Top Reads of 2015

A tough choice, I’ve read lots a great books this year and, in no particular order (as they say) here are my top 20 reads. They are all rated either 4.5 or 5 stars. Clicking on the cover links to Amazon UK.

ravenschoiceRaven’s Choice ~ The Replacement Chronicles #1 ~ Prehistoric fiction, based on fact

As Mark finds out, many people including himself, carry Neanderthal genes although he’ll never know for sure the exact circumstances that brought about this occurrence. But it signifies that Early Modern Man didn’t take the place of extinct Neanderthals but rather the races mixed and interbred, which is proved by the presence of Neanderthal DNA in present day man. It’s such an interesting approach to how life might have been all those years ago, and even more so because it’s a very credible scenario. 

A wonderfully researched, dramatic and detailed narrative sets the scene for forthcoming instalments of The Replacement Chronicles, which I look forward to following.

Full review      Amazon US

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00014]The Dead Lands ~ post apocalyptic, sci-fi, horror

This is a very well crafted story with perfect pacing, the drama unfolds with consistency to keep the narrative flowing effortlessly. The characters are well-developed and real, Lane especially, but all the personalities are drawn brilliantly, whether you love or loathe them. I think this story covers every eventuality with action, of which there is plenty, greed, deception, horror and sadness. Balancing out the negatives are loyalty, a touch of romance and truthfulness. And the promise of satisfactory karma for the villain of the piece. It’s graphic, gruesome, gritty….and great! 

Full review    Amazon US

 

inkkerInkker Hauser: Part Two ~ Literastein ~ Dark comedy, fiction

As with Rum Hijack, this is a very out of the ordinary, well written, dark, entertaining and humorous instalment in the tortuous life of our protagonist. I could pull out any number of great quotes, but the one that sticks in my mind is Inkker’s belief that there is a ‘space reserved for me in the car park of the literary kingdom.’

Full review    Amazon US

 

aa a a The House of YorkThe House of York ~ Family Drama, Contemporary Fiction

At its heart, the story is a family drama with all the associated jealousies, marital difficulties and power struggles that can happen when a successful and wealthy company is involved.  There are several details which make this book stand out: the extremely dark aspect, which is written cleverly without unnecessary detail, the terrific ending which I really didn’t see coming and wonderfully complex and distinct characters who are very well drawn and believable. Coupled with an intriguing and ominous storyline, this book is an incredibly good read. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

Full review    Amazon US

 

cowboyAn Englishman’s Guide To The Cowboy ~ Historical Fiction, Romance

I loved this book from the start. It took me back right back to my favourite TV programs and girlish fantasies of ruggedly handsome cowboys. It’s very easy to relate to, and like, Annie. I had quite the opposite feelings towards her aunt and cousin. They ride roughshod over Annie and grind her down, leaving her with very little self-confidence. But for all her vulnerability, she has the strength of character and courage to cope with the extraordinary situation she finds herself in, and enough not to allow the dictates of the day, or her self-obsessed and uncaring relatives, to ruin her life. I think Colt would set my heart a flutter too, intriguing and powerfully attractive with a strong sense of honour… ‘The underdog defending the downtrodden.’

Full review    Amazon US

 

tworiversTwo Rivers ~ The Great Peacemaker #1 ~ Historical Fiction, Native American

I really enjoyed this first of the Peacemaker series, the man who was destined to form the constitution of The Great League of the Iroquois is an intriguing character and I look forward to following his story. The life and distinct culture of the Native American clans is brought to life vividly and realistically by Zoe Saadia, their politics, everyday life and struggles. Along with the dramas, jealousies and rivalries that can escalate into dangerous situations, showcasing others’ loyalty and courage. There’s some great action and a lovely budding romance.

Full review    Amazon US

 

therighteouspathThe Righteous Path ~ Georgie Connolly # ~ Romantic Suspense

I think this story is my favourite of the series so far!  Georgie is still as impulsive and hot-headed as ever and her relationship with James just as volatile. There’s never a dull moment with these protagonists, that’s for sure. It was lovely to be re-acquainted with the great cast of characters from the previous books too. 

This passage taken from E. L. Lindley’s bio on Goodreads says exactly what I most enjoy about her writing ~ ‘Lindley writes in a style which is both light-hearted and fun but with serious undertones, often tackling gritty subjects. In all of her novels, the characters reflect her belief in humanity and the fact that the human spirit will always prevail, regardless of the situation.’

