Kandi’s Top 10 Reads of 2019

Is it just me, or did 2019 fly by faster than… like… any other year in existence? My mom says that’s just how it seems the older we get, and that if I think time is flying now, wait until I have kids.

This was an amazing year in my books. Sure, there were many trials and tribulations, but overall, 2019 was a rebirth for me. I left 2018 in a broken state. The end of the year was rough to say the least, and I hobbled into 2019 hopeful but scarred, a Phoenix risen from the ashes but wary of her surroundings and fearful of burning down again.

2019 brought me so many things: love, adventure, and yes, even a little heartbreak, too. I think that’s how life is meant to be: a balance of joy and sorrow, a teetering, tottering thing that reminds us to stay humble and always be thankful for our blessings.

Before I get into my top reads this year, I want to talk a little about our year together.

I published four novels this year. That’s four new adventures we experienced together. I introduced you to seven new main characters and brought you back to one we fell in love with last year. And at the end of the year, we have shared more than 363,000 words. WOW.

What He Never Knew was first on our docket, the heartbreaking, emotional conclusion to the What He Doesn’t Know duet from 2018. We finally found out what happened to “the other guy,” the one who didn’t get the girl. It released on a cold, haunting day in February and we all clung to each other and our cozy blankets and cried through the pages, sighing with relief at finally receiving a long overdue HEA in the end.

Next, I introduced you to The Becker Brothers with my first installment — On the Rocks. This series was born in my head almost two years ago, and I was so excited to finally bring these rowdy, small town, country boys to your Kindle.

We stayed in that little world of Stratford, Tennessee for the rest of the year, diving into Logan’s book, Neat, in September, and finishing the year with Mikey’s book, Manhattan, this month.

The fourth and final Becker Brothers book will release on March 19th, 2020.

We also added three more bestsellers to the list this year: What He Never Knew hit Amazon’s Top 100, On the Rocks hit Amazon’s Top 50, and Neat hit Amazon’s Top 70. This is absolutely INCREDIBLE, y’all, especially considering how many books are coming out each and every day. THANK YOU.

You all also continued to show love for The Wrong Game, my football sports romance that released at the end of 2018. In ONE YEAR, it surpassed all my other books except for A Love Letter to Whiskey and Weightless to take the title of my third overall bestseller in my entire backlist. That is WILD.

It’s been a phenomenal year, and if I’ve learned anything from 2019, it’s that no matter how dark life can be, there is always, ALWAYS light waiting for us. We just have to be brave enough to continue on our journey, to face the thorns in search of the roses, and to emerge on the other side.

Read the four books I released in 2019:

And now, in alphabetical order, my top ten reads from 2019.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

My review:

WOW. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a novel where literally EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE has purpose, and meaning, and punch. There was absolutely ZERO fluff in this book, and every page I turned pulled me deeper and deeper into this beautiful, tragic, historic tale.

I read the first 65% of this book in hardback and listened to the rest on Audible as I drove to and from Tennessee for a writing retreat. I can honestly say that both experiences were incredible. Feeling the pages as I swept through the first half of the book let me take my time, reading each sentence carefully and soaking in the writer’s style. However, I absolutely LOVED the Audible narration, and it was a nice break to hear the pronunciations without having to stop to look them up.

There is so much raw power in this novel. If you’re a fan of reading about World War II, of history and humanity, of the beauty of human survival and strength — this one is an absolute must read.

I can’t find the right words to convey how much I enjoyed this novel. It will stay with me forever. 

Grab your copy here.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

My review:

Gah, this book was so refreshing! I don’t typically read outside of the romance genre, but when I do, it’s always a treat. And this book came HIGHLY recommended to me from some of my close friends.

When I dived in, I was immediately hooked. The way the author writes is captivating. There is an element of mystery and uneasiness, as well as dashes of humor, and overall, the feeling that something big is coming. I love that! The foreshadowing as the story built had me amped up, and when I got to the last 100 pages, it was impossible to put down.

My best advice is to go into this book blind. It’s going to take you on a wild ride, opening your mind to a slew of “what if” questions as you look back on America’s history through a new lens.

Absolutely enthralling. 5 stars!

