Her liberty had meant nothing to her until it was taken away. The ability to wander down to the kitchen in the middle of the night, or to open a window, or rummage through a closet for another blanket – these were the smallest privileges, but to have them taken away was an enormous loss
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 Sevenwatersstories and I am looking forward to seeing where the story will go.
The Overdue Life of Amy Bylerby 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 Metby 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.
ReadingThe Bookish Life of Nina Hillby 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 Beginningsand 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…
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!
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 cameHarry 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.
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 ♥.
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.
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.
As with the rest of the series, Stewart covers the quest for women’s rights and fair treatment in a way that never preaches, instead entertains and educates.
One main difference is that the focus is less on Constance alone and while I do love Constance, it was wonderful to get more of Norma and Fleurette’s characters.
But as Stewart states in the historical notes, this part of the Kopp sisters’ story draws largely from Stewart’s own imagination but we meet many new and interesting characters from the footnotes of history. In fact, even though the Kopps are in the title and their individual characters are as boldly drawn as ever, they act mainly as a framework for the story, which is really the story of Beulah Binford and her undeserved(?) infamy. Kopp Sisters on the March is also about the general experiences and emotions of the women in the months leading up to the United States entering World War I. It was truly fascinating, often infuriating, and I cannot wait to see where the Kopps go next.
I usually write an if-you-liked-this recommendation right here but there are only so many times I can say read this series instead I’ll say, check out Amy Stewart’s website for more historical information about Constance, Norma, and Fleurette as well as the other real-life characters they encounter. View all my reviews
I’m hoping that 2019 brings new and exciting things to my life as well as yours. We may not know what’s in store for us but one thing I know for sure is that there will be great books to read. Some of my favorite writers have new books coming out this year. While I may not get to them all (because of all of the new and exciting things 2019 has in store for me, of course!), these are the upcoming releases I’m most excited about:
I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella – While her popular Shopaholicseries may have gotten stale, Kinsella redeemed herself a couple of years ago with the wonderful My Not So Perfect Life, which is why I’m so looking forward to I Owe You One (expected publication: February 5, 2019)
The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion – Reading The Best of Adam Sharp last year may have been a huge disappointment but Simsion’s return to Don and Rosie has me excited to read him all over again. (expected publication: February 5, 2019)
The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay – I’ve only read two of Reay’s novels but I’ve enjoyed their heart and humor, especially in Lizzy and Jane. I always look forward to more of her novels to read. (expected publication: May 14, 2019)
The Philosopher’s War by Tom Miller – Tom Miller’s thought-provoking fantasy/historical fiction, The Philosopher’s Flight may not have made my top reads from last year but the story is so unique and timely that I must know what happens next. (expected publication: July 16, 2019)
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal – Stradal’s first novel, Kitchens of the Greater Midwest, is one of those novels that I feel it might take multiple readings to fully appreciate. It is the author’s unique voice and view of the people and their lives in the middle of our country that has me anxious for more of his writing. (expected publication: July 23, 2019)
Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier – I am only halfway through the Sevenwaters series so I won’t be getting to Harp of Kings any time soon but any new fantasy series by Juliet Marillier is a reason to get excited. (expected publication: September 3, 2019)
Kopp Sisters on the Marchby Amy Stewart – Yes! Another Kopp Sistersnovel is on the way and you can bet that I will be putting in my request at my local library as soon as I can. I am especially anxious for the next chapter thanks to the all the questions at the end of Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit. (expected publication: September 17, 2019)
My source for publication dates is Goodreads.com and may be subject to change. Happy reading!