Books :: 2015

I'm determined not to wait until the end of the year before updating my reading list this time ...

I finished reading The Bone Clocks on the weekend and needed something really light afterwards.

This was not that light - a sex scandal in an exclusive Vermont school destroys all those involved, and some who weren't - but it was an easy, compulsive read. My first Anita Shreve since The Pilots Wife a million years ago. Not too taxing, but not total fluff either - just what one sometimes needs!

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Just read this. Just do. Narrated by one of those characters you want to know in real life, and for the rest of your life.
A plot twist the implications of which seep slowly through the novel.
When you've read it, read this review by Barbara Kingsolver.

The Dandelion Diary
Heart-breaking, and so beautifully written. A young South African woman has a degenerative muscle disease which gradually incapacitates her, while her spirit remains strong and generous.

The Days & Nights of London Now
Such a lovely collection of London. A must for anyone who's visited or lived there.

I'm struggling with reading this year. Too much work, too much distraction. I'm finding it hard to switch off long enough to get immersed in a novel. A pile of books sat on my bedside table for ages before I remembered what I need to do when a reading doldrum strikes:
Re-read something I've loved before.

The Time Traveler's Wife was my Best Read of 2008 and it was the perfect time to return to it. I'd forgotten enough to make it just as compelling as the first time round, and have grown enough to find all kinds of new things to love about it.
I was engrossed, and totally got the reading bug back.

Surviving Flight 295
This was fascinating. Dominique Luck's mother and infant sister were killed in the Helderberg plane crash and this is the story of how she ultimately overcame that tragedy.
I found it such an interesting insight into a type of South African family I had zero experience of, as well as the political intrigue around the crash and just her voice, a woman growing up at a similar time to me but with such different experiences.

The Welsh Girl
I bought this book primarily for the recommend from David Mitchell on the cover, and I 'm glad I did. Slow and quiet, a number of times - once as deep in as 200 pages - I wasn't sure whether I'd finish it, but I did and I'm so glad. Understated, thought-provoking and sad.

Girl Child
I read so many books like this as a teen - stories of girls overcoming broken families, child abuse and disfunctional societies to escape their trailer-trash roots, often through books and imagination. I'm not sure why I loved them so much as they had no relevance to my real life (maybe that's why!).
This one I didn't love as much, just found it sad. Maybe as a parent myself these cut too deep now?

the Truth
Like no doubt many others around the world I've been reading Terry Pratchett. I was, like all those others, so saddened by the news of his Alzheimers diagnosis some years ago and then his death.
What a magnificent brain gone too soon.
The Truth is not my favourite, just the one closest to hand. I'd love to read one of the Witches books again, and more about The Watch. But gawd he's so good at sneaking up and gut-punching you with a startling truism while you thought you were just reading something funny.
What a great man.

The Colour of Milk was in a throw-out pile from my Mum's book club (or 'play group' as my Dad likes to call it ha ha) so I gave it a bash.
I like outdated stories of girls on farms who surprise us all with their cunning and potential so I enjoyed this, but I imagine it wouldn't be for everyone.

 Green Lion
I may not be reading a huge amount this year but oooo I've read some beautiful covers! How gorgeous is this?
Henrietta is an acquaintance from Varsity days - I've enjoyed her work in the past but this novel was particularly super. Set in Cape Town, featuring the Table Mountain National Park as a character as intriguing and colourful as any other, I loved it!

Night Watch
Tracked down my favourite Terry Pratchett ever - this one is all about Sam Vimes - and enjoyed it even more this time round than the first. Seriously, Pratchett's depth and insight was a true gift to this world. How wonderful that his words will remain with us forever.

Burial Rites
Another gorgeous cover - can you see the colours in that feather? All the pages are edged in black on this edition too - very striking.
And what a book! Might be my read of 2015 thus far. A weird sad TRUE story about one of the first executions for murder in Iceland in the 1800's.

The Book of Strange New Things
On the subject of weird .... this book was WEIRD. Sci-fi in the least sci-fi'est way (I'm not a big fan of sci-fi), with an extremely irritating main character, I still waded through it in fits and starts over the course of a month or so, never quote able to put it down but never really loving it either.
My goodness what a lovely cover though - all that gold is embossed!
Maybe it's because it felt so good that I kept picking it up again!

The Signature of All Things
Confession: total blonde moment - I also read this one really slowly (I'm such an easily distracted reader at the moment) and at some point the meaning of the title is revealed in the story. The 'signature of all things' is a botanical theory which seems to try and reconcile the conflicting theories of creation and evolution. Hmm, I think, reading the words. 'The signature of all things' sounds awfully familiar ... I lean over and pick up my phone to Google it. The first thing I see is the cover of the book I'm holding IN MY HANDS.

The People of the Book
The last book I read by this author (Year of Wonder) totally freaked me out for years - still does - so I was hesitant, but this story of the journey of an ancient Jewish scroll was fascinating and a compelling read.

Psalm at Journey's End
The story of the musicians aboard the Titanic dragged in places, but I still find anything to do with that great tragedy fascinating, and this was very evocatively written.

The Sealed Letter was completely unlike The Room, which had us all deeply in love with Emma Donoghue. But it was good enough in its own right, and having experienced the end of a friendship this year I found it quite poignant in places.

The Invention of Wings
One of those heartbreaking slave stories from the American South. Very sad.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole
A nostalgic re-read. Ah, Adrian Mole - total classic. Had to hide it in the end because that cover proved very attractive to a certain 81/2 yr old who reads everything in sight. I don't think she's quite ready for young Mole!

All the Light we Cannot See
This might be my contender for read of the year. I started slowly, the invasion of Paris and the lead characters fleeing the city - I had to check with a friend whether there was any concentration camp scenes, I felt I couldn't bear it if there was.
But after that conversation I plunged back in and loved this book. Still heartbreaking, still menacing, but such beautiful characters and writing. Loved it.

This is How you Lose Her
Oddball read of the year. A series of short stories, mainly by male Latin American voices, about settling in America and girls girls girls. My first Junot Diaz and I just loved his voice - you find yourself reading it in a Latino accent (gleaned from Hollywood in my case sadly), and the interspersing of Spanish words works.
Shortly after finishing it I found this quote on FB - made me laugh!

Being Dead
Oh wait, maybe this was my oddball read of the year. It's not spoiling to say this is the story of an elderly couple who get murdered on a sand dune, and the parallel description of their bodies decomposing while revealing how they came to be there.
Macabre and fascinating. I'm still not sure why I enjoyed this as much as I did ...

The Magician's Lie
I seem to have done a number of these books in 2015. Stories of women born before their time, traveling out of their comfort zones or recovering from adverse circumstance. It's a good trope, but I fear I've tired of it a little.
This was good enough however, and I enjoyed it.

The Quarry
Good to end with a favourite author. Iain Banks is just so good I could bascially read him writing about anything on earth. Husband read this too, and then asked me if I was enjoying it. 'I am,' I said, 'But aren't really sure why - it's not very .... exciting.'
But I did, I love his quiet voice. It was a good read to end a strange year of reading.

25 books. Not that great for me. But I'm still grateful to them, to all these booky friends who kept me company this year.

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