Welcome to Part 2 of What the Authors Recommend 2017. I asked several of my favourite authors to tell me what their favourites book were that they read in 2017 and why. Here are 10 more wonderful authors with fabulous recommendations:
SE Lynes: After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington. Her first novel, Valentina, published by Blackbird Digital Books, came out in July 2016. Her follow up novel, Mother, was published by Bookouture in November 2017.
My top three authors are firstly, Louise Beech, a writer I would not know about were it not for TBC. I read The Mountain in my Shoe because everyone raved about it and because she was so funny in the banter threads on TBC – I have never read so many tit gags in my entire life. Anyway, I loved MIMS last year and this year, I loved Maria in the Moon. I loved the sense of place, the idea of the call centre and of the larger disaster forming the backdrop for the smaller (yet at the same time massive) personal disaster. I loved the metaphor of the rebuilding of a house and rebuilding a person, a life. I loved the difficult central character and her troubled relationships with those around her, explored through very realistic dialogue. I liked the way the story unfolded a little at a time and was in no rush to answer all the questions it posed in the early stages. I thought what was particularly clever was writing a central character who is so grumpy and obstructive but whom the reader really cares for. By the end of course we know why she is the way she is and we really feel for her – as in life, once you know someone’s story, you understand them a lot better. Most of all, I think Louise writes with a lot of compassion. Clearly, underneath all the tits beats a sensitive heart.
Secondly I read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, which has to be in my top three. The book makes the list because it was so unusual. It is a collection of long short stories (if that makes sense) all set in Maine and featuring the eponymous Olive either as the central character, supporting character or sometimes just a cameo role. I found this to be a clever way of looking at how life is perceived so very differently by different people. The book also deals with getting older, having one’s children grow into adults and, terrifyingly, having those children make judgments on their parents or worse, marrying people who cause them to look critically at their parents – something which happens so much in real life. Here again, I liked the central character. She was physically large and feisty, opinionated and outspoken, and like a lot of feisty opinionated people had no idea of how terrifying she was to the people around her. There are many tender moments, many funny moments, many moments of, for me, sheer terror as unintended family dysfunctions come to light. As in life, people doing each other damage quite without realising.
Number three is The Secret Mother by Shalini Boland. Shalini is a fellow Bookouture author and has been my running mate in the psychological thriller charts. She is a colleague become pal behind the scenes and is lovely. For this reason, I read her book, really to lend support. I read the book in two sittings, which is unheard of for me. To coin a phrase, I could not put it down. Shalini approaches this genre so differently from me and she really shows how it’s done. Every scene drives the mystery forward, complicating, making things worse for the heroine, which makes for a speedy, page turning read. It appears simple but it is not. I admire this skill precisely because I can’t do it. She is having a lot of well deserved success with this book and I wish her all the luck.
Tami Hoag: Tami Hoag’s novels have appeared on international bestseller lists regularly since the publication of her first book in 1988. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages worldwide and over twenty-million copies of her books are in print. Tami is a dedicated equestrian in the discipline of dressage and shares her home with two English cocker spaniels. She lives in Palm Beach County, Florida.
The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger
Insane Clown President by Matt Taibbi
and Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
Linwood Barclay: Linwood Barclay is the international bestselling author of many critically acclaimed novels, including No Safe House, A Tap on the Window, Trust Your Eyes and the Richard & Judy 2008 Summer Read winner and number one bestseller, No Time for Goodbye. He lives near Toronto with his wife.
The Force by Don Winslow: This epic take on a renegade squad of New York cops surpasses even Winslow’s The Cartel.
The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham: Robotham’s best psychological thriller to date delves so deeply into the minds of his two female protagonists that you’ll have a hard time escaping.
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta: I’m a fan of The Leftovers, a show inspired by a Perrotta novel, but had never read him. This was my first, and it’s a wickedly funny tale of sex, love, and our evolving social culture.
Sharon Bolton: Sharon Bolton (previously S. J. Bolton) is the critically acclaimed author of some of the most bone-chilling crime books ever written. She has been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year and the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. In 2014 she won the CWA Dagger in the Library for her whole body of work.
Sharon lives near Oxford with her husband and son.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough I’m nervous when publicists talk about a brilliant twist in a novel. It always strikes me as a hostage to fortune. The minute the reader knows a twist is coming, he or she will be desperate to spot it in advance and will probably do so. To forewarn of a twist is to ruin it; especially to someone as twisty and turny as me. I had no doubt I’d have that ending sussed long before I got anywhere near it. I didn’t have a clue. It knocked me for six. It left me shaking for several days. This is a truly exceptional book from a master of the dark, weird tale.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry On the surface this could be just another story, albeit beautifully written, of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world but, ultimately, this is neither fairy tale, nor coming of age novel, nor Gothic fantasy, although it has elements of each, but a story of relationships and a forbidden – and at the same time, quite blessed – love. The crooked imp of a surgeon, the passionate socialist reformer, the beautiful consumptive, the autistic child, the wealthy would-be philanthropist: all make Cora Seaborne, our heroine, the centre of their world, each demanding a great deal from her, each blaming her when she cannot provide it. Wonderfully realized, beautifully crafted and perfectly formed, The Essex Serpent is a Dickensian masterpiece for modern times.
