We’ve all relied on distractions this year. I know I have. Books have been a lifeline and have taken us to other places, far away from the world we’ve had to live in.
I have read so many wonderful books over the past twelve months, so choosing a Top Ten has been extremely difficult. Only three have been pure romance and each of the three were exceptional. Two were mystery and crime stories and among the best I’ve ever read in that genre. The remaining books on my list veered into other genres – science fiction, fantasy and the supernatural. I needed some escapism it seems.
I recommend each and every one and hope that you will have a look at my reviews and maybe try them for yourselves. Here are my Top Ten, in alphabetical order
Finding Jessica Lambert by Clare Ashton
The Lost Templeof Psiere by K Aten
The Thing About Tilly by G Benson
Never Too Late for Heroes by A.L. Brooks
Spirited by Julie Cohen
Alsea Rising: The Seventh Star by Fletcher Delancey
‘Courier’s Run’ by Ennis Rook Bashe is set in a dystopian Scotland. Courier is one of many sisters engineered to thrive and survive in a post-apocalyptic world. She’s supposed to follow orders and work against the remaining humans, but this clone has a mind of her own. When she gets to meet real people, and one especially, she has to decide where her priorities lie.
This novella certainly grabbed my interest.The world-building was well done, and I wanted to know more about this particular version of Scotland. The premise was a mixture of dystopian, sci-fi, paranormal and romance. And I liked how the elements came together. Seeing the world and the people through Courier’s eyes made me realise that I’d like to find out more about how it all came to be – and what happens next to Courier and Sear. A good story with hints of more to come.
“Learning to Swim” by KJ is the story of three friends, Lauren, a vet, Andrea, an accountant and Hanna, a teacher. After years together Andrea still hasn’t cottoned on to the fact that Lauren is madly in love with her. She’s pretty clueless about balancing her life altogether. With a religious nutter for a sister and a highly driven mother, she has issues that need addressing. And until she does she can never really be happy. Her journey was fascinating and I really enjoyed this book. I liked how Andrea developed as a character. The setting was very interesting and it was good to see the Australian sense of humour in full flow. The story was serious at times and light-hearted and funny too. It was also very hot. I liked the style and pace of the writing and I’ll be looking out for more by this writer in the future.
‘A Lesson in Love’ by Harper Bliss is the third book in the Village Romance Series. And it’s excellent. The story is told in first person, alternating between Oxford Literature Professor, Helen and DPhil Student, Rory – who also happens to be part of the aristocratic Carlisle family of Upper Chewford. This is an age-gap romance – one of my favourite tropes, and one that Harper Bliss does so well. When Helen agrees to be Rory’s academic supervisor for her Doctorate, she cannot imagine the effect that one decision will have on her life. She has been living a secret double life writing cozy mysteries set in Chewford and the stress of keeping that from friends and colleagues is eating her up. She knows she needs to make changes in her life, but becoming involved with a student over twenty years younger seems too big a step to take. Rory finds herself drawn to the professor and can’t seem to keep away.
The dynamic between the pair is entrancing. I always wondered about Helen, as small teasers appeared in the previous two books in the series. I wanted to know who this woman was. And I was not surprised that Rory found her irresistible too. The intense emotional connection was evident from the start. Rory just had to make Helen see that. I could understand Helen being torn. She was older, in a position of responsibility and she’d been hurt in relationships before. But there was no denying her feelings for Rory. The love scenes were utterly exquisite. Poetic infact. But if you’ve read a Harper Bliss book before you’ll know she is the master in this area. I enjoyed being back in the village again and being back with characters I’ve grown to love. The whole series is wonderfully done. I can see me going back and reading all three one after the other, now that I know them all so well. This story was about realising that sometimes we are ready for a change – and it can be the best decision we’ve ever made. I adored it.
‘A Taste of Love’ by Clare Lydon is a sweet, heartwarming story set in a picture-perfect Cotswold village. It is the second in a series written by Ms Lydon, T.B. Markinson and Harper Bliss. Once you have visited this particular village, you’ll never want to leave.
Natalie Hill works for the family gin business and has been spectacularly unlucky in love thus far. When a gorgeous Londoner opens an ice cream shop across the street, she can’t help but be affected. Can she ever forget her past failures though? Can she trust an in-comer who might leaves as quickly as she arrived?
Ellie Knap has had enough of the rat-race. A bad relationship has made her realise she has to get out and start anew somewhere else. Will Upper Chewford be a place to call home? Will her beautiful neighbour become more than a friend?
The story is romantic, sexy and of course very funny. It wouldn’t be a Clare Lydon without embarrassing situations and laugh out loud moments. The characters are relatable and feel like family and old friends by the end of the book. And, as with every novel I’ve ever read by Ms Lydon, I was left with a smile on my face. It was a delight.
