Monday, 11 December 2017

My Top Ten* Reads of 2017

According to Goodreads I've read over 80 books this year, and I've had a lot of 'favourites', so it was very hard to narrow that down to just ten books - you might have already noticed that I didn't quite manage it!

I did wonder if they would all end up being from the same genre, as I have a habit of binge-reading some genres - historical mysteries, for example, and I'm currently going through a romantic suspense phase - but there seems to be a good mix!

These are books that I've read this year, 
some may have been published before 2017

My Top Ten* Reads of 2017  

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Gail Honeyman

I had assumed from the title that the story was going to be something along the lines of Bridget Jones, but it turned out I was completely wrong. Eleanor Oliphant is an unusual and fascinating character, whose past history is revealed a tiny bit at a time. The story is about her best efforts to avoid the world around her until she is forced to reconnect after doing someone else a good turn. It is by turns sweet, funny, sad, quirky, poignant, touching, incredibly lovely and completely wonderful.

Black Rabbit Hall
Eve Chase

The moment I finished Black Rabbit Hall I wanted to flip back to the start and read it again. It is utterly gorgeous! A mystery set over two time periods, the late 1960s and the present day, it's about an old house nicknamed Black Rabbit Hall and the dysfunctional family who used to live there. Atmospheric and completely spellbinding, it reminded me of Daphne du Maurier and Dodie Smith. I absolutely loved it!

I Found You
Lisa Jewell

Alice lives in a tiny cottage by the sea with her three children and two mad dogs. She's too kind for her own good so, obviously, when she finds a strange man sitting in the rain on the beach, she invites him into her house take shelter. He says he's lost his memory but refuses to go to the police or seek medical help. Should she believe him? I Found You is a brilliant, superbly-written story, which had me completely emotionally engaged, reading faster and faster until I reached the end. I loved it!

The Last Hours
Minette Walters

It is 1348, the Great Plague is sweeping through Dorsetshire and the inhabitants of Develish have been forced to cut themselves off from the rest of the world to survive. I knew very little about this period in history and hadn't appreciated that most serfs never left their village. So when a small group of serfs are forced to go in search of food and news of the outside world, they have no idea how to find their way in what is now dangerous and hostile territory.

I thought The Last Hours was absolutely brilliant. I really cared about the characters and became completely engrossed in their lives.

The Summer of Impossible Things
Rowan Coleman

The Summer of Impossible Things is part The Time Traveller's Wife, part Back to the Future. It's about a daughter's love for her mother and how one moment can change your life - but what if you can change it back? And if you muck that up, can you try again? And what about the consequences?

It's hard to talk about this book without revealing spoilers. So I'll just say that I loved the characters and I loved the setting. I even loved the way the author sneakily played the writer's equivalent of the three card trick when I wasn't paying attention!

All The Missing Girls
Megan Miranda

This story is about Nic who left her home town ten years ago and has absolutely no desire to go back. But around the same time Nic left, her best friend went missing - and now her father says he's seen her on the porch of their old home. But her father is senile, surely he's imagining it?

There are several reasons why I loved this book. Firstly, the characters are so well-drawn I felt I knew these people. They weren't entirely lovable; they all had very realistic flaws. Secondly, the story is told backwards! It is brilliantly clever. The story hits the ground running and doesn't let up in tension until the very end.

Her Frozen Heart
Lulu Taylor

Her Frozen Heart is the story of one house and two women - who have both experienced something so traumatic it has left them 'frozen'. In the present day we have Caitlyn, barely coping after a tragedy shatters her world, now left wondering who she can trust. In the 1940s Tommy (Thomasina), after struggling to keep the family home going during the war, is facing one of the coldest winters on record. Food and fuel are rationed, and the risk of freezing to death or starving is very real. Then two strangers arrive and Tommy's life is changed irrevocably.

A dual timeline, a beautiful Jacobean manor, an old mystery surrounding a famous painting, a couple of deliciously bad villains - and lots of snow! - I absolutely loved this story!

The Cottingley Secret
Hazel Gaynor

Do you believe in fairies?

