This is a bit late due to sickness, but better late than never! I read 18 books in December.
I have a brand new shiny book page for 2016, you can find it on the sidebar under the "books" header. I'll update monthly, and I'll include clickable covers so you can find reviews of anything. All the December books will be going on the Books 2015 page, so if you want in-depth reviews on anything just have a look there and it'll take you to my full book review on Goodreads.
On with the show!
The Rick O'Shea Book Club
I managed both choices this month, I had bought the Donal Ryan one for myself for Christmas so I read that towards the end of December.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
A short book about the disintegration of a marriage, told from the point of view of "the wife", who remains unnamed. I didn't like this at all, I thought it was disjointed and pretentious, like finding someone's diary but half of it is in code only they'd understand. It has many, many fans - I'm just not one of them.
A Slanting of the Sun by Donal Ryan
One of my favourite authors, this latest offering from Donal Ryan is a collection of short stories. Each story is a little insight into someone's life, be it the traveller girl who has never dealt with prejudice until a moment in a scrapyard; the care assistant that appears to live a mundane life; the man who is responsible for the death of a teenage girl; the group of men who take it upon themselves to punish a rapist - every story is different and every one a masterpiece in its own right. One of my favourites of 2015.
Both of these were under 100 pages, the Lucy Diamond came in around 90 and the Gillian Flynn was under 70.
Christmas Gifts at the Beach Café by Lucy Diamond
I hadn't read the other Beach Café book so I wasn't familiar with the characters, Evie and Ed. They are spending Christmas apart - Ed is going to his recently widowed mother, while Evie's sister and her family are coming to Evie's house. This tried to pack an awful lot into a small book, so I never really got a feel for any of the characters, but I'd say people familiar with the other book would like this.
The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
I like Gillian Flynn's writing style, so I was delighted to see this on offer for £0.99 on Kindle. It's about a foul-mouthed ex-prostitute who is forced to make a career change when she suffers an injury. She begins to claim that she can read Auras, and succeeds in making a living until one client proves to be more difficult. If she can pull the job off, she could be rich. If she doesn't, she could be dead. This was genuinely very creepy around the middle part, I did get a little freaked. The ending wasn't ideal but it was a good read.
These were both picked to fulfil prompts for my reading challenge (a book published the year I was born, a book my Mum loves). Breige very kindly sent me some Sweet Valley High books last year and I hadn't gotten round to reading them yet, so it was great to revisit! If you were a fellow SVH fan back in the day, keep an eye on Red Lemonade - she's reading the books in order and does fantastic hilarious reviews.
Sweet Valley High: Double Love "by" Francine Pascal
Ghost writers were used for the whole series, with outlines provided by Francine. The books were all typical fare - blonde twins who should win awards for being gorgeous, one a busybody, the other a bitch. In this one, Jessica screws Elizabeth over on multiple occasions, big bro Steven almost shames the family by dating an undesirable, and Dad may be having an affair because his divorced work colleague is divorced and therefore could only be interested in Ned sexually, not because she's actually interested in working.
The Secret Island by Enid Blyton
The copy I had as a child belonged to my mother, by the time it got to me it had been read so often that it had a cover made from a Cornflakes box. Three siblings are unhappy with how their mean Aunt and Uncle treat them, so they take off with their neighbour Jack to a secret island and build a home for themselves. It's obvioulsy very dated but still a great little read.
Christmas Themed Books
I think I had my fill of Christmas themed books in November, but there were two more in December.
Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson
A woman knocks a man down, he turns out to be a dreamboat, and she ends up taking care of him over Christmas. An absolute cheesefest but thoroughly enjoyable of a cold December day beside a fire! Perfect after reading something heavy.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I've seen many adaptations on TV but I don't think I've ever read the original before. We all know the story - mean old Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who teach him not to be so miserable. Enjoyable and surprisingly easy to read considering how old it is.
