My 10 Best books of 2015

 

After a year of reading some wonderful books it has been an extremely difficult choice to choose just 10 as my best books of the year. But after thinking long and hard I have made the choices.

These 10 books are the ones that have stayed with me long after the final page has been turned and just writing them down here again makes me want to re-read them. I have reviewed all of them and put links to the reviews below the photos.The first 3 are my top 3, the rest are in no particular order.

 

the mistake i made

  1. Top of the pile for me, an absolutely cracking read that has absolutely everything you could want in a book.

To read my review click here

 

untouchable things

2. This book is an extraordinary achievement. A wonderful debut novel. My advice: just read it.

To read my review click here

little black lies

3. My favourite author. You cannot go wrong with any of her books and this is no exception.

To read my review click here

Snowblind

A brilliant atmospheric debut novel, set in Iceland with great characters.

To read my review click here

last days of disco

Set in the 80s in South-West Scotland. This book has a real authenticity about it, with brilliant characters that you won’t forget.

To read my review click here

 

BiLLY_DEVIL_FNL-181x285

The most beautiful writing in a horror-filled story.

To read my review click here

JO NESBO POLICE

Simply the best Nesbo book written.

To read my review click here

you, me & other people

What a brilliant book, you would never guess this was a debut novel. I cannot wait for Fionnuala Kearney’s next book.

To read my review click here

season of the witch

Intelligent writing, brilliant storyline, beautiful prose: what more could you ask for?

To read my review click here

The gap of Time

An absolutely brilliant take on Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale.

To read my review click here

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Shtum

shtum

 

 

Shtum

by Jem Lester

 

 

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son, Jonah, has never spoken. So when Ben and Jonah are forced to move in with Ben’s elderly father, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

As Ben battles single fatherhood, a string of well-meaning social workers and his own demons, he learns some difficult home truths. Jonah, blissful in his innocence, becomes the prism through which all the complicated strands of personal identity, family history and misunderstanding are finally untangled.

 

Ben and Emma are struggling to bring up their severely autistic son, Jonah. At 11 years old, he can’t talk, he can be aggressive, he is doubly incontinent and needs 24 hour care.

The couple are pitted against the local council in trying to secure a place at a special school that Jonah really needs but the council don’t want to pay for. When Emma suggests faking a separation to assist Jonah’s tribunal, Ben has to move back in with his father, Georg, and here is where the story really takes place; the relationship between the three male members of the Jewell family.

This is not a sentimental story of having a child with aspergers. This is an honest, unflinching account that lands you smack bang in the middle of the horrendous difficulties of caring for a severely autistic child and the repercussions on the adults and their own relationships. But it is a moving story told with great love and humour.

I really liked Ben despite his flaws, which are plenty, his love for his son comes shining through and his fight for him, despite his life collapsing around him, will have you in tears.

Emma’s character is seriously distorted by being seen purely through Ben’s eyes and you must make up your own mind as to whether everything is too much for her or she is more than a little selfish.

Ben’s father Georg is a wonderful character, a Hungarian born Jew with a backstory of escaping the Nazis that he shares with his grandson, Jonah, but not with his son; leaving father and son poles apart and unable or unwilling to bridge the gap.

I really enjoyed this book. It is highly emotional having you laughing out loud one minute and crying the next. The author does a brilliant job of exposing the hellish route that ordinary people have to travel to get any sort of statement for their autistic children from an indifferent bureaucratic machine.

Highly recommended.

****1/2

Shtum is published on 7th April 2016. To pre-order click here

Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy.

 

 

 

Untouchable Things

untouchable things

 

 

Untouchable Things

by Tara Guha

 

For the third time this week he is watching her scream.

Watching, not listening. 

Rebecca Laurence is centre stage and shining in her role as Ophelia. She pivots, rotating like a ballerina impaled in a musical box, red hair cascading down her back.
Amidst the thundering applause, one man is watching. Rebecca meets the charismatic Seth Gardner, and as attraction grows between them, he invites her to join his Friday Folly, a group of artistic friends. But as Rebecca is drawn into the web of tangled relationships all is not as it appears. The scene is set for the night that will rip the group apart.
Consumed by loss and surrounded by secrets, Rebecca must escape the grip of the Folly to have any chance of saving herself. Meanwhile, one man continues to watch.

 

Seth Gardner, charismatic, rich and beguiling, holds sway over a group of hand-chosen friends. Hand-chosen for their susceptibilities, their weak-spots and their desires, that ultimately hand him control of their lives. But Seth is not some one-dimensional control freak; far from it. He is a deeply complex character who is caring and generous to his friends, often saving them from themselves. But he has a background that leaves him as vulnerable and unstable as a lost child. All of this means that you can see why they fall over themselves to be the most important person in his life.

