Reflections On The Best Books Of 2011

As 2011 comes to an end I’m finding myself stuck in a reflective and thoughtful mood. It’s the time of year for tinsel and turkey but also the time of year to think of what we’ve achieved, what we’re disappointed we haven’t achieved and what we hope to get from the coming new year. As an avid reader who surrounds myself with books I have invariably ended up musing on the books that made 2011 for me. So I thought I would jot down my thoughts here and share them all with you. 

The first book that really blew me away this year was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, I was given the book for valentine’s day and the story of fated love set to the back drop of a speculative version of England made for an interesting and emotional parody to the traditional love story. I certainly had a book hugging moment when reading Never Let Me Go, how could I not?

The next book to really grip me was Room by Emma Donoghue. The hype of this book seemed to escape me and when I was handed a copy it was with little appreciation that I began reading it. But Donoghue’s magic didn’t fail me for long and I was soon exchanging sleep for stolen hours reading this book late into the night (that sounds almost like a love affair doesn’t it?). But I really did love this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it.

One Day is another book that really made my 2011 reading experience. The story is simple enough but it’s told with such a frank and honest approach that I found the novel and it’s messages deeply moving and engaging; for me the perfect reading experience.

Another book to captivate my attention and stick with me this year turned out to be Grace Williams Says It loud by Emma Henderson. How could I not be blown away by this book? Henderson shines a light on a subject that is rarely explored and does this in such a candid manner that the book is a shocking but emotional page turner that’s hard to forget.

Carrying on with the Orange Prize theme I also read and loved the debut novel Annabel. Although I will admit that my interest in the book waned towards the end overall I loved this book, I found her voice powerful and inspiring; this book is simply one of the most pleasurable books I’ve read this year.

One of my favorite books this year and one I’m not likely to forget (or shut about anytime soon) is The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly. This novel epitomizes my ideal book, secrecy, scandal, mystery and complex relations; this book ticks all the boxes and had me gripped from day one. If you haven’t read this book I’d highly recommend you do.

Colette is a writer I discovered in 2011 and her novella Gigi is a book that really stands out for me and was a pleasure to read. The glimpse of life as a society girl for Gigi in late Paris was delectable and really made a sunny day spent in Spain an extra treat.

And lastly a book I had low expectations for but loved was The Girls by Lori Lansen. It’s a story about Conjoined Twins and it’s one of those rare novels that in one breath has you crying in sorrow and in another smiling and filled with joy at the beautiful outlook on life that Lansen possesses.

So there the books that I’m most thankful to have read this year and the one’s that I wont forget. I may at some point decide to reflect on the books that really didn’t do it for me and the one’s that let me down. But what about everyone else? What books did you love this year, what would you recommend, what can you not stop talking about?

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September Reading Fun & Plans for October

Well here we are again, no sooner was I writing a post on my August reads and here I am month later reflecting back on my reads in September. But instead of dwelling on the equivocal nature of time I will instead share with you what has been for me a wonderful month of reading.

You know those months when no matter what you pick up you love it, from one book to another it’s great read after great read. O I love those times. So I started the month with Fear The Worst by Linwood Barclay and whilst I can’t proclaim that this book is stylistically ground break or award worthy it was a damn good holiday read and any book that has me desperate to get from the first page to the last will do for me. And so September was kicked off in crime fiction style.

Next I went for a book that couldn’t have being any different; a novel about conjoined twins. It was a brave, honest, frank and beautifully told story written through the eyes of two girls with big personalities. I laughed and cried in abundance and urge anyone who hasn’t read this book to give it ago.

Just to lighten things up a little I read Gigi by Colette and I still have fond memories of a sunny day in Spain reading this book poolside whilst laughing away to Colette’s hilarious character portrayal in a novel sure to inspire great pleasure and enjoyment.

After this it seemed rude not to read The Cat also by Colette and also included in the same book. This was a far more sombre book given a more playful edge with the addition of a cat named Saha who forms one-third of a love triangle also including his owner and his new wife. I didn’t enjoy the short story as much as Gigi but then I adored this book so didn’t quite expect to. Still it’s an engaging and worthy read especially as you can probably read it in one day given its minature size.

