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Stranger In The Village by Kate Wells

The second book in this great cosy crime series about widowed farmer, Jude Gray. When a stranger is killed in a hit-and-run car accident, the police think they know who did it. But other new faces lurk in the village and soon Jude is forced into solving another case before it affects her own family. Lovely atmosphere, insights into farming and plenty of twists to keep you guessing. 8.5 out of 10. June 2024

What We Thought We Knew by Claire Dyer

Three couples living next door to each other for over twenty years. On a summer picnic together, tragedy strikes and the ripples from that accident spread throughout the years. As the story jumps back and forth between timelines and points of view, a web of lies begins to emerge that tells of tempestuous secrets and people striving to make the best of their lives. 8 out of 10. June 2024

Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge

At the end of the 19th century, 13-year-old Penny Tredwell is the writer behind a hugely successful author. She is invited to solve a strange affliction cursing the inmates at Bedlam and uncovers a sinister plot involving spiders and dreams of the future. Terrific atmosphere and a plucky heroine, who goes on to have two more adventures in this series. 8.5 out of 10. June 2024

An Alien In The Jam Factory by Chrissie Sains

The first book in a delightful series about Scooter McLay and his wonderful jam inventions. Daffy Dodger is desperate to get her hands on his inventions and when an alien crash lands in the jam factory, causing chaos, she seems to have the perfect opportunity unless Scooter and his new friend can stop them. 8 out of 10. May 2024

Mr Gum & The Biscuit Billionaire by Andy Stanton

A very rich gingerbread man moves into the village, trying to buy friendship, throwing a massive party. But when Mr Gum and his evil friends steal all the money, the gingerbread man finds out who his real friends are as Polly tries to stop the baddies. Full of zany humour and colourful characters. 8.5 out of 10. May 2024

The Jolley Rogers & The Ghostly Galleon by Jonny Duddle

When ghostly pirates start plundering treasure from Dull-on-Sea, the residents panic. All except Matilda who gets help from Jim Lad and discovers the truth about Cap’n Twirlybeard. But can they stop the nasty pirates and discover a way to end their curse? Full of great illustrations and humour. 8.5 out of 10. May 2024

Shadow of the Bird by Tim Probert

Book two in the Lightfall series sees Bea and Cad seek out the help of a water spirit to help them defeat The Bird before it can destroy all the lights of Irpa. Full of surprises and gorgeous artwork, the adventure continues apace, setting up for part three. 8 out of 10. Apr 2024

Stitch by Padraig Kenny

A lovely take on the Frankenstein story, in which Stitch discovers what it means to be different and thinks about the meaning of life and death. When his friend, Henry, flees the castle, Stitch sets off to save him. Brilliant characters and full of heart with a thrilling ending. 8.5 out of 10. Apr 2024

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Count Rostov is placed under indefinite house arrest in a hotel in Moscow in 1922. There, he spends the next thirty years experiencing hardship, friendship, love and plotting his escape while the country he loves changes out of all recognition around him. Utterly delightful characters and language. 9.5 out of 10. Apr 2024

Grimwood by Nadia Shireen

Ted and Nancy, two young foxes living in the city, must flee to the countryside after incurring the wrath of a fearsome cat called Princess Buttons. There they make new friends, discover the sport of Treebonk, a crazy eagle and Ted’s passion for acting. All seems well until the cat finds out where they are. Glorious, bonkers fun adventure. 9 out of 10. Mar 2024

The Frozen Sea by Piers Torday

A gripping adventure set in the land of Folio where the rule of readers and librarians is tested by the rise of The Stampstone and its evil incarnation. Jewel sets out to find a kidnapped woman with the help of a robot girl and a very rude hamster. Clever allegory for our obsession with modern tech and full of heart warming characters. 8 out of 10. Mar 2024

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novak

Set in an alternative version of the Napoleonic wars where dragons exists, Captain Laurence is paired with Temeraire, a very rare breed of dragon. They are sent on a diplomatic mission to China, hoping to curry favour with the Emperor. But Sea Serpents, the French and assassination attempts thwart their efforts. Book two in a fabulous series. 8.5 out of 10. Apr 2024

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

A young mother, Tallulah, and her boyfriend go missing one night after a party at a house with a spooky past. Told through a triple timeline, Tallulah’s mum and a crime writer just moved to the area gradually piece together the secrets of Tallulah’s life, the lead-up to this fateful party and the truth behind the disappearance. Good twists and a fast-paced, easy read. 8 out of 10. Feb 2024.

Medusa – the girl behind the myth by Jessie Burton

A dramatic retelling of the Greek myth, told through Medusa’s point of view as she lives peacefully with her sisters on an isolated island until Perseus turns up, awakening a desire for companionship. But how can she befriend this new boy with her curse? And why has he turned up on this island? Lovely illustrations to accompany the text. 8 out of 10. Feb 2024

The Magician Next Door by Rachel Chivers Khoo

A lower middle-grade delightful tale about a girl who moves to Northern Ireland, feeling homesick, and encounters a magician whose house has crash-landed in her back garden. With help from a local lad, the girl saves the magician from giants and pixies and discovers what home really means. 8 out of 10. Mar 2024

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

The story of an appeal for funds to help a young child receive experimental treatment for cancer involves a village full of dubious characters, dodgy doctors, an hilarious am-dram society putting on their latest show (with plenty of setbacks), a financial scandal and a dead body. Can two law students figure out who did it through a series of e-mails and text messages? Very clever concept and satisfying denouement. 8 out of 10. Jan 2024.

Foxlight by Katya Balen

Two children left outside an orphanage on the edge of a wild forest, kept warm supposedly by a kindly fox, feel the pull of the wilderness. They decide to go hunting for their mother, after believing a friendly fox is trying to show them the way. They discover plenty about surviving in the wilderness, about each other, about their mother and finally about the loving embrace of their new adopted family. Virginia Woolf for children. 7 out of 10. Feb 2024

Physics for Beginners by Firth, Lacey & Stobbart

A great introduction to the world of physics aimed at younger readers but not lacking in important, difficult concepts like quantum mechanics and Einstein’s work on relativity. Very clear explanations divided into seven distinct chapters, ending with some unsolved mysteries and suggestions for how younger readers can explore the topic more or even make a career out of physics. Very enjoyable for the inquisitive mind. 8 out of 10. Feb 2024

Old Gods, New Tricks by Thiago de Moraes

Trixie Nielsen is always getting in trouble, but when electricity stops working over the entire world, she’s not to blame. Instead, she thinks the old gods are playing with humans and sets out on a quest to save the world with help from some mythic tricksters. Great pace and fun adventure, shining a light on some deities in less well-known cultures. 8.5 out of 10. Jan 2024.

Station Zero by Philip Reeve

The final instalment in the Rail Head trilogy sees Zen Starling teaming up with Nova once more, trying to outwit The Guardians, will help from wannabe Empress Threnody Noon. Dynamic, breath-taking space opera that never loses sight of the characters at the heart of the story. Moving, exciting, thought-provoking and a satisfying conclusion. Exemplary. 9.5 out of 10. Jan 2024

Peanut Jones & The End of The Rainbow by Rob Biddulph

The final part in Peanut’s battle to stop Mr White from erasing all creativity from the world of Chroma. Having rescued Dad, she now needs to save her mum. But this time, she has to deal with double-crossing, a falling out with her best friend and many setbacks. Lots of fun, with an ending that opens up a brand new possibility for more adventures. 8 out of 10. Dec 2023

2023 books

Lightfall (Book One) by Tim Probert

Bea makes a new friend in Cad, a member of a once-thought extinct race. They go in search of Bea’s adopted father, the Pig Wizard, while looking after the jar of Eternal Flame. A dangerous creature is emerging from the shadows, threatening to cover the world in darkness. Great middle-grade adventure that also looks gorgeous. Book two already out and the third publishes in 2024. 8.5 out of 10. Dec 2023.

Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

Hard-boiled crime in graphic novel form, drawing on Chandler and Hammett classic noir themes. All the characters are anthropomorphised animals that add to their personalities. Taut storylines and illustrations that conjure fantastic atmospheres make this a collection to savour. Adult themes and some sex make this unsuitable for your kids! 9 out of 10. Dec 2023

The Future of Geography by Tim Marshall

The next part to Marshall’s examination of geopolitics focuses on the final frontier, space. Who are the major players? It looks at the race to get boots on the Moon once more, staking claims on resources there. Who will win this new race? And how future wars might extend out to space as satellites become targets. How do international protocols apply in space? Fascinating. 8.5 out of 10. Dec 2023

Black Light Express by Philip Reeve

Part two of Zen and Nova’s adventures in the strange web of worlds, with their burgeoning romance, new species to meet, an assassination attempt on the Rail Network’s Empress and a shocking revelation about the Guardians and the network’s origins. Great space opera, with characters (and trains) that tug at the heart strings.  9 out of 10. Nov 2023.

My Love Life & The Apocalypse by Melissa Welliver

Echo, part-human, part-robot, thinks he is the only person left alive after the apocalypse until a space ship crash lands and the beautiful Pandora emerges. They head off to find Pandora’s father and uncover a strange commune with a shocking secret. Perfect for fans of romance, sci-fi and adventure. 8 out of 10. Nov 2023

Operation Nativity by Jenny Pearson

Oscar and Molly spend Xmas at their grandparent’s house and see the Archangel Gabriel fall out of the sky one night. He has messed up the original nativity and it’s up to Oscar and Molly to help him put things right, while keeping him secret and still rehearsing for Grandma’s nativity play. Lots of silly fun and touching moments. 8 out of 10. Dec 2023

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang

June Hayward, a struggling writer, is at her wildly successful friend’s apartment when the friend drops dead. June finds a new manuscript that no-one else has seen and passes it off as her own. A coruscating insight into the publishing world, envy and greed as June’s lies accumulate and the truth begins to emerge. A well-painted anti-hero and page-turning. 8 out of 10. Oct 2023.

Mermedusa by Thomas Taylor

Herbie and Vi’s last adventure in the Eerie-on-Sea series manages to surprise and yet also tie up all the loose ends of the previous four stories, as a team of investigators arrives on the trail of the Malamander while Sebastian Eels is up to his old tricks. What are the strange noises echoing through the town and why is Erwin the cat acting so weird? Moving, joyous and page-turning. A triumph. 9 out of 10. Oct 2023

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Mae lands a job at the hugely successful and influential tech company, The Circle, thanks to her friend Annie. At first joyful, but soon the job takes over Mae’s life and her ambition drives away her parents and ex boyfriend. The Circle’s new technologies become ever more intrusive and omni-present but Mae cannot see the dangers. Chilling, bleak and rather too long for me. 7 out of 10. Nov 2023

Murder On The Farm by Kate Wells

Jude, a widowed farmer, finds her best friend’s body in her field the day after discovering a dark secret about her. The police think it’s suicide, but Jude is determined to prove otherwise. A great setting with lovely farming details that don’t get in the way of the many twists and turns of a cracking crime novel. 9 out of 10. Sep 2023.

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide To Ruling The World by Louie Stowell

Loki is still stuck in an 11-year-old’s body as a punishment from Odin, to teach him to be good. Loki finds an unusual ring in the school’s costume department and suddenly everybody loves Loki thanks to the magic of the ring. But can Loki resist as the ring starts suggesting ever more evil plans? 9 out of 10. Oct 2023

Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell

Christopher finds his way to a hidden kingdom where mythical creatures abound. But the land’s magic is dying out and an assassin is on the tail of Mal, a girl with a flying cloak. Can he help her survive, discover what’s wrong with the land and help her to right it, before it’s too late? Lovely fantasy quest with emotional heft. 8.5 out of 10. Oct 2023

Railhead by Philip Reeve

In the far future, humans traverse the galaxies on special trains using K gates. Zen Starling is a young, low-level thief trying to make ends meet when he’s offered a job to steal a legendary item from the Emperor’s train with the help of an android girl. Nothing goes smoothly as Zen discovers what he’s really unleashed. Fantastic characters, worldbuilding and a twisting plot for the start of a trilogy. 9.5 out of 10. Sep 2023.

