Monday, 19 December 2016

Authors' Top Reads 2016 - Part 1

It's Day ONE of the special feature that Liz Barnsley (Liz Loves Books) and I have had GREAT fun putting together – with the first group of authors telling us THEIR top reads of 2016.

Today, I have Louise BeechJenny BlackhurstMarnie RichesMatt Johnson, Jane Isaac, Matt Wesolowski, Benet Brandreth, AJ MacKenzie, Stan Trollop (of Michael Stanley) and Elizabeth Haynes telling us their ONE top pick for a book they read in 2016. Well, actually, some authors are rather rebellious so they've given us more than one top read - you'll find all of their recommendations below.

Pop over to Liz’s place ( to see who SHE has talking about their books of the year!

And join us on Wednesday for the rest of the Authors' Top Reads 2016.

Louise Beech, author of The Mountain in my Shoe, published by Orenda Books in September 2016

600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster has been recommended to me by so many people, and I had it on my Kindle for months before I finally opened it. How I wish I'd started sooner. The book left me uplifted, tearful, inspired and blown away. I'll never forget Edward. I just... got him. As a serious OCD sufferer, I fell in love with his quirky, obsessive compulsions, with his attempts to live life his own way, and to find meaning and truth in everything. It was beautifully written with simple, bare prose. Just extraordinary. So it has to be my year's choice.”

Book blurb
A thirty-nine-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, Edward Stanton lives alone on a rigid schedule in the Montana town where he grew up. His carefully constructed routine includes tracking his most common waking time (7:38 a.m.), refusing to start his therapy sessions even a minute before the appointed hour (10:00 a.m.), and watching one episode of the 1960s cop show Dragnet each night (10:00 p.m.).

But when a single mother and her nine-year-old son move in across the street, Edward’s timetable comes undone. Over the course of a momentous 600 hours, he opens up to his new neighbors and confronts old grievances with his estranged parents. Exposed to both the joys and heartaches of friendship, Edward must ultimately decide whether to embrace the world outside his door or retreat to his solitary ways.

Click here to buy 600 Hours of Edward, published by Lake Union Publishing in August 2012.

Follow Louise on Twitter (@LouiseWriter) and find out more about her hereAnd if you’d like to buy The Mountain in my Shoe, click here

Jenny Blackhurst, author of Before I Let You In, published by Headline in August 2016

Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant. My throat was in my mouth as I sped through this thriller in a day - highly recommend!

Book blurb
It starts with a lie. The kind we've all told - to a former acquaintance we can't quite place but still, for some reason, feel the need to impress. The story of our life, embellished for the benefit of the happily married lawyer with the kids and the lovely home.
And the next thing you know, you're having dinner at their house, and accepting an invitation to join them on holiday - swept up in their perfect life, the kind you always dreamed of...
Which turns out to be less than perfect. But by the time you're trapped and sweating in the relentless Greek sun, burning to escape the tension all around you - by the time you start to realise that, however painful the truth might be, it's the lies that cause the real damage...

... well, by then, it could just be too late.

Click here to buy Lie With Me, published by Mulholland Books in July 2016.

Follow Jenny on Twitter (@JennyBlackhurst) and find out more about her hereAnd if you’d like to buy Before I Let You In, click here.

Marnie Riches, author of The Girl Who Had No Fear, published by Maze/Avon in December 2016

I've chosen Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes as my top pick of 2016. When I read the book, I'd just moved into my new house, which has a really isolated feel, being surrounded by mature trees and open spaces. So, given this thrilling, creepy story is aptly about a woman living in the isolated wilds of the rural north, I absolutely devoured Elizabeth's latest novel. And blow me, but it was a little bit sexy to boot! All in all, a really entertaining and quality read!

Book blurb
Sarah Carpenter lives in an isolated farmhouse in North Yorkshire and for the first time, after the death of her husband some years ago and her children, Louis and Kitty, leaving for university, she’s living alone. But she doesn’t consider herself lonely. She has two dogs, a wide network of friends and the support of her best friend, Sophie.

When an old acquaintance, Aiden Beck, needs somewhere to stay for a while, Sarah’s cottage seems ideal; and renewing her relationship with Aiden gives her a reason to smile again. It’s supposed to be temporary, but not everyone is comfortable with the arrangement: her children are wary of his motives, and Will Brewer, an old friend of her son’s, seems to have taken it upon himself to check up on Sarah at every opportunity. Even Sophie has grown remote and distant.

After Sophie disappears, it’s clear she hasn’t been entirely honest with anyone, including Will, who seems more concerned for Sarah’s safety than anyone else. As the weather closes in, events take a dramatic turn and Kitty too goes missing. Suddenly Sarah finds herself in terrible danger, unsure of who she can still trust.

