My 10 worst reads of 2019

 

You can’t have a best of (or in my case this year 2 best of lists) and not have the opposite. I’m in the fortunate position of mostly reading great stuff this year, that said there are a number of books I read that were less than stellar, some made me genuinely grumpy and in one case one features on both my best and worst list because I both love and hate it in equal measure. Without further ado and in no particular order apart from No 1 here’s my 10 worst reads of 2019.

1) The Burning by Laura Bates – A ya novel by the person who wrote Girl up and who should produce a decent read. This is however an awful book , that apparently reflects her experiences talking to people, but as someone who works in education I know that a lot of the issues mentioned here would not be ignored in any school. Here’s my original review for the novel, I get that this book is on its high horse trying to make a point for young kids but it comes across as overly moralising and the author has done zero research on how safeguarding and issues with bullying are dealt with in schools, I’m a teacher and how she describes issues as being dealt with made me ridiculously angry, you might have different responses to things in different schools but something as serious as the issues being mentioned in this book are only going to be dealt with in certain ways. Most kids reading this would realise that this book is sermonising and not really written by anyone with an understanding of how they feel. This felt like an overly telegraphed young peoples issues novel written by someone with absolutely no idea of how young people feel.

2) The Dark Forest by Cixun Li – The Three body problem the first in this trilogy of novels is an excellent read and I was really looking forward to the second. However this book was just a mediocre over long scifi novel that didn’t advance the original story in anyway and put me off reading the last in the series which is a shame as the first held so much promise.

3) Diana Prince wonder woman –  This is the entry that is both on my top graphic novel reads of 2019 and my worst reads of 2019. The I ching Era of wonder woman, the era where Diana has no powers other than the martial arts she learns from her mentor I Ching, is widely considered to be one of the worst Era’s of wonder womans stories and it really is. Full of casual racism, they put on racist makeup to enter china and a complete lack of the feminism she is so widely known for. This is offensive at times and gloriously silly at others. I hate and love it in equal measure.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Diana-Prince-Wonder-Woman-Vol/dp/1401216609/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1BK6LB1U32EXI&keywords=diana+prince+wonder+woman&qid=1577819962&sprefix=diana+prince+wo%2Caps%2C144&sr=8-1

 

4) Vox by Christina Dalcher – Another where the premise is excellent women are only allowed to speak 100 words a day, and are banned from work etc, in a dystopian present. However it is flawed, doesnt have interesting characters. And the women instead of saving themselves need men to help save them. I was excited to read this novel and found myself really disappointed by it, the points felt laboured and the plot was clunky, there are much better novels out there if you enjoy dystopian fiction.

5) Happy Sugar Life by Tomiyaki Kagisora – This is one of those books that deserves to be on a worst of list, slightly offensive in places in terms of how young some of the characters are when events happen. I would not read more of this. I don’t want to go into more detail as it’s one I really don’t think anyone else should read

6) A court of thorns and roses by Sarah J maas – I read a DC adaptation by this lady that was really good, so I decided to try some of her YA fiction, and regretted it. This again is overly formulaic and light on character development. Although the plot goes at a welcome pace you don’t get invested enough in the characters to really care what happens, another series I don’t have any plans to read anymore of

 

7) Howls Moving Castle by Dianne Wynne Jones – This has been made into a well loved studio Ghibli film and I think the film improved mightily on the source material. This is an easy read, but again I found it hollow and unenjoyable because the characters were so 2 dimensional and uninteresting that however fantastical the rest of the story you had no interest in what happened.

8)  Captain Marvel Alpha Flight –  Captain Marvel is a fantastic character especially when represented as a female, think the current marvel movie version or the recent comics version where she is a young Muslim girl. However the alpha flight stories are just a bit to silly to make for good reading. This is the least enjoyable captain marvel comic i’ve read which is why its ended up here.

