Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Favourite Books of the Year (so far!)

Way back in September last year my youngest child headed off for university and I wanted a new hobby to fill the time saved by all those school runs, so I started blogging about the books I was reading. I read two or three books a week but had been keeping no records about the ones I'd enjoyed. Sometimes I'd look at a book cover on my Kindle and think 'I know I've read that book, and I know I liked it, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was about!'

I've since realised that writing a book review is bloody hard work and I have a whole new respect for professional book bloggers! Ironically, the hardest reviews to write seem to be the books I've loved the most.

If I reviewed every book I read I'd never have time to write, but I've since rediscovered Goodreads and I've started listing my books over there. If you pay me a visit, be sure to check out my 'favourites' shelf!

In the meantime, here's is a list of my favourite books this year.*

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman

I had assumed from the title that the story was going to be something along the lines of Bridget Jones, but it turned out I was completely wrong. Eleanor Oliphant is an unusual and fascinating character, whose past history is revealed a tiny bit at a time. The story is about her best efforts to avoid the world around her until she is forced to reconnect after doing someone else a good turn. It is by turns sweet, funny, sad, quirky, poignant, touching, incredibly lovely and completely wonderful.

The Lie of the Land
by Amanda Craig

The story is about Lottie and Quentin, who are forced to uproot from London and settle in the wilds of Devon because they can't afford to divorce. Most of the humour comes from the shock of exchanging their lovely home in the city for an old farmhouse, which is damp and overrun with mice. And then they find out exactly why the house was so cheap to rent  - and what happened to the previous tenant ...

The joy of this book is in how the characters deal with (or, in some cases, don't deal with) adversity. My favourite characters were Xan, who was the first to realise what a sheltered life he'd been leading, and his step-father Quentin, even though Quentin was so horrible: "Without selfishness, I'll have a life of misery and boredom."

The Weight of Lies
by Emily Carpenter

Do ever feel that a book has been written just for you? This book had all the ingredients I love in a story - an old murder, family secrets, flawed characters - there is even a spooky old house located on a private island. Perfect!

Forty years ago, Meg Ashley's mother Frances became an overnight sensation when she wrote a cult horror novel called Kitten. (Think female Stephen King and the success of 'Carrie'). Since then, Frances Ashley has become an extremely wealthy, much-loved author. Unfortunately, Frances is also a complete megalomaniac and a terrible mother. Offered a huge sum of money to write a tell-all account of growing up with Frances Ashley as her mother, and the true-life murder that inspired Kitten, Meg packs her bags and heads off to the private island of Bonny, intending to solve the decades-old murder. Will her plan go horribly wrong? You bet!

Big Little Lies
by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies is about a group of women who all have young children just starting at the local school. Despite their apparent 'perfect' lives, these women all have very real problems. In theory I should have hated it. I prefer escapism in the books I read and tend to avoid anything with a domestic setting or serious issues. I'd also seen the first episode of the TV series and found it completely boring. However ...

The story starts with a death on school Trivia Night. Was it murder? We don't find out the truth until the end, not even the name of the victim, but to be honest I didn't care who was murdered or why! I was having far too much fun reading about the lives of these fascinating women! The strength of the story is in their horribly realistic characters. I recognised myself, my friends, the mothers at my children's school... All the rivalries, misunderstandings, petty jealousies... In some ways the mothers behaved more like children than their offspring. By turns hilariously funny and desperately sad, the dialogue is full of classic one-liners - but the real skill of the author is her ability to observe and recreate everyday life, and yet make it relatable and entertaining. I was in awe.

All The Missing Girls
by Megan Miranda 

This story is about Nic who left her home town ten years ago and has absolutely no desire to go back. But around the same time Nic left, her best friend went missing - and now her father says he's seen her on the porch of their old home. But her father is senile, surely he's imagining it?

There are several reasons why I loved this book. Firstly, the characters are so well-drawn I felt I knew these people. They weren't entirely lovable, they all had very realistic flaws - for me, that was part of their appeal. Secondly, the story is told backwards! It is brilliantly clever. The story hits the ground running and doesn't let up in tension until the very end. I did have to concentrate though! It's a bit like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle, have someone sweep all the pieces back in the box after an hour, and then having to start all over again!

Reading back through these reviews, I can certainly see a trend! It seems I love reading stories about flawed but lovable characters who have a mystery to solve, often in a slightly gothic setting. What does that say about me? I dread to think!

What kind of books do you love to read?

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*This is a selection of the books I've read this year, it doesn't necessarily mean they were published this year.

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