Friday 30 December 2022

My Top Reads of 2022 #AmReading #TopReads2022 #FavouriteBooks2022 #BookBlogger


My Top Reads of 2022

At the end of last year, I knew that the coming twelve months were going to be very difficult, and they were.

My lovely, funny, tiny, fierce Irish Mammy died in March after a relatively short illness. Mum was the backbone of our little family, she could be incredibly blunt at times (now you know where I get it from!), but she loved us all with a passion.

Life without her is hard. I miss our telephone calls, our debates, our hugs and our shopping trips. 

We have been lucky enough to have some amazing holidays this year, in between bouts of sickness. We visited Cyprus twice, Corfu and Malta. We managed to get to some literary festivals; Newark, Harrogate and Bloody Scotland. We met up with people we hadn't seen for so long. There were bright spots amongst the sadness, and I know my Mum is watching.

Despite the painful sadness and bouts of ill health that have knocked me off my feet more than once. I have continued to read and shout about the books that I love. I have been able to grow my Blog Tour organising business and once again, I have been fortunate enough to work with some truly amazing books, authors, publishers and fellow bloggers. 

As always, I rarely finish a book that I'm not enjoying, so to pick my top books out of so many that I've really enjoyed has, once more, been very difficult. 

As always, my list is split into three sections; I start with some of the 2022 books that I read in 2021. I mentioned them last year and hoped that they would be huge.

The second part is my list of  Top Books of 2022

Finally, I'll give a mention to some 2023 publications that I've read early.

I really think that 2023 is going to be another fabulous book year!


2022 books that I predicted would do well

At the end of last year, I'd read these 2022 books pre-publication, and predicted that they would do well. I'm still recommending them, twelve months later.  (click on the title for my full review).

Should I Tell You? by Jill Mansell - 20 January 2022 from Headline

Anything Could Happen by Lucy Diamond - 6 January 2022 from


The Impulse Purchase by Veronica Henry - 3 February 2022 from Orion

How To Find Your Way Home by Katy Regan - 3 February 2022 from Mantle

Other Parents by Sarah Stovell - 20 January from HQ Stories 

Wahala by Nikki May - 6 January from Doubleday 

Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes - 17 February from Michael Joseph

My Top Reads of 2022

My Top Reads of the year are listed in order of reading. The list contains some favourite authors who pop up year after year, and also some debuts. I think it's a great list, with something for everyone. 

I heartily recommend all of these books.  (click on the title for my full review)

Notes On An Execution by Danya Kukafka (Phoenix / Orion 3 Feb) - The writing is exceptional, the tension is palpable and the creation of character is genius. This is totally different take on the usual serial killer crime novel and one that left me breathless by it's ingenuity and incredible compassion. 

One Bad Thing by MK Hill (Aries Fiction 3 Feb) - It's clever, and thrilling and totally exhausting. The characters are, in the main, not in the least bit likeable. 

The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill by CS Robertson (Hodder, 20 Jan) - 
It's as story that takes surprising, yet satisfying twists and turns along the way. Never failing to surprise and shock and always delivering a brilliant reading experience.

About A Son by David Whitehouse (Phoenix / Orion 28 April) - This is a book that will never leave me. I feel as though I know the family so very well. I have nothing but admiration for this incredible family, and for Morgan's friends and associates. 

Metronome by Tom Watson (Bloomsbury 31 March) - Metronome is an addictive and hugely compelling novel, I was totally enraptured by the characters and the plot. Things take an unexpected turn toward the end and the reader is left with a sense of both sorrow and hopeful joy

Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz (Orenda Books 23 June) - Truly exceptional, a novel with heart and with characters and setting that are alluring, beautifully created and totally enchanting.

Faceless by Vanda Symon (Orenda Books 17 March) - Be prepared for a tense, twisty, chilling read. As Billy battles to stay alive, and Bradley's mental state deteriorates slowly but surely and Max's determination grows, we are taken on a journey that is at times terrifying but always compelling. You just can't look away. 

