2016 reading highlights

So it’s that time of year when the best books of the year lists emerge. I am always in two minds as to whether to do my own list. For starters I am so indecisive I can’t narrow books down to a certain number. And I always feel bad about books that I’ve left out. There’s no way I can do a list in order. If I name a book number one on the list I might offend the other authors that didn’t make it to number one! Plus I’m never really sure if anyone cares what my humble opinion is on the top reads of the year. After all, it’s just my opinion and I’m unlikely to cause a huge spike in sales. But I’ve been kindly advised that people are interested and I have to admit I’m nosy so always interested in what books other reviewers have picked, to see if the same books appear and to see which gems I might have missed.

So with that in mind I’ve decided to bite the bullet and do a list of my top reads of the year. Any I’ve read and not reviewed yet, or any I read until the end of the year will have to appear on next year’s…

The Song Collector


The Song Collector tells the story of Harry Fox-Talbot, struggling with the loss of his wife. Beautifully told and flitting between the present day and the time he met Edie, we see how the two meet and fall in love, and how divisions from the passed may finally be reunited.

The Finding of Martha Lost


A story that has stayed with since reading it in March. The Finding of Martha Lost is a wonderful tale of Martha, left at Liverpool Lime Street train station as a baby. Having never left the station the authorities are about to find her and remove her from the only home she has ever known. Helped by her friends Martha must find out who she truly is, and opens up her world in the process. Reminiscent of Roald Dahl this is a magical, all encompassing novel that wraps itself around you and never truly lets go. Too many people are missing out if they haven’t read this book.

When She Was Bad


We spend 35 hours a week with them, see them more sometimes more than family, definitely spend more time with them than friends. Some we get on with, others we secretly can’t stand. But how well do we really know the people we work with? A true psychological thriller, this taut story drags you along, keen to find out what happens to one of the characters, and why.

Daisy in Chains


There is a fascination with serial killers that often extends beyond what could be classed as the norm. For some women, the lure of a multiple murderer is too much. Writing to the incarcerated we often hear of women who marry their murderous pen pals. Daisy in Chains tackles this phenomenon with a gripping tale of  Hamish Wolfe, convicted serial killer who asks true crime writer Maggie Rose to look into his case.  Oh so cleverly done.

Death of a Diva


First in a series of crime novels published by the renegade Fahrenheit Press, this story of Danny Bird investigating the murder of an aging TV star he finds in his pub is peppered with humour and leaves you waiting for the next in the series.

The Unseeing


This debut novel from author Anna Mazzola is the riviting tale of Sarah Gale, accused of the murder of her love rival. Based on a real murder this book vividly evokes the horrors of Victorian prison and the subjugation women at the time had to endure.

The Secrets of Wishtide


First in a new series I was soon charmed by this tale of murder and intrigue featuring the refreshing Laetitia Rodd. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly gentle storyline, this book also looks at the way women were held in society in Victorian England.

Tastes Like Fear


Sarah Hilary has firmly cemented herself on the crime writing scene and quickly became one of my favourite authors in the genre. Tastes Like Fear doesn’t disappoint. Marnie Rome has to face possibly her most dangerous foe to date. One girl is found dead, others are missing and its a race against time to find them before they meet the same fate.

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew


Susan Fletcher’s novel of the reimagined relationship between Vincent Van Gogh and Jeanne Trabuc, wife of the warden of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, the asylum in which Van Gogh spent some time is a joy to read. The relationship between Vincent and Jeanne slowly develops and the painter opens Jeanne’s eyes to the world around her, and that much closer to home. Beautifully told.

The Constant Soldier


Inspired by photographs of SS officers from the Second World War, this is a moving and well written account of a wounded German soldier who returns home from the front to find a woman from his past incarcerated in an SS camp. Determined to free her, he has to infiltrate the camp and work with the SS officers he loathes.

Lying in Wait


Opening with one of the best lines I’ve read in a long time, this is the chilling tale of the lengths a woman will go to achieve her aims. The characterisation is fantastic, Lydia, truly chilling and the book is shot through with an underlying thread of malice.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry


Having passed me by when it was first released I was recommended this book by the publisher when I asked for recommendations for books about books. This charming tale is the story of A.J. Fikry, owner of Island Books, who grumpily recommends books to his customers. When he happens to find a baby left in his shop his life changes in unforeseen ways.

The Missing Hours


Dealing with the oft ignored area of kidnap and ransom, this is a gripping and tightly woven tale of a woman who vanishes for a few hours. The police try to piece together where she went for those few hours and whether her disappearance is linked to the murder of a local solicitor. Fascinating and entertaining.

Orenda books have their own place in my heart so I have to mention the novels I have read from this publishing house this year. Treats included Deadly Harvest, In Her Wake, Nightblind and The Bird Tribunal.

