My Five Star Top Ten of 2017

5star

It’s been a bumper year for fantastic reads, I’ve been to wonderful places, and experienced all the feels with this bunch of lovelies! It wasn’t the easiest of decisions to pick just ten, but here are my unforgettable books of the year, in no particular order:

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I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the authors of these books, all of which I was lucky enough to receive in exchange for review. Perhaps next year I might actually buy a book, but, you know, perks of being a book blogger/reviewer and all that! 😉

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Shadowland by Radclyffe

Shadowland by Radclyffe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quite a few years ago now, when I got my hands on my first Kindle, I went on a free-book rampage. I’d not long been a member of GR, but I was loving my newly found access to loads of free books and adding them to my (very small at the time!) TBR shelf. Now, I’ll own up, a LOT of them were Kindle-smut! I’d discovered that a lot of freebies, ironically, came at a price, being that 80%+ of them were utter rubbish!! But, occasionally, there was a diamond in the rough, and Shadowland by Radclyffe was one of them.

After recently reading many thrillers, horrors, historical fic, etc, etc, I wanted to read something completely different. So I hunted through my Kindle and decided to read this, and it hooked me in, handcuffed my attention to the bed, and promptly impressed the hell out of me!

Shadowland, in a nutshell, is a complex story about a group of gay women who have more baggage, secrets, flaws, and attitude than ANY bunch of characters I’ve ever read about. Radclyffe has written the most brilliant character-focused story I’ve come across in a long, long time. I don’t read much at all in the LGBT fiction genre, but the character dynamics are first class. Having no men around makes for an absolute knock-out read! Even the women don’t understand the women, so I don’t think men have much hope, that’s for sure!

Now, onto the more gritty side of things.

Trigger warning, a BIG part of this story evolves around, some might say, unconventional lifestyles. In that there’s BDSM, total power exchange (TPE), D/s (Domme/sub) relationships and leather, lots of leather 😉 There is also mind-games, occasional drug use, edge play and a variety of sex toys that inflict both pleasure and pain. So if you’re after a cute lesbian romance, this book isn’t for you. However, if you’ve got an open mind and just fancy reading something a little darker, without that typical ‘alpha male’ throwing his weight around, choose this, there’s ‘alpha females’ instead. How refreshing!

So, going back to the smut side of things, this one stands right out from the crowd. The author didn’t feel the need to use profanity hardly at all. The sex scenes are erotic and loving, with very little essence of titillation for titillations sake, just the right amount of description to set the scene and paint the picture bold enough for the reader to capture the imagery perfectly.

When a plot is this good, when the characters are this strong and when the writing has such flow, I’m completely sold. This is NOT smut. Or pointless, crass sexploits purely written to get the reader ‘off’! This is a great character driven story by a brilliant author.

I really can’t fault it. My only disappointment is that none of Radclyffes other books are free!!

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The Lost Village (The Ghost Hunters #2) by Neil Spring (A 2017 top read)

The Lost Village by Neil Spring

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘I have a bad feeling I can’t shake. A sense that there’s something deeper out in that village. Something darker.’

After reading Neil Spring’s The Ghost Hunters #1 last year, and thoroughly enjoying it, I was very excited to see The Lost Village (The Ghost Hunters #2) available to request on NetGalley. I was over the moon when I was accepted to read more about Harry Price and Sarah Grey’s adventures into the paranormal.

Unlike other books about ghostly goings-on that I’ve read, Spring gives the genre a bit of twist, in that the main protagonists agenda is to debunk and expose fraudsters who claim they can contact the dead.

What we get is a fascinating insight into how far people will go to convince others of the existence of an afterlife, whether it’s for entertainment purposes in order to make a few quid, or perhaps merely to ‘cover up’ something truly sinister and evil that’s occurring in this very real life of ours.

Both main characters in this story were absolutely superb, very much a chalk and cheese coupling that works a treat. Price, a bolshy individual with real focus on finding an explanation for everything, and the sweet, but spiritually sassy Miss Grey, doing her upmost to tolerate Price, but not allowing him to manipulate her beliefs in any way. Between the two of them, their paranormal investigations are meticulous and fascinating.

