“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Total number of books read: 98+
My 5 best reads of 2017
1. Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig
Non-Fiction | Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.
If you suffer from, have ever suffered from, or know anybody suffering from depression, read this book. It’s short, wonderfully written, and informative without being boring. Despite a title that seems bleak, it’s a positive, touching and uplifting book.
“I want life. I want to read it and write it and feel it and live it. I want, for as much of the time as possible in this blink-of-an-eye existence we have, to feel all that can be felt.”
2. A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
Fiction |A coming of age story, the novel follows the lives of four friends in New York City after they have graduated from college.
A depressing story, beautifully told. Plus, I always think that any book/film/song that moves me to tears can congratulate itself on a job well done. This is a long book, and the 720 pages are perfectly utilised in creating touching, authentic, human characters. I watched (well, read) them age; some flourish, some deteriorate, and I reflected on the polarity of life. Isn’t it both terrifying and wonderful that there is so much joy in the world, but also so much misery and pain? That these extremes can exist not just in the same universe, but also within a single human?
“…things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.”
3. Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
Fiction |London 1862. Sue Trinder, orphaned at birth, grows up among petty thieves – fingersmiths – under the rough but loving care of Mrs Sucksby and her ‘family’. But from the moment she draws breath, Sue’s fate is linked to that of another orphan growing up in a gloomy mansion not too many miles away.
I loved this. The writing was so brilliantly descriptive that the characters, settings, storyline seized my attention (and imagination) completely. It’s different from anything I have read in a long while, and the plot took an unexpected turn that had me hooked. I honestly didn’t want it to end.
“She was like milk – too pale, too pure, too simple. She was made to be spoiled.”
4. Livia Lone – Barry Eisler
Fiction | Seattle PD sex-crimes detective Livia Lone knows the monsters she hunts. Sold by her Thai parents along with her little sister, Nason; marooned in America; abused by the men who trafficked them…the only thing that kept Livia alive as a teenager was her determination to find Nason. (read full synopsis here)
I have fond memories of reading this by the pool in Greece while sipping strawberry daiquiris! Normally I read slowly in the sun, my attention span as lethargic as the rest of me in the heat. However, I flew through this book. The plot was original and fast moving. Basically, it’s a great thriller.
“Most people are like sheep. Nice, harmless creatures who want nothing more than to be left alone so they can graze. But then of course there are wolves. Who want nothing more than to eat the sheep.
But there’s a third kind of person. The sheepdog. Sheepdogs have fangs like wolves. But their instinct isn’t predation. It’s protection. All they want, what they live for, is to protect the flock.”
5. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Fiction |Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead and subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.
I’m very off/on with classics. I loved The Picture of Dorian Grey and Lolita is one my favourite books. However, I hated the tedious final chapters of Dracula, I barely got a third of the way through Wuthering Heights before giving up… you get the idea. I wasn’t that sold on the plot of Jane Eyre, but I tried anyway, and I loved it. It’s one of those books where the beautiful, ‘flowery’ writing works in harmony with the plot, rather than it spiraling into pages of utter waffle (technical term.)
“There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.”
My 5 most disappointing reads of 2017
1. The Lost Continent – Bill Bryson
Non-Fiction |The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America is a book by travel writer Bill Bryson, chronicling his 13,978 mile trip around the United States in the autumn of 1987 and spring 1988.
I actually read/struggled through three different books by Bill Bryson this year: I love travel (obv) and Bryson’s travel books are heavily lauded, so I gave him more than one chance. Sadly, three books down and I still find him snarky, arrogant and utterly unlikable as a narrator. I enjoy dry humour and comical irreverence, but I found his books to be lacking in any form of wit or warmth. Instead I just found them negative, derogatory and not informative at all. Bleugh.
2. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Fiction | As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.
I wanted to love this (and I can see why it is loved.) The plot is interesting and saddening, always a gentle prodding reminder of the delicacy of life and the inevitability of death. I wanted to get lost in their world, to be taken in by the sombre tone and be heartbroken for the main characters… but I just wasn’t. The atmosphere of the book is carefully crafted, so I’m at a loss as to why I didn’t connect with it.
3. Hard Girls – Martina Cole
Fiction | Kate Burrows might be a retired DCI, but she never could stay away from the law for long. And now Grantley appears to have a new serial killer on its hands, Kate is the only one with the expertise to catch him. The case bears striking similarities to the Grantley Ripper. But this time the victims are prostitutes, and even hard girls deserve protection and justice. Kate Burrows caught the Ladykiller. She’s just the woman for this job.
This is a third book in the series, written 9 years after the last. I had read the earlier 2 books when I was in my teens, and really enjoyed them at the time. So, I re-read them before reading Hard Girls, and although I didn’t love them as much as I did when I was younger, I didn’t dislike them. This book, however, was awful. The main plot was barely touched upon, the writing was ridiculously repetitive (I’m not even slightly exaggerating) and there wasn’t a single likable character. I gave up about 60% through. I now remember why I long ago stopped reading Martina Cole’s books.
4. All the Missing Girls – Megan Miranda
Fiction | It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched. (read full synopsis here)
I‘ve read a fair few books in this genre (so many that the plots all seem to blur into one) and this one was a disappointment. The plot sounded interesting, albeit a slight variation of ones I have read in the past. The problem for me was how the book was written, it was told in reverse chronological order, and it just didn’t work for me at all. I could never remember if what was written was new information, whether it was important, whether it has already been revealed. It didn’t flow, and I lost interest in the plot very quickly because of this. Another one I quit at around 60% through.
5. Beloved – Tony Morrison
Fiction | Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.
I really wanted to like this, and I’m so sad that I didn’t this time round. Morrison has a unique way of writing and I couldn’t quite get to grips with it, which is a shame because I loved some of the imagery and phrasing (“They were not holding hands, but their shadows were.”) This is the only book of my ‘most disappointing reads’ I’d like to try read again. I read it in ebook form this year, so I think I’ll retry next year with a good ol paperback.