Bookworm | Favourite Reads of 2017 (so far)

I love to read. I always have, spending my childhood carrying piles of books to and from the local library. I used to read around ten books a week; according to my mum she would find me sprawled on my bed with two or three open at once, dipping in and out of each one, devouring them. 

When I received word from Toast sharing the details of their new campaign, Enrichment of Other, I was immediately drawn in. Over the next couple of months, the brand are running a book sharing initiative, celebrating the numerous ways in which reading enriches our lives. If you live close to one of the Toast stores, the brand are encouraging their customers to bring in one of their favourite books (it doesn't have to be fiction, choose anything from travel journals to poems and cookery books) and to take a new book in return. Anyone participating is asked to fill out a card explaining why they found the book enriching. If you can't get to a Toast store, you can still get involved by joining in the conversation on their website or by sharing your favourite book on social media with the hashtag #TOASTBookClub.

To get involved (and also because I'd already been thinking about including books to my blog for a while now), I've decided to share my favourite books that I've read so far this year. I'm not quite keeping up with the ten books a week that I used to get through as a child, but I'm still managing to get through a couple of novels a month, especially when I'm travelling. There's nothing better than lounging in the sun reading a new book, taking breaks to cool off in the pool. The five books I've discussed below are relatively easy reads, perfect to accompany you on your travels, to dip in and out of during your commute to work, or to curl up with on the sofa for an entire weekend.

 

THE STRAYS by emily bitto

I adored this book, and can't wait until it's faded enough from my memory that I can pick it back up and devour it again (yes, I'm one of those people who like to read my favourite books over and over). Set in Australia in the 1930's, The Strays is told from the point of view of Lily; the middle of the book tells the story of Lily's childhood while the beginning and end are set in her adult life. As a young child, Lily meets Eva Trentham at school and immediately becomes enamored. When she visits Eva's home, she falls down a rabbit hole into a world completely different to her own mundane life. Eva's father is an infamous painter and he and his wife give their three daughters free reign to run riot around their large house and gardens, eventually bringing other artists into the fold to form a kind of commune. The story tells how Lily becomes entwined with this bohemian family, feeling on the outside no matter how close she gets. As she gets older and events tear the Trentham family apart, devastating Lily, she comes to realise that her conservative family may not be as exciting but they at least provide the stability that her friend Eva craves. 

marlena by julie buntin

I read Marlena on holiday, finishing it in just three days sat around the pool. From the opening line ("Tell me what you can't forget, and I'll tell you who you are") I was completely hooked. I loved this book so much that I feel a sort of homesickness that I'll never be able to read it again for the first time. Beautifully written, the story draws you in, forcing you to fall in love with the two main female characters, the protagonist Cat and the titular Marlena. Coming of age stories that involve a character looking back on their life always find their way onto my bookshelf, but Marlena is so much more than that. The reader knows from the very beginning, just from reading the blurb that Marlena doesn't make it to the end of the story, that she drowns in the woods in the middle of winter. Knowing the ending before you read the book doesn't deter, if anything it just makes you race through each page to discover Marlena's story and to learn how and why she meets her end. The friendship between Cat and Marlena feels real and raw, never forced or fake as in similar books, and as Cat spirals into oblivion, you really understand why she is falling. If nothing else, this book will make you feel thankful for what you have.

the most dangerous place on earth by lindsey lee johnson

Told from the point of view of eight American high school students and their teacher, this compelling novel starts with a bang and then retreats, slowly building up to an explosive finale that has both everything and nothing to do with the initial event. Lindsey Lee Johnson takes traditional high school stereotypes and turns them on their head, delving deep into the real lives behind the jock, the geek, the weirdo and the girl who has everything. The completely opposite of cliched, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth portrays the American high school as a place to be feared, explaining the impact that modern technology has had on bullying and how even the teachers struggle to survive classroom dramas unscathed. As someone who didn't have the best high school experience, reading this novel made me thankful that smart phones and social media didn't exist during my school days.

perennials by mandy berman

A lighter read than the others on this list, Perennials may be the perfect book for a summer reading list but it certainly isn't fluff. The novel tells the story of two friends, Rachel and Fiona who first meet as children at summer camp. Years later, the friends return to the same camp as counselors, but their lives are very different now and they find their friendship unraveling. The story is mainly told from their perspective, but also delves into the narrative of their mothers, other counselors and campers, and Fiona's younger sister Helen. Conjuring up feelings of nostalgia for summer's and friendship's past, Perennials starts off a little rocky, reading like a young adult book until the voices progress into more adult tones. As the reader, you get the feeling that everything is building up to a major incident, and the last part of the book feels rather rushed when everything seems to happen at once, Mandy Berman choosing to end the novel while the reader is still wanting more, to see more of the aftermath. Still, I enjoyed dipping in and out of this novel by the side of the pool.

the animators by kayla rae whitaker

This novel took me by surprise. It took a while for me to get into it, occasionally pulling it out of my bag on my morning commute, but about 80 pages in, something happened to one of the two main characters that completely took me by surprise and sucked me in. After that, it was plot twist after plot twist with enough shocking incidents to have me completely engrossed in the story and finish the rest of the book in just a couple of days. The Animators tells the story of Mel and Sharon, two friends who are also creative partners, making animated feature films together. The book starts shortly after the release of their first major film that has catapulted them into the limelight with the tale of Mel's tumultuous childhood. Early on, there's feelings from Sharon, the protagonist that she thinks that Mel is the real talent and I thought this was going to be a predictable story of jealousy and betrayal. Stick with it; without ruining any of the twists, I'll just let you know that this novel is nothing like you think it is, opening up into a rich and highly developed story that will hook you emotionally. 

What have you been reading lately? I'd love to know your tips and to discover some new favourite reads. I'd also recommend checking out Lucy Williams's Book Club for more recommendations and book chat as her monthly posts have me completely hooked.