My Favourite Novels read in 2017!

My top fiction reads of

In 2017 I read 252 books, many of them were such brilliant reads, so it’s been really hard picking my top books of the year. Today I’m sharing my top novels read last year, and tomorrow I will share my top non-fiction reads so please look out for that post.

In no particular order the novels that I have loved, and the ones that are really staying with me are:

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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This book had (shamefully) been on my TBR for almost TWENTY years! I originally bought it in hardback soon after it was published and over the years have also bought a paperback and ebook copy but was still intimidated to start reading it. Well, I finally picked it up in 2017 and it’s been a huge lesson to me in not avoiding books because I adored it from start to finish. It really got to me and I still find myself thinking about it now.

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The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

This book made the list because I love the way it explored the idea of fate and whether some things are meant to be, or not. It really got to me and it’s a book that I often find myself thinking about. You can find my full review here.

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The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

I loved this novel because I’m someone who wonders about lost things and this book gave me hope and comfort that the precious things I’ve lost over the years might be somewhere being looked after. You can find my full review here.

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The Way Back to Us by Kay Langdale

This is a novel that I read in one sitting, it just had me hooked from the very first page and I still find myself thinking about the family and wondering how they are now. The Way Back to Us explores family dynamics in a way that really makes you think and feel about each and every person involved. I highly recommend this book. You can find my full review here.

The wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

This is a wonderful novel about Della who wants to be a pilot in a time when it was near impossible for a woman to train as such a thing. I adored this book, and the characters in it. The writing is so evocative that I really felt I was with Della every step of the way throughout this book. You can find my full review here.

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All the Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker

All the Wicked Girls is one of those really special novels that just gets under your skin very early on. I still find myself thinking about the characters in this small town and wondering how their lives turned out. This book is just incredible and I implore you to read it if you haven’t already.  You can find my full review here.

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Little Deaths by Emma Flint

This is a fascinating novel looking at how women are viewed in the wake of something terrible happening. Ruth is a single mum who enjoys nights out once her children are in bed. One night her children go missing and the spotlight is on Ruth intensely from that moment on. She is judged by everyone for everything. This is a novel that really stays with you and I definitely recommend it. You can find my full review here.

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson

This is a brilliant crime thriller, one that has really stayed with me in the months since I read it. It’s a harrowing read at times but the writing, and the characters make it a book that you need to keep reading. I’m eagerly anticipating the next novel! You can find my full review here.

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Final Girls by Riley Sager

This novel is so good! I was a little apprehensive about it as I don’t like horror, I don’t like to feel properly scared but this book was just so brilliant that I couldn’t put it down. I loved every minute that I spent reading it and I can’t wait to see what the author writes next. You can find my full review here.

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Sweetpea by CJ Skuse

This is another brilliant novel that I loved reading in 2017. It’s very disconcerting when you read a book about a serial killer but find yourself agreeing with some of the things that annoy her. It’s full of dark humour but it’s such a good read, one I’m sure I’ll go back to in the future. You can find my full review here.

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Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

This was a novel that I was desperate to get my hands on from the minute I first saw the publisher share a photo of the cover. The novel did not let me down! It grabbed me from the start and it kept me engrossed to the very end. It’s a novel about female friendship and obsession and it’s brilliant! You can find my full review here.

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The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig

A quote from my own review of this book: ‘This is such a modern novel. On face value this is a novel about the breakdown of a marriage but it’s really about so much more than that. It’s such an incisive, multi-layered novel about the society we live in. It’s a character-driven story, which looks at class and race issues; it looks at how we define poverty. Amanda Craig really captures our society in a genuine and honest way, whilst also giving it a good dose of dark humour, wryness and wit’. The novel has really stayed in my mind since I read it so I highly recommend it! You can find my full review here.

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The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia

This is such a gripping and compelling novel that really got to me. I hadn’t heard of it before I was offered the chance to read and review it but I fell in love with it on reading it. Hattie Hoffman is one of those characters that really got under my skin and my heart was breaking for her as I read her story. Go read this book if you haven’t already. You can find my full review here.

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Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

This book appealed to me because Louise’s first novel was one of my favourite books last year, and also because this one is set during the floods in Hull. I knew this book would be one I loved but it even surpassed that very high expectation. I got so engrossed in Catherine’s story and felt at such a loss after finishing this book. I still think about this novel and wonder how Catherine is. You can find my full review here.

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See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

I won an advance proof of this book and was so excited when it arrived. It was one of the first books that I read in 2017 and it stayed with me throughout the year and absolutely deserves a place as one of my favourite reads of the year. This is such a visceral and evocative novel and I still feel like I’ve been in that house where Lizzie Borden took her axe. If you haven’t read this novel yet, go grab a copy and read it asap! You can find my full review here.

