Books read in 2015

1. Dracula, Bram Stoker (book club, me). I've wanted to read this for a long time and finally got to do so by making it my choice for 2015. No, Stoker did not invent vampires – the tradition goes back a long way – and like so many books of its time (May 1897), has a very simplistic ending. But it's a terrific read of course. Many authorial voices as the different characters tell their sides of the story. I should also record that I was reading a beautiful copy of the book that Debbie bought for me for Christmas.

2. Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey (book club, Elaine). The story of a woman suffering from late stage dementia who is, of course, perpetually confused. The particular cause of her confusion is the disappearance of her sister in 1946 and of her friend (the eponymous Elizabeth) who she can't find. It's a sad story and definitely not a page turner, but very powerful. We see the long suffering daughter, the absent but perfect son, the happy grand daughter, the irascible man and the 1940s cads.

3. The Circle, Dave Eggers (Book club). Hmmm, in the hands of a better writer the story could have been told so much better. It's obviously about Google but actually re-tells the story of 1984, a TV mini series I saw a few years back called The Last Enemy (starring Benedict Cumberbatch) and, well loads of other stories too (a really, really bad version from 1970 was called the Forbin Project The Circle necessarily exaggerates the reality of Google for literary effect but even so, it goes too far from credibility for my liking. I guess if there weren't so many references to the real Google, and if I weren't as familiar with Big G as I am, then it may have been better. Basic plot- fine. But suspense factor near zero, predictability factor - high. Looking forward to seeing what Kate, Elaine, Helen, Georgina and Nickie make of it.

4. The Pike, Lucy Hughes-Hallett (Christmas present from Maz). To date I've read the first half.

5. The Fifth Gospel, Ian Caldwell. I saw this in WH Smtih in Felixstowe and the blurb made it look exciting. Top marks to the person who wrote that. It pressed buttons around religion, secrets and so on. The problem for me is all the church hierarchy and the men who all live by a set of beliefs I find ridiculous, so it was hard to become part of the Vatican world. Others may enjoy it more but it has a touch of the Dan Browns…

6. War Horse, Michael Morpurgo (book club). I ran out of time half way through, even though this is a short children's book. Anthropomorphised animals describing the world of humans. Fair enough. Apparently it has a happy ending.

7. Poseidon's Wake, Alastair Reynolds. The final part in the trilogy that has the Akinya family and many assorted elephants roaming the galaxy, causing trouble. The problem of reading trilogies as they come out is that, of course, you've forgotten what happened in the previous novel when you start the next. So this one has many references to the terrible events in Crucible. But the novel is effectively self contained so it's only the back references that one loses. The novel itself, the characters, the writing, all very much up to scratch. Talking elephants in space suits!

8. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North (book club, Nickie). I missed out the Walt Disney book we were supposed to read as it's Kindle-only, and went on to the next one. I was expecting another First Five people You Meet in Heaven or whatever… but no. This is terrific. What if you could live your life all over again? What if you kept on living our life all over again? And you were one of a small group of people who did this? Great fun with the time travel, paradoxes, affecting the future and all that. Excellent stuff.

Coda: reading that short summary now I'm surprised how brief it is. The book is just fantastic and I will always be grateful to Nickie for suggesting this, the first 'Claire North' book. My personally signed first editions of many of her books, including this one, are much prized on my shelf.

9. The Key to Rebecca, Ken Follett (Father's Day present from, guess who). An enjoyable, straightforward war time spy thriller. This one is set in Cairo which gives it a different flavour from the usual misty fields of England or France. Rommel is advancing against the British and the protagonist is the spy trying to help him. The dancer from the strip club seems a little bit of a cliché but not too much.

10. Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson. Robinson's ark ship story. As ever, it's the story of what happens when you put a large number of people in a confined space and send them off to a distant planet. When they get there, all is well until… causing some to decide to head back again. Of course, the society on Earth is not how they left it many generations ago so the return is not smooth. Lots of plausible detail throughout, especially about the problems of maintaining an ecosystem in a closed system. It was disappointing but understandable that in order to get his protagonists home, Robinson had to have news en route of how to set up cryo-chambers – a case of convenient technology turning up just when needed to make the plot work – but that's a minor gripe. As ever, his writing is first class. One thing – I shouldn't have read this so soon after Poseidon's Wake – the stories are too similar and I kept expecting Aurora to have elephants.

11. Bête, Adam Roberts. As always, absolutely superb and, on this occasion, very funny in places. Change one thing and extrapolate from there. In this case, animals are given the ability to speak (or rather, they're implanted with electronics that passes the Turing test).

12. Seveneves, Neal Stephenson. Bought in Waterstone's in Wells while we enjoyed a wet week's camping in the area. Wonderful stuff. Destroy the moon… and see what happens. The 7 pieces of the moon are not the titular Eves…

13. Daughter, Jane Shemilt (book club). Enjoyed by all, including me. Happy, popular, good looking teenager disappears from a perfect life. Mother spends a year uncovering what happened, her role, her husband's role, why their lives were not what anyone thought etc. Good plot, very well executed.

14. A Most Wanted Man, John le Carré. Bought at Tokyo's Haneda airport. Good thriller centred around an old fashioned bank, old (dirty) money, a Jihadist and a young lawyer. Good stuff.

15. Murder at the Old Vicarage, Jill McGown (Book club, me). I suggested this as a quick read before Christmas, thinking it was the one I had at home – in fact it was the following one I had so I had to buy and read this too. Classic Christmas crime drama with lots of snow and unusual gatherings. As usual, I guessed the killer wrongly. I went for the one with the strongest motive who seemed to sidelined throughout the story, thinking I was clever to spot the perpetrator. I still think that would have been a better ending.

16. The Santa Klaus Murder, Mavis Doriel Hay. The one I had actually bought (having enjoyed the Mystery in White last year). A classic big house whodunit. Good use of multiple authorial voices which made the story telling good.

17. Time and Time Again, Ben Elton (book club, Helen). The last of the 2015 choices for the club. Loved this book. Very similar to Stephen Fry's Making History in its basic premise but with a different slant, and a great final twist. Lots of detail concerning the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the geopolitical landscape of 1914. Excellent.