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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.
The Blurb On The Back:


“Do you ever think about being out there again? Like all the way out there?”

“I didn’t use to,” he said. “Not much anyway. Just the thought of it would give me a panic attack.”

“And now?”

“It’s still terrifying. But I can at least talk about it without crying, so that’s a win.”

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

John Corey Whaley’s YA novel is a slickly plotted mental illness issues tale that didn’t come good for me. My main problem with it was that I wasn’t convinced by its depiction of Solomon’s agoraphobia (portrayed as a virtual inability to leave the house, fed into by his decision not to push himself outside). For me it seemed a shallow portrayal with Solomon very dismissive of the treatments and therapies that he’s tried and yet there’s no real attempt to understand what the cause of it is or what feeds into and triggers it (although I did find it easier to empathise with his anxiety attacks, which are sensitively shown). I thought that the progression of his story was predictable but there was little emotional growth beyond the joys of friendship. I found Lisa a very difficult character to form a connection with because she’s so set on using Solomon for her own ends and I really didn’t understand the basis for her relationship with Clark (who’s written as too good to be true and saddled with everyone querying if he’s gay for not wanting sex with Lisa). Ultimately it’s fast paced and events rock along nicely but although it’s obviously making a play for the John Green market, there just isn’t enough here to resonate with readers and emotionally it’s was rather two-dimensional for me. That said, I would check out Whaley’s other work given how tightly this is written.

HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOUR was released in the United Kingdom on 26th May 2016. Thanks to Faber & Faber for the review copy of this book.
The Blurb On The Back:

I suppose if you’d asked me before, I’d have said a time machine might look something like a submarine? Or perhaps a space rocket.

Instead, I’m looking at a laptop and a tin tub from a garden centre.

This is my dad’s time machine.

And it’s about to change the world.

Well, mine, at any rate.

Al Chaudhury has a chance to save his dad’s life – but to do it he must travel to 1984 …

This astonishing and original novel will make you laugh, cry and wonder – and wish you could turn back time, to start reading it all over again.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Ross Welford’s debut novel for children aged 9+ is a sensitively written and intricately plotted science fiction story about grief, acceptance and second chances. Al is a resourceful lead character who’s easy to sympathise with – bullied by both Carly and her on/off boyfriend and isolated, he misses his dad and doesn’t have much in common with the sport-loving Steve. I completely believed in his reactions as he comes to terms with the reality of time travel and its effects and I loved the relationship that develops between him and his dad when they’re both kids (especially the fact that they’re both misfits) almost as much as I loved the relationship between Al and his grandfather. Welford isn’t afraid to tackle race either – this is a great book for those keen to read more diverse books and he makes a point of highlighting both the cultural differences of Al and his family and the things that make them the same as any other family. Although this is a strong debut, it’s not perfect – I found some of the time travel a little convoluted, which meant that the pace dropped off in some scenes. I also found Carly to be a bit too stereotypical and wished that there had been more interaction between her and Al beyond what was needed to keep the plot moving. That said, I did enjoy this book – it’s a clever page turner and I will definitely check out what Welford writes next.

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

People by Alan Bennett

The Blurb On The Back:

A sale? Why not? Release all your wonderful treasures on to the open market and they are there for everyone to enjoy. It’s a kind of emancipation, a setting them free to range the world … a saleroom here, an exhibition there; art, Lady Stacpoole, is a rover.

People spoil things; there are so many of them and the last thing one wants is them traipsing through one’s house. But with the park a jungle and a bath on the billiard table, what is one to do? Dorothy wonders if an attic sale could be a solution.

Alan Bennett’s People premiered at the National Theatre, London, in October 2012.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

First staged in October 2012 at the National Theatre in London, PEOPLE, was inspired by Alan Bennett’s distaste for the National Trust and voyeurism of other people’s lives coupled with the commoditisation of privacy. He writes a fascinating introduction to this play, describing some of the thought processes behind its creation and linking it back to themes in other works that he’s produced but the play itself is a thin affair and although the humour is well crafted, the underlying material is thin. This is one for Bennett completionists more than casual readers.

Hell And High Water by Tanya Landman

The Blurb On The Back:

It was a man. Drowned. Dead.
Lying on the sand, waves breaking over his back.
The body should be moved, but Caleb couldn’t manage alone.
Yet who in this godforsaken place would help him?

