Hello and welcome to my first post of 2023. I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks as I have had other things that have needed my attention. So for my first post of the year, I am going to share some of the books that I loved reading. A mix of genres and styles from well-known and new to me authors. These are not books that have just been published in the past 12 months, my choices are from books that in some cases have been on my kindle or shelf for far too long. A book on this list is also being published this month.
Out of 202 books that I read over 2022 there are going to be lots to choose from, it is always a tough job to whittle the great books down to a small amount. But, whittled I have and I am delighted to share my Top 20 Reads of 2022, the order of these books is the order they were read in 🙂
Off Target Eve Smith – FULL REVIEW
This is a story that is a, WOW!, story, it isn’t as far-fetched as you think as some things are already occurring and a quick look on the internet will soon give examples. I must admit I didn’t stray too far on the net because there are many conspiracy theories out there. But, it is an eye-opener all the same. What the author has achieved with this book is to give an insight into a moral and ethical dilemma between her characters. Right or wrong is going to be something the reader will decide on as they read. It certainly makes for some interesting thoughts as I finished the book.
Brilliant story, addictive, insightful, balanced and just so damned good to read and I would absolutely recommend it.
The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield – FULL REVIEW
The author really brought the characters to life, rather than being figures from history she gave them thoughts, personalities and opinions. Even though this is an age of mistrust from regular people, it was also interesting to read the author’s take on how the thoughts of the monarchs could have also been. This is an absolutely fascinating read, the magical aspects are such a good inclusion and for me worked really well. The balance of it felt right within the contest so even if you are not a reader of fantasy I think you will get on well with this.
I adored this book and it ticked many, many boxes. It is riveting, exciting, mysterious, politically charged, has loads of research, a touch of magic, mistrust, infighting, double-crossing, treachery and treason, I could go on! It shows the wranglings and machinations of the powerful leading historical figures and thought it was done brilliantly.
The Plant Hunter by T.L. Mogford – FULL REVIEW
The author has a great balance in this story so that the plants don’t take over the story and are mixed in with Compton’s own experiences and expectations. He meets some fascinating people on his travels and becomes more worldly-wise at the same time.
I really like the way the author wove everything together as the journey embarks from Britain and the sailing to China. It all helps to toughen up Compton, and believe me it is needed for what he has to meet. Not everyone is dangerous, but there are some individuals that you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of.
A must-read for fans of historical fiction with an exciting adventurous storyline. It is one I would absolutely recommend.
The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs – FULL REVIEW
This is a fabulous story that brings in so many aspects of life in the 1800s, from living conditions to social status all is included. This is a story that has been well-researched and has an excellent bibliography and reference section a the back.
A fascinating read about women encroaching into the world of publishing, making a stand against expectations and challenging society’s perceptions. It is one for those who love historical fiction, food and how it has changed. A gorgeously written story and one that I would definitely recommend.
Darker Days to Come by Tony Forder – FULL REVIEW
The team of Bliss, Chandler and the rest of the detectives are about to start two very complex cases. Neither one seems connected. Neither one is straightforward. Neither one is going to be an easy one to solve. And, no one on the team actually realises how the days ahead are going to become darker for them as they struggle to discover the details of the cases.
I love this series. I thought the previous book was amazing, this one is just WOW!!! Hard-hitting, dangerous, time-sensitive, definitely dark and a superb read from start to finish. It is one I would absolutely recommend.
May God Forgive by Alan Parks – FULL REVIEW
Wow! Wow! And Wow! This is a brilliant read and if you like your crime to be dark, murky and set in the 70s then you really need to pick up this book. In fact, pick up the series so far! The way the author moves in between procedural and, well let’s say, slightly off the book, is great. It introduces the criminal and gangs to the reader. Some very nasty characters to say the least. It is a credit to the writing skill of the author who managed to give a sense of unease, danger and doubt as McCoy carefully walked the grey line between legal and illegal activities on the streets.
Gritty, with some not altogether likeable characters, dark, murky, full of tensions, public opinion and an all-in-all amazing book to read. I would highly recommend it.
No Escape by Robert Crouch – FULL REVIEW
Over the course of this series, Kent Fisher has dealt with murder and the mysteries that surround them. This latest book however brings murder and mystery to his doorstep. It leaves him questioning the past and the future especially when it is Gemma Dean that is missing. Turning to a personal side of this latest book, the author shares more of Kent’s past and also the enigma that is Gemma. Snippets and only a very small amount of information is known about Gemma. This leaves Kent stumbling around trying to discover more about her to see if he can find leads and also trying not to get in the way of the Investigating officers.
