2018 Book Favorites and Stats

I read 63 books this year. That’s 12 less than last year and 8 short of my goal but given everything else going on this year I’m cutting myself some slack 🙂

10 were published in 2018, but 2017 was my most read year with 19 titles.

48 Fiction and 15 Non-Fiction.

Of those 48 fiction 24 were authors new to me.

43 female authors, 19 male authors and 1 with both.

20 were audiobooks.

Favorite Covers Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict

I continued with 4 series (Penn Cage #2, Ravenels #3, Lucas Davenport #27, Cormoran Strike #3) and started 2 new series (Inspector Rebus, Jack & Jill)

I read 4 classics for the Classics Club (Far From the Madding Crowd, A Wrinkle in Time, Number the Stars, Our Town)

Oldest book read- – Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, 1874

Shortest book – Night Shift by Debi Gliori, 32 pages

Longest novel- Turning Angel by Greg Iles, 672 pages

Most read authors with 2 books a piece – Alice Hoffman (Faithful and Water Tales) and Susanna Kearsley (Named of the Dragon and Season of Storms)

My 5 favorite books 

Title: Number the Stars 25th Anniversary, Author: Lois LowryNumber the Stars by Lois Lowry What a joy it was to discover a children’s book that could entertain, engage and educate.  I was hooked from the get go.

Title: Faithful: A Novel, Author: Alice HoffmanFaithful by Alice Hoffman. I fell in love with Shelby and her journey of guilt, grief and forgiveness.  This was not an easy read (or listen in my case) since Shelby was such a lost soul, but little by little, as she survived and discovered her value, the emotional pull ultimately satisfied.  Do yourself a favor and give this bald, young adult who believes she doesn’t deserve to be here a chance.

Title: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Author: Gail HoneymanEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. What a treat this book was.  The story reveals its secrets at just the right pace.  Her struggles yanked at my heartstrings at the same time she made me laugh out loud.”

Title: Before We Were Yours, Author: Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.There once was an evil woman who stole children from poor, loving parents and sold them to the highest bidder.  These children were forced to live in horrifying conditions and it’s completely heartbreaking.  That is true.  The book is the fictionalized account of the kids she abused.

Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Author: Heather Morris

 

 

 

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.I loved Lale and Geta and the other prisoners we were able to meet.  This book showed the strength of the human spirit in the darkest of circumstances and I recommend it for everyone.”

If you’ve posted a best of list this year please leave a link so I don’t miss it!

Liars’ Paradox by Taylor Stevens

Title: Liars' Paradox, Author: Taylor Stevens Liars’ Paradox. Finished 12-26-18, 4.5/5, thriller, 326 pages, pub. 2018

They live in the shadows, Jack and Jill, feuding twins who can never stop running. From earliest memory they’ve been taught to hide, to hunt, to survive. Their prowess is outdone only by Clare, who has always been mentor first and mother second. She trained them in the art of espionage, tested their skills in weaponry, surveillance, and sabotage, and sharpened their minds with nerve-wracking psychological games. As they grew older they came to question her motives, her methods–and her sanity . . .

Now twenty-six years old, the twins are trying to lead normal lives. But when Clare’s off-the-grid safehouse explodes and she goes missing, they’re forced to believe the unthinkable: Their mother’s paranoid delusions have been real all along. To find her, they’ll need to set aside their differences; to survive, they’ll have to draw on every skill she’s trained them to use. A twisted trail leads from the CIA, to the KGB, to an underground network of global assassins where hunters become the hunted.   from Goodreads

It’s been too long since I’ve read a book by Taylor Stevens.  I loved her Vanessa Michael Monroe series and am happy to report that I loved this start to a new series too.  Jack and Jill are twins with a complicated history and a rocky present, but their obligation to their mother forces them to come together and harness their skills.

I loved the family dynamic and international intrigue, somehow managing to make the Cold War into a love story.  Clare was a driven woman, who we saw through the lens of her kids who had believed her crazy most of their lives.  Jack was the favored child and Jill lashed out in all the ways she could.  When an assassin takes out one and comes for the other two, all hell breaks loose.

I can’t wait to get my eyes on the next one!!

When I received this to review I did a search of the blog to remind me of the first time I met Taylor at Bouchercon in 2012.  I had actually forgotten the Mary Higgin Clark story so I was happy to revisit the post.  Maybe you’ll get a chuckle too 😉

 

Merry Christmas!

