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: 

 

Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance, World Literature

Review: Unmarriageable

 

UnmarriageableUnmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What would happen if you moved Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to 21st century Pakistan? You would get Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable, which I got the opportunity to read thanks to NetGalley.

Reading Unmarriageable is not about the story. If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you already know the story – a man and a woman from different classes meet and thanks to their ingrained prejudices, take an instant dislike to each other, a dislike she maintains as he falls grudgingly in love with her.  That story will always be great, it is the execution that often fails.  Unmarriageable is not a particularly great adaptation of Pride and Prejudice – Alys is no Elizabeth Bennett, Mrs. Binat is even more annoying than Mrs. Bennett, some of the dialogue is just awkward, and the writing tends to be repetitive.  Instead, for me, the joy of reading Kamal’s interpretation was in learning about Pakistani culture about which I’ll admit I was totally ignorant.

Chick-Lit, which is what this novel and its Austen ancestor is, often gets a bad wrap but, while it is important to learn about the history and the hardships around the world, I think it is equally important to learn about the ordinary, everyday lives that show us not only the cultural differences but how we are alike and Chick-Lit whether it is set in the US, the UK or Pakistan, does that.

If like me, you enjoy a good Pride and Prejudice update, Shannon Hale’s Austenland and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible are two of my favorites.  Austenland is a fun romp through a vacation experience that places the Austen-obsessed protagonist into Austen’s world with the promise of a happy ending straight out of one of Jane’s novels while Eligible, part of The Austen Project is truly a modernization of Pride and Prejudice.

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Mystery, Reviews, Romance

Review: Midnight in Austenland

Midnight in Austenland (Austenland, #2)Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The original Austenland novel was a light, fun romance – my fantasy put down to paper. With Midnight in Austenland, Hale attempted to add a bit more weight with a genuine murder mystery set in this make-believe world. At times it worked well as an homage not just to the novels of Jane Austen – particularly Northanger Abbey – but also to the mysteries of Agatha Christie, of which Charlotte is so fond. Other times Charlotte’s wishy-washy nature and repetitious inner dialogue. By the time I got halfway through, every time I saw the words “Inner Thoughts”, I wanted to scream. These little aggravations and the mind-boggling explanation of the motive for murder took away from the romance, which is the real reason I read these books.

If you enjoy Jane Austen fanfiction type novels, I recommend reading Austenland, which is light and sometimes silly but so much fun to read.  If it’s the gothic mystery/romance you love, read Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which I love for its sense of humor

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Reviews, Romance

Review: Unleashing Mr. Darcy

Unleashing Mr. DarcyUnleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I discovered Teri Wilson’s Unleashing Mr. Darcy after it was turned into a movie for the Hallmark Channel and since it was made into a Hallmark movie, I was not expecting the book to be as steamy as it was. That’s not a complaint; there are plenty of those coming.
Unleashing Mr. Darcy is yet another modern take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – this one set in the world of dog shows. I’m almost positive going that these retellings will only disappoint me but my love for Austen’s original masterpiece keeps me going back for more. Unleashing Mr. Darcy was not an exception. I’ve come to see that these retellings often disappoint in the same regard – the characterization of Mr. Darcy. Austen herself just danced a fine line to make him not seem like an arrogant jerk before showing him to be the honorable man he is. Modern writers attempt to remedy this by doing the one thing Austen didn’t do. They show the reader Darcy’s side of the story. Wilson’s attempt at this did not work. Donovan Darcy’s inner turmoil is even more aggravating than his hot and cold treatment of Elizabeth. And Mr. Darcy does not wink!
If the characterization of Mr. Darcy is flawed in Wilson’s adaptation, Elizabeth totally misses the mark. Sure she has a sharp tongue in her verbal sparring with Donovan, but Elizabeth has none of Lizzy Bennett’s confidence and intelligence. It is really difficult to see what Donovan sees in her apart from her looks.
What I did enjoy about Unleashing Mr. Darcy was the glimpse into the dog show world and the canine characters (and the cute shoutout to Keeping Up Appearances!). I enjoy watching dog shows and I love dogs but I think I’m just ignorant enough to find the dog show scenes entertaining. I have a feeling that Wilson took a few artistic licenses there. In short, like watching dog shows, Unleashing Mr. Darcy was a diverting bit of fluff that probably would have been enjoyed more by someone who doesn’t love Pride and Prejudice quite as much as I do.

If you enjoy reading modernized takes on classics, particularly Pride and Prejudice and would like to read a good (and very modern) retelling, I recommend Curtis Sittenfeld’s EligibleThe book was part of The Austen Project where some of today’s popular writers wrote modern versions of four of Austen’s novels.  I’ve read three of them – Eligible, Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith.

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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.