Books of the Year

Best Books of the Year 2021!

Happy New Year!! Yes, somehow it is now 2022 and that means its time for me to reveal my Best Books of 2021! I’ve decided to change the format a little this year – primarily because I’ve read so many fantastic books that trying to narrow them down to a list of five or ten title would be impossible! So instead of a list of reads, I’m going to give you a little narrative walkthrough of my favourite reads of the year, along with links to reviews or featured posts about those that I’ve covered in more detail (just click the book title and it should take you to the correct page).

Right back at the start of the year – my very first book of the year in fact – I read Eowyn Ivey’s To The Bright Edge of the World, a wonderful historical novel set amidst the wilderness of the Alaskan interior. I loved Eowyn’s first novel, The Snow Child, but, if possible, I adored this one even more. Although meditative in many ways, I became rapidly swept up in the tale of Colonel Allen Forrester and his exploration of the Wolverine River – and in the story of his wife Sophie, left at home but making new discoveries of her own. For any fans of historical novels, this one really is a must read.

The first few months of the year also saw me read Shaun Bythell’s amusing Confessions of a Bookseller, a sequel to his Diary of a Bookseller and a highly entertaining read for anyone who has ever wondered what running a bookshop is really like. I was also impressed by The Long Long Afternoon, Inga Vesper’s debut novel about secrets and lies in a picture perfect American suburb. The sultry heat and 1950s atmosphere practically rose off the page as I read! Summer sunshine and deadly secrets also permeated the pages of Alexandra Andrews’ page-turning psychological thriller Who Is Maud Dixon?

2021 has been a year for impressive debuts. I thoroughly enjoyed Emma Stonex’s The Lamplighters, with its combination of domestic drama, folk fable, and supernatural suggestiveness, whilst Virginia Feito’s Mrs March provided a brilliant psychodrama of a woman teetering on the edge of crisis. Honourable mentions also need to go to Natasha Brown’s Assembly and Robert Jones Jr’s The Prophets – impressive, deeply moving novels with huge contemporary resonance that, although I never managed to put my feelings about them into words, have stayed with me long after turning the final page.

I wrote a double feature about two of my favourite crime novels of this year – Janice Hallett’s The Appeal and Joseph Knox’s True Crime Story – but they weren’t the only crime novels I read and enjoyed. The genre remains a firm favourite of mine and other favourites from this year included K J Maitland’s historical novel The Drowned City, V L Valentine’s wryly amusing The Plague Letters, Elly Griffith’s compulsively readable second standalone novel The Postscript Murders, The Diabolical Bones – the second in Bella Ellis’s Bronte Mysteries series – and Richard Osman’s The Man Who Died Twice.

I also enjoyed some historical true crime in the form of Thomas Morris’s fascinating account of The Dublin Railway Murder whilst other no-fiction favourites included Professor Alice Roberts’s enlightening Ancestors: A Pre-History of Britain in Seven Burials, Greg Jenner’s hilarious Ask a Historian, Natalie Hayne’s witty and enlightening Pandora’s Jar: Women in Greek Myth (all of which I reviewed in one post here), and Liz Jones’s fascinating biography of now-forgotten romance novelist Marguerite Jervis, The Queen of Romance.

2021 was also a good year for YA and Middle Grade reading. I’ve mentioned in a few posts that I’ve been reading more YA and Middle Grade as a result of taking part in blog tours for the wonderful folk at The Write Reads. And indeed, my favourite YA and Middle Grade reads of this year are all books I have read as part of their tours: Fireborn by Aisling Fowler, Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon, and Kat Ellis’s Wicked Little Deeds.

A couple of gloriously gothic reads also deserve a mention: Rebecca Netley’s brilliantly spooky debut The Whistling, Rhiannon Ward’s The Shadowing, and Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark. I also read and adored the latest in Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories – although my full review of Demon will not be coming until the new year!

Finally, the end of the year bought a small raft of brilliant fiction titles, including two of my favourite books of this year: the remarkable Piranesi by Susannah Clarke and quietly brilliant Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers (both reviewed here). I also adored Lauren Groff’s remarkable Matrix, another quietly brilliant novel that imagines the life of the extraordinary Marie de France and her relationship with Eleanor of Aquitaine. And a final mention has to go to Sarah Moss’s masterful The Fell. I didn’t think I’d want to read any pandemic fiction but, in Moss’s hands, the subject becomes a deeply human story of isolation and connection.

