And so another year begins. Let’s hope that 2023 is a better year for us all!
I was lucky enough to read some incredible books in 2022, so to narrow it down was no easy task and I could quite easily have added many more. But I’ve somehow managed to narrow it down to those books that either took my breath away or left the deepest impression on me.
So to get the New Year off to a flying start by sharing the book love, here (in no particular order) are my top reads of the year. I hope you enjoy!
Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz
Teenager Sally has just run away from a clinic where she is being treated for anorexia. She’s furious with everything and everyone, and wants to be left in peace.
Liss is in her forties, living alone on a large farm that she runs single-handedly. She has little contact with the outside world, and no need for other people.
From their first meeting, Sally realises that Liss isn’t like other adults; she expects nothing of Sally and simply accepts who she is, offering her a bed for the night with no questions asked.
That night becomes weeks and then months, as an unlikely friendship develops and these two damaged women slowly open up – connecting to each other, reconnecting with themselves, and facing the darkness in their pasts through their shared work on the land.
Achingly beautiful, profound, invigorating and uplifting, Tasting Sunlight is a story of friendship across generations, of love and acceptance, of the power of nature to heal and transform, and the goodness that surrounds us, if only we take time to see it…
The Attic Child by Lola Jaye
Two children separated by almost a century, bound by a secret…
1907: Twelve-year-old Celestine spends most of his time locked in an attic room of a large house by the sea. Taken from his homeland and treated as an unpaid servant, he dreams of his family in Africa even if, as the years pass, he struggles to remember his mother’s face, and sometimes his real name.
Almost a century later, Lowra, a young orphan girl born into wealth and privilege, will find herself banished to the same attic. Lying under the floorboards of the room is an old porcelain doll, an unusual beaded claw necklace and, most curiously, a sentence etched on the wall behind an old cupboard, written in an unidentifiable language. Artefacts that will offer her a strange kind of comfort, and lead her to believe that she was not the first child to be imprisoned there . . .
This is a hauntingly powerful, emotionally charged and unique dual-narrative novel about family secrets, love and loss, identity and belonging, seen through the lens of Black British History.
The Gifts by Liz Hyder
The luminous debut adult novel from the Waterstones Prize Winner, perfect for fans of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, The Essex Serpent and The Doll Factory
In an age defined by men, it will take something extraordinary to show four women who they truly are . . .
October 1840. A young woman staggers alone through a forest in Shropshire as a huge pair of impossible wings rip themselves from her shoulders.
Meanwhile, when rumours of a ‘fallen angel’ cause a frenzy across London, a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune finds himself in the grips of a dangerous obsession, one that will place the women he seeks in the most terrible danger . . .
THE GIFTS is the astonishing debut adult novel from the lauded author of BEARMOUTH. A gripping and ambitious book told through five different perspectives and set against the luminous backdrop of nineteenth century London, it explores science, nature and religion, enlightenment, the role of women in society and the dark danger of ambition.
The Hunting Ground by Will Shindler
THE THIRD NOVEL FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE BURNING MEN AND THE KILLING CHOICE, FEATURING DI ALEX FIN AND DCI MATTIE PAULSEN
A thrilling and addictive British detective series that ranks with Mark Billingham, M.J. Arlidge and Stuart MacBride.
Sadie Nicholls has been found dead, brutally and strangely murdered, in her South East London flat. Her little boy is missing.
DI Alex Finn and DC Mattie Paulsen know that, in the case of a missing child, it’s the first 24 hours that count. They don’t have many left to find out where Sadie’s son might be and the identity of her killer. Why would anyone want a struggling single mother, loved by many, dead?
But when they realise a similar crime was committed at the same house nearly 20 years ago, a question is on everyone’s lips: is this more than just a coincidence?
Whisper of the Seals by Roxanne Bouchard
Detective Moralès returns in a breathtaking literary thriller set on the icy seas of Quebec’s Magdalen Islands, in the midst of a brutal seal hunt, where nothing is as it seems and absolutely no one can be trusted…
Fisheries officer Simone Lord is transferred to Quebec’s remote Magdalen Islands for the winter, and at the last minute ordered to go aboard a trawler braving a winter storm for the traditional grey seal hunt, while all of the other boats shelter onshore.
Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès is on a cross-country boat trip down the St Lawrence River, accompanied by Nadine Lauzon, a forensic psychologist working on the case of a savagely beaten teenager with Moralès’ old team in Montreal.
When it becomes clear that Simone is in grave danger aboard the trawler, the two cases converge, with startling, terrifying consequences for everyone involved…
The Museum of Ordinary People by Mike Gayle
Still reeling from the sudden death of her mother, Jess is about to do the hardest thing she’s ever done: empty her childhood home so that it can be sold.