Rebel Skies by Ann Sei Lin

Mikoshima is an empire in turmoil with sky cities and groundling battling for power and the air filled with ferocious paper spirits. A girl who can craft paper is recruited by an airship to hunt spirits and discovers unsettling truths about her past and the world around her. Nice Japan-infused worldbuilding, lots of conflicts of interest and action for the start of a series. 8 out of 10. Sep 2023

Tyger by SF Said

In an alternative vision of Britain where the Empire and slavery still exist, a dark-skinned boy helps his family eke out an existence, until he finds a mythical beast hiding in a dump and being hunted by an evil lord. Learning new powers, the boy and his friend have to protect the Tyger and save London. Stirring and emotional with jaw-dropping illustrations from Dave McKean. 8.5 out of 10. Sep 2023

Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass

Georgian Britain and Lawrence Jago, clerk to the Foreign Office has just discovered his fellow clerk’s body. Lawrence refutes the suicide verdict and investigates, uncovering a web of deceit. But the spotlight turns on him and soon he’s fighting for his life as the whiff of revolution pervades the streets of London. Good historical mystery. 8 out of 10. Aug 2023.

You Took The Last Train Home by Brian Bilston

A brilliant collection of Brian’s short poems. They are often funny and clever, sometimes moving, full of drama and covering topics as varied as the periodic table, Schrodinger’s Cat, or simply a flat in Croydon. He has great fun in playing with form, using spreadsheets and shapes to accentuate the effect. Very enjoyable to dip into each day. 9 out of 10. Aug 2023

Peanut Jones and the 12 Portals

A middle-grade second adventure for Peanut and her friends as they return to the land of Chroma and discover Mr White is up to no good again. Famous artworks keep disappearing in the real world and portals to Chroma are being shut. Can Peanut rescue her father and retrieve the magic Pencil No 1, while evading the evil robots?  8.5 out of 10. Aug 2023

Bad Actors by Mick Herron

A key member of a government think-tank goes missing and the finger points to Lamb’s Slow Horses. The gang of mis-fit spies have no problem finding her. But that’s when their troubles begin as they realise this woman is at the centre of a tangled web. Another great spy thriller that delights with its characters and skewers current politics. 8.5 out of 10. July 2023.

The Illusions by Liz Hyder

A late 19th century tale of love, magician rivalry and feminism that centres on magic shows and early moving pictures. Cec tries to escape a manipulative master while Eadie attempts to build up her photography/film studio. The delightful cast and historical detail are bound together by a compelling plot with a great twist. 8.5 out of 10. July 2023

Girl of Glass by Megan O’Russell

A YA dystopian romance/thriller set in a world where some humans hide from the fractured world inside glass domes. Outside, medicines that save lives come with side-effects of vampirism and worse. Nola gets caught between both worlds, as two young men vie for her affections. OK, but not my thing. 7.5 out of 10. July 2023

Stink by Jenny McLachlan

Danny’s pretend fairy door produces an actual fairy, but one that is rubbish at magic and a complete pain. She’ll only go back to fairyland once she’s done a good deed. With a hungry troll on the loose and nasty neighbours, it’s not long before Danny needs her help in this funny, whacky adventure. 8 out of 10. June 2023.

When The Sky Falls by Phil Earle

When Joseph is sent to live with a woman in London during the war, he struggles to control his rage at being left by his parents. But with a new friend at school and working at London zoo, Joseph develops an unlikely relationship with the zoo’s gorilla. A beautiful and moving tale of love and loss. 9 out of 10. June 2023

The Sanctuary by Andrew Hunter Murray

An artist smuggles himself onto an island community that is trying to distance itself from the dystopian world beyond its shores. At first, delighted to be asked to join, he soon discovers a troubling past behind the island’s leader and wonders whether he can ever escape. A complex, page-turning mystery. 8.5 out of 10. June 2023

The Pawnshop of Stolen Dreams by Victoria Williamson

In Witchetty Hollow, the Gobbelinos set up a brand new Daydream Deli and a sack baby factory. Soon the adults are all behaving oddly and Florizel with new sack-boy Burble have to get to the bottom of an evil plot before the whole village is taken over. Delightfully spooky adventure. 8 out of 10. May 2023.

Spellstone by Ross Montgomery

Evie is used to being overlooked but when an old man tells her she is a powerful magician, she can’t believe it. Until she meets the rest of the Order of the Stone, and Vale, their nemesis. Soon, the fate of London is in Evie’s hands. Only she can stop the Spellstone from falling into the wrong hands. 8.5 out of 10. May 2023

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett

A series of audiofiles reveal an ex-con’s attempts to get a message to his son, while uncovering a decades long mystery about a missing teacher and missing bullion. Part Da Vinci code, part Foucault’s Pendulum, part treasure hunt, this twisty story will keep you guessing all the way through. 8.5 out of 10. June 2023

Neuromancer by William Gibson

In a tech-infused dystopian vision of the future, Case makes a dismal career doing deals in Chuba city until he is hired to do a heist in cyber space. But who is he really working for and who is out to stop him? Clever, taught, bewildering at times, visionary too, foreseeing the rise of AI. 7.5 out of 10. May 2023.

The Kingdom Over The Sea by Zohra Nabi

Yara’s dead mother left her a strange message that leads the girl to a magical kingdom full of sorcery and djinn and an evil lord. Yara must discover secrets of her past and uncover the magic within her before the wicked alchemist poisons the whole kingdom. To be continued… 8.5 out of 10. May 2023

Dead of Night by Simon Scarrow

Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke works near Berlin at the start of WWII. After an SS doctor is found dead, Schenke suspects the suicide verdict is a cover-up and so begins an investigation that leads Schenke to uncover a heinous scheme hatched by the Nazis, but what can he do to thwart the authorities? 8 out of 10. May 2023

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner

Colin and Susan, met the wizard Cadelin and discover Susan’s bracelet is the powerful Weirdstone. The morthbrood steal it. But Susan and Colin steal it back, daringly. And so begins a desperate chase as they try to get it to the safe keeping of Cadelin. Full of pace, imagination, a sense of place and British folklore. 7.5 out of 10. Apr 2023.

Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K Jerome

Out of sorts, the author embarks on a trip up the Thames with two friends and his dog, Montmorency. No real plot but lots of hilarious mishaps and anecdotes come forth, interspersed with prosaic passages about the countryside. Rather dated views on gender and class, but funny if you can look through that. 8 out of 10. Apr 2023

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

In small-town Sweden, a bank robber gets in a terrible muddle, and ends up holding hostage people at an apartment viewing. When the local police – a father and son – finally get the hostages out, the robber is nowhere to be found. Through moving and funny flashbacks and interviews we discover how and why. Excellent character insights and humour. 8.5 out of 10. Apr 2023

Rivet Boy by Barbara Henderson

A 12-year-old John Nicol has to become the family’s breadwinner by working on the construction of the Forth Bridge, despite his fear of heights. His fellow gang members are a nasty bunch, but luckily John makes new friends. A terrific historical adventure ensues, full of atmosphere and tension. 9 out of 10. Mar 2023.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The story of a nanotech engineer who is asked by Beijing police to infiltrate a secret cabal of scientists and investigate a series of mysterious suicides. The investigation uncovers a global peril. Very clever real science behind this story but a bit too much telling for me. 7.5 out of 10. Mar 2023

Desolation Island by Patrick O’Brian

Book five in the series about Captain Jack Aubrey and the spy Stephen Maturin sees them sailing for Australia aboard a ship carrying a dangerous spy and convicts. The weather, disease, a Dutch man-of-war and icebergs all threaten to wipe out the heroic pair. Terrific tension and historical accuracy. 8.5 out of 10. Mar 2023

Ghosts of Mars by Stuart White

Eva Knight is the first person born on Mars. When she sees a ghost on the surface and finds a sword of power, Eva’s world is turned upside down. And soon she finds herself racing to save her dad. A plucky heroine, with a strong cast in a well-developed setting. 8 out of 10. Feb 2023.

The French House by Jacquie Bloese

The story of deafened Emile and the tug of war between the two women he loves, set in German-occupied Guernsey during WWII. A tangled web of relationships amongst flawed but (mostly) loveable characters. Delightful. 9 out of 10. Feb 2023

Harley Hitch & The Iron Forest by Vashti Hardy

Harley starts a new term at school, desperate to win Pupil of the Term. But a new arrival, an old rival and a new disease in the Iron Forest soon puts Harley’s hopes of a trophy in peril. Great characters, nice concept and well paced. 8.5 out of 10. Feb 2023

Armada by Ernest Cline

Zack Lightman, ace video game player, is recruited by a secret agency to defend the planet against a real alien invasion. Can he stop the invasion and discover the truth about the aliens in time to save the human race? Nice pace, full of pop culture references, similar in feel to Ready Player One and good twist at the end. 8.5 out of 10. Jan 2023.

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

Five short stories, centred on memory, love and music. A different male protagonist in each one, with all but one musicians in locations as varied as the Malvern hills, LA, Venice. Quite melancholy stories, with lives full of regret, but with humour to lighten the mood. Voices all quite similar but effortless dialogue and scene-setting. 7.5 out of 10. Jan 2023

Restless by William Boyd

Ruth Gilmartin visits her increasingly oddly-behaved mother and is presented with her memoir of time during the war as a spy. Dual timeline plays out the wartime story and its ongoing consequences (in the 70s) as Ruth’s mother still has unresolved issues to deal with. Slow start but the concept works well with a satisfying denouement. 8 out of 10. Jan 2023

2022 books

Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery

Col has been evacuated from London during the blitz, separated from sister, Rose. When his make-believe guardians come to life and warn him of a terrible air-raid that will kill her, Col sets out to rescue Rose, little realising that will put him in direct conflict with the terrifying Midwinter King. Great pace, atmosphere and characters. 9 out of 10. Dec 2022.

Gamuyan Tales (Vol I) by Alexander Utkin

Slavic/Russian traditional folk tales brought to life through glorious illustrations. Several tales are linked together seamlessly as we follow the adventures of a merchant and his son encountering the King of Birds, a water spirit and more besides. Simple tales, told beautifully. 8 out of 10. Dec 2022

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin

A reckless young boy, Ged, discovers his powers and trains as a wizard on the island of Gont. Tempted by pride to try spells beyond his means, he unleashes a shadow beast that only he can face down. Desperate to make amends, his quest leads him to the far corners of Earthsea. A great start to the quadrology. 8.5 out of 10. Dec 2022

The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley by Sean Lusk

Zachary Cloudesley has the gift of second sight, seeing people’s futures. His father, a talented maker of clocks and automatons is sent to Constantinople on a dangerous mission but disappears. Zachary travels there to discover the truth and finds love along the way. Historical adventure infused with romance & magic realism. 8 out of 10. Dec 2022.

Treacle Walker by Alan Garner

Joe lives alone, on top of a cupboard, reading comics with a patch over one eye to correct his sight. When a rag & bone man comes calling, Joe makes a trade and his world is turned upside down. Not sure whether to love or hate this story. Joe’s voice is great while the plot, imagery and concepts are dreamlike, puzzling and constantly shifting. 7 out of 10. Dec 2022

Towards the End of the Morning by Michael Frayn

Satirical take on the Fleet Street publishing world of 1960s Britain full of liquid lunches and expenses. John Dyson has a chance to escape his humdrum life with a TV appearance while Bob has to deal with the advances of his landlord’s wife and a girlfriend desperate to move in with him. Comic situations but I never quite warmed to the characters. 7 out of 10. Dec 2022

V2 by Robert Harris

Fictionalised account of the building of the Nazis’ V2 rockets during World War II, and the British attempts to pinpoint the launch sites and destroy the rockets. Told in chapters that alternate in PoV from a German scientist who hates the war and a bright young WAAF who gets stationed in the Netherlands. Gripping and atmospheric. 8 out of 10. Oct 2022.

