My Favourite Reads banner 2020

Welcome to another edition of My Favourite Reads. Where book sharing rocks.

Woah, the year is getting away. Which is a good and a bad thing. Good, because it’s been a crappy year and bad, because I don’t like wishing time away. As I write this, I’ve read 83 books so far in 2021. Not as many as last year but I should end up with close to 100 for the year. Not bad.

October helped. It was a pretty solid reading month. The best bit? Most of my reads were faaaabulous.

The most fabulous though was…

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Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith

Holmes on the Range by Steve HockensmithOh! This was so much fun!

I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes stories so when I spotted Holmes on the Range in one of those daily book deal newsletters, I snapped it straight up. I am so glad I did because it turned out an absolute hoot!

Holmes on the Range is set in the U.S. wild west, in the late 1800s, and features cowboy brothers Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer. Old Red is obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and his methods of detectin’. With no other family, and determined to keep Old Red safe, his younger brother Big Red goes along for the ride.

Absolutely brilliant. Full of twists, excellent writing and characters, and laugh out loud humour. Love, love, loved it.

Next stop: On the Wrong Track. Then again, I might just buy the 5-book boxed set and go on a binge.

Incidentally, Hockensmith is the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, which were hits several years ago.

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The Silent Listener by Lyn YeowartThe Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart

We’re completely spoiled for choice with Australian fiction right now, especially with darker fiction, and I’m loving it.

The Silent Listener is a terrific Australian gothic, loaded with atmosphere and feeling. Not happy feelings either – you have been warned. This is a story of family violence, secrets, revenge, hardship and small towns. Which sounds depressing and is in a way, but the story is so compelling, so sad and so interesting I couldn’t look away.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for Yeowart’s next book.

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Threadneedle by Cari ThomasThreadneedle by Cari Thomas

A lovely fat and gorgeously covered magical young adult fantasy and a very close contender for favourite read.

Friendless orphan Anna is on the cusp of having her magic “bound” when Attis and Effie enter her life. The two of them introduce her to a side of magic she never knew, and which her “binder” aunt would condemn. But Anna’s magic seems to have problems…

What happens after that is kinda mind-blowing. My eyes were boggling by the end. Threadneedle was not just twisty, it was completely twisted too. Just the way I like it.

The first book in a trilogy. YAY!

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Tall Bones by Anna BaileyTall Bones by Anna Bailey

Usually I read two books at the same time – an ebook and a paperback – but as soon as I started Tall Bones I forgot all about the paperback I intended to start and read this exclusively to the end.

Tall Bones (titled Where the Truth Lies in the US) was intense. Intense, claustrophobic, and at times harrowing. If you’re looking for feel-good fiction, this is not it. On the other hand, if a compelling dark mystery floats your boat, then Tall Bones might be for you.

In a way it was a bit like The Silent Listener, although set in the USA. Both feature an insular and isolated small town, there’s family violence, gossip, and a church community that is far from Christian in behaviour, and both swing between time periods. In Tall Bones’ case, it’s between “Then” and “Now” as opposed to The Silent Listener’s more specific dates.

Very enjoyable.

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The Whispering Dead by Darcy CoatesThe Whispering Dead by Darcy Coates

I’ve read a few Darcy Coates horror novels now and had fun with them all. The Whispering Dead is the first in her new Gravekeeper series and it’s a fab start too. I found it a bit lighter on the horror and frights than the others I’ve read and, weirdly for this horror-lovin’ gal, I actually enjoyed that more. I think because the book focused more on the characters than scaring the pants off me.

Sadly, I now have to wait until March next year for book two, The Ravenous Dead. Not to worry, I have Hunted already on my e-reader ready to amuse me. I’m looking forward to that one. It sounds a bit Blair Witch Project. Rah!

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Tree of Life by J.F. PennTree of Life by J.F. Penn

Like many authors, I’ve been following Joanna Penn’s writing adventures for a fair while now. Her Creative Penn blog posts and podcasts and books are excellent and cover the full range of the writing and publishing industry.

I’ve always liked the premise of her ARKANE series and Tree of Life sounded an entertaining place to start. This wasn’t a long book, but it is full of action and adventure and plenty of pace. A bit like The Da Vinci Code crossed with Indiana Jones, with paranormal elements, thrills and world travel.

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The Midnight Library by Matt HaigThe Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library has been a major hit. Naturally, I had to see what the fuss was about.

I was a bit worried when I began the story. Nora, the main character, is severely depressed, her life going from bad to worse in quick succession, which sounded like a complete downer. If I want something cheerless I’ll read a gothic novel. But then Nora reaches the Midnight Library and is given the chance to undo her regrets one by one and test drive a bunch of new lives. The result is a deeply moving story about how to live.

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An Unwelcome Guest by Emily OrganAn Unwelcome Guest by Emily Organ

Book 7 in the Penny Green mystery series and another solid mystery featuring journalist Penny and Scotland Yard’s Inspector James Blakely.

An Unwelcome Guest was rather fun, especially the opening where Penny has been invited to dinner at the soon to be opened (and rumoured to be cursed) Tempesta Hotel. The next morning someone is dead and Penny is the prime suspect.

