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 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.



For the Love of Books

New Year, New Look, New Books

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 Shopaholic series 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 Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms – Though it has only been a year and a half since I read Kelly Harms’s The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane and The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay, I’ve been waiting rather impatiently for her to release another. (expected publication:  May 1, 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 Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman – Whether it is the unexpected humor of The Garden of Small Beginnings or the sharp-tongued wit of Other People’s Houses, Abbi Waxman’s writing always makes me laugh.  I can’t wait to meet Nina Hill and learn about her bookish life. (expected publication:  July 9, 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 March by Amy Stewart – Yes!  Another Kopp Sisters novel 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 and may be subject to change.  Happy reading!

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


Review: The Best of Adam Sharp

The Best of Adam SharpThe Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

Watch what you wish for. Like ‘I wish Graeme Simsion, author of my beloved Rosie Project and it’s equally delightful sequel, would write another book, or, in the case of Adam Sharp, reconnecting with the woman he had a three-month affair with twenty-two years ago and never let himself get over. I want to be able to say that Simsion’s third novel (the first not part of the Don Tillman series) had some redeeming quality but for the life of me, I cannot come up with anything. I did worry for a while that I was comparing The Best of Adam Sharp to the Don Tillman books and that my enjoyment suffered because of that. But no. I just hated it.
I think the novel’s main weakness lies in its main character, Adam Sharp. Aside from his almost encyclopedic knowledge of music from his father’s generation, Adam is boring, completely average, and mostly unmemorable. Until he becomes totally unlikable. He utterly lacks character except that he is selfish and awfully self-centered for a guy with no real character. Worst of all, he does not change. In the 22 years between their affair and reconnecting with Angelina, he doesn’t evolve. We are let to believe that he changes his self-serving ways by the end but he’s 49 years old and completely wishy-washy so I found that really difficult to believe.
Much like the story of how he reconnects with his “lost love” (a love he was too selfish and characterless to keep in the first place!). While reading, I felt as if Simsion had just written this novel as an excuse to live out some male fantasy – average schmoe meets a beautiful, fragile, actress who somehow falls in love with him, he gets to the sexual teacher in her relationship and discover her fetish fantasy, 22 years later when they’re both with other people they reconnect and end up part of some perverse, three-person game that just happens to involve life-altering sex all sanctioned by her husband. I honestly kept expecting him to wake up from what was surely a dream. The best thing about the novel was the music. The one thing I did like was the playlist at the end.

I recommend reading The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect and just skipping this one altogether.  

View all my reviews


The Sequel Effect

I don’t think I’m the only one that the word ‘sequel’ makes nervous.  Thanks to many disappointments – admittedly most at the hands of filmmakers – I groan inwardly whenever I read that an author has written a sequel to a book that I loved.  I’m not talking about a book series made up of a few books that tell one story or really even the type of series common in the Romance and Mystery genres that tell different stories connected by a locale or a family or a sleuth – though subsequent books in those types of series do often disappoint.  No, I’m talking about when an author – or more likely their publishers – decides to write a continuation of a story that seemed to be satisfactorily complete with the first book.

The wonderful original

Yet, despite my dread, I can’t resist the desire to read more by a favorite author or about characters that I enjoyed.  So I read it.  Compounding my hesitation in the case of Graeme Simsion’s second novel about Don Tillman and his developing relationship with Rosie, The Rosie Effect, was a poor rating on  I try not to put too much stock in those ratings, knowing that enjoyment in reading is a personal activity, but I had to wonder what could be so terrible to earn the sequel to The Rosie Project, which currently has a 4-star rating, such a low rating.   The Rosie Project was one of the rare books that actually had me laughing, out loud and often.  It was also, at turns, profound, thought-provoking, and educational.  And I just loved Don by the end of his adventure.  So I guess I was expecting not to laugh as much or to find as many words of wisdom in this second book.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

The fun sequel

I laughed, I facepalmed and said ‘oh god’ through all of Don’s misadventures as he attempted to come to terms with a major life change without destroying all he’d built with Rosie and the friendships he’d created.  Like the first novel, it was a screwball comedy on paper.  All the while I learned from and identified with many of the observations Don makes as he tries to navigate a society that is quick to judge him for his differences.  One of my favorite scenes is when he and Rosie are discussing baby names and he says, “Humans should be permanently under development.”  While this echoes Don’s own experiences in the course of the two novels, it is something we all need to realize.  We may never change who we intrinsically are by we are always working on being the best version of that person for ourselves and our loved ones.

Don Tillman is a wise man but most of the people he encounters don’t see it because he is wired differently.  This is illustrated beautifully in the passage that spoke the most to me.

“I wanted to shake not just Lydia but the whole world of people who do not understand the difference between control over emotion and lack of it, and who make a totally illogical connection between the inability to read others emotions and inability to experience their own.”

I think I read that passage five times before I could move on.  Why do we judge people who don’t react the way we would in an emotional or stressful situation?  Don’t we need all types to get through the tough times?  The criers, the ragers, the jokers, and the cool heads.

Wow!  This really got away from a discussion about sequels.  I guess what I’m saying is that, yes, sequels can often disappoint when you are passionate about the original.  Sometimes, though, wonderful characters and honest stories transcend inferior writing, or – on those happy occasions – the sequel can build on the original, turning two standalone books into one delightful story.  Is The Rosie Effect as good as the original?  Probably not but you only get the right to criticize a sequel if you read it.  And remember any sequel probably won’t be as disappointing as a movie adaptation would.  Not that I wouldn’t go to see a film version of Don and Rosie’s story.  I can think of an Australian actor that could take on the challenge of playing Don Tillman   (*cough* Hugh Jackman *cough*).

Just puttin’ it out there