Five of the Best!



Each month this year, I’ll be looking back over my reviews of the past five years and picking out my favourite from each year. Cleo from Cleopatra Loves Books came up with this brilliant idea and kindly agreed to let me borrow 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 March reads…click on the covers to go to the full reviews, though it must be said my early reviews were somewhat basic…




The BurningThis is the first in the Maeve Kerrigan series, though not Jane Casey’s first book. I loved Maeve as soon as we met her – an ambitious young police officer who gets on well with her colleagues and has a great sense of humour. Josh Derwent, who has grown into a major character as the series has progressed, is just one of the team in this book. The real male lead is the lovely Rob, and the budding romance between Maeve and him is handled beautifully. Ah, Rob! I’m worried that it’s all beginning to go horribly wrong between you and Maeve – can’t wait for the next book (After the Fire – due out on 18th June) to find out. Jane Casey has established herself as one of my must-read-on-publication-day-if-not-before authors, and it’s a double treat this year, since her third in the YA Jess Tennant series is due out in August.




Charles Dickens Theatre CallowI adored this superbly readable and affectionate account of the great man’s life, viewing it from the perspective of how Dickens’ love for the world of the theatre influenced his life and work. Interspersed generously with Dickens’ own words, taken from his correspondence with friends, we get a real feel for his massive personality, his sense of fun, his unstoppable energy and, yes, his occasional pomposity too.

Who better to write such a book than Simon Callow, who has played Dickens so superbly on stage in his one man show? An exuberant and boisterous biography, and a fitting tribute to the affection Callow has for the man and his works.




fallen landIn this extraordinary book, Flanery delves deep into the troubled American psyche in the post 9/11, post global crash world where the tectonic plates of certainty and complacency have shifted with volcanic and destructive results. Part terrifying psychological thriller/part wonderful literary novel, this book inspired me to start blogging so I could rave about it, won the FF Book of the Year Award for 2013, and my declaration that it should be nominated as the Great American Novel for this decade started off the GAN Quest! So it would be surprising if it didn’t appear as the best of March 2013, really, wouldn’t it? What do you mean you still haven’t read it? Why not???




the martian coverAfter an accident during a dust storm, Mark Watney finds himself alone on Mars. His colleagues in the Ares 3 expedition believed he was dead and were forced to evacuate the planet while they still could. The communications system was broken in the storm so Mark can’t let anyone know he’s alive. And it’s four years till the next scheduled mission to Mars. I loved this book – more old-fashioned adventure story than sci-fi, really, with a wonderfully likeable protagonist, tons of humour, and a brilliantly depicted setting on the surface of Mars. Can’t wait for the film, nor to see what Andy Weir comes up with next…




The Shut EyeBelinda Bauer is another of the more recent additions to my must-read list, and her latest novel lived up to my expectations. Little Daniel Buck ran out of his house one morning four months ago and has never been seen since. Edie Evans was older when she went missing several months earlier, nearly a teenager, but the signs are even more sinister in her case, since blood was found beside her broken and abandoned bicycle. Edie’s case still haunts DCI John Marvel, especially since he has convinced himself that she is still alive. Always well plotted, and with great characterisation, what I love most about Bauer’s books is the way she uses some pretty black humour to lift the tone of even the grimmest storylines. Clicking on the cover for this one will take you through to the Petrona Remembered blog, where my review can be found along with a host of great recommendations from other bloggers.


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

51 thoughts on “Five of the Best!

  1. I think I would read The Shut Eye first and then work my way down the list. The titles and the blurbs make me put down the book I am editing and start reading.


    • I loved it! It’s not a great big heavy biography although it’s clearly well researched. But Callow loves Dickens’ books and his readings, and that shines through, making it a really uplifting read somehow… 🙂


  2. Oh, these are great choices, FictionFan! I agree with you that the Maeve Kerrigan series is terrific, and I do like her character very much. I like the way Derwent has evolved, too. And you’ve reminded me that I want to read the Flanery. Must find a way to wedge it in to the TBR!


    • I don’t think she intended for Derwent to become such an important character in the beginning, but reacted to the feedback she got from readers which is rather fun. And I think you’d enjoy the Flanery – I’d love to hear what you think of it, if you ever get a chance to fit it in.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. *laughs* You read a YA series?! *laughs more and more*

    The Martian! And full of great swear words, you forgot to mention. Is he planning on writing a sequel?

