Top Reads of 2016

It’s that time again! This year has gone so quickly and it’s been filled with really great reads. Narrowing down favourites is a difficult task but here they are. As always, they’ll be either 4.5* or 5* and clicking on the cover will take you to Amazon UK. 

28111823Dead Is Dead ~ Thriller

Private investigator Jack Bertolino, previously an inspector with the NYPD, is employed as technical advisor, consulting on a movie being made of his last case. His job includes protection for the female star, who is being targeted by a disturbed, out of control stalker. Susan Blake is beautiful, haunted by a past that she can’t lay to rest.

During filming there’s an actual shooting several blocks away, which results in the accidental and tragic death of little Maria Sanchez and also that of known drug dealer, Tomas Vegas. Cruz Feinberg, the technical wizard in Jack’s company, knows the Sanchez family and asks Jack to make some enquiries. As Jack’s investigation progresses the Dirk brothers’ names pop up too often for Jack’s liking and his ingrained cop’s instinct is on high alert. 

Full Review / Amazon US

22966458Thin Air ~ Murder/Mystery

As Caroline and Lowrie’s hamefarin’, the Shetland leg of their wedding celebrations, winds down, Caroline’s friends, Polly and Eleanor with their respective partners, return to their rented cottage. It’s midsummer, a time of prolonged dusk, known as the simmer dim. In the strange light earlier in the evening, Polly saw a young girl dressed in white on the shoreline. Eleanor works in television and is taking this opportunity to investigate the local legend of Peerie Lizzie, a child who drowned in 1930 and was said to haunt the area around Meoness. Recovering from a recent miscarriage, Eleanor has been treated for depression, but tries to convince the others of the legend’s validity when she sights the ghost. She doesn’t have to convince Polly after what she saw on the beach.

Full Review / Amazon US

BeltaneBeltane ~ Urban Fantasy/Romance

Opening with a terrific prologue which grabbed my interest immediately, Beltane has a lot of factors I love in a book – including a handsome druid, magic and Glastonbury, a place I know well and enjoy visiting, so being able to clearly picture the setting was a bonus. The story is set almost entirely in Glastonbury, encompassing the Abbey ruins, beautiful Chalice Well Gardens and the Tor, all atmospheric and mystical places. The flavour of the area is evident throughout and it’s obvious Alys West knows the locale extremely well.

Full Review / Amazon US

Blackwater ~ Historical Fiction

BlackwaterBlackwater is the prequel to The Black Hours, in which Alice Pendle and her grandmother, Maggie, fall foul of the self-styled Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. Blackwater chronicles events leading up to Alice’s birth.

Lizzie and her mother, Maggie are living quietly in a little cottage in Eversley after years of moving around, trying to avoid the suspicion which all too often falls on healers like themselves. Helping people reaps no rewards if something untoward happens in the village. Gratitude is forgotten when the finger of accusation points their way – the world around them is full of narrow-minded discrimination. Hangings are a regular occurrence.

Full Review | Amazon US

palomino-sky-cover-large-ebookPalomino Sky ~ Contemporary Fiction/Drama

Palomino Sky is the sequel to the wonderful Midnight Sky, where we first meet Laura and James and their siblings, and are drawn into their complicated family lives. James and Laura, both recovering from momentous and traumatic life events, are finding solace in each other, although they are not helped by Laura’s wilful and temperamental teenage niece causing no end of trouble. 

Full Review Amazon US

28010021The Bad Girl ~ 1970s Fiction

Although this is a novella it packs a huge emotional punch. It’s a dark look at one very damaged girl’s fight to survive in 1970s New York. Riley Madison works in The Deuce, an area of Manhattan well known to the police and those who liked to indulge their individual pleasures. At just twenty-two, Riley does what she has to in order to survive. Her life has been a series of horrendous situations and, emotionally scarred, she can’t envisage herself ever having a better life. Despite it all, she endures.

Full Review / Amazon US

OctoberRainOctober Rain ~ Dystopian

October Rain is the story of Steele. He is an exterminator, a bounty hunter eliminating undesirables, employed by the Martian Interstellar Correction Agency of Olympia, capital city of Mars. After five years on a slowly dying planet Steele is more than ready to leave and start a new life with his family. He has one last job to complete, in a specified time frame, before he can even hope to give his wife and daughter a better future. But Steele has no inkling of what was to come.

