I thought I’d end the year with my ranking of all 22 books I’ve read with y’all this year! So instead of a normal review post this week, you get this instead. I’m also posting it in time (I hope) so that if you have some last minute Christmas gifts (or birthday gifts) to purchase, this might be helpful. The links below are to their Amazon webpages, however, if you would like a more-in depth version of my opinions on the book, click on the author’s name, I’ll link my post as well.
- The Time in Between by María Dueñas: definitely my favorite of all these books and it’s going in my top five. Follow Sira as she escapes pre-revolutionary Spain to Morocco and then back to Spain; this seamstress turned spy is a little naïve initially, but with time turns into a strong woman. Overall, it’s a great book that has a little appeal for everyone–spy novel, romance novel, pseudo-feminist novel. It’s entertaining and definitely a recommendation from me!
- Lost in the Spanish Quarter by Heddi Goodrich: another one of my favorites! This fictional memoir hits a little close to home for anyone who felt a little lost leading up to and after graduating college. It’s a quaint and romantic little story about main character Heddi and finding her place in the world, finding her home. Primarily taking place in Italy, but also a little bit in Australia, this novel deviates slightly from traditional all-prose fiction by being broken up by fictitious emails between Heddi and her first love Pietro.
- The Glass of Time by Michael Cox: A little long, but definitely entertaining, this Victorian novel was another favorite of mine due largely to its plot and storyline. I’ll admit that the beginning was a tad slow, but after the exposition, it was hard to put down! Full of mystery, deception, crime, a splash of adventure, and a dash of romance, this was a thoroughly entertaining read, especially for those who like period dramas!
- The Address by Fiona Davis: I didn’t know I was going to like it as much as I did, but this was super entertaining. This story focuses on Sarah Smyth when it’s set in the 1880s and then on Bailey when it’s set between the 1980s. It’s kind of your classic “who-done-it” novel in that it’s a mystery novel, but the time element is what makes it interesting…and frustrating. You’ll definitely put together some of the puzzle pieces before the characters do (if they do), which kind of makes the whole story that much more curious and exciting!
- Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros: Definitely a classic of Chicanx literature, this story follows young Celaya as she grows up It touches on the themes of individual identity as well as one’s identity within the context of familial history. I love Cisneros’ vignette style writing as well as her description. You definitely do not have to be Hispanic/Latino to appreciate her writing, but if you are, that might help you appreciate it that much more. It’s well written and reflective, so it’s not exactly a light read, but it’s definitely an enjoyable one!
Now it gets a little tricky…many of these books aren’t ranked lower than others because I thought the stories were “worse” or that they were “poorer quality.” Oftentimes, it has more to do with what I personally gravitate toward more frequently or what was a story I think I could easily go back to multiple times.
- Gatsby’s Girl by Caroline Preston: This was such a cute story, and I loved how it gave insight into Fitzgerald from a new, albeit fictional perspective. I thought it was super well written and entertaining. Preston is a skilled storyteller who clearly put a lot of work into the novel. If you like round characters and get a little attached to them, this is probably just the book for you, especially if you’re into historical fiction as well!
- The Cinderella Murder by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke: I loved this novel and definitely want to read more of the Under Suspicion series! I thought the overarching plot (of the series) was super interesting–it being a following a documentary television crew as they tackle cold cases–as well as the other subplots (especially the case in question, the “Cinderella Murder”). This book definitely has something for everyone and is an exciting, fast-paced read!
- Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster: I’m not usually one for memoirs, but this one had me in stitches! I loved Lancaster’s blunt, humorous writing style and how her anecdotes all seemed to fit together, despite being somewhat eclectic at first glance. I definitely would love to pick up her other memoirs at some point. She’s super conversational, witty, descriptive, and engaging; and her method of breaking up her prose with emails to her friends and snarky letters to others make it that much more enjoyable of a read!
- The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James: So I know I just said that I’m not usually one for memoirs, but this one is a work of fiction! They’re fake, I know, I couldn’t believe it either; James writes so believably from Austen’s shoes, I kept interrupting myself to Google people and places in the book to see if they were real. (Spoiler alert, most the places were, but only some of the people). Moreover, James is super descriptive and clearly did a lot of research to make this novel possible. So, if you’re an Austen fan like me, this is definitely a book worth checking out, especially since it gives new life to the authoress!
- The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner: This was such a cute, multi-generational story that really tugged at the heart strings. It follows through a few generations of the Esposito family on a small island village in Italy and is so engaging. Banner is descriptive and thorough, it’s clear that a lot of thought was put behind the story. As with some of the other books in the list, it checks off a few different boxes: a little drama, a little romance, allusions to real history, and it’s meta in that the idea of storytelling and legacy is a huge part of the book as well. Definitely worth the read!
- The Wrong Kind of Compatible by Kadie Scott: Another cute story, but for entirely different reasons. This books is honestly about two nerds who fall in love, but one of them is secretly working for the FBI and actually investigating the other! It’s a quick and quirky read that’ll probably warm your lil, romantic heart, even if it makes you cringe a bit with some of the geeky pick up lines. It’s very much your stereotypical rom-com, but in a book format. I couldn’t put it down and honestly think it’ll be hard for you to as well!
- Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop by Jenny Colgan: This was a perfect book to read before the holidays, and not just because the author so kindly gave readers a holiday playlist and dessert recipes! This story was also very heartwarming, but more complex than some of the other rom-commy books we’ve encountered. Not only does it focus on titular character Rosie Hopkins’ sweetshop and love life, but it explores the concepts like what it means to be family or community. However, any lesson you might garner from it is delightfully woven through an entertaining story of a small English town at Christmastime.
