Last year was even slower for me on the book reading front. But I managed 23 (and a ½) books. According to Goodreads – where I track my reading and sigh at the 303 books that are currently on my ‘Want to Read’ list – that amounts to 6,699 pages, so I don’t feel too bad that I didn’t reach my target of 40 books.
Here are my reviews for the best ones (in my humble opinion). Links are given to Amazon UK – other retailers are, of course, available.
FICTION – unsurprisingly, it’s the crime and psychological thrillers that top my list
Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce
A compelling debut novel from Harriet Tyce. I’ll certainly be looking out for more from her.
It’s about betrayal, control, addiction and obsession. And it’s about people who seem to have it all but definitely don’t.
Blood Orange starts slowly but you soon become absorbed in Alison’s complex private life including self-destructive behaviour in the form of alcohol abuse, an affair with someone who also has issues, and her family. Alison has landed her first big case as a criminal defence lawyer – a case in which everything is not as it seems either.
Highly recommended if you like your psychological thrillers to have a juicy twist at the end. It would make a fabulous TV series too.
Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly (being republished as We Know, You Know)
A fabulous dark and Gothic story from Erin Kelly, one of my favourite authors.
Marianne has a huge secret from her past. Her ex-boyfriend, Jesse, and Helen Greenlaw, now an MP, are the only other people who know about it. When Marianne finds herself back at the place it happened – the old ‘lunatic asylum’ has been converted into luxury flats – all three of them find their lives converging again but they are desperate to keep the past hidden.
The story is very cleverly plotted and told in four parts by three different women. Some of the history of mental health asylums is laid bare and the evidence of misogyny within that is, frankly, heartbreaking.
Stone Mothers are what Victorians used to call mental asylums. I think it’s a shame the publishers have decided to reissue it with a different title, but it’s an excellent story regardless.
Never Be Broken by Sarah Hilary
Sarah Hilary has done it again with her 6th book in the DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake series, Never Be Broken.
I am a big fan of Sarah’s writing, story-telling and her incredibly insightful commentaries on difficult topics.
In Never Be Broken she dives into the world of drugs, knife and gun crime and the numerous teenage deaths that have resulted, as well as racism and exploitation by dealers. There is also an exploration of how witnessing traumatic events can change a person.
As ever, the story is about the why more than what happened.
Poor DS Noah Jake. He has really been put through the mill physically and psychologically.
DI Marnie Rome’s back story is no less harrowing, but at least there is some closure for her at the end of this book.
If you enjoy reading gritty crime fiction, you will enjoy Sarah Hilary’s books too. They stand alone but I recommend reading them in order for the back stories of Marnie and Noah, starting with Someone Else’s Skin.
The Women by S.E. Lynes
There are psychological thrillers and then there are psychological thrillers …
I could not put this book down. If you enjoy reading psychological thrillers, you will love Susie’s books. Mother featured in my top ten of 2017, and The Pact was in my top ten of 2018. And somehow they still get better and better.
They’re brilliant, page turning, gripping reads while remaining sensitive to the underlying issues – predatory older men and psychological abuse in The Women. This is a story of lies, manipulation and control as Peter, a cultured, sophisticated and charming university professor, pulls Samantha, one of his students, into his web of rules for when and how things are done.
Ultimately, however, it’s about the strength of women and female survival. It’s a very thought-provoking read.
Live It, Love It, Sell It by Jules White
I had already bought this book but not read it when I met the publisher in a serendipitous piece of networking. It was read as the book for May in The Small Business Owner Book Club (FB group). Safe to say it was universally liked and enjoyed, and we had a marvellous online discussion with Jules herself.
We still haven’t met in person but I’ve had a couple of chats with Jules since then on Zoom, including being a guest on her podcast. The Human Conversation is available on iTunes, Spotify and Soundcloud. (https://soundcloud.com/liveitloveitsellit/hc042-s2-making-books-beautiful-with-catherine-williams)
My copy of the book has several flags in it marking up the golden nuggets that Jules offers.
There are plenty of practical exercises to help with your sales mindset and plenty of proof that ‘sales’ don’t need to be icky or scary or pushy. “Life skills are sales skills” has stuck with me since reading this book. It’s all about making those human connections with people.
If you identify with being at the introvert end of the introvert-extrovert spectrum, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
And actually, extroverts would get a lot out of it too.
There were several instances of thinking, ‘Oh! That’s just like me,’ in the examples and situations described. It’s very reassuring that there are reasons for needing down time after being with people, for not particularly enjoying parties or large gatherings of people and that there is huge value in being someone who listens and considers and takes time to formulate their point of view.
It’s not a light read, with references to scientific and psychological studies, but it’s very insightful and probably a book that all managers, teachers and parents would do well to read.