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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.

Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus

The Blurb On The Back:

A man with a consuming addiction.
A woman who talks to God.
And the secret connection that could destroy them both …

Jerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins.

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The Verdict:

Michael Grothaus’s debut novel is a pitch black comedy, slickly plotted thriller about sex trafficking, the influence of the media, addiction and the need for hope and redemption and while it definitely won’t be to everyone’s tastes, it’s sharp, sometimes bleak read with something to say and it kept me laughing as I turned the pages. What Grothaus does really well is show Jerry’s self-awareness as to how pathetic and cowardly he is but at the same time show the humanity underneath (notably in his flashback scenes with his younger sister Emma but also through his developing friendship with Bela). His relationship with the damaged and dangerous Epiphany is equal parts hatred, fascination, pity and Stockholm syndrome and he neatly feeds in allusions to Joan of Arc. There are some elements that didn’t work for me – at times the tone shifts are too sudden and the ending feels like it’s missing a chapter in that one character doesn’t really get a resolution and in fact, seems to be in worse trouble than they were at the start. However this is offset by Grothaus’s pertinent comments on the malign influence of the media, the sharpness of the humour and the pace of the story. Grothaus is a writer to watch and I will definitely be checking our his next novel.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

The Blurb On The Back:

Three girls.

One summer.

A friendship that changed their lives.

Have you ever in your life come to realise that everything, absolutely everything, depends on you?

Two days ago, Raymie Clarke’s father ran away with a dental hygienist.

But Raymie has a plan. If she can just win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father will see her picture in the paper and (maybe) come home.

First, however, Raymie has to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton. Then she must compete with the wispy but determined Louisiana Elefante and the feisty, knife-wielding Beverly Tapinski …

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The Verdict:

Kate DiCamillo’s historical novel for children’s aged 9+ is another beautifully written story about love, loss and friendship. The plot is stripped back and deceptively simple – the girls wait for their baton twirling class, Raymie tries to do a good deed and together they try to recover Louisiana’s cat. DiCamillo’s real focus is on Raymie and how she grows as a result of her experiences and her skill is in taking her through some painful life lessons without ever becoming cloying or overly sentimental. There are some incredibly moving moments in the book – particularly those that involve Raymie coming to terms with her father’s decision to leave and how it isn’t her fault. I also love how DiCamillo weaves in small moments from Raymie’s backstory (such as life saving classes) to flesh her out while also move the plot forward – she makes it look so easy, when in fact it’s remarkably sophisticated. The slow development of the girl’s friendship is also well done from the quirky Louisiana to the angry Beverly (who’s loathing of baton twirling really made me smile) but I did want a little more of their backstory – specifically their family set up. There’s a hint that Beverly’s being abused and Louisiana’s grandmother seems to have mental health issues but this doesn’t go anywhere and I just needed a little more information to really flesh them out. This aside, I thought that this was a beautifully written book that marks DiCamillo as one of the finest writers in children’s fiction today.

Thanks to Walker Books for the review copy of this book.
The Blurb On The Back:

Princess Harriet Hamsterbone is nobody’s damsel in distress!

When Harriet hears about twelve mice princesses cursed to dance all night long, she knows she’s just the rodent to save them. After all, Harriet is practically a professional curse-breaker. (Reversing her own curse only backfired a little!)

And never mind that the princesses’ father, the Mouse King, had more of a boy hero in mind. Handsome princes are so overrated.

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The Verdict:

The second in Ursula Vernon’s HAMSTER PRINCESS SERIES for children aged 8+ is another delight from beginning to end. This book riffs on the Grimm fairytale of THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES, which Harriet proceeds to resolve in her own inimitable style, mixing stubbornness and practicality in equal measure. As with the first book, the illustrations are brilliant and really add to the story rather than just illustrate what happened. Given that there are 12 mice princesses here, it’s perhaps inevitable that they don’t all get proper character development, but I did like August and her quick thinking. The Mouse King makes an interesting villain (particularly his interesting views on interior design) and although the ending isn’t really in doubt, I really enjoyed the introduction of the moles (my favourite illustration was the difference between a happy mole and a probably not a happy mole) and it was great to see Wilbur again (forced to work as a stable hand for the Mouse King because the family basement has flooded). If I’ve got a quibble, it’s that I’d have liked a bit more Mumfrey (who didn’t really have much to do here) but that’s really a minor comment because this is a funny, warm and clever reworking of a known fairytale and it’s great to finally see a strong female hamster character. I will definitely read the next in this series.

Nothing Short Of Dying by Erik Storey

The Blurb On The Back:

Clyde Barr has been on the run for sixteen years. Now he’s back in the Colorado wilderness, hoping for a quiet life.

Then Clyde receives a frantic phone call for help from his sister. But the line goes dead. She’s been taken.

