Tag Archives: Emma Kavanagh

My Books of the Year 2017

Reading has become my salvation and sanctuary in a really testing year as an author – thankfully I’ve been spoiled for choice for awesome books in 2017. There are lots of ‘best books’ lists, so here’s mine. Some books I was lucky to read as advance copies, most I bought myself. Not all of the books in my Top Twelve below were published in 2017, but I read them this year, which is why they are included. So, without further ado, I proudly present my 2017 Books of the Year:

2017 Best Books image

Unconventional – Maggie Harcourt
I read this as a proof at the beginning of 2017 and completely fell in love with it. Maggie Harcourt’s writing is sublime – at turns funny, touching and clutch-at-your-heart-and-sigh romantic. Her book-within-a-book is downright genius, too. On a personal note, Unconventional was the one that made me fall in love with reading again after a very dry spell that followed losing my dad. It’s a gorgeous, uplifting, original and thoroughly unputdownable book and is pretty damn perfect.

The Killer on the Wall – Emma Kavanagh
I’m a self-confessed huge fan of Emma Kavanagh and have loved every one of her books. The Killer on the Wall is a twisty, psychologically dark crime thriller that tests your loyalties as a reader to the beautifully drawn characters. I loved how Emma drew me into the story and gradually twisted everything around me. It’s so filmic, too – I could picture every location, every scene and every character. Loved it!

The Last Beginning – Lauren James
I hadn’t read any of Lauren’s books before I was asked to take part in a reader event with her at the beginning of this year, so I read The Last Beginning before I met her and am now a firm fan! Clever, funny, mind-bendingly brilliant, this is an across-the-ages tale of true love and mystery. What I love most is the way Lauren’s characters grab you from the first page – you’re right in there, rooting for them.

Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo
This is the first of Leigh Bardugo’s books I’ve read and I completely fell for her storytelling. It’s like a heist movie in a fantasy world – a band of outlaws out to get justice against an evil villain. I hadn’t read much fantasy for a while, so picked up Crooked Kingdom to redress the balance and my life, what a ride! Cool, gorgeously written, pacy and hugely compelling.

Then She Was Gone – Luca Veste
In recent years I’ve become a fan of crime thrillers, first reading Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, then Ann Cleeves’ Vera and Shetland books. I’m a huge fan of the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast (I even have a t-shirt!), which introduced me to the Murphy and Rossi series by Luca Veste. I read Then She Was Gone on holiday in Cornwall in January and it completely hooked me. You know a book is good when you carry it round with you all day, using any opportunity to sneak a read! I adore Murphy and Rossi and love how Luca draws you into their personal lives. Edge-of-your-seat, twisty awesomeness!

The Boy Who Saw – Simon Toyne
I’ve been a fan of Simon Toyne’s books since his debut Sanctus and love his new Solomon Creed series. This is the second book featuring the mysterious protagonist and it’s fantastic. A mystery, a thriller with a touch of the supernatural, The Boy Who Saw is gripping and twisty and so pacy you feel you’re hanging onto the book for dear life. What I love most about Simon’s thrillers is that they are peopled with characters who feel real – not just two-dimensional plot devices. And I really want to hug Solomon, poor lamb. He’s been through a lot

Hold Back the Stars – Katie Khan
Do you remember the scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Sam’s sister cries retelling the story of An Affair to Remember? Well, Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan has that effect on me whenever I talk about it. It’s an achingly gorgeous, utterly original love story set in space and I loved every word. Writing for a living can make it difficult to fully enter into books, so I love it when I’m completely swept away like I was with this story. Absolutely wonderful.

The Summer of Impossible Things – Rowan Coleman
When Rowan Coleman told me she was going to write a time-travel novel, I was so excited. I knew it would be brilliant, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how beguilingly beautiful and affecting The Summer of Impossible Things would be. Luna’s journey to unravel the mystery of her mother’s life – and the huge questions it poses to her own – is utterly compelling, heart-breaking and uplifting. And that ending… Wow!

Together – Julie Cohen
Julie Cohen has long been one of my favourite authors. With every book I think she can’t possibly better it, but every time she does. Together is no exception – in fact, I think it’s her masterpiece. I was very lucky to read an early version and it blew me away. The story of Robbie and Emily is told in reverse, from the day Robbie dies to the first time they meet. What follows is a powerful, brave and heart-breaking story of love against the odds and a terrible secret that both binds them together and threatens to tear them apart.

The Plea – Steve Cavanagh
I don’t often read a book in less than a week, but I devoured The Plea in three days (a personal record for me this year!). It’s a legal thriller with a twist and a lead character who knocks all the others out of the park. Eddie Flynn is brilliantly world-weary, chasing his own demons as much as the bad guys and thrown into so many life-or-death situations I don’t know when he even finds a second to breathe! I loved this book and Steve’s writing is sublime.

The State of Grace – Rachael Lucas
Easily the most original voice of the books I read this year, fifteen-year-old Grace draws you into her world in The State of Grace. Navigating life is challenging enough for a teenager, but when you have Asperger’s and you’re falling in love it can be a rollercoaster. What I loved most about this book is the insight it gives into Grace’s view of the world – and how it makes sense. It’s a celebration of her life and her worldview and is honest, rip-roaringly funny and touching. Loved, loved, loved it!