And next up I read this months book group choice, the breathtaking Annabel. I can’t say too much yet as the book group aren’t meeting till next week and I don’t want to give up all my thoughts yet, where would be the fun in that? But stayed turned as the review will be going up soon.

And lastly I started but didn’t quite finish Jayne Eyre. I’m still in the middle of it and loving it, Jayne has just met with a travelling gypsy proclaiming to tell her fortune, things are all up in the air lending excitement and intrigue to this read. I can’t wait to read on and see how things will unfold so this novel will form the start of my reading in October.

I don’t have many more plans for October other than whatever we decide for book group. I’d quite like to actually get round to the first in the Stieg Larsson trilogy kicking off with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This book has been burning a hole in my TBR list for too long.

So what books kept you up reading this month, anything you can’t wait to recommend and tell me about? Or perhaps you struggled to find a book that you could connect with? I’d love to hear your thoughts and off course your reading plans for October.

Happy Reading All.

The Girls by Lori Lansen

Absorbing and emotive, a truly breathtaking portrait of life.

When any writer gets their hand on a subject matter as sensitive and unusual as one about conjoined twins there is always the risk that the outcome will be slightly garish and tactless. So when I came across Lorin Lansen’s The Girls and read it’s blurb about two girls joined physically at the head I was at once ignited with curiosity and also laden with apprehension.

Would the story be tastelessly told? Would it inevitably become an over indulged and exploited tale? Well thankfully Lansen’s message is strong, this is an ordinary story of ordinary girls who sometimes have extraordinary stories to tell. As one of the twins puts it; “were just ‘The Girls’”.

This is the tale of Ruby and Rose Dalren, twin girls born joined physically at the head on the day of a freak tornado. Indeed from the very first pages of her book Lansen seems to be telling her reader that far more extraordinary and miraculous things have happened than Rose and Ruby’s conjoinment and so the tone is set and thus begins an eloquently told story of great prowess.

The stories narration fluctuates between both twins as they each take their turn in telling their life story. Ruby in a journal like matter of fact tone, Rose incorporating more lyrical and poetic prose.

The twins have received some news regarding their health which has left writer and romanticist Rose desperate to put down in words her story and that of her sisters so that after they have gone an eternal part of them should remain.

And really who would not feel compelled to do such a thing when their own medical circumstance dictate that they will not be expected to enjoy as long and full a life as most other people naturally seem to take for granted? When our time on earth is short perhaps it is understandable that Rose should be so daunted by the prospect of leaving this world without giving one last part of herself.

Her sister Ruby, more practical and pragmatic see’s less sense in her sisters ideas but when she realizes that Rose’s story will inevitably incorporate her own she is keen to put down her own words about her life and time. The Girls are individuals, they are their own person and connected lives does not always mean connected minds. They don’t always see eye to eye and both see their life together quite differently.

Rose is sporty, she likes to write and would have desperately loved to have attended university which the conjoinment has prohibited. Being the physically stronger of the twins Ruby supports Rose who is smaller and is born with club feet, The strain can be difficult upon her but her aunt and guardian insists this is not a cause for pity more a reality that she must simply bear.

Ruby is entirely different to her sister, she likes day time TV and hates sports, she has no time for reading but loves local history. The twins lives are indeed a series of compromises as each must learn to share and evolve in order for them both to enjoy and prosper.

Much of their sensible reasoning and no pity ‘get up and go’ attitude is thanks to Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash, their adoptive parents from birth; their own teenage mother clearly to scared by the daunting prospect of raising the girls.

Aunty Lovey takes a no-nonsense approach; from a very early age she places Ruby’s favorite doll at one end of the room and Rose’s cherished toy at the other, she then encourages the girls to work together, to become a team, a team that supports and accepts it’s inevitable eternal conjointment, not pits against it.

And so a beautiful, touching and deeply affecting story is told of two girls seemingly ordinary lives and all of the extraordinary events that pepper it in between. In a reflectively told novel they each tell their own accounts of the most extraordinary aspects of their lives; death’s, births, loves, first kisses, highs, lows, sorrows, and triumphs.

