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Let’s play Spot the Difference with my 2019 #20BooksOfSummer Challenge

This was my first year taking part in the #20BooksOfSummer challenge run by Cathy over at 746 Books and it proved to be an interesting exercise for me. Not least because while I succeeded in reading more than 20 books (managing 29 in total over the 3-month period), I only stuck to half of my original selection which you can find here. The books I actually read are in the photo above (minus ebooks and a library book), with the ten books in the column on the left those initially chosen for the Challenge.

How did the books on the right replace the originals on my list and become part of my revised #20BooksOfSummer? Easy. They probably should have been there all along. I’d wanted to read and had agreed to review some, such as Something to Live For, Inland, The Light in the Dark & The Day We Meet Again; I was interviewing Laura Kemp at the Penarth Literary Festival in June, and prepped by reading The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness & Bring Me Sunshine; I hadn’t included all the book group choices for the summer, which added The Doll Factory, The Immortalists & The Lost Letters of William Woolf to the list; and I also wanted to read a friend’s book, Widow’s Welcome, before its launch in August.

The additional books read were 7 ebooks, one proof copy and a library book: The Winker by Andrew Martin; The Most Difficult Thing by Charlotte Philby; Beneath the Surface by Fiona Neill; Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas; The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney; Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane; The Daughter of Hardie by Anne Melville. The proof I read was Looker by Laura Sims and the sole library book was My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Thanks, I think in part, because I was on the road for 3 weeks over the summer, which made returns tricky.

I wasn’t very good at posting reviews as I read and instead concentrated on posting those I’d agreed to do to tie in with release dates or for blog tours. If I do this challenge again next year, that’s an area I could improve upon. As is reading posts by others taking part in the challenge. Read more

My #20BooksOfSummer 2019

Not having blogged since finishing the #AtoZChallenge in April and just over a week in, I’m joining in with the 20 Books Of Summer challenge hosted by Cathy who blogs over at 746 Books. All you need to do is read 20 books (or even 15 or 10, if you’re feeling pressed for time) between 3 June and 3 September.

I spent a good bit of time over the weekend trying to decide if I was going to choose a theme or not. For example, Karen over at BookerTalk is vicariously travelling around the world through her choices, which is a brilliant way to make the challenge fun.

In the end, I decided to go for a mix of review or book group picks with new releases I’m excited about reading.

Here are the books and, as it turns out, I’ve chosen ten hardbacks and ten paperbacks:

Madeline Miller’s novel Circe and Raynor Winn’s non-fiction The Salt Path, jumped to the top of my TBR pile thanks to them being book group picks for July and August. As a companion read to The Salt Path, I’ve also gone for Katherine May’s account of walking the South West Coastal Path, The Electricity of Every Living Thing. And to round out the South West grouping, there’s a collection of Cornish Short Stories edited by Emma Timpany and Felicity Notley to read and review. With contributions by established favourites Katherine Stansfield and Tom Vowler, I’m also excited to discover new writing within its pages.

I’ve been meaning to read Ben Ryan’s rugby book Sevens Heaven ever since it came out in May 2018. Not only did it recently win The Telegraph Rugby Book of the Year but it also won the overall Sports Book of the Year and, as it is Rugby Sevens time of year, it’ll provide me with my fix until the next club rugby season and the Rugby World Cup in Japan begin in September.

I’ve always enjoyed reading Elizabeth Day’s novels but this year I’m turning to her non-fiction title How to Fail. I’m hoping that it’s going to help me see my own mammoth failures of the past year in a whole new light and help me find ways in which to learn from them and perhaps even turn them around.

There are three other non-fiction titles on my list: Johann Hari’s Lost Connections which claims to have a fresh take on depression and anxiety and their underlying causes; I’ve long been a fan of Kerry Hudson’s fiction but this year she’s turned her hand to memoir, writing about growing up in poverty in Britain and revisiting those towns she lived in. It’s a book which has been widely acclaimed already and I can’t wait to read it this summer; and Marc Hamer’s mix of memoir and nature writing How to Catch a Mole, and Find Yourself in Nature promises to be well worth a read. I’ve enjoyed Marc’s poetry and am looking forward to reading this beautifully-produced book very much. Read more

In Search of Short Stories

(Some of) my collection of short story collections
(Some of) my collection of short story collections

November is traditionally the month of NaNoWriMo for many writers (good luck to all of you taking part!) but for me, this year it’s all about the short story. I’m in the second week of a five-week Short Fiction Masterclass and, around doing this, I’m spending time reading stories from those collections I own. Having gathered some of them together (not pictured are collections by Margaret Atwood or William Trevor), I realise this reading spree is going to take me on past the five, now four remaining weeks of the course!

