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.

A COVER AND A NEW TITLE FOR BOOK TWO!

You’re invited to the wedding of the season…but you might not live to tell the tale!

The cover of my second book was revealed on social media this week and I love it!

I love the striking contrast between the red, white and black. Coincidentally these were the colours of my own wedding which makes it extra special.

Some of you will know that I originally called the book The Wedding Guest, but the title was changed after discussions with the publisher, One More Chapter.

The Wedding Murders features Libby Steele, a plus-one at a celebrity wedding. She’s the guest of her boyfriend Matthew who used to be in a Britpop band with the groom. It’s the first time the band have been reunited since their acrimonious split in the 90s and Libby soon realises they all have secrets to hide.

When a bridesmaid goes missing just hours before the ceremony, Libby suspects there’s a killer on the loose…

I was lucky enough to get an endorsement from the amazing Sophie Hannah which blew me away. This is what she said about the book:

‘This gripping murder mystery will keep you riveted from start to end. Fans of Lucy Foley and Agatha Christie will love it.’ 

You can’t get much better than that! But here are some of the other lovely endorsements I’ve received from published authors:

‘An intensely compelling, riveting story with a nail-biting climax!’ Abby Davies, author of Mother Loves Me

‘A fast-paced thriller with plenty of twists and turns’ Sophie Flynn, author of All My Lies 

‘A gripping tale with plenty of twists and turns making for a most enjoyable read!’ Roz Watkins, author of The Devil’s Dice

I really enjoyed writing this book. It will be published as an ebook in February 2022 and a paperback in April 2022 and is available to pre-order now.

If you’re a book blogger, you can request a review copy on Netgalley.

Nanowrimo 2021: Week two

Week two of NaNoWriMo and I have written another 3,835 words.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is an international challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. I am being a ‘NaNo rebel’ and aiming to add 18,000 words to an existing manuscript, which will hopefully be book four.

I gave myself two days off this week to attend the Perfect Crime Festival in Liverpool. I came back full of ideas and inspiration, and it was great to spend time with other writers and readers. I now have a huge ‘to be read’ list!

Another thing I did this week was a virtual write-in with a group of writers I met on the Jericho Writers’ self-edit course. We met over Zoom to write, and it proved very productive.

I’m a little behind on my goal, but confident I will catch up.

WEEK TWO

5 November 2021 – day 8

Goal: 530 words                               Achieved: 0                                                        Total: 3370 words

No words done today, really tired and very busy with the house move.

6 November 2021 – day 9

Goal: 530 words                               Achieved: 998 words                                      Total: 4,368 words

Scheduled start time: 8pm

Started writing at 7pm. Lifted a chapter from the first draft and copied and pasted it into the manuscript so an easy 998 words tonight, leaving me a bit of time to plan a new chapter to work on tomorrow.

7 November 2021 – day 10

Goal: 632 words                               Achieved: 637 words                                      Total: 5,005 words

Scheduled start time: 8pm

I was planning to write later on this evening but managed to get some writing done waiting for tea to cook. The words were flowing as I started writing a new chapter. Managed 637 words in about 45 minutes. Will continue this chapter tomorrow.

8 November 2021 – day 11

Goal: 500 words                               Achieved: 823 words                                      Total: 5,828 words

Scheduled start time: 6.30am

Woke up early to write before work and managed 823 words, continuing the new chapter I started yesterday. I’m really pleased with it although I need to do some research so had to add a few notes to myself in the text. I use square brackets and capitals e.g. [FIND OUT WHERE THIS IS] when I need to do some research but don’t want to stop writing. I find early mornings good for writing. After a cup of tea, my brain feels quite active.

9 November 2021 – day 12

Goal: 0 words                                    Achieved: 0                                                        Total: 5,828 words

Scheduled start time: 8.15am

Busy day today so decided not to set myself a goal. Any words written will be a bonus.

10 November – day 13

Goal: 972 words                               Achieved: 1,377 words                                  Total: 7,205

Scheduled start time: 1pm

Today I am doing something I have never done before, a virtual write-in with a group of writers I met on a self-editing course. We are going to be writing our novels over Zoom, keeping each other going when the words stop flowing. I have high expectations of achieving nearly 1,000 words with this type of focussed writing.

It was brilliant! Despite a few interruptions I managed to add 1,377 words to my manuscript which was way more than I was expecting. I enjoyed the companionship of writing alongside others and the chats in between focussed writing sessions. I would definitely do this again.