This was a very tense murder mystery for me, after all, it does involve one of my favourite fictional characters. The author has taken Kent on a dangerous road and there are repercussions for him and those around him. Things feel fragile as secrets and confessions are told and I am eager to see how the author deals with these as well as Kent’s next move into Private Investigator. A cracking read, one for crime, murder, and mystery readers and one I would absolutely recommend.
Windswept & Interesting by Billy Connolly – FULL REVIEW
Billy Connolly is a voice I have known since childhood when Mum and Dad listened to his vinyl LPs, a voice I have known but at the time I didn’t really understand, probably just as well really! I decided to listen to the audiobook of this autobiography and I have to say, compared to when I heard his voice as a child, I can understand every word. I mentioned listening to this book to my mum, and the first thing she said was “could you understand him”, yes she still remembers trying to decipher the LPs, not easy especially when Billy starts laughing!
This is entertaining and funny but it is also honest and a bit of an eye-opener at times. It isn’t all humour and anecdotes, as he discusses the abuse he suffered as a child. It is something that had taken many, many years for him to come to terms with and also to understand. I did also get the hardback of this and read some sections as well as listened. And yes, as I read it I could hear Billy’s voice.
Excellent listening, honest and very addictive. I would absolutely recommend it.
The Darkest Sin by D.V. Bishop – FULL REVIEW
This is the 2nd book in the Cesare Aldo series and you really should read the first book City of Vengeance as part of this story has links to the previous. Also, the first book gives a brilliant introduction to Aldo as a person, as an investigator and also the people in the city of Florence in this time period.
Set in Florence in 1537, Aldo is asked to see about the reports of intruders but finds the body of a man in the convent of Mary Magdalen. It is inconceivable that a nun would be responsible, but how and why this has happened is something that Aldo may not even be asked to investigate in. Aldo works for the Otto, the administration of the criminal court at the time. The murder is on Church grounds and therefore not under the same jurisdiction.
This is a fabulous book and it definitely cements this series as one that I will definitely be keeping up with. This is one for those who like historical murder mysteries with a complex storyline that is also easy to follow when you are in the zone. I really didn’t want to put this one down and read it in two sittings.
Excellent storyline, and interesting characters, can’t wait for the next book and it is one I would absolutely recommend.
The Family Game by Catherine Steadman – FULL REVIEW
Oh my goodness this is a story that took me completely by surprise. It is a mix of several genres so would appeal to readers who like mystery thrillers with a really tense and atmospheric vibe. There are elements of horror and a psychological feel and overall it is an addictive and totally captivating read.
This is one of those stories that I want to shout about, but can’t because it would give away the story, plot and whole thrill of reading the book. It is a deviously twisted and insanely addictive storyline. What I thought within the first few chapters was completely different by the end of the book. In some ways it is a complex story, that is if I were to try and explain it in more detail, but it is one that the author has nailed. It isn’t confusing as you and I adored the way it just flowed from one thing to the next. By the end I was gobsmacked.
I adored this book a lot and it is one that I would very definitely recommend.
Everybody Pays by H. Max Hiller – FULL REVIEW
This is the 6th book in the Detective Cadillac Holland series and I have read and loved each one. This series just goes from strength to strength and this time around the author has really upped the stakes for Cadillac, Tulip, Katie and Tony.
Oh my goodness the author really has upped the stakes on this story. There are so many different threads with this book, I did lose myself a couple of times, but found myself back on track as I kept reading. The twists in the story just keep coming and I think the author has done an amazing job of keeping them separate until they are needed to join up[, and when they do… well it comes with a Wow! Having Cadillac and Tony with their pasts, and then bringing them back into play again was a good move. It adds a little more detail and jogs the memory as to who Tony was and what he is capable of.
Cracking story and if you like crime thrillers then this is a series you really do need on your radar. Set in New Orleans and full of references to food, districts and streets that tantalise the tastebuds as well as building a vivid image of the area. The author’s knowledge of the area really does shine through, he has his characters running back alleys and shortcuts in their quest for the truth. This is a brilliant series and this latest book is amazing. It is one I would absolutely recommend.
