My Top 10 Books of 2016

Gosh, another year has passed, and is almost over with. I say this each and every year, but it's hard to believe how quickly the days seem to have flown by when the year reaches its end, isn't it? I, for one, feel more than ready to welcome 2017 with wide open arms no less. 2016 has been a bumpy one for sure, so I'm more than ready to start afresh with a renewed sense of determination.

Anyhow, this time of the year also brings with it a ton of bloggers' top reads lists. These are always exciting to read, and just as exciting for the authors who find themselves included, I'm sure. I always find it incredibly difficult to pin down my ultimate favourites but this year, it has felt almost impossible to narrow it down to only ten books, simply because so many fantastic novels have been published throughout 2016. This year, I also discovered a new-found love for crime/psychological thrillers that I never knew existed in me, and it's a genre I'm certain I'm only going to enjoy more and more of.

After much consideration, uhming and ahing, and fingernail-biting, I've finally done it. I've picked my top ten of 2016. It was tough. Really tough, but it's done at last. These books were the ones that I devoured whole, that kept me up way past midnight, that held me captive for hours on end, and that remained with me long after I turned the final page. These are the books that had my mind whirring, my vision blurry with tears, and my heart racing. Without further ado, here they are, folks! I hope you enjoy my top ten books of 2016 (in no particular order, of course!).

Summer at the Comfort Food Café
By Debbie Johnson
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

What a dream this story was! The ultimate escape to Dorset has remained with me since I finished this book, and even now, looking at that cover, I'm reminded of how much I enjoyed my visit alongside Johnson's wonderfully real and down-to-earth characters who brought this story completely to life on the pages. The story of the Walker family and their antics captured my heart completely, and warmed me from the inside out. Couple that with the scrumptious food that was sprinkled liberally throughout this book like chocolate chips atop a cake, well, you really can't say no, can you? It was a gloriously warm, joyful and uplifting novel, focusing on family, love and friendship, three things that I adore reading about in books. As soon as you open the pages of this one, it's like you're blasted in the face with the warm summer sunshine. An absolute MUST-READ, whether rain or shine.

Undertow
By Elizabeth Heathcote
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

Deliciously dark and chilling, Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote was a novel that truly crawled beneath my skin and remained there right the way to the very end of this gripping story. Focusing on the character of Carmen, Heathcote unravels, in the most tantalising and unnerving of ways, a scary truth hidden behind a perfect surface. I could not put this book down, and I absolutely raced through the pages, desperate to see how it would all end. Heathcote pushes her characters to their very limits in this one, and it left me reeling as piece by piece, the reality of Carmen's life began to take shape. Unputdownable, with twists and turns aplenty. It has you questioning who you can trust, and if you ever really know the people closest to you at all. This book just had to be included in my top ten, no doubt about it.

I Found You
By Lisa Jewell
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

I Found You by Lisa Jewell was actually the very first book that I read by this author. Shocking, isn't it? In all honesty though, I'm thrilled that it was, because I was absolutely captivated by the slightly bizarre yet totally believable tale that unfolded within. It was a wonderful surprise when I realised what predicament I'd been handed with the characters, and I was utterly spellbound as Jewell led me on such a powerful and moving journey. I cried when I finished because it was just so damn beautiful. It truly struck a chord with me, and even now, I still find my mind wandering back to the characters and their lives. A really special read that I'd certainly read again, just to feel the emotions it evoked. In fact, it's about time I dipped into another novel by Lisa Jewell. I was sold by this one completely.

Beneath the Surface
By Heidi Perks
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

Gosh, I couldn't get enough of this novel once I'd got started. It was insanely gripping, telling the tale of Abigail Ryder and the mystery behind the disappearance of her mother Katheryn and her two sisters when she returns home from school one day. From there onwards, Heidi Perks takes readers on a twisting and teasing ride, slipping back and forth between the past and the present, making this novel all the more mysterious and addictive. I was kept guessing right the way through, delighting in each truth that came to the surface, delivered exceptionally by the author. I am highly anticipating the next novel from Heidi Perks. I can't even begin to imagine what she has in store for her readers next. I, for one, cannot wait for all to be revealed.

