On this page you will find recommended books, read and reviewed by me. Where they are a traditionally published book, or a ‘classic’, I will post a link to Amazon and a brief explanation of why this book resonates with me. Where the book is independently published, you will find a link to Amazon, as well as my original review. If there is one thing all these books have in common, it is the occurrence of memorable characters who can be described as rebels, outsiders and true individuals.
The Catcher In The Rye by J.D Salinger.
Warning; if you love this book as much as me please do not subject yourself to the reading of it’s one star reviews on Amazon! Dated? Come on! Anyway, that aside, this for me is the ultimate book about being an outsider, and a completely glorious one at that. Now, I know Holden is not perfect, and there are times you just want so slap him, but that’s the point. He is not supposed to be perfect. He’s a kid. One of the best books out there if you are looking to understand narrative voice. It’s just spot on. I have read this book so many times, and I still get something new from it. I want to be Holden’s friend, I want to reassure him, joke with him, look after him and bitch with him. I love the way he sees through the fakery and bullshit that surrounds him, at school and in ordinary life. I love the way he stands out from the crowd and tries to figure things out for himself. I think it’s a love it or hate it kind of book, but that’s okay. If you’re in the ‘love it’ club, you’re not going to want that club to get any bigger anyway. Holden is ours!
The Outsiders by S.E Hinton.
Quite simply, I wouldn’t be the writer I am without this book, or this author. I adored this book growing up. I adored all of them, but this is the one I keep going back to. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to find books that tick every box for me. Gritty storyline, amazing characters you can totally believe in, dialogue that is not forced or fake and a tragic ending that somehow still fills you with hope. It’s a beautiful book, and as a teenager everything about it appealed to me. The gang mentality, the growing up on the wrong side of town, the standing up and fighting back. It made me want to write more than any other book!
Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski
Charles Bukowski was a foul mouthed, womanising drunk, who I’m pretty certain never even attempted to ‘fit in’. He was also a genius. This book was my first introduction to his work, and I went immediately on to devour his further novels and poetry. For someone bored senseless by middle class writers writing coldly about middle class problems, discovering the murky, yet beautiful world and mind of Bukowski was a revelation to me. Ham On Rye is a great place to start if you’re curious about Bukowski’s life and writing. The book is based on his own life, lived purely and messily on the outskirts of society. From his abusive childhood to the mind-numbing jobs he refused to stick with, to his eventual acceptance as a poet and writer. Whenever I read Bukowski, I end up with a smile on my face. I end up nodding at various paragraphs and sentences. I find myself agreeing with him on so many things. He penned one of my all time favourite quotes; ‘We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.’
Anything by Kate Rigby ! Kate is an indie author I discovered by pure Internet chance. Whilst adding my own books to the diverse ‘themes’ available on iAuthor, I noticed the name Kate Rigby kept cropping up in the same places I wanted to put my books. I made a note of her name, and later checked out some of her books. I then followed her on Facebook and in a rather gushing, fan-girl type way, I let her know how much I loved her writing. Luckily for me, Kate followed me back and I soon found out we had quite a lot more in common. I’m proud to call her one of my author friends now, but I was very firmly a fan first!! Here is my review for Down The Tubes “This book gets 5 stars from me because it was quite simply everything I look for in a book, and can never seem to find! A brilliant storyline, real characters, real dialogue, gritty, hard-hitting, heartbreaking and touching. I am so pleased the author has written lots of other books! Down The Tubes is a story about two people; Cheryl, who has all but turned her back on her four children in order to have a ‘life’ and is pursuing a career in drug rehabilitation, and her estranged son Michael, who ran away from home aged sixteen. The book brilliantly weaves their two life stories together, in the third person and present tense. Cheryl is such an interesting character, in many ways extremely unlikable, but I could not help be intrigued by her. Married young, she has child after child, seemingly addicted to the ‘pink haze’ that surrounds an innocent young baby. However once they start to walk and talk she sees their innocence fade and starts to lose interest. Michael, on the other hand, having been abused by his father, is such a lost soul that you are immediately drawn to him, instantly rooting for him and hoping he can eventually kick his drug habit. As the narration takes us back and forth between their two lives, the two characters almost cross paths but seem destined to never be reunited. This is such a well written book, and I am so pleased I have found an author who does not shy away from gritty storylines that make you flinch. I was left wanting more.” You can read my interview with her here
