Friday 6 January 2017

Moving On

Exactly five years ago, at the beginning of January 2012, I submitted my first book reviews to Chase Magazine. I'd toiled for ridiculously many hours over them, I always over-prep when I'm nervous, my way of coping. Thankfully, the reviews were accepted and three editors and 30 bi-monthly issues later, my final two page spread has just been published. I've only glanced at it. I don’t want to wallow but feel quite sad about the situation - a bit like your child leaving home, I imagine, you know it's going to happen, you're excited for them but still your heart breaks a little.

Simply, life got too busy and something had to give. That's a good thing, I know. I'd hate to be bored. Besides, it's somebody else's turn now. Someone who'll read different books to me and see different things in them.

Chase introduced me to books I'd never have entertained, particularly biographies and other non-fiction, and gave me the excuse to continue reading 'unputdownable' books whilst stirring a sauce, ironing (you need a recipe book stand for this – or a Kindle), on the exercise bike, walking home, when-I-should-have-been-doing-proper-work. I have yet to try reading a book whilst running - those of you who know my accident prone self, will be relieved to hear this - but I have discovered Audible books for the gym.

I'm certainly not planning on doing any less reading, but I admit to relishing the chance to choose titles forced to be neglected at the bottom of my To Be Read pile because they were too similar in genre to a book I'd recently reviewed.  

Meanwhile, to mark the end of this era, I thought I'd look back through every book review spread and come up with my Top Ten of Chase reads over the past five years. How hard could it be?

Very, very hard.

I've reviewed 81 books and the best I can manage is a top 18. And that took me two days of soul searching. I feel that if I gave it any more thought I'd change my mind again and for that reason, I'm also going to post the remaining titles in their own, 'Highly Recommended List'. I only ever review books I love and thus it seems wrong to leave any out.
I'm keen to know how many of these you've read and what would be on your own top ten of the last five years. Please do share with us!

Meanwhile, thank you to Joe Cawthorn and all the team at Chase. They are a wonderfully kind and talented group of people to work with and I've had a ball :D

My Top 18
1.       Defending Jacob by William Landay, published by Orion Books in 2012.
Did he, didn't he? And a brilliant twist at the end.
2.       Flying Under Bridges by Sandi Toksvig, published by Sphere in 2001.
Wonderful dark humour – just why is this sassy woman narrating from prison?
3.       Perfect by Rachel Joyce, Published by Doubleday in 2013.
Great characters, brilliant observation, pithy narration.
4.       The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood, published by Headline Review in 2016.
Massive feel-good factor from wonderfully quirky characters.
5.       A Song For Issy Bradley by Carys Bray, published by Hutchinson in 2014.
Wonderful characterisation, a sometimes humorous, enormously fascinating tear jerker.
6.       We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, published by Serpent's Tail in 2014.
So clever and I love the way Fowler tells a story.
7.       When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman, published by Headline Review in 2011.
One about rocky rides, growing up and older, and the power of love and relationships.
8.       The Devil’s Music by Jane Rusbridge, published by Bloomsbury in 2010.
Beautifully descriptive writing of characters dealing with different recollections of childhood.
9.       Crossing The Line by Christian Plowman, Published by Mainstream Publishing Company in 2013.
A superbly written auto-biographical account of undercover officer, Plowman's, torrid working life.
10.   The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson, published by Sceptre in 2014.
Does a transplanted heart bring a soul with it? Great question, great fiction narrated by three very different characters.
11.   Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown, published by Myriad Editions in 2009.
Life with an alcoholic mother told through the delicious voice of adorable (and humorous) 13 year old Jake.
12.   The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke, published by Piatkus in 2012.
Unlike anything I'd normally read and had me guessing right to the end.
13.   The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, published by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2013.
Couldn't put this down. What is the secret in the envelope: 'For my wife' and how on earth can this be resolved?
14.   The Things We Never Said, published by Simon & Schuster UK in 2013.
Hooked from the off – why on earth is Maggie in a 1960's mental asylum?
15.   The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue, published by Picador in 2012.
An unusual step into historical fiction for me, but with contemporary narration. Fascinating story based on truth.
16.   The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall, published by Legend Press in 2010.
A psychological drama based on love and loss. Characters I still remember today.
17.   The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer, published by The Borough Press in 2014.
Principally a book for teens but I devoured it. How Matthew, who suffers with schizophrenia, deals with his brother's death. Another emotional, humorous, life-affirming tale.
18.   Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson, published by Black Swan in 2012.
Gripped by the story and impressed by the brilliantly complicated premise.

