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.

What keeps you turning the pages?

We all want to hear the response – “it was a real page-turner.” As readers, such an endorsement from friends and other sources offers a promise that a novel will be worth the time and effort invested. As writers, we love hearing from readers who describe our stories that way. And this writer, when hearing a book described as a page-turner wants also to understand what makes a book stand out in this fashion.

Often page-turners are plot-driven with fast pacing and lots of twists and turns and unexpected – though very satisfying – climaxes. In my recent reading, All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker and The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn fit this category. I could also mention The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah or Pompeii by Robert Harris.

Sometimes a page-turner contains characters whose worlds we eagerly inhabit and whose absence, when the story ends, create a great hole in our hearts. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn and Mary: Tudor Princess by Tony Riches come to mind. But I could equally mention The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick or Mary Called Magdalene by Margaret George or The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (even though the sequel was much less appealing), or The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner.

In my case, many are historical fiction 🙂

Some time ago, I wrote a few posts about Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers by James Hall. Hall itemizes twelve features of best-selling books. The first feature he calls “An Offer You Can’t Refuse”, which he further describes as a novel that:

  • entertains
  • engages readers in a compelling, simple and dramatic premise
  • offers an unfolding story with “one complication after another”
  • includes characters “of deep conviction and fervent, stubborn resolve, capable of passions that rise well beyond the normal range of human experience”
  • makes the story worth the readers’ time by forging a “powerful emotional bond … composed of one part pity, one part fear”
  • minimizes backstory
  • creates “some form of serious peril” very early on
  • enhances the tension with “the power of the ticking clock”.

You can read two other posts based on Hall’s book: More Features of Hit Lit and Hit Lit: The Final Six Features. I wrote them in 2012, no doubt full of deep intention to incorporate these features into my novels. But did I?

In the last six years, I’ve learned a lot about writing and had modest success. And yes, some readers have used the phrase page-turner to describes one or more of my novels. But, as Robert Frost is so often quoted: “These woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”

I’d love to hear what keeps you turning the pages and novels that you’d describe that way.

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.