This year one of my goals was to start reading again. Studying literature and creative writing sucked the joy of reading from me – I wasn’t reading what I wanted and I was picking apart books to their bare bones. It wasn’t fun.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my literature and writing courses but I was so relieved when I finished, just because I could read for fun again. As soon as university was over, I got back on GoodReads and collected new books pretty much every time I went out.
So, what have I read this year? How many stars did I give them? And what’s still on my To Be Read list? I’ll share with you all of these over the course of two blog posts this weekend – sit back, browse, and find your new favourite book!
1. The Killing Woods – Lucy Christopher (3/5 stars)
Emily’s dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl. Emily is sure he is innocent, but what happened that night in the woods behind their house where she used to play as a child? Determined to find out, she seeks out Damon Hillary, the enigmatic boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But he’s got secrets of his own about games that are played in the dark.
2. Victoria – Daisy Goodwin (5/5)
In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone.
3. The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George (5/5)
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened. After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story.
4. Strictly My Husband – Tracy Bloom (2/5)
Laura loves it when Tom takes her for a late night tango around the kitchen after their friends have gone home and they’re avoiding the washing up. That changes when Tom arrives on the doorstep with Carly, a professional dancer, and announces he’s offered her the spare room while she performs in a show that Tom is directing. An outraged Laura doesn’t feel like dancing with Tom anymore but Carly does. It only takes two to tango, and given Tom’s history who knows where it could end? Will Laura be left watching from the sidelines whilst Carly waltzes off with her husband’s heart?
5. Shtum – Jem Lester (3/5)
Ben Jewell’s ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope. When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.
6. The Sisters – Claire Douglas (5/5)
Haunted by her twin sister’s death, Abi is making a fresh start in Bath. But when she meets twins Bea and Ben, she is quickly drawn into their privileged and unsettling circle. As Abi tries to keep up with the demands of her fickle friends, strange things start to happen – precious letters go missing and threatening messages are left in her room. Is this the work of the beautiful and capricious Bea? Or is Abi willing to go to any lengths to get attention? When the truth outs, will either sister survive?
7. The Paris Secret – Karen Swan (4/5)
Along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden for decades. High-flying fine art agent Flora from London is called in to assess these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and discover who has concealed them for so long. Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren’t all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock.
8. What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty (3/5)
Alice Love is 29, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she wakes up on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time.
9. The French Lesson – Hallie Rubenhold (3/5)
Henrietta Lightfoot trips on her silk gown as she runs for her life along the bloodstained streets of revolutionary Paris. She finds refuge in the lavish home of Grace Dalyrmple Elliott, one of the old regime’s most powerful courtesans. But heads are beginning to roll. Outside, the guillotine mercilessly claims its victims, while inside society’s gilded salons, Henrietta becomes a pawn in a vicious power game. How will she survive in a world where no one can be trusted?
10. A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard (4/5)
Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.
11. That Girl from Nowhere – Dorothy Koomson (2/5)
Clemency was adopted as a baby and the only connection she has to her birth mother is a cardboard box hand-decorated with butterflies. Now an adult, Clem decides to make a drastic change and move to Brighton, where she was born. While there, she meets someone who knows all about her butterfly box and what happened to her birth parents. As the tangled truths about her adoption and childhood start to unravel, a series of shocking events cause Clem to reassess whether the price of having contact with her birth family could be too high to pay.
12. The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane – Ellen Berry (4/5)
On Rosemary Lane, Della Cartwright plans to open a very special little bookshop. Not knowing what to do with the hundreds of cookbooks her mother left her, she now wants to share their recipes with the world. But with her family convinced it’s a hare-brained scheme, Della starts to wonder if she’s made a terrible decision. One thing’s for sure: she’s about to find out…
13. The Flower Arrangement – Ella Griffin (4/5)
Every bouquet tells a story and every story begins at Blossom & Grow, a tiny flower shop in the heart of Dublin. Florist Lara works her magic, translating feelings into flower arrangements, changing hearts and lives. Whether it’s bridal posies, anniversary bouquets or surprise deliveries from secret admirers, Lara arranges flowers for all manner of life-changing moments. No stranger to heartbreak herself, Lara knows flowers say more than words ever can. But can the flowers that heal the customers work their magic on her?
14. The Mother – Yvette Edwards (3/5)
The unimaginable has happened to Marcia Williams. Her bright and beautiful sixteen-year-old son Ryan has been brutally murdered. Consumed by grief and rage, she must bridle her dark feelings and endure something no mother should ever have to experience: she must go to court for the trial of the killer—another teenage boy—accused of taking her son’s life. As the trial proceeds, Marcia finds her beliefs and assumptions challenged as she learns more about Ryan’s death.
15. How to Find Love in a Bookshop – Veronica Henry (3/5)
Emilia has returned to her Cotswold home to rescue the family business. Nightingale Books is a dream come true for book-lovers, but the best stories aren’t just within the pages of the books she sells – Emilia’s customers have their own tales to tell. There’s the lady of the manor who is hiding a secret close to her heart; the single dad looking for books to share with his son but who isn’t quite what he seems; and the shy chef trying to find the courage to talk to her crush. And as for Emilia’s story, can she keep the promise she made to her father and save Nightingale Books?
16. The Reader on the 6.27 – Jean-Paul Didierlaurent (3/5)
Working at a job he hates, Guylain Vignolles has but one pleasure in life. Sitting on the 6.27 train each day, Guylain reads aloud. It’s this release of words into the world that starts our hero on a journey that will finally bring meaning into his life. For one morning, Guylain discovers the diary of a lonely young woman: Julie, who feels as lost in the world as he does.
17. The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barberry (2/5)
Renée is the concierge of a Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and good. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society’s expectations of what a concierge should be. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renée lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever.
18. The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain (3/5)
Bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street, and feels impelled to return it to its owner. The bag contains no money, phone or contact information. But a small red notebook with handwritten thoughts and jottings reveals a person that Laurent would very much like to meet. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?
19. Northern Lights – Philip Pullman (4/5)
Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…
20. That Certain Something – Clare Ashton (3/5)
Pia Benitez-Smith has her head in the clouds. She’s a photojournalist out to prove herself with her compassionate eye, and although not accident prone, most days trouble seems to find her. On one such day, she literally falls into the arms of the beautiful Cate. Elegant, intriguing and classy, Cate is Pia’s polar opposite. When the two dispute the importance of love versus money, Cate is adamant that her perfect night will always be an expensive one. Working class Pia can’t resist the challenge and with the assistance of a beguiling summer night in London, she begins to enchant her new friend.
Have you read any of these books, or would you like to after reading this post? Do you agree or disagree with my ratings? Let me know and I hope you’ll join me for part two of my bookshelf tomorrow!