For the Love of Books, Year in Review

Shelly’s Year in Books | 2019

Before the calendar turns to 2020, I need to announce my top reads of 2019.  Except for my first read of the year, the third book in Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series, Child of the Prophecy, my year got off to a rather uninspired start with a series of merely OK reads.  Then I picked up The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms, whose previous books I’d thoroughly enjoyed, especially her debut, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane.  I followed this with a run of mostly great reads through the rest of the fall then finished up strongly with Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, the gorgeous first book in her Winternight trilogy.  Here are some highlights from 2019:

  • Child of the Prophecy (Sevenwaters #3) by Juliet Marillier is the culmination of the story that began with Daughter of the Forest.  Though it lacked some of the romance of that first novel, this installment brought the mysticism and magic back to the series.  From what I’ve read, I believe Child of the Prophecy was meant to be the end of the story but Marillier has written three more Sevenwaters stories and I am looking forward to seeing where the story will go.
  • The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms, with its uplifting story of a single mother who relinquishes her children to the care of their long-absent father for a summer as well as the interesting ideas about education that will appeal to anyone who struggles with required reading as I’ve always done, made its way not only on my list of top reads but became a Goodreads Choice Award finalist for best fiction as well.
  • How to Stop Time by Matt Haig was at times slow and often maudlin and yet there were times when I couldn’t get enough of it.  I particularly enjoyed the historical passages like meeting William Shakespeare or traveling with Captain Cook.  But what makes How to Stop Time truly special is its perspective on human relationships, history and politics, and how we spend our time on earth.
  • Well Met by Jen DeLuca is possibly the best romance I’ve read in years.  The nerd in me loved the Renaissance Faire setting while the student of human nature in me enjoyed how relatable the two leads are and how believable their relationship is.  And I’m not the only one who loved this one.  Well Met was a semi-finalist for a Goodreads Choice Award for romance.
  • Reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman was like looking into a rosy-colored mirror.  The story of Nina, a young woman with whom I share not only my passion for reading and books but an often debilitating case of anxiety around people not to mention a love of trivia and a habit of communicating through film quotes and references, is sweet and wickedly funny (a trait it shares with Waxman’s other two novels, The Garden of Small Beginnings and Other People’s Houses) with a delightful touch of romance and a message about self-acceptance and overcoming your personal hurdles. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill must have connected with many other readers because it too was a finalist in the fiction category for a Goodreads Choice Award.
  • The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal, a novel about overcoming the odds stacked against you, following your passion, the strength of women, and the ties of family, builds on the critical success of Stradal’s first novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest.  This novel has a better flow and a stronger story.  In this age of female empowerment, it is nice to see a cast of strong, yet flawed women who kick ass while doubting themselves the whole time.  That’s what it’s like to be a woman.
  • Kopp Sisters on the March (Kopp Sisters #5) by Amy Stewart makes it 5 for 5 so far for the Kopp Sisters series on my top reads list.  A lot has changed for Constance and her sisters so the story is quite different from the previous four novels but is at least as good if not better than the last couple.
  • The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight #1) by Katherine Arden captivated me almost immediately, transporting me to the northern forest of what is now Russia to a world inhabited by spirits that protect the forest and the homes of the hardy people that have made their homes there.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if at least one of the other two books in this historical fantasy trilogy made its way onto next year’s top reads list.

So, which one of these great reads is my favorite book of 2019?  As wonderful as some of these books are, I admit the choice wasn’t that difficult.  Drumroll, please…

Bookish

I chose The Bookish Life of Nina Hill not only because of its sweet story or delightful cast of characters or Waxman’s trademark wicked sense of humor.  This book made me feel less alone in a world that often makes you feel like your quirks and fears and passions are something to be ashamed of.  While Nina has come to accept herself as she is, she also comes to learn that she can stay true to herself while bending to make room for more in her life.  And it is darn funny!

These are just a few of the books I’ve read this year.  To see the full list and read the reviews, check out My 2019 Year in Books on Goodreads!

