This year I purposed to be more intentional in my book choices. With only so much reading time, I said no to some books so I had time to read others. That lasted through late summer until I gave up all my precious free time to binge watch Korean dramas. I kept intending to pick up the books that were still on my TBR list, but thanks to my newfound obsession I entered into my first real reading slump. Which also means that not only did I fall short of my goal of reading 100 books this year, but it was probably my worst reading year on record, since I only made it half way to that goal. The one thing I did accomplish was to write more Goodreads review for the books I read. So I did manage to salvage a silver lining.
I had aspirations to review at least six film books for Aurora’s 2022 Classic Film Reading Challenge, but I only managed two. You can find my reviews on Miriam Hopkins biography here, and Norma Shearer here. I also completed Myrna Loy’s autobiography, which was written in our own winsome voice. I had no idea the extent of her involvement in social and political issues. I also started but failed to finish biographies on silent screen stars Gloria Swanson and Marion Davies. My one foray into “classic” literature this year was Enchanted April, which I chose, because I’ve seen the film adaptation so many times. I was happy to discover the film did a good job adapting the original story.
One of the side effects of reading less means I also read less by new to me authors. However, after reading my first books by T.I. Lowe, Amy Lynn Green and Ashley Clark, I will definitely be looking for more of their stories.
The excellent narrators for Once Upon a Wardrobe and Bloomsbury Girls really helped me love the stories even more and convinced me that a narrator can make or break an audio book experience. These two books in particular made it on my list of favorites this year thanks to their narrators.
With the exception of a few, most of this year’s favorites came as a complete surprise to me in the sense that they exceeded my expectations. Those are the best kind of discoveries.
- The London House – The talented Katherine Reay made a smart choice when she wrote this book, keeping it’s focus on the current day characters and their search for answers in the past, drawing strong parallels between the current Caroline and her great-aunt Caroline. It was also clever to create mystery surrounding that past because it kept me hooked into the story. Beyond that, in exploring themes like the impact of secrets, perception versus truth, the idea of physical and emotional generational inheritances deeply impacted me and gave me much to ponder.
- Once Upon a Wardrobe -The characters engaged me almost immediately. And the way the author unravels her treatise on the power and value of story resonated deeply with me. I lost count of the times I teared up over a truth revealed with the mystery of story and how the answers to life aren’t always clear-cut.
- Meet Me in the Margins – featuring a realistically normal heroine and a pen pal romance, this one also explores the dynamics of sisters as well as provides a view into the publishing world that is so much fun.
- Written on the Wind – Combine two of my favorite things, a Gilded Age NYC setting and a Russian count, then add in a financial genius heiress, allow the two to swap gender role expectations and you have an automatic winner for me.
- Book Lovers – I think this is the author’s best work to date. I loved it so much! The electric chemistry between Charlie and Nora and the sizzling zingers they swap, the sister bond, the bookish characters that give a glimpse into the world of publishing, and the way Emily turns the traditional tropes on their heads yet still respects them completely won me over.
- The Belle of Belgrave Square – I mean, any Mimi Matthews novel is going to be a favorite. She’s a queen in the historical romance genre because she writes with depth. And this one has a really great hero, seemingly gruff but secretly a kind man of integrity.
- A Midnight Dance – Utterly captivating from start to finish. The author weaves a beautiful and atmospheric story set in a ballet theater. The characters are complex and Ella herself serves as an unreliable lead as she tries to unravel the mystery behind her family origins. But nothing and no one is quite as they seem in a place where everyone is a performer competing for center stage. The knowledge and disciplines of ballet are intricately threaded through the entire book in such a way that I felt I was experiencing a live performance.
- Bloomsbury Girls – I had the pleasure of reviewing this as part of a blog tour. I loved the post war London setting that featured a war between the sexes within an independent bookstore. The author even managed to weave in some real life literary hoi polloi.
- Under the Magnolias – I wasn’t expecting to love this Southern family drama which also tackles mental illness while shattering religious stereo types. This one had depth, an unconditionally loving romance and a great redemption story.