Every year, I try to think about the books that have stuck with me – whether happy or sad, fun or informative, or any combination of these things and more that can and do make a book good. In past years, working this out has left me at the end of the year without a post like this, because reading so many books, it was hard to narrow it down. This year, of the over one hundred and fifty books I have read, I managed to find twelve that stick with me. But first, my year in review:
At the time of posting this, I read 157 books, with the hopes I will get another one or two done by the thirty-first of December. I participated in several challenges: my own reading challenge, where I challenged myself to read 120 books – I have bypassed that by over thirty. My wrap up post for this will appear early in the new year.
My second challenge, which is wrapped up here was the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge – I pledged to read 15 books and ended up reading seventy-nine – I was unsure of how many I would get for review purposes or how many of my non-review ones I would get to read, so my estimate was conservative.
In an online reading group, I participated in the Pop Sugar challenge – where some of the categories were too tight, prescriptive and difficult to fill – I managed most categories and some advanced ones, but some, such as an author with the same first or last name as me had to be thrown out as it is incredibly difficult to find this for some names. Whilst I will be giving this a go i 2019 again, I think the more specific categories will need to be ignored or at least, not worried about – if I can’t access a decent book for a category, it may not be filled and I will have to be okay with that, as my focus will be on review and quiz books, and not categories I struggle to find something for. Or where I may be cornered into reading something terrible and wasting time.
Finally, I participated in a book bingo, and completed two cards – my final wrap post will be out next week, but the card wraps are here and here – both part of a general book bingo post throughout the year. I filled both and will be doing it again next year but will aim to only fill one card, as Theresa, Amanda and I now have thirty squares we need to fill.
The upcoming wrap up posts will include lists and links for each challenge.
It was very hard choice to narrow it down to twelve, but to help me, I decided the book had to be a 2018 release, it had to be by an Australian woman, and it had to have entertained, informed or made a significant impact on me. This list is written in the order I scribbled it down in, so there’s no ranking involved, as these all stuck out in my mind as really good books people should try to read if they appeal to them.
This little book came as a surprise in a big delivery a couple of months ago. It tells the story of Lenny Spink, whose brother, Davey, is born with a condition where he keeps growing – he just doesn’t stop, and the doctors don’t know what is wrong with him. The darkness that Lenny’s mother felt in her heart when her son was born has stayed and her instincts were not wrong – this is a heart-breaking book with an outcome I was not prepared for. Throughout the novel, each section is divided into a letter or group of letters as the kids construct the encyclopedia and Davey forms an attachment to one letter. It is heartbreaking throughout, but it is the end that will truly get to you. Aimed at kids aged ten and older, I think anyone can read this book. It is one that will shatter your heart and leave with a book hangover you might take ages to recover from.
Last year, Morrigan Crow burst into our lives in Nevermoor. This year, her adventures continue with the second book in the series, Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow– where Morrigan, or Mog as Jupiter North calls her, finds out what her knack is. There is something unique and special about this series – it has all the magic we got with Harry Potter, but there are whole dimensions to this that are entirely different and work really well together. It has amazing characters, and nods to our world, and more. I loved this book because I love fantasy stories, and it provided an escape from reality. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series to see where Morrigan takes us.
This list wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Medora, and we got two this year – the main book in the series, Graevale and a trio of novellas told from the perspectives of Alex’s friends, based on the first four books, so reading those first is a must. Graevale is filled with foreboding – and when the gut punch happens, all it takes it four words: Graevale is under attack – and as a reader, you know the worst is coming. The events that follow are heart-breaking and are mirrored in Bear’s story in We Three Heroes – and they are just as heart-breaking seeing them through Bear’s eyes. The other two stories from Jordan and Dix allow us insight into the two and why they are who they are when we first meet them – why Dix is so isolated and why she hopes she can meet Alex first. This series will end in February next year with the release of Vardaesia, which us currently on my review stack.
