#JanuaryJoy – Read a new Book

Much like music on Florence Finds, I rely on the book posts written by Rachel, Gemma and other readers to bring new literary finds to my attention. Today Gemma is taking over and has several recommendations for you that you might like to start straight away and while away the dark evenings or make a note of for your next holiday read. In a stroke of genius, Gemma is tackling the books by genre and recommending something for each of you according to your favourite reads of 2012.

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Well, the snow is here, so it’s the perfect time to avoid going outside completely and let books transport you to where you need to go. I know today’s #JanuaryJoy prompt is to try a new book, but I’m not interpreting that as ‘off the wall new’.  Instead, I’m hoping you’ll find a new favourite which reminds you of other books you’ve loved.  To help with this, I’ve grouped them along the lines of ‘If you like x, you might like y.’  Before I get started I’m going to warn you all that this new book guide is not show-offy, nor literary, nor highbrow.  It’s SO annoying when people get all judgey about popular fiction and use terms like ‘trashy novel’ or even ‘chick lit’.  Books are books and reading is reading, ok? So read what will bring you joy.

In my experience, everyone likes crime fiction/thrillers.  Everyone.  What differs is the type of crime fiction you like. So if you have devoured any James Patterson in the past (now he’s a one who often gets the dreaded trashy label but, there’s no denying he sells, so we must be buying his work!) or you’ve seen the poster for the latest Alex Cross film, you’ll be pleased to know that instalment 19 about the aforementioned detective came out in time for Christmas.  James Patterson also writes for kids and teens and the Maximum Ride series is likewise a gripping read.  (although it, strictly speaking, fits into the next category down) Speaking of books adapted for the screen, if you watch the TV shows Bones or Rizolli and Isles,  you may already have discovered Tess Gerritsen.  If not, she’s one to check out.  Closer to home here in the UK, there’s the duo I like to call ‘the two Peters’ – namely Peter James and Peter Robinson who have series about DI Roy Grace and DI Alan Banks respectively.  If you’re already a fan of the two Peters, I’d suggest Mark Billingham’s work.  Finally on the crime front, if you’re a fan of Kate Atkinson‘s crime novels, which are a little more ‘literary’ (even though, as I said, I’m not making those kind of judgements in this post) try these two oldies-but-goodies: Brighton Rock by Graham Green, and The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Sparks.

If you liked The Hunger Games, I’d say you’ll love Divergent, by Veronica Roth: another brilliant dystopian coming-of-age novel for teenagers with a strong female protagonist.  However due to social media etc you may already have found Divergent, and are waiting for the 3rd instalment of it,  in which case, may I suggest the Noughts and Crosses trilogy by Malorie Blackman.  A gripping story of teenagers who fall in love, set in a world where the black ‘crosses’ consider themselves superior to the white ‘noughts’ and the two are segregated, you’ll be vair pleased, I’d wager, that all 3 books in the series have been published so that you can, if you so choose, devour them all in one sitting with a packet of chocolate biscuits for company.
If, however, you’re a Hunger Games fan looking for something a little more adult, there’s a host of alternative reality Science Fiction (yes, really, the Hunger Games is Science Fiction) that probably inspired Suzanne Collins.  The world that Katniss, Gale and Peeta inhabit owes a lot to Stephen King’s Running Man and The Long Walk (Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman, but the King of horror himself.  Yes, I am openly encouraging you to buy SK and I hope that Rebecca will let me back another day to tell you all what you’re missing by not being Stephen King aficionados,  like me, but for now, I’ll stick to Running Man and The Long Walk.)

And, ok, if you just can’t bring yourself to be seen with a try Stephen King, consider The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  The Folio Society have re-issued this modern classic in a gorgeous gorgeous illustrated hardback just begging to be read and re-read and kept on display.