Clyde doesn’t know where she is. He doesn’t know who has her. He doesn’t know how much time he has. All he knows is that nothing short of dying will stop him from saving her …

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The Verdict:

Erik Storey’s debut thriller (the first of a series) is billed as a mix of TAKEN and JACK REACHER and while Storey’s action scenes are sharp, fast and credible and he’s excellent in his description of landscape and scenery, the story literally makes no sense and is full of holes that Storey doesn’t really try to paper over. Clyde Barr himself is no different to other heroes in this genre – a lone wolf ex-mercenary with a code of honour – but the first person narration gives him more depth than most. I was pleased that Clyde’s sidekick, Allie, gets some development beyond being an instant love interest for him and I liked the way she was prepared to stand up to him and for herself, although I could have done without the tragic backstory or some of the later events. Unfortunately the antagonist is two-dimensional, his plan doesn’t make a lick of sense, nor his reasons for kidnapping Jen and the final confrontation is a let down. I was also disappointed in a key plot twist, which is telegraphed far too early and which even Clyde seems to admit he should have seen coming. The book has a high body count and the action scenes – particularly the fight scenes – are well choreographed and I think Storey captures the mountains and wilderness beautifully. Ultimately there’s a lot of groundwork here for the rest of the series and while this book didn’t really come good for me, there’s enough for me to want to read on.

NOTHING SHORT OF DYING will be released in the United Kingdom on 25th August 2016. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC of this book.

The Emergency Zoo by Miriam Halahmy

The Blurb On The Back:

It is late August 1939: Britain is on the brink of war, and preparations are under way to evacuate London’s children to the countryside. When twelve-year-old Tilly and her best friend Rosy find out that they will not be able to take their beloved dog and cat with them – and that, even worse, their pets will, along with countless other animals, be taken to the vet to be put down – they decide to act. The two girls come up with the idea of hiding them in a derelict hut in the woods and, when other children find out and start bringing their rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, their secret den turns into an emergency zoo.

Inspired by real events during the Second World War, Miriam Halahmy’s novel is a touching tale of courage, resourcefulness and camaraderie in desperate times, as well as a stirring defence of animal welfare.

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The Verdict:

Miriam Halahmy’s standalone historical novel for children aged 9+ is based on the real life decision of grown-ups in 1939 to kill around 75,000 family pets for fear of what the war would do to them. Halahmy tells the story with a great deal of sensitivity to the love that the children have for their pets while also showing the anxiety that many adults felt about the coming war and how they wanted to try and do the sensible thing to better protect their families. Although Tilly and Rosy are well characterised, the other children are painted in broad brushstrokes (reconciling poor and rich and bullies with victims), although I did like how Halahmy brings in Jewish refugees from Germany with Rudi and Lotte because it added an extra dimension to the story. Halahmy does not sugar coat the practicalities of keeping so many animals or the consequences of failures (and I did get a bit teary at some of the events) but there’s enough hope in the ending (with some nicely executed antics) to offset the darker moments. All in all this is a well put-together novel about a forgotten event in British history and I look forward to seeing what Halahmy writes next.

Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Lange

The Blurb On The Back:

The rebel, the bully, the geek, the pariah.

These four were never destined to like each other. But they’re speeding down the motorway together. In a stolen police car. Running from the law …

Well, it’s one way to make friends …

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The Verdict:

I picked this up because I really enjoyed Erin Lange’s previous YA novels BUTTER and DEAD ENDS and I was interested in the idea of a road trip playing out over one night. There are things that I enjoyed in this book – Sam is sensitively written – self-conscious about her scars and by turns disappointed in, angry at and loving to her mother (who is shown with all her flaws but who you are sure does love her daughter). Some of the best scenes in the book are where Sam is forced to confront how she is not as invisible at school as she thinks and the flashback scenes showing previous interactions with Boston, Andi and York are pithy and packed with emotional truth. Unfortunately Andi, York and Boston were (for me) thinly drawn to the point of being caricatures and ultimately the series of events drawing them together and driving the plot just don’t ring true, especially the ending where the sudden reveal of information was disappointing and Sam’s actions didn’t convince me. Ultimately it’s a novel that (for me) had some good moments but pulled its punches and didn’t make me believe in the story, although I’d definitely read what Lange writes next.

Thanks to Faber & Faber for the review copy of this book.

A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky

The Blurb On The Back:

Enter a world of Wall Street wolves, slumming scenesters, desperate artists, drug-induced divinities, pocket steampunk universes, and demonic coffee shops.

M is a drifter with a sharp tongue, few scruples, and limited magical ability, who would prefer drinking artisanal beer to involving himself in the politics of the city.

Alas, in the infinite nexus of the universe which is New York, trouble is a hard thing to avoid, and now a rivalry between the city’s two queens threatens to make the Big Apple go the way of Atlantis.

To stop it, M will have to call in every favour, waste every charm, and blow every spell he’s ever acquired – he might even have to get out of bed before noon.