The Baby Shower by SE Lynes (Bookouture -1 March) - 
The Baby Shower is so powerful, it is perfectly crafted and utterly compelling. I was left breathless by this story. It hit me like a punch in the guts and will never leave me. 

Before We Grow Old by Clare Swatman (Boldwood Books 19 Jan) -With characters that the reader will come to love and a plot that is filled with revelations and lots of new experiences, this is a book that I really treasured.

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy (Bloomsbury 14 April) - A story of powerlessness, and about people who are formed by where they live, or where they worship. It is a remarkable, tender story, written with an honestly and compassion that lingers long after turning the final page.

Meredith Alone by Claire Alexander (Michael Joseph 9 June) -It's a heart tugger at times,  there's some revelations that are really emotionally challenging, but it's also a story that is filled with love and hope and the power of friendship. 

The Lost Ones by Marnie Riches (Bookouture 1 June) - I utterly loved this. It's dark, it's dangerous and often violent. It is written so well, and just hooks the reader along until the shocking, tumultuous ending that is so satisfying. 

The Botanist by MW Craven (Constable / Little Brown 2 June) -Myself and my husband both read The Botanist whilst on holiday in Corfu, we both chuckled in the same places, we both cringed and we both were left open mouthed by the intricate plotting and the total unexpected series of events that are so cleverly and masterfully outlined. 

Still Water by Rebecca Pert (The Borough Press 23 June) - Still Water is breath taking in its style and structure. For me, there wasn't a word out of place. It is compelling, and produces a sense of dread that increases as the story progresses.

Is This Love? by CE Riley (Serpent's Tail 4 Aug) - Clever, utterly compelling and beautifully structured. A book to discuss and one that I recommend. 

The Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly (Hodder 1 Sept) - Addictive, disturbing and so very inventive, this is fiction at its finest. Erin Kelly is a master of her art, I adored this book. I loved the mystery, I loved to hate some of the characters, it really is brilliant. 

Love Betty by Laura Kemp (Orion 9 June) - Laura Kemp is one of the finest authors of romantic fiction we have, her characters are beautifully created and her plot lines are always a joy to discover. I truly loved every page of this book and highly recommend it. 

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson (Hodder 1 Sept) - Truly outstanding, one of my favourite books of the year for sure. It's graceful and elegant, it's eye opening and astute. I loved it and highly recommend it. 

The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson (Orenda Books 15 Sept) - With a wonderfully gothic feel, full of characters who are colourful, yet incredibly flawed this is an absolute joy to read. Spellbinding, vivid and fascinating and beautifully translated by David Warriner. 

Good Taste by Caroline Scott (Simon & Schuster 13 Oct) - My review of this one was in S Magazine. Packed with wit and warmth, it is an utter joy to follow Stella’s journey and to hear about the various delicacies of the country. Beautiful, sparkling and joyous

Together Again by Milly Johnson (Simon & Schuster 29 Sept) - My review of this one was in S Magazine. Together, Again is a story of vulnerability and extreme strength and the unbreakable bond of sisterly love. 

Winter People by GrĂ¡inne Murphy (Legend Press 12 Oct) -
This is a stunning, tender and compassionate story that will stay with me for a long time. 

The Sandstone City by Elaine Canning (Aderyn Press 3 Nov) - It's an exploration of a life that has been overshadowed by painful memories, about secrets hidden so deeply that they are almost impossible to believe when uncovered. It is ultimately about love; both romantic and family love, about the ties of siblings and parents and how the mistakes made early in life can affect the years ahead.

The Dazzle of the Light by Georgina Clarke (Verve Books 17 Nov) - My review of this one was in S Magazine. The plot is wonderfully detailed and the characters jump from the pages. A wonderful read, fans of historical fiction will love this. 

Dashboard Elvis is Dead by David F Ross (Orenda Books 8 Dec) -Magnificent, glorious and often emotionally challenging. With a rawness and sensitivity that is so visceral. This is another extraordinary novel
from David F Ross.

