On the shelf: November 2021 reads

In November, I read:

  • Ask No Questions by Claire Allan
  • The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell (non-fiction)
  • Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
  • We Can’t All be Astronauts by Tim Clare (non-fiction)

I have read all of Claire Allan’s psychological thrillers and enjoyed them. Ask No Questions wasn’t my favourite, but it was still an interesting read about a journalist investigating the death of a young girl 20 years ago. Has there been a miscarriage of justice or was the right man sent to prison for the crime? 

The Art of War for Writers has lots of great advice for writers, delivered in very short chapters (some only a page or two). It’s a book I will probably dip into again when I need some inspiration.

Haven’t They Grown has a really intriguing premise – what if you saw a friend that you had lost touch with 12 years ago and her children hadn’t changed a bit? My brain was on overdrive reading this psychological thriller and trying to guess the answer.

One of the teenaged characters in my next book is reading The Catcher in the Rye, so I wanted to make sure I got the references right. I haven’t read this book for years and I had forgotten most of it. Nothing really happens, to be honest, but it’s a great example of voice and character in action.

I have been following and enjoying Tim Clare’s podcast, Death of 1,000 cuts, particularly his ‘Couch to 80k bootcamp’ which really helped me kickstart my writing when I got stuck. We Can’t All be Astronauts follows Clare’s journey to becoming a published writer. You can’t say he didn’t pull out all the stops, from infiltrating London Book Fair pretending to be a publisher, to appearing on a TV reality show. Really funny in parts, but there is also a very serious side as Clare explores the impact of his mental breakdown and how writing aided his recovery. A lot to think about in this highly engaging memoir.

ON THE SHELF: SEPTEMBER 2021 READS

In September 2021, I read:

  • Hostage, Clare Mackintosh
  • When She Was Good, Michael Robotham
  • The Dark Side of the Mind, Kerry Daynes (non-fiction / research)
  • The Colours of Death, Patricia Marques
  • The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman
  • The Wedding Party, Tammy Cohen
  • Trust Me, T M Logan

I bought The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques after seeing her speak at Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. I was intrigued by the premise of the book in which the detective has telepathic abilities. I really enjoyed the way the author added an element of science fiction to a traditional police procedural, and it was fun to read a book set in Lisbon, a place I have never visited. I will definitely look out for her next book.

When She Was Good was a Richard and Judy selection and I thought it was excellent, one of the best books I have read all year. I’m really happy to have discovered Michael Robotham and am looking forward to reading his other novels.

I love Tammy Cohen’s books, but I was a bit apprehensive about reading this one as it has a very similar premise to my next book. However, I was really pleased that while they are both set at weddings, the plot line and characters were totally different. Again, this had a great setting of a Greek island.

T M Logan’s books are always page turners and Trust Me was no exception. I really enjoyed this book. Hostage is also a thrilling read – set on a transatlantic flight from London to Sydney.

I read The Thursday Murder Club to see what all the fuss was about. It was OK. I thought the second half was better than the first. It was a bit too gentle for my liking. Not sure whether I will read the next one.

ON THE SHELF: AUGUST 2021 READS

It has been so long since I updated my reading list, that I have nearly forgotten what I’ve read and when! But here goes.

In August, I read:

  • The Silver Collar by Antonia Hodgson
  • My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
  • People Like Her, Ellery Lloyd
  • Away with the Penguins, Hazel Prior
  • The Silver Road, Stina Jackson
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro
  • A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Solzhenitsyn

I am a big fan of Antonia Hodgson, and The Silver Collar was a signed copy that a friend bought me at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Festival in Harrogate. This is the fourth in the historical crime fiction series featuring Tom Hawkins and his wife, Kitty. They’re really enjoyable books. Definitely recommended!

I read My Cousin Rachel for a book club that I was subsequently unable to attend. I had seen the film, so knew the plot, but the ending still caught me off-guard. Reading du Maurier always encourages me to up my crime writing game!

People Like Her is a fresh, modern thriller about the life of influencers. I was keen to read this Richard and Judy pick, and it did not disappoint. I particularly liked the dual narrative in this book and how it worked to keep the reader on their toes.

I think Away with the Penguins was my favourite book in August. It was funny, sweet and heart-warming. I can’t wait for the sequel which is out soon! I think this is the first time I have bought a book based on the title alone, not knowing anything about it beforehand.

If you’re looking for atmospheric Scandi noir then Stina Jackson is definitely one to read. The Silver Road is her first novel and I enjoyed it just as much as The Last Snow. I read this on my kindle, and I liked it so much, I bought it in paperback as well.

I found Klara and the Sun a thought-provoking read, but it wasn’t one that really engaged me. One thing I really admire about Ishiguro is that he refuses to stay within a genre and every book is very different from the last. I was interested in a lot of the concepts in this novel, particularly around artificial intelligence, but the plot was a bit lacking for me.

A friend lent my A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich because it was one of her favourite books. I’m afraid it wasn’t for me; it was just too bloody miserable!

