Liebster Award Nomination


Thank you to the lovely Laura at Snazzy Books for this nomination – do check out her wonderful blog. I have to confess I’ve been tagged before for this award but never got around to taking part so this is to redress that oversight.

The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog
  • Answer the 11 questions the person asked you
  • Nominate 11 people (comment on their blog to let them know)
  • Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions

Laura’s Questions:

If you had to pick a literary character to marry/enter into a civil partnership with, who would it be?
Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre
What instantly puts you off a book?
Haha – punctuation, spelling and grammar errors in the first few pages
If you had to pick – favourite 3 authors?
Margaret Atwood (for imagination), C J Sansom (for mystery) and John Buchan (for adventure) – but my answer would change tomorrow…
Most-read series?
A toss-up between Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Ramotswe and C J Samson’s Shardlake
Tea or coffee whilst reading – or neither?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon
If you could only eat one food ‘cuisine’ for the rest of your life, what would it be?
British fish and chips – with mushy peas of course!
Ebooks or paper books?
Both – ebooks for convenience, paper books for the look and feel
What do you do with books you don’t want to keep? Give them to friends, charity shops, sell them….etc?
All of the above (except sell)
Favourite book/s of 2017 so far?
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Favourite genre?
Historical fiction
Favourite book to movie/TV adaptation?
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – wonderful book, wonderful film especially the sublime partnership of Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson

My Nominations

I’m going to cheat and invite anyone reading this to take part as I know some of you have been tagged loads of times before or don’t take part in tags.  Or just pick a question or questions you like from the list below and leave your answer in a comment.

My Questions

  1. What book would you most like to unwrap on Christmas Day?
  2. Which living author would you most like to meet face-to-face?
  3. What’s your favourite opening line of a book?
  4. What’s your favourite closing line of a book?
  5. Have you ever lied about reading a book you haven’t actually read and, if so, what was it?
  6. What is the most popular book you’ve never read?
  7. If you were marooned for life on a desert island and could only take one book what would it be?
  8. What’s your favourite book cover published in 2017?
  9. If you could be a character in an author’s next book which author would you choose and what type of character?
  10. Have you ever been fined for taking a library book back late?
  11. Have you ever cheated to find out how a book ends?

Blog Talk: Temptations of a Book Blogger


A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the temptations I’ve encountered as a novice book blogger. You can read my original post here.   Confession time: I’ve been better at warning others of temptations than I have at resisting them.

In particular, the temptation I referred to as The Author’s Best Friend Temptation – that seemingly irresistible urge (for me, anyway) to say ‘Yes’ to review requests from authors when you really should glance at your TBR pile and say ‘No’.  As a consequence, I’ve amassed quite a stack of books from indie authors needing review, some going back several months.

In an effort to make amends, I’ve decided to devote July to reading and reviewing as many of these books as I possibly can.  In order to do that, I’ve made a deliberate effort to limit my other commitments next month and read ahead as much as possible for blog tours or publication dates in July.

And what about some of the other temptations I identified, like The NetGalley Frenzy Temptation? Ah well, best draw a veil over that one for the time being. One confession is enough for now.

My Week In Books


New arrivals

TheRoombytheLakeThe Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin (eARC, NetGalley)

When Caitlin moved from London to New York, she thought she had left her problems behind: her alcoholic father, her dead mother, the pressure to succeed. But now, down to her last dollar in a foreign city, she is desperately lonely. Then she meets Jake. Handsome, smart, slightly damaged Jake. He lives off-grid, in a lakeside commune whose members practise regular exercise and frequent group therapy. Before long, Caitlin has settled into her idyllic new home. It looks like she has found the fresh start she longed for. But, as the commune tightens its grip on her freedom and her sanity, Caitlin realizes too late that she might become lost forever…

UnderATuscanSkyUnder A Tuscan Sky by Karen Aldous (eARC, NetGalley)

A summer she’ll never forget… When Olivia Montague’s grandmother passes away, she decides it’s finally time to make some changes in her own life. So she breaks up with her ‘going nowhere’ boyfriend and embarks on a journey to her Nonna’s home in Tuscany. Until now, Olivia has always believed that she’s incapable of love, after being abandoned by her parents as a baby. But with each day spent at the gorgeous villa nestled in the rolling Italian hills, she feels her heart begin to flutter… And when handsome antiques dealer Hugh St. James arrives on the scene, she realises things might be about to change forever!