Books to look out for in 2023 ....

I've already made a start on the 2023 books, and if the ones that I've read already are anything to go by, we are in for another outstanding book year.
Here are a few tips; books that I think will be huge next year. 

Some of these reviews have not  been published yet but I can assure you that I enjoyed every one of them. 

The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson -  Paperback 5 January from HQ

So Pretty by Ronnie Turner - 19 January from Orenda Books 

Promise Me by Jill Mansell - 19 January from Headline

When I First Held You by Anstey Harris - 24 January from Lake Union 

Someone Else's Shoes by Jojo Moyes - 2 February from Michael Joseph

Mrs Van Gogh by Caroline Cauchi - 2 February from One More Chapter

In The Blink of an Eye by Jo Callaghan - 19 January from Simon & Schuster

The Daughter In Law by Fanny Blake - 16 February from Simon & Schuster

That's 2022 over and done with, at last!

I've enjoyed my book year, but as for the rest of it, it's best forgotten!

I want to wish everyone the VERY BEST for next year and I really hope to see lots of lovely book friends soon.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who reads my reviews and puts up with my book shouting.

Monday 19 December 2022

The Night We First Met by Clare Swatman #TheNightWeFirstMet @clareswatman @BoldwoodBooks #BookReview


One night in December, Marianne Cooper is running away from a party. Having found her boyfriend in a passionate clinch with someone else, she can’t get away fast enough.

That same night, twenty-two year old Ted Green is trying to make the hardest decision of his life. What he really needs is someone he can confide in.

When Marianne meets Ted, with the lights of London shining around them, the night becomes one they’ll never forget.  Because this night might just be the start of a love story to last them a lifetime. But as Ted watches Marianne leave in a black taxi, all he can think is he should have asked for her name and phone number.  

In a story spanning twenty years, join Ted and Marianne as they navigate life’s twists and turns, joys and heartbreaks, while all the time wondering – will fate ever bring them together again…

The Night We First Met by Clare Swatman was published on 8 June 2022 by Boldwood Books. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review. 

I've read and reviewed most of Clare Swatman's previous novels here on Random Things. She's become one of my favourite writers. Her books are feel-good, romantic and always pack a punch. Whilst there's certainly the warmth factor in these stories, she does also deal with some important and challenging issues. 

The Night We First Met is another wonderful read. I was entranced from the first page of this story that takes the reader from November 1991, on a dark dismal London evening, up to the current day, following Marianne and Ted as they make their way through lives that throw many things at them. 

That November night was almost the last night of Ted's life. Just a young man, he really can't see any reason to be alive. With no family contact, he spends his nights sleeping on a friend's sofa, and his days trying to come to terms with the lasting effects of the war that he was part of in Kuwait. Waterloo Bridge feels like his final stop, and the dark waters of the Thames that runs below it, could be his final resting place. 

Marianne, dressed inappropriately for the weather, with a pair of fairy wings attached to her back is also running. She's fled a party after finding her boyfriend in a passionate embrace with one of her friends. Distraught, and realising that she's not only now single, she's also unemployed, as he was also her boss. 

Marianne's instincts take over when she spots Ted at the edge of the bridge, and climbing over to join him, she persuades him that this is not the right thing to do. And then she disappears. However, for the next twenty years, both Ted and Marianne will think about 'Bridge Man' and 'Fairy Girl' often. This night will really change their lives. 

Life over the next years is not easy for either of them. Both of them make decisions that are not in their best interest, both of them often hurt those closest to them, but both of them do manage to move on. Whilst they never actually meet again, their lives do cross often, they just never realise. 

One of the greatest aspects of this story is the emphasis on good friendships, and how loyal mates can really make a huge difference in life. Ted has Danny, and Marianne has Lance, two amazing characters who, despite everything, stay true and loyal to their best friends throughout. 

The author deals with some deep and challenging issues within her story, it's certainly not all light and shiny. Ted's battle with his mental health, and addiction are done so well, whilst the trauma of PTSD is sensitively described and handled. 

