I set myself a goal of reading thirty books in 2019. I started out with high hopes that it would be an achievable task, I’m an avid reader anyway and when I get stuck into a good read I practically devour it within a matter of hours and days. So how hard could it be? It would roughly translate to about two or three books a month, I used to take three books away with me on a week long holiday so I thought i’d be through the numbers in no time surely?! With this, I thought what a great way to use this as a perfect chance to switch off from technology, using my time more wisely in the evenings or before going to bed; hopefully giving me a more restful sleep with that too!
I must admit that sometimes my reading list can be a bit samey. I’m a regular reader of chick lit, so as well as giving myself a chance for a good ol’ social media detox I also thought this would be a great opportunity to get my teeth into a new genre; figure out what I do or don’t like and get to grips with some new authors. Some of these books aren’t new releases, I’ve been scouring the shelves of my local charity shops and my library, going against the usual trope of not judging a book by it’s cover and picking up something I liked the look of based on face value. So here goes!
1. The Tattooist Of Auschwitz – Heather Morris 4/5
It is a powerful, heartbreaking, true love story based on the real life events of two young people who meet and fall in love in the hellish compounds of Auschwitz concentration camp. I can’t imagine the pain, the suffering, the horrors that were felt and seen by those poor souls that suffered here. I think because of this, I struggled connecting with this book and I feel like a horrible person admitting that. I just couldn’t comprehend
2. If You Were Me – Sam Hepburn 3/5
This is a young teen / crime mystery story all about Aliya and her family escaping Afghanistan for Britain. Shortly after they arrive in the UK her brother is accused of a bomb attack. Aliya is sure her brother is innocent so sets out to solve this mystery. This book is told from two different points of view and flits between Aliya and Dan. I think this is a great piece of youth fiction that should be read by all ages. It covers quite big topics like terrorism and corruption. It’s an interesting read, one of which I’d recommend to all ages.
3. This Is Going To Hurt – Dr Adam Kay 5/5
I picked this up, purely on the basis of all the brilliant reviews I’d seen about it and I wasn’t disappointed. I won’t lie, it did take a little while for me to fully get into it but when I did; I stayed up late one night until it was finished. This Is Going To Hurt is a compilation of diary entries written by Adam Kay as he worked as an NHS Doctor. I’ve never read a book quite like this that was so raw and honest that it made me both laugh and cry. Given the current state of the NHS in the United Kingdom I would urge that everyone reads this and takes umbridge on the current state of our National Health Service or what’s left of it.
4. I Owe You One – Sophie Kinsella 3/5
I love Sophie Kinsella’s books. I think I’ve read every single one, even the ones she’s written under her actual name Madeleine Wickham. I love her cosy style of writing and the way in which she makes you feel like you know the protagonist. They are perfect holiday reads. I enjoyed I Owe You One, it was a little bit predictable in parts but still just as lovely as all of her books. In this one, we meet Fixie Far, an all round good egg and fixer upper. She is running the family shop (The shop is based around a local family run shop near me called Harts. Which made me love this novel even more!) with little actual help from her siblings. One day, as she’s in a coffee shop a stranger asks her to watch his laptop and saves it from meeting it’s dramatic end. Thus, a tennis match of IOU’s between the pair follows. It wasn’t my favourite of her books but it was still very cheery and lighthearted.
5. Still Me – Jojo Moyes 3/5
I started reading this book series as soon as it came out a few years ago and fell in love with it. Me Before You was the first Ebook I purchased and I distinctly remember ugly crying on my lunch break in a staff room as I reached the final pages. Still Me, is the third installment of this series (so I’d definitely recommend reading those two first, before starting this) and we see loveable main character Lou, working as a personal assistant for a new family in New York, struggling with a long distance relationship and still figuring out who she is and what she wants from her life. It’s such an enjoyable read and this was probably my favourite out of this series.
6. 365 Days Of Happiness – Jacqueline Pirtle*
You may remember, if you’re a regular reader of my site, I actually got sent this book to review. If you’d like to read my review, you can find it by clicking the link here! I’d never read a book like this before and was pleasantly surprised by it. It made me definitely think about things in a different way. I like to think of myself as quite a positive person most of the time but I hadn’t realised how sometimes, subconsciously I’d be pre-empting something negative happen. This has really changed my outlook and even the way I look at day to day things to find something positive out of every situation.
