So without further ado, these are the books that got 5 stars from me this year (in no particular order):
- A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon. This is available as an eBook only and it took me quite some time to find it. This little novella tells the story of what really happened to Roger MacKenzie Wakefield's parents and how he was orphaned during the Blitz.
- The Space Between: An Outlander Novella by Diana Gabaldon. Also an eBook only edition, this novella tells the story of Joan MacKimmie, one of Jamie's adopted daughters, who makes her way to Paris to enter a convent. She is helped on her journey by Michael Murray, Jamie's nephew. One of Claire's old enemies learns of the connection and things get complicated. With both of these ebooks, I love how Diana Gabaldon fills in little bits and pieces of all the characters in the Outlander universe. Michael, Joan, Dolly & Roger Sr. are very minor characters in the other books but now here they are full-fledged and we come to care about them just as much as all the others. It also makes it easier to wait the 3 or 4 years it takes her to write the next big book.
- Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad and gets his chance, if his new partner Antoinette Conway doesn't throw him out on his ass first. They delve into the confusing and tangled world of teenaged girls and their relationships, the use of social media and how nothing is how it looks at first glance or even second and third. I didn't love this one as much as some of the earlier novels, it felt like it was trying too hard to come up with that final twist that leaves you gasping with surprise (I feel the same with Jodi Piccoullt's latest efforts), but it was still a good read and just scary enough that I was on the edge of my seat.
- I love how Moyes pairs these unlikely people together and suddenly you can't imagine them with anyone else. This book had me laughing out loud, crying, cheering. Definitely a fun read.
- ) by Neil Gaiman. I've tried to read a few of Gaiman's books before but never finished one because frankly, they were too weird. Alternate realities are cool but sometimes they were just so way out there I couldn't find anything to grasp onto in order to make sense of the story. This book is a bit hard to describe, but it's the story of ordinary Londoner Richard Mayhew and his unlikely journey into the world of London Below to help the Lady Door save it from destruction. Maybe I just liked it because it was set in London.
- Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon. Any visit to Mitford is a good one and I loved this Christmas tale of Father Tim's gift and all the residents of Mitford and their holiday doings I have a tradition of reading at least one Christmas book during the season and I'm glad I found this one. I mistakenly reserved the audio version rather than the book. I don't normally listen to audio books because I find myself getting distracted and having to rewind constantly. But for some reason I didn't have that issue with this and I really enjoyed it. I drove around town, grinning like a fool the entire time I listened.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. There seem to be a lot of WWII-era books on the shelves these days. Whether that is because of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the current political climate or perhaps just the perspective that time brings, I don't know. Usually when there seems to be a "theme" like this I tend to steer clear, they all seem to repeat themselves and it seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon of whatever seems to be making money in the moment (see: teenage distopian novels). This book, however, got such great reviews I decided to check it out. It combines two things I love, well-researched historical fiction and the perspectives of two different people living in the same time but worlds apart. Marie-Laure goes blind at the age of 6. Her father, who is Master of the Locks at the Museum of Natural History, builds her a scale model of their Paris neighborhood so she can memorize it and therefore find her way around by herself. Then comes the German occupation and they are forced to flee to a relative in Saint-Malo, on the coast of Brittany. Werner grows up an orphan in a mine-town in Northern Germany, where he discovers an old radio scavenging with his sister Jutta. His interest in radios and ability to fix them wins him a place at an elite military academy just as the Third Reich is coming to power. As they grow up and their paths grow inexorably closer, the anticipation of their meeting keeps you turning the pages. At its heart this novel is about the good in the world and all the ways people can be and are good to each other. Something we all need to remember no matter the times we live in.