Now that 2019 is almost over, I thought I would look back at the 53 books I read this year.
This was the first time I tried keeping track of the books I read. I also vowed to read mainly short books – as opposed to the giant epic fantasy novels I have favored in the past – so that I would read more different books instead of being stuck with the same series for months.
Both things helped me tremendously to regain my love of reading. I quickly started reading far more because starting a book felt less like a commitment and I didn’t have time to get tired of an author or a storyline.
Of course, there were also the owl pictures. Friends and followers demand owl photos of me and I enjoy pictures of pretty book covers, so taking a picture of Artemis with each book I started reading was a win-win situation.
(He’s okay on all the photos, by the way. He’s just weird and sometimes flop down on his back when I try to put him down on the table…)
I didn’t do reviews for the books I read (I’m thinking I might start doing that with indie books, but I have none on my reading list right now), so I’m going to make a quick list here and tell you what I thought of each book.
- Carpe Jugulum (Terry Pratchett)
Well, a Discworld book is unlikely to be bad, right?
I enjoyed this one immensely. The Witches of the Discworld took a while to grow on me, but in this one I realized that I had come to adore them. Imagine how I felt when I found out it was the last book in the Witches storyline, eh…?
- The Last Wish (Andrzej Sapkowski)
I admit that I only picked this one up because I love the Witcher games and wanted to learn more about the lore that inspired them. But it ended up far exceeding my expectations!
The book consists of short, individual stories, in the form of flashbacks, and tells of the main character, Geralt, taking on different monster-hunting jobs. The writing style was nothing special, and the characterization limited (though I was very happy to see the same sarcastic Geralt I know from the games!), yet somehow these small stories pulled me in and kept me turning the pages. I never once stopped for a break in the middle of a story.
- The Fifth Elephant (Terry Pratchett)
This was a Discworld book focused on the City Watch, and I don’t think I will ever not love a Watch book!
This one takes poor Samuel Vimes out of Ankh-Morpork, but he manages to employ his usual messed-up (but very effective) brand of policework, even when hunted down by werewolves and dealing with dwarfs’ gender identity issues.
We also get to see more of Sybil and you can never have too much of Sybil Vimes neé Ramkin.
- Before the Storm (Christie Golden)
This was a media tie-in to World of Warcraft, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the saddest book I have read in years.
It was just one long line of misery and I can’t believe how much I bawled over the backstory of that NPC I have walked past in Stormwind for 13 years and never thought of as anything other than ‘that crazy old lady who keeps talking to herself’.
I got all emotional about the last Christie Golden novel I read as well. I really think Blizzard should let her write something happy, just once!
- The Truth (Terry Pratchett)
Another Discworld book. This one is part of the ‘Industrial Revolution’ subseries and I was surprised by how much I liked it!
While I have liked every Discworld book I have read, the ones where the plot revolves around introducing some modern concept into the Discworld have been my least favorite of the bunch. Before this we have been over movies and rock music, but this one was about newspapers and journalism, and I thought it worked so much better.
My favorite part was probably Otto, the vampire with a passion for flash photography, even though he turns to dust every time he takes a picture…
- Mogworld (Yahtzee Croshaw)
This one was a reread, so I went into it with the knowledge that I would enjoy it…
…Otherwise it would be pretty stupid to read it again.
Mogworld is a parody based on the concept of online multiplayer RPG games, so obviously it caters to avid gamers like myself, but I do believe the story of a resurrected student mage on a quest to get himself killed for good is a great read for anyone who likes humorous fantasy.
- Thief of Time (Terry Pratchett)
I read this in just two days, despite it being neither as interesting nor as funny to me as most other Discworld books (though still quite good by just about any other standard).
Quite ironically, I don’t know where the time went!
- A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (George R. R. Martin)
I loved this collection of prequel novellas to ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and the illustrations were great, but the first novella left me emotionally devastated and I’m not quite sure I’m over it yet…
- The Last Hero (Terry Pratchett)
This was short, but beautifully illustrated, and who doesn’t enjoy a story about an elderly barbarian hero on a quest to blow up the gods, just because he thinks they’re sort of assholes?
And forgive me for channeling my inner giddy teenage girl, but O-M-G, the swamp dragon illustrations were the cutest thing ever!
