The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman

Title – The Thursday Murder Club

Author – Richard Osman

Published – September 2020

Genre – Crime fiction

I had this (as a NetGalley) on my Kindle for a while and as a debut that’s hit the top of the bestseller lists I thought I should crack on and see what all the fuss was about.

I found that the beginning of the book really dragged, there were lots of characters who I didn’t yet care about, a lot of scene setting, too many witticisms and the present tense was a bit distracting (more suited to something with more thrills).  At about 10% through I toyed with giving up but it’s really unusual for me to do that so I pressed on. I found I could only continue by skipping over some of the larger blocks of text that seemed irrelevant to the story.

The premise is four elderly friends living in a very up-market retirement village who meet as the ‘Thursday Murder Club’ to help one of the members, a former police officer, solve her old cold cases. Then there is a real case on their doorstep and they step up with the intention of solving it before the police do.

What follows is a modern twist on a cosy crime, where the geriatric investigators attempt to lead the way, bringing their pre-retirement experience to their new role as armchair detectives, lubricated by their tipples of choice.

There’s a mix of third person pov from a number of characters with diary entries for one of the ‘gang’. It jumps around a bit but once I got used to the changes in chapters it was less distracting. But what was with all the dialogue where people kept including the name of the person they were talking to? It really jarred and brought me out of the story, just not how people talk.

There were a number of touching moments as the story includes some of the issues which are inevitable in a retirement village but I did find that this bordered on being overly sentimental.

Too much escapism for me and sentimentality and when the deaths are solved I didn’t find the resolution particularly satisfying.

There has been a huge campaign surrounding this book – the author did the rounds of crime festivals last year, the blurb has quotes from a large range of authors, there’s even been a blog tour – not surprising for a book thought to be the biggest deal for a debut book in a decade. But it can’t be avoided that Osman appears on late-afternoon day-time TV and as such is writing about, and for, a particular audience who seem to be buying they hype. Or perhaps the appeal is a cosy mystery set in some sort of rural idyl when we’re all in the midst of a pandemic.

Many thanks to the publisher for the NetGalley.


Race to the Kill by Helen Cadbury

Title – Race to the Kill

Author – Helen Cadbury

Published – 2017

Genre – Crime fiction

After reading Helen’s other books in the Sean Denton series I met Helen at a number of book events and we became friends in the way that you do these days in a mix of real life and social media settings. Sadly Helen died in 2017, before the publication of what is now the final book in the series. This therefore makes the book a very difficult one to review – so no ‘star ratings’ in this case.

There are a number of reasons that this series stands out for me:- the unusual hero in Sean Denton, who started the books as a dyslexic PCSO, the beautiful writing which you don’t necessarily expect in crime fiction, and finally the social commentary and values, which if you’ve read Helen’s obituary linked above you will see were very important to her. An excellent example of using a popular genre to explore social issues. The stories always take place with a ‘small town’ setting, the characters literally rub shoulders with each other on the High Street – much more relatable than plots that cross countries or counties.

In this book the body of a refugee is found in the abandoned building of Chasebridge High School, somewhere that appears to have been a temporary home for many of the town’s homeless. As with the earlier books in the series there are several main plot lines – we also have a young woman who is working at the greyhound track neighbouring the old school, living in a caravan in the grounds she is surrounded by a family of shady characters who run the track.

Denton has some personal issues to address – his new relationship with his half-sister and the complicated relationship he has with his seriously-ill father as well as some worries about his love life. In better news he’s getting another step up the career ladder as he moves from PC to DC. He’s a lovely main character and one that you really root for in every situation.

The plots are cleverly developed, there are some surprises along the way and there is a thrilling climax. You should read the whole series.

I will miss Sean – I hope he continues to keep the people of Doncaster safe.


Managing the TBR pile – part 3

I’ve posted a couple of times in the past about managing my “To Be Read” (TBR) pile and the turn of the year is a great opportunity to see if I’ve made any progress.

I didn’t have any specific plans for 2019 but there is always a general plan to get some of the older books read (and reviewed), prevent the unread books creeping on to the floor around the bookshelves and keeping the shelves of read books well-organised.

As with 2018 there has been something of a dip in books coming in from publishers. In fact this year I think you could say that it’s crashed rather than dipped, I’ve only gained 23 books over the last year (this was written excluding any Christmas books), a mixture of gifts, purchases, Netgalleys and just seven were physical review copies from publishers.

I’ve read 31 books at the time of writing, so that’s a net book deficit of 8 – progress! This means I’ve also read (and reviewed) some books that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Although it’s a little awkward when the PR info that I’ve kept with a book refer to a publicist who has got married, had a baby and is no longer at the publisher 😂.

