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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.

83. Cogheart by Peter Bunzl.

84. The Watcher Of Dead Time by Edward Cox.

85. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon.

86. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins.

87. No Virgin by Anne Cassidy.

88. I Am China by Xiaolu Guo.

89. Shoot The Messenger by Shane Kuhn.

90. Age Of Anger: A History Of The Present by Pankaj Mishra.

91. The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch.

92. Ragdoll by Daniel Cole.

93. Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon.

94. Mistletoe And Murder by Robin Stevens.

95. Chasing Embers by James Bennett.

96. Gilded Cage by Vic James.

97. The First Rule Of Survival by Paul Mendelson.

98. The Dry by Jane Harper.

99. My Embarrassing Dad’s Gone Viral by Ben Davis.

100. Zebra Crossing by Meg Vandermerwe.

101. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

The Blurb On The Back:

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off the most daring heist imaginable.

But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re fighting for their lives.

Double-crossed and badly weakened, they’re low on resources, allies and hope.

While a war rages on the city’s streets, the team’s fragile loyalties are stretched to breaking point.

Kaz and his crew will have to make sure they’re on the winning side … no matter what the cost.

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The Verdict:

The sequel to Leigh Bardugo’s SIX OF CROWS is a thrilling YA fantasy crime caper with excellent world building, plenty of twists, humour, sadness and betrayal that had me desperately turning the pages until the end. All of the clever ploys and scams that made SIX OF CROWS so exciting are present here and I really enjoyed trying to work out what Kaz’s real move was. I enjoyed the friendships that grow here in the gang especially Inej and Nina as the only female characters and the way Bardugo fleshes out Jesper both through his relationship with his father and his interactions with Wylan (who also grows here). I welcomed the appearance of some old friends from THE GRISHA TRILOGY, who are used well and serve the plot and I thought Van Eck was an effective villain – smart, cruel and well resourced and yet whose weakness is his own contempt for the criminal element. There are some heart breaking scenes in the book, which I can imagine upsetting some fans but which I think are justified and well executed and I can also see some fans being disappointed with the underplayed romance between Kaz and Inej but I think it was really well written and completely true for each of them and each does develop in their own way. If I’m being critical then I did guess some of the developments (but not all) and I thought that the introduction of Dunyasha and the Kherguud soldiers came a little too late for them to be truly effective antagonists but none of this spoilt my enjoyment of what’s genuinely an excellent book and I really look forward to reading what Bardugo does next.

Zebra Crossing by Meg Vandermerwe

The Blurb On The Back:

Set in the underbelly of a pulsating Cape Town during the 2010 World Cup, this is the compelling and bold imagining of what it might feel like to live in another’s skin.

Ghost. Ape. Living dead. Young Chipo has been called many names, but to her mother – Zimbabwe’s most loyal Manchester United supporter – she has always just been Chipo, meaning gift. On the eve of the World Cup, Chipo and her brother flee to Cape Town hoping for a better life and to share in the excitement of the greatest sporting event ever to take place in Africa.

But the Mother City’s infamous Long Street is a dangerous place for an illegal immigrant and albino. Chipo is caught up in a get-rich-quick scheme organised by her brother and the terrifying Dr Ongani. Exploiting gamblers’ superstitions about albinism, they plan to make money and get out before rumours of looming xenophobic attacks become reality. But their scheming has devastating consequences.

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The Verdict:

Meg Vandermerwe’s debut literary YA novel focuses on the poverty and danger faced by illegal immigrants in South Africa and the particular horrors saved for those with albinism in a well-crafted novel more concerned with place and character than in providing an event-filled plot. There’s a lot to admire about the novel – Vandermerwe creates a well drawn cast of characters, each with their secrets and sorrows and each doing their best to try and survive in a country where many people don’t want them and see them as taking their jobs. I found Chipo too passive as a character – the only agency she really shows is when she visits Dr Ongani (sinister and suave, a born predator), which is when the horrors really start – but this is partly because of how she’s treated due to her condition, which has left her cowed not least because George constantly tells her how stupid she is. My main quibble with the book actually is the relationship between George and Chipo because there never seems to be any love there, he sees her as a burden and then as a money making scheme but never as a person and I wasn’t convinced by this due to the portrayal of their childhood and the impact of their mother. That said, I enjoyed the build of tension as each character makes compromises and the difficulty of daily life and would definitely read what Vandermerwe writes next.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.
The Blurb On The Back:

Hi guys!

