I adore books. I’m pretty sure the reason I am a writer today is because I was introduced to books from an early age – and that passion for great stories has never left me (as my bookshelves will attest). This year has been a great year for reading, not least because having Flo has meant I have pockets of time to read during her naps.
And what a year for books so far!
I’m very fortunate that now I’m a published author I’m often sent proof copies of new books and this year I’ve been blessed with some amazing reads. I’ve also been indulging my love of bookshops, which has led to a book-buying curfew for the next few months while I read all the books in my TBR pile.
I was thinking about this today, particularly how blessed we are as readers with the wealth of brilliant writing in the UK and beyond. So here are some of the stand-out novels for me so far this year, both books I’ve received and books I’ve bought – every one a must-read!
GLAZE is a dark, twisty thriller set in the near future, where everyone is connected to the internet via a chip embedded in their brains. It’s a concept that isn’t so far removed from recent reports of technology being explored by Google, Facebook, Amazon – after all, Google Glass is one step removed from the premise of GLAZE. Kim’s writing is phenomenal – I say this not only as her friend but primarily as her avid fan. Breathlessly exciting, utterly original and if it isn’t adapted into the next big Hollywood smash hit film, it will be a crime!
Falling is the kind of psychological thriller that holds you in its grip until the last page. Emma Kavanagh’s debut novel is fantastic, bringing together the stories of a group of characters united by one, horrific event. What I loved most about it was the human element of the story – each character is so well drawn – and the pace of the novel is amazing. I can’t wait to read more from Emma!
THE MEMORY BOOK – ROWAN COLEMAN
I sobbed my way through The Memory Book earlier this year. Quite simply, it’s a beautiful, heartbreaking story that I found incredibly moving and profound. I love Rowan’s writing and am proud to call her my friend, but this book is a step above anything she’s ever written before. It’s the kind of book you recommend to everyone you know – my mum is now a big fan because I raved about the story!
A HUNDRED PIECES OF ME – LUCY DILLON
A Hundred Pieces of Me is profoundly affecting and gorgeously written. I read this on holiday, just before Flo was born, and was utterly engrossed in the story from the first page. I love stories with a theme of rebirth and redemption and this book was a wonderful study of what life is really all about. I loved Gina’s search for herself after years of living for other people and her decision to redefine her life. It’s a beautiful book, sensitively written and gloriously imagined.
When my lovely friend Cally told me she was writing a psychological thriller, I couldn’t wait to read it – and boy, was it worth waiting for! It’s been a very long time since I haven’t been able to put a book down but The Accident was one of those books. In fact, I found myself reading it while making a cup of tea, last thing at night and first thing in the morning for two glorious days! It’s the kind of twisting, chilling story that wraps itself around you and pulls you in, with a protagonist I was fascinated by but didn’t really know if I should be trusting. Brilliant, brilliant storytelling!
DASH AND LILY’S BOOK OF DARES – RACHEL COHN & DAVID LEVITHAN
I’ve been following the #bookadayuk challenges on Twitter and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares kept coming up. Being a fan of New York, especially books set there at Christmas, this sounded right up my street, so I treated myself last week for a journey down to London. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a sweet, hipster-y tale of two teenagers who don’t think they fit in, finding each other first through words and then through New York experiences. Think Gilmore Girls-style sass meeting Dawson’s Creek teen self-awareness, wrapped up in a cute story with more than a dash (no pun intended) of New York magic. I read it in a weekend and it was a real treat.
Every once in a while, a book comes along that blows you away. For me this year, Where Love Lies has been that story. I’m a huge fan of Julie’s writing and I know personally how much love she invested in writing this book. But even given that I adore every word she writes and love her as a dear friend, I wasn’t prepared for how utterly wonderful her latest book would be. Here I’m going to run out of superlatives and be unashamedly fan-girly, but I truly believe this is Julie’s best book yet. It’s raw, unafraid and intensely challenging. The story constantly surprises and I found my assumptions being called out throughout the book. It’s so different, so affecting and so exquisitely written that I know it’s a book I will return to again and again.
I’m a big believer that you can’t be a great writer without being a great reader first… These books have entertained, challenged, gripped and delighted me this year and I have loved every one. Much has been written about the ‘death of books’, but while stories like these exist in the world, readers will be blessed. It’s an exciting time to be an author and an even more exciting time to be a reader: I’m looking forward to see what the rest of this year brings!