2023 Reading Resolutions & Goals

Happy 2023 Everyone!

As is tradition at the start of a new year I’ve decided to set myself some reading targets for the year. As is also tradition these targets will be largely discarded by February but even if I don’t necessarily meet the specific “I will read x books of this type” goals I find it useful to set out what I want to focus on in 2023. This year is mostly about getting caught up and working my way through my backlist books and TBR. I still want to read diversely, venture out of my reading comfort zone and try new authors and genres but my backlist is so out of control that I feel I should really make it my priority for the year ahead.


My Reading Goals for 2023

1. Books/Pages/Hours

For me quality is always more important than quantity so I try not to get too caught up in how many books or pages I’m reading. I don’t necessarily want to read more books this year so I’ve set my target at 100 books and 35,000 pages. This is the same target I’ve used for the past few years and should be pretty achievable for me. Given I’ve been listening to a lot more audiobooks over the last year I’ve set a target of 90 hours. It takes me a while to get through a book on audio so this is probably equivalent to around 9 or 10 books over the year.

2. Translated Fiction

I love translated fiction and some of my all time favourite reads (Travelling Cat Chronicles) have been translated from another language. It gives you a real insight into other cultures and often different writing styles. I didn’t do very well in terms of reading translated fiction during 2022 (I don’t think I read any) so I’d like to pick up at least 6 books during the year. I currently have the following sitting on my tbr so hopefully these will be part of my 6.

3. Non Fiction

One thing I did do better than usual in 2022 was reading (or listening to) non fiction. I listened to a couple of absolutely brilliant memoirs, a travel book and a science/self help book. I’m therefore setting myself the goal or reading at least 6 non fiction books during the year. I have a few ideas (below) but if you have any suggestions for a truly fascinating or inspiring book let me know in the comments. I haven’t read much non fic so chances are I won’t have read whatever you have.

4. Debut/New to Me Authors

I’m always on the lookout for a new favourite author and am keen to support debut authors in particular, it’s a crowded market out there so I’m aiming to read one book by either a debut author or an author who is new to me each month. I have a couple of ideas for books to include on the list and one of my book subscriptions (next goal) is mostly debut fiction so I think it should be easy enough to achieve.

5. Book Subscription books

I currently have 3 book subscriptions on the go at the moment, Illumicrates monthly book only subscription, their Afterlight Romance box which is bi-monthly and a signed fiction subscription from Bert’s Books. Basically I get a lot of books through my letterbox which I am not always great at reading. I still have 20 books from 2022 I have yet to read. I also discovered when moving my bookcase a few months ago that I have half a dozen unread books from a Fairyloot subscription in 2016. As I could really do with a bit more shelf space I need to read and unhaul some of those backlist books and get better at reading new books as they come in. I also need to start skipping months so that I’m not receiving books I have no interest in reading. I’m therefore aiming to read 12 books received last year (or earlier) and read each new book I receive within a month. I’ll also skip at least 6 books.

6. Popsugar 2023 Reading Challenge

Every year I have a bash at the Popsugar Reading Challenge and I have not completed it yet. I’m actually okay with that as I use the prompts more as inspiration rather than anything else. It’s led to me venturing out of my comfort zone and discovering books and genres that weren’t even on my radar. This year’s theme is nostalgia so there are a lot of great prompts that should be easy to meet without a whole lot of searching and a few that are a little more challenging but sound fun. There are as always a few that I’m less keen on, ones requiring a specific publication year or something on the cover but I’m happy to skip those.

7. Owned TBR / Backlist Books

I counted the unread books in my bookcase a few months ago and had over 100, and this is just my physical TBR. I’m too scared to look at my ebook TBR. I’m starting to run out of shelf space and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify buying new books when I have so many books already that I’ve yet to read. I therefore want to knock at least 2 books that I own and bought last year (or earlier) off my TBR each month. So of the 100 books I hope to read this year I want a quarter of those to be backlist books.

8. Stop Buying Books

Just kidding, this is never going to happen particularly as I have vouchers to spend and I literally bought 6 books today (first day of the month means new deals). What I think I’m going to try is being a little less click happy on that buy now button. I’m going to pause to consider if I will actually read the book. I’m also going to try and resist those pretty covers and sprayed edges on special edition books. A pretty cover and a sprayed edge does not mean the story is one I will enjoy. I’m also considering introducing a new book fund, I saw this on Facebook, where for every owned book I finish I add some money to the pot and use that to fund my book buying addiction. Not sure if it’ll work but anything is worth a try.

9. And Finally

Read the books I want to read without guilt and don’t be afraid to DNF. It’s too easy to get sucked into reading the books you think you should be reading (the literary ones, the award winning books, the ones everyone is raving about) rather than reading the books you actually want to read. I also have a bit of a tendency to keep plugging away at a book long beyond the point when I should have given up on it as it’s clearly not for me. 2023 shall be the year of guilt free reading and yeeting the books I’m finding a struggle.


So that’s my bookish goals for the year. Hopefully these will be challenging but achievable for me. If you have any recommendations for books I should read for any of these categories, non fic in particular let me know below.

Do you set yourself reading goals or do you prefer to just read what you want when you want?