I’ve just added The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico (not pictured) thanks to her shortlisting for the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award 2017. But I want to hear from you and know what you’d recommend I read. Do you have a favourite short story or short story collection? Is it one of those pictured* above? Let me know what it is by leaving a comment below.

*If you have trouble reading some of the titles, click on the picture for a slightly clearer image.

Does Twitter sell books?

In 2010, I added to my world of books by building Twitter Towers* and here they are in all their glory. Unsurprisingly, Twitter Towers are made up of the books that I heard about through the social networking site. I know, I know. You don’t have to look at me like that… Even with my prodigious level of book-squirreldom, I was a little taken aback at just how many books I managed to accumulate in one year!

The Lucky Books

As you’ll have noticed from the dates of this blog post and its predecessor, I’ve had an extended break from blogging. First, I was on holiday in Scotland for a fortnight and then I returned home, refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to concentrate on little else but my current WiP. So, yes, I’ve been writing and not much else over the last few weeks. Okay, okay, I may have been tweeting and reading, as well. But only a little bit, honest.

I imagine that, for those of you anxiously waiting to find out which books I took away with me on holiday, the past few weeks have been torture. Sleepless nights and anxious days rather like the time(s) when you’ve been expecting to hear from a loved one, or about a job interview, or for exam results… No? Oh, okay then. No matter. But here are the books that were fortunate enough to make it into the book bag and come away on holiday with me. The lucky winners! I’m going to be doing reviews of some of these on the blog but, in the meantime, here are the titles and authors, together with how and why they made the cut:

  • Not So Perfect by Nik Perring (Roastbooks Ltd) – I love reading short stories and cannot go anywhere without taking some with me. This is a brilliant collection of short stories and came in a very handy travel size.
  • Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith (Voyager Classics) – An online pal kept quoting MMS in emails and chats, and recommended this book as a good introduction to the author. I promised him that I’d read it when I had some time on holiday. I am so glad I made that promise and now intend to track down MMS’ entire back catalogue. Yes, it was that good!
  • Peaceweaver by Judith Arnopp ( – I was fortunate enough to listen to a reading from this book and meet the author at a Writers’ Day in west Wales. Either of those alone would have been enough to make me want to read the book. The two combined meant that I absolutely had to.
  • Like Bees to Honey by Caroline Smailes (The Friday Project, an Imprint of Harper Collins) – I met (twet?) Caroline on Twitter and went to the London launch of this book where we met IRL. It seemed the perfect book to take on holiday as it’s set on the island of Malta. (I know I went to Scotland but still, this felt like it would be an ideal holiday read…)
  • Eva Shell by Kate North (Cinnamon Press) – This is the book that I ran back into the house and grabbed (refer to previous post for my book selection process). I’ve been meaning to get to it for some time now and simply hadn’t got around to it. Kate North was the tutor of the very first writing group I went to in 2003. I’d read some of her poetry before but have wanted to read this, her debut novel, since I bought it.
  • The Schoolboy by Holly Howitt (Cinnamon Press) – I was asked to read this book in order to compare it to TAG (see below).
  • TAG by Stephen May (Cinnamon Press) – I had to read this and wanted to read it. I was asked to review it for Square magazine (my review is in Issue 8 of the magazine which is now on sale and available here) but I also wanted to read it because I had met Stephen while on a Writer’s Retreat at Moniack Mhor in Scotland. He read the first chapter of this book at the end of that week and I knew back then that I wanted to read the finished book when it came out.

So there you have them. My rather wonderful travelling companions. Have you read any of them? If not, which books did you whisk away from the bookshelf this summer?

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