Anyone who knows me, knows what a bookworm I am. These days I don’t manage to read as much as I used to, but I still crack open a fair few novels over the course of a year, and keep track of what I read. Of course, some books are better than others (although opinions will always differ on which they are) and I don’t always finish them, but the majority of books I start get read to the end.

Occasionally, I’ll take more than one try at a book, as I find I’m just not into it at that moment, but most likely will be at some other time. And I usually have several books on the go at once, just to keep things spiced up and so there is always a book to hand wherever I am – in the livingroom, the bedroom, my bag, etc.

I thought I’d tell you a little about some of the best books I’ve read this year, and the ones I’m reading at the moment…

I rated each of these books as 5/5 – something I don’t do very often, as you can see from the list only being four books long so far this year – so far I’ve read 46…

The Child Thief by Brom

In the vein of Gregory Maguire’s bestselling works, the award-winning artist Brom takes us on a haunting look at the true world of Peter Pan, in his first full-length novel. From modern-day New York to the dying land of Faerie, “The Child Thief” reveals the world of Peter Pan through the eyes of an insecure runaway who is seduced by Peter’s charm. But any dreams of a fairy wonderland are quickly replaced by the reality of life and death survival as Peter’s recruits are forced into a lethal battle in which the line between good and evil is blurred.

Why it’s so great:
I was already a fan of Brom through his illustrated novels (The Plucker and The Devil’s Rose), but his first full-length novel, The Child Thief succeeded in completely blowing my mind.

Looking at the darker undercurrents of the Peter Pan story, Brom has worked his twisted magic and woven a tale that melts folklore, myth and legend into the story of the boy who never grew up, and the result is nothing short of stunning.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Shy Mole, who dreams of an exciting new life by the endless River. Ratty, a friendly, unflappable, altogether civilized chap. Gruff Badger, who hates absolutely Everyone – except all his friend. And Toad. Oh, Toad – glorious, crazy, doomed Toad: Toad the pampered braggart, Toad the desperate thief, Toad the haunted fugitive and the hero of his own silly dreams.

From buzzing summer days to winter’s killing cold, from gentle picnics to deeds of might and daring, from wild escapes to meeting with a god…

Everyone should have a life like this – and friends like these.

Why it’s so great:
Such a wonderful collection of gentle tales to delight children of all ages, from one to ninety-two (and beyond, actually!).  It’s beautifully written and the characters are all such delights, coming together as individual parts to make each other complete. I believe this is a book that should be enjoyed by everyone.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The epic tale of a woman’s life during one of the most tumultuous periods in America’s history. From her young, innocent days on a feudalistic plantation to the war-torn streets of Atlanta; from her first love whom she has always desired to three husbands; from the utmost luxury to absolute starvation and poverty; from her innocence to her understanding and comprehension of life.

Why it’s so great:
Scarlett O’Hara is quite possibly the most wonderful bundle of contradictions ever written. She so desperately wants to be good, but try as she might, she just can’t get past her own willful nature. Her strength and ability to bend and adapt is part of what makes her great, but also her weaknesses – her spite and selfishness – are the very things that make her all the more human and real to readers. And who could resist the dashing Rhett Butler? Suave, sophisticated, and the perfect foil for such a feisty female! It’s a sweeping epic that captures the Old South and those who lived in it perfectly, and has become one of my new all-time favourites.

Jane Austen’s Guide To Dating by Lauren Henderson
Jane Austen’s witty, perceptive and romantic novels have delighted readers for two hundred years. With clear sight, common sense and good judgment, she observed the hits and near-misses of her heroes and heroines in love. Things certainly haven’t got any easier since then and Lauren Henderson believes that we might just have lost touch with the fundamental rules. “Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating” rights that wrong and brings Austen’s Regency wisdom into the twenty-first century. It’s a fun, insightful book, full of concrete advice and wise strategies that illustrate how honesty, self-awareness and forthrightness do win you the right man in the end and weed out the losers, playboys and toxic flirts. Henderson deftly summarizes all the love stories in the books and introduces all the characters, so that newcomers and devotees alike can delight in this fun, fresh and audacious how-to guide.

