This year wasn’t a particularly good one, not the books themselves but my reading. The year started off horribly, losing my lovely Finn. Then it was the advent of the dreaded virus, coupled with moving house. The motivation to read came and went and I haven’t read nearly as many books as usual. And Flynn came into our lives and my time wasn’t my own!
The following are snippets from the books that stood out for me this year. If you’d like to read the full review please click on the title.
A multi layered plot and characters, together with a creepily atmospheric setting, mean things are never quite what they seem, and that goes for some of the characters too.
There are plenty of surprises and red herrings to muddy the waters, an intriguing and gripping storyline with a touch of the supernatural, plus a great ending. Wonderful storytelling from CJ Tudor and an excellent narration by Gemma Whelan and Richard Armitage.
Based around two historical figures, Greer Macallister has woven a tale with its roots in the true story of Lady Jane Franklin’s determined attempts to find her husband’s lost Arctic expedition.
The story is told in alternating timelines, following the Arctic expedition in 1853 and the murder trial in Boston, opening in Massachusetts Superior Court in 1854 where Virginia Reeve is on trial for the murder of one of the women in her group.
Failure To Protect covers the horrific and ongoing epidemic of bullying. It became even more widespread since the emergence of social media, which can and is being used as a weapon to persecute the person being bullied even more.
There’s an extremely serious and important message at the heart of this excellent legal drama. As well as vividly highlighting the terrible toll caused by constant bullying and how it affects susceptible children, Failure To Protect also touches on not taking a child’s concerns seriously enough.
Travelling companions, Barb from Scotland, Janine from Washington DC managed, despite all obstacles, to meet up at Mumbai airport for their onward flight to a small airport in Gujarat where the third member of their trio, Jaya, was waiting.
Please Don’t Ask For Extra Glasses encompasses local legends, historical facts and amazing glimpses into India’s colourful history and culture, all woven into a humorous account of an eventful few weeks discovering and sampling what Gujarat, and more specifically, Rajasthan have to offer.
Louise Beech never fails to impress with her thought provoking, character driven and emotional writing. She writes with empathy for her incredibly well defined, realistic characters and the complexities of the subject matter are handled with great care.
This Is How We Are Human is no exception and tells the story of Sebastian, his mother, Veronica and student nurse, Isabelle. Veronica is fiercely protective of Sebastian, who is autistic, and just wants him to be happy.
Megacity is the third book in the engrossing dystopian Operation Galton series. First there was Hope, then came Wasteland, and out of those the Megacities grew. A good proportion of the population have been lured into thinking it’s the way to go…but not everyone was taken in. There were those who still chose to live off grid in self sufficient developments scattered across the countryside.
The chilling plot is well thought through, thought provoking, well written and perfectly paced with twists I wasn’t expecting.
Tears of Amber follows two Prussian families, the Hahlbrocks and the Schippers, leading up to and during the Second World War, mainly from the perspectives of Ilse Hahlbrock and Arno Schipper. Ilse and Arno are small children at the beginning of the story, with no idea of what was to come as war looms ever closer. We learn of their everyday lives, the changes, decent into poverty and conflicting feelings that begin to occur with the rise of the German army and the Nazis.
How people actually survived the realities of such an exodus is a miracle in itself, although not all did of course, and one such ending is a very sad one. Wonderfully written and translated, it’s an unforgettable and compelling, albeit sometimes harrowing, story.
In This Small Spot is a beautifully written and emotional story following the life choices, ups and downs, and introspections of Dr Michele Stewart, a renowned oncology surgeon. Several years after losing her much loved partner, Alice, to cancer, she questions her role as a doctor and her place in the medical profession.
The story is multi-layered, very atmospheric, written with depth and told in the present with flashbacks to a younger main protagonist. The characters are wonderfully drawn and complex.
London during 1868 is experiencing the hottest summer on record, wilting under the relentless heat and resulting odours. Detective Inspector Leo Stride, feeling the lack of his daily caffeine from the usual coffee stalls holders who have forsaken London for the much cooler countryside, is summoned along with his colleague DS Jack Cully to the morgue. There was a problem. A body had gone missing.
The intricate plot threads are woven together cleverly and seamlessly with engaging, descriptive prose and several twists. Another very enjoyable addition to The Victorian Detectives series.
Bea O’Connor, one of the second generation of Irish immigrants born in Brooklyn, always felt that Ireland was a large part of her heritage and who she was. She’d grown up listening to the nostalgic stories told by her grandparents and dreamed of Ireland and visiting there one day. She’s torn between her love of New York and the call of Ireland, not knowing quite where she belongs.
The Moon Over Kilmore Quay kept me invested in the story and the outcome for the characters from the start. It incorporates family, the love and support of friends, joy, sadness, long buried secrets and a moving and unpredictable conclusion which I wasn’t expecting at all.
Lila Nash is still living with the repercussions of a nightmarish summer eight years ago although her partner, Joe, sees the strong woman Lila has become despite what happened to her. She’s waiting on the results of her bar exam, hoping to secure her dream job as a prosecutor.
The Stolen Hours is a multi-layered legal thriller, character driven, tense and suspenseful as justice can sometimes seem unattainable despite the effort being put in to secure a conviction, and with some excellent courtroom scenes.
Opening with an intense and dramatic scene, The Perfect Lie tells the story of Erin Kennedy who moved to New York from her home in Ireland after a devastating family tragedy. She met and married homicide detective Danny Ryan two years previously.
I always look forward to a new Jo Spain novel and this one didn’t disappoint. It’s quite a study in how people present themselves, the face they put on for others. The Perfect Lie is plot driven, complex and multi layered, as are the great cast of characters whether you love them or not, sending the reader in one and then another direction, only to find they lead nowhere.
I was going to limit my list to twelve…but I couldn’t leave this one out
The story alternates in dual timelines between the 1960s and 1990s, paced steadily as the fully developed but dysfunctional characters’ lives begin to unravel realistically and irrevocably. Told mainly from Isla’s and Mandy’s perspectives, The Silence is atmospheric, complex and powerful, exploring the knock on effects of alcoholism, family secrets, adultery and an utterly shameful practice that I was unaware of until now.
An extremely accomplished debut novel — dark, disturbing and multilayered.