2019 in books – or the year of did not finish

2019 was my ‘worst’ year of reading for a long time. I abandoned more books than I finished. My bedside table has unread books on it from the start of 2019 and my various iPad book apps are loaded with books returned after a few pages or just left to automatically return without being finished.

I’ve spent a few days trying to pinpoint why this happened and haven’t reached any conclusions. My preferences haven’t really changed – fantasy, YA, fairytales, historical fiction, non-fiction…I am focusing more on female, LGBTQIA+ and non-binary stories and character.

I do know that my tolerance for stories about women being assaulted, treated badly, used as a crappy excuse for a plot device or any awful behaviour towards women (that goes for film and TV too) is zero. One of my last attempted reads of 2019 was a beautifully written book, however the sense of foreboding and impending doom of the main female character was too much and I had to stop.

Do I put it down a challenging year with not much head space left for reading for pleasure? Maybe.

What did I finish and love this year? Here are my best reads of 2019.

The Poison Song (Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy) by Jen Williams. I’ve raved about this book quite a bit on Twitter and to anyone who will listen. Jen has written the perfect ending to a fantasy story I absolutely loved. There were many tears shed over this book, and the story if full of strong, feminist characters that take no shit. Glorious, funny, brilliant. 5 million stars.

The Binding by Bridget Collins. This novel that has stayed with me since finishing. I went back and re-read it straight away and have just downloaded the e-book. This story is beautiful, haunting and unexpected. Also 5 million stars.

That’s it! A slow year for me (and a very out of date GoodReads list…).

Got any book recommendations for me? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter!

Note: I started Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green on 1 January and finished it on 2 January and loved it. Fingers crossed 2020 will be year of more finished books!

The DNF list

Do you persevere with a book even if you’re not enjoying it? Since I learnt to read until about 5 years ago, I did. I’d grumble and sigh my way through books (films and tv too), reading right until the bitter end. Maybe I thought there was some sort of medal for sheer bloodymindedness in book reading…who knows? At some point I came across the 50 page rule (if you’re not engaged with the story when you hit the 50 page mark, walk away from the book) and it was a revelation! If you’re shaking your head at this point, yes it’s completely silly, I agree.

Anyway, looking through my Goodreads lists the other night for the 3 books I’ve loved (recently) post I looked at my DNF list and what an odd mix of books it is. And I can still remember why I stopped reading each of the books…

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – the narrator didn’t work for me (a narrator that doesn’t engage or simply confuses me is an instant turn off). I wanted to like it but alas, I even tried to read this one a second time but no dice. Perhaps third time is a charm?

One Hundred Years of Solitude – sooo long, sooo many descriptions, too wordy and flowery and NOPE. This probably makes me a literary philistine, oh well!

The Great Gatsby – see One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Use Your Words: A myth-busting, no fear approach to writing – at the height of my frustrations about wanting to write but not getting anywhere (assisted by me actually not writing at all!) I picked up this book. A few chapters in, the author, Catherine Deveny suggests that if you don’t want to write, stop reading the book immediately and do something else. So I did. And then I started writing. Weird.

There are a few more on that list, and recently my selections from the library have been pretty average so there are some more to add.

Learning to stop reading has (I think) taught me to be more discerning and to think more about why I didn’t make a connection with the story – was it the tone, the writing style, characters, narrator? Actually it has made reading much more enjoyable – do you have a 50 page rule?

 

 

Books I’ve loved (recently)

Continuing on from my ‘Podcasts I love‘ post and because making lists is fun, I spent today thinking about books I’ve really enjoyed recently. Stories that have stuck in my head, made me think, laugh or cry and want to shove the book in someone’s face and say *READ THIS NOW!

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Wow. This book is incredible. There were paragraphs and sentences that I read and then read again because they were so beautiful and philosophical. Britt-Marie is awkward and difficult and her style of narrative takes a while to get used to (I also think that if you’ve watched any Scandinavian films, you will be used to the tone and style of the dialogue – but if you haven’t don’t panic!)

About halfway through this book I put it down and didn’t read it for a few days. Why? Because I didn’t want to finish it so wanted to delay the ending. Beautiful, moving, uplifting, gentle and REAL. Read this book!

Runemarks by Joanne Harris

Maddy is such a great heroine, awkward and feisty, I just love her. I really enjoyed (and struggled occasionally) with getting my head around the Norse mythology but you just need to roll with the story and figure it out later. I laughed a lot reading this book, there’s a particularly lucky character who is so enjoyable to read. Can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Trespass by Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain is one of my favourite authors. **Restoration and Music & Silence are two of my all time favourite books and I admire her ability to write about many periods of history and different locations without them seeming at all similar or ‘samey’.

Set in France, Trespass is dark and sad, a story of siblings, retribution, and shared history. The setting is beautiful yet filled with simmering pain. None of the characters are particularly likeable but you want to understand them anyway. Trespass is not an easy read at times, as it explores the darker parts of life and family in a beautiful raw way, however it’s a moving story.

Tell me what you’ve read lately. Oh and here is my Goodreads which I’m not very good at keeping up to date or organised. #librarianfail

*This cry is often accompanied by me saying “if you don’t like it we can’t be friends anymore”.

**There is also a film version of Restoration starring Robert Downey Jnr which sounds awful but is actually quite wonderful!