Last year I read some real duds when it came to fiction. I’m realizing my taste in fiction most often runs counter to “popular” in a lot of cases. Not always, but you won’t find me loving Me Before You or The Nightingale. But this year there were a lot of hits! I’m glad to share them with you.
You already know of my love for Inspector Gamache. We’ll start with him:
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny****
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny*****
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny***
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny*****
The Great Reckoning by Louise Penny*****
Glass Houses by Louise Penny*****
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry****
Poignant is what comes to mind. I wrote more than one quote from this book. A fast read but thought-provokingly beautiful.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly****
You know I loved this one. Check it out on audio if you like to listen to your books.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah**1/2
I barely made it through until the end. It was just blah. Reading it right after Lilac Girls highlighted it’s flaws. I felt like modern women were superimposed back into the W.W. II era. I had a hard time caring about the characters because they just didn’t feel real. Lilac Girls was like a fine crafted award winning movie and this felt like a Hallmark version.
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood****
This book got a lot of love and I wasn’t so sure about it . . . until the end. Oh, the end! It was superb!
The Dry by Jane Harper****
A gritty Aussie murder mystery.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan****
Delightful on audio! Such a fun romp!
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh****
Kept me guessing right until the end!
The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay***
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I loved the literary references. But, it just didn’t grab me. The dialogue wasn’t very natural and I thought the characters made really big deals about small things which struck me as a plot device to keep it moving.
As a side note, I did love that the character worked for a design firm. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a reference to “Scalamandre.” I used to work in a museum and we used their fabrics all the time. So there were some fun side aspects to the book.
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon****
It was more the history than the book that I enjoyed about this. It was slow to start but it did grab me in the end. I was captivated by the real people who were on the airship and watched the footage that was captured of it’s destruction. It is truly amazing so many people actually survived.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson*****
Favorite stand-alone novel of the year! The audio version really was excellent!
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson****
Quirky, funny, and delightful. I’ll read any thing Simonson writes!
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen*****
I listened to this like I’d never heard it before. Rosamund Pike was just a terrific narrator bringing out all the drama and comedy. A fun “reread.”
Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart***
This was an interesting book, mainly due to the true events described. I looked up with interest the real Constance Kopp, who became the first female deputy sheriff. She defended her home against a man–a wealthy factory owner and his gang–who begins maliciously threatening her sisters by throwing rocks and shooting through their windows. The writing was a bit witty and the history was interesting.
But something about it didn’t quite do it for me. I’m not sure what, but I didn’t LOVE it. I probably won’t be reading the rest of the series.
I read a ton of non-fiction for a change last year but a few of my favorite fiction works that I did read in 2017 were Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, 1984 by George Orwell, Wonder (With my ten year old) by R.J. Palacio, and Crispin by Avi. I am currently reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Loving that too.
Thanks for visiting and commenting Renee! Wonder is on our list! I need to move it up and make sure we get to it this year!
We read many of the same but then there are a ton here I’ve never heard of!
I blew through the first 9 Gamache books…but does her writing style bother you at all??? It drives me bonkers!! I have started out the last several feeling suuuuuper annoyed. Then I get wrapped up in the story and the characters I love and I’m able to enjoy it. Then I start a new one and get annoyed all over again! Just me?!
I just finished analyzing my 2017 reading–I used a spreadsheet and Steve helped me use pivot tables to analyze the data like a huge nerd. LOL. I need to post about it but prob won’t get to that until Feb if ever bc I have a pressing deadline.
Mysterious Benedict Society was some of my fave fiction in 2017 – have y’all read that series? Elijah and I ate it up. I liked the prequel maybe even better than the trilogy. First book def better than the other two but all three were enjoyable.
I also reread the second half of the Harry Potter series and fell in love all over again. So good. And reread Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River. Please tell me you’ve read his novels. If not move them to the top of your 2018 list!
Other fiction I really enjoyed: Little Fires Everywhere; Rules of Civility; The Hate U Give; My Antonia. Loved Helen Simonsen. And Echo! Best audiobook!! I read mostly middle grade fiction. Lots of hits and also lots of meh.
Amy, her writing style doesn’t bother me. I will say I find them consistently a bit "slow" in the beginning then I blow through the second half. I have heard others complain that they think she "tells instead of shows" in her writing style. Do you think that is what bothers you or something else?
Mysterious Benedict Society is on our list but we’ve not tried it yet! We are finishing Navigating Early and then have the last Wingfeather book to read, and then we can start a new series! You’re also the second person to rave about Echo. Bethany did too. If you both loved it, I’m sure we will too!
Rules of Civility is also on my list. Glad you liked it. I’m sorry I read Peace Like a River and did NOT like it. Mainly I was like, "Blah, I don’t see why everyone is raving about this." It was SOME years ago I read it, I can’t remember anything I can articulate about why it wasn’t for me. Mainly I think it was strange, and not in a good way to me. But so many of my reading "kindreds" have liked it!
No, it’s not the telling vs. showing. It’s the style itself. Staccato. Peppered with sentence fragments.
The melodramatic, ominous tone.
It drives me crazy; please make it stop.
Soon, someone will.
LOL. But seriously. I have so many serious writer friends who love this series and I just can’t believe no one else finds it grating. I also get really tired of the same descriptions of the same characters. Like, he smells like sandalwood and rosewater. I get it. Clara has messy hair. Do we have to cover that a thousand times in every book? I’m finding some of the Three Pines characters themselves pretty tiresome–was glad for a break from them in the monastery one. And yet…I love Gamache and Beauvoir so much I can’t quit.
Funny that you didn’t like Peace Like a River! Our taste is so similar a lot of the time and then occasionally just way off. I find Enger’s writing so beautiful.
Wonder was a huge hit with my boys as well. I forgot to mention that one.
I’m curious to listen to Pride and Prejudice after your recommendation! It’s been SO long since I’ve read Austen and never in audio form. Might be fun. I’m super into Malcolm Gladwell audiobooks right now. I’m a huge nerd for that stuff.
Yes, I get you. The descriptions are usually the same, I was guessing it’s because the books can be read on their own, not in order? I don’t know. But the staccato style of writing doesn’t really bother me.
The P&P was so delightful! I’ve been having fun "rereading" some classics like that. I want to do Sense and Sensibility next.
My goal this past year was to begin reading every unread work of fiction in my home.
My favorite was The Heirs of Montana series by Tracie Peterson. I expected a predictable plot, but was surprised by shocking twists and turns. Great historical context as well.
Magdalene by Angela Hunt- Not my favorite but it did give a good idea of what it might have felt like to live as a jew under Roman rule.
The Shephards Castle by George MacDonald- Long overdue reading this one. I love his writing style and short chapters.
That is a great goal!! I read The Shepherd’s Castle a LONG time ago! I remember liking it!