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The Verdict:

Tanya Landman’s historical YA adventure novel is an intriguing tale of racism, family and fraud that’s filled with twists and turns from beginning to end (some easy to get, others altogether more fiendish). I picked this up because I’d enjoyed Landman’s Carnegie winning BUFFALO SOLDIER and this is much in the same quality vein – she’s particularly good at putting non-white characters in historical settings in a way that feels believable and easy to relate to. It’s easy to root for Caleb given his love for his father and his anger at the injustices that he sees and is subject to (including anger at the way the political and legal system protects the elite) and Landman really puts him through the mill in the story. I wasn’t particularly convinced by the romance between Caleb and Letty (mainly because it felt rather forced) but I did like the growing relationship between Caleb and his aunt and the slow reveal of her and Joseph’s background and how it ties in with the on-going plot. I also found the antagonists to be a little two-dimensional, particularly William Benson who only needs a moustache to twirl to cement his villainy and I would have liked a bit more in the author’s note at the end as Landman reveals that this book is based on real life events but doesn’t expand on the same or what happened. For all that, this is a book that held my attention from beginning to end – I can well see why it’s made the Guardian Children’s Book shortlist this year and I look forward to reading what Landman writes next.

HELL AND HIGH WATER was released in the United Kingdom on 5th May 2016. Thanks to Walker Books for the review copy of this book.
The Blurb On The Back:

Twelve dastardly crimes have been committed.
They seem impossible …
But can you solve them?

The twelve stories in this collection contain murder, mayhem, poison and plot, dognapping, safe-breaking, sabotage and biscuits.

Only the intrepid young detectives – and the reader – can crack the cases and save the day. Are you up for the Crime Club’s challenge?

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Introduced and edited by Katherine Woodfine, this anthology of 12 crime fiction stories for readers aged 9+ is a perfect introduction to the genre. Woodfine has divided the anthology into four sections – Impossible Mysteries (essentially locked room mysteries), Canine Capers (crimes where dogs help or feature in the mystery), Poison Plots (self-explanatory) and Closed-System Crimes (crimes where only a limited number of people could have committed it)

MYSTERY AND MAYHEM was released in the United Kingdom on 5th May 2016. Thanks to Amazon Vine for the review copy of this book.

Help! I’m An Alien by Jo Franklin

The Blurb On The Back:

”I have nothing in common with my family!”

Daniel Kendall is different – different to the other Kendalls anyway. After all, he’s the only one with brown hair and brown eyes, and what’s more, he’s taller than his family, his friends and probably everyone else in the entire world.

Big sister Jessie has made it clear just how different Daniel is, by explaining that he is in fact, an alien, kindly adopted by her parents. Confused, Daniel turns to his two friends, Freddo and Gordon the Geek, for help to return to his home planet. But when things don’t go according to plan Daniel has to decide whether he is an alien or a human after all.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Jo Franklin’s debut book for children aged 8+ is a warm and funny story that will appeal to any child who feels like they don’t belong and the illustrations by Aaron Blecha do a great job of drawing out the humour. Daniel is a likeable character – gawkily tall, enduring a meaner older sister and certain that his best friends aren’t cool (and yet desperate to keep them) – it’s easy to understand why he so readily believes Jessie’s claim that he’s an alien and Franklin does well at showing his point of view (especially as the facts point to something being wrong). I also enjoyed the depictions of Freddo (who comes from a colourful family of market traders that I hope to see more of in future books) and Gordon (who has OCD, loves his laptop and is tight with his money), both of whom support Daniel in their own way while also having their own issues to worry about. There are some great set-piece comedy scenes (my favourite being a meeting in a kiddie’s wendy house but closely followed by an escapade with a home satellite dish and experiments in cryogenic stasis) and Franklin packs a lot of plot into what’s actually quite a short book. There are two sequels planned for this and I will definitely be checking out what Daniel and his friends get up to next.

Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence

The Blurb On The Back:

Not cool enough, not clever enough, not street enough for anyone to notice me. I was the kid people looked straight through.

Not any more. Not since Mr Orange.

Sixteen-year-old Marlon has made his mum a promise – he’ll never follow his big brother, Andre, down the wrong path. So far, it’s been easy, but when a date ends in tragedy, Marlon finds himself hunted.

They’re after the mysterious Mr Orange, and they’re going to use Marlon to get to him. Marlon’s out of choices – can he become the person he never wanted to be, to protect everyone he loves?

