My Favorite Reads from 2019

Over this past year, I have read 76 books.  Wowsers.  That may be some kind of record for adult me.  Especially since one of those was War and Peace.



As always, I can't pick just ten favorite books from all those.  So here are my ten favorite new-to-me books from 2019, and also my ten favorite rereads.  I'm linking this up with Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl.



I've decided it would be nice to have a place to gather these lists together, like I have my movie top tens all listed on one page, so I've created a new page here that collects my end-of-the-year top ten lists from 2014 to the present.

Every title here is linked to my review of that book, though some of the rereads, I've linked to older reviews of mine because I didn't re-review them this year.  All photos are mine from my bookstagram account.



Top Ten New-to-Me Reads of 2019

1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman -- The Jungle Book retold with ghosts and a vampire.  PG-13.

2. The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay -- three women learn from and lean on each other. PG-13.



3. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum -- fairy tale about Santa Claus.  G.

4. Mycroft and Sherlock by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse -- two brothers solve a series of opium-related murders.  PG-13.

5. Five Poisoned Apples ed. by Anne Elisabeth Stengl -- five delicious retellings of Snow White.  PG-13.



6. Adventures of the Woman Homesteader by Suzanne K. George -- nonfiction collection of letters and the life story of Elinore Pruitt Stewart.  PG.

7. The Racketty-Packetty House by Frances Hodgson Burnett -- dolls in an old dollhouse find someone who values them.  G.

8. The King's Players by Charity Bishop -- King Henry VII and Sir Thomas Lovell search out spies.  PG-13.



9. Grateful American by Gary Sinise -- memoir about Sinise's career as an actor and patriot.  PG-13.

10. The Undertaker's Assistant by Amanda Skenandore --  a black woman embalmer takes a job in New Orleans and searches for clues to her past.




Top Ten Rereads of 2019

1. Hamlet by William Shakespeare -- something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  PG-13. 

2. The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery -- woman shakes off her oppressive family and finds her own life.  PG. 



3. The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler -- Philip Marlowe investigates a drowning.  PG-13.

4. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien -- something about a dark lord and the end of the world.  PG-13.



5. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks -- toys come alive in a magical cupboard.  PG.

6. Shane by Jack Schaefer -- stranger helps a family fight off a greedy neighbor.  PG.

7. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George -- retelling of Much Ado About Nothing set during Prohibition.  PG-13.


8. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster -- young woman learns to think and feel for herself. PG.

9. Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart -- nonfiction collection of folksy letters about life on the frontier.  PG.

10. A Flame in the Dark by Sarah Baughman -- young man seeks advice from Martin Luther to help navigate life and love. PG-13.


Here's to another great year of books to read and enjoy and love in 2020!

"The Undertaker's Assistant" by Amanda Skenandore

Historical Fiction BooksI grabbed this off the New Releases shelf at the library without knowing anything about it except what the jacket flap told me: set in Reconstruction-era New Orleans.  That's all I needed to know.

As you may know, I'm writing a retelling of Snow White that's set in the Old West, called One Bad Apple.  It's set in the early 1870s, and most of the characters are African-American.  One of them hails from New Orleans.  So I figured this novel would be a good chance to do a little research of sorts, pick up some flavors and knowledge and so on for my own book, which I'm currently revising.

I was totally right.  Also, this was an excellent book.  It's all about a young African-American woman named Effie who is an embalmer.  She was raised by a white doctor up north, after running away from her owners during the Civil War and being rescued by him while he was a surgeon in the Union Army.  But she's returned to New Orleans because she believes she was born near there, and she wants to find out if she still has any relatives.  Thanks to several traumatic events, she blocked out most of her memories of her childhood before finding the Yankee soldiers who rescued her, but she knows they found her near that city.

Over the course of the story, Effie does gradually remember much of her past.  She makes new friends.  She falls in love.  She gets a job working for a white undertaker, and she gets involved with people working to protect the rights of black people in Louisiana as a whole.  This was an engrossing read, and I finished it in just a few days.  However, due to the subject matter, it is not what I would call a "nice" book, so approach with caution if you are squeamish or easily offended.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  R.  There's a LOT about dead bodies and how to embalm them, there's a lot of violence both shown and mentioned, and there's some sexual content.