And that was that for August! I’ll update the blog with September’s reads soon!

On the shelf: June 2021 reads

In May, I read:

  • The Other People by C J Tudor
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan
  • The Dinner Guest by B P Walter
  • Kingdom by Jo Nesbo (DNF)
  • Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon
  • Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg (proof)
  • Her Last Holiday by C L Taylor

I really enjoyed Midnight at Malabar House. I’ve not read any of Vaseem Khan’s books before, but I am definitely keen to read more. This novel, the first in a new series, is set in a newly independent India and features Persis Wadia, the country’s first female detective. She’s a wonderful character and the plot kept me guessing until the end.

Another highlight for me was The Other People. I have enjoyed all of C J Tudor’s books so far, but I think this one was her best. It features a broken man fruitlessly searching for his missing daughter. Everyone tells him she’s dead, but he refuses to stop looking. There are several different plotlines, and it takes a while for them to fuse together, but when they do it’s a fantastic revelation.

I’m usually a big fan of Jo Nesbo, but I couldn’t finish Kingdom. I won’t post any spoilers, but the subject matter was not for me, so I gave up on it.

Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg was a proof. This coming-of-age story is set in 90s California and I defy you not to sing along to the soundtrack! I loved the feisty heroine and her emotional journey as she takes to the road, comes to terms with the death of her sister and finds her voice. 

In June, I am planning to read:

  • Finders, Keepers by Sabine Durrant
  • Fatal Harmony by Kate Rhodes
  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
  • The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler
  • The Broken by Tamar Cohen

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

On the shelf: October 2020

In September, I read:

  • Black River by Will Dean
  • We Know You Know by Erin Kelly
  • The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor
  • The Lost Man by Jane Harper

All these books had evocative settings. Black River is set in a Swedish forest around midsummer and there are some really graphic descriptions of the bugs. We Know You Know, originally published as Stone Mothers, is set in a disused asylum which plays a key role in the action. The Taking of Annie Thorne is set in a small Nottinghamshire village and a disused mine. The Lost Man is set in the Australian outback in an incredibly barren terrain.

My favourite of these was The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor and I have just downloaded her next book, The Other People. They’re thrillers but with a touch of horror and I liked the 80s nostalgia in this book and the creepy setting.

I also read a couple of books by writer friends. All Our Squandered Beauty by Amanda Huggins is a coming-of-age novella set in the 1970s. It will be published by Victorina Press in January 2021.

All Our Squandered Beauty is a beautifully told coming-of-age tale. Kara is 18 and has her whole life ahead of her but will she choose the bright lights of London or the familiar call of the sea?

With exquisite prose, Huggins perfectly captures that transition to womanhood as Kara moves from her parochial seaside town to spend the summer in Greece with her art tutor and his bohemian friends.  

The novella is full of evocative descriptions which transport the reader to a different time and place. The poignant ending is perfectly pitched.

Reminiscent of Bonjour Tristesse, this is a story which will capture your heart and deserves to be a classic.  

You can pre-order All Our Squandered Beauty here.

I also read a great collection of short stories by Bradford crown court reporter Jenifer Loweth called Crook Who’s Talking!

Based on real-life cases, and with a nod to the Canterbury Tales, these stories are written from the point-of-view of those in the dock (apart from one who is the defendant’s brother). Loweth takes us behind the headlines into the minds of the criminals, who are mostly justifying their misdemeanours.

Some are comical, some are tragic, and one is particularly chilling, but you are left with the feeling that justice has been served.

And finally, I was lucky enough to be sent a proof of The Chalet by Catherine Cooper which has another evocative setting – a ski chalet in France. I haven’t finished it yet but will post a review when I do.

I’m going to move away from psychological thrillers in October. After I finish The Chalet, I am planning to read:

  • Still Me by JoJo Moyes
  • The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes – recommended by my friend
  • The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – a Christmas present
  • The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea – borrowed from my mum

What are you reading? Any recommendations?

On the shelf: September 2020

On average, I read a book a week. Unsurprisingly, my favourite genre is crime and I try to keep up with the latest psychological thrillers as they are published. However, I have broad tastes and also like literary fiction, ‘chick-lit’, book club fiction, fantasy and YA. I am less keen on historical fiction although I do read it.

My favourite authors are Khaled Hosseini, Tracy Chevalier and Emily Barr, and I will read pretty much anything by Cara Hunter, Ruth Ware, Shari Lapena and C L Taylor.

In August, I read:

  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • Knife by Jo Nesbo
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Hell Bay by Kate Rhodes

My favourite of these was Knife by Jo Nesbo. His books are pretty violent, but they are full of story and Harry Hole is such a good character. I have read almost all of Nesbo’s books. If you’re new to this Norwegian writer, I would start with The Snowman or The Redeemer.  

In September, I plan to read:

  • The Lost Man by Jane Harper
  • We Know You Know by Erin Kelly
  • The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor
  • Black River by Will Dean

What are you reading? Any recommendations?