My Goodreads Challenge – update: 6 months in

Here’s a 6 month update on how I’m doing with my Goodreads Reading Challenge!

I have read 54 of 90 books in 2017, and apparently I’m 16 books ahead of schedule!

Books I’ve Read So Far This Year: (click the cover to go to view the book on Goodreads)

Fierce Kingdom by Gin PhillipsAll the Good Things by Clare  FisherStandard Deviation by Katherine HeinyThe Honeymoon by Tina SeskisThe Second Sister - Claire KendallExquisite by Sarah StovellOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManusPersons Unknown by Susie SteinerSweetpea by C.J. SkuseDeadly Alibi by Leigh RussellBlood Sisters by Jane  CorryThe Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon

The Light We Lost by Jill SantopoloThe Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesCrimson Lake by Candice FoxDead Letters by Caite Dolan-LeachThe Stars are Fire by Anita ShreveHe Said/She Said by Erin Kelly
Spoils by Brian Van ReetAbout Last Night - Catherine AlliottLie to Me by Jess RyderThe Loving Husband by Christobel KentLast Breath by Robert BryndzaThe Two O'Clock Boy by Mark  Hill
The Stolen Child by Sanjida KayMy Husband the Stranger by Rebecca DoneThe Escape by C.L. TaylorThe Trophy Taker by Sarah FlintFire Damage by Kate MedinaThis Love by Dani Atkins
The Idea of You by Amanda ProwseThe Missing Ones by Patricia GibneyCommonwealth by Ann PatchettLet the Dead Speak by Jane CaseyDead Embers by Matt BrollyEverything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister
Black Widow by Chris BrookmyreThe Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy MejiaWhere I Lost Her by T. GreenwoodThe Witchfinder's  Sister by Beth UnderdownThe One That Got Away by Melissa PimentelThe Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
The Chalk Pit by Elly GriffithsThe English Agent by Clare HarveyRagdoll by Daniel ColeWe Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia HunterThe Breakdown by B.A. ParisThe Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
Blue Light Yokohama by Nicolás ObregónThe Girl Before by J.P. DelaneyBridget Jones’s Baby by Helen FieldingBurned and Broken by Mark HardieWatch Her Disappear by Eva DolanThe Book of Mirrors by E.O. Chirovici

Are you doing a Goodreads challenge this year? If so, how is yours going?


The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan

The Last Days of Summer [review]

The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan



She can forgive. They can’t forget.

After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.

Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle.

Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door.

The Last Days of Summer

[My Review]

The Last Days of Summer was completely different to what I was expecting. I thought it would be a tale about family and the town learning to forgive a man who seems to have truly sinned in the past. It is sort of about this, but it’s darker than I expected, and there isn’t much forgiving going on!Set in a rural town in America, Jasper returns from a long stint in prison for committing what seems to be a pretty terrible crime, something no one in the town will forgive him for   (though at this point we’re not sure what), apart from, it seems, his sister, who takes him in on his release to live with her and her two daughters, teenager Katie and younger sister Joanne. The story unwinds what happened all those years ago, giving little clues here and there so the reader begins to see what their uncle has done. I enjoyed this element of suspense and mystery, and read on mainly because I wanted to find out what exactly had happened.I have to say, I absolutely hated Jasper. I know the author probably didn’t expect readers to like him but I truly, madly (& deeply!) hated him. He was a horrible, horrible man, one that I expected would be revealed as not as awful as we thought the more the novel went on. This was definitely not the case, or not for me at least. Not only did he viciously attack a woman he was seeing (you get the gist of what he did pretty early on so I’m not really spoiling anything, but nevertheless I won’t go into specifics in case I ruin the mystery element of the novel), but he seems completely unrepentant and seems to see every woman, including this in his own family, as potential targets. “His eyes go over her [Katie] for what feels like too long, and she doesn’t like it.”

In fact, there’s a whole medley of nasty characters in The Last Days of Summer. To start with I felt that the townspeople had the right idea: why would they want to forgive someone as awful as Jasper? Their actions later on dissolved any agreeable feelings I may have had towards them, though.

