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Reading and Writing Challenge Review 7/12


Writing Challenge


  • Hit 85,000 words on Avonstow Book 2

  • Successful author visit at the local primary school

  • Published 'Lilibet The Lobster' for Thames Estuary Lobster Hatchery

  • Was invited to visit our local school in September along with Lucy Weaver to talk about our 'Max, The Brightlingsea Cat' book, which is going to be the reading book for their local area unit



Reading Challenge


  • 0 books from my Kindle list

  • 2 books from my 2022 bookshelf list

  • 4 books from my 'to buy' list

  • 10 books from my library list

  • 0 books from my 2022 audiobook list


The first half of the month was taken up with paid work, but I had an unexpected couple of days to get some writing done before the summer holidays, which made me very happy. It wasn't as much as I'd intended to do, but exhaustion doesn't make for a particularly creative brain and I was very much in need of a holiday. I ended up spending quite a lot of time reading, including some which was spontaneous - a rare event recently. Nevertheless, I still managed to cross quite a few books off the TBR pile. Most welcome, was the discovery that a number of books I thought I had to buy, were in fact now on Kindle Unlimited. This gave me the perfect excuse to re-subscribe and catch up on a couple of series (Lady Eleanor Swift and Kitty Underhay) that I had enjoyed reading the last time I had a subscription. I did however, get a bit 'click-happy' requesting interesting books for review, but as they're spread out over several months, I'm hopeful I can still cross a few off the list in the meantime. I'm getting through the 2022 list nicely now, but the 2023 TBR list seems to be growing exponentially, as I made the mistake this month of reading a book about books and also caught up with some of the Graham Norton Book Club podcasts! Ah well, at least there's no danger of me running out of books to read anytime soon! My holiday reading was also a little less frenetic than it has been of late, so I'm hoping that's a positive sign that life is at last, a bit calmer.

Book Reviews


Thriller


The Maidens – Alex Michaelides (Audiobook. 90% of this book was brilliant. The ending, not so much. I didn’t buy the motivation of the killer and the whole thing just seemed rushed.)


Historical


Fingersmith – Sarah Waters (Enjoyed this, but not as much as her other books. It felt a bit too long and overly-complicated in places.)


Trespasses – Louise Kennedy (Book group pick. Enjoyed this, although I never fully engaged with the characters and had an inkling right from the beginning about what was going to happen. Again, I think my expectations were part of the problem as I grew up reading Joan Lingard’s brilliant Kevin and Sadie books and was expecting a more modern version of that, which this wasn’t. It was the minor characters with whom I connected more than the main ones.)


Light Perpetual – Francis Spufford (A real event inspired ‘what if’ story of a bomb that did or did not explode and killed or did not kill five children. Thoughts of a life not lived. This was really interesting because unlike many books of this nature, the children went on to live very ordinary lives, but it was the ordinariness of them that somehow made the deaths of the real children so much more poignant.)


The Midnight Rose – Lucinda Riley (Set in early 20th century India and England and the present day, this epic takes the reader backwards and forwards in time as two stories interweave. There were one or two things that jarred slightly – loose ends left or unexpected plot twists that had me shaking my head a little bit, but on the whole an enjoyable read.)


The Chamomile Lawn - Mary Wesley (Audiobook. Beautifully blends facts and incidents from the author's life with fiction to create a much more real picture of life in WW2 era Britain than can be found in most books. Kept me listening intently from the first chapter.)


Gothic


The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole (The style made this quite hard to read, but the plot is pure Gothic classic. A bit silly in places in terms of the plot, but entertaining enough.)


Short Stories


The Solstice Baby & Other Stories - J M Langan (Excellent collection of short stories by a wonderful writer and friend. My full review can be found here.)


Classic


The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold – Evelyn Waugh (Apparently the plot twist in this is well-known. Wouldn’t have picked up on it if I hadn’t known in advance, would have just thought it was an odd book. That said, can’t say for sure if it was the book, or my mood when I read it, as I loved ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and I think I was probably expecting something more of that ilk and this is most definitely not.)


Comedy


My Man Jeeves – P G Wodehouse (Used to enjoy watching the TV programme with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, so thought I’d give the books a try. This was a short story collection where not all the stories were about Jeeves and Wooster – some featured Jeeves’ forerunner – but they were enjoyable nonetheless. They are very much of their time and are dated in places and it can be difficult to sympathise with the posh ‘woe is me, I have to get a job’ type in the current climate, but they’re still an entertaining read.)


Young Adult


Daughter of the Deep – Rick Riordan (Picked this up by chance in the library as I hadn’t seen it advertised and decided to give it a go purely because I’ve loved every other one of his books. This one didn’t seem quite so appealing at first sight – there are no gods in it and I’ve never read ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea’. However, within a few pages I was completely gripped and will definitely be reading the next in the series when it comes out.)


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs (Another one I hadn’t realised was the first in a trilogy. I’m not sure quite what I was expecting with this book, but it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. This isn’t a bad thing – I really enjoyed the book, it just wasn’t the kind of book I’d been anticipating. The concept in itself isn’t unusual, but the delivery of it is quite unique. The author illustrates the story with genuine Victorian photographs of children seemingly levitating, creating fire etc and it makes for a terrifically one of a kind experience.)


