Well it’s the last month of the year, which I can’t quite believe. This month I’ve been enjoying some seasonal read and working my way through my Netgalley approvals. I’ve been strict and highly selective about any requests so have only added three books to my list this month. I’ve enjoyed reading the wintry books and I think The Toymakers and The Snow Child are ones I could happily read every year in a new tradition and are ones I’d highly recommend any time of year but are perfect for the cold nights of December.
It’s been another great month in terms of numbers and I’ve managed to read 14 books this month. Something that surprised me with how busy this time of year is. I read eight books from Netgalley, one that was sent to me by the publisher and then four others. I bought a three month Kindle Unlimited subscription for just £1.99 this month which has also come in handy. I’ve read six of the nine titles that I planned to read and have read mostly historical fiction and thrillers this month, not really surprising when you consider they’re my favourite genres.
So here’s what I’ve read in December:
1. ‘Unraveling Oliver’ by Liz Nugent ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was a book I predicted would be a 5-star read but it ended up being 4 stars. This was because although I loved the way it was written and I was gripped by the book as soon as I began reading, I found the second half of the book disappointing. A good thriller that didn’t quite live up to expectations.
2. ‘Blackberry and Wild Rose’ by Sonia Velton ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This debut piece of historical fiction was a joy to read. I was transported to the 18th century by the author for this story of how silk-weaver’s wife Esther Thorel saves Sara Kemp from a brothel and hires her to be her ladies maid. The two women have a tumultuous relationship with Sara feeling anger at her lady’s pious hypocrisy and Ethel thinking Sara should be more thankful.This multi-layered novel follows them from their first meeting as events spiral out of control to a dramatic conclusion. My review for this book will be published on it’s release date.
Out January 10th. My review will be published on the release date.
3. ‘Let Me Lie’ by Clare Mackintosh ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I’d heard a lot about this author and her books came highly recommended but this was my first time reading one of her books. It won’t be my last. This sensational psychological thriller was impossible to put down. It kept it’s sense of foreboding throughout but also dealt sensitively with the difficult topics of grief, death by suicide and mental illness. The characters were well written and when the truth of the story was revealed it changed everything I thought I knew and I was in awe at the talent of the author and her ability to keep the shocks coming until the final page.
Out December 27th.
4. ‘The Toymakers’ by Robert Dinsdale ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was a magical and mesmerising story of childhood, sibling rivalry, jealousy, love, family, war and of the power of magic. Especially the ordinary kind. I loved the scenes in the Emporium and felt like one of the children watching in awe as the toys came to life when reading. This is a five-star book that everyone should read.
5. ‘Her Pretty Bones’ by Carla Kovach ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The third book in the Detective Gina Harte was every bit as heart-stopping as the others. This time the detective and her team are searching for whoever is taking and killing redheaded teenage girls. Meanwhile a girl is being forced to care for a sick woman in horrendous conditions. Are the two cases related? Will the girl be able to escape with her tragic charge? And will Gina get to the killer before more girls are taken? If you haven’t read this crime series then it’s time to start.
Out January 17th
6. ‘The Long Song’ by Andrea Levy⭐⭐⭐⭐
This story about July, a slave girl born on a Jamaican sugar plantation named Amity was first published in 2010 and was recently adapted for the BBC. July is taken from her mother as a young girl when the master’s sister, Caroline, takes a liking to her and decides to train her up as her lady’s maid. July also becomes someone Caroline relies on which leaves her envied by the other workers. The novel is set during the last years of slavery and during the Baptist War. It tells of the workers’ fight for freedom, their joy when it is granted and the difficulties they face as free men and women as their former masters assert whatever control they can. This book is not an easy read, but it is an important one and taught me a lot about the history of slavery in British Colonies.
7. ‘The Fourth Monkey’ by J. D. Barker ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The first in the 4MK series this astonishing thriller was one of the best thriller reads I’ve read this year. The Four Monkey Killer has been terrorising Chicago and eluding Detective Sam Porter for five years when he is killed in a traffic accident on his way to deliver another message. The race is on to find his final victim before it’s too late and uncover the killer’s identity. The ending had me relieved I had book two to read immediately because I could not wait to see what happened next.
8. ‘The Fifth to Die’ by J. D. Barker ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The 4MK is back in this gripping thriller. Sam and his team have been taken off the 4MK case and are chasing a new killer who kidnaps and tortures teenage girls. But Sam can’t let go of 4MK and risks everything to chase him when the killer sends him a message. When the book ended I was screaming “It can’t end like that!” This is a crime series not to be missed but with a tortuous wait until book three.