Bit of a cheat but these are the books to be published in 2017 that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Dry


Already a best seller in Australia, this darkly compelling novel of the brutal slaying of a family in the outback is conversely claustrophobic as small town secrets try to bury the truth of what happened to the Hadler family.



Subject to a publisher battle to secure rights and with those rights sold to over 32 territories to date this gruesome yet highly original tale of a serial killer who leaves a body made up of six victims had me hooked. This isn’t even published yet and I can’t wait for the next book from Daniel Cole.

The Keeper of Lost Things


This novel cast it’s spell over me, I was soon caught up in it’s pages. This is a charming yet gentle read of friendship and love and the meanings we attach, or don’t attach, to the physical objects we deal with every day.

The River at Night


Image you just feel like a relaxing break with your friends. Imagine one of your friends has a different idea and books a white water rafting trip. Then imagine if that trip takes a deadly turn. A battle for survival that drags the reader along much like a white water river.

The Vanishing


Described as perfect for fans of Jane Eyre, there is something decidedly more dark and sinister about this gothic moorland tale. Captivating from the outset, this book is full of wonderfully evocative writing.

I also have to mention The Trouble With Goats and Sheep which appeared on my best of list last year but was published in 2016. It still stays with me as a memorable and enjoyable read. If you haven’t read it yet the paperback is released on 26 December 2016.

Now I can’t wait to see what bookish treats 2017 will have to offer.



23 Comments Add yours

  1. Always love these lists. The Natasha Solomons is the one for me. I read The Gallery of Lost Husbands this year and enjoyed it very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I’ve not read that one. The Song Collector sort of snuck up on me. I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I could. I did a telephone interview with Natasha Solomons and she is lovely to chat to.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love reading everyone’s lists! But I always worry I’m going to upset an author by not including their book! I’ve started mine but have 20 and I’m not sure if I can get it down any further!! Great list here xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I don’t think it’s fair to worry about whittling it down to a certain number, a great book is a great book and so it’s only fair to include it, even if that means an odd number 🙂 I’m looking forward to your list 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I enjoy so many books and just want to rave about them all!!! 😊😊


  3. Lying in Wait is definitely going on my Christmas list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      It’s great, I hope you enjoy it 🙂


  4. I’ll be doing my list later this month but I’ve counted five on yours that are contenders for mine – the one that I was most surprised to enjoy as much as I did was The Unseeing which set me on a path of historical crime fiction, along with some non-fiction. Great list, I really love seeing everyone’s choices!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks. I did love The Unseeing. The great thing I found is that I loved some books I wasn’t expecting to and conversely didn’t love some I was expecting to. I’m looking forward to your list 🙂


  5. MarinaSofia says:

    I love reading lists, and quite a few of yours might make it onto mine… except it’s so hard to make one’s mind up. And no sooner do I finalise the list and publish it, then I remember all the lovely ones I left out. There are also some there that I still haven’t got around to reading yet, such as Lying in Wait.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I’m exactly the same, I remember ones I wanted to include, or I feel bad about the ones I’ve left out. I don’t know how you managed to whittle it down to just 5 crime novels !


      1. MarinaSofia says:

        The 5 for CFL were a bit easier, because they were predominantly ones I had reviewed myself on the site, so that whittled them down considerably. But I did sneak in one that I hadn’t reviewed!


  6. Karen says:

    I will do my list at the end of the year (just in case I sneak in any more ‘must list’ reads) but a couple of yours will be on mine too

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I’m looking forward to seeing your list 🙂


  7. Carol Lovekin says:

    Terrific list – in particular I’d mention Sarah Hilary too. She has filled the space – for me – vacated by PD James. I think Hilary is an amazing writer. She’s generous & engaging too – with her fans & admirers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I have to agree Carol. She’s become one of my favourite crime writers and she is wonderfully engaging.


  8. jaxburrows says:

    Fascinating list. So many books, so little time. I think your 2016 list may become my tbr list for 2017. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Oops, sorry 🙂 I hope you like them as much as I did.


  9. Kate W says:

    The Dry keeps popping up! The blurb didn’t grab me initially but given that so many bloggers have raved about it, I might need to have another look.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I wasn’t sure at first but it grew on me. It was interesting to read a novel set in Australia too for a change.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sandra says:

    I loved Let me tell you about a man I knew and When she was bad. Have added The Vanishing to the wishlist.


  11. Sandra says:

    I’m glad you decided to post your list 🙂 Several here that are new to me and sound intriguing – and a few endorsements of books recommended elsewhere.


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks. I find it interesting how people’s lists can be so diverse yet feature a lot of the same books at the same time 🙂


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