My Top 10 Books of 2015

For December, I’m taking a break from reviewing books. I’ve not stopped reading them, but in recent weeks, I’ve felt myself being a touch too critical of perfectly good books.


With that in mind, I’ve decided to follow the tradition that every other media outlet follows in December. Regurgitating old opinion, dusting off old content, covering it in a sprinkle of glitter and presenting it as a ‘Review of the Year’


Here are my Top 10 books of 2015 – there’s even some new content in here not previously on my blog!


  1. The One In a Million Boy by Monica Wood


This charming tale hasn’t been published yet, but the hardback is coming in April 2016, and it’s definitely one to keep an eye out for. My review when I first read it back in October comes across more critical than it should – but only because of the impossibly high standards I expect of books that are sent to me from the delightful @PublicityBooks at Headline publishing. More about her later.


  1. Losing It by Helen Lederer


I have a rule about the reviews I put on my blog. To avoid being accused of any kind of bias, if I’ve socially spent time with, or am in regular contact with an author then I don’t review their books. But that doesn’t mean I don’t read them.


This novel from funny-woman Helen Lederer about a middle-aged writer whose life seems to have stalled, while the lives of those around her flourish is the only book this year to make me snort with laughter on the underground, so earns it’s place on this list.


  1. Nothing But Trouble by Matt Cain


Another title – and the last – on the countdown that didn’t get a review of it’s own on the blog this year, but this look at the glamorous behind the scenes goings-on of popstar Lola Grant is funny and sexy as well as being so well-written, that I was shouting at the character’s as they made some dubious decisions. There was a strong anti-drugs streak through it and the main character as well, which is not the obvious route to go with a book like this.


  1. The Secrets We Keep by Jonathan Harvey


This is another one that I feel looking back I was too harsh on in my review. The acid tongue of Lynda La Hughes mixed with the plot twists of Coronation Street, what’s not to love? A pacy plot mixed with characters you actually care about makes up for the ever so slightly frustrating ending.


  1. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh


I’ve never been to New Orleans, but this book made me feel as if I had. You can feel the humidity coming off the page and it’s that sense of place that really helps this coming-of-age story succeed.


  1. the long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers


This science fiction novel is like somebody decided to make a list of all the things needed to make a successful mix of Douglas Adams, Red Dwarf and Star Trek – but it works. A compelling cast of characters means not only do I want another book, but I want a TV series. The upcoming Star Trek television revival, would do well to have a look at the rough nature of life in space represented here.


  1. Moving by Jenny Eclair


I liked this more than I ever thought I would, and it’s only as I write this and consider the upcoming books in the list, that I realise it’s because it’s the story of someone’s life. There’s something incredibly voyeuristic to think that come the end of the book, only one person knows the truth about everything, and that’s us, the reader. What makes this book even better is that despite Eclair’s unique personality, she manages to reign it in, giving the character’s their own distinctive voices.


  1. I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh


I nearly gave up on this book, despite it being well written, it seemed to be meandering early on. Then there’s a development that I wasn’t expecting and it shoots the book off into a completely different direction. Well worth a read.


  1. A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale


I read this almost a year ago now, a copy of the book sent to me by @PublicityBooks – and I didn’t regret it. Harry Cane (not the footballer currently playing for Tottenham Hotspur) is a Victorian gent whose life is changed when he discovers the pleasures that other Victorian gents have to offer.


Like Moving, you’re fully invested in the characters, and like My Sunshine Away has a wonderful sense of place. An amazing book with a great cast of characters, this will be appearing in a lot of people’s best books of 2015 – not least the Costa Book prize who have shortlisted it in Novel category, the winner of which will be announced on 2nd January.


  1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara


There’s really not much more I can say about this book and I don’t think it will have come as any surprise to anyone that I’ve placed this at the top of the list. I’ll be re-reading it again soon, but the biggest pleasure I’ve gained from this book, is the sense of community it has engendered with other people who have read this book.


There’s a knowing look, a smile and a sympathetic pat on the back.


I always considered myself to be dead on the inside, but A Little Life had be sobbing like a child. If you don’t even squeeze out one tear while reading the ending of this, then you truly are emotionally dead.

My Sunshine Away by M. O. Walsh

Sometimes I read a book that I really enjoy and it’s difficult to be able to say why exactly I enjoyed it.

My Sunshine Away is one of those books.

A young man tells us the story of a girl in his neighbourhood who was raped, a girl that he had become obsessed with. One who he continues to be obsessed with long after her rape.

The boy live with his mother, he has two older sisters who live away from home and an absentee dad. Lindy lives across the road from our storyteller and he tells us he first fell in love with her at the age of seven. Seven years later, she is raped and seemingly everyone’s a suspect, including our boy.

I’m referring to him as ‘boy’ and ‘storyteller’ because the truth is we never actually learn his name. He never refers to himself, and nor do any of the other characters.

I find it an odd choice to leave him nameless. The only thing I can imagine is to try and make the reader feel like that they are themselves the centre of the story. If you’ve ever been an adolescent boy, it’s very easy to put yourself at the centre of this story, named or not. If you’ve never been an adolescent boy, then I would imagine it’s just as easy (or difficult) to understand as it would be if he had a name.

Name issue aside, it was an easy book for me to get into, the atmosphere of a child growing up in a small town near New Orleans was wonderfully vivid, you could almost feel the heat of summer coming off the page and the characters were all well drawn.

The characters all felt so real, which is to the book’s merit, because this isn’t really about the rape, or our boy’s growing obsession. It’s a coming of age story, realising that the world is not so innocent after all, and that we can’t stay nestled in the safety of childhood.

It’s a piece about characters, but more than that, because although the plot is secondary to the character development, there is still a plot there – which some character pieces seem to forget about.

One colleague of mine – one who I feel doesn’t really get books – described the book as ‘tangent rape’ – for the reason that the book centres around a rape, but the narrator goes off on tangents describing events from the neighbourhood that help to explain what’s going on.

From talking to her, she wants a book that goes from Plot Point A to Plot Point B that has a very defined bad guy and doesn’t deviate from the action. What she has failed to realise is the subtlety of a book like My Sunshine Away.

The tangents help to slowly build a foundation for this world that our characters inhabit, so that when the plot developments come they feel natural, understandable, and while that means they lose the initial surprise factor they somehow become more shocking, more impactful.

We feel like all the other residents of the neighbourhood do. How could we not have known? Why didn’t we realise? All the signs were there.

Definitely worth a read – but if you’re after action scene after action, this may not be the best book for you. Pop and see a film instead.