2022 Reading Wrap Up – A Year in Graphs

Hi all and a happy new year,

I hope you’re all happy, healthy and looking forward to the start of a New Year, I know I am as 2022 has been a difficult year for me. There’s been a lot of change and uncertainty, a ton of work stress and I lost my horse Charlie unexpectedly during the Summer. Needless to say I was not wholly successful in meeting my reading, or blogging goals for the year. I was probably even more of a mood reader than usual and nice, uplifting comfort reads were very much my go to reads for a lot of the time. I did however manage to track my reads (mostly) for the year, thank you Storygraph, so I thought why not do a reading wrap up of 2022 using some of their graphs.


My 2022 Reading in Graphs

At the start of 2022 I decided to try using Storygraph to track my reads and honestly I’m finding it so much better than Goodreads. It doesn’t have the same community that Goodreads has, yet, but it’s much better in terms of adding/finding books, tracking your progress against reading challenges and producing stats in the form of graphs that you can slot into a blog post 🙂 Every year I set up a spreadsheet to track my reads with the intention of doing some graphs of my reading (I work with numbers so love a graph) and by around the second week of January the spreadsheet has been abandoned. Storygraph has therefore been a godsend, so much so that I’m very tempted to move to “Plus” so I can get some more stats and graphs (I’m currently using the free version). So what do the graphs say about my reading in 2022?

1. Books/Pages Read – 112 books / 39,355 pages

I set my target for the year at 100 books and 35,000 pages but managed to finish a total of 112 books, reading just over 39,000 pages. Work tends to be super busy at the start and end of the year and a little quieter in spring and summer, so the number of books finished in a month ranged from a low of 5 in December to a high of 14 in April. The months with higher reads are also the ones where I was taking part in team reading challenges with Uno running from February to April and Tower Teams from mid May to August.

2. Average Rating – 3.79 Stars

Despite reading 112 books I seem to have only rated 110, no idea what the missing two are and I’m too lazy to check. One of the things I love about Storygraph is that you can give quarter and half stars. I want my books to be pretty much perfect before I’ll give them the full 5 stars so it’s great to have the option for 4.5 and 4.75 stars for those books I loved but weren’t perfect. I ended up only giving 4 books the full 5 stars with 6 getting 4.75 stars and 9 at 4.5 stars. Expect a separate post soon on my favourite reads of the year. The majority of books were around the 4 star mark so despite a couple of truly bad reads (I blame booktok) I’d say most of my books were enjoyable ones.

3. Mood – Mostly uplifting, light hearted books

I’m not entirely sure how accurate the “Mood” categorisations are on Storygraph and I’m pretty sure books appear on this more than once (a single book could be lighthearted, funny and relaxing for example) but I think this does sum up the majority of my reads this year. I was definitely leaning into the easy, uplifting and comforting books this year although there were a few dark and tense reads in there too

4. Most Read Genre / Authors

Given the main moods of my reads over the last year it should be no surprise that Romance and Contemporary were the main genres read this year. Again I’m pretty sure books are double counted and pop up in more than one genre

Given my main genres are romance and contemporary, it’s probably not a shock that 8 of my 10 most read authors write books that are heavy on the romance, with only Martha Wells and Lucy Foley the exceptions. Tessa Bailey and Bea Paige were new authors to me this year. I ended up going on a bit of a series binge with Bea Paige and Ilona Andrews which is why both appear so highly on the list. Tessa Bailey has become a new favourite author so it’s likely she’ll pop up on next year’s list too.

5 Other Stats

I don’t read a lot of non fiction so for four of my books this year to be non fiction is actually a big increase compared to previous years when I’ve maybe managed one or two. Of the four books two were memoirs, one was self help (I think) and the other was travel

Again this one is not really a shock to me. I set my target of 35,000 pages based on 100 books with an average of 350 pages as that tends to be roughly the length of the majority of the books I read. I tend to avoid longer books so I’m not shocked that only 2 books had over 500 pages. I am slightly surprised by how many of my reads this year had less than 300 pages but I guess between Murderbot, a few novellas and shorter romance reads it’s about right.

I haven’t had much focus over the last year (or possibly ever) so slower paced books tend to be a bit of a struggle for me. I wish I had the concentration for them as I know there are some real gems I’m missing out on but every time I try to read a slower paced book I almost always end up having to reread sections or generally avoiding the book.


Overall I’m pretty happy with my reading over the last year. Would I have liked to read more translated fiction, longer books, a larger mix of genres? Yes. But there were times when I was just happy I was managing to read anything and actually enjoying reading. There were some not great books in there but there were some brilliant books in there too. I discovered quite a few new authors, read a few books that were out of my comfort zone, discovered I like memoirs and supported debut authors and indie bookshops.

All in I’m saying it was a good reading year. Here’s hoping 2023 is even better.

Review: The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

Happy Halloween everyone!

This year seems to be really flying in. As it is Halloween I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share my review of one of my favourite reads from the last couple of weeks, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen. It’s You’ve Got Mail but with zombies, well kind of. There’s an enemies to lovers, grumpy sunshine type romance at the centre with a truly unique world and some wonderful secondary characters.


What’s the story…

Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.

Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.

After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most – Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares – each other?