Rarely does the writer linger too long on the twins conjoinment instead she inserts humor in their day-to-day irritations at one another, she breathes love into their never-ending support and care of each other. She gives hope in their determination to survive and prosper and ultimately she gives unprecedented reality to her story. She brings her characters to life in an effect that made it hard for me to conceive that the girls were not in fact real.

I won’t spoil the ending but I must say this is not a book of dramatic events or of surprise endings, because life is not like that and this book is at it’s heart just a superbly told story of life. Life in all of its glory and reality.

The tone towards the end is heavy with sadness but curiously I was simultaneously left weeping and full of joy in an unusual but welcome manner,

But Rose and Ruby do not feel sorry for themselves and nor, Lansen seems to tell us, should we. This book is ultimately a celebration of a life spent well, bravely, honestly and with integrity.

Strangely I finished the book in a supermarket queue in Spain and still had a book hugging moment, the sign og a truly wonderful read I think.

Have you read this or anything else by Lori Lansen? Are any other books about conjoined twins?

Booking Through Thursday – Replay

It’s been a while since I joined in with the wonderful Booking Through Thursday and their weekly Meme so when I saw this weeks post titled Replay I couldn’t resist getting involved.

The topic this week is;

Have you ever finished a book and loved it so much you went right back and started re-reading it again?

Now this is a concept on which I have strong feelings, not because I am a serial re reader, actually far from it. But because I have never been able to re read a book straight after reading it. In fact I would be hard pressed to find a book I would want to read again even a year later.

That isn’t to say I chastise anyone who does, quite on the contrary I admire people who can and do re-read books, but I’ll be honest I rarely even consider re reading a book  and hadn’t though of doing so until I saw this post on BTT.

What about you? Can you re read a book straight after finishing it? Do you like to? Or do you prefer to re read a book after a lengthy time has passed?

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with re-reading books and I’m not entirely sure where the problem for me lies. All I do know is that whenever I pick up a previously read book (no matter how much I loved it the first time round) I can never get back into it.

Perhaps its because I am impatient and my TBR list is so high, the thought of reading old books just seems so time-consuming that I can’t bring myself to it. In the back of my mind I can permanently see a list of other appealing and un reads books vying for my attention, the demand is too much to really soak up an old read.

I have always felt a pang of jealousy though when a fellow reader expressed the comfort they received from re reading again and again a classic favourite. Perhaps I jut need to try harder?

The last book I read and really adored was The Girls by Lori Lansen, and even though I finished it in the airport and only had a collection of short stories to keep me going I favoured those because for me the book was far too fresh in mind. To start the book again so soon would be to re read words, phrases and ideas that I had only just devoured, my attention would never be strong enough for that.

All of that said I have managed to re-read the His Dark Material Trilogy by Philip Pullman but for me these books contain so much magic and so many characters and other worlds that a re read only allows me to re discover events and details previously missed. And I don’t think I could ever re read them straight after putting them down.

I can re-read a short story, although I’ve never tried re reading it again straight after reading it but I’ll now give that a go. Off course short stories are not so consuming and therefore I am not plagued by the other books on my TBR that this rereading is preventing me from enjoying.

There is though one book that I can and will read and read and that is Disaster With The Fiend…but that is a children’s book and therefore not the greatest of challenges. I’ve never re read it again after just finishing it but I’m also going to give that a go, and who know’s I might just like it.

I adore this book because it transports me back to my childhood where I would read it with my Grandfather at the kitchen table. If, for me any book is worthy of an immediate re read then this is the one.

So what about everyone else? Please do let me know your feelings on Replaying books and your experiences of doing so.

Don’t forget to leave your comments at BBT too or even better re post this question with your own answers on your blog.

I’m Back in the Land of Blogging

After a wonderful recent break in the lovely Alicante and even lovelier Barcelona I’m pleased to be back in the world of blogging. After 10 ten days of very limited internet access I’m so pleased to finally catch up with my blog and read all of the great comments that have being left.

Thanks everyone for your comments on my recent post challenge Day Zero. I’ll get back to you all very soon but from what I’ve seen I’m spoilt for choice with a brilliant selection of recommended books.

I also can’t wait to catch up with everyone elses blogs and see what you have been reading or doing so far this month.

