Twenty Books of Summer 2021

Better late than never with formally signing up to and producing my selection for this years 20 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy over at 746Books. I have been dithering about what I want to read for so long, and have decided that I will pick from a selection of 25 books, which allows me to put aside any duds or things I’m just not in the mood for at that moment.

THE LIST

PART 1 – Kindle editions

Civilisations by Laurent Binet (bought in 2021 – 311 pages)

I really enjoyed his novel HhHH (capitalisation may be incorrect but I’m too lazy to check) and thought I would try another. This is a counterfactual story (I’m a sucker for those) and it will be good to read some European literature.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – The Locked Tomb #2 (bought in 2020 – 512 pages)

I read the first book in this series during last year’s challenge so it seemed only fitting to include this one here.

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford (bought in 2021 – 336 pages)

This has an interesting premise, as it looks at the infinite possibilities of five lives during the 20th century in London. Will I be able to read this without comparing it to Kate Atkinson? Perhaps….

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi (bought in 2020 – 341 pages)

There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. Irresistible.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (bought in 2020 – 463 pages)

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. Ooh, interesting!

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (bought in 2020 – 574 pages)

I love David Mitchell. I love books about rock bands. No contest, but how will this measure up to my all-time favourite Espedair Street – we will see….

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer – Borne #2 (bought in 2019 – 352 pages)

I adored Borne and will read anything set in the same universe, so here we are!

Comet Weather by Liz Williams (bought in 2020 – 304 pages)

There’s a comet. There are four sisters. There is a missing mother who used to be a Vogue cover model. It has a gorgeous tree on the cover. People I admire have given it good reviews. It’s on the list!

The Fifth Queen by Ford Madox Ford (bought in 2011 – 624 pages)

If you have been around here for a while you will know that the 16th century is my jam (I will not bore you with my dissertation title) and of course the Six Wives are a topic of interest. Kat Howard is the one I know least about and this novel comes recommended.

Queen of the Underworld by Gail Godwin (bought in 2012 – 368 pages)

I used to devour Gail Godwin’s books but haven’t read one in a while. This is apparently sultry literary fiction so ideal for summer. Probably.

Rustication by Charles Palliser (bought in 2014 – 337 pages)

It is winter 1863, and Richard Shenstone, aged seventeen, has been sent down—”rusticated”—from Cambridge under a cloud of suspicion. Addicted to opium and tormented by sexual desire, he finds temporary refuge in a dilapidated old mansion on the southern English coast inhabited by his newly impoverished mother and his sister, Effie. Soon, graphic and threatening letters begin to circulate among his neighbors, and Richard finds himself the leading suspect in a series of crimes and misdemeanors ranging from vivisection to murder. Enough said.

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand (bought in 2015 – 148 pages)

More music, this time acid-folk, the big break and a lead singer that goes missing… Gothic.

Winter Journal by Paul Auster (bought in 2017 – 240 pages)

Facing his sixty-third winter, internationally acclaimed novelist Paul Auster sits down to write a history of his body and its sensations both pleasurable and painful. I will be 60 in January. Aches and pains are a way of life.

Blackwater by Michael McDowell (bought in 2017 – 895 pages)

Blackwater traces more than fifty years in the lives of the powerful Caskey family of Perdido, Alabama, under the influence of the mysterious and beautiful—but not quite human—Elinor Dammert. I read my first McDowell novel not that long ago and loved his style. This is apparently very cool and I’m looking forward to picking it up.

1974 by David Peace (bought in 2018 – 322 pages)

It’s winter, 1974, Yorkshire, and Eddie Dunford’s got the job he wanted – crime correspondent for the Yorkshire Evening Post. He didn’t know it was going to be a season in hell. I have never read David Peace so thought I would start here.


PART 2 – Physical books

Touch by Claire North (published in 2015, signed by the author at a launch event – 426 pages)

Claire North is a delight and I have loved everything of hers that I have read. She was fun to meet and I’m sorry I still haven’t read this yet…

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni (a 2020 Christmas gift – 345 pages)

This is giving me serious The Historian vibes and I have no idea whether that’s accurate or not, but I am happy to give it a try.

A Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang (a Christmas gift – 352 pages)

The year is 1924, and Lieutenant Eric Peterkin, formerly of the Royal Fusiliers, is a new member of the Britannia―London’s most prestigious club. It’s a family tradition, but an honor he’s not sure he quite deserves. So, when a gentleman’s wager ends with one man dead in the vault under the club, Eric is only too ready to tackle the mystery head on.

Empire State by Adam Christopher (a Christmas gift – 439 pages)

Energy blasts. Holes in reality. Parallel New York. Unstable rifts. Fighting to survive. Awesome.

Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird (bought on holiday back home in Scotland – 317 pages)

I cannot, I repeat, cannot, resist a Holmes pastiche/reinvention/homage. Also the covers for this series are great.

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yakamoto (borrowed from my husband – 189 pages)

1937 Japan. Impending nuptials. Sinister masked men. Recommended by Mr B so obviously on the list!

Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt (bought in 2020 – 346 pages)

I’ve long wanted to read Siri Hustvedt but never been sure where to start; 1970s New York seems like a good place.

Our Friends in Berlin by Anthony Quinn (bought in 2020 – 280 pages)

I picked up this spy thriller set in 1941 London when I realised that I was going to read one of the later books in the series, and I am nothing ig not someone who likes to start at the beginning.

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (bought in I know not when – 283 pages)

 It wouldn’t be summer without a decent haunted house novel, would it?

Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago (bought in absolutely no idea – 196 pages)

What happens when on the first day of the year Death goes on strike and it looks like folks have achieved immortality? Nothing good I suspect. 


So that’s it – a long one but hopefully of interest. I am going to try really hard to review what I read as part of this challenge, so watch this space!

My Week – ending Sunday 9 May

Otherwise known as a better late than never post!

Last week we had so much rain but I have turned into a person who says that “at least it’s good for the garden” – what have I become 😀 ?

I also had my second Covid-19 vaccination and all is well. My arm was a bit sore and I was very, very tired but all of that passed within 36 hours and I’ve been raring to go ever since.

I’ve also been trying to get back into walking daily, and part of the fun of that for me (besides listening to podcasts or audiobooks) is interacting with local pets and wildlife. I’ve been noticing a greater variety of birds in our garden, but our neighbourhood black cat resolutely ignores me whenever I see him on his daily patrol. I was sleepily regarded by a small fox curled up in the warm sunshine. We don’t normally see them during broad daylight, but it was a gorgeous animal and I’m glad I spotted it, though I wish I’d taken a photo

Yesterday (Tuesday) after a visit to the dentist I walked part of the way home along the Thames. Lovely.

Kingston riverside, Tuesday 11 May

But onto the books

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and finished two novels, the first in the Ava Lee series by Ian Hamilton and yet another in the Robert Hunter series by Chris Carter.

I really enjoyed reading about Ava Lee, a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who goes after missing money for private clients. It was fast paced and took the reader from Toronto to Hong Kong to Guyana to the British Virgin Islands and back again. I loved all the money stuff and the technicalities of finding out where it might be hidden, so much so that I managed to overcome two of my pet peeves which appeared right at the beginning of the story – irrelevant information about Ava’s breast size and the use of the word panties; I loathe that word. Anyway, I have already bought the next book and I expect to continue with the series.

I’m currently reading the very next Robert Hunter thriller and will round up the series when I have finished all 9, or is it 10. Still enjoying them but they are not for anyone who can’t handle graphic violence. 50+ years of reading horror has been good practice.

I’m also currently reading Greg Jenner’s Dead Famous, a book about celebrity over the ages and how as a concept it’s not as modern as we might think it is. Great fun and thought provoking, and I’m looking forward to seeing how his theories develop. A wee taste:

CELEBRITY (noun): A unique persona made widely known to the public via media coverage, and whose life is publicly consumed as dramatic entertainment, and whose commercial brand is profitable for those who exploit their popularity, and perhaps also for themselves.

So that’s more or less my week. Hope you are well and staying safe!

Catching up – February movies


Spider-Man: Far From Home [2109]

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.