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I loved this book from start to finish! Eleanor Oliphant is such a fascinating character, and one I couldn’t help but like. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a tender and moving look at loneliness, at how it is to be given a chance and what it is to find a friend having had a lifetime of just getting through the days. A beautiful novel that I highly recommend. You can find my full review here.

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The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith

This book came into my life at such a perfect time that it seemed meant to be. It’s an exploration of the complexities of pain, in all its forms, and how we deal with the darkest moments of life. Ravine is someone who will really stay in my heart, I won’t ever forget this book and what it means to me. You can find my full review here.

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Snow Sisters by Carol Lovekin

I adored this novel, almost beyond being able to put into words. It had a lot to live up to as Ghostbird, Carol’s previous novel, very quickly became one of my all-time favourite books but I’m happy to say that Snow Sisters did live up to it. Carol is an incredible writer that weaves stories that just wrap around you and pull you right in. I highly, highly recommend this book. You can find my full review here.

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Tin Man by Sarah Winman

This book broke my heart – I read it in one sitting and I fell completely and utterly in love with it. It was stunning and it’s definitely a book that I want to re-read soon. I didn’t manage to write a review when I read it but I will review it when I read it again. It’s a beautiful novel and it’s stolen my heart!

So, there’s my list of the best novels that I read in 2017! It was an amazing reading year and I’m already so excited to be in a new year and discovering lots more fabulous books. What was your favourite novel from 2017? If you’ve blogged about it please feel free to leave a link and I will go read your post and leave a comment.

Tomorrow (all being well!) I’ll be sharing my top non-fiction reads from last year so please look out for that post!

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#BookReview: The Way Back to Us by @kaylangdale @HodderFiction @JazminaMarsh

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Kay Langdale’s brand new novel, The Way Back to Us!

 

About the Book

Cover Since their youngest son, Teddy, was diagnosed with a life-defining illness, Anna has been fighting: against the friends who don’t know how to help; against the team assigned to Teddy’s care who constantly watch over Anna’s parenting; and against the impulse to put Teddy above all else – including his older brother, the watchful, sensitive Isaac.

And now Anna can’t seem to stop fighting against her husband, the one person who should be able to understand, but who somehow manages to carry on when Anna feels like she is suffocating under the weight of all the things that Teddy will never be able to do.

As Anna helplessly pushes Tom away, he can’t help but feel the absence of the simple familiarity that should come so easily, and must face the question: is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage, or leave?

 

My Thoughts

I’m going to start by saying that I’m a huge fan of Kay Langdale’s novels – the first one I ever read was Her Giant Octopus Moment and I adored it. I can say, with absolute honesty, that The Way Back to Us is her best yet! I read this in one sitting, I just didn’t want to put it down for a minute.

The Way Back to Us is a novel about a family of four who are still coming to terms with the fact that the youngest child, Teddy, has SMA – a rare genetic disorder that has changed all of their lives.

Anna, Teddy’s mum, gave up her career the very second Teddy got his diagnosis. There is a moment where she shares how she felt at that time and I felt so emotional as I was reading it. I don’t have children but I have lived through that horrendous life-defining moment where you know your world has moved on its axis and your life is forever changed. Anna becomes fiercely protective over Teddy – she’s become obsessive about cleaning and keeping him safe from germs but she’s utterly devoted to him and fights so hard for his right to attend a normal school. I could totally identify with her desire to stop germs coming into the house – I was the same when I was a carer to my mum as she went through chemo as part of the palliative care. It’s partly a need to protect your loved one but it’s also a way of having some control over the desperate circumstances you find yourself in. I felt such empathy for Anna, I wanted to reach through the pages and hug her.

Tom is Teddy’s dad and he is now the sole bread winner for the family and so is very focused on his work. When he gets home he rushes to his children to greet them but Anna is often distant with him and he doesn’t understand why. As a reader you have an all-seeing eye and can spot what is happening but these characters are mired in the situation and can’t see the wood for the trees. Tom clearly loves his children, and his wife, but when Anna seems to always be snapping at him to be careful with Teddy it’s easy to see why a work colleague starts to catch Tom’s eye. The situation they’re in is not an excuse to think about cheating but it’s so apparent that Tom loves his family – he just feels redundant as Anna is so focused on what needs to be done, and Tom is focused on work that there never seems to be time for them to sit and just talk about how they feel.

