I’m going to publicly admit something here that I have honestly been quite ashamed of: up until the age of 25 I had never read a book in its entirety. *gasp*
To whoever is reading this, I know, I know, can sense the horror from the other side of the screen. I probably have read a whole book before if I was studying one at school during my English classes, but when it comes to reading for pure enjoyment, I’ve never really been that interested.
I’m sure my Mum and my Grandma would have loved it if I was a bookworm as a child, both avid readers themselves, but I just was never really that bothered. When I was younger I always used to say “why would I read the book when I can watch the film much quicker?”. Don’t get me wrong, I love films. I spend a lot of my time watching movies – you can read about my 100 movie challenge here.
In the last few years I had always challenged myself to get into reading, gone out and bought or borrowed a book, read a chapter or two and put the book down and forgot about it. I often just thought that I hadn’t found the right type of book, and that I needed to just keep searching to find something I was interested in. But really I think I was just being lazy! I always found other things to do to fill my time.
One day at the beginning of this year, I was playing on my phone (you know, the usual stuff – having a scroll through Instagram, watching a few YouTube videos, having a browse on Facebook, etc etc) when I realised that I had wasted HOURS doing it. I had got up that morning, just to sit down and play on my phone for the rest of the day. And then it just hit me that I had probably wasted a LOT of my time doing that. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with enjoying social media, but I just felt like my ‘aimless browsing’ needed to take a backseat, and it was time for me to put my time to use doing something else.
So I headed down to my local Waterstones and bought two books that were on a ‘Buy One Get One Half Price’ offer. I was determined that THIS was going to be the year that I started reading, and hopefully enjoyed it, and even more hopefully that I finished a whole book.
Here’s all of the books I read in 2018 and my thoughts:
1. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
I loved this book. Maybe it’s special to me because it’s THE FIRST BOOK I ACTUALLY READ IN FULL (wahoo!) but I genuinely really enjoyed reading it. The book centres around Katie Brenner, a twenty-something Somerset girl who is trying to make it in London, with a fake Instagram account, a terrible commute and a fairly-rubbish-wage job, so it’s very relatable for anyone who has lived or worked in London – myself included. It had some lovely moments and really funny bits in it, I actually laughed out loud quite a few times. I don’t want to spoil anything but it has a happy ending as well, which was nice for my first book of the year (or ever?).
2. In Strangers Houses by Elizabeth Mundy
I didn’t like this one when I first started reading it. It didn’t seem to flow as nicely/read as well as the Sophie Kinsella one I had read before it. The writing almost seemed disjointed in a way. But as I got more and more into it, the story gripped me, and I found myself keen to know what happened next. The story is about two Hungarian cleaners who live and work in London, mainly cleaning houses in the Islington area. When one of them goes missing, the other is left to find out what happened to her. With the police not being much help, Lena takes it upon herself to snoop around some of her clients houses looking for clues, as she thinks that one of them might have something to do with her friend Timea’s disappearance. Half way through reading this book I thought I could predict the ending, however it turned out to be totally different to what I expected. I genuinely really enjoyed reading this once I got into it. Living in Islington myself I know all the places mentioned too, which made it super easy to visualise the scenes.
3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman:
I had seen a few people on Instagram post about this book saying it was good. When I bought it, the person who served me said “this is a GREAT read, you’ll really enjoy it” so my expectations were relatively high. I honestly loved this book – I couldn’t put it down. It only took me a few days to read, which is fairly impressive for my third book I’ve ever read in full! The story was sad, touching, heart-warming and had some unexpected moments in it. This book is about Eleanor Oliphant, a 30 year old who lives out her days through the same routines, the same old meal deal for lunch and the same bottle of vodka at the weekend. As you delve into this story you learn that Eleanor’s life is far from ordinary, and that maybe she isn’t completely fine after all.
4. The Ex by Alafair Burke:
The Ex follows New York City defence lawyer Olivia Randall as she finds out that her former fiancee has been arrested for a triple homicide. Olivia has no doubt about her former lover Jack’s innocence, and chooses to represent him at trial. The book journeys through Jack’s life leading up to the murders, and Olivia’s own struggle with doubting her ex’s guilt with the mounting evidence against him. The words “highly addictive” are printed on the cover of this book. I’m going to be completely honest, I wasn’t addicted to this one. Compared to the previous book which only took me a few days to read, this one I barely picked up. I’m not sure whether the storyline just didn’t grip me, or whether it was all the legal terms and defence lawyer jargon that I found difficult to keep up with. I did however really like how it tied together in the end, and steamed through the last few chapters. Overall I think the story dragged for me a bit, and being even more honest I predicted the ending – I’m not sure if this is a bad thing for some readers?