9) The Eve of Man – Tom and Giovanna Fletcher, This is another one of those Dystopian novels which really feels forced and therefore unbelievable. Good dystopia comes from being real enough to be scary and unfortunately Eve of Man doesn’t commit enough to reach that level. It does have a good source idea about the last girl on earth who is the future of the human race and therefore has to choose a suitable match to start making babies. However the authors to my mind don’t put enough into the plot to really make this the novel it could be, an easy silly read but not a good book.

10 )  Ryuko by Eldo Yoshimizu – `This again had a lot of promise as a hard boiled Japanese crime graphic novel. But it really didn’t live up to that promise although the characters were interesting and well developed the plot was to twisty and made no real sense so it was a very hard read. Maybe some of this is down to translation but it felt like a poorly written novel.

 

Honourable or in this case Dishonourable mentions

11) The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell – I went to a gothic fiction evening last year which had the author of this novel and the author of the seven deaths of evelyn hardcastle. I wasn’t impressed by either authors responses on the night but thought i’d give this novel a try, It was disappointing in its execution. Another with poor characters and a predictable plot. There is some phenomenal modern gothic writing available unfortunately this was not one of them.

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My Top 10 Reads of 2019

Here are my top reads of the year, featuring some honourable mentions. I’ve read 294 books so far this year and so many of them were fantastic that i’ve separated out the graphic novels and made them their own list although some Barefoot Gen and Lumberjanes could have featured here as well. In  no particular order here are my top 10 reads of the year.

1) Alice Teale is missing by Howard Linskey – I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this at the Harrogate crime festival and it is a fantastic read. Featuring diary extracts from a young girl who goes missing alongside the story of the police investigation this is one of the finest crime novels i’ve read in a long time. It keeps you hooked and wanting more. Here’s my original review of the novel  it’s a real treat of a read. I love the characters of black and winter and would avidly read anymore novels they featured in, even the background characters are rich and alive I cared about the diner opening for instance. Tied with that is a fantastic plot that unravels with a combined police procedure and extracts from the missing girls diaries. This is one of those cases where you wish you could give more than 5* to a book

 

2) The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth – this is the story of a young girl trying to come to terms with being a Lesbian in the deep south. Her parents/guardians discover she has had a relationship with a girl and send her to a camp to straighten her out, as awful as you would imagine this is a fascinating read.

3) Dumplin by Jill Murphy – the story of a young girl who is traditionally built, and feels that her beauty queen mum is disappointed in her. She signs up for the beauty pageant her mu runs with her misfit group of friends as a protest and learns a lot along the way. Featuring drag queens and a huge love of Dolly parton it’s a fabulous read and watch.

4) Black Summer by M W Craven – The follow up to the Puppet show and just as phenomenal, M W Craven is a fantastic writer and with the characters of Tilly and Poe he’s created a dynamic duo. It start’s with a description that is not for the squeamish but soon picks up pace and delivers fab characters and a taut plot. Here’s my original review – What a follow up, Washington and Tilly are both back and as likeable as ever and the plot is fascinating and very different from the first. I really enjoyed this read it has all the hallmarks of being a great series and I’d love to see the movie adaptation of it.

5) The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths – Ruth Galloway is one of my favourite characters and Elly Griffiths is no stranger to my top 10 lists. This is a fabulous series that mixes archaeology with modern police investigations and develops the characters over the series to the point where you care about them as much as you do the rest of the plot. The follow up due out next year is awesome too. Here’s my original review for the book – Another fantastic read from Elly, in it we have some answers about Michelle’s baby and some thoughts about the future of harry and Michelle. A fascinating story with a good plot and at this point in the series it feels like returning to old friends. A solid 5* read for me

6) The Expanse series by James S A Corey – I discovered the TV adaptation and novels of these books this year and have already read most of the series. Science fiction at it’s best, they are an amazing read. They reflect on how people spread across space, can still find reasons to fight and hate. The main characters and crew of the Rocinante in this are amazing and you truly grow to care about them over the series. With enough external threats and plotlines this is a rich and varied series of books and one that I hope will continue for a long time to come

7)Murder Undeniable (Kat and Mouse series) by Anita Waller –  I love Anita waller’s writing she is a fabulous author but in Kat and Mouse she has created characters worthy of a TV series or film. The characters of Kat, Mouse and Doris, lift Anita’s writing to another level. The whole series is a cosy treat that you will want to wrap yourself up in. a set of fabulous reads.

