Top 20 Favourite #Books of 2018 #AmReading #FridayReads

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.

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah ~ An intense family #drama set in Alaska #AudioBookReview #FridayReads #KristinHannah

Author: Kristin Hannah

Performed by Julia Whelan

Released: February 2018 by Macmillan Digital Audio

Category: Family Drama, Historical, Fiction, Romance, Book Review

Alaska, 1974.

Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.

For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Leni Allbright is the new kid in school….again. Her father, Ernt, has trouble holding down a job for any length of time since returning from the Vietnam war and so they haven’t stayed in one place very long. His experience as a POW unleashed a darkness in him that had his wife, Cora, and Leni tiptoeing around him, trying to keep him on an even keel. He’s not the man he was before the war, the nightmares and flashbacks leave him on edge, jittery and prone to violent outbursts.

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#ThrowBackThursday ~ Night Road by Kristin Hannah #Books #AmReading

I’ve seen this meme around a few times. Began by Renee at It’s Book Talk, the idea is to choose a book that’s been in your to be read pile for over 12 months. Either a favourite book or one that keeps getting lost in the ever growing stack waiting to be read.

My choice is Night Road by Kristin Hannah. It’s been on the shelf for some time. I’ve read Kristin Hannah before and really enjoyed her books, not sure why this keeps getting pushed back.  Continue reading

2014 ~ Top Books

There have been so many great books this year, it was a very hard choice but, in no particular order, here are my top 12 reads/listens.

  1. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. Alternating between the past and present and telling the story of a family drama. After the death of their father, sisters Meredith and Nina struggle to really get to know their seemingly reserved and cold Russian born mother. As the sisters finally begin to discover their mother’s tragic story the three women can reach out to each other and find the bond that ties them together. My review.
  2. The Martian by Andy Weir. Mark Watney is part of a team of astronauts sent to Mars and because of a terrible misunderstanding he is left behind. Completely alone and facing certain death, Mark struggles to survive in a totally alien environment. When the people back at NASA discover Mark is still alive the race is on to rescue him before his supplies run out. My review.
  3. Once Dead by Richard Phillips. The first of three prequels that set up the Rho Agenda trilogy. Jack Gregory is the CIA’s top assassin but when an encounter with a notorious criminal goes wrong Jack is left for dead. On his death-bed Jack is revived by a dark entity and has the choice of being a host to the demon or death. A sci-fi thriller with a supernatural twist. My review.
  4. Swan Loch by Randy Mixter. A really lovely, romantic and touching story that traverses time. Swan Loch is a peaceful New England town until a killer strikes. Police Chief Chris Hayward and FBI agent Jake Stanton try to solve a seemingly impossible case and for Chris it becomes very personal. Just when all hope is lost Chris finds the most precious thing in his life. A touch of the paranormal in this mystery thriller. My review.
  5. The Black Hours by Alison Williams. A chilling tale of life during the time of the self-styled Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, as he travels the country seeking out those he believes are in league with Satan. Seventeen year old Alice Pendle finds herself under suspicion in a tale of persecution and superstition. A suspenseful and gripping drama which mixes fact with fiction. My review
  6. Beyond Midnight ~ Asunder by Sarah M Cradit. Part of the paranormal Southern drama series, The House of Crimson and Clover, Asunder finds the Deschanel family reeling with the backlash of shock and horror brought on by the results of a two hundred year old curse. Hope brings them together to face whatever the future may hold. My review.
  7. Kings and Queens by Terry Tyler. A uniquely different concept and delivery with characters that parallel the life and times of Henry VIII and his wives in a modern day setting. Harry Lanchester’s dream of becoming a rock star is shattered with the death of his older brother and as Harry steps up to take the reins of the family business his life takes on an uncanny resemblance to the famous erstwhile King of England. My review.
  8. The Test by John Lansing. Although I’m loving the Jack Bertolino series, this short story is so touching and evocative, with incredibly vivid imagery and beautiful writing that it had to make this list. From the present day Jack Morgan looks back on his teenage years, being a fourteen year old growing up in the Long Island of the 1960s amid the racial tensions of the time and how it affects the rest of his life. My review.
  9. Losing It All by Marsha Cornelius. Frank Barnes, a homeless veteran, is content living on the streets and making the most of the little he has. Chloe Barnes is evicted and left destitute with two small children and finds life in shelters harsh and unforgiving. The two lives are interlinked and brought together in a compelling storyline. My review
  10. Don’t Touch (Null City #2) by Barb Taub. Lette Simoneau inherits a drastic form of the family ‘gift’ or curse as Lette thinks of it. Everything she touches each day turns into something different. Lette’s search for a cure leads her to the conclusion that boundaries are self-imposed  and as such are surmountable. An imaginative and fun story with a likeable protagonist. My review.
  11. Disappearing In Plain Sight by Francis Guenette. A very well crafted novel centred on the very tight knit community of Crater Lake on the shores of Vancouver Island. The characters are all genuine and the way they deal with their feelings and situations is very believable and show the complex layers which make up human nature. My review.
  12. Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby. Book three of the Wyattsville series is set at the end of the Second World War as Benjamin Church returns to Alabama. A powerful and moving tale of the prejudices and intolerance of the time, showing the good and bad sides of human nature regardless of skin colour. My review.

