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Top Ten Books of 2016

So, the time of year for summarising my Top 10 best reads of the year has come around again! It’s been an unbelieveable awful year for me, and for a lot of people I know, but books have always been there to keep me going, and keeping this blog has given me a purpose even when I didn’t feel like I could ever be motivated to do anything again. First of all, a brief disclaimer – no, I did not include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, despite it being one of my favourite reads of the year. Why? It’s a script, and it seemed unfair to include it and neglect some of the amazing writers whose work I have had the pleasure of reading this year. Just for the record though, if I could have had two number 1 spots, it would have been on here.

10. Frenchman’s Creek, by Daphne du Maurier

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https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/frenchmans-creek-by-daphne-du-maurier/

9. Katherine Howard by Josephine Wilkinson

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https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/katherine-howard-by-josephine-wilkinson/

8. Four Sisters by Helen Rappaport

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https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/four-sisters-by-helen-rappaport/

7. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/the-girl-on-the-train-by-paula-hawkins/

6. The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley

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https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/the-angel-tree-by-lucinda-riley/

5. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

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https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/the-storyteller-by-jodi-picoult/

4. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

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https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/me-before-you-by-jojo-moyes/

3. The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/12/26/the-fate-of-the-tearling-by-erika-johansen/

2.The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal

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https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/the-kingdom-of-little-wounds-by-susann-cokal

1. The Bronze Horseman Trilogy by Paullina Simons

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https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/the-bronze-horseman-by-paullina-simons/

https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/tatiana-and-alexander-by-paullina-simons/

https://coffeebooksandparis.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/the-summer-garden-by-paullina-simons/

Okay, so it’s a bit cheeky to have a whole trilogy hogging the number one spot in my chart; but these books flowed so seamlessly together and we are all incredible that it would have been impossible to separate and rank them: so here they are, the whole set, as my top read of 2016. Aside from having the most amazing quotes (because the writing is among the most beautiful I have ever read), this trilogy is gripping, absorbing, heartbreaking, surprising, and it fills your heart with so much love and pain and joy you hardly know how to handle it – and that, I think, is the very best kind of books.

Thank you so much to everyone who reads this blog, makes comments, gives recommendations, and favourites and follows my post – I am eternally grateful. I also run accompanying Twitter and Instagram accounts for this blog (both @CBPbookblog); feel free to look them up. Thank you so much for all your support – see you in 2017!

 

 

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The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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RATING: 5/5

BLURB: “In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager, into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader. And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief amongst them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them. To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne. So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…”

REVIEW: The first two books in this trilogy took up the top spaces in my Top Ten Books of 2015, and I was so excited to read the third and final installment this year. I am glad to say that it did not disappoint, and will be very high up on my Top Ten Books of 2016 (keep your eyes peeled!). ‘The Fate of the Tearling’ begins right where its predecessor, ‘The Invasion of the Tearling’, left off, with Kelsea being transported to the Red Queen in Mortmesne after sacrificing herself and her powerful Tear sapphires for the safety of the people of the Tearling. Kelsea is sure that the kingdom is in safe hands under the Mace, and believes that she is being taken to the Red Queen to die. The Red Queen – or Evelyn, as Kelsea knows her from her visions – however, proves to be rather more vulnerable than Kelsea anticipated, her fear of Row Finn driving her to paranoia and leaving her on the verge of madness, and the two form a strange bond that is almost close to friendship, despite Kelsea being kept as Evelyn’s prisoner. As this story continues, we also see much of the Mace and Aisa, his newly recruited guard, who is determined to become a member of the Caden but is shadowed by her own morals and demons. The Tearling begins to turn in on itself, with the priests of the Arvath waging war against the Queen’s government, who are too occupied with trying to find and rescue their Queen to deal with the true depth of the danger they are in. Kelsea’s visions also teach us more ab0ut Lily, who appeared previously in her visions, but this time through the eyes of a young woman named Katie Rice. Katie was a woman who settled in the Tearling after the Crossing, living under the leadership of the famous William Tear and eventually becoming the Head Guard to his son, Johnathan. Her loyalties to the Tears, however, conflict with her friendship with a young and mysterious Row Finn, whom Katie despises and yet is powerfully attracted to. All of these storylines combine to ensure a fantastic end to the trilogy, which I in no way wish to spoil for anyone. The twist at the end of the novel combines both Kelsea’s visions of the past and the present threats experienced by the Tear and, although the ending still leaves the reader with questions, it is somehow a satisfying conclusion to such a gripping and complex trilogy.

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The English Girl by Katherine Webb

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “1958. Joan Seabrook, a fledgling archaeologist, has fulfilled her lifelong dream to visit Arabia by travelling from England to the ancient city of Muscat with her fiance, Rory. Desperate to escape the pain of a personal tragedy, she longs to explore the desert fort of Jabrin, and unearth the treasures it is said to conceal. But Oman is a land lost in time – hard, secretive, and in the midst of a violent upheaval – and gaining permission to explore Jabrin could prove impossible. Joan’s disappointment is 0nly alleviated by the thrill of meeting her childhood heroine, pioneering explorer Maude Vickery, and hearing first-hand the stories that captured her imagination and fuelled her ambitions as a child. Joan’s encounter with the extraordinary and reclusive Maude will change everything. Both women have things that they want, and secrets they must keep. Ad their friendship grows, Joan is seduced by Maude’s stories and the thrill of the adventure they hold, and only too late does she begin to question her actions – actions that will spark a wild, and potentially diastrous, chain of events. Will the girl who left England for this beautiful but dangerous land ever find her way back?”

