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?

On the shelf: February 2021 reads

In January, I went on a crime spree and read:

  • The Holiday by T M Logan
  • The Catch by T M Logan
  • One by One by Ruth Ware
  • Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear
  • Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4) by Agatha Christie
  • Shed No Tears by Caz Frear

I really enjoyed The Holiday and loved the setting of the South of France. I have read all of T M Logan’s books now and they are fast-paced and very enjoyable psychological thrillers. I thought the relationships between the friends and their children was very well done and the way the different story strands came together at the end was perfect. I was less keen on The Catch, mostly because I didn’t quite ‘buy’ the premise – an overprotective dad who pretty much stalks his daughter’s boyfriend.

Ruth Ware is one of my favourite writers and the comparisons with Agatha Christie are justified. This was a ‘closed-door mystery’ about a group of colleagues trapped in a luxurious ski chalet by an avalanche. This wasn’t my favourite Ruth Ware but enjoyable none the less.

I had read Sweet Little Lies a few years ago when it first came out but thought I would re-read it in preparation for the next two by Caz Frear. It is the detective in this series – DC Cat Kinsella – that really holds your attention, rather than the individual storylines, but I really enjoyed all three police procedurals, particularly Shed No Tears.

SPOILER ALERT!

I already knew the killer in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd because it is often used as an example of the unreliable narrator and the ‘shock twist’. Even when I was reading it, I was doubting myself though as it is so well done. As always, Christie delivers a masterclass in red herrings and intricate plotting.  

In February, I am moving away from thrillers and planning to read:

  • A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
  • The 24-hour Café by Libby Page
  • If I Can’t Have You by Charlotte Levin
  • Somewhere Close to Happy by Lia Louis

Sadly, lockdown has cut off my Agatha Christie supplier (AKA my mum) so I may have to wait until I see her before I continue my Hercule Poirot marathon with The Big Four.

What are you reading? Is lockdown making you read more or less than usual?

On the shelf: January 2021 reads

In December, I read:

  • Expectation by Anna Hope
  • The Confession by Jessie Burton
  • The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot #2)
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • The End of Her by Shari Lapena
  • Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman

I really enjoyed Expectation – a story that follows three women as they grow up from their student days into their 40s. I could really relate to the characters as they were the same age as me and it gave me lots to think about.

A Little Life is certainly not a little book. Nor is it a particularly cheerful one and I did struggle with it for that reason. It was really well-written, and I am glad I finished it, but I’m not sure I would read it again! Warning – some of the themes in this book are very dark.

I would recommend Daemon Voices to any writers out there – it is a very inspiring examination of art, literature, religion and Pullman’s own work. I didn’t always agree with him, but I thought it was a very thought-provoking and enjoyable read.

In January 2021, I am planning to read:

  • The Holiday by T M Logan
  • The Catch by T M Logan
  • One by One by Ruth Ware
  • Shed No Tears by Caz Frear
  • Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear

What are your reading plans for 2021?

On the shelf: December 2020

In November, I read:

  • One Way Out by A A Dhand
  • Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
  • The Babysitter by Phoebe Morgan
  • Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Poirot #1)

The stand-out title for me was Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton which is the story of a high school siege in the UK. At first, I wasn’t sure how realistic this was, but I found myself drawn into the narrative and couldn’t put it down. The story of the two refugee brothers from Syria was very compelling and sensitively done.

Also recommended was One Way Out by A A Dhand. His plots are always so fast-paced, and this was no exception. Another story about a terrorist attack, although quite different from Three Hours. I work in Bradford, so I like the way he uses places and buildings I know very well in his books. I also like the way he weaves big issues into a thrilling plot.  

After signing up to Sophie Hannah’s email newsletter and getting a free guide to the Poirot novels, I decided to revisit the Queen of Crime Fiction and start reading the Poirot novels in order. I must admit I got a bit lost with The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Christie clearly knew her stuff when it comes to poison, but I found that aspect a little over-complicated. She had me going down completely the wrong path when it came to ‘whodunnit’ though!  

If I have time in December I am going to read the next Poirot novel, The Murder on the Links.

In December I plan to read:

  • Expectation by Anna Hope
  • The Confession by Jessie Burton
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

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?