Hello friends! I hope all of you are having a great Christmas.  Gage received lots of fun new things but right now he and his dad are playing Mario on his new Nintendo Switch. IMG_5110

I also want to give a shout out to my bookish Secret Santa, Terri (Alexia’s Books & Such).  I was so excited to open all of the goodies she sent.

IMG_E5107

Since I didn’t know Terri I went to check out her site and now I’m a fan 🙂  I read her last post about cleaning up her TBR list on Goodreads and thought it was such a great idea that I’m going to give it a go, because without even checking I know my list is out of control.

How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

Okay, here I go off to GR…Good grief! I have 889 books on my want to read list.  I’m going to list the 5 that have been on there longest (since 2012!).  Let know if you’ve read them and whether I should keep them on my list or let them go.

Summerland by Erin Hilderbrand A warm June evening, a local tradition: the students of Nantucket High have gathered for a bonfire on the beach. What begins as a graduation night celebration ends in tragedy after a horrible car crash leaves the driver, Penny Alistair, dead, and her twin brother in a coma. The other passengers, Penny’s boyfriend, Jake, and her friend Demeter, are physically unhurt–but the emotional damage is overwhelming. Questions linger about what happened before Penny took the wheel.”

Still sounds good.  I’m leaning towards keeping it.

***

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie In this darkly comic short story collection, Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, brilliantly weaves memory, fantasy, and stark realism to paint a complex, grimly ironic portrait of life in and around the Spoke Indian Reservation. These 22 interlinked tales are narrated by characters raised on humiliation and government-issue cheese, and yet are filled with passion and affection, myth and dream. There is Victor, who as a nine-year-old crawled between his unconscious parents hoping that the alcohol seeping through their skins might help him sleep. Thomas Builds-the-Fire, who tells his stories long after people stop listening, and Jimmy Many Horses, dying of cancer, who writes letters on stationary that reads “From the Death Bed of James Many Horses III,” even though he actually writes them on his kitchen table. Against a backdrop of alcohol, car accidents, laughter, and basketball, Alexie depicts the distances between Indians and whites, reservation Indians and urban Indians, men and women, and most poetically, between modern Indians and the traditions of the past.”

I hesitate to take Sherman Alexie off any list, but I’m not a huge fan of short stories.  Leaning towards taking this one off.

***

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.

In today’s world, yesterday’s methods just don’t work. In Getting Things Done, veteran coach and management consultant David Allen shares the breakthrough methods for stress-free performance that he has introduced to tens of thousands of people across the country. Allen’s premise is simple: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential. In Getting Things Done Allen shows how to:

* Apply the “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” rule to get your in-box to empty
* Reassess goals and stay focused in changing situations
* Plan projects as well as get them unstuck
* Overcome feelings of confusion, anxiety, and being overwhelmed
* Feel fine about what you’re not doing

From core principles to proven tricks, Getting Things Done can transform the way you work, showing you how to pick up the pace without wearing yourself down.“

If I haven’t read this by now I never will.  Don’t try and convince me otherwise 🙂

***

A Walk For Sunshine: A 2,160 Mile Expedition For Charity on the Appalachian Trail by Jeff Alt  “Jeff Alt takes you along every step of his 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail adventure filled with humorous, frightening and inspirational stories including, bears, bugs, blisters, skunk bed mates and hilarious food cravings.As Alt walked through freezing temperatures, driving rain and sunny skies, he was constantly buoyed by the knowledge that his walk was dedicated to his brother who has cerebral palsy.

I think I’ll take this one off. Anyone read it?

***

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim  The women at the center of The Enchanted April are alike only in their dissatisfaction with their everyday lives. They find each other—and the castle of their dreams—through a classified ad in a London newspaper one rainy February afternoon. The ladies expect a pleasant holiday, but they don’t anticipate that the month they spend in Portofino will reintroduce them to their true natures and reacquaint them with joy. Now, if the same transformation can be worked on their husbands and lovers, the enchantment will be complete.”

Still intrigued.  Leaning toward keeping it on the list.

***

 

 

 

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Title: Season of Storms, Author: Susanna KearsleySeason of Storms. Finished 10-7-18, 4/5 stars, romance, pub. 2001

First published in 2001, this lush novel of romantic suspense from Kearsley (The Splendour Falls) intertwines contemporary and historical narratives in northern Italy. In 1921, actress Celia Sands disappears for good just before opening night of the play written for her by her famous lover, Galeazzo D’Ascanio. Some 50 years later, the writer’s wealthy grandson, Alessandro D’Ascanio, decides to produce the play in the same setting: the theater his grandfather built on the family estate, Il Piacere. He invites a struggling young British actress also named Celia Sands, in homage to the earlier performer, to play the lead. Celia arrives at Il Piacere to find that two of its servants have gone missing, her predecessor’s ghost walks, and many of those around the estate—including D’Ascanio, to whom she’s strongly attracted—conceal dark secrets. The rich historical mystery and brooding atmosphere more than compensate for the improbable, overly elaborate premise. Agent: Shawna McCarthy, Shawna McCarthy Agency.

