In 2017, my reading got a little bit off track. I'd meant to read 52 books (one for every week of the year) but being pregnant and having a baby put a bit of a kibosh on my plans. But, all reading is good reading so I'm starting again this year with the same goal and I'm hoping that having a bit more routine (and a more regular commute from April) will give me more time for my favourite hobbies! If you're also jumping on the reading train this year, you can take a look at the tips and tricks I used to read over 100 books in one year (when I didn't have a baby, natch) and I've shared a few of my recent reads below if you want some recommendations! Happy reading!
Cam Girl by Elliot Wake (writing as Leah Raedar)
If you like dark, twisty, sexy fiction then you need to put Elliot Wake's books on your TBR list. This book is hard to categorise; at times it is a romance, at times a suspenseful thriller and at times just a beautifully written story of trying to come to terms with disability, identity and sexual orientation.
Vada is an artist, but when she gets into a car accident with her best friend Ellis, she damages her drawing arm and ends up losing everything she loves. At rock bottom, she takes a job as a cam girl and strikes up a relationship with a mysterious man, Blue, who wants him all to herself.
At times this book had me literally catching my breath; there are so many secrets and reveals. I absolutely devoured this book, wanting to know the truth about everything. The writing is beautiful and vivid, and every time I finish one of Wake's books, I'm left wanting more of his work.
An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe*
This may be a little unseasonal now, but if you want to recapture some of that Christmas magic then Nina Stibbe is your girl. I absolutely adore Nina's work, and have done ever since I picked up her first book 'Love, Nina'. She has an adorably British way of phrasing things, both honest and eccentric, and she manages to capture the absurdity and the true joy of the Christmas period. From the struggle to create the perfect Christmas playlist, to the saga of trying to cook a non-dry turkey (complete with advice from our favourite celebrity chefs) and the rules of regifting, this is a really lovely little read about one of the most bonkers times of year.
Nasty Women by 404 Ink*
The last year or so has felt like an assault on women. Not that the previous years weren't, but more than ever stories of misogyny and political what-the-fuckery have been front and centre in the news, which has made it feel particularly pertinent. Nasty Women is an anthology speaking in response to the election of Trump, and sharing the real experiences of women from a wide variety of backgrounds. Touching on a wide variety of topics, from racial divides, immigrant experiences, sexual assault, Brexit, pregnancy and sexism in the punk scene, these women don't hold back when telling you the truth of their lives and of their politics. If you like your feminism no holds barred, then I think you'll like this collection. At times I found the writing a little clunky, which made it hard to lose myself in the stories, and I would have liked a bit more cohesion around the 'Nasty Women' theme (as there were times where I felt it was thrown in for the sake of being included) but I am always here for women telling their stories. If you're looking for a primer on feminism in the 2010s, this would be a good place to start.
Everless by Sara Holland*
This book starts with a teenage girl hunting in the woods to try and feed her poor family, bartering in the village which is kept in poverty by an unfair society. So far, so The Hunger Games. Due to a series of events, she goes to serve as a maid at Everless, the seat of power and home to her childhood love, as he picks a wife. So far, so Red Queen.
But, despite drawing on a few of the tried and tested Young Adult tropes, this book still managed to surprise me and to turn some of those tropes on their head. The love story doesn't turn out how you might imagine, and the central concept of the book - that time is money, quite literally, and is extracted from the blood of the poor, made into iron coins and then consumed by the rich to add to their lifespan - is intriguing and provides some gruesome and at times poignant moments.
At first this book is a little confusing; there's a lot of information thrown at you in the beginning, but once you get your bearings, you'll lose yourself in this world as Jules tries to navigate Everless, and find out the truth that her father has kept from her for so long.
The Break by Marian Keyes*
When I was a teenager I devoured everything I could get my hands on in the 'chick lit' section of the bookstore, but it's been almost ten years since I've ventured into that section. This book makes me kick myself for leaving it alone for so long. The Break was everything good I remembered about the genre, and so much more.
Amy's life is turned upside down when her husband, Hugh, announces that he's taking a break to travel for six months and 'clear his head'. In his absence, she must juggle the needs of her eccentric and loveable (but rather stressful) family, keep it together for her daughters, boss it at her job to keep a roof over their heads and work out her feelings about the whole 'break' thing. It's clear that things will never be the same, but can their marriage survive the break?
I read it in a day, and it made me cry on so many occasions for so many different reasons that I felt that I'd been wrung dry. The depth of emotion was astonishing, and the whole cast of characters were so endearing and vivid - I didn't want to leave them at the end of the book and I find myself still sometimes thinking about them. I loved the emotional realism of the novel; I identified with Amy (not just because of the name!) despite being at such different stages of our lives - I just felt like I 'got' her and I wanted the best for her, even when it felt like that was impossible. This is a story of when everyone is trying their best, but it's still not quite working out with a happily ever after - and I urge you all to read it. It's a true triumph.
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart*
This book opens with a young woman who is clearly on the run, using a stolen identity and works backwards so you can find out how she came to be living it up in a luxury Mexican island and using her friend's name and documents. The story is told in reverse, and is full of twists and turns as you begin to piece together the how, what and whys. It's frustrating in places as you lose the threads of the story, and just as you think you've got a handle on what Jules is up to, the explanation is pulled out from under you. But that's kind of the joy of it. It's a wild ride of a book, and a quick read; if you want a little bit of escapism and a little bit of suspense then this is the one for you.
The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
Like with The Break, I've been kicking myself that I've never picked up a Philippa Gregory novel before this year. I'm not sure how that has happened; I like historical fiction, and the Tudors and books telling the stories of women - so this is really in my wheelhouse. And, rest assured, I'll be plundering her back catalogue now that I've finished this beast of a book.
Once a royal herself, Margaret Pole's main ambition in life is to stay alive under the new reign of the Tudors. Hidden in marriage to a Tudor supporter of little consequence, her life is changed when she is appointed to look after the Arthur, the Prince of Wales, and his new bride, Katherine of Aragon. Living through the beginning of the Tudor reign, she experiences everything from tragedy & poverty to wealth & opportunity as chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine.
This is both the story of an interesting and unusual woman, and a unique look at the rise of Henry VIII and his journey from beloved king to tyrannical ruler. I was utterly absorbed throughout, and it gave me a whole new perspective on this well-known era of British history. I'm already looking for my next one of Philippa Gregory's books - I am hooked!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and buy something, I may receive a small commission. Books marked with a * were provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.