The Book Whisperers Top Reads of 2016

2016 has been kind of an odd year for me and, I can’t lie, one I’ll be glad to see the back of. But the good news is that it’s over now and onwards and upwards. I’m devouring books again and resurrecting this blog (that has been semi-neglected for too long).

I’ve definitely got my reading mojo back, particularly in the second half of this year, and have read some really amazing books. The ones I have picked as my favourite are for a mixutre of reasons: they were real page-turners, they resonated with me in ways I didn’t expect, they were real comfort reads and just what I needed at the time.

In no particular order, the books I have picked out for my favourite reads of 2016 are:

 

five-riversFive Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

This has to be my wow book of the year. I thought the premise sounded interesting but was totally unprepared for how it would make me feel. I found this book is enchanting, mesmerising and beautiful and was absolutely blown away by it. In fact, I still think about it now. An author that really understands what it is to be human. Highly recommended. Read my full review here.

 

 

book-5Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This was a book club choice that I probably wouldn’t have picked up for myself otherwise (which is exactly what I love about book clubs – they force you out of your comfort zone and introduce you to new authors and genres). Station Eleven is a dystopian novel that is set (for the most part) 20 years after the end of the world as we know it (due to a flu virus that wipes out 98% of the world’s population). What I really loved about this book is the way that it was written without sentimentality, almost matter of fact. I found it really refreshing. The story made me think and ask myself lots of questions about what I would do and I found it really engrossing read.

 

book-9Angela Marsons – all of them!

My new favourite author crush featuring my new favourite Detective crush. Crime fiction is probably my favourite genre and in a sea of crime and psychological thrillers (some of which are fantastic and some of which are mediocre at best), to find a brand new author and fall in love with the entire series is really exciting! I actually read The Lost Girls (book 3) first and promptly went right to be the beginning (Silent Scream) and read all 5 in two weeks. D.I. Kim Stone is a delight to read about (her feistiness and dry wit had me laughing out loud) and in the whole series (currently 5 books , there is not a dud among them). Angela Marsons has been signed up for a total of 16 books in this series and I, for one, cannot wait to read them all. I will be taking part in the Blog Tour for Book 2, Evil Games, in Feb so keep an eye out for that. You can read my review of Blood Lines here and if you haven’t yet discovered this series, what are you waiting for?

 

book-6Our Song by Dani Atkins

I read this book on a 9 day, 120 mile hike on the Cleveland Way in March. I did the walk on my own, just me and a large rucksack, staying in B&B’s and barns overnight and walking all day. When I was feeling battered, broken and weary once arriving at my nightly destination I read Our Song while laid in bed before dropping off into a deep slumber. This was the perfect book for me right then – gentle and heart-warming and just what I needed. I have read several other of Dani Atkin’s books and have loved them all.For a real feel-good, magical read, these books are just the ticket.

 

book-3When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

This was a holiday read for me and a perfect page-turning one. As psychological thrillers go, this is one of my favourites. Five work colleagues, a murder (but you don’t know who or who committed it) and several different view-points that keep you guessing right until the end. And what I love most is that I didn’t guess! It could just be that I have read so many psychological thrillers that I can usually guess the outcome, when I come across one that still catches me out I love it! Clever and gripping.

 

 

book-4Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

A life lived over and over again, but with different outcomes. What a clever plot device. Ursula is born, then she dies, she is born again and dies slightly later, she is born again and so on… Ursula witnesses some of the most important events of the last century, living through (usually, anyway) two world wars, friendships, deaths, and hardship. This book is imaginative, bittersweet, poignant and very ambitious but it works.

 

 

kliing-2The Killing Game by J.S. Carol

What a page-turner. I read this on holiday and couldn’t put it down. A gunman in a Hollywood restaurant that is frequented by the A-List and the rich and famous who are all taken hostage, and who lives and who dies is often a game of chance. Adrenalin-fuelled, twisty-turny and intense. Brilliant.

Read my full review here.

 

 

 

book-8Summer at the Lake by Erica James

I absolutely loved this book. It was everything I needed: friendship, nostalgia, and pure indulgence. Three people are thrown together in a split second and what follows is a tale of new friendships in both Oxford and Lake Como in Italy (which  is a place I have been to and it brought back wonderful memories). Warm, engaging, and like meeting up with old friends every time I picked it up, so much so I didn’t want it to end.

 

 

So there it is – my list of favourite books this year. There are lots more that I thoroughly enjoyed but these get my vote for being in the right place at the right time and wowing me, soothing me and inspiring me.

Have you read any of these books and if so, what did you think? What are your favourite books of 2016?

Finally, wishing you all a wonderful, happy, healthy 2017 filled with books and more books!

 

 

Perfect People by Peter James

In three words:

Creepy, chilling, thought-provoking

 

 

What I thought:

The first thing that attracted me to this book was the cover: It looked eerie and intriguing. Perfect People is a stand-alone thriller which was a perfect place for me to start with Peter James’ books as I have yet to pick up one of the Roy Grace series (more on that later).