I bet every one of you knows what it’s like to have an embarrassing parent – right? But let me tell you, my friend, NOBODY has a dad like mine. He takes embarrassing to a whole new level. If embarrassing was an Olympic sport, my dad would have, like, a gazillion gold medals.

He thinks he’s some kind of survival guru. And he’s make me and my sister live through the agony of his back-to-basics life with him. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s an INTERNET SENSATION!

People all over the world are waiting for the next hilarious video. And thanks to my clever secret filming, I’ll soon have enough money to convince Mum to come home …

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The Verdict:

Ben Davis’s comic novel for children aged 9+ (illustrated by Mike Lowery) is an entertaining book with some laugh-out-loud moments but I wasn’t completely comfortable with the fact that Nelson is basically filming his dad’s emotional breakdown. Nelson’s a resourceful main character and I enjoyed his relationship with Mary (whose devotion to Gertrude the chicken is very sweet) and his developing friendship with Kirsty and Ash who go from being forced to hang out with him to aiding and abetting his schemes. I wish that there’d been more of his relationship with his dad before his mum left because the focus on his dad’s hatred of technology without any consideration for the effect on his children makes him unsympathetic (although kindly neighbour Primrose does show some empathy for his behaviour). Similarly, I also wished that Nelson’s mother had more page time because I couldn’t believe in her ability to walk away without making any attempt to keep in touch. The supporting characters are broadly sketched and although I enjoyed the Elvis fan teacher, I wished that the laughs at the expense of the harbour master and his wife hadn’t made Tourette’s and narcolepsy the punch line to jokes. That said, there are some genuinely funny moments and there was enough here to make me want to check out Davis’s other comic novels for kids.

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

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Blurb On The Back:

You know, I look at Luke Hadler and on the surface he had it all – great wife, two kids, decent enough farm, respect in his community. Why would a man like that turn around one day and destroy his family? It makes no sense. I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.”

Falk rubbed a hand over his mouth and chin. It felt gritty. He needed a shave.

Luke lied. You lied.

“Raco,” he said. “There’s something about Luke you need to know.”

Australia is in the grip of its worst drought in a century; it hasn’t rained in the small country town of Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to his home town for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And when Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past begin to bubble to the surface.

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The Verdict:

Jane Harper’s debut crime novel is a well constructed story split between two time periods that shows the fractures in small town life made worse by a horrendous drought. I liked the novelty of a detective whose speciality isn’t murder and I thought Harper did a good job of taking a character weighed down by guilt and frustration who’s taken outside his comfort zone while Raco is a sturdy sidekick (a good copper in his own right rather than a lazy hick). Harper also makes the most of her small town setting – I believed in the dying businesses and dying farms caused by the devastating drought and the effects that it has on the local population as crops fail, animals die and desperation starts to set in. I particularly enjoyed the way Harper unspools the Ellie storyline, showing the tensions and passions at play in the set of friends and the ripples it continues to cause years later but wish the ending had given more of a hint as to whether justice would actually be served. I very much hope that Harper produces a series following Falk as I would definitely read on but failing that I’d also read her next work.

THE DRY will be released in the United Kingdom on 12th January 2017. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.
The Blurb On The Back:

Seven years ago, in Cape Town, South Africa, three schoolboys were abducted in broad daylight on consecutive days.

They were never seen again.

Now, a new case for the unpredictable Senior Superintendent Vaughn DeVries casts a light on the original enquiry; for him, a personal failure which has haunted and changed him. Struggling in a mire of departmental and racial rivalry, DeVries seeks the whole truth, and unravels a complex history of abuse, deception and murder. Encountering friends, colleagues and friends, DeVries realises he doesn’t know who he can trust.

