Sorry to be gone for a few weeks...I had a wonderful Christmas but was immediately thereafter hit with a stomach bug - no bueno. Just about the time that I recovered, it was back to work time and trying to get used to January after December. Don't laugh. I know that it comes every year, just like clockwork, but I'm always taken aback by the bleakness of January in contrast to the warmth and festivities of December. It's a good thing that we've got Downton Abbey to pull us through.
On to the subject at hand. Yes, my friends, I READ 100 BOOKS IN A YEAR. Met my goal, crossed it off the list! Read some amazing books, some fun books and even a few awful books. Was pulled into other worlds that I would have never known (both real and imagined), saw life from other perspectives and even was inspired. Would I do this again? Probably not, at least not intentionally.... While so I'm glad that I read so much, I did feel pressure to get through books quickly, which meant that I didn't always savor each book as I should have. I'm looking forward to taking my time with each book again.
I had many favorites among the 100, so it was hard to choose just a few. I decided to choose the ones that really stuck in my mind and to throw in a few favorites from various genres.
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella - We all know Sophie Kinsella from the hilarious Shopaholic books but Finding Audrey is quite another kind of book. Kinsella's first young adult book focuses on Audrey, a teenager who suffers from a crippling anxiety disorder. She meets her brother's friend Linus, who draws her out and, with the help of her family and therapist, begins to recover. Lots of humor mixed in with a respectful handling of Audrey's condition. I think that this may be my favorite book by her yet.
A History of Loneliness by John Boyne - Odran Yates is an Irish priest in the 1970s -- a good man but one who is unable or unwilling to see what is happening around him. Years later, as the issues in the church are revealed, he must confront his own complicity in what has occurred around him. A truly thought provoking book.
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown - The 1936 University of Washington rowing team was an unlikely group of heroes, sons of laborers and farmers in the sport of the priveledged. The Boys in the Boat tells the story of how these young men grew from inexperienced college freshmen to the elite athletes who won the Olympics away from Hitlers' Germany. A wonderful true story of the Greatest Generation.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton - Ava Lavender is one of the most beautiful books that I have read in a long, long time. Magical and mystical, it is the story of a family's loves and sorrows and their child, Ava, who was born with wings. Do not let that fantastical aspect put you off -- this is absolutely one of my favorite books of this year and many years. Read it.
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters - In 1920s England, Mrs. Wray & her adult daughter Frances are forced to take in borders. When the attractive and modern Barber couple move in, Frances' world experiences a seismic shift. Forced intimacies lead to conflict and passion, and finally, an event that changes everything. A historical novel, a crime novel, a novel of passion. I couldn't put it down. Writing about it is making me think that I need to re-read it!
The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain - The Red Notebook & The President's Hat (also by Laurain) aren't quite as moving as some of the other books on this list, but they are wonderful slices of Parisian delight...stories of chance encounters and fate surrounded by lovely french lifestyle.
You're Loved No Matter What by Holley Gerth - This is a very different sort of book for me to put on this list, but it has been one of the most meaningful and inspirational books in my life this year. At a time in my life that I need to know about my worth and how to live in grace, this book is perfect. If you are looking for a book that will help free you from looking for your worth in others and finding your true value, I highly recommend this book.
Before the Poison by Peter Robinson - I read a lot of British crime dramas this year and this was my favorite. Paraphrased from Goodreads: "Chris Lowndes, an award winning composer, has returned to the Yorkshire Dales, mourning the death of his wife. The isolated house he buys sight unseen should give him the space to come to terms with his grief and the quiet to allow him to work. Kilnsgate House turns out to be rather more than he expected, however. A man died there, sixty years ago. His wife was convicted of murder. And something is pulling Chris deeper and deeper into their story..."
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - I loved one of Donna Tartt's books (The Secret History) and hated the other (The Little Friend). Her long awaited The Goldfinch prompted extreme opinions -- either readers seem to love or hate it, so I didn't know what to expect. I loved it. It is the story of Theo Decker, who lives through a terrorist attack that kills his mother. He is taken in by a wealthy friend's family and is drawn into worlds from the WASP-y elite to seedy Las Vegas. All through his story is one thread -- a painting called The Goldfinch, which connects him to his mother. Tartt's characters and world are so detailed & rich, I just fell in love with the book.
So, there you go. I could recommend so many of the other books that I read, if anyone is interested. Need a list of good YA books? I'll send them to you! More good mysteries/thrillers? I've got a few of those as well.
Next up, back to regularly scheduled programming of decorating and crafting...I've been busy and my head is buzzing with ideas!