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: 

 

Reviews

Goodreads | Shelly’s Year in Books

After a disappointing 2014 in which I read more than a book a week but didn’t really enjoy any of them, 2015 was a pretty good reading year for me.  I revisited an old favorite, finished a wonderful series, started a couple of new ones, and discovered some new authors that I plan on reading more of.  You can see the complete list of books I read this past year by clicking the source link at the bottom of the post but I’ll cover a few of the highlights here.

Early in the year, I read the beautiful first book of Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series.

Daughter of the Forest

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1)

 

I will definitely be reading the rest of that series in the near future and anything else Ms. Marillier has written.  I read a couple of books written by favorite authors that were disappointing but no one can be brilliant all the time.  Right?  Then I slogged through Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

Robinson

Robinson Crusoe

 

I don’t recommend it.  At the recommendation of my mother and one of my librarian friends, I read Ruth Reichl’s first novel, Delicious.  That one I would recommend.  It has lovable characters, history, romance, self-discovery and lots of food.

This summer I finished Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy with the final book, The Book of Life.  

Book of Life

Book of Life (All Souls #3)

 

The All Souls trilogy is a magical series filled with romance, history, and magic.  My favorite installment of the series was the second, Shadow of Night because of all the historical characters Diana and Matthew encounter.  This summer, because I am a massive St. Louis Cardinals fan,  I deviated from my usual focus on fiction to read Mike Matheny’s wonderful The Matheny Manifesto.

matheny

The Matheny Manifesto is a must read for anyone with any responisbility of children

 

I continued Jasper Fforde’s Tuesday Next series with the second book, Lost in a Good Book, which I enjoyed much more than I had the first book of the series.  I also really enjoyed Katherine Reay’s second novel, Lizzy & Jane, which is a touching and humorous story of sisterly love.

Lizzy and jane

Lizzy & Jane

 

And I discovered Gail Carriger and her delightful Parasol Protectorate series; another new series I plan on reading more of this year.

With so many great reads from 2015, it should be difficult to choose my favorite but only one can be my favorite read of the year.  As it turns out, the choice wasn’t that difficult.  A couple of years after it was such a big hit with a slightly younger audience, I finally read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.  

Fangirl
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is my favorite book of the year!

I don’t remember the last time I identified so thoroughly with a character.  I recognized myself in Cath so I appreciated her journey of self-discovery and growth immensely.

Source: Goodreads | Shelly’s Year in Books

Characters

Fictional Friends (and Boyfriends)

What makes an unforgettable character?  A hero you want to root for?  A villain you love to hate?  If I knew those answers, I’d probably be a better writer than I am.  All I know is that there are some characters that have, for one reason or another, stayed with me since I met them.  Some are like friends I visit often for some comfort and a good laugh, some just seem like they’d be fun to hang out with, some become book boyfriendsJ, and some are so wonderfully bad that I love to hate them.  Now that I’ve added Soulless’s Alexia Tarabotti to my list of favorite characters – yes, I have a list, doesn’t everyone? – I thought I would introduce you to a few of my other favorites:

  • Sherlock Holmes – No, I’m not on some bandwagon though I am obsessed with BBC’s “Sherlock”. I’ve loved the character of Sherlock Holmes since reading “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” and “The Speckled Band” in middle school (probably even longer thanks to The Great Mouse Detective, but discussion of that would be in another blog altogether).
    I couldn't resist! Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes complete with death frisbee.
    I couldn’t resist! Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes complete with death frisbee.

    Yes, he’s brilliant and solves impossible cases but what I like most about Sherlock is his snark.  In the books, he is excellent at insulting people without them realizing it.  And, most of the time, he only insults the characters that deserve it.  He’s actually pretty nice (by his standards) to the good people in the stories.  He just has an awesome bulls**t detector.

  • Augustus McCraeLonesome Dove could be unbearably heavy and dreary without someone to lighten the mood (just read Streets of Laredo and tell me it’s not a bit depressing). But Gus isn’t just a funny guy who likes to enjoy his life.  His quips and anecdotes are often full of wisdom and he really is a great leader of men.  Unfortunately, he’s also stubborn as hell in the end.  I’m still mad at him.