Game of Thrones.  Now, for starters, if you’ve watched the TV show derived from ASOIAF but haven’t read the books, (ASOIAF, by the way, stands for A Song of Ice and Fire – the name of the series) getting the first is a sure-fire winner.  Just don’t expect to get anything done for the next few the weekends.  If however, you’re like my friend Zarah-from-work’s boyfriend who apparently ‘spent 4 months in the ASOIAF tunnel, barely coming up for air’, and you’re looking for the next multi-book set, try out The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.
Or, and these two suggestions are possibly more for women though obviously here at Florence Finds we don’t discriminate ;), there’s:

The Outlander series by Diana Galbaldon: Epic in the true sense of the word, this series centres around Clare Randall, an English woman who time travels from the 1950s to the 1700s in Scotland and meets a Highlander called Jamie Fraser.  My great aunt was the one who originally told me about them and I was surprised at how, ahem, racy they are 😉 but the historical detail is incredible and they are utterly gripping.  I read all 7 in December.

Barbara Erskine’s novels: Barbara Erskine writes historical tales with a splash of the supernatural and every one I’ve read I’ve been unable to put down.  More often than not featuring strong female figures from the past, (some real, some imagined, and some sillier than others) these too are big on historical detail and are perfect for reading in the bath. (Though not, obviously, if you are reading on a Kindle or Ereader.  That would be asking for trouble.)

Finally, and still in the ‘historical’ genre though in a totally different vein, The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh is a huge book in both size and scope.  Telling the story of 4 generations of family, it starts in Burma in the 1800’s and travels to India, Singapore and back, with its beautifully drawn characters playing out their lives against a backdrop of turmoil and change.

And what am I starting today? Well, I’m cracking open two new books: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Turner, which apparently is as good if not better than ASOIAF and Hunger Games, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which is a thriller.  I’ll report back shortly with how they both were.  Now it’s over to you lot… I don’t care whether you know what a Bildungsroman novel is (Nick-from-the-upstairs-flat doesn’t know, and he’s a Shakespearian scholar!) or whether your latest fav read won the Orange prize.  I do want to know which book is going to make me miss my tube stop though…

Oh, and p.s – many of the links in this post are to buying books through The Hive Network, which is a brilliant idea and allows you to buy online and collect from local independent bookstores.  I’ll be using them until Amazon start ponying up the cash for their tax bill.

We’d love to hear your recommendations for 2013 – perhaps your favourite book of last year or a Christmas gift you enjoyed and do tell us if you have tried any of Gemma’s suggestions too!


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44 thoughts on “#JanuaryJoy – Read a new Book

  1. I loved the Outlander series…desperately waiting for the third divergent book.

    I’d also recommend (strongly…it’s better than the HG) Delerium and Pandemonium. Both Amazeballs. READ BOTH NOW

  2. Ooo, great selection here. Well, last year I read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – crime isn’t really my preferred genre, but this is seriously the MOST GRIPPING BOOK I’ve read in, oo, the last five years. You NEED to read it. My review is here in case anyone is interested: http://whatitislikeinwords.blogspot.be/2012/08/recommended-reading-in-cold-blood-by.html

    Oo, it’s a real treat. And from a literary viewpoint it’s interesting too as it’s the ‘big’ non-fiction novel of the 20th century.

    Gemma, did you REALLY have to tell us about the new cover of The Handmaid’s Tale?! I’ve already spent FAR too much money buying books I already own because the publishers release a new, prettier edition… Jeez!

  3. Brilliant selection, Gemma. I’m arming myself with this list and a trip to the library.

    Fellow Stephen King addict here. I think the reason people don’t read him is because they assume he’s all slash and Gore. They don’t realise that he’s the finest storyteller out there, able to inhabit the mind of anyone, anywhere, and that he teaches things about three human condition all the time. Have you ever read his book on how to write? If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a writer, it is the only book I gave read that makes sense and doesn’t BS about how being a writer is a calling.. No it’s not it takes drive, self belief and bloody hard work.

    • I love Stephen King too, and really enjoyed On Writing (think that’s what it’s called?). The only thing I would say is that he’s so unbelievably good at creating tension and piling on the pressure, that sometimes his endings are a little… anticlimactic? But I enjoy the first 90% of his books so much that I’ll forgive him. And his characters… yikes. Terrifyingly good. I think his short stories are a great way to start if you’re new to SK.

      • And now I have to read On Writing (thanks for recommending girls). I have really enjoyed Stephen’s Kings novels, and well, haven’t been able to sleep because of them too, but that’s a bit of the point.

        • I just read my first Stephen King book, The Shining, over Christmas (not very festive!). Was totally gripped and sometimes couldn’t sleep from the racing heart after particularly stressful bits but still couldn’t put it down!

