My Top 10 Reads of 2015

As this is my last post of 2015, I thought I’d use it to share my top ten reads of the year. I’ve chosen one to receive a Special Mention and one is my Top Recommended Book of the Year. So, in no particular order:

 

1 CCooksonTo Be a Lady: The Story of Catherine Cookson
by Cliff Goodwin.

Book Description:
A biography of the bestselling author and northern cultural icon, Catherine Cookson. Following her story from her birth as illegitimate daughter of a South Shields woman who became an alcoholic in later life, through her career as a laundry worker, to her current star status, this work features interviews with the subject and original research, and reveals a great deal of fresh information.

Catherine Cookson is one of my favourite authors. I’ve read many of her books and own many of the film adaptations on DVD. The depth of detail in the research is amazing and it was nice to have snippets of interviews with Catherine throughout this book. I read it in April and you can find my 5* review here on Goodreads.

 

his kidnappers shoesHis Kidnapper’s Shoes by Maggie James

Book Description:
Daniel Bateman is one angry man. He’s just discovered a devastating truth; the woman who calls herself his mother is really his kidnapper. Snatched from his birth family when he was four years old, Daniel’s always been tormented with vague memories from his former life. When he is confronted with a second shattering revelation, his life falls apart; booze and casual sex help numb the pain.

Daniel knows one thing for sure. He’ll never be able to forgive his kidnapper. Never. Because of her, he’s been denied his dream of becoming an artist. More importantly, he’d have grown up with a mother he could love instead of one he can barely tolerate. And the shadow of his controlling stepfather wouldn’t have darkened his life.

Furious, his life in pieces, Daniel needs the answer to just one question. Why did Laura Bateman kidnap him?

He’s not sure he’ll ever find out. The woman now under arrest for his kidnap twenty-two years ago isn’t talking. Laura Bateman doesn’t believe a crime has been committed; to her, stealing Daniel seemed her only option at the time. Until she receives Daniel’s forgiveness, something he’s sworn she’ll never get, Laura’s staying silent as to what really happened all those years ago.

There’s a saying that you have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before judging them. Will Daniel ever be ready to step into Laura Bateman’s shoes?

A tense novel of psychological suspense, His Kidnapper’s Shoes weaves one man’s quest for his identity with one woman’s need to heal her troubled past.

This is the first of four stand alone full length novels written by Maggie James. I read it in early April and then went on to read Maggie’s other three novels. If you are a fan of tense psychological suspense and complex characters, then I’d recommend this book. It got 5* from me and you can read my review of it on Goodreads

 

1faithpeterjamesFaith by Peter James

Book Description:
Ross Ransome is at the top of his profession; one of the most successful, and certainly one of the richest, plastic surgeons in the business. Such a man would expect his wife to be perfect – and why not? After all, he has spent enough hours in surgery to get her that way.

But when his wife falls ill she turns her back on conventional medicine, and her arid marriage, and seeks help from the world of alternative medicine and a charismatic therapist who promises not just medical salvation.

For Ransome, this is the ultimate betrayal. It defies logic, and Ross Ransome is a profoundly logical man. Logically, he can see no reason why any man should have his wife when he can’t. It’s all completely rational…

I am a fan of Peter James novels and this one didn’t disappoint. If you like your antagonist to have a little back story where you can find out why he’s like he is, then you’ll enjoy unraveling the ‘logic’ of Ross in this book. I read Faith in May and my 5* review is here.

 

1wrong placeWrong Place by M. A. Comley

Book Description:
DI Sally Parker has a serial killer on her patch. One thing that sets this killer apart from the others she’s hunted before: his willingness to leave DNA at each of the crime scenes. It’s up to Sally and her partner DS Jack Blackman to find out why before the body count rises to double figures.

While Sally is engrossed in the investigation, her ex-husband, Darryl, pays a surprise visit to her new home. His actions not only threaten Sally’s new-found confidence, but they also force the DCI to give Sally an ultimatum concerning the case.

Can Sally overcome all the obstacles fate has placed in her path and arrest the brazen killer?

