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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Favourite Books of 2017!

I'm finally getting around to this and being a bit kinder to myself by only doing my top 5 books of 2017, instead of my top 17...mostly because I'm writing this on Blue Monday (if it's actually a thing), I'm exhausted and also because I don't think anyone reads posts that are that long anymore. I do, if it's something interesting to me, like books, but I know not everyone can spare the time, so here's my condensed version of 2017 book faves. 
If yisser lucky (joke) I'll still get around to popping up my fave beauty products, but only if January hasn't forced me into a full-on productivity downward spiral altogether.

Himself by Jess Kidd
This was the first book I read of 2017 so it's apt that I start with it now. I have a thing about the first book of the year being a good one; of course I'd prefer if they all were but that's not possible. That first fresh read of January though. It just has to be a good one because it sets up my entire reading for the year. I'm not superstitious about most things but that's one I do hold stock with. Anyways, the book itself is about a swagger-y young fella called Mahony who shows up in a small town in Co. Mayo in the 70's, on a mission to find out what happened to his runaway teen mother who disappeared almost straight after she gave birth to him. All is not as it seems; the locals are not happy to see him and it looks like everyone has a secret to hide, or tell, depending on how much they fancy Mahony. Thrown into the mix is the sometimes help/sometimes hindrance that is Mahony's ability to communicate with the dead. It sounds strange but it's actually brilliantly written; very witty, clever, extremely Irish, and yes, very creepy. Loved it!! Jess Kidd has a new book out soon that I cannot wait to read.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This is the memoir of neurosurgeon and cancer patient, Paul Kalanithi. Paul had previously studied English and Philosophy so the book reads quite philosophically, unsurprisingly. He describes how drastically his life changed; going from an extremely hard working neurosurgeon, saving lives daily to being vulnerable and fighting for his own life, his marriage and to get back to the person he was before his tumour changed him irrevocably. I know some have felt the book was too sad but I found it positive and uplifting also. Paul lived his life to the fullest, he loved his family and changed how he practised medicine based on his experiences of being a patient himself. On a personal level, I found his comments about his career and how it affects who he was as a person particularly emotive. Because of these reasons, I think this would also be a great read for health care professionals, as well as everyone else.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
This is from 2013 and I've seen constant references to it in book blogging circles so I eventually got around to reading it this year and it was a revelation. Ursula Todd is born one snowy night in 1910 but doesn't take a breath and dies. In another 1910, Ursula Todd is born again on a snowy night but lives, which means little as she will continue to live different lives and die different deaths from then on. The varying lives Ursula leads are expertly woven together and left me bereft every time something bad happened to her (which happened a lot). It sounds grim but it was unlike any other book I've read and it has many uplifting moments. I didn't enjoy the sequel, A God In Ruins, however. I found it slow moving and I connected less to the characters but I really loved Life After Life.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This was a late contender and a book club read that I became completely emerged in on our flight to LA.    
Elena Richardson plays by the rules; in her job, her community and her own home, so she's more than a little put out when enigmatic artist Mia and her daughter Pearl arrive in Elena's affluent suburb, looking to settle down. All of Elena's children become involved in Mia and Pearl's life on some level, obsessions starting in some cases. It's not until Mia's role in a local adoption case comes to light, effecting Elena's best friend, that Elena decides they are in fact enemies- she doesn't trust Mia's motives and begins to dig into her history, uncovering long buried secrets which will have a devastating effect on all their lives. This is a really well written book. It's atmospheric and engaging and the characters are easy to visualise and relate to. Looking forward to reading more from Celeste Ng this year. 

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay
I hadn't read Roxanne Gay before and so I was very excited when I saw this collection of short stories on my local library shelf.  Every story has a woman as its protagonist and they're all full, rounded people with flaws and secrets, good and bad traits. I was crying by the end of the first story while others left me completely bereft and others, fuming with anger. I still think about some of the women's stories from time to time. This for me was one of those times when you come across something so new and so different that it floors you a little bit- I'm still not quite recovered. Trigger warning for rape/child abuse if you are thinking of reading it. I need to read everything else she's ever written this year. 

Honourable mentions go to The Princess Bride by William Goldman (the book of the famous film, the book is also well loved and for good reason), The Break by Marian Keyes (Marian at her absolute best. Loved this story of a marital break, a family in crisis and a woman holding it all together), Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine (a sucker punch of a thriller- main character Gwen is in hiding from her serial killer ex but must use her considerable talents to protect herself and her kids from a copycat killer) Eleanor Oliphant is completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (a funny, poignant, tragic and sweet story of Eleanor; not really socially capable but in need of love), Final Girls by Riley Sager (a horror movie within a thriller, with a twist), Under the Dome by Stephen King (classic King- an epically long read that'll keep you gripped throughout) and The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (a creepy, atmospheric read about family secrets).

Dishonourable mentions go to The Breakdown by B.A Paris (extremely predictable and slow moving), Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (I didn't care about any of the characters and stopped reading halfway through. It was pretty blah), Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (a drawn out thriller with a preposterous ending), Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan (a complicated and muddled mish-mash of depressing stories in one, a terrible book to read in January).

And that is my lot. Did any of these make it into your top books of the year? What were your least favourite?

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