My reading for this year has been a bit down – the combination of not commuting and having a puppy.

Screen Shot 2019-12-22 at 21.19.43

I’ve posted 21 reviews so far this year although am hoping to get a backlog of about a dozen books to review (yes, some were read in 2018) but I might skip posting a few where I didn’t really enjoy the book.

We have built new bookshelves which are now the home for most of our hardback fiction. The consequence of this has been the ability to unpack all the ‘read’ books we have and get rid of a few titles that we’re not particularly fond of. The ‘TBR’ shelves have also seen a little bit of a clear out.

Now for some other stats. That ‘To Read’ bookcase has 152 (it was 179 a year ago) books on it, there are 82 (103) books to read packed in boxes and there are 37 (39) still to read on my kindle. Looks like my clear out made a bit of a dent but unfortunately slowing down on my reading means it’s actually going to take me longer to get to the end of the TBR than it was a year ago.

I’ve no specific plans for 2020, I’m currently job hunting so having a commute, or not, may affect my reading time. It’s a shame that I’ve received so little from publishers (I’m obviously grateful for what I have received) but I do feel I’m missing out on the continuation of a lot of series I’ve been enjoying and I’m not ‘in the loop’ so much with the popular books of the year. I need to get back to the library and borrow a few titles that I want to catch up on, although as I often have the dog with me when I’m passing they may not be very welcoming!

So how do you manage your arrivals and keep on top of your ‘to read’ books? How has 2019 been for your TBR?

Managing the TBR pile – part 2

In January I wrote a post about my TBR and how I planned to get a handle on it.

On the plus side it’s been easier than I thought to keep the physical number of books on my ‘to read’ list from growing – mostly because I’ve received a lot less in the way of review copies. The converse of this is that my reading time was mostly during my commute and I stopped working in London in September and then our new puppy arrive in November. It seems a new puppy isn’t conducive to reading… So I do need to make an effort to find the time to read (and of course review).

My 2018 plan was to:

  1. stop the books on my ‘to read’ bookcase creeping onto the floor
  2. read books in the order they arrive
  3. review books as soon as I have finished it

I’ve pretty much managed #1. There are a couple of books propped against the bookcase and I have taken off the part-read books but I did some rearranging during the year and was able to take a few books out of boxed up ‘to read’ books.

It might have been a bit of a cheat but in October I cleared from the shelves a stack of 7 books that I’d started but put back as I’d abandoned them. They weren’t completely abandoned (yet), my intention being to either finish them or really give up on them and get rid. Giving these all another try, so far I’ve managed to get into one of them which I’ve got much further with than I did before. 6 more to go.

I’ve not managed #2. I did try at the beginning of the year but sometimes I don’t want to read a lot of historical crime or police procedurals in a row so will swap between genres rather than read the next arrival.

I’ve definitely not managed #3 because a book I had read last January and planned to review at the time of the earlier post is still waiting. In fact there are 21 physical books that I’ve read which are waiting to be reviewed and there must be a few on my Kindle too.  although I’ve posted a lot more review in 2018 than I did in 2017.

Something that I’ve added into the mix is that I’ve also borrowed a handful of books from the library. If I’ve been enjoying a series, especially if I’ve been reviewing it, this is the cost-effective way of keeping up. There is an extra discipline there, however, in having to write the review before returning the books.

Now for some other stats. That ‘To Read’ bookcase has 179 books squashed on it, there are 103 books to read packed in boxes and there are 39 still to read on my kindle. All ‘give and take’ any Goodreads updates I’ve missed. So I’m not going to run out of books in the near future (apparently this is about 6 year’s worth)!

According to Goodreads I’ve read 51 books, which is the same as 2016 and the last I’ve recorded in a year on Goodreads.

I’ve no specific plans for 2019, I do need to get some new routines first as life is different now to how it was 12 months ago. I also need to (take a deep breath) clear some of the shelves of books I’ve read and make some space for newer books. It seems having cleared the piles of ‘to read’ books I might have shifted the problem to elsewhere…

So how do you manage your arrivals and keeping on top of your ‘to read’ books? How has 2018 been for your TBR?

Time’s Convert – Deborah Harkness

Title – Time’s Convert

Author – Deborah Harkness

Published – September 2018

Genre – Fantasy fiction

The publication of this book came hot on the heels of the debut of Harkness’ TV series on Sky One. When I was lucky enough to receive a copy for the publisher I knew it would be a while before I could both read it and review it so it was fortunate to discover that my husband works with a fan of the series and she would be willing to happy to provide a guest review.

