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[sticky post] Master List of Books 2016

1. Swords And Scoundrels by Julia Knight (STARTED IN 2015).

2. Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor.

3. Front Lines by Michael Grant.

4. The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman.

5. Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty.

6. The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher.

7. Twenty Questions For Gloria by Martyn Bedford.

8. Legends And Liars by Julia Knight.

9. Warlords And Wastrels by Julia Knight.

10. Hour Of The Bees by Lindsay Eagar.

11. Beyond by Graham McNamee.

12. Nancy Parker’s Diary Of A Detective by Julia Lee.

13. The Relic Guild by Edward Cox.

14. Judged by Liz de Jager.

15. Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery.

16. Maladapted by Richard Kurti.

17. Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed.

18. My Heart & Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga.

19. Disclaimer by Renee Knight.

20. Suffer The Children by Craig DiLouie.

21. Your Brother’s Blood by David Towsey.

22. The Cathedral Of Known Things by Edward Cox.

23. Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan.

24. Kill Shot by Vince Flynn.

25. Sockpuppet by Matthew Blakstad.

26. The Beauty Of Murder by A. K. Benedict.

27. The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland.

28. The Pledge by Kimberly Derting.

29. Silenced by Kristina Ohlsson.

30. Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

31. Seoul Survivors by Naomi Foyle.

32. Time Of Death by Mark Billingham.

33. Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens.

34. 13 Days Of Midnight by Leo Hunt.

35. Natural Causes by James Oswald.

36. Bird by Crystal Chan.

37. My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish: Live And Let Swim by Mo O’Hara.

38. Burned by Benedict Jacka.

39. Girl Out Of Water by Nat Luurtsema.

40. Hamster Princess – Harriet The Invincible by Ursula Vernon.

41. The Book Of Souls by James Oswald.

42. Poison City by Paul Crilley.

43. Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence.

44. Help! I’m An Alien by Jo Franklin.

45. Mystery & Mayhem edited by Katherine Woodfine.

46. Hell And High Water by Tanya Landman.

47. People by Alan Bennett.

48. Time Travelling With A Hamster by Ross Welford.

49. Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley.

50. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.

51. Some Kind Of Peace by Camilla Grebe and Asa Traff.

52. Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgwick.

53. A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky.

54. Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Lange.

55. The Emergency Zoo by Miriam Halahmy.

56. Nothing Short Of Dying by Erik Storey.

57. Hamster Princess – Of Mice And Magic by Ursula Vernon.

58. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo.

59. Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus.

60. An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

61. A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir.

62. The Book Of Lies by Terri Terry.

63. Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho.

64. My Brother Is A Superhero by David Solomons.

65. V Is For Villain by Peter Moore.

66. Made To Kill by Adam Christopher.

67. Infernal by Mark de Jager.

68. Sparrow Falling by Gaie Sebold.

69. A Tiding Of Magpies by Peter Sutton.

70. Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin.

71. Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan.

72. A Perfect Spy by John le Carre.

73. Born Scared by Kevin Brooks.

74. False Hearts by Laura Lam.

75. Under A Pole Star by Stef Penney.

76. Silence Is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher.

77. Fellside by M. R Carey.

78. Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner.

79. Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland.

80. The Seeing by Diana Hendry.

81. The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott.

82. The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon.

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

The Blurb On The Back:

The knife worked at the bone.

Twisting, curving and smoothing. And when the bird emerged, knowing and strong, the hand placed a coin deep into its core.

“May you forever bring us luck and protection, and may you carry our souls to freedom.”

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an immigration centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland, life behind the fences is all he has ever known. The night sea brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and birds tell their stories. The most vivid story of all is in the form of Jimmie, a scruffy impatient girl who appears one night from the other side of the words. Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold – but not until each of them has been braver than ever before.

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The Verdict:

Zana Fraillon’s middle-grade novel (shortlisted for the 2016 Guardian Children’s Fiction Award) combines the harsh realities of life in a refugee camp with a magical realist fable to worthy if mixed effect. Fraillon has researched refugee camps and I completely believed in the depiction of a private sector operated camp that cuts corners and serves bad food and reduces services in the name of economy, supported by the general hostility towards refugees and migrants and the urban myths about the things they get given for free. I also believed in the anger and despair of the camp inhabitants, and Eli’s storyline – as he tries to draw attention to their plight – is particularly good. Unfortunately I didn’t believe in Subhi or Jimmie or their reactions to their lives, especially Subhi’s belief in the night ocean (which was too childish for me) and Jimmie’s behaviour seemed driven by the needs of the plot more than anything else and the magical realist elements, for me, jarred with the overall tone of the piece, making me wonder who the book was aimed at. The imagery and emotional descriptions are good and I can see why this is being nominated for awards but ultimately although this didn’t hang together for me I would read Fraillon’s other work.