Theres's so much to discover within this story. It's beautifully written, packed with carefully created characters who are often flawed but also so realistic. 

Highly recommended by me.

Clare Swatman is the author of three women’s fiction novels, published by Macmillan, which have been translated into over 20 languages. 

She has been a journalist for over twenty years, writing for Bella and Woman & Home amongst many other magazines. 

She lives in Hertfordshire. 

Thursday 15 December 2022

The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson #TheBindingRoom #BookReview @nadinematheson @HQstories @SarahLundy13


In this room, no one can hear you scream…

The Serial Crimes Unit are called in to investigate when a local pastor is found stabbed to death. As DI Henley assesses the crime scene, she discovers a hidden door that conceals a room set up for torture – and bound to the bed in the middle of the room is the body of a man.

When another body is found, also tied down, Henley realises there's someone out there torturing innocent people and leaving them for dead. But why?

There's nothing that connects the victims. They didn't know each other. Their paths never crossed. But someone has targeted them, and it's up to Henley and the SCU to stop them before they find another binding room…

The Binding Room by Nadine Matheson is published by HQ in paperback on 5 January 2023. The hardback, audio book and ebook were published in July this year. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

My only regret about reading The Binding Room is that I've not already read the first in the series; The Jigsaw Man. Whilst The Binding Room can easily be read as a stand a lone story, I certainly didn't struggle, I know that I would have enjoyed it even more if I'd read the first book. However, this just means that I have The Jigsaw Man to look forward to, as well as the third in the series which is due to be published next summer. 

The Binding Room is a long book, at just over 500 pages in the paperback edition, but oh my goodness, it's so utterly compelling that I just flew through it. I read it in one weekend, when the weather was awful outside, tucked up under a blanket and just consuming chapter by chapter with glee. 

DI Henley and her colleagues in the Serial Crime Unit are asked to help out in the investigation into the brutal murder of a church pastor. Although this is not being treated as a serial Crime, Henley and her team are experts, and as the investigation deepens and another body is found, not far from the pastor's remains, it becomes clear that there's far more to this case than originally thought. 

There are some graphically violent scenes in this book, I thought they were done incredibly well, they are needed, not gratuitous and add a depth to the story. Some people may not be able to cope with them, but for me, they just added to the overall feel of the story. 

As more bodies are discovered, and the team struggle to find any connection between the victims, the reader also learns about Henley's own personal life and that of her colleagues. On her own, Henly is an intriguing and at times, mixed up and flawed character, add her to this startling and unusual murder case and you have a winner. 

Complex and tightly woven, The Binding Room is a superbly gripping thriller, written extremely well and with a plot that takes the reader in all sorts of unexpected directions. 

Great stuff. Highly recommended by me.

Nadine Matheson was born and lives in London. She began her working life at the BBC and now practices as a criminal defence lawyer. In 2016, she won the City University Crime Writing Competition and completed the Creative Writing (Crime/Thriller Novels) MA at City University of London with Distinction in 2018.

Her crime fiction novel, The Jigsaw Man, was published by HQ in 2021. The Jigsaw Man has been sold in 15 territories to date and will be translated into 14 languages. The Jigsaw Man has been optioned for TV by Monumental Television.

She can always be found on Twitter @nadinematheson 

Tuesday 13 December 2022

So Pretty by Ronnie Turner #BookReview #SoPretty @Ronnie__Turner @OrendaBooks


Fear blisters through this town like a fever…

When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end. 

Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.

Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely, and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.

As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.

Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.

So Pretty by Ronnie Turner is published in paperback on 19 January 2023 by Orenda Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

It's difficult to believe that the author of So Pretty is still in her early twenties. The power and beauty of the writing is just stunning. Her words, her plotting, her characterisation; they are all sublimely done, appearing effortless. 

So Pretty feels like a mash-up of Royston Vassey from The League of Gentlemen, with a contemporary gothic horror feel, along with the claustrophobic feeling of Dickens, as the small, chillingly creepy shop and its inhabitants are described. It is flawless from beginning to end and will send chills down your spine as you read. 

