Sunday, 11 January 2015

Favourite Books of 2014

Okay, so I'm late to the party with a 2014 list - most of my favorite Booktubers and podcasters published theirs just after Christmas when I was still wandering around in a fug of wine, cheese and leftovers. 

But hey, being late to the party doesn't mean you can't still have a good time! However, rather than do a list of 5 or 10 books of 2014, I thought that I'd talk in-depth about just two books (one fiction and one non-fiction) which I really enjoyed and that I think more people should read. This is partly because I struggle with brevity when discussing books I have read - which would result in a very long blog post if I covered more than a couple. And it's partly because I've been somewhat lapse in keeping track of my reading over  the last twelve months and genuinely can't remember all of the books I read this year - something I aim to rectify for 2015 by re-starting use of my Reading Journal. 

That said, by virtue of being the books I remember, these are the two books that stuck with me the most from my reading of the last 12 months so probably deserve the accolades of being my personal books of the year 2014 anyway. I have included links to the Waterstones website in case any of them pique your interest enough to want to buy them - or you could go support a local library and add them to your 'To Borrow' list. 

The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes

My absolute favorite random-library-find of the year. I picked this one up because the title and the arresting cover art caught my eye and borrowed it because it sounded a bit like Donna Tartt's 'The Secret History' (one of my all-time favorite novels). 

The novel follows a young woman, Alex, who has taken a job at a Pupil Referral Unit in Edinburgh following a personal tragedy. Initially terrified by the troubled, difficult kids she encounters at the unit - especially one group of five intimidating older teens, Alex gradually builds a rapport with this group via her teaching of Greek tragedies, finding them to be fascinated by the ancient tales of bloody revenge and twists of fate. But have these teens taken Alex's lessons to much to heart? And as a result, is a whole new tragedy about to be played out in front of her? 

This is a page-turning psychological thriller with a literary bent and I raced through it.The book isn't without it's flaws - I guessed the ending about three quarters of the way through - but these didn't detract from my enjoyment of reading it and I cannot recommend it enough. 

How to be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much
How to be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis

I have a real fondness for books about books and I love reading about other book-lovers literary experiences and journeys. This memoir combines light-heated bookish discussion with a dash of Caitlin Moran's 'How to be a Woman' and examines how the heroines we read when we're little help to form us into the women we become as grown-ups.

During an argument with a friend about whether Catherine Earnshaw or Jane Eyre made a better heroine, Samantha Ellis realises that she's been living her whole life wrong. All her life she's been trying to be passionate, willful Cathy when she should have been trying to be independent, courageous Jane. So Samantha decides to re-visit her childhood heroines and re-evaluate the literary women who shaped her early life. Some of them stand up to scrutiny and some fall by the wayside and, along the way, Samantha shares her revelations, memories and experiences.

Sometimes literary memoirs of this type can be a little po-faced but Samantha Ellis has a wonderful conversational style that makes reading this book rather like having a conversation with a bookish friend. I really enjoyed reading about her re-discovery and re-evaluation of her favourite books, even when she was discussing books that I myself hadn't read. As a result of reading this, I added a few books to my TBR pile and it really got me thinking about some of my own favourite childhood reads and whether my own personal heroines would stand the test of time. As a result, I enjoyed some re-reads this year too. Lizzie Bennet still rocks. 

So that's almost it from me for another post. I would love to know what your favourite books of 2014 were and, if you've read either of mine (or decide to read them as a result of this post), I would love to know what you thought of them so please post me a comment below.

As for me, I'm about to start a book that has cropped up on so many of my favourite podcasts and Booktube channels called 'The Book of Strange New Things' by Michael Faber - it's been recommended by so many people whose book choices I respect and admire so I'm really looking forward to it. It is a bit of a tome (hardback, weighing in at 584 pages) so I'll let you know how I'm getting on in my next post! 

Until then, happy reading!


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