8) The Martha Gunn Series by Priscilla Masters – Priscilla Masters was a new to me author this year and in the character of Martha Gunn the coroner she has created a likeable and interesting protagonist who tackles crime solving in an unusual way. Set in and around shrewsbury they feature beautiful towns and countryside to. These are fascinating novels with rich characters and plenty of plot twists and there are lots of books in both this and her other series, I heartily recommend them and i’m looking forward to reading more of them in 2020.

9) The wolf in the whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky – if you love mythology this is an enchanting and wonderful story, based on inuit and norse myths and customs. I loved this book, it feels like masterful storytelling and you feel utterly absorbed into the world of the main character. I adored this book and it’s well deserving of  a place on this list

10) Whatever Happened to Betsy Blake by David  B Lyons – I read this as an ARC and loved it a fascinating look at a child abduction story. I don’t really know what I expected from this novel but this really engulfed me in the story and shocked me with some of its twists and turns. I did not expect the ending that occurred. Well written with fascinating characters and some fantastic chapters written from the child’s point of view. This novel is really atmospheric it reads like an action movie and I would genuinely pay to go and see this at the movies.

I really enjoyed the fact that apart from the child in the story none of the characters were likeable people especially our protagonist Gordon. This I think is a truer reflection of real life, people are complex and not necessarily likeable and you see this really reflected in the story.

the author is new to me this year and i’m upset that I have only just discovered him now, this may be one of my crime reads of the year. I heartily recommend this if you like a clever well written but unusual thriller, this one is smart, dark and fascinating in all the right amounts, a read in one go type of novel.

 

The honourable mentions – I’ve read a lot of amazing books this year and these just missed being in the top 10 so are still worthy of making the honourable mentions list

11) Godlefe’s Cuckoo by Bill Todd – Another fascinating new to me author and one who writes a seriously good all action private investigator thriller much better than the robert galbraith chaps writing in my opinion. Here’s my original review – This is very different to my normal reads, full of action but the characters are fascinating and well developed and have flaws which make them very readable. I liked the main character Danny and would read more from the author

12) 2001 A space odyssey – I love a bit of classic sci-fi and I’ve never read Arthur C Clarke, this is fantastic and bizarre but a truly enjoyable read nonetheless.

13) Legacy by Jim Napier – Another New to me author this year and another great new discovery, A recommended read if you like old school crime novels think a modern version of an agatha christie style novel, this was a fab read. I originally described it as  very enjoyable gently paced and with more than a few twists and turns, the police trio of investigators are all great characters and the novel is well written, I’d read more by this author

14) Stitched by Cheryl Elaine – I love Cheryl Elaines books, Stitched is a gruesome and fascinating read. Here’s my original review – his author was a new discovery for me last year and what a revelation she was. This like her other crime story is not for the fainthearted, and at times skirts close to the boundary of Ok. However it needs to do that because it makes the story so much more powerful as it reflects the monsters in humans, and makes you think about the deep impact of certain types of crimes on their victims. This novel is a read in one sitting kind of read probably during the day, and it will leave you thinking. I love Cheryl Elaines books and really hope that she continues to write for a long time to come a solid 5* read for me

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My Top Graphic Novel Reads of 2019

I rarely blog anymore – but i find it nice to get to the end of the year and think about everything i’ve read (294 books so far this year). Normally i make a 10 best and 10 worst reads of the year but this year there were so many good graphic novel reads that could make the list that I have ended up with 2 best of lists. So here are my Top 8 graphic novel reads of the year.