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The Verdict:

Patrice Lawrence’s debut YA novel is a thoughtful mix of thriller and contemporary drama with well drawn characters. Marlon’s home life and how his family have already been tainted by violence due to Andre’s involvement with gang culture forms a strong central spine. Andre is sensitively drawn – having been left brain-damaged as a result of a car accident brought about by a rival gang leader – and his scenes with his mother and Marlon (who he doesn’t remember) are touching. Also good is Marlon’s friendship with neighbour, Tish, a mouthy teenage girl drawn to bad boys but who always has Marlon’s back, while Marlon’s mother is easy to sympathise with – determined for Marlon to make the most of his life, fiercely defensive of him and all the time scared to death that he’s going to get drawn into making the same mistakes as Andre. Unfortunately Sonya didn’t work for me (mainly because she’s such a cypher) and I think that the thriller elements didn’t work as well as they should, mainly because the pacing isn’t there to maintain tension while there are a couple of scenes where I didn’t believe Marlon’s reactions (notably with regard to knowing he needs to get rid of incriminating items). That said this is a strong debut that gives a new perspective on what it is to be a black teenager in London and the prejudices and pressures that they face.

ORANGEBOY was released in the United Kingdom on 2nd June 2016. Thanks to Amazon Vine for the ARC of this book.

Poison City by Paul Crilley

The Blurb On The Back:

The name’s Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London

I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things – finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I’m going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

Life is pretty routine – I solve crimes, I search for my daughter’s killer, I try and keep my dog away from the booze. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I’m called out to the murder of a ramanga – a low-key vampire – basically the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There’s even CCTV footage of the killer.

Except … the face on the CCTV footage? It’s the face of the man who killed my daughter. I’m about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can’t do both.

It’s not looking good for the world.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Paul Crilley’s debut adult novel is a strong blend of urban fantasy and crime fiction that will be familiar to fans of Ben Aaronovich. What’s great about the book is the location - Crilley really makes the most of Durban, bringing the geography and people to live and setting his plot against the politics and economic situation of South Africa. Also great is the extensive world building that Crilley does here – there’s a lot going on and while there are times when it’s a little too dense, this does feel like a fully realised world with a lot of potential. I particularly liked the details about how the Delphic Division is set up and operates and how that works with South African politics and Crilley’s put a lot of thought into his magic systems (known in the book as shinecraft). Character-wise, Tau was for me a little too stock a detective character (alcoholic drowning in grief) and his relationship with his ex-wife was spartan to the point of being a plot device. However the dog is great and I loved Tau’s boss, Armstrong, who’s a strong female boss with a mean line in Harry Potter jokes and who undertakes a massive development that holds a lot of promise for future books in the series. There were some pacing issues, mainly due to the weight of the world building but all in all this is a solid start to what promises to be an interesting series.

POISON CITY will be released in the United Kingdom on 11th August 2016. Thanks to Amazon Vine for the ARC of this book.

The Book Of Souls by James Oswald

The Blurb On The Back:

Every year for ten years, a young woman’s body was found in Edinburgh at Christmas time: naked, throat slit, body washed clean.

The final victim, Kirsty Summers, was Detective Constable Tony McLean’s finacee. But the Christmas Killer made a mistake and McLean put an end to the brutal killing spree.

Twelve years later, and a fellow prisoner has murdered the Christmas Killer. But with the festive season comes a body: naked, washed, her throat cut.

Is this a copycat killer? Was the wrong man behind bars all this time? Or is there a more sinister explanation?

McLean must revisit his most disturbing case and discover what he missed before the killer strikes again …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

The second in the INSPECTOR MCLEAN SERIES has pacing problems and the heavy handed supernatural elements that don’t gel with the crime elements. The big issue for me is that Oswald struggles to bring together the drugs operation, the murders and the arsons in a convincing way – the arson storyline in particular could have been easily dropped and I think that the supernatural element would have been stronger for it. I also found the identity of the antagonist to be easy to guess and the chapters told from their point of view didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the context of the story. This is all a shame because I liked the insights we get on Tony’s personal life (alluded to in NATURAL CAUSES) and would have liked more information on his relationship with Kirsty (who’s rather flat and two-dimensional) as a contrast to what’s going on with Emma. Tony’s forced therapy sessions could have helped with this but the set-up was artificial and the relationship unnecessarily antagonistic. I enjoy Tony’s relationship with Grumpy Bob and his squad and enjoyed the introduction of DS Ritchie and I like how Oswald forces his character into new situations while weighing him up with guilt. As such, while this book didn’t work for me, I do want to read the next one.

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