Grab your copy here.

Eleanor & Grey by Brittainy C. Cherry

My review:

“You can be anything in the world, and it would be good enough. Job title doesn’t matter as long as you have food on your table, and heat on your stove. What matters the most is being happy. So, when you do grow up, make sure you’re happy. Everything else will fall into place.”

WELP. SHE DID IT AGAIN, GUYS. Brittainy C. Cherry managed to write yet ANOTHER book that gripped me by the heart and sucked me into a world I never wanted to leave. The Cherry magic is alive and well, too, because I laughed, I sobbed, I clutched my heart and swooned and more than anything, I FELT. That’s what I love about her books. And this one? Well, this one took the cake.

It’s my new favorite Brittainy C. Cherry book.

Yep, I said it. I love it EVEN MORE than I loved The Air He Breathes. HOW?! I don’t know. I just don’t freaking know but I think it’s a combination of these things:

1) THE ANGST. The tension. Fuckkkk me up, I love that shit.
2) The characters. Not just Eleanor and Grey — although they stole my hearts from the first chapter — but also the SIDE characters. I’m so in love with Ellie’s parents, with Grey’s kids, with the best friends (who are getting their own story soon SQUEE!)
3) The writing. It was IMPECCABLE. You can tell the author spent a lot of time perfecting every single chapter and sentence and WORD in this book. I couldn’t put it down. I highlighted so much. It was just EVERYTHING.
4) The love story. This one was just EPIC. Started from high school (and I freaking love that age group so I was HOOKED), and somehow made it through all the tragedy… SIGH! Yes!
5) The underlying themes. I love this about EVERY B Cherry book. She always tucks in little life lessons that I just sigh and tear up at and hold my Kindle like YES. SHE GETS IT.

I cannot say enough good things about this book, only that it is a TOP READ of 2019 and an ABSOLUTE MUST READ OVER AND OVER AGAIN. These characters and this story will stay with me forever. Another B Cherry masterpiece!

Grab your copy here.

Filthy Vows by Alessandra Torre

My review:

WHEW! This book was SO hot! I absolutely loved it! Then again, I don’t know why I’m surprised. Alessandra Torre is the author of one of my all time favorite books — The Ghostwriter. But this? This was SO different. And so was my first book by her — Moonshot. That’s what I love most about this author. She can write in so many different genres, and in so many different styles. It’s incredible! But seriously, this book was addicting from the first page to the very last. I devoured every word and found myself questioning my OWN fantasies. It’s a hot, addictive page-turner that you can’t miss. Grab it and find out what I mean! 

Grab your copy here.

Gilded Lily by Staci Hart

My review:

Staci Hart’s writing shines in this poetic installment to the Bennet Brother series. The characters were fresh and real, the story was absolutely captivating, and the romance was simply put: perfection. I fell hard for this family, these brothers, and this mesmerizing love story. 5 stars really isn’t enough for the beauty in this book. Trust me when I say this is a romance you CANNOT MISS!

Grab your copy here.

A Lesson in Thorns by Sierra Simone

My review:

HO.LY.THORNS.

This was my first Sierra Simone book, and all I can say is WHY DID NO ONE YANK ME OUT FROM UNDER THIS ROCK SOONER?! Holy cannoli, Batman. I LOVED THIS. It was so dirty, so well-written, so angsty and packed with tension. I was squirming the entire time I read it, and I couldn’t devour it quick enough. Just… INCREDIBLE!

There is so much to love about this book. I don’t want to spoil a thing and honestly, I hope you go in blind like I did. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was sucked in from the very first page. The way Simone writes, it’s haunting and brilliant. The setting is ALIVE — the manor, the chapel, the little town, the weather. It all plays together in this beautifully orchestrated symphony to weave one of the most intoxicating reading experiences I’ve ever had. Truly a masterpiece!

I cannot wait for the next installments. I HIGHLY recommend this book and this author.

Grab your copy here.