Violet Yorke, Gilded Girl: Ghosts in the Closet - PJ McIlvaine (Entertaining short read about a Gilded era New York child who can see ghosts. Clearly set up to be the first in a series, will be interesting to see where the next book takes it.)


Non-Fiction


This Is The Canon – Joan Anim-Addo, Deirdre Osborne & Kadija Sesay (I’ve never thought before that when I did the reading challenge in 2022, the vast majority of the books on the ‘100 Must Read Books’ were by white authors. Yes, there were a few that weren’t, but they were very much in the minority. Therefore, when I saw this book in the library it was an instant ‘must read’. What I found interesting was the idea that other countries have their own rich history of writing – even though I’ve read many works in translation, it’s something that stupidly never occurred to me to search out. I ended up adding quite a few more books to my TBR pile and I think this is a book I will come back to over the years to select a few more to read each time.)


The Ancient Guide To Modern Life – Natalie Haynes (Interesting look at how little of what we often regard as modern phenomena are actually new and how other aspects of life have radically changed. For example, Ancient Athens didn’t necessarily suffer with voter apathy, but it did have corrupt/inept politicians at times. There is much we can learn from ancient societies if we look deeply enough and pay attention to their mistakes.)


Invisible Women – Caroline Criado-Perez (Audiobook. Scary but fascinating look at how geared towards men our world is, even when we are aiming for gender neutrality/equality. Who knew bus routes were designed for men? Cars certainly are – women are 47% more likely to be injured in a car crash than men are, simply because seats and seatbelts are designed for the male body. What I liked about this book was that it went far beyond the obvious in looking at how women are sidelined in many aspects of life and delved into issues that would never even have occurred to me, but which made perfect sense once they were pointed out.)


Crime


Murder At The Country Club – Helena Dixon (As there were a few books on my TBR pile for 2022 that were on Kindle Unlimited, it seemed a good time to renew my membership for a couple of months and catch up on the latest releases from my cosy crime authors. Kitty now faces a new menace in the form of her old adversary’s sister, but there is very little development of this as this is the first time Esther has become the main villain.)


French For Murder – Verity Bright (Lady Eleanor Swift is abroad this time. Interesting plot, but wanted more of Hugh, who doesn’t really appear in this novel.)


Foul Play At Seal Bay – Judy Leigh (Read for review. One of a number of books I’ve seen starting to use older protagonists. Full review to follow on 11th August.)


Murder on Board - Helena Dixon (Esther is back! It's in a very unexpected way that works brilliantly.)


Death Down The Aisle - Verity Bright (Lady Eleanor is on the tail of another murderer, this time in a bid to clear her friend's fiance of suspicion. Hugh seems to be becoming more resigned to having her help him on his cases, which is immensely satisfying.)


Literary


White Teeth – Zadie Smith (Audiobook. Interesting insight into how easy it is to get drawn into extremism of all varieties and how much prejudice exists between all cultures, as well as feeling torn between heritage and where you live. Fascinating cast of characters, well worth reading.)


Romance


Castle on the Mead – K T Dady (Latest in the Pepper Bay series. Interesting new instalment. Full review to follow on 4th August.)


A Precarious Excursion - Wendi Sotis (A P&P variation. I didn't feel this was as strong as her other books, but it was an enjoyable enough read.)


Contemporary


Brick Lane – Monica Ali (This was one of those books that kept cropping up on must read lists, so I was looking forward to reading it and in some ways I could see why it made those lists. It’s well written and is an interesting story and a different perspective on life in modern Britain. However, I never felt truly engaged with the characters and the ending left me shrugging my shoulders a little. Curious to see whether it was just me, given the reason I’d read it, I went online to read some reviews, but never got as far them. I hadn’t realised quite how controversial it was, or how passionately it was disliked by some members of the Bangladeshi community. I could see that their criticisms were possibly valid ones. It’s not the most positive of portrayals.)


Broken Verses - Kamila Shamsie (Picked this up at the library purely because of the author. Thoroughly enjoyed it and the mystery of what happened to Aasmani's mother was gradually built up from the beginning, which meant I was hooked from the start.)


Pride


Straight(ish) White Male Pride - Dave Holwell (Think this may have been a Twitter recommendation. It took me a little while to get into it, as the layout of the writing wasn't particularly appealing - this is very much a personal taste thing though and shouldn't put you off reading the book - but once I'd got used to it, the story itself was brilliant. It tells the story of one man's conversion (and it is a conversion rather than a journey because of the speed at which it takes Place) from bigot to more rounded individual who accepts people for who they are.)


Book of the month?


Mary Wesley's 'The Chamomile Lawn' was one I picked up on a recommendation from somewhere - possibly Between The Covers. I was expecting to enjoy it purely as a piece of WW2 nostalgia. However, it turned out to be much more than that. For example, I hadn't realised that it was largely based on the author's own life and experiences and this gave it a different depth. What also appealed was that the style of writing was so subtle. There were many occasions where something was hinted at but never fully revealed - so much so that at times I had to google the book to ensure that I hadn't misunderstood something.




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