26 Books in 2017 Book 16: Books over 500 Pages Long

Big Books

Quality versus Quantity

Book 16 in the 26-Books-in-52-Weeks Challenge has to be a book that is over 500 pages long.

Now, in the world of books size shouldn’t matter. Quality isn’t necessarily linked to quantity. If it’s a big book but it’s also a page-turner, I’ll read it more quickly and with more enjoyment than a short, tedious one.

For example, Books 4 to 7 in the Harry Potter series were whoppers. I loved them. And I think it’s safe to say, so did plenty other people.

I haven’t read more recent bedside-table-busters such as Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, or George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but it’s evident their popularity hasn’t suffered because of their length. Similarly with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books which I also haven’t read, but isn’t it great that so many young folks have – because hey, they’re reading!

So what book would I highlight in this category? Well, in keeping with the outsize theme, I’ve gone for more than one book.


Favourite Books Over 500 Pages:

  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell


To-Be-Read Book Over 500 Pages:

  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


Couldn’t finish Book Over 500 Pages:

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy


And that’s it. Yes, more than one book named in this ‘big book’ category, but balanced by the fact it’s a relatively short post.

Over to you – Do you judge a book by its size? What bicep challengers have you read and enjoyed – or not?

26 Books in 2017 Book 15: Finding Alison by Deirdre Eustace @bwpublishing #bookreview #MondayBlogs


Book 15 in the 26-Books-in-52-Weeks Challenge has to be a book that someone else recommended to me.

As with many of the other categories in this challenge the list of potential choices was quite a long one. This is because I base most of my book choices on someone else’s recommendations. I sometimes go with suggestions made by bookshops or by reviewers in newspapers and magazines, but by far my main source of recommendations are a trusty group of book bloggers.

I’m a member of a Facebook group called Book Connectors set up by the utterly amazing and awesome Anne Cater. This is a group made up of readers, writers and reviewers. The reviewers are all book bloggers and many of them are amazingly dedicated and prolific. Their review posts are done out of a love of reading and a desire to share their thoughts on what they’ve read. Their reviews aren’t paid for by publishers and so there is no bias other than personal taste.

I follow quite a few blogs written by Book Connector members and some of them are almost entirely responsible for my rather large TBR (To-Be-Read) pile of books.

It was Book Connector, Joanne, whose blog you can visit here who recommended my most recent read. It is book number 15 in my 26 Books Challenge and it is Finding Alison by Deirdre Eustace.

Back Cover Blurb: In Carniskey, a small fishing village in Ireland, the community is divided, wracked by grief and guilt; love and resentment; despair and hope. Sean Delaney has been missing at sea for three years, and no one – least of all his grieving wife, Alison – knows what really happened to him. Having lost her husband, her financial security, and having grown distant from her daughter, Alison feels alone and estranged from the villagers. Sean’s mother has not spoken since her house was burgled after his disappearance, and Alison’s only friend, Kathleen, harbours secrets of her own. Isolated by their stunning, yet often cruel, surroundings, the community is forced to look inwards. But when artist and lifelong nomad William comes to town, he offers Alison a new perspective on life – and love. What she doesn’t realise is that strangers have secrets of their own, and William’s arrival threatens to unearth the mysteries of the past. A story of courage and humanity, we follow a community through their struggles and triumphs in love, loss and betrayal. As each of the characters strives to find their own sense of belonging, they are led to the realisation that it is only through the truth that they can truly find happiness.

My Review of Finding Alison:

I loved this book. It was a difficult book to put down and had me reading way past my usual lights out time. It was also one of those books where I desperately wanted to know how it ended, but I also didn’t want to finish it because it was so enjoyable a read.

The book tells the story of Alison who meets and falls in love with William whilst recovering from the loss of her husband Sean. As Alison gets to know William, she also gets to know her true self. Themes of redemption, recovery and mortality are woven through the story as Alison faces up to the challenges of parenting her teenage daughter, accepting her marriage was far from a happy one, and to moving on with her life.

