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[sticky post] Master List of Books 2015

1. A Conspiracy Of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz.

2. Replica by Jack Heath.

3. Blue Fire by Janice Hardy.

4. Ibarajo Road by Harry Allen.

5. You by Caroline Kepnes.

6. Skulduggery Pleasant – Last Stand Of Dead Men by Derek Landy.

7. Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying Of The Light by Derek Landy.

8. The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney.

9. A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre.

10. The Bat by Jo Nesbo.

11. Rush Of Blood by Mark Billingham.

12. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.

13. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson.

14. Dreams Of Gods And Monsters by Laini Taylor.

15. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore.

16. NOS4R2 by Joe Hill.

17. The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett.

18. OxCrimes edited by Mark Ellingham and Peter Florence.

19. Dream-Songs: A Retrospective Book 1 by George R. R. Martin.

20. Vowed by Liz de Jager.

21. I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork.

22. The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness.

23. Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold.

24. Season To Taste by Natalie Young.

25. Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens.

26. Arsenic For Tea by Robin Stevens.

27. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

28. The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury.

29. Under Ground by S. L. Grey.

30. Remix by Non Pratt.

31. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab.

32. Foreign Gods, Inc by Okey Ndibe.

33. Mind Games by Teri Terry.

34. MI6 – Life And Death In The British Secret Service by Gordon Corera.

35. A Death In The Family by Caroline Dunford.

36. Nobody Saw No One by Steve Tasane.

37. Sea Djinn by Linda Davies.

38. Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman.

39. First Class Murder by Robin Stevens.

40. Say Her Name by James Dawson.

41. The Bonehill Curse by John Mayhew.

42. Any Other Name by Emma Newman.

43. All Is Fair by Emma Newman.

44. As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka.

45. Blue Chip Kids by David W. Bianchi.

46. The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham.

47. Veiled by Benedict Jacka.

48. The House Of Shattered Wings by Aliette De Bodard.
The Blurb On The Back:

A superb murder mystery, on an epic scale, set against the fall out – literally – of a war in heaven.

Paris has survived the Great Magicians War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burn-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naïve but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall …

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The Verdict:

Aliette de Bodard’s fantasy novel is a gothic mix of GAME OF THRONES meets PARADISE LOST and while I really liked the mythology underpinning this war-wracked world, the murder mystery left me cold. De Bodard uses a number of narrators to track through the events, including Philippe, Selene, Isabelle and Madelaine (an alchemist taken in by Silverspires from the ambitious House Hawthorne) but they don’t all get sufficient page time to develop. This is especially the case with Madelaine and Isabelle, who are one note and appear to be there more to service the plot than to influence it. This is countered in part by Philippe, who is a fascinating character who has lost everything he knows and loathes the House system and all it stands for – in fact, I wanted to know more about him as de Bodard gives hints as to his previous life but not details, e.g. what he did to get throne out of the court of the Immortals. I found the politics fascinating, particularly the rivalry and balance between the competing houses and the rise of Asmodeus who leads House Hawthorne after committing a bloody coup and I would have loved to have learned more about Claire, who leads House Legion and who clearly knows more than she is letting on. The big issue though is the murder mystery, which lacks pace and urgency and, critically, doesn’t involve much actual investigating, instead consisting of characters reacting to the series of events and running away from them. Ultimately while there were aspects that I enjoyed, ultimately this novel doesn’t quite live up to its ambition for me.

Veiled by Benedict Jacka

The Blurb On The Back:

Rebel no more.

Alex Verus is a mage who can see the future, but even he didn’t see this day coming. He’s agreed to join the Keepers, the magical police force, to protect his friends from his old master.

Going legit was always going to be difficult for an outcast like Alex, and there are some Keepers who will do anything to see an ex-Dark mage fail. He finally has the law on his side – but trapped between Light and Dark politics, investigating a seedy underworld with ties to the highest of powers, will a badge be enough to save him?

