My Favourite Reads of December 2019

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My Favourite Reads image

Welcome to the latest instalment of My Favourite Reads.

Somehow, despite December being more than a little crazy, I managed to read quite a few books. They were a bit of a mixed bag genre-wise and all were fab reads, but there were two standouts. I would love to give both the title of favourite, except I’m a romance writer and my loyalty must lie with that genre. So here we go with my favourite read

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flatshare by Beth OLearyI can’t express what a delight The Flatshare was. Everything about it was wonderful and I finished it wearing the biggest smile. I might even have shed a soppy tear or two. There was also definitely a whole lot of envy that I didn’t think of this premise. It is so cool!

Tiffy and Leon were adorable, as were their friends, and their jobs made entertaining fodder too. The Flatshare isn’t all fluff either. It covers some serious relationship ground, especially with Tiffy.

An absolutely gorgeous must-read romance, that will tickle your heart in multiple ways and charm your socks off.

Go get it. Go on. You’ll have a ball, I promise.

Circe by Madeline MillerCirce by Madeline Miller

My second favourite read.

I adored Miller’s Song of Achilles. That was a stunning book and when I heard Circe was coming out I was super excited. Despite that, I left it unread on my Kindle for aaaages. I think my expectations were so high I was worried Circe wouldn’t live up to them.

I needn’t have worried. Circe was as brilliant as Song of Achilles. Maybe even more so and it’s not wonder it’s earned so many book of the year accolades. Miller’s writing is magic. Her word choices, phrasings and metaphors gave me great pleasure, and I loved Circe’s story and how it ended.


The Girl With All The Gifts by MR CareyThe Girl With All The Gifts by MR Carey

I nearly put this book down after a hundred pages or so, but I am so glad I persevered because it turned out a cracking read.

I had no idea when I bought The Girl With All The Gifts that it was a zombie story. I mean, I luuuuuurve horror novels but zombies generally don’t float my boat (the exception being James Scott Bell’s Mallory Caine series, which I talk about here, here and here). This is not your ordinary zombie book though. This is more like a literary apocalyptic thriller.

Excellent writing, a clever premise and fantastic characters, The Girl With All The Gifts slowly sucks you in until you just have to know what happens to Melanie and the others. Another close contender for favourite read.

Scavenger Hunt by Michaelbrent CollingsScavenger Hunt by Michaelbrent Collings

I seriously can’t get enough of Collings horrors. They’re pacey, have great concepts and I really, really enjoy his characters.

Okay, so Scavenger Hunt has a completely over-the-top bonkers premise but what fun! Five strangers wake up in a white room and the game is on. They must follow the enigmatic Mr Do-Good’s instructions and rules or die in horrible ways. Naturally everyone has secrets which influences how they play the game.

Loved it.

In the Heart of the Fire by Dean KoontzThe Nameless series by Dean Koontz

In the Heart of the Fire, Photographing the Dead, The Praying Mantis Bride, Red Rain, The Mercy of Snakes and Memories of Tomorrow.

This was an interesting series with an intriguing premise – a nameless vigilante is commissioned to hunt down serial killers but doesn’t know who he is himself. I’ve been a long-time Koontz fan and was curious when I spotted these titles. Initially I wasn’t going to buy them, but when I saw they were included as part of my Amazon Prime membership I figured I’d give them a go.

The books – short stories, really – were so easy to read and page-turnery I gobbled up all six in a day. Not my favourite Koontz (Watchers is the winner there) but cool enough.

The Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation by Annie WestThe Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation by Annie West

I think The Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation rates as having the best opening of an Annie West book I’ve read. Ashraf and Tori are in terrible danger and, thinking they’re not going to survive, succumb to passion. Fantastic!

Being a romance, of course they both survive. What follows is a deeply emotional journey as these two find their way to trust and love.

Loved these two characters and I’m so glad Annie wrote Ashraf’s story. I was intrigued by his situation in his brother Karim’s story Demanding His Desert Queen (I talk about that here) and wanted to know what happened. Now I do!

A Thousand Fiendish Angels by JF PennA Thousand Fiendish Angels by JF Penn

This was a series of three short stories inspired by Dante’s Inferno that I scored from JF Penn as a subscriber to her newsletter. We had a 2000km road trip to Townsville over Christmas and A Thousand Fiendish Angels proved perfect car reading. Short, entertaining and an easy way to pass the time. (For some reason I can read on my Kobo or Kindle easy-peasy in the car but a book makes me carsick. No idea why there’s a difference!)

I have another couple of JF Penn books that I need to get to. I’m particularly keen to read Map of Shadows, book one in her Mapwalker series. A project for this year. Highlander’s Christmas Quest by Anna Campbell

I do love an Anna Campbell season story and she didn’t disappoint this year with The Highlander’s Christmas Quest.

