The Goodreads Reading Challenge is a great way to motivate yourself to read more in a given period. Though I know what you’re thinking – who needs the motivation to read?
Back in early January, I set myself a target to read 24 books in the 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge. I’ve already posted my first update and my second update for the first eight months of the year. At that point, I’d read 36.
Now, I’ve read 53! So here are the books I’ve read for the reading challenge between 1 September and 31 December!
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Inspector Colbeck’s Casebook: Thirteen Tales from the Railway Detective – Edward Marston
It took me a while to warm to these because they’re rather simplistic and a little too predictable. The inspector seems to know who the killer is from the word go in each story, leaving those around him (and the reader) to feel stupid as they struggle to keep up. Many of the cases are very similar, too, leading to a feeling of repetition. Still, they’re not very taxing so they’re an easy read before bed!
The Dead Assassin: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle #2 – Vaughn Entwhistle
I’d read book 1 in these series during my previous part of the Goodreads Reading Challenge and thoroughly enjoyed it. While ghosts and creaking ancestral homes were the order of the day in the first book, this one is a little more ‘secret society’ and steampunk. I did enjoy it, though I did prefer the supernatural stylings of book 1. I am more into ghosts anyway though, so if you like steampunk, conspiracies, and ripping good yarns, then you’ll still love this book.
Mister Mottley Gets His Man (Mottley & Baker Mysteries, #1) – Ellen Seltz
I actually saw Book 2 mentioned in an author newsletter and the 1920s Art Deco cover really caught my eye. I don’t like starting a series in the middle though, so I went back to start with Book 1. It’s a murder mystery and jewel heist rolled into one, set in the Jazz era. I really enjoyed the interplay between Mottley, a minor aristocrat who ditches his title to become an investigator, and Baker, his valet. Definitely good for those who enjoy the likes of The Doctor Blake Mysteries or The Murdoch Mysteries on television.
Map of Shadows (Mapwalkers, #1) – J. F. Penn
I did receive a copy of this book but this is my honest opinion – and I wouldn’t have read it in two sittings on the same day if I hadn’t thought it was marvellous! I’ve loved all of JF Penn’s fiction output (and her non-fiction as Joanna Penn), and I’ve always been impressed at the way she weaves wider societal concerns or cultural contexts into her thrillers. She achieves a level of depth that you don’t always see in the genre.
Map of Shadows is slightly different in that it’s a remix of the thriller genre via dark urban fantasy (hooray!) but she still includes thought-provoking themes and messages. This time, it’s around the nature of borders, identity, and the changing importance of places, people, and even the things that we do. It’s a highly inventive read, mixing real places (Old Aleppo, Venice’s Poveglia plague island, and Bath) with a shadowy realm of the forgotten, the abandoned, and the unwanted. And there’s magic, which is really all you can ask for from a book. Thoroughly recommended and I can’t wait to see what she does with the next instalment!
On the House – Helen Maskew
You wouldn’t think a story about a Victorian workhouse would be so gripping! I read this as part of a free serialisation on The Pigeonhole, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Following a Justice of the Peace who becomes a guardian of a workhouse, and a journalist who goes undercover in said workhouse, this was a well-researched and interesting expose of the tedious existence of those poor souls condemned by circumstance to seek relief from their local parish.
The Plague Charmer – Karen Maitland
I really had no idea what to expect from this book, buying it on a whim as part of a ‘buy one get one half-price’ offer in Waterstones. But I’ll pretty much read anything to do with the plague (I’m weird like that). This book is set in 1361, just thirteen years after the infamous plague outbreak that devastated swathes of the country in 1348. Told across multiple viewpoints, the book ties together the lives of the villagers beset by the pestilence. Mixing historical fiction with witchcraft, it’s a cracking read and I really enjoyed it!
The Last Hours – Minette Walters
In times of plague, thoughts usually turn to the dying or the dead. Yet Minette Walters chooses to use the pestilence as a catalyst for the conflict within a small Dorsetshire village. It’s as fascinating an exploration of human psychology as it is a meticulously-researched tale of 14th-century plague. It’s the people that make the story, not the pestilence.
Yes, it’s my second plague-themed book as part of the Goodreads reading challenge but what can I say? I have strange tastes.