Full review    Amazon US

 

Los Angeles, Urban City at SunsetHollywood Shakedown ~ Dark Humour, Thriller

Mark Barry has a terrific way with words and has created a vivid and compelling narrative. Although initially not a very appealing character Buddy is original and offbeat. I found myself absolutely rooting for him as the story progressed, appreciating his character and how the past shaped him. I loved the help he receives from the figure who has most influenced him, for better or worse, at a particularly opportune moment.  Hollywood Shakedown is an extremely enjoyable, fast paced story with a wonderful cast of characters, from engaging to dark and sinister and with a totally unpredictable and memorable ending.

Full review    Amazon US

 

fallenFallen On Good Times ~ Pilgrim’s Wane #1 ~ Hardboiled Noir, Paranormal

An original and very entertaining book with an unconventional and extremely likeable protagonist. The story is narrated in the first person by Laslo with lots of humorous wisecracks, and mixes the paranormal with mystery and intrigue. All the characters are fleshed out, individual and compelling. Misty Joe, the ghost medium who didn’t realise he was dead, Rita, Kitty and her parents. Even the villains are great characters and they’re all fundamental to the plot. Hardboiled/Noir is a favourite genre of mine and the paranormal aspect of the story adds an interesting and innovative layer. Great pacing, impressive action sequences, especially at the end, and skilfully written, it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. I love it and look forward to the next book.

Full review    Amazon US

 

cunningwomanThe Cunning Woman’s Cup ~ Contemporary, Paranormal

The mystical standing stone circle is a catalyst in the story, events and tragedies over the years playing out from echoes of the distant past. The arrival of Avian Taylor, a psychic and healer who can sometimes hear those echoes, helps where she can and in doing so raises questions of long-held beliefs in some of the residents of Duddo. At the same time Avian opens up new avenues of acceptance. An ancient artifact (the cup of the title) is unearthed by Alice’s gardener, Brian, and brings more characters into play in the form of an archaeological dig. There are several connecting storylines, which could have been overwhelming, but each is built expertly into the narrative creating a multi layered and exceptionally skilful debut novel which flows smoothly and fluently.

Full review   Amazon US

 

anymanjoeAny Man Joe ~ The Retribution Trilogy #2 ~ Thriller, Suspense

It’s very clever of the author to make the line between perpetrator and victim become less clear. It seems to me that Joe is both. Robert Leigh draws attention to the shocking depth of corruption and manipulation in the police force and, slightly less so, the medical profession. Carol Huxley is an unappealing character who is using Joe to further her own ends. The descriptions and characterisations are very realistic and the narrative creates vivid imagery.

Although I haven’t yet read the first of the trilogy, the books seem to be stand alone reads. I will definitely be reading the others.

Full review    Amazon US

 

thickerthanwaterThicker Than Water ~ The Grayson trilogy #3 ~ Romantic Suspense

There’s a slightly different tone to this book compared to the last. Much less action, but that’s in no way detrimental to the story as there’s lots of heart stopping drama. Thicker Than Water is very character driven, emotional and reflective, about relationships and how far people will go for those they love. It’s extremely well written and crafted, with surprises and suspense, and completely held my attention from the beginning. Emma and Trent have grown and developed into wonderful characters, along with the other inhabitants of the Manor. This is a series I will want to read again. There’s a wonderful added extra at the end of the book, don’t be tempted to sneak a peek though. It’s a great note to finish on.

Full review    Amazon US

 

theamericanpoliceman1The American Policeman ~ Post Apocalyptic

Con is a compelling character, calm, contained and with a lack of the normal human emotions we all experience. ‘She looked into the utter blankness of his face and her eyes went wide’. He’s an enigma, totally focused and dedicated to his job. His back story, and that of other relevant characters, what they were and did before the pandemic, is introduced cleverly and seamlessly throughout the narrative. The dialogue is used to great effect within the structure of the story, too, which I like a lot. Learning how people coped during the Breakdown is a good inclusion and does its bit in bringing the story together, along with the large cast of characters who all add to the plot and storyline.

Full review    Amazon US

 

Layout 1Living in the Shadows ~ Historical Fiction

Told in short chapters, each focussing on an individual character, with an interlinking number of storylines merging into a suspenseful, sometimes quite sinister, narrative. Strong, realistic and mostly likeable characters, with one or two noticeable exceptions, all drive the story forward.  Issues that were totally frowned upon during 1960s are dealt with, including same-sex relationships and domestic violence. Cults and commune living, the effect they had on the members and their families, are also explored. The coincidences that bring the threads together are worked into the story extremely well, culminating in the final dramatic and moving scenes.

Full review    Amazon US

 

elvisElvis Has Not Left The Building ~ Mystery

I just love the concept of this book. What if…. Elvis is alive and working as a PI in Los Angeles. And whether you’re a (huge) Elvis fan like me or not, it’s a story that can be appreciated for what it is – a quirky and light-hearted tale that I don’t suppose would actually be beyond the realm of possibility if someone wanted it enough. 

