|A book stall at Zagreb's Advent market. Pretty neat!|
Katherine Arden - The Bear and the Nightingale
I bought this some time back, so I didn't remember any details other than it being a retelling of a Russian fairytale. I haven't read fantasy for years, so it took a little while for me to get immersed in the world, but then I was hooked. Vasilisa is born with the second sight and communes with the spirits around her, also honoured by her people. But her new stepmother, aided by a charismatic priest, tries to stop these superstitions, unwittingly feeding a growing evil. Sensitive readers beware: it morphs into a horror story by halfway through. There came a point in time when I knew I could not read it just before bed. Fun bonus for me: the author uses lots of Russian words, many of which I recognized now I am studying a Slavic language.
Angela Thirkell - Christmas at High Rising
Having discovered the delights of Barbara Pym this past year, I had high hopes for a similar mid-twentieth century comedy of manners, but this collection of short stories was lacklustre. However, since most were written for magazines, I might give the High Rising novels a try if I find one on sale.
After I added this to my list of books read, I realised I was at forty-eight, so naturally I had to make a push to get to fifty for the year (then I remembered I had left one off my list, so the total was 51).
Jenny Colgan - Christmas on the Island
This Christmas novel is part of her Mure stories. It's more of a "Christmas special", and probably won't have a lot of appeal unless you already know the characters. The theme is the vulnerability we place ourselves in when we love: Flora finds herself pregnant, and is terrified at the thought of how her boyfriend, Joel, will react, since he is barely pulling his life together after a breakdown. Her brother is nursing his husband through the final stages of cancer. Her best friend, Lorna, is still hopelessly in love with the refugee doctor, who is torn between his attraction to her and loyalty to his missing wife who is presumed - but not proven - dead. I know Colgan must be a fantastic storyteller, because she has me eagerly swiping the pages even as I'm rolling my eyes at the stereotypes and inaccuracies.
MyQuillin Smith - The Nesting Place: It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful
I was going to make my fiftieth book something weighty, but this home styling book was on sale for Christmas, and it's hard to concentrate when all your family are home, anyway. I was also attracted by the fact that Smith was in one of many, many rented homes when writing this, and we are in a situation where we are renting for the first time in over twenty years - and will be doing so a lot longer than we anticipated. Her style is not quite mine (a giant stuffed sailfish on the wall???) but she gave me lots of inspiration for the "lovely limitations" of a renting life.
Srečno novo leto, as they say here in Slovenia, and happy reading for 2019!