Top 10 Books Of The Year -Part 2 (The Top 5)

Without any further ado here are the five books that did it for me in 2015.  To find the full reviews please click on the titles

5. Work Like Any Other – Virginia Reeves (Scribner 2016) (Read and reviewed in September)


This is the one that should have made the progression from the Booker longlist to the shortlist.  An astonishing debut.  It’s 1920s Alabama and a plan to bring electricity to Roscoe Martin’s farm goes badly wrong.  It’s the second tale of rural survival on my list but is imbued throughout with hope -throughout the darkest moments there’s hope and Reeves conveys this beautifully.

4. His Bloody Project – Graeme  Macrae Burnet  (Saraband 2015) (Read and reviewed in August)


My pick of the Booker Prize shortlist.  Published by a tiny Scottish independent this was one that would have slipped through my net had it not had the Booker nod.  A historical novel that reads like true crime is an interesting concept but what makes this special is the real feel of the crofting community of the Scottish highlands in 1869 through  a prison journal, witness statements, official documents and court transcripts. Sold well after its Booker recognition but a win would have turned this into one of the year’s big books.  It is certainly a big book in my opinion.

3.Black Narcissus – Rumer Godden (Virago 1939) (Read in June and reviewed in August)


Love the film but have never actually got round to reading the book.  Neurotic nuns up a mountain – what’s not to love?  I wasn’t sure if Godden would have been able to convey the technicolour lushness of the film but she certainly does.  Hopefully in 2017 I’ll be able to seek out more by her.

2. Life After Life – Kate Atkinson  (Doubleday 2013) (Read in April and reviewed in May)


2013 Costa Novel award winner. I am the last one around to read this?  Structurally superb, risking accusations of style over substance but producing a novel which is both technically surprising and first class. “Practice makes perfect” is a theme of the novel and Atkinson here gets close to perfection.

Time for the long silence before the winner is announced (oh, can’t do long silences on a blog so I’ll get straight on with it .The reviewsrevues Book Of The Year 2016 is……….

1.  Joe Speedboat – Tommy Wieringa (Scribe 2016) (Read and reviewed in May)


In any other year there could have been as many as three Wieringa novels in my Top 10 as the other two I have read are hovering outside the Top 10 and are both very good.  This is also how I felt last year with his “These Are The Names” published by Scribe and which saw them embarking on a programme to of bringing out his earlier Dutch novels translated by Sam Garrett. A 2009 debut this was apparently the biggest ever selling Dutch debut in his homeland and it deserves a huge audience here.  A coming-of-age novel about Frankie, who has survived a horrific accident and becomes swept up by the antics of newcomer Joe Speedboat.  Like all the best books it provokes a myriad of emotions- it is touching, unpredictable, outrageous and laugh out loud funny.  Scribe have been a great support to this blogger this year, but there’s certainly no favouritism.  This book has reached my summit on merit.

This is the second year I have gone for a book in translation for my top pick.  Last year’s Top 5 can be found here.  I have probably read more translated novels this year but that is because of authors such as Tommy Wieringa.  If there is a pattern, and I wouldn’t have said there was, but looking at my ten titles I can see that there may very well be one, it is to make my top 10, authors, set your novels in the past.  I wouldn’t have said I was a great historical novel fan but this list suggests otherwise… We’ll see what 2017 conjures up.  Bring it on!

As I read a lot more books this year than I normally do there are a number of titles that I feel bad about missing out on my Top 10 – so here are a few special mentions for recent publications.  The Wicked Boy – Kate Summerscale, Hot Milk-Deborah Levy, The Double Life Of Kit Kavanagh- Marina Fiorato, Eileen -Otessa Moshfegh, Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeliene Thien,  Rembrandt’s Mirror- Kim Devereux, Tall Oaks – Chris Whitaker ( incidentally a nominee for the newbooks Book Noir book of the year) , Angel Of Highgate – Vaughn Entwistle, Himself- Jess Kidd (the last four authors I have had the great pleasure of interviewing this year- always one of my personal highspots of

In my next post I’ll honour the re-read that gave me the most pleasure this year.