A Suitable Lie
By Michael J. Malone
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

To say I was blown away by Malone's A Suitable Lie is an understatement. I couldn't turn the pages quick enough with this terrifyingly dark novel, and it truly struck a chord with me. It's a story capable of changing one's perspective, and really getting beneath your skin as you fall deeper beneath Malone's spell. The characters were fascinatingly complex, and it felt as if my hopes were raised and then dashed repeatedly while reading, rather like Andy Boyd's in the story itself. A Suitable Lie is one of those novels that remains inside of you long after you've turned the final page. It sticks in your mind and heart, and it's impossible to not be affected by the circumstances within while reading. I was in a different place entirely while reading this book, oblivious to the world surrounding me. Malone is a superbly talented writer, that much is true, and I wouldn't hesitate at all to read another novel by this author. The depth he reached with his characters' emotions was a depth I haven't reached in a novel for a very long time. Absolutely exceptional.

Another Love
By Amanda Prowse
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books Review

Amanda Prowse has quickly become a firm favourite author of mine, and that's saying something when, unlike a lot of her thousands of readers, I've actually only read about five of her novels. Prowse's books do something to me. They reach an emotional level within me that truly opens the tear-ducts and allow the feelings to flow. Prowse's Another Love is absolutely phenomenal, and moving in the most powerful of ways. It focuses on alcoholism, and the story of Romilly, David and Celeste, whose world is torn apart by the devastating consequences of this addiction. Prowse captures the emotion felt by each family member so perfectly, it's impossible not to feel as though you're there right beside the characters, living through the experience with them. Prowse's novels are always, without fail, so full of love, warmth and heart, yet still remain raw and real and tremendously heart-breaking. I finished reading Another Love by Amanda Prowse with tears streaming down my face and another character locked within my heart. It's a novel you don't finish and forget about, but rather finish and think of often, wondering how the characters are getting on. Sounds bizarre, I know, but that's how brilliant Prowse's novels are. Memorable, and moving, to say the least.

Between Me and You
By Lisa Hall
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review 

It was impossible not to see the incredible online presence Lisa Hall's debut with Carina UK picked up. Everywhere I turned, raving reviews could be found of what was said to be a novel with a startling twist that would knock your socks off completely. As always, with a towering to-read pile waiting for me, I didn't reach Between You and Me as quickly as I would have liked, but once I had, it was safe to say that the reviews I'd seen were absolutely spot-on. Between You and Me focuses on Sal and Charlie, and the darker side of their marriage that people are never actually witness. As this gripping novel progressed, it was clear to me what situation this couple were in, and I hoped and prayed that it wouldn't reach a point of no return. Hall then, just when I thought I knew what was coming, completely flipped this story on its head and I couldn't believe what was happening. To say I was shocked doesn't even begin to cover the emotions I felt when the twist reared its head. I couldn't believe how easily Hall had pulled the wool over my eyes. It was overwhelmingly tense, so much so at times I had to take a break from reading just to gather my thoughts and feelings. Having said that, Hall's second novel with Carina UK, Tell Me No Lies, was also FANTASTIC, so be sure to check that one out too if you get the chance. Hall is clearly an author on the rise, and I'm awaiting news of her third novel with baited breath.

The Couple Next Door
By Shari Lapena
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review 

I actually stated in my review of Shari Lapena's The Couple Next Door that I thought it was undoubtedly one of the best books I'd ever read. And it's true, I still think that to this very day. Saying I was 'gripped' by this novel doesn't do I felt while reading it any justice at all. In fact, the word gripping doesn't even come close. In all honesty, I was completely obsessed by this novel and the absolutely riveting twists and turns within the plot that took my breath away. I was lost to the story that unravelled, finding every interruption more frustrating than usual. I wanted to read and read and read, to see where Lapena's characters would end up. The tension was high in this one, and my questions and thoughts went round and round in my mind as I tried to figure out the truth. Would I be right or wrong? I won't tell you but I'd highly recommend you reading this because it was absolutely compelling. A definite must-read, in my opinion.

The Woman Next Door
By Cass Green
Available on Amazon UK | Becca's Books' Review

I was absolutely and completely blown away by Cass Green's The Woman Next Door. Dark and dangerous, it was a novel that pushed the boundaries to the absolute limits, and had me right on the edge of my seat. I couldn't quite believe where Green took her characters in this novel. It shocked and fascinated me in equal amounts, and I raced through the pages, desperate to see how the whole story would end. It was thrilling and exciting, grim and gruesome, but wholly consuming and entirely enjoyable. I don't think I've read a book quite like this one before, and I really can't wait for the next novel from Cass Green. I WAS OBSESSED.

