Best of 2018

Hi, everyone. It’s good to be back on my blog to highlight the books I enjoyed most in 2018. Leif Enger, the author of one of my favorite novels, Peace Like A River, published a new book this year titled Virgil Wander. Much like his previous novels, Virgil Wander explores life in the Upper Midwest with a mix of insight and wonder that I have grown to love in his stories. He brings a large cast of characters to this story, which was something new for Enger. His previous novels have felt a bit more intimate, with fewer characters. This book was worth the ten year wait since his last book.

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I read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch on the recommendation of my friend, Hannah, who has a YouTube channel called From Beginning To Bookend that you should definitely check out. Dark Matter is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Hannah describes it as a cyberpunk techno-thriller. Even if that description doesn’t sound like the kind of story you usually read, you should still give this book a chance. It will appeal to almost every reader of fiction. Everyone I know of who read it after I talked about it, finished it quickly just like I did. One word of advice- don’t read the synopsis on the back. Just start on the first page and enjoy the ride.

dark matter

 

One of my favorite genres over the past several years has been Southern fiction. One of the best examples of this kind of story that is read this year is Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I picked this book up as a souveneir of my first time to visit Asheville, NC, last summer. Allen combines the North Carolina setting with elements of magic realism reminiscent of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic into a story that just makes you feel good, like a pot of hot chicken noodle soup on a cold night.

garden spells

 

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is a middle grade book written from the perspective of Red, a 200+ year old oak tree inhabited by all kinds of animals. On the first day of May, several people who live near the tree write down a wish and tie it to one of Red’s branches. One little girl in particular, enjoys visiting Red. But others in the neighborhood don’t like her habit of coming around. Wishtree is a kid-friendly story about tolerance that I thoroughly enjoyed.

wishtree

 

Elmet by Fiona Mozley is the story of a poor family fighting a wealthy landowner to save their home. The lyrical writing along with a rural setting make it easy to mistake it for Southern fiction. But the setting is actually northern England. Family, love, loyalty, and justice are a few themes taken on in this wonderful debut.

elmet

 

Melmoth by Sarah Perry, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, and Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens are three of the books I plan to read in 2019. It will be interesting to find out if they appear on this list in a year’s time. Meanwhile, what were some of your favorite books that you read in 2018? Did you read any of my picks? If so, what did you think of them? As always, thanks for reading.

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The Harry Potter Tag

I saw this post on Jenny’s blog here. As a big Harry Potter fan, I had to fill it out with my answers. The original idea for this was to fill it out when someone tags you. I wasn’t tagged, so I’m not going to tag anyone. But if you see this and decide to do it, I’d love to see your answers.

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1. What house are you in?

The most difficult question first. Here’s where I reveal my Harry Potter nerd status. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I feel like I haven’t figured it out for sure yet. I could see myself in Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. But I think no matter which house I were sorted in, I would stand out as different from the other students. I’m going to say Hufflepuff.

 

2. What is your Patronus?

A dog.

 

3. What is your wand?

Ash wood, unicorn hair core, brittle flexibility.

 

4. What would your boggart be?

I think my boggart would be similar Harry’s- basically fear itself.

 

5. What position would you play in Quiddich?

Probably a seeker, since these players are usually the smallest on the team.

 

6. Would you be a pure-blood, half-blood or muggle born?

Probably the second most difficult question to answer. I’ll say pure-blood.

7. What job would you want to have after leaving Hogwarts?

Writer or professor.

 

8. Which of the Deathly Hallows would you choose?

The Cloak of Invisibility.

 

9. Favourite book?

The Goblet of Fire.

 

10. Least favourite book?

The Order of the Phoenix.

 

11. Favourite film?

The Goblet of Fire.

 

12. Least favourite film?

The Order of the Phoenix.

 

13. Favourite character?

So many great ones come to mind: aside from the three main characters, there is Cedric Diggory, Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood. Right now I’ll say Longbottom.

 

14. Least favourite/most hated character?

Tie between Gilderoy Lockhart and Delores Umbridge. Also there’s that Voldemort guy.

 

15. Favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

Minerva McGonagall.

 

16. Least favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

Tie between Lockhart and Umbridge.

 

17. Do you have any unpopular opinions about the series?

I don’t think of Hufflepuff as a lesser house compared to the others. I know Hufflepuff has increased in popularity recently. But I think this still remains somewhat of an unpopular opinion.

 

I’m always up for a conversation about all things Harry Potter. I look forward to seeing other people’s answers to these questions.