See my Top 10 Books Part 1 – numbers 10-6 here

Top 10 Books Of The Year – 2016- Part 1 (10-6)

In 2016 I managed to read 80 books which is the most I have ever read in one year.  (Last year’s total was 67 and my best ever year (2013) I read 72.  So, although I’m very pleased with myself it has proved to be much harder to come up with just 10 for my annual review of my year in books.  Anything that doesn’t make the top 10 gets culled from the bookshelves or off the Kindle so I’ve had to put much deliberation into this and come up with a list of ten books with only one author having made my top 10 on a previous occasion.  Unusually for me all of the chosen books are fiction. 7 of the 10 were authors whose work I have never read before  and there’s some debut novels in there as well.  I haven’t restricted myself to those authors whose works were published in 2016.  If I read it this year then it’s in the mix.  Last year 6 out of my 10 were published in 2015 and this year 50% of them were published in 2016, showing how exciting publishing still is and that there’s still great books coming out every month.  44 out of the 80 books I read this year were 2016 publications- a considerably higher percentage than ever before.  The only thing I have read less of is re-reads.  I’ve only revisited four books this year.  I’ve selected the very best of these which I will announce in two posts time.  There’s a satisfactory 50/50 split gender-wise on my list and all of the 10 have been reviewed on this site- click on the titles to link to the full review.

10. Jonathan Dark Or The Evidence Of Ghosts – A K Benedict (Orion 2016) (Read and reviewed in February)


An audacious, brave blend of modern crime, ghost story and fantasy which really works.  I thought/think that this has the potential to become a big seller but perhaps it has been difficult to market its genre-busting appeal.  I love this book for both its strengths and flaws.

9. The Lost Europeans – Emanuel Litvinoff (Apollo 2016 )(Read in May and reviewed in June)


In 2016 Apollo republished 8 of “the best books you’ve never heard of” and this debut originally from 1958 by a London born writer was the pick of the bunch.  Post war Berlin is brought alive through paranoia and guilt.



8. Miss Jane – Brad Watson (Picador 2016) (Read in September.  Reviewed in November)


Set in early twentieth century Mississippi this tale of rural survival sparkles because of the title character.  Miss Jane, because of an anatomical defect is an outsider yet shines through.  Probably the character I was most willing on to better things this year. Beautifully understated.


7. The High Mountains Of Portugal – Yann Martel (Canongate 2016) (Read and reviewed in January)


Martel’s “The Life Of Pi” was my 7th favourite book of 2003 and was even better on a re-read.  Thirteen years on and he’s here  at number 7 again and I expect that this will also re-read very well.  Three stories, all of which are quite bonkers, two exceptionally charming (still not too sure to make of the middle section).  Martel has me believing the unbelievable- the mark of a great storyteller.

6. The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox- Maggie O’Farrell (Headline 2006) (Read in January.  Reviewed in April)


Many thanks to newbooks who decided to have a Maggie O’Farrell retrospective prompting me to seek out this author via this extraordinary novel I had missed out on.  I sat on this review for quite a while because I didn’t know quite how to put my feelings about this book into words. I made it one of my 100 Essential reads.  It’s beautifully written and I am so looking forward to catching up with this author’s back catalogue.



Next post – The Top 5, includes a twentieth century classic, a translation, a debut, a Booker Shortlister and a literary award winner.

What You’ve Been Reading – The 5 most popular posts of 2015

To finish off my round-up of 2015 and to celebrate what will be at the end of the month my first year of blogging I thought I’d revisit my 100th post – “A Review Retrospective” .  Published in July it looked at the reviews that had been attracting the most attention.  Has the last five months brought about any change, or is it the same posts getting the visitors?  Here is my 2015 most popular reviewsrevues posts Top 5.

5.The Secrets To Ruling School – Neil Swaab (Published 2015.  Reviewed in June)


The only book in the 5 which didn’t appear in my most read chart back in July, this has attracted a steady stream of visitors for the last half of the year and is the most popular children’s book review on the site.  Neil and I were in contact via Twitter where he thanked me for the review and confessed he had never heard of  the St Custard’s books featuring Molesworth (eg: “Down With Skool” by Geoffrey Wilans) which so entertained British schoolchildren of an earlier generation (perhaps these books didn’t make it over to the USA).  I hope he has managed to track these down as I am sure he would enjoy them…

4. Murder! Hollywood Style- Carol Branston (Published 2015.  Reviewed in May)


With delightfully trashy characters this recreates nicely the golden days of best sellers by the likes of Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins.  It was great that Carol got in touch with me about the review and agreed to be the very first of my author interviews in my Author Strikes Back strand.  This boosted the traffic to the book and hopefully got the author a lot of sales.  Since then I’ve had a visit from a friend of Carol’s who turned up on my doorstep to pass on Carol’s best wishes.  Who says it’s a lonely life blogging?!!

3. Bell’s A Poppin’ – Madeline Bell (A 2004 CD release of a 1967 album.  Reviewed in March)


The most read of my CD reviews which has attracted a strong following throughout the year.  Looking at trends there’s a  marked difference between book review readers and CD readers.  It is the newest books that tends to attract the most visitors but it is the older, more obscure music releases that draw the crowds.  It’s great to see that this highly under-rated American performer who recorded this album over here in the UK has not been forgotten.

