Its that time of year again. This year it has been incredibly hard to pick a top ten but I make myself do it every year, for a start it is always SO much fun thinking back to those books that haunted me or drove me bonkers at the time (more bonkers?) This years list honestly could easily have been a top 100 and from all the advance reading I’ve been doing for 2017 I can tell you next year is going to be even harder. Near New Year I shall be doing a post on all of those – the ones you might want to consider putting on pre-order or adding to your to read lists, I dare say you might find some of those in next years Top Ten. One in this years list is a book I read way back just after last years list went live. If a book stays with me boy it stays with me…
Here we go then. Alongside fellow reviewers who will all be posting their top reads over the course of December (I can’t wait to see their lists, you never know I might have missed something!) hopefully there will be something for everyone, although I’m sure my no 1 will come as no surprise to anyone that knows me maybe some of the others may be less expected. As a reviewer of all genres but a particular lover of the crime crowd who are my kind of people, this is a little full on crime light. But in this readers opinion that is because those genre lines are starting to blur in a beautiful beautiful way.
Writers are pushing boundaries. Keep doing that. Tell us the stories!
My personal Top Ten of 2016
Pierce Brown’s completion of the Red Rising Trilogy has to appear – it speaks to the quality of reading in 2016 for me that he is not no 1 – Morning Star was intense, heart stopping, this author messes with your head and your heart to a degree I don’t think I’ve come across in any other set of novels. He KILLED me with the entirety of this trilogy, the prose is so so so beautiful and just when you think you know what he’s going to do BAM he hits you with something totally unexpected. I will never forget these books. I’m so glad he will be returning to that universe in his next novels and one of my highlights of 2016 was meeting him at two separate events. The man is as magical as his novels.
This was the best fun I had with a book all year whilst at the same time being TOTALLY FREAKED OUT. I searched the house for intruders several nights in a row after finishing Jacks story not that they would have been the kind of intruders I could have dealt with. I woke up in a cold sweat several times too. But gosh did I laugh and laugh. So much that it actually hurt. Then I hid under a duvet and did not come out for a good few hours. That Jason Arnopp – seriously. Read this if you dare (with the lights blazing and a handy weapon somewhere within reach JUST IN CASE)
The Maker of Swans is magical. Totally utterly magical. It is delicious one of those books you drown in, still now months later it stays with me. My original review started with the words “I am madly in love with this book” and that holds true. Utterly enchanting and no matter your reading taste I would genuinely encourage everyone to give this a go.
Sockpuppet. Geeky gorgeous with an authentic current edge that right now if you are reading it will make you think Matthew Blakstad is some kind of psychic. Back in April when I originally read it, it blew me away. I loved it. Different, engaging, a little bit nuts (I don’t like to say a bit like its author now I know him a little but well….) and totally totally brilliant writing. One of those books I was referring to when I spoke about blurring the genre lines back at the top of this list….
Oh The Constant Soldier. THIS BOOK KILLED ME. I didn’t read another thing for a week I was devastated. It is simply incredible, emotional, prose to die for that just puts you right THERE and I will never forget it as long as I live. I’d like to say I’ll read it again but I don’t think I can go through that again. William Ryan is a superstar. Any other year this would be no 1 with bells on. It may sit here on this list but in my top reads of all time over my (I’m not going to say how many) years of reading it is somewhere near the top of the tree. Don’t miss it.
In at 5 we have The Wolf Road from Beth Lewis – a simply amazing debut with a character voice that is unique and compelling, telling a tale that will haunt your dreams. Dark, dreamy and divine, Elka will steal your soul and Beth Lewis is a talent to watch in the future. I rather think she is going to be something special in the world of literature. You heard it here first (you probably didn’t because I’m sure many people have said it already but pretend you did to make me feel better) Don’t miss this. You won’t read anything else like it.
I gulped my way through Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent and the first line in this book is the reason it is at No 4, because talk about waking up the reader and going HEY LOOK OVER HERE this book is Lying in Wait for you. Then the lovely Ms Nugent weaves a shocking, dark and utterly addictive yet character driven tale of murder and, well, family dynamics. One character in this novel will make you want to stab people. The character particularly. Plus its twisty. Gorgeously twisty. My twisty tale of the year.
Last year’s no 1 author gets this year’s no 3 – the utterly lovely (I’ll take that mars bar now) Rod Reynolds follows up The Dark Inside with this, Black Night Falling – another adventure for Charlie Yates and again it speaks to the quality of this years reading that he’s not No 1 yet again. This book proves that The Dark Inside was absolutely not a fluke. If anything Black Night Falling is even more compelling, more beautifully written and that there Mr Reynolds will soon be the Noir king of the world. I loved this. I lived it. If Rod Reynolds publishes his shopping list I’m reading it.
Girls on Fire. This whole book was on fire. And honestly picking between this and my no 1 for that no 1 spot was so hard that I outsourced the decision to my good friend and ex boss Anna Carter, an extraordinarily voracious reader who is just that with no filter – thanks SO much Anna and I’m going to be asking your opinion every year from now on! To be honest the two are fairly interchangeable for the sheer reading madness of them, and the author sitting at no 1 will not mind me saying that at all because he loved this one too. Incredible incredible writing, two main characters that are divisive, brilliantly drawn and on a path to tragedy, these Girls on Fire will capture your imagination and burn your very soul. If you haven’t yet read it then I can’t say strongly enough that you should.
So we come to my top read of 2016 which I’m sure will surprise absolutely nobody.
OF COURSE it is Tall Oaks. Quirky, different, characters to die for, Chris Whitaker takes one small town in the process of moving on from a tragic event and shoves us into the rhythm of life there, showing us the dark and the light and all the in between that can make up a community. Featuring a teenage character who once read is never forgotten in the voice and full on hilarity of Manny, surrounded by equally brilliant and divisive folk and following a mother who has lost her child with all the deeply emotional trauma that brings Tall Oaks is a dream read. Stole a weekend of my life, stole my heart and I’m not sure there are words enough to express my love for it. Chris and I have become friends since I read it but at the time I had no idea that the author was as brilliant as his book – I purchased Tall Oaks on a whim in e-book after being told by Emily of Bonnier fame that she thought I would love it. Well she was right, she usually is I find. I owe her my last rollo.
Tall Oaks is not a thriller. Tall Oaks is life.
I’ve got Chris guesting shortly answering my 20 Questions which we had a lot of fun with – you’ll get a sneak preview of what is next for him if you read that and trust me you want to know.
SO THAT IS THAT. For another year. Considering the reading I’ve done for 2017 I think I may have to have a top 20 next year – certainly I could have had a top 20 this year some reads that came in after the cut off would certainly qualify along with a lot of the ARCS I have been lucky enough to have seen. Perhaps my Top Ten is already read – certainly Mark Hill, Sarah Pinborough, Steph Broadribb, Fiona Cummins, Felicia Yap, Erin Kelly, Peter Swanson, Riley Sager, Emily Barr, Joseph Knox, Sarah J Naughton, Daniel Cole amongst others are already in the running. See? Next year it is going to be IMPOSSIBLE. I’ve read a few secret squirrel things as well – YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE and they are most definitely in the mix too.
I think I’m going to need a bigger shelf….