Archive for the ‘psychological thriller’ Tag

Best Books of 2019

At the beginning of each new year, I like to look back at the books I read in the previous one and highlight the ones I considered the best.

In 2019 I set a Goodreads challenge to read 70 books. I actually managed 72. Eight of those I gave a five-star rating to, and they are as follows:

The Woman in Black – Susan Hill
The Island of Doctor Moreau – HG Wells
The Trespasser – Tana French
The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher
The Fifth Elephant – Terry Pratchett
Carpe Jugulum – Terry Pratchett
The Secretary – Renee Knight
The Memory – Lucy Dawson

This year’s list is considerably more eclectic than usual, as it features two horror novels, two psychological thrillers, two comic fantasy, one crime novel and one non-fiction book. Further details about each book can be found below.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK
My horror book club had this one as a discussion book. One of those books I thought I’d already read, because the story was familiar, when I sat down to read it I discovered I hadn’t. It’s a classic creepy ghost story, of the sort of calibre that is rare.

THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Another one I read because the book club had it on its list. My only knowledge of this beforehand had been a Hallowe’en episode of ‘The Simpsons’ that parodied it. Part science fiction, part horror, a young man ends up shipwrecked on an island where he discovers the mysterious Dr Moreau is doing genetic experiments on animals to make them more human. Something of an undiscovered classic, for me, but I am glad I read it.

THE TRESPASSER
Book 6 in Tana French’s ‘The Murder Squad’ series had me utterly gripped. I haven’t been following this series chronologically, but I really should because every time I read one of them I really enjoy it.

THE PRINCESS DIARIST
I felt genuine grief when Carrie Fisher died. Although I never knew her, as Princess Leia she’d been a big part of my life. This biographical book deals with the affair she had with Harrison Ford during the filming of the first ‘Star Wars’ film. She was 19, and rather naive and inexperienced – he was 34, married, and really should have known better.

The Carrie Fisher we have come to know and love over the years is a survivor – witty, blunt, and down to earth, but reading this book you are reminded of how she really has been to hell and back, and come out the other side. Her writing is engaging and witty, but reading this also made me sad because it reminded me how much we lost when Carrie Fisher left us.

THE FIFTH ELEPHANT
I have been re-reading all the Discworld books in chronological order and this one, as with the previous one, I gave a five-star rating to. This is one featuring Sam Vimes, and seems to be a social comment on Brexit. Which seems oddly prophetic, as it was written years before Brexit even became a thing.

CARPE JUGULUM
This Discworld book mostly features the Witches, who I love. But it’s also the first to feature vampires. I really enjoyed it.

THE SECRETARY
I was sent this book to review for Shots e-zine, and there is a link to my review above. Maybe it’s because I work as a secretary in the day job, but I found this psychological thriller about a secretary whose misplaced loyalty to her boss causes her to lose her family and her integrity unputdownable.

THE MEMORY
This is a psychological thriller involving two families. Events that happened years ago have far-reaching effects that encroach into present day, and as is the norm with psychological thrillers, nothing is as it seems.

For this year, I’ve decided to play it safe and aim to read 70 books again. Most of my reading is done on my commute to and from work, but for 2020 I am trying to make a point of going to bed early to read a few pages before sleep, as well.

If you’ve set yourself a reading target, do get in touch. And if anyone wants to connect with me on Goodreads, you can find me here.

Happy reading, fellow book-lovers! Whatever you choose to read this year, I hope you discover new worlds and new heroes.

Best Books of 2018

(Cross posted on the WriteClub blog)

Once more it’s time for me to review the books I read in the previous year and blog about the ones I liked the best. My criteria for this is quite simple. I log all the books I read on Goodreads, and those I give a 5-star rating make my ‘best books’ list.

