Top Reads of 2019: Cuddle’s Favourite Books of 2019

Top Reads of the Year: Cuddle's Favourite Books of 2019. Illustration: Cuddle the otter, wearing a pajama hat, holding a stack of sparkling books with Party the stuffed otter in her arm.

Cuddle the otter, walking and holding tupperware in one arm and Party in the other.The mist wafting through the air surrounding the Pond was light and breezy on this cool winter’s evening. Cuddle clutched Party under one arm, and carried a few Blubberware containers full of homemade food in the other towards the Pond.

“I really hope everyone likes the food I’ve brought for the Pondluck dinner party tonight!” Cuddle worried, “maybe I didn’t put enough sauce in the mushrooms, or enough water in the rice.” Party seemed to squirm a little as Cuddle tightened her squeeze anxiously.

Setting the silverware out neatly and a long picnic blanket down by the edge of the water, Cuddle thought about the books she was going to talk about at the book club/Pondluck dinner party get together tonight. It was their year end gathering, and everyone is going to talk about their favorite books and eat good food that each of them made and brought. She smiled as she remembered some of the titles she’d read including a Pride and Prejudice retelling and a great book about a girl working at her grandma’s diner.

Cuddle the Otter, hugging Party the Otter Plushie against her cheek, with a content smile. The Pond’s inhabitants waddled, flew, and traipsed in, greeting and embracing one another after asking permission. As she looked at her Pond family: Gen with a festive “ringing in the new year” hat instead of his usual, Varian being their best naked frog, and Sprout looking cute and dapper as always, and more filing in, Cuddle thought about the warmth in her heart and gave Party a tight snuggle, feeling a small snuggle back.

How nice it was to have a welcoming and safe home, with accepting, loving, and caring Pond family members. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt this content, as she blinked back tears of joy at finding a place where she truly belonged.

To be totally honest, 2019 was not a great reading year for me in terms of quantity. Adjusting to having a baby in late 2019, along with managing her medical care for her diagnoses and my own postpartum mental health has been an arduous task, and reading unfortunately fell by the wayside. I didn’t log a lot of the books I did finish, and I don’t have any clue how many books I read but if I had to guess, it would probably be around 30-40. This is a far cry from the 120-150 I have been reading in the past few years.

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Five Reasons To Read: This Time Will Be Different by Misa Suguira – Wonderful in Its Messiness; About Social Justice, Reparations, and The Power of Protest

This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura.

Blurb:

Katsuyamas never quit—but seventeen-year-old CJ doesn’t even know where to start. She’s never lived up to her mom’s type A ambition, and she’s perfectly happy just helping her aunt, Hannah, at their family’s flower shop.

She doesn’t buy into Hannah’s romantic ideas about flowers and their hidden meanings, but when it comes to arranging the perfect bouquet, CJ discovers a knack she never knew she had. A skill she might even be proud of.

Then her mom decides to sell the shop—to the family who swindled CJ’s grandparents when thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. Soon a rift threatens to splinter CJ’s family, friends, and their entire Northern California community; and for the first time, CJ has found something she wants to fight for.

CW’s Review:

Have you ever read a book that made you wish, so deeply, that it had existed just a little bit earlier so that it could have helped you go through a tough part in your life? This Time Will Be Different is definitely that book for me. Specifically, I wish that this book had existed when I was a teenager – when I was grappling with the big questions that all teens face: Where is my place in the world? What do I care about so deeply that I can dedicate myself to? And when I see something that doesn’t sound right, how do I speak up?

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The Iron Will of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee – Perhaps The Most Satisfying Ending of a Series I Have Read – Ever

The Iron Will of Genie Lo. F.C. Yee.

Blurb:

Genie Lo thought she was busy last year, juggling her academic career with protecting the Bay Area from demons. But now, as the Heaven-appointed Guardian of California, she’s responsible for the well-being of all yaoguai and spirits on Earth. Even the ones who interrupt her long-weekend visit to a prestigious college, bearing terrible news about a cosmos-threatening force of destruction in a nearby alternate dimension.

The goddess Guanyin and Genie’s boyfriend, Quentin Sun Wukong, do their best to help, but it’s really the Jade Emperor who’s supposed to handle crises of this magnitude. Unfortunately for Genie and the rest of existence, he’s gone AWOL. Fed up with the Jade Emperor’s negligence, Genie spots an opportunity to change the system for the better by undertaking a quest that spans multiple planes of reality along with an adventuring party of quarrelsome Chinese gods. But when faced with true danger, Genie and her friends realize that what will save the universe this time isn’t strength, but sacrifice.

CW’s review:

In case you don’t know, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee is an incredible book about a girl named Genie Lo, who discovers that she’s the reincarnation of a powerful celestial weapon. This book, after so many years, remains to be one of my favourite books of all time.

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A Thousand Fires by Shannon Price – A Bewildering Ride from Start to Finish – and Not in a Good Way

A Thousand Fires by Shannon Price.

Blurb:

Valerie Simons knows the city’s gang wars are dangerous—her own brother was killed by the Boars two years ago. But nothing will sway her from joining the elite and beautiful Herons to avenge his death—a death she feels responsible for.

But when Valerie is recruited by the mysterious Stags, their charismatic and volatile leader Jax promises to help her get revenge. Torn between old love and new loyalty, Valerie fights to stay alive as she races across the streets of San Francisco to finish the mission that got her into the gangs.

CW’s Review:

When I heard that this book was an Iliad retelling set in San Francisco in a time of gang violence and gang wars, my interest was piqued. A Thousand Fires is described to be a retelling of the Iliad, a story that follows biracial Philipino-American teen who, upon turning eighteen years old, joins a gang to find her little brother’s murderer and to avenge his death. Although the story’s premise showed promise and sounded interesting as heck, A Thousand Fires wasn’t only just disappointing on many fronts but also, unexpectedly, bewildered me – and not in a good way at all.

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