Monday, December 21, 2009

My Top Five Favorite Books Read In 2009

I've only been blogging here since June, but I've been keeping a list over here all year of the books I have read this year. I decided to go through that list and pick the five that have impacted me the most.

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly My review here. The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility that is fresh, compelling, and perfectly pitched for these times. This sweeping epic follows young Fiona Finnegan's climb from the teeming streets of East London. Her dreams of leaving her home behind are shattered when her father, a dockworker and union organizer, is killed in an accident. Crushing poverty, the loss of her lifelong love, and the destruction of her family quickly follow. When Fiona discovers that her fathers death was no accident, but a murder engineered by a ruthless tea baron bent on destroying the union, she flees to New York to save her own life. There, the ghosts of her past propel her to the very top of the city's tea trade. A decade later, armed with tremendous wealth, she returns to London to reclaim her lost love and exact a breathtaking revenge.

Possession by A.S. Byatt My review here. "Literary critics make natural detectives," says Maud Bailey, heroine of a mystery where the clues lurk in university libraries, old letters, and dusty journals. Together with Roland Michell, a fellow academic and accidental sleuth, Maud discovers a love affair between the two Victorian writers the pair has dedicated their lives to studying: Randolph Ash, a literary great long assumed to be a devoted and faithful husband, and Christabel La Motte, a lesser-known "fairy poetess" and chaste spinster. At first, Roland and Maud's discovery threatens only to alter the direction of their research, but as they unearth the truth about the long-forgotten romance, their involvement becomes increasingly urgent and personal. Desperately concealing their purpose from competing researchers, they embark on a journey that pulls each of them from solitude and loneliness, challenges the most basic assumptions they hold about themselves, and uncovers their unique entitlement to the secret of Ash and La Motte's passion. Winner of the 1990 Booker Prize--the U.K.'s highest literary award--Possession is a gripping and compulsively readable novel. A.S. Byatt exquisitely renders a setting rich in detail and texture. Her lush imagery weaves together the dual worlds that appear throughout the novel--the worlds of the mind and the senses, of male and female, of darkness and light, of truth and imagination--into an enchanted and unforgettable tale of love and intrigue.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer My first ever Heyer! Newly arrived from her tour of the Continent, Sophia Stanton-Lacy invites herself into the circle of her relatives, the Ombersleys, and soon Charles Rivenhall, the Ombersley heir, vows to rid his family of her by marrying her off.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton My review here. "A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, a mystery The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton. Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra's life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace - the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century - Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself." 

The Observations by Jane Harris My review here. Scotland, 1863. In an attempt to escape her not-so-innocent past in Glasgow, Bessy Buckley—a wide-eyed and feisty young Irish girl—takes a job as a maid in a big house outside Edinburgh working for the beautiful Arabella—the “missus.” Bessy lacks the necessary scullery skills for her new position, but as she finds out, it is her ability to read and write that makes her such a desirable property. Bessy is intrigued by her new employer but puzzled by her increasingly strange requests and her insistence that Bessy keep a journal of her mundane chores and most intimate thoughts. And it seems that the missus has a few secrets of her own, including her near- obsessive affection for Nora, a former maid who died in mysterious circumstances.
Giving in to her curiosity, Bessy makes an infuriating discovery and, out of jealousy, concocts a childish prank that backfires and threatens to jeopardize all that she has come to hold dear. Yet even when caught up in a tangle of madness, ghosts, sex, and lies, she remains devoted to Arabella. But who is really responsible for what happened to her predecessor Nora? As her past threatens to catch up with her and raise the stakes even further, Bessy begins to realize that she has not quite landed on her feet. 

Through blogs and sites like Goodreads, I have discovered so many books that I would never have known otherwise. I can't wait to see what I come across next year! So, what are your top reads from this year?


Anonymous said...

The only one I've read is The Observations - which I loved! I also have The Forgotten Garden and Possession on my to-read list.

Lizzie said...

Ooh good picks all one that I have noticed. I have the Tea Rose a score at a used bookstore for a few bucks. I have yet to read it. Good post.

Unknown said...

Possession is in my favorite books of all time list. Very nice!

Joanne said...

Hi, Christy -- The Tea Rose was a good one. My top pick this year was Karleen Koen's Through a Glass Darkly.

Glad I found your blog...I will definitely be back to see what you're reading in 2010! Come on over and visit me at as I love Regency era and Victorian era novels.

Tudor Daughter said...

The Tea Rose is on my top 5 list as well! Great book. Possession and Observations are going on this list!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

Thanks for this list! I will look for some of these books to read in the upcoming year.

Anonymous said...

Love Jennifer Donnelly!

Trisha said...

I have had Possession on my TBR shelf for soo very long it's almost criminal. Thanks for the review as it may just give me the kick in the pants I need to finally read it.