Pour yourself something hot and let's talk books. It's that time of year when I do my round up of all the books I've read in the past twelve months. First I'll be sharing my fiction reads and I hope you'll share at least one favorite fiction read with me in the comments section!
The mystery/detective genre takes center stage this year. The Louise Penny series about Inspector Gamache were my favorite books this year. Her ability to probe the complicated motives of the human heart are insightful and dare I say, deep, while weaving a fantastic whodunit. The other winner was Robinson's Lila. I love her writing but I also struggle with it. Lila is my favorite of all her novels. As much as I love historical fiction I didn't find a title I loved this year in that category. I read several but none amazed me.
What was your favorite fiction in 2016?
The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle***
My first Sherlock!
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie****
Good to the last twist! And the movie was fabulous!
The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows*** (audiobook)
Having loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society I was excited to read Barrow's newest novel. This novel, however, was very different. The details were so convincing I could almost feel myself on Jottie's front porch with the sweltering summer heat with iced tea in hand. Barrows explores the lives of three women: Layla, Jottie, and Willa and their relationship with Felix, a man who controls through manipulation and lies. Barrow's characters and their motives are complex and muli-layered. She explores what forgiveness looks like within a family, between sisters and brothers, father and daughter.
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin*** (audiobook)
I liked this book, then I didn't and almost didn't renew it, then I did like it again. I stalled in the middle, but I'm happy I kept pressing on. In the end I got teary eyed and I loved all the literary references.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee****
I was glad I reread this as an adult. I think it was even more beautiful through my grown-up eyes than when I read it as a young teen.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes**
Sorry to the many people who loved this book but I can't see why. It didn't squeeze one bit of emotion from me (which I would have welcomed) and I was so glad when it was done. I thought the writing did not do justice to the topic it tackled (it seemed almost flippant) and the characters didn't resonate with me personally or even seem that real to me. Least favorite book of the year.
The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell***
A fun literary romp.
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley***
I didn't love this book. I wanted to. The designer in me adores the cover more than the story. The plot was interesting, but it didn't grab me. I almost didn't feel like finishing it, although I did really want to find out what ACTUALLY did happen on the plane. I think it was the writing itself I didn't love.
I did appreciate how the author uses the narrative to critique news media/outlets and how our society craves the sensational and often wrecks the lives of people without good reason--just for a juicy story that isn't even true. One of the main characters, Scott, survives the "fall" of the disastrous plane crash and makes it to shore. But can he survive the aftermath? The twisting of the story? The illegal media tactics? I think this is the question "Before the Fall" wants us to grapple with the most.
Lila by Marilynne Robinson****
This is the first Marilynne Robinson book I've listened to on audio and it definitely helped me get through it. I always struggle with her books. They are so not your typical type of novel. Hardly novels at all, really. The reader was excellent and I have to say I liked this story the best. It had more of a narrative arc than her others, if I can remember correctly. I was really beautiful writing (of course) and I enjoyed finally getting Lila's own thoughts and back story.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield****
This book reminded me of a darker version of a Kate Morton novel. At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. There's definitely some disturbing material, but thankfully, the author doesn't delve into the gory details. Also, the twin theme was hard for me at times, given that I'm a "twin mom." However, the story kept me riveted and I read it quickly. It has a crazy twist at the end I did not see coming. All in all, it had a satisfying ending.
The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera***
An interesting book that reminded me of Chocolat in terms of the small town moralistic element. It's definitely a story with a message. Almost a fable? It was unique and delightful and thought-provoking but at times too preachy for me.
Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery****
A reread because I couldn't remember this story and I was craving the comfort of Montgomery's world and words. Never disappoints.
Green Dolphin Country by Elizabeth Goudge****
This book centers around the relationship of two very different sisters and their love for one man and what seems like a chance mistake that changes all their lives. It was rich, deep, and epic. Marianne, who kind of comes across as the main protagonist is smart, determined, brave, manipulative, and selfish. She reminds me a lot of Scarlett O'Hara. Yet she grows, matures, and changes. There are times you definitely don't like her, but in the end I think I was really want her to succeed at life.
My main issue with this book was it was long. It is an epic tome that could hold it's own as a door stopper. I love Elizabeth Goudge (The Little White Horse) but it took me over a year to read. Granted, there were places I majorly stalled and put it down for a month or two. But it really did have just too much detail in some places I felt like were not important to the story.
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