The story itself is written beautifully, it reads with atmosphere and injects dread and fear into the reader. There are some pretty ghastly scenes that are described with just enough detail to chill to the bone, without being unnecessarily graphic or bloody.

Spring has a real poetic ability in setting a scene. I was transported to the lost village of Imber every time I picked this up. The bleakness of Salisbury Plain and it’s typically unpleasant weather all woven into a story of mystery and multiple layers that fitted together perfectly, like a spooky jigsaw puzzle.

‘Sometimes I think locations speak to us, like our dreams do. We don’t always know exactly what they’re trying to tell us, but when those messages are imbued with meaning, we sense it acutely.’

This book undoubtedly deserves 5 stars. It is clever, educational, atmospheric and incredibly entertaining. I would recommend it to readers who enjoyed Susan Hills ‘The Woman in Black’.

Huge thanks to NetGalley, Quercus Books and the author, Neil Spring for allowing me the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review. It was a pleasure.

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How my bookishness began..

Casting my mind back to the early eighties, I remember when ‘the book club’ people used to bring a pile of books into the foyer of my junior school.

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Now, I was never a spoilt child, I rarely had the latest trends, my parents mainly replying to my wants with a ‘I’ll make you one’, (a Care Bear cuddly toy – Mum), or, ‘you don’t need a climbing frame, here’s 20 yards of rope, I’ll tie it from the apple tree to next doors fence!’ (- Dad). So I generally just made do. One of my most vivid memories was the slide Dad knocked up in the shed, made from an old white MDF dressing table. It lasted probably ten minutes because the splinters in my ass kind of put me off playing on it!

But, when it came to books, thankfully, that was a completely different story! 😉 So, off home I’d skip with the order form flapping away in my hand, because that day, I knew my parents would say ‘it’s book club time is it? Here you are, have five big juicy pounds, choose whichever ones you’d like.’ Oh the joy!

I was like a kid in a sweety shop, I can tell you! Working out how many books I could order for my five pounds. Now, back in 1980, five quid was a HUGE sum of money for any kid, and the fact that I was getting something that wasn’t home made filled me with utter glee!

The ‘book lady’ used to visit my school probably three times a year, and on every visit, I was one of the rare kids who ALWAYS had the full fiver to spend. My parents obviously knew just how important reading was, and dished out the maximum spend allowed, no questions asked, and no threats of ‘making me one’.

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So these exciting moments of my childhood have stayed with me. I can vividly remember receiving my little bundle of books, held together with two large elastic bands in a cross fashion. Even then, I was greedily sniffing the newness, rushing home to get stuck in to Roald Dahls’ The Twits and Revolting Rhymes.

As I got older, obviously I progressed to longer stories with less pictures. And then, one day on the book table at school, I discovered a series of books called ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’. Oh. My. God. 😮

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That was it for me, a book that you don’t read IN PAGE ORDER?!! What IS THIS?!! Well, all I can say is, I rarely left my bedroom! My Mum was like, ‘Lisa, it’s a glorious day, why don’t you go outside and play, get some fresh air?’ Um, I’m in the middle of a great adventure at the moment, so maybe later. Or not.

As I headed into Senior School, my tastes changed somewhat. Sat in an English class one morning, circa 1986, one of the lads in my class was discreetly reading, holding the book under the desk. He was absolutely engrossed. ‘What ya reading?’ I asked, with an air of (fake) disinterest. (I didn’t want him to think I was genuinely interested, that just wasn’t cool!) ‘Oh, you won’t like it, it’s gory and horrible’ he replied.

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I WANTED THAT BOOK. That very weekend, I visited my local library and borrowed A STACK OF HORROR from the adult section, and I was converted into a James Herbert fan overnight. Horror was now my bag.

That’s my story of my earliest feelings of book-love, and it’s stayed with me all my life, and I thought I’d share it with you 😀

What’s your earliest bookish recollection as a child? I’d love to hear your stories!

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