Tuesday 15 January 2019

2018 Best in Books

Goodreads has this neat little feature. It's called Your Year in Books. Apart from seeing what people like Bill Gates and Sarah Jessica Parker have done in their reading lives, it will show you all the lovely statistics, like this.

And if you've set a reading challenge, you'll be used to seeing these. So satisfying.

All these statistics are a great way to introduce my  favourites from 2018, which I do at about this time of the new year. (see 2017's Best Books here). How it works, is that I summarise why I've chosen each one here, but if you click the cover images, you like through to my reviews, and then can come back here for more. 

2018 was a bumper reading year, so grab your coffee, and get comfortable,

The first one of these (and almost definitely my favourite of all the favourites) happened to be everyone else's favourite on Goodreads too - which is unlike me (to like what everyone else is liking, when everyone else is liking it, that is). But Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson was truly worth all the accolades. I keep returning to parts of it in my memory. Click the picture below to link to my review. And then get yourself a copy. And read.

Another favourite of mine, was Tsk-Tsk : The story of a child at large, which was one of the least popular on the site. (Now that's a more usual occurrence, and one I am far more comfortable with.) Written by South African Suzan Hackney, this is the wondrous biography of a strong little girl, who has survived, against all odds - adoption, abuse and institutionalization with her unique voice intact, which she uses in an entertaining and bold way. There's a sequel to come, so get reading. Click the cover to link to my review.

If you're still reading this, and you usually follow my reviews, you're probably a little surprised at this point, as am I. Both these books are not in my usual 'fiction' category. And I read a lot of that. Don't worry, we're getting there.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld was another favourite. A slice of a life leading into the White House - this fictional account is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush. It also manages to be about love, life, pain, loss, and only a little about politics. I loved it.

Saul Black's The Killing Lessons is one to look out for.  His debut from 2015, this pacy part-detective-solves, part-thriller was a great read. Packed with details and action, this is one of those "I need a quick crime thriller" reads.

It feels like I read Dictator by Robert Harris three years ago. Yet, it was in 2018 that we listened to this marvellous Audible narration. Loved the book's narrator (who is yes, dead, so NOT the Audible narrator) - the trusty servant (and scribe) of Cicero, named Tiro. Marvellous dialogue, lots of political intrigue, and a dastardly deed waiting to happen around the corner of every dusty Roman avenue.

Staying with my unchosen, but rapidly emerging theme for 2018 - books that were not all that fictional - The Father tells the fascinating and unputdownable tale of a family in Sweden who started a crime syndicate spanning decades, and involving heists, outwitting detectives, and even car chases and arms dealing. Quite a lot of it true. Loved this book by Anders Roslund (an investigative journalist) and Stefan Thunberg (a screenwriter), and also...a brother...

If you've had a few conversations with me in 2018, chances are I've talked about this book. Sorry. But this fascinated me. Yip, more nonfiction. Everybody Lies is about how data can tell us a lot. But how, if everyone is lying, I hear you ask? Well that's the whole point - our lies, our pretendings, and especially our Google searches are extremely revelatory - more than you think, people. Don't you want to know how?

Ok, we're done with the "not all that fictional" books. I loved The Alice Network - historical fiction from Kate Quinn, who, I'm discovering may be able to write shopping lists that enthral me - everything she writes is as addictive as your favourite TV series on Netflix. It's set just after WWII, and before you roll your eyes - yes it is about that War, particularly about a group of women - The Alice Network - who spy for the Allies. 

What would this list be without a Belinda Bauer? Yes, incomplete is the correct answer. Snap proves that authors can get better and better with every year of writing. Snap's a quick read, but there is so much wrapped into this gripping tale of three young children, abandoned on the side of a highway by a mother who sets off to get help, but doesn't return, that you won't feel cheated. A wonderful crime thriller.

Not only one of the best detective writers around, Elizabeth George is great to follow on Twitter, if you don't already. She's also a master at crafting a tale that tells us as much about our broken selves as about all the fascinating characters she weaves into a murder mystery. This is Inspector Lynley number 20, but at this stage, who's counting? Dive in, and enjoy.

This list also feels incomplete without a Kristin Hannah. She doesn't always nail it, but her story of a broken family who gets this great opportunity to start afresh in Alaska is a winner. Alaska, where surviving a winter is a major achievement, but if this little family were horses, you probably wouldn't be betting on them for the win. 

Ok, the last three, I haven't reviewed yet. Don't judge me - I read them in 2018, but have been taking a blogging break - which also helps me decrease the pile of books I still need to read. I'll get around to reviewing them really soon, but trust me, these are also worth adding to the list. In the meantime, my links will be to the Goodreads reviews, so you'll get an idea, but as soon as my reviews are up, I'll update. EDIT : They're finally done, so links should work.

Liane Moriarty has partly redeemed herself since Big Little Lies. Her story of nine strangers, meeting at a wellness resort, where you will either find inner peace, tranquility and a better life, or it's the biggest scam since  was entertaining. Moriarty writes clichéd characters well - if that's a thing you enjoy. I did - I like smiling at the older romance writer, past her prime interacting with the teenager trying not to socialise with anybody. 

Love is Blind - my first novel by William Boyd, was a thing of great beauty. Brodie Moncur, a young Scottish musician is offered a job in Paris, away from his stifling family - especially his clergyman father to begin afresh. He's a piano tuner, and this book, set in the late 1800s will enchant and delight you. A real period piece.

And lastly, but definitely not leastly, The White Room by Craig Higginson is a story about a play, written by South African writer Hannah Meade. It's about to open in London, and it's about her relationship, years ago, with Pierre. He's coming to watch it, and meet her. Loved this book.

That's all my bests, people. I'm busy updating my reviews and the list of ALL the 2018 books - here's the link.

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