What a year it was, and not in a good sense. I was disappointed not to attend many book events during 2020 but have loved some of the online events that authors have managed to do. Despite book shops being closed for much of the year, I was so pleased to see that there have still been some amazing books published so, in no particular order, here is a slideshow of my favourite 10 books of 2020, the links taking you to my reviews.
I make no apologies by, again, championing this book which has been published today in paperback. I was a huge fan of Rosamund Lupton even before reading Three Hours but this, in my opinion, is her best so far. If you haven’t yet read it, I cannot recommend it highly enough, as the plot is one which will remain with me for a long time.
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Children and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news. In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.
In a Somerset school, the unimaginable has happened: gunmen are on the loose, stalking the grounds and corridors. The school is on lockdown, some more secure than others, each person focused on one thing: survival. With one person already seriously injured, the police have a race against time to identify the gunmen before a massacre occurs.
Ever since reading Sister in 2010, Rosamund Lupton has been one of those authors whose books I always look forward to. I was absolutely thrilled, therefore, to be given the opportunity to share my review of her latest book Three Hours as part of the blog tour. I knew that this was going to be a book that I would enjoy, buy I was not prepared for the emotions that I would go through whilst reading.
Told in real time, the siege has a very true to life feel about it as we see it from the perspective of all those involved. As someone who works in a similar environment and has had experience of a staged lock down situation, I was able to immediately put myself in the pages of the book and wonder how I would react if I were placed in the same terrifying circumstances. The bravery and resilience shown by the staff and pupils was immense and I was in awe at how some of the characters responded to this inconceivable horror. From the teenage girl who tries everything in her power to save her headteacher, to the deputy head who is fighting depression yet showing tremendous courage to protect others, we witness the best of people in the worst of situations.
I was impressed by the stoicism of the children and staff in the theatre as they continued with their Macbeth rehearsal. The parallels between what the children were rehearsing and what was going on outside were evident, with power and manipulation being common themes. Macbeth is my favourite Shakespeare play and I was delighted to see it playing such a huge part in the culmination of the plot.
My favourite character in the book was Rafi, the teenage boy who has escaped untold terror in Syria with his young brother, Basi. My heart really went out to both boys as they found themselves involved in yet another terrifying incident, Rafi’s love for his sibling shining through. It was heartbreaking reading what they had been through and Rosamund Lupton’s writing really highlighted the dangers faced by child refugees.
With such an emotive, hard-hitting plot, it may sound strange to say that I found Three Hours a very heart-warming story. At a time when true horrors were being experienced, we saw the very best of human nature and it is a huge lesson in how important it is to stand together against acts of terror. It may only be January, but I think it is safe to say that this will be one of my favourite reads of the year – the plot will stay with me for a long time to come.
With thanks to Viking Books UK, Ellie Hudson and Rosamund Lupton.
The death of a 100-year-old woman at a nursing home shouldn’t cause suspicion, but what ensues is a mystery dating back to World War Two and a cold, callous killer. This, the second in the Jude Satterthwaite series, is even better than the first.
When a woman is murdered on a sleeper train and her daughter seemingly vanishes into thin air, fellow passenger Jenny Bowen finds herself embroiled in a dangerous cat and mouse game with a hardened killer. A fast-paced, edge of your seat thriller that I really enjoyed.
When a woman goes missing after receiving a card inviting her to play a game, it becomes apparent that she is not the first and that there are an unknown number of people out in the wild, wreaking their own personal havoc. A brilliant twist on a missing person story, with some timely reminders of how we should always be careful what information we share online.
The seventh in the Jayne Sinclair series sees the genealogist investigating the mysterious African ancestor of a well-known TV star. With a plot revolving around slavery, this is probably one of my favourite books of this series so far.
This Kim Stone a prequel was a fantastic surprise to all fans of Angela Marsons. Set at the time when the team were coming together for the first time, we not only get a wonderful and informative insight into the pasts of the characters we have come to know and love, but also an exciting and emotive serial killer plot to boot! This author never lets us down!
A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell
This beautifully twisted tale of love and deception really grabbed my imagination. When a woman who is experiencing marriage problems meets a younger, handsome man, this sets off a chain of events that threaten to alter the course of all of their lives forever. This review will be published as part of the blog tour.
Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
I’ve been a huge fan of Rosamund Lupton ever since reading Sister and have heard nothing but praise for Three Hours. This book, detailing the three hours when a school is in the midst of a potential terrorist attack, genuinely blew me away and deserves to be a huge success. My review will be featured as part of the blog tour.
