2019 in Books – The Story So Far

At, or around, the solstice in December we begin to look at goals and intentions for the next 12 months. It makes sense then that at the halfway point in June we look at how we’re going against those.

Yep…moving right along. There’s very little positive to see here.

I can, however, update you on my reading stats for the year so far.

Part 1

According to Goodreads, at the time of publishing this post I’ve read 60 books. That sounds a lot, but I have spent a lot of time away from home so far this year and that equates to time on planes, trains and buses. Plus, I’ve had almost 4 weeks holiday – and I read a lot on holiday.

I read each night before going to sleep and I read most afternoons after finishing in the day job. Even though I work from home I take that time as a “commute” of sorts to bring a fullstop to my day.

The longest book so far this year was “Anyone But Him” by Sheila O’Flanagan – 640 pages (of which I reckon it was a good 150 pages too long) and the shortest was a book of restaurant reviews by Jay Rayner, “My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways To Have A Lousy Night Out.”

Speaking of Jay Rayner, who is a British restaurant critic, I’ve read another two books, and countless articles in The Observer, by him in the name of research for “Escape To Curlew Cottage”. I could tell you why but that would be a massive spoiler.

Part 2

There are also 2 cookbooks on the list – and yes, I read cookbooks. These both got 5 stars from me. Both are more than cookbooks – they are books about food and the stories that you can tell through food, eating and, in the case of “How To Eat A Peach”, travel. I reviewed Ella Risbridger’s “Midnight Chicken” here, but am yet to tell you more about Diana Henry’s “How To Eat A Peach”.

I was pleased to see new offerings by favourite authors:

  • “Maybe This Time”, Jill Mansell
  • “Swallowtail Summer”, Erica James
  • “The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew”, Milly Johnson
  • “Something To Tell You”, Lucy Diamond
  • “Wedding At Comfort Cafe”, by Debbie Johnson and 
  • “The Spotted Dog”, by Kerry Greenwood

My first read of the year was “You Had Me At Hello,” by (new to me) Mhairi McFarlane. I’ve since read another couple by her.

Thanks to Sydney Shop GirlI have a new series that I’m cultivating an addiction for – Faith Martin’s DI Hillary Greene. I really enjoyed “Murder On The Oxford Canal” and am looking forward to reading more.

The most unsettling book of the year so far for me was Sulari Gentill’s “Crossing The Lines”. This won the Ned Kelly award last year for the crime book of the year – and deservedly so. Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to her Rowland Sinclair series, but I found this really rattled me. Like Anthony Horowitz’s books within a book, this has the author deeply entwined in the story, but while hisare quitetongue in cheek and sparkling this is much darker and twisty and really stayed with me. As a writer, I guess that’s what you want to achieve. 

Karen Viggers’, “The Orchardists Daughter” also left me feeling quite unsettled – again, I think, because it felt dark, damp, and claustrophobic. Both books were good, excellent even, but at the time of reading eachI needed more light and hope in order to enjoy the read. The same could be said for “The Other Half Of Augusta Hope”. Should you read them? Yes, probably, definitely. I suspect my view was more about me and the way I was feeling at the time of reading them than the story itself.

There are a few genre romances on my shelf this year, but far fewer than in previous years. I simply haven’t been enjoying them as much as I usually do. I suspect it’s just a phase I’m going through. The ones on my list I picked up for my kindle as free or very cheap Bookbub deals. (As an aside, if you’re a prolific reader and you use a device to read, Bookbub is an excellent source of well-price ie cheap books. Google it.)

Normally I do a bit of the reverse snobbery thing and steer clear of books that have won or been short-listed for major awards. I do the same with movies and TV shows. This year, though, I’ve started 2 such books but haven’t been in the mood to finish either – I think because when I started reading them I was stressed at work and needed escape rather than more angst, and I didn’t want to have to think too hard. If I finish them you’ll hear about them.

And so far my faves for the year? In no particular order and based on my enjoyment factor…

  • “The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew”, Milly Johnson
  • “Maybe This Time”, Jill Mansell
  • “The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton”, Anstey Harris
  • “Little Beach Street Bakery”, Jenny Colgan
  • “A Cornish Summer”, Catherine Alliott
  • “Swallowtail Summer”, Erica James

That’s what I’ve been reading, what about you? Any favourites or recommendations?

This post will also appear on my personal blog at and anyways so apologies if you see it twice!

2016: My Year In Books…

Girl with books

Inspired by Angela Savage’s year in books post from this morning, I figured it was a good opportunity to look at my own reading history for the year. Angela based her post on a set of “bingo” categories, but given that I’m shocking with categories, here’s my 2016 between the page.

How many books did I read?

According to Goodreads, I read 45 novels: 13,742 pages.

Yes, that’s a lot of reading, but I’m on a bus for an average of 3 hours a day – longer if there’s a traffic problem on the M2- so I have plenty of time to do so!

