Top Reads 2018

The end of 2018 is approaching fast and it’s ‘favourite books of the year’ time again!  I enjoy looking back at books I’ve read and audios I’ve listened to, although choosing ones for the list never gets any easier. So in no particular order, here are some of my favourites.

The Great Alone ~ Kristin Hannah (Audiobook)

Julia Whelan’s narration this audiobook is incredible. It’s a powerful family saga which includes tragedy and heartbreak and is constantly evolving, as are the characters. Leni is a wonderful protagonist and I was rooting for her all the way. Even though I was involved with the characters emotionally, I can’t quite make my mind up about the ending but perhaps it balances things out a little. I did tear up a few times and the whole thing is a rollercoaster of a listen.

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz isn’t as hard hitting or graphic as other books on the same subject. As his story was told to the author by Lale himself, the narrative concentrates on his own experiences, his feelings and fears for Gita, as well as the people who become his friends, and encompasses those Nazis he has the misfortune to come into contact with. We see events and life in the camp through his eyes, rather than the broader spectrum. This is definitely a story well worth the telling—very moving.

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Wild Fire – Ann Cleeves

An intricate, well crafted and solid police procedural, beautifully written and characterised, full of atmosphere. The main characters have developed throughout the series and are completely believable and engaging, the secondary characters are also well drawn. Jimmy Perez is compelling, both on and of screen, brooding and compassionate but not without flaws. It’s good to see Sandy’s working and personal life is improving no end. Changes are on the horizon. Shetland itself, as always, is vividly and fondly described.

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Bitter Sun – Beth Lewis  (Audiobook)

Beth Lewis evokes the setting and time period very effectively. It’s a dark and disturbing tale, evocative and tragic, with shocking twists set in the tense, claustrophobic confines of a small rural town where people know more than they’re willing to admit, underscored with corruption and immorality. The bleak atmosphere and decline is easily imagined. The development of the plot is a slow burn, losing some of the momentum at times. Having said that though, I was invested in the story and couldn’t imagine where it was leading. I loved Christopher Ragland’s narration.

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The Lewis Man ~ Peter May (Audiobook)

This is the third book in a fantastic trilogy. There are many layers and much to be revealed. And again, so much more than the investigation into what, in reality, amounts to a cold case. Peter May crafts his characters impeccably, with depth, feeling and humanity. Tormod is portrayed particularly well and realistically. The expressive descriptions of life and the landscape, past and present, give an incredibly atmospheric sense of place along with the struggle to survive in sometimes harsh environs under the domination of a merciless religion. Peter Forbes narrates wonderfully.

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Legacy ~ Terry Tyler

This is a fabulous final and enthralling instalment, even though I’m sorry the series has ended. Bree and Silas’ journey brings threads together and tie up  loose ends, which are woven together expertly. The world building conjures strong images and is totally convincing, the characters are all extremely well crafted, believable and drive the story whether they’re likeable or not, and I’m very glad one in particular got what they deserved. Can’t wait to see what Terry Tyler comes up with next!

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The Runaway Wife ~ Dee MacDonald

Written realistically and very well (I hadn’t realised this was a debut novel) with much humour, poignancy, some soul-searching and self discovery, and in such a way I couldn’t help but be behind Connie all the way. Her family was mostly only concerned about how Connie’s absence affected their own lifestyles, with one noticeable exception. Thought provoking and perceptive, it just shows how much can be hidden by those we think we know well. And also, it’s never too late to make changes.

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Jonah ~ Carl Rackman

Extremely well written and researched, the plot is plausible, perfectly paced and I had no idea how it would unfold, I certainly didn’t expect that ending, despite the narrative’s ominous build up. I love the flashbacks, which tie in with certain characters, showing how events from the past have never really left them. Characterisations are distinct and well defined and the dialogue authentic. The effects of war, stress, survivor’s guilt and how subordinates are at the mercy of their superiors, are all frighteningly realistic.

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Shelter in Place ~ Nora Roberts (Audiobook)

This is classic Nora Roberts, the expert storytelling capturing emotions, tragedy, reactions, fleshing out characters and locales, and not forgetting the wonderful relationships and family dynamics. It’s a slow burn and build up after the initial devastating opening, as the growth, development and finding a purpose takes place, giving the reader chance to really know and connect with those survivors whose lives were affected by the events at the mall. I found it compulsive listening and January LaVoy does an excellent job with the narration. 