AKindofLightA Kind of Light by H. R. F. Keating (ebook, 99p)

Two stories, two journeys into the darkness… Thomasina le Mesurier writes in her journal of finding a miraculous plant which has the potential to save thousands of lives with its medicinal properties. A plant which could have saved her beloved mentor and friend, Doctor Diver, who fell ill with the Typhoid Fever.  She insists on venturing deep into the jungle to source the healing plant and take it back to England.  Although told she is being foolhardy, Thomasina ventures off, following Doctor Diver’s notes… But is she chasing after a delusion? The forest is rumoured to hold unmentionable terrors and unfathomable enigmas, but regardless, Thomasina embarks on her journey into the heart of Africa, accompanied only by three native bearers. Can she survive the dangers of the dark? And what will her journey bring? In the present day a young couple, David Teigh and Theresa Olivia Mountjoy, stumble upon an article expounding the writings of Thomasina. They soon set off on their journey, following in Thomasina’s footsteps, to discover the remaining notebooks preserved in the depths of Africa, all the while recording a documentary film of their treacherous journey. Will the adventurers’ respective searches come to a satisfying, or a more macabre, end? One thing is certain, no traveller who undertakes this expedition can emerge unchanged… A homage to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, A Kind of Light will take you on a perilous journey through Africa’s forests.

LibertyBoyLiberty Boy (The Liberty Series #1) by David Gaughran (ebook, free)

Dublin has been on a knife-edge since the failed rebellion in July, and Jimmy O’Flaherty suspects a newcomer to The Liberties – Kitty Doyle – is mixed up in it. She accuses him of spying for the English, and he thinks she’s a reckless troublemaker. All Jimmy wants is to earn enough coin to buy passage to America. But when the English turn his trading patch into a gallows, Jimmy finds himself drawn into the very conflict he’s spent his whole life avoiding.

PlagueLandPlague Land (Oswald de Lacy #1) by S. D. Sykes (ebook, 99p)

Oswald de Lacy was never meant to be the Lord of Somerhill Manor. Despatched to a monastery at the age of seven, sent back at seventeen when his father and two older brothers are killed by thePlague, Oswald has no experience of running an estate. He finds the years of pestilence and neglect have changed the old place dramatically, not to mention the attitude of the surviving peasants. Yet some things never change. Oswald’s mother remains the powerful matriarch of the family, and his sister Clemence simmers in the background, dangerous and unmarried. Before he can do anything, Oswald is confronted by the shocking death of a young woman, Alison Starvecrow. The ambitious village priest claims that Alison was killed by a band of demonic dog-headed men. Oswald is certain this is nonsense, but proving it – by finding the real murderer – is quite a different matter. Every step he takes seems to lead Oswald deeper into a dark maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife. And then the body of another girl is found.

SixStoriesSix Stories by Matt Wesolowski (ebook, 99p)

The novel is constructed as a series of podcasts, in which an investigative journalist describes the circumstances around the death of a teenage boy in an outward-bound centre, interviewing witnesses, suspects and people close to the incident. Their six accounts form the six stories of the title, creating a “chilling and compelling, page-turning thriller that also delves deep into notions of truth, perception and loyalty”.

HouseofNamesHouse of Names by Colm Toibin (ebook, NetGalley)

On the day of his daughter’s wedding, Agamemnon orders her sacrifice. His daughter is led to her death, and Agamemnon leads his army into battle, where he is rewarded with glorious victory.  Three years later, he returns home and his murderous action has set the entire family – mother, brother, sister – on a path of intimate violence, as they enter a world of hushed commands and soundless journeys through the palace’s dungeons and bedchambers. As his wife seeks his death, his daughter, Electra, is the silent observer to the family’s game of innocence while his son, Orestes, is sent into bewildering, frightening exile where survival is far from certain. Out of their desolating loss, Electra and Orestes must find a way to right these wrongs of the past even if it means committing themselves to a terrible, barbarous act. House of Names is a story of intense longing and shocking betrayal. It is a work of great beauty, and daring, from one of our finest living writers.

WakeMeWhenImGoneWake Me When I’m Gone by Odafe Atogun (eARC, NetGalley)

Everyone says that Ese is the most beautiful woman in the region, but a fool. A young widow, she lives in a village, where the crops grow tall and the people are ruled over by a Chief on a white horse. She married for love, but now her husband is dead, leaving her with nothing but a market stall and a young son to feed. When the Chief knocks on Ese’s door demanding that she marry again, as the laws of the land dictate she must, Ese is a fool once more. There is a high price for breaking the law, and an even greater cost for breaking the heart of a Chief. Ese will face the wrath of gods and men in the fight to preserve her heart, to keep her son and to right centuries of wrongs. She will change the lives of many on the road to freedom, and she will face the greatest pain a mother ever can.