1)Lumberjanes – this could also be on on my top reads of the year/decade list. As a kid I loved series like the babysitters club and Nancy drew, this harks back to the magic of those kind of novels in terms of friendship and adventure but with a dash of magic and fantasy thrown in. One for adults and kids alike, I can’t believe I’ve only just found this series but I know for certain I will read every single thing in the series 🙂 and then force all my friends to read them to. I love love love these books

2) Barefoot gen – This could be equal top with Lumberjanes although very different in feel, this is one of those important books, that everyone should read at least once. A  slightly fictional story of a young boy (Gen) who survives the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, written by an atomic bomb survivor. This is a difficult, haunting read but one that has some very important things to say.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Barefoot-Gen-Cartoon-Story-Hiroshima/dp/0867196025/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=barefoot+gen&qid=1577472646&sr=8-1

3) Heartstopper – A western Yaoi love story. This is the story of 2 young boys who become friends at school and then realise that there is something a little more romantic about their feelings towards each other. A lovely story of an LGBT romance between young people and a great read for young LGBT readers as it shows the range of feelings the 2 young men go through as they come to terms with their feelings for each other. There are 2 volumes of this so far, here’s hoping for many more.

 

4) The Promised Neverland – I don’t know how to begin describing this manga series, but it’s a fabulous read. Its about young children growing up in an orphanage that they can’t leave the grounds of. Some of the children eventually realise that instead of being adopted the kids that leave are being eaten, they then try to hatch a plan to escape. Utterly batty and brilliant it’s one of my manga finds of the year.

 

5) Hilda – Luke Pearssons stories are enchanting for young and old alike, set in the fictional town of Trollberg (looks a lot like Bergen)  they feature a young girl called Hilda who initially lives in a remote cabin and then moves to the town itself, who gets into a series of fantastical adventures. There’s also an animated netflix series based on the books, that I would also recommend.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hilda-Troll-Hildafolk-Luke-Pearson/dp/1909263788/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=hilda&qid=1577473166&sr=8-1

6) Diana Prince Wonder Woman – This is going to be on my best and worst of lists, I love these but I hate them at the same time. The I ching era of wonder woman is widely considered to be one of the worst era’s of wonder woman ever written and it really is. Diana prince has lost her powers, and learnt kung fu and other martial arts from her wise old master I ching, she’s also apparently lost all her feminist stance as well. This is full of outright racist parts (hence the hate, they put on makeup to look chinese so they can sneak into china) and full of such silly moments that you cant help but laugh. I’ve nearly read all of them and they are bonkers.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Diana-Prince-Wonder-Woman-Vol/dp/1401216609/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2IKOCP181O0CG&keywords=diana+prince+wonder+woman&qid=1577473410&sprefix=Diana+prince+wonde%2Caps%2C142&sr=8-1

7) Teen Titans, Raven – there has been a series of novels and now graphic novels being produce for young adults about various superhero’s in the DC universe by relatively famous young adult authors. I have discovered new authors from the novels and have really enjoyed the graphic novels of these, Meg Cabot’s black canary origin story almost made the list, but the one I enjoyed the most is the origin story of Raven by Kami Garcia. Not a character I know a lot about but I really enjoyed this origin story it had all the gothic hallmarks of kami garcia’s novels. There is also more of the titan’s stories to come from this author, a great entry level read.

 

8) Skull Face Bookseller Honda San – We spent a significant amount of years selling books, and this manga has some hilarious realities of book selling. Based on someone who works in the manga section of a large bookstore in tokyo, that often has visits from foreign tourists, especially ladies who like the yaoi. It’s a fabulous read especially if you have any experience of selling books or working in a bookstore, although some of his experiences are uniquely Japanese most of them translate worldwide 🙂

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The Seville Secret by Melati Lum

Today it’s my great good fortune to be on the blog tour for the second in the Ayesha Dean series by Melati Lum. The Seville secret feature the ongoing adventures of Ayesha and friends in the town of Seville in Spain.

The Plot:

New Friends, New Adventure, New Mystery!

