2019 – the Year of the Winning Women Writers!
This past year has been a particularly good one for books, and the quality of newly released novels was quite beyond my expectations. I read a full 32 books released this year, only two of which were non-fiction. That means I have quite a few books to choose from when it comes to my top five, and remember, I only include books released this year in my lists (trust me, if I opened it up to ALL the book I read, this list would be bursting at the seams). In fact, I found that there were so many great books out there, that I’m breaking with tradition and doing a top ten list. This way, I can still give out honorable mentions! So, without any further ado…
How terribly convenient that the last day of the 2019 falls on a Tuesday, and that this post can also qualify for the Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl! It is also convenient that I actually have 10 books on this list, because usually, I only have five (or so)!
The following five books missed getting totally unequivocal five stars by only about a ¼ of a star!
10 – “Beantown Girls” by Jane Healey – this is one of those books that’s both harrowing and uplifting at the same time, with some bits of humor thrown in for good measure. Now, had the romance been a little less convenient, it could have risen higher in my list, but surely this is a respectable showing for this novel.
9 – “Meet Me in Monaco” by Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor – how can one resist reading a love story on the backdrop of the whirlwind romance between Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco? Well, I certainly couldn’t! What I really appreciated about this book was that the Princess was a side plot arc that mingled with the main story arc of a woman who makes perfumes.
8 – “Woman 99” by Greer Macallister – in all fairness, while I thought this book was really fascinating, with a fascinating plot and great characters, this isn’t my all-time favorite of Macallister’s books, which still goes to her second novel, “Girl in Disguise.” That said, it was certainly good enough to get on this list so brava to her for that! Also, last year I read two biographical, historical fiction novels about Nellie Bly, so having a character in a novel who she gets herself admitted to an insane asylum, much like Bly did in real life, was a fascinating angle to work from, without actually re-telling Bly’s story.
7 – “The Only Woman in the Room” by Marie Benedict – who would have thought that this sultry beauty of Hollywood of the 1940s and 1950s was as brilliant as she was attractive? I’m thrilled that Benedict decided to make Hedy Lamarr the object of this revealing biographical, historical fiction novel, since her story really needed to be told. Thank goodness she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves.
6 – “The Huntress” by Kate Quinn – the reason why this book got this close to getting one of the top five spots is very singular indeed. That is, the character of Nina – oh my goodness, I absolutely adored that feisty Russian fighter pilot and what I wouldn’t give to have a whole book just about her. Now, I know that’s probably not going to happen, but Nina is now one of my all-time favorite fictional characters, and I don’t have many of those on my list!
The following books received unabashed and indisputable five out of five stars from me!
5 – “The Women of the Copper Country” by Mary Doria Russel – if you’re looking for a good cry, then this is the book for you. Okay, so maybe I was a bit over sensitive (especially the first time I cried, because the song “Bread and Roses” always gets me tearing up), but there’s a scene in this book that will just pull at your heartstrings, unless you haven’t got a heart at all. This is another example of biographical, historical fiction that just ticks all the boxes for me.
4 – “Mistress of the Ritz” by Melanie Benjamin – if someone had tried to invent the character of Blanche Auzello, she wouldn’t have been believable. So, the fact that she actually existed, this woman who hid her Jewish background while being married to the manager of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, and helped with the resistance when Paris came under Nazi occupation made this into a fantastic novel. (It also confirmed my dislike of the Nazi collaborator/sympathizer Coco Channel.)
These next three books could easily have tied for first place, but I’ve decided that I really shouldn’t do that anymore. However, deciding how to rank them was an excruciating process, and I changed my mind so many times, I just hope I got it right in the end.
3 – “Daisy Jones & The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid – this was one of those books that was hyped in every which way, and my regular readers know that I almost never like to buy into that. But every review I read made me want to read this and so I gave in to temptation, and bought myself a copy (in hardcover, no less). I’ll never regret this purchase (but I probably won’t watch the TV series they’re making out of it), and I truly appreciated the unique voice/s that Reid gives us here. Plus, the ending made me re-evaluate the whole novel and see it in a completely different light. That’s special!
2 – “The Last Train to London” by Meg Clayton Waite – this book about Geertruida Wijsmuller, aka “Tante Truus” the woman who convinced the infamous Nazi Adolph Eichmann to allow hundreds of Jewish children to escape Vienna for London via the Netherlands is not only an important one to tell, but one which touched my family, friends, and colleagues personally. That was just the beginning of her bravery and what came to be known as the Kindertransport. This book should be required reading for everyone.
1 – “The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt” by Andrea Bobotis – okay, so I’ll admit it – I’ve been prejudiced in favor of this book since it read it, and I’ve been touting this book at every turn, to everyone, including people who don’t want to hear me anymore. But you see, there was nothing I could fault this book about, and the fact that this is Bobotis’ debut novel made it all the more amazing for me. But what kills me is that once again, we have a book that isn’t getting the type of wide-spread publicity it deserves. I am totally convinced that anyone who reads this book will fall in love with it, and Bobotis’ writing, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future! Congratulations, Andrea (with love from your #1 fan)!
Fiction: “Old Baggage” by Lissa Evans – this book came achingly close to getting into my top ten, with a story about suffrage activists between the two world wars, was a real charmer, and a heart-breaker all at once. If you’re looking for some really interesting female characters, and like that period of time between the two world wars, this one, set in London, is what you’re looking for.
Non-Fiction: “Things My Son Needs to Know About the World” by Fredrik Backman. Yes, I’m sure you KNEW he’d get on this list somehow, didn’t you? Well, it is his own fault he’s not on the top my list this year, because he didn’t publish a novel. Even so, this was such a great book, and such great fun, I had to include it here (although he’s the odd man out here – both literally and figuratively).