- The Absinthe Earl by Sharon Lynn Fisher: I’m a sucker for romance, I hope y’all aren’t sick of it after all this time! But this book isn’t just about the romance between Ada Quicksilver and a mysterious Earl with a secret…and it’s even a secret to him. Instead, Fisher weaves romance, adventure, and arguably most importantly, traditional Irish folklore into a tale of two people finding themselves, each other, and their place in this alternate history. It’s entertaining more than anything and while there’s definitely some substance, there’s definitely some froo-froo romance in it too, so there’s a little something for most.
- The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory: While I really enjoyed Gregory’s other book, this one was just a little more entertaining for me. Set over the course of King Edward, Queen (Bloody) Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I’s reigns, it follows court fool Hannah Green. Green is a Jewish girl posing as a Catholic–because of the religious persecution–with the gift of sight. There’s romance, war, political tensions, it’s a good read, though it may take a little time to get through. So much happens and the book takes place over so many years that it’s jam packed but super enjoyable.
- They Could Have Named Her Anything by Stephanie Jimenez: I was thoroughly impressed that this was Jimenez’s first novel! The book focuses on María Rosario, a high school aged girl who’s coming to terms with growing up. Not quite an adult, but not quite a child, María feels out of place in the world and this book is her trying to find it. An emotional read, Jimenez’s description evokes empathy and vivid imagery for this young woman. It isn’t necessarily a quick book just because the story is somewhat complex, but it is certainly a solid choice that really demonstrates the growing pains of teenage years.
- The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory: This was a really interesting and new take on King Henry VIII’s wives immediately after Anne Boleyn. I enjoyed how Queen Anne of Cleves and Queen Catherine Howard (and lady-in-waiting Jane Boleyn) were each given their own voice and how the focalization shifts gave a new perspective on those historical events. I do think the book was a little long and the tone was bland at times, but I enjoyed the detail and humanization of those three women. Gregory did a good job researching and displaying 16th century England for her readers.
- Jane and the Damned by Janet Mullany: This was definitely a fun and quirky book! I enjoyed this new perspective on one of my favorite authors, however unlike the iteration listed above, this is a totally fantastical one. If you like classic literature and vampire literature, this may be just the book for you. If those are two things you hate, this book is kind of like a car accident: you can’t look away even if you want to because it’s just interesting enough that you really want to know how it ends! This isn’t a book that I think I would re-read, but it’s definitely one I’m glad I read.
- Future Tense Fiction by Various Authors: This was a great book if you like sci-fi/sci-fi-adjacent books. It’s personally not a literary style I go for, but I think it was a good introduction to the genre. The fact that it’s a collection of short stories allows the reader to get a taste of sci-fi that is complex and not overwhelming. I really liked that there was diversity with the authors–both in terms of academic/professional and cultural backgrounds–I thought it was a great way to give lots of different perspectives into such a niche genre. Some of the short stories were a little drier than others, but I think most people will find at least one they will like.
- The Dollmaker by Nina Allan: I’m going to be honest, this was just kind of a weird book. Sure it was entertaining, but it was a little odd–it was meta, the main character was reading short stories and it focused on a grown man with an obsession with collecting and creating dolls. That said, it was really well written and despite its unique subject matter, it was entertaining: I wanted to know what happened next. I also really liked Allan’s level of detail, it made the characters seem very realistic. This was another book that despite being objectively pretty good, I don’t think it’s one I’d go back to but am glad to have given it a chance.
- The Town That Came a Courtin’ by Ronda Rich: If you’ve been keeping up with my blogs, you’ve probably come to realize that I’m a fan of romance and rom-coms. So, it might come as a surprise to find out that I didn’t really care for this book. It’s not that it was bad, per se, in fact, it was well written and had a complete storyline, and even a plot twist…it just wasn’t my favorite. I’m not a fan of the “You need to get married, you won’t be young forever” mother trope, and I’m even less a fan of said mother’s daughter agreeing so wholeheartedly with this frame of mind. The main character was so developed, but I just felt like if she was a real person, I’d be really annoyed by her. Despite all that, I think if you also like romance, you might want to give this book a chance.
- Out of the Blackout by Robert Bernard: If you’re into historical fiction, give this book a try. It was definitely interesting…my biggest problem was that it was just really dry. It’s a thriller novel and there are questions of identity, so if those are stories that interest you, you’ll probably enjoy it. However, if you appreciate vivid detail and a narrative voice with character, you probably won’t find it here; if you do, you’ve got better detective skills than I do!
- The Divers’ Game by Jesse Ball: I just didn’t care for this story a whole lot. It doesn’t have so much to do with the story’s subject, but more its style and organization. It’s another dystopian novel and its made up of three parts. But even though the three parts are obviously related–they take place in the same setting, there are some characters that appear across the different sections, etc.–there wasn’t enough interconnection for me to really get it. Additionally, whenever dialogue occurred, the author didn’t use quotes (why?!), so that was a little annoying. However, if you’re into dystopian stories, try giving this one a go.
- BONUS: If you remember my first post announcing my book blog, at the very end I mentioned Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakely-Cartwright. It was a unique take on a classic story, but it just didn’t do it for me. True, it was darker and more dramatic, but it wasn’t unique enough for me to really appreciate it. If you love the classic children’s story, give it a try, or better yet, just watch the movie version with Amanda Seyfried.
That’s all I’ve got for this week…and year for that matter! Thank you all so much for sticking with me through all these books and posts. I’ll be taking the next couple of weeks off for the holidays, but I’ll be back for the new year.