Here are my Top Ten Books read in 2016. I thought it was hard choosing my Top Ten Books in 2015 last year, but this year was even harder. Having rated over 40 books with 5 stars last year, it was so hard to reduce them down to just ten, but I’ve finally made my decision.
It has actually worked out as quite a varied mix of genres, such as psychological thrillers, crime, murder mystery, comedy, romance, women’s fiction and a couple of rather thought provoking novels.
I’ve listed them in alphabetical order, because I certainly don’t have it in me to work out an order of preference from these ten chosen books. I hope you find yourself tempted by some of my favourite reads of 2016.
A Mother’s Secret, by Renita D’Silva
A Mother’s Secret is a rich tapestry of life’s stories, telling the heart-breaking tale of love, loss and loneliness. Despite all the pain, regret and anger, the author still manages to fill the reader with the feeling of hope, and dreams of second chances and new beginnings. Read every beautiful word, watch as each intricate stitch brings this remarkable tapestry together, enabling you to cherish it for years to come.
My heart still aches for this book. For the sensational world I have been a part of for the last few days. For the wonderful strong women who became my companions. I shed a tear for those women, not only for the hardships they went through, but for what I went through with them. They are all a part of me now, having shared their grief, pain, anger, love, secrets and ambitions.
I’m a sensitive soul, at one with nature. I don’t just see things. I need to touch and smell them. Sometimes these senses can be lost in a book, but Renita D’Silva has a magical way of bringing everything to life. I don’t just see the words she has written. I feel them, smell them, and taste them. At one point in the book, I even sneezed, due to sniffing too many spices. I love using as many senses to experience things. That’s why I find this descriptive writing style so wonderfully beautiful.
If anyone asks me whether I have been to India, I can answer “Yes, I have. In the beautifully descriptive books written by talented author, Renita D’Silva.” Should I ever have the fortune of visiting India one day, I truly believe I will have the sensation of having been there before, thanks to this author’s books. Perhaps I will stumble across my very own ruin of a mansion, full of heartbreak and hope.
Reading a book by Renita D’Silva is a whole physical experience. I hope that anyone who chooses to read this will take their time and make the most of the colourful world that is truly brought to life within these pages. Take in your surroundings and allow yourself to be wholeheartedly absorbed by this beautiful book.
I haven’t said a lot about the plot of this story, as I want you to experience it in the way I did, not knowing how the story was going to progress, wishing for some things, surprised by others. I felt love for many of the characters. I also felt frustration and sadness at the blame, bitterness and self-destruction of the characters. This story really did take me through all possible emotions. I hope your journey through this book is as intense and memorable as mine.
Below are a few of my favourite quotes that give you an idea of Renita D’Silva’s beautiful and imaginative writing style:
“Durga blinks, seeing a cluster of cottages mushrooming from pebble-peppered earth, flanked by velvet fields, and, glowering from the top of the only hill, an old ruin.”
“We taste the darkness, inky and flavoured with shadows, spiced with intrigue.”
“The crows scatter in a demonic cackle, a constellation of black-winged foreboding, upsetting the grazing cows, setting the dogs howling.”
“I open my mouth to the heavens, sampling the fruit-scented, hope flavoured drops and laugh, for the first time since that day when my world shattered.”
Finally, before reading this book, I never thought I’d have a visual image for “bible-wielding shadows”, but I now do. It made me smile.
I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy emotionally heart-breaking, yet also heart-warming tales of the struggles life puts the human soul through, and full of characters that are so well developed and believable they come to life before you.
Where to find this book:
Between You and Me, by Lisa Hall
My best advice to anyone considering reading this book, is DO NOT read reviews about this book before reading it yourself (except this one, ha ha).
I know a few of you will be used to my essay length reviews, but I have deliberately made this review as vague as possible, as I feel I knew a little too much about this before reading it, due to other reviews and comments I had seen. It is better to throw yourself into this without the knowledge of those who have read it.
What I will say, is it is very hard to believe this is a debut novel, as it is exceptionally well written!
If you enjoy psychological thrillers that are very hard to put down, then I highly recommend reading this.
Sorry that I cannot give you more details, but I hope my 5 star rating is enough to convince you to give this a go.
I would like to thank the author for a copy of this book, via THE Book Club (TBC) on Facebook, in exchange for an honest review, and wish her the great success this book deserves.
Where to find this book:
Death Stalks Kettle Street, by John Bowen
I was initially attracted to Death Stalks Kettle Street by its title and front cover, and I’m so pleased I was, as I thoroughly enjoyed this murder mystery, with its intriguing plot and wonderful characters.
It’s hard to say what my favourite part of this book was, as I loved the whole storyline. Fabulous plot with regards to the murder mystery, perfect pace, and the chapters that focussed on how to write a murder mystery was a very clever touch too, making me think about the main plot of this story in more detail and question the characters and their motives in more depth.
I love the main characters, Greg and Beth, who are on a mission to find the Kettle Street killer. Both characters are very well developed. Greg is struggling through life with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Beth is trying to live as normal life as possible with Cerebral Palsy. It is impossible not to be touched by the lives they lead.
