Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Favorite Reads of 2019

Happy New Year and wishing you many delightful reads in 2020! I am enjoying seeing other people's "Best of" year-end lists, even when I haven't read any of their books.  There is always room on my TBR pile for books that sound appealing.

Historical Fiction
Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce (2018)
This wound up being my favorite book of the year!  A warm and emotional story of a young woman who yearns to be a war correspondent during WWII but finds a job instead working on advice magazine during the day (what the Brits call an Agony Aunt) while doing her bit for the war at night as bombs fall.  You know how much I like books with WWII settings but some have become almost a cliche of tired plots.   This was fresh and appealing, humorous at times, heartbreaking at others, and altogether delightful. Those who remember Dear Lovey Hart will love it.

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal (2019)
NPR called this "Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan" in which Elizabeth Bennet becomes Alysba Binat and Fitzwilliam Darcy is Valentine Darsee.   There are a lot of P&P tributes and imitators out there but this was outstanding.  Thank you to NetGalley for this fresh take on a classic story with a 21st century time frame and the incorporation of a different culture. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017)
The lives of a suburban family in Ohio are disrupted when an artist and her teenage daughter move to town and when friends adopt a Chinese baby whose mother wants her back.   This was my favorite book group choice of the year.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (2019)
A gem of a story in which Tiffy, broke after a bad breakup, moves into a London apartment with Leon, with the plan that they will never meet, as he is a nurse working nights and she works for a publisher during the day, communicating via post-it notes.

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (2010)
I read the first book in the series, Still Life, in 2013 and found it pleasant enough but was not compelled to read more until I went to Québec in June with my sister.   Seeking something appropriate to listen to in the car, I got A Fatal Grace on CD and listened to it driving home and this time I was captivated by Armand and Three Pines.   This installment provides the Quebec City history and setting I wanted and is brilliantly told in flashbacks while interspersed with two current investigations, as Chief Inspector Gamache of the Canadian Sûreté and his sidekick Jean Guy Beauvoir recover from a case that went disastrously wrong and has left them both anguished in mind and body.

A Borrowing of Bones (2018) and Blind Search (2019) by Paula Munier
In this new series, Mercy Carr, a retired military police officer, and Elvis, her bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois, have settled in Vermont to recover from the loss of Elvis’s handler/Mercy’s boyfriend.  Their therapy is being outdoors but that leads to murder, which Mercy feels compelled to investigate.   My sister and I both felt this series reminded us of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books, which we like very much.    I don't need to tell you to read these in order, do I?


Act Like It (2015) and Pretty Face by Lucy Parker (2017) (reviewed in May)
I am indebted to Stephanie Burgis for recommending Parker’s romances.  Parker is a New Zealand author who is a fan of Austen and Heyer and writes sizzling contemporary romances that are intense, funny, and impossible to put down.   The first two have a London theatre setting.  I have the third and fourth books waiting for me.

Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt by David McCullough (1981)
I listened to this fascinating biography of young Theodore Roosevelt and his family leading up to and during my drive to Quebec, having been fascinated by McCullough’s book about The Wright Brothers last year.  I especially enjoyed the parts set during Teddy’s years at Harvard and his family’s travel abroad.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean (2017)
This book started out as an investigation of an infamous fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986.  Far more interesting than the fire, however, is the history of the library and the staff who work there now.  I am sure listening to this book on audio in July was partially responsible for my enrolling in library school in August!

The Bookworm Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts (2019)
When shy teen Amy McIntyre needs help to win a contest she goes to a brash surfer, Toff Nichols, to show her to be bold and sassy – but perhaps they can both teach each other something.  And, yes, I bought the book for its cover to give my sister but then found it completely charming.

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood (2018)
A fabulous coming of age novel set in Cornwall, with echoes of I Capture the Castle and The Great Gatsby.  I had to special order this from England.

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll (2018) (reviewed in February)
The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay (2018)
This beautifully written book follows Clarry Penrose (disliked and neglected by a horrendous father), her brother, and cousin from childhood through WWII.  A book you want to own, not just borrow from the library!  Like all McKay books, it can be both funny and poignant, and it reminded me a little of my beloved Flambards.   Really pitiful that the US publisher changed the title to Love to Everyone.


The Crystal Snowstorm by Meriol Trevor (1997)  (reviewed in August) This is the first of four in a Ruritanian series that is full of adventure and appealing characters.

Withering-by-Sea by Judith Rosell (2014) (reviewed in July)  For fans of Eva Ibbotson, this is the first in a trilogy about orphaned Stella Montgomery.  Fans are waiting for Simon & Schuster to publish the third book in the US.

Best Rereads

The Blue Sapphire by D.E. Stevenson
Mrs. Tim Christie by D.E. Stevenson


Dewena said...

How could I not put Dear Mrs. Bird on my must read list if it was your favorite book of the year? And definitely the Roosevelt book. And the McKay book that I will search for under the US name. I'm glad you gave Louise Penny another chance. Bury Your Dead was one of my favorites and Armand Gamache my heartthrob, even with his Marie Reine against whom I could never compete. I admit I didn't buy last year's book as the previous two disappointed me so much.

You and Nan have inspired me to keep a list of the books I read this year.

Lory said...

These all sound so good! Unfortunately many are not available from my library but I've put a hold on Unmarriageable.

Davida Chazan (The Chocolate Lady) said...

That Dear Mrs. Bird sounds REALLY good! Happy 2020 reading!

Judith said...

This was a fabulous post! I have long seen that we are drawn to similar books and authors. And it's so interesting to have your insights into your past reading year. So much more I can say. And perhaps I will in a day or so. Thanks for the inspiration.

Simon T - StuckinaBook said...

I'd been intrigued by the Kamal and will have to seek it out!

Melwyk said...

So many good reads here! I'm definitely going to look into A Sky Painted Gold -- any book that references I Capture the Castle is a must read for me :)

Did you know that the plot of The Flatshare is the unfinished plot of a movie that a character is trying to write in the actual movie Sunset Boulevard? Don't know if that was intentional or not but I watched SB right after reading about The Flatshare in a catalogue so it really jumped out at me!

GSGreatEscaper said...

Lots of books here that I might enjoy. I don't understand how I miss so many of your recommendations on GoodReads, it's great that you follow up here!