My Year in Books 2019, an explanation

December 18, 2019 - - No comments


This has been my best year of reading. Ever! I have never read more than a hundred books in a year. (I don’t count the ones I helped publish, or manuscripts that may still be revised. Just published books or advance copies.) I didn’t even set a goal to read more necessarily, but it just happened, because of the following choices:

DNF right away. It’s okay for a book to not be “for me.” Sometimes I skip to a later chapter, to see what it’s like when the story has truly gotten rolling, and sometimes I go back and stick to a book that way, knowing it gets better, instead of hoping it does. But usually, DNF happens. And it’s okay to try again with a different book by the same author, this works for me too.

Read more audio. My Scribd subscription includes a number of audiobooks per month, and I have an excellent enough selection to meet my allocation every month. That is, if I don’t think about what I’m missing that’s exclusively on Audible. But most trad-pubbed YA and historical romance are there and promptly, which is awesome because those are the books I normally don’t buy or read as individual book purchases either in print or digital anymore. The reason apart from cost by the way is heat level, I can handle slow burn better when it’s audio.

Read more new-to-me indie Filipino authors and Filipino romance. These would tend to be shorter work just because of how we publish here, so that adds to the numbers and quickly. But more than that, I’m happy to start finding people whose stories I get. As a Filipino reader I started out acting like supporting Filipino authors was a chore, and by now I can be that person who says it’s not a chore, but a Choice. I’ve found the creators whose work speaks to me and there will be more. I don’t have to marginalize my own country’s creators on my reading list.

Read with a goal. This year I was invited to be one of the judges of The Ripped Bodice Awards for Excellence in Romance Fiction and that meant I made the same choices but moved to the top of my TBR books that were published in 2019. Tangent: This has been liberating in an unexpected way because in previous years I’d spend a lot of time catching up to the romance “canon,” buying and reading books that I somehow missed because I grew up in the Philippines and lived in a non-romance-reading household. Some of these modern classics don’t hold up, and I feel like I caught the late bus only to arrive at the after-party, where people are talking about a party that I still never saw or experienced. This year when I did read to “catch up,” I read Beverly Jenkins, and saw not just what she had been doing for decades, but what else needed to be done. I knew I was late, but I felt included, recognized how I could still participate. I feel it’s changed me.

Now, I post reviews and reactions while reading. I used to tell people that I don’t review books, because I was managing a community and wanted to be “neutral.” Years later, I see value in stating my opinions again, because I always had them (I didn’t stop having an opinion just because I chose not to post my review) and because I feel it helps our writing community when we talk about how to make books better. One way to be an example for that is to actually talk about what I like and don’t like. When you do this, and someone tells you to “be quiet and just support,” you know those books and authors aren’t going to be worth your time. Based on analytics my threads and review posts are getting a lot of views, but more than that, in this industry there is value in being out there as a Filipino reader who actually reads and can talk about what they’ve read.

Something I’m still figuring out: How to talk about bad rep. For all the things I talked about above, I have an exception. I finished a book that wasn’t for me, despite knowing from chapter 1 it wasn’t for me. I didn’t publicly post my reaction, but shared my opinions to a private group. This is a book backed by a big publisher, which means it’s one of the few books that will partially represent me and has the machinery to be the most visible book that partially represents me, and the rep is offensive to me. I had to finish the book because I wanted to see if it got better, if it became less offensive, and it didn’t. I haven’t figured out how to talk about this, but since books with better rep are out there, I’m glad I probably don’t have to ever talk about it.

OK now for my faves! Including Amazon links because they would most likely be there, but please buy from the store you prefer, if any of these interest you. Listing in order of when I read them.

Favorite erotica/erotic romance:

Editor’s Note by Delilah Fisher

Heat by Mandie Lee (Tagalog, Precious Hearts website)

Indecent…Trilogy by Jane O’Reilly

Private Eye by Katrina Jackson

Benefriends by Chencia C. Higgins

Just Past Two by Elia Winters

All Together by Brill Harper

Neighborly by Katrina Jackson

Everything else that Katrina Jackson has written

Favorite historical:

At His Lady’s Command by Nicola Davidson

The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles

Destiny’s Surrender by Beverly Jenkins

Miss Dominguez’s Christmas Kiss and Other Stories by Lydia San Andres

The Henchmen of Zenda by KJ Charles

Any Old Diamonds by KJ Charles

Sugar Moon by Jennifer Hallock

Peter Darling by Austin Chant (out of print right now)

Vivid by Beverly Jenkins

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas

Favorite Graphic Novels:

Check, Please! Book 1 by Ngozi Ukazu

I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib (not romance)

Sagala 1 to 4 by Tori Tadiar (Gumroad)

Favorite contemporary:

You, Me, U.S. by Brigitte Bautista (romanceclass)

Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole

Luck of the Draw by Kate Clayborn

The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

No Two Ways by Chi Yu Rodriguez (romanceclass)

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

Stealing Luna by Carla de Guzman (romanceclass)

Stay A Little Longer by Dawn Lanuza (romanceclass author)

Play It By Ear by Tara Frejas (romanceclass)

Kitten by Jack Harbon

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera

Stay With Me by Tara Frejas (romanceclass)

Trashed by Mia Hopkins

Not Another Family Wedding by Jackie Lau

He’s Not My Boyfriend by Jackie Lau

Getting Schooled by Christina C. Jones

Xeni: A Marriage of Inconvenience by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Lush Money by Angelina M. Lopez

Tiny House, Big Love by Olivia Dade

Alta: A High Society Romance Anthology by Carla de Guzman, Bianca Mori, and Suzette de Borja (romanceclass)

Open House by Ruby Lang

Favorite YA:

Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz

YA that I helped publish:

Flipping the Script by Danice Mae P. Sison (romanceclass)

Raya and Grayson’s Guide to Saving the World by Catherine Dellosa (romanceclass)

Ongoing series following one couple:

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

The Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas

Favorite audio (linking to Scribd, my invite link for 60-day trial) :

Becoming by Michelle Obama narrated by Michelle Obama

The Henchmen of Zenda by KJ Charles narrated by Antony Ferguson

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas narrated by Bahni Turpin

Stay A Little Longer by Dawn Lanuza narrated by Kaleo Griffith

The Real Deal by Lauren Blakely narrated by Erin Mallon and Zachary Webber

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary narrated by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Kwaku Fortune

Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali narrated by Priya Ayyar and Tim Chiou

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas narrated by Emily Woo Zeller

That is a lot! A more comprehensive 2019 Reads list with affiliate links is here, because the year is not done yet and I’m still adding to it!

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About Mina

Mina V. Esguerra writes and publishes romance novels. She founded #RomanceClass, a community of Filipino authors of romance in English.
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