A Year of Reading 2019 – Part 1

38 books in 2019! This is the sixth year I’ve created these summaries. As in previous years, I’ve used the following scheme in these brief notes on the books I’ve read.

LR = light, enjoyable read; GR = good, several caveats; ER = excellent, few caveats; OR = outstanding; DNF = did not finish; NMT = not my type.

Title Author Comment
Jan American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt Karen Harper ER Karen Harper chose an excellent time and subject to write about. So much happened in Consuelo’s life, it could have been two books!
Jan The Governor’s Wife Michael Harvey GR Enjoyable, fast read. Set in Chicago with lots of twists and nefarious, scheming characters who are rotten to the core.
Jan Before We Were Yours Lisa Wingate ER  I powered through the novel in two and a half very satisfying days. See blog for more. 
Jan Nine Perfect Strangers Liane Moriarty GR Not quite as compelling as Big Little Lies or The Husband’s Secret. But an intriguing premise.
Jan Educated Tara Westover OR At book club the words used to describe it included: compelling, horrifying, unbelievable, shocking, inspiring, and head shaking. See blog for more.
Feb Becoming Michelle Obama OR Wonderful. I know that doesn’t constitute a review, but I found Michelle Obama’s memoir hard to put down for many reasons.
Feb Love and Ruin Paula McLain ER Martha Gelhorn is such an interesting woman and McLain makes her and her relationship with Hemingway come alive. Definitely a page-turner.
Mar The Great Alone Kristin Hannah ER I powered through the pages and marvelled at Kristin Hannah’s storytelling talent.
Mar The Blue Nancy Bilyeau ER Industrial espionage in the porcelain trade of the 18th century.
Mar American Princess Stephanie Marie Thornton (see blog for author interview) ER A superbly told story of Alice Roosevelt the high-spirited, independent-minded woman who took America by storm when her father, Teddy Roosevelt became president.
Mar The Huntress Kate Quinn (see blog for a discussion of writing this novel) ER Wonderful characters + a fast-paced story = a superb read. Kate Quinn does it again!
Apr Careless Love Peter Robinson GR An excellent ‘read’ in audiobook format. Kept my husband and I intrigued on a two-day drive.
Apr The Expatriates Janice Y.K. Lee GR Janice Y.K. Lee’s writing is quite wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Hong Kong, a city where I lived for three years.
May Where the Crawdads Sing Delia Owens ER Two timelines – one deserves 5 stars, the other comes in at 3. See blog for more.
May No Hero’s Welcome Jeffrey K Walker (see author guest post) ER A superbly told story of an Irish family’s struggles during and after World War One; wonderful characters.
June The Founding Cynthia Harrod-Eagles DNF Searching around for a new author – unfortunately, this did not grab me.
June Mistress of Rome Kate Quinn ER After reading The Alice Network and The Huntress, I went searching for more Kate Quinn.
Jun Madame Fourcade’s Secret War Lynne Olson ER Non-fiction; A fascinating story of the courageous woman who led France’s largest WWII spy network.
Jun The Devlin Diary Christi Phillips GR 3.5 on my scale; lots to enjoy about this story & the time period of 1672 London in the court of Charles II
Jun Beartown Fredrik Backman ER Excellent .. powerfully told story. Characters leap off the page.
Jun Wench Dolen Perkins-Valdez ER An enthralling story of enslaved mistresses. The author truly swept me away into that time and place.

I’ll post Part 2 next Tuesday. I hope your 2019 reading has been equally rewarding. Recommendations welcome!

Previous years: 2018 part 2, 2018 part 1, 2017 (part 1 and part 2), 2016 (part 1 and part 2)

A Year of Reading 2015 – Part 1 and Part 2

A Year of Reading 2014 – Part 1 and Part 2

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

 

What’s on Your Nightstand?

Do the books beside your bed beckon or taunt? Do they make you feel guilty or make you crave the time required to dip into their pages?

Five books and a Kindle reside on my beside table. Since I share a Kindle account with my husband, the Kindle can provide hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of reading pleasure. A huge portion of them mysteries — my husband’s favourite genre — but many others as well. I’m currently reading Beartown by Frederik Backman. I had been reading Gone With the Wind but found it rather slow and long-winded (no pun intended).

Next we have The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson. I started this after seeing Dunkirk and Darkest Hour and reading a biography of Clementine Churchill. Unfortunately, Boris Johnson’s Brexit nonsense has interfered with my enjoyment of the book. Whether I will complete it remains to be seen. I’m on page 41.

Just Imagine: A New Life on an Old Boat by Michelle Caffrey is on loan from a friend. It tells the story of a couple who leave their jobs in the software industry to buy a converted 1906 Dutch barge and boat along canals and rivers from Holland to France. Now wouldn’t you love to do that? It definitely beckons!

Story by Robert McKee was recommended by my friend and fellow author Barbara Kyle. While McKee’s focus is on screenwriting, the advice is equally helpful to those of us writing novels. I’m on page 121.

Aging Backwards by Miranda Esmonde-White was a Christmas gift from my husband. It’s described as “a groundbreaking guide to understanding how aging happens [yes, I’m getting older] and how to repair and reverse its effects.” I’ve read a few chapters but haven’t attempted the exercises outlined in the book. Sigh. Too busy writing the next novel!

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson is at the bottom of the pile. In a fit of frustration with my inability to figure out what I – one little person – should do to combat climate change, I purchased this book. It has lots of useful advice but many suggestions that I would never adopt – like making my own toothpaste. It’s more of a resource book than something to read.

An eclectic mix, but not as much historical fiction or historical non-fiction as I usually have waiting for me.

What’s on your virtual or real bedside table?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Readers have their say …

Two readers, Bonnie and Carol, share their perspectives on reading. Bonnie has worked in eight states and two foreign countries and from data entry to retail management. She’s 78, lives in the US and reads mostly mysteries.  Carol is 49 years old and has a PhD in genetics, She also lives in the US and tries “to always have reading material with me in case I’m stuck in a line.”

What is the power of fiction? Bonnie says “one good aspect is expanded vocabulary” while Carol says “fiction takes you to a different time and/or place real or imaginary.”

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of?  Bonnie prefers “a good police procedural, legal or political mystery.” She doesn’t care for “dystopian, paranormal or sci-fi.” In contrast, Carol like stories that “take place in the Middle Ages, ones that integrate the King Arthur legend” and also Scandinavian noir. She doesn’t like those set in the old West or traditional mysteries.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’.  Bonnie says she’s “too busy getting to the next page” to have thought about this.

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? The Burning by Shannon Esposito stood out for Bonnie. She was “totally immersed in this book!!” Carol lists two novels: “I recently finished Beartown by Fredrik Bachman. The storytelling and characters were so wonderful. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I loved the personal growth of the main character.”

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? Bonnie chooses based on “favorite authors or a fascinating storyline“. Carol is similar: “I usually buy books from authors I’ve read before. I can also be suckered in by the blurb on the back of the book.”

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? Bonnie’s reading is influenced by a father involved in politics, the jobs she had at two attorney’s offices, and by being married to a cop. Carol loves Scandinavia which draws her to Scandinavian noir.

Thanks to Bonnie and Carol for sharing their thoughts. I now have more books to add to my TBR pile.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION – OR READING IN GENERAL –  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.