11 November – day 14

Goal: 0 words                                    Achieved : 0                                                       Total: 7,205

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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: July 2021 reads

In June 2021, I read:

  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  • The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler
  • The Happy Family by Jackie Kabler (proof copy)
  • The Cult by Abbie Davies (proof copy)
  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
  • A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders (non-fiction)
  • Girl A by Abigail Dean

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig has a brilliant concept. A woman, wanting to end her own life, finds herself in a library surrounded by the stories of what her life could have been if she had made different decisions. I thought it was a beautiful and thought-provoking novel.

I was fortunate enough to be sent two proofs to read this month from my publisher. The Happy Family by Jackie Kabler is a gripping read with all the elements of a classic psychological suspense: suspicion, secrets and shocking reveals. The Cult by Abbie Davies was one of my favourite books this year. Creepy and full of tension, with great characters, plenty of twists and turns, and a nail-biting finish, it was a real page-turner.

Silver Sparrow is the story of two girls and their bigamist father. I loved the tension in this book which is told from the two girls’ perspectives. This is the second novel by Tayari Jones that I have read, and I am keen to read more.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders is a collection of essays about writing, critiquing seven short stories by Russian writers. I learnt a lot from this book, but ultimately, I think it was more aimed at writers of literary fiction.

Girl A by Abigail Dean was quite a harrowing read. It follows the lives of a group of siblings who have escaped their childhood ‘house of horror’ with their neglectful and abusive parents. It was another thought-provoking read.  

In July 2021, I am going to read:

  • Little White Lies by Philippa East
  • Definitely Dead by Kate Bendelow
  • The Dare by Lesley Kara
  • Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent
  • The Island by C L Taylor

In other news, I am venturing out this month and attending the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. I really thought it would be cancelled this year due to COVID so I am over the moon that it is going ahead and that I will get to see some of my favourite writers.

What are you reading this month?

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?

Book Two is on its way!

I’ve had a busy couple of months since signing with my agent.

I have recently signed a book deal for my second psychological thriller, provisionally called The Wedding Guest. If all goes to plan, book two will be published by One More Chapter in April 2022.

Local journalist Libby is a plus-one at a celebrity wedding at a grand manor house in rural North Yorkshire. She’s the guest of her boyfriend, Matthew, who used to be in a Britpop band in the 90s. It’s the first time the band members have been reunited since the band split up and she quickly discovers that they have something to hide…

I’m really looking forward to launching Libby into the world! This book was a lot of fun to research and write.

At the moment I am doing my structural edits. These are big changes that the editor suggests in order to make sure the story works. They’re a little tricky, as you have to check that when you change something in chapter 20, it doesn’t impact on something in chapter 47. There is a lot of ‘find and replace’ going on! The plan is to complete these edits by the end of May.

I have also been working on a follow-up to this book. It’s early days and I have just done an outline, a bit of preliminary research and written about 3,000 words. This means I have put aside the other novel I was working on for the time being. At some point I am hoping to pick it back up and work on them both simultaneously but I’m not sure if my brain can handle that…

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

On the shelf: April 2021 reads

In March, I read:

  • The Chain by Adrian McKinty
  • How to Disappear by Gillian McAllister
  • The Hit List by Holly Seddon
  • Someone We Know by Shari Lapena
  • The Last Snow by Stina Jackson
  • The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean
  • Playing Nice by J P Delaney
  • Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman

My favourite of these was The Last Snow by Stina Jackson. Set in Sweden, I loved the atmosphere of the creepy forest, the claustrophobic community where everyone knows everyone, and the idiosyncratic characters. I immediately bought a copy for my mum for Mother’s Day.

I also really enjoyed The Hit List by Holly Seddon and How to Disappear by Gillian McAllister. Both books left me thinking about their plots for a long time afterwards, particularly what it might be like to enter witness protection. They’re both ‘what would you do if…’ books and highly recommended.

Incidentally, if you are a writer, check out The Honest Authors podcast which is hosted by Gillian McAllister and Holly Seddon. It lifts the lid on the publishing industry and writing in general and is incredibly helpful and entertaining.  

In April I am going to read

  • Vox by Christina Dalcher
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • The Familiars by Stacey Halls
  • Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

In my mission to read the Hercule Poirot books in order, I’ve skipped The Mystery of the Blue Train (I did manage to catch the TV adaptation on ITV Player though) and have moved on to Peril at End House.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? What’s your favourite book of the year so far?