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The Verdict:

The sixth in Benedict Jacka’s ALEX VERUS SERIES has a filler feel as Jacka concentrates on setting up the political battles going on between Light mages as they respond to the threat from the Dark mage factions, which I enjoyed because it fleshes out Verus’s world. There’s also a degree of set-up in the relationship between Luna and Alex as he realises that he’s reaching his limits as her master but I found the introduction of Dark chance mage Chalice fascinating and I’m really looking forward to seeing the effect she has on their relationship. For all this filler though, there’s still plenty of action and I enjoyed – as ever – the fight scenes and how Alex navigates his way through them. I also welcomed the bigger role for Caldera, a journeyman police officer who does the job the best she can despite internal corruption. I found the introduction of the White Rose group a bit jarring – mainly because there’s been no real mention of it in the previous books and so it took me a while to believe in their power and influence – but also because the sex slavery angle seemed a bit too stereotypical for me and lacked a human angle to give it the punch it needed. Ultimately, there was a lot here for fans of the series and I’m really looking forward to the next book.

The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham

The Blurb On The Back:

The deal.

Tom Thorne is back in charge – but there’s a terrifying price to pay. Stuart Nicklin, the most dangerous psychopath he has ever put behind bars, promises to reveal the whereabouts of a body he buried twenty-five years before. But only if Thorne agrees to escort him.

The danger.

Unable to refuse, Thorne gathers a team and travels to a remote Welsh island, at the mercy of the weather and cut off from the mainland. Thorne is determine to get the job done and return home before Nicklin can outwit them.

The deaths.

But Nicklin knows this island well and has had time to plan ahead. Soon, new bodies are added to the old, and Thorne finds himself facing the toughest decision he has ever had to make …

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The twelfth in Mark Billingham’s excellent TOM THORNE SERIES is a well-constructed psychological thriller that sees Nicklin and Thorne resume the game of cat and mouse that began with SCAREDY CAT. The mystery here all lies in trying to work out what Nicklin’s game is as he takes Thorne and his crew to Bardsey Island, off the Welsh coast. Although we learn more of Nicklin’s early life – his time spent in an experimental youth offender home and his friendship with a naïve young man called Simon – I did think those scenes slowed down the otherwise nail biting plot. Nicklin’s always been a creepy and ruthless enemy and he’s really allowed to enjoy himself here – his exchanges with Thorne ramp up the tension, especially because Thorne’s hamstrung in his ability to respond and Nicklin knows that. Also interesting is a possible romantic temptation for Tom in his team, which I wish had been explored further and hope will come up in future books. Where the book is weakest is in some of the detail with regard to how Nicklin set up his plans – as the different strands came together it felt a little too convenient at times and I’d have liked a bit more jeopardy and less inevitability. Given the open ending, this may be something that Billingham comes back to in future books, but to be honest I needed to see it here just so that I could fully buy into the plot. That said, the emotional fall out of Nicklin’s plan is credible and promises to have a continuing effect in the books to come, which I shall definitely be checking out.

Blue Chip Kids by David W. Bianchi

The Blurb On The Back:

The how-to guide to the world of money and investing.

Blue Chip Kids: What Every Child (And Parent) Should Know About Money, Investing, And The Stock Market is a fun and easy-to-understand introduction to the world of money and investing for kids and parents. Frustrated by the lack of entertaining financial teaching materials for his 13-year-old son, this book is the result of a father’s commitment to pass on one of life’s most important skills. Written by David W. Bianchi – an investor and lawyer with an economics degree from Tufts University – this hands-on resource demystifies the basic principles about money matters and shows what it takes to spend, save, and invest wisely.

Filled with simple examples and numerous illustrations, this easy-to-read book discusses money and investing in 100 bite-size topics.

For every parent who wants their children to develop the skills to invest wisely and become responsible money managers, regular savers, and to earn money while they sleep, this book is a must have.

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The Verdict:

When David Bianchi couldn’t find a suitable book to help him to explain the basics of finance and investing to his 13-year-old son, Trent, he decided to write one and roped in his nephew, Kyle, to do the illustrations. The result is a readable and easy-to-understand guide that covers a very wide range of topics including:
- methods of payment,
- what the stock market is and how it operates (including technical information on put/call options, margins and associated terminology),
- stock options,
- bonds and certificates of deposit,
- funds and how they work,
- basic company analysis,
- the basics of borrowing money,
- venture capital and private capital,
- retirement savings.
Although it’s a very US-centric book, the basics covered here apply globally and while I think Bianchi’s refusal to sully the book with politics is laudable, I would like to have seen a bit more discussion of the funding of social security and public pensions and attitudes to the same. Ultimately though, this is a good way of introducing your teen to concepts of finance and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a starting place.

