Recommended Reads for Dark Nights

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“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

– John Green – The Fault in Our Stars

The clocks have changed which – once we got over the absolute joy of an extra hour in bed – can only mean one thing: long, dark nights and an imminent descent into winter.

Now I am not a winter hater. Unlike my poor Dad – who is very disappointed with the current temperature despite this mild Autumn we’ve been having – I quite like the cold (which may seem strange coming from a girl who is most definitely chasing the sun on her travels next year).

I can’t think of anything better than being snuggled up on a sofa: slippered feet, snuggly winter knit, sipping on delicious hot chocolate. The only thing that can improve this image for me (apart from the presence of Ryan Gosling and/or Joe Manganiello – although the latter is probably far too big to fit on my sofa) is a really great book.

I am such an unapologetic book worm and, while I’m saving up for my travels and unable to spend cash, can currently be found secreted away in my parents’ house (my current abode) devouring a good novel (and endless packets of crisps).

So what great books have I been demolishing recently?

Vivian versus America by Katie Coyle.

I read Coyle’s debut YA novel, Vivian versus The Apocalypse, last year and I’d finished it within a few short days. It was utterly brilliant and I am not surprised the novel was the winner of the 2012 Guardian & Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize.

Vivian versus America is the second in what I believe is going to be a three part series (hurrah) about Vivian Apple, and her best friend (and my favourite character) Harp, as they continue to take on the world post-Rapture.

 “For Vivian Apple, the end of the world was just the beginning” – Hot Keys Books

The second installment finds Vivian and Harp stranded in a city verging on complete and utter social breakdown, clutching a secret about the recent ‘Rapture’ and the shady workings of The Church of America, the so-called religious movement causing all this furor.

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Why YOU should read this:

Well, you should really start with VVTA first, since the backstory is integral to the novel (plus it is fab) but my main reasons for recommending this novel are:

1) Road trips stories are always fun

2) Harp and Vivian are brilliant, feisty, hilarious teenage girls that will remind you of why you love your brilliant, feisty hilarious friends. Even if you are now older than time itself and no longer sprightly teenage girls. Sigh.

3) Coyle is an immensely talented writer and her prose had me laughing and crying hysterically

 

The Girl with all the Gifts by M R Carey

Now this is not my usual cup of tea. It was recommended to me by my Kindle (which kind of creeps me out when it does that, especially when it gets it so right. It like its lurking in my brain or something) and the blurb sounding interesting. I had just finished reading Slave (the next book on my list) which was so emotionally draining, I needed something a bit more action-y and more of an easy read. Well, I was kind of wrong about the easy read part!

What surprised me about Carey’s novel was the tenderness. In a world over-run by Zombie types (Hungries who pretty much make up the whole of the UK and have no thoughts, feelings, and awareness bar an insatiable bloodlust for raw human flesh) the main crux of the narrative is a tale about parental love and human nature.

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Why YOU should read this:

I’d assumed this novel was another zombie-fest and, while I’m partial to a Zombie fest if it’s a film or on the telly (and not too gory), it’s not what I want from a book. But I was wrong. And I love it when a book makes me feel like that. You should also bitch slapped by this book because:

1) Its well written. At times the action scene stuff was a bit boring for me but there are so many great observations, asides, descriptions and the characters are really well thought out and well rounded.

2) 10 year old Melanie. She’s just a great character and you really can’t help but want her to survive

3) Because it’s more like old classic ‘horror’ without even really being a horror at all. And that makes no sense at all.

Slave: The True Story of a Girl’s Lost Childhood and Her Fight for Survival by Mende Nazar

This book was thrust upon me by a friend. “Have you read it?” she’d enquired, waving this mammoth looking book under my nose. “No,” I replied. “You must!” she said at once and I promised because she looked bewildered that I had never even heard of the book.

Its non-fiction which, although I don’t shy away from, it’s not high on my list of things to read (unless you count travel writing) because I love fiction, but this book was utterly captivating. Again, I read this one quickly, although some chapters were so harrowing I was left in tears during my lunch break at work and found it hard to focus.

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Why YOU should read this:

I am not going to sugar coat it. This is a harrowing story and, at times, quite graphic. But it is also beautiful and ultimately positive. You need to read this because:

1) Mende. She is just…wow. What an inspiring woman. Read the book. Then google her like I did. You will just be in absolute awe.

2) It is beautifully written – the scenes depicting Mende’s memories from her childhood home are so evocative, it’s almost as if you are there and you can smell the forest, the fire, and the flowers.

3) It is a really really important subject that is still prevalent in our society.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Now I knew of Karen Joy Fowler from The Jane Austen Book Club which I absolutely loved, and which WAACBO is absolutely nothing like. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the novel. The blurb didn’t give much away which immediately made me want to read it (I dislike being told what the character is like and what is about to happen – don’t you?!) and I am really glad I did.

This was another book that made me cry on my lunch break. I can’t tell you why as I will give away the twist but it took me a while to read this novel (and I kept telling my colleague not to read it and then changing my mind repeatedly that I think he might have been concerned for my wellbeing).

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Why YOU should read this:

1) The writing. I think KJF is a great writer. She is descriptive without being flowery and I love how she plays with memory and guilt and childhood.

2) The twist. It’s really good. It comes early on and I didn’t see it coming. I was pleasantly surprised because prior to the introduction of the twist, I was really not feeling this book.

 

What about you lovely lot? Any good book recommendations for the cold wintery nights when heading to the pub is far too much effort? What books have had you spell bound or in tears? What can I add to my ‘To Be Read’ pile?

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