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Reading and Writing Challenge 6/12

Writing Challenge

  • Lido book is ready to go apart from the cover

  • We are starting to get inquiries to Castle Priory Press from other authors

  • We are beginning the process of putting together the first CPP Anthology

  • A new children's picture book is underway for a local business

It's a little bit 'bare bones' on the writing front this month. June and July are my busiest months for my paid job and so any writing I get done is a complete bonus. I did get an idea for a scene that would link the two parts of my book nicely though, as well as getting a few thousand words written, so it's not been a completely writing free month!

Reading Challenge

  • 1 book from my Kindle list

  • 5 books from my bookshelf list

  • 1 book from my 'to buy' list

  • 7 books from my library list

At halfway through the year, I have read all the books I added to my TBR pile in 2021 and am now beginning to work my way through the ones from 2022. This gives me a new target of:

  • 5 Kindle books

  • 8 Bookshelf books

  • 9 'To buy' books

  • 14 Library books

  • 3 Audiobooks

I don't know whether I will be able to read all of these before the end of the year, but as long as I make a significant dent in their number I'll be happy, otherwise next year's TBR pile will be huge again! A part of me worries that when I don't have a list to work through, I won't know what to read and a part of me looks forward to the freedom of being able to be completely spontaneous about what I read.

Everything is still feeling a little bit frazzled. None of us are too good in the heat at the best of times and when one parent is backwards and forwards to Cornwall and trying to juggle two jobs and the other one is temporarily working full time but everything we normally do still needs doing, it's making for quite a high stress household. I haven't had a panic attack since I was in my twenties, having learnt to recognise the signs and head them off before they take hold, so to have them rearing their head again has been more than a little disconcerting. As always, seeking refuge in a book is a good way for me to deal with them, so I'm trying to make sure that I make time every day to read, even if it's just a little bit. Reading is the one thing keeping me sane!



The City of Mist – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Set of short stories set in the Cemetery of Forgotten books universe. They add a little more depth to some characters and give insights into other, more minor ones. An interesting collection, but I would imagine that it only has true appeal to those who have read the original series.)


Temeraire – Naomi Novik (The Napoleonic wars but with dragons. Strange concept, but somehow it works and Temeraire, the titular dragon captured my heart almost from birth. His relationship with Laurence is beautiful. There are 8 others in the series at this moment, but I can’t make my mind up about whether or not I want to read them. I want to see how the story pans out, but I’m not sure I could cope with Temeraire being hurt, physically or mentally!)


The Book of Longings – Sue Monk Kidd (The story of Ana, fictional wife of Jesus. Although Jesus obviously makes many appearances in the book, it is very much Ana’s story and is focused on her and the women around her. That Judas is her brother, to whom she is close, makes the inevitable ending even more difficult to read. Beautifully done, but I do wonder if I would feel the same were I deeply religious.)

Creative Non-Fiction

A Wiser Woman on a Narrow Boat – Stephanie Green (This time around Stephanie is better at handling her boat, although there are still the inevitably funny mishaps, but she also reminded me of how often I think ‘one day I’ll visit there’ without ever making any real plans to do so.

Young Adult

A Calamity of Mannerings – Joanna Nadin (Picked this up after it was mentioned in another book I was reading and described as being like The Pursuit of Love but for teenagers. It was a pretty accurate description, some striking similarities but a much more modern approach, even though it is still set in the 1920s.)


Never Coming Back – Tim Weaver (4th in the David Raker series. I don’t often read a series out of order, but somehow I seem to keep coming across these and they are never in the right order! Good solid thriller, the subplot of which I suspect would have had more impact on me if I’d read the first three books before this one!)


The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng (Audiobook. Compelling story that shifts constantly through time, but with the garden as the backdrop throughout. Some difficult listening when it came to the Japanese prisoner of war camps and the effect that internment had on the main character throughout the rest of her life. It also highlighted yet another period of history Britain was involved in that I know nothing about, so more history books to seek out for me!)

Winter In Madrid – CJ Sansom (I know this author from his Shardlake series but this was a much more modern novel set in Spain in the early years of WW2. Full of intrigue and espionage with a main character vastly out of his depth, which added a touch of authenticity to proceedings. Enjoyed the book but was left flat and disappointed by the ending.)