TheVanishingofAudreyWildeThe Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase (eARC, NetGalley)

From the present day… Applecote Manor captivates Jessie with it promise of hazy summers in the Cotswolds. She believes it’s the perfect escape for her troubled family. But the house has an unsettling history, and strange rumours surround the estate.

To the fifties… When teenage Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote during the heatwave of ’59, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter Audrey five years before.  The sisters are drawn into the mystery of Audrey’s vanishing – until the stifling summer takes a shocking, deadly turn. Will one unthinkable choice bind them together, or tear them apart?

On What Cathy Read Next last week

Book Reviews

On Tuesday I published my review of Fata Morgana by Steven R. Boyett & Ken Mitchroney, a highly entertaining mash up of historical fiction, sci-fi and time travel. Thursday saw my review of The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer, coincidentally another combination of historical fiction and time travel! On Friday, I reviewed The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway set in the southern states of America in the 1840s.

Other posts

On Monday, I discussed What Makes A Good Author Q&A, including some tips on how to research and come up with good interview questions. On Wednesday I tried my best to put that good advice into practice in a Q&A with Michael Pronko, author of the Tokyo-set thriller, The Last Train, to coincide with its publication. Finally, on Friday I highlighted my favourite books that I read in May.

Challenge updates

  • Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge – 65 out of 78 books read (3 more than last week)
  • Classics Club – 2 out of 50 books reviewed (same as last week)
  • NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2017 (Gold) – 34 ARCs reviewed out of 50 (1 more than last week)
  • From Page to Screen – 6 book/film comparisons completed (same as last week)
  • The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction Shortlist 2017 – 5 out of 7 read (2 more than last week)

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Blog Tour/Guest Post: Widdershins by Helen Steadman
  • Blog Tour/Q&A: Day of the Dead by Mark Roberts
  • Blitz: Rise of Princes by Janell Rhiannon
  • Blog Tour/Review: More Than A Soldier by D. M. Annechino
  • Book Review: The Former Chief Executive by Kate Vane
  • Book Review: A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker
  • Blog Tour/Review: Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan
  • Blog Tour/Q&A: Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy

Reviews to be added to NetGalley

  • None, just at this moment!

How was your week in books?  Literary sensation or slush pile candidate? 

Blog Talk: What Makes A Great Author Q&A?


I’ve been doing quite a few author Q&As recently so it got me thinking: what makes a great author Q&A?

Here are some tips and suggestions based on my own experience. A lot of these are pretty basic, I know. However, I shudder when I think back to some of my early efforts. Even these simple guidelines would have made my questions a whole lot better.

  • Great questions make great answers, I think, so be prepared to invest time in researching and preparing your questions
  • Personally, I’m not a fan of standard questionnaires. I believe a set of questions tailored to each author produces more interesting responses. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a few questions you use frequently – especially if they’re really good ones!
  • Even if you haven’t read the book, you can get ideas for questions by reading the book blurb, the author’s bio, their website or blog.  Not only are you likely to come up with better questions but the author will probably appreciate you having taken the time to find out about them and their work.
  • Try to find an interesting statement the author has made about their book or their approach to writing that you can ask them to explain.
  • 8 to 10 questions seems like the right number to me and ideally the author’s answers should be no more than 150 words. Any more than that and it can start to read like an essay
  • Again this is personal preference, but I like to concentrate my questions on the book and the author’s approach to writing. I’m not that interested in their favourite colour or whether they prefer cats or dogs – but each to their own
  • Remember, the purpose of your Q&A is to allow the author to talk about their book in such a way that it provokes the interest of potential readers.  So ask open questions that allow them to elaborate, explain and discuss their ideas.
  • If part of a blog tour, ensure you allow sufficient time for the author to craft thoughtful responses to your questions
  • Be polite – you’re not trying to catch them out or be the next Jeremy Paxman!
  • Finally, practice makes perfect.

Bloggers – do you have tips for coming up with stimulating interview questions?
Authors –  what great (or not so great) questions have you been asked?


My Week in Books


New arrivals

ASeaofStrawA Sea of Straw by Julia Sutton (ebook, 99p)

Will a man walk two thousand kilometres for a woman? In 1967, Zé will. Salazar’s Portugal has become a prison for him.

