Tag Archives: G. X. Todd

My Favourite Books of 2017

Each year, I like to put together a list of my favourite books published in the last 12 months.  This year has been particularly difficult to a top 10 list together, and I’ve done multiple versions, each a little different from the last.

Here’s what I settled on, in no particular order.

Defender by G. X. Todd


I absolutely loved this post-apocalyptic novel, the first in a planned series of four.  The second instalment, Hunted, will be published in May, and I’m delighted that my request to read this ahead of publication via Netgalley has been approved.  You can see my full review here.

In a world where long drinks are in short supply, it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice.

Those who do, keep it quiet.

But one man listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

There is a reason why Pilgrim and Lacey must cross paths.

They just don’t know it yet…

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant

Oh this novel!  Both happy and sad, I still think fondly on Eleanor months after reading it, even though I didn’t warm to her immediately.  My review can be found here.

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

For the Winner by Emily Hauser

for the winner

I love a bit of mythology, and Hauser’s second novel delivers a brilliant retelling of Jason’s search for the golden fleece, focusing on the women from this period.  My review is here.

Some three thousand years ago, in a time before history, the warriors of Greece journeyed to the ends of the earth in the greatest expedition the world had ever seen.

One woman fought alongside them.

Abandoned at birth on the slopes of Mount Pelion, Atalanta is determined to prove her worth to the father who cast her aside. Having taught herself to hunt and fight, and disguised as a man, she wins a place on the greatest voyage of that heroic age: with Jason and his band of Argonauts in search of the legendary Golden Fleece.

And it is here, in the company of men who will go down in history as heroes, that Atalanta must battle against the odds – and the will of the gods – to take control of her destiny and change her life forever.

With her unrivalled knowledge and captivating storytelling, Emily Hauser brings alive an ancient world where the gods can transform a mortal’s life on a whim, where warriors carve out names that will echo down the ages… and where one woman fights to determine her own fate.

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

gather the daughters

An incredibly dark and twisted tale, and as bleak as they come.  Of course I absolutely loved it! My full review can be found here.

Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonised an island off the coast.  They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history.  Only the Wanderers – chosen male descendants of the original ten – are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smouldering fires.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training.  At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony.  They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die.  But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme.  With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly – they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers’ hands and their mothers’ despair.  And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.

Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

Yesterday by Felicia Yap


I loved this novel, in which the mono / duo memory works as something of a pseudo-class system, giving a unique edge to this murder mystery.  Full review here.

There are two types of people in the world: those who can only remember yesterday, and those who can also recall the day before.

You have just one lifeline to the past: your diary. Each night, you write down the things that matter. Each morning, your diary tells you where you were, who you loved and what you did.

Today, the police are at your door. They say that the body of your husband’s mistress has been found in the River Cam. They think your husband killed her two days ago.

Can you trust the police?

Can you trust your husband?

Can you trust yourself?

The Scandal by Fredrik Backman

the scandal

A small-town mystery and ice hockey – what’s not to love?!  This is a fantastic mystery, with a brilliant setting, and one that was an instant favourite.  You can see my full review here.

Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead and pulled the trigger.

This is the story of how we got there.

For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together – or pulls them apart.

Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. A bright new future is just around the corner.

Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.

With the town’s future at stake, no one can stand by or stay silent. Everyone is on one side or the other.

Which side would you be on?

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

little deaths

I didn’t write a full review of this novel, as it’s one that I read on holiday, but I absolutely loved this retelling of a true crime in which the mother was eventually arrested, albeit on flimsy evidence.  My mini review can be found here.

It’s the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery.

Noting Ruth’s perfectly made-up face and provocative clothing, the empty liquor bottles and love letters that litter her apartment, the detectives leap to convenient conclusions, fuelled by neighbourhood gossip and speculation. Sent to cover the case on his first major assignment, tabloid reporter Pete Wonicke at first can’t help but do the same. But the longer he spends watching Ruth, the more he learns about the darker workings of the police and the press. Soon, Pete begins to doubt everything he thought he knew.

Ruth Malone is enthralling, challenging and secretive – is she really capable of murder?

