My fiction selections were way stronger this year as opposed to last year, which had lots of misses in-between the hits. This year I noted which titles were audio selections. I hope out of this list you will get some new novels to add to your own reading list this year!
Books can earn up to five starts (*****) in my numbering system, five being excellent!
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie**** (audio)
I watched the film first and then decided it was time to finally read this classic crime novel. It was great as audio (read by Dan Stevens, aka “Matthew” from Downton Abbey) and of course the end is so unique handing the reader a real moral dilemma to consider.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie****
I mean, you can never go wrong with Christie!
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher****
I attempted reading this book a year ago, but it didn't connect. This year it did. It took a bit to really get engrossed but once I did, I'm so glad I read it. It's the type of writing style I enjoy and the story has a lot of depth. The last few paragraphs made me tear up--in the best of ways!
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare***** (audio)
I really wish Speare had more novels! I love them all so much. No one really writes with the quality of this period of books. I can't ever quite put my finger on what I love so much about "older" writing. I hadn't read this since I was a girl and really forgot most of the plot, so it was like a totally fresh book. I liked it just as much as I did when I first read it. It held up just as well for me as an adult--maybe even better--than it did when I was a kid.
Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare**** (audio)
Sometimes middle grade novels really are the best! Young Miriam must come to terms with her prejudices and think through her preconceived ideas about the cultures she encounters when she is captured by Indians and lives in the wilderness and then is sold as a prisoner to French Catholics.
To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey***
I really loved the characters and the style of writing. It's almost a "scrapbook" in style, which adds to the story. I DID have to slug my way through portions of it. I got a bit stuck, especially in the early parts and almost gave up, it's such a huge book. But the second half I liked better. I also like the "magical realism" the author included, which was inspired by native Alaskan mythology.
In the Woods by Tana French****
My first Tana French. It was a “slow burn” sort of crime story.
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham***
When I first became familiar with the Tulsa race riot of 1921 (which I only learned about a few years ago) I was shocked and horrified. So I was interested and nervous to read this YA novelized version of it. The book definitely reads YA in tone but the topic is one more people need to remember. The blight of the Tulsa race riot is a horrific memory in our nation's history that is often conveniently "forgotten."
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles***
This was not for me. I forced my way through the entire thing. I appreciated Towles writing ability but I just could not get into it.
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan***
I found myself in a reading rut at this point. After Rules of Civility this one also wasn’t for me. I wanted to like it but it was just okay. I liked the cover more than the book.
Idaho by Emily Ruskovich****
A brutal but quiet book with great writing and a difficult story. I thought the ending had closure, although the "why" was never answered and I don't think there was an answer to be had anyway. The book is about how a tragedy can change lives and pull people together and apart.
I Found You by Lisa Jewell**** (audio)
A great psychological thriller! A perfect blend of plot, character development, and description in my opinion. I listened on audio and loved all the accents. However, there ARE triggers. There is a sexual assault episode which is not glossed over. It could easily be skimmed past, however, because it pretty much is one main scene. Also, if you don't want to read the F-bomb than this book is not for you, because it is used often. ;)
The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley**** (audio)
A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley*** (audio)
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley**** (audio)
Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley***** (audio)
As the Chimney Sweep Comes to Dust by Alan Bradley**** (audio)
Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley**** (audio)
The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley**** (audio)
I am not going to review each of these books but will just say that the series is one of my favorites! Flavia de Luce is a character like no one else! Bradley is masterful writer (just look at those titles) who develops his characters with precision, the feel of time and place is masterful, and his plots always become page-turning. I love all the literary references and his ability to write a metaphor is incredible. I’m sad to think that there is only one more novel in the series left!
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson****
At first I thought the book was weird. I mean, I knew the premise, but could I read 529 pages of the same but different life? Then I wondered when the plot would start? Was it all going to just be little vignettes? But then I got into the rhythm and soon I had to find out what was going to happen to the Todd family. This is a thought-provoking book that makes you think about the choices you make, and how they direct your life. What if you stood here vs. there? Meet this person or don't meet them? In the end, I think this book has the making of a classic. I especially enjoyed all the literary references and Ursala's life/lives during the Blitz. It made that awful time more alive to me and emphasized the strangeness of war and everyday life.
A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert***
A fun cozy type of mystery. Think a Hallmark movie in book form, so at times, it verges on cheesy, but a nice summer-type of read.
A Confusion of Languages by Sioban Fallon****
This book was better than I expected it to be, it immediately swept me into the story. The structure was interesting, as was the setting, middle-eastern Jordan.
The Likeness by Tana French*****
I liked this a lot better than In the Woods. Although the plausibility of the premise was one you definitely needed to suspend belief, I didn't mind it. It made for such a cool story. I really enjoyed getting to know Cassie more (she was in book #1 too).
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen***** (audio)
Delightfully read by Rosamund Pike I absolutely loved revisiting Austen’s world again.
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman****
This one grabbed me from chapter one and never let go. And yes, tears were running down my face by the end.
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen***
I have enjoyed Allen’s other magical realism titles and I did find this one enjoyable too, but not quite as good.
The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan***** (audio)
I ADORED this book. I listened to it on audio and it enhanced the experience dramatically. Since it is a novel written in letters the different voices was a wonderful addition as was the music throughout the recording.
I had attempted listening to it once earlier in the year and couldn't get into it. But several months later I tried again after seeing a favorite bookstagramer talk about how much she loved it. I'm so glad I did because it is probably my favorite book of 2018 tied with the Flavia de Luce series. If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society I think this might be the book for you.