"The Cross and the Lynching Tree" by James H. Cone

This is a heavy book.  Not physically, but emotionally and mentally.  I'll be honest with you -- it unsettled me.  For the better, actually.

Cone looks at parallels between the cross that Jesus died on and the trees that so many African-Americans died hanging from, particularly between 1880-1940, when lynchings were commonplace.  He points out that really, Jesus's crucifixion was a lynching -- mob rule having a man tortured and executed without a proper sentence.  And that faith in God to bring good out of evil, to save them even if they died a horrible death, was what sustained many black people during those terrifying years.

Parts of this book were very hard to read.  I skimmed some of his descriptions of torture that black people suffered at the hands of their enemies.  Maybe that was cowardly of me, but my imagination is so strong, yet sensitive, that even the ones I did read fully were hurtful to read.  One of them, I wish I'd skimmed, because it was so atrocious, so truly inhumane, I don't want to believe it's true, that human beings to do such a thing.  But I know they can -- history shows us over and over that sin can cause people to hit nauseating levels of depravity.

I came away with a new understanding of injustices and wrongs done by Americans to Americans.  By human beings to human beings.  We don't talk about this reign of terror much anymore, and Cone points out that by forgetting and ignoring and burying our nation's memory of what happened during slavery, Reconstruction, and pre-Civil Rights America, we dishonor the victims of those hate crimes.  I think we also risk setting ourselves up to repeat our past sins.

Anyway, this was a tough, sobering read, but I'm glad I made time for it in my end-of-the-year schedule.  It's given me a lot to contemplate.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: a very hard R.  Lots of torture, murder, rape, and other atrocities discussed.

Reading Plans for 2020

Time to gather up my plans for next year's reading and share them with you.  Because I can.  Mwahahah.

So, I didn't do a "My Year with..." personal challenge in 2019 because I just couldn't settle on one.  But I have figured out one for 2020!  It will be My Year with C. S. Lewis.  I'll kick that off by participating in Olivia's read-along of Till We Have Faces over at Meanwhile, in Rivendell... which you can learn about here.  



Besides it, I aim to read some books about Lewis, and maybe reread Narnia, but also maybe read some of his books that are sitting on my to-be-read shelves.  Especially since Cowboy gave me a boxed set of a bunch of Lewis books for Christmas.

Which brings me to the rest of my reading plans for 2020.  Y'all, I have too many unread books.  How many?  This many:



That picture's a little misleading.  The books piled on the floor are ones I've already read, but don't have homes for.  The books ON all those shelves are ones I haven't read, plus about 60 more that are in the basement on our nonfiction shelves.  Grand total of unread books I own and want to read (so, not counting research resources) is 537.  EGAD.  That's crazy talk.  Ouch.

I've been trying to get a handle on these for a couple years now, by doing the Mount TBR Challenges and so on, but it hasn't helped much.  So this year, I'm participating in #theunreadhselfproject2020 challenge from The Unread Shelf.  My goal is to clear off one whole shelf in my bedroom so I can put those books piled on the floor onto an actual shelf instead.  I'll be tracking my progress on Instagram and probably talking about it here too.  

This project comes with specific month-to-month challenges, which will be an interesting twist on the "read books you already own" sort of thing I've done previously.



I've dedicated a couple of pages in my bullet journal to keeping track of what I read, especially as regards this project.



So.  Those are my reading plans for next year.  Do you have reading plans?  If so, what are they?

"The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" by L. Frank Baum

This book is entirely enchanting.  I loved it so, so much!  It's charming and sweet and cheerful and lovely.  I can't believe I'd never even heard of it until about a month ago!  Especially because it was written by L. Frank Baum, the guy who wrote The Wizard of Oz.

In this story, an abandoned infant is rescued and raised by magical folk living in the forest when the world was very young.  He's named Neclaus, but called Claus for short, and grows up happy and carefree and kind.  