All in all, 2021 was a fantastic reading year. Even with all of the titles that I have mentioned here, I’m sure I’ve missed a few that I very much enjoyed! Out of the 122 books I read this year, the majority were 4 star reads or above. As always, I’d love to know if you’ve read and enjoyed any of my favourite reads – and please do tell me your top books of 2021 in the comments below!

Wishing you a very happy 2022 and here’s to another year of bookish delights!

If you decide to pick up any of today’s titles, please consider supporting a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Book Tags · Festive

The 12 Days of Christmas Book Tag!

When I looked at my blog schedule and realised that a post would need to go live on Boxing Day, it seemed sensible to plan in advance and get a nice festive tag prepared before I enter into a turkey and stuffing sandwich induced fog for the foreseeable future. I spotted this tag over on AndOnSheReads‘s blog and it looked like festive fun so, without further ado, let’s take a wander through the 12 Days of Christmas, bookish-style!

ON THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE.
The partridge stood alone in the pear tree. What is your favourite stand alone?

The majority of my reading is probably made up of stand alone novels – I’m a terrible series reader. It’s hard to pick just one book as my ‘favourite’ reads change regularly. So instead I’m going to pick a favourite from this year and go with Piranesi by Susanna Clarke which is a quietly beautiful novel about the aforementioned Piranesi and his life in the labyrinthine House. Combining magical realism, fairy-tale/fable, and an immensely human character study, it has to be one of my novels of the year for 2021.

ON THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: TWO TURTLE DOVES.
Love is in the air! Who is your one true pairing?

Aziraphale and Crowley from Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The fandom is divided over whether they are a couple in the romantic sense but, as Neil Gaiman himself has said, “whatever Aziraphale and Crowley are, it’s a love story”. For me, I love that their love story encompasses more than just the romantic and/or erotic love we usually see depicted on the page. Instead, they have a love for one another that includes a deep and abiding friendship between equals, a protective familial love, hospitality, kindness, passion, and so much more. One thing I know from reading the book (and watching the marvellous TV adaptation) is that wherever Aziraphale is, you’ll find Crowley not far away – and vice versa. They are two sides of the same coin and couldn’t be without each other. Which makes them my ultimate OTP.

ON THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: THREE FRENCH HENS.
In the spirit of threes, what is the best trilogy you have read?

It’s well-known that one of my favourite books in The Lord of the Rings which is, of course, a trilogy. But I’ve used that in tag answers before so, in the spirit of novelty, I’m going to pick a more recent trilogy and go with Hilary Mantel’s blisteringly brilliant Wolf Hall trilogy. Comprising of Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, and The Mirror and the Light, the trilogy tells of the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, Secretary of State to the temperamental Henry VIII. The final book, The Mirror and the Light, is still on my TBR simply because I can’t bear to read the end of Cromwell’s journey however, based on the first two novels, I know I’ll be in for an emotive and brilliantly realised journey into the political machinations of Tudor England.

ON THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: FOUR CALLING BIRDS.
Since series usually consist of four or more books, what is your favourite series?

As I said at the start of this post, I’m a terrible series reader. Between the PhD and the blog, I don’t get a lot of time to re-read which makes keeping up with series – especially those where there may be a lengthy wait between books – quite tricky. One series I have LOVED however, is Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories novels. The latest, Demon, has just been published in ebook format and I’m reading it in preparation for the blog tour in January. It’s just as creepy and thrilling as its five predecessors and is written with Wesolowski’s usual flair and pace. Each novel is told as a podcast over six episodes – hence Six Stories – and investigates a true crime that, usually, has supernatural or folkloric connections. They’re utterly compelling novels and its a series I highly recommend.

ON THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: FIVE GOLDEN RINGS.
One ring to rule them all! Who is your favourite Villain/Antagonist?

I hesitate to call him an antagonist but I’m going to go with Loki. Appropriately enough for Loki, there are many variations and versions of him – the most prominent at present being Tom Hiddleston’s take on the character within the Marvel cinematic universe. For an introduction to the mythological Loki, I can recommend Neil Gaiman’s lively retellings in Norse Mythology. My favourite Loki, meanwhile, is the witty, chaotic trickster-god found in Joanne M. Harris’ The Gospel of Loki and its sequel, The Testament of Loki.