My thoughts

I really, really liked this book. I was very tempted to give it 5 stars based on the ending but I don’t think I can quite justify a perfect rating. It did come very close though as it has all the things I love in a fantasy romance.

I originally spied this on booktok and just loved the sound of it. It’s very much based on the movie You’ve Got Mail with a fantasy twist. Some of the scenes and plot lines could have been almost lifted directly from the film. I just love the whole enemies to lovers thing so it was right up my street. I loved that they hated each other and couldn’t have a single civil conversation but formed such a true connection through their letters.

I liked Mercy a lot but I think I loved Hart the most. He is the grump in this grumpy sunshine relationship but it’s largely surface grumpiness driven by grief, loneliness and fear. Underneath it all he’s a big marshmallow. I really wanted to give him a hug (even though he’d hate it).

Mercy was much more open, upbeat and positive but still a little bit lonely and isolated and carrying so much responsibility with no one to lean on or confide in. Basically they were perfect for each other but were completely clueless. I adored the letters they sent each other. I could very happily have read more of them but I guess then I would have missed out on the fun of the other relationships and secondary characters.

The other characters were for the most part equally lovable (there are a couple of villains in there) and I loved the relationships between them. Highlights for me were Mercy’s sister Lil who is not afraid to speak her mind and is pretty bad ass and the relationship between Hart and apprentice Duckers. The teasing is a lot of fun and it was great to see Hart lightening up and also opening up.

My only slight niggle and the reason I don’t think I can quite give 5 stars is the world building. I do think the world the author has created is wonderful. It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into it and it’s really original. The problem I had is that it was probably too original and there was just too much going on and not all of it was really explained or described.

There are a lot of place names, a whole religion and belief system and a lot of new words and language. Forms of transport, days of the week all seem to have these different words and there are certain things that I never really understood what they were and couldn’t picture.

The story is however strong enough that I could skim over these without it affecting my enjoyment too much. I do think it would have been better if kept a little simpler.

Overall though a very enjoyable read and one I’d definitely recommend

4.5 of 5 stars

Review – Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Happy Sunday all,

I hope you’ve been having a great day. The weather here has not been great this weekend so while I did manage to get out for a nice long walk this morning I’ve had some time to catch up on my reading and write up some reviews (I am very, very behind on my reviews). Today I thought I’d share my review of the brilliant Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney, I noticed it was a kindle daily deal today and it’s set at Halloween so seemed appropriate. I read this a few months ago and absolutely loved it. I think I can safely say it’ll make my list of favourite books this year.


So what’s the story…

Daisy Darker’s family were as dark as dark can be, when one of them died all of them lied and pretended not to see . . .

Daisy Darker is arriving at her grandmother’s house for her eightieth birthday. It is Halloween, and Seaglass – the crumbling Cornish house perched upon its own tiny private island – is at one with the granite rocks it sits on. The Darker family haven’t all been in the same place for over a decade, and when the tide comes in they’ll be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours. When the tide goes back out, nothing will ever be the same again, because one of them is a killer . . .


My thoughts

Wow, wow, wow!!! I’m a big fan of Feeney’s writing so had high expectations of this book but this absolutely blew me away. It’s one of those books that’s going to be buzzing around my head for a while which is quite an achievement considering how common the storyline is.

Like an awful lot of other books that seem to be around at the moment (or possibly it’s just me reading these kinds of stories) this has an And Then There Were None feel to it. A group of people, a family this time, go to a remote location for a celebration but one by one they end up dead. Has someone else snuck in or is there a killer in their midst.

I absolutely love these kind of stories and Feeney really does it so well. It seems to be a pretty common theme at the moment but somehow the author makes it very much her own. Her writing is brilliant and I found myself constantly highlighting sentences or paragraphs that I absolutely loved or that rang true to me.

There’s a very limited cast of characters in this story, Nana whose birthday they are there to celebrate, her son and his ex wife Nancy, their 3 daughters, Rose, Lily and Daisy and Lily’s daughter Trixie. As you can probably guess from the title the whole story is told by Daisy, the youngest granddaughter and the only one who seems to actually like Nana.

Daisy is, in fact, one of the few characters in this story who is in any way likeable and even then I had my doubts about how reliable a narrator she was. Almost every character in this story is horrible in one way or another. Vain, selfish, manipulative, greedy or cold, this is not a happy or loving family by any stretch of the imagination.

Ostensibly they’re there to celebrate nana’s 80th birthday but as nana believes she may not live much longer they’re really there to find out what’s in her will and they are really not happy when they discover exactly what they’re getting. When the clock strikes midnight one of them is found dead, and then another an hour later. It seems clear there’s a murderer in their midst.

I absolutely loved the way the author made this book so unique. Nana wrote children’s books and rhymes so there are grisly little poems scattered throughout signalling each characters fate. I also loved the way we learn more of the family’s backstory, and how the relationships between them broke down, through both Daisy’s memories and also through the home movies someone is leaving for them with cryptic notes attached. It really brought each of the characters to life in all of their horrible glory.

If I had one criticism of this book it’s that I found my attention wandering a little around the halfway point. I think the characters were just so unlikeable it was difficult to be overly concerned about who would be next (or why someone was killing them). The story became a little repetitive, the remaining characters would reminisce about an event 20 years ago, then one would die, they’d watch a home movie, another would die and so on. It was difficult to see how the author could build the tension back up for the big finish.

