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My best reads of the year

It took me far too long to get around to reading this

It took me far too long to get around to reading this

As the end of the year approaches – there’s time for one more wafer-thin book blog… which includes what I have to say are my two standout books for the year.

Both are books that I’ve read in the last few weeks… and they could not be more different.

One is a mega best seller – the other isn’t – but it should be.

One has been made into a Hollywood movie – and oh how I wish the other would be.

Both are a little outside my normal reading zone – and have convinced me that I need to move the boundaries of my reading zone…

My pick for the year is… (drum roll please)

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn (new author and e-book)

I have a habit of avoiding hyped best sellers until after the fuss has died down. I always think I am going to be disappointed… that the book won’t match the hype. That’s why it took me such a long time to get around to reading this.

I was wrong.

The book totally matched the hype. I truly could not put it down. It was well written and beautifully structured. And it was a gripping emotional portrait, not to mention an intriguing crime story.

I had managed to avoid all the spoilers, so there certainly won’t be any here.

People tend to say tell new writers that at least one of the protagonists in any book has to be likeable and engaging. This is proof that every rule has its exceptions. The main characters in this book are not at all likeable, but they are totally believable. That’s what matters.

If you haven’t read it – go and do it now. And read it before you see the film. I am not sure what the film is like – but don’t do anything that will interfere with the enjoyment of this excellent book.

My other stand out book for the year was….

My new favourite heroine.

My new favourite heroine.

Max Seventeen – Kate Johnson (e-book and a known author)

Once again, it’s full disclosure time. Kate Johnson is a friend. She is also the author of what I think is the possibly best book even published by my own publisher Choc Lit. That book is the Untied Kingdom.

I think I like Max Seventeen even more. This is an unorthodox and original novel. It’s a romance and an adventure story and a sci fi story all rolled into one.

Max, the heroine, is as far from a cardboard cut-out as it’s possible to get. She is unconventional, strong, vulnerable, shocking and wonderful. And she has a hero worthy of her.

I loved, loved this book. If you’re looking for something to shake up your reading muscles… this is the book for you.

But it does come with a warning – this book will mess with your idea of what defines a hero and heroine…  that’s probably one of the reasons I liked it so much.

I’m going to mention three other recent reads that probably make up the year’s top five for me.

I have been a fan of Julie Cohen's work for years

I have been a fan of Julie Cohen’s work for years

Dear thing – Julie Cohen (paperback and a favourite author)

Let’s start with a disclaimer here – Julie is a friend of mine –but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a fan of her books. And I am. A fan, that is. Julie’s fist books were quite light and fun romantic stories and over time she has develop as a writer – writing bigger, deeper books dealing with more complex issues

dear thing is about parenthood, the desire or need to have a child, about love and surrogacy.

The book spans the nine months of a pregnancy. No spoilers here of course, but it’s enough to say that a lot changes in those nine months… with nothing going quite the way anyone had planned.

I read this book in a couple of days – finishing it in the wee small hours of the morning because I just had to find out how it ended.

This is classy, intelligent women’s fiction and Julie’s next book is already on my shelf.

 

Thought provoking and engrossing

Thought provoking and engrossing

Nineteen Minutes – Jodi Picoult. (e-book and a favourite author)

This is a great book, but it’s not an easy book to read.

The book is set around a high school shooting in a small US town and asks some very tough questions. Questions about bullying; questions about identity and family and right and wrong.

It’s up the reader to come up with their own answers to those questions, but this book does offer some insights into the effect of such a tragic event on the lives of everyone in a small community.

I imagine doing the research for this book must have been an emotional experience … because it’s plain Ms Picoult did her research and some of the things she writes are, to say the least, uncomfortable reading.

But books like this matter. They make us think.

 

 

A disturbing and thought provoking read

A disturbing and very personal account of war

Born on the Fourth of July – Ron Kovic. (ebook and a new author)

Maybe the US election had me thinking about serious issues, but I followed the school shooting book with Ron Kovic’s personalised account and statement about war – in his case, the Vietnam war. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction outside of research books – but this made me think I should read more.

This is not a particularly well written book – but that’s not the point. It is a book that will reach down inside you and take your heart in a vice-like grip. It’s an angry book. It’s a disillusioned book and I’m sure writing it was a cathartic experience for Kovic.

A lot of people have no doubt seen the film version, starring Tom Cruise. I saw it years ago, but have only the vaguest recollection of it. It wasn’t a bad film, but I don’t think any film could get quite as deep into a man’s anger and pain as this book did.

Not an easy or uplifting read in any way – but it is very very powerful.

So I guess as I go into 2017, my aim with my reading is going to be to spread my wings a little, step outside my comfort zone and try to expand my reading list… without actually letting go of my favourites. That shouldn’t be too hard … all I will neeed is an extra hour or two in every day.

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Writing retreats 2020 - Intensive tutor-led retreats with Janet Gover and Alison May

Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Finalist for The Wild OneColorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence Finalist for The Wild One
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