It’s a Leap Year! One extra day to read, encouraged by the fact that it’s yet another stormy weekend. They’ve become a habit. In February I read ten novels, so another month in which I read a good third less than I normally do. The reason is, I’m afraid to say, The Project, The First Draft, which is all-consuming. I actually finished the first draft this month. I’m writing it by hand so now I’m faced with the task of typing up about 82,000 words, while doing an initial edit, making it nearer to 90,000 words. I can definitely say that everything about doing this is a challenge. I’m starting research for another story at the moment and mulling over ideas. Everything I write is completely different from the thing that preceded it or the thing that will follow it. I think this is because I’m finding my path and it’s a rocky, twisty, flooded path.
So maybe instead of saying that I only managed ten books in February, I should jump and down and say that I actually managed to read ten books! They’re a mixed bunch as well so I’m happy about that. I was pleased to read some more historical fiction, beginning with Stacey Hall’s The Foundling, an atmospheric and sorrowful tale of a young woman’s struggle to find the child that she was forced to abandon at London’s Foundling Hospital on the day that child was born. It’s set in the mid 18th century, a period of history that is becoming more popular with fiction and I’m finding it increasingly appealing. I also read and reviewed The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I have a copy of Daisy and the Six to read but when I heard about its predecessor I knew I had to read it first. It’s a glorious tale of Hollywood, glamorous actresses and doomed love. It is a completely addictive read and I loved it.
I’ve always enjoyed romantic tales about 20th century figures, especially glamorous women (such as the Mitfords – I adore Jessica fellowes’ novels about them) and so my latest read could have been written for me. Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb is an enchanting novel set in the mid 1950s when Grace Kelly arrived in Cannes for the film festival and fell in love with Prince Ranier of Monaco, marrying him only a few months later. But there is another love story here, too, between perfumier Sophie Duval and an English photographer James Henderson. This book transported me to the sunny Mediterranean, a perfect place to be. A review of this will follow very soon.
It seems that the older I get, the more susceptible I become to gorgeously written tales about women’s lives and so this month I read my first ever novel by Marian Keyes – Grown Ups. It’s a relatively lengthy novel at about 600 pages and every single one of them was golden. This is beautifully observed story telling, with characters who are in many cases so easy to care about, despite their faults. It’s a good month when I discover a new author to love.
It’s also a good month when you can read a new novel by a favourite author and I was so thrilled to read and review Bury Them Deep by James Oswald. Inspector (excuse me, Chief Inspector) McLean is a fantastic creation whose dark and troublesome cases always have that little extra spark about them, something unusual, maybe even supernatural. Bury Them Deep is the tenth book in the series and it is definitely among the best.
I love horror novels, particularly if they’re frightening (and don’t involve zombies or giant slugs). Peter Laws’ series featuring Professor Matt Hunter, an expert in all things supernatural, is essential reading. I’ve loved them all and Possessed, the fourth, may even be the best. The story it tells is both horrifying and engrossing and the pace builds and builds. Such a gripping, exhilarating and deliciously shocking book.
Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah has a stunning premise to it. When Beth hangs around her estranged old friend’s house in the hope of seeing her, she is shocked to see that her friend’s children haven’t aged a bit in ten years. How can this be possible? It’s an addictive read as we hang on to every page to find out why, how, WHAT?! I do love a twisty psychological thriller on occasion. This did the trick.
I’m not a big reader of literary fiction but I’d heard so many good things about Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano that I was very keen to read it. Edward is the sole survivor of a plane crash and for the families of those who were lost he is their only comfort. Edward, though, must deal with his own losses and his trauma. This is a beautifully written novel but, for me, its subject matter is too traumatic and upsetting.
The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray takes a look at what life would be like in a Britain that is trapped in a perpetual twilight state. The world has stopped spinning and so most of it now is uninhabitable – either too hot or too cold. Britain is one of the few places where life can continue and that has all sorts of ramifications for politics and society – and they’re not good ones either. This is a bleak but fascinating depiction of a possible future post-apocalyptic world. I liked the fact that it was set in the UK and it even features my hometown of Oxford. Although I think I prefer Oxford as it is now without any of that post-apocalyptic business, thank you very much.
Books, books books!
I bought far too many books as usual during February. I have plenty of Netgalley ebooks to review but the strange thing is that I find it almost impossible to read ebooks these days. I just don’t enjoy the experience half as much as I do a treebook. This means that I usually go out and buy hardbacks of my Netgalleys as soon as they’re available and read those instead. So this month I bought The Guest List by Lucy Foley, Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz, The Holdout by Graham Moore, The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray, Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah, Grown Ups by Marian Keyes, Inch by Inch by Morgan Llywelyn, Hunt You Down by Chris Farnsworth, Endgame by Daniel Cole and, I dare say, a few others. FAR TOO MANY BOOKS! I shouldn’t be allowed in a book shop.
My final book buy of the month was today’s Journey of the Pharaohs by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while but the news that Clive Cussler died on Monday hit me for six. I am a huge fan of Clive Cussler, such an adventurer in his own life, and I grew up enjoying his Dirk Pitt books. I love them as much now as I did then. The first thriller I ever read was Raise the Titanic. I’m looking forward to reading Journey of the Pharaohs very soon and I will raise a glass to Clive as I do it.
I’m so grateful to publishers for all of the review copies I’ve received in February. There have been a fair few of them and there are some corkers! More of them below.
Looking ahead to March
And so what am I looking forward to in March? First up, it has to be the book I preordered from Waterstones today – The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. I cannot wait for this book! I know I only have to wait until Thursday but I feel like I’ve been counting down the days for ages. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies were published such a long time ago but, strangely for me, I remember both vividly. I normally can’t remember what I ate for lunch so this is an achievement. I’ll be picking up my copy on Thursday lunchtime and I’ll start it straight away. If you’re interested, here is my review of Bring Up the Bodies, a review I’m rather proud of. Hilary Mantel inspired me. I saw her read from the book at the Oxford Literary Festival a few years ago – what a charismatic woman she is. We were all spellbound.
There is some other historical fiction out in March, which, in my opinion is unmissable. The Land Beyond The Sea by Sharon Penman is most definitely one of them. Sharon is another of those authors whose books have represented landmarks in my reading through my life. The Sunne in Splendour is just one of the books I will always recommend. She now returns to the late 12th century and the fight for Jerusalem. Other historical reads I’m looking forward to include The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey and The Lost Lights of St Kilda by Elizabeth Gifford. I can’t wait to read Liberation by Imogen Kealey, set during the Second World War.
There is some great crime fiction out in March and among those I’m looking forward to the most is Without a Trace by Mari Hannah. Kate Daniels is back! And for anyone who remembers the ending of the previous novel, it’s not a moment too soon. I’m also looking forward to Burnt Island by Kate Rhodes and The Bad Place by MK Hill. Other books to look out for include The Lovely City by Louise Hare and The City We Became by NK Jemisin. I’m looking forward to discovering what other treats are in store as many of them I only discover the week they’re published. I like surprises!
I’ve read just three books that are published in March and they are fabulous. In Five Years by Rebecca Searle is gobsmacking, a heartrending depiction of love. Beware its premise as that suggests a book that it isn’t. It is instead even better than that. I loved The Deep by Alma Katsu, a tale of horror set aboard the Titanic. As if things could have been even worse for the passengers – it turns out they could. Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson is a fantastic murder mystery, featuring a collector of antique books. I read it as soon as I could and I thoroughly recommend it. Peter Swanson has become an unmissable author for me.
I ran out of time to read some of February’s publications but I will get to them. These include my imminent read The Light of Impossible Stars by Gareth Powell, The Holdout by Graham Moore, Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz, Firewatching by Russ Thomas, The Guest List by Lucy Foley, Cross of Fire by David Gilman and Between the Lines by Eva Dolan. I have come to the conclusion that I need more eyeballs. Of course in March I will be reading 900 pages of The Mirror and the Light, so I’ll be interested to see how well I do with reading anything else!
I’d love to know what you’ve enjoyed in February and you’re looking forward to in March! Happy reading!