When he goes out into the world of humans as an adult, he befriends all the children he meets, and ends up inventing toys.  Not just new toys, but the whole idea of toys and playthings.  He makes toys for more and more children, gets help from his magical friends to deliver them, and gradually becomes the jolly Santa Claus that we know and love today.

I loved all the little illustrations by Mary Cowles Clark in my MacMillan Collector's Library edition, which I believe are copied from the first edition published back in 1902.  

(Mine from Instagram)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Good and wholesome and suitable for all ages.


This is my third book read and reviewed for the Literary Christmas Reading Link-Up and my 39th for my second go-round with the Classics Club.


"Murder on the Moor" by Julianna Deering

I've done it!  I've finished all six Drew Farthering Mysteries by Julianna Deering!  I read them all out of order, but now I've read them all.  Huzzah!  I look forward to rereading them one day in the proper order.

I liked this one tons, especially because it kept giving little nods to The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of my favorite books ever.  It even had a massive dog living out on the moor, but not a spectral hound or anything.  And Drew and Nick took aliases from that book sometimes, which was especially amusing.

The book centers around a friend of Drew's from his schoolboy days who's recently married a beautiful woman and moved out to his family's ancestral home by the moor.  It's got a few shades of Rebecca here and there too, but nothing super tragic or awful like what happens in that book.  And there's a handsome, ascerbic Welshman around too, so there are hints of Wuthering Heights too.

Anyway!  The vicar at the little town nearby gets murdered.  Who would want to hurt him, and why?  Also, there are mysterious fires out on the moor, sheep get killed in weird ways, and there are altogether too many odd things going on for anyone to ignore.  Drew and Madeline arrive to help the local police untangle the mysteries, staying with Drew's friend and his new bride, and tensions on all sides keep the amateur detectives plenty busy!

Particularly Good Bits:

Drew shrugged.  "There are always strange happenings on moors, aren't there?  Half the books written in England wouldn't exist if it weren't for that" (p. 87).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence, danger, and polite implications that someone's wife might be having an extra-marital affair.



This is my 15th book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR 2019 reading challenge.  Don't think I'll make my goal of 24, but oh well.

"Blessed are the Cheese Makers" by Tricia Goyer and Cara Putman

This was the perfect book to read on Saturday when I was spending all day on the couch, laid up with a cold and resting my voice because I was supposed to sing in a couple of choir numbers at an Advent service that evening.  I just snuggled up with a blanket, this book, a box of tissues, and mug after mug of tea.  It was great, except for blowing my nose all the time.  Wretched cold.

Anyway.  This book was fun.  It's part of a series called Sugarcreek Amish Mysteries put out by Guideposts, and I've not read any of them before, but I think I'll check the library to see if they have others.  I liked the main character in this one, Cheryl, and would like to read others about her.  

Cheryl runs a gift shop called the Swiss Miss in a small Ohio town with lots of Amish people.  Cheryl is not Amish, but she's got lots of Amish friends, and she's very interested in an Amish man named Levi.  I've never gotten into the whole Amish sector of Christian Fiction, but I liked this book, maybe because the main character was non-Amish like me, so I could see their customs through her eyes.

At the start of the story, someone sets fire to a cheese factory.  I love cheese.  Living in Wisconsin for four years was heavenly -- we had a cheese factory near us that we visited every few months.  Oh my, it was delightful.  So I was very invested in finding out who would want to destroy a cheese factory!  What sort of an awful person would do that?  The mystery unfolds slowly, intermingled with Cheryl's busyness running the gift shop at Christmas time, her mother interfering in her non-existent love life, and Cheryl's attempts to help those affected by the fire.  And her attempts to help the police solve the mystery, some of which are actually helpful. 

Cheryl's Christian faith is woven throughout the book in a believable, non-preachy way, which I appreciated.  This was a solidly enjoyable Christmas mystery.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for mild, clean romance.


This was my second book read for the Literary Christmas reading link-up this year, and my 14th for the Mount TBR 2019 challenge.