And my top 5 series.

  1. Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey. This is a supernatural urban fantasy series which really caught my imagination with a very unlikely hero – or anti-hero would probably best describe James Stark, half angel, half human. Stark’s return from 11 years in hell, bent on revenge is a sharp, hilarious and sardonic tale. MacLeod Andrews portrays Stark and a multitude of diverse characters perfectly. Audiobooks 1-3.5.  Audiobooks 4-6
  2. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. An Urban Fantasy series featuring Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, who lives in Arizona and runs an occult bookstore. Atticus draws his power from the earth through the Druidic tattoos on his arms. He is able to shape shift and enjoys hunting with his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. A fun series full of myths, legends, gods, goddess, witches and demons. Superb performance by Luke Daniels, with distinct voices for each character. My reviews 1-3, 4-6, 7
  3. The Project Eden Series by Brett Battles. This is a really compelling storyline. As Daniel Ash’s world crashes down around him he’s catapulted into a nightmare scenario. He can’t comprehend the fact that what happened is no accident. And there is worse, much worse to come as a deadly organisation plots the end of humanity as we know it. MacLeod Andrews delivers a flawless narration. My reviews.
  4. The Georgie Connolly Series by E.L. Lindley. Georgie Connolly is a transplanted English woman living and working in Los Angeles. Feisty and very often landing herself in hot water, Georgie acts on the spur of the moment, without thinking things through.  A change from the norm, Georgie is not connected to law enforcement but makes documentaries, no matter how serious the subject. A fun and easy series but with dangerous undertones. My reviews #1 #2
  5. The Black Series by Russell Blake. Artemus Black is a Hollywood P.I. Down on his luck, with money problems, anger issues and an assistant who ridicules him endlessly and a fat cat that hates him. Life couldn’t get much worse. A great characterisation of an easy to like protagonist with a cast of memorable, humorous characters and excellent and witty story lines. My reviews #1, #2, #3, #4

 

Adding To My Bookshelves #2

This weeks book swag…

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Adding yet more to the never-ending TBR pile 😉 I can’t help myself.

Summer’s Passing ~ Randy Mixter 

Doug Monroe and Rebecca Carlyle are young and in love. He met her when he saved her life, but now he may need to save her again.
Someone, or something, wants her and there is no place to hide, and no safe haven from the memories of her troubled past.
Before the summer ends, the past and present will meet. Will Doug be able to save the woman he loves one last time? Or will an evil from long ago take her from him forever?