Dougal was absolutely gorgeous and made me laugh. He was so earnest about his quest! I was with Kirsty in that half the time I was lusting and the other half wanting to push him in the sea to see if the arctic water would knock some sense into him. Lovely characters, wonderful setting and a fabulous romance.

This is book 5 in Anna’s Lairds Most Likely series but you don’t have to have read the others. The Highlander’s Christmas Quest works perfectly on its own. Just kick back and enjoy!

For the writerly among you, here are the writing craft titles I read in December.

Writing Active Hooks Book 1 by Mary BuckhamWriting Active Hooks Book 1: Action, Emotion, Surprise and More by Mary Buckham

Now this is a handy craft book. Buckham discusses the five different types of hooks, and how and why they work. This is straightforward and focused – no waffle, rah! – and there are plenty of examples so you can see the different hooks in action.

There’s a sequel too which covers evocative description, character, dialogue, foreshadowing and where to use hooks. I was about to buy it when I discovered Buckham has combined books one and two into a full book with new examples. Even better, Writing Active Hooks: The Complete How-to Guide is available in paperback, which is my preferred format for craft books. Yay!

Strangers to Superfans by David GaughranStrangers to Superfans: A Marketing Guide to the Reader Journey by David Gaughran

David Gaughran produces an excellent newsletter for writers, loaded with great tips on everything from how to do ads to newsletters to keywords, and a bunch of other stuff authors need to know these days. I always enjoy reading them and figured I’d enjoy Strangers to Superfans too.

There are millions and millions of ebooks now on Amazon and sometimes my books seem like dustmotes, floating around aimslessly and looking like every other dustmote. Strangers to Superfans contains a lot of stuff I’ve read before but there were still gems to be found. Now all I have to do is implement said gems – always a weakness.

An easy to read book about book marketing and a good companion to Amazon Decoded which you can pick up as an exclusive goodie when you sign up for Gaughran’s newsletter.

Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott BellWrite Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell

A re-read in the car. I’m glad I did re-read this because in between staring at the countryside I was also mulling over Serenity’s Song (working title) and this was a great refresher. Both this and the Mary Buckham book triggered a lot of ideas and note-taking and gave me a handy start when I began writing it at the start of January.

Write Your Novel From The Middle is one of my favourite craft books. I like the way Scott Bell writes, he’s very motivational, and this technique resonates strongly for me.

Highly recommended.


What books floated your boat in December?


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16 thoughts on “My Favourite Reads of December 2019

  1. AvatarAnna Campbell

    Wow, Cathryn, you’ve been busy. This seems to be a particularly bumper crop. Thanks so much for including Quest. Someone asked me to describe it back near its release and I said, “Sir Galahad comes a cropper,” and I love how you’ve picked up on that element of the story. It was SUCH fun to write! As you say, he was so earnest and so incredibly mistaken, poor lamb.

    I saw you recommend The Flat Share on Twitter and I went straight and got it. Just finished it about 2 hours ago and I’m still smiling. I loved it to death. And I’m in love with Leon! Thanks so much for steering me in its direction. One of the best contemporaries I’ve read in ages.

    Love Annie’s Sheikh book. It really wrenches at your heart, doesn’t it?

    I’m just coming off 2 weeks of holiday and (d’uh) I’ve been doing some reading. Some real beauties in the mix. The 2nd Slow Horses book by Mick Herron, Dead Lions, the third Frieda Klein book, Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French, Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin, and Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton are all great thriller reads. In romance, I really enjoyed Liz Fielding’s A Secret, A Safari, A Second Chance and Loretta Chase’s A Duke in Shining Armour. I loved City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert which was a Christmas present. I also really enjoyed Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, a lovely memoir of her childhood reading, and This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, a memoir of a young doctor working in Britain’s NHS. Just started on Unfollow by Megan Roper-Phelps, about a girl who grew up as a member of Westboro Baptist Church. Looks like it might be good!

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Oh, I am THRILLED that you loved The Flatshare too, Anna. that’s brilliant. And yes, wasn’t Leon gorgeous? Totally irresistible. Sigh. Luuurve.

      “Sir Galahad comes a cropper.” That is such a perfect description for Dougal. Poor lamb, indeed.

      Thanks so much for the romance recommendations. I was quite dismayed when I looked back over my 2019 reading year to see how few romances I’d read and I’m determined to change that this year. Will check out the Loretta Chase for sure.

      Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing. I love hearing what you’ve enjoyed and have often loved the books you’ve recommended.

  2. AvatarSonia Bellhouse

    December reading-mine was busy too, perhaps we seek refuge from real life in times of crisis with books?
    LIke you I prefer my craft books in paper back form so thanks for the recommendations.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I think that’s very true with reading, Sonia. It’s an escape. Certainly that’s the case for me with fiction. Escape and entertainment.
      That’s great about the craft books. I hope they work for you too.
      Thanks for dropping by!

