On the Shelf: May 2022 reads

I read a lot of books in May!

  • Keep Them Close by Sophie Flynn (proof)
  • Letters from a Stoic by Seneca
  • Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
  • Crossing the Lines by Amanda Huggins (re-read)
  • The Bad Sister by J A Corrigan
  • That Night by Gillian McAllister
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (re-read)
  • The Burning Girls by C J Tudor

Keep Them Close is Sophie Flynn’s second novel and is due out in July 2022. It’s a gripping and intense psychological thriller, exploring the double-edged sword of anonymous internet forums. Chilling, creepy and frighteningly plausible with a clever twist. Well worth a read!

Considering there are more than 2,000 years between the publication dates of Letters from a Stoic by Seneca and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, you might think they wouldn’t have much in common, but you’d be wrong! I was surprised how much I picked up from Seneca’s letters about handling the ups and downs of daily life. I underlined a lot of passages (sorry!) to come back to later.

I also found Digital Minimalism eye-opening in its explanation of how social media platforms and apps are designed to make sure you spend as much time as possible on them. I think we all know this on some level, but it doesn’t stop you getting sucked in. There are some good strategies in this book to tear you away from your devices. I managed to follow some, but not all, of the advice and it is recommended if you are worried about how much time you spend online.

In May, I did an event at Marsden Library with author Amanda Huggins, so I reread her novella, Crossing the Lines. This is a coming-of-age road-trip story set in the American mid-west in the 1970s. Beautifully written with wonderful descriptions of the American landscape and some unforgettable characters.

I am appearing at Essex Book Festival in June in conversation with J A Corrigan, so I took the opportunity to read her latest novel, The Bad Sister. This is a gripping thriller about the relationship between three surviving sisters from a toxic family, and a tragic event that reverberates through their adult lives. It has some parallels with Gillian McAllister’s novel That Night, in which three siblings cover up a murder in Italy. The siblings are very close, but can they really trust each other?

Jude the Obscure is one of my favourite novels of all time, but I hadn’t read it in a while. It’s always a pleasure to return to the classics as an adult because you read them so differently than you did when you first encounter them as a teenager. I remember really identifying with Jude as he struggled to achieve his ambitions of becoming a scholar, but this time I was intrigued by the women in his life and the difficult decisions they had to make. The book has such a tragic ending which still has the capacity to shock even though I knew it was coming.

C J Tudor is one of my favourite writers. I have loved all her books, but I think The Burning Girls might be my favourite so far. The main character is a vicar who moves to a country parish and soon discovers some pretty dark secrets. It has a bit of horror intertwined with a gripping thriller and I absolutely loved it!   

On the Shelf: March 2022 reads

In March 2022, I read:

  • The Dying Day by Vaseem Khan (The Malabar House Mysteries #2)
  • Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka
  • The House of Killers by Samantha Lee Howe
  • Kill or Die by Samantha Lee Howe
  • Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

The Dying Day by Vaseem Khan is the second in The Malabar House Mysteries starring Inspector Persis Wadia. Set in post-partition Bombay, this thriller revolves around the disappearance of a precious manuscript. A series of riddles sets our intrepid detective on the trail of a murderer.

I really enjoyed the historical detail in this novel and the way it is weaved around a gripping plot but mostly I just love the character of Persis and her budding relationship with forensic scientist Archie Blackfish. I’m really looking forward to the next one in the series.

Then it was all about the assassins!

I started by reading Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka. Five assassins are on a bullet train all with different agendas. The experience of reading this book was a lot like watching a Quentin Tarantino film. I loved the characters particularly the sinister teenage killer, The Prince. I read this in one sitting and was completely gripped from start to finish.

I have also been watching Killing Eve, season four on BBC One. If you’re a fan of the series, I would highly recommend The House of Killers trilogy by Samantha Lee Howe.

The first of the series, The House of Killers, was a re-read for me. It’s a twisty read featuring female assassin Neva and MI5 agent Michael who are irresistibly drawn to each other. I am now about two thirds of the way through the second book, Kill or Die and really enjoying it.

On a completely different note, I am also reading Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. I am finding it fascinating to read about the lives of Ancient Romans and Greeks who practised Stoicism. It’s amazing how many parallels there are between their lives and modern lives. We still seem to be wrestling with the same problems!

On the Shelf: February 2022 reads

In February 2022, I read an eclectic mix of books: three psychological thrillers, a classic and a couple of non-fiction titles.

I read:

  • Two Wrongs by Mel McGrath
  • The Weekend Escape by Rakie Bennett
  • The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • The Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma
  • Lessons in Stoicism by John Sellars

The psychological thrillers all had very different settings – Two Wrongs is set in a fictional university and involves a spate of suicides among female students; The Weekend Escape is set on a stormy island off the coast of North-West England; and The Sanatorium is set in a creepy hotel, a former sanatorium, in snowy Switzerland. I enjoyed them all, but The Weekend Escape was my favourite as it was so fast paced!

I bought Dracula on a recent trip to Whitby. I hadn’t read it before, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I particularly liked the character of Mina and the use of setting and atmosphere to add to the tension. I thought Stoker made effective use of multiple narration and I liked how the story unfolds through different perspectives.

I read The Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma after reading The 5AM Club. There is quite a lot of cross-over between the two books, but both are worth reading, particularly if you are looking for some focus in a very distracting world! At the heart of The Monk who sold his Ferrari is a rather odd allegory involving a garden, a lighthouse and a sumo wrestler (!) which is, at the very least, memorable! I have tried to adopt some of the principles Sharma advocates, but I am finding the early starts very challenging to stick to.

Lessons in Stoicism is quite a short book and very much an introduction to Stoicism. It was an enjoyable read but I would have preferred something more in-depth as I was familiar with most of the concepts in it.

I am now turning my attention to The Dying Day by Vaseem Khan, who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite writers. This is the second in the Malabar House mystery series set in post-partition India and it is really good so far! I love the main character, Inspector Persis Wadia, and all the historical details which feel meticulously researched.  

What are you reading this month?