ON THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: SIX GEESE A LAYING.
Creation is a beautiful thing. What is your favourite world/world-building?

We usually think of world-building as being a fantasy/science fiction thing but I don’t read a lot of either genre. I do, however, read A LOT of historical fiction and I think the creation of an immersive historical world is just as important as the creation of a fantastical or imagined one. Lauren Groff’s Matrix catapulted me straight into twelfth-century England and the life of the indomitable Marie de France. By the end of the novel, I felt as if I had lived, breathed, worked, prayed, grieved, and celebrated alongside Marie and her abbey community – a true feat of world-building from a novelist at the height of her powers.

ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: SEVEN SWANS A SWIMMING.
Who needs seven swans when all it takes is one good animal sidekick? Who’s your favourite animal sidekick?

I haven’t read a lot of books with animal sidekicks so I’m going to cheat a bit on this one. Jess Kidd’s fabulous Things in Jars features a recently deceased. heavily tattooed, and annoyingly handsome boxer as a sidekick to the brilliant (and brilliantly complex) heroine Bridie Divine. Rudy Doyle is a fantastic creation and his evolving relationship with Bridie one of the highlights of this superb novel.

ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: EIGHT MAIDS A MILKING.
Milk is so 18th century. Which book or series takes beverages/food to a whole new level?

Never has a book made me so hungry as Joanne Harris’s Chocolat! The descriptions of delicious treats in Vianne’s chocolate shop made me so hungry that I had to go out and buy some really nice, really posh handmade chocolates. They didn’t have the magical abilities of Vianne’s chocolates, but they were really nice!

ON THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: NINE LADIES DANCING.
Dancing is just one skill of a Lady! Who is your favourite kickass female lead?

Out of recent reads, I have to say that I really admire Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë from Bella Ellis’s Brontë Mysteries series! One of my favourite things about this particular series is the way Ellis has captured the spirit of the three Brontë sisters. From Charlotte’s carefully considered determination and Emily’s wild ferocity, to Anne’s more gentle but no less courageous personality. All three had to fight for their voices to be heard in a world that frequently dismissed young, unmarried women – and Ellis’s novels, which begin with The Vanished Bride, show that admirably.

ON THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: TEN LORDS A LEAPING.
How about your favourite leading lad?

Hercule Poirot might not be everyone’s choice of leading man – he’s fussy, somewhat arrogant, and annoyingly clever and, for many years, I greatly preferred the company of Miss Marple. Thanks to the the wonderful gang at The Write Reads and, in particular, Fiona from Fi’s Bibliofiles who organised our Poirot readalong, I’ve discovered the delights of Mr Hercule Poirot’s company. In addition to being the sleuth solving Christie’s deliciously concocted mysteries, I’ve come to love Poirot for his quiet care and attention. Beneath the fussiness is an observant and deeply philosophical man who frequently uses his outward eccentricities to get to the bottom of things. In addition to Christie’s own Poirot novels, Sophie Hannah has written four excellent continuations which start with The Monogram Murders and which perfectly capture Poirot’s voice and mannerisms.

ON THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: ELEVEN PIPES PIPING.
What is your favourite book or bookish thing with musical influence? (It can be about music, reference music a lot etc.)

Oh gosh, this is a tricky one! I don’t really have any musical recommendations so I’m cheating on this one again and going to recommend some stories about things that go bump in the night! Yes, I do love a good ghost story and one of my favourite ghost story writers is the masterful M R James. James’s stories are packed to brimming with strange noises and ghostly apparitions but, for my money, what makes his work truly genius is his ability to challenge the senses and create a real sense of the uncanny. There may even be some stories featuring ghostly music in his Collected Ghost Stories but, even if there aren’t, read it for the otherworldly delights contained within!

ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: 12 DRUMMERS DRUMMING.
Drum roll please… what is your favourite read of this year?

I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint and refuse to answer this one…yet. I’ll be putting a Best Books of the Year post up around the New Year so I’ll be holding you in anticipation until then!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this festive book tag. I’m not going to tag anyone in particular but, if you’d like to have a go at this tag, consider yourself tagged!!

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Whether you celebrate or not, I hope you have a peaceful, happy, restful, and bookish festive season and would like to thank you for following my little blog and for sharing and commenting on my posts this year.