THE BONE SPARROW was released in the United Kingdom on 14th July 2016. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott

The Blurb On The Back:

”This is the tale of Edgworth Bess,
related in her own words,
and a darker narrative for those
that would look a little closer.

A hidden history that must be told in secret:
Of lives too scandalous even for the Newgate Calendar.

And of a love lost,
Which is the saddest story of them all. “

London, the 1720s. Welcome to ‘Romeville’, the underworld of that great city. The financial crash caused by the South Sea Bubble sees the rise of Jonathan Wild, self-styled ‘Thief-taker General’ who purports to keep the peace while brutally controlling organised crime. Only two people truly defy him: Jack Sheppard, apprentice turned house-breaker, and his lover, the notorious whore and pickpocket Edgworth Bess.

From the condemned cell at Newgate, Bess gives her account of how she and Jack formed the most famous criminal partnership of their age: a tale of lost innocence and harsh survival, passion and danger, bold exploits and spectacular gaol-breaks – and of the price they paid for rousing the mob of Romeville against its corrupt master.

Bess dictates her narrative to Billy Archer, a Grub Street hack and aspiring poet who has rubbed shoulders with Defoe and Swift. But he also inhabits that other underworld of ‘molly houses’ and ‘unnameable sin’, and has his own story of subterfuge, treachery and doomed romance to deliver. As the gallows casts its grim shadow, who will live to escape the Fatal Tree?

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The Verdict:

Jake Arnott’s seventh novel is a historical crime novel drawing on the real life characters of Edgworth Bess, Jack Shepard and Jonathan Wild and rich in the slang of the 18th century criminal fraternity but glib on character and with a frantic pace that meant I never really connected with the world they lived in or with the plight of either narrator. This is a shame because it’s clear from the selected biography at the end that Arnott has immersed himself in the period and the novel is riddled with the slang of the time, which gives the tale authenticity but for me, there was too much of it and I constantly had to flick to the glossary at the back to follow what was happening (something which may be difficult on Kindle versions). As a result, I felt alienated from the characters and their story and that wasn’t helped by the fact that the fast pace of the storytelling meant that there isn’t much depth to the emotions on display. I didn’t believe in Bess’s relationship with Jack because there isn’t enough dialogue and interaction to establish a bond (and even less when it breaks) and the blurb’s billing of a rivalry between Shepard and Wild reads more like peevish machismo. Archer’s tale is equally shallow and I didn’t really understand his passion for Adam. Ultimately despite the research and feel for the time, I didn’t engage with the novel or its characters enough for it to be more than an okay read.

THE FATAL TREE will be released in the United Kingdom on 23rd February 2017. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

The Seeing by Diana Hendry

The Blurb On The Back:

”I’ve told you. Philip can see. He can see inside people. He can see the swastikas on their hearts.”

1956. When wild, dangerous Natalie arrives in the quiet town of Norton, thirteen-year-old Lizzie is drawn irresistibly to the girl from the wrong side of the tracks.

As the girls grow close, Natalie and her eerie younger brother, Philip, reveal a shocking secret. Philip has second sight, and sees evil all around – ‘left over Nazis’ lying in wait until the time is right for revenge. Natalie and Philip believe it’s up to them to root these people out of Norton.

Lizzie is swept up in what starts as a thrilling game – but the consequences of Philip’s ‘gift’ quickly spiral into disaster.

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The Verdict:

Diana Hendry’s YA novel is a strange mix of history and psychological thriller with supernatural overtones, which has some tense scenes but doesn’t quite come together into a satisfying read. Part of the issue is that Lizzie is too innocent and passive – I didn’t buy into her instant draw to Natalie (and wanted more to be made of the almost sexual nature of that attraction) or her willingness to ditch her friends for her and I definitely didn’t think enough was made of the consequences of their quite terrifying and nasty campaigns against innocent people. Natalie’s better drawn, but I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was driving her actions and her descent into revenge became a little too soap opera for me. I enjoyed the interaction between Lizzie, Philip, Natalie and Hugo the artist who’s desperate to paint them but the split narration (using Lizzie’s first person narration, Natalie’s diary entries and Hugo’s letters to his sister) tried to do too much and I didn’t need some of the explanation that it offered to the scenes. The supernatural overtones are nicely played with Hendry leaving it open on whether Philip really had the sight or not and the ending is shocking (albeit not quite believable). Ultimately, this is an okay read but while it never really sparked into life for me, I would definitely check out Hendry’s other work.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

The Blurb On The Back:

”I always thought the moment you met the love of your life would be more like the movies …”

Henry Page is a film buff and a hopeless romantic. He’s waiting for that slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s seen in the movies. So the last person he expects to fall in love with is Grace.

