Happy almost-New Year and almost-year-of-the-presidential-election!!! I hope you all had a wonderful year and if you didn’t, may the next year be filled with blessings for you.
Anyway. One of my favorite things to do in December is look on all the things I did that year.. Books are no exception. So now I present to you my second annual Book Awards. I want to give you a quick rundown before we get started. New this year, too, each book will get to wear its award badge on its review. If you are reviewing a book that one one of my awards, and are looking for award graphics or blogger testimonials to put with it, you may use the images I provide so long as you don’t white out the name of this blog. Links, of course, are appreciated.
For a few more books that were not reviewed on the blog this year, visit my Instagram to see what I thought!
-The book had to be read, and finished in, the year of the awards. It may be any genre. Young adult books are eligible. DNF books are also eligible, typically if they win something it will be for “Worst Overall” or “Best Cover.”
-The book must be a full-length novel or novella. Short story collections are eligible as long as they are all by the same author.
-The book must have been read for the first time. Thus, books that I’ve read before that I re-review this year, such as Picoult’s Storyteller, are ineligible because I read them beforehand.
-The book does NOT have had to be published in the year of the awards.
-The book may win multiple awards.
Keep in mind that earning very few awards won’t stop a book from becoming Best Overall. Most books won’t fit into all categories and it’s very possible that the Best Overall winner will hardly have awards at all.
I give out the following awards. The first two are given because they are my favorite genres and can usually be counted upon to be plenty represented in my library each year.
Best Women’s Fiction
Character Development Award
Most Unique Story
Most Likely to Become a Classic (current classics are not eligible; Pride and Prejudice, for example, would not win). This category answers several questions. Is it timeless? Could anyone, regardless of gender or older young people, read it and find something to enjoy? Will the messages endure? Does it age well? All these are the makings of a future classic.
Worst Overall Book
Best Overall Book
The three new awards include:
Best Cast of Characters- Main (Eligible characters generally include narrators, the MC, main, antagonist, the closest friend, and significant other, though this is subject to change)
Best Cast of Characters- Supporting (Eligible characters include secondary best friends, less important classmates/coworkers, side parents, anyone who plays a lesser role than the above characters)
This was a hard one this year. I wasn’t thrilled with most of the women’s fiction options; while most sat at a solid 3 stars, there were enough problems that few of them were anything to write home about. I did find myself enjoying the world of Cafe by the Sea. It has the highest ranking of mine at 4 stars, and follows the Colgan formula while also providing something just a little different. It’s an entertaining story of finding new opportunity and returning to your roots.
Through the course of this novel, we watch Eleanor naturally grow from an awkward woman (well, maybe she still is, because being an introvert is not a character flaw) and start to thrive in social environments, becoming a happier person. It’s a pretty inspiring story.
Just because you can guess a book’s ending or the”who” or the “why” doesn’t mean it’s bad or predictable. In fact, that can often means that the author does a great job laying clues and plot for you. I didn’t love this book at first as it seemed like a bland straight-up mystery, but as I got invested in these characters and asked myself about possible motives, I found myself figuring things out faster and ultimately coming to my own conclusion, coming away with a new respect for mysteries. Overall, an entertaining story.
Holy moly. This is a TOUGH category this year. I read some of my favorite thrillers of all time. This should really be a four-or-five-way tie. However, because it doesn’t stop from start to finish, Behind Closed Doors is the winner. The novel’s narrow focus really helps readers to focus in on these problems and the protagonist’s fear. I can’t say much without giving it away, but WOW. This is a hard book to put down. And like I’ve said, since this is possible (with a bit of work), it’s one of the scariest books I’ve ever read.
The first book I read this year was also a clear contender for Best Non Fiction. Even in January, I thought, “yeah, this is probably going to be the winner.” Ghostwriter or no, this is a very well-written book and never stopped entertaining me from start to finish. It was thought-provoking, interesting, and all sorts of good stuff. On top of everything, she is a good writer too! It’s just not fair! I kid, of course. Highly recommended for all.
Jenna Fischer’s book about acting was unique, but didn’t have quite the staying power of Michelle’s book. Jacob Tobia, too, should be commended for coming out with their story, but the writing wasn’t nearly as strong there.
In some cases, dropping tons of references really doesn’t work. However, for the atmosphere in Woman in the Window, it works and only adds to the Hitchcock-like atmosphere. While it has a similar title, it’s not the same story, and an unpredictable plot will keep readers guessing.