JR Rain has made this story work with a sympathetic portrayal of an ageing man who can’t completely distance himself from his previous life, especially when the Elvis legend is still very much alive and Aaron can hear his own songs played at any given moment and see people impersonating him almost anywhere. A fun and cleverly written story with great dialogue. I think this is one for the read again pile.

Full review    Amazon US

 

snowchildThe Snow Child ~ Historical Fiction

The sense of place is captured wonderfully, Alaska is a place I’m drawn to for some reason, although I have never been. The characters are portrayed so well I could picture them immediately and the developing relationship between the two families, the moral and practical support given and accepted, is touching.

I really had no idea what to expect from this book, it was the cover that caught my eye initially, but I’m very glad I bought it. The narrative pulled me in and along effortlessly. It’s character driven, no fast paced action, just a beautifully written and enchanting story with the atmosphere of a fairy tale running through. Quite haunting and poignant. I was never quite sure initially if Faina was a real child, a magical being or a figment of Jack and Mabel’s imagination. They wanted desperately to believe and the enigma which surrounds Faina is fundamental to the story.

Full review    Amazon US

Maelstrom ~ Suspense

Maelstrom‘A shot is fired into the still night air and a young woman dies on Suicide Ridge. A dangerous game has begun. Over the course of one blistering, hot week, winds of change sweep through an isolated valley in small town America. 

In a clash of powerful men, with fathers pitted against sons, no one will be left unscathed. Maelstrom is a page turner that speeds along like a runaway train.’

The title is perfect and fits the story…’a situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil’  Two vortexes swirling on a collision course, with Sheriff Calder at the centre of one and Myhetta at the heart of the other. The touch of supernatural with Casey is portrayed brilliantly and the relationship which develops between him and Myhetta is wonderful. Impressive writing and a powerful, captivating narrative, I loved it.

The story of how Francis Guenette came to write this book from her mother’s original, unpublished manuscript and notes is extraordinary. The whole process is explained at the end of the book and is a wonderful account which spans decades.

Full Review Amazon US

Death & Dominion ~ A Victorian Sensation Novel

Death&DominionAs with the first two books in the series, Carol Hedges with a great eye for detail, paints a vivid and atmospheric picture of Victorian London, with the sights and smells, and its very different inhabitants, hardship and poverty for some, privilege and wealth for others. The squalid, filthy streets and alleyways compared to the much more high-class areas. Full of keenly researched period detail and the character descriptions give an immediate visual image. Josiah Bulstrode is ‘a well built man in his late thirties, with a high complexion and Macassar-oiled hair and moustaches.’ Mark Hawksley has ‘dark brown eyes, straight brows and chiselled saturnine features. He has black hair with just a tiny touch of grey at the temple. He sports side-whiskers, but his chin and upper lip are clean shaven.’  

Full review Amazon US

The Calling of the Raven ~ Historical

22401396The narrative comes alive with Jenny Lloyd’s wonderful way with words and the total sense of place and time is evident throughout the book. Beautiful and descriptive passages of the Welsh countryside. The story unfolds from the perspective of Megan and the other main protagonists, all in the first person, and each with a distinct voice. In this way the feelings, fears and hopes are laid bare. Morgan, wanting to do what’s right but always seeming to get it wrong. Beulah, waiting for Morgan to see her as more than the housekeeper. Myfanwy, who was Megan’s friend but can Megan rely on her in desperate times. And Dafydd, caring, watchful and sympathetic to Megan. All wonderful characters with their own troubles and worries.

Full review Tuesday 22nd December Amazon US

Holy Island ~ Mystery/Suspense

holyislandThis is a debut novel, I knew that already and was very pleased to find such a well written, descriptive and atmospheric narrative. I loved the imagery of Holy Island, enjoyed the realistic, complex main characters and the banter between Ryan and his team. Good pacing and the tension is kept up throughout. The plot is intricate, island life and action blending together, and the ending! Totally unexpected and quite shocking. 

Thankfully the romance aspect didn’t overtake the main story but the phrasing in those scenes is sometimes a little exaggerated. The cast of characters is large and was confusing at first, until I got everyone straight in my mind. But, having said that, the plot is very interesting and well done, the characters engaging. I enjoyed the book very much, certainly enough to buy the second one.

Full review Amazon US

Quite a lot of these books have been found through being a member of Rosie Amber’s book review team or have lead on from there. I hope you find something of interest on the list or, if not, a title leads you to something else. Happy reading!