      • Yes – On Writing!

        Absolutely agree about starting with his short stories. Stand By Me (who hasn’t watched that???) was written as a short story by SK and it’s so, so beautiful.

        • Completely agree about The Body/Stand By Me and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption was another!! [Think they were in the same collection of short stories, with Apt Pupil (also a film, with Ian McKellen) and another.]

  4. Fab, thanks! Have added the Glass Palace to my list as it sounds exactly like the sort of thing I’d love. Also loving the Hive Network suggestion – all of these stores going into administration at the moment is a good reminder that we need to use the (book)shops we love. I felt bereft when Borders closed down!

    • The Glass Palace is just a beautiful read – I actually studied it at uni and speed-read it and liked it as much as you do when you’re prepping for exams, and then I re-read it when we were actually IN Burma and fell properly in love with it.

  5. If you like dystopia, try the Delerium series by Lauren Oliver – it’s billed as teen fiction but is very much not, just happens to have teen characters (much like the Hunger Game). It’s really good.

  6. It’s like you’re inside my head!

    Crime fiction – LOVE. For those you enjoyed Kate Atkinson, might I humbly suggest Denise Mina? She’s my favourite crime writer by FAR at the moment – her books are amazing.

    Stephen King – LOVE. Handmaid’s Tale – just finished it. Outlander – LOVE(D when I was 16 – maybe I should re-read? Sigh, Jamie Fraser…). Daughter of Smoke and Bone/Days of Blood and Starlight – LOVE LOVE LOVE (check out the author’s blog too). Hive – LOVE!

    Great choices, Hobo!

  7. Oh wow thanks, now I really want to read The Glass Palace, along with The Handmaid’s tale (Margaret Atwood has long been on my list). Divergent, Running Man, The Noughts and Crosses trilogy and Barbara Erskine’s novels.

    I am currently busy with “Reading Lolita in Tehran” and I am really enjoying it. I made a list with short reviews of the books I’ve read in the past year and a half, it’s quite a mixed bag.

  8. Great recommendations Gemma, as always. You’ve kept me in reading material for the past few months.

    I think I loved the Divergent series more than The Hunger Games so I wish I waited until the final book was out before I read it. Four > Gale/Peeta (sorry – i know this isn’t what this post is meant to be about – just had to put that out there!) .

    Reading the second book to Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Days of Blood and Starlight). It’s very obvious that it’s a YA book in the first one and the dialogue made me squirm a bit, but all of a sudden, I can’t recall where, I got sucked in and am totally enjoying it now. Should probably read something grown up again soon though… I wish George R R Martin would hurry up and finish the next ASOIAF book! Gah!

    I also have Before I go to Sleep on my shelf and I want to re-read the Great Gatsby before the film comes out. How excited am I about those costumes?

    • Before I go to sleep is really good… I thought I knew where it was going but then I wasn’t sure… it’s cleverly done. And big fat AGREE on Great Gatsby – I’ve recently just listened to it on audiobooks. Obvs can’t sleep for thinking about the costumes.

  9. There’s enough here to keep me in reading material for a year Gemma!

    The Glass Palace sounds up my street, and the noughts and crosses books. I’ve been reading book two of the Hunger Games having seen the first film and am struggling to get into it.

    Now intrigued about Stephen King…

    • Loved the first hunger games book but didnt really rate 2 or 3 i have to say…

      Going to work my way through these reccomendations! thanks Gemma xx

  10. I really need some reading material for my hol next month but may be the only one not keen on crime books. I am a bit of a girl and like fairly lighthearded humourous books but I am trying to delve deeper…have just purchased How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran!

    Two that I have bought but not read yet, following reviews in Marie Claire are Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher and How to be a good wife by Emma Chapman. The second one sounds really intriguing about the effects of distrust on a fragile mind. Interesting!

    So, if anyone has any mellow not too mentally taxing books for a beach holiday please leave some names, would be muchly appreciated!

  11. Re crime – Definitely check out yet another Peter – Peter May this time and the Lewis trilogy. The last one has just come out in hardback (The Chessmen). the 1st is The Blackhouse and the 2nd is The Lewis Man. Also definitely early Robert Goddard.