    Robert Duvall as Gus in the mini-series version of Lonesome Dove was perfection.
    Robert Duvall as Gus in the mini-series version of Lonesome Dove was perfection.
  • Ramona Quimby – In my younger days, I considered the star of Beverly Cleary’s delightful series one of my best friends. Like me, she is a little sister but she has the spunk I wish I had and the courage to get into all the trouble I wish I had been brave enough to get into.
    Ramona the Pest (Ramona #2) by Beverly Cleary
    Ramona the Pest (Ramona #2) by Beverly Cleary

    My favorite Ramona book is Ramona the Pest when she’s in kindergarten.  She chases a boy, pulls a classmate’s bouncy curls, draws her Qs into little cats, and gets into all sorts of scrapes at school and home.  As a shy quiet child, I wanted to be Ramona.

  • Atticus Finch – I hope it isn’t a crime these days to say Atticus Finch is one my favorite characters. I haven’t read Go Set a Watchman yet, so as far as I’m concerned, To Kill a Mockingbird is the only source for the character of Atticus or any of the Finches.  He is probably the noblest character in American literature, living by and standing by his values even when it is difficult and potentially dangerous.  Most importantly, though, he is the kind of father I would want for my children.

    Another reason to love Atticus Finch. It gives me an excuse to post a picture of Gregory Peck looking all noble.
    Another reason to love Atticus Finch. It gives me an excuse to post a picture of Gregory Peck looking all noble.
  • Sydney Carton – The main protagonist of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities may seem like the polar opposite of Atticus Finch what with his drinking, laziness, and gloomy view of the world but he is every bit as noble. He finally finds a cause or purpose, whatever you want to call it, and then sacrifices himself (literally!) for it.  He dies so that the woman he loves can be happy with the man she loves.  And right before he loses his head, he says one of the most beautiful lines in all of literature:  “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
    Ronald Coleman as Sydney Carton in the 1935 film adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities.
    Ronald Coleman as Sydney Carton in the 1935 film adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities.

    I would’ve loved you, Sydney!

  • Elizabeth Bennett – If I can’t actually be Pride and Prejudice’s enviable heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, I would love to just hang out with her (and Jane, and Charlotte). Elizabeth is feisty, opinionated, intelligent, and has a wicked sense of humor.  And she got the dreamy Mr. Darcy just by being her feisty, opinionated, intelligent self.  And by learning to see beyond certain prejudices of course.

    Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett from the 1995 BBC mini-series
    Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett from the 1995 BBC mini-series

The mention of Mr. Darcy brings me to the subject of book boyfriends.  Mr. Darcy is definitely on that list as are a few other Austen heroes.  Mr. Tilney from Northanger Abbey runs a close second to Mr. Darcy thanks to his delightful sense of humor and Persuasion’s Captain Wentworth is a favorite because of the incredibly romantic declaration of his love for Anne (swoon!).  There are some fantastic fictional men not penned by Miss Austen.  If you’re looking for a good man, try Levi from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Colin Byrne from Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (he has kind of a Sherlock Holmes meets Mr. Darcy thing going on), Hugh of Harrowfield (also known as Red) from Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, Matthew Clairmont from Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy (or Gallowglass if you prefer your vampires a little rougher around the edges, or everyone’s current favorite Scotsman, Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  There have been so many more literary men in my life; these are just a few of my favorites.

You'd didn't think I'd miss the opportunity to post a picture of Colin Firth did you?
You’d didn’t think I’d miss the opportunity to post a picture of Colin Firth, did you?

There are so many unforgettable characters out there, whether they are noble heroes, wicked villains, or scene-stealing secondary characters, that I can’t possibly go into detail about them all.  Here are a few of my Honorable Mentions:

As you’ve probably guessed, I could go on and on but for now, I’ve gone on and on long enough.  These are just a few of the memorable characters I’ve encountered in my lifetime of reading.  Who are your favorite characters?