However, when the big reveal came it blew everything out of the water. I had an inkling of who was behind it and I was partially right but also completely wrong. No spoilers but the ending of this story was brilliant and completely made up for the niggles I had along the way.

Overall, this was brilliant and unexpected and I feel like I want to read it all over again. Definitely one I’d recommend.

Thanks to netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Posten

Hi lovely people

As it’s spooky season it seems like the perfect time to post my review of The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of this via NetGalley and actually read it back in July of this year (safe to say I’m a little bit behind on posting reviews) however I feel like this is more of an autumn read anyway and I think is perfect for anyone looking for a ghost story that’s more romance than spook fest.


So what’s the story….

Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead… but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.


My thoughts…

While I was extremely excited about this book, I have to confess that having now finished it I’m a little unsure what I think about it. I guess overall I did enjoy it, it has the quirky premise I love, some funny and emotional moments and is quite sweet. However, I found my attention occasionally wandering while I was reading, particularly at the start, and it was only really at the end I found myself fully engaged in the story.

It’s possibly a personal taste thing rather than an issue with the writing itself but I found it a little too heavy on the narrative and descriptions in the first part of the book. My brain does not like lots of descriptions (they go in, then straight back out and I remember nothing) so detail on character appearance and setting is lost on me and I have a tendency to lose focus. Skip the descriptions and give me lots of action and dialogue and I’m a happy reader.

Anyway, once I got past the bit at the beginning it becomes a much more enjoyable story. I’m sure I saw a synopsis or review saying it was like the movie Ghost but for me it was probably more a combination of The Sixth Sense and, one of my favourite films, Just Like Heaven. Main character Florence Day, is a ghostwriter for a famous romance author who has the ability to see ghosts. Having had a really bad break up, she believes love is dead which is not great when you’re on a deadline to write the big ending of a romance novel and your new hot editor refuses to give you an extension. When tragedy strikes and she has to return home to the town she fled 10 years ago she gets a bit of a surprise when the ghost who turns up on the doorstep of her family’s funeral parlour is that of her editor.

For the most part I did find Florence pretty likeable. Given her unique ability she is a little bit different and I do like a quirky and different character. I did at times feel like this quirkiness was played up a little too much in the story and certain aspects of her personality seemed a little contradictory which made it difficult to really understand her. Ghostly editor and love interest Benji was much easier to like. He has his own baggage but generally seems a lot more straightforward which was nice.

I really liked the relationship that developed between them. It’s a bit of a slow burn, probably necessarily so given he’s a ghost, which is definitely a plus and I thought they complemented each other perfectly. I will say however that I didn’t feel any real spark between them, and the spice is fairly minimal (although I guess that’s also ghost related).

The highlights of this story for me though were Florence’s other relationships and the way she develops over the course of the novel. I really enjoyed reading the sections with her family and the relationships between Florence and her siblings in particular. I also loved that Florence’s family ran the local funeral home and were very much at the heart of the community. I thought the way that affected their lives and view of death was incredibly well portrayed by the author. It definitely brings a different perspective to things.

This is an emotional read at times but there are quite a few funny moments too and it never gets too heavy. The overall feel of the book is hopeful and uplifting rather than a sob fest. Yes, I did shed a few tears here and there (although not at the parts you may expect) but I also laughed out loud.

Overall an enjoyable read that I’d recommend to anyone.

Thanks to Netgalley and publisher giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

October TBR

Hello lovely people,

I can’t believe it’s October already, this year seems to be flying past (or maybe I’m just getting old). I always love this time of year, yes it seems to be permanently cold and dark outside but it’s the perfect season for curling up inside with a good book. The beginning of October also marks the start of spooky season and I’m really looking forward to some creepy reads this month.


First up I have some recent physical book purchases that I’m really excited about. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen is one that I’ve been seeing all over booktok in the last couple of months. I have a feeling it’s more of a romance than a spooky read despite one of the main characters working in an undertakers but it has all of the tropes I love. It sounds like a supernatural You’ve Got Mail and I need something a little bit light and fluffy.

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean actually came in last month’s Illumicrate box. I’ve already read a few pages from a library copy and really liked the writing style. It sounds very unique and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Juniper and Thorn by Ava Reid although to be honest I’m a fan of historic gothic horror so will give any book in that genre a read.

I also have a few e-ARCs from NetGalley I’ve been saving for October (OK I haven’t been saving them I just haven’t gotten to them yet). I was a big fan of C.A. Fletcher’s A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World so as soon as I saw a new book from him, Dead Water, I couldn’t resist requesting. I have to admit CJ Cooke’s The Ghost Woods and The Butcher and the Wren by Alaina Urquhart were impulse requests.

I’m not sure it counts as a “spooky” read but it has the word spells in the title so I’m counting it. I loved Adrienne Young’s Fable duology so have high hopes for Spells For Forgetting. I also have probably too high expectations for Catherine Ryan Howard’s Run Time. I went on a bit of a Ryan Howard binge read last year so I’ve been not very patiently waiting on something new from her.