Much love and well wishes

Amy x

If you are tempted to order any of my featured book, please consider supporting a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Reviews

REVIEW!!! The Diabolical Bones (The Brontë Mysteries #2) by Bella Ellis

Image Description: The cover of The Diabolical Bones has the silhouette of a woman in white against an etched drawing of a house. Below her is an open book, the pages swirling around her. The background is deep red. Golden tree branches surround the central image and, above it, there is a small image of a skull.

It’s Christmas 1845 and Haworth is in the grip of a freezing winter.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are rather losing interest in detecting until they hear of a shocking discovery: the bones of a child have been found interred within the walls of a local house, Top Withens Hall, home to the scandalous and brutish Bradshaw family.

When the sisters set off to find out more, they are confronted with an increasingly complex and sinister case, which leads them into the dark world of orphanages, and onto the trail of other lost, and likely murdered children. After another local boy goes missing, Charlotte, Emily and Anne vow to find him before it’s too late.

But in order to do so, they must face their most despicable and wicked adversary yet – one that would not hesitate to cause them the gravest of harm..

Set a few months after the events of The Vanished Bride, this second novel in the Brontë Mysteries series finds Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell embroiled in a Christmas mystery the offers plenty of literary inspiration – but that, if not solved swiftly, could spell tragedy and danger for their community.

When the bones of a young boy are discovered hidden within a chimney at isolated Top Withens Hall, the Brontë siblings are soon drawn into complex tale of child labour, occultism, and missing children. Brutish Clifton Bradshaw, the master of Top Withens, is their most likely suspect – but rough as his manners might be, he swears he has no knowledge of how the bones came to lie within his house. As the sisters investigate, an old evil appears to be stirring around Haworth: one that puts the whole community – and the Brontë family – in danger.

Anyone familiar with the Brontë’s literary works will immediately recognise Top Withens Hall – supposedly the inspiration for Emily’s masterpiece, Wuthering Heights – and will delight in spotting the abundant references to other Brontë works woven throughout The Diabolical Bones. Indeed, the whole novel is infused with much of the wild, Gothic energy of Emily’s work – although, as with its predecessor, each of the Brontë sisters gets equal billing within the narrative.

Alternating between the perspectives of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte, one of the most wonderful – and poignant – aspects of this novel is the sense of character that Bella Ellis has been able to convey. Reading these novels, you get a real sense of the strength of each sister’s personality, and of their determination to succeed despite the limitations placed on them by their circumstances and by societal expectation. Anne, in particular, really lives on the page; her courage and kindness both coming across in equal measure. Reading these novels feels like being part of their circle – a true delight for anyone who has ever wanted to be friends with these extraordinary women – but also comes with a sense of poignancy when you remember that all that spark and brilliance was contained within such tragically short lives.

As for the mystery itself, The Diabolical Bones has a similarly taut and well woven narrative to its predecessor, often laying bare the grim realities of life behind the façade of respectable existence. The Gothic sensibilities infuse this second novel with a hint of the supernatural – and with a chilled and dark atmosphere that flits around the edge of the narrative and provides an ever-present sense of danger. This contrasts delightfully with moments of humour and warmth, such as Emily’s resignation when forced to cross the border into Lancashire, or the small yet meaningful interactions between Charlotte and her father’s curate, Arthur Nicholls.

There is also a wonderful sense of place within the book. Reading it transported me to the snowy moors – striding across them with Emily and Keeper, or brushing the snow off my hem and fussing over my hair alongside Charlotte. Having immersed myself once again in the world of the Brontë’s, I very much want to make visiting the landscape that so inspired them – and the parsonage that was their home – a reality in the not-too-distant future.

Fans of the Brontë’s work will, undoubtedly, love The Diabolical Bones – and should definitely seek out The Vanished Bride if they have not already done so – whilst fans of historical mysteries will find a darkly brooding yet rewarding tale that’s perfect for the Christmas season. That Bella Ellis (the Brontë-inspired pen name for bestselling author Rowan Coleman) adores their work is clear from the depth of research she has clearly conducted – and from the spirit and energy she has captured on the page. Novels featuring famous novelists of yesteryear can be a daunting read for fans – having a beloved author misrepresented on the page is a frustrating experience – but reading The Diabolical Bones bought me closer to the Brontë siblings – and made me return, yet again, to their marvellous works.

