On the shelf: July 2022 reads

In July 2022, I read:

  • Life of an MP by Jess Phillips (research)
  • The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward
  • The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  • Such a Good Mother by Helen Monks Takhar (proof)
  • Sea Defences by Hilary Taylor (proof)
  • Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
  • Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah
  • The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

A character in the book I am working on at the moment is a local MP, so I read Jess Phillip’s book to get an insight into life in politics. This was a really helpful look at the role of an MP and some of the challenges and frustrations they face. I would recommend this to anyone interested in looking at what happens behind the scenes in Westminster.

Rhiannon Ward also writes thrillers as Sarah Ward, and I have read some of her crime books, so I thought I would give her historical fiction a go. Set in post-first world war England, this is about a female photographer in an unhappy second marriage who is commissioned to take pictures for a house sale. Heavily pregnant, Louisa becomes embroiled in a recreation of an infamous séance and is warned there is a curse on the house. This was a little slow in places for my taste, but I found the plot got moving in the second half of the book and by the end, I was gripped by this gothic mystery.

Sticking with historical fiction, I also read The Mercies, which was a Richard and Judy pick some time ago. I enjoyed Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Girl of Ink and Stars and I think she is wonderful writer. The Mercies is set in an Arctic village in 1621. A ferocious storm leaves a community devastated. As they are starting to pick up their lives, a delegation from Scotland arrive to stamp out suspected witchcraft. This was an evocative and atmospheric book. I loved the descriptions of everyday life in the island and the horrible realisation what the men are going to do and how powerless the women are to stop them. This is a story that is going to stay with me for a long time to come.

I was lucky enough to receive a proof of Helen Monks Takhar’s new book, Such a Good Mother. I loved her first book, and her follow-up does not disappoint. An elite school, a group of bitchy mothers and a woman desperate to get her and her family in the inner circle makes for a gripping plot. This is a deliciously dark and twisty tale which explores the lengths people will go to get what they want. Complex characters, intricate plotting and a satisfying ending.

My second proof was Sea Defences by Hilary Taylor. I met Hilary at a writing conference a few years ago and I am delighted that her debut novel will be published in January 2023. Sea Defences is a brilliant book. I love the way she has created characters that are all good people but come into conflict with each through tragic circumstances. I really enjoyed the setting, and I thought the ending was brilliant. This is a stunning debut: evocative descriptions, strong characterisation and a simmering tension which builds to a thrilling finale. Fans of Broadchurch, in particular, will love this book.

Ego is the Enemy is a book about stoicism. It made for an interesting read, not least because I disagreed with about half of what Holiday said! His persuasive argument was that our suffering comes from our ego and that we would be happier if we always put society and our contribution to the world first. Although this is very noble, I did disagree with some of his comments about being dispassionate about the work that we do and not having personal goals.

Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah is a powerful, heart-wrenching legal drama about a woman on trial for the manslaughter of her baby nephew. I have to say I found some of this book very difficult to read because of the subject matter. Abdullah takes an unflinching look at the way the legal system, and society, treats childless women and the depictions of grief are extremely well done.

The Plot is a book that will particularly appeal to writers. A washed-up creative writing tutor encounters a student who has a brilliant idea for a book. When he finds out that the student has died, the tutor steals the plot, and the book becomes a bestseller. However, the fear of being exposed haunts him and he becomes increasingly unravelled as he receives anonymous messages accusing him of plagiarism. There is a lot of humour in this book and I found it a very enjoyable read.