Books I’ve Acquired
Beth and Cath are leaving their husbands.
This is a story about two very different women.
One is wealthy and having an affair with a man who gives her the kind of love that her cold, detached husband does not.
One is living hand to mouth, suffering at the hands of a violent partner who would rather see her dead than leave him.
You may think you know these women already and how their lives will unfold.
Beth will live happily ever after with her little girl and her soulmate.
Cath will go back to her abusive husband.
And these two women will never cross paths.
But you will be wrong.
On the 3.15pm train from London to Bristol, Beth and Cath are about to meet and discover they share one shocking thing in common.
Family begins with a capital eff.
I’m wondering how many more f*cking ‘phases’ I have to endure before my children become civilised and functioning members of society? It seems like people have been telling me ‘it’s just a phase!’ for the last fifteen bloody years. Not sleeping through the night is ‘just a phase.’ Potty training and the associated accidents ‘is just a phase’. The tantrums of the terrible twos are ‘just a phase’. The picky eating, the back chat, the obsessions. The toddler refusals to nap, the teenage inability to leave their beds before 1pm without a rocket being put up their arse. The endless singing of Frozen songs, the dabbing, the weeks where apparently making them wear pants was akin to child torture. All ‘just phases!’ When do the ‘phases’ end though? WHEN?
Mummy dreams of a quirky rural cottage with roses around the door and chatty chickens in the garden. Life, as ever, is not going quite as she planned. Paxo, Oxo and Bisto turn out to be highly rambunctious, rather than merely chatty, and the roses have jaggy thorns. Her precious moppets are now giant teenagers, and instead of wittering at her about who would win in a fight – a dragon badger or a ninja horse – they are Snapchatting the night away, stropping around the tiny cottage and communicating mainly in grunts – except when they are demanding Ellen provides taxi services in the small hours. And there is never, but never, any milk in the house. At least the one thing they can all agree on is that rescued Barry the Wolfdog may indeed be The Ugliest Dog in the World, but he is also the loveliest.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are on the trail of Wang Li a Chinese criminal gang leader in London who is involved in the importation of opium, and Chinese girls who are forced into prostitution in the many brothels under his control in London. On a dark fog bound night, on a back street in old London town a direct confrontation between Holmes and Watson, with this arch criminal and his gang would bring home the reality and danger they both constantly faced in taking on one of the most dangerous investigations they had ever undertaken, against an adversary who was both cunning, and dangerous. Surrounded and outnumbered by Wang Li and his gang, would Holmes and Watson prevail? “Sherlock Holmes-The Final Chapter” is a must read to find the answer.
Between August and November 1888 the residents of Whitechapel a cosmopolitan suburb located in The East End of London would find themselves in the grip of fear as to what was to become known as The Autumn of Terror. A fearsome killer who became known as Jack the Ripper was stalking the dimly lit fog bound streets hiding in the shadows, before slaughtering and butchering the helpless street women. The police were failing in their attempt to apprehend this killer, and public condemnation of the murders was running high.An offer of help would come from an unlikely source in Emma Holmes daughter of the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Using all the knowledge and expertise gained from her father would she be able to prevent further murders and lure this killer to his ultimate and final date with the hangman?A compelling, Victorian crime mystery based on the original Whitechapel Murders of 1888. A mystery which contains many twists and turns leading to an unexpected and surreal thought provoking final conclusion.
February may be a short month but I’ve managed to read some books that I’m sure are going to feature on my ‘favourites of 2019’ list. It’s also been the month when I’ve been able to share my reviews of some of the books that I read a while ago due to them being part of their respective blog tours.
The Last by Hanna Jameson was a book that I read at the end of last year. I’d read so many good things about this book on social media that I was really pleased to be given the opportunity to take part in the blog tour. This dystopian murder-mystery certainly lived up to my expectations.
I also shared a review of Remember Me by D. E. White as part of the blog tour. Set in Wales, this story of a deranged serial killer was a great read with plenty of sub-plots that all tied together nicely.
One of my favourite series of recent years has definitely been Sarah Flint’s Charlie Stafford series. I was pleased to share an extract from Mummy’s Favourite, the first in the series, which has just been published in paperback after previously being available as an ebook.
