Fanny Blake shares her top five must-reads!

This has been the hardest blog on this tour for me to write. It’s tough choosing only five reads from all the fantastic books that are out this year. So I’m going to imagine myself lying by a pool or on a beach. What I’m looking for is something that will keep me distracted from everything going on around me, a plot to keep me gripped and characters that I want to root for or love to hate.

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This year, I’d recommend:

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (Penguin)
I loved this fantastic road trip of a novel that puts Jess Thomas, her gifted daughter Tanzie, her stepson Nicky and their smelly dog in the car belonging to Ed Nicholls. His life is in chaos and he has time on his hands, so why not offer Jess the lift that may make all the difference to her family’s lives? Jojo Moyes is great on the haves and have-nots in society, combining them in a wonderful feelgood, romantic novel that made me laugh and made me cry.

A Perfect Heritage by Penny Vincenzi (Headline)
Bianca Farrell is hired to revive the fortunes of the prestigious cosmetic company, the House of Farrell. However she hasn’t bargained for the family matriarch, Athina Farrell, who does not suffer fools or anyone interfering in her business gladly. I know I’m in safe hands with Penny Vincenzi. Her huge all-consuming page-turners are glamorous, escapist and full of intertwining plots and subplots. And they come with a big dollop of fascinating research, in this case into the workings of the beauty business. Riveting stuff.

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Penguin)
A school fundraising evening is the scene of a tragic death. But what really happened? To who? And why? Brilliantly constructed, the novel introduces us to a number of the school parents and their children. An incident at school sets some parents against each other and acts like the pebble in a pond sending ripples out in ever increasing circles until they affect everyone else. Gradually all sorts of secrets and scandals are brought into the open in this insightful, witty, totally absorbing read. When I finished it, I immediately downloaded her other novels.

The Miniaturist by Jess Burton (Picador)
Young Nella Oortman has left her country upbringing to marry a wealthy merchant in Amsterdam. Her mother arranged the match but marriage is nothing like Nella expects. Her husband Johannes shows her little affection but gives her a dolls house that is an exact replica of their own house. As she begins to furnish it, family secrets begin to spill out into the open. The atmosphere is so well evoked, the characters so well realised and the story is intriguing and imaginative with plenty of twists to keep you hooked. It’s a great debut.

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little (Harvill Secker)
I always take at least one crime novel with me on holiday and am always looking for new writers. So this is my choice of first thriller. I was gripped by this story of LA socialite Jane Jenkins who is released from jail on a technicality having served time for the murder of her mother. But even Jane is unsure whether she’s guilty or not so determines to find the truth for herself. She heads for South Dakota where she begins to learn about her mother and about herself. Jane makes a feisty narrator, straight-talking and witty, and there’s an original twisting plot. I read it in a sitting.

I could go on!

A warm and witty look at a female friendship gone wrong – this is women at war!

Beth is a woman in supreme control of all aspects of her life and family, with a stellar career and her house an oasis of calm. Her closest friend, Megan, is very different; somehow she swims through the chaos of her family with ease, the clutter on the stairs, the cat footprints on the kitchen work space. And while they could not be more different, Beth and Megan have a genuine friendship built on years of laugher, tears and true understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Because that’s what friends do, isn’t it?

But when Beth’s daughter reveals a surprising secret, a wedge is driven between Beth and Megan. What begins as mild recrimination and misunderstanding develops into a full-blown row and then a simmering feud. As the two women square up to do battle in the London suburbs, there’s everything to play for. All’s fair in love and war…

With her wisdom, insight and wicked humour, Fanny Blake shines a light on to female friendships, in this delicious tale of two so-called best friends.

Fanny Blake was a publisher for many years, editing both fiction and non-fiction before becoming a freelance journalist and writer. She has written various non-fiction titles, acted as ghost writer for a number of celebrities, and is also Books Editor of Woman & Home magazine. Her novels include Women of a Dangerous Age and What Women Want.

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