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The Verdict:

Paul Mendelson’s debut crime novel (the first in a series) is a promising look at the racial and political tensions at play in modern South Africa told in a dark “Saffer Noir” style but it’s held back by an unsatisfying plot and antagonists whose motivations are thinly explained at best. The use of the South African landscape (which is evocative and rich and helps set the tone for the novel) is great as is the depiction of inter-police rivalries and corruption as the department succumbs to individual ambition and grievances rooted in the apartheid past. Unfortunately it’s difficult to empathise with DeVries – racist and driven by his gut – he’s an old school policeman unwilling to engage or even sympathise with the political and media forces buffeting his boss and protector Brigadier Du Toit and as such, I had difficulty buying into him. Equally difficult to believe in is DeVries self-appointed nemesis, David Werner (head of internal affairs) and Julius Mngomezulu (sidekick to General Sempiwe Thulani, Du Toit’s boss) who are thinly characterised to the point of being two-dimensional while Marantz is little more than a plot get-out-of-jail card there to provide some answers when needed and Don February has some enigmatic secret that I wasn’t too interested in discovering. There’s enough here to ensure I’ll check out the sequel but I really need more rounded characters if I’m to stick the series out.

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

Gilded Cage by Vic James

The Blurb On The Back:

Not all are equal.

In a modern Britain, everyone must endure ten years of slavery for a magically-skilled aristocracy.

Here, a teenage boy dreams of rebellion.

His sister thirsts for knowledge and will find love.

And a dangerous young aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

Not all will be saved.

One glorious summer, Luke’s family is torn apart. He’s expecting nothing more sinister than exams, while his sister Abi anticipates university. But they’ll be separated to do their slavedays – a decade of labour demanded by law, enforced by a magically-skilled aristocracy.

Luke will dream of rebellion in a barbaric factory town. Abi will navigate the malice of a high-born estate, and find an unlikely love. But the siblings must choose sides as Britain moves from anger to defiance. They’ll become entangled in acts of savagery and magic, as nobles vie for power. No one is safe and none will emerge unscathed. Is there a better way – or will a dangerous young aristocrat remake the world with his dark gifts?

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Vic James’s debut YA novel (the first in a trilogy) combines fantasy with dystopia in a smartly conceived, well-executed world where everyone’s motives are open to interpretation, bad people do good things and the stakes are impressively high. I loved the world-building – James creates a credible world of magic and aristocracy and I really enjoyed the Millmoor scenes (a Dickensian hell with a 1984 vibe). The political system is well developed and James does well at explaining how it works without info-dumping – particularly clever is her use of multiple points of view to flesh out the various factions and their agendas. The downside of the multiple viewpoints is that it left some characters underdeveloped – notably Abi whose intelligence and naivety didn’t quite work for me (I could have done without her insta-love for the bland Jenner as it lacks the page time to justify it) – but the apparent antagonists (particularly Gavar and Silyen) are subtly shaded (sinister and cruel but also capable of good) and promise much in future books. Although some of the plot twists are a little too telegraphed, James doesn’t pull her punches with brutal scenes and the ending promises much in the sequel, which I will definitely be reading.

GILDED CAGE will be released in the United Kingdom on 26th January 2017. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

Chasing Embers by James Bennett

The Blurb On The Back:

There’s nothing special about Ben Garston.

Or so he’d have you believe. He won’t tell you, for instance, that he’s also known as RED BEN. Or that the world of myth and legend is more real than you think.

Because it’s his job to keep all that a secret.

But now a centuries-old rivalry has resurfaced, and the delicate balance between his world and ours is about to be shattered.

Something is hiding in the heart of the city – and it’s about to be unleashed.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

James Bennett’s urban fantasy novel (the first in a new series) draws heavily on English folklore and African myth to build a rich fantasy world but it can’t make up for leaden writing, a main character who bumbles from trap to trap without any sense of agency and an underwritten love interest reduced to complaining and being used as bait. My big problem with this book is Ben Garston – a character who’s a dragon should be fascinating but instead Ben’s a melancholic drunk who mopes after his ex-girlfriend Rose McBriar (a student so woefully underwritten that she’s reduced to complaining that he doesn’t tell her the truth and getting captured by the antagonists for their own nefarious purposes). I enjoyed the scenes where Ben is in dragon form because Bennett has clearly put a lot of thought into the biology and mechanics of it all, but the dragon fight scenes (as indeed were the human fight scenes) are slow, leaden affairs and Ben isn’t much of an investigator – essentially lurching from one trap to another with no wit or agency to start putting facts together until they’re practically slapping him in the face. Ben’s sometime ally, the Fay ambassador Blaise Von Hart is part Cabaret MC, part Herr Lipp and the three witches Babe Cathy, Miss Macha ad Nan Nemain have potential as twisted versions of the virgin, whore and crone stereotypes but aren’t given the page time to evolve. The scenes building on African myth and Egyptian legend are interesting but again, stifled by two-dimensional characters. Ultimately there isn’t enough here for me to want to continue with this series, although I would check out Bennett’s other work.

