October was my best reading month so far this year. I managed to finish eight books (or 2336 pages, according to Goodreads) which has, alongside a second national lockdown, inspired me to increase my Reading Challenge target to 52 books for the year.
Having completed so many great books, I felt it was the perfect time to do a monthly round-up post with a quick snippet of my thoughts on each one.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers. After a messy breakup from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places and finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
I absolutely loved everything about Queenie and was particularly impressed by the book’s ability to entertain and educate in equal measure, through writing that is sharp, wise and very accessible. The author was incredibly successful at creating a heroine who was flawed, broken and beautifully human – she’s a bit of a hot mess, but I was constantly rooting for her. Read my full review of Queenie here.
A Sea Change by Veronica Henry – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Jenna is known as The Ice Cream Girl. She doesn’t mind the name one bit. After all, it’s a happy name, and there are far worse jobs than selling ice creams on Everdene beach. Craig spends as much time as he can at the beach hut in Everdene he rents with his mates. As a policeman, it is a restful change from his daily life, and he’s surfing mad. On this particular summer weekend, both Jenna and Craig’s lives are about to change ...
I picked up this quick read in a charity shop on a recent holiday and it was a lovely break away from reality. The book is short and sweet, with a lovely message about loneliness and doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult. Veronica Henry is one of my favourite lifestyle fiction authors and her books always transport me to somewhere tranquil and beautiful – exactly what I needed.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
When Rowan comes across the advert, it seems too good to be true: a live-in nanny position, with an extremely generous salary. What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare – one that will end with her in a cell awaiting trial for murder. She knows she’s made mistakes but she’s not guilty of murder, which means someone else is…
This was another cracking thriller by Ruth Ware and she’s definitely one of my favourite authors in this genre. I found the book quite frightening in parts and even started dreaming about it, so I wouldn’t recommend reading it late at night. The book seemed to be a bit of a thriller cliché at first and was very similar to Ware’s previous offering, with a young girl going to a secluded house with a very bizarre family. However, I’ve loved most of Ware’s books and think she is onto a winner with this approach, so if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!
So Lucky by Dawn Porter – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Beth shows that women really can have it all, Ruby lives life by her own rules and then there’s Lauren, living the dream. But is everything as perfect as it looks? Beth hasn’t had sex in a year, Ruby feels like she’s failing and Lauren’s happiness is fake news. And it just takes one shocking event to make the truth come tumbling out…
This is the first book I’ve read by Dawn Porter and, while I thought it was thoroughly enjoyable, I wasn’t blown away. I loved the contemporary aspect of the novel (e.g. Lauren’s story is told solely through Instagram posts) and found the characters very warm and interesting. I’d be keen to read more of Porter’s work but, given how popular the novel is on Goodreads, I was a tad underwhelmed.
Animal Farm by George Orwell – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It is the history of a revolution that went wrong – and of the excellent excuses that were forthcoming at every step for the perversion of the original doctrine,’ wrote Orwell for the first edition of Animal Farm in 1945. Orwell’s simple, tragic fable, telling what happens when the animals drive out Mr Jones and attempt to run the farm themselves, has since become a world famous classic.
Animal Farm was my classic pick for October and I loved it! The story is as relevant today as the day it was written – it’s a hugely important novel that everybody should read at some point in their lifetime. Orwell carves a perfect story that acts as a distressing social commentary, critiquing how socialist ideas and beliefs are corrupted by those in power. Definitely worthy of its classic title!
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves. They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world. Two days later, one of them is dead.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Hunting Party. As another charity shop find, I didn’t have any expectations when I began reading but I devoured the book in a couple of days – I thought it was brilliant. Although there were a few twists that I guessed beforehand, there was plenty of surprise and intrigue to keep my interest. The varied mix of characters worked well together and the book is one of my favourite thrillers so far this year. I’d highly recommend it.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – ⭐️⭐️
In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time. But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .
I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book and I really wanted to love it, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t my thing. I found it very repetitive, the sentence structure made it difficult to read and I didn’t find the dialogue believable. The characters were lovely and the concept is great, but I just didn’t gel with the writing. The book is translated from a Japanese play, and I think I’d much prefer watching it as opposed to reading it.
A Long Weekend by Veronica Henry – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Claire Marlowe owns ‘The Townhouse by the Sea’ with Luca, the hotel’s charismatic chef. She ensures everything runs smoothly until an unexpected arrival checks in and turns her whole world upside down. And the rest of the guests arrive with their own baggage. There’s a couple looking for a distraction from a family tragedy; a man trying to make amends for an affair he bitterly regrets, and the young woman who thinks the Cornish village might hold the key to her past. Here are affairs of the heart, secrets, lies and scandal – all wrapped up in one long, hot weekend.
When I’m looking for some easy, escapist fiction, Veronica Henry is one of my go-to authors and I know she’ll never disappoint. A Long Weekend is a heart-warming story, set in a glorious town full of eccentric, loveable characters. It’s a hugely entertaining book with just the right amount drama, romance and surprise. A great book to cheer you up in lockdown!