My Top 10 Books of 2015

For December, I’m taking a break from reviewing books. I’ve not stopped reading them, but in recent weeks, I’ve felt myself being a touch too critical of perfectly good books.

 

With that in mind, I’ve decided to follow the tradition that every other media outlet follows in December. Regurgitating old opinion, dusting off old content, covering it in a sprinkle of glitter and presenting it as a ‘Review of the Year’

 

Here are my Top 10 books of 2015 – there’s even some new content in here not previously on my blog!

 

  1. The One In a Million Boy by Monica Wood

 

This charming tale hasn’t been published yet, but the hardback is coming in April 2016, and it’s definitely one to keep an eye out for. My review when I first read it back in October comes across more critical than it should – but only because of the impossibly high standards I expect of books that are sent to me from the delightful @PublicityBooks at Headline publishing. More about her later.

 

  1. Losing It by Helen Lederer

 

I have a rule about the reviews I put on my blog. To avoid being accused of any kind of bias, if I’ve socially spent time with, or am in regular contact with an author then I don’t review their books. But that doesn’t mean I don’t read them.

 

This novel from funny-woman Helen Lederer about a middle-aged writer whose life seems to have stalled, while the lives of those around her flourish is the only book this year to make me snort with laughter on the underground, so earns it’s place on this list.

 

  1. Nothing But Trouble by Matt Cain

 

Another title – and the last – on the countdown that didn’t get a review of it’s own on the blog this year, but this look at the glamorous behind the scenes goings-on of popstar Lola Grant is funny and sexy as well as being so well-written, that I was shouting at the character’s as they made some dubious decisions. There was a strong anti-drugs streak through it and the main character as well, which is not the obvious route to go with a book like this.

 

  1. The Secrets We Keep by Jonathan Harvey

 

This is another one that I feel looking back I was too harsh on in my review. The acid tongue of Lynda La Hughes mixed with the plot twists of Coronation Street, what’s not to love? A pacy plot mixed with characters you actually care about makes up for the ever so slightly frustrating ending.

 

  1. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

 

I’ve never been to New Orleans, but this book made me feel as if I had. You can feel the humidity coming off the page and it’s that sense of place that really helps this coming-of-age story succeed.

 

  1. the long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers

 

This science fiction novel is like somebody decided to make a list of all the things needed to make a successful mix of Douglas Adams, Red Dwarf and Star Trek – but it works. A compelling cast of characters means not only do I want another book, but I want a TV series. The upcoming Star Trek television revival, would do well to have a look at the rough nature of life in space represented here.

 

  1. Moving by Jenny Eclair

 

I liked this more than I ever thought I would, and it’s only as I write this and consider the upcoming books in the list, that I realise it’s because it’s the story of someone’s life. There’s something incredibly voyeuristic to think that come the end of the book, only one person knows the truth about everything, and that’s us, the reader. What makes this book even better is that despite Eclair’s unique personality, she manages to reign it in, giving the character’s their own distinctive voices.

 

  1. I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh

 

I nearly gave up on this book, despite it being well written, it seemed to be meandering early on. Then there’s a development that I wasn’t expecting and it shoots the book off into a completely different direction. Well worth a read.

 

  1. A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

 

I read this almost a year ago now, a copy of the book sent to me by @PublicityBooks – and I didn’t regret it. Harry Cane (not the footballer currently playing for Tottenham Hotspur) is a Victorian gent whose life is changed when he discovers the pleasures that other Victorian gents have to offer.

 

Like Moving, you’re fully invested in the characters, and like My Sunshine Away has a wonderful sense of place. An amazing book with a great cast of characters, this will be appearing in a lot of people’s best books of 2015 – not least the Costa Book prize who have shortlisted it in Novel category, the winner of which will be announced on 2nd January.

 

  1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

 

There’s really not much more I can say about this book and I don’t think it will have come as any surprise to anyone that I’ve placed this at the top of the list. I’ll be re-reading it again soon, but the biggest pleasure I’ve gained from this book, is the sense of community it has engendered with other people who have read this book.

 

There’s a knowing look, a smile and a sympathetic pat on the back.

 

I always considered myself to be dead on the inside, but A Little Life had be sobbing like a child. If you don’t even squeeze out one tear while reading the ending of this, then you truly are emotionally dead.

