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Reading and Writing Challenge Review 8/12

Writing Challenge

Not a lot. Wrote a short story for a competition entry. Did some editing for other people. Otherwise it's been a writing free month. I'm ready to get back to my desk as there are a lot of projects building up and time is running short!

Reading Challenge

  • 0 books from my Kindle list

  • 1 books from my 2022 bookshelf list

  • 1 books from my 'to buy' list

  • 3 books from my library list

  • 0 books from my 2022 audiobook list

The list above makes it look as though I haven't done much reading this month - I have, it's just that there were a lot of spontaneous reads and books from my 2023 list rather than the ones I probably should have been reading! There were also a few books from 2022 that I started reading and decided they weren't worth bothering with, so unusually for me, I took them back to to library without reading them! It's taken me a long time and a fair amount of soul-searching to be able to do this, but I've come to the conclusion that life is far too short and there are too many good books out there to bother slogging my way through ones that just aren't very good! It also doesn't help when you read one book on your list, only to discover that there are another six in the series and they're so good you have to read them all!

August has been a month for focusing on family. We tried to have a holiday in Cornwall at the start of the summer and came back early because it was so wet. In a small one bedroom flat, there are only so many times I can listen to the short one switching between 'I'm Still Standing' and 'My Way' out of time, out of tune and with the wrong words, as he tries to sing along with the cast of 'Sing', whilst my husband listens to sports commentary and discussion on the radio just along the corridor. When I resorted to my audiobook and a pillow over my head in the bedroom for the third day in a row, we decided to call it quits and come home. It doesn't stop the singing, but at least with a ceiling between us it's not quite as loud!

In the middle of the summer it was our eldest son's 18th birthday. Having said he didn't want o celebrate at all, we ended up with a VERY long day trip to Belgium (left at 1:20am and returned at 11:30pm) on his actual birthday, followed by a whole family barbecue, 4 days in London and another barbecue for his friends! Thrown into the mix was A-level results day, when thankfully he got the required A*AA, which secured his place at Downing College, Cambridge and the small matter of settling my husband into the flat ready to start his new job.

Life in the Loten household is going to be a bit different this academic year and I'd be lying if I said we were looking forward to it with unalloyed enthusiasm. However, we'll find our own way to make it work and if I'm really lucky, I might get some writing material out of it!

Book Reviews


Murder At The Charity Ball – Helena Dixon (Kitty Underhay series. Finally sees Kitty and Matt get married, but it’s not without a few hiccups along the way.)

Seeds of Murder – Rosie Sandler (1st in a new series featuring a lady gardener detective. Sets everything up nicely for the rest of the series. Full review can be found here.)

The Dottie Manderson series [Night and Day, The Mantle of God, Scotch Mist, The Last Perfect Summer of Richard Dawlish, The Thief of St Martins, The Spy Within and Rose Petals and White Lace] – Caron Allan (Another one where I didn’t realise it was a series when I picked up the first book. Couldn’t put these down and read all 7 in the space of 5 days. I did get frustrated with Dottie’s refusal to accept that it was William she really loved and I’m not totally sure that she deserves him. However, I do love the relationship between Dottie and William and am looking forward to reading more as they’re released.)

Murder In An Irish Castle – Verity Bright (Another Eleanor Swift novel. Greater sense of danger in this one, possibly because of a lack of Hugh’s presence. Resolves the Uncle Byron question and brings Eleanor and Clifford even closer than ever.)


House of Odysseus – Clare North (re-telling of the story of Penelope. Really interesting interpretation of the myth. Full review can be found here.)


The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton – Elizabeth Speller (follow up to The Return of Captain John Emmett completes Laurence’s story. Quite a different story to the original, but definitely worth reading. Very poignant in places.)

Shrines of Gaiety – Kate Atkinson (Book Group pick. This prompted quite a lot of discussion about the character of Frobisher. I can’t remember another character in any of the books we’ve read who has been as divisive as this one was, in terms of whether he was liked or not. One of the things I love about books is that they are so open to different interpretations and there is little I like more than discussing books and really digging into the minutiae of them with like-minded people.)

The Storyteller By The Sea – Phyllida Shrimpton (Interesting tale of grief and bereavement that avoids becoming maudlin. Well worth a read. Full review can be found here.)


Ready Player One – Ernest Cline (Audiobook. Not my usual kind of book. I’m not a massive fan of dystopian fiction or of video gaming, but this was strangely compelling and I did enjoy it more than I expected to.)


Misty Mornings At The Potting Shed – Jenny Kane (Brilliant next instalment of the Potting Shed series. Full review can be found here.)


On Beauty – Zadie Smith (set mostly in America with occasional forays back to England, I found the title of this book intriguing. The book is indeed concerned with beauty, but it’s not as straightforward as that. Several of the characters are overly concerned with their appearance, or that of others, but it’s also about beauty of character, or lack thereof.)

Lost For Words – Stephanie Butland (Read the sequel for review some months ago and loved it, so sought out the first one. Listened to the first half on Audiobook, the narration of which was superb and read the second half. Brilliant book that touches on so many of society’s big issues whilst being funny and heartwarming throughout. Fabulous book.)

Young Adult

Empress and Aniya – Candice Carty-Williams (Audiobook. Picked this up because I loved both her other books I’ve read and because I needed a short audiobook to tide me over for a couple of days until my next one became available from the library. So glad I did. Two girls from very different backgrounds, Empress’ story is so familiar and so heartbreaking, but ultimately it’s a story about love and friendship and ended with a warm glow of satisfaction.)


Uncle Paul – Celia Fremlin (Published a long time ago but one of Waterstones’ books of the month in August. The description sounds like it should be a nostalgic kind of book, but it really isn’t. I think I was expecting something a bit like Agatha Christie. What I got instead was something much darker and far more psychologically chilling. Left me feeling slightly unsettled and very claustrophobic, but thoroughly enjoyed it.)


Agatha Christie – Lucy Worsley (Biography that for once, downplays and doesn’t over-sensationalise the author’s 1926 disappearance. Gives a lovely insight into the social context of both Christie and her books. In depth but interesting and Worsley’s love for Christie and her books shines through.)

Book of the Month?

My standout book this month was Stephanie Butland's 'Lost For Words.' It probably fits best into the Uplit genre, but there is so much to unpick in terms of the characters' backstories and the issues they are dealing with that it's really hard to do justice to it in a short review. It's one of those books that I'm likely to keep recommending to people though. It cover domestic violence, coercive control, bullying, broken homes and all kinds of other things as well. However, it does all of this with a large dose of humour. The book is set in York and the characters are mostly northern - perhaps it's because I'm from the area, but the characters' humour really resonated with me. If you read this and enjoy it, definitely check out the sequel, 'Found in a Bookshop'.

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