Any book that takes me to Italy starts as a winner and when Kearsley does it, well, don’t talk to me until I’ve turned the last page.  This one felt different than all of her others, there was a gothic atmosphere that I always like.  As much as I liked the setting and the dark nature of it, I do agree with the agent who wrote the summary above, it may have been overly done.  Still Italy and Kearsley will always save a bad day and I’m glad I read it.

I know these ‘reviews’ are very short and not really helpful to you but I’m trying to get them all done before the end of the year when I start to do summaries and favorites lists. This is the last one I’ve finished this year although I’m guessing I’ll finish one, maybe two, more.  How many do you think you’ll finish in the next week?

 

 

The Year of Less and Road Trips

Title: The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store, Author: Cait FlandersThe Year of Less by Cait Flanders. Finished 9-9-18, 3/5 stars, memoir, pub. 2018

In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy-only keeping her from meeting her goals-she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year. The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt. Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life-and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less.    from Goodreads

I was disappointed with this one.  There’s nothing wrong with Cait’s story, but there isn’t anything that hasn’t been said before.  I realize it was her journey so it’s different, but I wanted more about living with less and the shopping ban and way less about boyfriends and her job.

Road Trips: A Guide to Travel, Adventure, and Choosing Your Own PathRoad Trips:A Guide to Travel, Adventure, and Choosing Your Own Path by Jen CK Jacobs. Finished 9-11-18, 3.5/5 stars, travel, pub. 2018

Road Trips is the ultimate guide to inspire wanderlust and spark new adventures. From coming-of-age solo journeys to romantic weekend getaways, friend-filled road trips, and more, Road Trips features eight travel stories packed with photos and personal experiences that bring the adventures of the road to life. Inspiring and practical, this book also has key tips for enhancing every part of your trip, from getting out the door (with essential tips on packing and eating on the road–including recipes for road snacks) to taking in new experiences (with creative ideas for journaling and photographing) and bringing experiences from the road back home (through creative collecting). We are all drawn to adventure. Whether you’re a road warrior or you have a hard time getting out the door, Road Trips is the perfect way to inspire a life of travel.  from Goodreads

I love road trips and this would be a great gift for anyone who likes to pack up and hit the road when they can.  There is nothing earth shattering, but the layout, photography and good ideas make it a fun one to read through.

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

Title: In the Midst of Winter, Author: Isabel AllendeIn the Midst of Winter. Finished audio 12-12-18, rating 3.75/5, fiction, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio read by Dennis Boutsikaris, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Alma Cuervo.

In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident—which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.    from Goodreads

I love Allende’s writing.  It’s always so rich and beautiful and this was no exception.  There were a few things said at the beginning that really connected me to Lucia and that was a good thing, because for me, the story was a little disappointing.  The car accident that got them all together in a pot brownie haze and the decisions made after were crazy.  But, the story that each of them told about Guatamala, Chile, and Brazil were eye opening, especially Evelyn’s considering the focus on the immigrant caravans these days.  Timely and well written, but the common narrative forcing them all together, while compelling in spots, missed the mark for me.

 

 

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

Title: On Second Thought, Author: Kristan HigginsOn Second Thought. Finished 12-14-18, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, 470 pages, pub. 2017

Ainsley O’Leary is so ready to get married—she’s even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn’t anticipate is being blindsided by a breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her older half sister, Kate, who’s struggling with a sudden loss of her own.

Kate’s always been the poised, self-assured sister, but becoming a newlywed—and a widow—in the space of four months overwhelms her. Though the sisters were never close, she starts to confide in Ainsley, especially when she learns her late husband was keeping a secret from her.

Despite the murky blended-family dynamic that’s always separated them, Ainsley’s and Kate’s heartaches bind their summer together when they come to terms with the inevitable imperfection of relationships and family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.    from Goodreads

I’ve read one series from Kristan Higgins and adored it (Blue Heron series) and thought I’d try one of her mainstream titles.  I loved this one.  Same humor, same tension, and same heart. I’m excited to read more of her standalone titles.

