Last year was a great year for reading. It was difficult to whittle the list down, but here are my six favourites:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: Back in January, I told you that I received this for Christmas (it may have been a gift to myself …) and I devoured it between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. I want to shout it from the rooftops… I loved, loved, loved this book! At times, it was absolutely heartbreaking, but it was the most endearing, funny and uplifting book I’ve read in a long time. Absolute perfection. I want to find Eleanor and hold her hand. This book was recommended to me and I’m absolutely recommending it to you.
The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah: Back in March, I told you that I loved, loved, loved this story and whipped through it over a few evenings. I think it’s the first time I’ve read a novel where you might consider the setting (no spoiler: it’s set in Alaska) to be a character in its own right.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty: Back in April, I told you that this was another recommendation from Top 12 Beach Reads and I was gripped. This was such a clever story; can you imagine losing 10 years of memory in an instant and how terrifying that must be? I spent some time thinking back over my last 10 years and cried when I realised that I would have to relive the grief of losing Mum, my parents-in-law and Grandad Paddy. The thought of also having to relearn about The Boy Child’s autism was enough to bring the wander down Memory Lane to an abrupt end.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: Back in August, I told you that this YA was a fun read and reminded me of several cringe-worthy episodes from my own teenage years. Lara Jean was a likeable character and I was really hoping the plot would work in her favour. I read that there are now two more novels about Lara Jean and an adaptation of the books now streaming on Netflix.
To Obama … by Jeanne Marie Laskas: Back in September, I told you that every day, President Obama received ten thousand letters from ordinary American citizens. Every night, he read ten of them before going to bed. I’m still reading this; I’ve laughed out loud and I’ve cried. People wrote to President Obama from all walks of life, from the length and breadth of the United States and on every topic imaginable. The author has interviewed some of the letter writers so that the reader then has a fuller picture of why they wrote to the president in the first place. Many of his handwritten replies are also included. I think this book would make a great gift.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang: Back in October, I gave this book its own post. Our heroine, Stella, doesn’t have a lot of experience with romance – French kissing freaks her out and she’s much more comfortable with equations than with people. She also has Asperger’s, which obviously adds another layer to our complex leading lady. She decides she needs romance lessons … so she hires an escort.
And here’s the thing, Helen Hoang, like her heroine Stella, has Asperger’s, but she wasn’t diagnosed until she was an adult. She’s quoted as saying, “Ever since I was little, I’d been watching others and struggling to emulate them because I didn’t think I was acceptable the way I was. Discovering that there are entire groups of people who have similar quirks and experiences as I do changed everything.”
Reading The Kiss Quotient, you’re immediately and totally immersed in Stella’s world. You feel her stress, her confusion, and her pain; but also her triumphs, her sensuality, and her drive to truly enjoy and make the most of her life. She is unique, multi-layered, and fascinating. It’s so lovely to read female characters who are written true-to-life. We deserve to have our stories told, with all our ideals and hopes and failures and challenges. Hoang said of writing Stella, “When I wrote Stella, I embraced the parts of myself that I’d always been trying to change or hide.” Yes.
There is a scene in the middle of the book, in which our hero, Michael, brings Stella over to his mother’s house for a meal. Michael is half Vietnamese and the richness of his culture and heritage flows off the page. At the same time, you see Stella struggle with being in the crowd of his family. You can feel it all – the commotion, the anxiety, and the love. These characters are brilliantly drawn as real people. There are no clichéd she’s-just-too-adorkable-for-her-own-good or he’s-an-absolute-prat-for-no-reason-at-allplots to navigate around. Michael and Stella are incredibly specific – they are what they are, right down to their own quirks and eccentricities and doubts – but also incredibly relatable.
Also, as the story is ultimately a romance, there are steamy love scenes a plenty. I just wouldn’t recommending reading those parts when you’re on the bus … ahem.Here’s to discovering plenty more good reads in 2019.