My Highly Recommended (in alphabetical order)
  • A Barrow Boy's Cadenza (Kind Hearts and Martinets), by Pete Adams, published by Urbane Publications in June 2015.
  • All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, published by Faber & Faber in 2015.
  • Awful Auntie by David Walliams, published by Harper Collins Children's Books in 2016.
  • Christmas Cupcakes by Annie Rigg, published by Ryland Peters & Small in 2011.
  • Christmas Magic by Kate Shirazi, published by Pavilion Books in 2012.
  • Christmas with Gordon by Gordon Ramsay, published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd. in 2011.
  • Close of Play by PJ Whiteley, published by Urbane Publications in April 2015.
  • Cloud Riders by Nick Cook, published by Three Hares Publishing in 2014.
  • Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton, published by Bantam Press in 2016.
  • Dear Thing by Julie Cohen, published by Bantam Press in 2014.
  • Do No Harm by Henry Marsh, published by Phoenix in 2014.
  • Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, published by Penguin in 2014.
  • Feel the Fear (Ruby Redfort, book four) by Lauren Child, published by Harper Collins children's Books in 2015.
  • Flight by Isabel Ashdown, published by Myriad Editions in May 2015.
  • Gorgeous Christmas by Annie Bell, published by Kyle Cathie Limited in 2009.
  • How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury by Cressida Cowell, published by Hodder Children’s Books in 2015.
  • Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell, published by Tinder Press in 2013.
  • Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, published by Hodder Paperbacks in July 2015.
  • Little Gypsy by Roxy Freeman, published by Simon & Shuster UK in 2011.
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyles, Published by Penguin in 2012.
  • Mrs Sinclair's Secret by Louise Walters, published by Hodder Paperbacks in 2014.
  • On a Beam of Light, A Story by Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, published by Chronicle in 2013 (children's literature).
  • Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe, published by Viking in 2016 (Young Adult).
  • Please, Mister Postman by Alan Johnson, published by Corgi in 2015.
  • Rook by Jane Rusbridge, published by Bloomsbury Circus in 2012.
  • Salvage The Bones by Jesmyn Ward, published by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2012.
  • She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick, published by Indigo in 2014 (Young Adult).
  • Start With Your Sock Drawer by Vicky Silverthorn with Emma Cooling, published by Sphere in 2016.
  • Starter for Ten by David Nicholls, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2004. 
  • Stone Seeds by Jo Ely, published by Urbane Publications in 2016.
  • Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott, published by Black Dot Publishing in 2015.
  • Survivor by Tom Hoyle, published by Macmillan Children’s Books in 2015.
  • Sweet home by Carys Bray, published by Windmill Books in 2016.
  • The Brilliant & Forever by Kevin MacNeil, published by Polygon in 2016.
  • The Children Act by Ian McEwan, published by Vintage in April 2015.
  • The Fault in our Stars by John Green, published by Penguin in 2013 (Young Adult).
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, published by Abacus in 2014.
  • The Good Children by Roopa Farooki, published by Tinder Press in 2014.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, Published by Bloomsbury in 2008.
  • The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood, published by Bloomsbury in September 2015.
  • The Humans by Matt Haig, Published by Canongate Books in 2013.
  • The Idiot Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains What Your Head is Really Up To, by Dean Burnett, published by Guardian Faber Publishing in February 2016.
  • The Kindness by Polly Samson, published by Bloomsbury paperbacks in 2016. 
  • The Last of Us by Rob Ewing, published by the Borough Press in 2016.
  • The Life and Loves of a He Devil: A Memoir by Graham Norton, published by Hodder Paperbacks in July 2015.
  • The Little Book of Lunch, by Caroline Craig and Sophie Missing, published by Square Peg in 2014.
  • The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir by Lesley Allen, published by Twenty7 in 2016.
  • The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce, published by Transworld Books in 2014.
  • The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins, published by Black Swan in 2012.
  • The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’Farrell, published by Black Swan in 2012.
  • The Runaway Smile by Nicholas Rossis, published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing in 2014.
  • The Secrets We Left Behind by Susan Elliot Wright, published by Simon & Schuster in 2014.
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, published by Vintage Books in 2012.
  • The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, by Joanna Cannon, published by The Borough Press in 2016.
  • The Undertaking by Audrey Magee, published by Atlantic Books in 2014. .
  • The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year by Sue Townsend, published by Penguin in 2012.
  • The World According To Bob by James Bowen, published by Hodder and Stoughton in 2014.
  • Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food by Tom Kerridge, published by Absolute Press in 2013.
  • Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes, published by Arrow Books Ltd. in 2014.
  • Us by David Nicholls, published by Hodder Paperbacks in May 2015.
  • Vigilante by Shelley Harris, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in January 2015.
  • What On Earth Wallbook from The Big Bang to the Present Day, by Christopher Lloyd and Andy Forshaw, published by What On Earth Publishing Ltd., in 2015 (age 10+).


  1. Gosh I never realised I had read as many of your recommendations as I had! Looking through your top 18 I see I have read 11 of them, and quite a lot of the others as well. Just finished the "Brilliant and forever" actually which, although I wouldn't put it in my top 18 either I do think is brilliant in places and certainly very thought provoking, don't think I would ever have picked it up and read it without your reviewing it. Still have a few on my to be read pile that you have highlighted so perhaps it is a good thing you aren't reviewing any more to givee me chance to catch up. Well done anyway for the last five years, it has certainly made me read books that I am sure I wouldn't have done without your suggesting them to me. You can certainly take a well earned rest now though.:))

  2. Hi Lyn, I'm really chuffed you've read so many and I couldn't have put it better myself about Brilliant and Forever - a different kind of read which really stuck in my head. Happy reading!


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