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

Reviews

Review: Shepherds Abiding

Shepherds Abiding (Mitford Years, #8)Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

I’ve been making my way slowly through Jan Karon’s delightful Mitford series, relishing the many unique characters as they deal with their individual crises in the picturesque small-town setting that by now feels like home when I read the novels. However, I found the last couple I read plodding. Shepherds Abiding, which takes place in the months leading up to Christmas, though, is fast-paced and particularly heart-warming. With a slightly smaller cast of characters and narrower time frame, it is more focused and happier in tone than the previous books. It was the perfect read for the busy holiday season and a story that can be read over and over again.

If you enjoy a gentle read or heart-warming Christian fiction, I highly recommend reading the entire Mitford series.  It has an open-minded, open-hearted message and a leisurely pace needed when the world gets to be too much.

View all my reviews

Reviews

Review: In this Mountain

In This MountainIn This Mountain by Jan Karon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading my way slowly through Jan Karon’s delightful Mitford Years series so I don’t always recall Father Tim’s relationship with the many vivid characters that populate the series and I have a hard time remembering details from the previous books. I only know that each is heartwarming in its own way. In this Mountain, the seventh in the series is a little heavier in overall tone than its predecessors as Father Tim himself struggles with some very dark internal demons rather than helping others through their trials. But his reaction is real and familiar, I’m certain, to many readers, making this book an inspiring addition to the series.
My only real complaint about In this Mountain is that a few of the plot lines seemed to be left unfinished. I suppose that is meant to get me anxious to read the next installment but in a couple of cases it just felt like a loose thread – Father Tim and Hessie should’ve had an encounter about the gift she sent him!

My only recommendation is to read the entire series beginning with At Home in Mitford.

View all my reviews

Writing

New Year, New Plans

I did a lot of thinking during the last month of the year and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m writing this blog about the wrong subject.  Or, I should say, writing about the books I read isn’t enough.  While I am always reading something, what I read does not always inspire me to write a full-blown blog entry.  Therefore I’ve made too few entries this past year.  And my heart wasn’t always in those I did post.  So I feel that I either must end this blog altogether or expand the subject matter beyond my bookshelves.

Now, I have many, many interests but I am an expert at none.  My first instinct was to expand my entries to books and movies.  Then I thought I might add TV shows and music to the list of subjects about which I write.  But like with reading, I feel that one’s taste in movies, shows, and especially music is very personal.  And maybe it’s the trauma of middle school talking but I don’t trust that I won’t be judged harshly for my tastes.  Nothing personal, but the internet hasn’t shown itself to be the safest place to pour one’s heart out.

I’ve also considered posting snippets of my own fiction writing.  Again my trusts issues come into play.  Even though the writing is probably mostly crap, I can’t trust that my ideas won’t be stolen.  I have issues.  We all do.  I know that but I’m only now beginning to realize that these trust issues of mine are holding me back not only in my blog but with my fiction.  Maybe, instead of the usual resolution to get fit or be more responsible with money, my 2017 resolution should be to work on my trust issues.  And not just my trust of strangers on the internet but also I need to learn to trust myself.  This, I believe, would greatly benefit my writing as well as other areas of my life.  Which I don’t trust you enough to talk about.  Still, if I’ve actually posted this, it is a step in the right direction.  Right?

Now, before the trust exercises begin I must post my annual Year in Review of the books I read in 2016.  I went well over my goal of 30 books with 46 but that’s because I didn’t do very well at my other resolution to focus more on my fiction writing.  I could blame a particularly tough year but the truth is I’m just really good at believing my own excuses.  Neither did I succeed in completing Reading Challenge I attempted.

mmd-2016-reading-challenge1
2016 Reading Challenge from modernmrsdarcy.com

I thought it would be simple with only 12 books but I’m still working on the book that intimidates me – James Michener’s Alaska – and I never got around to the book I should’ve read in school or the one I’d previously abandoned.  That’s not surprising considering that I didn’t want to read them the first time around.  Here are the books I read to complete the other challenges:

A Book Published This Year:

(Goodreads.com giveaways were quite helpful in completing this one)

A Book You Can Finish in a Day:

(I should write an entry on what this local children’s author has meant to me)

A Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read:

A Book Recommended by your Local Librarian:

A Book Chosen for You by Your BFF:

A Book Published Before You Were Born:

A Book that Has Been Banned at Some Point: 

A Book You Own But Have Never Read:

(To be fair this category is true of most of the books I read.)

A Book You’ve Read at Least Once:

And now for my top read of the year:

I chose Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart.

kopp
Amy Stewart’s wonderful Kopp Sisters series is based on the experiences of real-life sisters Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp in the 1910s.

I know I didn’t give it a full 5-star rating but it was just such a fun surprise and I think many people would enjoy the tale based on actual events.  Don’t believe me?  Go to the author’s page dedicated to these three brave women.  I think it just proves that librarians really do know the best books.  Plus there’s a fantastic sequel for when you finish long before you want it to end.