The longest book…

Ok, I’m not great with commitment, so the longest book I read was Penny Parke’s Out of Practice at 496 pages. Apparently the average length of a book I read is 312 pages.

The shortest book…

Nick Earl’s fabulous Gotham, at 57 pages.

Any new series?

I worked my way through a few (new to me) series:

The Cotswold Murder series by Rebecca Tope. Although the character of Thea Osborne – the house-sitter at the centre of each of the mysteries – was not one I found easy to like, the stories and the locations (and Thea’s cocker spaniel, Hepsie) I had no such problems with.

I also worked my way through Victoria Purman’s boys of summer series, and DB Tait’s Deception trilogy (including the Christmas novella). I’m really enjoying the way DB Tait brings the Blue Mountains to life and look forward to the next outing of her characters – and not just because she’s a Facebook friend.

On the subject of romantic suspense, Bronwyn Parry’s Sunset Shadows was one of my top reads of the year.

Inspired by Agatha Raisin’s The Quiche of Death, I also made a fair dent in MC Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series. Given the number of these that Beaton has written, however, I’m thinking I might just stick to the TV series.

On the lighter side, I read all the Carole Mortimer Alpha, Knight Security, and Regency Unlaced series too. Yep, guilty pleasures – sort of like kraft cheese spread on white bread with butter and taco sauce. You won’t find them on my Goodreads list, but at the length of a long M2 commute or an afternoon on a pool lounge, I consumed them like one does a bottle of bubbles.

Thanks for the recommendation…

I rely on my book blogger friend Debbish for additions to my to-be-read pile, and she certainly didn’t let me down in 2016. One of my 5 star reads this year was The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. Given that he was the original writer of one of my favourite TV shows – Midsomer Murders – I should have known I’d love it.

Another recommendation I’m grateful for was from Angela Savage. One of her blogs introduced me to Sue Williams and Murder With The Lot and Dead Men Don’t Order Flake. Cass Tuplin is a reluctant investigator with a takeaway store in Rusty Bore – and it’s crime the way the way I like it, with more than a touch of earthy humour.

Speaking of which…

I’m currently reading Good Murder, by Robert Gott. It’s set in wartime Maryborough, and I suspect I’ll finish it by the pool tomorrow – make that 46 books for the year. As an aside, I’ll be working my way through this series too. Murray Whelan eat your heart out.

Inspector Rebus…

Yes, he’s back – and Ian Rankin has again resisted the temptation to rest on his laurels. I look forward to a Rebus most years, and Rankin keeps delivering. Last year’s was good, this year’s was better.

Books adapted to a movie…

I tend not to read blockbusters – in much the same way that I tend not to watch anything nominated for an Oscar. I’m a bit of a reverse snob in this way. This means that often I don’t watch movie adaptations.

I absolutely adored Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods – almost a journal of how he attempted the Appalachian Trail. Yes, it puts my Milford Track dramatics into the shade, but the writing was so fabulous I watched the movie….which I enjoyed, but, let’s face it, there was little resemblance to the book – although I’m sure Bill must have gotten a thrill out of being portrayed by Robert Redford.

Which led me to…

Devouring pretty well anything by Bill Bryson. His The Road To Little Dribbling and had me giggling, and DownUnder…well, let’s just say it’s probably best not to read that on public transport. Travel writing – but not as you know it. You won’t look at a cow in the same way again. Or a rabbit.

Genre hopping…

Given that I write romance, well, contemporary romance, that’s what I mostly read. Having said that, I never read it while I’m writing it and, as Wish You Were Here took me so long to knock out this year, I hopped around a few more genres.

I’ve already told you about the travel writing and romantic suspense, but I also took a waltz into regency romance. I have to say, my experience with Carole Mortimer’s Regency Unlaced series had left me a tad jaded – something about the constantly tenting pantaloons will do that (am I allowed to say that in a blog?) but (Facebook pal) Anna Campbell’s Christmas novella A Match Made In Mistletoe was thoroughly enjoyable. I’ll be reading a few more by her in 2017.

The Magpie Murders was also my first step into classic cozy crime – a la Agatha Christie. It led me to a confession: I’d never read any Agatha Christie. How can that be? I’ll be rectifying that too in 2017.

Craft books read…

John Birmingham’s How To Be A Writer. Simply wonderful – and essential reading for anyone who wants to make money from this gig.

Any business books?

Something called Extreme Leadership by two navy seals whose names I’ve conveniently forgotten. I had to read it for work, and, which there were absolutely some good common sense lessons in there, I couldn’t get past the war stories…literally. I got excited for a few minutes when one chapter started something like this: ‘Goddamn it,’ I yelled, slamming the door behind me. Sadly, that was the highlight…for me, anyway.

2017?

I have a heavy writing schedule planned, so will limit my chick lit again this year. I have a cozy crime series fermenting at the back of my brain, so intend to read more widely in this area – just not anything where the kid is taken or the dog dies.

What about you? Any favourites? Recommendations?