The Consequence Girl by Alastair Chisholm

Cora lives in the woods with her guardian, keeping out of mischief. She has the ability to see into the past and change it, an ability people are desperate to exploit. Her peaceful life is ended when she finds an injured boy in the woods and can’t stop herself from helping him. Great world-building, concept and characters. 9 out of 10. Nov 2022

The Week At World’s End by Emma Carroll

Stevie finds a runaway girl in her coal shed. With help from her best friend, Ray, Stevie tries to hide the girl and find out why she has run away, while the world shudders under the threat of the Cuban missile crisis. A brilliant portrayal of that time, coupled with a deeply personal tale about finding one’s voice. 9 out of 10. Nov 2022

The Notorious Scarlett & Browne by Jonathan Stroud

Excellent sequel as we discover more about the Seven Kingdoms. Scarlett and Albert’s friendship has deepened and their escapades become even more daring and dangerous in book two. Full of twists and turns and new characters to love or hate, this is a perfect adventure. 9 out of 10. Sep 2022

Escape Room by Christopher Edge

A short, action-packed adventure about 12-year-old Ami trying a hyper-realistic escape room. She makes friends with her team mates but not all is as it seems. Lots of clever puzzles to solve and unexpected twists to keep the pages turning with a fine underlying message. 8.5 out of 10. Oct 2022

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

A sublime slice of a mid-west American town as Victoria Roubideaux comes to terms with her teenage pregnancy. It’s full of delightful characters, especially the McPheron brothers. The tenderness of relationships is contrasted with the brutal reality of farm life and bullies. The writing is taut and full of heart. 8.5 out of 10. Oct 2022

Onyeka & the Academy of the Sun by Tola Okogwu

Onyeka’s extraordinary hair makes her self-conscious but when it turns out to have super powers, she is soon whisked back to native Nigeria and joins a school full of other children with abilities. She discovers dark secrets about her family and the academy in this fabulous, unusual setting as she teams up to defeat the villain. 8 out of 10. Sep 2022

Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy

Twins Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm lose their father in mysterious circumstance duing a race to the Southern Pole. Forced to work for cruel guardians, they enlist in a team for another race, determined to prove their worth and find out what really happened to their dad. But can they defeat the scheming Eudora Vane in this action-packed, heartfelt adventure? 9 out of 10. Sep 2022

Without Warning & Only Sometimes by Kit de Waal

The life story of the author from childhood until early adulthood, as one of five children in a mixed race marriage, growing up in 1970s Birmingham. Full of atmosphere of the time, as well as remarkable aspects of the dysfunctional but ultimately loving family. Insightful, moving and funny. Not my cup of tea, but very well written. 7 out of 10. Sep 2022

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide To Taking The Blame by Louie Stowell

Loki is still stuck on Earth in the body of a puny 11-year-old with his brother Thor and an attitude problem. Loki’s only friend has a new bestie and when Thor’s hammer goes missing, Loki is blamed. He sets out to prove everyone wrong and along the way learns a little about selflessness. Very funny. 8.5 out of 10. Aug 2022

Max And The Millions by Ross Montgomery

Max & the caretaker at his school love making models together. But when the caretaker goes missing, Max makes an incredible discovery. And suddenly, the new headteacher’s plans for the school threatens disaster. Max needs help from his friend and younger sister to save the day. Zany, funny adventure. 9 out of 10. Aug 2022

An Officer And A Spy by Robert Harris

A fictionalised version of the aftermath of the Dreyfus affair. Georges Picquart, new head of military intelligence, discovers a new spy leaking information to the Germans and begins to suspect Dreyfus was a scapegoat. But his superiors seem uninterested and the more he presses, the more they resist. Fascinating page turner. 8.5 out of 10. Aug 2022

Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh

A group of teenagers are chosen and trained to venture across space for 23 years to begin colonizing an Earth-like planet. But can they truly leave behind their lives on Earth and deal with so much loneliness and time in one small spaceship? A philosophical, tense, slow-burn sci-fi thriller. 7.5 out of 10. July 2022

The One Hundred Years of Lenni & Margot by Marianne Cronin

A teenager dying of cancer befriends on old lady waiting for heart surgery (their combined age is 100 and they will produce 100 works of art to celebrate each year) and a soon-to-be retired hospital chaplain. Lenni’s irreverent voice sings out in this funny but poignant look back at Margot’s complicated life. 8 out of 10. Jun 2022

Larklight by Philip Reeve

Art and Myrtle barely escape with their lives when an ancient race of space spiders invades their home near the Moon. Soon, they are racing across the solar system with Captain Jack Havoc and his crew, trying to avoid capture by the Royal Navy while stopping an attack on the Empire in this excellent steampunk, plucky adventure. 9 out of 10. Aug 2022

Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall

A great primer on how rivers, mountains and neighbours have affected the geopolitical outlook of many major countries around the world. Includes a prescient section on Russia and Ukraine as well as warnings about potential conflicts elsewhere. Thought-provoking and accessible. 8.5 out of 10. June 2022

Solve Your Own Mystery: The Time Thief by Gareth P Jones

A nice new take on the Fighting Fantasy books of the 80s, where the reader makes decision to help (or hinder) the investigation in the story. The Sponge of Time has been stolen from the local museum. And the list of potential suspects is long and varied! Also a nice twist at the end that keeps the fun flowing. 8 out of 10. Jun 2022

The Chime Seekers by Ross Montgomery

After moving to a new village, Yanni’s little sister is kidnapped by an evil elf on Halloween. He must venture into the fairy realm to get his sister back with help from his cousin. A Middle-Grade take on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Brilliant atmosphere, pace and plenty of emotion. 9 out of 10. July 2022

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Billy Dunne leads a band in the 70s. As he fights to clean up his addictions, the IT girl Daisy Jones joins the band with her own drug problems. Billy and Daisy butt heads for artistic control while other members of the band go through their own trials. All told as a series of interviews. Well written but not my cup of tea. 7.5 out of 10. May 2022

Dissolution by CJ Sansom

First in the Matthew Shardlake cases, set in 16th century England during the time of Henry VIII and Cromwell. Tasked with solving a heinous murder at a monastery, Shardlake uncovers a web of intrigue on the south coast while battling with his own inner demons. Terrific atmosphere and historical depth with good plot twists and red herrings. 8.5 out of 10. Jun 2022

The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan

Arthur discovers a secret passage to the Land of Roar, a make-believe place he and his sister Rose used to play in. When Grandad is kidnapped, Arthur has to go rescue him, re-visiting places he’d almost forgotten. But he’ll need his sister’s help, if she can believe in the Land once more. Great concept, rich details and a vile villain. 8.5 out of 10. Jun 2022

The Gifts by Liz Hyder

Set in early Victorian Britain, the tale of five seemingly unconnected women whose fates become drawn together by a magical transformation of two of them, and the ambitions of a surgeon who thinks he’s on a mission from god. A journalistic detective story for one, a crumbling marriage and a feminist adventure. Great atmosphere, compelling characters, and a delightful love story, this has it all. 9 out of 10. Apr 2022

Skandar & The Unicorn Thief by AJ Steadman

On an island in the Irish sea, unicorn eggs are hatched with each creature destined to be paired with a human. Those un-paired become wild and vicious, controlled by the Weaver. Skandar pairs up with an outlawed spirit unicorn. He and his friends have to keep it secret while he tries to pass his first year of training, and discovering the truth about the Weaver. Entertaining and fast-paced. 8 out of 10. Apr 2022

Amari and the Night Brothers by BB Alston

Amari’s brother is missing and when she’s invited to join the Bureau of Supernatural Investigations, she jumps at the chance to find out what has happened to him. To become an agent, she has to pass three tryouts but faces prejudice for being a powerful magician – in a world where spells are banned. She gets help from unexpected places while closing in on the truth about her brother. Good concept, well executed. 8.5 out of 10. May 2022

Pizazz vs Perfecto by Sophy Henn

Pizazz, a member of a family of super heroes, would rather just have fun. But she must face arch enemy Perfecto alone. When she keeps losing, Pizazz tries to be perfect and nearly loses her friends in the process as they enter the school band competition. A very funny, warm-hearted, whacky adventure with great illustrations and, eye-roll, lots of attitude of course. 9 out of 10. Mar 2022

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Todd is a boy on the verge of becoming a man, in a land where everyone can hear each other’s thoughts. When Todd finds a girl whose thoughts are silent, he has to flee with her and his pet dog Manchee, as they are chased by an army hell, killing all in their path. Great world-building but unremittingly grim, repetitive and no proper ending. 6 out of 10. Apr 2022

The Patient by Tim Sullivan

When a young woman is found dead in Bristol of a drugs overdose, suicide or accident is quickly assumed. But the mother thinks otherwise and DS Cross – awkward, obsessive, detached – spots something wrong and takes up the case. As the list of suspects grows, he has to make a breakthrough before another girl falls victim. A nice, easy read. 7.5 out of 10. Apr 2022

The Shadows of Rookhaven by Padraig Kenny

A return to Rookhaven as the family gather for the Great Configuration. A boy with a connection to Mirabelle arrives, with a dangerous mission that threatens the family and unveils more secrets about the monsters living with humans. An exciting, Gothic adventure full of atmosphere and delightful characters. 9 out of 10. Mar 2022

Libby & The Parisian Puzzle by Jo Clarke

Sent to her aunt’s travelling school, Libby makes a new friend and quickly becomes embroiled in a mystery as she spots a strange woman following her around. Her aunt faces jail unless Libby can prove her innocence and catch the real thief. A fun, gentle mystery with plenty of pace and oodles of potential for sequels galore. 8 out of 10. Mar 2022

A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe

A newly qualified embalmer answers the call to help with the bodies in the aftermath of the 1960s Aberfan tradegy. But the experience shatters him and dredges up memories of a very difficult childhood. Can he face his demons, right the wrongs of his past and still fall in love? Very evocative, moving story. 8.5 out of 10. Mar 2022

The Sacred Art of Stealing by Christopher Brookmyre

A bank robbery in Glasgow, involving surrealism and itching powder, brings together the gang leader and the police woman sent to arrest him. So begins a romantic game of cat and mouse as they try to suppress their feelings for each other while the gang plans one last heist. A funny, clever, twisty plot. 8.5 out of 10. Feb 2022

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snickett

The Baudelaire children are left with a huge inheritance when their parents die in a fire. They are sent to live with their wicked distant relative, Count Olaf, who eyes their inheritance greedily. Can they outwit him? Dark humour and a great voice mark the start to an international best-selling series. 8 out of 10. Feb 2022

Pie-Rats & The Mist Island Treasure by Kate Poels

Steady Eddy is first mate of the Pie-Rat crew, on board the Black Biscuit. When the treasure pile runs low, he persuades greedy, but scaredy Captain Greentail to seek out the lost treasure of Mist Island. Zany adventure, full of fun characters and whacky twists that will keep you smiling throughout. 8 out of 10. Mar 2022

Agent Sonya by Ben MacIntyre

The true story of Ursula Kuczynski’s life as a German jew. Fervently anti-fascist, she became a brilliant spy for Russia in China, Switzerland and eventually England. She had a key role in helping steal UK research into nuclear bombs. Fascinating insight into the person, her love-life and some forgotten politics of the time. 8.5 out of 10. Jan 2022

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide To Being Good by Louie Stowell

Loki is banished from Asgard by Odin and sent to Earth to live as an 11-year old boy, along with his brother Thor. He has to score points for being good, or risks getting banished forever and inevitably struggles. Lots of fun, highly illustrated and Loki’s character is spot on. Great start to a new series. 8.5 out of 10. Feb 2022

A Dubious Legacy by Mary Wesley

Henry Tillotson’s wife seems to hate him and won’t leave her bedroom. He tries to make the best of his life, inviting two young couples into his life. A Bridgerton-type tale of relationships and loose morals, delivered with brilliantly natural dialogue and full of intriguing characters. 8 out of 10. Feb 2022

Temeraire by Naomi Novak

Captain Laurence hatches a dragon’s egg and soon becomes bonded with Temeraire, the rare creature inside. Set in an alternative version of reality the pair are fighting off Napoleon’s plans to invade Britain. Brilliant characters and a beautiful bond. Terrific start to a hugely successful series. 9 out of 10. Jan 2022