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By Sword and Storm ~ Margaret Skea

The research is meticulous and fact and fiction are woven together smoothly creating a fascinating tale. Real historical figures blend very well with the very engaging, fictional Munro family. The narrative is quite intricate and alternates between several storylines set in different locations, following individual groups. Characters have developed throughout the trilogy and are all finely drawn and very convincing. A very entertaining and vividly described story brought to life incredibly well. 

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Th1rt3en ~ Steve Cavanagh

The way the book is written, with so much attention to detail, makes the story very realistic. The reader is totally involved, seeing the proceedings, inside and outside the courtroom, from the jury’s perspective as well as that of the lawyers. There’s a lot going on with unexpected, misleading twists and plenty of action. Cleverly plotted, extremely well written, entertaining, with great dialogue and an original take on a dramatic courtroom thriller.

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The Girl in His Eyes ~ Jennie Ensor

The Girl In His Eyes is well structured—a hard hitting, realistic story of pedophilia and child abuse. It’s written extremely well, conveying the characters’ emotions and points of view in a believable, non gratuitous way. Jennie Ensor has approached this issue skilfully and without hesitation, exploring the mindset of each of the protagonists.

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A Noise Downstairs ~ Linwood Barclay

This is initially character driven while we become acquainted with the main players, starting slowly after the prologue and building gradually, then taking off at a fast sprint with much more action. The diverse and intriguing characters are crafted beautifully, the atmosphere throughout is palpable as the reader is hooked into the story, always with a sense of suspicion and impending doom. 

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Flood ~ Ann Swinfen

With wonderful attention to detail, Ann Swinfen’s rich descriptions of village life and the remote beauty of the fens conjure up vivid images of an area and lifestyle I knew next to nothing about. The narrative is engrossing, researched and written extremely well, perfectly evoking a time of oppressive government rule and uncertainty. Highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction and those that just like a cracking story.

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The Infirmary ~ LJ Ross

An Audible Original Drama, The Infirmary is the prequel to the DCI Ryan Series which begins with Holy Island. This dramatised version works very effectively, taking audio to a new level, with appropriate background sounds and multiple voices giving a great sense of imagery, I could picture the story unfolding easily. At six and half hours listening time it’s a more concise story than the books but compelling nevertheless with realistic dialogue, a very well crafted and written plot. 

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Fear & Phantoms ~ Carol Hedges

What I love about these books, apart from the colourful, well defined characters (with sometimes very apt names…Tom Scallywagg MP), be they good, bad or downright evil, are the evocative descriptions of Victorian London. The dark, menacing back streets contrasting sharply with the more affluent areas, and the opulence of the wealthy set against the often terrible lives of the poorer classes, particularly the children.

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Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home….and the dog dies ~ Barb Taub

With intriguing headings such as Penis Envy Or The Revenge of Sixth-Grade Science Teacher…Won’t You Be My (CREEPY) Neighbor?…The Day I Killed MOM – A (MOSTLY) True Story, to name but a few, these anecdotes beg to be read and I’ve enjoyed doing so immensely. 

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The Fourth Gunman ~ John Lansing

There’s a diverse cast of characters, both good and bad, and all are well defined and portrayed realistically. Expressive writing and authentic dialogue lead to clear and vivid imagery. I’ve enjoyed this series from the start and the stories just get better. The Fourth Gunman is everything I’ve come to expect from a John Lansing novel – great writing and characters, action, mystery, suspense and crime solving.

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Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton

Claire Fullerton brings 1970s Memphis to evocative, lyrical life. A society that’s all about appearances, anything unsavoury or unpleasant isn’t allowed to disturb the surface, awkward circumstances are brushed aside. An array of colourful characters are exquisitely drawn, and the descriptive prose conjures up a true sense of place. A wonderfully atmospheric snapshot of a bygone era.

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That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan

As with her previous books, Adrienne Vaughan’s knack of creating engaging and compelling characters who completely captivate, in a fabulous setting, is evident. Written with confidence, delightfully authentic dialogue and style, this was a joy to read.

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