Aspen Wolfe lives in a world very like our own, but with shapeshifters in it. She has no idea she is one of them, a Shroud, and a very special one at that. When the government orders the extermination of the shroud population, Aspen finds herself on the run and discovers a community that needs her as much as she needs them. Dr Tora Madigan runs a sanctuary for shrouds in hiding and her operation is forced into top gear as her people face annihilation. There is a spark between them, but they need to concentrate on saving their people first.
This was a very impressive novel. It was a skilfully crafted story and one does not have to look too far to see parallels in today’s America. The shroud characters were believable and well thought out. We find out about them as Aspen does. We see that they are just like everyone else and deserve the same rights and respect. Their fight for survival was thrilling. I loved it. I can certainly see room for more of this particular story if Ms Larkin would be so kind as to make it into a series. Highly recommended.
I have just returned home after a wonderful two-week holiday in Ireland. I took full advantage of the quiet countryside to catch up on some reading. In this photo I was engrossed in ‘Steel City Confidential’ , a new thriller by Anne Hagan. The Carlingford Mountains are behind me and The Irish Sea in front. I could have heard a pin drop in the garden of the cottage, so it was the ideal location to read.
Whilst there I also read ‘A Shot at Love’ by T.B. Markinson and ‘After Mrs Hamilton’ by Clare Ashton. I can certainly recommend a trip to the emerald isle for those seeking a space to relax. I was also able to get some writing done and squirrel away some ideas for future stories. Of course there are plenty of things to do for those days when you want to get out and about. I visited The Giant’s Causeway, Portrush, Dublin, Dundalk and had many lovely meals out at some truly fantastic restaurants. All in all a truly memorable trip.
‘A Shot at Love’ is what happens when an American political speech-writer finds herself unceremoniously dumped from her high-stress, high-stakes job and realises her life needs to change. Josie Adams has had it with the backstabbing and slimy world of politics. And Upper Chewford is a million miles away from that. Spotting a beautiful woman in the quaint Cotswolds village takes her breath away – but is she ready to change everything for love? Harry runs the local newspaper, after escaping the rat-race in London. She’s been unlucky in love and can’t believe someone as gorgeous and accomplished as Josie would ever love her. Seeing how they navigated through their insecurities kept me reading, desperate to know how it would all pan out. The other characters around them made it a well-rounded story. I found Josie’s mum, Eugenie infuriating at times – but her uncle, Clive, was endearing and really rather sweet. The book is romantic, sexy and funny. It is the perfect first book in the series, which will soon be followed by stories by Clare Lydon and Harper Bliss. It is such a feel-good story. It made me happy and I love T.B. Markinson for taking me to such a wonderful place and letting me be a part of it.
‘Steel City Confidential’ by Anne Hagan is a triumph. It’s a fascinating story, well-told and with characters readers will warm to immediately. Ro Rabinowitz, a Pittsburgh lawyer takes on the case of Pamela Wilson, a woman in her sixties charged with the murder of a college professor who got her daughter pregnant. She’s confident that the case can be won, but there are complications – and a story from the past that Pam’s not telling. It’s not going to be that simple. I was drawn in from the start with a revelation of something I’ve known and loved for many years. Characters from the past . It was a brilliant set up. There are plenty of surprises that will have readers jumping for joy – but that’s all I’ll say. I won’t divulge any spoilers. But they are stunning. Now, I know that Anne Hagan writes great mysteries, but she has really found her forte with this legal thriller. I am so glad that this is book one in a new series for her. I was intrigued from the start and it just kept getting better and better. She skilfully weaves a complex tale of secrets and revelations and her characters are likeable and I want to find out more about them. Ro is a great mentor, a principled and caring lawyer. I liked her associate Dominique too. I can see her developing well in the future. Oh, and for aficionados of Ms Hagan’s Morelville Mysteries Series, a certain name pops up that will have you smiling. The book is brilliantly done and if Hollywood has any sense then this would be made into a movie – because I can guarantee there will be a huge audience for this particular story. Highly recommended.
This is the tenth and final book by Kiki Archer. And boy, will we all miss her- especially after reading this. It was quite a rollercoaster of a ride and the perfect story to sign off with. Piano teacher, Sophie is distraught after splitting from her soulmate, Jazz, a comedienne. Apparently straight up until setting eyes on Jazz, she fell hard. She tells the story of their relationship to her friend Laura who is training to become a life coach, the latest in a long list of jobs. Laura’s attempts to get the story out of Sophie were hilarious, but then Ms Archer surprised me by taking it off in a very different direction. The story is slowly revealed as layers are peeled back. One minute I was laughing out loud and scaring the neighbours, the next I was surprised at the depth of emotion. The funny moments were hilarious. Her description of a character having a ‘breast ledge’ took me back to high school and one of my teachers who had the aforementioned ‘breast ledge’. I was mesmerised by it, as was half of the school. The heat level was scorching between Sophie and Jazz. It was certainly not vanilla and will have you blushing. But Kiki Archer’s trademark humour had me in stitches even at these sexy moments. I loved it. And when I read the words ‘Say You’ll Love Me Again is Kiki’s 10th and final novel’, I shed a tear.