Wednesday, 30 December 2015

My best reads of 2015

As with previous years, I have chosen the ten books I most enjoyed that I read during the year. They are not all recently published, as you will see. I base my decisions on enjoyment and what I gained from them as much as literary merit. I list them in the order I read them. They include books from well known established authors but also four debut novels.

The Girl with All the Gifts - Mike Carey

I never thought I would enjoy a book featuring zombies but this one is, I suspect, in a class of its own. Mike Carey came to Finchley Literary Festival where he talked about it and read extracts. He even got some of us reading a little of the screenplay. I can truly say I read the part of Miss Justineau. I can't understand why they didn't choose me for the film. (OK, yes, I can, and after all I didn't exactly read for the part of Miss J.)

The Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna

Borrowed from the library, this was a fascinating read and gave me some insight into the aftermath of the appalling civil war in Sierra Leone.

Still Alice - Lisa Genova

A hauntingly sad portrayal of early onset dementia. I recall many years ago when, as a fairly newly qualified speech and language therapist, I had to assess the language of a lady with E.O.D It was one of the saddest assessments I have ever had to carry out, witnessing her despair and desolation at knowing she was no longer able to communicate and be the person she was, a highly intelligent and educated head-teacher.

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

This one kept me turning the pages. Psychopaths come in all guises.

The Things we Have in Common - Tasha Kavanagh.

Another Finchley Literary Festival book. Tasha's book was understandably nominated for the Not the Booker Prize. A story of Yasmin, a teenager who is an outsider and has a crush on her class mate. Yasmin sets out to keep her safe from the man she assumes is a stalker and a danger. Is she right? Does she make a catastrophic mistake?

The Ship - Antonia Honeywell.

A third FLF book which was a most thought-provoking read. Lalla might be annoying but she is the only person to question the reason the selected 500 passengers are on the ship, and whether that reason is valid.

Tying Down the Lion - Joanna Campbell.

I loved this story of the Bishop family driving to Berlin in 1967. It's funny but has a very tender and serious aspect. Joanna's writing is so vibrant that I felt as if I was in the car with the Bishops. The era of 1967 is brilliantly evoked.

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood.

I'm not sure how I managed not to read this book before, as it has, rightly, been lauded for the last 30 years. I'd read others of Atwood's but this one had escaped me. I'm glad I put that right.

A God in Ruins - Kate Atkinson

I read  Life After Life last year so was intrigued to read this, the companion book. I was not disappointed.

The Good Son - Paul McVeigh.

Also shortlisted for Not The Booker Prize, I'd read about Paul's debut novel on his blog as well as number of terrific reviews. I was attending the NTB event at Big Green Bookshop, so intended to buy a copy. After hearing Paul read an extract I was well and truly hooked. An original and authentic voice that took me there, to Belfast in the 80s, spending a troubled summer with Mickey - wanting him so very much to achieve what he hoped for.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Rae's blog....

Thank you to Rae Stoltenkamp, who invited me to be a guest blogger, following in the lofty footsteps of Emily Benet.

I met Rae at the first writing group I attended, run by Stewart Permutt, where I found the standard of its members was scarily good. Rae was therefore one of the first people to hear my early writing efforts and along with the rest of the group gave critical feedback in a useful and supportive way. 

Rae has published several books: Rae's fiction as well as poetry.

Take a look at my post and all the others on her blog here: Rae Stoltenkamp.