Dad’s Life by Dave Hill

Joseph Stone loves bringing up his kids, but when his wife leaves him, Jo faces a lot of challenges and becomes jealous of his wife’s new lover, especially when the pair start acting very weird. But Jo’s no stranger to acting weird. Funny and moving story based on the author’s own life. 7.5 out of 10. Jan 2022

Wishyouwas by Alexandra Page

Delightful adventure for young middle-grade readers about Penny and a strange race of creatures living beneath London just after the war.  Penny befriends Wishyouwas just as the creatures’ existence is threatened by a nasty rat-catcher in this beautifully illustrated page-turner. 8 out of 10. Jan 2022

2021 books

Harklights by Tim Tilley

Wick escapes from the orphanage and the dreadful Old Ma Bogey when he discovers a tiny baby in an acorn shell. The little people help him look overcome his fear of heights and teach him to look after the forest that is being cut down for match wood. They hatch a plan to rescue all the other orphans. Pacey, eco-friendly MG adventure. 8 out of 10. Dec 2021

Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm

Beth is travelling with her family to colonise another world, jumping through space. When the ship malfunctions and only children wake up after a jump, Beth becomes captain of the Orion, facing a deadly test to repair the ship and stay ahead of the aliens and scavangers hot on their tail. Great sci-fi tension for middle grade. 8.5 out of 10. Dec 2021

The Loop by Ben Oliver

Luka is an inmate of the Loop, an AI-controlled maximum security prison, tortured to harvest his body’s energy and experimented on. When the latest experiment goes wrong and chaos breaks out in the nearby city, Luka and his fellow inmates break-out and try to figure out who is behind this new atrocity. First in a dark, YA trilogy. 7.5 out of 10. Dec 2021

Peanut Jones & The Illustrated City by Rob Biddulph

Peanut goes looking for her missing Dad through a magic door into an illustrated world, ruled over by the sinister Mr White. She’s armed with a magic pencil and helped by friends from the real world and the resistance in the fantasy land. Great twists and gorgeously illustrated. 8.5 out of 10. Nov 2021

The Monsters of Rookhaven by Padraig Kenny

Mirabelle’s safe, boring life with her unusual family of monsters is upset when the magical glamour shutting out the wider world rips open. She befriends two human orphans who arrive on her doorstep, but far worse things await. A fantastic, dark, emotional and ultimately uplifting adventure. 9.5 out of 10. Nov 2021

Falling by TJ Newman

A pilot of a passenger plane discovers his family has been kidnapped just after take-off. He’s ordered to crash the plane or his family will die. So begins a desperate struggle to avoid either outcome as he finds a way to enlist help from the cabin crew, the FBI and even the passengers. A fast read with good tension & plenty of twists. 7.5 out of 10. Nov 2021

Uki & The Swamp Spirit by Kieran Larwood

Another story within a story of Uki’s attempt to capture the third escaped evil spirit, this one infecting a swamp and its inhabitants. Pacey with great new characters and Uki’s usual friends. Fine use of dialect to help with the world-building. The narrator and his companion are in trouble too! Lots of twists and tension. 8.5 out of 10. Oct 2021

The Ex Husband by Karen Hamilton

Lottie and her ex husband used to con cruise guests out of their money, but only the rich ones who could afford it. Years later, after an acrimonious divorce somebody threatens to reveal Lottie’s dark past. Is it her husband or someone else out for revenge? Good use of a dual timeline to eke out the backstory while building the tension. 8 out of 10. Oct 2021

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

A delightful story set in the 1920s about Mattie, a suffragette who is trying to find purpose in her life after women get the vote. Sexism is still rife and Mattie’s well-intentioned brusqueness often lands her in trouble. Full of wit as well as poignant moments, this is a delightful story full of endearing characters with an unexpected but almost inevitable ending. 9 out of 10. Oct 2021

The Curse of the Dearmad by Emma Mylrea

An delightful eco-adventure that draws from Scottish myth as well as the story of the Golden Fleece. Nell, Perry and Connor are three kids on a mission, helped by a strong cast of adult characters. A pacey read. 8 out of 10. Sep 2021

Shooting Martha by David Thewlis

A powerful study of trauma and guilt, set in the world of film sets and zoom meetings. Darkly funny, beautifully written and and terrific atmosphere throughout. Works well as a thriller as Betty uncovers the truth about Martha. 9 out of 10. Sep 2021

The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne by Jonathan Stroud

A lawless Britain is the dystopian setting for this western-style adventure. Scarlett and Albert are terrific main characters, with delightful voices and great chemistry. Dialogue is full of wit and the pacing/action is superb. 9 out of 10. Sep 2021

Vi Spy by Maz Evans

Lots of zany fun for Valentine Day, in the James-Bond type spoof, as the plucky girl tries to reconcile a mum and dad who are super spies and super villains, respectively. Everything is a bit OTT, but there are great characters, some fab set pieces and the ending delivers plenty of scope for a sequel. 8 out of 10. Aug 2021

Phosphate Rocks by Fiona Erskine

A dead body is found while an old chemical plant is being demolished, and the police bring in an old foreman of the plant to help piece together the clues and solve the mystery. Part science lesson, part homage to the author’s old job, this is an enjoyable and very unusual blend. 8 out of 10. Aug 2021

Memory Thieves by Darren Simpson

Cyan lives at the Elsewhere Sanctuary, being treated to help forget a past trauma. When he finds a secret message and a new patient disappears, Cyan sets out to discover the truth about his world. Great setting, strong characters. Very enjoyable. 8.5 out of 10. Aug 2021

Meltdown by Ben Elton

A novel about the excesses of British life at the start of the 21st century and the aftermath of the financial crisis. The story focuses on Jimmy – ex-trader up to his eyeballs in debt as his property portfolio goes south. Sharply observed and plenty of fun, if not quite laugh out loud and a bit long. 7 out of 10. July 2021

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi lives in the House – a strange world with almost limitless rooms, clouds on the top floor, tidal water in the lower floors. He meets his friend, the Other, twice a week, but when messages start appearing, Piranesi must discover the truth about his existence and choose sides. Wonderful voice, beguiling setting, full of intrigue. 9 out of 10. July 2021

Shipwreck Island by Struan Murray

Seth and Ellie, having escaped the City in book one, arrive at a new island. The queen of this island seems to be a kindly Vessel, like Seth. But Hargath arrives on the trail of Ellie, and the island has plenty of unpleasant surprises for her and Seth to discover. Lots of twists and turns in this pacey sequel. 8 out of 10. July 2021

The Life & Time of Lonnie Quicke by Kirsty Applebaum

Lonny lives isolated in the forest with brother, Dad and Grandad. Lonny is a lifeling, able to breathe life into dying things but at a cost to himself. Dad tries to keep him away from the local town, but Lonny wants to see what’s out there. Emotional, distinctive and thought provoking. 8.5 out of 10. June 2021

Skysteppers by Katherine Rundell

High above the streets of Paris, Matteo eeks out a lonely existence until he meets a girl who has sworn to protect two old ladies. When the kids find a clue to a long-lost treasure they begin a desperate search across the city for the riches that might save the old ladies. Great characters and pacey adventure. 8 out of 10. June 2021

Bearmouth by Liz Hyder

Newt lives and works underground in a mine called Bearmouth. Life is hard, pennies are precious and Newt’s tight group works well together until the mysterious Devlin turns up and changes everything. Newt discovers the bitter truth about the mine and decides to do something about it. 9 out of 10. June 2021

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

The story of the death of Shakespeare’s son told through the eyes of his wife. There are supernatural elements in this which seemed odd for a historic novel, a slow beginning but beautifully written and very moving. Odd mix of very short and incredibly long chapters. 8.5 out of 10. May 2021

Strangeworlds Travel Agency by LD Lapinski

Flick Hudson discovers a shop with suitcases that lead to other worlds and proves to have a unique skill. A strong concept but the story plods a bit at the start with not enough peril. Jonathan (who runs the shop) seems to do most of the hard work. 7.5 out of 10. May 2021

IQ by Joe Ide

Isaiah Quintabe is a high-school drop out with no family but a fabulous intellect who helps solve crimes the LAPD are too busy/too lazy to deal with. He lands a big-bucks case with help from his old flatmate. Gradually the backstory of these two characters is revealed. Taut, atmospheric, spawned a dozen sequels. 8 out of 10. May 2021

The Nutshell Technique by Jill Chamberlain

A very useful guide to movie script writing that takes the standard three-act structure and shows how interlinking the character and plot elements really helps to maximise a movie’s impact. Quite straightforward once you know the formula but lots of examples to help show it working in classic movies. 8.5 out of 10. Apr 2021

Save The Cat Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody

This book uses the Blake Snyder beat sheet and applies it to the novel form. A nice expansion of how to give the finale one last twist. And a list of vital ingredients for different genres. Good advice on what makes a memorable hero, as well as writing a logline and snappy synopsis. 8.5 out of 10. Apr 2021

The Chessmen Thief by Barbara Henderson

A brilliant historical adventure story about a Scottish boy who as thrawl to viking craftsmen learns how to carve chess pieces. He embarks on a trip back to the Hebrides with a cunning plan to find his mother. Pacey, atmospheric and full of great characters with twists aplenty. 9 out of 10. May 2021

The Pretty One by Clare Boyd

A dark tale about the perils of a modelling career for young women, but one that also deals with sibling rivalry among step-sisters, a mother’s sacrifices for her children and regrets about opportunities missed. There’s a lot packed in! Once the set-up is delivered, it’s a pacey read with a satisfying ending. 7.5 out of 10. Mar 2021

Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray

A highly imaginative adventure in a strange, beguiling setting. Ellie and Seth are brilliant lead protagonists and the baddies are equally well fleshed out. Hooks you from the start and keeps you guessing with lots of twists and action. The ending leaves lots of questions unanswered but sets up book two perfectly. 8 out of 10. Mar 2021

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll

Cora makes friends with fellow neuro-divergent Adrien and discovers his dad’s Pomegranate Institute is using hologram technology to bring people back to life. A great celebration of individuality, although I wasn’t wholly convinced by the plot. 7 out of 10. Apr 2021

Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby

Annie’s boyfriend is obsessed with reclusive rock star Tucker Crowe. But Annie ends up meeting Crowe and she realises everything that’s wrong with her current boyfriend. Crowe meanwhile muses on what a mess he’s made of his life. Gently amusing, but also quite philosophical on life and love. Slow start, good ending. 7.5 out of 10. Feb 2021

Winter Dark by Alex Callister

A young woman is recruited to the secret service: she’s a hacker, a brilliant snow-boarder and lethal with a blade. She takes it upon herself to track down the master criminal behind a disturbing new killing game on the dark web. But he’s expecting her. And he’s not what she thinks. High-octane action, sex and violence. A bit OTT for me. 7 out of 10. Feb 2021

The Gift of Dark Hollow by Kieran Larwood

Part two of Podkin One-Ear’s adventures. Having rescued dozens of rabbits from the Gorm, Podkin and the others are hiding in Dark Hollow. He finds another of the Goddess’ gifts. When another gift is in danger of falling into the hands of the Gorm, a dangerous quest begins. Pax, Pook and new heroes emerge and Podkin starts growing up. Cracking fantasy adventure. 9 out of 10. Mar 2021

Man At The Helm by Nina Stibbe

A mother and children move to an English village in the 70s after a divorce. The villagers view this single woman with suspicion, but her daughters take it upon themselves to find mum a new man. It doesn’t go well at first but gradually they all find their feet. Plenty of droll humour and nostalgia. 7.5 out of 10. Jan 2021

The Devil & The Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Set onboard a 17th century sailing ship, the voyage from the Far East starts with a macabre prophecy of doom which only days into the journey seems to be coming true. A case for the famous Samuel Pipps and his trusty assistant Arent Hayes, with unlikely help from a married woman. Dark, twisty, crime plot in a fantastic setting. 8.5 out of 10. Jan 2021

