• Novel Novelist

Bye Bye 2020

2020 was a difficult year, and I doubt 2021 will be miraculously better, but I do hope everyone gets the relief that they deserve.

The silver lining for me is that I'm one of the lucky ones that have enjoyed being at home. I’m more than happy with my own company, I walk my dog daily, I was lucky to stay in a job, and I talk on the phone with my friends and family.

And I’ve had the opportunity to read, write, and study a lot.

I started keeping a list at the end of 2019 of the all the books I read, but it sort of got lost in the hubbub that was last year. So I endeavour to start again this year, and to keep it up. I also endeavour to widen my reading experience (I tend to favour crime and detective fiction) and to delve into some different genres. I was going to set the goal of reviewing every book that I read, but then I decided not to put such pressure on myself, but as I type I’ve just thought no – I’m going to do it. I endeavour to review every book that I read in 2021, and it’s not pressure because I love reading and I love writing and I want to get more practice in.

The first three books on my list for 2021 are Christmas gifts from my family:

The Christmas Egg: A Seasonal Mystery, by Mary Kelly

Synopsis: London. 22nd December. Chief Inspector Brett Nightingale and Sergeant Beddoes have been called to a gloomy flat off Islington High Street. An elderly woman lies dead on the bed, and her trunk has been looted. The woman is Princess Olga Karukhin – an émigré of Civil War Russia –and her trunk is missing its glittering treasure...

Out in the dizzying neon and festive chaos of the capital a colourful cast of suspects abound: the downtrodden grandson, a plutocratic jeweller, Bolsheviks with unfinished business? Beddoes and Nightingale have their work cut out in this tightly-paced, quirky and highly enjoyable jewel of the mystery genre.

I love nothing more than a mystery crime fiction from the Golden Age of Murder. I recently read An English Murder by Cyril Hare, and can’t wait to see what award-winning author Mary Kelly can bring to the crime classics table.

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission that Changed our Understanding of Madness, by Susannah Cahalan

Synopsis: Doctors have struggled for centuries to define insanity--how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people--sane, healthy, well-adjusted members of society--went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry's labels. Forced to remain inside until they'd "proven" themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan's watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever.

But, as Cahalan's explosive new research shows in this real-life detective story, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors?

Shortlisted for the 2020 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize this book really tickles my fancy.

The Push, by Ashley Audrain

Synopsis: The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn't right.

I had always known that the women in my family aren't meant to be mothers.

My husband Fox says I'm imagining it. He tells me I'm nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.

But she's different with me. Something feels very wrong.

Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I?

This book was recommended by Waterstones (and my copy has seriously beautiful purple gilding). The premise of this novel sounds sinister and creepy – just what I like!

Novel Novelist Book Review Requests

I’ve also had some interesting review requests from debut and existing authors via email, which is very exciting.

The Kiminee Dream, by Laura McHale Holland

Synopsis: Odd things happen in Kiminee, Illinois. Lilacs bloom in winter. Gravel glows golden on occasion. Pigs play kick the can. So when Carly Mae Foley learns to read at age two and masters multiplication at age three, the town’s quirky, tight-knit denizens take it in stride and embrace her with pride. But when a terrible twister tears through, Carly Mae is maimed, dashing hopes for her future. Her father is swept away and assumed dead. And her mother slinks off after creeping, naked, with her lover from the remains of a ruined home. It’s up to Carly Mae’s grandmother and a devoted, one-eared dog to hold what’s left of the family together. But not everyone is rooting for them, and when an appalling crime occurs, long-held animosities boil over. Will the good folks of Kiminee pull closer together now—or be torn apart?

This one is seriously off the beaten track for me. The Kiminee Dream by Laura McHale Holland is a lyrical story influenced by folklore and magical realism. Not my usual style, but the synopsis did sound pretty intriguing, and as I said, I am trying to broaden my horizons. A big thank you to author Laura McHale Holland for a PDF copy of her upcoming novel.

Heartbreak Sucks! How to Get Over Your Breakup in 30 Days, by Jared Woods

Synopsis: Heartbreak sucks! Irrespective of background, this emotional turbulence does not discriminate, tearing through its victims of any age, gender, ethnicity, or social class. Even you reading these words understand the depths of this grief. It's horrible! It's dangerous! It can be life-threatening, and yet not enough people take this pain seriously! Why isn't there a reliable guide which can help us through this all-consuming agony? Hello! There is! This is that guide.

I do love a motivational book based in psychology, so hopefully this will tick some boxes for me. I’m currently in a very happy relationship, but there’s no reason why I can’t have a preparatory arsenal in the form Heartbreak Sucks! is there? (just kidding, love you). A big thank you to the author Jared Woods for a copy of his book.

Ciao for now,

Novel Novelist

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