Wrapping Up 2019: My Favourite Reads of the Year

I hope you guys all had a lovely Christmas! I’m here today with my final reading wrap up. I decided to do it all in one post, instead of two, so it’s going to be pretty long, but I hope you enjoy hearing all about my favourite reads from 2019!

Let’s get into it 😀


Anzac Girls: The Extraordinary Story of Our World War 1 Nurses by Peter Rees

By the end of World War 1, 45 Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service, and over 200 decorated. These were the women who left for war looking for adventure and romance, but were soon confronted with challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them. Their strength and dignity were remarkable. Using diaries and letters Peter Rees takes us into the hospital camps and the wards and the tent surgeries on the edge of some of the most horrific battlefronts of human history. But he also allows the friendships and love of these courageous and compassionate women to enrich their experiences, and ours. Profoundly moving, this is a story of extraordinary courage and humanity shown by a group of woman whose contribution to the Anzac legend has barely been recognized in our history. Peter Rees has changed that understanding forever.

The Anzac Girls (originally published as The Other Anzacs), was one of those books that changed my view of history forever.  Whenever we hear about heroic sacrifice of those who went to war, we almost always are thinking about men, even in our modern age. While I by no means think its wrong to acknowledge the ways men have served and protected our respective countries, I think we often overlook the presence of women in conflict.

This book really drove home to me everything that women suffered in order to support men, gain their own careers, love their brothers, husbands and friends, and just to do what they perceived as their responsibility to Australia.

I loved this book, though it was often challenging and confronting. Definitely worth the read though, to both my Australian and non-Australian friends.


The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.

This book was incredibly sweet and it made me so happy, as well as challenging me to think about topics that I’d never really bothered to consider before.

It’s an Australian contemporary and it’s set in a suburb of Sydney that I’ve been to a number of times and could picture perfectly. Anna was a sweetheart, and so was her friend and later boyfriend, Rory. I shipped them so much, which rarely ever happens to me in a romance.

It also dealt with the experiences of being a Chinese-Australian and the burden of being an oldest daughter (even though I’m Chinese, there’s still a lot of pressures that Anna and I share), and the responsibility of taking care of siblings when a parent is unable to, something I also related to.

This book deserves a lot more hype than its gotten so far, and if you haven’t read it, you definitely need to!


Merlin by Stephen Lawhead

An enchanting tale of love and loss, glory and grandeur, set in the twilight of Rome’s power . . . where the Celtic chieftains of Britain battle to save their land from an onrushing darkness . . . In this modern classic, Stephen Lawhead presents a majestic retelling of Western literature’s most compelling epic. Merlin. His golden eyes saw the shape of a world yet to be. His wisdom would light the path of the coming King. Born of a union between druid and faery, he was trained as a bard and schooled in the ways of battle. But his heart and calling were greater than a warrior’s. Son of the great Taliesin, the song of his father coursed through his soul. Yet his life and mission were to be his own. And though sovereignty was his, he would lay it aside to serve a king of his own choosing. As his powers transcended those of mortal men, so, too, would his trials, his griefs . . . and the dark might of his most fearsome enemy. In the twilight of Tome’s rule over the Island of the Mighty, as smaller men vied for ascendancy, his would be the hand to lay the foundations of a new order — the Kingdom of Summer . . . and Arthur, Pendragon of Britain. Merlin is book two in the Pendragon Cycle.

I’ve ranted about how much I love the Pendragon Cycle so I’ll keep this one short.

I’ve so far read Taliesin and Merlin and loved them both. They’re both definitely slower fantasies, and probably wouldn’t appeal to those who like fast, action-packed novels, but the level of worldbuilding, character building and reflection in them suit me perfectly.

I also fell head over heels in love with Aurelius.

The cover is a perfect example of “don’t judge a book by its cover” because boy, that cover is ugly.

Young Digger by Anthony Hill

The dark clouds returned and gathered about the boy. His eyes grew distant, and he began to tremble. He heard not only shells exploding, but the cries of dying men…He was stumbling over churned earth, looking into the faces of an officer, bloodied red as the poppies, ripped apart in the Flanders mud…

A small boy, an orphan of the First World War, wanders into the Australian airmen’s mess in Germany, on Christmas day in 1918. A strange boy, with an uncertain past and an extra-ordinary future, he became a mascot for the air squadron and was affectionately named ‘Young Digger’. And in one of the mot unusual incidents ever to emerge from the battlefields of Europe after the Great War, this solitary boy was smuggled back to Australia by air mechanic Tim Tovell, a man who cared for the boy so much that he was determined, however risky, to provide Young Digger with a new family and a new life in a new country, far from home.

