Am I just contrary?

I’ve been reading a few books lately, based on recommendations and great reviews online. All in all, you’d think I’d be in for a good read, wouldn’t you?

But …
I don’t seem to see the same ‘gem’ of a story that everyone else sees.
Why is that?
Am I too hard to please?
I wouldn’t have said so before. It’s not like I usually read action-packed stories with in-your-face conflict, or anything that’s “trending”.
I enjoy a slow-burning, psychological drama, a twist of mystery and suspense, a shift in time with a historical flavour …So. clearly, I can take a slower-paced story. In fact, I generally prefer them.

So, why am I struggling when everyone claims these stories to be “amazing”, “compelling” and “wonderful”.

What am I missing? When I see slow, rambling and – to be honest – ‘nothing happening here’, how do others see the emotional strength of the story, superb characterisation, or marvellous touches of poignancy and beauty?

Maybe I’m reading above my weight. I’ve always thought I had eclectic tastes. I used to say “I’ll read anything”, now I know that’s not true 🙂

Lately, it seems I’ve lost my way. I question everything and doubt my own opinions. I’m not looking for answers here, merely expressing my bewilderment.

Maybe my taste in books doesn’t mirror that of my peers. It does speak volumes, though, when the best book I’ve read these last few weeks is one on punctuation!

Does it matter? Not really. There are plenty of good books out there; I’ve read some brilliant ones too, one where I can agree wholeheartedly with other reviewers.

Perhaps I shouldn’t question myself then. It’s alright to disagree, to have a different view.

And sometimes, the wisest thing to do is just hold the thought, accept it, and move on.

(By the way, I’m not going to name any of these books, nor will they appear in my Goodreads reading list: I’ve decided that my thoughts are best left unsaid rather than leave a DNF comment)

Thanks for reading.




A cracking mystery with a Welsh flavour

Murder In Thistlecross

by Amy M. Reade

The emerald hills and violet valleys of Wales seem the ideal place to start over after murder—and divorce—shattered Eilidh’s life in the Scottish Highlands. But within the stone walls of an ancient castle, a family’s dark, violent past threatens much more than her newfound tranquility . . . 
For the past two years, Eilidh has called the quaint Welsh village of Thistlecross home, embracing her new life as estate manager of a restored fifteenth-century castle. But the long-anticipated arrival of her employer’s three estranged sons and their wives transforms Gylfinog Castell from a welcoming haven to a place seething with dangerous secrets. When the escalating tensions culminate in murder, Eilidh must sift through a castle full of suspects both upstairs and downstairs. She can trust no one as she follows a twisting maze of greed and malice to ferret out a killer who’s breaching every defense, preparing to make Eilidh the next to die.

My Review:

Set in a beautiful Welsh castle, it was only a matter of time before the crumbling ruins would expose a killer in this excellent mystery.
The story begins with a pending reunion between the Mistress of the castle, Annabel, and her children and their partners. From the outset, it’s clear that the meeting will be fractious. The family lived through years of horrendous abuse dished out by Annabel’s first husband, father to the three boys. A great of animosity lives on, as the boys still resent Annabel for not protecting them. This meeting is her chance to put her side of the story to them, and maybe build a few bridges.
The story of the wealthy Tucker family runs along that of the estate manager, Eilidh, and the cook Maisie and her daughter Brenda. There is a delightful ‘Downton Abbey’ vibe when Annabel presses a floor button to summon the downstairs staff.
Eilidh is a woman I’ve met before in this series, and the author carefully intersperses details of her life from previous books without spoiling the current story. Her journey with Griff to the fairy glen is both sweet and atmospheric, sprinkling a little magic around after the dreadful events that continue to occur to the castle’s inhabitants.
With plenty of Welsh influences, the story has a realistic feel, including the odd “iechyd da” thrown in for good measure.
The tale picks up pace – enormously so – towards the end, as the mysteries are resolved, revealing a well-developed suspense along with a very compassionate look at what drives someone to want to maim or kill another.
All in all, a cracking mystery blended with believable characters, a little romance, revenge and not to mention huge empathy for those who make mistakes for all the right reasons.
Long may Eilidh and her family & friends continue.

Recommended to lovers of mysteries, women’s fiction, and British scenery and settings.

You can get your copy here, and while you’re there, why not check out the other books in the Malice series and meet Eilidh yourself?

