My favorite books of 2019

In 2019 I read lots of books that made me happy I can read!

I’m finally getting my favorite books of the year completed. 2019 was a good reading year since I read many books I liked and many that filled me with joy. So I have lots of favorites this year!

I had set a goal for myself to read 95 books and only read 90, but that’s okay. I love to read. I think I’m reading a little slower these days. However, the important thing for me is that I’m still reading and that I enjoy most of the books I read.

I’ve added links to the books I reviewed (only three books). 😦

Mystery

Mercy Falls by William Kent Krueger, Cork O’Connor #5

This series takes place in northern Minnesota’s lake country. I love the series which features wonderful descriptions of northern Minnesota and well-written mysteries. However, I need to read them a little quicker since there are already 17 books in the series!

Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima, Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries #4

This is another series I love. I’m up-to-date with this series and have read these books since started being published a few years ago. I love reading about working dogs and Robo is a great example of a K-9 dog in a police department. He and Mattie are a wonderful team.

Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong, Rockton #4

This police procedural is set in one of the oddest towns I’ve read about in a mystery and there’s lots of suspense. Each book ratchets up the suspense a little more.

Fractured Truth by Susan Furlong, Bone Gap Travellers #2

Former Marines Brynn and her K-9 partner Wilco suffer from PTSD and both carry the scars from an IED explosion. Brynn tries to control the flashbacks with alcohol and pain pills–not a good combination especially since she’s now working for the McCreary County Sherrif’s Department. She’s also trying to straddle two worlds–that of the Irish Travellers (a nomadic group from Ireland who came to the U.S. during the Great Famine) and the settled townspeople (most of whom distrust the Travellers.) The mysteries are good in this series and the world of the Travellers is fascinating.

The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman, Leaphorn & Chee #13

I’ve read these mysteries since I was a teenager. My mom and I would talk about the books through the years since we both loved them. One of the best things about this series is that it’s set in the United States Southwest. For a while I stopped reading mysteries so now I’m catching up with this series. And I’m so happy that Tony Hillerman’s daughter Anne Hillerman has continued writing the series after he died.

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #8

The books in this series are so well written. Sometimes they’re difficult to read since heartbreaking things happen to characters I like. Things that happen in one book may have far-reaching impact several books later and then we see how skillfully Louise Penny has intertwined so much into her books.

A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie, Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James #18

I was so happy to read this book since it has been several years since Deborah Crombie had written a book in the series. When I read about Duncan and Gemma and their family it’s like having a chat with old friends. And the mysteries are good, too!

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths, Ruth Galloway #9

I’m always happy to return to Ruth’s world. She’s such an interesting character and I love the mysteries which always have something to do with her forensic archaeology work.

Science Fiction

Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, The Murderbot Diaries #4

I’ve loved every single one of the Murderbot books. They are original, an adventure story and also thought-provoking.

Borderline by Janet Edwards, Hive Mind #4

I like everything I’ve read by Janet Edwards. This series is one I especially love. Ms. Edwards has a great way of writing exciting stories about characters I care about. And her world building is so good. It takes place in Earth’s future.

Mantivore Dreams by S.G. Higbee, Arcadian Chronicles #1

I like the way this book slowly unfolds so that it gives readers time to try to figure things out themselves. I also like that by the end of the book there are threads for future books, but that this book is a complete story. I need to get that next book read! The world building is especially good and I like the way Kyrillia grows and changes throughout the book.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher

I chose to read this book because it was about a dog! I love the bond between Griz and the dogs. However, the book is a post apocalyptic science fiction so the book is good, but also has an overall feeling of sadness.

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

I feel like a lot of science fiction really makes you think in a different way and that’s kind of what this book did for me. It’s also post apocalyptic, military science fiction and during parts of the book I wasn’t really sure what was happening! It went different directions than I thought it would.

Ascending by Meg Pechenick, The Vardeshi Saga #1

Margaret (Meg) Pechenick is a new author to me. (S.G. Higbee @ Brainfluff reviewed this book. I find out about so many good books from her.) I loved this science fiction about aliens visiting Earth and inviting a group of Earthlings to visit their part of space.