7. The Circle – Dave Eggers 4/5
In this book, we see Mae, a relatively normal, working class woman in her early twenties from the US. She wants to get on and build a career despite still living at home with her parents in her little hometown. Her uni friend, Annie, gets in touch and helps her out with a job at The Circle (which is their Google/FaceBook/Twitter etc hybrid platform). The Circle wants all their employees to achieve high customer & fellow colleagues satisfaction levels as well as to be a social integrator and innovator. In return The Circle provides an incredible workplace and plenty or work perks like brilliant health care packages extending to the employees family. Which really benefits Mae as her Father has MS. One of the new ideas being tested is transparency by having miniature cameras placed on the person with the information accessible to anyone at anytime – forever. Other characters in the book, Mercer (a male childhood friend of Mae’s) and Mae’s parents are fighting against this intrusion of The Circle into their lives which results in dire consequences for them. This book, is interesting in this modern age and it did get me thinking about the impact of Facebook, Google, Apple etc and how they use our information.
8. You Were Gone – Tim Weaver 5/5
I loved this SO MUCH. I started it on a Friday night and had finished it by the following evening; I practically consumed the book whole. I had never read any of Tim Weaver’s David Raker Thriller series nor any of his books for that matter and just picked this up from the library by chance and was blown away. It focuses on David Raker a widowed ex missing persons investigator. David’s beloved wife, Derryn, had passed away from cancer some years previously so when a woman walks into a Police station, looking identical to her,claiming to be called Derryn Raker and asking for her husband, David, the Police begin to question whether Derryn had actually died and that this woman is who she says she is. This leads to David himself then beginning to question whether he nursed her through her last days and if the funeral actually took place. This was gripping and full of so many twists and turns. Perfect if you’re into something along the lines of a sinister thriller you won’t be able to put down until you’ve finished it.
9. Wags At The World Cup – Alison Kervin 0/5
I was hoping for a perfect new, girly read, something which you could imagine yourself reading on a sunbed with a cocktail in hand in sunnier climes but was left massively disappointed with this, to the point where I had to almost chivvy myself along into reading it and finishing it. I don’t want to be harsh and I’m totally aware that books can be personal and subjective but this was really quite bad. The book is focused on Tracie Martin and her husband Dean when he’s asked to be a part of the England coaching team as they’re about to play in the World Cup in South Africa. Tracie is told not to tell anyone immediately nor to do any telly appearances or interviews either but obvs she does both of these things. Having made a fool of herself she’s subsequently sent off to South Africa prior to everyone else to help smooth troubled waters.
10. The School Gate Survival Guide – Kerry Fisher 3/5
I picked this up at the library too and wasn’t really sure on it but just thought why not just give it a go! I picked up a crime novel and wanted something more lighthearted to read afterwards, or in between depending how spooky the true crime story was! I actually really liked this I liked that the main character wasn’t perfect like some chick lit novels. The main character, Maia is a very normal mum, working tirelessly as a cleaner living on a council estate, raising her two children with her lazy, layabout, long term boyfriend. One of her long term clients, an elderly lady whom she was close to, dies and leaves something to Maia in her will. She leaves some money for her to send her two children to go to a very good, posh school. We read Maia plod through the trials and tribulations of being a regular, normal family amongst all the rich, posh families that go to that school. This was a really heart warming, easy to read story and I’ve never felt like I was rooting for the main character to come out on top more than I have with this read.
11. Then She Was Gone – Lisa Jewell – 2/5
This was gripping but I felt like I knew how it was going to end a little while into the book. Nevertheless there was a big ol’ twist I really didn’t see coming! Laurel Mack is the grieving Mother of a missing child and we see her try to move on with a new relationship with a man she met in a coffee shop. The book features quite a lot of jutting between present and past tense from the point of view of Laurel and her missing daughter Ellie. Just like any other kind of psychological thriller this was full of red herrings and various different plot twists. I really like this style of genre where you are literally on the very edge of your seat but for some reason I just couldn’t gel with this particular book.