Spook Street by Mick Herron Herron’s books about a bunch of MI5 rejects has been growing in popularity since the first in the series, Slow Horses, came out a few years ago. It’s not hard to see why. They are all original, funny and packed full of detail that seems so authentic you feel sure Herron must be an MI5 reject himself. (He swears he isn’t.) The latest offering, Spook Street, is possibly the best yet, from its jaw-droppingly impactful opening scene to its hugely entertaining conclusion. Can be read as a stand alone, but personally I’d being with Slow Horses and enjoy the ride.
Marilyn Messik: Marilyn was a regular feature and fiction writer for national magazines when her children were small. She set up her first business selling toys, books and party goods from home, before opening first one shop then another.
When she sold the shops, she moved into the world of travel, focusing on accommodation in New England, USA. Her advisory, planning and booking service flourished and she concurrently launched a publishing company, producing an annual, full-colour accommodation guide. In 2007 she set up a copywriting consultancy, Create Communication to help businesses shape their messages to optimum effect. She’s the author of the Little Black Business Book series.
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant. This is an author I haven’t seen mentioned on TBC, but her first three books were a Zombie Apocalypse series and were great. Just finished her latest, about mermaids – but not as we know them! Thoroughly recommend.
The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths I’ve loved the Ruth Galloway series and think this new set of characters in the Mephisto and Stevens mysteries, set just post WW2, are equally excellent. I’m awe of Elly Griffiths as an author, she publishes so frequently but the quality of her writing remains 5 star.
The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne Simon Toyne gets better and better. Great plot in this second thriller in the series, featuring the enigmatic Solomon Creed and a super intriguing supernatural element, I can see this character going from strength to strength – at least I certainly hope so. Simon, don’t let us down!
Simon Toyne – Simon Toyne is the international bestselling author of the Sanctus trilogy – Sanctus, The Key and The Tower – and the Solomon Creed series. He wrote Sanctus after quitting his job as a TV executive and it became the biggest selling debut thriller of 2011 in the UK. His books have been translated into 27 languages and published in over 50 countries.
The Force – Don Winslow If you’ve never read Don Winslow before than stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW and read this book. It’s like The Godfather meets the Wire. Dennis Lehane crossed with Joseph Wambaugh. Shakespearean tragedy with a New York accent. Quite simply a masterpiece. It’s also currently being developed into a Ridley Scott movie so read the book before Hollywood ruins it.
Here and Gone – Haylen Beck ‘Here and Gone’ is a pretty fair description of what happens to the real world when you pick up this book. It doesn’t put a foot wrong and, like a classic song, manages to progress at the perfect pace and also in a way that manages to be both surprising and inevitable. Not a word is wasted and it plays on the page like a great movie. I read it in the first week of January and knew immediately that it was already one of my thrillers of the year. Hell it might just be one of my thrillers of any year. Buy it. Read it. Just don’t make any plans before you open that first page.
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green I know I’m very late to this particular party but I was toying with the idea of writing a book in first person so Googled ‘best books in first-person’ and this came up several times so I dived in. It has a lightness of tone that belies the ‘star-crossed teenage cancer victims’ subject matter and is, actually, essential for the book to succeed. I know how hard it is to make writing like this seem so effortless and I breezed through it marvelling at the agility of the story and sheer skill of the storytelling.
Julia Crouch: Julia Crouch grew up in Cambridge and studied Drama at Bristol University. She spent ten years working as a theatre director and playwright, then, after a spell of teaching, she somehow became a successful graphic and website designer, a career she followed for another decade while raising her three children. An MA in sequential illustration re-awoke her love of narrative and a couple of Open University creative writing courses brought it to the fore.
Cuckoo, her first novel, emerged as a very rough draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2008. A year’s editing got it ready for submission to an agent and within a couple of months she had a book deal with Headline and had given up the day job.
Every Vow You Break, her second novel, was published in March 2012, Tarnished, her third, came out in 2013, followed by Every Vow You Break in 2014 and Her Husband’s Lover in 2017. She is also published in Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Brazil and China.
An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth Colette has really pulled off a fantastic political thriller/domestic noir crossover here, combining issues around motherhood with high-level, high-stakes intrigue. She writes brilliantly from all points of view, but I particularly love the sections where she inhabits the problematic character of Gabriel, the son of Linda, the protagonist. It’s totally page-turning with a stunning twist. Colette really knows her political onions, having been a political correspondent for BBC TV News, and it really shows here.
He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly. I love Erin’s books, and this is one of her very best. It takes a difficult and challenging subject and twists it around and around so that you just can’t stop reading. I love the setting around eclipse chasing, too – which lifts it away from the close focus of the psychological thriller and puts the characters right out there into the world. Erin’s writing always sparkles – there’s a swagger to the prose that is a delight to read.
The Intrusions by Stav Sherez Stav’s books never fail to thrill. As well as being page-turning and full of heart and character, they are also an education, because he always exposes some shocking aspect of contemporary life. The Intrusions is about internet stalking and date rape drugs, and it is utterly dark and terrifying.I literally read it in one sitting.