Why it’s so great:
Even though I’m happily married and never intend to enter the dating game again, this was such a fun read and full of practical advice that I couldn’t help loving it! It completely goes against all the usual game-playing that is encouraged in other dating guides, and instead encourages honesty and openness as the major components of successfully negotiating the dating field – it’s a common sense approach, really! It’s topped off with examples from Austen’s own novels, explaining where characters went wrong, as well as where they went about things in the right way, and has a fun “which character are you?” quiz at the back as well as a handy guide to show which kind of character would be your perfect match.

If everyone who looked for a dating guide took this one home and took its lessons to heart, I believe there would be far less hurt and more success for singletons looking for love!

Obviously I can’t comment on these books properly, other than to say I’m enjoying them all immensely, as I haven’t yet finished them. Given the size of three of them, I can say I’ll likely be reading them for some time yet!

Vanity Fair by William Thackeray Makepeace
Thackeray’s upper-class Regency world is a noisy and jostling commercial fairground, predominantly driven by acquisitive greed and soulless materialism, in which the narrator himself plays a brilliantly versatile role as a serio-comic observer. Although subtitled ‘A Novel without a Hero’, “Vanity Fair” follows the fortunes of two contrasting but inter-linked lives. Through the retiring Amelia Sedley and the brilliant Becky Sharp, Thackeray examines the position of women in an intensely exploitative male world.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
At twenty-seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they meet each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all,it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

The Arabian Nights by Anonymous
Considered by many to be the greatest work in all of literature, The Arabian Nights is a masterpiece sure to entertain all who seek its riches. The story begins when a vengeful king, angered by a former wife’s infidelity, decides to carry out an evil plan: each day he will take a new bride, and after he has enjoyed a single night with each of these brides, the hapless women will be executed. The king charges his vizier to find him marriage-worthy virgins. The frantic man searches the kingdom high and low to satisfy the king’s terrifying desires until one grim day when the vizier realizes that there are no more virgins in the land. No more, that is, except for one: his own daughter. The vizier is sure to suffer a great punishment if he fails to meet the king’s demands, so his daughter, the beautiful Scheherazade, bravely volunteers to be the king’s next wife. The vizier is heartbroken at the thought of losing his child, but he doesn’t realize that Scheherazade has a plan up her sleeve. On their wedding night, the clever young woman enthralls the king with an exciting story. As the king grows more engrossed in her tale, she resolves not to conclude it until the next day, forcing the king to decide between ending her life and not knowing the end of the tale. As the king’s appetite for a good story exceeds his murderous inclinations, Scheherazade realizes that her brilliant imagination will be the key to her survival. Follow along as she weaves tales of wonder, comedy, adventure, and romance that will entertain kings and readers alike in royal fashion.

Denied by Pat Brien
As the black clouds of the industrial age begin their creeping domination of Northern England, a brooding vampire, Bachell, settles on the outskirts of a bustling Lancashire town, searching for the perfect victim.

Under a death sentence by a powerful female vampire, Maria, with whom he is obsessed, he has neglected his needs to a dangerous degree. Now he must either feed successfully or face a fate worse than death. And his perfect victim must be willing.

Not only is the strong-willed but naïve Katie not willing, she is soon to be married. This leads Bachell into a desperate game of manipulation and seduction, dramatically pitting the ideals and emotions of young love against the dark forces of sexual fantasy and lust.

In the bloody aftermath, a group of vampire hunters head to Paris to destroy their enemies. However, with Maria reigning from the shadows, they find themselves having to make dark choices. As disaster looms, they seek the help of a shy, beautiful young man, whose deadly power stems from a tragic curse.

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