BLUE CHIP KIDS: WHAT EVERY CHILD (AND PARENT) SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MONEY, INVESTING, AND THE STOCK MARKET was released in the United Kingdom on 19th May 2015. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

The Blurb On The Back:

Lumikki Andersson is familiar with secrets and lies, but she also has a rule not to mind other people’s business.

When she discovers a lot of money – hanging, blood stained, in her school darkroom – that rule is put sharply to the test.

Lumikki is quickly drawn deep into the heart of Finland’s criminal underworld, caught in a dangerous web of corruption, deceit and murder.

She is no longer an observer, she is a target. And she needs to out-smart a ruthless killer.

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The Verdict:

Salla Simukka’s Scandi-noir YA thriller (the first in a trilogy), is a dark and dangerous story filled with murder, drugs and corruption and seen through the eyes of an intriguing main character who has a backstory filled with mystery. The translator, Owen F. Witesman, has done an excellent job with the translation, which is lean, mean and stylish. Lumikki is an intriguing and resourceful heroine who’s clearly suffered some serious trauma and heartache in her past (which I hope will be expanded upon and explained in the later books). I particularly enjoyed the reluctant way she is drawn into a friendship with the self-absorbed Elisa and the way the two girls find common ground with each other as they try to unravel what happened to the money and why. I also enjoyed the way Simukka also weaves in the story as seen from the villain’s point of view, which really fleshes out the situation and adds a sense of danger and intrigue. The criminal empire created by the Polar Bears is very interesting, especially the way it’s permeated the different social layers of Finnish society and I hope that this is again, something that gets explored more in the later books. That said, I did find one of the twists disappointingly easy to guess (and the implications of it get rather brushed beneath the carpet when it could have added more emotional oomph to the story) while the male characters of Tuuka and Kasper don’t get the page time needed to flesh them out and make them more rounded – indeed, this is a very short book and I’d have happily read something twice the length. That said, I did thoroughly enjoy this book and it will certainly appeal to any teen fans of THE BRIDGE or WALLENDER. I will definitely be checking out the next book in this trilogy.

All Is Fair by Emma Newman

The Blurb On The Back:

The Duke of Londinium is dead.

Long live the new Duke.

Sam, a stranger to the world of the Fae, finds an unexpected offer from one of the Elemental Court’s most enigmatic Lords turns out to be far more than he bargained for.

Meanwhile, Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is getting closer to uncovering who is behind the murder of the Bath Chapter.

Can he stay true to his sworn duty without being destroyed by his own master, whose insanity threatens to unravel them all?

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The Verdict:

The last book in Emma Newman’s SPLIT WORLDS TRILOGY is an ultimately disappointing affair as the plot sprawls out to bring in new elements while the central mystery gets a rushed and unfulfilling conclusion. This is a shame because there’s so much interesting world building going on in these books and I would have easily read a series of 6 or 8 because Newman does well at investigating and challenging the social and political landscape of her world and I really enjoyed the sinister revelations that come about the Agency and how it operates. I also enjoyed the expansion into Oxford and it’s mirror city and I especially liked its sorcerer Rupert, who shares Ekstrand’s eccentricity but is more amenable to modern technology. However, the developments with Sam come very late in the trilogy and the introduction of the Elemental Court – though potentially interesting – doesn’t have the room to make as much of an impact as it should. I was also very disappointed to see no mention or fall out from the rape in book 2, which left me very uncomfortable, particularly because of the way the book ends for the two characters concerned. What really annoyed me though was that the denouement to the mystery about the attack on the Bath Chapter was so poor – the antagonist literally doesn’t get introduced until the final quarter and we never find out what the motivation for it all was (only what Max and the gargoyle assume it could be). I wonder how much of this is expanded in the short stories and although this book didn’t work for me, I’d be interested in reading both them and a follow on trilogy.

Any Other Name by Emma Newman

The Blurb On The Back:

It’s Downton Abbey with magic, in Bath’s secret mirror city.

Cathy has been forced into an arranged marriage with William Iris – a situation that comes with far more strings than even she could have anticipated, especially when she learns of his family’s intentions for them both.

Meanwhile, Max and the gargoyle investigate the Agency – a mysterious organization that appears to play by its own twisted rules, none of them favourable to Society.

And in Mundanus, Sam has discovered something very peculiar about his wife’s employer – something that could herald disaster for everyone on both sides of the Split Worlds.