2. The Mark And The Void – Paul Murray (Published in 2015.  Reviewed in June)


A case of ever the bridesmaid?  Having just been pipped to the post in my reviewsrevues Book Of the Year rundown by one of the last books I read in 2015 this book which was at the top of the most read pile when I published the 100th post has slipped down to the runner-up position.  Shortlisted at the Irish Book Awards where it would have been a very deserving winner it lost out to Anne Enright’s “The Green Road“.  For me it was the best book published last year and a great achievement.

The most read review in 2015 was…………………………….(fanfare!) (drum rolls)

1.The Murders At White House Farm- Carol Ann Lee (Published in 2015.  Reviewed in June)


Made number 6 in my Best Books Of The Year and my favourite slab of non-fiction I read in 2015.  This book fascinated and unnerved me and over the last six months the review has managed to surge ahead of its rivals.  This bodes well for the paperback edition which is due in (I think) April.  It was great that Carol Ann got in touch and agreed to my rigorous interviewing technique (!) in my author strikes back strand.  Congratulations to Carol Ann Lee- your book has proved to be the one on reviewsrevues that most readers wanted to find out about!

So it’s now 2016 and time to reset the counters back to zero.  I’ll revisit these statistics for my 200th post (probably not that far away now).

I’ve finished all my year-end retrospectives now – It’s time to get on with 2016!!

My Top Re-Reads of 2015

I re-read 8 books in 2015.  My Top three I have read at least three times- they are books I keep coming back to, so deserve a mention in my round-up of the year.  Just click on the titles to be taken to the full reviews.

3. Krindlekrax – Philip Ridley (Red Fox 1991) (Read in September. Reviewed in October)krindlekrax2  One of my all time favourite children’s book and superb to read aloud.

2. The Crimson Petal And The White – Michel Faber  (Canongate 2002)(Read in March.  Reviewed in September)


Set in Victorian times this book is a monumental achievement. Unflinching and often explicit with excellent characterisation.

  1. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak  (Black Swan 2007) (Read in January.  Reviewed in April)



The more I read this book the more I love it.  Just don’t make me watch the film!

Top 10 Books Of The Year 2015 – Part 2 (The Top 5)

Without any further ado here are the five books that did it for me in 2015.  To find the full reviews please click on the titles.

5. Dream A Little Dream – Giovanna Fletcher (Penguin 2015) (Read and reviewed in September)


Scores highly on the likeability factor.  Whilst husband Tom together with McFly bandmate Dougie Poynter were ascending up the children’s bestseller lists with their books about pooping dinosaurs Giovanna produced her third novel, a slab of female-interest fiction which works well on all counts.

4. The Luminous Life Of Lily Aphrodite – Beatrice Colin (John Murray 2008) (Read in May and reviewed in June)


I was a bit slow getting round to this.  One of two books in my Top 5 set in 20th Century Berlin this debut novel is a massive achievement with a totally captivating main character.  A rich, rewarding read.

3. A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler (Vintage 2015) (Read and reviewed in November)


Man Booker Prize nominated and one which is appearing on a lot of “Best Of The Year” lists.  The first book by American author Tyler I have read (I’ll hopefully be putting that right in 2016).  A beautifully written family saga.  Bags of appeal, an excellent choice for reading groups and a book I found genuinely hard to put down.

2. The Mark And The Void- Paul Murray (Penguin 2015) (Read and Reviewed in June)


Just pipped at the post by one of the last books I read this year. This is, nevertheless, my favourite book of those published in 2015.  But what has  happened to it?  By now I expected to be seeing it appearing on Bestseller lists, end of year lists and awards shortlists.  It was shortlisted for Book Club Book Of The Year at the Irish Book Awards but was beaten by Anne Enright’s “The Green Road“, which I didn’t think was as good.  Could this be a case where marketing has let the book down?  I feel this odd to say about a company such as Penguin but a bizarre decision might have occured here.  I read a pre-publication e-book (thanks Netgalley) and did keep a look out for it in bookshops, but the only copy I’ve seen (and admittedly we are not inundated with bookshops where I live) was in a Waterstones and it was an odd, flimsy looking two volume paperback affair in a slip-case which was already looking tatty on the shelves.  I would not have bought it.  Now, this may have just been some limited special edition but I hope it hasn’t damaged Murray’s chances of getting the big bestseller this very funny novel deserves to be.

So drum-roll time…………….The reviewsrevues Book Of The Year 2015 is………..