(Not) Looking for Love Part 1

Towards the end of 2014, I decided I was going to find me one of those boyfriend things.

I’ve never really had the most successful of love lives – though it’s not been completely inactive – and part of that has been of my own choosing, never really wanting anything permanent.

I’m happy in my own company and I work long hours. Sharing the precious few hours I get to myself with someone else has never really been a priority.

Occasionally, I get a bit lonely and want to spend some time with people, but that’s what friends and family are for. So again, that boyfriend thing never really appealed.

Of course, there are SOME things that friends and family can’t provide, but I’ve always found sex a little overrated, time consuming, and frankly, a bit dull at times. I don’t know, maybe I’m doing it wrong.

But something changed, and I don’t really know what. Maybe it was that three of my friends got into serious relationships – one of them someone who up until that point had a similar attitude to relationships as me.

Maybe it was because it was cold and I needed to find a new way of keeping warm. Maybe I just wanted more presents for Christmas.

The point is… I asked somebody out. Confidence has never been a problem for me, except when it comes to men – so for me to directly ask someone was big news. (Even though it was via a Direct Message on Twitter – it still counts. #BabySteps)

The answer was “thanks, but no thanks” – and I moved on, got over it. Which was a new experience for me. Normally, if I ever do like a guy, before I even talk to him, I’ve idealised him in my mind and planned our lives together. This usually leads to disappointment, but it’s a by-product of the endless chat that has come with meeting people on social media.

Exactly that happened shortly after Christmas, when just randomly chatting with someone on twitter we started sending each other direct messages. He was cute, been following each other on twitter for a few months, not ever really considered anything before. Partly because he lived SO far away.

We spent a whole night chatting, first on Direct Message, then via text. We found we had so much in common, and we were laughing about how fate seemed to be throwing us together. We both talked about the future, about running off to live away from all of society in some forest somewhere – he even jokingly asked me to marry him.

Then, after a week and a half of non-stop chat, he ended it. Said it was nothing personal, but he’d realised that he didn’t want to be with anyone, he wanted to remain single.

I wasn’t devastated, partly because I was expecting it (one doesn’t get rejected by as many men as I have without starting to be able to read the signs), but partly because it was something I’d said to guys before. One specifically comes to mind, where there was nothing wrong with him, a perfectly lovely, attractive guy – I just didn’t want to be in a relationship with him.

But I was a bit upset – because again, I thought I’d made a connection, and again, it came to nothing.

But, I surprised myself, the following day, by being completely over it. And that’s nothing against the guy, but what we had – like most virtual relationships – wasn’t real. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it massively at the time, but found afterwards I didn’t miss it.

And then I realised I didn’t miss it because, he wasn’t the right guy for me. The stuff I enjoyed was all the bits that come with a relationship, someone to chat to (even if it was only over the phone), to tell stuff to, to make me smile when he compliments.

I miss that, but I don’t miss him.

So I’ve learned something. I’m NOT going to find me one of those boyfriend things. I’m not gonna look, because I’ll just try and force it again.

But I AM going to start saying yes to things, going out and doing more stuff, where I might meet some new people, and if one of them new people happens to be the right guy for me, well that’s wonderful, but I’m going to let him find me.

This new attitude has already started to reap rewards, when, last weekend I made the trip up to London for a two hour pre-launch party for Helen Lederer’s new book (review to come soon).

Old me, wouldn’t have wasted money on such a short trip, especially one on my own. He would have just stayed home, watched TV, shuffled stuff around the flat and maybe have ventured out to McDonalds for a burger.

New me, travelled up, had a lovely time, met some new people, made some new contacts, and even made a handsome guy give me his number. It was happening before I even thought about it – didn’t ask him for it, didn’t offer mine, just told him to give me his number.

I might never see him again, I might run into him next time I’m in London – who knows. But I’m not gonna over think it. It’s possible and, indeed probable, that he didn’t want to give me his number, but it was his real one, because I did send him a little text and he text back. We left it with maybe a drink, maybe sometime.

A chance encounter, that came out of me not looking for love, that has led to a ‘maybe’.

I’ll update you sporadically on my non-quest, whether you want to be updated or not – I’m still not looking for love, but I think I’m finally ready for it if turns up.