The House on Candlewick Lane

It is every parent’s worst nightmare. Greer Dobbins’ daughter has been kidnapped—and spirited across the Atlantic to a hiding place in Scotland. Greer will do anything to find her, but the streets of Edinburgh hide a thousand secrets—including some she’d rather not face.

Art historian Dr. Greer Dobbins thought her ex-husband, Neill, had his gambling addiction under control. But in fact he was spiraling deeper and deeper into debt. When a group of shady lenders threatens to harm the divorced couple’s five-year-old daughter if he doesn’t pay up, a desperate Neill abducts the girl and flees to his native Scotland. Though the trail seems cold, Greer refuses to give up and embarks on a frantic search through the medieval alleys of Edinburgh—a city as beguiling as it is dangerous. But as the nightmare thickens with cryptic messages and a mysterious attack, Greer herself will become a target, along with everyone she holds dear.

Highland Peril

Trading the urban pace of Edinburgh for a tiny village overlooking a breathtaking blue loch was a great move for budding photographer Sylvie Carmichael and her artist husband, Seamus—until a dangerous crime obscures the view . . .

Sylvie’s bucolic life along the heather-covered moors of the Highlands is a world away from the hectic energy of the city. But then a London buyer is killed after purchasing a long-lost Scottish masterpiece from Seamus’s gallery—and the painting vanishes. As suspicion clouds their new life, and their relationship, Sylvie’s search for answers plunges her into an unsolved mystery dating back to Cromwellian Scotland through World War I and beyond. And as she moves closer to the truth, Sylvie is targeted by a murderer who’s after a treasure within a treasure that could rewrite history . . . and her own future.


Remember, if you choose to read one of Amy’s stories, please consider leaving a review afterwards.

Reviews keep writers writing 🙂

Thanks  for reading.

2018 Reading Challenge

Last year, I set a goal of 60 books on the Goodreads Reading Challenge, a figure I passed some time in September. I ended the year having read 92 books. Now the time has come to set a goal for 2018.

You’d think I’d go higher, wouldn’t you? Maybe aiming for 100 books this year?

It was a tough decision – but (and this is rather a first for me) I actually considered the books I’d be reading in the coming months before coming up with a number.
Yep, I know – forward thinking – me? I surprised myself too.

As I’m currently writing a cosy mystery series, the first in the series featuring familial child abduction I thought I’d see how others have tackled the subject. So, I’m reading a few boxsets to get into the right mindset.

I’m still working through The 12 Slays of Christmas – a selection of 12 cosy mysteries, but as I finish one of those mysteries, I’m jumping headfirst into another boxset: Missing Ones Super Boxset – another 12 novels with a kidnapping theme. Then I’ll check out a third boxset: Winter Whodunnits – 12 more cosy mysteries before returning to 12 Slays.

In total, that’s 36 books, but only counting as 3 in the Goodreads Challenge.

You can see where I’m going now, can’t you?

Consequently, I’ve downgraded my goal to 75 books – it’s still up on last year, so not really a cop-out.

Besides the boxsets, I intend to read more craft books this year too.

Starting with Eats, Shoots & Leaves and its accompanying workbook.

Okay, so I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to grammar and punctuation – and I do know my own skills are far from satisfactory. Hence the need to improve. Also, this looks like a fun read – not your typical, dry guide to commas, semi-colons and the like.

(I know – I hear you – my kind of fun is not to everyone’s taste. Each to their own, I say 🙂 )

Anyway, that’s my reasoning and I’m sticking to it.

There’s plenty of room for some gripping thrillers, some emotional women’s fiction and a smattering of historical fiction.

It’s going to be a great year.

By the way, if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them. Or, if you’ve set yourself a reading goal, how did you decide on a number, and what do you intend to read this year?

In the meantime, thanks for reading 🙂

Calling book-lovers – it’s blog hop time :)

Whether you’re a reader, writer, publisher, or just an all-round bibliophile, you’re in the right place! The Iris Chacon blog is only one of the many stops you’ll want to make (often!) on the BLOG HOP between November 9th and 27th, for fun, friends, freebies, and fabulousness. Nurture Your BOOKS™ Blog Hop Prizes: For […]

via Welcome to the NYB November Blog Hop! — Author_Iris_Chacon

Does being a writer ruin you as a reader?

Don’t get me wrong, I still love reading. It’s just different now.