The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

A country boy, Franz, moves to Vienna in 1938 to start a career as a shop assistant. He learns about the wider world, about love and meets the famous psychologist Professor Freud. But as the Nazis sweep to power, Frank’s life goes downhill fast as he loses his employer and his girlfriend and finally Freud. Tender and moving. 8.5 out of 10. Jan 2021

2020 books

Uki & The Outcasts by Kieran Larwood

A great addition to the Podkin universe with this tale of Uki’s mission to capture five escaped, evil spirits. He’s joined by fellow outcasts Jori and Kree, but of course there’s a baddie after the spirits too. Another tale within a tale, with the bard narrator and apprentice Rue getting into their own adventure. 9 out of 10. Nov 2020

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Picking up soon after the events of book one, Wade Watts discovers a new challenge within the Oasis that only he can solve. Trouble is there’s a problem with the new headsets that give access to the virtual world. If Wade doesn’t solve the puzzle in time, billions could die. Great, geeky fun again, more movie and music than video games this time. 8 out of 10. Dec 2020

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Considered by many to be the author’s greatest whodunnit, this story sees Poirot come out of retirement to help his neighbour, Dr Sheppard, investigate the murder of the wealthy businessman who lives in the village, shortly after his girlfriend is found dead from a suspected overdose. Great twist at the end. 8 out of 10. Dec 2020

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

Charlie Lewis is bored the summer after his GSCEs until he meets Fran at the local am dram group. She turns his world upside down and helps him escape from his depressed Dad and Mum who is now living with someone else. Captures the wonder and fear of youth and first love very well. 8 out of 10. Nov 2020

A Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson

Dan Hope’s dad left home a long time ago, but Dan has a secret plan to meet him again and regain his love. His Mum is in a new relationship but can Dan and his sister trust this new bloke. An hilarious and poignant tale of family and friendship. 8 out of 10. Nov 2020

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

A day in the life of a 1920s upper class lady preparing for an evening party in London. Lots of vignettes from other party guests during the day, including her old flame and a war veteran suffering from PTSD. The writing style felt far too jumpy, over-hyped with emotion and awash with metaphors. 5 out of 10. Nov 2020

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson

When grandma dies, Freddie sets out with his friends on a quest to Wales. Cue for: onion eating, superhero costumes, TV appearances, thieves, exploding toilets and maybe a miracle or two. Hilarious, emotional and well paced. This will make you laugh and cry – it’s a gem. 9 out of 10. Oct 2020

Clifftoppers: The Arrowhead Moor Adventure by Fleur Hitchcock

A modern re-boot for a Famous Five type adventure as four children on holiday in Devon uncover jewel thieves right on their doorstep. The kids spy on them and set up a trap to catch them. Can they stay one step ahead and help bring the criminals to justice? A nice wholesome adventure. 7.5 out of 10. Oct 2020

The Highland Falcon Thief by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman

Harrison Beck is taken on steam train the Highland Falcon’s last outing. When he realises there’s a stowaway girl on board and jewels are going missing, he’s determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. But that’s not easy when there are royalty and police on board. Chuffin’ marvellous. 8 out of 10. Oct 2020

Gargantis by Thomas Taylor

Another adventure for Herbert Lemon and friends. When a fabled storm threatens to wipe out Eerie-on-Sea and a strange bottle containing a sprightning washes up on shore, Herbie has to face his worst fears to save the town. Epic setting, epic story-telling, I can’t wait for book 3 in the series. 8.5 out of 10. Sep 2020

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

A story within a story. An author’s editor receives his latest murder-mystery novel, but with the last chapter missing. She sets out to solve the case and becomes embroiled in a real-life murder mystery involving the author. Clever pastiche of Agatha Christie but a little disjointed for me. 7.5 out of 10. Sep 2020

The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd

Tomas discovers a strange tree at the bottom of his grandad’s garden. Its strange fruit hatches into a dragon and Tomas has to learn to look after his new, magical but naughty pet. While keeping it a secret. Lots of slap-stick and chaos at the start of this fun series. 8 out of 10. Sep 2020

Half A World Away by Mike Gayle

Kerry, a single mum in a London housing estate reaches out to Noah, a successful lawyer – the little brother she lost contact with after a troubled childhood involving care homes and adoption. As they reunite, a chain of events trigger huge changes for everyone they know. The plot is too slow and the characters too stereotypical. 6.5 out of 10. Aug 2020

Mima Malone by Kate Poels

Something weird is happening to Mima’s school mates: blue mouths, webbed feet, green spots and worse. Is it related to her strange new neighbours or even the dentist? Mima & friends investigate, uncovering a fiendish plot and the reason why Billy is such a bully. Lots of fun, adventure and a nice trail of clues to follow. 8.0 out of 10. Sep 2020

Mr Penguin & the Fortress of Secrets by Alex T Smith

Mr Penguin, Colin & friends crash land near an isolated mountain village, after rescuing a rare gemstone from a criminal gang. But the village pets are disappearing and when Mr Penguin agrees to investigate he uncovers a fiendish plot to take over the world. Can he save the day? Not without help from all his friends. 8 out of 10. Sep 2020

Wonderscape by Jennifer Bell

Arthur, Ren & Cecily investigate a mysterious explosion on their way to school and end up in a real-life adventure game far in the future. Can they get home before the time travel kills them and can they save others who have become trapped in the game? Pacey adventure in a fantastic setting. 8.0 out of 10. July 2020

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

A trio of golf buddies are embroiled in a human trafficking ring, but their empire is crumbling as loose ends fray. Private Investigator Brodie, and two coppers following up a decades old case, get sucked into the case as a child is kidnapped. Full of wit to offset the darkness and pacey. 8.0 out of 10. July 2020

A Mummy Ate My Homework by Thiago de Moraes

School swot Henry gets sucked through a time warp into ancient Egypt where he needs to learn some new skills fast if he’s going to stay alive. He makes friends with the Pharaoh’s children and helps defeat some river pirates before finally finding his way back to the present. A highly illustrated, fun adventure. 7.5 out of 10. Aug 2020

Devil Darling Spy by Matt Killeen

Sarah and the Captain are back for another WWII daring mission. This one involving deadly diseases in Africa and lots of double-crossings. More complicated and slower than book one, with more attitude which distracts from the action. Sarah is angry and the Captain morose. 7.0 out of 10. June 2020

Keeping Mum by James Gould-Bourn

Danny and son are struggling to cope with the loss of Danny’s wife. Desperate for money, Danny becomes a busking, dancing panda. Lots of humour mixed with tender moments. Characters are great, especially a cake-making man mountain Ivan, and potty-mouthed lap dander. 8.5 out of 10. June 2020

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kathy H, now 31, looks back on her time at Hailsham, a special school, with friends Ruth and Tommy. As this troubled trio slowly discover, their destinies are already laid out for them. Troubling, subtle dystopia full of love, regret and Ishiguro’s signature style. 8.5 out of 10. June 2020

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen

Kya Clark lives in the marsh near Berkley Cove, abandoned by her family with the birds and the swamp for company. Two men enter her life, one ruinously, the other with joy. Part romance, part murder mystery told in dual timeline. Captivating and thrilling. 9.0 out of 10. May 2020

Habibi by Craig Thompson

A graphic novel about Dobola and Zam, two orphaned children in a fictional Middle Eastern state. A troubling tale of slavery, corruption and redemption. The artwork is breathtaking. The plot is meandering, the time-frame jumbled. Provocative and strange. 7.5 out of 10. May 2020

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

Tommo Peaceful blames himself for his father’s death. Growing up with Charlie and Big Joe, Tommo is gutted that Charlie gets the girl he fancies, Molly. World War One arrives and he joins up along with his brother, but only one of them comes back alive. Tender, heart breaking and masterful. 9 out of 10. May 2020

The Lie by Hilary Boyd

Romy’s married life to high-flying barrister Michael is shattered when a letter arrives accusing him of assault on a young woman. Can she believe the letter or the denials of her husband? Carefully plotted, an easy page-turner, slightly predictable. 7.5 out of 10. Apr 2020

Troofriend by Kirsty Applebaum

The story of Sarah’s new robotic companion, called Ivy. The whole story is from her POV and with her quirky language; the author does a great job with Ivy’s voice. The story deals with their developing friendship, human attitudes to artificial intelligent and morality. 8.5 out of 10. Apr 2020

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Frank owns a vinyl record shop. In walks Ilse, a German woman and they fall in love. Both have dark pasts and Frank’s small street community is on the brink of disappearing. Full of delightful characters, but the plot is a bit strained at times. 7.5 out of 10. Apr 2020

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

A suspenseful gripping psychological story that starts off as a genteel romance. Brilliant characters, and setting. Perhaps a bit slow in the opening act for me. But a wonderful, ground-breaking novel. 9 out of 10. Mar 2020

Moonlocket by Peter Bunzl

Part 2 of the steampunk adventures of Lily, Malkin and Robert whose family is the main focus of this story about a stolen jewel and an escaped thief. Plenty of pace and inventiveness with added tenderness. 8 out of 10. Mar 2020

Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

A story about a town that has severed connections with Faerie Land but illicit contact is being maintained. Elements of murder-mystery, fantasy and Shakespeare. The style is dated, but very interesting. 7.5 out of 10. Mar 2020

Early Rise by Jasper Fforde

Typically brilliant invention of Britain in an ice age where most humans hibernate for 6 months of the year. Charlie Worthing is one of those who stays awake to look after the sleepers but this is one winter he won’t forget in a hurry. 8.5 out of 10. Feb 2020

Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

Classic steampunk adventure for Lily and her pet mechanimal Malkin and new friend Robert. Lovely twists, baddies and the setting is very engaging. I’ve already started the sequel! 8.5 out of 10. Feb 2020

The Insider by Mari Hannah

Police procedural that keeps you guessing right to the end. The second outing for DCI David Stone and DS Frankie Oliver. Good chemistry between them and the detail of police work is very satisfying. 8 out of 10. Feb 2020

In The Shadow Of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling

Cadmus tries to help his master retrieve the Golden Fleece for the mad Emperor Nero, with help from a Briton slave girl, Tog. An unlikely hero, lots of twists and very credible relationships. Unusual ending but most satisfying. 8 out of 10. Jan 2020

On Writing by Stephen King

A mixture of autobiography and sound advice on how to write better stories/novels. Plenty of nuggets to help the budding writer and King’s life has been pretty interesting too! 8.5 out of 10. Jan 2020

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

A soap opera plot of multiple characters set in a Stepford-Wives type community. The story centres on motherhood and pregnancies. Male characters are rather weakly written. Perspective keeps flipping which distanced me from the characters. 7 out of 10. Jan 2020

2019 books

0.4 by Mike Lancaster

Kyle Straker’s remarkable story, discovered by an advanced civilisation, explains how he and a few others survived a strange illness that blighted nearly all humans because he was in a hypnotic trance. Clever concept, short, some good characterisation. 7.5 out of 10. Nov 2019

They Call Me The Cat Lady by Amy Miller

Nancy Jones lives with 5 cats and a dark history. A chance encounter and helping the neighbour’s bullied son helps bring out the truth and allow Nancy to reconnect with friends. Will appeal to fans of Eleanor Oliphant/Ove. Enjoyable, easy read. 7.5 out of 10. Nov 2019

There May Be A Castle by Piers Torday

Mouse Mallory and his family suffer a car crash on Christmas Eve. Mouse wakes up in a strange land, on a quest to find a castle which might just save his family back in the real world. Deeply moving, fantastical tale. 8 out of 10. Dec 2019

MUD by Emily Thomas

After Lydia’s mum dies, her dad re-marries a divorcee and the combined families move into a cramped, cold, leaky Thames barge. At a new school, Lydia faces teenage tribulations while her dad turns to drink. 80s setting is great. A serious (but still funny) version of Adrian Mole. 7.5 out of 10. Oct 2019

The Peculiars by Kieran Larwood

Sheba is a girl with fur and wolf fangs. Sold to be in a Victorian London freak show, the rest of the cast become her new family. When children start going missing from the Thames, the Misfits are asked to investigate. They uncover a cruel mastermind but also a secret into Sheba’s past. Thrills and twists aplenty. 8 out of 10. Oct 2019

