Monday, 31 December 2018

Best Reads Round Up 2018 According to Bookphace

I wrote this list originally for New Books Magazine. I'd been a fairly frequent contributor to their Ten feature throughout the year. That's why there are 'only' ten books on this original list. I've been fascinated by how many bloggers have been posting their best reads of 2018 and amazed at how diverse, discerning and different they all. It just serves to show how subjective reading is. The madness is that reading them has swelled my TBR desires a hundredfold!! I need to get my own back on my fellow bloggers! So as this is my blog and it is the last day of 2018 and I don't feel bound by the ten thing I'm going to add a couple more!! Needless to say full reviews of all these books do appear on my blog throughout 2018.

But in a way, since there were very few books I didn't like in 2018 this whole blog is a best of...... Thank you to all of the fabulous writers whose work I have enjoyed this year.

The original post......

I’m ambivalent about these type of lists. Some of the headings are instantly intimidating - 50 books You Should Read Before You Die - 10 Must Read Books of the Year etc. etc. You know the kind of thing. They either make me feel incredibly smug because I’ve read or possess the majority of titles on the list or they make me feel utterly lacking and cause me to question whether I can call myself well read because I know so few of those listed!!  I decided the only solution, to make ME feel okay, was to compile my own top ten reads of this last year!

1. Dark Water - Elizabeth Lowry 

The front runner by many margins. My personal book of the year. I define it as literature as opposed to just a work of fiction.  It’s a compelling story that pulls no punches. It’s chilling and gothic. It’s subtly witty. But it contains such exquisite prose it takes your breath away. And if that isn’t enough it demands its readers questions all things of the human spirit, that tenuous balance between the sane and the insane. 

2. A Different Drummer - William Melvin Kelly

A lost book originally published in the 1960’s this is an elegant allegory of the civil rights movement that beats out a rhythm not to be forgotten once you’ve read it. Implicit as opposed to gratuitous the conclusion stuns you. It’s a remarkable debut work that reads as fresh today as when it was first published. 

3. Testament - Kim Sherwood

I have an ‘interest’ in the Holocaust. But interest seems such a wrong word. I have read many books on the subject. This novel stands out for it acknowledges the importance of history as a force within the present, our current lives. It also examines the different attitudes of two survivors and in spite of the subject matter seems to offer some optimism at the end of the book. An impressive debut novel. 

4. An Ocean of Minutes - Thea Lim

A beautiful tale of time travel within a time scale we can relate to. An original premise that led to an ambitious and complex novel. Lyrical in places, informative in others. There’s something haunting about it and it begs for a reread.

5. Take Nothing With You - Patrick Gale

I was almost lost for words after reading this book and I produced what Patrick Gale himself called a ‘minimalist’ review and he thought it might be good printed on a T-shirt which thrilled me! It’s an eloquent story of self preservation and survival from childhood onwards. Compassionate and funny.

6. In Our Mad and Furious City - Guy Gunaratne

Another debut novel that was long listed for the Man Booker. It tells of forty eight hours on a London housing estate in the wake of the killing of a soldier. Although a fiction there’s something of the documentary about it so much so that I like to call it a ficumentary. Bold and substantial it begs to be read.

7.Gallows Court - Martin Edwards

Martin Edwards had been the mysterious background figure writing introductions for the British Library Crime Classic series whose unobtrusive yet informative beginnings I’ve come to look forward to as much as the books themselves. I was delighted to read this novel of his. It’s a treat and it is unputdownable. The depth of plotting is breathtaking and the reader needs to pay attention because so much is going on. Two great characters in Jacob Flint and Rachel Savernake and a denouement you won’t second guess, I don’t think.

8.Help the Witch - Tom Cox

I’ve enjoyed Tom Cox’s non fiction cat and nature books very much. So much so that I contributed to his crowd funding for 21st Century Yokel. I did the same again for his first foray into fiction. A collection of diverse short stories  revolving around a central theme of the supernatural. And whilst such things normally spook me they don’t here as the treatment is unthreatening and uplifting. Great use of the short story genre.

9. She is Fierce - Ana Sampson

This is the first and, so far, the only book of poetry to appear on my blog, Bookphace. Ana is a publicist at Quercus Books and has passed some wonderful books my way. I bought a copy of this and read it almost as an intended ‘thank you’. What I didn’t realise was how it would get my poetry mojo working again! It’s a collection of poems by women about life from birth through to ‘dying of the light’. It offers a diverse range of styles from established and well known poets to lesser known contemporary women. There’s plenty of well researched bio material to send you scuttling off to read more. 

10. Anna Marie Crowhurst - The Illumination of Ursula Flight

This is just such a warm, witty read it can’t fail but bring a smile to your face. It’s an exuberant debut novel that takes the reader back to the seventeenth century and asks us to consider the place of women in the society of the day. The heroine, Ursula, is such a breath of fresh air and her zest for life and the velocity of the narrative sweeps us all along together in this restoration romp. 

And I'm adding these two.....

11. Underwater Breathing - Cassandra Parkin  

This had the auspicious accolade of actioning my first blog tour so I have great affection for it. It's a book about love in all its fragile, diverse madness. Another sea book? I think Im beginning to 'see' a pattern! The sea is almost another character here too. But it's a compelling story that will grip you.

12. Woman at Sea - Catherine Poulain
Nudge Books sent me this novel as it had been put forward for the Edward Stanford travel writing awards. But it was never posted on their website. I guess they didn't think it good enough. But I thought the book was great and I was quite pleased with the review I wrote! It's a slender volume but a substantial read about Lili who finds herself through fishing the Alaskan seas. 

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