The Marriage Effect by Karla Sorensen

My review:

HOW. How does Karla Sorensen get better with every. single. book?! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? Seriously, just when I think she can’t outdo herself, there’s no way she can write a better Hero, there’s no way her heroine can steal my heart more than the last one did, there’s no way her character and world development can make me fall more in love than the last one did… SHE DOES IT. It’s absolutely incredible. The Marriage Effect completely knocked me off my feet, and then swept me up into its arms and carried me away into the sunset. A top read of 2019 for me!

I could probably write a complete essay and how much I loved this book and WHY, but I want to touch on some major points and keep this as short and sweet as possible.

1) STRONG HEROINES. This is a huge huge HUGE turn on for me, and Karla always seems to nail it. I have loved every single heroine in this series, but man, Paige might have stolen the show for me. Just in the first CHAPTER, she demonstrates how strong she is and I love how feminist this series is. The women are powerful and strong and vulnerable and smart. I just want to give a standing ovation to Karla for writing women that my future daughters could look up to, that I would be proud for them to read about. THAT is amazing.

2) Incredible world building. Karla has completely sucked me into this world of The Washington Wolves. I am OBSESSED with football, so I love a good sports romance, but I love it even more when it’s done RIGHT. You can tell Karla did her research, and she doesn’t just give us a romance, but an amazing sports story, too. She also ties all the characters we’ve come to know in the other books together so wonderfully. And now, with the editions of Logan’s sisters, the world is even more rich. I loved it!

3) Slow burn angst. HELLO, I AM AN ANGST WHORE — no one is surprised. But, I love the kind of angst Karla writes because it’s natural and free flowing. It’s not forced, no crazy dramatic schemes necessary. It’s just that yummy, slow burn tension that makes you want to squirm every time the characters are in the same room. By the time they finally kissed, by the time they finally hooked up, I thought I was going to combust lol. SO FRIGGING GOOD.

4) Emotional writing. I love a good story that pulls on my heart strings, and man, this one fit the bill. There’s a boxing scene with one of Logan’s sisters and Paige, and I swear I was BALLING. It was so emotional, written so exceptionally well, and it packed a punch in the feels that knocked the breath right out of me. You know an author can write well when a scene between a woman and a young girl steals the show in a ROMANCE book. It showed me that all the characters were powerful in this book, not just the Hero and heroine.

5) True romance. I loved how the love between these characters developed so slowly and purposefully that I fell in love right along with them. It was so easy to see how and why they felt the way they did. The chemistry was real, the emotional, deep rooted feelings were true. It was just so well done.

Seriously, I could go on and on and on about this amazing book, but if you love sports romances, angst, well-written characters, strong heroines and the fake marriage trope — this is going to steal the number one spot in your heart. YOU NEED IT.

Sorensen has completely shattered my expectations when it comes to romance. She should have her own genre, that’s how much she’s in a league of her own. I am a fan for life. 5 stars isn’t enough for The Marriage Effect — easily a top read of 2019 for me.

Grab your copy here.

Verity by Colleen Hoover

My review:

YES. Just… yesssssuuuhhhh. To me, the sign of a GREAT thriller is when you walk away from it highly disturbed and questioning everything — including your own moral code. Colleen Hoover absolutely CRUSHED this one, and I’m left reeling.

I still have so many thoughts and questions swirling in my mind after this. I went in blind, and honestly, that’s the way I recommend everyone go in. I don’t want to give away any kind of hints as to what happens, what I believe is true/not true, or which character(s) is/are reliable. I truly think this is a brain stretch, and you have to just dive in and take in each chapter as it’s given to you. Make your own conclusions.

All I can say is that by the 5th chapter, I was so hooked I might as well have been walking around in this fictional world. I didn’t exist in my actual life. It was impossible to put Verity down, and once you start reading, you’ll understand why.

My thriller heart is so happy. This is how I felt after finishing The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre, too — which y’all know is still one of my all time favorite books.

Just, trust me. You want to read this. If you love thrillers, and romance, there couldn’t be a more perfect combination. 5 creepy, mind-fuck stars! 