12. No Big Deal – Bethany Rutter 3/5
This was the second book that I’d read this year that had a fat female teenager as the protagonist. Which was so wonderfully refreshing as someone also who was a fat teenager. I’m so used to the fat one being the uncool best friend, the funny one or just the fat one so it was so nice to actually have the readers have their undivided attention on them for only positive reasons. In No Big Deal, we see heroine Emily, be unapologetically herself as a fat, feisty college student. When leaving a house party she meets cool guy Joe and everything she felt about herself gets flipped upside down. This was a brilliant read, one I’d recommend to every teenage girl (and teenage boy).
13. War Girls: A Collection Of First World War Stories Through The Eyes Of Young Women. 2/5
This is a collection of short stories about a whole host of different women and their experiences during the First World War. It’s quite an insight into what life would have been like for the normal women, the ones nursing on the front line and those widowed by the war as well.
14. Things A Bright Girl Can Do – Sally Nicholls 3/5
Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.We meet Evelyn who’s seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women’s freedom. May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who’s grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.
15. The House On Cold Hill – Peter James 1/5
This spooky novel is about the Harcourt family, moving from the heart of the city of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside. Ollie Harcourt, his wife, Caro, and their twelve-year-old daughter, Jade view Cold Hill House – a huge, dilapidated, Georgian mansion – and are filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, Ollie has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and with its acres of land, he sees Cold Hill House as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, a base for his web-design business and a terrific long-term investment. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being removed from all her friends. Within days of moving in, it soon becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents in the house. At first it is only a friend of Jade, talking to her on Facetime, who sees a spectral woman standing behind her. Then there are more sightings of her, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house. Two weeks after moving in, Caro, out in the garden, is startled to see faces staring out of an upstairs window of the house. The window of a room which holds the secret to the house’s dark history . . . a room which does not appear to exist . . .
Initially, I was really excited to read this book, it sounded like something of interest to me and something I’d really enjoy. The plot sounded really enthralling and like the type of ghostly horror film I’d watch on a dark evening. I just couldn’t get into this book for some reason.
16. Politically Correct Bedtime Stories – James Finn Garner 0/5
I picked this up in the short stories section in my library hoping it would provide some light relief and humour. It was only a little, pocket sized one so I figured I’d be able to power through it. I ‘got’ what the author of this book was trying to achieve but I just really didn’t like it at all. I felt like this book would go down a storm with an older generation who call everyone under the age of 35 a fussy snowflake.
17. Oscar And The Lady In Pink – Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt 4/5
Oscar is ill and no one, especially not his parents, will tell him what he already knows; that he is dying. Granny Rose, the oldest of the ‘ladies in pink’ who visit Oscar and his fellow patients, makes friends with him. She suggests that he play a game: to pretend that each of the following twelve days is a decade of his imagined future. One day equals ten years, and every night Oscar writes a letter to God telling him about his life. This was a particularly moving story not only because it speaks about death in a way which isn’t usually talked about but also as it’s from the point of view of a child making it particularly more heartbreaking.
18. Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven 2/5
First we meet Libby Strout, a young girl once nicknamed America’s Fattest Teen. She’s struggling to keep everything together following her mum’s death. She’s looking forward to starting at high school and being able to be a typical teenager, finding new friends, new hobbies and maybe even dabble a little with lurrrrve. Then we meet, Jack Masselin, the resident cool guy, who has a hidden secret; he can’t recognise faces. The two of them get tangled up in a cruel high school game and end up in counselling where their lives and friendships get brought together.
19. The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul – Deborah Rodriguez 3/5
What I loved about this book is that it gave me a totally different narrative to somewhere I’d consistently only ever heard bad things about in the news and mainstream media. In a little coffee shop in one of the most dangerous places on earth, five very different women, from very different walks of life all come together. Sunny is the proud proprietor, who needs a plan or an idea to keep her cafe and customers safe, Yazmina is a young pregnant woman stolen from her remote village and now abandoned on Kabul’s violent streets, Candace is a wealthy American who has finally left her husband for her Afghan lover, the enigmatic Wakil, Isabel is a determined journalist with a secret that might keep her from the biggest story of her life and Halajan, the sixty-year-old den mother, whose long-hidden love affair breaks all the rules. As these five discover there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they form a unique bond that changes their lives and the lives of many others.
20. Find Her – Lisa Gardner 1/5
This story sounded like it was going to be right up my street. I’ve discovered this year that, weirdly, I do really like a psychological thriller?! They’re gripping, keep you on edge and full of suspense until you’ve run out of pages to keep reading. I was hoping this would be no different but for some reason I really just couldn’t get to grips with the style of writing. I found it quite jumpy and I kept getting confused with the story and what was going on. In this, an escaped kidnapping victim works alongside a cop, using her personal know how, in an effort to find another missing woman.
