So, I realised rather belatedly that I hadn't done my 'best of' lists and surprisingly the Crime and Thriller genre was easy. This genre? Not so much! I realised that there were numerous books I had LOVED this last year and managed to get the first draft in at 16 books. Thankfully I realised that I had read 3 books by the wonderful Nigel May and all 3 were excellent so I managed to knock another 2 off, and then slowly by going over each one I managed to narrow it down! So here goes, in no particular order is my top ten books from last year, and all well worth a read!
Category: Jenny Colgan
Polly Waterford loves running the Little Beach Street Bakery. She's at her happiest when she's creating delicious, doughy treats and the festive season always inspires her to bake and knead something extra special for the village residents. In fact, the only thing she loves more than her bakery is curling up with her gorgeous boyfriend, Huckle. She's determined that this Christmas is going to be their best one yet, but life doesn't always work out as planned...
When Polly's best friend Kerensa turns up with a secret that threatens the life Polly and Huckle have built together, the future begins to look uncertain. And then a face from Polly's past reappears and things become even more complicated. Polly can usually find solace in baking but she has a feeling that's not going to be enough this time. Can she get things back on track so that everyone has a merry Christmas?
Kat's Rating: 5/5
Synopsis: Given a back-room computer job when the beloved Birmingham library she works in turns into a downsized retail complex, Nina misses her old role terribly - dealing with people, greeting her regulars, making sure everyone gets the right books for their needs. Then a new business nobody else wants catches her eye: owning a tiny little bookshop bus up in the Scottish highlands. No computers. Shortages. Out all hours in the freezing cold; driving with a tiny stock of books... not to mention how the little community is going to take to her, particularly when she stalls the bus on a level crossing.
KAT’S RATING: 4/5
KAT’S REVIEW: Jenny Colgan novels never fail me and thankfully this one is no different. Nina is the main character and if I’m honest she is a little wet behind the ears at first. She works in a library which is suffering cutbacks and when she is finally offered a ‘back-room computer’ job she decides to make some brave decisions. The first few chapters went by but I wasn’t as absorbed as I normally would be. I think that Nina was a little too weak for my liking and it was only when she decided to take some chances that she started to shine.
Nina discovers that her passion for books is all consuming and she isn’t prepared to give up on her dream of running a bookshop. Only how her dream turns out is a little different from the one she has in her head. What transpires is a van situated in the Scottish Highlands and a complete change of life for her. Jenny Colgan has as always doen a stellar job with describing where Nina moves to and I could literally picture Nina Parked up in her book bus.
With her whole life turned around she meets her new Landlord Lennox who is a brusque and seemingly unhelpful man who has little time for Nina and her fanciful ideas. Nina then makes a terrible faux pas and ends up getting her bus stuck on a set of railway lines which ends up opening up a whole new thread to the story. This novel is packed full of laughter and is a complete escapist read which will no doubt cheer you up no end. I’m afraid it didn’t quite live up to my favourite Colgan books featuring the Little Beach Street Bakery but is still a cracking read for those in need of some light reading to cheer you up.
Synopsis: Rosie Hopkins, newly engaged, is looking forward to an exciting year in the little sweetshop she owns and runs. But when fate strikes Rosie and her boyfriend, Stephen, a terrible blow, threatening everything they hold dear, it's going to take all their strength and the support of their families and their Lipton friends to hold them together.
After all, don't they say it takes a village to raise a child?
Kat’s Rating: 4/5
KAT'S REVIEW: I rarely dislike a Jenny Colgan book and the Rosie Hopkins books are no exception. For those that plan to read these books in order it’s maybe not a good idea to carry on reading. The one HUGE thing I loved was that Jenny Colgan does a little ‘wrap up’ of all characters and where they are at up to date giving you a quick refresh. It’s a great idea and I immediately knew where I was joining the story again.
Rosie Hopkins has now settled into the village of Lipton and with the refresh at the beginning of the book I was reminded of all the local characters that make an appearance. Rosie is now living with boyfriend Stephen and regularly visits her aunt Lilian who is resident at a home nearby. We also see reappearances of local GP Moray, Rosie’s friend and colleague Tina and many more. One particular character which makes a brilliant ‘star’ performance in this latest book is the local dentist Roy.