The book opens with Seth becoming entranced by Rebecca, an actress playing the role of Ophelia in Hamlet. He persuades her to join his Friday Folly group, where arts and literature are given free rein, along with copious amounts of alcohol.

The other members of the group are;                                                       Catherine, a shy pianist with no confidence who prefers to be regarded as the hired help than be thrust into the limelight. Michael; principled school teacher from the North, uncomfortable with the opulence of Seth’s lifestyle and decadence. Jose; a rent boy with a dream.  Anna; likes dressing up and drinking. Charles; a friend of Seth’s from Cambridge. Jake; cockney wide-boy who can cook. All very different people, but all hold pivotal roles in the story.

The structure of the book is highly original, instead of chapters we have acts and scenes. Some parts of the book are set out as dialogue in a play with the characters even addressing the audience. Given the references to Hamlet and Oedipus it is very apt.

From the start we are aware that something awful has happened because the scenes are interspersed by police interviews with members of the group. These scenes give us the background to the characters and brilliant insights into their rivalries.

As the book unfolds, and a night of shocking revelation, the dynamics of the group crack and split, leaving all the characters reeling in one way or another.

This is a brilliant portrayal of friendships; the glue that holds them and the secrets that rip them apart. The characters are completely believable and fascinating. The author does brilliantly well to create, and hold, the air of tension and brooding foreboding throughout the book.

The writing in the book is astonishing;  prose that has you melting as you read. I was spellbound from the first page and as the pages left got fewer and fewer my reading got slower as I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters or the sumptuous prose.

This is one fantastic debut novel. An intelligent, gripping, thought-provoking psychological thriller that deserves to be a major success. I cannot  recommend it highly enough.

*****

Many thanks to Legend Press for sending me a copy.

Copies of Untouchable Things can be purchased via the link here

 

                                     

 

 

 

The Theseus Paradox

paradox

 

 

The Theseus Paradox

by David Videcette

 

 

What if everything you thought you knew about London’s 7/7 bombings was a lie?

July 2005: In the midst of Operation Theseus, the largest terrorist investigation that the UK has ever known, Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan begins to ask difficult questions that lead to the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend and his sudden suspension from the Metropolitan Police.

Who masterminded London’s summer of terror? Why can’t Flannagan make headway in the sprawling investigation? Are the bombers the perfect pretext to mask a different plot entirely? Is Jake’s absent Security Service girlfriend really who she claims to be?

While hunting for the answers to the most complex terrorist case in British history, one man will uncover the greatest criminal deception of our time.

Terror, extremism and fear of the unknown,
Sometimes the answer is much closer to home.

 

 

The book starts out with D.I. Jake Flanagan out on a limb trying to foil what he correctly believes to be terrorists plotting an atrocity. He wakes up in hospital to the news that bombers have exploded bombs on the London Underground and a bus.

Jake works for the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch and is sent up to West Yorkshire as part of Operation Theseus to find out who was behind the bombings. He becomes frustrated as the investigation moves on at a snail’s pace.  When his girlfriend, Claire, who works for the security service, comes up to Leeds with some secret intelligence for him about the bombings, Jake’s maverick side takes over and, without authorisation he goes about pursuing these leads. He ends up in dangerous territory, suspended from his job and losing most everything. Still he carries on, craving knowledge of what happened and justice.

This book at times feels so real. David Videcette, using his background of twenty years’ policing experience including counter-terror operations (he worked on the 7/7 bombings in London), brings this story to life so effectively and it’s up to you to decide what’s fact and what’s fiction.  Insights into some police procedures and tricks of the trade like “never seat a prisoner behind the driver in a car” are obviously real and help to lull you into the sense that everything so easily could be.

Jake’s frustrations with the lack of communication between the security service and the police also rings true: I don’t get how you can have all that intelligence and not see the wood for the trees. It was obvious.” A statement the general public often find themselves asking about the security services. How is it after every atrocity you know exactly where to go, but you don’t go beforehand?

Jake is a very engaging character despite not giving too much of himself away. We know he walked away from his wife and two daughters after the death of his mother and he now has his sometime girlfriend Claire; but he has no real connection to anybody. He drinks too much,tries drugs and has sex with pretty much any woman that catches his eye. All meaningless; all guilt trips. Yet his heart comes through; he cares deeply for the job that he does, to the detriment of everything else. I really hope that Jake will be back as I really want to know him better.

The author has created a fabulous book with an extremely plausible storyline. The short chapters keep the pages turning and the plotline never lets up. The denouement is more than believable and if you do or don’t is entirely up to you. What I would say is don’t miss it. One of the best thrillers this year.

*****

If you would like to  purchase a copy you can do so by clicking the link  here