I often found myself frustrated with Lizzie- how could she not see what Jasper was really like? I suppose it demonstrates human’s willingness to forgive, to want to believe that someone has changed, if they’re family and therefore someone meaningful to them. Lizzie risked having him in her house with her daughters because he was family- if he was anyone else’s brother, no doubt she’d never have considered it.

I felt desperately sorry for Jasper’s nieces, Katie and Joanne. Though Katie makes some stupid teenage decisions based on a misguided attempt to impress her controlling boyfriend, she is a good person – and Joanne is far too young to realise how truly horrible people can be. This book really puts them, and their mother Lizzie (who is Jasper’s sister) through it, and I almost felt it was too much- too gritty and horrible- at times.

The story is fairly slow paced really, which suits their seemingly provincial, small town lives, though picks up a bit towards the end. It’s not at any point boring, but at times I felt my concentration waning a little. The writing is definitely skilled, but in this instance the story didn’t hugely grip me.

[Rating: 3/5]

The Last Days of Summer will be published in the UK by Penguin UK on the 5th May.

Many thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy of this novel in return for an honest review

The Life And Death of Sophie Stark [review]

Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North[Synopsis]

Gripping and provocative, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark tells a story of fame, love, and legacy through the propulsive rise of an iconoclastic artist.
“It’s hard for me to talk about love. I think movies are the way I do that,” says Sophie Stark, a visionary and unapologetic filmmaker. She uses stories from the lives of those around her—her obsession, her girlfriend, and her husband—to create movies that bring her critical recognition and acclaim. But as her career explodes, Sophie’s unwavering dedication to her art leads to the shattering betrayal of the people she loves most.

Told in a chorus of voices belonging to those who knew her best, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an intimate portrait of an elusive woman whose monumental talent and relentless pursuit of truth reveal the cost of producing great art, both for the artist and for the people around her.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

[My Review]

This was an interesting and quite unique story. It’s told from various perspectives, all people who knew Sophie in some way, but never from Sophie herself. There are friends, ex-partners and her brother to name a few, and all have a different tale about her to tell.

Sophie herself I found a bit irritating to start with. I know she’s supposed to be elusive and enigmatic, and I’m sure I’m probably in the minority with this, but I thought to myself as I read: if I knew her and she was my friend/ girlfriend/ whatever, I’d get seriously annoyed with what seems to be flakiness- or perhaps just eccentricity. However as I read on I realised what seemed to be selfishness and coldness was actually her unsettled way of ‘being’, if that makes sense! She seems to burst into people’s lives like a whirlwind, but still manages to remain quite surprising and, at times, very confusing. I warmed to her a bit more as the novel went on, but I still didn’t care that much about her. However, she was interesting to read about- and that’s the main thing, after all!

Despite this, Anna North’s writing is really absorbing and certainly kept me reading on. She really tells a story really well, despite this novel being quite fragmented in the way that each section is told by a different character.

This is an original and well written novel which includes some great descriptions that had me picturing the place, person or situation perfectly.

[My Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the pubisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

The Hiding House [review]

The Hiding House by Malcolm Richards[Synopsis]

When their beloved grandmother dies, siblings Sebastian and Elise find themselves suddenly alone. Fearing foster care and separation, the children seek refuge in their isolated woodland home, hoping the outside world will pass them by.

But the outside world is the least of their concerns. Nana May’s body still sits out in the garden, in the grasp of a summer heatwave. A malevolent figure stalks through the trees, waiting for nightfall. The household chores have yet to be done.

And what of the mystery surrounding the siblings’ abusive mother, who vanished without trace four years earlier?

In a place where secrets hang from every branch, Sebastian and Elise will discover that real life is no fairy tale.

The Hiding House

[My Review]

The Hiding House by Malcolm Richards took me a little while to get into, but once I did, I was really drawn into Elise and Sebastian’s world!

The entire book has a kind of dreamlike state to it- although it seemed to be set in the real world, it was hard to pinpoint exactly which decade, and exactly where in the world. I couldn’t quite get my head around what I was reading- I think the fact that various parts of the narrative were very reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel and other fairy tales added to this, and make me expect certain things that didn’t actually happen. However what did happen certainly kept me entertained (though I got a little confused sometimes at the change from present to past narratives)!

