Getting my book recommendations of the year in early! Procrastination is absolutely a thing of the past with me – 2023 is going to be filled with a myriad of things effectively carried out, all on time or before. I know, maybe not 🙂
I read more books than usual in 2022, despite working hard to finish my fifth novel. (More news soon…) My favourite books of the year so far are listed below, fourteen in total. A few are new out; most were published in the last couple of years. In no particular order:
The Un-Family by Linda Huber
The Un-Family is a thoroughly enjoyable and gripping psychological suspense novel suffused with tension, which slowly but surely sunk its hooks into me. Holly, an animal lover and vet, is bewildered to find herself in the ultimate dysfunctional family soon after marrying Dylan, who emerges as a cold-hearted narcissist who has always resented his twin brother Seth. The reader gradually discovers the history between the brothers and its chilling impact on the present. Meanwhile Megan, Dylan’s niece, is a teenager struggling to deal with the loss of her grandmother (her main caregiver) after she dies suddenly. Then everything goes south, rapidly…
Linda Huber drives the story forward at a fast pace with plenty of intrigue to keep one puzzling and characters that I cared about. By about 70% through the book, I was biting my nails to know whether the two female protagonists, Holly and Megan, would be OK and couldn’t tear myself away from my Kindle despite the late hour and lack of heating. Although this novel contains darkness and murder, there’s a cheering, refreshing warmth to the writing and characters (the female ones, anyway!). I loved the reveal concerning the title at the end, too. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys psychological suspense blended with family drama. Published 15 November 2022.
With Friends Like These Keri Bevis
The title is spot on!! A group of friends attempt to cover up the accidental death of a guy walking along a deserted road caused by one of their number who’s drunk driving, on the way to meeting for their reunion. Things rapidly veer out of control, propelled by the rocky relationships among the rather unfriendly friends. And who is the dead guy, anyway? An entertaining, gripping read with some nice humour. Published 2022.
The Girl in The Missing Poster by Barbara Copperthwaite
Stella can’t get over the disappearance of her twin sister 25 years ago, and makes it her mission to find out what happened. As clues surface, it seems that she is exchanging emails with her sister’s killer… The close relationship between Stella and her lost twin is beautifully conveyed – as is Stella’s obsessive state of mind. Psychologically astute, a compelling read that becomes progressively more chilling and edge-of-the-seat. Sensitive souls may prefer not to read this late at night 🙂 Published 2021.
Blood Loss by Kerena Swan
An imaginative, superbly plotted novel that’s part police procedural and part psychological thriller. Told partly from the POV of Sarah, a ruthless female killer who uncovers family secrets and decides to wreak revenge on Jenna, the young woman she believes has stolen her life. While the detective desperately tries to track down Sarah, Jenna starts to realize someone is after her… Published 2021.
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
Wow. I was stunned by this book and can see why it won so much acclaim. The writing and the plot are equally out of this world. It took me a chapter to get into the very different writing style and I definitely had to work in places to keep up – but so glad I did. One of my absolute favourite books now. Published 2020.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
One of the most moving novels I’ve read. Stunning coming of age story set in 1960s segregated, space-age South Carolina, about a girl’s attempts to come to terms with the mystery of her mother’s violent death – and to find love, a home and her place in the world. Dark at first but there’s plenty of humour and this really is what publishers like to call a ‘life affirming’ book. Fascinating bee facts, too. I listened to the Audible version narrated brilliantly by Jenna Lania. First published 2011.
The 392 by Ashley Hickson-Lovence
This is something different. A debut written with verve, sensitivity and plenty of humour from a talented author who I’m sure will go far. The action takes place over the 36 minutes of a bus ride though diverse, fast-changing parts of London (some of which I know well). Excellent characterisation and dialog, authentically conveying a large cast of characters from different backgrounds.
The tension builds slowly as a various people get on a London bus that’s setting off a new route for the first time, including a rucksack-bearing shifty looking individual who seems to have other plans for the passengers… We get many points of view, among them the bus driver, the man ogling her, a pregnant young woman, a racist football supporter who lost his sight after being attacked, a posh City bloke, someone who is suspiciously like Boris Johnson and most poignantly I thought, an old woman grieving the loss of her husband who plans to make this her last journey. Admittedly I found the switching between so many characters difficult to keep up with at times, especially as I listened to the audio version (brilliantly narrated, by the way). Recommended if you enjoy edgy London/British-set books with a literary flavour. Published 2019.
Hostage by Clare Macintosh
Great concept, brilliantly executed. If you want help to be put off flying – as if that’s needed – give this a read! It has a tension-filled, emotionally involving, well researched, just-about-believable plot about an air hostess who at the last minute signs up for the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney (fictional at the moment but may not be for long) and must deal with eco-terrorists threatening to bring down the plan. Published 2021.
Be Sure Your Sins by Harry Fisher
An engaging crime novel involving blackmail, revenge and police corruption written with wit, authenticity, attention to detail and great skill.
The main character, a female detective sergeant, is likeable and well drawn, and the connections between the crimes provided a tantalising puzzle for the reader. I liked that the crimes committed were unusual yet realistic rather than the deadbodyfest of many modern crime novels. Published 2021.
The Housewarming by SE Lynes
Immersive, superbly written novel about guilt and responsibility, loss and its aftermath, and the bad things we are all capable of doing.
A mother riven with guilt after she is distracted by social media while her small daughter leaves the house for a walk, or is snatched… This is the third book I read by SE Lynes – one day I shall read them all – and of particular interest to me as it’s set in Teddington, SW London, an area I know well. Published 2020.
Skin Deep by Liz Nugent
A great character study of the ultimate narcissist.
An Irish girl from an isolated island community, exposed to wild tales from her father and family tragedy, seems set on a path toward the destruction of herself and everyone she gets close to. She ends up in France mixing with artists and criminals. Though the book is quite long and depressing at times, I found it compelling. Published 2018.
Blood Notes by Lin Le Versha
A stunning debut crime mystery. Knockout opening chapter, standout characters and plotting, authentic setting.
In brief, a retired detective who’s now a school receptionist helps her former police colleague to solve a murder at the school. The odd pair of Edward – a gifted cellist and newly arrived student at the school – and his pushy mother seem to be involved, somehow… There’s a startling twist at the end! Published 2021.
I Am Dust by Louise Beech
This really is a haunting novel – both in terms of the subject matter and in its impact. A murder mystery entwined with an otherworldly coming-of-age story. You don’t need to believe in life after death to appreciate this novel, I’d say – though possibly it isn’t an ideal read for atheists unless they have a good imagination!
Plot in brief… Fifteen years ago, Chloe was one of three teenagers who dabbled with a Ouija board in between rehearsals for their school play, Macbeth. In the present day, theatre usher and fledgling playright Chloe is forced to confront what happened back then and the feelings she had for her best friend, now the leading lady in a revival of a play titled ‘I Am Dust’. The play was cancelled on its first run due to the murder – still unsolved – of its leading lady.
Ms Beech conveys the insecurities, rivalries and intensely felt emotions of both teenagers who enquire into the spirit world, and the adults who are compelled to unravel the mystery of one death, and death itself (on many levels). Published 2020.
The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser
A woman scarred by devious husband’s affair with best friend inherits a house in a remote country village intending to avoid matters of the heart for a while. But she’s strongly attracted to her grumpy bookshop-owner boss…
The Bookshop of Second Chances evokes the difficulties of relationships in later life with humour and panache, and quite a few poignant moments. Although often light in tone, the novel has serious undercurrents and is recommended for a pick-me-up. Published 2020.