Rye is a small town with a small, insular community. It's the type of place where everyone knows everyone's business and newcomers are not trusted. Whilst both Terry and Ada have been welcomed by the community, on the surface, they are not locals. They both have their reasons for finding and settling in Rye, and both of them will do their best to hide those from their questioning neighbours. 

Berry and Vincent is a small curio shop in the middle of town. It's a place avoided by people who have lived in Rye for years, the only trade being from a few tourists in the summer months. However, Terry is drawn to the shop and takes a job as an assistant to the owner, Mr Vincent. Every single person that he meets tells him that he's making a mistake, and to get out, as quickly as possible. Ada and her young son Albie are also attracted by Berry and Vincent, regularly visiting its dark corners and examining the odd wares on display. 

It's not long before Ada and Teddy, the two newcomers become friendly, and this is just the beginning of a relationship that will take the reader into a bizarre and strange world. One of obsession and mental illness, of terror and cold, calculated events that become life threatening for those involved. 

There's a a malignant feel throughout this story, a darkness that never lets up, yet the writing is incredibly beautiful, conjuring up images that will stay with the reader long after turning the final, and shocking final pages. 

Dark, chilling, with a touch of genius. So Pretty is highly recommended by me. 

Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. 

At an early age, she discovered a love of literature and dreamed of being a published author. 

Ronnie now lives in the South West with her family and three dogs. 

In her spare time, she reviews books on her blog and enjoys long walks on the coast. 

Ronnie is a Waterstones Senior Bookseller and a barista, and her youth belies her exceptional, highly unusual talent. 

Twitter @Ronnie__Turner

Monday 12 December 2022

The Family Tree Mystery by Peter Bartram BLOG TOUR #FamilyTreeMystery @PeterFBartram @RandomTTours #GuestPost



Brighton crime reporter Colin Crampton gets on the trail of a big story when Hobart Birtwhistle, a distant relative of feisty model Shirley Goldsmith, is mysteriously murdered.

Colin and Shirley team up to investigate the case. Spiky history don, Victoria Nettlebed, suggests the mystery may lie a century earlier in the life of an Australian gold prospector… and the death of his partner.

But does Nettlebed know more than she’s telling? And why did cockney metals trader Lionel Bruce meet Birtwhistle days before his death?

Shirley wants Colin to track down her long-lost relatives. But more murders bring the threat closer to home. The pair tangle with London East End gangsters, an eccentric Scottish lord, and a team of women cricketers in their hunt for the truth.

There are laughs alongside the action as Colin and Shirley uncover the shocking secrets of the family tree. And Shirley has one last surprise for Colin.

The Family Tree Mystery by Peter Bartram is the latest in the Crampton of the Chronicle adventures and was published on 21 November 2022.

As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share a guest post from the author with you today.


By Peter Bartram

In the days of steam trains, sepia photos and gaslight, baby farmers did a brisk business.

   The deal was this. If you had a spare baby who needed the care and attention you didn’t want to provide, you paid a “baby farmer” a fee to take the nipper off your hands.

   The baby would, of course, have been born without benefit of clergy, on the wrong side of the blanket, out of wedlock. Select the phrase of your choice - but never use the I word.


   For those were the days when an unlucky young woman might find there really was a fate worse than death. And even if she survived the birth, the gossips and whisperers could make her want to die of shame.

   I mention this because the first memories of my own grandmother – Dorothy, my mother’s mother – were of living with a baby farmer in Brighton. Of course, at the time she didn’t realise the woman had been paid to provide her scant meals and lumpy bed.

   Dorothy never ever knew who her father and mother were. It’s a mystery which helped to spark the idea for my latest Crampton of the Chronicle adventure – The Family Tree Mystery.

   Dorothy used to recall being dragged down to the beach each day by the woman who bought fish from the boats that came in.

