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Reading Challenge 3/12


This month, whilst on the one hand the writing is going well, on the other, I've been finding it increasingly difficult to get myself on an even keel mentally. Walking a lot more is keeping the worst of the anxiety at bay, but I can't seem to shift the black fog completely and I can't help wondering if that is partly because of the books I've been reading. With the occasional exception, most of them have been filled with death and violence and even the ones deemed 'romance' have by and large not had particularly happy events within them. I've always known that the book I'm reading affects my mood and I usually intersperse lighter stuff in amongst the thrillers and crime books, but for some reason, my attempts to improve the variety of what I read has resulted in the books this month being pretty much unremitting doom and gloom. Nor does it help, I think, that the novel I'm currently working on isn't an especially happy one either. So the challenge next month will be to read something a bit lighter and a hopefully a bit more cheerful!


March Book Total: 22


Overall Challenge Total: 88/150


March Book Reviews


Dystopian


The Testaments – Margaret Atwood (a fortuitous spot from the library ebook service. Enjoyed the conclusion to the story of The Handmaid’s Tale and the greater depth given to some of the characters from the original)


The New Wilderness – Diane Cook (another that took me a while to get into, but again, worth the effort. Examines human relationships in extreme situations and finds most people wanting. An unnerving glimpse of a future where environmental damage hasn’t been checked)


Literary Fiction


Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evharisto (Book group book this month. Thoroughly enjoyed it. In complete awe of Evharisto’s ability to create such complicated connections between all the characters. Brilliant book and worthy prize winner.)


Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (Poignant and realistic depiction of the twists and turns romantic love and life can take. Her writing is just beautiful.)


New Boy – Tracy Chevalier (a modern version of Othello set in a school. Not what I was expecting, but brilliantly done and so sad in its portrayal of the relationships between children)


Romance


Spring Blossoms At Mill Grange – Jenny Kane (Book 3 in what has rapidly become a favourite series. It’s light and comical at times, but there’s always tension and trouble lurking just around the corner. So proud to call her my friend. This is still available for 99p at the moment on Amazon. More in depth review can be found here.)


The Pursuit of Love – Nancy Mitford (didn’t intend to read this, but found out Love In A Cold Climate was the second in the series so decided to read this first. Loved it from start to finish. I was interested in the Mitford sisters anyway and this has only made me keen to read more about them)


The Mermaid of Black Conch – Monique Roffey (haunting examination of how destructive jealousy can be. It took me a little while to get into it, but it was worth persevering with. Such a sad book though)


Contemporary Fiction


Elmet – Fiona Mozley (this was an odd one. It took me a while to read and it’s a bit bizarre, but it was an interesting look at an alternative lifestyle and the battle between the haves and the have nots in society)


Big Girl, Small Town – Michelle Gallen (took me a while to get my head around the Irish-isms but once I’d got my ear in, so to speak, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a bit like Eleanor Oliphant in that the main character is a bit quirky)


The God Of Small Things – Arundhati Roy (another beautifully written but sad book. Doomed love affairs, death, abuse – the list of ‘fun’ themes goes on, but I think it’s worth a read)


Crime


Unnatural Habits – Kerry Greenwood (the next in my readthrough of the Phryne Fisher books. Not much to say except that I loved it as usual!)


The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman (billed as a cross between Agatha Christie and ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window’ one of which I love, the other I was less keen on. It was obviously written to set up the series so there were some questions left unanswered at the end. I won’t be rushing out to buy the second, but will definitely read it!)


Non-Fiction


Brightlingsea and the Great War – J.P. Foynes (research for the current novel. Really interesting to read about the history of where I live though)


Thriller


Whisky From Small Glasses – Denzil Meyrick (research for the current novel but also just an enjoyable read. This was a recommendation from a friend and I’ll be looking out for more in the series in future I think)


Poetry


Blood Kisses – Jane Langan (brilliant set of poems that will make you laugh and cry. Another author I’m proud to call a friend, and now colleague! Available on Amazon and a more in depth review can be found here. )


Ghost


The House on the Strand – Daphne du Maurier (not her best book, but definitely worth reading. It took me several chapters to really engage with the story – unlike the others I’ve read which drew me in immediately – but it’s fascinating in the end. The concept is not uncommon, but it’s given the du Maurier treatment and it really struck a chord that people can get so involved in a ‘fantasy’ world that they become deaf to everything outside it – it’s obviously not to the extent depicted here, but it’s kind of how I feel when I’m writing.)


Historical


The King’s General – Daphne du Maurier (this quickly became another favourite of mine. Set during the Civil War and featuring real people from Menabilly’s family history. A plausible explanation of a real life mystery and made me want to learn more about Cornwall’s role in the Civil War.)


The Emperor’s Babe – Bernadine Evaristo (novella written in verse. Beautiful and sad, with some wonderfully lyrical sections that are given a harsh twist at the end and each time it happens it tugs at your heartstrings and works wonderfully.)


The Pull Of The Stars – Emma Donoghue (She began writing this in 2018 on the anniversary of the Spanish Flu pandemic. By the time it was published, we were in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was really interesting to look at the differences and parallels between the two, particularly when it comes to supposed protection from the Flu. Social issues of the time also play a huge role in the story. Incredibly sad book but the ending felt a little rushed and it lost some of its impact as a result, I think.)


The Penelopiad – Margaret Attwood (The Odyssey retold from Penelope’s point of view. Only a short read, but an interesting take on a very old story. Thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly the use of the Greek Chorus to tie it in to the original and add a different perspective on events.)


Religious Fiction


The Shack – WM Paul Young (metafiction book that looks at the role of faith in a person’s life. Offers some interesting theological perspectives and is a book I would have recommended to my old A-level students when we looked at the nature of God.)


Favourite book of this month?


This month's books have, on the whole, been more challenging reads. This isn't so much in terms of them being difficult to read, or particularly long, but more in terms of making me think more deeply about the issues within them. In spite of making a conscious decision to slow my reading down, I've still got through a significant number of books and many of them having such thought-provoking content has been a lot for my brain to process. The Emperor's Babe was a real contender, as were Blood Kisses and Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange. However, I read The King's General at a time when I was struggling with concentration and it drew me in straight away and I raced through it. In the 4 days that followed, I read another 5 books and normal service resumed!




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