2. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan. Take three very different men in a small town in Ireland: Syrian refugee Farouk, 23 year old heartbroken Lampy and elderly dying John. They are all struggling with their own lives and pasts. Their stories are beautifully written, so poignant at times. Donal Ryan has such an amazing way with words. And while the characters look like they have nothing in common, their lives are all invisibly threaded together, which becomes clear by the end of the novel. And my heart wrenched when it happened, the same way it happened when reading Ryan's previous novel All We Shall Know. Beautiful in a heart wrenching way.
3. Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce. When Emmeline Lake takes a job at a magazine, she has visions of being a Lady War Correspondent during World War II. Instead she finds herself working for the formidable Henrietta Bird, typing out response for her advise column. Mrs Bird has strict instructions, any letters with Unpleasantness must be binned IMMEDIATELY. However these letters tug on Emmy’s heart and she finds herself replying to them secretly as Mrs Bird. While this book at first seems a bit like if Anne from the Famous Five grew up (lots of jolly goods and smashings!), underneath the fizzy frothiness is some really heart and bravery. A real feel good charming novel.
4. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. The books opens with the narrator in a different body and has to find out who he is. He discovers that Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 10pm and he has seven days to figure it out. He wakes in a different body each day, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. A murder mystery with a twist! Full review here.
5. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith. After a 3 year wait, we finally got our hands on book 4 in the Cormorant Strike series! It was a big hefty read (the biggest book I read last year) but it had me hooked and I loved seeing Strike and Robin again.
Honorary mentions to Binti by Nnedi Okorafor and The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory.
2. My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen. Lily doesn’t hold back in this memoir, it’s a warts and all book that highlights the highs and lows from her life. I was a big big fan of Lily’s first album, I listened to it constantly the summer of 2006. While I knew bits and pieces of Lily’s life (mostly through the tabloids), it was interesting to hear it from her own perspective. There was a lot I didn’t realise, like the story with her stalker which is terrifying. I listened to it on audiobook and really recommend it this way as Lily reads it herself.
3. I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. Maggie replays 17 brushes with death that had an impact on her life, from her own childhood illness to being away from home at 18 years old to giving birth and almost drowning on holiday. I decided to listen to this book after seeing Jen Campbell listening to it when going for a walk. Within the first 5 minutes of listening my mouth was agape (first story is the one being 18 years old and encountering a man when on a walk alone). A beautiful and powerful read that will stick with you for a long time.
4. James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes by James Acaster. I love James and his sense of humour so I decided to give this a shot. And boy am I glad that I did. We do get the story of James and his upbringing but mainly it’s a series of hilarious stories (or the scrapes that only James can get himself in to) that will have you laughing til you cry. Another one I listened to and highly highly recommend it, it had me snorting and stifling giggles in the work canteen and in Lidl.
5. From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty. As I’ve stated here before I’m a big fan of Caitlin and her work (her YouTube channel and previous book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes). Caitlin travels the world and explore death in different cultures, which was fascinating. Seeing as I enjoy listening to Caitlin in her videos, I listened this one too as an audiobook. Caitlin now has a podcast too Death in the Afternoon which I also recommend!
Honourable mentions to both of the No Such Thing as Fish books, Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson, Shrill by Lindy West and Feminists Don’t Wear Pink curated by Scarlett Curtis.
1. Save the Date by Morgan Matson. Set over the weekend of her sister’s wedding, anything that can go wrong will go wrong for Charlie Grant and her family. I really enjoyed how the story was told over a weekend and as Charlie’s mother is the creator of a comic book strip based on the family, we got a comic strip at the beginning of each chapter which was very cute. Coming from a large family, I loved the family dynamic in this and I could see this as a movie.
2. Wing Jones by Katherine Webber. Wing lives with her mother, brother, her Ghanaian grandmother and her Chinese grandmother. Wing doesn’t fit in and spends a lot of time with her brother, his girlfriend and his best friend. When her brother is in an accident, Wing begins to run and discovers she’s pretty good at it. Set in the 1990s, it’s a sweet coming of age story that explores being different, finding your strengths and learning who you are. I loved that the book didn’t shy away from some of the harsh realities of life, like money problems. A slow burner, you’ll find yourself cheering on Wing.
3. Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee. The last book in The Agency quartet, Mary Quinn is an undercover agent and spy in Victorian times. I loved the series, I enjoy books set in Victorian times and having a spy element just makes it much better. Book one is A Spy in the House.
4. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. The second Matson book on the list, I would have avoided doubling up on authors but this made me feel things. Taylor and her family go to their family lake side house for one last summer together. Taylor hasn’t been to the lake house in years and when last there, something happened that caused a fallout with her best friend and her first boyfriend. Of course both these people are there for the summer and Taylor must come to terms with her past while trying to deal with the future for her family. Poignant novel that made me cry and smile.
5. Obsidio by Aime Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Final book in the Illuminae series, it’s a fun sci-fi series set in space. The books are told through files, transcriptions and the musings of a crazy computer system which is super unique and interesting.
Honorary mentions Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, a western which was something new for me and To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han, which I read before watching the Netflix film which was super cute and Lara Jean has a fantastic wardrobe.
I read some graphic novels as well this year but unlike my 2016 post I didn’t include any favourites because my favourites were continuations from series that I’m in the middle of and enjoying (Saga, Paper Girls, Ms Marvel) and if they weren’t part of a series I already like, then I wasn’t overly impressed or blown away by them. My library is also behind on these series, particularly Lumberjanes and Squirrel Girl which is such a shame.
While the books avoid were fantastic and I loved them, overall I think my reading year was quite blah. There was a lot of 2 star reads, I DNFd some books and I had a big reading slumping. I’m just glad that there were some highs and that I read these gems.