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The Verdict:

In a crowded and sometimes jaded urban fantasy market, Daniel Polansky has produced a real and unusual gem. Ignore what the blurb on the back says – there’s no single unifying story, it’s more a collection of interconnected short stories with each chapter forming an episode in M’s life and although the heart of the city storyline is the most prominent recurring strand (as is the battle between Celise and Abeline, which pitches wealth and money against hipster, hippy chic), it doesn’t come to the fore until the final quarter of the book. Having heard positive things about Polansky’s other books I was not disappointed with this because of the sheer scale of Polansky’s imagination. His New York is home to pocket universes, impossible subway journeys, demonic houses, drugs that can put a god in your brain and a fish that can give you the benefit of all the wisdom in the world. Every chapter is a delight (my favourites involve M and his friends being transported to an alternate universe where they’re forced to play heroes and a truly evil house that eats anyone who mistakenly enters it) and even though the supporting cast of the bullish, violent Boy, naïve wannabe apprentice Flemel, romantic loser Andre and dashing adventurer Stockdale are thinly drawn what Polansky does put on the page stays in your mind (especially Stockdale, who I thought was a great inversion of the British Empire hero). If I have a criticism I have to say that the drug taking was used too frequently to bash the message of how bored these magic users can become with their longer lifespans but Polansky does it with dark humour and puts a creative spin on it. All in all, I think urban fantasy fans should definitely check this out and I’ll be ordering Polansky’s back catalogue.

A CITY DREAMING will be released in the United Kingdom on 6th October 2016. Thanks to Amazon Vine for the ARC of this book.

Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgewick

The Blurb On The Back:

In Paris, at the end of the nineteenth century, a man with a perfect memory murders his wife.

But that is only the start of the story …

In Paris in the year 1899, Marcel Despres is arrested for the murder of his wife and transferred to the famous Salpetriere asylum. And there the story might have stopped.

But the doctor assigned to his care soon realises this is no ordinary patient: Marcel Despres, Mister Memory, is a man who cannot forget. And the policeman assigned to his case soon realises that something else is at stake: for why else would the criminal have been hurried off to hospital, and why are his superiors so keen for the whole affair to be closed?

This crime involves something bigger and stranger than a lovers’ fight – something with links to the highest and lowest establishments in France. The policeman and the doctor between them must unravel the mystery … but the answers lie inside Marcel’s head.

And how can he tell what is significant when he remembers every detail of every moment of his entire life?

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The Verdict:

Marcus Sedgwick’s latest novel is a mash-up of historical, literary and crime thriller that features some beautifully written prose but its meandering plot spends too long contemplating the nature of memory and too little time in building a suspenseful plot or a satisfying pay off. The main problem for me is Marcel who is completely passive (especially when he retreats into his memories) and whose marriage with the two-dimensional Ondine didn’t convince me. Dr Morel’s role is mainly confined to exploring the nature of Depres’s memory and discovering its critical flaw, which means that Inspector Petit is the more interesting character – an ex-military man haunted by the murder of his fiancé while he was serving overseas – who becomes determined to uncover the conspiracy no matter what the cost. That conspiracy is itself pretty predictable and while Sedgwick tries to tie in anarchists, Russian agitators and the sordid hypocrisy of the establishment, the pace is so meandering that it lacked tension and this is exacerbated by the fact that some key events happen off page and are recounted third hand by others. There are some beautifully written sections, Sedgwick has a great feel for period and there’s a nice nod to the Dreyfus affair but while I did keep turning the pages, the story never got out of third gear for me. I will always check out Sedgwick’s work but if you’re new to reading him, I’d still recommend starting with his YA novels.

MISTER MEMORY was released in the United Kingdom on 14th July 2016. Thanks to Amazon Vine for the ARC of this book.
The Blurb On The Back:

Siri Bergman is terrified of the dark.

She lives alone, an hour outside Stockholm where she practises as a psychotherapist, her nearest neighbour far away. Siri tells her friends that she has moved on since her husband died in a diving accident. But when she goes to bed at night, she leaves all the lights on, unable to shake the feeling that someone is watching her.

With the light gone, the darkness creeps inside.

One night she wakes to find that the house is pitch black, and the torch by her bedside her vanished. Later, the body of one of her young patients is found floating in the water nearby. Thrown headlong into a tense murder investigation, Siri finds herself unable to trust anyone, not even her closest friends. Who can she turn to for answers?

The truth is hidden in the darkness.

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The Verdict:

Camilla Grebe and Asa Traff’s psychological thriller (the first in a series) was a Swedish bestseller and has been translated into English by Paul Norlen. Unfortunately I found this to be a dull and limply plotted affair with a passive and reactive main character I couldn’t relate to and a supporting cast of two-dimensional, dull characters who I didn’t care about. This is a pity because the opening chapter is genuinely interesting with the death of a young girl – but it isn’t until the very last chapters that this comes into play again and the circumstances are so ridiculous that by then I simply didn’t care. Siri herself has a flat first person voice (which may be down to the translation rather than the original version) and is incapable of making connections or vocalising what’s going on. In truth, I found her a self-obsessed ninny and I totally didn’t care about her relationship with her dead husband or the cliché relationship that develops with the policeman investigating what’s happening to her. I can’t comment on how authentic the psychotherapy sessions are, but I did find the patients and their backgrounds to be cliché riddled and dull and the revelation of the killer came out of left field (especially their motivation, which I really thought would have rung a bell with Siri a little earlier than it did). Ultimately, this just didn’t hold my interest and while there’s a suggestion it’s going to move into criminal psychology in later books there’s nothing that makes me want to read on.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the review copy of this book.

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