Back in January, I wrote a list of the books that I wanted to read this year.
Before I had children, I would read frequently and quickly. Reading on the train, on the tube and before I went to bed. Now it seems to take forever to get through a book. Small children, work and life seem to get in the way, but I’ve been slowly plodding on and noticed that I seem to be steadily reading about a book a month.
As an aside – how cool is this book exchange? What a great use for the now defunct red telephone boxes!
So, without further ado, here is what I’ve read so far this year and what I think of them:
- January – The Gift by Louise Jensen
I downloaded this book because it was at the top of the Amazon Kindle charts and was only £1.99. It’s a fast paced thriller that centres around Jenna who has had a heart transplant and is obsessed with meeting her donor’s family. When Jenna finally gets to meet them, she gets a sense that there are secrets and conspiracies surrounding the death of her donor, Callie. Jenna experiences strong physical feelings and flashbacks about what happened to Callie and she believes it is up to her to find out what really happened.
I loved the constant pace of this book and the mystery surrounding what happened to Callie. I also found it remarkable that the experiences that Jenna has of memories and flashbacks relating to Callie, is a recognised syndrome called Cellular Memory. The theory is that memories can be stored in individual cells so if an organ is donated to another person, they could perhaps experience their donor’s memories.
The only thing that for me that let this book down was the ending. It felt far too rushed and a bit unbelievable, like everything had been thrown together to finish it up.
Score – 7/10.
2. February – Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star
After the fast paced book of January, I felt the need for something completely different in February! This book appealed to me, because I’m the eldest of 3 sisters so I’m naturally curious to see the dynamics of other sibling relationships! Plus I loved the idea about a secret being shared amongst them.
The story is told from Ginger’s point of view, the eldest sibling. There are constant flashbacks between the present day and the 1970s when the children were growing up. Ginger’s mother, Goldie is a complicated person and she made several key decisions which had a huge impact on the family. I enjoyed seeing how the different personalities were shaped by their childhood and how this affected the behaviour of those characters in the present day.
The book trundles on quite nicely until the secret is revealed which, for me, felt a bit of an anti-climax. More could have been made of this, especially in the flashback to the events of the day itself. Overall, I think the main idea and premise surrounding this book was good, but more could have been made of it.
3. March – Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon
Written by the successful Telegraph columnist, this book is all about Bryony’s struggle with her mental health. It starts from when she was a teenager and tracks her ups and downs throughout her life to present day mum.
I loved how Bryony writes with such honesty and frankness. More than that, Bryony writes with wit and emotion so that even though this is such a serious and often heart-breaking read, she fills it with masses of humour. The book covers everything from OCD, alopecia, depression, violence, drug and alcohol abuse.
Bryony gives fascinating insight like the rituals that she used to practice to keep her family safe, or the fact that she used to take her iron to work with her because it was the only way she could truly believe that her flat hadn’t burnt down. She writes in such a self-deprecating style that you can’t help but laugh even though you appreciate she has been through hell.
I loved this book. It’s fast paced, it’s witty, it’s emotional but it importantly shines a light on a growing problem that millions are struggling with mental health issues. The only slight downside for me what that I often found it hard to face the next chapter, knowing that Bryony would have another demon or battle to face.
4. April – The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
I had high hopes for this one. It tells how during the heatwave of 1976, a neighbour, Mrs Creasy goes missing from a suburban cul-de-sac and how ten year olds Tilly and Grace take matters into their own hands to try and find her.
The book has brilliant detail and is well observed. It reminded me of the endless summers that I had during the school holidays. I enjoyed reading the perspective from the two girls and it was amusing trying to see them make sense of the adult world around them. Their investigations into Mrs Creasy’s disappearance led them to visit each neighbour on the cul-de-sac where we learn more about the other characters. We soon discover not everything is at it appears to be. I loved how the characters were portrayed and the stories and secrets of their lives. But I have to admit, I was disappointed with the ending. I had more questions, I wanted to know what had happened and what would happen next!
5. May – Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty
I’m still halfway through reading this one, but absolutely loving it so far. It wasn’t on my original reading list, but I couldn’t resist downloading it after realising that I’ve previously read a couple of other books by Liane and that she had also written the book / turned recent TV drama starring Nicole Kidman – Big, Little, Lies. (If you haven’t yet seen this TV series yet, please go and download it on catch up immediately. It is brilliant!).
I can’t give a true book review because I haven’t reached the end and I hope it will live up to all expectations! So far, I’m struggling to put this book down. The story focuses on a BBQ with 6 couples where we know that SOMETHING happened which changes the lives of everyone forever. The book flits from the present day back to the events of the BBQ and is shown from multiple view points. I love how well we get to know the characters, they are given such detail and they all have issues and secrets to deal with. The day of the BBQ is gradually drip fed through to us with huge amounts of tension making this book so addictive because you just want to know what happens next!
Score – TBC!
6. Throughout 2017 – Mindfulness – Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams
As it’s not fiction, I’ve been reading this book in chunks throughout the year and finished it only a few weeks ago. You are supposed to read a chapter a week and listen to the CD which accompanies it. This book is easy to read and gives some brilliant insight into why we behave like we do and how we can try and train our brain to live more in the present rather than over analysing our thoughts or looking too much into the past or future.
I agreed with pretty much everything that was said in this book. My problem has been to keep up the meditations and practice of Mindfulness. Despite making a huge effort to do them, I still find that I’m plagued by constantly over analysing thoughts and behaviour of other people. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to shake that, but the good thing about having read this book, is that I’m far more aware that I’m doing it now. Find out more about what I’ve learnt from this Mindfulness book in my other blog post.
Score – 8/10
Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with me or not? I’d love to hear your thoughts or let me know if you have any other recommendations for this year!