- Sword of Destiny (Andrzej Sapkowski)
This was the second book in the Witcher series, and like with The Last Wish I really enjoyed learning more about characters I already knew from playing the video games, and being introduced to characters I had never met before. Usually, when a book has been adapted into another media (be it movies, TV shows or video games) I have read the book first and then the adaption has had to live up to it (which is always hard), but here I went the other way around and found myself going “Hey, I know that guy!” when someone introduced themselves.
However, I will say this: It was with this book that my love for the sorceress Yennefer got truly challenged. I’m a huge fan of bitchy and powerful characters, but when you learn more about Yen, you realize she is downright psychotic…
- The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Terry Pratchett)
This was my first time reading a Discworld book aimed at children, but it was all worth it for quotes like “—where she broke out of his Room of Terror and stabbed him in the eye with a frozen herring.”
- Blood of Elves (Andrzej Sapkowski)
Another Witcher book. Blood of Elves was special in that it was the one I read on my way to and from (and a little bit during, when my back was killing me and I had to go lie down anyway) my first Witcher School, so I got all giddy every time I encountered something I had just experienced in “real” life. I read the part with Geralt teaching Ciri fencing pirouettes in the evening after having trained pirouettes myself earlier that very same day.
That’s some meta geekiness.
- Night Watch (Terry Pratchett)
This was probably one of my favorite Discworld books. It was a lot darker than Pratchett’s other books and there were a few scenes that had me turning a little pale.
I’m used to dark fantasy, but seeing it in Discworld took some getting used to.
But it still had plenty of funny moments and Sam Vimes is such a relatable character to me that the contrast between his dry humor and his darker side ended up working perfectly.
Also, I love how, even when you throw the main character 30 years into the past, Vetinari will always be lurking and plotting somewhere in the shadows.
- Coraline (Neil Gaiman)
This was my first time reading anything by Neil Gaiman (except for Good Omens that I read during my Pratchett bender last year) and I didn’t really know what to expect. What I got was creepy tale reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.
It reads like a children’s book, but I think it would have freaked me right out as a kid.
And that’s coming from someone who watched Scream with her big brother when she was 7 without batting an eye.
- The Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett)
It took me 10 pages to love Tiffany Aching. 9-year old girl who sees a monster in the river, and her solution is to use her little brother as bait, then whack it in the head with a frying pan.
- Illidan (William King)
Another media tie-in for World of Warcraft. It was a good read, but I don’t feel it really answered the question I have had since the Burning Crusade expansion:
Why the hell did we go through all that trouble to kill Illidan?
He was just hiding away on another world, doing his own thing, and not bothering us.
- Monstrous Regiment (Terry Pratchett)
Another Discworld book, this one part of the ‘Industrial Revolution’ subseries. Never quite sure what to expect from those, but I ended up really liking Polly, the main character in this one. It wasn’t quite as funny as your average Discworld novel, but as with many of the later books, the social commentary really hit home.
And how often to you get a fantasy novel where almost every single character turns out to be a woman?
- Time of Contempt (Andrzej Sapkowski)
This was the continuation of Blood of Elves, and it went like this:
Slow, slow, slow, suddenly there’s a coup and everybody is murdering everybody, then slow, slow, slow.
I liked it, but even if you add a unicorn, it’s hard to feel excited about one of the characters wandering around in the desert for page after page, when you have already had the epic mage fight earlier in the book.
- A Hat Full of Sky (Terry Pratchett)
This was the second of the Tiffany Aching books in Discworld. Sadly I was mistaken about the identity of the old witch on the cover (I should have noticed the glasses and the high heels), but even without Granny Weatherwax in a main role, it turned out to be a highly enjoyable book.
- Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)
This was a gift from a friend, so I didn’t quite know what to except, despite seeing the Studio Ghibli movie many years ago.
It turned out to be a really fun and charming book, and I blew through it in less than 3 days. Sophie’s no-nonsense attitude towards both being cursed and turned into an old lady and having to deal with the arrogant and childish wizard Howl was amazing.
- Going Postal (Terry Pratchett)
This was my first time being introduced to the Discworld protagonist Moist von Lipwig. I’m always a little skeptical about the Industrial Revolution books as I found the crash with the concepts of both Hollywood and rock music (in Moving Pictures and Soul Music) to be rather jarring.
But postal service, just like newspapers in The Truth, fit much better into the fantastical mess that is the Discworld.