REVIEW: As many of you will know, I am a huge fan of Katherine Webb’s novels and, despite my constant annoyance over the ridiculous price of hardbacks, decided I simply couldn’t wait for ‘The English Girl’ to be released as a paperback, and bought it as soon as I could. Although not my favourite of Webb’s brilliant books, ‘The English Girl’ certainly retains her creative, descriptive writing style, which gives the reader the sense of being within the book itself, and has the usual shocking twists and turns which make the book fascinating to read but difficult to summarise in a review without giving away too many spoilers. ‘The English Girl’ tells the story of Joan, a young woman who is grieving after the death of her father and longs to escape the confinement of being at home with her widowed mother. Her father’s tales of Arabia gripped Joan’s imagination from childhood, and upon discovering that her brother is going to be stationed in Oman, she embarks on a long-awaited trip to visit the land of her father’s stories and visit her brother Daniel, accompanied by her fiance, Rory. Joan is amazed by the beauty of Muscat, and although she is initially disappointed by her first meeting with her idol, Maude Vickery, the first female explorer to cross the dangerous desert territory of Oman, the two soon form an unusual friendship that leads to Joan becoming far more involved in the ongoing conflict that she ever could have anticipated. A shocking discovery alienates Joan from Rory and increases her desire for freedom and adventure, leading to her forming a friendship with Charlie Elliot, one of Daniel’s comrades and the son of another famous explorer, Nathaniel Elliott, whose name sends Maude Vickery into a strange mixture of sadness and rage. Joan becomes closely involved with the rebels in Oman, encouraged by Maude Vickery, and finds herself becoming entangled in a web of espionage far bigger than she could have imagined, taking risk upon risk in order to be able to explore more of the land of her dreams. The story also uses a split narrative to tell the story of Maude in her younger years, leading up to the tale of her exploration and the reason she hates Nathaniel Elliot so deeply. There are many twists towards the end of the book that I will not write about, for fear of giving away spoilers, but the ending was extremely well-written and brought together the past and present threads of the stories in an unexpected yet seamless way. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and grew very attached to Joan, the protagonist, on her quest for an adventure. I would highly recommend this novel.

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The Woman who Taught me to Love Reading

As some of you may have noticed, this blog has been a little quiet throughout December so far. This is partly because I haven’t really been reading, but mostly because of the reason why I haven’t been reading. And this is a post very different to my normal, standard book reviews; but it is something that I need to write, somewhere. Considering the fact that this is a post about a woman who loved books, and who shaped me into the bookworm I am today, I think that this is also an appropriate place for me to write this all down.

Just over a week ago, my Nan died, relatively suddenly, from ovarian cancer. Notoriously difficult to detect, it quickly became clear that the thing was also a bitch to cure (sorry, Nan, but I have a lot of anger right now), and two days after this diagnosis I was sitting in a hospital room holding my Nan’s hand as she slipped out of this world forever. I don’t think I will ever fully understand how someone so unselfish, so kind, so truly devoted to everyone other than herself, could be taken in such a sudden, cruel way. And I think much of myself will always struggle to believe that this is real. My Nan and I were very close, and not in the way people always say they were close to someone after they’re dead. Genuinely close. She was my friend as well as a caregiver; my Mum often said how alike we are, and I’m going to miss so much the connection that we had. No matter how stupid my problems might seeem to anyone else, she would always understand. We were on the same wavelength, we had the same kind of view of the world, the same mischevious sense of humour, the same tendency to lose a great deal of sleep at night worrying about things that we couldn’t change.

However, one of the most fundamental things that we shared was our love of reading.

Both of us had difficult relationships with sleep, and it was something we both learned to solve through reading. As a child, when staying at her house, I would crawl into bed beside her – generally with my mum’s childhood copies of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or ‘The Secret Garden’, both of which she had left at my Nan’s house – and the two of us would sit there, propped up in bed in perfectly comfortable silence, reading (until I would, inevitably, fall asleep). We spent hours in charity shops and second-hand book shops finding new reads to devour, my Grandad patiently driving us around until we had each found a pile of books – which tended to last us around a week. Most of these books we would then swap, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to share some of my favourite books with her, and that she did the same with me. When she first went into hospital over a month ago with a simple suspected infection, I didn’t know what to do to help. I decided the most important thing was that she didn’t get bored; so I took her two favourite books to the hospital for her. Sadly, in those last few weeks, she never felt well enough to read. The day she died I bought those two books home with me. One of them I have read, and one I haven’t; I’m going to save that one until I feel ready. They’re now sitting on my bookshelf, so that I can treasure them as she once did. I know she would be happy for the rest of the books to be given away, so that people like us could devour them as she did: but these ones are special, and I don’t intend on ever letting them out of my sight.

My Nan encouraged me in so many ways, and was always proud of me, always there for me, and for all of that I am eternally grateful, and I wish I had been able to tell her so. But one of the most special gifts that she has given me, that cannot be taken away with her, is the gift of a love for reading. It is thanks to her that I have my imagination, that I have my own desires to be a writer, that I am now finding so much comfort from my own favourite books.

In a way, it is thanks to her that I even started this blog.