So many thanks to Emma for her words!

“Time’s Convert” is set in the same universe as Harkness’ hugely successful “All Souls” trilogy, which has recently been adapted as a television series, “A Discovery of Witches”. The book focuses on two of the minor characters from the trilogy – Marcus the vampire and his human partner Phoebe. Harkness tells the story of Marcus’ history and transformation into a vampire, reliving key moments of his human life during the American Revolutionary War and his early days as a vampire during the French Revolution. The book also tells the story of Phoebe’s transformation into a vampire in modern day France as she waits to be reunited with Marcus, and continues the story of Matthew de Clermont and Diana Bishop – the main characters from the “All Souls” trilogy.

Harkness’ story telling is enchanting and captivating and this is a delightful addition to her previous books, adding more richness and detail to loved characters and developing more depth in previously minor characters.

Managing the TBR pile

A few bloggers were posting last year about their efforts to manage their To Be Read (TBR) piles. I considered a post then but ti seemed a better use of my time to actually write some reviews! As well as a TBR ‘pile’ I have a second type of TBR which is my ‘read but yet to be reviewed’ pile which is equally frightening!

I wrote a roundup post at the end of 2016 which reviewed where I was with my outstanding reading. I have to confess that I’m not necessarily showing much progress! On a sort of positive side the number of books arriving from publishers has dropped off dramatically. Moving house hasn’t helped and the occupiers of our old house may be getting into crime fiction books, I was really busy with work in the first half of 2017 so I neglected my blog and the contacts at publishers change so it’s easy to drop off a specific list.

To be honest it’s not really an issue, it isn’t as if I will run out of books to read. The only problem I really see is that if, as a blogger, you’re not reading the ‘next big thing’ you can lose a new term of reference that becomes commonplace  (like comparing a book to Gone Girl, which is still unread on my Kindle).

So my plan to keep up in 2018 is this:

At the end of the year I cleared into a box enough physical books from my ‘to read bookcase’ so that there was no longer a stack of books beside it, everything is now on the bookcase, including the books I was given for Christmas. I will read books in the order in which they arrive and if there are any gaps when there are no new books I’ll pick one up from the bookcase. I’m averaging a bit over a book a week which means one book on my commute and part of another book in the evenings or weekends, and it’s better if that book is a hardback as I don’t like to shove them in my work bag.

As far as reviewing goes I’m aiming to keep to reviewing a book as soon as I’ve read it. If I can do that and occasionally write a review for a book from the read but yet to be reviewed pile I should feel under less pressure. Which is all well and good but I couldn’t manage last year!

So how am I doing (I realise we’re not a full month in to 2018 yet)?

I have read:

The Fear Within which arrived on 30th December and reviewed it here
The Ice which was a birthday gift from July and as a signed hardback I wouldn’t take out of the house – still needs reviewing
A Song From Dead Lips which I treated myself to just before Christmas I reviewed here
Turn a Blind Eye – 2018’s first #bookpost I read and reviewed here

Currently reading:

The Photographer, which I got as a NetGalley is my current read.
At the same time I’ve also started reading The Silent Companions which was a Christmas present.

Next to read will be:

A Darker State which is the third in the Karin Müller series and arrived earlier this month.

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright which I received as a NetGalley

Deep Blue Trouble by Steph Broadribb which I received as a free download when I signed up to Lounge Books.

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields which I bought on a Kindle offer.

The Hangman by Daniel Cole which I received from Netgalley.

I went to the Headline “New Voices 2018′ event in Bristol during the week and came home with two books, The Tall Man by Phoebe Locke and The Wolf by Leo Carew.

So this should take me through to the end of Feb and let’s ignore the fact I might have asked for one or two books that haven’t yet arrived.

Let’s see how I manage sticking to this!

So how do you manage your arrivals and keeping on top of your ‘to read’ books?

What makes a ‘good’ book review?

My blog started out as a series of posts of my book reviews and despite dabbling in one or two other types of content it remains primarily a review site. English (especially literature) wasn’t something I chose to pursue as a subject at school or later so beyond the odd exercise to write about a book in my teens I’ve never been taught how this should be done. When it comes to writing a review I know that I don’t necessarily have the right terms of reference or terminology to summarise some of the aspects of what I’ve read or perhaps even the knowledge to identify specific features. You can probably tell this from my earliest posts, I’d like to think that over time I’ve got better, or at least have more of a clue about what I’m doing. But I’m not sure that I’ve grasped it completely yet. Does it matter as long as I’m posting about the books?