    I’m mining a YA seam at the moment but in case there’s anyone left who hasn’t read them, the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials trilogy knocks spots off Divergent, Hunger Games, Chaos Walking etc. Of all the YAs I’ve read, I’ve liked the Mortal Instruments best – but I don’t love it. A ‘grown up’ version of this is Deborah Harkness’s trilogy which starts with A Discovery of Witches (great title – but I’m geeky about collective nouns! Tragic but true).

    I’m going to try the Game of Thrones and Wheel of Times next then!

  12. Wow!! Such alot of great recommendations. I’ll definitely be adding to my ever growing books to read list. Just need some time to try to get through them now

  13. I read this yesterday on my phone and had such a detailed response planned that I was loathe to type it all out on the tiny keyboard and proofread on the tiny screen but I didn’t manage to get to my computer yesterday so here it is…

    I adore all these suggestions Gemma as I love reading all different kinds of genres. I was so excited to see the Outlander series on here as I haven’t met anyone else that has read it! I will confess I am a bit of a fangirl and when I saw that she released some extracts of the new book (out this year, yay) as a festive treat, I sat down with a cup of tea and devoured them all in a sitting!

    I really enjoy Crime/Thriller but have actually never read James Patterson or the “Two Peters”. I went through a period when I was intent on reading ALL of Jeffrey Deaver’s novels and I met him as a 17th birthday treat just after emigrating to the UK!

    Loved Divergent and the Handmaid’s Tale and Noughts&Crosses is already on my list! So is Laini Taylor’s series and Gone Girl. Ditto for Lauren Oliver’s books. I haven’t ready any Steven King but I don’t really know why….I think maybe I thought they were more gory than thriller? Based on your recommendation and the discussion above, I will definitely remedy this though!

    I started reading The Wheel of Time around when book 8 or 9 was published and whilst initially I was enthralled, the long wait time between books (and wanting to reread every book up until the new release) became too much so I think I still haven’t actually read the last couple although I believe Brandon Sanderson completed the series as Robert Jordan died?

    The Glass Palace sounds amazing and I’ll add Barbara Erskine to the list too. Is there anything specific you recommend?

    Based on the list above, here are a few suggestions from my reading history that stand out on the Fantasy/Historical Fiction side:

    I loved Manda Scott’s 4 book series on the warrior queen Boudica, starting with “Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle”. Another favourite is “Daughter of the Forest” by Juliet Marillier which is woven from the threads of the 6 Swans fairy tale. It can be read as a stand alone or it is part of a series, with each book about a new generation inhabiting Sevenwaters.

    Two of my favourite Fantasy trilogies (which although I last read years ago will stand the test of time/age, I’m sure) are: Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Fionavar Tapestry” and the jointly written “Empire Trilogy” by Janny Wurts & Raymond E. Feist starting with “Daughter of the Empire”.

    Currently I am on a spate of reading books which are becoming or have already been made into films- Anna Karenina is being ploughed through right now; then onto Les Miserables and the Great Gatsby. I am going to reread the Life of Pi too before seeing the movie! (I may have to wait for dvd now though…)

    Anyway, sorry Rebecca for this epic comment as I presume that you may be the only person that reads through to the end, except for perhaps Gemma! (Congratulations to anyone else that made it too). I get rather overexcited about books!


  14. Only just catching up with this whole post (and all the comments) now as I have time to sit and add them to my goodreads list! (Here if you’re interested in my reading/read lists! http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/6584778-bex) I am the same and love so many genres as you can see from my recent reads.

    I’ve never read a book twice (don’t know why as I love watching films over and again!) and only just got round to reading The Great Gatsby and Life of Pi recently due to the films coming out.

    I’ve left lots of little comments where I couldn’t resist butting in on way down the comments but just to add, Harlan Coben is a favourite (discovered him before Tess Gerritsen, who by the way, I LOVE! Hate Rizzoli and Isles the series though – AWFUL casting IMO!) and I have Divergent and nearly started it til I saw it was still AGES away from book 3 coming out so am impatiently waiting so I can devour them all at once! Laini Taylor is causing me enough stress as I’ve read the 1st two books and can’t wait for the 3rd!

    I need to finish my goodreads additions now so I can get back to book 2 of the Magician’s guild – recommended by many on Twitter (enjoyable but not loving them as much as HG or Laini Taylor)!

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