The Empire by Michael Ball – FULL REVIEW
I really didn’t know what to expect when I first saw this book, and I only glanced at the synopsis to know it was one I wanted to read. The author has trod the boards of theatres around the world and so it makes sense that his first book would be set in a theatre.
The author brings his passion for theatre, musicals and variety to every page of this wonderful novel. There are stories within stories and some real mysteries that are wonderfully woven into this tale of family disagreement, rivalry and blackmail. Underneath all of this though is the dogged determination of those who do not want to go down without a fight. It is their stubbornness and belief that gives magic to this story. They add glamour and glitz if you like.
This is a fabulous story and one that I really adored. It has the razzmatazz and the glamour, it also has the shady and the undesirable, but all the way through this story the feeling of “the show must go on” is one that resonated with me. No matter what the pitfalls there is always something to work toward, whether it is in the belief of others around you or accepting that you are capable of being successful, there is always a glimmer of the possible.
This a fabulous debut novel from someone who knows the industry, the history, the backstage and centre stage of theatres. A time when Jazz was making its way across the Atlantic and the roaring 20s was making itself heard. It is an addictive story and one I would absolutely recommend.
Keeping a Christmas Promise by Jo Thomas – FULL REVIEW
Years ago four friends make a bucket list of places they would like to see, things they would like to do and what they wanted to achieve in their lives. Over the years there have been marriages, divorces, promotions, children and the death of one of the four. Deciding to fulfil one bucket list item, the three friends go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. They are booked in for a weekend and in theory that should be enough time to see the lights and make it back home ready for a new Christmas menu to be rolled out at a restaurant, for making sure the arrangements are in place for a family Christmas and the last minute wedding plans.
The author chose a wonderful way to show the real Iceland, the food, the people, the scenery and also the smaller communities away from the hotels and tourist spots. Being without things like electricity, a phone signal and a road back to the hotel encourages the women to look at their lives. The longer they stay cooped together the more they realise that they are not living their lives to the fullest. Yes, they may be achieving some of their goals, but is this making them happy?
This is a wonderful story that is fabulous reading and kept me up till ridiculous o’clock until I got to the end. If you like a contemporary fiction novel that has romance and friendship and is definitely addictive, then this is one I would definitely recommend.
The Botanist by M.W. Craven – FULL REVIEW
This is yet another fantastic book in the Washington Poe series, to be honest though, I wouldn’t expect anything less. These books can be read as standalone’s, but to get a real sense of the working relationship between Poe, Tilly, Doyle and Flynn you really need to have started this from the beginning. And, also because they are great books.
Having two cases, one looking like a locked-room mystery and the other one that is leaving them playing catch up with the killer always ahead of them. Even with their combined expertise, this would be tough, but without having input from Doyle, things are even tougher.
The author really has done an amazing job with this story. Again it is complex and compulsive reading. There are mentions of tech, biology and other specialist stuff but it isn’t too over the top. Thank goodness things have to be basic for Poe to understand or else there would be a few confused readers as well!
With time being a crucial part of this story, the pacing is fast and the author conveys this through his characters so well. He shows their frustrations and occasionally odd outburst. Even in the midst of this tense and highly charged investigation, there are some amazing one-liners, these are perfect for defusing stress and tension, and are usually courtesy of Tilly.
I never read the synopsis for a Washington Poe book I just buy it.
Ideal for those who love twisted, complex and totally addictive thrillers and one I would absolutely recommend.
The App by Stuart James – FULL REVIEW
I love the psychological taunt of this, the synopsis is brilliant at setting the sense of suspense, tension and dread as the realisation sets in for what is going to happen in this book. A simple app that will make you turn to murder. It sounds unbelievable but when the owner of the app seems to know everything about you and your family then things become serious. We are all aware of people being coaxed into doing things via social media, from the harmless little challenges to the awful and heartbreaking suicides. So, when a story like this comes up I always think to myself, this would never happen in real life. But would it? This is where a story like this works so well and the author has done an amazing job of creating an addictive and dangerous story that is much more than a simple game of cat and mouse.
A tense and action-filled thriller that starts off at a nice pace but then suddenly screams into a super fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat race against time to save the people that the main characters of the story care about the most. This really had me hooked to the point where I jumped feet and scared the poor dogs to bits when my own phone rang!!!