Stone Blind will be the first book I’ve read by Natalie Haynes despite the fact I already own more than one of her other books. There seem to be a whole lot of Greek mythology books around at the moment but I don’t think I’ve come across any that tell Medusa’s story. There was a brief mention of her in Ariadne which was enough to suggest that she is more than the monster she’s presented to be. I’m looking forward to reading her story.


Given my inability to stick to a TBR and how crazy I know work is going to be over the next couple of months I’m going to leave it at 9 books. There’s a strong possibility I’ll wander off or do some substitutions (my full TBR is out of control so I have lots of options) but hopefully I’ll manage the majority of them.

Have you read any of these? Are there any you’d recommend I move to the top of my list?

Let me know below

Bloody Scotland: 2022 McIlvanney Prize Finalist Blog Tour – Extract from Liam McIlvanney’s The Heretic

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize blog tour with an extract from The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney, one of the four books shortlisted for the award this year.

Those who follow this blog will know that Bloody Scotland, Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, is one of my favourite bookish events of the year. I’m a big fan of crime fiction so it’s a great opportunity to see lots of my favourite authors and it’s always a really relaxed and fun atmosphere. This year is Bloody Scotland’s 10th Anniversary so it should be extra special with events over four days from the 15th to the 18th September and, if you can’t make it to Stirling (or like me haven’t figured out how to attend multiple panels at the same time), almost everything is available to watch online with a digital pass. Details of all events and tickets can be found on the website – here

One of the first events as always is the award of the McIlvanney prize which recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing. This year’s finalists are

  • Liam McIlvanney – The Heretic (HarperCollins)
  • Alan Parks – May God Forgive (Canongate)
  • Ambrose Parry – A Corruption of Blood (Canongate)
  • Louise Welsh – The Second Cut (Canongate)

Today I’m fortunate to be able to share an extract from The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney. This is the sequel to The Quaker which won the McIlvanney prize way back in 2018. I read this book almost a year ago and loved it. It’s dark and gritty Scottish Noir at its finest, with a complex plot and brilliant writing which brings both the characters and the setting to life.


The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney

Synopsis

Glasgow 1975

A deadly fire
An arson attack on a Glasgow warehouse causes the deaths of a young mother and child. Police suspect it’s the latest act in a brutal gang warfare that’s tearing the city apart – one that DI Duncan McCormack has been tasked with stopping.

A brutal murder
Five years ago he was walking on water as the cop who tracked down a notorious serial killer. But he made powerful enemies and when a mutilated body is found in a Tradeston slum, McCormack is assigned a case that no one wants. The dead man is wearing a masonic ring, though, and Duncan realizes the victim is not the down-and-out his boss had first assumed.

A catastrophic explosion
As McCormack looks into both crimes, the investigations are disrupted by a shocking event. A bomb rips through a pub packed with people – and a cop is killed in the blast. The cases are stacking up and with one of his own unit now dead, McCormack is in the firing line.

But he’s starting to see a thread – one that connects all three attacks…


Extract

Duncan McCormack was running. Like a man possessed, like a man with the Furies at his heels. Up Hyndland Road past the parish church, then down Novar Drive with the big chimney of Gartnavel Hospital rearing up over the tenements.

Left down Lauderdale Gardens with his breath pegging in ragged gasps, his knees jolting. Past the bowling club with its perfect square of turf, its green-and-white timbered pavilion, and round into Queensborough Gardens before cutting sharp left down a lane between tenement blocks. He never entered this lane without thinking of that other lane, the one in Battlefield where they found the Quaker’s first victim.

Bursting out onto Clarence Drive he heard, too late, the mosquito drone of an electric milk float that braked to miss him – chink and rattle of bottles and crates, muffled curse of the driver – and McCormack raised his hand in apology before sprinting off past Hyndland Academy, looping round a leafy crescent of villas and back onto Partickhill Road.

He stopped at the junction with Gardner Street and checked his watch. Twenty-seven minutes and twenty seconds. He had shaved nearly a minute off his time in the past two weeks.

He planted his hands on his knees and bent over, sucking lungfuls of air, feeling the blood pool in his face and head, sweat spotting the pavement. Finally he straightened up and took it in.

The view.

The best view in the city, the view that made the run worth­while. The sandstone canyon of Gardner Street dropped away like a ski-jump. The city’s steepest street. Down at the foot of the hill was the early traffic on Dumbarton Road. If you raised your eyes you could see the river and the cranes and the green hills of Ayrshire down to the south.

The South.

If you kept going, down past the Borders and Yorkshire and the English Midlands and Oxfordshire, you would reach the grey spreading stain of London. And Peckham. And the little brick house with the wooden gate on Marsden Road. And the stone-flagged path to the green front door with the cracked pane of stained glass and maybe a head bobbing into view behind the glass, a head with curly brown hair above green eyes, eyes that crinkled at the corners when the mouth creased in a smile.

Fuck it. Stop. He turned away from the view. Lifted the hem of his T-shirt and wiped his face with it, the breeze chilling his sweat-slick ribs. He set off down Gardner Street, turned left onto Caird Drive. There was no point thinking about that. Brown hair. Green eyes. No point thinking about what you’d lost. Think about what you still had to find. What you’d come back to find. The job was to find Walter Maitland. This was how he thought of it. Not nailing Maitland or catching Maitland. Finding Maitland.