According to the blurb, this book has been 10 years in the planning. When the idea first came to James about writing a book about designer babies, it was just that – an idea. Now it is a reality. That makes reading this book all the scarier – we may just be looking at our future.

John and Naomi Klaesson live in California and have lost their 4 year old son to a rare genetic disorder which made them watch him die a slow and horrible death. Still young and desperate for another child, the Klaesson’s opt for paying a huge sum of money to geneticist Dr Leo Dettore who has promised them that he can prevent this child from being born with the same disorder that killed their son. What soon become apparant is that Dr Dettore can also offer them so much more scope in “designing” their next child.

This book poses so many questions and will undoubtedly make you think about what you would do in the same situation. Being faced with the option to make your child more empathetic (but would that make them a playground bully target?) or allow them to survive on only a few hours per night like many CEOs and politicians do (but would that mean that they may have sociopathic tendancies?) what would you decide? These are the dilemas that also face the Klaessons when going through page after page of tick-box options. The Klaessons are normal people, they have normal jobs, they live in a normal house and they only thing they really want is a disease-free child…but does that mean that they can’t be tempted by anything else?

What makes this book so compelling is that it becomes apparant pretty early on that something isn’t quite right. It’s so difficult for me to be say anything more about the plot as it really would spoil it, but what I will say is that with fairly short chapters that have a tendancy to end at a point where you can’t possibly put the book down, then this makes for one migthy page-turner.

Verdict: An amazing thriller. One that will make you question what you would do, one that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and one that has sufficient twists to keep you on your toes and not get too comfortable…

 

As I said earlier, this is the first Peter James book I have read (call myself a crime fiction fan? Pah.) I have been meaning to read one for ages after I saw Peter at the Theakstones Crime Awards in Harrogate in 2010. Despite already haveing a legion of fans, he is also incredibly polite on Twitter and Facebook and really seems to interact with his readers. I am going to make a special effort to read the Inspector Roy Grace series really soon – they have been on my radar for so long and after popping my cherry with Perfect People I have a feeling I am in for a real treat.

 

(Book source: Thank you to Midas for sending me my copy of this book for review).

 

 

The Resurrectionists by Kim Wilkins

In three words:

Spooky, gothic, graveyard

 

What I thought:

I first heard about this book last year when I was doing my Dare You Read It? series over the Halloween period. It was recommended by Helen at She Reads Novels as a spooky / scary book and as I tend to enjoy the a lot of the same books as Helen I decided to hunt down a copy. I managed to find a second hand copy as the book had actually gone out of print, but it is now available on Kindle via Amazon for anyone who wants to give this a read.

This gothic horror starts with Maisie, an Australian musician with a successful career and loving boyfriend, who is disillusioned with life and decides to go to England to see her maternal Grandmother, Sybil, whom she has never met, who lives in a remote cottage in Yorkshire by the coast. Maisie’s mother is dead set against her going and then confesses that her Grandmother actually died 3 months ago which makes Maisie even more determined to go, to find out about where Sybil lived and what she was like.

When she arrives in Solgreve, Yorkshire in the winter, Maisie soon discovers that not only was her Grandmother not at all liked but that, apparently, neither is she. A wall of silence and unfriendlyness greets Maisie in the little village (including a very cold introduction from the village Vicar) so Maisie sets about trying to clear Sybils cottage and discover what she can about her past. The only person that is remotely nice to her is a young man called Sasha (who is part gypsy and used to help Sybil in her garden) whom she meets when he brings Sybils old cat back round.

It’s not long before things begin to go bump in the night in this remote little cottage. Maisie is unnerved by the cat who takes up the same post on top of the washing machine every night to stare out, unblinking into the night, but not so much as when she sees a shadowy figure by the trees at the back of the cottage that is staring straight back at her.

Maisie soon discovers a diary dating back to 1793 that, upon reading it, starts to give her clues to what is going on and what makes the inhabitants of the village of Solgreve behave the way they do.

This book is choc full of chills, thrills and surprises. There was one particular point when Maisie and a friend are alone in the cottage one night when things take a horrifying turn, that literally had me on the edge of my seat. Yes, there were parts of the book where I really had to suspend my disbelief (but then this is horror fiction) but overall it was a great October read and perfect for the RIP challenge.

Verdict: Fans of gothic, horror and suspense are sure to like this book. Don’t expect a literary masterpiece but if it’s thrills and chills you’re after then look no further.

 

I read this book as part of the RIP Challenge

The Retribution by Val McDermid

In three words:

Revenge, murder, pyschopath

 

What I thought:

I first discovered Val McDermid’s Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series about 7 or 8 years ago and I have been a dedicated fan ever since. The Retribution is not only the latest in the series of seven books but it also reintroduces one of the serial killers from a much earlier book The Wire in the Blood – the evil and twisted Jacko Vance. To be honest, I could barely remember a thing about that book so it wouldn’t make any difference to reading this book out of sequence if you haven’t read McDermid’s earlier ones yet.