Before I ventured down this path of no return, I don’t remember being bothered whether the author ‘told’ the story, rather than ‘showed’ it. I didn’t even consider ‘whose POV is this from?’ or if the author was too descriptive/not descriptive enough. And I can honestly say – hand on heart – I didn’t notice ‘repetitive sentence starts’ or ‘crutch words’ and since when did ‘filter words’ become the big no-no?

Back in the day, I read voraciously (I still do), enjoying historical fiction or mysteries more than anything. The joy of reading then was pure escapism – not to dissect the story structure, interrogate the character’s mindset and prove beyond any doubt it was the butler “what dun’ it”. (It’ll come as no surprise that I hated English Lit with all my heart and grammar was something I had nightmares about).

So, what changed? Writing, that’s what.

I fell into the NaNo swamp and thought, ‘hey, I can get out, with a brilliant story to boot.’ But, truth was, I couldn’t. I wrote the necessary 50,000 words and could bore you rigid with the details of my story – the one that lies in a forlorn state on my external hard drive – but I won’t. (It’ll make a comeback one day – just you wait and see!)
When I realised how bad – nay, dire – my efforts were, then I took the only option available and sought out a critique group.

I would nail this writing lark if it killed me.

Until the dreaded feedback returned with comments like ‘this is a POV glitch’, ‘you’re head-hopping’, ‘what does the character want?’, ‘where’s the conflict?’ – I’ll not go on because the memories make me want to bang my head on the table (and I already got stunned by a falling ladder yesterday, but that’s another story!)

Can you switch this inner editor off when you read? I know I can’t … hell, I can’t even switch it off when I’m writing – if  that red, squiggly line shows up then I just have to fix it. But when I’m reading, this annoying new-found knowledge can spoil a good book (not that good you might say if I can find fault with it now). I sometimes think I’m too critical these days, fussing over a typo or a sentence in need of some punctuation. But it matters. Now. It didn’t before – when ignorance was bliss. But now it does.

What’s a person to do? Stop reading? That’s a “NO” from me. Maybe audiobooks are the way forward – if I can’t see them, maybe I won’t notice those pesky filter words. I might try that …

Watch this space.

Oh, and thanks for reading 🙂

Does the book fairy exist?

It might be the cough medicine I’m taking, but I’m convinced strange things have been happening on Goodreads.

For those of you unfamiliar with Goodreads, it’s a social cataloging site for booklovers (readers & writers alike)

Authors can list their books for readers to find, read and (hopefully) review. There are many thriving communities, discussing a wide range of topics – whether you’re a Harry Potter fan, or have a penchant for the Classics, there’s a group for you.

However, as with most things that seem too good to be true, there is also a darker underbelly of trolls. The kind of people who take pleasure in leaving one star ratings without a comment, or even worse with the inexcusable comment of “I didn’t read this book”.

But this week I think I’ve come across the Book Fairy, or at least someone who wants to send positive vibes rather than spread evil poison.

The Book Fairy is leaving 4 and 5 star ratings willy nilly – all without comment. Could she possibly have waited to post all her ratings in one go, one the same day, or is she simply seeking to restore some balance?

We’ll never know, that’s for sure.

Regardless, these ratings – while much nicer to see 4 or 5 stars – still don’t attract new readers, If you’re anything like me, seeing a whole swarm of ratings without any comments doesn’t sway the decision to read that book one iota. Comments (or reviews, whatever you want to call them) don’t have to be long and no-one expects glowing reviews every time – so if you enjoyed a book,  tell everyone why. Conversely, if you didn’t enjoy it, feel free to say why also. You never know, your review might just be the one that helps a reader find a new favourite author – or you just might highlight something that helps a reader to avoid buying a book they most likely won’t enjoy. Either way it’s a service to the book-loving community. Not every book suits every reader and not every reader suits every book.

In the meantime, thank you to the Book Fairy for prompting me to write this post. I feel another swig of cough syrup coming on …and maybe it’s time to curl up with a good book too.

Thank you for reading 🙂

I asked: You answered

I have a feeling my reading slump is over. 

After asking for your recommendations, I’m excited to hide my nose in a good book again. I’ve even ordered real books – the ones with paper and everything!!

While I love my Kindle, maybe my reading practice was just getting too regimental. Having a physical book will – hopefully – rekindle (pun intended) my love for reading.

And, I’ll be asking for more recommendations from you all again.

These little darlings are winging there way to me right now – some as ebooks but a couple by post:

Thank you to all who replied with a recommendation.