Saturday, 31 December 2016
My Favourite Reads of 2016
2016 has been a tricky year for me, reading-wise as I've been constrained by time, however, I read some wonderful books this year. Less five star reads than in previous years, but still some very enjoyable books. I've also read some more audio books than previously. Unfortunately, I haven't reviewed everything I've read, something that I hope to remedy next year, but this is my pick of the bunch, with links to my reviews for a fuller view:
'Undeceived' by Karen M Cox was my first five star read of the year back in February. This is 'Pride & Prejudice' meets 007 - Darcy and Elizabeth in the world of international espionage, set in the 1980s. I have read a few books by Karen M Cox; one of my all time favourites is '1932', which is set in the US Depression, so I was pleased to take another trip with her to an era that JAFF rarely gets to, as so many of the stories are either Regency or modern day.
Side by Side, Apart' by Ana Galvia is a book full of feeling; this is a 'Pride & Prejudice' sequel which sees poor Elizabeth Darcy receive a head injury that leaves her with amnesia; she doesn't remember the previous decade of happy marriage to Mr Darcy - instead he is the last man in the world she could possibly have married, except she has. She cannot understand how this has come about, but must deal with this in addition to getting along civilly with her husband, being a mistress to an estate and to learn how to be a mama to the now unknown children in Pemberley's nursery. This was another five star read for me.
Miss Darcy's Companion' by Joana Starnes. This book is a 'Pride & Prejudice' variation that sees Miss Darcy get a companion; rather than Mrs Younge, a youthful Miss Bennet, whose father has died. Rather than meet at an assembly, Darcy first meets Elizabeth after she is employed by the Fitzwilliams as a governess and has charmed Georgiana as well as her youthful charges. We know from P&P that Darcy is different with his intimate acquaintance, "remarkably agreeable", in fact. How much of a difference would it make to Elizabeth's perception of Mr Darcy if she meets him under these circumstances?
I read a wonderful duology this year - the 'George Knightley Esquire' pair of books by Barbara Cornthwaite, which gives Mr Knightley's view of the happenings of Austen's 'Emma'. Of all Austen's heroines, I think Emma is the one who interprets things most incorrectly, so it's a wonderful story to get an alternate view of. One bonus of this tale, which I hadn't expected, is that there is a lot of humour in these books, particularly the first one, when Mr Knightley is happier. His relationship with his brother John is a real joy to behold.
I haven't read many of the books in Stephanie Barron's 'Being a Jane Austen Mystery' series, which see Miss Jane Austen as a sleuth, but the latest installment, 'Jane and the Waterloo Map' is well worth a read. This book finds Jane Austen discover a dying soldier, whose last words refer to a map. Join Jane on her adventure to work out the import of the map, and why the soldier was killed.
How do you feel about Lydia Bennet? Not a fan? Would you like to read about her as the main character in a novel? Not really?! Well, I would suggest that you could give it a go by reading 'The Trouble to Check Her' by Maria Grace. This is a sequel to another novel but I read it without reading the first in the series. Here we see what Lydia might make of herself if somebody took the trouble to reform her character, from a petulant and spoiled flirt into somebody who has the self-respect to recognise and value her qualities aside from her personal attractiveness.
I hadn't realised until a few years ago that I actually hadn't read all of Austen's works. Oh, I read the main 6 and dipped into the juvenilia but I hadn't read 'Lady Susan' until a film was made of it. The film is called 'Love and Friendship' which is a little confusing, because there is a work in Austen's juvenilia called 'Love and Freindship' (note the different spelling!). Anyway, I wanted to see the film, so I read the book so I would have the 'real' story square in my head before seeing the adaptation. It was one of Austen's early works and is really quite surprising, as it's quite racy in some ways. Lady Susan is a very interesting character; she is charming and has nearly all the best lines, but she is also incredibly selfish and quite ruthless. It's well worth reading, and well worth watching too!
The Last Adventure of the Scarlet Pimpernel' sees Henry Tilney's brother, Frederick, becoming embroiled in an adventure with the Scarlet Pimpernel, who comes out of retirement due to a threat to his family. This a real rip-roaring adventure, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I read and watched 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' in preparation, a book that I had never even thought of reading, but I was so glad I did, because not only did I enjoy that book very much, but it added to my enjoyment of reading Jack Caldwell's book.
The Elizabeth Papers' takes us on an investigation of sorts - a modern day trust fund is endangered because of secrets from the past. What are contained in Elizabeth Darcy's secret papers, and can Evie find them? This is an unusual book, and one I really enjoyed. It jumps from the modern day mystery to scenes from Elizabeth's point of view, so that the reader knows exactly what happened, which is what the modern day characters are trying to find out.
Let's jump to another time period, the roaring 20s, and a really fantastical idea for a story; what if... Jane Austen didn't really die in 1817, but instead was preserved and reanimated when her illness could be cured. Therefore she is brought back in the 1920s for 'Jane Austen Lives Again' by Jane Odiwe. Once you can accept the premise it's a fun story, seeing Jane adapt to how different life is 100 years after she had lived before, and finding people similar to the characters in her stories.
The Many Lives of Fitzwilliam Darcy' by Beau North and Brooke West poor Mr Darcy is caught in a 'Groundhog Day'-style loop which sees him waking up every day in Kent on the day of his proposal to Elizabeth. Whether he proposes or not is his choice, and after the first refusal and resulting evisceration, he is not keen, as you can imagine. But how can he get back to his normal life?
When Mary Met the Colonel' the most unappreciated Miss Bennet finally meets somebody who sees her in her own right, and discovers that she has hidden depths. This is a book with some wonderful humour and a sympathetic view of Mary.
The last choice I'd like to share with you is the most recently read of these, Joana Starnes gives us her take of what could have happened if Elizabeth and Darcy had undertaken a marriage of convenience... on one side at least. 'Mr Bennet's Dutiful Daughter' sees Mr Bennet becoming very ill while Elizabeth is visiting the Collinses in Kent. It becomes clear that Mr Collins has no intention of treating the Bennet women with any consideration and having refused one marriage that might have assured the future safety of the Bennets Elizabeth cannot justify doing it again.
If you haven't read these books then please accept them as suggestions of things you could add to your reading lists. You can see my reviews for more details :) Thank you so much for joining me this year, I appreciate your comments and support. Let me know in the comments what your favourite reads of 2016 were - maybe I can read them next year!
I hope that 2017 bring you good health, good times, good luck and good reading.