Now we are in the last few days of 2019, it is time for me to start reflecting back on another great year of reading and viewing. Firstly, here are my ten favourite, new-to-me books I have read during the year (in the order I read them):
1. Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley (2018)
The latest dual-narrative novel from one of my favourite authors. I eagerly ripped through this as it swept me away to the Wilde House in Messaquamik Bay, Long Island, where Kearsley weaved together two immersive, believable narratives, with two strong, compelling heroines. A wonderful escapist read, with a lovely blend of history, war, romance and mystery.
2. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett (1989)
The eighth instalment in Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld series, where the denizens of the ancient, sprawling, stinking twin-city of Ankh-Morpork find themselves plagued by a dragon! Another excellent slice of fun and adventure, that shows how even the smallest, stupidest or commonest man or creature can make a difference.
3. Howards End by E. M. Forster (1910)
Considered by many to be Forster’s masterpiece, this is a touching, humorous and masterful classic, that explores the slowly changing landscape, society and relationships in turn-of-the-century England. Made even more wonderful by the narration of the engaging Margaret Schlegel, an intelligent, idealistic and independent woman, a breath of fresh air in her time.
4. By Sword and Storm by Margaret Skea (2018)
The third volume in Skea’s wonderful historical series about Adam Munro and his family, who have now fled Scotland and taken refuge in France, under the protection of the French king, Henry IV. A gripping, rollercoaster tale that took me from the glittering royal court to the dangerous, religious tensions on the streets of Paris.
5. Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley (2017)
Marking the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, this new, refreshing look into the story of Jane’s life focuses on how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces, not just the people, that mattered to her. All told by the wonderfully eccentric and colourful historian, Worsley in her marvellously enthusiastic style.
6. The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory (2011)
The third book from Gregory’s popular, historical-fiction Cousins’ War series, which straddles the York and Lancaster divide with Jacquetta Luxembourg, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, who scandalously married the squire, Richard Woodville. Another brilliantly written and researched piece of historical fiction, with wonderful touches of romance and magic.
7. Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien (2018)
Another historical-fiction from one of my go-to-authors when I want my historical fix. This one follows the feisty and contentious Elizabeth Mortimer, the wife of Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, as she dangerously schemes during a tumultuous time. A sumptuous, powerful and moving story, that had me gripped from start to finish.
8. Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans (2015)
Fascinating Christian non-fiction, recommended to me by Kelly, in which Rachel Held Evans explores in a heartfelt way her struggles with the present-day church and how she set out on a journey to understand what Church should be and her place in it. Being both critical and hopeful this was a really thought-provoking book.
9. The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart (1962)
A modern, suspense classic which helped me escape the miserable weather of the UK to the sun-drenched island of Crete. Where a young Englishwoman, Nicola Ferris finds herself caught up in a dangerous, fast-paced adventure, as she tries to help her fellow countryman. A marvellously romantic, suspense that swept me away and gripped me from start to finish.
10. Her Kind by Niamh Boyce (2019)
Dark, atmospheric historical-fiction that shines a light onto the women caught up in the terrifying Kilkenny Witch Trial, in Ireland, and the events that led up to it. Being such an emotive tale, I needed to take my time over, however I was well and truly drawn into the believable actions and voices Boyce gave to these silenced and forgotten women.
Honorary mentions must also go to the fictions: Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris (2007), A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905) and Council by Snorri Kristjansson (2019); the non-fictions: The Golden Antilles by Tim Severin (1970) and Margaret Tudor by Melanie Clegg (2018); and my re-reads of Emma (1815) and Persuasion (1818) by Jane Austen.
I’d love to hear what you think: Have you read any of these? What were your favourite reads in 2019?
Tomorrow, I will continue my reflection on the year with a round-up of my favourite new-to-me adaptations I have watched, and then, on New Year’s day, I will finish with some reading statistics.