This was a reread and I read it aloud to my siblings this time. They all loved it as much as I did, but again, this is a book I’ve spoken about several times before, such as here  so I won’t shove it in your faces too much more.

The Eagle of the Ninth and The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff

Set in Roman Britain this story is of a young Roman officer who sets out to discover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of the Ninth Legion, who marched into the mists of Northern Britain and never returned.

You know when there’s a book that just speaks to you and you adore it, even though you don’t know why? That’s The Eagle of the Ninth for me. Ever since I first read it when I was about twelve, it’s stood out as a book that I keep coming back to. It’s a childhood favourite, definitely, but its also one of the few books of my childhood that I can read again without cringing or wondering why I’d liked it in the first place. I also reread The Silver Branch for the first time in years and that didn’t disappoint either.


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I have no idea what I was expecting when I went into The Scorpio Races but it certainly wasn’t the brilliant mixture of fantastic prose, fantastic worldbuilding and fantastic characters. I loved this book and I’m torn between doing a reread in November next year, or autumn next year.



Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

The enthralling story of Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia, as seen through the eager eyes of a cabin boy.
When young Isaac Manley sailed on the Endeavour from England in 1768, no one on board knew if a mysterious southern continent existed in the vast Pacific Ocean. It would be a voyage full of uncertainties and terrors.
During the course of the three-year journey, Isaac’s eyes are opened to all the brutal realities of life at sea – floggings, storms, press-gangs, the deaths of fellow crewmen, and violent clashes on distant shores.
Yet Isaac also experiences the tropical beauty of Tahiti, where he becomes enchanted with a beautiful Tahitian girl. He sees the wonders of New Zealand, and he is there when the men of Endeavour first glimpse the east coast of Australia, anchor in Botany Bay, and run aground on the Great Barrier Reef.
Acclaimed and award-winning historical novelist Anthony Hill brings to life this landmark voyage with warmth, insight and vivid detail in this exciting and enlightening tale of adventure and discovery.

Another great Australian book I reread aloud to my siblings. We also went to visit the Captain Cook in the Pacific exhibition in Canberra this year too, so they went along together nicely.


Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell

This was once the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who had been taught since birth to hate each other like poison.

But now, the boy Wizard and girl Warrior have been brought together in the Badwoods and they have witnessed the shocking consequences of the Stone That Takes Away Magic. They will need to cast aside their differences once more–for an Evil Spell has broken free.

It’s up to Xar and Wish to find the ingredients. But it means entering dangerous territory unannounced…

Cressida Cowell brings her trademark wit to this spellbinding sequel, along with the stunning artwork and heartfelt adventure that has made her beloved around the world, weaving a story that is sure to transport readers to a world that will enchant and bewitch them.

Again, another book I’ve ranted on about in my Mid-Year Book Tag. 

I love Cressida’s latest series and the third book has just come out, so I’m going to be getting my hands on it as soon as possible!


Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

This book broke my heart into a thousand pieces, scattered them to the winds and then gathered them together again. I read this book about six months after my dad died, so I was definitely feeling Rumi’s grief and anger, which helped me connect with her more than I’ve connected with a protagonist in a long while. I also loved her friendship which didn’t lead to a romance! Yay!

Also, I love Hawaii. To the point I’m learning Hawaiian with a feverish urgency. I loved the little bits of Hawaiian culture and pidgin thrown in there.

Overall, this book made me cry…properly cry, not just tears-in-the-eyes cry. It made me bawl, because for someone who has lost a close family member and is trying to deal with life in the aftermath, its incredibly relatable and incredibly important.

monster calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don’t quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there’s a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking tale of mischief, healing and above all, the courage it takes to survive.

Quite possibly my favourite book of the year, A Monster Calls, in my opinion, perfectly captures the warring emotions that come with watching a parent die of cancer–or any terminal illness really. I remember listening to the audio version of this book while out walking and crying so hard at the ending. And then crying after it was done. And basically crying whenever I think of this book. 

Books as good as this one are the reason I write, in the hope that one day I’ll be able to touch someone who is hurt and broken and struggling the same way this book touched me.

What about you guys? What are some books you really loved this year? Have you read any of my favourites, and if so, what did you think of them?

6 thoughts on “Wrapping Up 2019: My Favourite Reads of the Year

  1. This was a really nice wrap-up and I’ll definitely have to add these books to my TBR! It’s awesome that you read books aloud to your siblings–I don’t think my siblings would let me 😅! The one time I did read a novel aloud to my sister, however, it was one of my favorite reading experiences ever!
    I hope you and your family have had a wonderful Christmas! Best wishes for the new year!

    Liked by 1 person

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