What I Read In November and December 2019

November and December have been successful months, reading wise. I’m really beginning to understand my commute and what kinds of books are best read at home. Psychological case files? Not a train read, lets just put it that way. I have a TBR list as long as my arm so I’m hoping to get through some of the books I’ve been hoarding in the next couple of weeks – and free up some space for all the lovely new books I had on my Christmas book list. Because frankly – I need the space and I’m sure Richard would agree with me on that one. As for what I read in November and December… read on.

What I read in November and December 2019

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

One of my favourite books when I was at college, but I haven’t read it since. Richard bought me Circe for my birthday last year and I’m yet to read it, much to my disgust. I thought I’d ease myself back into Madeline Miller’s world by rereading The Song of Achilles – and my goodness, it truly is a masterpiece. A retelling of the classic story of Achilles from the Illiad, we are carried through the story by Patroclus, Achilles’ right hand man and the relationship they shared. Borrowing the idea that the pair were lovers from a number of historians including Plato, The Song of Achilles explores the relationship between a man who had a minor character but a massive role in the war, alongside one of the most important heroes in mythology. Madeline has a way with words that I absolutely loved – her language is beautifully put together and every single word held significance. As a commute book, it was a fantastic choice – I looked forward to pulling my book out of my bag for the journey and wasn’t quite as irritated about the fact that my train had got stuck behind that annoying signal going into the city again. 

I absolutely loved the characters – I loved how Patroclus was set up as being a small character but grew out himself to become the true hero of the story. I loved how he enabled Achilles to remain grounded for the most part and stuck to what he believed in, even when those around him didn’t necessarily agree. Their relationship was beautiful and well-founded. I only wish I could turn back time and read it all over again with a fresh mind. Probably my favourite read of 2019.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

I truly don’t think illustrated books are appreciated as much as they should be – The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse is a surprising exception to this general rule. Voted the surprising winner of the Waterstones Book of the Year for 2019, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse is a beautiful tale of the importance of compassion in a world where this is more often that not overlooked. Charlie Mackesy’s illustrations are simple but extraordinary and are coupled with words of wisdom that wouldn’t go amiss with some of the politicians ranting and raving at the moment. This one was recommended by my best friend and I’m absolutely thrilled that I was able to read it this year.

It was a very quick read – I got through it in a single sitting over the course of around half an hour but it’s one that I’ve found myself going back to since finishing it. It’s a story within a story- a tale of sorts, but each page tells its own small lesson of morality and appreciation. It’s definitely one for the coffee table that people can dip in and out of, open up on any page and gain something from. If I was still teaching, I know I’d be adding a copy of this one to my classroom library.

Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

Christmas always calls for a soppy tale, and this year I went back to one of my favourite contemporary authors for inspiration. I reviewed one of Victoria’s other books in last month’s wrap up so when I learnt that she’d written a Christmas book as well, I knew I had to read it in the run up to the festivities. Victoria without a doubt is a fantastic writer – she knows how to pull on your heartstrings in all the right ways and her characters are always loveable with beautiful stories to tell. Coming Home to Glendale Hall was absolutely no exception to this – set in Scotland at Christmas-time, the story follows Beth, returning to her family home of Glendale Hall for the first time in 10 years. 10 years also marks the time since she ran away at the age of 16 to have her daughter Izzy – her return is, naturally, a momentous occasion, particularly with hers and her parents relationship falling apart and her grandmother in ill health. I lost my own Grandmother last month after a relatively short illness so some of the scenes hit hard but I loved the book nevertheless.

Beth returns to Glendale Hall to see her sick grandmother – when she arrives back, she finds the village of Glendale the exact opposite of the village that she loved so much growing up. Shops have closed down and the high street is on the verge of being sold to a company that is looking to turn it into apartments. Add running into her ex, and the father of her daughter; she’s not having the best of starts back at Glendale. A contemporary story like this one wouldn’t be so without a thoughtful and heartwarming tale of forgiveness, friendship and festive cheer and I’m happy to report that this one is full to the absolute brim with all three. One to add to the list.

