The Edge of Nowhere - Elizabeth George


Clunky prose, irrational characters and a plot whose twist is that there's very little plot somehow combine to create a charming and engaging YA novel. The most enjoyable badly written book I've read for some time.

The Last of the Greenwoods - Clare Morrall

Didn't finish

That's two novels running I couldn't finish - at least they were both library books. This one was particularly disappointing, as I enjoyed Morrall's When the Floods Came. But this was so dull and laboured that I realised I didn't care what mysteries might be revealed if I read on. Great cover, though.

Elijah's Mermaid - Essie Fox

Didn't finish

I was hoping to have a short mermaid season (a short season of  mermaid book reviews, not a season of not-very-tall mermaids - how can you measure their height if they don't stand up?). But this was unreadable so never mind.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock - Imogen Hermes Gowar


I like a quirky, historical romp and this is indeed both quirky and rompy. What sets it apart, though, is the quality of the writing: lyrical, layered prose with few of the usual jarring cliches. Yes, some of the characters are a little sketchy, and it could have done with a little structural support for its meandering plot, but in general both fun and thought-provoking.

The Terrace - CJ Gilfillan


I won't give this a grade because 1) I know the author, Caroline, and 2) this is nominally set in a fictionalised version of my town. It's always fun to spot the local references but I'm not sure why the otherwise rather lovely cover shows Cley, which isn't mentioned at all.

Crooked Heart - Lissa Evans


Now, this is more like it. A sequel (prequel?) to the equally entertaining Old Baggage, juggling the same mix of humour, strong characters, social history and unusual take on a well-worn trope. And the unexpectedly sentimental last page floored me because I'm an old softy.

Tangerine - Christine Mangan


More of a lemon than a tangerine. If this hadn't been a library book, I'd have flung it across the room. A poorly written, badly edited, highly clichéd unconvincing story masquerading as literary fiction.

Vox - Christina Dalcher


'Overblown feminist dystopia' says one review, and I'm inclined to agree. Only Margaret Atwood should tackle 'The Handmaid's Tale'. Any valid points were mostly lost among the clunky prose, underdeveloped characters and the fact that the whole of America seems to consist of about 100 people in Washington.

One - Sarah Crossan

Blank verse was an interesting prose choice, and its natural rises and falls and gaps and intensities generally works but isn't quite engrossing enough to be lost in the story. That said, I did need a lot of tissues for the end.

Crampton Hodnet - Barbara Pym


Perhaps not one of Pym's best novels, but still arch and wry and perceptive and occasionally laugh-out-loud - and it's amazing how so many self-proclaimed humorous writers aren't any of those things.

The Case Against Sugar - Gary Taubes


Well, sure, Taubes is biased and selective in his facts, but that's how to make a case against something that is inexplicably not generally accepted as being as dangerous as it is. And the case is pretty conclusive - I didn't want to consume sugar for at least a week after reading this. (Full disclosure: I don't eat much sugar these days anyway, so he's preaching to the converted.) But, still, it's an important and persuasive book.

Circe - Madeline Miller


An introverted goddess with self-esteem issues reclaims her story from the patriarchy. It's an unusual and absorbing reworking of the Greek myth but its main strength is that its lyricism makes the rather disjointed story and vague characterisations matter less.

Children of Blood and Bone - Tomi Adeyemi


Well, I enjoyed the African folklore aspects of this much-hyped YA novel, which are achingly rare in English-language literature. But it just wasn't very well written. Derivative on a macro level (Last Airbender and Hunger Games echoes abound), and stilted on a micro level (far too many repetitive adjectives) so that, despite all the fights and death, it was actually rather boring and unsubtle.

A Skinful of Shadows - Frances Hardinge


Now, this is more like it - a (mostly) well written, (mostly) well edited, exciting, convincing, involving fantasy novel set during the surprisingly underused English Civil War. And, of course from this author, a lot of meaty subtext on everything from gender to power to politics. Mostly fabulous.

The Affinity Bridge - George Mann


Oh, for a structural edit, or at least a thorough copy edit, to make this promising steampunk mystery actually readable. Trim the cliches here, delete the awkward phrasing there, cut some of the endless fight scenes and develop the characters into three-dimensional beings and you might have the framework for something quite fun. It does get extra points for having a character called Sandford, though.