So…my 52 Books Challenge has racked up yet another spectacular failure this year! Whoops…better luck next year!
Currently I am sitting at 29 with less than a week to go of 2016. It’s an improvement on last year, but still rather a few shy of my total. I’ve also slipped with reviewing the books I have read, so I thought that, rather than try to write up a post for all the books I’ve read since the summer, I thought I’d chuck in a quick summary below – the good, the bad and the ugly – all critiqued for your pleasure…
Our Song by Dani Atkins
Beautiful, sweet, a little bit tragic. Headstrong couple Ally and David were university sweethearts, but now several years have passed and he is married to their mutual friend, the glamorous Charlotte, while Ally is married to loving, dependable Joe. On Christmas Eve their paths cross again in tragic circumstances, forcing them to relive memories they wanted to keep buried, and leading to a heartbreaking decision. I loved this book – the characters were so relatable and the plot had me gripped and compelled me to keep reading. I have to admit, I did shed a few tears while reading, and it was certainly a bittersweet ending, but I loved this book, and it stayed with me long after the final page.
You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane
Rachel and Ben should have but never did get together. 10 years later and he is married and she just out of a long-term failing engagement. Will fate grant them a second chance, or will they always just be each other’s ‘one that got away’? Honestly, I was not much of a fan. Harmless enough fun, but not diverting enough to be true escapism or carry any true emotional weight.
City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende
Alex is an American teenager with little experience of the world and only one great talent – the ability to play the flute. But with his mother taken ill, he is shipped off to stay with his fearsome explorer grandmother, Kate, who ropes him in to joining her on an expedition to the Amazon rainforest with National Geographic. Along the way he meets Nadia, daughter of their expedition guide Cesar Santos, and they embark on their own adventure with the People of the Mist tribe. A journey of self-discovery and coming of age, Isabel Allende is always worth a read.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
This was a slow burner, and this was my second attempt to read it. The unnamed heroine, a lady’s maid to an obnoxious American woman, is whisked off her feet by a sudden proposal from Max De Winter, a young widower and owner of the great estate at Manderley. As new mistress of the estate she finds herself completely unequal to the task of managing the household, and overshadowed by the memory of Max’s first wife, the enigmatic Rebecca. This is not helped by the housekeeper Mrs Danvers, who retains her devotion to Rebecca and haunts the footsteps of her replacement…
If you give this story time, the pace picks up and the action really sets in, and you’re hooked before you know it! It’s an atmospheric and truly creepy read.
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty is one of those authors whose work I will always read. Having devoured all her books now, I can vouch for how good they are. I’ve reviewed Three Wishes, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, What Alice Forgot and Little Lies previously, and described her genre as ‘chic noir’, a darker shade of chic lit. In this story, the tragic events of a summer BBQ force childhood friends Erika and Clementine to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about their friendship and their lives. I did find it frustrating waiting so long for the Big Reveal as to what happened on the day of the fated BBQ, but it was still a fun read.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I’ve never watched anything with Amy Poehler in it beyond snippets of her presenting the Golden Globes with Tina Fey (and Inside Out), but the blurb and her name intrigued me, so I thought I’d give this a go. It was fun and interesting, but would probably have meant much more to me if I’d ever seen Saturday Night Live or Parks and Recreation.
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
Another Liane Moriarty, this time based on the fictional island of Scribbly Gum off the coast of Australia. Over 70 years ago, sisters Connie and Rose Doughty found an abandoned baby on the island, and since then the Munro Baby Mystery has captured the imagination of Australians everywhere. But with Connie’s death and the arrival of Sophie Honeywell from the mainland, will the secrets of the past remain buried? Light reading with serious undertones, as always. Not my favourite of hers, but the humour is some of the best.
Spectacles by Sue Perkins
I LOVED this. As an avid Bake Off fan, I have been intrigued by the legendary duo of Mel and Sue for years now. So when I saw that Sue Perkins had an autobiography out (for the princely sum of £3.99 in Sainsburys) I couldn’t not read it. And it was brilliant. I cackled out loud to myself while reading it, and I stopped and re-read passages, bowled over by the emotional punch they packed. It was comic and tragic and fantastic, and I would thoroughly recommend it. Possibly my book of the year.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood
One of the first and best dystopian novels. Offred (not her real name) is a Handmaid to her Commander, living in a nice house in an unnamed part of America on the east coast. What is a Handmaid? Well, their sole job is to produce children for their Commanders – and their wives – in order to further the human population in a way which was acceptable to the religious authorities.
Brilliant story in a fascinating alternative world (which, scarily enough, isn’t beyond the realms of imagination and possibility). A must-read.
The Darcys of Pemberley and Return to Longbourn by Shannon Winslow
I actually managed to write up a separate review of these light and fluffy Jane Austen sequels here.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
It’s been wonderful to re-immerse myself in one of my favourite worlds again, and this script was perfect to add to my understanding of the play, which I was lucky enough to see in November. Read it, see it, love it.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
16 year-old Jacob has always been close to his grandfather Abe, and been enchanted by his stories of magical children in a mysterious island off the coast of Wales, guarded over by the Bird. When Abe is murdered by monsters only Jacob can see, he spirals into depression and decides that the only way he can find closure is to visit the island for himself. Once there, he discovers that his grandfather’s stories weren’t fiction, that the children he mentioned were still living, and worst of all that the monsters are real…
An intriguing, quirky story, woven around a set of old black and white photographs, this caught my imagination and I will definitely be reading the rest of the trilogy!
Five on Brexit Island by Bruno Vincent
I loved the Famous Five series when I was growing up, and have lived in eternal disappointment than none of the places I’ve lived in ever had secret passages in between the walls. This grown-up version pits Julian against George in the aftermath of the EU referendum as George declares Kirrin Island an independent nation, much to her cousin’s disapproval. Very relevant, short enough to hold the interest, and nostalgic enough to make me want to pick up my collection all over again!
What have you been reading lately? Send me some recommendations to keep me going through those long dark winter nights!