In one sense, finding Walter Maitland was easy. He lived in a big house in Bearsden. You could march up his driveway and knock on his door. But finding Walter Maitland in his crimes? That was the challenge. McCormack thought of all the malfeasance in the city – drugs, protection, gambling, girls – stretching in all directions like a dark labyrinth. And the beast who prowled it, the Glasgow Minotaur, was Walter Stuart Maitland. McCormack had been stalking its corridors for months, turning down its dog-legs and dead ends, doubling back on himself. No nearer, it seemed, to the beast at its heart.

He was climbing the short flight of steps to number 43 when a car door opened.

‘Sir!’

McCormack whipped round. ‘DC Nicol?’ He made a show of scanning the street. ‘People will talk. Parked outside the boss’s flat at seven in the morning?’

She smiled tightly, looked at her watch. ‘Twenty past, sir.’

‘What’s the word, then, Detective? What’s happened?’

She was standing beside the car now. ‘A murder, sir. Down Crawford Street. A man. Haddow’s assigned it to us. You were on the way, so I thought I’d stop.’

‘OK. Look, come up to the flat, have a quick cup of tea. I’ll get changed.’

Nicol checked her watch. McCormack rested his hands on his hips. ‘He’ll still be dead in fifteen minutes, Nicol. Come on.’

She locked the car. He led the way up the stairs, conscious now of his sweat, his laboured breathing, shaking loose his bunch of keys.

‘Sorry, it’s right at the top.’

‘It always is, sir.’ McCormack nodded. It was true. ‘Every call-out. Fourth bloody floor. Why does nothing happen at ground level in this city? It’s as if crime rises, like the bloody heat.’


About the Author

Liam McIlvanney was born in Scotland and studied at the universities of Glasgow and Oxford. He has written for numerous publications, including the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian. His debut, Burns the Radical, won the Saltire First Book Award. His second novel, Where the Dead Men Go, won the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best New Zealand Crime Novel. His novel, The Quaker, won the 2018 McIlvanney Prize for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year. He is Stuart Professor of Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He lives in Dunedin with his wife and four sons


The tour continues…

Summer TBR: 20 Books of Summer 2022

Hello lovely people,

I hope you’re all doing well. It seems like forever since I posted so apologies for my latest disappearing act. I seem to appear every 3 months with a seasonal TBR then disappear again. Things have however calmed down a little at work, I’m reading a lot more, taking part in challenges and have a few ideas for posts so hopefully I’ll start posting (or just floating around the blogosphere) a lot more.

For a little bit of extra motivation I’ve decided to try and combine my Summer TBR with the 20 Books of Summer challenge, hosted by Cath at 746 books. It seems like a fun, relatively low pressure way to knock some books off the TBR mountain over the summer months and I’m hoping that by posting regular updates it’ll force encourage me to be a lot more active here.

This will be my first time participating so of course I’m being overly ambitious and aiming for the full monty (there are options for 10 or 15 books). I’m also putting a bit of a twist on it and aiming for 20 books from my physical TBR. I’ve been buying sooo many books lately (I blame the special editions and sprayed edges) and have a couple of book subscriptions on the go so I had a lot of books to choose from. Narrowing it down to 20 was not easy and I suspect there may be some substitutions along the way but at the moment this is my list.

Hopefully I’ve got a really good mix of different books on the list and there are a couple I am very excited about so I’m sure I’ll be able to find something to fit my mood (I’m v much a mood reader). Have you read any of these or are there any you’re looking forward to reading yourself? Let me know in the comments below.

Ali x

Spring TBR

Hello lovely people,

It’s the first day of March, the sun is shining and everything is starting to seem a little bit brighter so I think it’s time for a Spring TBR post. I’ve been working a lot of hours over the last couple of months so I’ve not had a lot of time (or focus) for reading but I’ve been doing quite a lot of book buying. I’ve also picked up a few ARCs that I’m really looking forward to and have been venturing more and more onto Book-tok which has added a LOT of interesting books to my TBR mountain.


ARCs

Lets kick off with the ARCs, I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a few of my most anticipated reads.

  • The Atlas Six by Olivia Blake – I’ve seen this talked about a lot on book-tok, so given I’ve been taking pretty much any recommendation I see on there I thought why not and pre ordered it. Then it appeared on Netgalley so I requested it there too and my request was granted. Anyway, there’s a competition, magic, a library, sounds fab.
  • Mad About You by Mhairi McFarlane – McFarlane is an autobuy author for me. I absolutely adore her books, they tend to be marketed as rom-coms or chick lit but I don’t think this captures all that they are. There is so much depth and emotion and they have a tendency to deal with some difficult themes. Previous book Just Last Night had me in bits with how it dealt with grief and friendship. I was hoping this would be a little more cheerful but I’ve already heard people saying they were sobbing so I shall have tissues at the ready.
  • First Born by Will Dean – I really feel like I should get up to speed on Dean’s back catalogue. I’ve only read his previous standalone, Last Thing to Burn, but it was absolutely brilliant. It probably had one of the most vile and disgusting villain’s that I think I’ve ever read and it made for gripping reading. I have a feeling that First Born will be the same, it has twins, mystery, death and secrets. I am very excited.
  • Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough – It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Pinborough, possibly Behind Her Eyes, but I do love her writing and she knows how to write a great thriller so this should be good.

