I haven't given any reading recommendations for months! I am so sorry, although there is a very good reason for it: I have no intention of recommending books that I really disliked or struggled to get through. And so far this year I have struggled with a number of books. I spent nearly 3 months determined to finish Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell but just found absolutely any excuse I could not to read it. As a result, I actually haven't read many books at all this year. I'm clearly slacking! I will endeavour to get back to my monthly recommendations really soon, but for now, here are the only two books I have read this year that I would actually tell other people were worth reading.
OK so most of us have now jumped on the Game of Thrones bandwagon, but for once I actually think it is well-justified. I saw the TV series before I started reading the books which means that all the characters are the actors who play them for me but I don't think that detracts at all. I really enjoy Martin's writing style and, despite the fact that you have 8 different narrators and perspectives, this comes together really well. The characters grow up and develop and the different perspectives mean that you get a broader picture of the events. I found it easy to read but difficult to put down and have moved on immediately to Clash of Kings, the second book in the series. The plot twists and turns and it is clear that it won't be resolved in the course of a single book - some of that characters aren't even in the same continent let alone the same city, but that actually just makes it a refreshing read - you get very involved with what is happening in the North but then head down to King's Landing and get caught up in court intrigue, or skip over the sea to see how Danaerys is dealing with Khal Drogo and her brother. It's a fantastic mix of political intrigue, violence, sex, relationships, honour and deception. It's not the best book I've ever read, but it is the most enjoyable one I've read this year so far.
The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
This took me a while to get into, and as I really wanted to start reading Game of Thrones, I think I probably missed vitally important bits. But I did enjoy it. The Moonstone is a diamond with a cursed history and, after being bequeathed to Rachel Verinder, mysteriously disappears. A detective is brought in to solve the case but sadly cannot and so Franklin Blake, a relative and potential match for Rachel, tries to piece together the mystery with the help of various eye-witness accounts. It is a romance as much as it is a detective novel and gives a taste of upper-class society and attitudes as well as being a lively and intricate story. I have to say I did not foresee a lot of the plot twists - Collins takes you on a merry dance around various inconsequential plotlines as well as brushing over some of the more important aspects. A well-written and intriguing story.