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: October 2021 reads

In October 2021, I read:

  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • Watch Her Fall by Erin Kelly
  • Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara 
  • Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
  • Crossing the Lines by Amanda Huggins (proof copy)
  • The Strangeworlds Travel Agency 2: The Edge of the Ocean by L D Lapinski

I am a big fan of The Hunger Games trilogy, so I was excited to read the spin-off which takes us back to the origins of the Games when Cornelius Snow is a young man, acting as a mentor to one of the tributes. I wouldn’t recommend starting with this book if you haven’t read the others, or you weren’t a fan of the original books, but it was great to be back in this world and I am hoping this is the start of a new series.

Watch Her Fall is set in the world of ballet, and it was fascinating to get a peek behind the curtains of a professional dance school. I was a bit disappointed though that the whole book wasn’t set in this world though. A very enjoyable read and a good, twisty plot that kept me guessing.

I had come across Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line when it was appearing on the shortlists of writing competitions before it got a publishing deal. I’d always loved the title and the opening sequence, and the rest of the novel didn’t disappoint. It follows a group of street kids in India solving the mystery of the disappearance of children from their shanty town. Heart-breaking at times, and hard-hitting in its depiction of poverty, I am definitely following this series.

Confessions of a Bookseller is a non-fiction book I was given for my birthday. I enjoyed the wry humour and the ups and downs of running a book shop.

Crossing the Lines is an atmospheric and haunting coming-of-age story of a young girl escaping her fate and returning to her roots. With compelling characters and evocative prose, this is a journey of self-discovery that will stay with you long after you read the last line. Crossing the Lines was a proof copy and was published in November 2021.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Strangeworlds Travel Agency 2: The Edge of the Ocean. It’s a middle-grade book so I am not its intended audience, but I just love the world(s) L D Lapinski has created. I am definitely going to be reading the rest of this series. I’ve bought these books as Christmas and birthday presents and they always get the thumbs up from young readers.

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: 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: MAY 2021 READING

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: March 2021 reads

In February 2021 I read:

  • Somewhere Close to Happy by Lia Louis
  • If I Can’t Have You by Charlotte Levin
  • The 24-hour Café by Libby Page
  • A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
  • Girl at Christmas by Rhoda Baxter
  • Money: A User’s Guide by Laura Whateley (non-fiction)
  • The Big Four (Hercule Poirot #5) by Agatha Christie
  • The Choice by Alex Lake
  • All my Lies by Sophie Flynn (proof – to be published in April 2021)
  • The Success Code by Amanda Dewinter (non-fiction)

The stand-out title for me was A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier, one of my favourite writers. Chevalier can make just about any subject fascinating, so although bell ringing and embroidery are by no means my favourite things, I found myself drawn into this world. The novel is set in 1932 and I really enjoyed reading about that period and the expectations of women and their roles in society between the two world wars.

All My Lies was a proof, kindly sent out in advance of the publication date of April 2021. A psychological suspense, set in Oxford and Cornwall, I really enjoyed this debut novel. Great characters, evocative writing, interesting locations and a page-turning plot with plenty of twists and turns.

The Agatha Christie was not for me. I found the premise completely ridiculous to be honest!

The other stand-out title for me was The Success Code by Amanda Dewinter. I found it quite inspiring and a practical approach to defining your goals and working towards them. I particularly liked the emphasis on self-care and looking after yourself so that you don’t burn out.

In March, I am planning to read:

  • The Last Snow by Stina Jackson
  • The Chain by Adrian McKinty
  • How to Disappear by Gillian McAllister
  • The Hit List by Holly Seddon
  • Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

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

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?