This is the first in a new series featuring DI Sally Parker, another strong female lead following in the footsteps of Lorne in the Justice series. I read this in October and really enjoyed the tight prose and witty sarcasm between some of the characters. Another 5* review here.

 

Huck Finn CoverThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Book Description: 
Of all the contenders for the title of The Great American Novel, none has a better claim than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Intended at first as a simple story of a boy’s adventures in the Mississippi Valley – a sequel toThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer – the book grew and matured under Twain’s hand into a work of immeasurable richness and complexity. More than a century after its publication, the critical debate over the symbolic significance of Huck’s and Jim’s voyage is still fresh, and it remains a major work that can be enjoyed at many levels: as an incomparable adventure story and as a classic of American humor.

This is the follow up to Tom Sawyer and sees Huck escaping his violent father and saving Big Jim from being sold into slavery. The language did take some getting used to, but I managed to get to grips with it and thoroughly enjoyed the humour in the story, too. A classic that got a 5* review from me.

 

Delirium.Delirium by J. F. Penn

Book Description:
LONDON. When a prominent psychiatrist is found murdered in the old hospital of Bedlam, Detective Sergeant Jamie Brooke finds herself investigating the history of madness to fathom the motive. Blake Daniel, a reluctant psychic, helps her to research the case, only to discover that his own family are entwined with the shadowy forces that seek to control the minds of the mad.

As the body count rises, and those she loves are threatened, Jamie discovers that the tendrils of conspiracy wind themselves into the very heart of the British government. Can she stop the killer before madness takes its ultimate revenge?

A thriller with an edge of the supernatural, Delirium is a story of love for family, revenge for injustice and the question of whether we all sit on the spectrum of madness somewhere.

Delirium is the second book of the London Psychic series featuring Detective Sergeant Jamie Brook and reluctant psychic Blake Daniel. I read this book in Jan/Feb and  thoroughly enjoyed the darkness of it. It examines the treatment of those with mental illness and it made me consider the words of the author in her notes: “There is a spectrum of madness in all of us, it’s just a matter of degree.” This book got a 5* review.

 

1elephantsLove, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story by Dame Daphne Sheldrick.

Book Description:
Daphne Sheldrick, whose family arrived in Africa from Scotland in the 1820s, is the first person ever to have successfully hand-reared newborn elephants. Her deep empathy and understanding, her years of observing Kenya’s rich variety of wildlife, and her pioneering work in perfecting the right husbandry and milk formula have saved countless elephants, rhinos, and other baby animals from certain death.

In this heartwarming and poignant memoir, Daphne shares her amazing relationships with a host of orphans, including her first love, Bushy, a liquid-eyed antelope; Rickey-Tickey-Tavey, the little dwarf mongoose; Gregory Peck, the busy buffalo weaver bird; Huppety, the mischievous zebra; and the majestic elephant Eleanor, with whom Daphne has shared more than forty years of great friendship.
 
But this is also a magical and heartbreaking human love story between Daphne and David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo Park warden. It was their deep and passionate love, David’s extraordinary insight into all aspects of nature, and the tragedy of his early death that inspired Daphne’s vast array of achievements, most notably the founding of the world-renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Orphans’ Nursery in Nairobi National Park, where Daphne continues to live and work to this day.
 
Encompassing not only David and Daphne’s tireless campaign for an end to poaching and for conserving Kenya’s wildlife, but also their ability to engage with the human side of animals and their rearing of the orphans expressly so they can return to the wild, Love, Life, and Elephants is alive with compassion and humor, providing a rare insight into the life of one of the world’s most remarkable women.

Elephants are one of my favourite animals, and any effort made to save can only be a good thing. I read this book in April and whilst doing so, was transported to Africa. The depth of description helped me picture the scenery and the animals. At times I felt I was there witnessing the work David and Daphne were doing. This is a beautifully written book that got a 5* review from me.

