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Reading and Writing Challenge 10/12



Writing Challenge

  • Finished Draft 1 of Avonstow Book 2 and sent it to my alpha reader

  • Started final preparation for publishing our first CPP anthology

Reading Challenge

  • 5 books from my Kindle list (2022 books now all read)

  • 2 books from my 2022 bookshelf list (2022 books now all read)

  • 1 book from my 'to buy' list

  • 7 books from my 2023 library list (2022 already completed)

  • 1 book from my 2022 audiobook list (now completed)


This month has been a real mixed bag for both reading and writing. The euphoria of getting the novel sent off to its first reader was quickly tempered by the realisation that I now have a month in which to write the first draft of the next children's book and then a month to get Avonstow Bk 2 ready for publication. It's a lot and I foresee a lot of coffee fuelled late nights over the next few weeks, especially as the non-writing work is starting to trickle in again!


Similarly, after a slow start because of reading a few non-planned books and several non-fiction books, which always slow my pace considerably, the reading was progressing nicely and I've almost read all the books I added to my TBR pile in 2022. 2023's list didn't look too bad either and I was beginning to whittle away at that as well. And then I realised I hadn't transferred the latest batch of books I'd added onto my wish list onto my 'how I'm going to read them' list. Suddenly, it didn't look quite as healthy and was actually beginning to look quite intimidating! Then I reminded myself that this is not meant to stress me out - all the list means is that I never run out of things to read and as I've proved this year, I can still read spontaneously if I choose to and many of the books are ones that I know will only take me a day or two to read. I thought I'd brought plenty of reading material with me for our week in Cornwall over half term, but actually, I'd planned it perfectly and went home on Sunday, partway through my final book!


One thing I have realised is that it's incredibly important for me to make time to read and that I have to be more organised with my writing time than I currently am - life is getting in the way of my writing much of the time and I need to be disciplined and spend the next month at my desk getting everything done, particularly as there is an anthology waiting to be published!


I'm making a commitment to do NaNoWriMo again this year, so fingers crossed, by the time of my next roundup, I'll have at least 2/3 of the next children's book written!


Book Reviews


Non-fiction


Manifesto – Bernadine Evaristo (Audiobook. Part autobiography, part exploration of the craft of writing, the Booker Prize winner talks about her unorthodox approach to writing and how her life experiences have shaped the stories she creates. Some really interesting thoughts on the debate about whether or not writers should write about cultures other than their own.)


Courtiers – Lucy Worsley (In depth look at some of the lesser known characters of the courts of George I and II. These aren’t reigns I’ve previously read much about, so it was interesting to be introduced to some of the people who featured in them. The death of Queen Caroline is not for the faint-hearted though!)


Mother Tongue – Bill Bryson (Look at the vagaries and peculiarites of the English language. Learnt lots and an interesting read, particularly with regards to the way it is viewed by non-native speakers.)


A Very British Murder – Lucy Worsley (Interesting look at the British fascination with murder, from real life crime to the fictional worlds of Agatha Christie. Excellent companion book to the TV series, which I’d love to watch again!)


The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth – Frances Wilson (I picked this up at Wordsworth’s house in Cockermouth when we visited last year. I wanted something about the women in his life rather than the man himself and I was intrigued by the relationship between brother and sister. It was certainly odd – whether it was genuinely an incestuous one, as has been suggested more than once remains to be seen – but was sympathetically treated here. The author steers clear of sensationalism and instead examines the symbiotic nature of their lives.)


Fantasy


Hollow City – Ransom Riggs (Audiobook. One I kept carving out time to listen to because I was so captivated by the story. This is another one where I read the first book, realised it was part of a series and wanted to read more. When I finished this one, I then discovered there were 6 books in the series, not the 3 I’d initially thought there were! The world of the peculiar children is part fantasy, part historical, part romance, part thriller, part adventure and it is completely spellbinding!)


Historical


The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Kim Edwards (Book Group pick. Right from the start, I didn’t like the character of David. He came across as creepy and a bit stalker-ish. I understood his motivation for the act which begins the book, but it was still all shades of wrong to take the decision away from his wife. It’s easy to dismiss it as a 21st century perspective, but Norah’s deferential attitude made my blood boil.)