This is a story of two sisters sharing a father and a complicated family history.  Kate, after being labeled a spinster, loses her husband of four months to a freak accident.  Ainsley, who, like Kate, you rolled your eye at for a while, grew on you and by the end you wish you could be more like her.  These two sisters, who were never close, find themselves at a crossroads that they need each other to get through.  I loved them and their strange family dynamics, but more than that I loved the true friendship that developed through circumstance.

There were guys at the ready to help both women, of course.  The boss who noted every minute you were late and Daniel the hot firefighter (no, really, this is his name) were excellent additions and made happy endings more than a possibility.  I loved them both.

I recommend it.  But then I recommend everything she writes 🙂

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley

Title: Named of the Dragon, Author: Susanna Kearsley  Named of the Dragon. Finished 9-12-18, 4/5 stars, fiction, 295 pages, pub. 1998

Tormented by horrific nightmares since the death of her baby five years before, literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw agrees to accompany an author to Wales, where she encounters an eccentric young widow desperately afraid for her own infant’s safety and a reclusive playwright who could be her only salvation.    from Goodreads

Susanna Kearsley is a perfect escape for me.  I fall into a different world, both geographically and historically, get a little romance (never too much), and close the book with a smile on my face a little smarter than when I started. This book took me to a small village in Wales, where literary agent, Lyn, is accompanying one of her clients to her boyfriend’s home for Christmas.  He happens to be a successful author and Lyn hopes she can land him as a client.  He also has a cute brother, but the real thrill is when she discovers one time flavor of the month writer, Gareth, hiding himself from the literary crowd.

I have to pace myself in reading Kearsley. I’ve read two this year and that leaves four of hers unread.  Maybe in 2019 I’ll read two again or maybe life will get crazier than it already is and I’ll need to gobble them all up in a week’s time.  Either way, it’s nice knowing that they’re there waiting for me 🙂

 

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris


Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Author: Heather Morris

 

 

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  Finished unabridged audio 12-4-18, 4.5/5 stars, memoir, pub. 2018

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.     from Goodreads

I read Jill’s review in October and thought this would be a great pick for Jason and, it turns out, it was a great read for me as well.  I loved Lale and Geta and the other prisoners we were able to meet.  This book showed the strength of the human spirit in the darkest of circumstances and I recommend it for everyone.  I don’t have time to put more thoughts to the keyboard right now, but I encourage you to go read Jill’s review.  It’s better than anything I could come up 🙂

Eyes on You by Kate White

Title: Eyes on You: A Novel of Suspense, Author: Kate WhiteEyes on You. Finished 11-19-18, rating 4.5/5, mystery,  306 pages, pub. 2014

After losing her on-air job two years ago, television host Robin Trainer has fought her way back and now she’s hotter than ever. With her new show climbing in the ratings and her first book a bestseller, she’s being dubbed a media double threat.

But suddenly, things begin to go wrong. Small incidents at first: a nasty note left in her purse; her photo shredded. But the obnoxious quickly becomes threatening when the foundation the makeup artist uses burns Robin’s face. It wasn’t an accident—someone had deliberately doctored with the product.

An adversary with a dark agenda wants to hurt Robin, and the clues point to someone she works with every day. While she frantically tries to put the pieces together and unmask this hidden foe, it becomes terrifyingly clear that the person responsible isn’t going to stop until Robin loses everything that matters to her . . . including her life.   from Goodreads

First, I need to set the stage.  We are living back home, but only in a few rooms with pretty much no furniture.  We have two mattresses on the floor in the family room and in the kitchen we have one metal outside chair and one basic wooden stool.  The only real option for reading is the kitchen and the seats are only comfortable for about 10 minutes at a time (already I’m standing to type this).  So, reading has not been easy in the past month.  Imagine my surprise when I got sucked into this one and alternated between those two seats until I finished it at 1:30 am!  It was that addicting.

Now for the rundown.  Robin was making a career comeback.  Her book was being released at the same time her on-air TV gig was catching on.  She should have been flying high, but creepy and dangerous things started happening to make her feel threatened and she was afraid to make waves at work.  He sexy co-star offered his body for comfort and for a few hot minutes she resisted.  But good sex can take you only so far and Robin was feeling the pressure.

This was a great who-dun-it with real drama and lots of suspects that never felt like to many.  I learned about the TV business and how cutthroat it can really be.  This read so fast and I recommend it for everyone, but only when you have a few free hours.  I kept telling myself only one more chapter until there were none left.  The writing and the story were excellent.