 

White White is the Coldest Colour by John Nicholl

Book Description:
The Mailer family are oblivious to the terrible danger that enters their lives when seven-year-old Anthony is referred to the child guidance service by the family GP following the breakdown of his parents’ marriage.
Fifty-eight year old Dr David Galbraith, a sadistic predatory paedophile employed as a consultant child psychiatrist, has already murdered one child in the soundproofed cellar below the South Wales Georgian town-house he shares with his wife and two young daughters.
Anthony becomes Galbraith’s latest obsession, and he will stop at nothing to make his grotesque fantasies reality.

The novel is entirely fictional, but draws on John Nicholl’s experiences as a police officer, child protection social worker, manager and trainer.
During his career the author was faced with case after case that left him incredulous as to the harm sexual predators chose to inflict on their victims. The book reflects that reality.
The story is set in 1992, a more naive time when many found it extremely difficult to believe that a significant number of adults posed a serious risk to children.
The book contains material some may find upsetting from the start.
It is dedicated to survivors everywhere.

As the description states, this book contains some dark and disturbing passages. The standard of writing is excellent, and John Nicholl has managed to create one of the most evil antagonists I’ve ever ‘met’. I read this book in September. I highly recommend this book and gave it a 5* review because of how the characters got inside my head and didn’t let go.

 

CircusHorrorsSpecial Mention

Circus of Horrors by Carole Gill

Book Description:
WARNING: THIS IS A DISTURBING TALE! IT IS FOR FANS OF BIZARRE, ADULT HORROR. THERE IS GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, STRONG, LANGUAGE AND SEXUAL SCENES *************
What exactly is wrong with this circus? There are demonic, flesh-eating clowns, murderous midgets, there is a fat lady with some peculiar tastes (to put it mildly) and there is an old man with one hell of a secret. Old Pa keeps a trunk with some very special souvenirs. When a stranger joins up who has second sight (among other talents) the old man’s son gets nervous.
There are a lot of very strange beings not to mention a succubus or two and some beings from hell.

This is the first book by this author that I’ve read. The story grabs you from the very first page, and the range of characters and personalities is excellent. I like reading horror stories where the scary events etc. help to build the story and are not used excessively. The author does this very well and is the reason for this book getting my Special Mention. The way the story develops is genuinely creepy and the way that the story has a message for the reader at the end was fitting for the characters involved. If you like horror, then I can’t recommend this book enough, and of course, it got a 5* review.

**Carole has informed me that Circus of Horrors will be re-released in the new year by Creativia.org. That’s great news, and hope all goes well with it.

 

1MarrowTop Recommended Book of the Year

Marrow by Tarryn Fisher

Book Description:
In the Bone there is a house.

In the house there is a girl.

In the girl there is a darkness.

Margo is not like other girls. She lives in a derelict neighborhood called the Bone, in a cursed house, with her cursed mother, who hasn’t spoken to her in over two years. She lives her days feeling invisible. It’s not until she develops a friendship with her wheelchair-bound neighbor, Judah Grant, that things begin to change. When a neighborhood girl, seven-year-old Neveah Anthony, goes missing, Judah sets out to help Margo uncover what happened to her.

What Margo finds changes her, and with a new perspective on life, she’s determined to find evil and punish it–targeting rapists and child molesters, one by one.

But hunting evil is dangerous, and Margo risks losing everything, including her own soul.

This book is unlike any other book I’ve read. Not only is the writing excellent, the characters a really good mix, and the plot development well paced, it has stayed with me long after reading it. If you want to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think about what you would do in their situation, then read this book. As I say in my 5* review, “This book makes you think. Morals, the law, what is real and what is pretend, all have to be considered and discussed with yourself as you read.”

It isn’t an easy book to read. Some of the events are dark and cover topics in Margo’s troubled life, but the quality of writing is some of the best I’ve read. This is my Top Recommended Book of the Year. If you like a book that really gets inside your head and makes you think, then this is the book for you.

 

Xmas books

 

That’s it. My top ten. There were many other candidates, but you have to draw the line somewhere! As this is the last post of 2015, I’d like to say a special thank you to Maggie James, Mel Comley and Maxine (Booklover Catlady) for all their invaluable help. I’d also like to thank all those who have bought The Revelation Room.

Wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. See you all again in 2016.

Thanks for reading

All the best

Mark.

 

 

 

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