21. The Charmed Life Of Alex Moore – Molly Flatt 3/5
I got sent this book in a reading subscription box my sister got me for Christmas called, Reading In Heels. This story is about a girl called Alex Moore. She was stuck in a dead-end job, feeling her potential quietly slip away. One day she decides to launch her dream start-up and became one of London’s fastest rising tech stars practically overnight. At thirty-one, her life has just started to begin. But such is life; Alex’s transformation isn’t particularly easy for those around her. Her friends are struggling to accept her rapid success, her parents worry she’s burning out and her fiancé is getting second thoughts and cold feet. Then all of a sudden, out of the ordinary, weird things start to happen. Muggings, stalkers even an incredibly bizarre claim that she murdered a stranger?! When Alex visits the Orkney Islands to recharge, weird turns into even bigger, weirder things. Because there she discovers the world’s oldest secret; the secret that Alex’s stratospheric rise has royally messed up.
22. Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager 1/5
I didn’t really enjoy this book very much. Alongside an unreliable narrator I noticed quite a lot of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, which probably sounds dumb but actually put me off. I felt like I had to focus doubly hard if that makes sense? This story is about Emma and her friends playing games and having fun out in the woods during the summer holidays. Three of those friends venture into the woods and never return. Years later Emma is invited back to Camp Nightingale and those woods but is she actually returning to a scene of a crime?
23. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy 2/5
I thought I’d give a classic a go. I’ve read a few different classic pieces of literature and given that I live in Dorset and a lot of the places Thomas Hardy based his novels on are nearby to where I live, you’d have thought I’d have read more of his work. I think this story is quite telling of the treatment of women in it’s time.
Tess Durbeyfield’s family discover she is part of a noble lineage so send her to the D’Uberville family home to make an appeal to live with them. They take her in and Alec D’Urberville ‘seduces’ (whether she was seduced or raped has created a lot of debate but I lean towards the latter) her and she bears his child, Sorrow, who sadly died in infancy. She leaves and finds work as a dairymaid and meets a nice gentleman called Angel Clare. On their wedding night she confides in him about her troubled past and he cannot take what he’s hearing and leaves for a boat to Brazil. Heartbroken she is reduced to returning to the D’Urbervilles and into the arms of Alec.
24. In Flanders Fields: And Other Poems Of The First World War. – Brian Busby 3/5
I hadn’t really read a book of poetry before or at least off of my own accord and not something for school work. I chose this because I thought this would be quite interesting and more emotive. There’s something about war poetry that gets to me, I don’t know whether you can feel the pain and suffering in each and every written word or whether it’s because with everything going on around these men they found the time to jot down their thoughts and are still highly regarded today.
25. Big Bones – Laura Dockrill 3/5
BB or bluebell is the main character in this book. She’s a cool, down to earth teenager who is also overweight. She is being taken to a doctors appointment alongside her Mother when the doctor urges her that she needs to lose weight. BB sticking to her guns doesn’t want to but they eventually reach a compromise with her mum where she promises to keep a food diary over the summer holidays if her mum will let her get a job/apprenticeship instead of going back to college/sixth form. So each chapter of this book is lovingly titled with some sort of delicious food that BB is eating and reading this made me super hungry throughout. I loved the ways in which she’d describe food and herself for that matter too.
Side note, what I’ve loved about all the youth fiction books I’ve read this year centred around a fat female protagonist there hasn’t been a hint of self loathing! Where were these books when I was growing up!?
It was a bit problematic towards the end however, with a family member being taken to hospital and having to use a wheelchair, BB speaks as if that character has reached their demise because they are temporarily wheelchair bound.
26. Always With Love – Giovanna Fletcher 2.5/5
This is the sequel of Billy and Me and follows the love story between Billy, a famous movie star and his girlfriend Sophie as she meets his family in Los Angeles and navigates her way around the all american dream. From paparazzi to dealing with Billy’s mum when Sophie has to fly home and back to reality without Billy they have to decide whether their love will go the distance and whether it’s worth fighting for. This a lovely, chick lit, holiday read.