Sarah of the Moon ~ Randy Mixter 

The Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in 1967. Alex Conley, a part-time writer for a Baltimore newspaper, is dispatched to chronicle the events occurring there. It is June of 1967, and the summer of love is in full swing. Alone, in this strange and magical place, he meets a girl named Sarah, a free spirit who is as mysterious as she is beautiful. What are the secrets of her past? Why does she dance each night under the light of the moon? 

These are just a few of the puzzles Alex needs to solve in the short time he has in that city. Then there’s another complication. He is beginning to fall deeply in love with her.

Blackberry Winter ~ Sarah Jio

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.

Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways…

Dead Run ~ Erica Spindler

A panicked message on her answering machine is the last Liz Ames hears from her sister Rachel. Determined to find her, Liz heads to Rachel’s home in Key West. Within hours of her arrival a man jumps to his death. Then a teenage girl is found murdered.

The ritualistic style of the killing is hauntingly similar to that used by the notorious “New Testament” serial killer—now on death row. Could these deaths be related to Rachel’s disappearance? Is a copycat killer at work? And why do the police refuse to help? As Liz peels away the layers of deception, she finds this island paradise harbours an unspeakable evil…

Home Front ~ Kristin Hannah

From a distance, Michael and Joleen Zarkades seem to have it all: a solid dependable marriage, two exciting careers, and children they adore. But after twelve years together, the couple has lost their way. They are unhappy and edging towards divorce. Then the Iraq war starts and an unexpected deployment will tear their already fragile family apart, sending one of them deep into harm’s way and leaving the other at home, waiting for news. When the worst happens, each must face their darkest fear and fight for the future of their family.

An intimate look at the inner landscape of a disintegrating marriage and a dramatic exploration of the price of war on a single American family. Home Front is a provocative and timely portrait of hope, honour, loss, forgiveness and the elusive nature of love.

(Synopses from Amazon)

Winter Garden

Publisher’s Summary

51+9u9RYqUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_“From the author of the smash-hit best-seller Firefly Lane and True Colors comes a powerful, heartbreaking novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past.
Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard: the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father fails ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time – and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago.
Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.”

My Review

A vividly powerful and moving story dealing with two sisters growing up without the love of their mother, Anya, and never knowing why. Anya was born in Russia and married their father after WWII. The only time there was any interaction between Meredith, Nina and Anya was when, from time to time, she told them a Russian fairytale at bedtime.

Their father was the one constant in their lives, always loving, always acting as mediator between them and Anya. When he became ill and near to death his last wish was for the fairytale to be told to Meredith and Nina through to the end. He wanted his daughters to get to know their mother. It’s left to them to try and break through their mother’s seeming indifference and coldness. How awful for all of them to be in such a position.

As Anya tells them so much more of the fairytale than she ever has before they come to realise it’s actually the story of their mother’s harrowing life before she met their father. She’s always been too afraid to talk about anything, her daughters didn’t even know when her birthday was, but now Anya realises there’s no reason to be afraid anymore. And as Anya’s story unfolds, although it’s unbelievably heartbreaking for all of them, the curative cracks begin to appear in their self built walls.

The relationship between the three women is explored with awareness, understanding and sensitivity. The whole story, past and present, is compelling and so emotional. It’s no walk in the park on a sunny day, it packs a hell of a punch especially since Anya’s unimaginable suffering is more than likely very near to what happened to countless people during the appalling Siege of Leningrad. One of those stories that stay with you long after the book is finished. Even more so, if that’s possible, when it’s read with such feeling and expression, Susan Ericksen does a stellar job.

Ms Hannah has a very emotive and flowing style of writing with captivating imagery. The descriptions of the Siege of Leningrad and the life the people had to endure, the brutality, atrocities and inhumanity, is beyond haunting and so distressing. It’s no wonder Anya was broken. Her daughters are damaged in a different way and it’s only through the telling of Anya’s story, as the past and present are woven together, that all three begin to heal and make peace with each other and come to terms with who they are.

Oh my, the ending! Didn’t see that one coming. Have a box (or two!) of tissues at the ready…if you haven’t already.

Buy the book Amazon UK and Amazon US