Grab your copy here.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

My review:

No one and nothing can make me feel the way Tarryn Fisher’s writing does. The Wives had me on edge from the first chapter, and just when I thought I knew where it was going, I was blindfolded, whipped around, and shoved into a dark cave where I had to find my way out again. The brilliance in Fisher’s writing is that she has the power to illustrate how we’re all a little crazy, or is it that all our crazy is a little normal? Whatever it is, I always close her books and stare at a wall, contemplating my own sanity. The Wives is a crowning jewel on an already impressive and magically twisted backlist of Fisher’s paralyzing and perfectly f*cked up fiction. You will question everything until the very last page — and honestly, long thereafter. If I took anything from reading The Wives, it’s that nothing is as it seems, and Tarryn Fisher is a word-crafting witch. I’m completely under her spell, and I never want to be released. Five gripping, heart-pounding stars for The Wives. Prepare to have that top spot on your Favorite Books of 2019 replaced in the final stretch with this magnificent and thrilling masterpiece. 

Grab your copy here.

Work in Progress by Staci Hart

My review:

Do you remember what it felt like to build a fort with your best friends? Where you’d string up all your sheets and blankets over chairs and couches, and then pile in underneath the canopy, laughing and playing and talking for hours? Do you remember that joy, that incredible sense of warmth and comfort and love?

That’s what reading this book felt like to me.

Work in Progress is my favorite Staci Hart novel to date, and there really isn’t just one reason. There are so many, it’s impossible to list them all. Between the phenomenal writing, the never-before-read characters, and the true, genuine romance that I’ve always dreamed of having in my own life, I was as smitten as a kitten with a ball of catnip. If there was a gold medal for romantic comedy of the year, Staci Hart would clench it with Work in Progress — and no one else would even come close to dethroning her.

I hadn’t realized then that I had been very lonely. Not until I wasn’t anymore. And it was all thanks to Tommy.

There was so much to love in this book. First of all, Amelia Hall is the heroine I didn’t know I’ve been needing. Here’s this shy, awkward, but potty-mouthed and feisty BOOKWORM trying to stumble through her first “relationship”… which is FAKE, by the way. She and her friends are so hilarious, and it felt just like sitting around with my OWN friends, gossiping and trying to figure out what to do when it comes to boys. I loved any scene with her and the girls, and any scene where her buttons got pushed and she came out of her shell a little. As a painfully awkward bookworm myself, it was so awesome to have my own feelings and anxieties reflected in a heroine. She was hilarious. And adorable. And strong. And loving. SIGH. I might have a crush on her more than Thomas Bane…

Okay, that’s a lie.

Because THOMAS MOTHERF*CKIN BANE, Y’ALL. First of all, from all the descriptions Hart paints of Tommy, I just picture him as Jason Momoa — built like a god, sexy from his eyes to his toes, long, thick head of hair, strong jaw, nose that somehow turns you on. SIGH. And as if the way he LOOKS isn’t enough to drool over, Hart went ahead and painted him as the most amazing Hero I’ve ever read. He’s a writer…. A WRITER, GUYS. He writes fantasy, but Amelia challenges him to write romance after ONE OF MY FAVORITE ARGUMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF BOOKS EVER. I seriously highlighted so much of it (maybe because it was sexy to see a guy put in his place with a woman defending romance books. Take that, Tommy!).

ANYWAY.

He’s kind, he’s protective, he’s aware of those he loves and what they need and he’ll do ANYTHING for them. He’s also cocky, and playful, and he loves to make Amelia squirm. Think Han Solo with Leia… THE BEST KIND OF FLIRTY VIBES.

I was falling in love with my husband. And I had an undeniable feeling that he was falling in love with me, too.

These two characters together were absolutely explosive. There’s so much tension, so much angst leading up to their first kiss that by the time I got it, I was a SQUIRMY MESS. And the first time it gets steamy between them? FAGEDDABOUTIT. She’s a virgin, and he’s a playboy, and the way he worships her body made me want to forego my life here on Earth and make a deal with the devil. GET ME INSIDE THIS BOOK, LUCIFER, AND INSIDE TOMMY’S ARMS. RIGHT MEOW.

Okay, I digress.