"She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman" by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

After seeing the movie Harriet (2019) in the theater last month, I decided I needed to know more about Harriet Tubman.  I re-read Freedom Train right away, then wanted a more adult nonfiction account of her life, so I found a couple different ones at the library and put holds on them.  This is the first one that came in.

This was a really fast, engaging read.  I actually wanted it to slow down a few times, and I'm glad I've got another biography of her from the library to try as well (if I can only snatch the time before it's due).  This is definitely a step up from the junior-nonfiction bio Freedom Train, but kind of aimed at teens/young adults, I think.  It has a lot of infographics and illustrations by Monica Ahanonu, which are neat, but make it feel... not quite serious, if that makes sense.

Still, I did learn a lot from this book, both about Harriet Tubman and the world she inhabited.  If you're looking for one book to learn about her life, this is a good one to pick, I think.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for mentions of sexual activity and violence.

"Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage" by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Um, so I've read the third book now too.  This is so unlike me.  I've read all the books (so far) in this series in like two months.  Usually, I can stretch a good series for YEARS!  Or, if there are only three books, at least for six months.  But... the library had this on the shelf, so I got it.

I still like Mycroft and Sherlock best of the three, but I did like this one better than Mycroft Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes decides he's done with school because he'd rather track down a serial killer.  He leaves his university and, with a little aid from his brother, sets off on his first manhunt.

Meanwhile, Mycroft is trying to find the missing fiance of the girl Mycroft fell in love with in a previous book.  The two cases are tangentially related, but not tied together in an all-too-neat knot by the end, and I appreciated that.  

I'm really hoping this series continues, because I'm enjoying it so much!  

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for murder, suicide, violence, kidnapping, and so on.  Once again, no cussing or smut.  Remarkably clean for a  modern murder mystery!

"Nutcracker and Mouse King" by ETA Hoffmann AND "The Tale of the Nutcracker" by Alexandre Dumas

I'm reviewing these together because The Tale of the Nutcracker is Alexandre Dumas' French translation of the German story Nutcracker and Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann.  And the edition I read has them both together, translated into English by Joachim Neugroschel.

I'd never read either of these before -- my knowledge of the Nutcracker story comes from the ballet by Mikhail Baryshnikov that we watched on PBS every winter when I was a kid, and which I now watch on DVD with my own kids.  It was interesting to see the differences not only between these two versions of the story, but between them and the ballet!



E.T.A. Hoffman's is the original, and it has this very bold, brash feel to it.  And it's kinda dark.  Very German-winter-near-the-old-and-scary-forest sort of vibe.  It's all about a little girl named Marie who has a somewhat creepy godfather, Herr Drosselmeier, as well as a bratty brother named Fritz and a snobby sister named Luise.  They get a huge number of fabulous presents for Christmas, including a mechanical castle made by Drosselmeier, who is a Chief Justice, but seems to spend most of his time making fantastical toys and fixing clocks.  He also gives the family a very ugly nutcracker. 

Marie loves the Nutcracker.  She stays up late playing with him, gets attacked by lots of mice led by a seven-headed Mouse King, the Nutcracker and all of Fritz's toy soldiers come to life and have a battle with the mice, and Marie gets injured in the fray, but saves Nutcracker from the ravages of the Mouse King by throwing her shoe at him.  She faints from blood loss, and has to spend a week in bed recovering.

While she's stuck in bed, Herr Drosselmeier comes to visit.  No one in her family believes Marie's story of how she hurt her arm, but Drosselmeier seems to.  He tells her a long story about a princess named Pirlipat, some wicked mice, and a brave young man who tried to save the princess from the mice, only to get turned into a nutcracker.  Marie is convinced this story is about her new Nutcracker, especially when she gets visited by the Mouse King for several nights running.  Mouse King demands she sacrifice all her candies and cookies and marzipan treats to him, or else he'll gnaw on Nutcracker.  Marie tearfully complies, until all her goodies are gone.  But then Nutcracker comes back to life, defeats the Mouse King once and for all, and takes Marie on a journey to the Land of Sweets, which he rules.

After seeing many delightful things there, Marie falls asleep, and wakes up back at home in bed.  Her whole family laughs at her when she tells them about her journey.  But then Herr Drossellmeier returns, with his handsome nephew who has just returned from a long journey, and who obviously is the Nutcracker released from the enchantment for good.