9. ‘The Winter’s Child’ by Cassandra Parkin ⭐⭐⭐
Five years ago Susannah Harper’s son Joel went missing. Ever since she’s been consumed by her search for him and lost her marriage in the process. When she is told by a clairvoyant that Joel will return to her on Christmas Eve Susannah clings to the prediction and her life spirals out of control as she alienates her family and begins to experience terrifying hallucinations. Told in the present day and flashbacks to life before Joel’s disappearance, we see how Susannah’s marriage was full of division since he was born and her approach to parenting made things worse Joel when he started using drugs and skipping school. A heartbreaking story of a mother’s love for her child that was an enjoyable read but lacked the level of suspense it needed.
10. ‘Outside’ by Sarah Ann Juckes ⭐⭐⭐
This debut novel was a dark, twisted tale of abuse, yet also one of strength, resilience and triumph. Ele doesn’t remember living anywhere but the single room she shares with the Others, who aren’t quite like her and talk in their own language. Her brother Zeb used to live their too but was taken away by Him, who holds them all captive. She is sure that Outside exists but must convince the Others so that they can all escape.
Out January 3rd.
11 ‘The Snow Child’ by Eowyn Ivey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This timeless book was mesmerising, magical and heartwarming. Set in Alaska in 1920 it is the story of Jack and Mabel, a childless couple who find they are growing apart since their move to the brutal north. On a night of rare playfulness they decide to build a snow child, carefully crafting her features and giving her Mabel’s scarf and mittens. The next day the snow child is gone and Jack glimpses a girl in the woods. The next day Mabel sees this mysterious, ethereal, feral and wild girl who calls herself Faina and she eventually becomes a surrogate daughter to them. But no one else ever sees her and they start to think the couple has gone mad with cabin fever. You aren’t sure if Faina is real or a manifestation of their dreams come true in this beautiful book. A classic that feel like it was written many years ago, this book captured my heart and soul and is one of my top reads this year.
12. ‘The Pupil’ by Dawn Goodwin ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This unputdownable and exciting thriller tells of a web of dreams, secrets, lies, heartbreak, control and vengeance. When aspiring writer Katherine accepts bestselling novelist Samuel Morton’s offer to continue mentoring her after attending a week long course, she has no idea how the decision will tear apart their lives and force her to face her biggest mistake.
13. ‘The Passengers’ by John Marrs ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Set in the not too distant future where driverless cars are not only possible, but just a few year away from being mandatory, this fast paced thriller will have you on the edge of your seat. Eight people are in their driverless cars going to their various destinations when The Hacker takes control, reroutes their cars and tells them they will likely be dead in two and a half hours. A jury that was supposed to be judging if deaths by driverless cars had been lawful or unlawful, along with the public via social media, are told they must decide who dies first and which passenger will be spared. But how do they make such a decision? And do they really know the truth about the people hoping to be saved?
Out on Kindle April 1st, and in Paperback May 30th.
14. ‘The Illumination of Ursula Flight’ by Anna-Marie Crowhhurst ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Born on the night of a bad-luck comet, Ursula Flight is a precocious child who loves to learn. She dreams of being a playwright and puts on plays that she’s written with her friends in the woods. But at just 15 years old she is devastated to learn she must marry and give up her aspirations, now living with a husband in a loveless marriage where women reading, stargazing and writing is frowned upon. Ursula will never be content with a sober and tedious life so when she comes upon the chance for excitement and the chance to finally be herself she seizes is. But this is not your traditional happy ever after book and that isn’t the end of Ursula’s story. This book is a hilarious,thrilling, bawdy romp and gives us a new feminist literary heroine.
Out January 3rd. My review will be published on January 16th as part of the blog tour.
So there it is. I’ve read some fantastic books this month and am happy to finish the year on a high note.
It was particularly hard to select a favourite book this month as ‘The Toymakers’, ‘The Snow Child’ and ‘The Illumination of Ursula Flight’ were all so incredible. I think I have to choose ‘The Illumination of Ursula Flight’ as my book of the month though because it was just such a fun read and she’s such a fabulous character.
Have you read any of these books or are any on your TBR list? How many books have you read this month? Comment below.
Thank you to Atlantic Books for my copy of ‘The Illumination of Ursula Flight’ and to NetGalley and the publishers for my copies of ‘Blackberry and Wild Rose’, ‘Let Me Lie’, ‘Her Pretty Bones’, ‘The Long Song’, ‘The Pupil’ and ‘The Passengers’.