  3. AvatarAnnie West

    Hi Cathryn,

    As ever, I’m impressed by the number and variety of books you got through! I giggled when I saw my ‘Sheikh’s Royal Baby Revelation’ listed among horrors and serial killers. Thrilled to see it there and delighted you enjoyed it so much. I wasn’t sure I’d get away with that opening scene – so delighted it worked.

    I haven’t read any of the other books you’ve listed except Anna’s latest – she does a fantastic Christmas read, doesn’t she? This one was such fun.

    My reading has been limited by visitors through the holidays but somehow I managed to read five books in the Mick Herron Jackson Lamb series, starting with Slow Horses. I read the first and ordered the rest from the library. What a treat! Love his sense of humour and the twists. Hoping to explore more widely with my reading now.

    1. AvatarAnna Campbell

      Annie, your cover certainly stood out! It’s a fantastic read, though, so I’m not surprised Cathryn chose it amongst all the mayhem. Thanks for the kind words about my Christmas stories. They’re always fun to write every year! I’m doing two this coming year!

  4. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

    I’m so glad you got away with that opening chapter, Annie, because it’s now my favourite of yours. I just adore that set up. So dramatic and passionate! And yes, makes a nice change to the other genres.
    I really must investigate these Mick Herron books. Anna has been hooked on them too.
    Thanks for dropping by!

  5. AvatarSue Gerhardt Griffiths

    Wow, huge December for you reading wise Cathryn, and a lovely holiday up north also, you’ve done well! Six books was the best I could do and of those six four were awesome, one was exceptional and the other one just average. Awesome reads – Goodnight Steve McQueen by Lousie Wener, Desperate Deception and Festive Deception by DB Tait, A Match Made in Mistletoe by Anna Campbell. Left Hook by S.L. Hughes was my standout for the month but I think it’s also going on my ‘favourites ever’ list. A superb Aussie story and the language is so Australian it made for a nice change… Homecoming by Cathy Kelly was an ok read.

    I’ve only read one Dean Koontz book and one under his pseudonym Leigh Nichols, I loved them both, want to read more but there are 600 other books that are begging to be read first lol. I listened to Circe on audio but I just couldn’t get into it, had to quit a few pages in, too ancient greek and not the type of fantasy I enjoy. The Flat Share in on my tbr list.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Thanks so much for sharing, Sue! I immediately checked out Left Hook by S.L. Hughes and it sounds a lot of fun and I see it’s currently free on Kindle. Can’t get more bargainy than that.
      Lovely to see you’ve read the DB Tait books and liked them. I enjoyed that series a lot and wish she’d hurry up with more. It’s such a cool setting and the characters are great too.
      I get it totally with the TBR pile. It’s can feel so overwhelming and more books keep coming along. Not to worry. Books are good for us!
      Thanks for sharing.

      1. AvatarAnna Campbell

        Sue, how utterly delightful you enjoyed a Match Made in Mistletoe! Thank you. Aren’t those D.B. Taits great? I want her to write a series featuring the ex-ASIO lady!

        1. AvatarSue Gerhardt Griffiths

          You’re welcome, Anna, it was an excellent Christmas story! I’ll be reading more of your Xmas stories this coming festive season, only 10 1/2 months to go!
          Yes, I love DB Tait’s Dark Mountain series, if only there were more, love Dylan.

      2. AvatarSue Gerhardt Griffiths

        Cathryn, I forgot to mention that there are two more books in the Left Hook series, loved the book that much I immediately went into Amazon and bought the other two! I know, I wish DB Tait would hurry up too, I need to read more, yes, love the Katoomba setting, have been there many times!
        Totally agree, books are good for us, although if authors wrote one every two years we might be able to catch up lol!

        1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

          I did see that about the Left Hook series, Sue. I nearly one-clicked but I’m determined to make a dent in my TBR pile at least for this month before all those 2020 must-reads come along and clog it again.

  6. AvatarMichelle

    I love reading your list, Cathryn, and I adored that Annie West title too — such a compelling and intense opening! Happy sighs. And I thought The Flat Share was a masterpiece!

    And now that your post has reminded me that I have that Mary Buckham on my Kindle (and the Gaughran too I think). I must bump them up the list.

    As for me, I’ve been on a re-reading binge of Georgette Heyer, and enjoying myself famously. 🙂

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read a Georgetter Heyer, Michelle. Very slack of me and something I must amend!
      Agree totally about The Flat Share. So. Damn. Good! Although I’m reading another gorgeous romance at the moment that I’ll have to tell you about next time I see you. It’s funny and charming too and I think one you might like. Give me a nudge so i don’t forget.
      Thanks for checking out the blog!

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