The Wall by John Lanchester

Kavanagh has been assigned to a 2-year stint guarding The Wall – the massive barrier that keeps all Others out of Britain. If a guard fails in their duty, they are thrown outside The Wall. What would it be like out there? Fantastic concept, chilling dystopia. Third act not great. 7 out of 10. Oct 2019

ZED by Joanna Kavenna

Guy Matthias is CEO of Beetle, one of the most powerful tech companies. But his life unravels when his products start malfunctioning. Clever vision of where tech is taking us. Feels like 1984 at times, but with wit. Hard to empathise with the characters though. 7.5 out of 10. Sep 2019

Breakfast in Bogota by Helen Young

Luke Vosey is a British architect in post-war Colombia trying to help modernise the capital. A story of Luke’s past shame, a new love and the political machinations of a country on the brink of revolution. Very evocative of the time and place. 8.5 out of 10. Sep 2019

The Last by Hanna Jameson

Jon Keller is an academic at a conference in the Swiss alps when nuclear Armageddon sweeps the planet. Are the hotel guests the only ones alive and who killed the girl they find on the roof? Chilling at times, great characters, slightly unsatisfying ending. 7 out of 10. Sep 2019

The Umbrella Mouse by Anna Fargher

The story of Pip Hanway, oprhaned by the blitz and determined to reach Europe during WWII even if means taking on a dangerous mission. Anthropomorphised elements of truth about the resistance and animals’ roles in the war. Pacey young middle-grade story. 7.5 out of 10. August 2019

Jelly by Clare Rees

Martha and her friends are stuck on the back of a giant jellyfish along with a bunch of adults after climate disaster. Even if they can get off, how will they get past the deadly Kriks and survive back on land? Dark but funny, with great characters and well paced. 8.5 out of 10. August 2019

The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton

Secret Policeman Gabriel Syme infiltrates a society of anarchists to foil their deadly plots but uncovers an unsettling truth about the other anarchists and their leader. Good twists, plenty of dry wit and surprisingly contemporary. 7.5 out of 10. July 2019

Wildspark by Vashti Hardy

Prue Haywood joins Medlock Personifate Guild to see if she can find her dead brother’s soul and restore him to a mechanical personifate. But is a second life in a machine really a good idea? Original and fun, though the plot was a bit predictable and the characters a little light. 8 out of 10. June 2019

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

A story that alternates between 1925 and 1935 about upper class Selina’s affair with an artist and later about Selina’s daughter discovering the shocking truth about her mother. Very evocative and emotional climax but not really my cup fo tea. 7 out of 10. July 2019

Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma try to discover the truth about her missing parents in the spooky Eerie-on-Sea. Was the legendary Malamander monster involved? Fantastic setting and characters, perfectly set up for more adventures that I can’t wait to read. 9 out of 10. July 2019

The Suspects by Katherine Johnson

Five young graduates buy a house together but when a party ends up with a body in the basement, they make a decision that will define the rest of their lives. How will they live with the decision and how much do they really know about each other. Nicely paced, gripping plot. 8 out of 10. June 2019

The Bees by Laline Paull

Flora 717 was born a lowly sanitation worker bee in a hive in an orchard. But she’s different and is destined to both save and destroy the hive. A brilliant feat of imagination. Totally transports the reader, seeing the world through compound eyes. Elements of Handmaid’s Tale, and still a pacy plot too. Very memorable. 9 out of 10. June 2019

The Deserter’s Daughter by Susanna Bavin

Carrie Jenkins’ world gets turned upside down when she discovers her father was not a war-hero but shot as a deserter. Her fiancee abandons her before she can admit she’s already pregnant. A saga with thriller elements, capturing 1920s Manchester full of well-rounded character. 8 out of 10. May 2019

The Huntress – Sea by Sarah Driver

Mouse’s adventures as her Grandma’s ship is taken over and she is sold into slavery. She needs to rescue her brother and find the Sea Opal before Stag does. Great characters and a real feel for the sea. Fast and furious but some of the escapes seemed a bit convenient. 7.5 out of 10. May 2019

Scavengers by Darren Simpson

Landfill lives inside a wall with Babagoo, following his rules and avoiding the outsiders. But Babagoo isn’t telling the truth and some rules don’t make sense. Very unsettling at first, but beautiful language and a delightfully rounded relationship between the 2 main characters. Memorably different. 9 out of 10. May 2019

The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum

Maggie is a middle child in a town that worships the eldest before sending them off to fight in the Quiet War. Wanderers are made out to be dangerous but Maggie meets one and discovers a shocking truth about the town. Nicely paced, Maggie’s inner voice of doubt is great. Tense and an exciting ending. 8 out of 10. May 2019

Remember Tomorrow by Amanda Saint

A retrospective on Evie’s life from her activism in Reading as society divides and climate catastrophe unfolds, her pregnancy and split from the father, her journey to a coastal survivalist community and her later persecution for witchcraft. Good concept but she’s not very likeable and the world building is a little weak. 7 out of 10. Apr 2019

Life, Death & Cellos by Isabel Rogers

Erin plays in the Stockwell Park Orchestra. It’s facing financial ruin but then somebody inherits a stradivarius that Erin ends up playing in a concert to restore their funding. Plenty of humour, well-observed characters centred on a niche past-time; a bit like an urban version of Detectorists. Enjoyable. 8 out of 10. Apr 2019

No Harm Can Come to a Good Man by James Smythe

ClearVista is the world’s foremost prediction software and when it predicts a terrible future for Laurent Walker – the lead candidate in the US presidency race – his life falls apart. A clever concept and pacey, but he’s not likeable enough to care, and the plot isn’t entirely convincing. 6.5 out of 10. May 2019

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

Lacey Chu longs to work for Moncha, the company that makes Baku – pet animal robots that have replaced mobile phones. She finds a broken Baku (Jinx), mends it and is accepted into the Moncha academy, but college life is anything but simple. Great concept, part growing up/part battle the evil corporation story.  Jinx has a wonderful personality. The book ends on a cliffhanger. 8.5 out of 10. Mar 2019

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Gwyna is rescued from slavery by Myrddin and becomes the lady in the lake, among other roles. The Britons are a divided nation and Myrddin is trying to unite them under Arthur’s banner to fight the Saxons. A clever way of imagining how the legend was born, and Gwyna is a sympathetic character in an ugly world. Well paced, gritty realism but a bit gloomy. 7 out of 10. Mar 2019

Railhead by Philip Reeve

Zen Starling is a petty thief, seemingly plucked from obscurity to help Raven and his android assistant Nova to steal a rare artifact. The robbery goes disastrously wrong and soon Zen is running for his life when all he really wants to do is rescue Nova. Brilliant world setting – interstellar trains with personality, Hive Monks etc – some great characters, and cinematic action. 9 out of 10. Mar 2019

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Wade Watts races to find the Easter Egg hidden inside the VR world called the Oasis. The founder’s legacy, worth billions, is protected by three fiendish tests based around 1980s pop/film culture, dungeon & dragon clues and video games. IOI corporation will stop at nothing to win the prize. Wade will need help from Artemis and H, two fellow ‘gunters’. Nostalgic, geeky, pacey, fantastic. 9 out of 10. Feb 2019

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Edward and Florence, both virgins, are ready to consummate their marriage on the first night of their honeymoon. But this is the early 60s, full of awkwardness and Florence is appalled at the idea of such intimacy. Their courtship is told through a series of flashbacks, and then Edward looks back on his life years later. Very sad, delicate. 6 out of 10 for the story, 9 out of 10 for the writing, 7.5 overall? Mar 2019

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Tony Webster looks back at his life when a solicitor’s letter informs him of a bequest from an ex-girlfriend’s mother. Veronica was Tony’s first proper girlfriend, but after they split, a school friend Adrian started going out with her. Tony wrote a spiteful letter and Adrian soon commits suicide. Tony is full of regret and must unpick his memories of this troubled time. 8 out of 10. Feb 2019

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow, cursed to die when she becomes 11, is whisked away by Jupiter North to Nevermoor. To be accepted here she will have to pass the Wunder Society’s increasingly daunting tests. Along the way, she’ll discover a dark secret about the city and herself. Wunderfully entertaining, pacy, with great characters and imagination. 9 out of 10. Jan 2019

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

A probationary constable discovers he has a talent for magic when he meets a ghost at a murder scene. There’s a serial killers on the loose in London and he’s not of this world. Peter Grant joins the supernatural department of the Met. Ghosts and Crime aren’t my favourite genres, but this is done with great flair and wit. 8 out of 10. Feb 2019

Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rex is a 7-foot tall dog/human bioform, part of a squad of robotic mercenaries. But when their handlers turns bad, can they dis-obey? And once they have, what rights do they have in the wider world? A well-plotted way of asking big questions on the ethics of AI and evolution. Rex’s internal thoughts are very endearing. 8.5 out of 10. Feb 2019

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

A dark and compelling adventure about a 15-year old Jewish girl who is rescued by a British agent. She has to pretend to be a Nazi to fit in at an elite school and try to destroy the work of a German scientist. Brilliantly paced, great characters and an important message about bullying, oppression and the horrors of WWII. 9 out of 10. Jan 2019

The Skylark’s War by Hilary McKay

Clarry’s summers in Cornwall with brother Peter and cousin Rupert are blissful. But WWI begins and Rupert goes off to the front line, leaving Clarry stuck at home with her cold father trying to gain a place at Oxford and worrying about her cousin. A tender tale of family, friendship, women’s rights and the horrors of war. 8 out of 10. Jan 2019

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A brilliant coming-of-age story that deals with racism in the US Deep South during the 1930s depression. Scout’s father, Atticus, is asked to defend a black man who has been accused of raping a white young woman. Also a tale of community life in a small town, seen through Scout’s dry humour. Full of great characters, multiple plot threads, all woven together elegantly. 10 out of 10. Jan 2019

2018 books

Mr Penguin & The Lost by Alex T Smith

Plenty of fun for low to middle grade readers, with lots of gorgeous illustrations from the author. Some twists, moments of danger and good ending. Colin is an excellent side-kick for Mr Penguin, who himself is a reluctant hero. A good romp. 8 out of 10. Nov 2018

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo

Social media and apps have been inserted directly into human brains. But when the feed goes down, society collapses. Very dark and chilling, with a climate-change message embedded. Unusual lack of chapters, various POV sections. Quite good and soon to be a TV series. 7.5 out of 10. Nov 2018

The Seven Deaths of Evalyn Hardcastle by Staurt Turton

Groundhog days meets Agatha Christie at her grisliest as a man seems trapped to relive the same day over and over again always resulting in Evalyn’s murder. The skill is in the over-lapping interactions of characters and the slow release of information to the reader. Gripping and great characterisation.  8.5 out of 10. Nov 2018

SNAP by Belinda Bauer

12-year old Jack’s mother is murdered and his father can’t cope, abandoning Jack to look after his two younger sisters. He thinks he knows who did it, but getting the police involved isn’t straightforward when your sisters depend on your burglary skills to feed them. Great characterisation and well plotted. 8.5 out of 10. Oct 2018

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

Sally Jones is a gorilla, first mate on a ship in 1920s Portugal. When the Captain is falsely accused of murder, she sets out to prove him wrong but tracking down the person who can prove that is very hard, especially if you’re an ape. A wonderful old-fashioned adventure, drifts in the middle a little. 8 out of 10. Oct 2018

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

84-year old Florence takes a tumble in her flat. Lying there she thinks about the man who recently joined the Cherry Tree care home – she’s sure he died 60 years ago. Is she mad or is there a mystery to be solved? Tender and funny, dealing nicely with dementia though the prose is a little wordy at time. 7.5 out of 10. Oct 2018

Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve

In the distant future, cities on wheels fight each other for survival. Tom and Hester’s adventures as they try to foil London’s attempts to unleash an ancient weapon of unspeakable power. And try to stay one step ahead of an unstoppable robot assassin. Imaginative, lively and exciting. First in series. 9 out of 10. Sep 2018