The idea of a lonely, socially awkward woman is something that we can all relate to. So is the pursuit of a relationship, or even just friends. These ideas will keep Eleanor on the shelf for years to come.
I love the playful, vintage feel of this cover. It communicates well what the book’s message is. There are also textured spots of glitter. Overall, a very cool and stylish cover design, reflecting the author themselves. It also gets the book’s message home: gender need not be taken so seriously.
Yay to Jenna Fischer for doing something totally new with the memoir genre! She tells her story, yes, but its her acting story. She tells it to us through giving advice to her readers, and she actually paints a fairly straightforward portrait of a not-so-straightforward lifestyle. It makes acting look easy. We have very few down-to-earth acting guides out there, and Jenna writes hers as if she is talking to a friend. This book has gotten positive reviews and many people are picking it up just because they’re interested, not because they want to get into acting.
I said it above and I’ll say it again: this series has wonderful characters. Issy I love; she’s a strong woman character who isn’t a typical, in-your-face strong female character: she loves to bake! Her coworkers Pearl and Caroline are wonderful too, and we get to hear lots about them this time around. Austin, as bloggers might know, remains my favorite love interest. So there you go.
Moriarty does it again with her unique group of characters! One strength of hers is that she never goes too over-the-top in her characterization. From Jessica the influencer to Lars the lawyer to Zoe the teenager, I cared about this group of people, especially when they were interacting with one another.
Here we go: the Razzie of my awards. 2019 was a record year in that I didn’t finish three books, and almost quit a fourth, which typically earn 1 star by default. I rarely DNF, ever.
Now as for those other nominations: first The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan. I had problems that weren’t necessarily the book’s fault (but also were). You needed to be acquainted with a certain short story from the author in order to get the most from this. I gave it no score. The Kiss Quotient didn’t earn it because the diverse characters were a plus, especially so because they weren’t constantly playing the race card, even though it was a very boring book and too erotic. So the winner is The House Swap.
It was a boring novel. Twists were insanely predictable. It was very, very, very repetitive. I learned nothing about these characters and didn’t even care for them anyway. We’ve seen this concept done a LOT and it brought nothing new to the table. I mean, nothing. I actively dreaded picking it up, and when I keep going to Instagram to take breaks, that’s a bad sign. It went the same way: husband and wife plan a day together to try and fix things, wife freaks out, awkward evening, they try again tomorrow. The past focuses simply on scenes of the wife’s affair that did nothing to drive the plot forward except create useless sex scenes. This was a bare-bones novel that needed so much more. I believe that Fleet will be putting out better in the future.
Let’s end on a positive note! Before I announce the winner, here are the five nominees:
A Dog’s Promise, W Bruce Cameron: This endearing tale of a dog’s love as he wraps up his life’s purpose is sweet and sentimental in all the right ways with Cameron’s usual well-done insight.
Behind Closed Doors, B.A. Paris: This extremely suspenseful tale isn’t too far fetched with the exception of some of the planning behind it, making it much scarier than the average horror tale about dolls or clowns.
Lock Every Door, Riley Sager: This is another horrifying book. Despite how people say it’s too over the top, I am inclined to disagree because it works. The subject matter in the book really does exist, even if not to this degree, and it’s a very unique take on an arguably overdone plot.
The Woman in the Window, AJ Finn: The atmosphere and writing style made this thriller stand out in a crowded genre.
Becoming, Michelle Obama: This entertaining and insightful life story makes me wonder how Michelle is a first-time author.
And the winner is…
This surprised even me! What’s there to say, other than that it’s well-written, deep and thoughtful without being pretentious, entertaining, and meaningful. Even that character development is great! The first book I read in 2019 was the best one, and that’s what I have to say about that. But I read so many good books this year that this was a hard choice, and if I had a Best Fiction award, Behind Closed Doors would win it. (Maybe I’ll entertain that idea next year…) I recommend both books to everyone.
See you guys in 2020! I would love to get back to blogging, but my entries mean nothing if they’re not being read and liked by you. It’s thanks to you guys that I have been able to review books. But without any traffic, this won’t be able to continue. With the risk of sounding like a PBS special, I hope that you will continue reading and supporting this book blogger for a long time to come so I can keep sharing my ideas without sounding like I’m shouting into the void. Help me come out of hiatus by stopping by once in a while. Happy New Year!