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Reading and Writing Challenge 9/12

Writing Challenge

  • 'Blythewode' has been sent to my Beta Reader and tentative cover designs are underway

  • The first 'CPP' anthology is well on its way to being ready for publication later this year

  • I hit 90,000 words on Avonstow Book 2

  • 'Lilibet The Lobster' has been published and is now on sale and raising money for Thames Estuary Lobster Hatchery

  • I did a joint author/illustrator visit to the local primary school, who are using 'Max, The Brightlingsea Cat' as their Year 2 book this term

  • I have the basic plot of another book for adults constructed - not intentional, just popped into my head fully formed!

Reading Challenge

  • 0 books from my Kindle list

  • 2 books from my 2022 bookshelf list

  • 1 book from my 'to buy' list

  • 1 books from my 2022 library list

  • 1 book from my 2022 audiobook list

The figures above make it look as though I haven't achieved much in terms of my reading, but this doesn't include the books I've read from the 2023 list, as that was growing alarmingly as well!

September has been the month of the audiobook. With my husband moving to Cornwall for work and my eldest son moving to Cambridge for university, this has been a month of much travelling. I've driven home from Cornwall, driven there and back again, driven to the outskirts of London and back and also to Cambridge and back. We've spent a lot of time in the car! Consequently, we've been doing a lot of listening to books. I like to get my youngest to read along to an audiobook as we drive because doing it this way means that when he doesn't understand something he's read, he's more likely to ask me to explain it. It sparks a lot of discussions about things we listen to (the latter part of the month was spent discussing why, whilst The Famous Five are brilliant, some of it is problematic) and this makes the journeys pass with far fewer arguments and I have a more rounded child by the end of them. Because I've been spending more time in the kitchen (I'm definitely not feeling the love for cooking) on my own, I tend to put my audiobook on to distract me from what I'm doing - did I mention I hate cooking? - and so I've been getting through them a lot quicker than usual.

It's been a difficult month for so many reasons and the beginning was particularly challenging as I wasn't able to retreat into my books in the same way I normally do when life is hard. It took a conversation with a friend to make me realise that it was okay to allow myself time to read if that was what I needed to do and the latter part of the month was much easier as a result. I'm still not reading as much as I would like - I can't remember the last time it took me a week to read a book - but at least I'm getting back to something approaching normal.



Death on Deck – Verity Bright (Eleanor and her faithful team are on a cruise and as always, dead bodies keep following them around. This mystery is a bit closer to home for Lady Swift and it really worked well in terms of both book narrative and overall narrative.)

Murder In Manhattan – Verity Bright (A slightly darker and more perilous adventure for Lady Swift. Taken out of her home setting she is less able to be effective in solving the crime and makes some uncharacteristic mistakes.)

Murder at the Beauty Pageant – Helena Dixon (Another more challenging case for Matt and Kitty as they adjust to married life and a ‘new’ police inspector.)

Leaving Everything Most Loved – Jacqueline Winspear (Maise Dobbs series. Maisie is at a cross roads in her life and events conspire to ensure that by the end of the book she is sailing off to a different adventure.)

Murder at the Village Fair – Helena Dixon (Kitty and Matt are on their delayed honeymoon and both are recovering from the events at the end of the previous book when they stumble across yet another murder.)


The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Williams (Audiobook. A fictionalised account of the creating of the first Oxford Dictionary. Real people are interspersed beautifully with fictional ones and the result is magnificent. This was a joy to read for anyone who likes words and their various meanings and the story was heartbreaking and comic in turn.)

One Moonlit Night – Rachel Hore (Audiobook. Dual storyline, plus a story from before the war emerging made this a complicated listen at times, particularly because I did a lot of listening at night and kept having to go back and relisten where I’d fallen asleep! This was another one I really enjoyed, but then felt the ending was a bit of a letdown. I’d anticipated it, but felt the way it played out was disappointing.)

The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann – Virginia Pye (Set in the Gilded Age in America, this is inspired by the real life story of the woman who took her publishers to court over her royalties. Full review can be found here.)


The Rebecca Notebooks and Other Stories – Daphne du Maurier (interesting insight into the construction of the brilliant thriller and some anecdotes about the du Maurier family.)

Divine Might – Natalie Haynes (Read for review. An in depth look at the female goddesses and the roles they play in the Pantheon, as well as the limitations placed on them by their male counterparts. Full review can be found here.)

Women’s Prize For Fiction Journal – Various (An interesting look at previous Women’s Prize winners. Added a few books to my 2023 list as a result and gained an insight into some of the ones I’d already read.)


The Keeper of Stories – Sally Page (This was a protagonist that I was cheering for by the end. She collects stories but by the end she realises her own story is worth telling as well.)

Mayflies – Andrew O’Hagan (Poignant and bitter sweet, this is a beautiful novel about friendship and the lasting effect of a lifetime of caring for each other. The end was utterly heart-breaking but I loved every minute of reading it. Sad but never depressing, this is a life-affirming novel about death.)


The Boy Who Sang With Dragons – Andy Shepherd (AudiobookLovely ending to the series. Everything tied up neatly and the gang back together again.)

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide To Ruling The World – Louie Stowell (Audiobook. Finally got around to listening to it after having read the book for review and Ben Willbond is on top form as the ‘bad’ little god. Full review can be found here.)

The Monster in the Lake – Louie Stowell (Audiobook. Second in the Dragon in the Library series sees Kit and her friends heading up to Scotland to try to re-home Lizzie – the lesser Nessie – in her loch. Kept us entertained on the drive down to Cornwall.)

Five On A Treasure Island – Enid Blyton (Audiobook. Started listening to these with Arthur to pass the time on the trips to Cornwall and I’m delighted he’s enjoying my childhood favourites. It also gives us the opportunity to have a discussion about some of the more problematic parts of the books.)

Five Go Adventuring Again – Enid Blyton (Audiobook. I find as I get older that although the tutor is very much the bad guy, I do have some sympathy for him when George is so rude to him!)

Five Run Away Together – Enid Blyton (Audiobook. The class issue is very prevalent here. The Sticks, who are the bad guys, are the cockney rough ‘uns, while the children are very middle class!)

Overemotional - David Fenne (This was a Twitter recommendation, I think, following some controversy/online abuse of the author when it was published. I can't remember the exact details, but I know I was intrigued by the premise of the book. I'm very much not the target audience but I've never liked being told what I shouldn't be reading. It's one I'll be continuing to read as the next 2 books are published and one I'll be recommending to Arthur when he's a bit older.


The Fire – Katherine Neville (Sequel to The Eight. Much more complicated than its predecessor. I did enjoy it, but it was quite hard to keep up with who was who at times. Worth reading if you enjoyed the first one. Ending was a bit of a letdown though.)

Fictional Autobiography

Heartburn – Nora Ephron (Audiobook. Funny, bittersweet fictional account of the break-up of Ephron’s second marriage. This is well-worth reading and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to hear of it and read it. Rachel can be frustrating, but I applauded her pie throwing ability and it was funny to learn that other people have that split second thought of ‘if I do this the consequences will be…’)

Book of the Month?

Pip Williams' 'The Dictionary of Lost Words' is the stand-out book of this month. As I listened, I found myself considering the facts behind the construction of the first Oxford dictionary. I have no idea how much of the dictionary work is based on reality but the story woven around it was so compelling that I found I wasn't even sure if I wanted to find out because the reality might not live up to the fictional world Williams had created.

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