Doing Time by Jodi Taylor, The Time Police #1

This was book one of a new series–The Time Police–that came out in fall 2019. It’s a spin-off of The Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. These are both time travel series and so much fun. I’m doing a happy dance that Jodi Taylor decided to start another series which comes at the time travel idea from a slightly different angle. Can’t wait for the next book!

Urban Fantasy

These are my favorite urban fantasies (which are about the only fantasies I read these days) and I’ve read every book as they’ve been published!

Wild Country by Anne Bishop, The World of the Others #2 (The Others #7)

The world building in these books is one of the most appealing parts of this series. It very different from other urban fantasy series I read.

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs, Mercy Thompson #11

Mercy Thompson is such a great character. She doesn’t always do the smart thing, but she’s such a loyal friend and she tries to do what’s right for the people she’s responsible for. And I love the world Patricia Briggs has created.

Between Homes by W.R. Gingell, The City Between #5

This series is so unique and the last book has really ratcheted up the suspense. I hope another book comes soon in this world where Fae often come and go in the human world, but very few humans manage to survive a trip either Between or Behind. And most humans don’t even know they exist.

Fiction

Doggirl by Robin Brande

I loved this book! It’s young adult which I seldom like or read, but this book about a high school girl who wants to be an animal trainer for movies is just lovely. And the dogs are wonderful!

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

An out-of-work librarian, a bookstore on wheels and remote towns without libraries all come together in this wonderful book. There’s even some romance in it! And it’s set in Scotland!

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon

I loved all the dogs in this book plus the human characters are great fun to read about.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

At the end of the book I felt so happy I’d read this which is one of the reasons I love reading. It’s set in Maine which is one of my favorite places and Evvie Drake is a great character. She’s certainly not perfect, but she’s someone I’d love to talk to. Linda Holmes is also one of the hosts of the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast which I love to listen to.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

One of my most favorite books of 2019! So glad I read it. The language flows and the characters are so vivid–especially Kya (aka “Marsh Girl”). The book is heartbreaking at times, but ultimately a wonderful read. It’s historical fiction, almost a natural history of the North Carolina swamps and marshland and a mystery all set in swamps along the North Carolina Coast. It switches back and forth between Kya’s childhood in the 1950’s and a murder that happens in 1969. Cassandra Campbell narrated the audiobook and made my enjoyment of the book so vivid and immersive.

Memoir

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I don’t usually read memoirs or biographies, but I enjoyed this one a lot–especially since I listened to the audiobook narrated by Michelle Obama. By the end I felt like we had met! So interesting to hear about her childhood, her meeting and marriage to Barack Obama, and then her life as the First Lady in the White House. She’s such an inspirational person.

Have you read any of these books? What were some of your favorite books of the year?

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings. This is a weekly meme to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. The books I choose aren’t released yet and usually won’t be published for at least two or three months. So I have a while to wait!

I love finding out about books which will publish in future months and I like to share my excitement about the books. I also like to find out about new books on other people’s blogs and hope they’ll sometimes find something to look forward to on my blog.

I’m excited to read . . .

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #14

Published by Minotaur Books

Publishing date: November 27

Genre: Mystery

Synopsis: When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder.

None of them had ever met the elderly woman.

The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?

When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing.

…………………….

I really enjoy the Chief Inspector Gamache series. They’re well-written mysteries and I always learn things when I read them. I still have a few books in the series to read before I’ve caught up to this book, but I’m glad Louise Penny is still writing about Gamache.

What books are you looking forward to reading once they’re published?

Thoughts about books I’ve read–Feb 2018

I’m trying something a little different with my reviews. I’ve only done a handful of separate reviews so far this year. So instead I’m going to list all the books I read during a month and write a few sentences about each one or give a link (if I’ve already reviewed the book). I really want to get my reviews under control. And in some cases just write a few sentences. (Did I mention that already?!!)

A Matter of Loyalty by Anselm Audley & Elizabeth Edmondson

A Matter of Loyalty by Anselm Audley & Elizabeth Edmondson

Series: A Very English Mystery #3

Genre: Historical Mystery

Source: Ebook, purchased

287 pages

My Rating: B+

Reviewed: February 23

Bottom Line: The last book in this series (because the author–Ms. Edmondson–died). The author’s son finished the book and did a good job with this British cold war mystery.

Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz

Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz

Series: Cutler, Sutter & Salinas #2

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Source: Ebook, Library

304 pages

My Rating: B

Reviewed: March 19

Bottom Line: A romance and a mystery . . . Ms. Krentz does a good job giving both equal time. 

White Nights by Ann Cleeves

White Nights by Ann Cleeves

Series: Shetland Islands #2

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Source: Ebook, purchased

392 pages

My Rating: B+

Reviewed: May 25

Bottom Line: The white nights of summer–where it never gets completely dark during the summer. That theme runs throughout this very good mystery.

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

 Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #6

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

371 pages

Source: Audiobook, Library

My Rating: A

Narrator Rating: A

Reviewed: March 16

Bottom Line: Excellent story and narration. The story arc which started in the last book continues in this book.

A Youthful Indiscretion by Elizabeth Edmondson

 A Youthful Indiscretion by Elizabeth Edmondson

Series: A Very English Mystery #1.5

Genre: Historical Mystery

Source: Ebook, purchased

60 pages

My Rating: C+

Reviewed: February 23

Bottom Line: A short story that provides some background to the books I read before I read this one. However, it isn’t necessary to read this to understand the books in this series.

Rivers of London: Body Work by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London: Body Work by Ben Aaronovitch & Andrew Cartmel

Series: Peter Grant/Rivers of London Graphic Novels #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Graphic Novel

Source: Graphic Novel, Library

128 pages

My Rating: B

Reviewed: April 19

Bottom Line: I don’t read many graphic novels, but I really enjoy the Peter Grant series so I really liked the illustrations and the story in this graphic novel. It gave me a new way of looking at the series.

Diamond Girl by Julie Mulhern

Series: The Country Club Murders

Genre: Historical Mystery

Source: Ebook, purchased

38 pages

My thoughts

This was a fun short story while we all wait for the next Country Club Murder book! It’s about Aggie DeLucci who is Ellison’s housekeeper. She’s an important character in the series so it’s nice to find out a little more about her. And even though it’s such a short story the mystery is good and finishes up well.

My Rating: B

A Rare Book of Cunning Device by Ben Aaronovitch

A Rare Book of Cunning Device by Ben Aaronovitch

Series: Peter Grant #6.5

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Audiobook

Source: Audiobook, Purchased

29 Minutes

My Rating: B

Reviewed: April 19

Bottom Line: Very short, but what a fun story about something larger than Peter’s dog running around the British library!

Twelve Days of Faery by W.R. GingellTwelve Days of Faery by W.R. Gingell

Series: Shards of a Broken Sword #1

Genre: Fantasy

Source: Ebook, purchased

136 pages

My Rating: B+

Reviewed: June 8

Bottom Line: A short book (novella), but a fun and satisfying fairy tale retelling that turns the usual fairy tales upside down!

…………………………..

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Review: A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

A Trick of the Light by Louise PennyA Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #7

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Setting: Quebec, Canada

Source: Ebook, purchased

Publishing Date: 2011

352 pages

Synopsis: “Hearts are broken,” Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. “Sweet relationships are dead.”

But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow’s garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara’s solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they’ve found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.

My thoughts

This series is as much a study of humanity as it is a mystery series. A Trick of the Light takes place mostly in Three Pines–the little Quebec village near the Vermont border where most of these books take place. In this book Clara Morrow finally has her solo art show at the museum in Montreal. Afterward, the Morrows have a party at their home in Three Pines and the next morning a body is found in the garden. Gamache and his team search for the killer among the villagers and guests of the party. There are plenty of suspects available for Gamache and his team. The problem is sorting through them and trying to see the truth.

This series keeps getting better and better. I’ve read two books in the series so far in 2018–Bury Your Dead and A Trick of the Light. These two books are among my favorite books of the year so far. I recommend reading the books in order. Some things won’t make sense otherwise and the books build on each other depending on what has happened in earlier books. I’ve been slowly reading the series for the past two or three years and am so glad–and that I still have more books to read before I catch up.