But what I love MOST about this book and, well, any Staci Hart book, really, is the out of this world writing. I read so much romance, and no one — NO ONE — does it like Hart does. Her writing is so poetic, so beautiful, it’s like staring at a rare painting revered around the world that you somehow got to hold in your hands for a short while. She paints worlds like Van Gogh paints a starry night. She creates rich characters like Martha Stewart creates rich, decadent chocolate cakes. What I’m trying to say is that she is, quite simply, the most talented romance author I have the pleasure of reading. It’s this that will always keep me coming back, always have me clamoring for more, and always have me wondering if I should quit writing, myself, because I’ll never be able to do what she does.

I could go on and on about this book, the author, the writing, the CHARACTERS, the plot. But here’s everything you need to know in a nutshell:

Work in Progress is undoubtedly the best romantic comedy to come from Staci Hart’s brilliant mind, and if you’ve ever read her work before, you know this is a huge testament. This book will have you clutching your heart in swoon after swoon, sighing with reverence, and all this while fighting back laughter — and that’s a fight you’ll lose, I promise. Work in Progress isn’t just a romantic comedy for this generation, it’s one for the ages, and if I could file it away next to my classics, I would. I am simply blown away and in absolute, dazzled awe. 5 stars just isn’t enough. Every romance-loving bookworm MUST read this book!

Now… I’ll try to patiently wait for Katherine’s book. But after that epilogue, I don’t know how I’ll make it. This group of friends is by far my favorite in any book world, save for maybe the Harry Potter crew. I can’t wait to get more of them!

Chop chop, Staci Hart. Your number one fan is waiting! 😉

Grab your copy.

Giveaway!

I loved these books SO MUCH that I want to give you the chance to win a PAPERBACK copy of one from the list — winner choice!

To enter to win, fill out this form.

What were your top reads of 2019?

16 thoughts on this post
  1. I loved Eleanor & Grey and Verity. The others are on my TBR. I loved so many books this year. Method by Kate Stewart, Carry the World by Susan Fanetti, The Traveling Man/The Traveling Woman by Jane Harvey-Berrick, A Love Letter to Whiskey, Across Time by Elizabeth O’Roark, The Wish Collector by Mia Sheridan, Another Sky by Jayne Frost, Kozart by J Nathan, A Girl Like Lilac by Victoria James, Teardrop Shot by Tijan, Jersey Six by Jewel E Ann, Untouchable by Sam Mariano, Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher, The Kiss Thief by LJ Shen…and the list can go on. I read a lot LOL

  2. 1, “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” – Have not read the entire book- Use it as a sleeping aid, in that it, for me, is more effective than Lavender, Benadryl, Melatonin, Magnesium, and Valerian Root, combined.

    2. “Coercive Interrogation and the Vulnerable Population”

    3. “History Corrected-The Scottsboro Boys Are Officially Innocent”

    4. “Only The Accused Were Innocent”

    5. “Thoughts Without a Thinker”

    6. “Twenty-Four Hours A Day”

    7. “White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841‑2001

    8. “Daily Reflections”

    9. “Representing the Mentally Ill on the Road to Recovery and Victory”

    10. “Blood Pattern Analysis: Esoteric Science, Quotidian Skill, or Deceptive Practice?”

  3. A Lesson In Thorns completely wrecked me! Definitely on my top list of the year too. So many more of these books are on my TBR and I need to move them up to the top!

  4. I read so many that were top reads for different reasons…I’ll name some authors…but first: top read was “Good Luck With That” Kristen Higgins…Arina Bowen, Vi Keelan/Penelope Reed/ Susan Mallery/Lofit Foster? Jil Shalvis/ Willow Winter/ I’m forgettig a new to me author and her book…neither of which I can remember the names of at this moment…but I’m reading her form now on!

  5. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon, the Heartache Duet by Jay McLean, Eleanor & Grey AND Landon & Shay by Brittainy C. Cherry, and many more. Thank you for the giveaway.

  6. My Top reads for 2019 are. Blackbird by Lisa Shelby. The Kingmaker/Rebel King by Kennedy Ryan. Finding Tomorrow by Kahlen Aymes. Heartache and Hope Duet by Jay McClean. Fighting Absolution by Kate McCarthy. Landon and Shay by Brittainy C Cherry. What Comes After by Melissa Toppen and Falling from Gravity by K.K. Allen.

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