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The Verdict:

The second in Emma Newman’s SPLIT WORLDS TRILOGY is a mixed affair. I loved the expansion of the politics and social conditions of the mirror cities and Will’s attempts to navigate and win over Londinium society are great (especially his growing respect for his biggest rival, Bartholomew), but I was less convinced by the way he finds himself manipulated in the last quarter. I also enjoyed Cathy’s slow journey towards her own sense of purpose (including a heart-to-heart with her father, which helps to humanise him more). However, the investigation plot line is less successful in that despite the revelations about the Agency, there’s little actual progress with working out who’s behind the attack on the Bath Chapter and I didn’t understand Ekstrand’s reluctance to take some of the obvious steps that would move things on. Likewise Sam’s marital issues bored me given we haven’t really seen the happiness he supposedly used to enjoy with his wife and I wasn’t as interested in the revelation about her job as I was supposed to be. What really bothered me though was a rape, which is all the more horrific because no one seems to recognise it as a rape. I’m hoping that the repercussions will inform the final book because I found it really disturbing for it to go unremarked upon. I will definitely read the conclusion, but I’m worried about how Newman will pull the various plot strands together given that there’s so much story going on.

The Bonehill Curse by John Mayhew

The Blurb On The Back:

Be careful what you wish for …

Necessity Bonehill has unleashed an evil djinn from his bottle. Now she has just seven days to put him back. But the djinn has a different plan, and returning to his prison isn’t part of it.

With her friend Azuli and a fierce flying carpet, Ness must race against time to stop the djinn from carrying out his deadly last wish – whatever it takes.

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The Verdict:

The last book in Jon Mayhew’s loose middle grade historical fantasy is another well-written tale filled with pots of adventure and deliciously dark villainy. What’s particularly good about this book is that Ness is initially a pretty unpleasant character – a wilful, stubborn bully who terrorises the other girls at her boarding school and enjoy fighting the local boys. Mayhew skilfully gives her a convincing emotional backstory to explain this behaviour while also making clear that those qualities that make her unbearable can, when used properly, also make her a gutsy, determined heroine. I really enjoyed her relationship with Sergeant Major Morris and, for the most part, her bickering relationship with Azuli works – although I would have liked for him to have had a little more development just to round him out more. I wasn’t completely convinced by the Lashkars of Arabesque Alley, mainly because they came very close to being stock Arabian mystics, but Mayhew does give a lot of emotional subtlety to the relationship between Azuli and his adoptive father. Fans of MORTLOCK and THE DEMON COLLECTOR will enjoy the sly cross-references to those books and the return of some characters and themes from those books, but this does work very much as a standalone book for those who haven’t read the preceding novels. Ultimately, I enjoyed reading this and while I’m sorry that the trilogy has come to an end, I’m very much looking forward to reading what Mayhew writes next.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Books for the free copy of this book.

Say Her Name by James Dawson

The Blurb On The Back:

The truth is more terrifying than the legend.

When Bobbie and her best friend Naya are dared by their schoolmates to summon the legendary ghost of Bloody Mary, neither really believes that anything will happen. So they complete the ritual, and chant Mary’s name five times in front of a candlelit mirror ...

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary …

And something is called forth that night. Something dark, terrifying, and out of control. She will be there, just out of sight, in the corner of your eye. She will lurk in your nightmares. She will hide in the shadows of your bedroom. She will be waiting in every mirror that you see. She is everywhere. And she wants revenge.

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The Verdict:

James Dawson’s standalone horror novel is a well-paced story that handles its twists and shocks well but can’t quite escape its derivative roots – particularly the resemblance to Ringu. Bobbie is relatively well drawn, emotionally and physically distanced from her self-involved actress mother, her friendship with Naya (who, as a character, is a little too self-consciously cool) is believable and I enjoyed how the girls support each other without being sentimental, but the romance with Caine was predictable and a little dull. Dawson smacks out some zinger lines, his dialogue snaps and he really captures the bitchiness that can go on between teenage schoolgirls while the action is well paced and he knows how to draw out tension and make the most of his shocks. He also does well to turn Bloody Mary herself into a sympathetic character by showing the monster’s all-too-human beginnings. The big problem, however, is that Bloody Mary’s story is so derivative and although that is partly the point (every school has its own ghost legend), I kept thinking of Ringu as I was reading this and the overlap was such that it really affected my enjoyment. This is a shame because Dawson is a talented writer and horror is an oddly under-represented genre on the YA shelves. However while this book didn’t quite work for me, I will definitely check out Dawson’s other work.

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