The Portal by Andrew Norriss

William and Daniel’s parents go missing and the excuse made by their uncle is suspicious. William finds out his dad looked after an intergalactic portal in the basement and William takes over the responsibility, while trying to uncover what happened to his parents. Satisfying mystery. 8 out of 10. Sep 2018

The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood

Podkin, Paz and Pook have to flee their warren when the Gorm invades and kill their father. They escape with a magic dagger that has to be kept out of the Gorm’s hands. A great setting, exciting adventures full of fine characters. Start of a series that I can’t wait to continue. 9 out of 10. Sep 2018

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

A fantasy set in feudal Japan, Takeo is saved from his village’s massacre by Lord Otori and discovers he has secret, magical powers that make him a perfect assassin. Lord Otori wants revenge on Warlord Iida, but inevitably there are complications including a singing (titular) floor and a love story. Part one of five. 7.5 out of 10. Aug 2018

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Harold, recently retired, lives in a joyless marriage. A letter informs him that a dear colleague is dying of cancer. Harold goes to post a reply but decides to walk 600 miles to see his friend. A tender journey full of physical and emotional highs and lows. A story of poignant memories and dealing with past mistakes. 8.5 out of 10. Aug 2018

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K LeGuin

A planet in permanent winter, peopled by androgynous people who choose their sexuality each month. Genly Ai is an envoy who becomes embroiled in their politics. He has to be rescued by an exiled politician and begins an epic journey across the ice. Memorable world building and contemplation of gender politics. 8 out of 10. Aug 2018

The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson

Wren lives in a village where the boys hunt her once a year in a warped childhood game. Wren is a witch and the boys are Judges. She goes undercover to find out their secrets and meets a Judge who she falls in love with. Romeo & Juliet. YA romance. Not my cup of tea. 6 out of 10. July 2018

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A terra-formed planet is selected for an experiment with accelerated evolution. It goes wrong and a breed of super spiders is created. Hundreds of year later, after an apocalyptic war, the last of the humans are on an ark and need a new home. The spiders aren’t keen on sharing. Clever, but long. 8 out of 10. July 2018

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

16-year old Starr is witness to her un-armed friend’s shooting by a policeman. She goes to a posh white-dominated school but lives in a black neighbourhood. There seems no justice for her friend unless Starr speaks out. Brilliant, enlightening, important storytelling of the first order. Great characters. 9 out of 10. July 2018

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

Emmy helps an Agony Aunt pen letters during the Blitz, but her boss refuses to answer if there is any ‘unpleasantness’ involved. Emmy takes it upon herself to reply in secret and lands in deep trouble. Very atmospheric, Emmy’s voice is delightful and witty but there’s a serious side to her plucky courage. Loved it. 9 out of 10. May 2018

The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana

When Anna is 12, her sister goes missing and the mystery remains unsolved. Returning to her home village as an adult when her Mum dies, Anna is determined to find out what really happened. Good depiction of village life, but there was no missing clock and the characters didn’t appeal to me. 6.5 out of 10. June 2018

Witchborn by Nicholas Bowling

Alyce’s mother is killed by a witch-finder at the start of the book and she flees to London. She makes a friend, Solomon, and finds out that both Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I are desperate to get hold of her. Quite dark YA, maybe not for younger readers. Enjoyable and well-paced. 8 out of 10. June 2018

Ancillary Justice by Ann Lecke

Brecq is the last surviving avatar of a once-mighty ship, out for revenge. She needs to find a special gun that can defeat Lord Mianaai’s armour and work out why the Lord is seemingly at war with herself.  A slightly baffling story line, told in flash back that slowly makes sense. Excellent world building but didn’t live up to the hype. 7.5 out of 10. Apr 2018

Guilt by Amanda Robson

The story of twins: Zara self-harming and Miranda sensible and trying to look after her sister. When Zara becomes besotted with a new boyfriend, Miranda is torn between happiness for her sister and distrust of the new man. Her fears are founded and the story switches between flash back and Miranda awaiting trial for her sister’s murder. 8 out of 10. Apr 2018

Mad by Chloe Esposito

The start of a trilogy about Alvira Knightley, out-of-control twin sister to Beth. Beth invites Alvie to stay and swap identities for a few hours. The plan goes awry and the number of bodies and bonk scenes soon ratchets up. Mafia, murder, stolen art and Lamborghinis. Clever plot keeps you guessing. Outrageous and thrilling. 9 out of 10. May 2018

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

A toddler survives when Jack kills his family, protected through childhood by a graveyard’s residents. Borrowing heavily from The Jungle Book, but given such a magical, urban fantasy make-over that it’s easy to wallow in Gaiman’s genius. Wonderful characters and plot. 9 out of 10. Apr 2018

Runemarks by Joanne M Harris

A story set in a world after the Norse Gods have been defeated, when young Maddy discovers her own magical powers. A good attempt to use this well-known saga for fantasy purposes. But too many coincidences and innocent bystanders who end up being crucial to the plot. 7 out of 10. Apr 2018

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

A brilliant voice of an intelligent but troubled, lonely woman. Full of dry wit, in its light moments reminiscent of Jerome K Jerome. This is also a story of tragic, buried trauma and of the hope driven by small acts of kindness. Enriching and powerful. 9.5 out of 10. Apr 2018

Tin by Padraig Kenny

A group of mechanical children go on an adventure after one of them goes missing. They track down the country’s expert on robots but must battle the son of another expert. A steampunk version of Wizard of Oz. Great characters, tenderness and imagination. A pacy adventure for middle-grade readers (and me). 8.5 out of 10. Mar 2018

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Months after Anna loses both parents to identical suicides, a note arrives suggesting foul play. She always felt something was not right but will her investigation bring pain or closure? Full of twists and unreliable narration. An easy page turner. 8 out of 10. Mar 2018

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

Juliette has lost her pilot boyfriend, Nate, but trains to be cabin crew so she can win him back. Nothing will stand in the way of this obsessive stalker. Past traumas emerge but Nate is facing an unstoppable force. An unusual ending. 8 out of 10. Mar 2018

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

A story of a northern village haunted by the disappearance of a teenage girl. Highly unusual omniscient POV writing style where each chapter covers an entire year of events in snippet form. Distancing at first, but entrancing by the end as you get to know the characters and nature’s rhythms. 8.5 out of 10. Feb 2018

The Last Day by Claire Dyer

When Boyd (plus girlfriend) needs to move back in with his ex-wife for financial reasons, an unusual triangular relationship develops, where each person is weighed down by memories of guilt, loss and love. A well-constructed plot, with a twist at the end. Lots of emotion but not overly sentimental. 8.5 out of 10. Mar 2018

The Ice by Laline Paul

Climate change has brought politics and business to the arctic. A dead body is found and the inquest force the deceased friend and business partner to question himself and others’ motives. An intriguing but not quite gripping plot, saved by an exciting ending. 8 out of 10. Mar 2018

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Karou is a 17 year-old art student in Prague, who happens to have been raised by a demon living on the other side of a portal. Karou meets an angel, trying to destroy her demonic foster father. As her memories of a past life flood back to her, a romance with Akiva the angel reveals itself. Heart-rending. 9 out of 10. Jan 2018

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

When a giant hand that pre-dates all human civilisation is discovered, the race to find the other body parts is on. Who left it behind. And will they come back? Is this technology too dangerous for one country to control? Clever and snappy. World War Z for robots. First in a trilogy. The aliens are on their way… 8.5 out of 10. Feb 2018

The Babylon Idol by Scott Mariani

This is ronseal literature: it does exactly what it says on the tin. Ben Hope has made lots of enemies and one of them is out to get him and all his associates. Ben races to save professor Anna Manzini. A deadly race is on to find an ancient golden idol. And the baddies don’t play fair. Enjoyable, if formulaic, page-turner. 7 out of 10. Feb 2018

Dodgers by Bill Beverly

A gripping literary crime novel about East, a teenage black kid in a drugs gang. Sent on a mission to kill a judge with his estranged brother and two others, the road trip reveals much about America, the boy and his choices. Well paced, subtle tension and sympathetic characters. You’re rooting for East despite his misdemeanours. 9 out of 10. Jan 2018

Beetle Boy by MG Leonard

An middle-grade book about a boy called Darkus whose father goes missing in mysterious circumstance. Darkus befriends a beetle that seems to understand him. Lucretia Cutter is a classic villain and Darkus’ mad neighbours are great inventions. Darkus and friends to the rescue! Very enjoyable. 8.5 out of 10. Jan 2018

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

In the far North kingdom of Erkenwald, the Ice Queen rules, but some children have evaded capture and are planning to fight back. When one of them rescues a girl called Eska, they realise she holds the key to retrieving the Frost Horn and defeating the queen. Enchanting setting, atmosphere and lovely characters. 8.5 out of 10. Jan 2018

2017 books

The Reader on the 6:27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

A charming, quixotic love story about a man who rescues pages from a book pulping machine. He discovers pages from a woman’s diary, falls in love and tries to find her. Full of quirky characters and humour. Think Gaiman after a bottle of Pernod. 8 out of 10. Dec 2017

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

Murdered bodies turn up just after the Great Fire dies out in London. Harwood is asked to investigate in an atmosphere of recriminations against the roundheads now that the monarchy is restored. Also the story of a young woman, Cat, who flees from her family. Intertwines very nicely. Atmospheric. 8.5 out of 10. Dec 2017

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

The story of an unlikely love triangle. Ellis is forced to work at the local car factory but yearns for beauty. His friend Michael feels the same, but after Ellis marries, Michael disappears for several years. Tragedy happens when he comes back. Evocative writing, clever structure but a lack of action put me off. 6.5 out of 10. Dec 2017

Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek by Anthony O’Neill

An intriguing sequel to Stevenson’s original. Dr Jekyll’s lawyer is about to inherit his fortune, when an impostor turns up claiming to be Dr Jekyll. Mr Seek knows this is false, but cannot persuade others without ruining his friend’s reputation and memory. Atmospheric and well written. 7.5 out of 10. Nov 2017

Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene

A king’s son is foretold to spell his doom and is whisked away before the king can kill him. The son is the reincarnation of the Moon God and lots of people are after him. A complicated story (slow to get going) of tribal hatred, political machinations, warring gods. Cruel and hard to root for any one character, except the giant talking bat. 7 out of 10. Nov 2017

Leviathan by Paul Auster

A writer, Sachs, blows himself up building a bomb, and a fellow author relates the man’s story. Lots of affairs, friendships and falling-outs, but not much happens until a fatal encounter with a man in the wilderness. Sachs finds money and bomb-making equipment and begins his descent. Dense, slightly dull. 6 out of 10. Nov 2017

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Women discover they have the power to use electric jolts to overpower, even kill others. Women take revenge for their centuries of suppression. Male terror groups try to resist. Eve provokes all-out war, hoping for total annihilation and a new beginning for humanity. Good concept, but too preachy and not enjoyable. 6 out of 10. Oct 2017

Doorways by Robert Enright

The Otherside is a parallel universe, hiding in plain sight of our world. Only a few can see the Others and only one can travel there. Bermuda Jones works for an elite organisation trying to keep us safe. But one of the Others is determined to conquer our world. Enjoyable romp. 8 out of 10. Oct 2017

Stranger of Tempest by Tom Lloyd

A group of mercenaries get hired to help a lady escape a city. But she turns out to be an assassin and soon there is an army on their tail. The only route takes the group through a ruined, underground city. And down there, there are worse things than being chased by an army of fanatics. Very enjoyable. 8 out of 10. Oct 2017

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The story of Offred’s life in a totalitarian America. Fertile women are used by the commanders to reproduce. But the resistance and outside world offers hope of escape. What must Offred do to get out? Flashbacks set the scene, revealing just enough each time. Fantastic detail, chilling. 9 out of 10. Sep 2017

