Books of 2018: my favourite books in English
Last week I went back to 2018 to tell you about my favourite books of 2018, albeit those in French only. Today, we talk about books in English — I won’t be mentioning them all, only those who really marked me enough to leave something, months afterwards (in no particular order). Hope you’ll enjoy this list and don’t hesitate to leave comments with your favourite books of 2018!
Anthony Horowitz, Magpie Murders (Orion Publishing, 2017) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
As far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat a good whodunnit: the twists and turns, the clues and the red herrings and then, finally, the satisfaction of having everything explained to you in a way that makes you kick yourself because you hadn’t seen it from the start. That was what I was expecting when I began. But Magpie Murders wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like that at all. I hope I don’t need to spell it out any more. Unlike me, you have been warned.
When editor Susan Ryeland is given the tattered manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has little idea it will change her life. She’s worked with the revered crime writer for years and his detective, Atticus Pund, is renowned for solving crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s. As Susan knows only too well, vintage crime sells handsomely. It’s just a shame that it means dealing with an author like Alan Conway… But Conway’s latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but hidden in the pages of the manuscript there lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder.
What I thought: Inception in a book (of kinda). Great story within the story, gripping till the end, couldn’t stop reading. Then I told my friends to read it. Those who did absolutely loved it too. I really agree with the assertion that little beats a good whodunnit. But the good ones aren’t always easy to find. So just trust the hype and go for this one. Might be an easy pick, but it’s also an excellent one.
Michelle Lovric, The Book of Human Skin (Bloomsbury, 2011) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The book of human skin is a large volume with many pages of villainy writ upon it. There are people who are a disease, you know. 13 May, 1784, Venice: Minguillo Fasan, heir to the decaying, gothic Palazzo Espagnol, is born. Yet Minguillo is no ordinary child: he is strange, devious and all those who come near him are fearful. Twelve years later Minguillo is faced with an unexpected threat to his inheritance: a newborn sister, Marcella. His untempered jealousy will condemn his sister to a series of fates as a cripple, a madwoman and a nun. But in his insatiable quest to destroy her, he may have underestimated his sister’s ferocious determination, and her unlikely allies who will go to extraordinary lengths to save her…
What I thought: That it was AWESOME. Gory, quite disgusting and appalling at times, yet… When I told about it to my friends at the Bad Book Club, they all looked at me like they had understood at last what a creepy psychopath I was (yet some of them read worse thrillers than that). The Book of Human Skin is brilliantly written and despite all its horrors, you won’t let it down (unless you’re quite fainted hearted, in which case you shouldn’t even pick it up. Or shouldn’t you?). Minguillo is a wonderful character and Marcella quite peculiar. Plus, time travel to the 18th century and visits to a Venitian home as well as to South America. And catastrophes. And victories. And disappointments but then quickly new hopes to smash moments later. Michelle Lovric builds twists like you won’t believe.
Sylvain Neuvel, Sleeping Giants (Penguin, 2017) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
What happens when you make a discovery that changes everything? Deadwood, USA. A girl sneaks out just before dark to ride her new bike. Suddenly, the ground disappears beneath her. Waking up at the bottom of a deep pit, she sees an emergency rescue team above her. The people looking down see something far stranger. That girl grows up to be Dr. Rose Franklyn, a brilliant scientist and the leading world expert on what she discovered. An enormous, ornate hand made of an exceptionally rare metal, which predates all human civilisation on the continent. An object whose origins and purpose are perhaps the greatest mystery humanity has ever faced. Solving the secret of where it came from — and how many more parts may be out there — could change life as we know it.
What I thought: That I’m seriously getting better each year at never picking a bad book but always what I’ll love. Sleeping Giants has everything. It’s science fiction, with aliens and strong female characters. Again, I got stuck in the book and read it really quickly. Only took a few pages to keep me turning the rest of them (it’s often a few days before I get to page 50 or 60 or 100, when the story starts at last and then I finish quickly. With Sleeping Giants I just plunged into it and couldn’t get out). When I understood it was the start of a series, I was both happy and sad. Happy for I would get more eventually, sad because God know when. Soon, hopefully (it’s in my list of very next things to get).
Ian McGuire, The North Water (Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2017) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Hull, 1859, a whaling ship sits in harbour waiting to set sail for the Arctic. Amongst its crew is Henry Drax; a drunk, brutal harpoonist with an extraordinary and shocking capacity for mindless violence and sexual depravity. He is joined by Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon whose experiences during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 have left him scarred mentally and physically with a powerful addiction to opiates. He is a man with nothing left to lose and precious few options open to him. As the true purposes of the expedition become clear, the confrontation between the two men plays out in the freezing darkness of an Arctic winter.
What I thought: A dark and powerful novel, which drags you down and bites your face just like the cold must bite the sailors’ in this story. It’s a kind of novel I’ve been reading a lot theses last years: with a historical background (the Victorian era in this case), some mystery and a definite sens of adventure. Warm cups of tea were summoned more than once as well as a nice blanket to get me through it for the details really made me travel to the Arctic. The twists were good and the characters well developed and quite strong.
Ricarda Huch, The Last Summer (Peirene, 2017) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A psychological thriller by the pioneering German writer Ricarda Huch. A novel of letters from the last century — but one with an astonishingly modern feel. Now for the first time in English.Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. To counter student unrest, the governor of St Petersburg closes the state university. Soon afterwards he arrives at his summer residence with his family and receives a death threat. His worried wife employs a young bodyguard, Lju, to protect her husband. Little does she know that Lju sides with the students – and the students are plotting an assassination.
What I thought: This is my second book from Peirene Publishing and once again, I’ve been conquered. This epistolary novel is quite short but I didn’t mind (I usually like thick books), because it was really well cadenced and full of action. I think it would do a great play. The characters are lovable and the readers really identify, whether with the governor of the rebels. And sees the other side from a new eye. Another successful reading from Peirene!