Best of 2019 on Smorgasbord!

Happy New Year folks! 

It's the start of a new decade and I am super excited. Looking back at how 2019 has gone down for me, I mostly take pride. My total books read has hit 54 (That's a book every week!) with a few in various final stages as they stand today, on 31st Dec. What has helped that tally this year, is the advent of audio books in a big way in my life. I have managed to finish 13 audio books this year (A book every month!), which is phenomenal for me. Combing through this list, there are quite a few shining gems for the year, that I have loved to bits and would categorise as the best reads of the year.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie:
The return of the Lord Grim Dark to his brutal lawless world of the First Law trilogy was indeed, a welcome one.  The wheels of time are turning and an age of madness descends into this world. A Little Hatred features the sons and daughters of our intrepid 'heroes' of the original trilogy. Complex, twisted, nuanced, this one's a winner all the way. Unputdownable once the characters are all introduced, the constant backstabbing, the vicious duels, the crazy battle scenes all of that adds up to an engaging read. A new generation that itches to take over from the veterans (a constant theme that runs through the book) A Little Hatred is clever, funny and horrible all at the same time. With scathing commentary on society and politics, division of class and wealth and even clever quips on xenophobia at times, A Little Hatred is definitely the book of the year for me.

Crowfall by Ed McDonald
Crowfall is everything you ever wished for in a series ending. Ed McDonald definitely is at the top of his game and this book, seriously would elevate this series Raven's Mark to the top of my list of all-time-favorites. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you write a series ending. The mad fervent genius that has created a world like that in Raven's Mark, is rare. [ Last time I enjoyed such amazing world building was Manifest Delusions, by Michael R Fletcher] 

Bloodchild by Anna Stephens
Another series ender, Anna Stephens totally lives up to the expectations of grim dark queen having burst onto the scene a couple of years earlier with Godblind. Anna maintains the immense momentum building up from the first two books in the series, ending off in a blood soaked delirious high, topping off an impossibly emotional outing in Bloodchild. Be warned, this one's going to wrench your heart out. 

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A Memory called Empire by Martine Arkady : 
This was a delightful sleeper hit with me. [Audio book version] Even as I took my time listening, soaking into the alien culture of Teixcalaan with the lead protagonist Mahit Dzmare, a young foreign ambassador into this amazing planet, I didn't realise I was going to fall head over heels in love. The prose is exquisite, the imagination deep and dazzling as Martine takes us deep into the cultural nuances of a planet in the outer voids of space, digging deeper to solve an intriguing mystery of a foreign government official on these lands. The mystery is just a side-play as we sink deeper into the strange world of Teixcalaan, making friends, allies and enemies with the young but resourceful and thoughtful ambassador Dzmare. Brilliant, brilliant read. One of my favourite sci-fi book of the year! 

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James: This book reads like a psychedelic experiment, dazzling and confusing even at the best of times. James Marlon's language is his strength of course, but in plotting out Black Leopard, Red Wolf, James outdoes himself. Set in a fantastical version of pre-colonial Africa, the novel is a meandering exploration of self. Stuffed with ribald, bold myths come alive, cinematic violence and graphic sex, this stunning series opener is lush and epic, with so many layers to the narrative. It's a book for centuries and I cannot wait for the next in the series! 

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan: The Gutter Prayer was a find for me. One of the buzziest novels before it released early in the year, this one lived up to all the hype! It's a heady mix of a many original and really clever ideas that come together very well to create a dark, compelling narrative, catapulting Gareth's talent to the limelight. Any narrative that starts with a heist gone awry, has to be awesome, right? Gareth digs in, fleshes out the wonderful city of Geurdo that forms the backdrop to the amazing adventures. This one's chock-a-block with ideas, creatures and monsters, bursting with imagination - all of that paced and plotted superbly well to give us an amazing debut.

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky: Jordanna picks up an off-beat little known account of a meeting between the Inuits and the first expedition from the Vikings land and then spins that off into a highly engaging, magical and sprawling epic full of timeless mythologies and peerless magic, building it up as a historical fiction that soars. The Wolf in the Whale was an absolute gem and an accidental find for me but turned out to be one of my all time fave reads! 

34600633. sy475 Silent Companions by Laura Purcell: I realised I hardly read any horror novels at all and so when this older book by Laura came recommended, I scrambled to find a copy to read. (listened to an audio book!) Laura's writing is fierce and visceral and brings forth the elements of raw fear that clog one's mind, faced with such impossible horror. It's a pitch perfect novel of Victorian horror combined with chilling psychological drama. It is immersive and unsettling. Silent Companions frightens you and disturbs you with its intensity. Definitely a must-read for the fans of this genre. 


Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence : How can a Best-of list be complete without Mark Lawrence on it, huh! So I read 3 books by the master this year and while both his science fiction / time travel novellas ( One Word Kill and the sequel), as as flighty and engaging as they come, Holy Sister the series ending to the adventures of Nona Grey, the orphan who becomes a war-machine, still is a scorching read. Holy Sister ties off ends pretty well - There are more stories set in this wondrously realised world of Abeth ( The Girl and the Stars is possibly set in this world of ice!) Mark Lawrence's venture into a YA-themed fantasy is a true winner. This one's special because of the intricate world building and the brilliant characters that leap off the pages. Nona Grey is right up there on that pantheon of greats that I now worship in this genre.

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: The brilliant sequel to Ride the Lightning, that introduced the world to the "best thing that has happened to urban fantasy genre" sees Rebecca still at the top of her writing game. It's a wonderful sequel, pushing the world [Amazing world building here based on Navajo myths and immersive characterisation, making us root for this central character, a monster-slayer with an attitude named Maggie Hoskie along with her friends.] to new directions, building on the relationships outlined in her first book, setting things up nicely for an explosive finale! 

What books have you read? What were your favourites? 2020 looks to be another BLOCKBUSTER year and will list down the top few books, I am looking forward to. 


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