Haunting, intoxicating and heart-poundingly suspenseful, Little Deaths is a gripping novel about love, morality and obsession, exploring the capacity for good and evil within us all.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

little fires everywhere

A fantastic novel that contained so much.  I loved the setting and the characters, and this is a novel that has stayed with me since reading it.  Full review here.

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

the girl in the tower

The Girl in the Tower is the second novel in Arden’s wonderful Winternight series, and if I liked the first instalment, I loved the second.  Vasya is one of my favourite characters, and I love her determination to be more than those around her think possible.  My full review can be found here.

The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.

Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior’s training, recognises this ‘boy’ as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical…

Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

hold back the stars

I was intrigued by Hold Back the Stars when it was first published in January, but didn’t read it until quite recently.  I loved that this was a mix of genres, delivering a little bit of something for everyone.  My full review can be found here.

Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. None of this was supposed to happen.  Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the world they left behind. A world whose rules they couldn’t submit to, a place where they never really belonged; a home they’re determined to get back to because they’ve come too far to lose each other now.

Hold Back the Stars is a love story like no other.

And there you have my top 10 books for 2017!  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?


Defender by G. X. Todd


Defender is one of the novels I picked up at February’s Headline Blogger Evening, and one that I’ve been looking forward to reading since then.

It is a post-apocalyptic novel in which the cause of our demise isn’t entirely clear.  Eight years ago, people began hearing voices.  Whether real or a mass auditory hallucination, the voices caused the majority of people to kill themselves, leaving behind a few individuals who now fend for themselves as well as they can.

Lacey is sixteen, and was shielded from much of what was going on eight years earlier by her grandmother.  Now alone, she now wants to travel from her home in Texas to Mississippi to find her sister, who she hasn’t heard from for years and who may or may not have survived.

Pilgrim, as his name suggests, has spent the last eight years travelling and avoiding other people, his only company the voice in his head.  But when he comes across Lacey, he is encouraged by this internal voice to help her, and the two set out on Lacey’s quest, falling into a whole world of trouble along the way.

Given Lacey’s age and the recent trend for post-apocalyptic novels to be aimed towards the young adult market, you might expect Defender to also fall into this category.  It doesn’t.  This is a dark and often brutal story which very much satisfied my need for a bleak apocalypse to sink my teeth into.  Given the lawlessness of the world as it is presented here, there are those who seek to take advantage of those weaker than themselves, and Lacey and Pilgrim run into some thoroughly bad people on their journey.  It’s not all doom and gloom, however, and Todd throws in a bit of dark, wry  humour along the way to lighten the tone.

Even now that I finished the novel, I’m not sure how I feel about Lacey.  She’s young and has been sheltered from much of what has happened in the world, and so comes across as being extremely naïve, and she seems a little too pure and wholesome to survive in a world such as this.  Survive she has though, which suggests an inner resilience, and whilst I personally prefer protagonists who are a little more kick-ass, she was certainly an original character and quite different to the sort you usually find in novels of this kind.  She’s in for some rough times, however, and whilst the reader knows that there’s something special about her, it’s not clear what it is at this stage.  I think it will be interesting to see how she develops as the series progresses.

If I didn’t really warm to Lacey, I made up for it in my love of Pilgrim, however.  Pilgrim is exactly the kind of lone wolf style character that I like – someone who doesn’t look for trouble, but is more than capable than dealing with it if, and when, it comes looking for him.  Ha also has excellent taste in books.

Defender is a novel in which the cause of the end isn’t explained, at least not in this first instalment.  No one knows where the voices came from or why the result was as it was, and the little that people do know is largely rumour and hearsay.  Whilst some people may find this a little frustrating and may want to know the how and why, I thought that this was reflective of how it would be if such a thing were to actually happen.  With no communication infrastructure left, we’d have no way of knowing what has happened elsewhere, or how, or why, and we’d have to try to piece things together from the snippets of information that we came across.  And this isn’t really a novel about the end of the world – it’s a novel about how those who survive it manage to deal with the aftermath, and I think that Todd did a brilliant job of exploring how such a world might look, and what people would need to do to survive, and that is exactly why I love this kind of novel so much.