1966: When Jody, young mother and designer from the north of England, arrives on the Lisbon coast, she brings the lure of ‘Swinging London’ to Portuguese painter Zé’s existing dreams of freedom. A nascent love is interrupted when, back in England, husband Michael forces her to choose between their 2-year-old daughter Anna and Zé. And Zé, at home in Lisbon and grounded by the state’s secret police, can only wait.

For both Jody and Zé, love is revolution. And personal and political threads weave their story, a period piece set amid the then socially conservative North of England, the light and rugged landscapes of modern Portugal, and the darkness of the dying years of Europe’s longest-running dictatorship. A Sea of Straw, with its pervading atmosphere of saudades, is a quest for love in revolutionary times.

Block46Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson (ebook, 99p)

In Falkenberg, Sweden, the mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer Linnea Blix is found in a snow-swept marina. In Hampstead Heath, London, the body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

TheWardrobeMistressThe Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath (eARC, NetGalley)

January 1947. London is in ruins, there’s nothing to eat, and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. To make matters worse, Charlie Grice, one of the great stage actors of the day, has suddenly died. His widow Joan, the wardrobe mistress, is beside herself with grief. Then one night she discovers Gricey’s secret. Plunged into a dark new world, she realises that the war isn’t over after all.


BrokenBranchesBroken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee (paperback, advance reader copy courtesy of Hideaway Fall)

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’ A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family. There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

TheVersionsofUsThe Versions of Us by Laura Barnett (ebook, 99p)

What if you had said yes? The moments that change everything… One Day meets Sliding Doors in this outstanding debut that is causing a buzz across the publishing world. Some moments can change your life forever. Have you ever wondered, what if…? A man is walking down a country lane. A woman, cycling towards him, swerves to avoid a dog. On that moment, their future hinges. There are three possible outcomes, three small decisions that could determine the rest of their life. Eva and Jim are nineteen and students at Cambridge when their paths first cross in 1958. And then there is David, Eva’s then-lover, an ambitious actor who loves Eva deeply. The Versions of Us follows the three different courses their lives could take following this first meeting. Lives filled with love, betrayal, ambition but through it all is a deep connection that endures whatever fate might throw at them.

MajorPettigrewsLastStandMajor Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson (ebook, 99p)

Major Ernest Pettigrew is perfectly content to lead a quiet life in the sleepy village of Edgecombe St Mary, away from the meddling of the locals and his overbearing son. But when his brother dies, the Major finds himself seeking companionship with the village shopkeeper, Mrs Ali. Drawn together by a love of books and the loss of their partners, they are soon forced to contend with irate relatives and gossiping villagers. The perfect gentleman, but the most unlikely hero, the Major must ask himself what matters most: family obligation, tradition or love? Funny, comforting and heart-warming, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand proves that sometimes, against all odds, life does give you a second chance.

On What Cathy Read Next last week

Book Reviews

On Thursday I published my review of A Countess in Limbo: Diaries in War and Revolution, the journals of Countess Olga Hendrikoff, edited by her great niece, Sue Carscallen. Absolutely fascinating memoirs of living through the Russian Revolution and the occupation of France during WW2.   Saturday saw my review of Widdershins, the debut novel by Helen Steadman, inspired by the true story of the witch trials that took place in 17th century Newcastle.

Other posts

On Monday, I shared a post entitled Temptations of a Book Blogger which really seemed to strike a chord with a lot of other bloggers. It appears many of us are prey to temptation on the blogging front! On Tuesday I took part in the book blitz for Dawn Girl by Leslie Wolfe, a gripping thriller about a serial killer. My guest on Wednesday was David Smith, author of Letters to Strabo, who shared an interview with the book’s fictional narrator. On Friday, I was thrilled to join the blog tour for Sugar, Sugar: Bitter-sweet Tales of Indian Migrant Workers by Lainy Malkani. Lainy was kind enough to answer some questions about her debut short story collection – well worth a read.

Challenge updates

  • Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge – 62 out of 78 books read (3 more than last week)
  • Classics Club – 2 out of 50 books reviewed (same as last week)
  • NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2017 (Gold) – 33 ARCs reviewed out of 50 (same as last week)
  • From Page to Screen – 6 book/film comparisons completed (same as last week)
  • The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction Shortlist 2017 – 3 out of 7 read (same as last week)

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Book Review: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
  • Book Review: Fata Morgana by Steven R. Boyett & Ken Mitchroney
  • Author Q&A: The Last Train by Michael Pronko
  • Book Review: The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer
  • Book Review: The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway

Reviews to be added to NetGalley

Fata Morgana by Steven R. Boyett & Ken Mitchroney