Just like that another year is coming to a close. It’s a great time for reflection especially on what you’ve achieved, done, seen, read, been in the past 365 days.
So I’m gonna start my end of the year posts with my top reads of the 2019.
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
I bought this book at the airport before my first solo flight to America and I read it non-stop from arriving at the airport till three and a half hours into the flight. Gripped was an understatement.
An excellent read, full of twists, turns and really emotional context. I hadn’t read a thriller in a while and it was quite a sudden shock back into the system. Shari Lapena is an exceptional writer – testament to my second book on the list being another thriller she’s written.
Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.
Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.
Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.
You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.
What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?
The Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
Same author, even more enjoyable. Flippity flip this was good. As I was thinking of books to include I remembered this one in particular. Yes the Couple Next Door had been a breeze on the plane, well this was more of a tense read when I was on the ferry round to Dubrovnik.
I was captivated. The story went were I expected then BOOM it all changed and I had to cling onto it for dear life to keep up. I’ve now thought about it so much I need to read it again, it’s like a film you want to keep re-watching and reliving.
Why would you run scared from a happy home?
You’re waiting for your beloved husband to get home from work. You’re making dinner, looking forward to hearing about his day.
That’s the last thing you remember.
You wake up in hospital, with no idea how you got there. They tell you that you were in an accident; you lost control of your car whilst driving in a dangerous part of town.
The police suspect you were up to no good. But your husband refuses to believe it. Your best friend isn’t so sure. And even you don’t know what to believe . . .
Circe by Madeline Miller
It’s a remarkable book and testament to Miller’s marvellous writing and intellect to be able to formulate such a magical world entwined with Greek myths and legends.
Without a doubt, Circe is one of the most intricate, complex characters I’ve read in a while, as well as the complexity of the narrative itself. Loved it! Well worth getting your head round the extensive list of Greek names.
Woman. Witch. Myth. Mortal. Outcast. Lover. Destroyer. Survivor. CIRCE.
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child – not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows, at home in neither the world of gods or mortals. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone will never be left in peace for long – and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.
So Circe sets forth her tale, a vivid, mesmerizing epic of family rivalry, love and loss – the defiant, inextinguishable song of woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man’s world.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Critically acclaimed and it doesn’t disappoint. Sally has such a unique method of writing, her tone of voice is so fluid without speech marks or specific narrator. The story oscillates between different people with the main focus on Marianne, mostly when she’s with Connell.
It’s a story of understanding the world as a young person when society is filled with labels and standards that you don’t fit into; it’s carving your own path in a lonely world and finding a friend to accompany you and pull you out of your own isolation.
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, but the similarities end there. In school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation – awkward but electrifying – something life-changing begins.
Normal People is a story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find they can’t.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
For my Masters I had to research the genre I was writing in, which was young adult fantasy fiction written in the twenty-first century by women.
An Ember in the Ashes was highly recommended and it didn’t dissapoint. Obviously the genre in general is very popular with all readers, consider for instance the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series, but I hadn’t read anything within the genre since I was a young adult (with the exception of HP).
I LOVED IT. Fantasy worlds attract and enthral me and this particular narrative told through two protagonists from both sides of the story (oppression and oppressor) made for a very interesting and nuanced depiction of the world Tahir created.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death.
When Laia’s grandparents are brutally murdered and her brother arrested for treason by the empire, the only people she has left to turn are the rebels.
But in exchange for their help in saving her brother, they demand that Laia spy on the ruthless Commandant of Blackcliff, the Empire’s greatest military academy. Should she fail it’s more than her brother’s freedom at risk…Laia’s very life is at stake.
There, she meets Elias, the academy’s finest soldier. But Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined – and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
This is going to hurt by Adam Kay
First of all, an overdue read eh? Such an effortless, enjoyable and emotional read.
Following the life of Adam as an underpaid, overworked, overstretched Junior Doctor is a ridiculous tale of the mad hours and mad acts that the NHS perform everyday and just call it “a job”. I sit at a desk, he examines every ounce of the human body to retrieve objects, replace parts, stitch bits up and all on few hours sleep and even fewer hours off.
So insightful and eye opening and also hilarious. The only downfall is it’s so readable, it’s gone so fast! I’m excited to read Twas the Nightshift before Christmas but I need more of these books and his journals please!
Blurb (for the small population who haven’t read this yet):
Welcome to the life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.
Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn’t – about life on and off the hospital ward.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about the art of writing and being so creative so quickly. Written in an accessible and thought provoking way, Elizabeth’s view on a creative life focuses on the “big magic” of ideas as entities out there in the world that float around and magically present themselves to someone. You have to actively engage with that idea in that moment, nurture it, for it to stay and work with you.
If you ignore it, it’ll move onto someone else. Ever read a book and thought, that’s my story! I wrote that! Well maybe wrote it in my head, just not on paper. Elizabeth says that isn’t idea theft or coincidence but ideas searching for the right creative to action their idea.
Really interesting read. Made me feel all the creative juices flowing inside me. Also I appreciated that she feels that creativity shouldn’t pay the bills (despite it making her millions with Eat, Pray, Love) as, as soon as we place a pressure on ourselves to leave the day job and force this joyful creativity to pay the bills, it changes the dynamic to it all.
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now, this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process – and showing us all just how easy it can be.
By sharing stories from her own life, as well as those from her friends and the people that have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear.
Whether you long to write a book, create art, cope with challenges at work, embark on a long-held dream, or simply to make your everyday life more vivid and rewarding, Big Magic will take you on a journey of exploration filled with wonder and unexpected joys.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Holy moly, hold onto your hats. A beautiful read.
I finally read Matt Haig’s highly acclaimed Reasons to Stay Alive and it was even better than I expected.
I’m always slightly wary about reading books about depression as it usually leaves me dwelling on my own mental health and sometimes I can descend into the fog again.
Even so, it’s also extremely comforting to know that people feel the same; that everyone has their own fog to work their way through.
Haig has perfectly divulged the dark secrets of depression in an optimistic way that makes you want to recite his reasons to stay alive to yourself as much as humanly possible.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEEL TRULY ALIVE?
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.
Close your eyes by Darren O’Sullivan
Thrillers are my vibe of 2019 clearly. I read this book last year ironically just before I interviewed Darren for a feature in the local magazine I worked for Houseproud.
It is everything a thriller should be; exhilarating, unexpected and also incredibly shocking. The story has the ability to pull the rug from underneath you. It excels expectations from the blurb. A masterclass in how to write gripping fiction.
He doesn’t know his name. He doesn’t know his secret.
When Daniel woke up from a coma he had no recollection of the life he lived before. Now, fourteen years later, he’s being forced to remember.
A phone call in the middle of the night demands he return what he stole – but Daniel has no idea what it could be, or who the person on the other end is. He has been given one warning, if he doesn’t find out his family will be murdered.
Rachael needs to protect her son. Trapped with no way out she will do anything to ensure they survive. But sometimes mothers can’t save their children and her only hope is Daniel’s memory.