Mistletoe And Murder by Robin Stevens

The Blurb On The Back:

”These attacks are not merely pranks or accidents,” said Daisy gravely. “They are intended – and I believe something truly terrible will happen before Christmas Day.”

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful libraries and inviting tea-rooms – but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of Maudlin College.

Two days before Christmas, a brutal accident takes place – but the Detective Society suspect murder. Faced with fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

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The Verdict:

The fifth in Robin Stevens’s bestselling middle grade crime series is another fiendishly plotted murder mystery with the added complication of a love triangle between Wells, Wong and Alexander and the introduction of newcomer George Mukherjee, a British Indian with an intellect and strength of will to match Daisy’s. Stevens shows that female students at Cambridge were treated as second-class citizens (both through having limited funds and because they weren’t entitled to be awarded degrees) and well uses the real secret Cambridge climbing society. I also enjoyed how Stevens develops the wedge put in Wells and Wong’s friendship in JOLLY FOUL PLAY, throwing in Hazel’s crush on Alexander and Alexander’s crush on Daisy to add emotional tension but then introducing the practical and intelligent George who shares many of Hazel’s experiences with racism and has an intellect to match Daisy’s to avoid what could be yet another dull love triangle. In fact Stevens does particularly well at highlighting 1930s racism, including the blatant abuse suffered by Chinese student Alfred Chung at Chummy’s hands and also Daisy and Hazel’s assumptions about George’s ethnicity. The only bum notes are the way a constable is left to investigate the deaths (which I didn’t quite believe) and the fact that the bodies aren’t immediately removed while the reaction to a revelation at the end of the book didn’t quite ring true for the times to me but otherwise I really enjoyed this book and look forward to book 6.

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

The Blurb On The Back:

Dear Sir or Madam,

The minions of Castle Hangnail seek a new master to overtake all dark and evil duties and responsibilities. Magical abilities are absolutely required*, as is a knack for smiting, blighting, and general malevolent behaviour. An intimidating appearance is a plus!

If interested, please send word via raven to the guardian of Castle Hangnail.

*Except in the case of Mad Scientists

The Minions of Castle Hangnail

When Molly shows up at Castle Hangnail’s doorstep to fill the vacancy for a Wicked Witch, the castle’s minions are suspicious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite … polite. It’s not exactly what they had in mind for wicked. But the castle desperately needs a Master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving the minions without the home they love.

Molly may not be as spectacularly cruel and devilishly demanding as the castle’s previous Masters, but when she produces some rather impressive magic, the minions feel hopeful she’ll be approved by the Board of Magic. They even start to like her. It turns out, though, that Molly is hiding quite a few secrets, including one that could mean the end of Castle Hangnail.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Ursula Vernon’s self-illustrated humorous fantasy novel for children aged 9+ is an absolute delight from start to finish with a fine cast of characters, sharp humour, a lot of warmth and wonderful illustrations. I absolutely adored the relationship that Molly develops with the guardian (who she names Majordomo) – each of them unsure of the other, each of them with secrets but each devoted to the Castle and the other inhabitants. My favourite scenes are those where Molly takes on a property developer who’s bullying people in a nearby village and has designs on Castle Hangnail but I also loved her interactions with the Minions (Pins and Lord Edward were my favourites, but I also loved the Minotaur cook who tolerates no balderdash and has an aversion to the letter Q) and a scene where she transforms a downtrodden donkey into a dragon had me laughing out loud. Vernon keeps tight control of her plot and the final quarter (where Molly’s deceptions are revealed and a genuine Evil Sorceress challenges her for the Castle) is excellent and I liked the way she draws a distinction between being evil and being wicked and ultimately shows the importance of friendship, loyalty and kindness. I don’t have a bad thing to say about this book and urge you to read it.

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