    I remember that Patrick is one of your top favs ever. Funny you haven’t put that on my list.


    • *blushes* I know! What can I say? I’m fickle! And there’s even a love triangle in them…

      Yes, but there was only swearing because Mark’s a man… *shakes head disapprovingly* No, I was looking to see and it seems his next book is going to be more sci-fi-ish with aliens and suchlike.

      *gasps* I tried!! I tried so hard! I told you about the hunting scenes, and the guns, and the lynchings and all sorts of stuff I thought might appeal to you! But you wouldn’t listen. I still have bruises from banging my head against the wall! But I haven’t completely given up…


      • *mouth drops even lower* And to think the hard time you gave (give!) me about…The 5th Wave! *growls lots*

        Well, I might have swore a bit if I was stuck on Mars, too. Bet you might as well! Well that sounds rather spicy! Aliens are rather neat. If they’re green and have three arms. Thark.

        *laughing lots* Really? I don’t remember it at all. I mean, I remember the book. How badly do you recommend it?


        • But… but… in my defence, there are no round butts! At least not that I remember… and I’m sure I would have…

          I most certainly would! Especially when eating my 54th potato… Have you chopped one of the Thark’s arms off then?

          See? You just put up a force field and ignore me!!! *stamps about huffily for a bit* Very, very, very badly – you could do a readalong with Lucy and DD, you know, you know… they pay attention to me!! *flounces off*


          • Well, madam! I bet…bet there are other…things! Things you won’t share, I’m sure!

            *laughing lots* Makes sense you would swear over the food! I think I’d just swear–for everyone’s sake. You’re right! Goodness. I meant four.

            But…now it’s starting to seem like a girls book…


            • The boys probably had lovely blue eyes – Ms Casey has a thing about men with blue eyes.

              With your accent, no-one would know, so it’d be fine! Maybe you ate one of the thark’s arms with your potatoes…

              IS NOT!!! It’s just that girls don’t make such a fuss about reading! Probably ‘cos they’re more…


            • Didn’t Evan have blue eyes?

              Hey! The professor has not an accent, and it’s a very clear accent anyways and a few. *laughs* You ate it!

              Well, I don’t know…still seems like it!


  4. Aaarggh, now I want to read them all. I must insist that you review some rubbish books for awhile, FF, so my TBR does not keep growing. Books that are – ‘so bad you can’t put it down’ !!


  5. Hah Hah any review which attempts to get the world to see sense and READ FLANERY! READ FLANERY NOW! gets my high five many times. I think you initially headed me towards Absolution, and this author is one of the ones we bonded with. The big question is……..2013 was two years ago..come on Patrick, come on!! No slacking, get on with number 3!!

    The Callow too, marvellous!

    More seriously I hope you are enjoying ‘pleasures of the table’

    I picture you reading with a smorgasbord of delectable items spread before you….most of them are probably chocolate


    • Haha! I reckon I should get publicity fees for Fallen Land – and yet, apart from yourself, I don’t think anyone else has read it on my recommendation! I looked to see if there was a new on in the pipeline but nothing listed yet that I could find. I suppose it takes a long time to do great books – longer than the one a year series books…

      Just started the food book and it’s looking good! The illustrations are fab – it’s sort of in rough date order, so at the moment it’s all Chaucer and so on, but I’m interested to read some of the more modern bits…


  6. I do love this meme – or whatever it is – a great way to remember old reads. I’ll join you when I’m old and grey (in internet terms, I mean, of course), but I only go back about 2 1/2 years with book reviews. I wasn’t bowled over by The Shut Eye, as you know, although I do love Belinda Bauer, and The Martian was indeed an unexpected delight. I’m still trying to get my nerdy physicist husband to read it, although he’ll probably spot all the technical flaws…


    • I love doing it – it’s great looking back at what I was reading and because of reviewing them, I now remember what I liked or didn’t about books instead of them just fading into nothingness after a while. The problem is I want to re-read them all now! The Shut Eye only just squeaked in – I also loved Gordon Ferris’ Money Tree and the sci-fi Twenty Trillion Leagues by Adam Roberts this month – some hard decisions…