Grace Town is not your normal leading lady. She dresses in oversized men’s clothing, smells like she hasn’t washed in weeks and walks with a cane. She’s nobody’s idea of a dream girl, but Henry can’t stop thinking about her.

There’s something broken about Grace; a small part of her soul is cracked from the secrets in her past. Henry wants nothing more than to put her back together again, but will she let him?

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The Verdict:

Krystal Sutherland’s debut YA contemporary romance is a slickly written tale of first love with some dry one-liners and a serious comment to make about false expectations in romance and how love alone can’t “fix” someone suffering from emotional trauma but it falls for the cliché of having two “oddball” characters who are also incredibly hot beneath their quirkiness and some of the observations don’t ring true for teenagers – no matter how precocious Henry and Grace may be. What Sutherland does well is show the selfishness that teenage love can entail – on the part of both Henry and Grace (whose grief and guilt are well depicted) – and I like how she shows the emotional growth they each go through. Also good are the side characters of Murray (who intentionally skirts Aussie cliché) and Lola (who is the sensible, practical heart of the novel) – both are fun and ground the central romance. However some of the dialogue and cultural references didn’t ring true for teenagers and I really disliked the fact that Sutherland makes a point of showing that her leads are actually quite hot beneath the gawkiness (in the case of Henry) and self-punishment (in the case of Grace). That said, this is a strong debut that will appeal to its target audience of Rainbow Rowell and John Green fans and I look forward to reading what Sutherland does next.

OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS was released in the United Kingdom on 4th October 2016. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

The Blurb On The Back:

Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.

Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor. Manon knows the first 72 hours are critical: you find her, or you look for a body. And as soon as she sees a picture of Edith Hind, a Cambridge post-graduate from a well-connected family, she knows this case will be big.

Is Edith alive or dead? Was her “complex love life” at the heart of her disappearance, as a senior officer tells the increasingly hungry press?

And when a body is found, it is the end or only the beginning?

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The Verdict:

I picked this up because Susie Steiner’s crime novel (the first in a series) was one of the big hits of the 2016 summer but although I enjoyed the viewpoints of the three main narrators, the plot is incredibly contrived and didn’t make a whole lot of sense towards the end (especially one of the developing relationships which I would have expected to be prohibited due to the conflict of interest). The story is mainly told from the point of view of the emotionally vulnerable Manon, socially conscious Davy, and Edith’s mother Miriam who’s struggling to understand her relationship with her daughter as it provides emotional insight on the search and its impact but the way Steiner connects the murder and disappearance didn’t work for me as it relies heavily on contrivances that pop out from nowhere and I really didn’t believe the involvement that Manon takes in the life of the victim’s brother. In fact, Manon herself is pretty cliché with her difficult love life, inability to look after herself and need for a baby and that made it difficult for me to empathise with her – especially the pathetic neediness she displays during one relationship. Ultimately, I kept turning the pages but I’m not going to rush to read the next book.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

Fellside by M. R Carey

The Blurb On The Back:

You will find Fellside somewhere on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It is not the kind of place you’d want to end up, but it’s where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.

It’s a place where even the walls whisper. And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess. Fellside will be the death of you – if it doesn’t save you.

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The Verdict:

M. R. Carey’s novel is BAD GIRLS meets THE SIXTH SENSE, mixing horror and dark fantasy in a story about guilt and redemption that shows great imagination but has a soap opera feel with some of the twists a little too easy to guess, which ultimately makes for an okay read but not a great one. For me, the biggest issue with the book is Jess as I found her difficult to empathise with as she is so full of self-pity. All her actions in the book are about her – the decision to starve herself to death is because she can’t cope with the guilt, her decision to help Alex is because it offers a chance of redemption – and that made it difficult for me to care. I also found the prison set up to be incredibly cliché, from the corrupt prison guards to Harriet Grace’s crime empire (which isn’t helped by the fact that Grace is thinly characterised) and some of the twists that come in the story are telegraphed far too early. I did like Jess’s journeys into dreamland and the relationship that develops between her and Alex but ultimately this didn’t work as well for me as Carey’s other books and while it’s an okay read, it’s not a great one.

Silence Is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher

The Blurb On The Back:

My name is Tess Turner – at least, that’s what I’ve always been told.

I have a voice but it isn’t mine. It used to say things so I’d fit in, to please my parents, to please my teachers. It used to tell the universe I was something I wasn’t. It lied.