Rather surprised it didn’t end with anything escaping from the Dungeon Dimensions, however.
- Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman)
This was a book that didn’t provide any surprises whatsoever, but I still enjoyed it.
As I was born and raised in Denmark, I grew up with the stories of the Norse gods and their shenanigans, so Gaiman’s book was really just a way to return to stories I already knew.
- Thud! (Terry Pratchett)
“That’s! Not! My! Cow!”
While this book didn’t quite live up to the sky-high standards I have for Discworld’s City Watch books, I was still laughing my ass off at the scenes with Sam Vimes reading children’s books to his son. Especially the last one where he snaps and starts fighting off an army of – rather freaked out – dwarfs while yelling about not being able to find his cow.
- Baptism of Fire (Andrzej Sapkowski)
Up until this point I had been very fortunate, seeing as I had liked every book I read. Some more than others, true, but this was the first book of 2019 that I felt I had to force my way through. It’s part of the Witcher series, so obviously I wasn’t going to abandon it, but it was just so slow. As mentioned, that was also the case with the previous book, Time of Contempt, but unlike that one, Baptism of Fire didn’t have an explosive climax. The only major event was the forming of the Lodge of Sorceresses, and even that happened with far less drama than usually accompanies the Witcher-verse’s mages.
The whole book was basically just all the characters traveling and taking breaks to be gloomy or have philosophical discussions. Not even the introduction of the vampire Regis (a character I love from playing the Witcher 3 DLC “Blood and Wine”) could distract me from the fact that nothing was happening.
The first books in this series were great, but at this point it was going downhill.
- Wintersmith (Terry Pratchett)
I really loved this one. This was another Tiffany Aching book and I honestly never expected to enjoy a series about a teenage shepherd-turned-witch and her gang of tiny, violent fairies this much. Throw in Nanny Ogg giving advice on how to seduce an anthropomorphic personification of Winter, and you got yourself a page-turner.
- House of Many Ways (Diana Wynne Jones)
This was the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle, and while I liked it, it didn’t quite measure up to its predecessor. It took a while for the protagonist to become likable, and after finishing the book I was left with a feeling of ‘Wait, that’s it?’
However, it was still nice and quirky, and once Sophie and Howl made an appearance, it got a few good laughs out of me.
- Making Money (Terry Pratchett)
Ah, the return of Moist von Lipwig. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t the main reason I enjoyed this book. Don’t get me wrong, I like reading about Moist’s shenanigans, but the best thing about this book was how heavily it featured Lord Vetinari.
I’m sorry, but Scheming Benevolent Tyrant beats Smooth-Talking Conman every time.
- The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)
Some books should come with warnings not to read the last chapter in public.
This was a heartwarming book, but so bittersweet. Yet it was the perfect metaphor for growing up.
- Unseen Academicals (Terry Pratchett)
I learned two things from this book:
One, wizards and football don’t mix.
Two, don’t read a 500+ pages hardback with a sprained wrist.
Does it count as a sports injury if you hurt your hand while reading a book about football…?
- The Tower of the Swallow (Andrzej Sapkowski)
I liked this a lot more than its predecessor. It was just as angsty, but contained a lot more real plot and action, as well as humor.
A Skellige fishwife whacking Yennefer with an oar is a mental image I’ll treasure.
- I Shall Wear Midnight (Terry Pratchett)
This was both a Pratchett novel and a YA book, so I was a bit surprised at how dark it started out.
Chapter 1: Dead baby.
Chapter 2: Prevent dead baby’s grandfather from hanging himself. Then bury dead baby.
Chapter 3: Recurring character dies.
However, it did get better, and the ending was really cute.
- Castle in the Air (Diana Wynne Jones)
This was a companion novel to Howl’s Moving Castle, and honestly, it fell a little short.
The plot was not that interesting and the book completely failed to make me care about any of the main characters.
- Guards! Guards! (Terry Pratchett)
This Discworld book was exactly as good as I remembered it being the first time I read it.
I had completely forgotten quite how terrified Vimes used to be of Sybil. There’s not a lot of books that could make me laugh this hard even when reading it for a second time.
- War Crimes (Christie Golden)
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, but I will say this for the characters:
Wrathion is a little shit. Kairoz is a little shit. Garrosh is a little shit.
