Just before New Year I shared five of my favourite books from 2015 (that is, books I read in that year – I can’t promise you it was their year of publication – I read to my own, random schedule). I promised to share another five in the new year so, here we go!
1. The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins
I read these over Christmas and New Year 2014/2015. I was late enough to the party reading them then (they were published in 2008 – 2010) and I’m even later writing about them now but I just HAVE to include them in this list because they were unputdownable. I even walked into a wall once while reading the second book. On the off-chance you don’t know the story, it’s set in a dystopian future in a nation called Panem. This is divided into twelve districts who are forced, each year, to send two of their teenagers to take part in the ‘Hunger Games’ – a televised fight-to-the-death in a huge computer-generated landscape. For seventy-three years this forced massacre has occurred, but now it’s the seventy-forth Hunger Games and Katniss Everdeen is about to enter the arena…
These books are brilliant but I won’t lie, I found parts of them hard to read – I’m a bit of a softy, many of the deaths really are grizzly and I almost couldn’t bear it. But the characters felt so real and the world they inhabited so vibrant that I got totally pulled in. It’s a Young Adult series so, of course, there was romance thrown into the mix and I found I really cared about this too (I was ‘team Peeta’ in case you’re wondering)! The third book didn’t reach the dizzy heights of the first two but overall it was totally gripping. I remain a little bit in love with Finnick to this day.
2. The Love Song of Miss Quennie Hennessy – Rachel Joyce
Oh, this book, this book! It is a sequel (of sorts) to the award-winning ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ which was a best seller back in 2013. It’s told from the point of view of Queenie who, in her hospice, discovers that her old friend Harold is walking the length of England to reach her. Unsure if she will still be alive when he gets there, she decides to write to him. Her letter is “the truth, the whole truth” and she hopes that in revealing her secrets she will atone for her sins.
I’ve written before about how highly I rate Rachel Joyce as an author and this book is another example of how she weaves magic into the every day, and beauty into the mundane. The book is, in many – perhaps most – ways, a heart-breaking tale but it’s also overflowing with warmth. The characters in the hospice are beautifully described and there is a lot of humour in their interactions. It is their story too and, as such, a story of the strengths and frailties of the human spirit. A book to be treasured. It goes without saying that I cried like a baby at the end.
3. Stranger Child – Rachel Abbott
This is Rachel Abbott’s fourth book and, while I’ve read and enjoyed two of the previous three, this was a stand out for me. It’s about Emma whose husband David is still haunted by the death of his previous wife in a car crash and disappearance of his six-year-old daughter at the scene of the accident. It’s now six years later and Emma and David have a good life together and a baby son… until a stranger walks into their lives and everything starts to unravel.
This is a gripping psychological thriller – I raced through the pages wanting to solve the mystery and find out how it ended for all of the characters. Although it is a stand-alone story I also enjoyed being reacquainted with Tom Douglas, the detective who’d starred in Rachel Abbott’s earlier books – a character who I think can ably carry a series. I’m planning on reading her next book soon!
4. The Good Girl – Mary Kubica
This is a debut novel and one that I was thoroughly impressed by! When twenty-something Mia Dennett goes missing the police are called and the search begins. But where has she gone? Why? And will she be found in time?
The story alternates between the point of view of Mia’s mother, that of the Detective in charge of the case and, most interestingly, Mia’s kidnapper. What I enjoyed about the book was not only trying to solving the case but all the emotions that surfaced along the way. The book takes the reader on an interesting journey. I’ll say no more (apart from, I’ve just realised Mary Kubica’s next novel is out so I’ll be purchasing it shortly)!
5. A Boy Called Christmas – Matt Haig
The blurb says: “You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas. It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible. A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and a boy called Nikolas, who isn’t afraid to believe in magic.”
Ok, I admit it, I haven’t actually read this book but both my older two sons did so last month and they LOVED it. My eldest (who’s eight) said it’s the best book he’s ever read apart from Harry Potter. As he’s obsessed with Harry Potter and is a real book worm who reads masses of books, that’s really high praise. My six-year-old also loved it and, for us, the whole thing was made all the more exciting by the fact that we actually got to meet Matt Haig and have the books personally signed at an event run by our local book shop! All in all, I couldn’t miss it off the list.
I fully intend to read the book for myself next Christmas as its reviews suggest it captures the hearts of grownups too. Oh, and if you fancy a book for adults by the same author, I can thoroughly recommend The Humans – brilliant, funny and thought-provoking.
I’m planning on reading lots more books this year so I’ll no doubt be recommending more soon!