In present-day Ireland, Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather's secondhand bookshop. Olivia is at a crossroads in her life. She's engaged to be married, the date is hurtling towards her, and she's inundated with emails from her wedding planner. She certainly doesn't have time to revitalise a failing bookshop. But amongst the clutter she discovers a manuscript written by Frances Griffiths, about her life in Yorkshire, England, at the beginning of the 20th century.

I loved hearing about Frances's life, and how she and her cousin inadvertently became involved in what was to be known as one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th century, and why it was so important for the people of that time to believe in magic.

Graham Norton

Overweight and completely unfit, Sergeant PJ Collins barely scraped into the Garda Síochána (Irish police) and took the posting in the village of Duneen because it was probably his only chance to make sergeant. When a skeleton is found during the building of a housing estate, PJ is both thrilled and slightly anxious that he'll finally get to investigate a possible crime. Although when Detective Superintendent Linus Dunne arrives from Cork to take over the investigation, and PJ is reduced to doing house-to-house enquiries, he's not quite so delighted. But maybe the inhabitants of Duneen know more about that skeleton than they're letting on ...

Holding is a thoroughly enchanting cosy mystery and I adored it.

Don't Let Go
Harlan Coben

Fifteen years ago, Nap's twin brother Leo, and Leo's girlfriend Diana, were found dead on the train tracks in a small town in New Jersey. Their deaths were put down to accident or suicide, and everyone moved on. Everyone except Nap, who is obsessed with finding out what really happened that night and if his brother's death is linked to the disappearance of his own girlfriend, Maura. Now another of Leo's old school friends has been killed, and Maura's prints have been found at the scene. Are the deaths connected, and what is the link to that mysterious old missile base hidden in the woods?

Don't Let Go is a fast paced-thriller and one of my favourite Harlan Coben novels to date. I loved the link between an old mystery and one in the present-day, and the way all the characters have secrets of their own.

The Silent Companions
Laura Purcell

The Silent Companions is a deliciously gothic mystery/horror with a dual timeline - Victorian England and the reign of Charles I. Elsie Bainbridge, newly married and newly widowed, arrives at her late husband's crumbling ancestral home with only the company of a few resentful servants and her husband's widowed cousin, Sarah. When Elsie and Sarah explore the house they find two wooden props, skillfully painted to look like children, hidden away in a locked garret: a girl and a gypsy boy - and the girl looks just like Elsie...

The Silent Companions is well-written and fast-paced. Until the very end I was never quite sure whether Elsie is imagining everything that happens, if she's being 'Gaslighted', or if there really was something evil locked up in that garret.

The Lie of the Land
Amanda Craig

This story is about Lottie and Quentin, who are forced to uproot from London and settle in the wilds of Devon because they can't afford to divorce. Most of the humour comes from the shock of exchanging their lovely home in the city for an old farmhouse, which is damp and overrun with mice. And then they find out exactly why the house was so cheap to rent - and what happened to the previous tenant ...

The joy of The Lie of the Land is in how the characters deal with (or, in some cases, don't deal with) adversity. My favourite characters were Xan, who was the first to realise what a sheltered life he'd been leading, and his step-father Quentin, even though Quentin was so horrible: "Without selfishness, I'll have a life of misery and boredom."

And One to Watch in 2018!
The Chalk Man
CJ Tudor

The Chalk Man has a dual timeline, with chapters alternating between the 1980s and the present day. In the 1980s, teenager Eddie and his friends leave messages for each other in coloured chalk outside each other's houses. But then the messages start appearing on their own, in white chalk, leading to the body of a murdered girl. In the present, Eddie is surprised when one of his old friends asks for help with a book he is writing, a book about the killer nicknamed 'The Chalk Man', and his theory that the real murderer was never caught. And then Eddie disappears ... and the chalk figures begin appearing again.

The Chalk Man will be published on the 11th of January 2018. 
Review to come!

Related Posts:

Halloween Reads (2017)

*Ten? You expected me to narrow it down to just ten?!!

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