A review in The London Review of Books could be 2,500 words long and in a newspaper or magazine it might be 500 or even down to just a series of short quotes. Until I ended up particularly behind with my reviews this year I’ve tended to find 500 words is about right but have been trying to write shorter reviews in order to catch up (and perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing) but obviously length isn’t necessarily a sign that a review is better or more comprehensive just because it’s longer.

I often see people sharing reviews on twitter or facebook as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ but, in general, these seem to be ‘positive’ rather than incisive reviews. So what does a good review mean to you? Whose reviews do you admire and why? I’d really like to know other blogger’s/reviewer’s thoughts.



Here’s to 2017

stockvault-large-colorful-fireworks114130Well whatever your thoughts about 2016 it has, inevitably, passed and here we are looking forward to 2017 and what that might bring.

I thought this might be a good opportunity, even if it’s just for my own benefit, to take stock of what I read / blogged in 2016 so this time next year I have a comparison. According to Goodreads I have read 51 books – which is what I would expect – I know I usually read about one a week and with the house move I’ve had a couple of weeks where I’ve hardly read a page.

As well as completing 51 books I consigned one to the ‘abandoned’ shelf, have carried over 6 that I had already started and still haven’t finished and started a further three – so I’m technically currently reading 9.



My ‘to read’ numbers are a little frightening. According to Goodreads, which is how I try to keep track, I have a total of 288:

  • 146 on my bookcase (although this is theoretical as a lot have yet to be unpacked)
  • 41 on my kindle
  • 101 (intentionally) in boxes although I hope to get to them eventually.

This compares with a total of 250 in March when I commented following a post of Cleo’s.

I don’t commit to a reading challenge each year, blogging can feel like enough of a chore sometimes without making the reading feel challenging too!

As far as my blog is concerned I posted reviews of 39 books – confirming my suspicion that I am permanently behind and never manage to write / post the reviews at the same speed at which I read.

As well as the book reviews I tried two new things on the blog this year. The first was a series of features on those people who are behind the scenes but are all involved in getting great crime fiction to our shelves / e-readers. This was a popular feature which I will be pressing on with – I have some more interviewees lined up I just need to write the questions for them to answer.

I also built on my ‘Debuts to look out for in 2015‘ with a monthly post featuring forthcoming crime fiction / thriller debuts. Although this was a great way of focussing attention on these new releases it became far too difficult to maintain in the latter part of the year. Perhaps I’ll just do a single ‘2017’ post.

Overall the traffic to my blog has increased, which is great and thank you to all the people who have read, liked and commented. Here’s to more of the same in 2017!

So do you have plans, challenges or goals for your reading and / or blogging in the next year?

Well here we are!

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-20-53-29It wasn’t the smoothest move in the history of the world but I’m now living in my fourth ever county. While it’s not all gone to plan it’s a relief to have got the move done and have the chance to think about what’s next – THE MOVE has been such a big, looming event that it’s been impossible to see past it. Apparently it’s Christmas soon…

I was a reader before I was a blogger and have always had a lot of books; we’ve not unpacked any yet and there are close to 100 boxes still to go (hopefully not all books – there is an elusive cushion I’m still looking for). First we need to buy more shelves so a trip to Ikea is in order, but of course the days before Christmas aren’t the best time to pick. We’ve been here just a week and have managed to get a couple of rooms organised so we can escape from the heaps of boxes filling the other rooms. Small steps…

But at least we’ll have some time off in the next few weeks so we should have the opportunity to get more rooms sorted. And once there are some books unpacked then it’s back to the blog!







Keeping up

Moving house by Derek Mayes

Moving house by Derek Mayes

I’ve not been the most regular or reliable of bloggers. I always have a book on the go and if you check my Goodreads you’ll see that there often a few that I’m part way through but my reviewing can never keep up with the speed at which I read – even though I’m not a particularly prolific reader. There are currently around a dozen books that I’ve read but have yet to review – a situation that makes me feel perpetually guilty! So this post is to serve as a warning that if things go to plan this is a situation that is likely to get worse before it gets better.

With a bit of luck this won’t jinx things but we anticipate that before Christmas everything we own will be packed into a lorry and shipped to a whole new county (county not country – I’m not that brave!). It will be an exciting time and a big change for us but the list of things we need to do to make it happen seems never-ending and getting 12 book reviews posted to my blog is getting further and further down the list.

I’m currently trying to clear the backlog but while I will carry on reading and do intend to review the books I read it’s hard to say when a more ‘normal’ service might be resumed. Watch this space!