Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Highlights of 2015



The Highlights, The Favourites and The Flops of 2015


I wanted to have this post ready to upload the morning after Hogmanay but I started the new year off with the mother of all head colds. I have been trying to fight off the cold since my little Niece lovingly shared it with me on Christmas day but it's gotten it's claws into me and is refusing to leave. As a result this post isn't just late but also shorter than I would like.

2015 wasn't a great year for me reading wise. I didn't find as many five star reads and a lot more of my reading choices were three stars or below compared to 2014. As a result my top books of 2015 are a lot easier to list than last year where I had quite a task to whittle my list down to just 10.

The latter part of 2015 was also a hectic time personally with a lot of family stuff going on that cut into my reading time. My daughter moved back home (all the extra washing, I'm drowning in dirty towels. Save me!) and my Mother-in-law has been very ill, we almost lost her at one point but thankfully things are on the up now though she still has a long ways to go to full recovery. I didn't reach my reading goals with so much going on but family always comes first.  I also took up tatting which I'm now totally addicted to and it cuts into my reading time too.

Before I go any further I want to say, Happy Hogmanay folks and many oh them. An' lang may yer lum reek!

Anyways enough rambling, time to talk books...

A few quick stats to start things off, they aren't 100% accurate as I still have a few books to rate and review from over the holiday period due to me being ill.

  • Books read - 145
  • 5 star reads - 23
  • 4 star reads - 42
  • 3 star reads - 35
  • 2 star reads - 14
  • 1 star reads - 24
  • Didn't finish - 13
  • Not rated - 6


Top Ten Favourites of 2015 or should I say top nine.

 

In order of date read rather than order of preference as they were all excellent reads in their own right.



1 - Nightfall Gardens (Nightfall Gardens #1) by Allen Houston (Click for review)

Unbeknown to Lily the Blackwood females are cursed, with her grandmother on her death bed, Lily is now the last female in the Blackwood line and her destiny awaits. Kidnapped by her Uncle, she is returned to Nightfall Manor to protect the world from the darkness, a darkness that holds all sorts of mythical beasts, fairy-tale nightmares and far worse. If Lily is unsuccessful the darkness and terror will be unleashed on the world outside the walls of Nightfall Gardens.

Nightfall Gardens is the first book in the Nightfall trilogy and is a wonderful, dark and imaginative tale. The author creates such an amazing spooky and gothic atmosphere full of all sorts of mythical and fairy-tale creatures. I devoured this book it was excellent. I would love to see this as a movie. It's been a while since I enjoyed a dark fantasy as much as I did this one. Nightfall Gardens was an easy 5 stars and was the first to make it to my 2015 favourites shelf.


2 - The Shadow Garden (Nightfall Gardens #2) by Allen Houston (Click for review)

The Shadow Garden is book two in the Nightfall Trilogy. Usually I find the middle book in a trilogy doesn't quite reach the level of enjoyment that I find in the first and last books, but with this one that was not the case. I moved onto book two as soon as I finished the first one and was pleased to see the same wonderful dark and gothic atmosphere is present in this one. The story was as imaginative, dark and full of wonders and horrors as the first one.


3 - The Labyrinth (Nightfall Gardens #3) by Allen Houston (Click for review)

The Labyrinth is the third book in the Nightfall Gardens trilogy and boy what a trilogy this was! I really can't do justice to how much fun and enjoyment that this trilogy brought me.  I don't think I have ever given 5 stars to every book in a single series, so doing so with Nightfall Gardens is a first for me, never mind all three making to to my favourites shelf. Two firsts!

On starting book one of this series I didn't realise just how much I would be drawn into the story and how everything else would be put on hold till they were finished. I read all three books in just over 3 days, I just couldn't put them down. I was fighting with myself the whole time, I wanted to put it down so it would last longer but I just couldn't stay away.

I would highly recommend this trilogy to those who like their fantasy on the dark side.


4 - Fire Girl by Matt Ralphs (Click for review)

Hazel who has been living in a beautiful magic glade has never ventured out into the real world but when her mother gets kidnapped that's exactly what she has to do. On her journey she comes across many scary people and demons and finds herself in some dangerous situations, but with her grumpy familiar by her side and a few friends she makes along the way, she's determined to save her mother.

 I had a lot of fun with this book. The interaction between Hazel and Bramley, her grumpy sarcastic little dormouse familiar, brought a smile to my face every time. The author creates a wonderful easily visualised world full of witches and demons, that has both a dark and sinister side to it but at the same time is full of adventure, love and promise. I can easily imagine a child being completely captivated by this story.