   Later, she was taken from the baby farmer and sent to a school where all the lessons were in French. As a teenage girl she went to live with a property millionaire and his wife in a big house with servants.

   The millionaire denied he was her father but promised to tell her who her real mum and dad were before he died. But, lips sealed, he carried the secret to his grave.

   After Dorothy died, my mother tried to solve the mystery. But Dorothy’s birth was never registered and her name did not appear on early censuses. It looked as though the real mother and father had gone to a lot of trouble to make sure a paper trail would never lead to them.

   The Family Tree Mystery has crime reporter Colin Crampton on the trail of a big story when Hobart Birtwhistle, a distant relative of feisty model Shirley Goldsmith, is mysteriously murdered.

   Shirley wants Colin to track down her long-lost relatives. She doesn’t realise that long-lost relatives are often lost for good reasons. 

   Soon, more murders bring the threat closer to Shirley. The pair tangle with London East End gangsters, an eccentric Scottish lord, and a team of women cricketers in their hunt for the truth.

   At least, we never had that trouble when hunting for Dorothy’s mother and father. But, then, we didn’t find them either.

   Now, if only we could have got Colin on the case…

Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime
mystery series. His novels are fast-paced and humorous - the action is matched by the laughs. The books feature a host of colourful characters as befits stories set in Brighton, one of Britain's most trend-setting towns.

You can download Murder in Capital Letters, a free book in the series, for your Kindle from

Peter began his career as a reporter on a local weekly newspaper before editing newspapers and magazines in London, England and, finally, becoming freelance. He has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700-feet down a coal mine and a courtier’s chambers at Buckingham Palace. Peter is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers' Association.

Follow Peter on Facebook at

Friday 9 December 2022

A Ukrainian Christmas by Yaroslav Hrytsak & Nadiyka Gerbish #AUkrainianChristmas @BooksSphere @Bookish_Becky


'Christmas brings the indestructibility of hope in times of the greatest hopelessness. As long as we celebrate this holiday, we can neither be defeated nor destroyed. This is the message that Ukraine is trying to convey to the world. And this is what our book is about.'

From Christmas music to gifts and food, as well as a look back through the country's rich and troubled history through the perspective of the festive season, this beautifully illustrated and powerful book introduces readers to Ukraine's unique Christmas traditions. 

In a country where East and West meet, this is a fascinating and unmissable guide to capturing the spirit of one of the most important times of year and a powerful reminder of the strength of holding on to your culture and beliefs, even as others try to take everything from you.

The Publisher is making a donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal on publication of this book.

A Ukrainian Christmas by Yaroslav Hrytsak and Nadiyka Gerbish was published on 3 November 2022 by Sphere Books in hardback. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy. 

This beautiful illustrated book introduces readers to the culture, traditions, reflections and celebrations of the Ukrainian people during Christmas. Originally published in 2020 in Ukraine, to immediate acclaim, this English language version includes a new Foreword written by the authors following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022.

This is an absolutely glorious book, from the embossed hardback cover to the stunning illustrations inside, it is the perfect way to learn more about the Ukrainian culture, and especially about how they celebrate Christmas. 

Here are just three examples of the wonderful illustrations that are featured throughout the book.

The audio edition is narrated by actor Juliet Stevenson. 

This really is a wonderful book, one to treasure, one to gift and one to share and learn from 

Yaroslav Hrytsak is a Ukrainian historian and public intellectual. Professor of the Ukrainian Catholic University and Honorary Professor of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Professor Hrytsak has taught at Columbia and Harvard Universities and was a guest lecturer at the Central European University in Budapest. He is the author of many historical books, including several bestsellers and the recipient of numerous national and international awards and has written opinion pieces for many publications including The Times, the New York Times and Time Magazine.

Nadiyka Gerbish is a Ukrainian writer, podcaster, and Riggins Rights Management European rights director. She has written nineteen books, many of which have become bestsellers and have won numerous awards. A number of Nadiyka's children's books are studied in schools in Ukraine and have been published in braille and audiobook.