Defender is the first novel in a planned series of four, and as such it poses a great many questions whilst answering very few of them.  There is clearly a bigger story to be revealed, however, and I’m expecting another fantastic read when the sequel, Hunted, is published in January 2018 – I already have it on pre-order! 😃

Many thanks to the publisher, Headline, for my copy of Defender, and to Gemma for taking the time to talk books and things with me at the blogger event.

Rating: ★★★★★

Headline Blogger Night 2017

On Thursday, I was lucky enough to attend a blogger night hosted by Headline at Carmelite House on Victoria Embankment in London.  This was my second visit to the wonderful sixth floor of Carmelite House with it’s famous (amongst the blogging world at least) rooftop terrace, although the doors to the terrace were kept firmly shut due to the miserable weather.

I’m always quite nervous about attending these kinds of events – I often find it difficult to initiate a conversation with people I don’t know, and I don’t like inviting myself into a group, which is often the best way to start talking to people.

I needn’t have worried, however – the Headline team were extremely welcoming, and ushered people around to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to meet the authors in attendance.  Additionally, book bloggers are a lovely bunch of people, and I don’t think that anyone was left standing on their own for very long 🙂

I was absolutely delighted to meet Felicia Yap, who’s novel Yesterday will be published in August.  I picked up a sampler for this novel, and I can’t even tell you how excited I am.  I’m more than willing to beg for a proof of this when they become available!  And isn’t this cover glorious!?


I also enjoyed meeting Gemma Todd, whose novel Defender I’m extremely excited about – it sounds very much like my kind of thing – as well as Colette McBeth, Nikola Scott, Mary Torjussen and Julia Crouch.

As well as the wonderful company, wine and nibbles, there were plenty of books available.  I felt that I showed considerable restraint in only picking up four titles (plus the one in the goodie bag!) – I was tempted to take more, but was conscious of the fact that I’d have to carry them back to the train.  Note to self – take a backpack next time.  Tote bags are great, but loading up on weighty tomes just gives you a bad shoulder, particularly when you have to run for your train!

These are the books that I picked up:

Defender by G. X. Todd


In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

The moment locks them together.

Here and now it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet.

These voices have purpose.

And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Defender pulls you on a wild ride to a place where the voices in your head will save or slaughter you.

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams


The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold.  Now its streets are stalked by wolves.  Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip.  Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.

When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out.  Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.

But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.  For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall…

An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth


These are the facts I collect.

My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar.  She went home with him where they had sex.  They next morning she was found in an allotment.

Mariela is dead.

Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning

Linda Moscow: loving mother to Gabriel.  Linda promised herself years ago that she would never let her son down again.  Even if it means going against everything she believes in – she will do anything to protect him.  She owes him that much.

Gabriel Miller: the prodigal son.  He only ever wanted his mother’s love, but growing up he always seemed to do the wrong thing.  If his mother could only see the bad in him – how could he possibly be good?

How far will a mother go to save her son?  Linda’s decision might save Gabriel, but it will have a catastrophic impact on the lives of others.  What would you do if faced with the same impossible choice?

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen


You leave for work one morning.  Another day in your normal life.

Until you come home to discover that your boyfriend has gone.  His belongings have disappeared.  He hasn’t been at work for weeks.  It’s as if he never existed.

But that’s not possible, is it?

And there is worse still to come.  Because just as you are searching for him, someone is also watching you.

As well as providing a selection of books for bloggers (and authors!) to help themselves to, goodie bags were also available containing some wonderful little treats, as well as another book!

Keep Me Safe by Daniela Sacerdoti


When Anna’s partner walks away from their relationship, she is shattered.  But it is her little girl Ava who takes it hardest of all.  The six-year-old falls silent for three days.  When she does speak, her words are troubling.  Ava wants to go home.  To a place called Seal.  To her other mother.

Anna knows to unravel the mystery she must find Seal and take Ava there.  She hopes this tiny island will unlock her daughter’s memories.  But could it also offer a new life… and unexpected love… for Anna too?

Many thanks to Georgina Moore, Millie Seaward and the rest of the Headline crew for hosting such a lovely event.