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My Favorite Reads of 2016

My favorite reads of 2016 are not all crime fiction. I got a little bored with some of my favorite crime authors so spent quite a bit of time reading widely, and I found some good stuff.

  1. Until They Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson was my favorite crime novel, by far. I like the smart heroines, I like the set-up of young divers drowned in a frozen lake, and I like the tone of these books. I read somewhere that Larsson expects this to be a 7 book series, and I eagerly await the final 2 books.
  2. Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny was a book I admired a great deal structurally: the story of Gamache’s crisis that led him to retreat to Montreal one bitterly cold winter was well-done. And it was nice to see the imperfections of that character.
  3. In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch was a very good story about friends from college reuniting for the 20th class reunion. I liked it not only because I was the target audience, but I think Scotch did a great job making the entire cast of characters believable, which is quite a trick in a novel that alternates points-of-view.
  4. How to Be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky is the book I will keep giving as a gift. It’s a collection of existential advice columns that are so great I keep rereading them.
  5. H is for Hawk by Helen Fielding. This was a great memoir about grief and goshawks, and I highly recommend the audio read by the author. It was the most beautifully written book I read/listened to this year.
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My Favorite Reads of 2015

2015 is the year when I read a lot more older books than usual, and a good chunk of my favorites were not published this year. My list is all crime fiction except for one true-crime book, and it’s heavy on female authors.

  1. Margaret Millar is my favorite discovery of the year. Her books are shorter, more twisted psychological fiction than what I usually read. Beast in View and How Like an Angel were outstanding, and I’ve read a few more that were good as well.
  2. I’m still a fan of the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. The two installments I read this year were good in terms of plot, and I”m still hooked because of the bits of Beck’s backstory that came in in these books. I’m a sucker for serialized stories, even if they don’t end on cliffhangers. The Laughing Policeman and The Fire Engine that Disappeared are quite great.
  3. Continuing the theme of series/ authors I love, Anne Holt’s stuff is so good. I’m not blown away by any particular book, but I am hooked on her two series set in Oslo, the Vik/Stubo and Hanne Wilhelmsen books.
  4. My favorite book I read this year that was published this year was In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward. It has great intertwining mysteries involving a current suicide and a long-ago missing-child case and interesting characters.
  5. Jayne Keeney is my favorite character, still. The Dying Beach was a strong entry in the PI series set in Thailand by Angela Savage.
  6. Mildred Pierce  by James M. Cain was a big surprise. A story about a complicated woman and her complicated daughter. It’s great.
  7. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith was also a surprise to me (it’s been years since I saw the Minghella movie). I have a lot more Highsmith waiting for my on my TBR.
  8. Echoes from the Dead by Johann Theorin was a great first entry in the Öland Quartet.
  9. A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine– ingeniously plotted. She and Millar win the plotting contest among the books I’ve read this year. Also, this book beats Donna Tartt’s The Secret History in terms of criminal undergraduates: Vine’s is more effective because it’s not so long.
  10. This House of Grief by Helen Garner has stayed with me the longest. It’s true-crime following the trial of a man accused of murdering his children, and it’s deeply sad.

 

 

 

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My Favorite Reads of 2014

According to my reading spreadsheet, which I update much more religiously than my LibraryThing page, I read 61 books this year, including a handful of novellas. It’s a crime-novel-heavy batch of books I read this year, and I didn’t blog about the handful of young adult or contemporary fiction books I read. Most of them made me quite weepy (The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park).  I’ve come up with six favorites for the year, and my list will start with the one title I failed to review on the blog:

  1. Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indriðason was a fabulous read that was also emotionally devastating (the historical storyline and the story of Erlendur and his brother). I’m not sure what kept me from reviewing it, but suffice it to say that it earned the awards it received.
  2. Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland is a very action-filled second outing in the Emily Tempest series set in the Northern Territory of Australia.
  3. Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White is my only non-crime novel pick of the year. It’s a teen-going-off-to-college drama, a much-delayed entry in the President’s Daughter series that takes place after Meg was kidnapped.
  4. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes is not a book I expected to love. It’s a  trippy, gruesome serial killer story set in contemporary Detroit. Beukes writes well from many different perspectives.
  5. The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham was my first Allingham. It’s a very impressive story about post-World War II London.
  6. Lorraine Connection by Dominique Manotti is a smart political thriller that starts with a horrible industrial accident in a television factory.

I read books set in four new countries this year: Colombia, Peru, Switzerland, and Austria, and I hope to read more widely geographically-speaking in the coming year as well. Much like my Excel reading log, my blog pages logging all my reads geographically could use updating, and that’s another goal for the year.

But enough about the organizational side of the blog. I want to take a moment at the end of the year to thank you all for reading. Your comments and your own blogs have taken me down some interesting reading paths this year, for which I am grateful. Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2015.