1. Alone In Berlin – Hans Fallada (Penguin 2009) (Read and reviewed in December)


Rightfully published by Penguin as a Modern Classic.  Not published in the UK until 2009 this translation of a 1947 German novel is an important book.  The tale of one couple’s attempts to undermine the Nazi regime through postcard writing is chilling and gripping and an extraordinary read.

Well, that’s it for another year.  Time to wipe the slate clean and start reading for 2016.  Congratulations to the writers, publishers and other bloggers who have had me enjoying my reading so much in 2015.  And the prizes for the winners……  All of the top 10 authors will have another title of theirs put on to my To Be Read list.  Where it’s a debut or where no other book is available I’ll take a punt and see what Amazon suggest in their “Customers who bought this item also bought” and stick one of them on my list.  I’ve been reading recently about how other bloggers keep their “To Be Read list” and mine has been a haphazard affair, but I’ve been bowled over by how some organise this and I’ve been inspired to follow along similar lines.  The spreadsheet as revealed by Fiction Fan is an inspiration! Happy Reading!  For my next post I’ll be revealing which of the books I re-read this year confirmed by original impression…………………..

See my Top 10 Books Part 1 – numbers 10-6 here


Top 10 Books Of The Year – 2015 – Part 1 (10-6)

Of the 67 books I read this year it’s time to select the Top 10.  (That total was a couple up from last year but quite a few less than the golden reading year of 2013).  Getting in the Top 10 is important as only those hallowed tomes are allowed to remain on the bookshelves.  In an annual  book cull which seems to mark for me the end of the old year those that did not make the cut are already bagged up ready to donate to the library and charity shops and the unsuccessful e-books have been permanently deleted off the Kindle.  It’s a tough world over at reviewsrevues – but it’s really only to stop me appearing on one of those hoarder documentaries or being discovered half-buried under collapsed piles of books.  (Anyway, on the very same day as I cleared space on the Kindle I got excited about those Delphi Complete Classics editions on Amazon which has the complete works of writers for under £1 – so don’t think I’m depriving myself!)  Without further ado here starts of the rundown of the ten best books I have read this year.  (I haven’t restricted my list to those published this year but anything I read this year.)  However, my reading habits  must have changed as there are an unprecedented 6 out of the 10 that made their appearance in 2015.  I have separated the eight books I re-read into their own list- otherwise the same books would win time after time.  My favourite re-read will be announced in two posts time.  7 out of the ten books are by women.  It’s been a great year for women writers at reviewsrevues.  All of the 10 have been reviewed on this site- click on the titles to link to the full review.

10. Becoming Nancy- Terry Ronald (Corgi 2011) (Read in July- Reviewed in September)


Set in the late 70’s in East Dulwich this is a coming out story which is in turns sweet, romantic, coarse, gritty, tragic and funny.  What more could you ask for? Debut novel from ex-pop star.  Sent me glassy-eyed with nostalgia.

9. Spill Simmer Falter Wither – Sara Baume (Windmill 2015) (Read and reviewed in November)


The debut novel of  2015?  It’s currently on shortlists for First Novel at The Costas and  has just scooped Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards.  Beautifully and powerfully written this is an extended love letter of one man to his dog.  Watch this book pick up many more fans over the coming months.

8. I’ll Never Write My Memoirs – Grace Jones (Simon & Schuster 2015) (Read and reviewed in October)


Thank goodness you did, Grace….  This was the celebrity biography I had waited years to be written and I wasn’t disappointed.  As told to music journalist Paul Morley the weird wonderful world of Grace Jones comes shining through.

7. Dear Blue Peter – Edited by Biddy Baxter (Short Books 2008) (Read in June- Reviewed in December)


Sheer unashamed entertainment and a genius way to celebrate Blue Peter’s 50th anniversary (back in 2008).  Let the viewers do the work with a collection of their letters over the years, all itching for their Blue Peter badges.  Reading this you can appreciate why this programme has been important to so many and why it has lasted so long.  Very funny and well balanced between praise and criticism this is a real slice of Britishness.

6. Murders At White House Farm – Carol Ann Lee (Pan Macmillan 2015) (Read and reviewed in June)


The non-fiction book of the year as far as I am concerned this chilling and through account of events in 1985 at Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex which resulted in the murder of five members of the Bamber family and the trial and conviction of Jeremy Bamber.  Painstakingly researched.  I was delighted to interview author Carol Ann Lee.  I thought it might set me off on a true crime reading spree but that hasn’t happened yet but I’m still keeping the titles Carol Ann recommended on my To Be Read list.

Next post – The Top 5 – All novels, three published in 2015.