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher and to Netgalley UK for providing an e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Books of the Year

Best Books of 2019

Wow. 2019, huh? Certainly quite the year – and definitely one that I would rather celebrate through books.

Because, despite everything, 2019 has been a pretty good year for me reading-wise. Overall, I read 79 books in 2019 – beating my Goodreads Challenge goal of 52 by some way, although not quite making last year’s total of 84 books read.

There were definitely slumpy moments – I hit my traditional summer reading slump right on cue and the commencement of my PhD has definitely impacted on the amount of personal reading time I get to enjoy but, as I prepare to ring in 2020 and look back over my year in books, I got to read some fantastic titles this year.

As always, this round-up is of the books I read in 2019 – so there will be a mix of older and new titles in there. There’s no doubt 2019 has seen some fabulous new books released but you gotta give that backlist some love too, you know?

So, without further ado and in no particular order, I present to you my Best Books of 2019!

The FiveThe Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

Strangely I never got around to writing a full review of this one. This is probably because Hallie Rubenhold’s exceptionally researched and devastatingly heart-breaking biography of Mary Anne Nichols, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, Annie Chapman, Mary Jane Kelly punched me in the gut when I read it back in April.

Hallie keeps her focus entirely on these women, moving the spotlight away from the violence that marked their ends and shining it instead on the tragedy, loss, perseverance, and determination that marked their lives. She gives these five women back their stories and, in doing so, presents a raw and insightful glimpse into the inequality and prejudice at the heart of the traditional Ripper narrative.

A masterful book, powerfully told, this one made me feel sorrow and anger in equal measure – and stayed with me long after I turned the final page.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John CarreyrouBad Blood

Another non-fiction read (or rather listen, as I read this one on audio) that I didn’t get around to writing up a full review for! Which is somewhat unbelievable as this is definitely a contender for most gripping book of the year!

Carryrou’s investigation of Theranos, the multbillion-dollar Silicon Valley biotech startup founded by brilliant young entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes is a compelling and comprehensive account of corporate fraud and accountability.

Combining the thorough research of investigative journalism with the twists of a crime thriller – and with shades of a dystopian novel thrown in at times – this one had me hooked from the moment I began listening. A re-read of the paperback is on my ‘To Do’ list for 2020.

The Lost Man CoverThe Lost Man by Jane Harper

I’ve enjoyed all of Jane Harper’s crime novels to date but, in my humble opinion, The Lost Man is her best yet.

A standalone story that centres of the secrets and lies within a family of remote outback ranchers, The Lost Man is a powerful tale of brotherhood, revenge, recrimination and redemption.

You can read my full review here but, needless to say, this is one crime novel that you should definitely make it a mission to pick up in 2020 if you haven’t already done so!

The Library Book by Susan Orlean43217645

I read a fair bit of non-fiction at the start of the year and The Library Book, Susan Orlean’s account of the 1985 fire that all but destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library, was definitely one of the highlights.

Ranging between providing an account of the fire and its aftermath, complete with some devastating interviews with library workers who were present on the day, Orlean also recounts the history of the library service in Los Angeles in a meditative and powerful reflection upon the power of literature.

In a time when library services continue to be under threat both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world, The Library Book is a reminder of the importance of these well-loved but underappreciated public spaces.

You can read my full review here.

Way of All Flesh CoverThe Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Anyone who has followed the blog for a while will probably know that I love both historical fiction and crime fiction. Combining the two together, therefore, is a surefire way to get my interest.

Ambrose Parry (the pen name for writer Christopher Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzman) hasn’t necessarily done anything new in The Way of All Flesh, the first in a potential series set in Victorian Edinburgh and centring on medical student Will Raven, housemaid Sarah Fisher, and their employer, the brilliant and pioneering Dr Simpson. But everything that is done is done exceptionally well. The plot is intriguing and well-crafted, the historical setting lives and breathes, and the characters come complete with both flaws and foibles. It all makes for an incredibly deep and satisfying read, which has more than earned its place on this list.

You can read my full review here.

The Red Word by Sarah HenstraThe Red Word Cover

I had never heard of this book until I agreed to take part in the blog tour for it but my gosh was it a revelation when I read it!

An intelligent, open-eyed and disturbing look at rape culture and the extremes of ideology, The Red Word is a campus novel that takes no prisoners in its depiction of sorority and fraternity life, radical feminism, and the terrible price that comes from being made to choose between two competing ideologies.

