I intended on doing my 6 month round up of 2016 books at, well, 6 months in to 2016 but somehow life has got in the way of my reviewing and it’s now August so it’s very belated but here it is at last- the best 5 books I’ve read this year (so far).
2016 so far has been a productive year reading-wise with lots of time spent ignoring what I should be doing- keeping the children alive, breathing, conversing with the husband- and instead having my head buried in a book. I’m very thankful for the authors and publishers who have very kindly sent me books and proofs and for my husband’s credit card which has taken a bit of a battering over on Amazon… AND I appear in the acknowledgements of not one but TWO books that are published this month- I can die happy now!
My favourite reads of 2016 (so far) are:
The Winter Garden. By Kristen Hannah
This book had been sitting on my bookshelf for a while and as soon as I finished it, I had to make sure it went straight to someone else’s bookshelf for them to enjoy as it’s a brilliant book. It’s a story of a family who’s mother harbours a secret, a secret so big that it makes her distant towards her family and causes lots of problems throughout their lives. It is only upon the death of their father that Meredith and Nina begin to get to know her mother and the secrets which she hides. The book is set both in the present day USA and also in the siege of Stallingrad, the two time points work well with the stories interweaving helping you to get to know the characters really well. There are lots of dramatic moments in the book which keep you turning the pages as well as lots of emotional times too making this a book that really stays with you after you’ve finished it.
The Poppy Factory- By Liz Trenow
I was sent this book by a friend who recommended this author to me saying she has a way of creating very believable characters and after reading this I definitely agree. The characters felt very real, it is hard to believe that this is a work of fiction. This book is about people who survive war zones and the huge impact it has upon their lives afterwards- both in the present day and also in the past. Jess has just returned from her trip to Afghanistan where she has witnessed horrific scenes and is finding it hard to find her place in civilian life. She struggles with alcohol and relationships and her mother shares with her the fact that her grandfather had gone through something similar. Through reading the diaries of her grandmother Jess is able to see what impact a returning soldier has upon the family. Her Grandfather Alfie returned home from the First World War having lost a leg. His wife, Rose, tries to hold their relationship together by supporting them but it’s a different time completely and having a wife working and husband not is shameful. The tribulations that Alfie and Rose go through help to give Jess courage and inspiration to find her own way through her problems. The characters within this book are beautifully crafted, it was very believable and difficult to get my head around that Alfie was just fictional! A brilliant read, I have since been sent another book by this author and can’t wait to read it.
The Girls. by Lisa Jewell.
Received this book as a surprise via Lisa Jewell herself who I think was fed up of hearing me trying to persuade my husband to part with his money again… what a book it is too and so good that even my husband has read it which is virtually unheard of for him with his ‘one book a year’ policy… This is a book which builds up slowly until you find yourself on the edge of your seat and unable to stop turning pages despite the fact you should really be feeding the children by now… Within the communal gardens of Virigina Terrace, Grace- a new teenage resident of the area- is found. She’s injured, someone has attacked her, but who? There are plenty of people to suspect- could it be Leo? The father of the rather odd home-schooled girls who people have seen comforting young girls in his daughter’s bedroom? Could it be Grace’s father who, the residents are finding out, is the mad man who heard voices telling him to burn their house down? Or what about Dylan? The teenage boy who Grace has been hanging out with… or someone else? There are lots of characters within this book but they are introduced gradually so you get to know them and as time goes on I found myself questioning all of them and not trusting anything they said. There were some uncomfortable moments when Clare, Grace’s mother, would confide in Leo and I was wanting to shout at her to stop it incase it was him who was behind it all! A very clever story which really does leave you guessing.
The Turning Point- Freya North.
Having heard this book be talked about on The Wright Stuff I went on my merry way to Amazon ready to abuse my husband’s credit card, only to see that I had already downloaded it earlier in the year! This book had me in tears and not many books make me cry but there is something about the way this is written that sweeps you along with the characters’ lives so much that you can’t help but feel their pain. When Frankie and Scott fall in love it’s obvious from day one that there’s something special about their relationship but there’s a problem- Frankie lies in the UK and Scott lives in Canada and both of them have ties to their children which make it impossible for one of them to be able to move. As their relationship grows it’s heartwarming to see how they cope with the distance with the likes of FaceTime keeping them in touch and enabling them to share their day to day lives but then something happens which changes their lives… I loved this book. I really felt like I knew the characters and were a part of their lives, I was trying to preempt what would happen- could the relationship last, would one of them give up their lives and move? but could never guess what happened. It is a very moving book, I read it many months ago but it is still in my mind a lot today.
The Secret Wife- Gill Paul.
This book is published on the 25th August and it is one you need to add to your ‘wish lists’ now. I was delighted to be sent an advance copy of this book as over the previous 6 months I had devoured all of this author’s latest books and was looking forward to more. It didn’t disappoint. This is a book so well researched you learn whilst reading without feeling like it’s some kind of history lesson, instead you lose yourself in the story whilst every so often thinking ‘my God did this really happen?!’ and thinking about how times have changed. Kitty has recently inherited her great grandfather’s cabin by Lake Akanabee and upon finding out her husband has been cheating on her, flees to the cabin. Whilst there she begins to question the kind of a person her great grandfather was and begins to uncover an unbelievable family secret. Upon learning about her own family it makes her question herself and what she wants from her life too… Kitty’s great grandfather Dimitri suffered an injury whilst in action in Russia and woke up to Princess Tatiana- part of the Russian Royal Family- tending to him. As she tends to him it is clear they are falling in love, but a relationship is not a simple thing to have during those times. The controversy surrounding the Ramonovs meant that any attention brought upon them could be dangerous and Dimitri has to tread carefully… This book is written in such a clever way that you feel as though you know the characters inside and out as you follow them through their whole lives and by the end I was sad to finish it and leave them behind. Whilst reading this I was completely absorbed and taken into the worlds of Dimitri and Tatiana, amazing that so much of the story is based upon fact too but where the fact finishes and fiction begins you just don’t know it’s written in such a clever way. This book should come with a warning- you will lose sleep as you’ll be turning the pages until the small hours and you will be left contemplating it for days afterwards wondering ‘what if…?’
I am currently reading Dinah Jefferies The Silk Merchant’s Daughter which so far is proving to be another great book of 2016 and I also have Louise Beech’s The Mountain In My Shoe, Linda Green’s The Marriage Mender and Liz Trenow’s The Forgotten Seamstress nearing the top of my TBR pile too…
As always, thank you to the wonderful authors of the above books who have provided me with some very much needed escapism this year so far, a year which has needed escapism in bucket loads! So thank you.