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Farm Lane Book Awards 2013

I’ve already listed the best books published in 2013, but there were many other books that stood out for different reasons. Here are the other books that deserve a special mention:

Five star reads:

Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola (Audio Book) 

The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression by Andrew Solomon 

Encounter with Tiber by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes 

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon 

The Farm Lane Book Awards:

War with the Newts (Penguin Translated Texts) 

Best premise: War with the Newts by Karel Capek 

Dystopian fiction involving intelligent, talking newts? What’s not to love?!

The Noonday Demon

Most Memorable Scene: Andrew Solomon’s description of the assisted suicide of his mother in The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression by Andrew Solomon 

Most surprising book: The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

I loved the Harry Potter series, but didn’t think JK Rowling would be able to transfer her skills to an adult novel. I was wrong. 

Best ending: The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood 

Most memorable character: Don Tillman from The Rosie Project (review coming soon)


Best audio book: Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola

Most disappointing book: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

I’ve loved all of Hosseini’s other books and so had high expectations for this one. Unfortunately I found it so boring I abandoned it. 

Best writing: The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness

Encounter with Tiber

Most engaging story:  Encounter with Tiber by Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes 

Buzz Aldrin’s experience in space shines through in this book that manages to effortlessly blend historical events with predictions for the future. It’s all scarily possible.

Book I’ve found myself recommending most often: Difficult Conversations by Stone, Patton and Heen 

Best treatment of a difficult subject: Beneath the Darkening Sky by Majok Tulba 

An horrific insight into the plight of African child soldiers. It contains some disturbing scenes, but you can’t help fall in love with the little boy at the centre of this story.

Author I’m most excited about discovering: Émile Zola

Most thought provoking book: Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

Book which has improved the most since reading: Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam 

Just Imagine

Best children’s book: Just Imagine by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt

A great book to share with children of all ages. It is fascinating to discover their thoughts on a wide range of bizarre subjects, including whether they’d rather be made of lego, elastic or glass!

Far From The Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love

Book of the year: Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon 

Far From the Tree is the most important book I’ve ever read. It is a masterpiece of research; giving an impressive insight into human relationships and our tolerance of those who are different. If everyone read this book the world would be a better place.

I hope this post introduces you to many fantastic books! Do you agree with my award winners?

I’m taking  a blogging break for Christmas and the New Year. Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog in 2013.

I hope you have a fantastic Christmas and wonderful New Year! 

See you in 2014.



2013: A Year of Pushing Boundaries

2013 has been a strange year for fiction. The books haven’t been as good as in previous years, but the boundaries of acceptability have been stretched further than before and many taboos have been broken. Here’s a quick guide to the way literature has confronted difficult subjects in 2013:


EL James made graphic sex more acceptable in mainstream fiction and its inclusion is becoming increasingly common. 


The most controversial book of the year has to be Tampa by Alissa Nutting, with its explicit descriptions of a female paedophile preying on teenage boys. It’s hard to see how this genre could be stretched further. 


Suicide has been mentioned in fiction for many years, but I haven’t seen it take centre stage to the same extent before.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods

It also seems that assisted suicide has become an accepted topic and the wonderfully entertaining The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence probably did the best job of tackling the subject in 2013. Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach also brought new dimensions to the argument, successfully showing what a complex and emotive subject it is.


My Notorious Life by Madame X

We also saw abortion being tackled more directly than before. My Notorious Life by Kate Manning and Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston both confronted the topic head-on. I read both books together and I recommend doing the same as they compliment each other well.

Mental Health

Mental health is finally being talked about, mainly thanks to a few high-profile celebrities revealing their problems.

The View on the Way Down

It has been mentioned in fiction many times before, but The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait describes depression with such sensitivity and realism. It has definitely brought the topic to a whole new level.

Canabalism/Bizarre butchery

For some reason canabalism also seems to be on the rise. To say which books would spoil things, but several 2013 releases have resulted in one character eating another. This trend looks set to continue in 2014 with Season to Taste by Natalie Young, a book which doesn’t even try to hide the fact that it involves people eating each other!

