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Emma’s Best Books of 2019

Emma’s Best Books of 2019

The featured image above was specifically designed by Felix Ortiz for Novel Notions’ Top 20 Lists. 


Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m cheating… my Best Books of 2019 post is a little different from the rest of the Novel Notions team.

It’s felt like a bit of a strange reading year for me, with a lot of study, non-fiction, and comfort rereads. My number is sitting at 164 so far, with a whole load getting that very respectable 4 star rating. However, there have only been a small amount that have truly floored me, that have deserved the 4.5 or the big, shiny 5 star rating. These are the kind of books that stay in your memory forever, that you recommend EVERYWHERE and as often as possible. They’re the ones where it’s almost impossible to stop your eyes from flicking forward to see what’s coming next because you’re so excited to get there. When I made that feeling the criteria for my list, it made things immediately clear. I don’t have 20, I have 10. They were all published this year and I loved them all. I hope you consider giving them a go too…

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Book Review: The Holdout by Graham Moore

Book Review: The Holdout by Graham Moore

 

The Holdout by Graham Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published: 20th February 2020 (Orion)

Being a juror on a high profile murder case has got to be a thrill ride and a half: looking at the bloody evidence and weighing witness statements, the savage craziness of the media interest, then finally getting to decide the fate of a man charged with murder. It’s got to be just like tv, right? Exciting. Maybe even a shot at your own fame… 15 minutes or otherwise.

But what Maya Seale got wasn’t quite fame, it was INFAMY. Not convinced of Bobby Nock’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, she campaigned for a Not Guilty verdict and eventually persuaded, or wore down, all the other jurors. The result was spectacularly unpopular, provoking uproar in both the courtroom and the real world, and changing the jurors’ lives forever.

Now it’s 10 years later and they’re back together again. Apparently there’s new evidence to consider and more questions to be asked. Everyone wants to know if they got it wrong. But when one juror ends up dead, it looks like someone’s willing to kill to keep their secrets buried for good.

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Book Review: Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan (DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, #5)

Book Review: Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan (DI Zigic and DS Ferreira, #5)

 

 

Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published: 5th May 2020 (Raven Books)

Between Two Evils, the 5th instalment of the DI Zigic and DS Ferreira series, has Eva Dolan turning her searching gaze towards yet another significant social question: the multifaceted forms of racism and abuse experienced by immigrants to the UK. When a doctor is found dead in his home, his work in the local all-female detention centre provides an obvious avenue for investigation, especially when the detectives discover his role in whistle-blowing a culture of horrifying misconduct. But that’s not all the officers have on their plate. A violent serial rapist has been freed thanks to police malpractice and Zigic and Ferreira know that it’s only a matter of time before he attacks again. And this time it might be even closer to home…

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Book Review: Safe House by Jo Jakeman

Book Review: Safe House by Jo Jakeman

 

Safe House by Jo Jakeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published: 31st October 2019 (Harvill Secker)

Steffi Finn was in love with her man. So when he told her that the police were trying to fit him up for something he hadn’t done, she lied for him. Said he was with her all night. Because that’s what you do, right? You protect the ones you care about. Most of all, you believe them. In cases like this, you have to believe them. Otherwise those questions about missing women mean there’s something a whole lot worse going on than you just making a mistake….

And boy was she ever wrong, with a prison sentence to prove it.

Now she’s out. New name. New life. A chance to start again.

But someone thinks she doesn’t deserve it.
They’re going to show her what it really means to be sorry.

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Book Review: The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

Book Review: The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

 

The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Published: 03 October 2019 (HQ)

Bad people win. They win all the time.

Rain Winter was outraged by the not-guilty verdict that allowed Steve Markham to get away with killing his wife and their unborn child. Her investigation of the murder had left her with no doubts about his guilt, the injustice of his freedom and the inevitable media circus that gifted him the celebrity spotlight leaving her feeling sickened and powerless. Taking time out from journalism to care for her husband and baby seemed like a welcome and necessary step, a break from all the madness. But now Markham’s dead. Butchered by the same method he used to get rid of his family. And word is that it’s not the only time this vigilante has acted. That the first was actually Eugene Kreskey, the man who tried to abduct her as a child. The man who killed one of her friends and tortured the other.

If there’s a link, a story, she needs to find it. All of a sudden, she’s right back in, bringing to light all kinds of secrets that should have stayed buried. Especially her own.

 

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Book Review: Vendetta in Death (In Death, #49)

Book Review: Vendetta in Death (In Death, #49)


Vendetta in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

After reading four dozen books with the same characters, you’d think I’d be tired of them. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Vendetta in Death is the 49th(!) book following Eve Dallas, a Homicide detective in New York City in the near future. By this point, Eve and Roarke and every person in their lives feel tangibly real to me, and every new installment in this series feels like a chance to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

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Book Review: Magic for Liars

Book Review: Magic for Liars


Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The cover and synopsis and title of the novel were all immediately intriguing to me. Magic for Liars is a murder mystery on a magical high school campus, told from the perspective of the nonmagical private eye who finds herself on the case. You can see why I was intrigued, right? Noir novels can be very hit or miss, but this one was definitely a hit. It was everything I was hoping for, and more than I was expecting.

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ENDGAME (Fawkes and Baxter, #3)

ENDGAME (Fawkes and Baxter, #3)

Endgame by Daniel Cole

My rating: 5 of 5 Stars

The title says it all: Endgame.

This is where it all comes together. Where questions and relationships are resolved. Where things… END????!!!

 

As usual, Daniel Cole opens with an author’s note. In the previous books this was used more as an amusing intro to his irreverent style, and that’s still the case here, but primarily it’s a warning to readers that this is the finale of a trilogy.  There is so much in Endgame that directly references the past, bringing together plot and character arcs, throwing in cheeky Easter eggs, relying heavily on backstory, that without reading the first two books, you’d be missing half the story. At least. I had read both Ragdoll and Hangman before but I STILL did a reread to refresh the details. In any case, both previous books are 5 star reads, genuinely good fun. Just like this, they’re dark and gory, funny and clever. Start with Ragdoll and work your way through, you won’t regret it.

For those that are up-to-date, I’m going to keep this review as free of spoilers as possible. I mean, the blurb lets you know that the entire plot revolves around the death of a certain character so there’s not much I can do about that, but rest easy that there nothing else in here to ruin your read….

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NOTHING TO HIDE (DC CONSTANCE FAIRCHILD, #2)

NOTHING TO HIDE (DC CONSTANCE FAIRCHILD, #2)

Nothing to Hide by James Oswald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A cracking second investigation for DC Constance Fairchild, promising a hit for James Oswald’s new series.

DC Constance Fairchild is back in London… and back in trouble. Or maybe still in trouble, it’s hard to tell. It’s bad enough that her suspension’s not been lifted, that she’s on the receiving end of serious attitude from other police for rocking the boat, and that the gutter press won’t leave her alone, but now there’s a crime scene right outside her flat. She’s been told to leave it, to keep a low profile, but after finding some poor boy dying beneath the rubbish, she’s not about to let that stand. Especially when she discovers that he’s far from the first. But she has no idea that this is an investigation that’s going to take her to the darkest of places, a fight for her very survival…

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