Happy New Year!
Whilst you (and I, this is a scheduled post!) are nursing sore heads and dry mouths, I thought I would start the year with my final reflective 2010 post.
Beady eyed folk might have noticed that in my 2010 round-up I didn’t mention any books, and that is because I’m a freakish bookworm and need an entire blog post to talk about my top reads of the year!
I lamely started a write-up of all the books I was reading here, but it fell a little by the wayside. So instead I am just going to give you a quick review of my TOP FIVE. I read 27 books this year in total which is a total fail at my target of 50 in a year. Next year though, now with my beautiful kindle-y addition to my life, I hope to smash it. Fingers crossed!
01] Little Bee – Chris Cleave
(Published in the UK as The Other Hand) So I was in Borders in NYC, getting weepy and nostalgic at the loss of basically my second-home in England as I roamed around the heavenly magazine section, Starbucks and Paperchase! I wasn’t looking to buy anything though (as I’d already packed more books than clothes!) but I was walking out and spotted this. My beau calls me ‘wee Bee’ (he’s northern irish, it’s allowed) and so I just picked this book up as a joke to show him the name. Then he said I should buy it and there was no queue so I did. So the fact I even ever read this book is extremely random; and I have to admit if I’d seen the UK cover/blurb I doubt I ever would have bothered. But it was my number one read of the year, and the book that had the most impact on me.
I was shocked at the vitriol and anger in some reviews on amazon for this book, but I think any work of fiction dealing with war, corruption, murder and other uncomfortable human truths is always going to rub people the wrong way. But I felt it dealt with these huge, vast issues in a really relatable and non-patronising way. I also thought the characterisation enabled you to really relate and empathise with all the characters, even the ones portrayed as the most evil. I won’t give too much of the plot away, because I would really encourage you to read it for yourself. I would read this on the commute to work, and then literally sit stunned at my desk, barely able to converse with my colleagues because the vivid words and imagery and events from the book were whirling around my brain. It is at times, almost nauseatingly tragic but in the most; it’s charming and even manages to be really funny. It shifted my views and opened my eyes and made me research more about the basis for the book.
02] The House At Midnight – Lucie Whitehouse
This book revolves around a group of university friends who come back together when one of them inherits a huge country house. The friends start spending weekends away from their lives in London there and the dynamics, tensions and history starts to fester and grow inside the claustrophobic, stifling house. I found Lucie Whitehouses writing style compelling and descriptive enough to really make you feel everything from the heat of the summer weather to the constant forboding in the background of even the happiest party scenes. The characterisation was a bit weak, mainly that I didn’t actually like the protaganist and was quite often silently screaming at the book EH! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! but perhaps this is the author trying to show how to house seems to bring out the wild, unpredictable side of the characters. It is still one of my top 5 as it was a really enjoyable read and it reminded me of one of my sisters absolutely favourite movies Peters Friends which aw, you can still buy on VHS on Amazon.
03] The Poison Tree – Erin Kelly
I have really fond memories of reading this book, as I read it sat in a meadow in Massachusetts. I woke up before anyone else and the sun was beaming, so I took a table cloth from the breakfast table of our B&B and laid out on my stomach amongst the buttercups and read on in one sitting, as the day got hotter and hotter. I think living in London really enhanced my enjoyment as all the location in the book felt so familiar. The story follows Karen who is a bookish, timid university student who meets an infectiously confident girl called Biba who drags her into a heady summer of partying and hedonism which ends in a crime that will ruin all of their lives in different ways. I loved the book because I think meeting a new friend who is loud and confident and who makes you want to tap into that side of yourself and do wild things and go new places is something most people have experienced at some point in their lives, and Erin Kelly writes it incredibley well! I left this book behind in the American B&B, for someone else to enjoy (and so I didn’t have to carry on lugging around a hefty hardback) but I already want to re-read it so might have to get it on my kindle next year.
04] Sister – Rosamund Pike
I would describe this book as a Crime fiction novel, for people who don’t like crime fiction. Like me! Usually I shy away from crime writing, my feelings on the matter being that I read enough scary, harrowing things in newspapers to really want to spend my entertainment/quality time filling my head with fictional gruesome goings ons. BUT, I was recommended this book on amazon based on my previous purchases and thought I’d have a wild card when ordering some books on payday.
The story starts off with a mystery – Beatrices sister has gone missing, so she flees New York back home to London to hunt for her. When Beatrices sisters body is found, it is shrugged off as suicide. But Beatrice knows her sister, and knows that something more sinister is at play. The book covers multiple themes:
1. Crime- the twists and turns and red herrings cleverly keep you guessing right up to the final chapter as to the truth of the death and who are the victims/who are the criminals
2. Family – the sisterly bond is so well written and the love between the two girls is so truthfully described. I won’t lie, this book has me in floods of tears twice, perhaps as I can empathise with having a close sister.
3. Science – the science element of the book is cleverly weaved in. It’s not baffling with information, but enough to feel you have learnt something new by the time you have finished the book, which is a nice addition.
All in all, I really feel like this book has it all. Strikingly, realistically written and completely gripping. It is written in rather an odd narrative structure which I found slightly off putting and strange at first, but there is a point in the book that you realise this tool is for a very legitimate reason and it makes you want to return to the start and reread armed with your fresh slant.
05] Of Bees and Mist – Erick Setiawan
Lets gloss over the fact two out of the top five books include my name! And a third is based around a character called ‘Bea’! I do have to admin I’m a bit like a magpie and will more often than not pick up any book with Bee in the title. It just is a happy coincidence that this year those picks have been brilliant reads too. This book started a new phase of genre-obsession in me which I would describe as modern fairy tales (the girl with the glass feet and the lace reader are also great examples) where gothic fantasy and modern settings meet. It opens up storylines to having no rules and turns the usual type of fiction I consume on its head. This book is just beautiful and really has to be read, as my rambling can’t do it justice. Bad moods become swarms of bees, secrets become clouds of mist that won’t leave and family tensions and dynamic take on magical, mystical qualities. Ultimately it is a story about love, and family and loss; but the intricate, deep writing makes it a book you do not want to end and miss when it does.
If you decide to read or have read any of these books, I’d love to know what you think! Also if you have a Goodreads account, then please do add me! I am here.