Marie, though only 7, accepts this nephew's offer of marriage.  One year later, they get married, and live happily ever after in the Land of Sweets.

Um, yes.  Child bride and all that.  Hmmmmmmmm.  It's a weird, wacky story, obviously not meant to be taken seriously, so I guess we're just supposed to shrug and be cool with it.

Alexandre Dumas' translation is fairly similar, but he takes out a lot of the scary or weird parts, or tames them down.  Yes, the same Alexandre Dumas who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers tried to make a more-child-friendly version of the story when he translated it.  Which amuses me.  Basically the same things happen, except the mice are way less icky and the whole thing has a more sparkly, bright feel.

I definitely preferred Dumas' version because it was more whimsical, yet a little less nonsensical.

Overall, the story reminded me of a blend of The Wizard of Oz, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Alice in Wonderland, plus the game Candy Land.



You know how, in the ballet, about half the time is taken up with the girl and the prince watching his subjects dance while in his magical kingdom?  That's like one paragraph in this story.  Which also cracks me up.

One thing I like better about both of these than the ballet (at least the Baryshnikov version, which is the only one I've seen) is that they make it clear that the Nutcracker really DOES come to life, and the girl DOES get to marry him and live happily ever after.  I don't always hate the "it was all a dream" kind of ending, as it does work for some stories, but I've never liked its use in the ballet.  So I shall imagine the ballet ends this way from now on.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some scary/creepy stuff involving mice gnawing on, or threatening to gnaw on, people.



This is my first entry into the Literary Christmas challenge and my 38th for my second go-'round with the Classics Club.


"South by Java Head" by Alistair MacLean

While this won't ever be a favorite MacLean book for me, it was definitely a thrilling ride!  It's got spies (more than you realize), daring rescues, extreme escapes, a cute little kid, several nurses, some treachery, several heroes, and various exotic locations.  Also, terrible storms at sea.  Also, submarines.  Also, various explosions.

Basically, the Japanese are overrunning Singapore during WWII, and a bunch of British soldiers (many of them wounded) need to quick get out of there before they get captured and tortured and killed.  Also, there's a spy who has Very Important Information he needs to get to the Allies.  Also, there are nurses and an orphaned little boy.  They leave, they have many brushes with the enemy, people get captured, people escape, and then the whole thing ends VERY abruptly, with basically no denouement at all.

As always, the make-or-break thing for me with this book is the characters.  While I got fond of several, I never really wanted to be friends with any of them, which is why it's not going on my list of favorite Alistair MacLean books.  But it was still worth reading, and I had fun with it.

Particularly Good Bits:

The wind had dropped away now, the rain fined to a gentle drizzle and a brooding hush lay over the darkened city as it faded swiftly into the gloom of the night (p. 34).

Beyond anger lies fury, the heedless, ungovernable rage of the berserker, and beyond that again, a long, long step beyond the boundary of madness, lies the region of cold and utterly uncaring indifference (p. 266).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for wartime violence, some bad language, hints at what might happen to the nurses if their enemies captured them, and a few discussions of torture (but none depicted).


This is my thirteenth book read and reviewed for the 2019 Mount TBR Reading Challenge!

Literary Christmas Challenge 2019


Yes!  Tarissa is hosting my favorite Christmas book blogging event again this year!  Check out her kick-off post at In the Bookcase to find out all the whereases and wherefores.  

I'm hereby signing up to read at least three Christmas-related books.  And one of them is a combined volume of both E.T.A. Hoffmann's original story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, plus the more-familiar translation/retelling by Alexandre Dumas.  The other two... will be other things, lol.  Not decided on those yet.

Oh, and there's a giveaway.  Info here about that

The Seven Question Book Tag


I'm in the mood to fill out blog tags.  And Eva tagged me with this a while back, so I'm going to seize this mood and fill this out!

RULES

  • thank the person who tagged you (thanks, Eva!)
  • answer the questions given
  • create new questions
  • tag bloggers to answer your questions

(All pics are mine from my Bookstagramming adventures.)