The Improbably Wonders of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory. Robin is another indie author I discovered through social media. I’d been following her page for a while and noting the awesome awards her book was getting, so eventually I downloaded the book and got stuck in. I was not disappointed in the slightest. This really is an award winning book, in every way! Here’s my review; “Just magical. One of those rare books you need time to think about after you have finished it. Not like anything I have come across before, I would best describe it as coming-of-age but also magical, or fantasy in genre. It had a lovely old fashioned feel to it, both in style and content, and there were so many phrases in the narrative and in the dialogue that made me smile. The story of Moojie, who is found and then adopted by a young couple, is heart warming from start to finish. Moojie has things stacked against him from the starts. Unwanted and abandoned, his new parents then discover he has physical disabilities. He is often scorned and ridiculed throughout his young life, and things get even worse when his beloved mother dies and his father, unable to cope, sends him to live on his grandfathers goat farm. As he grows from child to young man, Moojie yearns and aches for belonging and love. One by one he overcomes the difficulties life has thrown at him, and as a character, I just loved him. I wanted to reach into the book and make everything okay for him! Moojie soon discovers he had special healing powers, and life gets interesting when he meets the mystical ‘light-eaters’ who dwell in the caves in the mountain. His grandfather and the people of the village are fearful and suspicious of these strange ‘hostiles’ but Moojie befriends them, learns from them and becomes desperate to join them. What follows is a journey of self-discovery, growing up and towards the end, page turning scenes of heroism and drama. I just couldn’t put it down, and I am extremely curious to read more from this author. For me, a very, very unique and beautiful book.” My interview with Robin can be found here
Daydreams and Devils by Robert Cowan. I discovered this author when I reviewed this book for Underground Book Reviews. I thought it was awesome, gave the book 5 stars and chose it for a Top Pick. I also got to interview Robert. I will definitely be reading the rest of Robert’s books very soon.
Here’s a snippet from my review ;’This book will appeal to readers who enjoy gangsters and crime thrillers, as well as dark humor. It does, however, have a lot more to offer than that. There are unique and believable characters, and two intriguing story lines which keep you hooked and guessing as to when they are going to tangle. Anyone who enjoys coming-of-age style stories would also enjoy this book, not to mention anyone who thinks of themselves as a music fan. Also for fans of very British books/films. It is described as Goodfellas meets The Commitments, but felt more like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels meets The Commitments.
…read the complete review at UndergroundBookReviews(dot)org!
Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard.
This is the kind of book I am always looking for. Never mind the plot, (though it is fantastic) just give me characters I can believe in! Give me real people with real lives, people I start to care about and root for. Beautiful Broken Things is narrated by sixteen year old Caddy, a girl who has always been well behaved. Caddy and Rosie have been best friends for years, though they do not attend the same school. Everything is turned upside down with the arrival of Suzanne, a rather dark and troubled soul, who befriends Rosie at school. At first Caddy is jealous and insecure. Suzanne seems to like her, but she can’t help feel intimated by this girl, who is wild, secretive and beautiful. Caddy is slightly bored of being a good girl and longs for a ‘significant life event’ to happen to her. Well, it happens in a big way when Suzanne slowly leads her off the rails, jeopardising her relationship with Rosie, the trust of her parents and even her own safety. Suzanne is a brilliant character, with many layers, secrets and faces. I enjoyed how this book explored the truth that lies between friendships, in that we all show a different face to different friends, depending on what we get from them. Suzanne is one way with Caddy and another way with Rosie. The communication and dialogue between the girls was incredibly well done, never once feeling forced or contrived. I felt they were all very real, individual people. I felt tremendously for Caddy, who just wants to be noticed, needed and interesting. She goes on quite a journey in the book, shedding the skin of the old, timid her to become something more. I also felt incredibly moved by Suzanne’s story; she is a very fragile and broken character, and I felt the author did well in exploring how hurtful pasts continue to haunt people even after they have ‘moved on.’ The ending was satisfying and realistic, and everything about this book made me smile. YA at its best.