Monday, 31 December 2012

Sheli’s favourite reads - 2012

As we have reached the end of the year I thought this was a great opportunity to reflect on my reading year and write a post about my favourite books read in 2012.
I have read a huge variety of books this year and it has been hard to pick out a top ten, but all of the books listed below are books that have stayed with me or affected me during the year, or just sucked me into their world so hard that I didn’t see anything going on around me and had a massive book hangover when I finished!
Have you read any of the below? What were your favourite reads from 2012?
When God was a rabbit – Sarah Winman
Read in January 2012
This was my first read book of 2012 and I loved it! I read it in a few sittings and have sat up for hours this morning finishing it as I just wanted to know more.

The story itself is split into two parts and centres around the life of our narator, Elly and her family.

The story starts in 1968 when Elly is born and takes us through her life until about 2002, taking in major events along the way, both in Elly's life and in the world at large.

Some descriptions in the book I laughed at, and there were some events that made me cry. I really liked Elly and in some ways she reminded me of myself as all through her life she felt an outsider. I was also particularly touched by an event in her life that was a bit close to home for me and gave me an idea of what could have been should the life of another not chosen a different path.

Before I Go to Sleep – S. J. Watson
Read in January 2012
I bought this book from the Kindle store after much deliberating, as although I quite liked the sound of the story from the blurb, I wasn't sure it would be my type of book as I have never read anything like this before.

I am so glad I bought it though as I honestly thought it was fantastic. I was hooked right from the beginning. I liked the style of writing and also the main character, Christine, was really believable and not annoying as I feared she may become as a victim.

I have never been as gripped by a book as I was by this one. I managed to totally block out everything else whilst reading and every twist of the story had me gasping and on the edge of my seat.

A real WOW moment!

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Read in March 2012
I was looking forward to trying this book as I had heard so many good things about it. I was a little apprehensive as it is totally outside of the type of books I normally read and I usually avoid young adult books.

I had a very pleasant surprise with this book.

It is really well written and creates vivid imagery for the reader without being over descriptive. It is fast paced and gripping and accurately portrays the relationships between characters.

I thought that the story itself was really well thought out and I liked that it was a really well rounded story that could be a stand alone as well as part of a trilogy.

The main character Katniss is stuboorn, but very likeable and I think she would appeal to most people in one way or another. Her relationships with other characters are really well described and you can feel her happiness and pain throughout the book.

I definitely recommend this book and have also read the rest of the trilogy this year. This book surpasses the film by miles, so if you like the film, you MUST read the book!

Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh
Read in April 2012
I was recommended this book by a friend as it is one of his favourite books. After hearing that it was written in Scottish, I just had to give it a go.

Trainspotting is one of those books that has gained "cult" status, partly due to the film and I was worried that I would be disappointed. I needn't have worried!

Rather than one story, this book is a collection of short stories about a group of friends living in the less well off areas of Edinburgh in the nineties. It's full of sex, drugs and violence and at some points is quite an uncomfortable read. But despite some of the characters undesirable characteristics, they are all likeable in some way and you want to know more about them.

This is not a book full of gratuitous sex and violence, it addresses a variety of hard topics, including drug and alcohol addictions, rape, HIV, feminism, the IRA situation of the nineties and politics.

This is not a light read and is very dark, but I enjoyed it, despite the bits that made me feel uncomfortable. But, without those uncomfortable bits I'm sure it would not have reached the status it has. I would recommend it if you don't mind reading about harder subjects and how some of the lower working class live. I look forward to reading more of Irvine Welsh's work.
Tipping the Velvet – Sarah Waters
Read in April 2012
I have read all of Sarah Waters other books, but was hesitant with this one as I was worried that it might be a little bit too risque for me. In hindsight, I wish I had read it sooner.

Tipping the Velvet is just as well written as Waters' other works and the story is a rich tapestry which follows the life of Nancy Astley through many ups and downs in Victorian England. The writing is superb and the imagery from it is great, without being over descriptive. The characters are also very strong and very likeable. I think that characters are a strong point in Waters' books as they are human and you can care about them.

This book is known for it's portrayal of lesbian love in the Victorian era. Most of Waters' other books have a lesbian love theme so I was not put off by this. There are some graphic sex scenes in this book, but I did not feel that they were gratuitous and the writer did not dwell on them. Therefore I feel that this book is just on the right side of the fine line between art and porn!

Tipping the Velvet is beautifully written and shows the seedier side of Victorian England, as well as the hidden side of "forbidden" love that we so very rarely hear about in historical fiction. Sarah Waters is definitely one of my favourite writers and I can't wait to see what she publishes next.

Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch
Read in May 2012
I read this book after I saw that a friend had read it. I quite liked the look of the quirky plot and thought I would give it a go.

The story is about Peter Grant, a young police constable who is about to be placed in his first real posting off the beat in the Met. After some strange happenings in Central London, Peter becomes an apprentice in the wizarding division of the Met and is mentored by DI Nightingale.