EVA'S QUESTIONS

What’s the first book you can remember reading?

By myself?  Um.  I have memories of reading this little paperback version of "The Little Red Hen" when I was very small.  Probably some sort of early-reader book, and I was about five.  I also have memories of a comic book someone gave me before I could actually read -- I remember lying in my bed counting squiggles of particular shapes in the speech bubbles, which I didn't recognize as letters yet.  I would've been like three then.

First person or third person POV?

I like both :-)  For years, I only wrote in third person, and some books just require that distance, but I've become better at writing first person with practice.  For reading, though, I like both.

What’s the longest series you’ve ever read? (It can be in terms of page numbers, amount of books in the series, or any other method of calculating.)

For adult novels, the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian.  There are twenty of those.  (I mean, I've read way more Hardy Boys and Trixie Beldens and Mandie books, but those are not adult books.)


What book world would you least like to enter?

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens depressed me a lot.  Nobody there I want to hang out with.  No desire to travel there.

Do you own any autographed-by-the-author books?

I do!  Several, in fact.  I got my copy of Fahrenheit 451 autographed by Ray Bradbury when I was in college, and I got my copy of The Beekeeper's Apprentice autographed by Laurie R. King about ten years ago.  I also have a couple others that I bought that were signed, and some written by friends who signed them for me.


What is your favorite place at which to buy books?

The 2nd and Charles here in our city is really fun because I can often sell back a bunch of books and movies there in exchange for store credit, and then the new ones I buy don't cost very much.  And I love Mermaid Books down in Williamsburg, VA, and Royal Oak Books up in Front Royal, VA.  So, yeah, used book stores are my jam, but I like new books too.  I love Barnes & Noble -- we have two that are less than an hour away, so I get to them three or four times a year.  If we had a Barnes & Noble here in our city, it would be my favorite, but since they're farther away, they're a special treat instead of a regular place to visit.

Who is your favorite sibling duo/trio/etc in literature?

Boromir and Faramir from The Lord of the Rings.  We never get to see them on page together, but their brotherly bond shines clear even so.


MY QUESTIONS

1.  Villain you wish would turn good so you could like him in good conscience.
2.  Hero you don't think is worthy of the title hero.
3.  Heroine who deserved a better ending.
4.  Sidekick who ought to get a spin-off.
5.  Series that you wish could have gone on for just one more book.
6.  Author you'd like to thank for a book that is meaningful to you.
7.  Dream cast for your favorite book.

I TAG the following bloggers:


Play if you want to!


"Lady of Quality" by Georgette Heyer

This book was just what I needed right now.  It's a frothy, jolly frolic that made me laugh aloud more than once.

Miss Annis Wychwood is a woman after my own heart, and no mistake.  She knows her own mind, she's Sensible, and she's Kind and Helpful.  She even has a penchant for playing fairy godmother, though it's never put in exactly those terms.

But Annis is also Unmarried and twenty-nine whole years old, which makes her practically Unmarriageable in Regency England.  She's wealthy in her own right, not dependent on her brother Sir Geoffrey for anything but friendship, and she wants to live in her own house instead of with his family.  So she gets herself a house in Bath, which scandalizes her brother and threatens to scandalize all of Good Society. An unmarried woman simply cannot live on her own!  It isn't Done.

So when Annis moves into her new home, she brings along her aging cousin, Miss Farlow, to be her chaperone and prove that she's still Respectable.  Miss Farlow's tongue may not be hinged in the middle, but you can't prove it by me.  Before they ever reach Bath, Annis and I were both thoroughly exasperated by Miss Farlow, and exasperated we remained.

On the way to Bath, Annis passes a pair of Young Persons who are in need of Assistance.  Young Miss Lucilla Carleton, orphan heiress, is running away from home, unaided and unassisted and unabetted by her childhood friend and Not-Fiance, Ninian.  I can't remember Ninian's last name.  It's okay.  He's a ninny, and should thus only ever be called Ninian anyway.  Annis takes Lucilla under her wing and into her home, temporarily, until Lucilla's affairs can be sorted out.  She's being pushed into marrying Ninian against her will by his parents and her aunt, and she's run away to avoid this.  Ninian came along because he's actually rather a brick, and he doesn't want to marry her either, and he simply can't allow her to run away alone because it isn't Done.  