  7. Love this event each month and so happy you borrowed it to give your own version. Ah, Maeve Kerrigan. I love this series! So, I’m now listening to the 5th book, The Kill. It’s actually not published here in the US yet, but was available as an audiobook. Not sure why that is, but hey, I’m just happy to continue. And you say the next book is out in the UK in June. Well, I will definitely have to order that one. I have not tried her YA series, but intend to. And I don’t want to hear about Rob going away……


    • I love doing it – it’s become my favourite post of the month, though it leaves me wanting to re-read everything! I can never figure out why some books seem to take so long to make it across the Atlantic – in either direction. I’ll be devastated if Rob disappears completely – I may have to start up a Twitter campaign to force Jane Casey to keep him! The YA ones are very good, so long as you can cope with the compulsory love triangle. But they’re crime novels with Casey’s usual excellent plotting and Jess is a great heroine – in some way almost like a young Maeve…


  8. These all sound great. I’ve only read the Callow and it certainly was. So many books, so little time……


  9. Okay, Fallen Land will be my next read. You got me. I haven’t read it yet. Any book that inspired you to begin blogging, I have to read. That’s some endorsement, FF! I’m off to charge my Kindle…


    • Hurrah! Hurrah!!! *turns three cartwheels* Despite the fact that I’ve banged on about it for two years, I think you’ll be only the second person I’ve convinced to try it!! I think Flanery is brilliant – I loved his first book, Absolution, too, but Fallen Land is one of the best books I’ve read in years – I do hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear what you think! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder what you’ll think – it seems to be dividing opinion, mainly because of the stuff about the psychic. Which would normally out me off, but didn’t in this case… look forward to your review! 🙂


      • I don’t mind a physic in the mix….I might have to read this next – just finished Humber4 Boy B ( now I know the Humber is a river) 🙂 FYI – It is not about any real case but makes you think about how many small event conspire to make on life changing mistake,


        • Well, you and Cleo have talked me into it, so it’s been requested – now it’s in the laps of the NetGalley gods! If you don’t mind the psychic angle, then I’m sure you’ll love The Shut Eye! 🙂


  10. Oh it is good to see your choices for March! I really enjoyed The Burning too which nearly made my list but a whole year later in March 2012. I do like your exhortations to read the Flanery too although I’m most tempted by the Callow…


    • I’ll have to avoid having a whole stream of Jane Caseys, Sharon Boltons and Belinda Bauers – I’ve read so many of them over the last few years and pretty much loved them all! I love doing ths post – it’s become my favourite post of the month now. So much fun looking back at what I read and what I thoguht of them, but it’s making me want to re-read them all. The Callow is great – I’m sure you’ll love it. And the Flanery – I’m not altogether sure it’s your taste as much as mine, but I’d still recommend it, mainly ‘cos I’d love to read your review of it… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, those three crop up frequently on my reading list too. I’m glad you have the urge to reread as well as well as reminiscing on how excited I used to get on Vine nights – that really prompted me to try new authors.


        • The new Vine system probably works better, though not for books, but I really miss that moment of anticipation on the third Thursday and the excitement of the leftovers list on the fourth. I found loads of new authors through it in my first year or so as a Viner, many of them firm favourites now…

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Ouch, I hat to admit that Fallen Land was one of the few books I could not finish after loving his debut Absolution. I thought Flannery was trying to do too much and some of the threads, especially the magical realist one, were more than I could accept. I have read reviews that praise it and reviews that echo my sentiments so maybe I will just have to wait to see where he goes next. 🙂


    • Really? Oh, I loved it – as you can probably tell! I agree it was trying to do a lot, but on the whole I thought he pulled it off – it seemed to me like one long metaphor for the USA, past and present, and has become a touchstone novel for me as I’ve been reading other Great American Novel contenders over the last couple of years. Plus I found the slow burn approach really added to the tension – my spine actually tingled! But I’ve equally seen lots of reviews where people didn’t think it was that great, proving yet again how subjective the whole reading experience thing is. Given how different his first two novels were, it’ll be interesting to see where he goes next…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. How did I miss Fallen Island? hmmmmm…yet another one….

    I’m off for the next 10 days spring breaking with the family. Hope spring is breaking, too, in your neck of the woods. Cheers!


    • I was lucky to get one of Jane Casey’s early books through Amazon Vine – it might have been this one, in fact – and have been a firm fan ever since. The series gets better as it goes along too! I know – these posts are killing my TBR! Great fun! 🙂


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