Have you noticed fiction pushing any other boundaries in 2013? 





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My Favourite Books Published in 2013

2013 has been a strange year for fiction. There have been a lot of great books, but none have really blown me away (I haven’t awarded to any 2013 fiction release). It seems that 2013 has been more about pushing the boundaries and breaking the taboos that have existed in literature until now. I’ll explain more about that next week, but for now I’ll leave you with my favourite books of 2013:

Note: The titles of the book link to my full review.

Kiss Me First

Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

One of the most modern books I’ve ever read. Its insights into social media use and online identity are so relevant to today’s society that it will make readers look at their online activity in a whole new light.

Beneath the Darkening Sky

Beneath the Darkening Sky by Majok Tulba 

An horrific insight into the plight of African child soldiers. It contains some disturbing scenes, but you can’t help fall in love with the little boy at the centre of this story.

The Last Banquet

The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood 

This book is bizarre, but very entertaining. It isn’t for the squeamish, but if you can tolerate some slightly strange butchery you’ll be rewarded by an atmospheric story that is packed with surprises.

The View on the Way Down

The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait 

Realistic story about how one family copes with a suicide. The grief and depression are described with an accuracy and sensitivity that deserves special praise.

The Rosie Project 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion 

(review coming soon)

The Rosie Project is the only book that has managed to make me cry with laughter this year. The observations of those with Asperger’s syndrome are spot-on and it is fantastic to read a book on the subject that isn’t depressing.

The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

(review coming soon)

Good old fashioned storytelling, packed with vivid characters, period detail, and wonderful snippets of information about 19th century botany.

My Notorious Life by Madame X

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning

An atmospheric book set in 19th century New York. It deals with the controversial subject of abortion in a sensitive and thought-provoking way and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys intelligent story-telling.


Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Controversial look at a female paedophile. It is graphic and shocking, but exposes our differing attitudes towards male and female sex offenders.

The Son





The Son by Michel Rostain

The Son isn’t an easy read as it is based on the true story of a man who lost his teenage son to meningitis. The realistic nature of the text makes this book heart-breaking in places, but it is also full of hope. I’ve never read another book that makes me understand the emotions of another human so completely.


Magda by Meike Ziervogel 

A short, but powerful insight into the reason Magda Goebbels chose to murder her own children. It isn’t a happy read, but I love books that pack an emotional punch in this way.

My Favourite Book of the Year:

Far From The Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

The only 2013 release I’ve awarded 5 stars to is Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. This non-fiction book will make you look at disability, parenting and society in a whole new light. The world would be a better place if everyone read it.

Have you read any of these books?

Did you love them as much as I did?

If you’d like to see which books other bloggers are recommending head over to Kim’s advent calendar, where a different blogger reveals their favourite book of the year each day.

We Love This Book also have a great list of blogger favourites.

I’ll be back soon with a list of my favourite reads from the past year.





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The Best Books of 2014? Debut/Lesser Known Authors

Last week I posted: The Best Books of 2014?: Authors We Know and Love

This week it is time for the debut authors. 

Here are the 2014 releases that caught my eye:


 You Disappear

You Disappear by Christian Jungersen

Five words from the blurb: teacher, accident, tumor, fraud, brain

You Disappear investigates brain injuries, free-will and what makes up our true self. Scientific research is wrapped up in a compelling psychological drama, packed with twists. You Disappear was originally published in Denmark, but will be available in English for the first time next year. 

We Used to Be Kings

We Used to Be Kings by Stewart Foster

Five words from the blurb: boy, madness, 1970s, free, space

We Used to be Kings is the story of a young boy’s descent into madness. It promises to be funny and heartbreaking, whilst also letting us reminisce about the 1970s. 