Annis makes Lucilla into a Pet Project, or tries to.  Imagine Emma Woodhouse ten years older and still taking in Harriet Smiths.  Except I really love Annis, and Emma drives me batty.  Anyway, it turns out Lucilla has an uncle, Mr. Oliver Carleton, who is actually her guardian, and who is very rude, cross, disobliging, rich, handsome, and possessed of a Very Bad Reputation.  He comes to Bath to find out what's going on with Lucilla, and he and Annis get into a series of Extremely Witty Arguments.  And everyone knows that a series of Extremely Witty Arguments can only lead to one result.

It really is as if Emma Woodhouse from Emma had fallen in love with Mr. Palmer from Sense and Sensibility.  Can you hear me cackling with Glee?  I cackled with Glee a good deal while reading this book, I assure you.  And chortled.  Possibly even guffawed once or twice.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Particularly Good Bits:

"We can't all of us be bookish, can we?" (p. 45).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for some occasional, mild oaths and some mentions of Mr. Carleton's reputation for dallying with women.  Oh, and the word "rape" got used twice, in the context of it being something someone was NOT in danger of.



This is my 12th book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge this year.

"Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman" by Dorothy Sterling

I got a copy of this from a yard sale when I was a kid, and I read it and read it and read it and read it.  Harriet Tubman was a big hero for me -- I bonded to her stubbornness, I think.

Anyway, I went to see Harriet (2019) this weekend (my review here), and it made me want to re-read this book so that I could reacquaint myself with the truth of her story, since I knew the moviemakers were smooshing things together and reimagining some of her life.  So I re-read it this afternoon, and I loved it all over again.

If you're looking for a good place to start in learning about Harriet Tubman's life, or if you want your kids to know more about her, this is the book for you.  It's awesome.  It touches on the evils of slavery in ways that kids can understand, it shows Harriet's faith in God and her indomitable drive to be free.  And it gives you a great sense of how she wanted freedom for her people so much, she was willing to risk recapture and even death to help as many as she could to reach freedom too.

This is written like a story or novel, not a dry recitation of facts, which makes it very readable and enjoyable.  I loved it as a kid, and I love it now.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for a couple mild cuss words and depictions of violence such as beatings.

Cover Reveal for "Dear Author" by Laura A. Grace

I've hung out with Laura A. Grace online for a while now.  She blogs, she's on Instagram, she's on Facebook -- we run in the same online literary circles, basically.

And now, she's written a book.

But not just any book.  Not a novel about unicorns or quests, oh no.

Laura has written a book that is a love letter to authors.  That takes a look at different aspects of the writing journey and encourages writers who might be in one or more of those stages.  It's SUCH a cool idea for a book.  I kind of wish I'd thought of it.  I can't wait to read it.

And today, I have the honor of participating in her cover reveal.  All right, let's do this!  Are you ready?  I hope so, cuz this cover is super cute.


SEE?  Super. Cute.

Here's the official cover blurb:

Think your words might not matter? Think again.

Words have the power to change lives, especially when they are used to create meaningful 
stories. In this collection of letters, bookish fangirl Laura A. Grace addresses topics related to every writer’s journey. From “character conversations,” to embracing one’s unique writing style, to celebrating a release day—there is a letter for every author no matter where they may be in sharing their story with others.

“Dear Author” includes six illustrations by Hannah S. J. Williams.



You can pre-order Dear Author now, and its official release date is December 3.

Important Links for Purchasing and So On
Signed PaperbackAmazonBarnes & Noble — Book Depository (Coming soon!)
Goodreads

Also, if you pre-order her book, she'll send you a bunch of cool stuff.  What kind?  THIS kind! 


Go to her Pre-Order Goodies Form to get in on all that.