Full Review / Amazon US

25614810The Vatican Princess ~ Historical Fiction

Told from Lucrezia’s perspective, which works very well enabling her to reveal thoughts and feelings, so she is seen as person in her own right, and the reader/listener is drawn right into the heart of the Borgia family. The story covers her early years, from 1492 – 1501, and explores late 15th/early 16th century Renaissance Italy, a country divided into city states, each with their own rulers. An extremely dangerous world of villainy, intrigue, murder, lies and treachery, brought vividly to life in this skilfully crafted and beautifully written book.

Full Review / Amazon US

25849896Scotch on the Rocks ~ Contemporary/Romance

Ishabel (Issy) Stuart is introduced in dramatic style with a race along the causeway to Eilean na Sgairbh, against the incoming tide and an impending thunderstorm. She’s on her way home to her aunt Esme and the house she grew up in, now a B&B, along with a wounded heart and her father’s ashes. She needs the serenity of Cormorant Island, her aunt and a heart to heart chat. But Esme has guests, a motley crew of elderly activists, and was due to leave with them the following day, on a campaign against fracking. One guest, however, plans on staying, which does nothing for Issy’s erstwhile plans for peace and quiet and a shoulder to cry on. Gorgeous, sexy and American, Brodie unsettles Issy, not least of all because she suspects there’s more to his visit than Brodie’s letting on. 

Full Review / Amazon US

24749583A Boy Named Rabbit ~ Contemporary/Supernatural

This is such a captivating tale and Rabbit stole my heart. It follows Rabbit’s journey and ensuing development after his isolated childhood, while picking up the story of Sarah and Mac from the first book – Wake Robin Ridge (my review can be found here.) They are expecting their first child when Rabbit arrives on the ridge and their lives are about to change, in ways they never could have imagined, from the moment they all meet. Rabbit is a remarkable little boy, bright and loving, with exceptional gifts. Sarah meets Rabbit as he camps in nearby woods, and tries to win his trust before she tells Mac, not sure how he will react after the loss that still haunts him, and hurts so much.

Full Review / Amazon US

29984572Dead Man’s Blues ~ Historical Fiction

Following of from The Axeman’s Jazz, Dead Man’s Blues opens in 1922 with Louis Armstrong moving to Chicago to join Joe ‘King’ Oliver’s band as the new cornet player. Although I wasn’t sure about Louis Armstrong in the first book, he and his music fit into the background of this story perfectly. And there are lots more cameo appearances adding authenticity to the story. The timeline of one or two events are altered to fit, without taking anything away from the narrative. Fast forward to 1928 and Dante Sanfelippo arrives in his hometown of Chicago from New York. He’s a fixer, a gentleman bootlegger and rum-runner among other things and he’s in Chicago because his presence was requested by his old friend, Al Capone. 

Full Review / Amazon US

rack-ruin-front-coverRack & Ruin ~ Victorian Murder/Mystery

It’s the spring of 1863 in the city of London, and as Hind Street is being demolished to make way for the railway, something horrifying is uncovered by the construction workers. Inspector Lachlan Greig of the Metropolitan Police, based in Bow Street, is called to the scene, where the bodies of eleven dead babies have been discovered. 

When the wonderfully named Edwin Persiflage and Danton Waxwing, who lodge in Hind Street, decide they have a grievance against the rich and privileged and declare themselves anarchists, they pose a threat to the public resulting in yet another problem for Inspector Greig. 

Full Review / Amazon US

61u3megpz6lThe Devil You Know ~ Psychological Drama

Dora had been promised a job in England but her brother knew better. He pleaded with Dora not to trust the man who made the promises but she laughed off his concerns, believing she was in control of the situation and not in any danger. Dora found out to her cost her brother had been right. She paid the ultimate price for her naiveté.

Twelve months earlier and a third body has been discovered in Lyndford raising the possibility of a serial killer at large. The story is driven by the characters, told from several perspectives and very cleverly woven together. 

Full Review / Amazon US

31305130Anywhere The Wind Blows ~ Historical Fiction

The final part of the trilogy begins with Branwen’s point of view. Branwen believes Megan has forgiven her for the part she played in her, Megan’s, short and traumatic marriage to Eli and desperately wants to be her friend. Megan can scarcely forget the humiliation and harm she suffered at their hands. Branwen is lazy, slovenly about the house and dairy, and Megan is losing patience with her neediness and petulance, unaware of the lengths Branwen has gone to for her sake. Megan’s troubles are not yet over, however, and when Eli is found dead the finger of suspicion points to Morgan.