Jacko Vance is clever – brillianlty clever and charming to boot. He has spent the last 16 year behind bars for the murder of a teenage girl (although he murdered many, many more but the prosecution couldn’t prove it). In The Retribution, Vance escapes from jail (no spoiler – it’s in the blurb) and is hell bent on payback to those who landed him in prison in the first place, including both Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. At the same time, another serial killer is on the lose in Bradfield killing prostitutes and Detective Carol Jordan’s team set out to track him down.

The fact that both these stories are running in tandem with each other means that not enough time was devoted to either. The prostitute killer felt almost like an afterthought and his ultimate capture was bordering on eye-rolling. The sotry of Jacko Vance’s escape and revenge would have been more than enough to keep us on the edge of our seats and, at times, I was. Waiting to see who would feed Carol Jordan’s cat (it will make sense when you have read it, I promise) had my pulse racing overtime and trying to figure out who was next on his hit-list was great stuff. Jacko Vance is such a brilliantly evil character that despite his psychopathic nature, I wanted to spend more and more time in his company in the book; I had to know what he was thinking and planning on doing next and loved seeing how he doesn’t see anything wrong with himself, just everyone else. However – and it’s with a heavy heart that I write this, being such a fan – I felt that this book wasn’t on a par with others in the series. In fact,  Beneeth the Bleeding (two books earlier) was also somewhat lacking and I wonder if Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are finally running out of steam….. or maybe McDermid is?

Despite my overall enjoyment of the book, I was left with a feeling that the ending was rushed and that the prostitute killer had almost been forgotten and that Hill and Jordan were not acting completely in character. As for the end….it felt so implausable that I almost saw the character involved as a charicature of themselves, complete with moustache-twirling “mwahahahahaaa”. The book also ends very abruptly, almost like the end of a chapter than the end of a book and it left me with a feeling of “now what?” rather than satisfaction.

Verdict: A really good read, just not a great one. I felt a little short-changed which is disappointing as I always look forward to the latest book in the series so much. Will I read the next? Absolutely!

 

(Source: I recieved my copy of this book for review from both Little, Brown and also Netgalley – thank you)

 

And the winner is….

Thank you to all who dropped by to wish me a Happy Birthday after my mammoth (and trust me, it felt like it) 40 day challenge. There were days when I wondered why I’d commited myself to posting every day but I got so many lovely comments and someone even said it was like opening a new door on an advent calendar every day which really made me smile 🙂

Anyway, on the final day of my challenege I offered the chance for one person to win their choice of any of the books that I had read and posted about in the previous 40 days (and there were lots to chose from). So, after using random.org I now have a winner….

(drum roll please)

Sabrina

Sabrina blogs at Thinking About Loud and she has chosen Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris. It’s a fantastic book, and I hope you enjoy it Sabrina 🙂

 

Day 39 – A book I expected to hate but loved

Love me, love me not, love me…

When I was younger I read and loved Agatha Christie books but that was probably as near as I got to crime fiction until James Patterson which I used to read in a single sitting on holiday. Then back in about 2004, our chosen book club book was layed out on the table and I remember picking it up tentitively and wrinkling my nose at the title. That book was The Torment of Others by Val McDermid.

I remember being almost so sure that I wouldn’t enjoy it (it sounded gory and hardcore and the cover wasn’t as nice as the new one shown below) that I nearly didn’t even buy it that night. Once home, however, curiosity got the better of me and I ended up flying through the chapters, completely enthralled by the twisted tale before me. It was brilliant!

The Torment of Others wasn’t the first book in McDermid’s Tony Hill & Carol Jordan (it’s the fourth I think) but it didn’t matter. Once I had read that book, I went right back to the beginning and read them all in order, pretty much back to back (just like I did when I discovered Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series). McDermid is one very clever author – I love the twists and turns, not just of the stories themselves but of the killers minds; I loved being alongside Tony Hill as he tries to fathom out their motives and what they’ll do next.

 

  Have you ever expected to dislike a book and had a pleasant surprise?

 

Day 36 – A favourite book recommended by another book blogger

What does “need” have to do with it?…

Where to even begin! Since I began blogging my shelves have more than quadrupled in size, my floorboards are creaking under the weight and my husband nearly has a stroke every time he comes near my office and sees piles of books all over the floor! I keep trying to tell him it’s not my fault – it’s all the other book bloggers who keep reading things that make me need to read them too to which he tried to argue that I don’t “need” them. Oh but I do!!!!!

Anyhoo, after much deliberation I have chosen The Likeness by Tana French which ended up in my top 10 of last year. I saw a review of this book written by Sakura of Chasing Bawa book blog and just knew I would love it and I did. If you haven’t been over to Sakuras blog yet, make sure you do – she has a fantastic blog (one of my favourites). If you haven’t been acquainted with this book yet then take a look at my review here and then buy or borrow it! 🙂

 

  Have you ever been recommended a book by another blogger and loved it?