Dead Lions by Mick Heron

The second novel about Jackson Lamb and his bunch of misfits in Slough House. An ex-spook is murdered by an ex-KGB man and Lamb suspects there is a sleeper cell ready to be awakened. A high-profile Russian oil baron is visiting London and something’s not quite right. Plenty of twists, humour and pace. 9 out of 10. Sep 2017

Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg

A boy falls to his death from a roof. The police conclude accident, his neighbour, Miss Smilla thinks otherwise. She uncovers a trail to repeated expeditions to Greenland, where not everyone comes back. How is this all related? A strong and unusual voice. Very atmospheric. 8 out of 10. Sep 2017

Miss You by Kate Eberlen

The story of Tess and Gus whose lives keep criss-crossing but never quite meeting up. Relationships come and go, lots of affairs. Tess’ story is really the hard-luck when her mother dies and her autistic sister needs caring for. The men in the story are all unsympathetic. Nice flow to the narrative, good observations about family life. 7.5 out of 10. July 2017

Animal Farm by George Orwell

The animals drive out the farmer and start up their own commune run by themselves for themselves. Well meaning rules are set and everything goes well to start with. But soon the pigs exploit the rules for their own benefit and then fight amongst themselves until, Napoleon becomes a despot. Rules are altered, history re-written. And the masses are down-trodden once again. Biting satire. 9 out of 10. August 2017

How to Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen

Non-fiction, looking at what makes a great novel and how different authors go about achieving this. The editor uses lots of fine examples to discuss beginnings, characters, plagiarism, points of view, dialogue, plot, rhythm, editing and endings. Very insightful. 8 out of 10. August 2017

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Katie Kontent is determined to be a success in late 1930s New York. She is smart & witty but loses her dream man, Tinker Grey, to her best friend. The plot sagged a little in the middle as Katie drifts in and out of relationships but ends very well. Katie finds out the truth about Tinker, reminiscent of the Great Gatsby. This is written in brilliant evocative style. Full of wry humour, Katie is a heroine worth rooting for. 8 out of 10. June 2017

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

A story that flits between just before and after a flu pandemic wipes out 99% of humanity. It centres around Kirsten, who lives in a travelling caravan troupe and a famous film star who died just as the pandemic hit North America. Several of the actor’s friends survived in different ways and their stories are told in flashback. The future is bleak and scary but full of kindness and love too. Moving. 9 out of 10. July 2017

The May Queen by Helen Irene Young

May’s life is dominated by her Ma, especially after her sister, Sophie, disappears with a baby out of wedlock. May’s heart is stolen by the Lord of the Manor’s son, but she thinks he’s responsible for Sophie’s child. WWII breaks out and May becomes a wren, finding another man, but never falling for him. After the war she is re-united with Sophie and the heart-throb. Very distinctive voice, and the era is well-captured. Accomplished debut. 8 out of 10. July 2017

Electric Souk by Rose McGinty

Aisling moves to Arabia to work for the health service there. Her relationships turn out to be troubling and a potential boyfriend seems crooked. The locals are friendlier but who works for the secret police? As the Arab Spring erupts, she needs to flee the country but whom can she trust? Atmospheric & paranoid, but the passage of time is slightly did-jointed. 7 out of 10. May 2017

Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard

A black man is killed accidentally for crime he didn’t commit. Bob V.aldez, town constable, tries to win compensation for the man’s widow from Frank the man who wrongly accused the black man. When Frank’s men beat Valdez and leave him for dead, their only problem is they didn’t finish the job. Valdez is coming to get you. Fine, compact storytelling, very satisfying ending. 9 out of 10. May 2017

Beware the Cuckoo by Julie Newman

Three teenage girls growing up in the late 1970s, one of them abused by another’s father. The story flits between that timeline and the present day when two of the girls are reunited with secrets and scores to settle. The dual timeline reveals just enough information each time to maintain the intrigue. Well-paced easy read. 7 out of 10. June 2017

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Barbara turns herself into Sophie and lands a starring role in a TV comedy, her life-long ambition. Evokes the 1960s London scene nicely along with its blatant sexism, homophobia and clash of establishment vs youth. The dialogue is excellent and the interplay of relationships amongst the cast, writers and director very good. Funny but not hilarious. 7 out of 10. May 2017

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Cora Seaborne’s abusive husband dies and frees her to pursue her interests in science and the natural world. Out in Essex, rumours of a serpent drowning people swirl in the beautifully evocative Victorian mists. A minister of the local parish befriends, Cora, much to the annoyance of her London friends. A story about religion vs science and about dealing with the unknown. 8 out of 10. May 2017

Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

Two lovers, Carys and Max, are thrown from their spaceship with only 90 minutes of oxygen left. As they struggle to find a way back to the ship they argue and reminisce. A dystopian Earth where young people are meant to serve time for the community before they can settle. Challenging the rules, they are sent into space to be together. Can one of them save the other? I wasn’t that bothered. 6 out of 10. May 2017

The Late Hector Kipling by David Thewlis

A successful artist is jealous of his friend’s nomination for the Turner prize. Hector has a lovely girlfriend and a new exhibition coming up. He thinks he needs some bad news in his life and soon he has more than he can cope with. A self-destructive spiral ensues. Dark, humorous, crackling dialogue and some great one-liners. Ending too downbeat for my tastes. 8 out of 10. Apr 2017

The Alchemist’s Secret by Scott Mariani

The first Ben Hope adventure. Ex-SAS sent on a mission to find an ancient alchemist’s secret that could save the life of a dying child. Soon Hope is trying to stay ahead of the police and a dangerous organisation after the very same thing. Plenty of action and historical code-breaking. Very close to Dan Brown in feel. 7 out of 10. Apr 2017

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

The first Harry Dresden file – he’s a wizard private investigator who helps police solve unusual cases. A missing husband and a grizzly murder are connected, somehow. Magic realism crossed with Ray Chandler gum-shoe detection and lots of action. Harry Potter meets Dirty Harry. Strong cast of supporting characters. Very enjoyable. 8 out of 10. Apr 2017

The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts

A bit like Foucault’s Pendulum, I’m not sure if this is genius or nonsense. High concept sci-fi full of wit and imagination. Some sub-plots irritate and detract. I almost gave up halfway through. A secret institute is researching AI and teleportation, using Kant’s philosophy about The Thing Itself. 2 men on an Antarctic research base, 20 years earlier, are somehow caught up. Good ending, so glad I stuck with it. 7 out of 10. Mar 2017

Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard

The story of a gun runner, Ordell Robbie, who uses and disposes of people at will while the police are trying to entrap him. When Ordell asks Jackie Burke (renamed Brown for the film) to smuggle money for him,  and the police want her to help them, Jackie out-foxes them all. Max Cherry, a bail bondsman, wants to help her but stay on the right side of the law. Great story-telling, crossed purposes, razor sharp dialogue. 9 out of 10. Mar 2017

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Darrow is a Red, a miner who lives inside Mars, struggling to make the planet inhabitable for future generations. But in reality, the planet surface has been lived on for decades and the Reds are slaves for the Golds. A rebel group transform Darrow into a Gold and in the first of this trilogy he must pass through the deadly academy as a winner and into a position of power. 9 out of 10. Mar 2017

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

A sharp, intelligent thriller about the forgotten department of MI5 – Slough House – full of supposed no-hopers headed by Jackson Lamb. A hostage due to be be-headed, double-crossings, plots within plots. Full of dry wit and lively characters that make this a cracking read. 9 out of 10. Feb 2017

The Red Dancer by Richard Skinner

The fictionalised life of Mata Hari, as seen through the eyes of people who knew her. The early, disastrous marriage, the re-invention as an exotic dancer and peak in fame. And then as WWI breaks out, the life as a double agent and eventual execution. The narrative structure keeps the subject lively and ephemeral. 7 out of 10. Feb 2017

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The story of a boy coming to terms with his mother’s terminal illness. Bullied at school, an absent father and a strict grandmother pile on the pressure. A monster with attitude – the Green Man – comes to visit, to help in ways that Conor does not expect. Poignant, emotional depth. 9 out of 10. Feb 2017

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

This is darkness beyond my comfort zone. A daughter turns in her serial-killer mother to the police. But is the girl destined to be like her mum, or can she start a new life with a foster family? Chilling, taught and very well written. Stays with you long after the book is finished. 8 out of 10. Jan 2017

Dune by Frank Herbert

I read this many times in my youth, returned to it for a book club. The plot remains fantastic. The political machinations, the completeness of the setting is so well thought out, it’s completely logical and believable. Full of brilliant characters, heroes and anti-heroes. Stands the test of time well. 9 out of 10. Jan 2017

Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler

A great story about an engineer dragged into the shady world of espionage at the onset of WWII. Atmospheric, tense, full of well-rounded characters and a nail-biting, satisfactory finish. The 210 pages flew buy. Have ordered more from Ambler – a forgotten genius, front-runner to Fleming, Deighton and Le Carre. 8 out of 10. Jan 2017

2016 books

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The brilliant start to a trilogy that I can’t wait to finish. The Name of the Wind is about a hero, Kvothe, who relates the story of his childhood and magical education. But this is no Potter-derivative. 660 pages and the pace never drops. Full of intelligent depth that doesn’t obstruct the flow. 9 out of 10. Dec 2016

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Wonderfully written dark fairy tale of a wizard in a tower, an evil forest and the coming of age of a young woman who becomes the wizard’s apprentice. Agnieska turns into a very powerful sorceror but she’ll need all that to combat the evil that lives in the forest. Fine fantasy. 9 out of 10. Aug 2016

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Beautiful writing that gives a powerful treatment of memories, time and the enduring love of a couple. All set in dark ages England. The land is wrapped in a strange mist – the breath of a dragon – that helps people forget the horrors of the war just gone. A warrior sets out to defeat the dragon, while a knight tries to keep it safe. 9 out of 10. Mar 2016

The Silent Children by Amna Boheim

The ghostly tale of tragedy and revenge from debut author Amna K Boheim. This book won an indie award and is well deserving of praise. The setting jumps between pre-WW II Vienna and modern-day London. Dark and unsettling at time. 7 out of 10. Nov 2016

Saga Volume 1.

Yes I know I am late to the party – many volumes of enjoyment for me to catch up on. This is a very graphic graphic-novel starting with a humorous birth scene and including plenty of violence and sex. And yet, even with sparse dialogue, it’s full of wit and depth. 9 out of 10. Dec 2016

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

A very famous book – really a novella at 176 pages – about the WWII bombing of the German city Dresden. Vonnegut tells the story of a prisoner of war who after the war gets captured by aliens and starts to slip back and forth through time. Very effective and affecting. 8 out of 10. Dec 2016.

The Rose of Tibet by Lionel Davidson

Evocative, tough as teak adventure full of vivid characters and challenges that push the protagonists to the limit. A monastery, a treasure and a chase that you’ll never forget. Slightly unusual framing device of a journal being pieced together by a writer. 8 out of 10. Jul 2016

The Life Assistance Detective Agency by Thomas Hocknell

Well paced plot with a nice twist at the end. Two detectives go in search of a missing professor who is obsessed with Elizabethan Dr John Dee, and scrying for Angels. Humour and fantasy elements that reminisce of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently. 8 out of 10. Oct 2016

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

The story of two school friends, one a witch, the other a brilliant scientist. An unusual chatty style of writing that is full of humour, intrigue and wild ideas. While the middle drags, the start and ending are great. A bold attempt at fusing sci-fi with fantasy. 8 out of 10. Sep 2016

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Writing that conjures up wonderful and scary images as well as recreating what it is like to be a seven-year old child in an adult world. Fantasy that deals with what makes us who we are and our worth. Short but poignant. 9 out of 10. Jun 2016

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

Lots of fine detail about politics, the legal system and fashion as well as the technology behind a moon colony. Everything, even the air you breathe, must be paid for. Feuding families. Slightly ponderous middle. First in a series – not entirely satisfactory as a standalone work. 5 out of 10. Feb 2016

Stasi Child by David Young

Evocative, well researched, detective novel set in East Germany before the Wall came down. The plot proceeds at a good pace, with obstacles typical of the genre, including a failing marriage and an internal cover-up.  7 out of 10. Aug 2016

2015 books