My immediate thought on finishing this book was that I hope there is going to be a sequel and I'm so pleased to see there will be. I also now want a grumpy little dormouse all of my own!


5 - PROTECTION by Kyle M. Scott (Click for review)

Celebrated author, James Kember, loves his son more than his own life. He'd do anything for him. Anything. He's made it his oath to protect eight year old Edward from the all the horrors of the world.  But something is coming for his little boy.
Something that watches.
And waits.
Something unimaginable.
Something inescapable.
Something that wants to carry his innocent child down into the darkness.
And it knows the way into their home...

Kyle Scott is one of my favourite authors, he writes the kind of horror that I grew up reading and that I still look for in every horror book that I pick up even now. He's one of the few authors who's books automatically go straight onto my to read pile without question.

I loved everything about this book. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough and the temptation to peek further down the page at times was almost too much to resist. The twists frustrated the hell out of me, in a good way. Each time I thought I knew what was going on, the author about turned and threw it all back in my face. Everything I thought I believed about the characters and all the feelings I had come to associate with that belief were all turned upside down.

Kyle did such a wonderful job playing on my fears and emotions and grabbing all my attention, that I was left feeling rather emotionally traumatised at how the story ended.


6 - Moving by Jenny Eclair (Click for review)

Edwina Spinner has lived in the same house for over fifty years. It used to be a busy, crowded family home but now Edwina lives alone and it has grown too big for her. She has decided to sell it.

The young estate agent who comes to value the house sees potential. Knock down a few walls, add a wet room. 'People like a project.' But as Edwina takes him from room to room, she is transported back to her old life as a young mother. Back to her first husband Ollie and their twins, James and Rowena. Back to lies and dark secrets and to a stepson whose name Edwina cannot even bear to speak aloud.

As Edwina's story unravels she is revealed as a complex and intriguing person. Not just the 'frail old lady' trapped in her dated house, but a woman who has lived an extraordinary life, full of love and tragedy. Why is she now so alone? What happened to Edwina's family all those years ago?

A house is such a personal space, we invest time and energy into making it our own, filling it with love, memories and personal items from our lives.  In Moving the author does a wonderful job of expressing just how attached we become to our house and how our memories are so intertwined with the different rooms and to the every day objects within.

The interaction between the characters and the history and personal stories behind their actions makes Moving a very enjoyable read. Things are not always what they seem and Moving takes you behind the scenes, giving you a glance at the deeper picture.


7 - Seeing Evil by Jason Parent (Click for review)

 Fate in plain sight.

Major Crimes Detective Samantha Reilly prefers to work alone—she’s seen as a maverick, and she still struggles privately with the death of her partner. The only person who ever sees her softer side is Michael Turcotte, a teenager she’s known since she rescued him eleven years ago from the aftermath of his parents’ murder-suicide.

In foster care since his parents’ death, Michael is a loner who tries to fly under the bullies’ radar, but a violent assault triggers a disturbing ability to view people’s dark futures. No one believes his first vision means anything, though—not even Sam Reilly. When reality mimics his prediction, however, Sam isn’t the only one to take notice. A strange girl named Tessa Masterson asks Michael about her future, and what he sees sends him back to Sam—is Tessa victim or perpetrator?

Tessa’s tangled secrets draw Michael and Sam inexorably into a deadly conflict. Sam relies on Michael, but his only advantage is the visions he never asked for. As they track a cold and calculating killer, one misstep could turn the hunters into prey.

Usually it's the characterisation that makes a book for me but everything about Seeing Evil was a hit. I was gripped from start to finish. The pacing was perfect, the writing was smooth and a pleasure to read, which resulted in me being up all night reading and finishing the book in one sitting.

Seeing Evil is no regular thriller. The storyline reveals the very real human side of horror and the psychological torture and abuse that humans are capable of, but at the same time it has a paranormal feel to it. It's full of chilling and disturbing scenes and the author has done an excellent job of portraying the darker side of human nature.

"I knew upon finishing that it was perhaps going to be one of my favourites of 2015 but it wasn't until I tried to read another book afterwards that I realised just how much I had enjoyed this one. I couldn't settle into another book, I kept finding myself thinking about the characters in this one. It took me trying 3 different books before I could find something where my mind wasn't wandering back to Seeing Evil while reading." And as you can see it's on the list. There was never any doubt!



8- Blood and Rain by Glenn Rolfe (Click for review)

The light of a full moon reveals many secrets.