This is definitely no a novel for the faint-hearted but, in the wake of the Me Too movement, it’s a timely and powerful reminder of the ongoing debates that surround consent in modern-day culture.

You can read my full review here.

TamburlaineTamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh

A masterful historical novella that recounts the fictional last days of the life of Elizabethan playwright and all-round bad boy Christopher Marlowe.

It’s the voice that really got me in this one. Louise Welsh brings Marlowe and his world vividly to life on the page, capturing the sights, sounds, and smells of Elizabethan London with brilliant precision. And, at the heart of it all, is Marlowe. Angry, dissolute, cunning, and brilliant, Marlowe lives within these pages.

You can read my full review here.

Fuck Yeah, Video Games: The Life and Extra Lives of a Professional Nerd by Daniel Fuck Yeah CoverHardcastle

So, this one is pretty niche. I freely admit that if you’re not a fan of video games, you’re unlikely to see the appeal of Daniel Hardman’s love letter to the medium.

But if, like me, you love to curl up and travel through Skyrim’s frozen wastes, relished the day you could beat your cousin’s Pokemon into dust, or spent hours attempting that bloody Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, then let me assure you that you’ll love this book.

Dan speaks the language of nerd with ease and his account of his favourite games and the way in which they have shaped his life are both hilariously funny and extremely relatable. Plus the book contains some brilliant illustrations by Rebecca Maughan – the one for the Animal Crossing entry has me chuckling just thinking about it.

You can read my full review here.

ErebusErebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin

I must be really bad at reviewing non-fiction because this is yet another one that I read, loved, and failed to write up.

Michael Palin has that brilliant way of making anything seem interesting. So the fact that I already find historic polar exploration fascinating made this one an easy sell for me.

Erebus tells the story of the ship Erebus, from its construction to its fatal final voyage as part of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. Along the way, Palin writes about the men and women whose lives were marked in some way by the ship, telling the tale of great voyages of discovery, scientific innovations, and crushed dreams. It’s a fascinating tale, engagingly told.

The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective: Secrets and Lies in the Golden Age of Maud West CoverCrime by Susannah Stapleton

If you want non-fiction that reads like a novel then look no further than Susannah Stapleton’s The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective.

Maud West, a real-life Lady Detective, ran her agency in London for more than thirty years, have begun her sleuthing in 1905. But the real mystery soon becomes Maud’s own life. Because who really was Maud West? And were any of the tall tales she told about her exploits even remotely true?

As always, the truth turns out to be stranger than fiction in this compelling account of a unique life.

You can read my full review here.

BeastBeast by Matt Wesolowski

This one is a late entry as I finished it yesterday – but its no less brilliant for being a recent read!

I’ve read and adored every single one of Matt’s Six Stories novels and the latest, Beast, is no exception. Combining a compulsive podcast-style narrative with a tale of poverty, social media, desperation and modern-day vampires, Beast has the page-turning, edge-of-your-seat quality that made the previous Six Stories books so gripping.

I’ll be writing up a full review of this one shortly but, in the meantime, if you’ve not read any of Matt’s other Six Stories books, you can find me raving about them here, here and here!

Looking back, I have definitely read some fabulous books in 2019. Reviewing the year to write this post, it’s actually been a better one that I remembered. Getting this list down to a reasonable length was really difficult and I definitely want to leave a bit of room for the following honourable mentions (with links to full reviews/features where available):

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman (author), Rafael Albuquerque (author, illustrator), Rafael Scavone, and Dave Stewart (illustrator)

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

The Rapture by Claire McGlasson

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane

Many thanks to everyone who has read, liked, shared and supported the blog this year – every single retweet, share, like and comment has been much appreciated and I do love interacting with fellow bookish types on Twitter and here on WordPress.

Thanks also to all of the publicists and tour organisers who have invited me to take part in some fantastic blog tours this year – I really wouldn’t have discovered some of these reads if it weren’t for you.

And finally to the authors, thank you for writing such brilliant books. The pleasure of a good book never grows old but I’m sure that easy reading makes for hard writing. So thank you for your efforts.

Wishing you all a very happy and bookish New Year. I shall leave you with a toast from one of my favourite writers, Neil Gaiman:

OldGods

See you in 2020 and, until the next time, happy reading! x