The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester
I had lots of books set during World War Two that I enjoyed and stuck out, but this one seemed to be the one of the two that screamed out to be placed here because it has spies, fashion, twins, resistance and a family story that needs to be uncovered slowly, thread by thread using a dual storyline – one of my favourite devices because it allows the past and present to intersect through the discovery of clues and evidence, whilst still holding back in each section until the climax and the threads start to be tied together. The Paris Seamstress also has a touch of romance. What I liked was that the mystery of the past was the focus, as well as the war, family and the identity of the main character. All these threads made it a very good read.
Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M. Owen
The third book in this series, Dr Pimms is Australia’s answer to Doctor Temperance Brennan, an archaeologist and librarian who seems to get involved in solving very cold cases – thousands of years old, in fact. Another series that utilises the dual time line – to show how Elizabeth solves the crime, and her family life, and what happened in antiquity – in this case, Ancient Egypt – and the murder of a royal family member, and betrayal in the household. It is up to Elizabeth and her team of librarians, historians and archaeologists and scientists to uncover what happened a world away in Canberra. Another great series that I am keen for the next book to come out – hopefully in 2019.
Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan
This one is here simply because it amused and delighted me. Kitty Flanagan is one of my favourite comedians – and reading her book was like attending one of her comedy shows – full of fun, laughter and wishing I could actually see her live. But the book is a pretty good compromise. So Kitty earns herself a place on my list this year for being unapologetically awesome and herself in writing, and for a very entertaining read that I hope to read again soon.
Kids who are spies, missing parents and a secret spy school? What more could we want? Twins Kensy and Max are thrust into the world of spies when their parents go missing – and together with their friends, butlers and instructors, embark on adventures across London and Rome, to uncover plots and find out where their parents are. Each twin has their own unique skill set, and what I like about Kensy is that she’s not a typical girly girl – she likes taking things apart and tinkering, she rushes head first into things, but she also shows vulnerability. She is a character that I would have loved to read about as a kid.
The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart
This one makes my list because the main character refuses to let gender roles and norms of the early twentieth century and the demands of her father, define her. It also has a disabled character, who is shown as capable and strong, and survives – he is not pitied, but Evelyn cares about him and shows him this attention when he needs it – and he is able to be who he is when he doesn’t need help. Their romance and friendship is woven throughout the treacherous years of the First World War, then known as The Great War, or the war to end all wars, and the history and settings are rich and intense, and the narrative complex and filled with compassion. Another great historical fiction read.
Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane
The current trend in kids’ books has been to move towards diversity and what some people might refer to as unconventional roles for male and female characters – however, I’m quite enjoying this trend of empowered fairy tale princesses and stories of historical figures that show people doing all kinds of things, not just what we learn about at school. In these four fairy tales, the girls take charge of their own fate, much as Merida does in Brave. This is the kind of book I needed as a kid – I do love the ones I had but being able to see how these girls tackled things without a man would have been awesome.
No Country Woman by Zoya Patel
The only other non-fiction book and memoir, No Country Woman by Zoya Patel. A story of what it is to be a third culture kid – whose ancestors came from India to Fiji, and then her own family moved to Australia – in a world where homogeny is accepted more, and where she had to work out what her identity was straddling her Indian-Fijian identity and her Australian identity – the latter being the country she has spent most of her life, and how the attitudes of others she encountered affected her. It is a story that resonates with many – especially people of colour, but it helped me understand how they feel, and what they might be going through. Anyone can be a third culture kid, but some third culture kids might find it easier to fit in than others.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
A mixed genre book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter touches on history, crime and family secrets, and told through the perspectives of several people over time, with the story of Birdie, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, woven throughout. It is one of those books you need to pay close attention to and absorb, because of all the intricacies. It weaves between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and hints at the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood through the collective of artists at the heart of the novel. The threads of the plot trail off at times, but eventually come together, and it is one of those books that stays with you.
The Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning
A World War Two novel with a difference. Like many dual timeline books, it delves into the past and present to reveal the secrets of a family, b ut this time, instead of being centred in the usual theatres of war, looks at the life of a Jewish refugee family escaping to China, and their years spent there during the war, and the war between China and Japan that happened concurrently to the Second World War. It opens up a new avenue of this time in history, with a fresh angle on what was a terrible time in history for many.
And so, those are the reads that made an impact on me this year, and my brief summary of the year. I am aiming to do write-ups for my other challenges as well, including the lists of the books I read.