A Year in Books. My top 10 from 2016 

Now, I can’t lie. Having read 215 books this year narrowing it down to my 10 favourites has been pretty tough. Pretty much every book I’ve read this year has been amazing but it wouldn’t be a top 10 if I included all 215! 


Dear Amy is the debut novel from Helen Callaghan. Set in Cambridge, England the main character is schoolteacher Margot Lewis who also runs a ‘Dear Amy’ column in the local paper. When she starts receiving untraceable letters from a teenager who went missing years ago, she becomes more worried when another teenager goes missing. The perfect psychological suspense novel. 

We go forward in time to the 22nd century in Hargus Montgomery’s The Last Relicun. 12% of the population live in ‘museums’ which are places of living history, anything from 1950s America to 12th century France. Terrifyingly realistic and in some cases dangerous the government want the museums to be banned. Outside of the museums in the ‘real world’ people don’t even touch each other anymore and live mostly in VR. A truly fascinating product of an amazing mind. The main character Alex Kane is a young man stuck with the difficult decision of choosing between going to college or moving into a museum. Extremely interesting and in places heartbreaking this is definitely a book that you NEED to read! 


The first of Erika Johansen’s novels about The Tearling a dystopian country founded by humans years after an environmental disaster in today’s western world. An untested young princess has to claim her throne, Kelsea Raleigh has been hidden in the woods with the protectors set for her at birth. Taking the throne is a dangerous game when The Tearling is enslaved to a malevolent Queen from nearby Mortmesne. Power, magic and corruption abound in this amazing YA fantasy. 


The beautiful, bewitching Anemogram by Rebecca Gransden is absolutely mind blowing. There’s no other way to describe it. The Language of the book is rich and deeply detailed but throughout there is a highly disturbing undertone. The child in the book seems otherworldly and the whole thing is so damn confusing that if it wasn’t written so beautifully it would be impossible to like it. But instead it’s become one of my most favoured novels. Recommended for lovers of Peter S Beagle. 


The tag line itself says enough about this one. ‘Two childhood friends, one became a detective one became a killer.’ The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill is easily the best police crime drama I’ve read this year. Ray Drake is a police detective investigating the murder of a family. The story shifts between present day and the past during Drake’s childhood living in a children’s home. The book leads you down many different exciting and chilling pathways to unexpected places. Just when you think you’ve worked it out something completely new is thrown into the mix to add to the shock factor. Incredibly interesting and thought provoking. 


Imagine a world where the great library of Alexandria had never been destroyed. A world where the most important thing is to protect the library and it’s knowledge, a world where protecting the books means not letting anybody except the privileged few actually touch them. Nobody can personally own a book, that’s strictly against the law but alchemy can deliver a book instantly. Jess Brightwell is in an awkward position, he appreciates the value of the library and is honoured to score a place in the library’s service but he’s torn because of his background trading and reading illegal books. A truly magical and bewitching historical rewrite. 

The One is a smart little novel which explores the world of online dating and dating apps in a completely new light. It explores an extraordinary concept. In a world where your DNA can be used to match you with your actual soulmate, what could possibly go wrong? It seems like the perfect world, an end to sexism, racism, homophobia, increased marriage rate and decreased divorce rate. But not everyone is happy; as for every match, 3 other relationships break up. This novel focuses on 5 characters, exploring their very different experiences of match DNA. Exploring the themes of crime, thriller, romance, death, adultery, science and even science fiction. It’s got it all! 


This novel is another historical rewrite (maybe I’m getting a new favourite genre this year).  This time the modern world exists just as it does now but with one major difference; slavery still exists. Only in the south though, the north is full of free states but racism is far worse than today. There are also ‘free’ people of colour who weren’t born into slavery or managed to form a new identity like the protagonist Jim/Victor. Jim isn’t really free though, his freedom comes at a price as he is forced to work as a tracker of escaped slaves. Ironic when he’s an ex slave himself. This novel really delivers leaving the ending open to interpretation which is an amazing skill in an author. 


Not only is Nicola a lovely woman (look out for my interview with her, coming up in February 2017), she writes an amazing book too! The Phantom Tree is like Philippa Gregory meets HG Wells. It has time travel combined with the delights of Tudor England. A real page turner, this book follows Alison Banestre an orphan in the 16th century who ends up at Wolf Hall with her distance relations the Seymours. Time travel and magic ensue as she suddenly finds herself trapped in the 21st century. What really won me over with this novel was Nicola’s ability to write something which could have been cliched and ridiculous and made it the complete opposite. That was the true magic of this story. 


Choosing the best book of the year was really difficult. Like, I’m not kidding I started writing this two weeks before posting and only made it for my New Year’s Eve deadline tonight. It was a tough decision but I had to go with both head and heart and look at the book which truly emotionally wrecked me. Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes is an emotional roller coaster of psychological and paranormal suspense. Creepy, weird, fast paced and gripping, in my earlier review I described it as the brain child of Stephen King and Gillian Flynn and I still stand by that. Sarah Pinborough is an amazing story weaver she doesn’t ‘tell’ it or ‘write’ it, she weaves it. I couldn’t put this book down as it threw everything I thought I knew about the plot into complete doubt and turned it on its head. As for the ending it delivered a horrific twist that I seriously never saw coming. A must read for fans of any genre. This one has it all!  


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