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Reading and Writing Challenge 11/12



Writing

  • Got Avonstow Draft 1 back from my Alpha Reader and nowhere near as much editing required as I'd feared. Happy Ruth!

  • Published our first CPP anthology

  • Wrote 51,000 words of 'The Quest of the Summer King' and have the last few chapters fully plotted out.

Reading

  • All books added to the TBR pile in 2022 have now been read!

  • Several 2023 books have also now been read (although I've started watching Between The Covers again so doubtless the list will get bigger before the end of the year)


I've been on a bit of a mission this month with the reading, as I realised that 300 books is actually a manageable total this year and I'm determined I'm going to break the barrier into the next hundred. I think the fact that I listen to audiobooks at every possible opportunity has contributed massively to this total and it means that I can 'read' a book at the same time as doing my other hobby of sewing.

I've also been on a mission with my writing. I always knew that 80,000 words was unrealistic given my other commitments this month, but by pushing myself to do more, I managed to not only get 2/3 of the book written, but also have the rest of it planned so I'm hoping to get it finished before the kids break up for school. As soon as that's done, I can put it to one side and get on with editing Avonstow Book 2, ready for publication in mid-January. What has surprised me this month was how much I was able to get written on some days and also, how smoothly it has gone. There have been very few occasions where I've sat staring at my screen, wondering what on earth I was going to write about, which makes a pleasant change.


Book Reviews


Children's


Treacle Walker – Alan Garner (Odd book for children. Found it difficult to get into and was never quite sure what was going on. Seem to remember quite enjoying The Weirdstone of Brisingamen but this was too strange for my tastes.)


Over Sea, Under Stone – Susan Cooper (Audiobook. I’ve read this so many times I’ve lost count and it remains one of my favourite ever books. We listened to it this time, primarily for my youngest son as I wanted to introduce him to the series. He seemed to enjoy it, although perhaps not quite as much as I did!)


The Sceptre of the Pharaohs – Derek Keilty (Audiobook. Picked this up for the youngest to listen to. As an adult, it was vaguely enjoyable, but not something I would have chosen to return to. However, the youngest enjoyed it and asked to listen to the sequel, so that was the main thing.)


The Eye of Mogdrod – Derek Keilty (Audiobook. Arthur enjoyed this, me not so much.)


The Ghost of Scarletbeard – Derek Keilty (Audiobook. This had echoes of Pirates of the Caribbean and kept Arthur entertained for a few hours.)


Fantasy


The Library of Lost Souls – Ransome Riggs (Audiobook. Third in the Miss Peregrine series. This series gets steadily darker as it goes along and listening to the audiobooks is strange if you haven’t seen the photos of the children in the first book. Jacob is coming into his own now though and gaining a better understanding of his powers, although he is finding being away from his family much more difficult.)


The Briarmen – Joseph Chadwick (Billed as a fairytale for adults, this odd little book was quite endearing. Set in a small village in WW2, it’s part spy story, part fairytale and utterly engaging.)


The Hobbit – JRRR Tolkein (Audiobook. If you watched and enjoyed the film, I’d highly recommend the Andy Serkis narration as his voices are very much based on the film actors. He’s so good that at times I couldn’t have said for sure that I wasn’t listening to Richard Armitage as Thorin.)


A Map of Days – Ransom Riggs (Audiobook. Jacob finds out more about his grandfather’s secret life and begins to try piecing it all together to continue his work.)


Historical


Foster – Claire Keegan (Audiobook. Beautiful novella about a little girl briefly fostered out to a loving couple with problems of their own. I kept expecting there to be a dark twist, but when the reveal came, it was heartbreaking but not dark and just made the narrative that had gone before all the more poignant.)


The Grass Is Singing – Doris Lessing (Set in mid 20th century Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabawe) it tells the story of a city girl and a farmer who marry for all the wrong reasons and of the fallout of her inability to cope with life in the country and the farm workers. It was good, but not a story I particularly enjoyed and at the end I felt as though I’d missed something important that explained why the murder had been committed, as it came after a period of gentleness. However, when I reviewed it in the context of the book as a whole it made far more sense.)


The Storyteller – Jodi Picoult (Book Group pick. A man confesses to being a Nazi soldier in his early life and his young friend has to work out what to do with that information. What follows is a story about her grandmother’s experiences as a Jew during the war and a fantasy tale is woven throughout the different narratives.)


Maid of Steel – Kate Baker (Picked this one up at an author event after chatting with its lovely author. The name comes from both the main character and the Titanic, but unusually, the ship doesn’t feature massively in the storyline. Well worth a read.)


Excellent Women – Barbara Pym (Brilliant examination of a particular type of woman in the mid twentieth century. However, I think it said as much about the attitudes towards these women, as it did about the women themselves. All the characters are flawed, but somehow remain eminently likeable, even when they’re doing unlikeable things.)


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy (Audiobook. It took me a while to get into this one as it’s quite a complicated story, but it was definitely worth persevering with. It centres around a range of characters who are all, to one degree or another, connected to each other. It was a slow burner, but like her previous novel, intricately woven together and expertly constructed.)


Contemporary


Never Greener – Ruth Jones (Audiobook. This was an interesting enough story but the characters annoyed me. Neither of the main characters are particularly likeable and were self-indulgent, inconsiderate and weak. Although I quite liked Belinda, it annoyed me that she was so forgiving and I wanted her to stand up for herself a bit more.)


Tin Man – Sarah Winman (This was another spontaneous read passed on by a friend and it was a really lovely read. Very sad, but a beautiful study in what true friendship looks like.)


Non-Fiction


A Night To Remember – Walter Lord (Audiobook. We listened to this because youngest son is currently obsessed with Titanic and it was one of the few books about the ship that was available through Audible. Enjoyed it far more than I had expected to and it actually rekindled my own waning interest in the subject.)


A Little History of Literature - John Sutherland (Interesting insight into how the novel has developed into its modern form. Worth reading if you’re interested in how novels have changed. I found out lots about a topic I thought I was pretty well informed about!


An Illustrated History of the ‘Olympic’ Class Ships – Mark Chirnside (Got this for Arthur and ended up reading it myself. Interesting pictures of all three ships alongside snippets of information.)


Thriller


The Taken Girls – Glen Cooper (Read this on a friend’s recommendation and it was definitely a bit different. I was expecting a thriller, but what I got was a thriller sci-fi cross over which was a bit unexpected.)


RomCom


Twenties Girl – Sophie Kinsella (Not an author I would usually choose to read, but this came up on a list somewhere and sounded interesting so I thought I’d give it a try. It was a light, comic read, but heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time. There was never any real moment of tension in the love story, but there was in the story of Lara and Sadie. Far better than I expected and definitely worth reading, even if it’s not your usual kind of book.)


Crime


In This Grave Hour – Jacqueline Winspear (Next Maisie Dobbs book. Focuses on the influx of refugees into Britain at the start of World War II. Maisie is returning to her old self finally.)


LGBTQ


In Memoriam – Alice Winn (Love story set in WW1 between two schoolfriends. Both are incredibly flawed characters but very endearing and I was praying they would stay together once the war was over. The depth of their feelings was clear and this is a beautifully written book about a love that wasn’t as hidden as it might have been and I loved that it was just accepted by the majority of their friends.)


Book of the Month?


There were several strong contenders this month and I had to really consider what was most important to me when I was trying to choose my favourite of them and in the end, I opted for Alice Winn's 'In Memoriam' because it was so exquisitely beautiful both in terms of the story and the writing itself, that it ticked every box.




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