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You would never expect it from the covers but several books by Barbara Erskine have really, really scared me. One night I was reading House of Echoes in bed and had to wake my husband because I was too frightened to keep reading, and too frightened to go to sleep. Ostensibly historical novels Erskine's books weave in local myths and characters, family history and ghosts… very believable ghosts. The novels are inspired by places and people and the stories they hold. Erskine believes in ghosts herself which must be what makes the writing so real and gives you moments when your hair really does stand on end. - Madelaine
Not having a synopsis on a book is one of my bugbears. It is great to have quotes from reviewers but that still doesn’t tell me what a book is about. I use clues from the cover design to give me a feeling of the genre and what other books it might be like. I open the book up and start reading. If I like what I read I then flick through the pages, look at the chapter structure (I am very much in favour of short chapters!). Terrible confession but I have also been known to read the final paragraph! You can get a feeling for the story, the writing style and if the book is for you or not. Not exactly judging a book by its cover, but what else is a cover for? - Madelaine
Crime is a fantastic genre because there are so many styles. I personally am a fan of Agatha Christie style "cosy" crime, and Sophie Hannah has done a wonderful job of emulating the master herself in her authorized Poirot novels, but she also writes her own original stories too. Anthony Horowitz has been putting a metafictional spin on the crime genre he knows well from his TV credits recently, with his The Word is Murder series and duology Magpie and Moonflower Murders, which kept me guessing to the very end. JD Robb might appeal; her crime novels are set in a futuristic America which adds a fun twist on the standard murder mystery formula. If you want a bit more thriller in your crime, maybe try Karen Hamilton, L.V. Matthews or Louise Scarr. - Claire
YA has been soaring recently in my opinion. A decade – five years ago it was stuck in a bit of a loop where only one genre at a time would be popular (supernatural romance, then dystopia, then contemporary romance), but lately it has become a lot more diverse – in genre, setting and characters – so there’s something for everyone. Even if you haven't read The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins' prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes offers a slightly more mature look at the early years of the dystopian Panem. Karen M McManus and Holly Jackson write compelling high-school murder mysteries with plenty of intrigue, whilst on the fantasy side, The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna uses West African folklore as its inspiration. Frances Hardinge and Patrick Ness also have fantastic books you can really sink your teeth into! - Claire
I personally loved The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I was reading it during a holiday away with family and I could not put it down. I've always been a big fan of Greek myths, so this book, set during the Trojan War, was perfect. Miller's creative use of metaphors paints such a beautiful picture of the surrounding landscapes, and its characters. Other recommendations would include Pat Barker, Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris, or Maz Evans for children. - Tasha & Steve
There are so many novels that deal with other types of relationship. I have enjoyed Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller, or one of her three previous novels. Watch out for Lapvona by American author Ottessa Moshfegh, coming out in June. Or visit your local independent bookshop, have a good browse and ask the staff. - Steve
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National Book Tokens are the ideal gift for booklovers and can be spent in bookshops in the UK and Ireland, and online.