And Sylvanas is absolutely batshit insane, even if she’s, for once, doing something out of love.
- Mort (Terry Pratchett)
Another Discworld reread. This is the first book in the Discworld’s “Death”-series, and who doesn’t love Death?
(Eh… Anyone who hasn’t read Discworld, probably.)
This book is worth it just for the scene where the wizards summon Death and he shows up wearing an apron and holding a kitten.
- Tempests and Slaughter (Tamora Pierce)
This was a new author to me, so I didn’t know what to expect. I ended up really liking both the world and the characters, and Pierce writes beautifully.
However, it’s been years since I last read an ongoing series, so this book left me with the thought “You’re telling me I now have to wait for the next book to be released to figure out if that Chioké guy is as much of a bastard as he appears?”
- Men at Arms (Terry Pratchett)
Yet another Discworld reread, yet another City Watch book. My favorite parts in this one have to be Nobby raiding the Ankh-Morpork armoury and sweet, simple Carrot manipulating Vetinari.
And, of course, the friendship between Detritus and Cuddy, but I’m still not okay with how that story ended…
- The Invisible Library (Genevieve Cogman)
This was a really weird book, but it was the special kind of weird where you just had to find out what happened next. Usually I would say robots and dragons is a bit too much, but I really regretted only getting the first book in this series after I was done.
- Feet of Clay (Terry Pratchett)
On to the next book in my Discworld reread. This has got to be my second-favorite City Watch book. Not only does it introduce Cheery Littlebottom, but it also includes Vimes terrorizing assassins and Vetinari being totally delirious from poisoning.
- Shadow and Bone (Leigh Bardugo)
This book was the result of me foolishly thinking I only needed to bring one book with me on a 5 day trip and then having to track down an English bookstore in Budapest.
But though it was bought in desperation, I ended up really enjoying it and finishing it in a day. I loved the concept of the Unsea and I enjoyed the characters.
The twist was fairly predictable, but it was the kind of twist I love, so I’m totally okay with predictable.
- Jingo (Terry Pratchett)
Yep, it’s another City Watch reread. But really, how can you not love a Discworld book that contains Lord Vetinari as a street performer and Nobby Nobbs as an exotic dancer (what else could strike more terror into the hearts of enemies?)?
And I absolutely adore the ending, with Commander Vimes leading a parade through the city before he suddenly starts chasing a criminal and ends up with the entirety of Ankh-Morpork’s high society running after him because they think that’s what they’re supposed to do.
- We Hunt the Flame (Hafsah Faizal)
I’ll admit that this was a book I bought mostly because the cover is freaking gorgeous, but… it turned out to be one of the most well-written and engaging books I have read in years.
It’s filled with deep and likable characters, the world is fascinating, and the plot keeps you curious all the way through. Plus, if you, like me, have been reading mostly fantasy based on western folklore, it’s cool to read something with its roots in Arabic mythology.
- Wyrd Sisters (Terry Pratchett)
So many Discworld rereads… but at least we started on the Witches now!
I was looking forward to this, because it was a book I didn’t really appreciate the first time I read it. I still don’t think it’s as great as the later books about Granny Weatherwax and her gang, but I did like it more the second time around.
You gotta love the scene where Death is at a loss for what to do when dealing with a man thinking he’s a ghost before he’s actually dead.
- The Lady of the Lake (Andrzej Sapkowski)
This one had more story-progression than the last three books in the series combined, but the constant flashbacks and flashforwards (I have no idea which time this book intended to be the ‘present’) made it nearly impossible to truly keep up with it all. It wasn’t as bad in the second half of the book, but in the first half you sometimes got narration from three different timelines in a single page.
That’s too much.
Funnily enough, once the plot started featuring literal jumping in time and space, it got easier to keep track of what was happening.
All in all a decent book, but with dubious narration. It was also a lukewarm conclusion to the story of Geralt and Ciri, so I’m glad the Witcher games picked up where it left off, and at least did something with Ciri’s ‘destiny’ in Witcher 3, instead of just talking about it constantly and then not have it lead up to anything, like the books.
However, I do look forward to replaying Witcher 3 after learning more about the relationship between Emhyr and Ciri. I have a feeling I will see a lot of characters and interactions in an entirely different light after reading the books.