The Outside Boy – Jeanine Cummins (Set in the mid 20th century in an Pavee community, this is the story of how Cristy discovers the truth about his origins and learns to come to terms with who he is. It was described to me as a gentle read and it is, but I liked it most because it gives a balanced view of Irish travellers and an insight into their heritage and history.)


The Crooked Branch – Jeanine Cummins (Set against the backdrop of the Irish potato famine alongside a contemporary storyline. Made me realise I know very little about this period of history. Also made me reflect again on how much my generation lost out on by not studying history from perspectives other than our own – we would understand the true impact of Empire etc much better if we were exposed to something beyond the ‘civilising’ influence of Western countries.)


The Whalebone Theatre – Joanna Quinn (This caught my eye in a bookshop and suddenly seems to be everywhere. Set just before and during WW2, it’s a story about changing family dynamics and the importance of sibling relationships. Well worth a read.)


Homecoming – Kate Morton (Audiobook. I’ve been waiting ages for this to come into my library account and boy was it worth the wait. I love Morton’s books and this is up there with the best of them. I love it when I work out what’s happened just slightly before the big reveal because there’s always the ‘why’ that I’ve missed and this was another book I was deliberately carving out time to listen to.)


The Dream Weavers – Barbara Erskine (Loved every single one of her books and this was no exception. Set in Hereford and the surrounding area, it merges religion and the paranormal with the past and present. It’s sad, but brilliant and again, I love that the women in history do their best to carve their own paths in whatever way they can, but ultimately, they are at the mercy of men more often than not. It reminded me how much tragedy could have been avoided in the past, if people had simply been allowed to choose their own partners in life.)


Romance


Christmas Memories at Waterside Cottage – K T Dady (Latest instalment in the Pepper Bay series, read to review it. Like getting a hug in book form. Full review coming on 1st November.)


Absolutely Smashing It – Kathryn Wallace (Standard Rom-Com fare from a popular blogger. Interesting enough story and well worth the 99p my kindle version cost me!)


Children's


Eye Spy – Tessa Buckley (Interesting opening to a children’s series about twins who turn detective. Possibly not one I’d read more of myself, but will definitely be adding it to the list for Arthur.)


The Wizard in the Wood - Louie Stowell (Audiobook. Final instalment in the series and it goes out with a bang. Through following the author on social media, I know how much she loves LotR and I love all the little references she makes through the characters. This is a series I'd recommend to every child I know!)


Literary


Larry’s Party – Carol Shields (Audiobook. Long look at the changing nature of Larry’s life throughout the latter part of the 20th century. Interesting look at how relationships of all kinds change throughout the years.)


Crime


A Dangerous Place – Jacqueline Winspear (I’d been putting off reading this because I didn’t want to read about an unhappy Maisie, but it was worth setting those misgivings aside to continue her story.)


Journey to Munich - Jacqueline Winspear (This instalment moves Maisie once again into a foreign setting and this time she's pitting her wits against Hitler's Nazi party. As always, nothing is quite what it seems and Maisie has to work out exactly who she can trust as she endeavours to complete her mission from the British secret service.)


Contemporary


Queen Bee - Ciara Geraghty (I can't remember where I spotted this one, but it's a funny - fictional - account of a writer struggling to cope with menopause who accidentally becomes a spokesperson for middle aged women everywhere. At the same time she is struggling to maintain a semblance of normality in her home life. Sometimes 'menopause' books can veer into stereotypes or demean the women in them, but this one was utterly relatable.)


Book of the Month?


I think this month, the title has to go to Kate Morton's brilliant 'Homecoming', simply because of the fact that I was actively seeking out time to listen to it. I much prefer to read books myself, so for an audiobook to really capture me, it has to be something special. Claire Foy's narration is wonderful and the story itself had me captivated from beginning to end. Considering that it was set in a country I've never visited and know relatively little about, at all times I was drawn into the story and its locations.




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