Isaac is Teddy’s older brother and he is such a wonderful child. Kay Langdale has the writing so spot on in that Isaac always comes across as a child but he is so perceptive, he can’t always understand what is going on with his parents but he picks up on the mood and the atmosphere. He is so caring towards his mum, he is really tuned in to her feelings and wants to do anything he can to help her. He tries to soothe her at times by trying to look on the bright side, and he takes care of himself to take some of the responsibility off her shoulders. The thing I loved most about Isaac though was his relationship with Teddy. He is so careful not to hurt him but at the same time is determined to help him try to do normal, fun things. There is a moment when Isaac tries to help Teddy learn to hop, which is impossible as Teddy can’t even stand unaided, but the amount of pure love and joy in both boys in that moment radiates from the page. I adored that moment and it makes me smile every time I think of it.

The novel is set in the present but we get the back story as the characters, particularly Anna, mulls over how she got here. As we learn about how Teddy was diagnosed  the language Anna uses in her own thoughts is so telling – there is a moment when the doctor explains how her genes and Tom’s led to Teddy having SMA and Anna ponders about other men she had relationships with and how their genes might have mixed differently but then she thinks of Tom ‘who carried it undetected towards me’. She doesn’t really blame Tom but it’s an undercurrent, a thing that can’t be said in their marriage – it shows her anger and her sadness that this has happened to them, to their child.

The clever way the story is built on in each chapter, with more layers and depth as we see other points of view ,is brilliant. Kay Langdale deftly shows how each person feels and what they think but how they often just can’t say it because their own pain holds them back, and they fear making things worse. It feels so real as you read this novel – the missed chances between Anna and Tom took my breath away at times, I was willing them to find a way to really communicate with each other. My heart broke when Tom tried to recreate old times with Anna  by fantasising on what they could spend his bonus on, he was trying so hard and I loved him for it, but Anna’s first words are how they could use the money to help Teddy, which is totally understandable, but it broke the spell of the moment. My heart was breaking for them both at this point.

I won’t give any spoilers but there is an incident with a kite in this novel and it’s in the aftermath of that where we really come to understand why each member of the family is the way they are. The mix of sheer joy from one, sheer terror from another, the misplaced fear and the worry from the other two is palpable. We learn so much in this part of the novel and it’s the point when it felt like make or break for this family and I was really hoping they would find a way to move toward each other again once the pain and anger subsided.

The Way Back to Us is at its heart a novel about how people cope when life throws a massive curveball at them. It’s a look at relationships – between a married couple, between parents and their children, and between siblings – that is so raw and honest that at times you need to pause and take a breath. The plot of this novel is very moving but it’s more a look at the characters, and they are such well thought out characters. The way Kay Langdale makes you feel sympathy for everyone in this family is so cleverly done – it would be easy to make Anna the good guy and Tom the bad guy in the marriage but that never happens. Instead, through the layering of the perspectives we just see the reality of their lives in its raw and honest state. There is heartbreak in this novel, and honestly I shed quite a few tears whilst reading, but there is beauty and joy too.

This novel is incredible and so beautifully written. I can’t stop thinking about these characters – they feel like real people to me. This is such an emotional novel – at times it’s heartbreaking but it really is such a stunning read. Kay Langdale is a master of crafting novels that feel so true and real, she really gets under the skin of her characters and makes them feel like people you know – I’m sure that these characters will have a hold on me for a long while to come. This is absolutely Kay Langdale’s best work to date and I am certain that The Way Back to Us will be one of my top books of this year – I’ll be recommending it to everyone! Go buy a copy now, you won’t regret it!

The Way Back to Us is out now.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

I was very lucky that I got to interview Kay Langdale when her previous novel, The Comfort of Others, was published so you can read more about her here if you’d like to.

 

About the Author

Kay Langdale © John Cairns

Kay Langdale was born in Coventry, England.

From a young age she loved to read and to write.

She attended Bedford College, London University, graduating with a first class degree in English Literature and then went to Oxford University where she completed a doctorate on Samuel Beckett’s prose fiction. She briefly taught twentieth century literature at St Edmund Hall, Oxford before beginning work as an account handler and copywriter at a brand consultancy.

She is married to a South African entrepreneur, with whom she has four children who are now mostly grown. Kay divides her time between their homes in Oxfordshire and Devon.

Now writing her eighth novel, Kay also works as an editor for the charity The Children’s Radio Foundation which trains young broadcasters in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

When not writing Kay enjoys running, ballet barre, yoga, swimming, coastal walking, learning Italian, cooking and reading. Always reading.

(Bio taken from: KayLangdale.com)

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

TWBTU Blog tour