Saturday, 22 October 2016
Blogiversary Giveaway #4: Take your Pick from Emma's Top Books this Year
As part of Sharon's five year blogiversary giveaways I had offered an Amazon voucher as a prize, then Sharon suggested why not do a top three books of the year for 2016 and the winner can choose the book of their choice from that selection? So that is what I'm doing although the initial idea of choosing three books has slightly stretched a bit!
I think it must be coming up to three years that I have been reviewing for Sharon and over that time I have read many wonderful books and of course a few not so great along the way. But I have been a fan of Sharon's blog right from the beginning and it's hard to believe that five years has passed so quickly. Although myself and Sharon may not have actually 'met' in real life she has become a very, very close friend to me and I feel I could tell her anything. It's not only books we chat about, it's everything and with this year being an especially tough year for me she has always been there for me - to listen to me rant, to let me offload or just offer the right words when needed. I'm very privileged to call Sharon a friend and would be lost without her and it's our love of reading and all things connected with books that brought us together and continues to develop and deepen our friendship. Sharon is so dedicated to the blog as well as working full time and I am in awe as to how she keeps everything going. She's always great at keeping me on track with what books I have to review, although my list seems to get longer not shorter - but alot of the time that's my fault.
Sharon as ever is always very generous with her giveaways and you are in for a real treat with all the goodies she has on offer to celebrate five brilliant years of reviews, début spotlights and features. Actually now that I think of it was a reader spotlight that connected myself and Sharon and we have never looked back. It was a Lesley Pearse book that Sharon first sent me so really we were destined to become friends as Lesley is a favourite author of mine for years and years. I'm delighted to be able to help celebrate five years of fantastic blogging and wish Sharon all the best for many many more years of reading, reviewing and blogging.
So now on to business as I mentioned Sharon asked me to pick my top three choices from this year. As I write it is mid October and I know there will probably more books that I read before the year is out that I would say definitely make my best books of the year list but I am going on what I have read so far. I know around the beginning of November there are three books sitting waiting to be read on my bedside locker that I have been anticipating all year but they will have to wait not to mention all the Christmas books I have yet to read (although I have made a start). I have decided to choose three books that quite simply blew me away and are still stuck in my head all these months later. They are quite serious in their themes so I decided to lighten things up a little and decided I would pick three other books on the lighter end of women's fiction so people will have a nice range from which to choose their prize once Sharon has picked the winner at the end of the giveaway. So now onto my selections.
The first book I have decided upon is Another Love by Amanda Prowse which I reviewed on the blog back in January. It seems such a long time since I read this book yet in ways the year has passed so quickly. This book has long stuck in my head and people quite often bandy that term about but to me for once I truly mean it when I say it. It is one of the best books I have ever read and I know several other reviewers feel the same way. I only became a fan of Amanda's work last year but have really enjoyed everything she has written and Another Love was simply phenomenal.
The subject matter of a young mother with an addiction to alcohol that she is desperately trying to keep secret from her husband, friends and work colleagues may be pretty tough but Amanda handles the subject matter with such a deft touch that you are sucked instantly into the story and become so absorbed at the events unfolding.
I can't say I identified with the main character in the slightest but it's testament to the powerful writing of Amanda that I felt so invested in this story. It literally tore me apart and I don't usually cry at books (not that I'm tough or anything but it really has to get to me to make me cry) and months later I am still thinking about our main character Romilly. Amanda literally threw everything at her and never spared the descriptions. At times I was truly repulsed but everything that was in that book needed to be there and Amanda knew the kind of book she wanted to write and stuck to her guns. There were so many ups and downs, twists and turns to the story that I literally couldn't put the book down until I turned the final page. I think it's Amanda's best book to date and given she has been writing for such a short space of time and published so many books that's really saying something. Another Love is a must read for everybody.
My second selection is Somewhere Inside of Happy by Anna McPartlin. Again this is another book I read fairly on in the year in March. To be honest I read so many books each year I often lose track of what I have read, thank goodness for Goodreads. As I was glancing through the books I had read up to October, Anna's book jumped out at me as being another book which wasn't the lightest in subject matter yet proved to be a simply brilliant read that had me in tears over a book for the second time this year. Anna has come a long way in her writing since her first book Pack up the Moon and she is an author who I believe deserves much more recognition. I had adored The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes back at the beginning of 2015 and despite it's title it was an uplifting read.
This year along came Maisie Bean – a true survivor and fighter to the very last and with her family she found a firm place in my heart and in my top books of the year. The title is so apt, memorable and bitter sweet especially when you discover why that it will bring a tear to your eye.
Told over the first six days of the new year of 1995 and from several characters viewpoints Somewhere Inside of Happy will leave you an emotional mess but ultimately uplifted. You will be so glad that you took the time to read this book and that Anna had the guts and determination to write about themes which are really not dealt with in the women's fiction market. Well at least not in this way. Right from the prologue you are sucked into the life of Maisie Bean Brennan a woman you will laugh and cry with and by the end you will discover just how remarkable she is and what a very special family she has despite all the trauma and suffering they have endured. We meet Maisie just as she is side stage about to take her place behind a lectern to address a group of college students. Family members and friends are also in the audience for what is a momentous special occasion. We are then taken back over a six day period to uncover just what has brought Maisie to this point. You'll laugh and cry in equal measure at this book and be astounded by the amazing writing of Anna McPartlin. Throughout the book I felt Maisie's pain, anger, fear and horror that she was enduring such suffering and heartbreak.Yet her resilience shone through. The chapters just got more intense, raw and honest and also eye opening the more we uncovered what actually was going on. At the time of writing my review for this book I said 'Without question Somewhere Inside of Happy is a contender for my book of the year. I really didn't think Anna McPartlin could better Rabbit Hayes but she has and that's not to take anything away from what I said about that book when I reviewed it last year. The books are totally different but Anna has shown she is just an absolutely superb writer who can turn her hand to any topic and write about it with such sensitivity while providing her readers with a gripping emotional story.' I stand by this statement and you should certainly read this book.