On the face of it, it’s a contemporary romance, but it’s also so much more. A man and a woman meet and fall in love but the challenges their relationship faces are far from the usual sort. The characters are superbly drawn including the supporting cast.

This is a beautifully written, captivating, intelligent and very moving story.

Type of Read: Snuggle in, tea and tissues to hand, and immerse yourself.

Finding Alison is published by Black and White Publishing and is available as a paperback and as an e-book.

QUESTION: Where do you get your book recommendations from?

26 Books in 2017 Book 12

Book number twelve in the 26-books-in-52-weeks challenge has to be a book with someone’s name in the title.

I’ve chosen My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.

This book is written in Strout’s usual economic style and in her customary honest voice. It’s a relatively short book but it says a lot. It’s about the difficult relationship between a mother and her adult daughter. It’s in no way sentimental, but it is a moving read. If you like Anne Tyler, another American author of contemporary fiction, you’ll most likely enjoy Elizabeth Strout too.

I’ve also read another book by Strout. It too has a name in its title – in fact the name is its title. And that is Olive Kitteridge. It too is a good read.

Back Cover Blurb for My Name is Lucy Barton: Lucy is recovering from an operation in a New York hospital when she wakes to find her estranged mother sitting by her bed. They have not seen one another in years. As they talk Lucy finds herself recalling her troubled rural childhood and how it was she eventually arrived in the big city, got married and had children. But this unexpected visit leaves her doubting the life she’s made: wondering what is lost and what has yet to be found.

26 Books in 2017: Book 7

Under the Spanish Stars

Under the Spanish Stars by Alli Sinclair – enjoyable, escapist romance with plenty of depth and intrigue.

Book number seven in the 26-books-in 52-weeks challenge has to be a book written by a woman. So, as with the book six specification of a book by a male author, it’s a wide field to choose from.

My fiction choices come mainly from the contemporary and crime genres and both male and female authors are on my favourites list. But choosing just one – of either gender – has proved difficult.

So I decided that for this category (male and female) I’d choose an author who is new to me and in a genre I wouldn’t normally read.

Hence I’m going for the romantic novel Under the Spanish Stars by Alli Sinclair as my Book Seven.

I do read romantic fiction but I usually prefer the protagonists to be a bit older than they are in this book. I like a heroine and hero who have lived a little. So Under the Spanish Stars was a bit out of my comfort zone with its twenty-something main characters and I suspected I might get a bit bored.

Not a bit of it!

Yes, it’s a boy meets girl tale, yes it’s highly romantic – but in the best way. The characters have depth. They have complex and interesting back stories. And there’s plenty of intrigue.

Charlotte is Australian but the need to solve a mystery in her grandmother’s past takes her to Spain where she meets Mateo.

Here’s what the back cover blurb says:

Amid the vivid beauty of Granada, a woman entrusted with unraveling a family secret will discover the truth about her heritage—and the alluring promise of love…   When her beloved grandmother falls ill, Charlotte Kavanagh will do whatever she asks of her—even if it means traveling to a country that broke her abuela’s heart. Can an unsigned painting of a flamenco dancer unlock the secrets of her grandmother’s youth in Spain? To find the answers she needs, Charlotte must convince the charismatic and gifted musician, Mateo Vives to introduce her to a secluded gypsy clan.     The enigmatic Mateo speaks the true language of flamenco, a culture Charlotte must learn to appreciate if she wants to understand her grandmother’s past—and the flamenco legend that has moved souls to beauty, and bodies to the heights of passion. As Mateo leads her into the captivating world of the music and the dance, Charlotte embraces her own long-denied creative gift and the possibility of a future rich with joy…

As the story goes back in time to when Charlotte’s grandmother, Katerina was young and in love with flamenco guitarist, Raul, the reader becomes immersed not just in the Franco era, but also in the spirit of flamenco and the Spanish gitano culture. Alli Sinclair has done her research but it’s deftly presented and woven into the story and she beings the beauty, architecture and culture associated with the Alhambra and Granada fully to life.