Full Review / Amazon US

PlatesDo Not Wash Hands in Plates ~ Travel Memoir

Barb, Janine and Jaya decided to arrange another get together and chose to meet in India. Barb was travelling from Scotland, Janine from Washington DC and Jaya, who lives in India, would meet them at the airport. A recipe for disaster? But no, they hooked up without too many problems. There follows a hilarious account of an Indian trip of a lifetime, which includes delicious food, wonderful attractions, food, temples, more food, Dehli belly, Indian medicines, lots of food and death-defying driving, to spotlight just a few features. You’ll notice food is the most predominant. As Barb explains ‘I was in India, and it could only mean one thing. Soon it would be time to eat again.’

Full Review / Amazon US

30281100Bitter Moon ~ The Huntress/FBI Thrillers #4

This is one of my all time favourite series. Totally compelling. Initially, it was Roarke, his reaction to Cara’s terrible story when he was just a boy himself, and the impact it had on his life that intrigued me. And Cara, a protagonist with such a tragic young life, turned vigilante. As the story and the series progressed the characters developed and became ever more complex, so it was impossible not to become involved and care about them. After Cara’s capture and subsequent escape after somehow making bail, Roarke takes a voluntary leave of absence from his job with the San Francisco FBI, to try and clear his mind, find peace and get his life back on track. 

Full Review | Amazon US

6049585Abandon ~ Thriller/Dual Storyline

The story begins in 1893 with a mule skinner arriving in Abandon to find a ghost town. He’d been there only two weeks ago delivering supplies and the town was thriving and full of activity. Now the streets were deserted with the snow laying in drifts. Then he sees a young girl with a revolver, and it’s the last thing he ever sees.

The chapters alternate seamlessly between 1893 and 2009, with no doubt about which year it is, while filling in the events that lead up to the mysterious and total desertion of Abandon.  The narrative is atmospheric and vividly descriptive, both time frames coming alive and with increasing tension and suspense. I found the plot really compelling. 

Full Review | Amazon US

31131524Angel (DCI Ryan #4) ~ Crime/Thriller

A prologue set in 1990 opens the story. A girl is making a bid for freedom and a better future, through a bathroom window sealed with paint which she had been working to loosen for weeks. She needed to cross the roof to the guttering and climb down a drain pipe, but falls to her death before she can reach the ground. Who is she and what connection could she have with events so many years later?

I love the atmospheric writing style, the area, the realistic characters, their interactions and camaraderie, and the way their personal lives are interwoven into the narrative. The storylines are well structured, cases and events that occurred previously are touched on, giving the books a great sense of continuity, as does the character development and insight.

Full Review | Amazon US

41zcx0j0zrl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Closure ~ Supernatural/Thriller

Two seemingly unconnected and totally different storylines play out, one involving Helen West and her son, Jake, a young boy who has distressing night terrors. Helen’s GP is convinced Jake’s nightmares relate to the loss of his father but Helen is equally as sure they have nothing to do with her husband’s death. Her doctor sends her to a leading child psychiatrist whose pompous attitude and treatment of Jake she disliked intensely.

The second story thread involves an investigation by DS Gareth Parry and DS Chris Coleman, from Bangor CID, into the abductions and murders of university students by a serial killer. The police are unable to find any solid leads or connections in the victims’ backgrounds. The story opens from the chilling prospective of the killer, a terrifying and shocking attack on a young woman and a glimpse into the mind of a sociopath.

Full Review | Amazon US

The Emperor’s Second Wife (Rise of the Aztecs) ~ Historical Fiction

16108738As always, Zoe Saadia presents a wonderfully imaginative and fascinating re-creation of the pre-Columbian Americas, packed with fully developed, matured and believable characters. It’s very well researched and imbued with history, customs and social behaviour. Peopled with protagonists who this author always makes easy to like and get invested in. I love that the bond of friendship between Kuini and Coyotl has survived and deepened. 

The story comes alive with suspense, intrigue and vividly descriptive writing. As the absorbing plot evolves with so much going on, I didn’t want to stop reading. I’m loving this series and can’t wait to follow on with Currents of War.

Full Review | Amazon US