This is easily a 5 star read, and I strongly recommend this to anyone who enjoys crime and murder mystery novels, as well as those who don’t. I’m not a huge fan of crime at all, but this was such an enjoyable read with great characters that will stay with me for some time.
Where to find this book:
Girls on Fire, by Robin Wasserman
Wow, this is a cracker!
This completely sucked me in from the very beginning, made me feel nostalgic about my own adolescence, messed around with my memories, distorting them, then spat me out the other end wondering which my real memories were, and which I’d just allowed to be shaped to fit along with the storyline.
If you’re like me, and grew up in the 1990s, loved rock music and lived in Doc Martens then this may be the story for you. I saved up for my first pair of Docs in 1991 when I was just 13 years old (my dad paid half) and I lived in that pair until I was 17, having to buy a new pair as I had worn the previous pair out.
Be warned, this is a dark, gritty and twisted story filled with all the complex challenges of being a teenager. If you’re willing to read about alcohol, drugs, sexual experimentation, bullying, insecurities, death, Satanism, and general pushing of boundaries, then I highly recommend this book.
Girls on Fire is an uncomfortably real feeling story (I want to insert ‘experience’ here instead of ‘story’) that I found really hard to put down.
I found this story thought provoking and was surprised how much I related to it. It made me realise how lucky I was not to get myself into this much trouble as a teenager, brought back memories of situations that could have ended up much worse, and reminded me of other people and situations I would much rather forget about all over again.
Where t0 find this book:
Holding, by Graham Norton
What an intriguing and emotional delight this book was!
I love Graham Norton, so I have to be honest, I was a little nervous about reading his book, in case I didn’t enjoy it and felt disappointed, but it was exactly the things I love in a book. It’s the kind of murder mystery story that doesn’t get bogged down in police procedural, which is the part of crime fiction that generally sends me to sleep.
Holding focusses on a variety of interesting characters within a close-knit community in Ireland. Although the characters are very different from each other, they share a similar sadness and loneliness that makes it impossible not to connect with them on an emotional level. In some places it was a little darker than I had expected it to be, and at other times somewhat heart breaking.
“I went to bed with Graham Norton last night, and he kept me awake until at least 1am” is something I never thought I’d type on Facebook in my lifetime. Life is full of surprises.
This is a great novel, full of fascinating characters that had me so captivated by their secrets, I found it almost impossible to put down each night.
Where to find this book:
How to be Brave, by Louise Beech
Beautifully written, emotional story that will stay with me for a long time!
This was a stunning read, and I don’t just mean in the shocking sense because I’m terrified of sharks. Before starting How to be Brave, little did I know how brave I was going to have to be. I’m so glad I didn’t know about the sharks beforehand, otherwise I might not have dared to read this beautiful book, which would have been a great shame, as it is easily one of the best books I have read this year so far.
How to be Brave is about the relationship between a mother, Natalie, and her nine year old daughter, Rose, shortly after Rose is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This diagnosis takes them on an emotional journey of fear, frustration and love, as the two of them try to adapt to their new lives, and the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter is challenged.
Alongside this contemporary storyline is the truly emotional and sometimes harrowing historical tale of Rose’s great grandad while he was lost at sea near the end of the Second World War. This is a mixture of fact and fiction, and I have to say it was so emotional to read, experiencing the fear of the men fighting to survive thirst, starvation, heat, fear and boredom. This is a story of true human strength that gives us that will to survive no matter what life throws at us.
As the two stories entwine throughout this book, there is a magical feel to it, which brought shivers down my spine. It reminded me of one of my all-time favourites, The Neverending Story. Not for all the strange creatures, although Scarface had pretty much the same response from me, as that terrifying wolf-like creature, Gmork, did all those years ago. It was the aspect of reading and through that, communicating beyond boundaries that seem possible, that made me think of The Neverending Story. Truly magical and mesmerising!
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary, historical and emotional reads about human struggle.
Where to find this book:
Lizzie’s Christmas Escape, by Christie Barlow
I rarely get overly excited about romance novels, as I don’t often fall in love with them, but I have to admit I loved Lizzie’s Christmas Escape from beginning to end. This story turned out to be so much more than I expected it to be. It was a book that just kept on giving.
This is definitely my favourite festive read this year. Having said that, the story isn’t overly festive and could therefore be very much enjoyed any time of year. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a light-hearted Christmas read, as there was more depth to the story than I was expecting.
If I’m completely honest, I did fall for Marcus. A man who is tidy, loves dogs, likes building snowmen and decorating Christmas trees. What’s not to love?
I highly recommend this to those who love romance, women’s fiction and family sagas. Lizzie’s Christmas Escape kept my interest throughout. I found myself thinking about it through the day and looking forward to reading it every night.