The novel is beautifully set – and set up. It’s laced with art, culture and history. It’s also beautifully told. Altogether a satisfying, romantic read.



26 Books in 2017: Book 5

The Old Ways Robert Macfarlane

The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane – ‘a landscape of the feet and mind’

Book number five in the 26-books-in 52-weeks challenge has to be a non-fiction book. It was harder than I first thought it would be to choose just one book in this category. But when you think about it, it’s a wide field.

I have favourite cookbooks and gardening manuals. I also remain fond of my dictionaries, my thesaurus and my world atlas and still favour them over any online versions. I have a much-referred-to field guide for identifying British wild birds. All of these are elderly volumes but still much in use.

Apart from the above reference/instructional works, I also have several books on history, psychology, linguistics, and education. Some of these I’ve held onto since my long ago university days and some are more up to date.

I’m also keen on guide books and travel guides and have amassed quite a collection over the years. The US, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe – all feature and serve as reminders of places visited.

But my most recent reading in the non-fiction section has been from the creative non-fiction shelf. This genre includes memoir and personal, reflective writing, and my favourite so far has to be The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane.

Walking has a way of freeing and inspiring the mind, letting it roam, ponder, and understand. In this book Macfarlane shares the thoughts and insights on life that were prompted as he walked many ancient tracks, trails and paths. It’s a simple concept but beautifully done and I can recommend both the book and the value of taking these, or similar, walks yourself.

Back Cover Blurb:

Following the tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond, Robert Macfarlane discovers a lost world – a landscape of the feet and the mind, of pilgrimage and ritual, of stories and ghosts; above all of the places and journeys which inspire and inhabit our imaginations.

The Old Ways is published by Penguin and is available as a hardback, paperback, eBook and audio book.

26 Books in 2017: Book 4


Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner – a subtle and different take on the police procedural.

The fourth post in the 26-books-in-52-weeks challenge has to be about a book published within the last year. Of course, I’ve already reviewed several excellent books from this category as part of my usual book posts here. But rather than ‘cheating’ with a repost of one of them, I’ve gone with the next one in my to-be-reviewed queue.

So book number four is Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner.

This is a crime fiction novel and it’s a subtle and different take on the police procedural.

The refreshing thing about this book was it surprised me and the surprise was a pleasant one.

Regular readers of the blog will know I enjoy crime fiction, but not where the format is lazy, formulaic or dependent on stereotypes. Missing, Presumed avoided all that.

Yes, it had a police search for a missing young female at its centre. Yes, it had a troubled, unconventional, boundary-pushing cop who was under pressure to find her fast. Yes, there was a shoal of red herrings and all served with the required twist.

But Steiner uses the conventional framework well. Her story building is excellent. Characters are not stereotypical – not the police, not the villains and not the victim. The subplots are clever, original and although there are surprises, it all remains credible.

I loved DS Manon Bradshaw. She’s a great addition to the hall of fictional detective fame. She’s richly drawn – flawed, warm, and dedicated

This is the best sort of page tuner – there’s real breadth, depth and substance to the story.

Susie Steiner is up there with Ian Rankin and Ann Cleeves and I can’t wait for her next book.

Type of read: It will draw you in and keep a tight hold. There’s plenty to gasp at and keep you hooked. And a pot of coffee to hand would be a good idea as you’ll be up way past bedtime reading this.

Back Cover Blurb:


A MISSING GIRL Edith Hind is gone, leaving just her coat, a smear of blood and a half-open door.

A DESPERATE FAMILY Each of her friends and relatives has a version of the truth. But none quite adds up.

A DETECTIVE AT BREAKING POINT The press grows hungrier by the day. Can DS Manon Bradshaw fend them off, before a missing persons case becomes a murder investigation?

Missing, Presumed is published by The Borough Press and is available as a paperback, and ebook and an audio book.