Book Subscriptions

Because I clearly don’t have enough books to read… ahem… I started a couple of monthly book subscriptions at the end of last year. One is a Bert’s books debut fiction subscription and the other is Illumicrate. I’ve had book subscriptions before and had to give them up as I was always falling behind so this year I set myself the goal of reading the month’s book within a month of actually receiving it.

  • The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews – I have accidentally ended up with two copies of this as I spied it in the bookstore and couldn’t resist buying it (I had a voucher), then a second copy arrived through the door as February’s Bert’s Books pick. I guess it does mean I really want to read it, I love the sound of a story that combines fantasy, gothic and historical.
  • A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross – This just arrived from Illumicrate today and was a bit of a surprise but I’m kind of tempted to read right away. I loved Rebecca Ross’ previous series and having read the synopsis it sounds really good. It’s the first adult fantasy from the author which I take to mean “contains spice” plus it has the enemies forced to work together thing which is one of my fave tropes.
  • Little Thieves by Margaret Owen – I received this in November (I think) but haven’t quite gotten around to reading as yet. I was on a Zodiac Academy / Plated Prisoner binge read so was OD-ing on fantasy. I’ve also been a little off YA fantasy but this is a retelling so I will almost definitely read it and love it.
  • This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi – I’m a little on the fence about reading this as it’s the first in a trilogy. It does sound good but I’ve been trying to wait till all of the books in a series (or most) are out before diving in. It’s highly likely if they’re not I’ll never finish the series.

Recent Purchases

Waterstones half price hardback sale was a bit of a killer for me. I bought more books than I should have considering the number of books I already own but have yet to read. I’ve also discovered that I am completely unable to resist a book with a sprayed or stencilled edge, something I am pretty sure the publishers have now realised. If a book has a pretty cover and a stencilled edge, I’ll buy it, probably without even checking what it’s about.

  • The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett – Hallett’s debut book The Appeal was one of those happy discoveries for me last year. It was one I’d seen a few people rave about but only got around to picking up when it was chosen as a Bloody Scotland bookclub read. I borrowed from the library, thought I’ll read a few pages see what it’s like and of course ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. Needless to say as soon as I finished I pre ordered The Twyford Code. One of the things I loved about The Appeal was the unusual format and as far as I can tell Hallett has done something similar with this one. I do love a book with an unusual format and the reviews I’ve read so far have all been positive.
  • The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont – This is one I picked in large part due to the stencilled edges. I am loving mysteries and thillers at the moment so that was a big draw and I do like the idea of this book, a reimagining of what happened during those 11 days when Agatha Christie went missing.
  • Ariadne by Jennifer Saint – I absolutely love mythology and have heard a lot of good things about this (I’ve also heard a few not so great things but I’m opting to ignore them and judge for myself).
  • Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune – I literally only read The House in the Cerulean Sea a couple of weeks ago but it was love at first page. There was something so warm and happy about the writing. I was feeling very stressed and a bit anxious and it was the hug in book form I really needed. From what I’ve heard Under the Whispering Door could be a little sadder and will no doubt make me cry but I don’t care.

Audiobooks

I’m managing to get out and about a bit more so I’ve been really enjoying having a book in my ear when I’m driving or out for a walk. It still seems to take me a while to get through them so I tend to be selective in my picks but there seem to be lots of really intriguing ones being published at the mo.

  • The Maid by Nita Prose – There’s been a LOT of buzz around this book and yep I have totally fallen for it. It has a mystery at the centre of it but also a very unique sounding main character. I’m always on the lookout for books that are a little bit different so this is just the kind of story I’m looking for. Here’s hoping it lives up to expectations.
  • Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes – I have to confess I’d lost some of the love for Marian Keyes’ books recently. I will always love her early books about the Walsh family but I have found her more recent novels a bit of a struggle. That was, until I listened to her last book, Grown Ups, on audio and really enjoyed it. Keyes narrates it herself and is somehow good at it, something not all authors are. Again, Rachel therefore has double appeal to me having both Keyes as narrator and featuring the Walsh family.
  • The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley – This is actually a similar one to Marian Keyes, I read and enjoyed The Hunting Party but didn’t love it and then I listened to The Guest List on audio and it was so much better. The narration somehow brought the characters to life in a way that reading it somehow failed to do. As I had a couple of audible credits I thought The Paris Apartment would be a good shout.
  • The No-Show by Beth O’Leary – I listened to O’Leary’s previous book The Road Trip on audio last year and really enjoyed it so I think I’m probably also going to go for her new book in the same format.

So that’s my spring reading plans. I am also doing a team reading challenge at the moment so fully anticipate it pushing me into new and unusual directions but hopefully I’ve left myself enough space to squeeze in whatever I need to.

Have you read any of these? Should I push any to the top of my list?

Let me know below

Autumn TBR

Hello all,

I’m back. I apologise for being MIA yet again and I would promise I’m sticking around but I can’t honestly say I won’t disappear again. Working from home is really not conducive to blogging. The last thing I want to do after a long day/week sitting in my house in front of a laptop is spend my evenings/weekends sitting in my house in front of a laptop. I will however endeavour to post a bit more than once every three months.