Source: Shelly’s Year in Books | Goodreads

For the Love of Books, Year in Review

A Decade of Reading| 2010-2019

The 2010s have been a formative year for me as a reader.  I’ve always loved books but I haven’t always been a reader.  It wasn’t until I graduated from high school and was able to choose the books I wanted to read that I truly became a voracious reader.  Then in 2011, I got a part-time job at my local library.  Through that job, I discovered new authors, new series, and even genres I’d never really considered before.  I also met many book lovers like myself.  One of those booklovers, a fellow librarian, introduced me to Goodreads.com and even though I had to leave the job when life intervened, I continued to make discoveries.  In 2015 I started this blog for a couple of reasons but mainly because I missed sharing my passion for good books with the patrons and librarians at work.  It has been a joy share the ups and downs of the reader’s life.  As the decade comes to a close, I thought I’d take the time to review some of the best and most important books I’ve read over the past 10 years.  I’ve tried to narrow it down, but I’ve read a lot of great books during the decade so bear with me.

Romance:   Sometimes you just need the comfort and escape of the modern fairytale quality of a good Rom/Com.  I discovered, however, that not all books that can be categorized as Romance fit into the mold of that stereotype.

Historical Fiction:  I love learning about history and while I understand that Historical Fiction takes liberties with the facts, it is a gateway to learning the true stories behind the fictionalized versions.  And who doesn’t love being transported to another place and time?

Fantasy:  Of all of the genres I read, this is the one about which my feelings have changed the most.  As a child, while I loved a good fairytale story, I tended to gravitate toward the wit and realism of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby series and then the young adult fiction of Judy Blume where the characters and their situations were recognizable.  Then came Harry Potter.  Ever since reading that seminal series, I’ve been searching for more Fantasy fiction that captivates me as Harry’s world did.

Children’s Literature:  It’s okay to look back when it comes to reading.  Whether it’s revisiting an old favorite or discovering a classic I’d missed when I was younger, there is nothing to warm the soul like reading a good children’s story.

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
  • The Star Seed by Mary Alice Fontenot *
    • This one, in particular, transports me back to my childhood.  The author was a local woman who made yearly visits to my elementary school where she would usually read from one of her Clovis Crawfish books.  I loved this sweet telling of the Christmas story as a child but it is difficult to find so a few years ago my friend surprised me with a copy for my birthday ♥.
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Western:  Since reading Lonesome Dove in college, I’ve been on the lookout for another as transporting as that classic.  Plus, when I find a good one, I get to share it with my father and sharing a good book is always fun.

Wide Open
Well-written western about a real-life incident

Mystery/Thriller:  Mystery is another genre I don’t read too much of though I do enjoy the occasional cozy mystery, particularly one set in Britain.  There are a few exceptions though.  I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan.

Chick-Lit:  This is another genre that gets a bad rap but it is my favorite genre so it hurts when people put it down based a few crappy wannabe Chick-Lit novels.  I know about those; I’ve read more than my fair share of them.

Women’s Fiction:  Women’s Fiction, to me, is basically the Judy Blume books I loved as a teen all grown up, dealing with issues that all women face from the mundane to the extraordinary.

Fiction:  Some books just don’t fit into the mold of any one genre but I had to mention them.

Classic Literature:  These are the books that have endured in our hearts and minds for generations and make their way onto every must-read list ever compiled.

Miscellaneous: 

 

For the Love of Books, Year in Review

Shelly’s Year in Books | 2018

It’s that time of year again, time to review my year of reading.  Honestly, it hasn’t been my best reading year.  I don’t want to complain about receiving free books and ARC editions but thanks to my discovery of NetGalley, reading started to feel like a chore.  And that’s never a good thing.  So I’m determined to cut down on the number of books I sign up for and focus more on the books on my own shelves.  Even though I wouldn’t count 2018 as the most enjoyable, any time spent reading is to be appreciated and there are always a few standouts books.

