It’s been another happy year of reading for me, and this year I don’t feel like making a list. I would rather write short book chats about clusters of books that I’ve read. This year, my Best of 2016 will include 2oth-century classics, historical mystery, and fantasy. Away we go!
Twentieth-Century Classics: This winter, I was once again charmed by the prose of Nancy Mitford, an English aristocrat who wrote two novels based on her eccentric family: The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. Mitford captures the voices of her characters beautifully and every bit of dialogue is a delight in both books.
Also, I can never find sufficient praise for the work of British author Barbara Pym. This year, I re-read Jane and Prudence and A Glass of Blessings. Pym’s understated style and wry humor give her writing a piquant flavor, and it’s remarkable to me how fascinating she makes the quiet lives of her characters. Filled with clergymen and spinsters, work and study, Pym’s books never fail to bring pleasure, no matter how many times I read them.
Historical Mystery: Cora Harrison has begun a new mystery series, set in Cork, Ireland in 1923. The first book in the series is A Shameful Murder, the second book is A Shocking Assassination, and I am eagerly awaiting the third. The Reverend Mother Aquinas, who lives and teaches a school in the city’s convent, becomes involved in these two mysteries and takes an active part in solving them. Harrison balances the setting, the characters, and the plot with dexterity and I learned a lot about Cork history while being fascinated by these two murder cases.
This year I discovered Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series. I have only read the first book, And Only To Deceive, but I’ve got the second one, A Poisoned Season, waiting for me in my stack of books, and it won’t have to wait long, either. Lady Emily tells her own story in a voice that is energetic and charming. Emily navigates the restrictions of Victorian England society with a success that is both believable and refreshing. There are currently ten Lady Emily mysteries, with another to appear in 2017. No pleasure compares to that of finding a new mystery series with so many installments to enjoy.
Fantasy: This fall, Erika Johansen released the third volume in the Tearling trilogy, The Fate of the Tearling. This was a terrific ending to a terrific series, with plenty of magic, plenty of suspense, and a truly amazing plot twist. Queen Kelsea is a strong, determined heroine, no matter what dark magic and shadows from the past come to test her spirit.
A. Lee Martinez has started a new fantasy/sci-fi series this year, and the first book is The Last Adventure of Constance Verity. This is a light-hearted, funny book with the same sly self-referential humor that I love in The Princess Bride movie. Connie is a young heroine who has led an action-packed, saving-the-world existence since the age of seven. She is desperately trying to find her last adventure so she can settle down and lead an ordinary life. This succeeds about as well as you would expect it would. There are deeper themes of self-identity and the search for contentment that add substance to the plot. I am looking forward to Connie’s next last adventure for sure.
There’s never enough space to rave about all the wonderful books I read in a year. Happy Reading in 2017, everyone!