But she isn’t facing this alone; she has Aiden, and Aiden offers the protection that Sarah needs. Doesn’t he?

Click here to buy Never Alone, published by Myriad Editions in July 2016.

Follow Marnie on Twitter (@Marnie_Riches) and find out more about her hereAnd if you’d like to buy The Girl Who Had No Fear, click here

Matt Johnson, author of Wicked Game, published by Orenda Books in March 2016, and Deadly Game, to be published by Orenda Books in March 2017

In Her Wake - Amanda Jennings. Not because Amanda is a fellow Orenda author, but because this book made me step outside my comfort zone. I can't recall a book since 'Birdsong' that kept me reading into the early hours. This one did. Thoroughly recommended.”

Book blurb
A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella's comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but her life.
Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family - and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

Click here to buy In Her Wake, published by Orenda Books in February 2016.

Follow Matt on Twitter (@Matt_Johnson_UK) and find out more about him hereAnd if you’d like to buy Wicked Game, click here.

Jane Isaac, author of Beneath the Ashes, published by Legend Press in November 2016

My favourite read of 2016 was I See You by Claire Mackintosh. Tense, pacy and evocative. An addictive thriller that played with human emotions and left me breathless.

Book blurb
When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a grainy image, a website address and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.
Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .
s into deeds?
So now, what's the worst thing you can do to your best friend?

Click here to buy I See You, published by Sphere in July 2016.

Follow Jane on Twitter (@JaneIsaacAuthor) and find out more about her hereAnd if you’d like to buy Beneath the Ashes, click here.

Matt Wesolowski, author of Six Stories published by Orenda Books in December 2016 (e-book) and March 2017 (paperback)

"The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn - a novel that immediately submerges in the richness of rural atmosphere and brooding menace infused with a profoundly effortless nordic poetry reminicent of Tarjei Vesaas."

Book blurb
TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough.

Click here to buy The Bird Tribunal, published by Orenda Books in July 2016.

"Turning Blue by Benjamin Myers- a book that cuts deep, hacks a scar through bracken and into your heart with its unrelenting bleakness and a clammering, visceral horror. Rural noir at its finest."

Book blurb
The depths of winter in the isolated Yorkshire Dales and a teenage girl is missing.

Steven Rutter, a destitute loner, harbours secrets. Nobody knows the bleak moors better than him, or their hiding places.

Obsessive, taciturn and solitary, DS Brindle is relentless in pursuing justice. But he is not alone in his growing preoccupation with the case. Local journalist Roddy Mace has moved north from London to build a new life. Can this assignment be his redemption?

As Brindle and Mace begin to prise the secrets of the case from tight-lipped locals, their investigation leads first to the pillars of the community and finally to a local celebrity and fixture of the nation’s Saturday-night TV. ‘Lovely Larry’ Lister has his own hiding places, and his own dark tastes.

A tour de force of plotting and atmosphere, Turning Blue is a terrifying, gripping tale of hidden lives, and hidden deaths.

Click here to buy Turning Blue, published by Moth Publishing in August 2016.

Follow Matt on Twitter (@ConcreteKraken) and find out more about him hereAnd if you’d like to buy Six Stories, click here.

Benet Brandreth, author of The Spy of Venice, published by Twenty7 in February 2016.

Peter Frankopan - The Silk Roads.  Entertaining and pacily written history of the world that re-orients us east and, in doing so, illuminates new history and the west’s place in it.

Book blurb
For centuries, fame and fortune was to be found in the west in the New World of the Americas. Today, it is the east which calls out to those in search of adventure and riches. The region stretching from eastern Europe and sweeping right across Central Asia deep into China and India, is taking centre stage in international politics, commerce and culture and is shaping the modern world.

This region, the true centre of the earth, is obscure to many in the English-speaking world. Yet this is where civilization itself began, where the world's great religions were born and took root. The Silk Roads were no exotic series of connections, but networks that linked continents and oceans together. Along them flowed ideas, goods, disease and death. This was where empires were won and where they were lost. As a new era emerges, the patterns of exchange are mirroring those that have criss-crossed Asia for millennia. The Silk Roads are rising again.

A major reassessment of world history, The Silk Roads is an important account of the forces that have shaped the global economy and the political renaissance in the re-emerging east.

Click here to buy The Silk Roads, published by Bloomsbury Publishing in August 2015.