Chiaroscuro

He trotted out a word, he’d heard someone use that evening, a word he’d never heard before and had no idea what it meant. He’d turned to the painting of the Three Graces, the elderly and joyous old women, and said–

“The only word that comes to mind is, of course, ‘chiaroscuro.'”

Not surprisingly, the artists looked at him as though he was mad.

Because of Clara’s art show and the party in Three Pines after the show for friends as well as the art crowd there is lots of art talk in this book. The word “chiaroscuro” is used several times in the book–sometimes humorously. I had to look up the word. It means “the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting.”

Clara’s paintings seem very straightforward and simple at first, but a discerning eye can see so much more in her paintings. Her treatment of light and shade captivate some people, but leave others wondering what all the fuss is about. Is it all just “a trick of the light?” Ms. Penny does such a great job in this book slowly showing the secrets and motivations people hide and how hard it is to sift through secrets and motivations to figure out what is “a trick of the light” and what is really true.

Relationships

There are many undercurrents from events that happened in earlier books. The relationship between Gamache and his second in command Jean-Guy Beauvoir was damaged during a previous book and that damage shows up in this book. Beauvoir must work through issues toward a better, more realistic relationship. We also discover more about Beauvoir in this book. I have a feeling that’s going to cause problems in some future books!

Characters in this series are neither all good nor all bad. Reading about the villagers in Three Pines is always so interesting. They’re all unique and they all have flaws. Some of those flaws are huge. For example, Peter Morrow is jealous of Clara’s success. Clara has struggled for years to find success as an artist whereas Peter found his artistic success early. Now it appears Clara will be a bigger success than Peter.  He does try to fight his jealousy, but is sometimes unsuccessful. Sometimes he subtly tries to undermine her confidence as an artist and Clara doesn’t have much self-confidence in her abilities to begin with. She has always seemed oblivious to Peter’s jealousy though Gamache has certainly seen and understood Peter’s feelings. Peter and Clara have to figure out what their relationship is really all about in this book. And does their relationship have something to do with the murder?

I compulsively read this book and got to the end and thought–“Wow!”

My Rating: A

Awards

  • Anthony Award for Best Novel (2012)
  • Macavity Award Nominee for Best Mystery Novel (2012)
  • Dilys Award Nominee (2012)
  • Agatha Award Nominee for Best Novel (2011)

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge hosted by Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!

Review: Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

bury-your-dead-by-louise-penny

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #6

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Setting: Quebec City & Three Pines, Canada

Source: Audiobook, Library

Audiobook Narrator: Ralph Cosham

Audiobook Length: 12 hours, 43 minutes

Publishing Date: 2010

Synopsis: It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society – where an obsessive historian’s quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?

Although he is supposed to be on leave, Gamache cannot walk away from a crime that threatens to ignite long-smoldering tensions between the English and the French. Meanwhile, he is receiving disquieting letters from the village of Three Pines, where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. “It doesn’t make sense,” Olivier’s partner writes every day. “He didn’t do it, you know.” As past and present collide in this astonishing novel, Gamache must relive the terrible event of his own past before he can bury his dead. 

This is the most personal book about Chief Inspector Gamache I’ve read so far. It shows Gamache’s integrity, honesty, guilt, his feelings of betrayal. I think it’s also the most powerful book in this series so far. Irony, too.

Background

This is the book after the arrest of Olivier. Olivier has recently been convicted of murder. Olivier’s partner, Gabri, has sent a letter to Gamache every day telling Gamache of Olivier’s innocence. Gamache is convinced of Olivier’s guilt, but sends Beauvoir to Three Pines to investigate further just in case. Gamache doesn’t go himself because he is in Quebec City visiting his retired mentor, Emile Comeau and going to the English library to research Captain Cook and what he might have had to do with Quebec City. A murder occurs in the English library and with Gamache’s excellent English he is brought into the investigation by both the English and the French.

Gamache’s reason for visiting his mentor and his extended stay in Quebec City came as the result of a large police raid Gamache led to free a kidnapped police officer. This story is told in flashbacks by Gamache as he remembers what happened. He feels a great deal of guilt about his role in this raid. Apparently, a number of police officers died.