I do find Penny’s impetuousness a bit annoying at time but James is lovely, the mysteries are entertaining, the times interesting and the other characters amusing so I don’t mind.

Next stop: Death at the Workhouse.

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The Other Emily by Dean KoontzThe Other Emily by Dean Koontz

Watchers still reigns supreme as my favourite Koontz book (with the Odd Thomas series after that) but The Other Emily was still an entertaining thriller with a clever premise and more than a few surprises.

Lots of mystery, a bit of a love story, creepy houses and some sci-fi. Nice.

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What have you read lately that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear!

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8 Responses

  1. Cathryn, what a fascinating variety of books! I want to read Holmes on the Range and I have Threadneedle put away.

    Just finished Kate Ellis’s non fiction about women in Australian politics: Sex, Lies and Question Time. It was a great, quick read. If you’ve seen Ms Represented on the ABC a lot of the same areas are covered but still interesting. Then Rachel Rhys’s Fatal Inheritance which is NOT a murder mystery despite the title. It’s set on the French Riviera in 1948 and had a lot of elements from writers I read years ago who wrote about women travelling to exotic locations and finding themselves out of their depth. Not sure it’s your cup of tea but I enjoyed it. Jacqueline Winspear’s In This Grave Hour was a good murder mystery in the first days of WW2. And, for old times’ sake I’ve just finished an Amelia Peabody romp in Egypt by Elizabeth Peters which made me smile. I can’t think of anyone else who makes such a game of poking fun at their protagonist while still making her appealing.

    • Holmes on the Range was a blast, Annie. So funny and clever. I hope you get to read it.
      Love your reads. Nothing like a bit of armchair travel. I really must get onto those Amelia Peabodys. I’ve heard such good things and they sound a lot of fun.
      Thanks for dropping by and sharing.

      • Cathryn, definitely try the Amelia Peabodys and see if you can read them in order. There’s some overarching plots that are wonderful! They’re funny and romantic and just great reads!

  2. Ooh, I loved Threadneedle too. I can’t wait for the next in the series.

    I just finished one of your September reads, Once There Were Wolves. McConaghy is such an extraordinary writer. I kept putting it down, though, and reading one of my nonfiction books as I was so worried about the “bad” things I could see coming. She’s not for the fainthearted, I don’t think.

    My other favourite read for this month was Naomi Novik’s The Last Graduate. It wasn’t as page turning as A Deadly Education, but the characters and their arcs are so interesting and engaging. Ooh, and I also read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which was another very interesting read. 🙂 So all in all it’s been a fab reading month for me.

    • Both Threadneedle and Once There Were Wolves are not for the fainthearted I think. Both extraordinary books though, especially the McConaghy. She’s amazing. So intense!
      I must start that Novik series. I have the first book but have yet to get to it. So hard to choose when there’s so many on the TBR pile. I’m very glad to hear it’s enjoyable.
      Yours does sound a fab reading month. Love it when that happens!

  3. Cathryn, always look forward to seeing your column on latest reads. The Sherlock Holmes book sounds like a hoot!

    I checked my books for the last little while and I had some great reads there. Fiction-wise, I really liked Circe by Madeline Miller. Her Song of Achilles got a lot of attention a few years ago. I haven’t read that but found this one fascinating. Started a new Regency mystery series with Andrea Penrose’s Murder on Black Swan Lane – great characters. The heroine is a caricaturist and the hero is the usual louche gorgeous rake with a better heart than he wants to recognise (I say usual, but it’s a character type that always works for me). Really enjoyed the latest Bruno book by Martin Walker and Revenge in Rubies by A.M. Stuart and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – she’s a real find, loved her Daisy Jones and the Six and Malibu Rising if you’re looking for a great read. Loved Nicola Cornick’s latest about the Princes in the Tower, The Lost Daughter, and The Man Who Died Twice, the second in Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series. That one’s great fun.

    With nonfiction, I really liked The Premonition by Michael Lewis about the US response to the pandemic although it made me angry. He really knows how to capture fascinating characters in words. Really enjoyed Claire Balding’s My Family and Other Animals, a memoir via the animals she grew up with. Her father was the Queen’s horse trainer and CB became a successful female jockey and is now a media personality. She always comes across as funny and self-deprecating and that’s what the book was like. Annie, I think you might enjoy this one.

    • Wowsers! Sounds like you had a fab reading month, Anna. I really liked Circe too but you’ll have to grab Song of Achilles. It’s brilliant.
      You are doing bad things for my TBR pile. Lots of books for me to hunt down there, especially the Taylor Jenkins Reid titles. I have heard so many fab things. Speaking of fab things, that Claire Balding memoir sounds smack in my zone.
      Thanks so much for sharing!

      • Seriously think you’d like the TJR books. I’ve loved all three although I think Malibu Rising might have edged out the other two in my favourites list. I loved that Circe had a happy ending – certainly wasn’t expecting that. Wasn’t sure I’d like Song of Achilles. I read The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker which covers similar material and it’s so desperately tragic. And hey, building your TBR pile is my vocation! xx

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