Ayesha, Sara & Jess are back in an exciting new adventure, and this time they’re off to Spain! When a fellow passenger’s beloved grandpa strangely disappears, Ayesha and her friends gladly join in the search for the missing person. But as Ayesha delves further into the mystery, the more sinister the stakes become! Ayesha finds a link between the missing person and a seventeenth-century diary that contains clues to an ancient mystery. However, each step closer to discovery seems to pose greater chances of peril. Can Ayesha uncover the truth without putting herself and her friends in mortal danger?

My thoughts:

A new addition to the Ayesha Dean series. I think this is a fabulous series with an amazing protagonist, in Ayesha Dean, a young muslim girl who wants to be an investigator. She is kick ass and a strong young woman with an eclectic band of friends. Whilst this follows the same formula as the istanbul intrigue it moves to a different city (Seville). I found this book fascinating in its look at the moorish history of the andalusian region of spain. This a great crime series for Young adult readers and whilst its part of a series this book could be read as a standalone. In my opinion we need more people like Melati, writing novels like this as our literature especially for young people should have likeable characters of all races and beliefs and this novel really delivers on that. A massive 5 star read for me.

Ayesha Dean is more than just an amazing YA character, By creating this series of novels Melati Lum is creating a great personable young muslim character who is a great role model. I think this is of great importance not just for young muslim girls and boys to see but for all young people to see a diverse range of strong young female characters of all races. Tied with this is Melati’s great ability to reflect on islamic history throughout which always leaves me wanting to go away and do more research on the topics she discusses. If you have kids or can contribute to a school library please please source some copies of this book it’s amazing.

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Whatever happened to Betsy Blake? A review

First book review posted to my blog in quite a while, but what a book to start off with. I received an ARC of this in exchange for an honest review. David Lyons is a new author to me, but one that I will definitely be reading more from. David is signed to Bloodhound books and Whatever happened to Betsy Blake is his second novel.

Synopsis:

If your daughter went missing, how many years would it take for you to admit she’s never coming home?

Betsy Blake was only four years old when she vanished outside her family home in Dublin.

Her father – wracked with guilt for the past seventeen years – still can’t bring himself to admit the search is over, despite the fact his wife has moved on and police have closed off the investigation.

When he is informed he must undergo major heart surgery that he only has a fifty percent chance of surviving, Gordon Blake hires a local PI to give the investigation one last try.

But surely rookie PI Lenny Moon – who has little or no experience in such high-profile investigating – doesn’t have what it takes to make a breakthrough in this case before Gordon is put to sleep.

…or does he?

 

My review:

I don’t really know what I expected from this novel but this really engulfed me in the story and shocked me with some of its twists and turns. I did not expect the ending that occurred. Well written with fascinating characters and some fantastic chapters written from the child’s point of view. This novel is really atmospheric it reads like an action movie and I would genuinely pay to go and see this at the movies.

I really enjoyed the fact that apart from the child in the story none of the characters were likeable people especially our protagonist Gordon. This I think is a truer reflection of real life, people are complex and not necessarily likeable and you see this really reflected in the story.

As I said in the opening to this blog this author is new to me and i’m upset that I have only just discovered him now, this may be one of my crime reads of the year and will certainly be bidding to be in my top 10 reads of the year. I heartily recommend this if you like a clever well written but unusual thriller, this one is smart, dark and fascinating in all the right amounts, a read in one go type of novel. A solid 5* from me

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Cover reveal – The Foundling by Angie Smith

I’ve long been a fan of Angie Smith’s writing, She is a master at weaving intricate plots together and writes a fantastic high octane thriller, So i was really excited when she revealed that she was writing a new book. Even more excited when she let me reveal the cover

 

 

The foundling features

Abduction, torture, murder. Sex, lies and swimming naked

By agreeing to work for a new client, who claims she’s a police detective, Jonathan Miller sets in motion a sequence of catastrophic events which result in devastating consequences, both for himself and his family.

He joins forces with an old adversary. A man he’s terrified of, yet, when you’re backed in to a corner, this man can always find a way to get you out alive. Together they attempt to solve the brutal assassination of a young woman. In doing so they uncover secrets which have been hidden away for decades. Secrets involving some of the most powerful people in the world.

