In 2015 to celebrate reviewing for five years I started a series entitled Five of the Best where I chose my favourite five star reads which I’d read in that month. I will be celebrating Five years of blogging later this year and so I decided it was time to repeat the series.
July tends to be a bumper month for great books as I’m writing my reviews for all the fab books I read in June on holiday so some tough choices have had to be made!
You can read my original review of the book featured by clicking on the book cover.
My choice for July 2014 is Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – I can’t believe I read this was a whole five years ago and it should be noted that having been turned into a TV series it is now marketed as Big Little Lies in the UK.
The stage is set at Pirriwee Public School at a und-raising Trivia Night where someone is dead. Who is killed is a mystery long before the reader is compelled to find out who the killer is. The brilliance of this book is the everyday setting, how dangerous can a school quiz night be after all? This alongside the observational humour, I guarantee you will recognise far too many of the character types involved.
An absolutely compelling read that shouldn’t be missed.
Perfect families, perfect houses, perfect lives.
Three mothers, Jane, Madeline and Celeste appear to have it all . . . but do they? They are about to find out just how easy it is for one little lie to spiral out of control.
Single mum Jane has just moved to town. She’s got her little boy in tow – plus a secret she’s been carrying for five years.
On the first day of the school run she meets Madeline – a force to be reckoned with, who remembers everything and forgives no one – and Celeste, the kind beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare, but is inexplicably ill at ease. They both take Jane under their wing – while careful to keep their own secrets under wraps.
But a minor incident involving the children of all three women rapidly escalates: playground whispers become spiteful rumours until no one can tell the truth from the lies.
It was always going to end in tears, but how did it end in murder? Amazon
In July 2015 I was wowed by Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica , a story about a young woman with her child who is rescued from the streets by the kindly Heidi. Taking Willow and her young child into their home seems to her to be the right thing to do, but not everyone agrees. Unsurprisingly, the path ahead does not wind pleasantly.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the complex characters that drive the story on. The book being told from three separate viewpoints was a brilliant psychological examination backed up by a tension-filled plot.
A chance encounter
She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…
An act of kindness
Heidi has always been charitable but her family are horrified when she returns home with a young woman named Willow and her baby in tow. Dishevelled and homeless, this girl could be a criminal – or worse. But despite the family’s objections, Heidi offers them refuge.
A tangled web of lies
As Willow begins to get back on her feet, disturbing clues into her past starts to emerge. Now Heidi must question if her motives for helping the stranger are unselfish or rooted in her own failures. Amazon
I’ve chosen a nonfiction read for 2016’s choice, The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams by Jane Robins which takes us back to another age albeit not one as far back in history as those I usually explore in my true crime exploration.
We are in the gentile world of the rich, a time when doctors still went to call on their wealthy clients, the NHS having only recently come into being. Favoured doctors if they were lucky, and a charitable assumption could be that Dr Adams was very lucky, could be given bequests when their charges died. It was the death of one wealthy woman who started an investigation that led back to the 1930s which had the Metropolitan Police convinced that Dr Adams wasn’t quite who he seemed to be.
This was a well-researched and entertaining read that had me well and truly gripped.
‘Was rich Mrs Gertrude Hullett murdered at her luxurious 15-room home on Beachy Head? Detectives are tonight trying to establish the cause of the 50-year-old widow’s sudden death . . . ‘ Daily Mail, 1957
In July 1957, the press descended in droves on the south-coast town of Eastbourne. An inquest had just been opened into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Mrs Bobbie Hullett. She died after months of apparent barbiturate abuse – the drugs prescribed to calm her nerves by her close friend and doctor, Dr John Bodkin Adams.
The inquest brought to the surface years of whispered suspicion that had swept through the tea rooms, shops and nursing homes of the town. The doctor’s alarming influence over the lives, deaths and finances of wealthy widows had not gone unnoticed – it was rumoured that the family doctor had been on a killing spree that spanned decades and involved 300 suspicious cases. Superintendent Hannam of Scotland Yard was called in to investigate.
The Curious Habits of Dr Adams brilliantly brings to life the atmosphere of post-war England, and uses a wealth of new documents to follow the twists and turns of an extraordinary Scotland Yard murder enquiry. As expertly crafted as the best period detective novel, this book casts an entertainingly chilling light on a man reputed to be one of England’s most prolific serial killers. Amazon
My pick for 2017 is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a long time; Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown which explores what can be the closest of bonds, that between sisters.
Set on the Isle of Wight there are two sets of sisters; Ellie and Jess who were estranged for many years but are now looking to find the close bond they previously shared. To this end Jess moves in with Ellie to care for her daughter, Daisy. Daisy has a big sister, sixteen years old, she adores her half-sister and is devastated when Daisy disappears from her cot in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
Brilliantly drawn characters along with a real feeling of depth to the story makes this a real winner for lovers of the genre.
After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited. With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home. Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart.
Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before? Amazon
I had no hesitation at all in picking my winning read, reviewed in July 2018 – the prize goes unreservedly to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.
This innovative read which explores the life (or rather lives) of one Ursula Todd born into the sort of idyllic family that could only exist in 1910 at the whimsically named Fox Corner. As multiple options are presented for Ursula to survive, or maybe die trying, we get to witness a whole heap of events, and characters that take us from one place to another. None of this would work if it were not for the author’s brilliant writing skills or the wonderful characters she provides as a vehicle to tell the stories. Most amazingly these characters grow throughout the novel no matter which circumstance Kate Atkinson chooses to place them in.
If you haven’t read this book, I truly urge you to do so.
What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?
Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves. Amazon
Five of the Best 2018