Five of the Best!

FIVE 5-STAR READS
JANUARY

SMILEYS

Cleo from Cleopatra Loves Books came up with the brilliant idea of looking back over her reviews of the last five years and picking out her favourite books of the month from each year. She kindly agreed to let me borrow her idea (which saved me from stealing it!). I was a bit later in starting reviewing than Cleo, really getting properly underway in about April/May of 2011, so for the first few months I might have to be a bit creative in my 2011 selections.

So here are my favourite January reads…click on the covers to go to the full reviews, though it must be said my early reviews were somewhat basic…

 

2011

 

broomsticks over flaxboroughNo reviews in January 2011, so here’s one from May 2010. I have loved the Flaxborough Chronicles since my teens and Broomsticks over Flaxborough is my favourite – as always, Colin Watson pulls back the respectable net curtains of the town of Flaxborough to let us see the wickedness behind. In this case, we are treated to a coven of middle-aged, middle-class, sex-obsessed Satanists, nicely contrasted with the ‘Lucys’, a superclean team of door-to-door marketers selling soap powder. These books could be cosies were it not for the vein of sly humour that runs through them, giving them a distinct edge and making them wonderfully enjoyable reads.

 

2012

 

dead scaredThe second instalment of Bolton’s Lacey Flint series, and perhaps my favourite. The plot about a spate of students committing suicide couldn’t be much darker, and there are bits that are very unsettling and downright creepy. Having been unsure about Lacey’s character in the first book, Now You See Me, I felt in this one she had become more open and much more likeable, less of a loner and now with a sense of humour and considerably less angst – all to the good. A great entry in a great series.

 

 

2013

 

brooklynThis book, set in the 1950s, takes us from small town Ireland to Brooklyn, in the company of Eilis Lacey, a young girl forced into economic migration through lack of employment and the expectations of her family. This was the second of Tóibín’s books that I read, after the astonishing The Testament of Mary, and confirmed his place as one of my favourite writers. His prose is beautiful, and his small, quiet plots allow his characters to become utterly real. A writer who never fails to move me deeply.

 

 

2014

 

the papers of tony veitchTony Veitch has disappeared and it seems like half the city is looking for him. Laidlaw’s one of the searchers. Tony’s name has come up in connection with Eck Adamson, a drunk and down-and-out, now dead; and it seems Laidlaw’s the only man who cares. McIavanney’s use of language is superb, particularly the way he catches the tones and patterns of Glasgow dialect. Glasgow, as the sum of its people good and bad, is the character that is at the heart of the book and McIlvanney makes us weep and rejoice for it in equal measure. A love letter from a man who sees the violence and darkness of the city, but also sees it as a place of courage and heart and humour – and ultimately integrity.

 

2015

 

lamentationHenry’s last Queen, Catherine Parr, has written a book describing her spiritual journey to believing that salvation can be found only through study of the Bible and the love of Christ, rather than through the traditional rites of the Church. Not quite heretical, but close enough to be used against her by the traditionalists. So when the book is stolen, Catherine calls on the loyalty of her old acquaintance, Matthew Shardlake, to find it and save her from becoming another of Henry’s victims. The most recent entry in the Shardlake series is also the best – the fiction is woven seamlessly into the fact, and the picture that Sansom paints of the last days of Henry VIII’s reign is both authentic and terrifying.

 

If you haven’t already seen Cleo’s selection for January, why not pop on over? Here’s the link…

60 thoughts on “Five of the Best!

  1. A great idea! I must admit the only one I don’t remember is the one from 2012. (The one before in Flaxborough doesn’t count, though it has me thinking of Foxborough now.)

    Haven’t the smileys really gotten ugly? The detail is all gone! It’s a shame.

    The Ice Princess?!

  2. So good to see your selection and thanks for the link.
    I began sorting my February selections and it is interesting to see one of your choices here I read in the following month. You’ll have to contain your excitement to find out which one ;-).
    I must read Laidlaw that I downloaded months ago at your suggestion!

    • A brilliant idea – thanks! I really enjoyed looking back and it was quite hard in some years to decide which one to pick. January’s always a pretty good month with all the big Christmas releases. Ooh, I wonder which it will be – I haven’t looked at Feb yet. And yes, look, Marina’s recommending Laidlaw too, so you must…!

    • I was surprised to find that I did – I really thought I’d only been reviewing for 3 years or so. So many reviews! The looking back was great fun – though it showed mostly that my tastes haven’t changed at all in the last 5 years…

  3. What a super idea, well done Cleo for coming up with it and to you for recognising its brilliance! The Flaxborough one sounds brilliant, I must say. The ‘Lucys’ sounds great – wonderfully named, certainly 😉 . This is a cheerful way to start my week, thank you 😀

  4. I love your choices, FictionFan! Sansom has a lot of talent – not surprised to find one of his releases here. And some of Bolton’s work is terrific too. And how could you not put a Laidlaw in there? I really like the variety in what you’ve chosen too.

    • I really enjoyed looking back and finding so many great reads – and am looking forward to doing it for the other months. A brilliant idea of Cleo’s! And January’s always a good month with all the big Christmas releases…

  5. This is fun. The only one I’ve read is DEAD SCARED. Oh, I loved that one. Well, I’ve loved all the Lacey Flint books, but I liked the academic setting of this book.

  6. Flaxborough, Laidlaw, a Toibin – and Sansom is going to be my this year’s reading project. Still haven’t got round to the Laceys tho’ – I’ve been stuck in fantasy-land since November. (I blame Zalazney).

    • You should have a reading plan – like me! It doesn’t make me read a wider range, but it does leave me a nice satisfying feeling of guilt… I do hope you enjoy the Sansoms – if I get a chance I’d like to go back and re-read some of the earlier ones.

    • Yes, a great idea of Cleo’s. It was great fun looking back at all these books from years ago, though some of them I hadn’t realised it had been so long… How time flies, eh? (That’s my original thought for the day…)

  7. What a wonderful idea! It’s made me want to peek through my reviews to discover some old favorites, if I could only find the time! (It also reminded me that I’ve been meaning to check Colm Tóibín out…)

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