Louise Beech: Louise Beech knew from being small that she wanted to write, to create, to make magic. She remembers sitting in her father’s cross-legged lap while he tried to show her his guitar’s chords. His music sheets fascinated her – such strange language that translated into music. Her mother taught languages, French and English, so her fluency fired Louise’s passion for words.
Louise’s short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent. Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015. The Sunday Mirror called Maria in the Moon quirky, darkly comic, original and heartfelt.
When she was fifteen Louise bet her mother ten pounds she’d be published by the time she was thirty. She missed this deadline by two months. Her mother is still waiting for the money.
The One – John Marrs What a read! Was hooked for just over two days! Really one of those that gets you thinking… would I take the test? This novel twists and turns, and just when you think you know where it’s going… no, you don’t! My favourite story was Nick’s. Actually touched my heart that one.
Snow Sisters – Carole Lovekin Verity has returned ‘home’ to Gull House after many years, to look for something. We’re not sure quite what, and nor is she. But in beautiful and rich flashback, we are not only told, but we experience how she came to this moment. As children, in Gull House, Verity and her sister Meredith were haunted by a ghost. A ghost who was terribly betrayed. And only in setting her free, will they too find their own truths. Snow Sisters is a mesmerising, haunting novel, full of description that makes your heart ache. It explores the painful dynamics of family, of where we belong, of love, and of endurance. This is a novel of magic, of potent spells, and of great beauty. Lovekin’s prose soars like the birds who see everything. I will not forget it.
The Winter’s Child – Cassandra Parkin Wow. I have always loved Parkin’s books – have read every single one – but oh, this is a treat. I didn’t think it possible that she up her game, but she has. All her usual talents are present and accounted for; beautiful prose, thoughtful and real characters, gorgeous story. But this one is darker, twistier, and utterly addictive. Watch out world, this one should be huge!
Ruth Dugdall: Ruth studied English at university and then took an MA is Social Work. Following this she worked in the Criminal Justice System as a social worker then as a probation officer. Part of this time was spent seconded to a prison housing serious offenders. She continues to work within the Criminal Justice System, most recently in Luxembourg.
Ruth’s novels are informed by her experience and are “authentic and credible”.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore In June my mother-in-law went on a cruise and met a bloke whose daughter had written a book about the girls who painted radium dials and ended up paying with their lives. Intrigued, she ordered the book for me and I’m so glad she did!
The story of the Radium Girls is tragic, and the cover-up by the business owners frankly shocking. What shines out of this book is the resilience of the women in their fight for justice, and just reading it feels like paying tribute to their memory. This book is a perfect gift for lovers of non-fiction and historical writing, yet the story is as dramatic as you’ll find in any novel.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty In August I moved to California and gorged on the HBO dramatisation of Big Little Lies during the 12 hour flight. It’s set in Monterey, just down the road from my home. What a shock, then, to read the actual book and discover it’s set in Sydney, Australia!
The novel is a wry, witty account of a group of tiger-moms who are all hiding a secret. From the outset we know someone is dead, but not who or why, and the plot unfolds with perfect timing. What really stands out is the humour – this author has a gift for comic observations of life that are so true they make you wince.
Did You See Melody? Sophie Hannah I’m a big fan of Sophie Hannah’s, and have been since her debut novel Little Face. She’s so prolific, what with her poetry and Poirot Mysteries as well as her yearly crime novels, that I wonder how she does it.
Did You See Melody? is, in my opinion, her best for a few years because of the welcome dose of humour. I’ve been lucky enough to share a panel with Sophie and she’s very funny; this book shows that off beautifully. The theme of missing girl, no body found, parents suspected, is one that will resonate with British readers.
Mark Edwards: I write psychological thrillers. My influences include writers such as Stephen King, Ira Levin, Ruth Rendell, Ian McEwan, Val McDermid and Donna Tartt and movies like Rosemary’s Baby, Single White Female, Fatal Attraction and anything in which scary things happen to ordinary people.
Exquisite by Sarah Stovell. This is my book of the year – an addictive tale of a twisted love affair between two female authors who meet at a writers’ retreat. The prose is, well, exquisite and it kept me glued to its pages. I had no idea how it was going to end but loved finding out. It’s the kind of book that reminds me why I love reading.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. I don’t scare easily (I’m well hard, me) and genuinely spooky novels are hard to find. So I was thrilled to read this – a gothic ghost story set in the nineteenth century, featuring a woman who may be losing her mind. It’s a gorgeous book too. The hardback would make a great gift for anyone who wants a book to curl up with on a dark winter evening.
The River at Night by Erica Ferencik. I’m choosing this because it’s so different to anything I’ve read recently. A group of women go rafting in the middle of the woods…and it all goes horribly wrong. My kind of book. Again, the writing is beautiful and evocative, and there’s a great twist in the second half. And as a bonus, it’s short. The world needs more short books like this one.
I will be posting more of these over the next few weeks – if you would like to take part as an author – please send me a message via the Contact Me page.