The House on the Lake by Nuala Ellwood

Gifted by Penguin Random House to be published on 20th February 2020

I’m part of the blog tour for The House on the Lake by Nuala Ellwood in February, so I won’t be sharing my thoughts on this until then but I’ll instead direct you towards my review of Day of the Accident, another of her books that I was on the blog tour for at the start of this year. A thriller, of course, I am very excited to share my thoughts on this one in detail on 4th February 2020…

And a few kindle reads…

The Other People by C.J. Tudor

The Other People by C. J. Tudor | Hollie in Wanderlust

Gifted by Penguin Michael Joseph to be published on 23rd January 2020

I am a big, big fan of C.J.Tudor and her books. The Other People is the second book I’ve read by her in the last couple of years, her debut The Chalk Man being the first. The Chalk Man was probably the best book I read in 2018 – and I read a lot of fantastic books so to say that I was looking forward to reading The Other People is definitely an understatement. I don’t think I have to keep going on about how much a thriller appeals to me as a reader – this book definitely ticks all of my boxes, pre-read. I was not disappointed.

The book follows Gabe, a middle-aged man who has spent the last 3 years searching for his beloved daughter, Izzy. Pronounced dead along with his wife, Gabe knows that this is definitely not the case – at least not where Izzy is concerned. How can he possibly be so certain? He saw her with his own eyes, zooming away in a car in front of him on the motorway after her death had already been established by police. Needless to say, no one believes him and Gabe even considers whether he imagined it all along. Determined not to give up, Gabe keeps looking for Izzy and when strange things start occurring, he knows that there’s a lot more to it than those around him are letting on.

I absolutely loved the characterisation here – the desperation attached to Gabe was heartbreaking at times but it was really easy to sympathise with him and his situation. The story was incredibly fast paced, meaning I got through it in absolutely no time at all – a definite theme where Tudor’s books are concerned. Thoroughly recommended – put it to the top of your 2020 thrillers list, for sure.

The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh

The Man Who Didn't Call by Rosie Walsh | Hollie in Wanderlust

Having sped through The Other People on the train, I had absolutely no choice but to buy another kindle book to see me through the rest of the week’s commute. After browsing the kindle store for a while, I eventually settled on The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh. It was an absolute bargain at 99p and I fancied something a little bit less heart-attack inducing. The Man Who Didn’t Call was a bit of a weird one for me – I got halfway through and had a look at some of the reviews on Goodreads as it was a little too slow for my liking and I wanted to know whether it was worth carrying on. The reviews were very mixed so I did the ‘good reader’ thing and kept plodding through with it.

Sarah lives in the United States and is newly divorced from her husband of 17 years. When visiting her family in the UK, she meets Eddie – and it is definitely love at first site, for both of them. After a week of romance, Eddie departs for a holiday in Spain. At least, that’s what Sarah thinks. When she doesn’t hear from Eddie when she’s expecting to, she starts to worry that something is seriously wrong. And, of course, it is – but not for the reasons that she thinks.

I enjoyed this book, for the most part – but I have opinions. It wasn’t the fastest paced – it probably could have been a lot shorter and there were a few too many twists in the tale for my liking; and some of them were a little bit too obvious for my liking, too. The characters were likeable but I found myself getting frustrated by Sarah quite a bit- she was a bit ‘woe is me’ and I prefer a stronger character.  A solid read, but not my favourite of the month.

The Dilemma by B. A. Paris

Gifted by HQ Harper Collins to be published on 9th January 2020

B.A. Paris is an absolute gift to fiction, let’s be honest. I am yet to be disappointed by any of her books – she’s written some of the best thrillers I’ve read in the past few years. The Dilemma is a little bit different, in the sense that it’s not a thriller in the ‘someone’s been murdered sense.’ A domestic thriller, The Dilemma explores a relationship in a single day – a relationship where both the man and the wife have a secret that will change their lives forever. It’s Livia’s 40th birthday and she’s throwing the party she’s always dreamed of having. She’s obsessed over this party since she was in her late teens – but, amongst all of her excitement, she has a secret. Even worse- so does her husband, Adam.

The Dilemma allows for a whole different type of thriller – there is no murder involved, no psycho-analysis and the story itself has a particularly homely feel about it. Arguably, that makes it all the more affective in its purpose. I immediately connected with the characters and felt their ‘dilemma’ and understood exactly why they had to keep it a secret. I dread to think what I would have done had I been put in their situations and I don’t envy their torment whatsoever. This is a hard one to review without going into detail as to what exactly the two characters are keeping secret but what I will say is that you should definitely get yourself a copy of the book upon publication – one that really did keep me hanging on right until the very last page (I even stayed up until 2am reading this one one weekend in November as I couldn’t bear to go to sleep without finding out what was going to happen!).

I’m really impressed by what I read in November and December – it’s been a busy few months and I’ve been really productive with my reading schedule. I can’t wait to see what the New Year brings and which books will be on my list for 2020. What’ve you got planned for your 2020 reading list? Let me know!