1) The Notable Brain of Maximilien Ponder by J.W. Ironmonger
This book blew me away almost as much as 11.22.63 did the year before. It’s just… perfect. The basic gist is that Mr. Ponder has decided to catalogue the entire contents of his brain, and the book consists of excerpts from his system and a narrative from Adam, Max’s long-suffering companion.
But somehow it’s deeper than that. I cared so much about the characters that reading this actually hurt me.
‘Sometimes when you review a book you loved, you can’t really explain yourself and your review post ends up a tangled babble of mush, much like this one. I know I’m not being coherent or even particularly helpful, but read between the lines. I loved this book. I want to hug it at night and weep. This is the book that the words ‘modern masterpiece’ were created for.’
2) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This book is obviously very mainstream, but there’s a reason for that. It really is a very clever book and one that I desperately needed to be reading until I finished it. I’m not sure how well it will work in the movie version, but I don’t really care. I just know that the book is perfect, and that will do for me 🙂
‘I’ve tried to think of something to balance out this slightly gushing review, but I genuinely can’t think of anything. I wanted to be reading it all the time, and when I couldn’t read it I was plotting desperately how I could get back to it. To sum-up, I can’t think of anybody who wouldn’t like this book.’
3) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Normally I wouldn’t include rereads on this type of list, but I figured I was justified as it’s only a half-year sum-up. Besides, rereading Jane Eyre actually was like reading it for the first time. I originally read it years ago and I clearly didn’t pay it enough attention, because I definitely liked it more this time around. Actually, that’s an understatement – I completely fell in love with it.
‘The love scenes are easily the most beautiful in all of classical (and modern) literature. Should I ever get married and decide to write my own vows they will be yanked straight from Jane Eyre (and don’t think I don’t know it defeats the purpose of writing your own vows) as this is the basis on which I would happily enter married life. I must have read it three times in succession and almost cried every time. I’m not big on romance, but it’s perfect.’
4) The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
The first YA on the list! It might actually end up being the only YA on the list, come to think about it – I’ve read some medicore teenage books this year, and some truly awful, but nothing that really stands out as ‘good.’ Well, aside from The Rithmatist.
This book is amazing. I wouldn’t even know about it if Orion Books hadn’t sent a copy through. It has one of the most detailed and unique storylines I have ever seen and I stayed up until 2am just to finish it.
‘It’s completely and utterly unique. I’ve obviously come across magic circles in books before, but only as a method of conjuring and containing demons. The Rithmatist is something else; something new and different that takes magic duels and turns them completely on their head. I wrote this three times in my review book, phrased various different ways, so clearly this particular aspect had a huge impact.’
5) The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
I have Charlotte to thank for this one. I bought it on a whim during my self-indulgent ransacking of Waterstones, but I would never have read it so soon if it hadn’t been for her ecstatic ravings.
It’s true; this book really is very, very good. I’m not sure if it would be better to go into it not really knowing what it’s about, so I’ll be vague for now. It was completely different to what I had expected though – I think I’d assumed it was somewhat fantasy-ish, so the emotional, poignant story really knocked me for six.
But I actually have Charlotte to thank for this one too. I wouldn’t even have bought this one if it wasn’t for her. The premise does sound rather dull, but I trusted her…. and loved it.
It’s probably best if I don’t explain this book in too much detail either (damn Charlotte and her love of myserious/odd books!), but it’s very different to Alex Woods. It’s very formal and it can be a bit of an effort to read sometimes, but I swear it’s worth every second.
I actually texted her at some stupid time at night, something along the lines of “OMG, HE *****!” God bless her for her patience, tolerance and excellent book recommendations.
7) Inferno by Dan Brown
This one might be a contentious one, but that’s okay. Dan Brown receives a lot of criticism and I haven’t liked all of his books, but I found Inferno to be riveting, thought-provoking and very exciting.
It’s different to the others in that it feels more intelligent. Not just that it’s trying to sound clever; instead the plot itself actually makes you consider ethics and morality in a way that isn’t usually a part of mainstream thrillers.
‘Inferno is amazing; very possibly actually better than The Da Vinci Code, although they’re so different it’s quite hard to compare them. I was actually genuinely surprised at how good this book is – it’s a perfect balance of intelligent symbolism and a racing, twisty plot. Amazing.’
8) Minority Report by Philip K. Dick
I feel slightly cheaty by adding this to the list, as this book is very much a mixed bag. However, a few of the stories would make it on here without needing the back-up of the collection, and I do feel they need the recognition. If you can read Second Variety would feeling at least mildly mind-fucked, you are a hardier person than me.
‘There are some incredibly boring stories and the prose isn’t anything to write home about. However, there are some good stories in here and a few truly amazing ones to boot. The worlds that the author creates are so… real, somehow, that he has completely changed my view of short stories forever.’
9) The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero by William Kalush
I’m not even sure what made me read this, but I’m very, very happy I did. I barely knew anything about Harry Houdini, but this book is an accessible yet very comprehensive about the man himself and the progress he made towards having phony spirit mediums outlawed in the United States. I also learned a great deal about Arthur Conan Doyle. Apparently they were friends for a while… and then quite the opposite.
I think this is one of those books where you learn a lot about the things that you never realised you didn’t know!
10) Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz
I understand that I should not like these books. I’m not keen on vampires and occasionally the story is written with a sledgehammer… it just doesn’t matter. The originality and atmosphere more than make up for any slight problems with the prose and I completely lost myself in this series.
‘I love these books. I would happily sit here and devour them day after day until I’d read every single one of them (which I pretty much ended up doing). It’s possible to completely lose yourself in the world of the Blue Bloods, as Melissa de la Cruz has painted such a brilliant depiction of their society. It’s actually almost believable. The glamour and eliteness of Duchesne seeps from the page to the point where I can still see it in my head, days later.’