The best books I read in 2016

I read lots of good books in 2016 across several different genres. I always enjoy revisiting a few old favorites as well as discover new books and authors. Here are a few of the best books I read this year.

theundergroundrailroad
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead will probably be the last book I finish this year. It is without a doubt one of the best. I discovered Whitehead through the recommendation of a friend in the early 2000s. His first book, The Intuitionist, had come out to much critical and commercial acclaim. I read it and liked it. But I didn’t read any of his subsequent books over the years, until The Underground Railroad. I recognized it’s author from his first book. And I couldn’t ignore this book after it won the National Book Award. His writing impressed me in his first book, and it wowed me in his latest one. Whitehead’s story of that famous “railroad” is brought with a combination of well-done research, sympathetic characters, and self-assured, lyrical prose. I will be reading the books of Whitehead’s that I missed, and I give his latest book my highest recommendation.

 

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The second book on my list is also historical fiction. It comes from one of my favorite writers that I discovered this year. Erika Robuck writes historical fiction revolving around the lives of famous writers. She caught my attention with novels based on the lives of two of my favorite authors: Ernest Hemingway (Hemingway’s girl) which is pictured above, and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Call Me Zelda). She has written several other novels as well. Robuck has a wonderful way of writing about complex characters and relationships, while painting a clear picture of the specific time and place. I was also honored she accepted my invitation to talk about her books, and writing in general on my podcast, La Literati.

 

amancalledove

I read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman with my friend, Jenny. It’s a story about a grumpy curmudgeon who has his life disrupted by people he would rather not have anything to do with. What follows is a novel with equal amounts of humorous and heart-warming moments. I’ve also recently seen a movie trailer, so I look forward to watching the film adaptation of this story.

 

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Next on my list is unique in that it is a one-act play written by my friend, Briana Morgan. Touch is a drama that takes place in a world where deliberate physical contact is a crime. The main character has never spent much time questioning this taboo. But the arrest of some of her classmates changes this. She decides to do it, and discoveres the power of touch, and how it affects people. It’s a short, thought-provoking read that I enjoyed.

 

truegritportis

I am a great fan of Westerns. This is probably due to my Dad’s enjoyment of John Wayne movies. In time, I came to love the Westerns that Clint Eastwood starred in. At any rate, I seek out these types of stories in books and movies. Fortunately, there are quite a few good ones to be enjoyed. True Grit is one of my favorites. I watched the movie with John Wayne playing the role of Rooster Cogburn. But I didn’t learn that it was a book until the remake came out with Jeff Bridges playing the marshal. I love this story, and prefer the remake to the original, which is a point of friendly contention between my Dad and me.

 

readyplayerone

The last two books I want to mention are science fiction and fantasy, respectively. In Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, we are in the year 2044. Wade, the main character, like many other people don’t care much for the real world. Their escape is the OASIS, which is a virtual utopia created by James Halliday. Halliday has hidden clues to a golden egg: a massive fortune that is promised to the person who can solve all the riddles steeped in 1980s pop culture references. Halliday grew up in that decade, as I did. So that made this story a fun read. But even if you don’t understand or like all of the pop culture references, there is still the virtual quest with some romance added to the mix to keep you entertained.

 

uprooted

The last book is a modern fantasy, Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I heard about it through a combination of online buzz, and friends working at Barnes & Noble who kept asking me if I had read it yet. The Dragon is not a literal dragon, but a man. He is a magician who lives in a tower outside of town. The Dragon protects the town from the evil forces in the Wood. As part of the arrangement, the Dragon takes a girl from the town every ten years to serve him and live with him in the tower, after which time she leaves to start her life over eslewhere.

The time for the next choosing is nigh. And Agnieszka fears what everyone thinks, that the Dragon will choose her best friend Kasia. But he doesn’t choose her. What follows is a very original story with elements of folklore and fairy-tale.

 

So these were a few of my favorite books that I read this year. I would love to hear what you thought of any of these that you read. And what books would make your list of the best books you read this year?

2012 Books In Review

I didn’t read quite as many books this year as I have the past few years. The best new book I read this year was The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw. This was Shaw’s debut novel, and I read it on the recommendation of my friend, Jane. It is a wonderfully well-written love story/fairy tale/myth hybrid. I highly recommend this book, and Shaw is an author I will look forward to reading in the future.

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2012 also gave me a book quest of sorts. I read somewhere about a book titled Winter In Maine by Gerard Donovan. The book was published, as best I can tell, sometime between 2008-2009. The only copy I have found is in German, which I unfortunately cannot read. If anyone finds this book in English, I would love to know. Also, if any of my friends reads German and would like this book, email me and we’ll work something out. Meanwhile, I will continue my search.

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Honorable mention goes to Strong Is Your Hold by Galway Kinnell. This is a book of poetry that will be the next new book I read, whether it is 2012 or ’13. (I am reading two books right now, and I am a slow reader). This book is special to me because it was given to me as a gift by my dear friend, Tosha. I love poetry, but do not tend to read much of it. One of my reading goals for 2013 is to read more poetry.

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So, these are a few books that stood out to me over the last twelve months. Have you read anything good lately? Or this year?