Lying In Wait was a book I read back in August and it wouldn't have been a book I would normally have picked up as I don't usually read much in the crime/thriller/physiological genre. But it was one of my best decisions to read Lying in Wait as Liz Nugent has written a stunning book that is so twisted and packed with jaw dropping moments that you could never see coming in a million years. It's not the longest book ever but boy is so much going on with every character between the pages of this book. 'My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it'. What an incredible opening line that certainly packs a punch and instantly has you drawn into a story full of manipulation, tension and nerves throughout and gives us an insight into the twisted insane life of Lydia and her son Laurence.
It's not a whodunnit, more a why did they do it? It's a compulsive read that has you reading along in horror at times but also with equal fascination as to what exactly going on beneath a seemingly perfect family façade. All throughout the book there is an intense, dark, sinister, forbidding feeling as Laurence becomes ever more embroiled in something that occurred when he was still a teenager as he was just about to turn eighteen. Lying in Wait is told in three distinct voices those of Lydia, Laurence and Karen ( the sister of Annie Doyle).Each chapter from who ever's point of view was strong and superbly written. Often when a book is told from various person's viewpoints I get bored with one person but here I couldn't wait to read of each perspective and how one person knew sometimes what the other didn't or how they viewed the same events in such radically different ways. The further I got into the book the more I read with an increasing sense of disbelief at what was unfolding and also the sheer audacity of two of the major characters. It was becoming so utterly twisted and I would say depraved but I'm not sure is this the correct word to use in this case. I really couldn't fathom how this could only be Liz's second book? It was such an accomplished piece of writing better than anything I have ever read in this genre. It was even selected for Rick O'Shea's book club over here in Ireland upon its release which shows its popularity and how unbelievably impressive the writing of Liz Nugent is. Liz is an author to watch .I don't know how she will top this book (no pressure Liz) but I look forward to reading book three. I'll be straight to the bookshop on publication day.
Finally I am going to pick three books very different from the above mentioned three.They are the books I would class as much lighter reads of the women's fiction genre. Two I have reviewed but the first The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling was one I read for pure pleasure and it was a delight from start to finish. What's better than a book than a book about bookshops. It is the first in a planned series and I loved every minute of this book right from the very first word. The book has such a lovely warm inviting cover that makes you want to dive straight in and that's what I did and more or less didn't come up for air until I had turned the very last page.
The story follows Posy Morland as she inherits the Once Upon a Time bookshop in London. Bookshops aren't doing as well as they once were and despite the quirkiness of the shop it is in danger of closing down. Posy must do her best to keep it going and along with a whole cast of wonderful characters and lots of mentions of various books you'll be swept up in the story and won't want it to end. I'm already very excited for the next book in the series and always rave about this book on Twitter at any opportunity I get.
Following on from the bookshop theme is How to Find Love in a Bookshop, a little gem of a book that I read back in June. I hadn't read much from Veronica Henry before bar one or two books but I got the sense this was her best book yet. Emilia has had to return from teaching English abroad and face reality. Her father is gone and outside forces in the form of builder and all round dominant person Ian Mendip is putting pressure on her to sell the bookshop she calls home so it can be turned into flats. Emilia knows this is not what her father would have wanted but when she discovers the finances are not all they had been made out to be, she is torn between a rock and a hard place. Sell and get the money to relieve the financial burden or get some courage and strength and once again put Nightingale books back on the map as the special place it is and which has helped so many of the residents in more ways than one?
There were so many interesting and varied characters whose stories intertwined with that of the bookshop and it made for a wonderful read. Of course there were lots of references to books throughout which made me enjoy this story all the more.It had great substance and depth to it and I found it difficult to leave the Kindle down. Nightingale books was a force for good and this sentiment shone through each and every page and made for a thoroughly enjoyable read. Veronica Henry is an author who I will certainly be reading more of in the future.
My last selection is Late Summer in the Vineyard by Jo Thomas. Jo has had great success with her books and her début The Oyster Catcher was brilliant I even gave it to my mum to read. This year I read and reviewed The Olive Tree and Late Summer in the Vineyard in quick succession and although they were both thoroughly enjoyable Late Summer slightly edges it out for me. Jo is a natural born storyteller who has such a way with words that you feel as if you are transported to whatever setting she is writing about and that you have known the characters all your life whether you have been to that area before or not.
The story follows Emmy Bridges as she finds herself on a course with her colleauges in France. This is her last ditch attempt at keeping her job. The only problem is she has no clue about wine or its production although she knows she loves to drink it. A chance encounter with Madame Beaumont sees Emmy thrown into an unusual situation and one which will test her to to her limits.What follows is a fantastic story of detirmination, courage and strength and some romance thrown in for good measure. It was a pleasure to read of Emmy's development and above all else there is a good solid storyline here which will delight long term fans of Jo Thomas and also earn her plenty more new readers. Late Summer in the Vineyard right until the last few moments provided plenty of twists and turns that left the reader guessing and on their toes. It was an uplifting, warm, beautifully crafted read and made me look forward all the more to what Jo will write in the future.
I hope you enjoyed my selections and I look forward to seeing what book the winner of the giveaway will pick. Not forgetting to once again wish Sharon a Happy Fifth Blogiversary and a huge thank you for her friendship and kindness to me. You don't know how much it means to me.
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