The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell
I’d been lamenting the fact that there weren’t as many chilling Gothic stories anymore. Then I saw this book advertised as part of The Pigeonhole’s serialisation program and decided to give it a go. After all, if you compare a novelist to Susan Hill and Shirley Jackson, then I’m naturally going to be interested. And what a fascinating read it is!
Opening with our protagonist, Elsie Bainbridge, confined in an asylum, the narrative skips back to the events of 1865 that eventually led to her incarceration. Going further back in time still, the narrative is interspersed with diary extracts by a 17th-century ancestor of her husband – the local witch. Laura Purcell deftly weaves the time periods together to create a chilling, ghostly read. I genuinely gasped at the final reveal, having had no inclination as to the ultimate direction of the story. It’s rare that I find a book I couldn’t put down but happily, this is one of those books!
The Ghost Hunters – Neil Spring
I’d seen an adaptation of this on ITV, where they were clearly trying to start a new series about the ghost hunting adventures of Harry Price (real guy) and his assistant Sarah Grey (made up character). I was expecting the book to be more of the same but it was actually completely different. Spring does play fast and loose with history somewhat, but it’s an interesting alternative look at the famous ‘haunting’ of Borley Rectory.
Spring does have an annoying tendency to have characters say things like “If I’d only known what was about to happen”, really magnifying things to seem like whatever happens next is going to be tremendous…only for that potential to be slightly let down by the actual events. But I still enjoyed the book so I’m interested to see what he does for book 2.
The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton
I originally picked this up when it first came out but never got around to reading it. The BBC advertised an adaptation for Boxing Day, and as I like to read the source novels before I see a filmed version, I resolved to read it before I watched it. I managed it, but I’m still not sure how I felt about the novel. It’s sold as a creepy Gothic story but in all honesty, it felt like a family melodrama with a few weird bits tacked on. I haven’t watched the adaptation yet so it’ll be interesting to see what they do with it.
American Alchemy: Gold – Oliver Altair
This is a free prequel to Oliver Altair’s American Alchemy series, and I literally read it in one go on the bus. I highly recommend it for your 2018 Goodreads reading challenge. And yes, as I write Westerns too, I am slightly biased.
Silver & Bone (American Alchemy – Wild West Book 1) – Oliver Altair
The Western is an oft-maligned genre, struggling beneath the weight of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and other grizzled cowboys and gunslingers. Thankfully it’s also a genre that plays well with others, as Oliver Altair ably demonstrates in Silver & Bone. Here, the weird Western gets its quirkiness from alchemy, a ‘science’ often not seen outside of fantasy fiction. It could have gone horribly wrong, but Altair’s ability to write characters you actually care about means this is the first book in what promises to be a fascinating series. Roll on book 2!
The Watchers – Neil Spring
I picked this up for £1 at The Works and decided to give it a go when I realised he was the author behind the Harry Price TV drama. As he does in The Ghost Hunters, his narrator keeps saying things like “If only I’d known how bad things would get…”. It’s an unfortunate tendency because the set-up raises expectations that his plot rarely delivers. If you want to raise tension, fine, but don’t do it by constantly having a character say the same thing if the next chapter falls flat.
Not Quite Lost: Travels Without A Sense of Direction – Roz Morris
I’ve been a fan of Roz Morris’s ‘how to write’ output for a while. When I saw Not Quite Lost I was curious to see how it would work. I’ve enjoyed Bill Bryson’s books and Not Quite Lost sits in a similar space. It seems ironic that I can’t drive, and would struggle to see the places Morris details in the book without a car, but thanks to her vivid tales, I feel I have seen them anyway. The book is both a glimpse into a fascinating mind and a peek behind the curtain of the real world behind the glossy ads and tourism brochures.
Not Quite Lost is a marvellous way to explore the sorts of places bypassed by the holiday companies and travel bloggers, which in a way makes them richer places to visit. I’d even say this was probably my favourite book of the Goodreads reading challenge. I was genuinely sad when I reached the end of the book, wanting just one more tale to prolong the reading experience. It provides plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and if you enjoy travel, humour, or good old-fashioned good writing, then you’ll love this book.
So that’s Part 3 of my Goodreads Reading Challenge update!
Have you done the Goodreads Reading Challenge too? What did you read in 2017?
Why not claim your free copy of my collection of weird tales, Harbingers? Just sign up below and start reading something for your 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge…