recently been outlawed in Japan by the Shogun, and his agents are hunting down all practitioners. It soon becomes clear that the dead samurai were killed by agents of the Shogun who were attempting to recover a mysterious book of foreign design.

However, in a twist of fate, a petty thief manages to steal the book off the corpse of one of the samurai. This thief is now the most wanted man in the city, as the Shogunate agents and their hired killers attempt to find him and the book at all costs. As Usagi and Ishida work out what has happened, they are determined to bring the killers to justice. Hunting for both the book and the criminal who stole it, Usagi and Ishida, with the help of the masked master-thief Nezumi, manage to locate part of the book, and what they discover could rock the entirety of Japan. As they attempt to come to terms with their discovery, the Shogunate agents determine that the two investigators are a threat and decide to eliminate once and for all.

Usagi 168.jpg

While I may have had to wait a whole year to read this latest volume, it was definitely worth it. Sakai has once again produced an outstanding comic book that I could not have put down for anything. Not only has Sakai written an intriguing and clever story with a great mystery and an informative look at a new aspect of Japanese history, but he tells it through his beautiful Japanese-inspired artwork that really brings the characters and the landscape to life. Together this results in another exceptional piece of work that I absolutely loved.

Usagi 169.jpg

The main story focuses upon Usagi and Ishida’s investigation into the murders of Christian samurai and the hunt for the mysterious book the Shogunate agents are searching for. This was a really interesting story, and I liked how Sakai took the entire volume to really flesh out the investigation. The two characters go on a compelling adventure in this book, running into a number of colourful characters, dodging political restraints, interrogating a number of suspicious characters and getting into several deadly fights. However, what starts out as an intriguing investigation soon turns into a deep and powerful tale of convictions, belief and faith, and the things one must do to preserve all three. This is shown by a number of characters, including Usagi and Ishida, who risk everything to find the truth and more. There is also the amazing character arc of new character Hama, whose heart-rending sacrifice is one of the most memorable parts of this book. There is also a fairly major revelation about one of the other characters towards the end of the volume that actually changes the way you see the story and is guaranteed to make you look back to see the various things you missed the first time. Several recurring Usagi characters are used exceedingly well in this book. The mysterious masked thief Nezumi makes a great return, helping the protagonists with their investigation. It is always cool to see Nezumi in action, and I enjoy seeing the grudging respect build between him and Ishida, despite them living on opposite sides of the law. Everyone’s favourite snitch, Toady, makes another appearance, adding a lot of humour to the story as he attempts to weasel his way into more gold. Overall, this was another well-written and captivating story that was a real pleasure to read.

Usagi 170.jpg

One of my favourite aspects of the Usagi Yojimbo books is that Sakai often uses them to explore some fascinating piece of Japanese history, culture, mythology or industry and present them in a way that his western audience can appreciate. I was really glad that he continued this trend in The Hidden, as this time he takes an intriguing look at the role of early Japanese Christians in 17th century Japan. These Christians, who are the titular hidden ones of this volume, were an outlawed minority, due to Christianity directly contradicting a number of traditional Japanese beliefs and therefore challenging the authority of the Shogun. This latest volume shows this persecution in action, as the city is locked down by agents of the Shogun who are hunting for a valuable Christian item. The reader gets a sense of the illicit and hidden nature of these Christians and the way they were hunted, and Sakai also shows certain unique parts of this hunt, such as the fumi-e (trampling image). The fumi-e was an image of a cross that the Shogun’s enforcers placed on the ground in front of the gates of barricades that were set up at key points of the city. In order to pass through the barricades, pedestrians were forced to stamp on the image, showing their disdain for the Christian religion, and those who refused to step on the image were arrested as Christians. This was a fascinating part of Japanese history that I found incredibly interesting to see in action, and one that Sakai was able to cleverly work into the book’s plot. There were also a few fun scenes which looked at a black-market dealer who sold items which originated outside of Japan. Due to the Shogun isolating the country, these were incredibly valuable items, and I liked seeing what items this dealer considered valuable (the dealer’s European dress also made for a stunning visual as well). All of this was really cool to learn about, and I cannot wait to see what aspects of historical Japan the author explores in his next volume.

Usagi 171.jpg

Sakai’s fantastic artwork is once again one of the major highlights of this volume. Sakai is a particularly skilled artist who always does a fantastic job bringing the beauty and grace of Japan and its culture to life. The artwork on the surrounding landscape is just spectacular, and I always love attention to the historical detail on the buildings and people inhabiting his towns. One of the highlights of The Hidden that I particularly liked was the consecutive prayer gates leading up to a shrine that the characters visit. The visuals on all these gates were just amazing and very distinctive. I also really enjoyed the way that Sakai portrays his battle sequences in his series; he has a real talent for bring multiple high-energy battle scenes to life. I especially like how he manages to convey so much action and intensity in his still frames, and it really shows off some cool aspects of Japanese sword play. This was another beautifully illustrated volume, and the great art goes exceedingly well with the fantastic story Sakai has devised.

Usagi 172.jpg

Volume 33 of Usagi Yojimbo, The Hidden, was another excellent addition to this amazing series. Sakai once again produces a compelling story in his unique comic-book universe which results in a spectacular volume that I know I am going to read again and again in the future. While this was an outstanding Usagi Yojimbo story, I now have the downside of having to wait a whole other year to get my next Usagi fix. Make sure to check back next year when I will no doubt gush about how much I loved volume 34 of this series.

Book Haul – 10 August 2019

I have managed to pick up a good number of books in the last two weeks, including some fascinating reads that look like that they are going to be really cool.  I actually got a real interesting mixture of books from several different genres and I look forward to checking them all out.

Usagi Yojimbo – Vol. 33: The Hidden by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden Cover
This is the latest volume of the excellent Usagi Yojimbo comic book series, which I am a massive fan of.  I have actually read this one already (pretty much the day it came in) and I am hoping to get a review of this one up in the next day or so.

Hudson’s Kill by Paddy Hirsch

Hudson's Kill Cover.jpg

This should prove to be a good historical mystery novel.  I quite enjoyed Hirsch’s first novel, The Devil’s Half Mile, last year and I am interested to see what he comes up with this time.

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

The Harp of Kings Cover.png

I have been hearing a lot of good buzz around The Harp of Kings and it sounds like it could be one of the best new fantasy books of the year.  This is pretty high up on my reading list and should be a good one to check out.

Shatter City by Scott Westerfeld

Shatter City Cover.jpg

This is an intriguing sounding young adult science fiction novel with a cool concept.

Deep River by Karl Marlantes

Deep River Cover.jpg

Deep River is a fairly massive historical novel that actually sounds really interesting.  Following a Finnish family who settle in America at the start of the 20th century, this looks like it is going to be one of the those novels that follows it’s protagonists for a long period of time and several major historical events.

Evermore by Sara Holland

Evermore Cover.jpg

A very cool sounding young adult fantasy novel, should be a fun one to read.

Pretty Revenge by Emily Liebert

Pretty Revenger Cover

Let us round out this list with this compelling sounding revenge thriller from Emily Liebert.  Pretty Revenge sounds like a pretty dark novel, and I am very curious to see what happens in it.

That is my latest book haul.  Which books do you like the sound of the most?  Make sure to stay tuned to see my reviews of all of these.