Another series I am really enjoying is the DI Kelly Porter books by Rachel Lynch. I shared a review of Bitter Edge as part of the blog tour, another brilliant read set in the Lake District.
I was also on the blog tour for The Scent of Death by Simon Beckett. This is the sixth in the series and I can’t believe I have never read any of the others! This will definitely be rectified as I really enjoyed reading about the forensics expert.
The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin was another great read that featured my review as part of the blog tour. Set in the Languedoc lavender fields, it asks the question: Do we really know those closest to us?
I also took part in a cover reveal for The Family by P. R. Black. The cover and the synopsis have definitely whetted my appetite for the book and I will be featuring a review as part of the blog tour soon.
I recently finished reading Critical Incidents by Lucie Whitehouse, the first in a new series about Robin Lyons who has been dismissed from her role as a Met detective. A review will be published nearer publication date.
In a rural English village in the middle of a snowstorm, the unthinkable happens: the school is under siege.
From the wounded headmaster barricaded in the library, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the pregnant police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the terrified 8-year-old Syrian refugee, to the kids sheltering in the school theatre still rehearsing Macbeth, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and try to save the people they love . . .
In an intense exploration of fear and violence, courage and redemption, Rosamund Lupton takes us deep into the heart of human experience.
Whitehall Palace, England, 1539
When Catherine Howard arrives at the court of King Henry VIII to be a maid of honour in the household of the new queen, Anne of Cleves, she has no idea of the fate that awaits her.
Catching the king’s fancy, she finds herself caught up in her uncle’s ambition to get a Howard heir to the throne.
Terrified by the ageing king after the fate that befell her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Catherine begins to fear for her life…
Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2018
Dr Perdita Rivers receives news of the death of her estranged grandmother, renowned Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy.
Mary inexplicably cut all contact with Perdita and her twin sister, Piper, but she has left them Marquess House, her vast estate in Pembrokeshire.
Perdita sets out to unravel their grandmother’s motives for abandoning them, and is drawn into the mystery of an ancient document in the archives of Marquess House, a collection of letters and diaries claiming the records of Catherine Howard’s execution were falsified…
What truths are hiding in Marquess House? What really happened to Catherine Howard? And how was Perdita’s grandmother connected to it all?
‘She lifted the flap of the envelope and pulled out the single white page. As she opened it up she stared, open mouthed. Four words were typed on the page. I am watching you.’
When Amy Whyte and Penny Brogan leave a local nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning and don’t arrive home, their families are beside themselves with worry. Conor Dowling has just been released from prison, a man full of hatred for Amy, the girl who put him behind bars in the first place.
The case is given to Detective Lottie Parker, when the girls’ blood-soaked bodies are found, days later, in a derelict squat. Chillingly, both girls are clutching silver coins in their hands – what message is this killer leaving behind? All the signs point to Conor but his alibi is water tight.
As Lottie examines Penny and Amy’s final days alive in a desperate search for clues, two more girls are found stabbed to death in a luxury apartment complex. Caught up in what is fast becoming her toughest case yet, Lottie is unaware that somebody is watching her every move.
Then Lottie’s two daughters, Katie and Chloe suddenly disappear from the town centre. Terrified that the killer has her girls, the stakes have never been higher for Lottie.
But as Lottie puts everything on the line to find her daughters and solve the case, she’s about to find herself in terrible danger – someone has a personal axe to grind with her and they know the best way to get to her is to hurt the ones she loves the most.
I received this proof-copy from Net Galley in return for an honest review.
Ever since reading ‘Sister’ and ‘Afterwards’ I had been eagerly anticipating Rosamund Lupton’s third offering. The joy of this author’s books is always having to expect the unexpected as they are not as formulaic as other suspense books I have read. This was no exception.
Yasmin and her daughter Ruby have arrived in Alaska to meet up with Matt, her film-maker husband only to be met by officials who break the news to her that her husband has died in a devastating fire. Refusing to believe what she is hearing, the story follows the two main characters on their terrifying journey across the formidable Alaskan terrain, desperate to prove that Matt is still alive.
Lupton succeeds in creating a clear image of the desolate yet beautiful landscape and makes it even more poignant by having much of the story told by Ruby, who we soon find out is deaf. The fear of loneliness is a recurring theme, especially for Ruby, for whom darkness is the enemy.
Although this did not have the shock factor of ‘Sister’, I enjoyed this just as much, and struggled to put it down. The only downside is now having to wait so long for the author’s next book!