Follow Benet on Twitter (@benetbrandreth) and find out more about him hereAnd if you’d like to buy The Spy of Venice, click here

AJ MacKenzie, author of The Body on the Doorstep, published by Twenty7 in April 2016

"Malcolm Pryce, Aberystwyth, Mon Amour. Wonderfully entertaining, beautifully written and delightfully mad; read this, and you'll never look at Wales, or ice cream, in quite the same way."

Book blurb

Schoolboys are disappearing all over Aberystwyth and nobody knows why. Louie Knight, the town's private investigator, soon realises that it is going to take more than a double ripple from Sospan, the philosopher cum ice-cream seller, to help find out what is happening to these boys and whether or not Lovespoon, the Welsh teacher, Grand Wizard of the Druids and controller of the town, is more than just a sinister bully. And just who was Gwenno Guevara?

Click here to buy Aberystwyth, Mon Amour, published by Bloomsbury Publishing in September 2010.

Follow AJ Mackenzie on Twitter (@AJMacKnovels) and find out more about them hereAnd if you’d like to buy The Body on the Doorstep, click here

Stanley Trollip, author of Deadly Harvest (with Michael Sears), published by Orenda Books in October 2015.

John Franklin Bardin’s The Deadly Percheron is almost impossible to describe. It’s a chilling psychological thriller, trapped in a web of love, humour, and deceit. Frighteningly dark.

Book blurb
A hypnotic mystery. A tale of psychological horror. A genre-defying classic now available for the first time in eBook edition.

"Doctor, I'm losing my mind." So begins John Franklin Bardin's bold and unconventional crime thriller in which psychiatrist George Matthews' attempts to help his patient lead to a dead-end world of amnesia and social outcasts. The Deadly Percheron is at once a murder mystery, poignant love story and, most importantly, an unsettling and hallucinatory dark voyage into memory, madness, torture, and despair.

“It is a story of murder and mayhem and hideous torture— one which will hold your attention to the last, even though you cannot possibly believe that such things could happen here in little old New York.” —THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 2, 1946

Click here to buy The Deadly Percheron, first published in the 1940s but republished by Diversion Books in June 2014.

"The story: a hospitalised detective decides to while away the time by testing his belief that a person’s face gives insight into the person’s character.  Looking at a picture of Richard III, the detective believes that the face indicates he was not the evil man that history has led us to believe.  The real story: our knowledge of history is the product of bias, propaganda, and the self-interest of the powers-that-be of the time.  One of the few mysteries warranting multiple reads."

Book blurb
Richard III reigned for only two years, and for centuries he was villified as the hunch-backed wicked uncle, murderer of the princes in the Tower. Josephine Tey's novel The Daughter of Time is an investigation into the real facts behind the last Plantagenet king's reign, and an attempt to right what many believe to be the terrible injustice done to him by the Tudor dynasty.
Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world's most heinous villains - a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother's children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the the Tudors?
Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard III really was and who killed the Princes in the Tower.

Click here to buy The Daughter of Time, published by Cornerstone in June 2011

Follow Michael Stanley on Twitter (@detectivekubu) and find out more about the Detective Kubu books hereAnd if you’d like to buy Deadly Harvest, click here

Elizabeth Haynes, author of Never Alone, published by Myriad Editions in July 2016

I’d like to nominate Alex Marwood’s The Darkest Secret as my top book of the year.  Full of unexpected twists and deliciously vicious characters, there is a heartbreaking tragedy at the core of the book that is all too real.  I’ve recommended it to everyone I know and it has stayed with me all through the year.

Book blurb
Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help.
My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family's holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old.
When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.
But what really happened to Coco?

Over two intense weekends - the first when Coco goes missing and the second twelve years later at the funeral of her father - the darkest of secrets will gradually be revealed...

Click here to buy The Darkest Secret, published by Myriad Editions in July 2016.

Follow Eizabeth on Twitter (@Elizjhaynes) and find out more about her hereAnd if you’d like to buy Never Alone, click here

Remember to pop by Liz Barnsley's blog (http://lizlovesbooks.comto find some more Authors' Top Reads of 2016.

Join me, and Liz, again on Wednesday for some more great picks!


  1. Love this - it's made me want to grab lots of the books mentioned and read them immediately! I really must read The Daughter Of Time - I was sent the rather wonderful Josephine Tey biography to review for my local paper and, shockingly, I haven't read any of her novels. I ordered a cheap second hand trilogy from Amazon, and think it's about time I cracked it open! There's so many great books I still want to read this year, so I'll be taking it right to the wire - or until I reach 100 books, whichever comes soonest! Great feature Vicky!

    1. I know, these lists are all so dangerous! More recommendations on Liz Loves Books and on both blogs on Wednesday - sorry!