One thing that quickly became clear was that the early part of the book was certainly not all flowers and romance. We witness both Rosie and Stephen face some harsh, bleak and very sad moments. This results in them making a trip back to Africa where Stephen had previously visited. I’m not deliberately being vague, but it’s difficult to mention parts of the story without fear of plot spoiling. Upon Rosie and Stephens return it seems the whole village goes into meltdown meaning last minute arrangements have to be made for Tina and her upcoming wedding. In addition to that we meet Stephens Sister Pamela who I thought was an absolutely cracking character to read about.
Overall, although not my favourite ‘Rosie’ book this was another brilliant read. It is well worth reading the two previous books, but if you haven’t and you come across this don’t let that stop you. I certainly enjoyed revisiting Lipton and all its characters and can’t wait to see what’s next for all of them!
Having compiled the top ten in the Crime, Mystery and Thriller genre, I have turned my attention to my top ten in the other genre. For me this was also an easy top ten as these books all stood out. 4 of these authors are with Bookouture which proves to me that they are streaking ahead in this field with selecting some awesome authors. I would highly recommend all ten of these books and can't wait to see more from them all this year. The list below is in no particular order!
One Wish In Manhattan by Mandy Baggott
Synopsis: he temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and Hayley Walker is heading for New York with one wish… to start over. With her daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for adventure. But there’s more to New York than twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has her own Christmas wish – to find her real dad. While Hayley tries to fulfil her daughter’s wish, she crosses paths with billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there’s something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked. Can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might come true – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever? Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they realise life isn’t just about filling the minutes… it’s about making every moment count.
Bella's Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson
Synopsis: Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials. But this year things are going to be different. For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever. Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off. After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember.
Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin
Synopsis: Libby Joseph is famous for her romantic Christmas stories. Every December, readers devour her books of falling in love against the magical backdrop of the Christmas season. If only Libby believed in the magic herself. Struggling to finish her current novel, Libby turns to her best friend and neighbour George Donaldson to cheer her up. But George also needs a bit of support himself. Nervous about getting back into the dating saddle after splitting from his wife, he and Libby strike a deal. She will teach George how to win over the ladies, and Libby will in turn be inspired to inject her novel with a good dose of romance. As Libby and George explore the beautiful White Cliff Bay on a series of romantic Christmas-themed dates, Libby finds herself having more fun than she’s had in ages and…discovers feelings that she never knew she had for George. But is it too late? Will George win someone else’s heart or can Libby act like the heroine in one of her stories and reach for her own love under the mistletoe this Christmas?
The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown
Synopsis: Heartbroken after being jilted at the altar, Sybil has been saved from despair by her knitting obsession and now her home is filled to bursting with tea cosies, bobble hats, and jumpers. But, after discovering that she may have perpetrated the cock-up of the century at work, Sybil decides to make a hasty exit and, just weeks before Christmas, runs away to the picturesque village of Tindledale. There, Sybil discovers Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, an emporium dedicated to the world of knitting and needle craft. But Hettie, the outspoken octogenarian owner, is struggling and now the shop is due for closure. And when Hettie decides that Sybil’s wonderfully wacky Christmas jumpers are just the thing to add a bit of excitement to her window display, something miraculous starts to happen.
A Sister's Promise by Renita D'Silva
Synopsis: My sister – the glue that held our family together and the gatekeeper to the memories of our shared childhood. The girl I made a pact with – to protect each other for life. The woman who destroyed my family, my future. And the only one who can save my daughter. Set against the dramatic backdrop of India, A Sister’s Promise is a powerful, emotional tale of family secrets, love and the ties that bind sisters together.
The Secret By The Lake by Louise Douglas
Synopsis: A FAMILY TRAGEDY. Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now. A SISTER’S SECRET. But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen. A WEB OF LIES. Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves?
Summer at The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
Synopsis: Summer has arrived in the Cornish town of Mount Polbearne and Polly Waterford couldn't be happier. Because Polly is in love: she's in love with the beautiful seaside town she calls home, she's in love with running the bakery on Beach Street, and she's in love with her boyfriend, Huckle.
And yet there's something unsettling about the gentle summer breeze that's floating through town. Selina, recently widowed, hopes that moving to Mount Polbearne will ease her grief, but Polly has a secret that could destroy her friend's fragile recovery. Responsibilities that Huckle thought he'd left behind are back and Polly finds it hard to cope with his increasingly long periods of absence. Polly sifts flour, kneads dough and bakes bread, but nothing can calm the storm she knows is coming: is Polly about to lose everything she loves?
Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell
Synopsis: Hallie has a secret. She's in love. He's perfect for her in every way, but he's seriously out of bounds. And her friends aren't going to help her because what they do know is that Hallie doesn't have long to live. Time is running out. Flo has a dilemma. She really likes Zander. But his scary sister won't be even faintly amused if she thinks Zander and Flo are becoming friends - let alone anything more. Tasha has a problem. Her new boyfriend is the adventurous type. And she's afraid one of his adventures will go badly wrong.
It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane
Synopsis: Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong. When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault. When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault. And when he wanted her back like nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame. From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back.
The Little Flower Shop by The Sea by Ali McNamara
Synopsis: The blossom is out in the little Cornish harbour town of St Felix. But Poppy Carmichael's spirits aren't lifted by the pretty West Country spring. Inheriting her grandmother's flower shop has forced her to return to Cornwall, a place that holds too many memories.Poppy is determined to do her best for the sake of her adored grandmother, but she struggles with the responsibility of the more-shabby-than-chic shop. And with the added complication of Jake, the gruff but gorgeous local flower grower, Poppy is very tempted to run away. The pretty little town has a few surprises in store for Poppy. With new friends to help her and romance blooming, it's time for Poppy to open her heart to St Felix and to the special magic of a little flower shop by the sea!
My Rating 5/5
Synopsis: Summer has arrived in the Cornish town of Mount Polbearne and Polly Waterford couldn't be happier. Because Polly is in love: she's in love with the beautiful seaside town she calls home, she's in love with running the bakery on Beach Street, and she's in love with her boyfriend, Huckle.And yet there's something unsettling about the gentle summer breeze that's floating through town. Selina, recently widowed, hopes that moving to Mount Polbearne will ease her grief, but Polly has a secret that could destroy her friend's fragile recovery. Responsibilities that Huckle thought he'd left behind are back and Polly finds it hard to cope with his increasingly long periods of absence.
Polly sifts flour, kneads dough and bakes bread, but nothing can calm the storm she knows is coming: is Polly about to lose everything she loves?
*Please note, If you plan on reading the first book, then do not continue to read this review as it will inevitably contain spoilers*
My Review: OMG! I recently read The Little Beach Street Bakery and was overwhelmed. I just adored Polly Waterford as she makes a new life in Mount Polbearne. This time around we are back to re-visit them and it felt like I had never been away. Polly is now shacked up with her other half Huckle, and with her job at the bakery and weird choice of pet (a Puffin named Neil) life couldn’t be better.
However, things are about to change for Polly as her boss’ nephew turns up and starts creating havoc. In addition to the work issues Polly has, the recently widowed Selina turns up to live on the island. All of my favourite characters make a re-appearance too and I felt like I had never been away. Of course there is drama with a capital D, because wherever Polly goes, something just has to happen.
I was absolutely entranced from the first to the last page. I just adore Polly, Huckle, Neil and all the gang at Mount Polbearne and it felt like taking a holiday with friends. The story had funny moments, sad moments as well as the laugh out loud moments (especially where Neil is concerned). Jenny Colgan has a certain magic about her writing and it is always a joy to pick up one of her books and just escape from reality for a few hours. I am yet to not enjoy one of her books but Polly and the ‘Polbearne Posse’ are without a doubt my absolute favourites. This was a wonderful book that I didn’t want to end. Hugely recommended by me, that’s for sure!
From the books in this genre I have read, I have chosen my favourite ten (in no particular order) and would highly recommend reading them if you haven't already. These aren't necessarily books that have been published, but books I have read in this calendar year.
The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson
From Notting Hill with Four Weddings...Actually by Ali McNamara
Rory's Proposal by Lynda Renham
Love, Lies and Lemon Cake by Sue Watson
The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell
Stolen Girl by Renita D'Silva
If You Were Me by Sheila O'Flanagan
A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews
The French For Love by Fiona Valpy
Availability: Paperback, Kindle, Kobo and Nook
Synopsis: Polly Waterford is recovering from a toxic relationship. Unable to afford their flat, she has to move miles away from everyone, to a sleepy little seaside resort in Cornwall, where she lives alone above an abandoned shop.
And so Polly takes out her frustrations on her favourite hobby: making bread. But what was previously a weekend diversion suddenly becomes far more important as she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, and each loaf becomes better and better. With nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, with local honey (courtesy of local bee keeper, Huckle), and with reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes and bakes . . . And people start to hear about it.
Sometimes, bread really is life . . . And Polly is about to reclaim hers.