The Pilgrim of Hate - Ellis Peters


Superhero monk? Check. Thwarted lovers? Check. Murder? Check, sort of. Mystery? Check, slightly. Endless  descriptions of 12th-century politics? Check, unfortunately.

A Man With One of Those Faces - Caimh McDonnell


This exuberant romp has the potential to be really good - but the fact that it clearly hasn't been edited makes it almost unreadable in places, and I nearly gave up on it. Its engaging Irishness is certainly a selling point and perhaps other readers are willing to overlook its structural, character and grammatical issues but, personally, I cannot.

La Belle Sauvage - Philip Pullman


There's no better way to round off the year with master storyteller Pullman's new novel eclipsing all others, carrying readers away into his vivid world like the engulfing flood in the book. It's not really for children, I think - though kids would do well to absorb the obvious political and social commentary here. My only criticisms would be the surprising upholding of traditional gender roles (compared with Lyra's later heroism) and the open-ended, slightly unfocused nature of the story, setting it up for the two sequels.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers - Louise Candlish


Now, this is interesting. In many ways, this is quite like 'Exquisite' (the book I read before it) - an overdramatisation of a domestic situation told from two unsympathetic points of view. It's silly and frustrating and unrealistic but, oddly, it's also fun, engaging and highly readable, the sort of story that's perfect for winter nights on a beanbag with a glass of mulled wine.

Exquisite - Sarah Stovell


Unconvincing and overwrought.

Blame - Simon Mayo


Yes, the (DJ) Simon Mayo, or at least his ghostwriter - it was edited well enough for me to suspect extensive rewrites but be still my cynical heart. An intriguing concept, unusually executed, even if it all seemed a little loose plotwise. I only read it because my nine-year-old asked me to vet it but I'd say the violence and complex politics would put it in the 12+ (YA) category.

Fat for Fuel - Dr Joseph Mercola


I'm starting to know quite a bit about this subject - enough to be critical of this book, anyway. While Mercola offers much good advice, he also made me laugh out loud with his suggestions of moving to Florida for the Vitamin D, adding ground eggshells and earth to smoothies, and walking on dewy grass for direct medical benefits. Oh, and constant promotion of a particular website he sponsors. It's that kind of thing that undermines the good science.

Sweet Little Lies - Caz Frear


Downloaded to my Kindle on a whim, this was entertaining enough, even if a police procedural starring a subversive police officer is nothing new. The resolution was unguessable - not sure whether that's a good or bad thing.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep - Joanna Cannon


I found the first half in particular distractingly overwritten and a little slow. The 10-year-old narrator was unconvincing as a child, yet the narrative might have worked better if it had only been from her point of view. Otherwise, readable enough and gained some momentum towards the end.

The Secrets of Wishtide - Kate Saunders


Not a particularly taxing detective story, although the author obviously had an urgent need to highlight the poor treatment of women (of all classes) in 1850. Readable enough, but introducing the villain so late in the story is a little bad practice.

The Obesity Code - Dr Jason Fung


This influential book can be summed up as 'Eating increases insulin, which makes you gain weight, so try fasting'. While I'm interested in the theory, some of the science quoted seems contradictory, and there's, surprisingly, no mention of the triggering/psychological aspects of not eating. At least it makes me want to do some more research.

A View of the Harbour - Elizabeth Taylor


Like a muted Under Milkwood, this captures particular community at a particular time. The characters and location are deftly sketched and not much happens very convincingly.

The Wonder - Emma Donoghue


Accomplished, intriguing and very, very depressing.

Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith


Impressively well written, if a little unlikely. A true psychological thriller that sounds much more complex and satisfying than the film (which apparently changed vital details and which I've never seen).

The Tropic of Serpents - Marie Brennan


Much of the same, really. Notable mostly for its detailed, self-contained alternative world.