- Witches Abroad (Terry Pratchett)
This one was much better than I remembered. This is Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg at their finest and funniest.
The locals always fear tourists, but when those tourists are two elderly witches with a total disregard for everyone else and a total lack of understanding of other cultures, it just gets so much better.
Yes, I know Magrat is also there, but she’s still very much a wet hen in this book. She doesn’t become useful for another couple of books.
- The Masked City (Genevieve Cogman)
While not quite as good as the first book in the series, this one still had me turning the pages to see what happened next. The plot lacked a bit of mystery, and the Fae weren’t as interesting villains as Alberich, but all in all still a good book.
- Reaper Man (Terry Pratchett)
I had forgotten how weird this book is. Sure, most Discworld books are weird, but the whole thing with the shopping mall was just so utterly random.
But I did enjoy the wizards’ stubborn and hilarious attempts at killing Windle Poons!
- Siege and Storm (Leigh Bardugo)
I’m pleased to say that this book was just as great as the first in the trilogy, Shadow and Bone, and I finished it in just two days even though I barely had time to read. Both old and new characters were excellent and interesting, and the world and its mythology were still fascinating. The main character’s growth also made her much more appealing to me, as it added a lot of layers to her motivations.
- Snuff (Terry Pratchett)
I truly hate referring to a Discworld City Watch book as anything but ‘fantastic’, but Snuff was just good. The writing in the beginning was rather convoluted, and it was a little hard to follow, but it did get better once the plot got moving. And while I adore Sam Vimes, I would have liked more scenes with the rest of the Watch.
I did really enjoy Vimes channeling his inner Vetinari in order to bully his suspects, though.
- The Burning Page (Genevieve Cogman)
This was the third book in the Invisible Library series. It was better than the second, but still not quite as good as the first one. But it did have a lot more Alberich scenes, which was really great.
- Raising Steam (Terry Pratchett)
This one lacked something for me. It was not a bad book by any stretch of imagination, but it seemed more like a study of the steam engine’s influence on society rather than a Discworld novel. I think it was just all together too sensible and had far too few insane moments.
But I absolutely loved the mental image of Lord Vetinari whacking dwarf assassins with a shovel, so it wasn’t a total loss!
- Season of Storms (Andrzej Sapkowski)
I liked this one a lot more than many of the Witcher books from the main storyline. It had a lot less sulking and a lot more action. And I liked how all the seemingly random events in the book ended up tying together nicely.
But I still want to smack Geralt… How come that every time he sees a sorceress, he thinks to himself “This woman is dangerous and no sane man would have anything to do with her?” and then 3 seconds later, he’s falling right into bed with them? And then accept it all graciously once he finds out they have been manipulating him to use him in some horrible scheme?
Be less of a victim, Geralt!
- Hogfather (Terry Pratchett)
This is the closest thing I have to a Christmas story, so of course it was my Discworld reread for the holiday season. I just adore reading about Death trying to do Santa Claus’s job, while his granddaughter is convinced he’s lost his mind and is becoming a crazy cat lady that she can’t dump in a nursing home.
“One of the symptoms of going completely yoyowas that they broke out in chronic cats.”
Those are the books I got through in 2019.
Did you get a lot of reading done this year, or did life get in the way? Were there any books that made an impression on you?
I’m open for recommendations for books to read in 2020!
Want to see all the owl pictures? Here’s a gallery of Artemis looking grumpy next to books!
3 thoughts on “My Year in Books (and Owls) 2019”
Yay books and owl pictures! 😀 Also, I’m glad to hear your thoughts on Tempests and Slaughter. I just picked that one up, but haven’t read it yet. I’m also a little less excited about the other books in the Howl’s Moving Castle series now. I’ve been interested in reading them, but hadn’t seen any reviews of them before this. Hmm. I own the second one in the series, so I’ll probably still read it, but I guess I won’t expect the same magic as was in Howl’s.
I most definitely recommend Tempests and Slaughter!
I just ordered a bunch more Tamora Pierce books, because it got me hooked on the author.
And yeah, the other Howl books really doesn’t carry the same magic as the first one, but they’re light and short, so you might still give the second one a try if you already own it.
Oh awesome, thanks for the rec! I loved Pierce’s Alanna series when I was young, but I haven’t revisited her work since.
I guess that makes sense. The first Howl book was awesome in part because of the characters.