The characters were likeable and interesting; I cared what happened to Sebastian and Elise and felt their intense fear at certain points. There were parts that were quite creepy and I was impressed at the way that the author used just the right amount of hyperbole and drama to create a menacing, threatening situation for both siblings.

I feel that Malcolm Richards has created a unique, atmospheric story in The Hiding House, which keeps the reader absorbed and, at times, guessing too!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the author for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review

A Spool Of Blue Thread [review]

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler


‘It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…’

This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer’s day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.

From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century – four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their home…

A Spool of Blue Thread

[My Review]

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler left me with mixed feelings. I am aware that it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015 and that Anne Tyler is such as fantastic, well-loved writer. However I also know that, whilst reading this novel, the story didn’t quite captivate me as I wanted it to, or in the way that books I enjoy always do.

Anne Tyler’s characterisation, as always, is brilliant. They are all convincing, three-dimensional characters that you can really imagine meeting in real life. There are quite amusing situations where you think to yourself, “Ah, my grandma/ grandad/ mother/ father” etc would have done that, and there are figures of speech that the characters utter which ring true and familiar throughout. I love that aspect of the novel, and enjoyed learning more about the characters and their family life.

The novel hops backwards and forwards throughout time; it starts in 2012 and then moves further backwards in time, occasionally returning to the present again, before rewinding right back to Abby and Red’s parents. I got a little confused at times, when reading this particular timeframe, as I kept imagining Abby and Red, not their parents, and for me it was a little hard to get my head around after reading so much about the generation after them. I did enjoy reading about how Abby and Red met, though, and the present day story where everyone tries to come to terms with some upsetting news.

I think for me the problem with this novel is that, although I was really interested in most of the characters and did enjoy reading about them, there wasn’t a point when I felt like I hugely cared what would happen to them. I found some of the narrative a little dull, and I wished we found out more about what exactly was going on with Denny’s character. As I got towards the end of the novel I kept thinking something was going to be revealed about him, to explain his sullenness and general air of mystery, but this didn’t really happen. I suppose this reflects real life to a greater extent, as you don’t always find out everything about everyone, but as a reader I felt a little disappointed.

I would say, if you are an Anne Tyler fan, to give this a go as it is an enjoyable read overall, but don’t necessarily expect it to be her best. From discussing it with others it seems this is a common opinion- though certainly not absolute, as I’ve seen many 4 and 5 star reviews too!

[Rating: 3/5]

** Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review **

Are you an Anne Tyler fan? What did you think of ‘A Spool Of Blue Thread’?

How Travelling Solo Has Made Me A Better Person

Not book related as such but great article; this only makes me more excited for my solo trip to Thailand in January!
Hopefully the first of many too (shame I have a job that I don’t really want to give up so really limited on holiday!)

This article appeared on Thought Catalog on February 9th 2014.

I was eighteen the first time I set out on my own. I did it again when I was twenty. And a third time when I was twenty-one. I am a self-confessed airport crier, last-minute packer, document misplacer and chronic over-thinker who finds leaving anyone and anywhere a huge deal. Yet I have never once regretted going. I have missed things (people, birthdays, my graduation, homecooked meals, etc) but I have never once thought “I should never have gotten on that plane.”

Travelling solo is the best thing I have ever done. It is when I feel that I am more than just alive; I am living. It makes me feel present and proactive and strong. It provides a unique combination of control and freedom that I have yet to find anywhere else. Every time I arrive in a new place I…

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What Should I Read Next?

What Should I Read NextFind your next brilliant read!

I tend to look for my next book recommendation from friends, Goodreads, or (most often) book blogs.

But if you want to find a book that’s based on what you’ve previously read and enjoyed, this website is for you! I only discovered this the other day and felt I had to share…

Get bookmarked pronto! You basically put in a book you really enjoyed and it generates a list of books that you should read next! Simple eh 🙂

What Should I Read Next

By the way, this post is not sponsored or anything like that, I just like the idea!

Have you given it a go? Has it given you any great recommendations?

Go Set a Watchman

Interesting thoughts on Go Set A Watchman from The Readers Room!