The book is an excellent blend of reality and fantasy and is based around the guardians of the rivers of London and murders in the book are based around an early version of the Punch and Judy story. This book is hugely imaginative and unique in concept, yet is on the right side of fantasy for me in that it is still believable. Despite the wizards, ghosts, vampires et al.

The author must have undertaken a huge amount of research into the geography and topography of the area, I was particularly impressed at the inclusion of aquifers in the list of rivers (but this probably only impresses me!). The book is really well written and exciting. Aaronovitch has written for Doctor Who previously and I think this may be a mark of a fantasy writer that I will enjoy. The book is quick-witted and in some places laugh out loud funny.

I think knowing Central London aids the enjoyment of this book, but needn't be a pre-requisite. It is hailed as "what would have happened if Harry Potter joined the polic force", but I think it is so much more than that.

Highly recommended.

The Land of Decoration – Grace McCleen
Read in June 2012
I spotted this book a little while back and managed to get hold of a copy at a reasonable price. I didn't actually get round to starting it though until I had read a review of it on the We Love This Book website.

The fact that I finished this book in just under two days says it all I think. I really enjoyed it and think that it is brilliant, particularly as it is a debut novel.

The book is told from the point of view of Judith, a ten year old girl being brought up by her very religious widower father in an unknown time and place that feels very much like it could be in the South Wales Valleys in the 80s. Judith is confronted with strikes at the local factory, bullying, vandalism and other major events which she believes are being caused by the model town she has made from old rubbish in her bedroom. I really connected with Judith as she reminded me of myself as a child. Even though I wasn't brought up in a religious household I understood her feelings of being an outsider and I used to love making dolls houses and things out of old bits and pieces too.

I would recommend this book as I really enjoyed it and hope that the writer is recognised for this book. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
Atonement– Ian McEwan
Read in August 2012
I started reading Atonement around the time of the film release and just didn’t get it. Last year I decided to give it another go and managed to get hold of a copy on Read It Swap It. I have been looking at it ever since until I picked it up to read last week.

The book is split into a number of parts, each set in a different time or place and told from the point of view of different characters. The first part is set in 1935 at the home of the Tallis family in Surrey, and it is here that we get introduced to the main characters, Briony, Cecilia and Robbie.

Briony is a precocious 13 year old girl who gets into a rage when things don’t go her way and lives in world that is half fantasy. She has great visions of grandeur about herself and seems to get the things in her imagination confused with the real world. Cecilia is her big sister and a university graduate. She seems glamorous and very comfortable with herself, particularly in the scene by the fountain with Robbie. Robbie is the son of the family cleaner and lives in a cottage on their land. He has become something of a project to the girls’father who has paid for his education and has dreams of going to medical college.

I found the first part of the book a little slow, but wonderfully written. Once I had the time to concentrate on it I couldn’t put it down.

My favourite parts of the book were the parts set in the wartime era. We followed Robbie as he was evacuated from France via Dunkirk in the D-Day landings. This section of the book was heartbreaking and really made you think of the horrors faced by the young men fighting in both of the World Wars. The next part of the book was set in wartime London and gives the reader a different view of the home front and the jobs that women undertook.

Overall, I really loved this book and once I had got into it, couldn’t put it down. It is beautifully written and really pulls you into the world of the characters. I think the story will stay with me for some time and I am extremely glad that I gave it a second chance. A fantastic book.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Ned Vizzini
Read in August 2012
This book is a must for anyone who has any interest in mental health issues.

This book is a funny, yet horribly sad insight into the mind of a teenage boy suffering with depression and how he deals with it. I thought that this was really well thought out and sensitive without glamourising the illness in any way. I was also interested to read that the author wrote this book after spending time in a mental health unit himself so I would imagine that this reflected his own experiences.

I would definitely recommend this book. It is written in a very easy going style, yet really gets the tone of the story over, whilst also reflecting the hardships faced by teenage boys (and teenagers in general) without having the added burden of clinical depression.

Sweet Tooth – Ian McEwan
Read in October 2012
I was desperate to read this book when it was published earlier this year and when I finally got my hands on a copy I was not disappointed. It was my second ever McEwan and also the second book of his to make it onto my favourites list!

It is the story of a young girl recruited to the British Security Services and gets sent on a mission, Sweet Tooth. However, although I really enjoyed the secret agent aspects of this book, I think Serena’s relationships with others are captured beautifully and are really the triumph of the book.

I was a little worried that as this was a book told from a girls point of view, but is written by a man. I really think that McEwan did an amazing job of this though as I did not feel that it felt masculine in any way. Serena was a really likeable character, and I felt something of an affinity with her and her reclusive, bookish ways.

This book is a love story, a thriller and a brilliant book about books. It really captures Serena’s loves in a sensitive, but realistic way, has some great detail about her time in Mi5 and also had some great literary references that laid out the map of her life.

I absolutely loved this book and found it difficult to put down. I will definitely be seeking out more of McEwan’s work.


  1. yay! a good year's reading! out of your top ten i've read hunger games, atonement and its a kind of funny story - all of which i liked! i've also got the land of decoration in my to read pile so am looking forward to that! happy new year!x

    1. The Land of Decoration is great! I hope you enjoy! Happy new year to you too x