The Giraffe's Neck

The Giraffe’s Neck by Judith Schalansky

Five words from the blurb: biology, teacher, Darwin, climate, depopulation

A wonderfully cruel central character? A husband’s obsession with breeding ostriches? A biology teacher educating children about evolution and climate issues? Sounds like a fantastic mix of ideas!

When Mr Dog Bites

When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

Five words from the blurb:  Tourette’s, year, live, swearing, stressed

This book is described as a cross between The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, but with Tourette’s. I haven’t read a book containing a character with Tourette’s before so I’m interested to see how it’s handled. 

Black Moon

Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun

Five words from the blurb: stopped, sleeping, panic, desperation, gift

Black Moon describes a world without sleep. It is such a simple concept, but it sounds like it will be a wonderfully compelling read.

The Night Guest

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

Five words from the blurb:  psychological, battle, unequal, particular, women 

This book has been getting more advance praise than any other 2014 release. The hype for this book is going to explode soon. I’m looking forward to finding out how a simple story about two women living together can cause so many people such excitement!

Tristano: A Novel

Tristano by Nanni Balestrini

Five words from the blurb: computer, re-sorts, novel, lovers, destiny

Balestrini isn’t a debut novelist, but he isn’t very well known in the UK. Tristano is an experimental novel which was first published in Italy in 1966. It is comprised of  ten chapters, each with the fifteen pairs of paragraphs. These are then randomly ordered in each copy of the printed book; meaning that no reader has the same experience. I’m not sure it will work, but I’m intrigued to find out!

Look Who's Back

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

Five words from the blurb: Hitler, 2011, YouTube, viral, star

Hitler reappearing in 2011 and becoming a YouTube star? It’s such a mad idea! I really need to know why so many German people loved this book!

Other books to look out for:

Above by Isla Morley

The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit

The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss

 A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

The Kept by James Scott

The Bear by Claire Cameron

The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull


Do you like the sound of these books?

Which 2014 books are you looking forward to?



Discussing Tampa over at Typographical Era


Today I’m over at Typographical Era discussing Tampa with Aaron and Karli. We had a really interesting conversation about many issues raised by the book in Conversational Era:

their new semi-regular collaborative feature in which they chat with readers, authors, & fellow bloggers about a myriad of different subjects.

I highly recommend that you look at their other posts as they always bring new insight to every subject they discuss.

WARNING: The discussion contains SPOILERS!

2013 Recommended books

Tampa by Alissa Nutting


Five words from the blurb: teacher, sex, pupils, risk, exposure

Tampa is a controversial book about a female teacher who has sex with her 14-year-old pupils. It contains graphic sex scenes and many have complained about its disturbing subject matter. It definitely pushes the boundaries, but I think this book is important. It raises many interesting questions about our attitudes to sex and reveals worrying problems with our society. It is not a specific question of positions or of knot dildos, but a serious inquiry on public perception of sex and we can help eradicate the stigma with the conversation.

The book begins with Celeste, a beautiful English teacher, starting her first teaching job:

I spent the night before my first day of teaching in an excited loop of hushed masturbation on my side of the mattress, never falling asleep. To bed I’d worn, in secret, a silk chemise and sheer panties, so that my husband, Ford, wouldn’t pillage me.

She is excited about the prospect of seducing the 14-year-old boys in her class, but is careful to select those who will not reveal their secret encounters.

The plot seemed simple and obvious at first, but as the novel neared its end I was surprised and impressed by the direction it took. I especially loved the way that the characters were all flawed individuals and they reacted realistically to events around them. The writing had that special spark that brought events to life, despite the fact it wasn’t complex in nature.

The book was graphic, bordering on pornography, throughout. But it wasn’t written to titillate the reader; it exists to shock and open eyes to the differences in our attitude towards male and female paedophiles. The fact that it is a beautiful young woman preying on young boys challenges our misconceptions about who is a danger to our children.

It isn’t for the prudish, but if you’re willing to approach it with an open mind you’ll find an engaging, disturbingly erotic, book that challenges perceptions.