27. Some Kind Of Wonderful – Giovanna Fletcher 4/5
I actually really liked this. A lot of the books I’ve read this year have had a real theme of self acceptance, importance and self love and this has been no different. Well all those horror/suspense/thriller books aside too! This atypical love story is between Lizzy and Ian. They met at uni and have been together for 10 years and Lizzy was eagerly awaiting a proposal. During their romantic holiday to Dubai and what should have been that perfect moment, Ian ends it with Lizzy leaving her utterly desolate and heartbroken. Leaving her to reenter single life and to re-evaluate who she was Pre-Ian and who she is now and who she wants to be from now on. It’s a little different to Giovanna’s usual chick lit styles but I really enjoyed this.
28. First Man In: Leading From The Front – Ant Middleton 1/5
I picked this up in a charity shop in an effort to encourage myself to read about different things, broaden my mind and my vocabulary and all that jazz. Ant Middleton is someone who’s been on my telly screen a fair bit over the last few years and to be honest I always felt like he came across a little bit unlikeable? I don’t know much about the armed forces, having no friends or family who are involved so it was interesting to read about everything from the selection process, what he went through, what he saw and his life after the military. It was in parts, I didn’t realise he spent some time in prison after his service but moreover I found this a little bit tedious.
29. Single White Female – John Lutz 2/5
This creepy thriller starts with Allie Jones searching for a new roommate after a bad breakup leaves her living alone. Hedra Carlson appears to be the perfect person, she’s shy and quiet and seems like everything you’d want in a roommate. Soon enough though Allie starts to notice the facade slipping and Hedra grows obsessed with Allie’s looks and social life; so begins to emulate Allie by dressing and styling herself like her. I’ve seen the film and loved it and I hoped the book would live up to the film or be even better but I felt like it was missing something or that the film was more detailed than the book. Which is a rarity.
30. One Of Us Is Lying – Karen M.McManus 3/5
Is is impossible to read this title without humming ABBA’s One Of Us??? Nope just me then! This is like a modern day version of The Breakfast Club with a sinister twist. Five students are sitting in detention after school one evening. There’s Bronwyn, the brainy one, the one who’s off to Yale and has never put a foot wrong or been in detention before. Addy, the beautiful popular one. Nate, the criminal bad boy who’s already on probation for drug dealing. Cooper, the popular jock and all star athlete who’s the brilliant baseball pitcher. And finally Simon, the outcast, the creator of the notorious school gossip app and the only person to not leave the detention room alive. He had secrets on all of the remaining four people in that room and was due to reveal them all the following day so they’d all have their reasons to want him gone or had someone outside of the classroom gone to great lengths for Simon to meet his maker and for the blame to be pinned on someone else???
31. Christmas Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella 3/5
I’ve sung this tune multiple times but once more for good measure; Sophie Kinsella is 100% my favourite author. I’ve read every single one of her books, even the ones under her real name Madeleine Wickham and I just simply adore how I can read them with such ease. Each character has the warmth of catching up with an old friend and you can easily sink your teeth into each page. I’ve followed the Shopaholic series and watched the film plenty of times too and this Christmas hit had all the same Becky Bloomwood charm. In parts it was a little bit predictable but had a lovely little surprise twist right at the very end.
32. Reader, I Married Me! – Sophie Tanner * 4/5
Last but by absolutely no means not least is this little treasure! I kindly got sent this book in the post just before Christmas and I read it in the space of two days! In this, Chloe Usher gets her heartbroken by her longterm boyfriend and her friends encourage her to get herself back out there and try out some dating apps. After a particularly bad experience she heads straight to her besties house to drink copious amounts of booze and comes up with the brilliant idea, vowing to marry herself instead. We follow Chloe on her journey of self discovery and self love before her big day and the ways in which her family and friends react to the news as well. This is perfect for everyone wanting a fresh perspective on their life or love life; giving you a wonderful new outlook on the most important person you should be loving for the rest of your life.
I have LOVED this challenge I set myself for 2019 and can only hope I can do bigger and better for 2020. I can only but apologise to those reading this hefty post as it’s over 5000 words!!! If only I had this same energy when it came to doing school work or course work! I’m not sure what was the best way to post all these things so I’d love feedback whether this was way too long to read, would you think this would work better just as a thread on Instagram or as a reel of Instagram highlights??
All the love. Abbie X