If you like a story with thrills, action, suspense, mystery and a few bodies, then this is going to be one for you. I adored it and would definitely recommend it.
The Lie Here by NS Ford – FULL REVIEW
The synopsis is short and snappy and now I look at it I realise how it gives very little away. It does however have enough to suggest a mystery and secrets from the past.
The story is about Kat, and she has a very isolated life, she constantly moves as she goes from story to story. She researches each of her stories and her latest one is the whereabouts of Roskoe Darke, a member of an 80s band. He mysteriously disappeared and has not been seen, there have been several suggestions as to what happened and some of these do sound plausible. Kat, however, decides to dig deeper.
Kat is a character who I really liked, a loner who fixates on one project at a time. But what is it about her past that will have relevance to the current timeline of her story? Well, I could tell you but then I would spoil the story so you are going to have to read it for yourself. I didn’t see this twist coming in the story, so it was a huge revelation.
As for what happened to the missing Roskoe, well again I never saw that one either. This was a little different to what I expected but it worked really well. The author injected a clever little side step and it was one that turned this into a much darker and more sinister story.
This was a brilliant thriller that has a great mystery and suspense element to it, a great storyline and a wonderful set of interesting and different characters. I adored this book a huge amount, a one-sitting read for me and it is one I would absolutely recommend.
The Will by Rebecca Reid – FULL REVIEW
The synopsis is short but more than enough to convince me that I wanted to read this book. I mean, a death, a will, a large house and family, that in itself is a pot simmering waiting for the inevitable to happen. The thought of owning a large house is great, but when you are one of several that want it then tensions arise.
The author has set this story up brilliantly, the house is to be left to one of the family, and it is not passed down to the eldest son or anything as archaic as that. Instead, it is down to the wishes of the recently deceased Cecily.
They each want the house, and each one has their own plans for what they would like to do with it. The author works some brilliant subplots into this and I was never sure who was going to be the best one to own the house.
This is a mystery wrapped around the family group and it makes for a wonderful story. the characters are likeable on the whole, with the odd exception. This is a mix of contemporary fiction and mystery. It is a wonderful read and one that I would definitely recommend.
A Child for the Reich by Andie Newton – FULL REVIEW
I do enjoy reading books based around WWII, but I often find there are things that I was not aware of. A Child for the Reich is one such book. There was a branch of the Reich that was responsible for collecting babies and children with the much sort after blue eyes and blond hair. This was seen as the perfect Arian child. If you were not German and you had the perfect baby or child then they would be taken, re-educated and then given to “Good German Families” to raise. In Poland, 200,000 children were removed by the NSV, these are the female version of the dreaded SS, these women were known as the “Brown Sisters”.
The author brings a horrifying and awful practice of taking children to be representative of Hitler’s vision of his Aryan race. Saying that I enjoyed reading this book feels wrong, but I did.
If you like your historical fiction set in Europe during WWII then this is one that should be on your reading list. It is a poignant and eye-opening read and it is one I would definitely recommend.
Strangeways: A Prison Officers Story by Neil Samworth – Full review to follow
WOW! I have been listening to this audio version and it is such an amazing book to listen to. The author tells his story as he worked in prisons and especially his time at Strangeways in Manchester as an officer. The narrator is amazing and his voice is perfect for this style of the book.
This is a tough book to listen to but my goodness it was addictive. This is one for those who like to learn more about people and their jobs. Tough, gripping, sombre and one I would highly recommend.
So Pretty by Ronnie Turner – Full review to follow
This story is about two people and the chapters alternate between the two of them. Ada is a single mother and lives in Rye, never quite fitting into this small and clique-ridden village. She is always polite but always on the edge of things.
Teddy arrives and gets a job in an old curiosity/ knick-knack/ random things and objects shop. The owner is a bizarre man, to say the least, he doesn’t speak, he hasn’t interviewed Teddy and seems to lurk in the shadows.
The storyline itself,m well that is something that I didn’t expect, well I say that, but I did have a feeling where things may go but definitely not to the extent they did.
This is a brilliant book and it is one that I adored from the first pages to the very last. A tense, mysterious thriller that had me hooked. An amazing book and one that I would absolutely recommend.
Many thanks for reading my post, I hope you enjoy looking at the books I adored reading over the past year. I look forward to sharing more in the year to come.
Love and Best Wishes to you all