Hold tight for a fast paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Captivating, unpredictable and shocking

 

even better news you can buy this on amazon now and Angie Smith is offering free bookmarks to the first 50 readers who PM her on Facebook with their address. I Have had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of this novel and its another 5* read for me as its full of fascinating characters, intricate twists and turns and a really intelligent plot.

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Top 10 worst reads of 2018

 

My final blog of 2018 is my worst reads of the year, although for once only 2 of them incite any strong feelings in me the rest are just kind of meh books, that dont really say anything. These are the books that elicit the teacher response of not being angry just slightly disappointed,  but they’ve made the list anyway so in no particular order except for the top 2 worst , here we go.

10) Wotakoi – A book about falling in love as otaku (geeks) that just makes zero point and isn’t that well written and when it falls into a similar category as my girlfriends a geek and himoutu umaru chan both of which are stellar reads you realise why it makes a list like this. Full of promise but a massive miss for me

9) an abundance of Katherines by John Green – I really like john green and several of his books could make some of my top lists, he’s a great YA read. But this book is kind of mediocre and disappointing, a boy has a mathematical formula for why he never falls in love and then discovers that life doesnt match his formula, I finished this book because it was a short read not because it was amazing.

8) Freedom by Margaret atwood – this is meant to be a collection of essays but turned out to be one essay and a lot of chapters from her other works, not worth the purchase price for me.

7) The Hellbound heart by clive barker – I read cabal this year and really enjoyed it and found it super scary, so  i thought the hellbound heart would be a great read but again it didn’t really take off as a read for me. Maybe works better as a movie than a novel

6) As miss Beelzebub likes – another manga that really doesnt go anywhere with an interesting concept, if you want a fun manga from this year i would recommend sleepy princess in the demon castle.

5) Women and power a manifesto by Mary Beard – Another quick read that makes several points im not sure i overly agree with. I don’t overly like Mary beard as a presenter and this applies to her writing style too, this is a matter of personal politics though so other people would probably like it more.

4) A golden thread an unofficial critical history of wonder woman by philip sandifer – I love wonder woman and had high hopes for this, but it is very much a biased opinion on the part of the author and whilst it gives a comprehensive history of the comics and tv shows it very clearly tries to influence you to follow the authors own opinions. This really biased approach grates on you after a while.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Golden-Thread-Unofficial-Critical-History/dp/1493566725/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1546198299&sr=1-1&keywords=a+golden+thread+wonder+woman

3) Nier Automata (long story short) – This is a book based on a video game. The hubster plays the video game and it looks amazing but the book is quite incomprehensible and doesn’t match the clever twists and turns that the game has to offer. Its another one of those quick reads that you finish because its short rather than its interesting.

2) Max einstein by James Patterson – This sounds amazing as a premise its about a kick ass girl scientist trying to make the world a better place with science. This is great especially as we have a shortage of people and women especially studying science. However that makes it even worse that it is just a dialled in attempt at a kids novel that doesn’t have anything really to say. James patterson seems to have lost the boil slightly as an author and this novel could do more harm than good when it comes to convincing people to study the sciences. Also second kick ass teenage girl called max in a james patterson YA book so he’s even out of ideas for names.

  1. and finally the worst read of 2018 and this is truly terrible. The poison belt by arthur conan doyle – this is a radium age sci fi novel, these can usually be pretty interesting reads but this one is definitely of its time and made me genuinely angry as i read it. Based on a cloud that covers the world and sends people unconscious or  as theorised in the novel to their deaths. It is one short casually racist read. The main character has a servant that he went to war with that he just casually lets die even though he describes him as one of the family at the start and conan doyle in the novel brushes off the death of the servant with a sort of its ok hes of the lower classes mentality. I find it hard to believe that this wasnt offensive when it was published and found it so morally reprehensible now that I couldnt even pass it on to a second hand store becuase i wouldnt want anyone else to have to read it. Combined with a less than stellar plot this is by far my worst read of the year and would probably hit a worse of all time list. I’m not adding the amazon link for this one because i genuinely dont think anyone should read it
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