Gilson Creek, Maine. A safe, rural community. Summer is here. School is out and the warm waters of Emerson Lake await. But one man’s terrible secret will unleash a nightmare straight off the silver screen.
Under the full moon, a night of terror and death re-awakens horrors long sleeping.

Sheriff Joe Fischer, a man fighting for the safety of his daughter, his sanity and his community, must confront the sins of his past. Can Sheriff Fischer set Gilson Creek free from the beast hiding in its shadows, or will a small town die under a curse it can’t even comprehend?

One night can—and will—change everything.

Blood and Rain has stand out character development and its packed full of horror and tension, with plenty of scenes that will have you cringing as you read. It has a very dark atmosphere at times and the forest scenes were done particularly well. I could visualise it easily... dark, rainy, sounds coming from every direction, something lurking close by ready to jump out any second. It really draws you in and keeps you on edge.

This is werewolves as they should be. They're not cute and fluffy, they don't remove their shirt every scene or stick their furry noses in unmentionable places. These are proper werewolves. They're scary, they're mean, they're violent and they're behind you! Only kidding. No, really... they're behind you...



9 - Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn (Click for review)

“Folks say Old Auntie takes a girl and keeps her fifty years—then lets her go and takes another one.”   Thirteen-year-old Daniel Anderson doesn’t believe Brody Mason’s crazy stories about the ghost witch who lives up on Brewster’s Hill with Bloody Bones, her man-eating razorback hog. He figures Brody’s probably just trying to scare him since he’s the new kid . . . a “stuck-up snot” from Connecticut. But Daniel’s seven-year-old sister Erica has become more and more withdrawn, talking to her lookalike doll. When she disappears into the woods one day, he knows something is terribly wrong. Did the witch strike? Has Erica been “took”?

Took is a ghost story aimed at the younger audience and is just creepy enough without it being too scary. It has the touch of a modern day Hansel and Gretel with a creepy doll thrown in for good measure.

This book has a great atmosphere and I can picture it grabbing a child's imagination very easily. It strikes me as a book that they will remember fondly when they grow up and will probably find themselves looking for the scares this created in their young minds in future horror books when they are older.

I wish books like this were more readily available when my own children were younger, it's a great introduction to the more creepy and scary side of fiction for younger readers and they would have loved it.

Definitely one I would recommend. But beware, if you venture out into the woods you may find Bloody Bones on your trail.




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So that's my top books of 2015. Now for the biggest flop of the year. I read a few right stinkers this year so there was quite a few flops to choose from but... drum roll...

The award for the biggest flop of 2015 goes to...


The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne (Click for review)

I had to give up on this one. I just couldn't take it anymore. I have never before felt like throwing my kindle across the room in frustration, but this book had me wanting to do just that.

It's a shame because the premise sounded so interesting and I think without all the problems, I could have really enjoyed it. Instead I found myself getting more and more frustrated with every paragraph. Eventually I just threw my kindle down in disgust. I was at the point of thinking to myself... If I see one more *#!$*#! dash, colon or semi-colon, I swear I'm going to hit something.

A few examples (see full for review for more):

They'd spent an epic weekend drinking too much, laughing too much, being obnoxious and loud, annoying the locals - and having enormous fun. They'd sculled back from the Selkie in the sweet, violet, Scottish summer gloaming: the twilight that never went totally black. Seals had emerged: perpendicular, and observing them. 'Junkie overboard' was born from on spectacularly intoxicated episode, when Josh, completely mashed on Ecstasy, had tried to embrace one of these seals, then fallen in the cold black water - at maybe 11 p.m.

Angus pressed on: "So, you mentioned, on the phone, the tides. This afternoon?" Josh glanced at the receding sea, then back at Angus. "I emailed you a link earlier: official Mallaig tide tables, with all the details." "Haven't had a chance to check: on the go since breakfast."

Then there are the cases where the author just throws in information in a totally random way...

"The cool sunny wind tousled his ginger Jewish hair."
Is ginger Jewish hair different from normal ginger hair? Or is just his hair Jewish and the rest of him something else? Or is he Jewish? What is the author saying here? I am guessing this is their way of letting me know the character is Jewish and if that is the case, why not just tell me he's Jewish?

The most frustrating book of the year!

 
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So there you have it, my year in books.

I want to say thank you to all my fellow bibliophiles, you have introduced me to many great new authors and books that I wouldn't have found without you.  I've had lots of fun talking books and getting to know you all. Here's to another year filled with lots more of the same!

I hope you all have a year full of wonderful reads ahead of you.

May the books be with you,
Scarlet.
x









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