My thoughts

This was such a well-written book that it was a joy to read. My favorite of the series so far. I’ve never been to Quebec City, but it’s a place I would love to visit–even though I don’t speak French.

I always like the way the differences between the English and French show up in Ms. Penny’s books. I have been to Montreal and I have to admit I was surprised at the amount of French spoken in the city and the problems we had not speaking French. I have a feeling that some of the people felt that if we were visiting where they live we should speak their chosen language. (I agree–though I’m terrible at foreign languages. I took four years of German and we lived in Germany for three years and I still speak really bad German.)

I love the way history was woven into the narrative. Gamache is researching Captain Cook at the English library. There is also quite a bit about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and Samuel de Champlain. I didn’t know any of this information before I read about it in the book and then looked up a little more information about Quebec City and its history. I have heard of Lake Champlain, of course, but didn’t think about the reason it was named. I blame this on growing up in Oregon and learning the history of the Pacific Northwest when I was in school (it did include French explorers and fur traders at least!)

Louise Penny also did an excellent job weaving the three mysteries and narratives into the story. I liked that we still got to visit Three Pines even though Gamache was in Quebec City. Inspector Beauvoir was more of an individual character instead of an appendage of Gamache in this book. It was nice to see him grow and change a bit. And also to understand his motivations a little more.

I understand why Gamache felt so guilty and understand why he’s so devastated when a video of the raid is released to the public. He receives some very good advice toward the end of the book and I’m looking forward to the next book to see how he’s doing. I ached for Gamache in this book and for his wife Reine-Marie. She and Gamache love each other so much. She fears for him and feels helpless in many ways. But she’s also honest and courageous.

The narration of the book is excellent. The narrator sounded as though he pronounced the French names and words very well (though I admit I don’t really know)! I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook and felt it added to my enjoyment of this mystery.

My rating: A

Narration rating: A

Awards Won

  • Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel (2011)
  • Anthony Award for Best Novel (2011)
  • Dilys Award (2011)
  • Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel (2011)
  • Agatha Award (2010)
  • Nero Award (2011)

Reading Challenge

A funny thing happened

. . .  on my way to catch up with the October Daye series. a-red-rose-chain

But I’m not laughing.

I’ve had a frustrating week. Just a series of different things happening. Reading the wrong book is just one of those frustrations!

The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire is one of my favorite series, but I’ve fallen behind. I knew I already had the books I needed to catch up and I knew a new book was coming out in the series so it was time to start reading.

Late one night after I finished a book I decided to figure out which book to read in this series. I could have sworn I checked the last book I reviewed in the series and Goodreads. And I figured out A Red-Rose Chain was the book to read. I must have been dreaming!

The book grabbed me immediately. But now and then I thought . . . “I don’t remember when that happened.” However, I dismissed that little discomfort by thinking . . . “it’s been awhile since I read this series and I’ve just forgotten certain parts.”

the-winter-longHowever, as I got further into the book the discomfort became more insistent. I decided I’d better check again and sure enough I hadn’t read the book before A Red-Rose Chain.

I hadn’t read book number 8–The Winter Long . . . I already have it on my Kindle and it was waiting patiently for me to figure out my problem.

So now I’m part way through A Red-Rose Chain and enjoying it, but I think I really need to put it aside and read The Winter Long.

It starts out with great opening sentences:

The woods were dark, filled with strange shadows. They twisted and swirled independent of any light source, making the space beneath the towering sequoias look treacherous and wild.

However, I haven’t read much more than that and haven’t read more in A Red-Rose Chain either. I had another book I was reading (I often read several books at once) and I finished that (A Brutal Telling by Louise Penny).

And as I said this was a frustrating week. Starting the wrong book just added to my frustrations and I haven’t come to terms with it yet. 😦

So I hope to read The Winter Long soon so I can get back to A Red-Rose Chain!

Maybe I’ll read another book in between–space things out more . . . .

Has this ever happened to you? Have you accidentally started reading the wrong book in a series? What did you do about it?

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