 

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My Year in Reading 2013

After writing a couple reading challenge wrap-up posts, I’m a bit leery of writing another look back at 2013, but I wanted to check in with some statistics and my list of favorites for the year.

I reviewed a total of 52 books on Ms. Wordopolis Reads in 2013, and 25 of them were translations. Also, close to 50% of the authors were women: 24 by female authors, one by a pair of women, and one by a male and female duo. My books were set in 24 different countries, and the most-visited countries were the US (10), Sweden (7), and Norway (6). The statistic most surprising to me was that 33 of the books were by authors new-to-me (63%), but that shouldn’t be shocking because I was part of the Global Reading Challenge which was full of new-to-me authors for me.

I’ve written about my favorites of the year already in some challenge wrap-up and Crime Fiction Pick of the Month posts, so I’ll just list them below:

  1. Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo
  2. Behind the Night Bazaar by Angela Savage
  3. The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell
  4. Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller
  5. The Hanne Willhelmsen series by Anne Holt

Happy new year, and thanks for reading!

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2012 Year in Review

Best wishes for the new year to all of you who read my blog, and thanks for reading during my first full year of book blogging!  Thanks for broadening my reading horizons with all your comments and posts.

2012 was a light reading year for me in terms of numbers, but I found a number of authors I really love.  I read 56 books, including 34 crime novels.  I read books by authors from 13 countries, led by the United States (27) and Sweden (6).  I read slightly more books by female authors (29) than male (25), and I read two books by author pairs.

The authors I’m happy to have discovered this year are Åsa Larsson and Håkan Nesser. The longest book I finished was Game of Thrones.  Finally, the book that has stayed with me the longest is Borkmann’s Point.

For 2013 my reading and blogging resolutions are to review even more translated crime fiction and read authors from more countries than this year.  I didn’t read any African or Central and South American authors in 2012, and only one Asian author, so those are my areas of focus.

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My Year in Books

Find below the favorite books I read in 2011, in no particular order.  I read more than new releases so some of these books were published before 2011.  These are books that I continually recommended to my friends and family this year.

1. The Warmth of Other Suns:  The Epic Story of the America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Wilkerson tells the story of the Great Migration by focusing on the stories of three different people who migrated to New York, Chicago, andLos Angeles.  It’s fascinating stuff.   It covers both life in the Jim Crow South and life in the north in the last half of the twentieth century.
I recommend this highly because the stories are so involving. I live in the industrial North (metro Detroit), and I learned a lot not just about migration and race relations, but also about how cities developed in the twentieth century.  For a much more complicated take on race relations than you can find in The Help, check out this book.
 2. The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
This is the story of two sisters in 1999:  one a dot-com executive, and the other a philosophy grad student at Berkeley. It’s been compared to Sense and Sensibility, which I can see (two different sisters and their love lives), but I think this stands on its own as well.   It definitely felt like a big 19th century novel with a large cast of characters and a rollicking plot.  It follows one sister working in the world of Internet startups and the other sister working in a used bookshop and living in an environmentalist group house in Berkeley while in grad school.
I listened to the audio version for the first half, and thenI read the last half because I was anxious to find out what happened to the characters.  That’s saying a lot because not all of the characters were likeable, but they were all complex people.  I’m a fan of the getting-your-life-together-in-your-twenties books.
3. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination byElizabeth McCracken
This is a very heartbreaking memoir about McCracken and he rhusband coping with the stillbirth of their first child.  It speaks so well about grief, hope ,friendship, and love.  Sometimes I like to read books or watch movies for a good cry, and this fits the bill.  I like this book as a portrait of grief more than I liked The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.
4. Mystery Writers Whose Stuff I Love:  Laura Lippman, Deborah Crombie, and Louise Penny
Laura Lippman writes the Tess Monaghan, P.I. series of novels as well as stand-alone novels.  Feisty, independent heroines are a thing for me in crime fiction, and Tess fits the bill.  The stand-alone books I’ve read are very involving and sad: they feel a bit like sociology. My favorite Lippman book I read this year was The Last Place,part of the Tess Monaghan series.
Deborah Crombie writes the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series:  they are detectives in London,but the series takes place in other towns as well.  Her books are very atmospheric. Some are a bit more like a cozy since some take place in small towns/villages, but they are not novice detectives. Each character has emotional drama too, but it doesn’t feel melodramatic for the sake of being melodramatic.  My favorite Crombie book I read this year was Water Like a Stone, which takes place in the world of canal boats.
And, finally, my cozy recommendation in this roundup is fo rLouise Penny, who writes the Inspector Gamache series of mysteries that take place in the village of Three Pines, near Montreal.  All of her characters are deep, involving characters, which is refreshing after reading more hard-boiled detective fiction.  I’ve only read two books in the series so far, but they have both been wonderful. Start with Still Life.