But when in the process Jess stumbles across the mysterious Alex, together they become custodians of a strange archive of letters, photographs, curios and collections known as The Museum of Ordinary People.
As they begin to delve into the history of the objects in their care, Alex and Jess not only unravel heartbreaking stories that span generations and continents, but also unearth long buried secrets that lie much closer to home.
Inspired by a box of mementos found abandoned in a skip following a house clearance, The Museum of Ordinary People is a thought-provoking and poignant story of memory, grief, loss and the things we leave behind.
The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson
One extraordinary mystery…
1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.
1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.
2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.
Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…
The Impulse Purchase by Veronica Henry
With this, Veronica’s 23rd novel, she introduces us to Cherry, Maggie and Rose – mother, daughter and granddaughter, each with their own hopes, dreams and even sorrows. They have always been close, so when, in a moment of impulse, Cherry buys a gorgeous but rundown pub in the village she grew up in, it soon becomes a family affair.
All three women uproot themselves and move to Rushbrook, deep in the heart of Somerset, to take over The Swan and restore it to its former glory. Cherry is at the helm, Maggie is in charge of the kitchen, and Rose tends the picturesque garden that leads down to the river.
Before long, the locals are delighted to find the beating heart of the village is back, bringing all kinds of surprises through the door. Could Cherry’s impulse purchase change all their lives – and bring everyone the happiness they’re searching for?
Demon by Matt Wesolowski (A Six Stories Episode)
In 1995, the picture-perfect village of Ussalthwaite was the site of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, in a case that shocked the world.
Twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons was savagely murdered by two boys his own age. No reason was ever given for this terrible crime, and the ‘Demonic Duo’ who killed him were imprisoned until their release in 2002, when they were given new identities and lifetime anonymity.
Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the lead-up and aftermath of the killing, uncovering dark and fanciful stories of demonic possession, and encountering a village torn apart by this unspeakable act.
And, as episodes of his Six Stories podcast begin to air, King himself becomes a target, with dreadful secrets from his own past dredged up and threats escalating to a terrifying level. It becomes clear that whatever drove those two boys to kill is still there, lurking, and the campaign of horror has just begun…
Dashboard Elvis Is Dead by David F. Ross
Renowned photo-journalist Jude Montgomery arrives in Glasgow in 2014, in the wake of the failed Scottish independence referendum, and it’s clear that she’s searching for someone.
Is it Anna Mason, who will go on to lead the country as First Minister? Jamie Hewitt, guitarist from eighties one-hit wonders The Hyptones? Or is it Rabbit – Jude’s estranged foster sister, now a world-famous artist?
Three apparently unconnected people, who share a devastating secret, whose lives were forever changed by one traumatic night in Phoenix, forty years earlier…
Taking us back to a school shooting in her Texas hometown, and a 1980s road trip across the American West – to San Francisco and on to New York – Jude’s search ends in Glasgow, and a final, shocking event that only one person can fully explain…
Remember Me by Charity Norman
A heart-rending, thought-provoking tale of a close-knit community ripped apart by its local GP’s disturbing, fragmented revelations as he succumbs to debilitating memory loss – revelations that cast new light on an unsolved missing-persons case and which throw the lives of those closest to him into unfathomable turmoil.
They never found Leah Parata. Not a boot, not a backpack, not a turquoise beanie. After she left me that day, she vanished off the face of the earth. A close-knit community is ripped apart by disturbing revelations that cast new light on a young woman’s disappearance twenty-five years ago.
After years of living overseas, Emily returns to New Zealand to care for her father who has dementia. As his memory fades and his guard slips, she begins to understand him for the first time – and to glimpse shattering truths about his past.
Are some secrets best left buried?
Another page-turning, emotive suspense novel from the Richard & Judy bestselling author of After the Fall and Radio 2 Book Club pick, 2020’s The Secrets of Strangers – ideal reading-group fiction, perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult and Clare Mackintosh.
Nothing Else by Louise Beech
The multiple bestselling and award-winning author returns with an exquisitely moving novel about surviving devastating trauma and the unbreakable bond between sisters; a story of courage and love, and the power of music to transcend – and change – everything.
Heather Harris is a piano teacher and professional musician, whose quiet life revolves around music, whose memories centre on a single song that haunts her. A song she longs to perform again. A song she wrote as a child, to drown out the violence in their home. A song she played with her little sister, Harriet.
But Harriet is gone … she disappeared when their parents died, and Heather never saw her again.