Lying in Wait
By Liz Nugent
Available on Amazon UK

I haven't finished writing my official review for Liz Nugent's Lying in Wait just yet, but I'm pleased to tell you that this was an absolute bloody corker. I went into this novel with no expectations whatsoever. Liz Nugent is an entirely new author to me and so, I wasn't quite sure what I was in for when I began reading. Turns out, Liz Nugent is a phenomenal writer with the ability to hold her readers utterly spellbound. As soon as I began, I became fascinated by the characters and circumstances presented to me, and only found myself growing more so as the plot progressed. I fell deeper and deeper into a story full of dark secrets, obsession and greed. It was impossible for me to put it down, and that's the God's honest truth. It was addictive, thrilling, and shocking too. I'm already on my way to ordering to Nugent's Unravelling Oliver, because I just cannot wait to see what else this author has in store for me. Definitely one of the best books I've had the pleasure of reading this year. With an utterly compelling plot, and complex, intriguing characters, it's safe to say I was oblivious to everything and everyone around me while I was lost in this story. Just incredible.

So there we have it, folks. These are my top ten reads of 2016. I do hope you'll perhaps pick one up, just to see if you enjoy it as much as I did. 2016 has been a fantastic year for book releases, and it's only made me more excited for what's to come from the world of books in 2017.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and exciting New Year. I hope you enjoy the celebrations ahead, but stay safe too. To each and every one of you, HAPPY NEW YEAR! And thanks a million for all of the support for Becca's Books. It's been a pleasure chatting to you all this year, and I hope that continues well into 2017.

Blog Tour: Book Review - Witness by Caroline Mitchell

Today on Becca's Books, I'm absolutely thrilled to be sharing my review of Caroline Mitchell's thrilling new novel Witness.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - Witness
Author - Caroline Mitchell
Publisher - Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date - December 20th 2016
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided by publisher via NetGalley)
Pages - 338

Blurb
To Rebecca it was a brave decision that led to her freedom from domestic abuse. To Solomon it was the ultimate betrayal.

It's been ten years since Rebecca's testimony saw Solomon locked away. Enough time for the nightmares to recede, the nerves to relax; enough time to rebuild her life and put the past behind her.

Then one day the phone rings in her bedroom - but it's not her phone. Solomon has been in her home, and has a very simple message for her: for each of the ten years he has spent in jail, Rebecca must witness a crime. And, to make matters worse, she has to choose the victims.

Fail to respond and you get hurt. Talk to the police and you die. Ready to play? You have sixty seconds to decide...

As the crimes grow more severe, the victims closer to home, Rebecca is forced to confront a past she had hoped was gone forever.

Review
Blimey. You know when you're reading a brilliantly gripping book and the world around you just seems to fade out? Well, that's certainly the case with Mitchell's brand new release with Thomas and Mercer, Witness. Dark, dangerous and undeniably exciting, this novel held me captive from beginning to end, taking me on a ride that left me feeling completely breathless when it reached its end. Mitchell's superb skills, when it comes to creating the perfect atmosphere, were spot on as always. Like a sticky and unescapably spider's web, I was drawn in and, once there, unable to escape from the world Mitchell created within the pages. It was addictive to say the least.

In Caroline Mitchell's Witness, readers are introduced to Rebecca. With a shocking prologue to begin Rebecca's tale, I couldn't believe how soon the action came about, and it's fair to say that the prologue helped to set the tone for the remainder of the novel. It was gruesome and tragic, but clear to me that this would pave the rest of Rebecca's journey within the story. It was impossible to ignore the sense of foreboding that swept through the writing, of something far more fearful to come, and that spurred me on even more.

One thing I utterly adored about this novel, and something that ramped my eagerness up a further two notches or three, was the swapping and changing of character with every couple of chapters. Not only do we read from Rebecca's point of view, but also Solomon's too. After a stint in prison, he's back and after revenge, with a teasing and taunting game up his sleeve that nothing will stop him from playing. Solomon is clever and nasty and all of those things that Rebecca was desperate to get away from all those years before, so when he's back in the picture and on the hunt, I couldn't turn the pages quick enough in order to see how it would all play out. It had my heart rate speeding up, no doubt about it, and the characters were just superb. An added bonus were the diary entries peppered throughout the story, allowing me an insight into a time already passed. It was deliciously intoxicating to read, and truly got beneath my skin. Rebecca's fears were stuck firmly in my mind even when I was away from this book. She was such a vivid and bold character, Solomon too, bringing this story completely to life.