Laura A. Grace did a cover reveal video on her YouTube channel today, which you can watch here:



About the Author
Laura A. Grace had a lifelong dream of getting to know authors behind the covers of her favorite reads. Little did she know that one day she would become an author too! Now an avid book blogger at Unicorn Quester and writer of clean, Christian manga, Laura creatively balances her passions of supporting indie authors and feeding her readers new stories. In between, she wields plastic lightsabers with her children and binge-watches anime with her husband. Join her quest to find wandering unicorns for your favorite authors at unicornquester.com!

Laura's Social Media Links
WebsiteNewsletterFacebook — TwitterInstagramYouTube

"The Graveyard Book" Graphic Novel Adaptation by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

You might recall how much I loved The Graveyard Book earlier this year.  Probably my favorite new read in all of 2019 thus far.  Well, when I was buying a copy of my very own, I discovered that there's also a graphic novel adaptation of it!  And I happen to love good graphic novels, so I bought that too, mostly because I liked how they drew Silas on the front cover.

It rocks!  They kept a lot of my favorite lines, the whole story unspools just as delightfully in this format as in the novel, and yeah... I could not be more pleased with it.

They even included the line about Silas not eating bananas.  I am weirdly in love with that line.  "Silans consumed only one food, and it was not bananas" (p. 24).  I do not know why that line delights me so much -- I think it's because it strikes me as the funniest way ever of saying, "This guy is a vampire."  It cracks me up.  I can't even think it in my head without grinning.

In fact, I liked this graphic novel so much that I took about two months to read it because I was savoring it as much as I could.  I got the single-volume edition that has the whole book in it, and it's satisfyingly heavy and substantial and... beautiful.  I have hugged it.

(Mine from Instagram)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for scary scenes involving demons, ghosts, witches, and a creepy murderer who tries to kill a baby.

"Mycroft Holmes" by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Why yes, I'm on a Sherlock Holmes kick.  Why do you ask?  :-D

I enjoyed Mycroft and Sherlock so very much that I got the first book in the series from the library as fast as I could.  And now that I'm done with it, I'll see if I can get the third one.

I didn't like this one quite as much as Mycroft and Sherlock, and that's mostly because Sherlock Holmes was barely in it.  Now, the Mycroft in these books is very engaging and sympathetic and interesting... but my heart belongs to his brother, and that's that.

Also, Mycroft in this book ends up morphing into kind of an Allan Quatermain-like person, engaging in fights and action sequences and all kinds of escapades in an exotic location.  Which was fun, but... I missed London.

So what happens is, Mycroft follows his fiancee Georgiana to Trinidad, bringing along his friend Cyrus Douglas, because that's where Douglas and Georgiana are both from, though she's white, the daughter of a wealthy planter, and he's black.  Georgiana begs Mycroft not to come because there's been creepy trouble back in Trinidad, with children dying and rumors of evil spirits and so on.  Which is precisely why Mycroft and Douglas want to go there.

A few poisonings, beatings, and violent fights later, and Mycroft begins trying his hand at detective work.  He and Douglas uncover an evil plot and the implications that Georgiana is not who she says she is.  By the time Mycroft returns to London, he's a very different person than the confident, smug, complacent young government worker he'd been when he left.  Also, he acquired muscles, which get mentioned once too often for my taste.

So anyway, this was darker than the second book in the series, and it lacked Sherlock in all but the very beginning and very end, and so... I liked it, but didn't love it.  But I still want to read the third book by Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse, 

I learned something neat and unexpected from both these books, though.  From the bio at the end, anyway ;-)  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar graduated with a degree in English and History from UCLA.  I graduated with minors in English and History!  Who knew I had a little bit of something in common with a famous basketball player who is 19 inches taller than I am?  According to his bio, he's been a Sherlock Holmes fan for many years (me too!) and has written/co-written like nine or ten other books besides these Mycroft books.  Who knew?  I didn't!

(From my Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

Holmes resembled their mother, with her strange grey eyes and spun gold hair, whereas Sherlock took after their father, all dark lines and angles, as if he were a Gothic building that, while handsome enough, had a few joints out of alignment (p. 75).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence and some mild cussing.  No smut.