Saturday, January 02, 2016

Favourite reads of 2015

I read a lot last year. I thoroughly indulged myself in fact as 2015 was the first year (well most of it) I'd had since 2011 without having to focus on studying. The trouble is I read so much that I can't really remember clearly what the books were and when I read them, but a few books really stood out and I thought I'd post these here.

I always read a lot of memoirs and one of my favourite writers is Jo Carroll, whose lovely account of her recent visit to Nepal, After the Earthquake, was an immediate favourite when I pounced on it in December (don't forget the proceeds of this book are also going to the rebuilding of a house there too, so if you buy it, you'll not only have a great read, but you'll also be helping a Nepali family). After the Earthquake is quite short, so at the other end of the memoir scale is the long, but totally riveting Of Foreign Build by Jackie Parry. I absolutely loved this book. It was so inspiring, so heartfelt and really quite breathtaking in its exuberance. I can highly recommend it for lovers of sailing and escape-from-it-all adventure. I also adored Homer's Where the Heart Is by Marjory McGinn, a wonderful memoir that just confirmed and cemented my lifelong desire to go to Greece.

I read a lot of detective fiction too and Deborah Crombie is still my all time favourite. This year found me buying and gobbling down her two latest. Now I'll have to wait for the next ones to come out, so I'll be twiddling my thumbs for those. In the meantime, though, I've thoroughly enjoyed Carol Hedges' excellent Victorian murder mystery novel Death and Dominion (only paperbacks available at the moment as the ebooks are being republished), Stephanie Parker McKean's  gripping Bridge to Brigadoon, the fourth in the Miz Mike series and a sort of Texan Agatha Christie heroine who is delightfully bonkers, and Christina James's rather dark and very complex The Crossing, a classic detective partnership involving DI Yates and his partner Juliet (which I've just finished).

Then comes another category that I enjoy and that's WWII novels. Earlier in the year, I read both The Book Thief and All the Light we Cannot See, two stunning award-winning novels that have lingered in my mind ever since.

Less well-known though are others that I've really enjoyed:  A Boy Off the Bank by Geoffrey Lewis, set on the English canals in wartime, and a Maiden's Trip by Emma Smith, about women bargees during the war. Apart from these, I really liked Don't Pass Me By and The Mountains Between by Julie McGowan, both of which are set in wartime Wales and also the gritty, gripping Pattern of Shadows by Judith Barrow.

Then finally, there are a few books that are hard to categorise, but stood out for all the right reasons: Terry Tyler's Last Child and her latest, The House of York, two contemporary family sagas based on the history of the Tudors and the Wars of the Roses family. Both books are completely compulsive and quite unputdownable. In an entirely different genre is the edge-of-your seat action thriller Sheer Fear by Geoffrey West from his terrific Jack Lockwood series. At the other end of the literary scale is Song of the Cypress by Tonia Parronchi, a beautiful, lyrical novel that immerses the reader in Tuscany.

And last, but absolutely not least and quite possibly my favourite of all because of their wonderful French atmosphere and beautiful crafting, the 'French' novellas by Peter Davey: Marielle (the latest), Love and Friendship, and Simone Simone. I actually read the second two in 2014, but I read them again last year. If you like French films, you will love these novellas. I do and could read them again and again.

All that said, these are not the only books I read last year. The upside of ebooks is that you can try new authors out for very little outlay, so there have been many, many others: some I've enjoyed, others I've started and left half way through never to return, and still others I've read but not really thought much of. I may have missed one or two good ones out here, but as I say, these are the ones that stood out for me in 2015. If any of them inspire you to buy and read them, well I can only say I recommend them all!

16 comments:

  1. I've already thought of another couple I should have mentioned, so for the record, I can very much recommend Lucinda E Clarke's Truth, Lies and Propaganda (1) and Chris Hill's The Pick Up Artist!

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  2. So many of your books sound like a good read. This year I am not going to take on many requests for reviews as I have so many books waiting to be read so I hope to get through most of them. I'll hopefully be doing my virtual book awards tomorrow.

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    1. Anne, I know what you mean! I still have many waiting to be read too, and I've read much more than usual. In fact I've done less writing because I wanted to catch up with my reading but I'm a long way from getting through the list!

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  3. thank you so much Val!!! REally appreciate this!

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    1. Wishing you so much good from the new developments, CarolStar!! You and your books really deserve it!!

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  4. What a great list. I'm truly honoured to be part of it.

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  5. Thank you so much, Val, and what a lovely surprise! xxx

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  6. Great list, Val! Thanks for including me and showcasing those books and authors whose work I intend to read this year! Great Motivation!

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    1. It's a pretty varied list, Steph, and not everyone will like everything, but it's a taste of what I personally like. I'd had enough of academic reading, so these gave me a lovely escape from all that intellectual grind. That's not to say they didn't challenge me at all, but at least none of these were hard work. I gobbled all of them down! For me, that's the mark of a great read. If I cannot part with a book during the day, it's got what it takes as far as I'm concerned :)

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  7. Hi Val - I recognised a few of the authors and have wanted to read both Terry and Jo's books ... somehow I have to clear the decks here first ... enjoy this year's reading ... cheers Hilary

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    1. They'll be worth it when you're ready, Hilary!

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  8. Fantastic list - loved "Song of the Cypress" and Terry's books! I must do a similar blog when I get a chance :)

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    1. Isn't Song of the Cypress lovely, Vanessa. I want to read it again! And Terry's books are just totally compulsive. Totally addictive!

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  9. When it comes to reading I tend to follow an author not so much for their topics, rather their use of language. In particular Alexander McCall Smith and Catriona McPherson both of whom are Scots.

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