In 2018 I set a goal of reading 70 books. I fell a bit short of that, managing to complete 68 books before the year ended. However, there was an unusually high number of books I gave a 5-star rating to last year. Seven have made the list. In the order in which I read them, they are:

Ready Player One: Ernest Kline
Everything is Lies: Helen Callaghan
Y is for Yesterday: Sue Grafton
Cross Her Heart: Sarah Pinborough
The Roanoke Girls: Amy Engle
If She Did It: Jessica Treadway
Tombland: CJ Sansom

This list includes one science fiction book, two crime novels (both sort of historical, but one decidedly so), and four psychological thrillers. Further details on each book can be found below.

Ready Player One

The only science fiction book on my list, this is a novel that was recommended to me and when I went to buy it on Kindle I discovered my husband had already bought the Kindle version – we have linked our accounts, so we can each access books bought by the other. Someone else had recommended it to him, completely independently. We both read the book, loved it, recommended it to our D&D group and then when the film came out a couple of months later we all went to see it together.

Set in a dystopian near-future, where everyone escapes their appalling reality by spending all of their time in an idyllic Virtual Reality universe, part of what makes ‘Ready Player One’ so enjoyable are all the references to 80s pop culture. Anyone who grew up watching films, playing video games and playing D&D in the 1980s will recognise all the references.

The film is quite different from the book, but equally enjoyable. If you saw and loved the film, do yourself a favour and read the book as well.

Everything is Lies

In my review of ‘Everything is Lies’ I described it as ‘a near-perfect psychological thriller’. Helen Callaghan is a member of my writing group, and it’s so lovely to be able to watch an author grow and develop in their craft, and eventually produce something of this calibre.

This the first of several psychological thrillers in my list. It’s a genre that is in danger of being overexploited. To be able to do one this well, in such a crowded market, is exceptional.

Y is For Yesterday

I was given this book for Christmas in 2017, and I had no idea then that it would prove to be the last Sue Grafton book ever. She sadly passed away not long after, and her family announced they would not be finishing the series on her behalf.

I’ve been reading the Kinsey Millhone series for decades, and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. Because I had this one in hardback, therefore making it difficult to carry around with me, I read it when I was confined at home recuperating from surgery in February 2018. The fact that it was Kinsey Milhone’s last case added extra poignancy, but it was an outstanding story. I have a great deal of admiration for a writer who had 25 books in the same series published, and there was never any drop in quality. Ms Grafton left us too soon, and she is greatly missed.

Cross Her Heart

Sarah Pinborough made my list last year with ‘Behind Her Eyes’. This year I read the next psychological thriller she brought out, and while the twist ending is perhaps not as legendary as BHE, this is still an excellently written novel that had me gripped to the end.

The Roanoke Girls

Everyone had been raving about this book, so I thought it was about time I got around to reading it. It’s a psychological thriller about a family that produces extraordinarily beautiful young women, but there’s a dark secret running through it.

It’s not exactly a happy read, but it stayed with me for a long time after I read it, and it’s rare for books to do that. You can read my review on Goodreads here.

If she Did It

Yet another psychological thriller, this is a story told from the point of view of Hanna, mother of two daughters. Three years on from a brutal attack that killed her husband and left her disfigured, Hanna is still trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Her youngest daughter’s boyfriend was arrested and found guilty of the attack. Hanna can’t remember exactly what happened the night of the attack, but is fixated with finding out. Because she finds herself entertaining the unthinkable suspicion that her daughter was somehow involved.

Again, this is a somewhat disturbing read, but it had me gripped. Find my full review here.

Tombland

The latest book in the Matthew Shardlake series is the most epic yet – spanning 850 pages and dealing with the peasants’ revolt in Norwich in 1549.

I really hope that this isn’t the last Shardlake book, but I understand that CJ Sansom has cancer. This illness has taken far too many fine writers from us in recent years.

This concludes my list of recommended reads for 2018 – those books that I thought stood out above all the rest I read throughout the year. This year, I’ve once again set the bar at reading 70 books. I have high hopes that I will make my target this year.