When Heather is offered an opportunity to play piano on a cruise ship, she leaps at the chance. She’ll read her recently released childhood care records by day – searching for clues to her sister’s disappearance – and play piano by night … coming to terms with the truth about a past she’s done everything to forget.
These Streets by Luan Goldie
Jess is a single mother to two teenage children, and although life can be tough she’s just about keeping things together. But when her landlord asks her to move on, so he can sell the house they’re living in without warning, Jess’s worries take on a whole new meaning. As Jess struggles to regain her footing, cracks begin to appear in other areas of her life, and suddenly she feels she’s failing at everything. Her daughter Hazel is becoming more and more distant, her son Jacob is struggling to find where he fits in the world, and the menacing spectre of Jess’s older brother, someone she cut out of her life years ago, begins to make his presence felt again.
Jess knows she’s the only one who can keep her family together, but how can she keep going when life keeps beating her back?
Set on the streets of East London, These Streets is a searing and powerful novel that explores how we are meant to find our place in a world that is designed for only the privileged to succeed. Beautiful and honest, it is an essential story about living in Britain today.
A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon
A NICE, NORMAL HOUSE
Linda has lived around here ever since she fled the dark events of her childhood in Wales. Now she sits in her kitchen, wondering if this is all there is – pushing the Hoover round and cooking fish fingers for tea is a far cry from the glamorous lifestyle she sees in the glossy catalogues coming through the door for the house’s previous occupant.
A NICE, NORMAL HUSBAND
Terry isn’t perfect – he picks his teeth, tracks dirt through the house and spends most of his time in front of the TV. But that seems fairly standard – until he starts keeping odd hours at work, at around the same time young women start to go missing in the neighbourhood.
A NICE, NORMAL LIFE…
If Linda could just track down Rebecca, who lived in the house before them, maybe some of that perfection would rub off on her. But the grass isn’t always greener: you can’t change who you really are, and there’s something nasty lurking behind the net curtains on Cavendish Avenue…
Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone
The Skelf women live in the shadow of death every day, running the family funeral directors and private investigator business in Edinburgh. But now their own grief interwines with that of their clients, as they are left reeling by shocking past events.
A fist-fight by an open grave leads Dorothy to investigate the possibility of a faked death, while a young woman’s obsession with Hannah threatens her relationship with Indy and puts them both in mortal danger. An elderly man claims he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, while ghosts of another kind come back to haunt Jenny from the grave … pushing her to breaking point.
As the Skelfs struggle with increasingly unnerving cases and chilling danger lurks close to home, it becomes clear that grief, in all its forms, can be deadly…
Quicksand of Memory by Michael J. Malone
Jenna is trying to rebuild her life after a series of disastrous relationships.
Luke is struggling to provide a safe, loving home for his deceased partner’s young son, following a devastating tragedy.
When Jenna and Luke meet and fall in love, they are certain they can achieve the stability and happiness they both desperately need.
And yet, someone is watching.
Someone who has been scarred by past events.
Someone who will stop at nothing to get revenge.
Dark, unsettling and immensely moving, Quicksand of Memory is a chilling reminder that we are not only punished for our sins, but by them, and that memories left to blacken and sharpen over time are the perfect breeding ground for obsession, and murder…
My top reads of 2022 list wouldn’t be complete without including two of my favourite and most emotional memoirs of the year:
Women Like Us by Amanda Prowse
Amanda Prowse has built a bestselling career on the lives of fictional women. Now she turns the pen on her own life.
I guess the first question to ask is, what kind of woman am I? Well, you know those women who saunter into a room, immaculately coiffed and primped from head to toe?
If you look behind her, you’ll see me.
From her childhood, where there was no blueprint for success, to building a career as a bestselling novelist against all odds, Amanda Prowse explores what it means to be a woman in a world where popularity, slimness, beauty and youth are currency—and how she overcame all of that to forge her own path to happiness.
Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side.
One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible—against the odds—to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous imposter syndrome to find happiness and success, from a woman who’s done it all, and then some.
Remember Me? By Shobna’s Gulati
A heartbreakingly courageous and tender memoir on losing a parent to dementia which captures memory at its most fragile and its most revealing from much-loved actress, Shobna Gulati.
Remember Me? captures the powerful emotions that these memories hold to both Shobna and her mother; secrets they had collectively buried and also the concealment of her mother’s condition. What ensues is a story of cultural assimilation, identity and familial shame.
Shobna sets out to reclaim her mother’s past after her death, and in turn, discovers a huge amount about herself and their relationship.
And that’s it! Thank you so much to everyone who supported my little corner of the book world in 2022. Here’s to a happy and book filled 2023!