Monday, January 27, 2020

Top 10 Reads of 2019

1. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
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This is a murder mystery, but so much more!! The narrator switches to a different body everyday and has to solve the mystery after 7 days. So by the end of the book all the crazy things that happen make sense. The narrator solves the mystery and even that has a twist to it. This is one of the best mysteries I have ever read. Amazing!

2. The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford
The Left-Handed Fate
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This is another book in the universe of Nagspeake. So of course I am in love with it. There is loss and pain and friendship and love. Lucy is on a mission to help find a thing that will save the world from Napoleon, but the Americans get in the way. So then Lucy has to serve a 12 year old commander on her ship! Not to mention the mysterious men in black that are following them. The set up is crazy and I expected to be skeptical of it, but I am so in love with these characters and Nagspeake that I will enjoy anything in this world. The emotion that this book evoked in me moved this book up to #2.

3. Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker
Light from Distant Stars
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Magical realism is something that I am picky about. I often enjoy it when I read it, but I don't seek it out. Unless that magical realism is written by Shawn Smucker. I enjoyed his 2 YA novels, but this adult fiction book is a new love. The first line might make you think it is a mystery novel, but it isn't. It is a novel about family and who we are. We switch back and forth in time to discover who Cohen is and who he was and how he feels about that. That may not sound amazing, but it is. We get way down deep in Cohen's heart and that is a good place to be.

4. An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris
An Easy Death (Gunnie Rose, #1)
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I have never read a Charlaine Harris book, but I heard her interview on The Professional Book Nerds podcast. This series is about a gunslinger in an alternate version of the United States that also includes a section that was bought by a fleeing Tsar Nicholas. How can I not want to read that! Then I read it and fell in love with the character of Gunny Rose. She is everything you want in a gunslinger and that makes her a powerful woman. I am on the holds list at the library to get book 2. I can't wait to see what happens next.

5. The Bear & The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1)
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I started this book in 2018. I got it from the library and then fell in love with it, so I got myself a copy that I could read as slowly as I wanted. I didn't want to sit and read hundreds of pages at once. I wanted to read 5 or 10 pages at a time and sit in that universe for a while. So I read it slowly and it was wonderful. Arden does a great job of making us feel like a part of this world that is changing. It is scary and hopeful. And just when you think the worst thing has happened, it turns out good. Now I have read books 2 and 3 to see how Vasilisa ends up.

6. Valley of Terror by Zhou Haohui, Bonnie Huie (translator)

Valley of Terror
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I ended up with an Amazon gift card. I had gotten a book for me, a book for Ben and a book for Lily. I had a little bit of money left and wanted to use it on a book that I could enjoy and read slowly. I googled something about horror novels and translations. I ended up at this one and it was the right price, so I picked it up. I did read it slowly over 3 months or so. I had to do some work to figure out how to pronounce the Chinese names correctly. So I learned something and enjoyed the book. This isn't really a horror novel. It is more like archaeological mystery with a little bit of police procedural. I loved reading and getting to know a little bit of history and a little bit of mythology. I loved how the mystery was resolved. Don't expect to be scared, but expect to wonder and to learn.

7. Mycoft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse
Mycroft Holmes
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This is a book I have thought about picking up several times at the library, but never did until 2019. I like the characterization of Mycroft. I liked seeing how he thought. I liked his interactions with Sherlock. My favorite part was the heart of the book. As I read, I genuinely wanted this problem to be solved because I wanted Mycroft and Cyrus to make the world a better place, a place a little more safe. Kareem Abdul-Jabber does a great job writing an issue of color in a way that feels genuine and complex and important. I will probably pick up book 2 in this series sometime this year.

8. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
With the Fire on High
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I read Poet X and enjoyed it, then I heard her interview on the Latino USA podcast. So I looked at it and then saw the cover! It is one of the most beautiful covers that I have ever seen. And the character of Emoni is beautiful as well. There is a little bit of magical realism, but it isn't really a focus of the story. The story is about Emoni believing in herself and her talents. I was rooting for Emoni and my emotional investment wasn't wasted.

9. I am the Lion by Rachelle Lauro (Re-published as The Hunted by Rachel Blackledge)
I Am The Lion
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The Hunted
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I have read a couple other books by this author, as Rachel Ledge, and really enjoyed them. I think I am on an email list of hers and found out about her new book. It was originally published under her real name and then republished under a pseudonym. This thriller is everything you would want in a thriller. There is a slow creeping build where you know bad things are coming. Then the bad things come and Genie has to fight her way out of it. It is very good as expected from this author.

10. The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard
The Talented Ribkins
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This book was a little outside my comfort zone in part because of the emotional weight of dealing with the past of a family. I am cautious about emotional books. If I think I might feel too much, I generally avoid it. So I had avoided this book. Then I threw caution to the wind and read it. I'm glad I did. This author did not waste my emotion. I felt things for Johnny Ribkins and his brother and his niece. It was good. Sometimes I still find myself thinking about Johnny and his family. I hope they are doing well and then I remember that they aren't real, so then I say prayer for anyone in a situation like this.

Honorable Mention:
1. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep, #1)
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I think I heard about this one on The Professional Book Nerd Podcast. I found it and the prequel on Hoopla, so I checked them out. I loved listening to them. I love the concept of dangerous mermaids. I love the incorporation of ASL. This author does not use a deaf person as a token character. These are highly qualified people who is a part of deaf culture. There are lots of characters and lots of stress between scientists themselves and between the crew and the scientists. Then at the end there is one more twist. I don't think there is going to be another in this universe, but there could be.

2. The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis
The Vanished Bride (Brontë Sisters Mystery #1)
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I read a lot of cozy mysteries and this one is probably a historical cozy mystery. I generally don't include them on my top 10 lists because they are fairly formulaic fun fiction. (Maybe I should make list of my top 10 cozies of the year.) This book however has a lot of other things going for it. I love that the detectives are the Brontë sisters. This author did a fantastic job of including various pieces of the Brontë sisters' novels in this mystery. I like seeing inside their home and how they might have interacted. And the mystery itself is very well done also.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Just Can't Stop

Photo Caption: Damian Gadal
I realize that my posting has been really scattered and I thought that meant I had run of out of things to say. So I decided to stop blogging. Then at the end of 2019 everyone was talking about their best books of the year. Some were even talking about their best books of the decade. I wrote those down in my journal and figured that would be enough. Then I had this weekend I had a couple more thoughts I wanted to share. So I guess I am not done blogging.

But why?

Blogging isn't as cool as it once was. I am not organized or determined enough to do this regularly. I don't have a group that is counting on my posts. The things I have to say are not life changing. So this isn't to be cool, to be popular, to be connected, or to be wise.

Every so often I have to write out my thoughts and this is a good place to write them out. I hope someone else reads my thoughts and gets something out of it. If not, that's fine too. I want to say things, so here I am preparing to say things.

I hope you enjoy my tiny corner of the internet. Come back next week for my top 10 reads of 2019.