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Amy's father recently died, and she blames herself. Her mother is selling the family home, and needs Amy to drive their car to the new home. Amy refuses to drive, so her mother enlists Roger, the son of a family friend, to drive with Amy. A boy and a girl alone in a car, hmmmm...wonder what's going to happen here then? Parts are predictable but I really enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would (mainly because my sister thought it was shite) - but I liked the road trip element and I liked the metaphorical journey Amy went on.
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
Evie is 16 and slowly coming off her medication for OCD. She keeps a recovery diary and attends therapy, but all Evie wants is "normal". As she begins to unravel it's uncomfortable, and it's hard to read in places, but it's a very honest very believable portrayal of mental illness. It also addresses the way people misuse terms like OCD and "I almost had a panic attack", which is important. Recommended for teenagers.
The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
I was overjoyed when my Netgalley request was granted for this book, I would have bought it anyway because I'm a huge Alex Marwood fan. This, her third novel, focuses on two weekends. The first, in 2004 when 3 year old identical twin Coco Jackson goes missing on the wekeend of her father Sean's 50th birthday celebrations. The second weekend is set in the present day, when Sean's daughter Mila is attending his funeral. Full of secrets, twists, and very uncomfortable to read at times, but recommended.
Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton
Set in 1994 in The Falklands. Children keep disappearing, but nobody seems to know anything. Catrin Quinn is a marine scientist, dealing with the breakdown of her marriage and the loss of her children in a terrible accident a few years before. She blames her former best friend, Rachel, for the accident. Told from the perspective of Catrin, Rachel, and Catrin's kind-of-boyfriend Callum, this is a book full of revenge and twists, but Callum's chapters let it down and the ending destroyed it for me. Not an enjoyable read, very uncomfortable and full of dread. Incredibly confusing last paragraph.
The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
Set in Australia in the 1950s. A young woman, Tilly Dunnage, returns to her hometown after being told to leave years before. She is back to care for her ill mother. The townspeople despise Tilly due to her part in the death of a young boy, but when they see her fashion creations, they decide that she could be useful. Described as a story of "revenge, love, and creativity", this took a while to get going but it was an okay read.
Solace by Belinda McKeon
Set between Longford and Dublin, Solace is a story about love and survival. A young man meets the love of his life at college, but as they begin their future together tragedy strikes. A nice portrayal of rural vs urban Ireland and lovely to read familiar place names. Highly recommended.
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
I've seen the film a few times but wanted to read the book, it also fitted in with one of the reading challenge prompts. A love story that spans several years, Noah and Allie are smitten with each other but their affair is brief. Years later, they become reacquainted and their story is then told to an old lady in a care home by an old man. I swore I wouldn't cry but yep, bawled like a baby. More at the thought of having alzheimers', to be fair, but if you've seen the film, it didn't deviate much from the book apart from the ending.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Don't ask me how I've reached 32 without reading this, but anyway - another challenge prompt, but I wanted to read this book in 2015 anyway. The story of Atticus Finch, lawyer called upon to defend a black man after he's accused of raping a young white woman, is told through the eyes of his young daughter Scout. It's a lazy, southern, late summer read that reminded me a lot of the way Stephen King writes those coming-of-age smalltown parts in his books. A great book, a great read, but I won't be touching her second book with a barge pole. Atticus Finch in this book is perfect, I don't want to read how he could have been.
Out of My Comfort Zone
Finally, I had to read a graphic novel and play for my reading challenge.
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet
A beautifully illustrated graphic novel about a group of tiny creatures who live inside a young girl. But this isn't Inside Out - it's gory, macabre, and creepy. The creatures have to move out and find another home after the girl is killed, so the story turns into a Lord of the Flies type thing where survival is priority. Genuinely the weirdest thing I've ever read.
Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley
A short play about a Priest suspected of inappropriate conduct with a student. Is he guilty or not? Very thought provoking.
That's it - that's the last book roundup of 2015, see you in February to see how 2016 is starting off!