A Year of Reading 2018

I read 33 books this year not as many as previous years – although I feel as if some are missing! I’m delighted to share them with you. Below is the rating scheme I developed in 2014 – the first year I posted a list. Part way through 2018, I took a break from historical fiction 🙂

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 My Dear Hamilton (brief review) Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie OR Fascinating portrayals of the men and women who played pivotal roles during the revolution and the founding of America.
Born a Crime (book club) Trevor Noah ER Humour – pain – emotion – and unique stories of growing up bi-racial in South Africa make this an outstanding read.
The Tuscan Child Rhys Bowen NMT There was so much the author could have done with this story.
Small Great Things (book club) Jodi Picoult ER This was a can’t-turn-the-pages-fast-enough book for me.
Only Time Will Tell Jeffrey Archer ER The first of Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles and I’m sure to read more.
Feb Mary – Tudor Princess (review) Tony Riches ER Full of excellent period detail, this novel will transport you to 16th century England and France with intrigues, wars and upheavals.
The Woman in the Window A.J. Finn OR My husband read this and said I HAD to read it. And he was right.
Trumpocracy David Frum ER An alarming, clear-eyed, and well-articulated view of what’s going on in the US.
Mar March Geraldine Brooks GR Not as compelling as her other novels.
Full Disclosure Beverley McLachlin GR Debut novel from Canada’s former chief justice.
Apr Citizens of London Lynne Olson OR A fascinating look at US involvement in WWII; superb non-fiction
All is not Forgotten Wendy Walker ER Suspense, family drama, unexpected plot twists and a unique storyline.
The Wife (musing on titles) Alastair Burke GR The pacing and cliff-hanging chapter endings are well done and the twist at the end is quite the surprise.
May Off Season Anne Rivers Siddons GR At times disjointed and with too many digressions.
The Litigators John Grisham GR Novel doesn’t get going for a long time.
The Fire By Night Teresa Messineo DNF Full of inner monologue and backstory and lengthy descriptions.
Dreams of Falling Karen White ER A plot that slowly simmers its way to a surprising and satisfying ending
Jun Simple Truth (guest post by the author) Carol Bodensteiner ER Great dialogue, pacing, and engaging characters.
News of the World Paulette Jiles GR Took a while for me to ‘get into it’

Quite a mix of genres, time periods and impressions. I’ll post the rest on Thursday.

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.

Vacation Reading – It’s a Mood Thing

Early in September, I asked Facebook friends to recommend books to read on vacation. My husband and I had two weeks planned and I wanted something good to read. But what is ‘good’? And is your ‘good read’ the same as mine?

A day or two before leaving, I checked the recommendations, looking at Goodreads to see what others might have said about them. Several went by the wayside: a period that didn’t interest me; too fluffy sounding; just read one like that; and so on. Two stood out: March by Geraldine Brooks and News of the World by Paulette Jiles. A few clicks later and they were on my iPad.

Sidebar – I used to have a Kindle. In fact, I have had four Kindles. Lost each one of them on a plane so I’m using a mini iPad we received as a promotion from a bank we are no longer dealing with. Moral of that story: don’t put your Kindle in the airplane seat pocket.

I was eager to read March as I’d heard Geraldine Brooks speak at the Historical Novel Society conference in June and I’ve read three of her novels and loved them. A sure winner, I thought. And News of the World with its premise of a crusty old man returning a young girl who’d been taken by the Kiowa to her family sounded intriguing. I was sure I could get lost in them.

Writers read a ton – and I’m no different. Sometimes when I read, I underline passages that seem particularly meaningful to me because of the language, the description, a particular thought that might be relevant to a character I’m developing. It’s a great way of continuing to learn the craft of writing. But vacation reading is different.

Vacation reading is about relaxation, about enchantment, about fun and about powering through a story because the pacing has me turning the pages to find out what happens next.

I began March with great excitement. The writing is beautiful, the emotions powerful. But, sadly, I couldn’t connect with the main character, Mr. March. And with a Civil War setting, it wasn’t right for vacation reading but I will definitely return to it.

So, I flipped to News of the World. Perhaps I was still mulling over why March hadn’t worked for me or still feeling the effects of the brutal war it depicted (ever wondered why the word civil is used in conjunction with war?). At any rate, News of the World begins slowly and by that time I wanted something lighter and perhaps present day rather than historical (shocking, I know).

With the kind of glacial Internet speed that comes from being in a more remote part of France, I checked out Amazon for best sellers and found Kristin Hannah’s Nightingale. I’d already read that and loved it so I found another of her novels – Winter Garden – and downloaded it. After fifty pages, the story took off.

The novel “illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past.” But it does much more than that. Winter Garden tells the horrifyingly true story of the siege of Leningrad. Very powerful. Definitely a page-turner. And from my point of view, a great vacation read.

What vacation reads did you enjoy this year?

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.

 

Books Books Books

What do all these books have in common? And no, the answer isn’t that I’ve read them all 🙂

five-novels

  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • Tightrope by Simon Mawer
  • The Ten Thousand Things: A Novel by John Spurling
  • Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
  • The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
  • Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
  • Day by A.L. Kennedy
  • The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
  • Restless by William Boyd
  • An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
  • March by Geraldine Brooks
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
  • On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanigan
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
  • Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
  • The News From Paraguay by Lily Tuck
  • The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
  • In America by Susan Sontag
  • Pure by Andrew Miller

Yes, you’re right. All are historical fiction (although a few weave in present day portions). And yes, all have won major literary prizes including the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction, the Pulitzer prize, the Man Booker prize, the National Book Award and the Costa Book Award.

What can they tell us about successful historical fiction? I’ll be working on that – just as soon as I finish the last round of edits on my current manuscript.

In the meantime, if you’ve read one, two or more of them, let me know why you think they were chosen for awards and what makes them successful.

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 and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. 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.