Be My Valentine!

The Art of Reviewing
Helen Harper

Reviews: The Best Of…

Virtually all the books I read over this last week were fabulous. And all the friends I’ve met up with over the last seven days have been bored stiffless because I’ve had to tell them about every single one – ad nauseum. But, hey, what’s the point of reading a great book if you can’t then share it with others? So here are my ‘Best Of’ books, in a sort of mini-review format.

One of the great perks about being a teacher is the holidays. Yes, yes, I hear your chorus of groans. Us teachers DO work hard enough during the rest of the year to merit these holidays. Honestly. Even on holiday we’re also working at least some of the time. Those exercise books don’t mark themselves! Being a teacher does not mean you get a 182 day a year doss of 9am to 3pm days. It’s really not like that.

But, still, the holidays are still awesome.

It’s just been half term break for a week for me. That has meant two days of being ill (yuck), two days of good writing for Lyre (yay), sorting my life out: cat vaccinations, car service, replacing my lost driver’s license (boring). I’ll admit I was also supposed to go to the dentist but mysteriously didn’t quite manage it…perhaps next time. Perhaps not.

Anyway, alongside all these rather humdrum activities, I also managed to get a lot of reading done. To be fair, I read fast. I often get asked if I’ve taken speed reading lessons and the answer is a flat out NO. I’ve always read this way. I actually spent a long time wishing I read slower so I could enjoy what I was reading more. You know, savour it a bit. Forcing myself to read slowly gives me a headache. But that’s a story for another time.

On with the reviews! The list will be different next week when I’m in a different mood and thinking of different things but, for now, these are the ones I want to share. Enjoy.

Best of YA

Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

Dystopian gorgeousness. Ridiculously violent and, yes, there are overtones of The Hunger Games. It’s still brilliant though.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Evil corporations. A crazy (dead) billionaire. And lots of geeky things about the 1980s. What’s not to love?

Best of Sci-Fi/Fantasy

The Many Coloured Land by Julian May

Original inventiveness at its very best. A sort of wormhole to the past which has been invaded by aliens. A rich array of truly fabulous characters. I think the secret psychopathic part of my psyche that usually stays deeply hidden would still like to be Felice…

The Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony

Is it science fiction or is it fantasy? I have no idea, but it’s brilliant. Anthony is the master.

Best of Non-fiction

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand

I’ll admit I’d never heard of Louis Zamperini until I read this book. It’s stunning in its ferocity. The capacity for evil which man has never ceases to horrify me. But the will to survive and retain hope under the most awful of circumstances is astonishing.

A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell.

It’s a long book. And yet truly fascinating with some wonderful foodie insights.

Best of edge-on-your-seat thrillers

The Hunter by Tom Wood

One of the great anti-heroes. And yet you’ll find yourself rooting for him all the way.

King of Lies by John Hart

I love everything Hart writes. To quote Pat Conroy, it “reads like a book on fire.” ‘nuff said.

Best of lit fic

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

The prose is magical and the plot is absurd. Genius.

Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

An astoundingly beautiful debut about relationships, growing up and the terrified confusion about AIDS that abounded in the 1980s.


Now I’ve started this, I’ve realised I could go on forever. There are so many! But if I don’t stop now, I probably never will – I’ll just keep adding and adding and adding. I keep thinking of others to include. And there are so many more genres to cover. Except it’s finally raining here which is distracting me massively. It’s not rained properly in weeks and there have been some serious water shortages across the city. So I’ll stop.

But what would you add in?

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