I love how many different kinds of books there are in the world. There are the books that change your life, the ones that break your heart and the ones that grip you and don't let you go until the final page. At the moment, I feel like I'm reading for entertainment more than for anything else; life has been hectic in the run up to Christmas (two sleeps!) so I've been seeking stories which are easy to follow and books that carry me along with them. If you're looking for some fun, relaxing books to read over the Christmas holidays then I definitely think there's some recommendations here for you!
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I am sometimes the worst for pre-judging something before I read it, and I really take back everything I ever thought about this book before I read it. I expected it to be pretentious and big-headed, but in fact it was charming, funny and full of nuggets of wisdom. It's a little woo-woo in places and, like with all books of this nature, I don't agree with everything but I left this book feeling inspired to live a creative life in the best way I can, which means it most definitely fulfils its purpose. Elizabeth Gilbert's tone of voice is so warm and friendly, you can't help but like her, and I'm sure that any creative person will find inspiration and comfort in this book.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
I had a total nerd moment over this book, which I think is kind of the point of it. I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell earlier in the year and absolutely loved it; it's the story of Cath, who writes fan fiction about her favourite books, the Simon Snow series. This is Rainbow Rowell's version of the final Simon Snow book, which kind of means she's writing her own fan fiction which is just beautifully bizarre. I think you have to read Fangirl first to really get this book; although it could stand alone it is so much more delicious when consumed afterwards. It's part Harry Potter parody, part fan fiction, part stand-alone adventure and just totally wonderful. I absolutely adored it for its humour, for the romance and for the pure escapism.
I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
This book absolutely terrified me, and had me gripped right until the final pages. There are two intertwining storylines concerning an abandoned house on a secluded island with no contact from the outside world, and a mysterious set of deaths that are somehow connected to the disappearance of the investigator's son, which wonderfully come together without feeling forced. It is so, so scary (creepy child ghosts, anyone?!) but also fascinating - there is almost no way of guessing the ending so it really does have you hooked until the end. Do not read in the dark.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware*
I read this book within 24 hours, and it was exactly what I needed and wanted to read. It's a tense thriller centred around female friendships. Some of the characters are a little clichéd (the glamorous girl and her needy best friend, for example) and the ending is a little predictable if you've read a few thrillers before, but it's still a very enjoyable read with a few twists and turns. The setting of an imposing, secluded house in the middle of the woods, with no phone signal, is enough to add an air of foreboding to the story and it will definitely give you chills!
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Oh, what a magical tale this is. It tells the moving story of Tita, who is doomed to care for her mother until her death and therefore cannot marry her true love, Pedro. In frustration, he marries her sister instead, which is only the start of the tragedies that befall them. Tita is a magical cook, and her food invokes powerful emotions in those who eat it, which infuses the novel with delicious, evocative scenes. It's beautiful and bittersweet.
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard*
Mare lives in a world divided by blood, where 'common' Reds are ruled by a Silver elite who possess superpowers. When Mare finds herself working at the palace, she discovers her own power - which should be impossible since she's a Red. Her newfound powers could unsettle the balance, which places Mare in a very dangerous position... If you've read Hunger Games then you'll definitely recognise some of the tropes of this novel - feisty heroine who must lead a revolution to save her people from an oppressive regime, whilst torn between the boy she spent her childhood with and the one who has come into her life and understands her new position. However, that doesn't stop this from being a fun novel which will have you turning pages as quickly as you can. I can definitely understand why it's been such a huge bestseller this year.