Anyway, having failed miserably at both blogging and reading the books on my summer TBR (I read 4 of 16) I’m back to try yet again with an Autumn (Fall for those of you in the US) TBR. Autumn is my absolute favourite time of the year. I’m a big fan of jumpers, boots and keeping cosy indoors with a good book. I always look forward to October in particular and picking up those chilling and creepy novels I’ve been saving up for spooky season. Needless to say you can expect a few books with ghosts, witches and maybe the odd vampire in the list that follows.


Bookshelf books

I am unable to resist a pretty cover or a signed special edition so despite the huge number of books I own and have yet to read I’ve picked up quite a few new books in the last few weeks. It’s not my fault, they shouldn’t be releasing so many tempting books all at the same time although I have to admit my visit to Bloody Scotland last weekend and new signed fiction subscription at Bert’s Books probably haven’t helped.

  • Hyde by Craig Russell – Winner of Crime Book of the year at Bloody Scotland this is a book that I’ve been tempted to pick up for a while. I don’t typically go for historical fiction but I loved his previous book The Devil Aspect and I can never resist a book inspired by a classic or fairytale.
  • Horseman by Christina Henry – Another “inspired by” story, this time based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Henry is an autobuy author for me. If she writes it, I’ll read it. It’s also a very pretty book with red sprayed edges.
  • Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff – I pre-ordered a copy of this months ago and am very excited/scared to get stuck in. It is mahoosive which is slightly off putting but early reviews have all been raving about it so I’ll probably dive in soon.
  • Five Minds by Guy Morpuss – This is the September book from Bert’s Books and while I hadn’t heard of it before it landed on my doormat I am very excited to read it (I think it’s going to be up first of all the books on this list). It’s a mix of science fiction and murder mystery with a really unique premise (and I love a unique premise) of five minds inhabiting one body.
  • Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber – Technically hasn’t arrived yet but I pre-ordered a few months ago so should be here soon. I was a big fan of the author’s Caraval series and this seems to be set in the same world so has been one of my most anticipated books

ARCS

I still have rather a lot of ARCs sitting waiting to read, some of which are not exactly ARCs anymore as the book has been out for a while.

  • Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney – I really should have read this by now. I’m a big fan of Feeney’s books and it sounds like a great story.
  • The Doll by Yrsa Sigurdardottir – This will be my first venture into this author’s work. I can never resist a creepy doll story so I’m hoping this lives up to expectations
  • The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynne Barnes – I really liked The Inheritance Games, it did have the obligatory love triangle but the mystery side of it was great, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for the sequel.
  • The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles – I have somewhat mixed feelings on this one. I loved A Gentleman in Moscow but it was very character driven and slow. I suspect this may be similar so I’ll probably need to be in the right mood for it.
  • Opal Country by Chris Hammer – This will also be a new author to me but I’ve heard a lot of great things about his books and have loved the other Australian crime fiction I’ve read so I’m looking forward to it.

Backlist books

I have a ridiculous number of books sitting on my kindle unread so I decided to move some into an Autumn TBR folder in the hope it’d be less overwhelming. I ended up with 40 books!! Even I am not delusional enough to think I’m going to read 40 books in the next couple of months (I average 1 or 2 books a week) so these are the ones I think are the most likely.

  • The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir – I bought this on a bit of a whim. It sounded quite creepy and I like translated fiction so fingers crossed.
  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver – Everyone seems to rave over this book so I think it’s finally time to read it and see if it lives up to the hype.
  • My Best Friends Exorcism by Grady Hendrix – I read The Final Girl’s Support Group a month or so ago and really enjoyed it so I’m planning to work through the author’s backlist starting with this one. I’m a child of the 80s so I love books set in that time period, am looking forward to lots of references.
  • House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland – I bought this a while back and, like many of the books I’ve bought, have been meaning to read it for a while. It’s been picked as a book of the month in one of my Goodreads groups though so that should give me the push I’ve been needing to finally read it.
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Another book I bought a while back based on all of the rave reviews. I do love a bit of a gothic horror and this sounds very similar to another book I read last year and really loved.
  • Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan – An author I follow on Twitter was raving about this book so I bought it (it really doesn’t take much to convince me to buy a book). I do absolutely love the cover and I believe there’s a sequel coming out soon so…

Audiobooks

Finally, I have a few audio books lined up on audible.

  • The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary – This was actually on my Summer TBR but I have now downloaded it onto my phone so it’s absolutely definitely (well maybe) going to be up soon
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming – This is a bit of a cheat as I’m around halfway through it already. It’s a little bit dated (the portrayal of women is not great) but David Tennant narrates so that’s making up for any shortfalls in the story.
  • Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell – I had quite a few audible credits so used them to pick up the first three books in this series on the recommendation of someone on Goodreads. I’ve heard the narrator is excellent so here’s hoping the series is too.

I suspect I’m being a little overly optimistic with this list and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll wander off (it’s a little light on romance) but I am hoping I can read the majority of the books on this list (or at least do better than I did with my summer TBR). Hopefully I’ll also manage to get caught up on some reviews and manage to blog a bit more frequently.

Have you read any of these? Any recommendations on where I should start? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Reading

Ax