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?


In April, I read:

  • Vox by Christina Dalcher
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • The House of Killers by Samantha Lee Howe
  • The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The first two books really made me think. Vox is a dystopian book in which women are only allowed to speak 100 words a day. It reminded me of A Handmaid’s Tale which I have just started watching on Amazon Prime.

At the heart of An American Marriage is a cruel injustice which has ramifications for all the characters. It was a very emotional and thought-provoking read. After reading it, I bought another of her books, Silver Sparrow.

The House of Killers is the first in a series about a female assassin and an MI5 investigator. This was fast-paced, fun and I really didn’t see the twist coming. I also enjoyed the simmering tension between family members depicted in The Mother-in-Law.

In May, I hope to read:

  • The Dinner Guest by B P Walter
  • Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan
  • The Other People by C J Tudor
  • Kingdom by Jo Nesbo

I am about half-way through Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield and I am also hoping to read The Familiars by Stacey Halls. These were both on my reading list for April, but I was a bit over-ambitious!

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

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: 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: November 2020

Last month, I took a break from psychological thrillers and read:

  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
  • The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea
  • The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
  • Still Me by JoJo Moyes

My favourite of these was The Clockmaker’s Daughter. It’s been on my ‘to be read’ list since I received a copy for Christmas and I don’t know what took me so long, as I always enjoy Kate Morton’s novels.

The novel follows different households who occupy a grand manor house over 200 years. It includes elements of the supernatural which I really enjoyed. The characters were all quite unexpected and fascinating, particularly the eponymous Clockmaker’s Daughter, who goes from pickpocketing on the streets of Victorian London to becoming an artist’s muse.

The Glass Woman took me a while to get into as it is set in 17th century Iceland. Once I got into it, I was hooked, and I loved all the detail of daily life in such a harsh environment. It has elements of Jane Eyre and Rebecca in it that I loved.  

The Giver of Stars was another book I struggled to get into. It’s beautifully written but I didn’t engage with it as much as I thought I would. Having said that, I have recommended it to quite a few other people. I haven’t finished reading Still Me yet so I will save my thoughts until December.  

I also read a proof of a debut novel called The Chalet by Catherine Cooper. I enjoyed this fast-paced psychological thriller set in the French Alps.  

This month, I am going back to crime and planning to read:

  • One Way Out by A A Dhand
  • Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough
  • The Babysitter by Phoebe Morgan
  • Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

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

The Road to Publication: Writing a first draft

I am currently writing the first draft of Book Three, as yet untitled.

Every writer is different, but I usually take around six to eight months to write my first draft. I aim to write 3,000 words a week for around 30 weeks, but life sometimes gets in the way.

I started writing my first draft on 1 July and so far, I have written 24,000 words so I am about on target to finish by the end of January / early February.

I will then take a break for around six weeks while I do some research before tackling my second draft. It’s usually after the third draft that I feel comfortable showing it to anyone.

You may have heard of ‘pantsers’ and ‘planners’ but I’m neither. I like to have an outline to work to, but I don’t plan my books too much before I start. Otherwise I feel like I have already written it and I quickly lose passion for the story. Likewise, I can’t just start writing with no idea where I’m heading so pantsing doesn’t work for me either.

I like the snowflake method of writing. If you haven’t heard of it, there is a very good ebook available which explains the method. You basically alternate between developing character and plot and work from the very essence of the novel outwards, writing and plotting as you go.

I have also recently read Save the Cat, so I am trying to structure my book according to the 15 story beats. A lot of writers struggle with a ‘flabby middle’ (where nothing really happens in the book), so I think it’s important to have a good midpoint twist. I’m quite excited about mine!

I’ll keep you posted how I get on!

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

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?