In terms of reading I’ve had a lovely start to September, starting with the brilliant Fear The Worst by Linwood Barclay and then moving onto the touching and unforgettable The Girls by Lori Lansen. I’m now enjoying some French Literature in the form of Gigi and The Cat by Collette and then…well who knows.

What have you all being reading so far this month, any great reads?

Reviews of all of the above books will be popping up very soon, I can’t wait to share with you all my thoughts. I forgot how enjoyable it was to share my reading experiences with all of you lovely fellow book lovers.

Thanks again for the comments and for being patient in what has been a very quite week at I Hug My Books…Now to getting caught up.

Goodbye August…Hello September

Yes believe it or not it’s that time again. The time to say adious August and welcome in another month which as always will hopefully be filled with many bookish delights. But before I get too excited about the month ahead and all the books I can’t wait to read, it’s time to look back on the books that made August for me.

Sadly this month was a slow one for me, probably because I did something I never do and re read a book, well half a book actually…I will explain. You may remeber that last month I read The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and had a very mixed reaction to it. Whilst on the one hand I was able to appreciate the intelligence and effort that went into this novel I was on the other hand left bereft at my lack of ability to connect with the book. I felt strangely detached from all that happened in the book, slightly defeated by the fact that I had not had the same awe inspiring reaction to it as so many other readers seemed to have had.

When reading the first half of the book I took pain staking time to make sure I fully absorbed every sentence and detail. About half way through though I really gave up and forced myself to fly through the story which is something I never do.

So with this in mind I endevored to read the second half and the result was still a little disapointing. Sadly I didn’t finish the book a true convert to the novel, nor did I feel that I could honeslty say I had discovered the magic of Roy’s work. However I did manage to relax a little, take my time and appreciate certain events and messages within the book that previously had evaded me. I won’t be compltely changing my opinions on this book but I can say the ending was more touching the second time round and for that reason slightly more enjoyable.

So after this slow and rather frustrating read I moved onto something far more uplifting, Witch Light. A story of the atrocious witch hunts in the Seventeenth century and one womans story of survival. The novel was quite unlike anything I usually read and made for a pleasurable story. Especially given that this book describes beautifully the world of Glencoe and all of the majesticy of the natural world. A refreshing change to the rainy days I have been spending in Manchester.

Next up was the wonderful Before I Go To Sleep which I will be reading as part of a  book group tonight…I can’t wait. Until then I will hold back on my thoughts and share them with you in the next few days. I can’t wait to see what everyone else though though and report back to you all.

So what about September, well thankfully I will be enjoying a much needed holiday this month and whislt it might mean a fairly quiet blogging month, for which I apologise in advance, it will hopefully give me the space to catch up on some much needed reading time.

What do you think of my reading choices, I’ve selected Never Look away by Linwood Barclay, I became a fan after reading No Time For Goodbye earlier in the year. A good crime thriller should, fingers crossed, be the perfecr partner for afternoon’s spent by a pool enjoying the sunshine.

I’m also contemplating The Girls by Lori Lansen’s which is the story of conjoined twins. The book comes highly recommended and it seems like a sad but inspiring story so this may well find it’s way into my suitcase. Has anyone else read this book?

I also picked up Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier at a steal of a price from a second hand bookshop. Whilst this might not make it to Spain with me I do hope it makes it onto my reading list in September as I finally have a copy and can’t wait to read it.

And last but not least I picked up a book by an author that I hadn’t even heard of till I saw it’s attractive silver and pink cover. It’s called White Mice and is written Manchester born writer Nicholas Blincoe which I admit also added to the novels appeal. It seems completley different to the type of literature I usually go for and for that reason it’s top of the TBR list.

So that is August summed up for me and thats my plans for September. So what about everyone else? What are you reading and what did you discover in August? What do you think of my selection? Are there any books on there that you have already read or plan to read? I’d love to hear what reading you have been getting up to?

Also if anyone can recommend some great books suitable for a book group then they would be greatly apprecaited. Tonight is our third meet and as of yet I have no suggestions. Any thoughts?

Happy reading everyone, I hope September brings many treasures your way.