The time has come again to face an impossible task of narrowing the 117 books I have read into a top ten list. As always it was difficult to do but I have managed and I will list them in no particular order. Apart from my favourite book of the year which I will reveal at the end. You can see my review for each book by clicking on the title.
A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy
Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours.
Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope – cold, elegant, unstable – wants to be left alone.
It’s left to their children – Lena’s youngest, Kate, and Anne’s only child, Peter – to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.
A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later . . .
A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so.
A story of how, if we’re lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I always enjoy a family drama, even more so if the novel covers a period of years and what happens to the whole family during that novel. This novel was one that I adored.
Two families, initially united through two characters being police officers. One is more successful than the other but they are friends and eventually neighbours. They both have families but never become close friends. When the friendship that they have appears to be badly damaged after one suffers life changing injuries you would accept that they would drift apart but two of them are determined to be together.
I adored this novel. Everything was perfect, Irish immigrants hoping for a new life, and struggling to forget the past. The explanations for why events happened and the way they dealt with them. But most of all the relationship between Kate and Peter. The total devotion to each other and the determination to not let the past affect their lives. The way they handled high school and university apart but always thinking of each other and feeling that they needed to be with each other. And the way they connected again, convincing their families that there was a chance of happiness for all of them.
Everything changed the night Flora Powell disappeared.
Heather and Jess were best friends – until the night Heather’s sister vanished.
Jess has never forgiven herself for the lie she told that night. Nor has Heather.
But now Heather is accused of an awful crime.
And Jess is forced to return to the sleepy seaside town where they grew up, to ask the question she’s avoided for so long:
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received, Then She Vanishes is the first book I have read by Claire Douglas. After reading it I am happy that there are a few I can read.
The prologue concerns the murder of a mother and son but then most of it concerns Jess and Margot, Heather’s mother. Jess is a journalist but was also a teenage friend of Heather and her sister Flora. She is being pressured into getting a story by her boss but also determined not to let her job damage her relationship with Margot.
I was surprised by how much I liked Jess, I usually dislike journalists in fiction but she was honest in the mistakes she had made in the past and was determined to handle the situation the right way. She has a steady working relationship with her colleagues, especially Jack and it is him she confides in about her past, before her partner Rory. He only really has a role in the latter stages of the novel. They have a great relationship but she has commitment problems, these are revealed in the flashbacks to 1994 when Flora disappeared. Margot was another character who I liked instantly. Never knowing what happened to Flora, wanting to help Heather, and despite her misgivings allowing Jess back into her life.
I enjoyed the flashbacks, the teenage girls are believable with emotions, first love, hurt and jealousy all shown. I also enjoyed listening again to Martha’s Harbour by All About Eve which was a favourite song of Flora’s.
There are plenty of twists but they are slow to come, taking you by surprise when you are least expecting them. Some of it I did work out earlier but I don’t think it was meant to be a huge surprise. Some are chilling, more so because you know that they concern events that have happened. And the final chapter had me lost for words. Brilliant characters, fantastic storyline.
Today I am sharing an extract with you. The Lost Letters of William Woolf is a book that I have been trying to read for a few months. I hope to read it soon.
About The Book
My Great Love…’
William Woolf is a letter detective at the Dead Letters Depot, where he spends his days reuniting lost mail with its intended recipient.
But when he discovers a series of letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ everything changes.
Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t yet met, her heartfelt words stir William in ways he has long forgotten.
Could they be destined for him? And what would that mean for his own troubled marriage?
William must follow the clues in the letters to solve his most important mystery yet: his own heart.
Lost letters have only one hope for survival. If they are caught between two worlds, with an unclear destination and no address of sender, the lucky ones are redirected to the Dead Letters Depot in East London for a final chance of redemption. Inside the damp-rising walls of a converted tea factory, letter detectives spend their days solving mysteries. Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names: they are all culprits in the occurrence of missed birthdays, unknown test results, bruised hearts, unaccepted invitations, silenced confessions, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers. instead of longed for missives, disappointment floods postboxes from Land’s End to Dunnet Head. Hope fades a little more every day, when door bells don’t chime and doormats don’t thud.
William Woolf had worked as a letter detective for eleven years. He was one of an army of thirty, having inherited his position from his beloved uncle, Archie. Almost every Friday throughout William’s childhood, Archie, clad in a lime-green leather jacket, rode his yellow Honda Dream 305 over for tea, eager to share fish and chips doused in salt and vinegar served with a garlic dip, and tales of the treasures rescued that day.
Listening to Archie opened William’s mind to the myriad extraordinary stories that were unfolding every day in the lives of ordinary people. In a blue -lined copy book, he wrote his favourites and unwittingly began what would become a lifelong obsession with storytelling, domestic mysteries and the secrets strangers nurse. What surprised William most when he started working there himself was how little Archie had exaggerated. People send the strangest paraphernalia through the post: incomprehensible and indefensible, sentimental and valuable, erotic and bizarre, alive and expired. In fact, it was the dead animals that so frequently found their way to this inner sanctum of the postal system that had inspired the Dead Letters Depot’s name. A photo taken in 1937, the year it had opened, showed the original postmaster, Mr Frank Oliphant, holding a pheasant and hare aloft, with three rabbits stretched out on the table before him. By the time William joined in 1979, it was a much more irregular occurrence, of course, but the name still endured. He still felt Archie’s presence amid the exposed red brick walls of the depot, and some of the older detectives sometimes called William by his uncle’s name. Their physical similarities were striking: muddy brown curls, chestnut beards flecked with rust, the almond shaped hazel eyes that flickered between shades of emerald green and cocoa, the bump in the nose of all Woolf men.
It’s the day Izzy’s father will be released from jail.
She has every reason to feel conflicted – he’s the man who gave her a childhood filled with happy memories.
But he has also just served seventeen years for the murder of her mother.
Now, Izzy’s father sends her a letter. He wants to talk, to defend himself against each piece of evidence from his trial.
But should she give him the benefit of the doubt?
Or is her father guilty as charged, and luring her into a trap?
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This crime novel is slightly different to the other books I have read before because the murder investigation concerned is an old one. Time has been served for the murder of Izzy’s mother. The person who served the sentence was her father and he has just been released from prison, determined to have contact with Izzy.
Izzy has moved on with her life despite missing having any loving family connection. Somehow the connection with her husband’s ‘Instagram family’ doesn’t compensate for what she has missed out on. She loves her husband, hates her job and doesn’t know if she can trust her father.
Most of the novel is set in modern day but there are occasional flashbacks to Izzy’s teenage years, mainly concerning the few days before her mother was murdered. But you also get to see her dreams of going to ballet school and her relationship with her first boyfriend. You also see the way that her interpretation of her parents relationship and how it differs from her father’s. These accounts were increasingly fascinating, especially when Izzy finds documents that suggest she may not have been fully aware of what was happening.
I did work out who killed Alex before Izzy did but the way it was revealed left me hanging on to see if I was correct. The explanation was different to what I imagined but it did work. And how it was handled left me a little emotional. Izzy trying to find out who was responsible wasn’t what I liked most about this novel, it was the character and relationship changes that I was more interested in. It was this part I will be thinking about for the next few days.