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.

 

Book Club tackles Where the Crawdads Sing

The Toronto book club I’ve been attending for roughly twenty years discussed Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing recently. In advance, our moderator circulated a New Yorker magazine article about the wildlife efforts of Delia Owens and her husband Mark Owens in Africa and the huge controversy that arose when one of the major news organizations was filming a documentary about them and a poacher was killed. There was some suggestion (unproven) that Mark Owens’s son might have killed the poacher.

This article offers an intriguing view of Delia’s unusual life in the wild and her relationship with her then husband and there was much speculation at book club on how her work in Africa affected Where the Crawdads Sing.

We usually begin by asking each person whether they liked the book – and in the case, everyone said they enjoyed it, although most offered a caveat or two.

What is it about the story that so many readers have found compelling? Goodreads has over 440K ratings of the novel averaging 4.5 out of 5. Our group felt that the sections of the novel dealing with Kya’s marsh world were the most compelling and that this portion of Owens’s writing is superb. Perhaps that’s because she’s written three earlier non-fiction works about natural settings.

Do the two timelines work? Here we had reservations. Most said they found the murder investigation and trial bland and not written nearly as well as early timeline chronicling Kya’s growing up. The group expressed admiration for the deep understanding of Kya’s inner life as portrayed in the earlier timeline and disappointment that the story lost Kya’s voice/inner monologue and the richer understanding of her motivations that would have come from that in the other timeline.

Why are readers drawn to Kya as a character? Because she’s alone and vulnerable, because she demonstrates strength and determination, because she cares deeply for the natural world.

Will there be a movie version? A resounding yes. Apparently Reese Witherspoon has already bought the film rights. Some felt that Delia Owens crafted the story deliberately with a movie in mind.

Was the story plausible? Could a little girl of seven really look after herself the way Kya did? Could Kya learn to read and educate herself so completely? Was the ending plausible? We debated each of these.

If you’re interested in an interview with Delia Owen, you can check this article from BookPage.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens ~~ For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

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.

Reading is escapism at it’s finest

Today we have the pleasure of hearing from Jen, another reader who agreed to be interviewed. As you will see, Jen also runs a reading site called In Literary Love.

Please tell us a little about yourself: for example, background, age range, country, general book reading habits. If you’re prepared to share your name or your first name, please do. 

Hi, my name is Jen and I am a 36 year old mother of two girls and have been with my partner for over 12 years. I work full time and read every chance I get. I am currently on book 70 for the year! [Jen wrote this in November – apologies to Jen for not posting sooner.]

In your opinion, what is the power of fiction? Fiction has the power to take you somewhere you’ve never been, escape the life you’re currently in, and distract you from almost anything. It’s truly a wonderful thing.

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of? I’m drawn to almost anything if the writing grabs me. I tend to steer clear of graphic novels. They’re not really my thing.

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’. When an author has the ability describe a setting as if you’re looking at it with your own eyes. When they create and write a vision.

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? Where the Crawdads Sing [by Delia Owens]. The story of Kya, the descriptions of the marsh, all of these things drew me in and kept me there. A truly lyrical novel.

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? I honestly review a lot, so most of my books are given to me in order to review. However, when I do purchase, it’s usually a book peers and book group members raved about.

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? Not at all, to be honest.

If you’re a book blogger or run a book site, please tell us a little about your focus and features. I am and do both. In Literary Love is the name. Long story short, it started as a Facebook group as a way to help friends with their reading goals and provide book recommendations. Then it became a public forum to share my reviews and it kind of exploded from there. I now have a blog and Instagram, both of the same name. I share my reviews, interact with members. Write if I feel I have something to say. I have fun featuring books on my Instagram, sometimes taking part in book tours. It’s just simple, bookish fun.

If there is anything else about reading fiction, the kind of books available today, or the way reading is changing that you’d like to comment on, please do so.  Reading is escapism at its finest. 

Many thanks Jen and congratulations on your social media activities. You can find Jen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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.