Flight behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver (2012).
Barbara Kingsolver's book 'The Poisonwood Bible' (1998), was a pretty crazy ride with a missionary family in Africa in the '60's going terribly wrong. 'Flight behaviour' is totally different. Set in the Appalachian mountains, the story opens with young mother, Dellarobia climbing the hill behind her small home, seeking to escape the monotony and poverty of her life, for an affair with another man. But when she gets there she sees an incredible sight - the hillside is covered in monarch butterflies who have mistakenly migrated to this mountain. This takes her life in a totally different direction. I liked this book a lot - the crippling poverty of Dellarobia's situation is depressing, but her inner drive to use the opportunities that come her way make her an interesting character. You kind of keep reading to see how things pan out for her.
Wool by Hugh Howey (2011).
I have read a lot of young adult dystopian fiction recently (lots of material for another post) but this was a refreshing change. The main character was female, but she wasn't 16! And she had a grown-up job. The premise of this story is that all the people left in an uninhabitable world are living in a giant underground silo. This is the first in a trilogy - I am yet to read to rest of the series but I am told reliably that it only gets better.
OK so I had to sneak in a YA novel. This is a bit of a nothing book really, but if you're looking for a sweet, YA romance, this is a nice one. I read it over a cold weekend. Eleanor is from a deeply dysfunctional family, her mother trying to hold a violent relationship together so she has a home for her children. There is no money, so Eleanor always looks strange, wearing whatever clothes she can find. Park is from a lovely, stable half-Korean, half American but being mixed race, he feels a bit embarrassed about some of the aspects of his family. Eleanor and Park end up bonding on the bus reading comics together. It's a nice romance but be warned - sad ending :(
Shamed by Sarbjit Kaur Athwal (2013).
This is the story of an honour killing by a migrant Indian family in Britain - told by the sister-in-law of the girl who is killed. It's not a literary masterpiece, but it's confronting because of it's recent history and I found it hard to stop reading.
So, I have to fess up. I am a total sucker for a book on cults. This one was particularly interesting because it was a Christian cult and having grown up in a Christian family, in some pretty sheltered environments, there were a few elements of the dynamic that were familiar (thankfully not the preaching on a street corner bit). What fascinates me about these stories is how groups tip over from being a fairly normal group to becoming a cult. I have been following the author's blog for years and she has written a lot about her post traumatic stress as a consequence of growing up in this environment. It was good to read her actual story. She writes with humour, but, wow, it would have been hard to write this book being the daughter and granddaughter of the leaders of the cult.
To end all wars: A story of loyalty and rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild (2011). I've done a bit of reading about WW1 over the years, but this was still a great book. It tells the story of WW1 through focusing on the stories of some of the main players and so it has a narrative style to it. It tracks the history of a number of key British starting from the Boer War leading up into the start of war and how they fare through the war. I liked this book a lot and it reminded me why I love history so much. It informs so much of our understanding of the present time. If you like history, but don't want something too heavy, this is worth reading.