  • For instance?  Amy Stewart released another Kopp Sisters novel, the fourth in the series (and there’s another one on the way for 2019!), Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit.  and she makes my top reads list for the third year in a row.
  • This summer my ever reliable librarian friend introduced me to Louise Miller’s first novel,  The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living and when my library got her second novel,  The Late Bloomers’ Club, I read that one too.   I loved both books and they both make my list.Late Bloomer
  • I encountered a few disappointments from some of my favorite writers:  Neither Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Heroes Are My Weakness or Katie Fforde’s Love Letters were the authors’ best works.  Though I did enjoy Abbi Waxman’s Other People’s Houses it didn’t quite live up to the hilarity of last year’s top readThe Garden of Small Beginnings.  The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion, the author of my beloved Don Tillman series, was one of my least enjoyed books of the year, earning my only one-star review of the year.
  • Then again some well-loved writers equaled or Night of Miraclessurpassed themselves:  When I finally got around to reading the second book of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Dragonfly in Amber, I found everything that I loved about the first book along with a deeper relationship between Claire and Jamie.  My return to Jan Karon’s Mitford series was a joyous one with the short, sweet Christmas story, Shepherds Abiding.  Best of all was Elizabeth Berg’s Night of Miracleswhich contained the unique attention to detail and wisdom that I love about Berg’s writing along with a ton of heart and some lovable characters making it a front-runner for my top read
  • Another front-runner is Jon Cohen’s Harry’s Trees which celebrated two of my favorite things, books and nature, with an enormous amount of heart, a devilish sense of humor, and a dash of adventure.Harry's Trees
  • Finally, if awards were given out for best character, Polly from Kathy Hepinstall’s The Book of Polly would definitely get a nomination.

There are the highlights of my year.  I read some great books but there wasn’t even a competition for my favorite read this year.  I pretty much knew what it would be back in March.  Harry’s Trees is just so full of hope and love and a darn good story that I knew it was destined to be one of my favorites.  Since finishing it, I’ve recommended to everyone and even wrote it in for a Goodreads choice award.

These are just a few of the books I’ve read this year.  To see the full list and read the reviews, check out My 2018 Year in Books on Goodreads!

Source: Shelly’s Year in Books | Goodreads

For the Love of Books, Year in Review

Shelly’s Year in Books | 2017

It’s that time again!  Time to review my reading for 2017.  All in all, it’s been a pretty good year for me – bookwise at least – with far fewer low points than high points.  I won’t dwell on any low points as I didn’t read anything so unbearable that I felt compelled to give it only one star or even a generous two.  So I’ll mention some of the high points.  I read so many great books this year that I’m finding it very difficult to narrow it down to just one favorite.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • My first exposure to Liane Moriarty could not have gone better.  Big Little Lies is both impulsively entertaining and thought-provoking.  I can’t wait to read more of her work.
  • The first book in Amy Stewart’s wonderful Kopp Sisters series, Girl Waits with Gun was my top read of 2016 and the third book in the series, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, which came out this fall, did not disappoint.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is not in the running for top-read since this was my second reading of the first book in J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster series, but it was still a high point in my 2017 reading.  It’s always nice to visit an old friend.
  • Not only did I enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life but so did many others as it was one of the finalists for Goodreads.com’s books of the year.
  • BBXX: Baby Blues:  The First Two Decades became a welcome addition to my collection of comics anthology.  Not only did I laugh out loud at Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott’s hilarious comic strips but I learned quite a bit about the behind-the-scenes of comic strip creation.
  • Abbi Waxman’s debut novel, The Garden of Small Beginnings was one of the most hilarious and heartfelt novels I’d read in a long time.  I loved it so much that I told all my reader friends that they had to read it.  I don’t often do that.
  • Kelly Harms’s The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane is The Garden of Small Beginnings main competition for top-read this year.  They each had a wonderful sense of humor, a whole lot of heart, and lovable characters.

In the end, though, I think I’ll give the honor of top-read to The Garden of Small Beginnings simply because I want to spread the word about this delightful novel about a widow raising to precious and precocious little girls even further.  Waxman’s second novel is coming out in 2018 and I hope that I’ll be sharing another wonderful review for her in the coming year.

For a comprehensive look back at all 50 of the books I read in 2017, click here:

Check out My 2017 Year in Books on Goodreads!  And I wish you all happy reading in 2018.  Happy New Year!

Source: Shelly’s Year in Books | Goodreads