It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too. But the words that really hurt weren’t the lies: it was six hundred and seventeen words of truth that turned my world upside down.

Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them.

I am Pluto. Silent. Inaccessible. Billions of miles away from everything I thought I knew.

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The Verdict:

Annabel Pitcher’s third YA novel is an emotionally charged contemporary tale covering pushy parents, bullying and personal identity and although some elements didn’t work for me (the talking torch needlessly infantilised Tess, some of self-destructive behaviour and wilful blindness seemed contrived and I wish that she’d confronted her father’s poor behaviour), the bullying scenes and Tess’s hurt and despair made this a stirring and powerful read. I completely believed in Tess’s reaction to discovering that her dad is not her biological father, her decision to remain silent and some of her self-destructive impulses (notably her desire to be Anna’s friend). However, I didn’t buy her behaviour with Isabel (which seemed to exist solely to leave Tess isolated) or the budding romance with Henry (who is too idealised) and her role as a pawn in a teacher romance seemed contrived and a little crude (especially her refusal to acknowledge the same). That said the bullying scenes really resonated with me as did her reaction to the same (although I don’t see why she needed to be overweight) and ultimately, the skill of Pitcher’s writing carried me through to the end and really resonated with me.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

Under A Pole Star by Stef Penney

The Blurb On The Back:

Follow the path to the freezing north.

Follow your ambition.

Follow your heart.

Under a Pole Star

Love will find a way.

Flora Mackie first crossed the Arctic Circle at the age of twelve. In 1889, the whaler’s daughter from Dundee – dubbed by the press “The Snow Queen” – sets out to become a scientist and explorer. She struggled to be taken seriously but determination and chance lead her back to northern Greenland at the head of a British expedition, despite the main who believe that a young woman has no place in this harsh world of men.

Geologist Jakob de Beyn was raised in Manhattan. Yearning for wider horizons, he joins a rival expedition, led by the furiously driven Lester Armitage. When Jakob and Flora’s paths cross, it is a fateful meeting.

All three become obsessed with the north, a place where violent extremes exist side by side: perpetual night and endless day; frozen seas and coastal meadows; heroism and lies. Armitage’s ruthless desire to be the true leader of polar discovery takes him and his men on a mission whose tragic outcome will reverberate for years to come.

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The Verdict:

Stef Penney returns to the frozen landscapes she conveyed so evocatively in the Costa winning THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES with an epic historical romance set among the early polar expeditions. However while the landscape is luscious, the emotionally chilly Flora is difficult to relate to, I never cared about her relationship with Jakob (despite some erotic sex scenes) and found most of the male characters to be under-drawn – especially Lester who is too cartoony to be a successful antagonist and while I kept turning the pages, I never really connected with the story.

UNDER A POLE STAR will be released in the United Kingdom on 3rd November 2016. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

False Hearts by Laura Lam

The Blurb On The Back:

One twin is imprisoned for a terrible crime. The other will do anything to set her free.

One night Tila stumbles home, terrified and covered in blood.

She’s arrested for murder, the first by a civilian in decades. The San Francisco police suspect involvement with Verve, a powerful drug, and offer her twin sister Taema a chilling deal. Taema must assume Tila’s identity and gather information – then if she brings down the drug syndicate, the police may let her sister live. But Taema’s investigation raises ghosts from the twins’ past.

The sisters were raised by a cult, which banned modern medicine. But as conjoined twins, they needed surgery to divide their shared heart – and escaped. Taema now finds Tila discovered links between the cult and the city’s underground. Once unable to keep secrets, the sisters will discover the true cost of lies.

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The Verdict:

Laura Lam’s standalone science fiction thriller is an imaginative slick affair and the central relationship between Tila and Taema is deftly drawn such as to justify the book’s breakout success. The focus of the story is the relationship between Tila and Taema and how it’s evolved following their separation such that Tila is now able to have secrets. I really enjoyed Taema’s reaction to the the slow unveiling of those secrets – especially her hurt but also the way it makes her question her faith in her sister. Both women are well drawn with Tila’s sections being used to recount their history with Mana’s Hearth (which I found compelling and believable). The science fiction elements are great – I loved the world building with its technology including implanted chips, accelerated learning, medical and energy advances and so forth – it all felt believable rather than alienating and the scenes set in the twisted Verve dreams are disturbing and evocative. There are some clichés – notably a romance that I didn’t think added much and some of the twists are telegraphed in advance (mainly because the plot points in only one direction) but there’s more than enough here to entertain and Lam well deserves this to become her breakout book.

FALSE HEARTS was released in the United Kingdom on 16th June 2016. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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