The Reader's Room


Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably seen some of the controversy surrounding Go Set a Watchman. The “sequel,” released last week, was actually written prior to To Kill A Mockingbird and focuses on Scout as an adult. Harper Lee’s editor liked the childhood flashbacks in Go Set a Watchman and encouraged Lee to rewrite the book focusing on Scout as a child and, thus, To Kill A Mockingbird was born.

Rumors and speculation abound around the “newer” novel. The timing of the book’s release along with information about Lee’s ability to provide informed consent — a drastic shift in position after years of stating she never wanted to publish again — is shady to say the least. You can read more about that here. Lack of informed consent in publishing is not new. Kafka requested that his works be destroyed after his death and he was clear…

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The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

Book Club: Philip Pullman’s ‘The Good Man Jesus…’

Hello all. Time for another Reading group post (sorry it’s been a while to post!)

June’s book club choice was:

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip PullmanThe Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ – Philip Pullman

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

I’ve never read any Pullman before, and my friend who picked this one said she didn’t go for any of the ‘His Dark Materials‘ trilogy, or other more obvious choices, but instead went for this novel as it is something very different to what most of us would probably pick, and because it was bound to have a lot to discuss.

Most of the group really enjoyed reading the novel. We felt that it was easy to read and not too long in length so none of us got bored. However, there were points where we got a little lost trying to understand what exactly was going on. It was interesting as we all have very different upbringings when it comes to religion, coming from Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and atheist backgrounds. Despite this, though, quite a few of us felt that we’d like to re-read The Bible at some point to refresh the original new testament story in our minds, and compare how Pullman’s retelling of it compares.

Though Philip Pullman perhaps isn’t Christianity’s biggest fan, I didin’t feel like this novel was completely destroying the whole concept of the Christian faith like some reviews claim. It certainly painted Christianity in a negative light at times, but I felt it was a really interesting retelling and wasn’t too preachy. It’s written in a similar way to the new testament, but with modern English language so it’s obviously a lot easier to understand.

I really loved the basic idea of the book- that Jesus had a twin called Christ, and this explains some of the ‘miracles’ in the Bible. I won’t give away anything else so as not to ruin enjoyment of the book, but it’s really interesting to read elements that most of us have probably learned about in school, if not more recently, and see how they’ve been altered to fit this new story.

One thing we did all highlight in the book group session, however, was that there were a few points where we all got quite lost and unsure of what was going on. This was despite some of us having a better recollection and understanding of the Bible than others. I certainly felt like sometimes the many character names were a little confusing, but others may not find that this is the case. It’s only a short novel but I did find I lost interest a bit in these confusing bits. I think if you really aren’t interested at all in Christian theology, even if just to see how Pullman has changed certain parts, then this may seem a little pointless and probably isn’t for you!

Overall I was really pleased that this was picked as the book group choice this month, as it wasn’t something I probably would have picked myself, and would recommend this to anyone interested in reading classic tales, re-told.

Rating: 3.5/5

Next month:

Orange is the New BlackOrange is the New Black: My Time in a Women’s Prison – Piper Kerman

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system.

From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance.

Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

I’m really looking forward to reading this – I love the TV series (so far- I haven’t finished it yet) but will be interested to read the novel that the show is based on. I have to admit I didn’t realise that the programme was based on a book at all – did anyone else know this?

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back with a new review very shortly!

The Bones of You – Debbie Howells

Check out Cleopatra Loves Books’ review of The Bones Of You, which I’ll also be reviewing on my blog- it will go up in about a week’s time so look out for it!
Great review, I think you’ll agree!

Cleopatra Loves Books

Psychological Thriller 4*s Psychological Thriller

I have to admit when I first started this book I wasn’t too keen at all, but once I adjusted to the slow pace, I was hooked! All that despite some supernatural elements which would normally have me closing the book in disbelief.

One day Kate, mother to Grace, gets a phone call that Rosie Anderson has gone missing. Eighteen year old Rosie is nowhere near as socially confident as Grace and in the small Sussex town everyone hopes that she will return home unharmed.

Told from Kate’s and Rosie’s perspectives this book is a slow-burner but no less gripping for that. Kate has got to know Rosie as she was keen on Kate’s horses and she befriends her mother Jo through the search for Rosie.

Before Rosie’s disappearance Jo and Neale appeared to have an enviable life. A large house decorated to perfection with a garden…

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