Where to find the book:
Missing Gretyl, by Si Page
I’m not normally a fan of comedy. Mainly because I don’t find it funny. My husband finds it entertaining how unfunny I find comedy, almost as if I’m immune to it, while he’s laughing his head off. It’s not that I’m a miserable person, quite the opposite, in fact. I just don’t happen to find much comedy funny, except for Jimmy Carr, I do like him. I probably shouldn’t, but I do. Whatever the reason for me not finding comedy very funny, I’m pleased to announce this book temporarily cured me of it, as this story really did tickle me.
Missing Gretyl is a well written, fun British comedy that had me giggling away to myself at times. I couldn’t help picturing Gretyl as a warped version of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced bouquet, of course) from Keeping Up Appearances, being dropped into an episode of Only Fools and Horses.
This is truly funny escapism, with laugh out loud moments. I’m still giggling about dodgy wigs, and will probably think about this book every time I see one in the future. However, there is another more serious side to this story, one of friendship and grief, which at times was emotional.
Gretyl is a somewhat unpleasant character, but she’s one of those quirky characters you love to hate, and possibly eventually hate yourself for loving. I’m still a little undecided what I think of Gretyl, but I thank her for entertaining me with her larger than life character.
I really liked Albert and Sajan, especially as they became friends. I also loved the name Arti Chokes, and must have smiled at that name every time I read it. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten an artichoke. Not really sure how to cook it, to be honest.
Missing Gretyl is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading more by this author. I hope there will be more of Gretyl in the future …Not too much, mind you, as I’m still trying to get the image of “bosoms that had fallen out with each other and parted company years ago” out of my mind.
Where to find this book:
The Dreams of the Black Butterfly, by Mark James Barrett
When I first finished this book (and to be honest, sometimes during reading it) I was left with the feeling of “Did I just read that?” “What just happened to my mind for the hours and days it took to read this?”
This is probably going to be hard to review, as I’m not sure I’ve fully got my head around this fascinating and creative novel. It’s not often I say this, but I honestly feel the desire to read it again. To make better sense of some of it. To make sure I understood it correctly. Probably the last time I felt like this was when I studied philosophy as part of my university degree in the 1990s. I loved philosophy, but couldn’t always make full sense of it. This novel is a little like that. Not in a bad way, but some parts are so surreal, it challenges a mind that has learnt to see things in a certain way.
Each chapter appears almost as a separate short story, but each story connects with the others in some way, creating a somewhat unusual, visually descriptive and very intriguing plot.
This is in no way a book that can be rushed. As a reader, you need to enter this book with an open mind. Absorb each story. Fully experience it for what it is. Allow yourself to become a part of the often dark and sometimes brutal world created within these pages.
The Dreams of the Black Butterfly is not only thought provoking, but a work of art that touched my soul. Filling my heart with emotion and my mind with so many thoughts and questions, I didn’t know what to do with them all.
I’m not sure what genre to place this book under, as it covers so many, such as literary fiction, historical, science fiction, fantasy, spiritual, thriller, and romance. It would seem that this story has as many different aspects to it, as the Black Butterfly has stories on its wings!
This isn’t a book for everyone. Some, I imagine, will be completely baffled by it, while others will soak up the pages with eagerness, as I did. You will question the way you treat the planet you inhabit, as well as the plants, animals and people you live alongside, and the impact that may have on your future. If you like a novel that challenges the way you think, has a philosophical, ethical and spiritual element to it, then this is definitely a book you do not want to miss!
Where to find this book:
I’m cheating a little with this final choice, as I found books one and two of the Brighton Girls Trilogy to be as good as each other, so I can’t choose just one of them
The Girls from See Saw Lane, by Sandy Tayor
The Girls from See Saw Lane is a nostalgic, heart-breaking and tragic coming of age tale set in the 1960s.
The main focus is on two best friends, Mary Pickles and Dottie Perks (I love those names), who met as children and grow up into young women together.
This touching story covers the trials and tribulations of adolescence, first love, mistakes, regrets, jealousy, betrayal, and the harrowing impact it can have on one’s own life as well friends and family.
There were so many things I loved about this book. Despite being set in the 1960s, at times I felt I could relate to it with my childhood years in the 1980s. My dad was a huge Rolling Stones fan, so I thought Mick Jagger was great. One of my favourite sweets were Black Jacks. I couldn’t get enough of them as a child, and still eat them from time to time nowadays. It was impossible not to fall into their nostalgic world, and experience every thought, feeling and emotion with them.
This was an emotional story. I laughed, I gasped with surprise, I fell in love for the first time all over again, I felt angry, and I had tears in my eyes.
I can’t wait to read the next book in this trilogy. I hope I don’t have to wait too long.
Where to find this book:
Counting Chimneys, by Sandy Taylor
So much happened in Counting Chimneys, I devoured this book, as it filled me with such a mix of emotions throughout. It is one of those books that physically sucked me into its pages and surrounded me in the world it had created. I have such strong images of buildings and the beach in my mind, despite having never been to Brighton in my life.
If you love books with developed characters and a plot that is likely to fill you with strong emotions, then this is probably the book for you. I strongly recommend you read book one first, as this is the continuation of such an emotional and heart breaking story, so I think you will get more from this book if you have experienced what happened previously.