I am very much a fan of and adherent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which often pains me as before all of these movies hit the screen way back when I had been staunchly a DC girl. Of the Marvel heroes Spider-Man was probably the one I knew best, and I have watched most of the Toby Maguire, all of the Andrew Garfield and the first Tom Holland films. It’s taken me a while to get to this latest one but I’m pleased to say that it was great fun, especially for a London-based viewer who enjoys trying to work out how they think the city works. Elevated by the presence of Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio and featuring the best Tower Bridge action since Northing Important Happened Today by Will Carver. Good Saturday night movie.

Directed by Jon Watts, SM: FFH is 2h 9 and rated 12A.


News of the World [2020]

A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.

I have a complicated relationship with Westerns because my late Dad was a huge fan and I was brought up on a diet of John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Randolph Scott et al and I was burned out at a relatively early age. But the Western has changed and I am back in the fold. Cue Tom Hanks as a veteran of the Civil War who has seen A Lot and travels the West bringing news to isolated communities. He comes across a young girl and agrees (well, is kind of forced) to reunite her with her family, but of course that isn’t easy and there are some nasty folks out there. Elegiac and more violent than I expected from a Tom Hanks movie, I thought this was very well done and the ending in particular worked well. I may have shouted “GO BACK” at one point, and he must have heard me because he did.

Directed by Paul Greengrass, News of the World is 1h 58 and rated 12A


Wind River [2017]

A veteran hunter helps an FBI agent investigate the murder of a young woman on a Wyoming Native American reservation.

I have reservations about Jeremy Renner; I just do not warm to him at all though I have enjoyed several of the films in which he has appeared. Having said that I thought he was really good in Wind River, a film I missed first time out and came to now because of my girl crush on Elizabeth Olsen.

I really admire Taylor Sheridan having loved both Sicario and Hell or High Water so this is a hidden gem as far as I’m concerned. Will watch again.

Directed by Taylor SheridanWind River is 1h 47 long and rated 15

April in Review

Here we are with a quarter of the year already gone and it’s time for another monthly round-up.

April was a good month for bookish matters.

The Stats

  • Books read = 8
  • Pages read = 2846
  • Goodreads challenge = 5 books ahead of schedule and already at 40%

Pre-orders for May

  • Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon – “Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world. But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman.”
  • Phase Six by Jim Shepard – reading a book about a global pandemic while in the middle of a global pandemic seems counter-intuitive but I am unable to resist. This was written pre-Covid btw
  • The Album of Doctor Moreau by Daryl Gregory – HG Wells meets boy band culture with some murder thrown in. Sounds awesome.
  • Last Days in Cleaver Square by Patrick McGrath – I have always had a great fondness for McGrath but it’s a while since I’ve read anything by him. The premise of this – set in 1975 where an old man is haunted by visions of the dying General Franco – sounds fascinating.
  • The Beresford by Will Carver – two of my favourite books so far in 2021 were written by Will Carver and I fully expect to love this new standalone thriller also
  • Witch by Iain Rob Wright – all I know about this is it is horror, there’s a witch (duh) and there may or may not be cursed manuscripts…….
  • The Nine by Gwen Strauss – my interest in the experiences of women caught up in WWII continues; this is the story of nine women fleeing a German forced labour camp.

Coming up

I get my second Covid vaccination this week about which I am very glad. Mr B is already fully vaccinated and I’m looking forward to feeling more confident about heading into London again as the museums re-open.

A BBC adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love by Emily Mortimer starts next weekend. It looks lush and enjoyable with a great cast and high production values and I for one am sold.

I have a couple of challenges coming up:

  • Cathy at 746Books is hosting Twenty Books of Summer from 1 June to 1 September and I’m already compiling my list. This will be my year to finish, I can feel it 🙂
  • I’m challenging myself to read David Copperfield, prompted by having watched Armando Ianucci’s recent film version. These days I do tend to struggle with classic Victorian authors so I’m giving myself a chance and planning to read in line with the original publication schedule, which means I should finish around November. November 2022, that is.

Apart from that all is quiet (despite the howling wind outside at the moment). Hope you are all staying safe and have a great reading week!