5 Big Books for 2019

I love reading – I am what they call a voracious reader, typically reading thirty-plus books a year. I think I would have read more had it not been for the typical end-of-year malaise.

 

There’s about 2-3 months where I traditionally don’t read very much at all. But then comes the countdown to the end of the year where everyone starts talking about their favourite books.

 

(Shameless plug: In case you missed it, did mine here)

 

Seeing everyone talk so passionately about books, talking about my own favourite books always starts to reignite my own passion. And then I think about all the brilliant books still to come next year.

 

One of the best things about working in the publishing industry is that I get my grubby paws on all the best books a little bit early. I’ve spoken about some of them already, but here are five books to look out for in 2019 – some of them I’ve read, some of them I haven’t:

 

Starting – in alphabetical order – with:

 

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson – published in June by Doubleday

 

You might remember that last January I chose Atkinson’s Transcription as one of my ones to look out for in 2018. It received much critical acclaim when it was published, and while I enjoyed it, there was something missing. The writing was there, the research was clearly there, but for the most part I didn’t connect with it in the same way I have with previous Atkinson novels.

 

However, 2019 brings not just a new Kate Atkinson – but a new Jackson Brodie novel. I love these books, but we haven’t seen a new one since 2010. These are crime novels that I wish I could write. They are more character-led than the traditional police procedural, but that’s not to say they’re gentle.

 

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams – published in in April by Trapeze

 

This is an incredible novel – It’s funny, but feels heartbreakingly real. Queenie is a young black woman trying to navigate her way through a mini-crisis of self. Who is she? Where does she belong in this world? Does she even like herself?

 

In short, she’s suffering from all the things we all suffer from, but for me it was the insights into her views on race that really made this book for me. It’s not the big moments, but the small ones, ones where I’m offended on her behalf but Queenie simply shrugs them off as normal.

 

It helped me see our society in a new way, and helped make Queenie feel so vivid and real that I was rooting for her all the way through.

 

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – published in February by Orion

 

Completely different to the first two selections, this sees Theo Faber trying to treat a patient who hasn’t spoken a word since she shot her husband dead. This is a fast-moving thriller that kept me guessing all the way to the end.

 

It’s due to be turned into a movie, which intrigues me as I’m not sure how they’ll do it, but I can’t say any more. This is a tired old cliché that nobody in books uses any more… but it could be the next Gone Girl

 

Daisy Jones and The Six by Tyler Jenkins Reid – published in March by Hutchinson

 

This book is brilliant. It’s the transcript of a documentary that explores the rise, peak and subsequent fall of rock band The Six. They’re a fictional band but you could be forgiven for googling them to double check. It all feels so real.

 

Its structure is unusual, but it’s so effective and easy to get into that I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing a lot more stories told in this way. There has got to be a film of this one and I can’t wait to hear the music that comes from it.

 

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce – published in February by Wildfire

 

LOVED this. For me, this felt like the perfect balance of psychological and legal thriller. Alison is a QC on her first case, a murder case where – typically – all is not necessarily as it seems.

 

However, the case merely serves as a backdrop to Alison’s crumbling relationship with her husband and an illicit, destructive affair with a colleague. I know I’ve just said this about Daisy, but this could become one of my favourite books of 2019.

 

 

 

I’m excited for all of these, the ones I’ve read to see them land in everyone else’s hands, and the ones that I’m yet to read. Most of all, though, I’m excited to read all the books I don’t yet know about (I think I said this last year!).

 

Happy reading!

A(nother) Review: Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

Alison Wood is a QC and has just been handed her first murder. Her career is taking off, but her family life seems to be falling apart. Her daughter seems to prefer her husband – a therapist who works from home – and he seems to be growing distant from her.

 

Not that the latter seems to bother Alison too much, she’s having an affair with Patrick – the solicitor who sent the murder case her way. To muddy the waters a little further, Alison seems to be developing a problem with alcohol.

 

Blood Orange at first glance seems to be like any other psychological thriller, but for me the legal case rooted it back into the more traditional thriller genre. For much of the first half of the book, the two plots are given equal billing and as a result, it’s tough to know where this book is going to go.

 

I like that. I like books that surprise me. Especially when they’re the ones that promise to surprise you. You go into this genre expecting twists, and there’s such a proliferation of these books out there now, that once you’ve read a few, you can see the surprises coming.

 

Not so with Blood Orange. Its balance between traditional thriller and psychological thriller adds an unpredictability that keeps you turning the page all the way throughout.

 

Perhaps not quite as unpredictable, is that that yet again, I’ve reviewed a book that’s not out yet. Blood Orange is due to be published in Hardback in February 2019 – so you’ll have to wait a little while for it – but hey, it gives you something to look forward to after Christmas, hey?

 

And it’s worth the wait – this could well be the sleeper hit of 2019.

 

Blood Orange is published by Wildfire early next year

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

I write this review as I take a break from reading what can only be described as a ‘shitload’ of books in a very short of time (currently averaging one every four hours on a weekend) so the irony of what I’m about to write is not lost on me.

 

Sometimes, very rare times, I just don’t feel like reading – when that happens, it takes me a moment to recognise it and I start trying to read several books, giving each one up for petty reasons.

 

The print is too small.

I don’t like the way the paper feels in my hand.

That’s a stupid way to spell that name.

 

Often, when this happens, that’s it. The book is ruined for me, and I rarely go back to it. Hey, there are plenty of other books in the world to try out.

 

I want to use this post to remind myself – and to urge everyone else – that books deserve a second chance, if it’s my own bad mood that stopped me from reading them.

 

I recently asked someone for a reading recommendation and they told me to give The Perfect Girlfriend a try. It was sitting on my table, in my not-quite-discarded pile. It was the victim of a night in early January when I just couldn’t concentrate.

 

Looking at it now, I can’t work out what it was that put me off – likely the fact that it was a proof copy and the print wasn’t quite parallel to the bottom of the page. I gave it another go. And I’m glad I did.

 

We meet Juliette, an air hostess who has recently split up with her partner. She’s determined to get him back, so much so that she’s got a job for the airline he’s a pilot for, and is secretly letting herself into his flat while he’s away to leave him presents.

 

At first – I totally identified with her. I mean, who hasn’t had an errant thought about doing something completely stalker-y when finding themselves infatuated with someone else? Hollywood has conditioned us that romance happens all the time.

 

If we turn up at their workplace during the day with a single red rose, music will swell, and they’ll carry us off into the sunset. If we send them a present, their favourite bottle of wine, they’ll see we really do care about them and again, those strings will start up…

 

The trouble with Juliette is… she does it. And at first, I thought, yeah, fair enough, let’s see how it goes – Clue: not well – but then things progress to the point where even I – yes EVEN I – started to think “Juliette, really?”

 

Still, despite her increasingly desperate attempts to get Nate back into her life, it’s not hard to sympathise with her, even when things become more and more criminal.

 

That big pile of books I alluded to in my opening? A number of them have good guys as protagonists and they’re so… unlikeable.

 

Juliette, on the other hand is well-written, but definitely not the good guy. Still, I can’t help but root for her a little bit. Hopefully that’s a result of the excellent writing – rather than a particular peculiarity to do with my own psychology.

 

What’s the moral of this blog post?

 

Sometimes we should give things a second chance, because it might be our fault they didn’t work out… contrarily the moral of The Perfect Girlfriend is quite the opposite – sometimes things don’t work out because the other person is just mentally and emotionally not able.

 

The Perfect Girlfriend is available now in Hardback from Wildfire