Overall, Witness by Caroline Mitchell is an exciting new novel by an incredibly talented author who only seems to be rising higher in my opinion. Her writing is sharp and precise and her characters always so believable. Witness had it all, in my opinion. I really couldn't fault a single thing about this story, and cannot wait to read more from Mitchell. She's an author who I'll always be looking forward to, no matter how short a time ago I finished her last book. Becca's Books is awarding Witness by Caroline Mitchell with five of my bookish cupcakes. I absolutely LOVED IT.


Be sure to keep up with the rest of the #Witness blog tour!

Blog Tour: Book Review - Be My Baby (The House on Camden Square #3) by A.L. Michael

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be sharing my book review of A.L. Michael's Be My Baby, the third book in the The House on Camden Square series, as part of the blog tour, organised by Jenny over at Neverland Blog Tours.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - Be My Baby
Author - A.L. Michael
Publication Date - November 7th 2016
Publisher - HQ Digital
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided by tour host)
Pages - 171

Blurb
Two's company...
If you asked Mollie whether she struggled as a single mum, she'd have to cover her daughter's ears before answering. Surrounded by friends, watching Esme grow into the sassiest eleven-year-old in North London, and building her name as TV chef Mollie Makes, Mollie's never been happier. Well, that's what she'd tell you. But as her best friends pair off, and Esme starts getting into trouble at school, Mollie wonders whether life would be different - not better... just easier - with a team mate.

Three's a crowd?
But Esme's dad, Jamie, would be the last man Mollie would team up with. After all, he made it clear eleven years ago that he wasn't interested in playing the family game. So when he suddenly reappears, Mollie can't believe her eyes. And soon, she's got to ask herself the hardest question yet: she knows she can succeed as a single mum. But what if her daughter doesn't want her to?

Review
First of all, let me just say that this book was just gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous! Be My Baby by A.L. Michael is actually the first book I've had the pleasure of reading in Michael's The House on Camden Square series, which is pretty bad considering this is the third and final instalment, isn't it? Having said that, I do have Goodbye Ruby Tuesday on my Kindle waiting for me, so I'm sure that as soon as I possibly can, I'll read the first and second books in the series too, and after loving Be My Baby as much as I do, it now feels like an absolute must rather than a want.

In A.L. Michael's Be My Baby, readers meet the fantastic Mollie. Single mum to the incredibly sassy and smart eleven-year-old Esme and a passionate advocate for healthy food, Mollie is the independent face behind 'Mollie Makes...' and seems to be about to go places. Even though she's more than happy with her lot in life, Mollie can't help but wonder sometimes how different things would be now if her past had gone a little differently... But her wondering is brought to an end all too soon, because before she realises it, old faces and old memories are reappearing, knocking her right off her stride.

A.L. Michael opens this world and her characters up to her readers in the most beautiful, warm and inviting way. I cannot tell you how effortless it was for me to lose myself in this story. The relationships were gorgeously crafted, the characters themselves fantastically real and seeming to dance right off the page and into my imagination. Michael's style is witty and cosy, entertaining and a joy to read, so much so that I really didn't want to put this book down. I was reading right until I couldn't keep my eyes for a single second longer, no matter how badly I wanted to stay awake to continue (which I did, trust me). One thing that I absolutely adored was the strong and unbreakable bond between Mollie and her best friends. They were so close and honest with each other, and had helped each other throughout life whenever the other had needed it. It warmed my heart completely, and the author managed to get it completely spot-on.

Another thing that the author managed to nail completely was the beautiful mother and daughter relationship between Mollie and Esme. Mollie had raised Esme herself and, in my opinion, had done a brilliant job of doing so. She wasn't your typical eleven-year-old, she loved reading and listening to music from before her time, which sort of set her apart from the rest of the girls at school. She's happy and funny and incredibly clever, but she knows that she's different from her peers in more ways than one, and one of those ways is that her father isn't around. Being able to relate to this on a personal level, I couldn't believe how perfect the emotions that Esme felt were. It felt very real and very close to me, which made it all the more powerful in my mind. Michael handles these sensitive and heartfelt issues in the most mature of ways, displaying the emotional side of an absent father in crystal-clear terms.

Not only is this story about the blessings that are family and friends, but it's also about confronting your fears and letting go of the past to be able to focus on the future. It's a story of acceptance and forgiveness, of moving forward and trusting your heart to lead you in the direction. There's romance too, and plenty of those moments that have you holding your breath, waiting to see what the characters will do next...

