May and June – looking back and looking ahead

A bit of a catch up today! I didn’t do a review of May and June, largely because there was so much I didn’t or couldn’t talk about. My grief for my mum was very raw and I was involved in organising and dealing with the funeral plus all of the other jobs involved with being the Executor. I’m still deeply involved in a lot of that stuff, longing for it to end, but I am in a bit of a better place now and so I’m ready to get back to it and tell you just how little I read in May and June!

There are other happier reasons why I didn’t read as much as I would have liked, especially over June. I finished the second draft of my novel! It finished off at about 88,900 words and, printed out, it seems to weigh more than a very fat cat and so, no matter its insides, in appearance and bulk it has heft! But I suppose it’s the insides that really matter so I’m now in the process of editing the hard copy and realising that I gave one character at least three surnames and went on about the weather in one month before remembering it’s set in a completely different month. But overall I’m pretty pleased with it and hope to send it off soon so that I can start collecting rejection letters.

Books, books, books!

The Pretender's Gold by Scott MarianiOn to my reading! My tally for May and June is dismal – I’ve read only twelve novels, at least half of what I would normally read over two months. Apart from the reasons above, I think a good reason why it’s so low is because my reading routine has been well and truly scuppered by Lockdown. In the old world, I used to read at least three hours a day thanks to my commute to work and my work lunch hour. I never thought I would miss my commute but I really do and I certainly miss those times when I would sit in a pub with my book and a glass of wine. As it’s unlikely I’ll be back in the office any time soon, this is set to continue. But, should the sun actually deign to come out again, then at least I can find myself a quiet beer garden and do some proper reading.

But there is another reason why I’ve read so few books. I am, I’m honoured to say, once again one of the judges for the Historical Writers Association Gold Crown award. This means I have quite a pile of books to read and so I have been working through these whenever I get a spare moment. I can’t wait for when we can release the long list later this summer. Historical fiction is my greatest book love and it’s wonderful to see so many good books being published, especially during such a hard year as this one.

Onto the books I can talk about! May saw the return of Ben Hope, my favourite thriller hero. I love this series by Scott Mariani more than any other and so I leapt on The Pretender’s Gold and I absolutely loved it. This is one of Ben’s best adventures and I can heartily recommend it. I read two other action or political thrillers over these two months – Curse the Day by Judith O’Reilley and Double Agent by Tom Bradby. I enjoyed both of these, particularly Tom Bradby’s thriller. I can see this developing into an unmissable series for me.

I read two new historical fiction novels – much of the historical fiction I’ve been looking forward to this summer has been postponed (along with so many other novels), but I was so glad to read these two as they’re by authors I read every year – Lionheart by Ben Kane and The House of Lamentations by S.G. MacLean. Both books are significant in different ways. Ben Kane is best known for his fabulous Roman novels and so Lionheart takes him and us to the entirely new territory of the late 12th century and the reign of Richard I. I loved it. This is such a favourite period of history of mine and so I had been looking forward to this. The emphasis here is very much on Richard the warrior and so it’s an action-packed adventure with a very charismatic figure at its heart. The House of Lamentations is the final novel to feature Damian Seeker, Cromwell’s enigmatic spy. This has been a landmark series and I will miss it. I’m delighted, but not surprised, to say that it ends in brilliant fashion.

I read two horror novels, or one and a half. I’m not sure if The Curator by M.W. Craven is strictly speaking horror but it certainly takes us into that territory and it is glorious. It’s always good to spend time with Poe, Tilly and Flynn and they’re on fine form here. But it’s certainly dark, chilling and terrifying. We’re in ‘safe’ horror land with Devolution by Max Brooks. When a volcano erupts in Washington State, the men and women of a hi-tech eco-commune have much more to worry about than ash. This hugely enjoyable novel raises all sorts of debate about survivalism and the nature of mankind as predator or hunter. It’s told in an intriguing way, too, just as you’d expect from the author of World War Z.

Without a Trace by Mari HannahThis leaves five police procedurals and psychological thrillers. I was so pleased to see Kate Daniels return after such a long time in Without a Trace by Mari Hannah. The previous book ended with such a cliff hanger and I was desperate to pick up the story of Kate and Jo. This is a fantastic series. Do take a look at it, if you haven’t already. I did enjoy The House Share by Kate Helm – this is an utterly bonkers psychological thriller set in a luxurious shared house which contains more secrets than it does people. Such a lot of fun! I can also strongly recommend The Babysitter by Phoebe Morgan and Three Perfect Liars by Hiedi Perks. I read everything these two authors write and their latest novels confirmed why. Finally, I read The Flight by Julie Clark, which didn’t quite work for me, after an excellent beginning, but is well liked by many. So, although I didn’t read a great deal, I did pick some corkers!

Looking ahead to July

July is starting very well indeed with The Split by Sharon Bolton. I’ve missed bookshops being open so much and so, as soon as they re-opened, The Split was the first book I bought (along with Cut to the Bone by Roz Watkins). I’m hoping stock will work its way into the shops soon as there are others on my to buy list which I can’t wait to get (thinking of Island of Secrets by Rachel Rhys and The Devil You Know by Emma Kavanagh, among others). I digress… I am thoroughly enjoying The Split, as I do all of Sharon Bolton’s books. This one is set on the remote island of South Georgia and has an intriguing structure.

I usually have about thirty books to review in July but this year it’s more like a third of that, with so many titles delayed until later this year or even 2021. I’m looking forward to investigating what is being published this month and filling up my shopping basket. July books I’m particularly looking forward to are The Resident by David Jackson, The Storm by Amanda Jennings and Fifty Fifty by Steve Cavanagh. I must also catch up on Cut to the Bone by Roz Watkins, Eden by Tim Lebbon, The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson, The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton and The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman.

So what have I missed? If there are any May and June books I really should read and any July books you can recommend – I could really do with some science fiction – please do let me know!

I hope you’re all doing well and managing to find comfort and peace in the company of good books (and jigsaw puzzles).

4 thoughts on “May and June – looking back and looking ahead

  1. Hayley at RatherTooFondofBooks

    I was executor for my Mum’s Will so I know how hard and draining it is, if you ever want a chat you can always message me. I remember feeling so overwhelmed by it, and dealing with the legal stuff in the midst of grief is incredibly hard. Sending you a hug.
    Well done on finishing your second draft, that’s such a huge achievement. 🙂


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