I bent over the small round cake, letting the flames dazzle my eyes as I contemplated a wish. I wanted a home. I wanted a place where I could build a life. And someday, I wanted someone who would love me. Not for what I could do for them, but for who I was to them. Seemed like a lot to wish for at once, but it was my birthday. Birthday wishes were allowed to be lofty.
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.
Thank you to Goodreads and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to read this ARC of Jen DeLuca’s first (of what will hopefully be many!!) novel, Well Met. I loved this rom/com set around a small-town Renaissance Faire from the word go. Emily is a delightful heroine with an intelligent sense of humor and a wounded heart that just makes you recognize her and want to root for her. But it is Simon with his deep emotional scars and lost sense of self that combined with his swaggering, swashbuckling alter-ego makes for a not only swoon-worthy but relatable hero.
Emily and Simon’s early encounters – even before the start of the faire – crackle like a cross between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and Benedick and Beatrice. And if their dialogue crackles, then their love scenes absolutely sizzle.
Nerd that I am, though, I believe that it is all made better by the Ren Faire setting and the many allusions to Shakespeare. I only wish there had been more scenes from the fair in the last chapters because I enjoyed Emma and Captain Ian’s banter so much.
I’m a sucker for a well-written romantic comedy like Well Met with intelligent, relatable characters. If you are too, I recommend the novels of Kelly Harms – I particularly enjoyed The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane – and Louise Miller whose The Late Bloomers’ Clubwas one of my favorite reads from last year. If you enjoy the modern-day meets historical setting of the Renaissance Faire, I loved Shannon Hale’s Austenland.