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall – Kathleen McGurl (Interesting historical mystery that wasn’t too tense or fast paced. Perhaps having the modern story so closely mirror the historical one made it a little predictable, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.)


Broken Light – Joanne Harris (This was described in one review I read as ‘if Stephen King’s Carrie had grown up and only discovered her powers when she hit the menopause’. It’s a pretty accurate comparison and I was hooked within the first few pages. Quite different to the last Harris book I read, but just as different in its own right.)

The New Neighbours – Diney Costeloe (A group of students move into a little cul-de-sac and chaos ensues. So many characters and so much going on that I kept losing track of which people belonged to which families and consequently never quite engaged with any of the characters properly. Decent enough book but not one I’d be recommending to everyone.)

Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams (Only discovered this author recently but am becoming a huge fan of her work. Her characters are always engaging and we root for them in spite of their flaws. This one was particularly interesting as whilst I related to much of the content, the way life is experienced by Queenie is very different to my own experiences and it was an interesting insight into the way other cultures perceive mental health etc.)

Pride Month

Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin (A Between The Covers discovery. Fairly short, but quite intense. Felt quite claustrophobic at times and some of the characters made my skin crawl, but ultimately I just felt sorry for them that they weren’t able to just be themselves and be happy. I’m not sure that being able to express themselves without fear of persecution would necessarily have made any of the nasty characters nicer, but the main ones might have had a happier ending to their story if they hadn’t felt pressure to be something different to who they were.)

A Boy Like Me – Simon James Green (Set in 1994, when Section 28 was still firmly in place, this really brought home how much damage this legislation did. I was at school under it and taught for a couple of years under it. I loathed it and spoke out against it, but never took my thinking beyond the fact that I believed it to be wrong. This book reminded me of the need to think about the impact such things have at the personal, as well as the national level. I look back at my own school days, which were about the time this book was set and I think that there must have been school friends who were part of the LGBTQ community and I wish that they had felt able to be open about who they were, but understand why they didn’t. It was definitely easier by the time I had my last pupil who came out while I was still teaching him, but even in 2013 he still had to defend who he was and I had to offer my classroom as a safe space for him to come to if he needed to.)

The Well of Loneliness – Radclyffe Hall (Read this as it was one recommended in ‘The Book Lover’s Bucket List’. It’s a story about the social isolation faced by people in same-sex relationships in the early 20th century. Paris seems to have been a little more liberal in its outlook, but even there the couples still felt their exile keenly. Some of the relationships were beautifully written about, but ultimately, the ending of the book left me feeling thoroughly depressed.)

Maurice – E M Forster (Read this because I knew it had a happy ending, after the depressing end to ‘The Well of Loneliness’. First read it as a teenager and fell in love with it and enjoyed it just as much as an adult.)


A Manx Daisy Chain and other stories – Jane Green (You don’t often come across books set on the Isle of Man – or at least I haven’t done so far – but even though these are all fairytales, it made me want to visit the island. It clearly has a rich history of folklore and is somewhere I need to learn more about the history of – the limit of my IoM knowledge is that it was used as a camp for various internees, most famously the Mosleys, during WW2.)


A Killing at Smugglers Cove – Michelle Salter (Read for review. 4th instalment of the Iris Woodmore series takes Iris and her friends to Devon for her father’s wedding to Katherine. Full review to follow on 14th July.)


Bess of Hardwick - Mary S Lovell (Interesting biography about this fascinating woman that shed light on her husbands as well. As always, I was drawn in by the changing nature of medicine and it left me feeling thankful that we have a more advanced understanding of mental health now. It also made me very grateful that I am a female in the 21st century rather than the 16th.)

Book of the Month?

I think of all the books I've read this month, Simon James Green's 'A Boy Like Me' was the one that has stayed with me the most. I think part of this is because it is set during my own school days and partly because of the story itself. I can remember being totally bemused by the notion that just because a boy was gay, he would automatically fancy every boy he met and asking if boys made the same assumption about girls (because newsflash - there were boys we didn't fancy!!) The double standards for boys and girls also confused me. However, ultimately, all of this was purely academic for me because it wasn't something that directly affected me. I wasn't the one being discussed, I wasn't the one having to hide who I was for fear of being attacked. This book opened my eyes to what it was like for those who were. It's not a pretty picture, but ultimately, the book itself is very uplifting and it is a celebration of both love and friendship.

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