5. The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce:
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The story was lovely and uplifting, along with a few sad moments in it, and I struggled to put it down. The main character Frank’s passion for music was so easy to relate to being a music lover myself. The Music Shop is about shop owner Frank who refuses to accept the decline of Vinyl and the rise in CD popularity. Frank brings music into the lives of everyone around him, including the mysterious Isle Brauchmann who arrives into his shop one day. Frank feels himself falling for the curious woman dressed in green, however he is scared that opening up to Isle will unearth demons from his past that he has never been able to cope with.
6. On A Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond
On A Beautiful Day follows the lives of four Mancunian friends who witness a tragic accident in their city. Totally shaken up by this, they all start to re-evaluate their own lives. Laura starts to panic about her biological clock and yearning to have a baby. Should Eve stop ignoring that lump in her breast? Sensible Jo finds herself in a new exhilarating relationship. And India finds herself drawn to one of the victims of the accident, in turn igniting an old flame. I struggled to get into this book at first. As it revolves around 4 characters, each chapter is about a different person, and I initially found myself unable to keep up with the story, starting a new chapter and thinking “who is this character again?”. But around half way through it just seemed to click and I found myself addicted to the story. This book is a real wake up call, and truly makes you think about how to appreciate the smaller things in life.
7. Not Working by Lisa Owens
Lisa Owens’ debut novel Not Working is about twenty-something Claire Flannery who has quit her job to find her purpose or her “thing”. Whilst most others her age seem to have found their vocation or true passion in life, Claire decides to pack in her 9-5 in order to discover herself. However during her journey of self discovery she manages to push away some of the people most important in her life. I think all of us at some point have been able to relate to feeling lost or feeling like our lives have no sense of direction. This book is full of relatable quotes even down to having arguments with your other half or little habits we all have. I really liked the style of this book, every paragraph had its own title which made it easy to digest, it was almost written in the style of diary entries. I loved the quirky way that Claire questions things, and I found myself agreeing with a lot of her opinions and views. “Lisa Owens is a comedy genius and a seriously skilful and beautiful writer.”
8. When I Find You by Emma Curtis
It took me a while to finish this book. I enjoyed it whilst I was reading it, however I rarely found myself reaching for it. I don’t know whether I was just busy, or whether deep down I wasn’t really interested. The story revolves around Laura, who suffers from face blindness. Following a few too many drinks at the work Christmas party, she ends up sleeping with someone who she might have feelings for. However, when she wakes up in the morning, she sees a different coloured shirt on the floor to the one the guy she liked was wearing. The man who came back to her flat knows about her face blindness, therefore taking advantage. Laura has to work out who her attacker is, despite not being able to recognise anyone, including herself. There were a few good twists in this book, however it took a few sinister turns which I wasn’t expecting. Overall I enjoyed this one but I wouldn’t say it was one of my favourites.
9. All That She Can See by Carrie Hope Fletcher
Written by Carrie Hope Fletcher, All That She Can See is about baker Cherry who is able to see things that others can’t. In her quest to help others, she uses her talent to add something special to her cakes, making whoever eats them feel better about their lives. When Cherry meets someone else who shares her gift, everything she knew changes and she unveils a world that she had no idea existed. This book was another that took me ages to read. I just really struggled to get into this one. Although I think Carrie Hope Fletcher is a talented writer and think the way she describes scenes, places and people is unique, I think the story was a little too far fetched for me and I struggled to get into that mindset of being able to connect to the story.
And that’s it! All of the books I read in 2018 (or ever). To most people I know that this is nowhere near an achievement, but for someone who has never got into reading I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself. My favourite read this year was hands down Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I absolutely adored it, and couldn’t bring myself to put it down. I’d like to challenge myself to read more books in 2019 now that I have found something I really enjoy doing.
What are your favourite reads of 2018? Any books you would recommend I read next?