Calling Major Tom – David M. Barnett
The term ‘UpLit’ was coined this year (yuck!) and while I don’t like it or the way the literary media seem to think they’ve created the genre (they haven’t, some of us have been writing uplifting stories for years!), there are some books published this year that are truly uplifting. Calling Major Tom absolutely fits the bill. I was sent an early proof of this book and it completely stole my heart. Packed with fantastic characters and stuffed to the ginnels with brilliant Northern humour, David’s story of a marooned astronaut and the family who reach out to him is the one I can’t stop thinking about. It’s life-affirming, emotional, laugh-out-loud funny and reduced me to tears with its fantastic conclusion. I’ve loved all the books I’ve read in 2017, but Calling Major Tom is my Book of the Year.

Which books have you enjoyed this year? Which should I add to my reading list for 2018? I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below or tweet me!

Coming soon – the five books I’m recommending for 2018!

A BRILLIANT book year…

adore books. I’m pretty sure the reason I am a writer today is because I was introduced to books from an early age – and that passion for great stories has never left me (as my bookshelves will attest). This year has been a great year for reading, not least because having Flo has meant I have pockets of time to read during her naps.

And what a year for books so far!

I’m very fortunate that now I’m a published author I’m often sent proof copies of new books and this year I’ve been blessed with some amazing reads. I’ve also been indulging my love of bookshops, which has led to a book-buying curfew for the next few months while I read all the books in my TBR pile.

I was thinking about this today, particularly how blessed we are as readers with the wealth of brilliant writing in the UK and beyond. So here are some of the stand-out novels for me so far this year, both books I’ve received and books I’ve bought – every one a must-read!



GLAZE is a dark, twisty thriller set in the near future, where everyone is connected to the internet via a chip embedded in their brains. It’s a concept that isn’t so far removed from recent reports of technology being explored by Google, Facebook, Amazon – after all, Google Glass is one step removed from the premise of GLAZE. Kim’s writing is phenomenal – I say this not only as her friend but primarily as her avid fan. Breathlessly exciting, utterly original and if it isn’t adapted into the next big Hollywood smash hit film, it will be a crime!



Falling is the kind of psychological thriller that holds you in its grip until the last page. Emma Kavanagh’s debut novel is fantastic, bringing together the stories of a group of characters united by one, horrific event. What I loved most about it was the human element of the story – each character is so well drawn – and the pace of the novel is amazing. I can’t wait to read more from Emma!


Memory Book

I sobbed my way through The Memory Book earlier this year. Quite simply, it’s a beautiful, heartbreaking story that I found incredibly moving and profound. I love Rowan’s writing and am proud to call her my friend, but this book is a step above anything she’s ever written before. It’s the kind of book you recommend to everyone you know – my mum is now a big fan because I raved about the story!


A Hundred Pieces of Me

A Hundred Pieces of Me is profoundly affecting and gorgeously written. I read this on holiday, just before Flo was born, and was utterly engrossed in the story from the first page. I love stories with a theme of rebirth and redemption and this book was a wonderful study of what life is really all about. I loved Gina’s search for herself after years of living for other people and her decision to redefine her life. It’s a beautiful book, sensitively written and gloriously imagined.


The AccidentWhen my lovely friend Cally told me she was writing a psychological thriller, I couldn’t wait to read it – and boy, was it worth waiting for! It’s been a very long time since I haven’t been able to put a book down but The Accident was one of those books. In fact, I found myself reading it while making a cup of tea, last thing at night and first thing in the morning for two glorious days! It’s the kind of twisting, chilling story that wraps itself around you and pulls you in, with a protagonist I was fascinated by but didn’t really know if I should be trusting. Brilliant, brilliant storytelling!


Dash and Lily's B of DI’ve been following the #bookadayuk challenges on Twitter and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares kept coming up. Being a fan of New York, especially books set there at Christmas, this sounded right up my street, so I treated myself last week for a journey down to London. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a sweet, hipster-y tale of two teenagers who don’t think they fit in, finding each other first through words and then through New York experiences. Think Gilmore Girls-style sass meeting Dawson’s Creek teen self-awareness, wrapped up in a cute story with more than a dash (no pun intended) of New York magic. I read it in a weekend and it was a real treat.


Where Love Lies

Every once in a while, a book comes along that blows you away. For me this year, Where Love Lies has been that story. I’m a huge fan of Julie’s writing and I know personally how much love she invested in writing this book. But even given that I adore every word she writes and love her as a dear friend, I wasn’t prepared for how utterly wonderful her latest book would be. Here I’m going to run out of superlatives and be unashamedly fan-girly, but I truly believe this is Julie’s best book yet. It’s raw, unafraid and intensely challenging. The story constantly surprises and I found my assumptions being called out throughout the book. It’s so different, so affecting and so exquisitely written that I know it’s a book I will return to again and again.

I’m a big believer that you can’t be a great writer without being a great reader first… These books have entertained, challenged, gripped and delighted me this year and I have loved every one. Much has been written about the ‘death of books’, but while stories like these exist in  the world, readers will be blessed. It’s an exciting time to be an author and an even more exciting time to be a reader: I’m looking forward to see what the rest of this year brings!