A.L. Michael seems to have gone from strength to strength since the last book I read. This was crisp and clean, written so brilliantly with fantastic characters who steal your heart completely away. I loved it from beginning to end, and can only thank the author for writing such a heartfelt novel. I'll be back for more from you, A.L. Michael! It's five cupcakes from me.


Giveaway

(UK ONLY)

About the author
A.L Michael is a writer and workshop leader from North London. She has a BA in Creative
Writing with English Lit, an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship and is starting an MsC in Creative
Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. She likes learning and hates essays.
She's a fan of cheap wine, expensive chocolate and still wants to be a secret agent when she grows
up, but she'll settle for lying on the page.

You can find A.L. Michael on Facebook | Twitter | almichael.com

Be sure to keep up with the rest of the blog tour!

Blog Tour: Book Review - The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

Happy Thursday, gorgeous book folk! How're you all? Doing well, I hope!

Today on Becca's Books, I'm completely over the moon to have the honour of kicking off the blog tour for Amanda Prowse's brand-new novel, The Food of Love, which is released TODAY! I cannot tell you how excited I was when I was contacted about taking part in this. Even after having only read a few books by this incredible author, it's safe to say that already I am a huge fan. Without further ado, let me tell you why I loved The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - The Food of Love
Author - Amanda Prowse
Publication Date - 1st December 2016
Publisher - Lake Union Publishing
Format - Paperback (Provided by author)
Pages - 364

Blurb
A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.

But when Lexi's struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.

In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life's darkest moments.

Review
In this brand-new raw, emotional and powerful novel by the incredible Amanda Prowse, readers are invited into the story unfolding on the pages and are witness to the fallout of what it's like when an eating disorder rears its head within a close-knit and loving family, seemingly out of nowhere.

In Prowse's The Food of Love, we're introduced to the Braithwaite family. There's Freya, the loving, caring and kind mother. There's Lockie, Freya's wonderful husband and father to their two teenage girls, and then there's Charlotte and Lexi. At first glance, this family are just like any other. Busy with work and school, but still managing to find the time to care and nurture for their family. They have laughs and cuddles, and it's fair to say that the marriage between Freya and Lockie is still going strong, even after all of these years. They're both head over heels in love with each other, which of course radiates over the rest of the family. Freya is undeniably happy with her lot in life, and who can blame her? She's got everything that she ever hoped for and more. But of course, things are never as perfect as they appear to be on the surface...

As always, with Amanda Prowse's novels, the subjects that the author writes about are handled with the upmost respect. It's clear that this author does her research in order to get the facts spot on, and that was definitely the case in The Food of Love. When Freya discovers what has been going on with her daughter, she is shocked to her very core and, I suppose in a small way, in a tiny bit of denial. This is her family. She's done her absolute best to take care of them all and ensure that something like this can never happen. It's the kind of thing that people think never happens to them until it does, and so it's understandable, and Prowse manages to get the emotions that Freya feels absolutely spot on, as well as the emotions from the rest of the family.

This novel isn't only about anorexia. Prowse focuses and zooms in on the devastating and heart-breaking effects that this horrible illness has on the families of those that it affects, and the separate relationships within those families. I'm not ashamed to say that as the fight began and the family all stood tall at Lexi's side, I certainly shed a few tears. You just can't imagine being in their shoes, yet Amanda delivers it excellently, with no dramatics, nothing but the hard truth which makes reading it all the more powerful and memorable. It certainly sticks with you and stays in your mind for a long time after you've finished and closed the book and that, in my opinion, is a signifier of a superb novel.

Once again, Prowse has knocked my socks off with her latest novel The Food of Love. I'm not sure I've read an author quite like this one, and I know that with each book announcement, my love for her writing is only going to increase. This was absolutely superb, with so much heart, warmth, and a whole lot of love. The characters were utterly real to me and their lives felt so incredibly important to me as the reader. I was concerned for them all, that's for sure, and truly hoped for nothing but the best for them. Moving on a whole new level, and educational too, this is a must-read from Amanda Prowse. Just be sure to have those tissues at hand, and a loved one's hand to squeeze.

Becca's Books is awarding The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse with five of my bookish cupcakes. Prowse's novels only seem to be getting better and better. Not only does she write a fantastic story, but her love for writing itself positively shines through from the pages, heightening my own enjoyment even more.

Be sure to keep up with the rest of the blog tour!