20 Books of Summer 2023

Cathy at 746 Books is hosting her 20 Books of Summer Challenge again this year. The challenge runs from 1 June to 1 September. There are options to read 10 or 15 books instead of the full 20. And you can swap a book, or change the list half way through if you want. And you can decide to drop your goal from 20 to 15 or 10 if you want to. This is a very flexible challenge!

You can sign up here.

During previous summers I’ve taken part in this challenge and never managed to read all the books I’ve listed, although I’ve read over 20 books during the summer months. It seems that listing books I want to read somehow takes away my desire to read them – or it may be that other books demand to be read when the time comes.

But I do enjoy compiling a list, so here are 20 books I’d like to read, subject to change, of course and as time goes on I may drop my goal to 15 or 10 … depending on circumstances.

  1. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
  2. A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon
  3. Death is Now My Neighbout by Colin Dexter
  4. Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flyn
  5. The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pullen
  6. Recalled to Life by Reginald Hill
  7. The Hunt for Mount Everest by Craig Storti
  8. I’ll Never Be Young Again by Daphne du Maurier
  9. The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths
  10. The Midnight Hour by Elly Griffiths
  11. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  12. Broadchurch by Erin Kelly
  13. The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier
  14. The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Willis Crofts
  15. Longbourn by Jo Baker
  16. Weyward by Emilia Hart
  17. The Cut by Christopher Brookmyre
  18. A Dirty Death by Rebecca Tope
  19. Broken Summer by J M Lee
  20. The Vanishing Tide by Hilary Taylor

What will you be reading?

Wanderlust Bingo – Update

This challenge was devised by FictionFan in 2021 and I have been filling in the squares at a snail’s pace since then.

Any type of book counts – crime, fiction, science fiction, non-fiction and a country can only appear once. I think this is why I have found it the hardest reading challenge of all – so far only completing 16 of the 25 squares and I’ve been thinking about giving up on it. But after looking through my unread books I have come up with books to fill 8 of the remaining 9 squares.

Books shown in italics are ones I’m thinking of reading or am currently reading.

North America – Inland by Téa Obreht – USA

Small Town – A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson – Canada

Island – The Island by Victoria HislopGreece

Train – Stamboul Train by Graham Greene – on the Orient Express travelling from Ostend to Constantinople (Instanbul or Stamboul), via Cologne, Vienna and Belgrade.

Far East – The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré – Hong Kong, Cambodia etc

Indian Sub-Continent – The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – India

Village – Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes – ItalyI have just started reading this

Oceania – A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville – Australia

Forest – White Rose, Black Forest by Eoin DempseyGermany read not yet reviewed

Space – The [Widget], The [Wadget], and Boff, by Theodore Sturgeon

Mountain – The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley – Spain and other countries

South America – Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia MarquezColombia

Free SquareThe Fellowship of the Ring by J R R Tolkien – read not yet reviewed – Middle Earth

River – State of Wonder by Ann Patchett – Rio Negro in Brazil – read not yet reviewed

Polar Regions – Ice Bound by Jerri Nielsen – The South Pole, Antarctica

Desert – The Night of the Mi’raj  by Zoë Ferraris – Saudi Arabia

Walk – A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute – Malaya – currently reading

Southeast Asia – The Quiet American by Graham Greene – Vietnam

Africa – Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – Belgian Congo

Beach – The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths – Norfolk, England – read not yet reviewed

Road – Coffin Road by Peter May – Scotland

Europe – Ashes by Christopher de Vinck – Belgium

Sea – The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba.

Middle East – Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie – present-day Iraq, Kuwait, and parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey

City – The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles – France


This leaves me with just one book to find to fill the Desert square – any suggestions, please!

The 1954 Club

The 1954 Club starts today, hosted by Karen and Simon, who ask everyone to read one or more books published in 1954 – in any language, format, or place – and share their reviews. Together, they will put together an overview of the year.

Books I’ve read and reviewed on this blog:

  1. Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie
  2. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  3. The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

And these I read years ago before I began blogging, so no reviews:

  1. Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier – fictional biography about one of du Maurier’s who was the mistress of  Frederick Augustus, the Duke of York and Albany (the ‘Grand old Duke of York’), a son of George III.
  2. Lord of the Flies by William Golding – a novel about a group of schoolboys stranded on an island and what happens when their behaviour descends into darkness.
  3. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch – the first book by her that I read when I was a teenager and I didn’t really understand it!
  4. The Fellowship of the Ring by J R R Tolkien – I’ve read all of the Lord of the Rings books more than once in the past and I was hoping to re-read this the first book for the 1954 Club, but have only just started it.
  5. The Two Towers by J R R Tolkien – the second book in the trilogy.
  6. Katherine by Anya Seton – this novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family.

I’ve decided to re-read the Lord of the Rings this year, but my review will not be ready this week!

Ten Books I Haven’t Reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

These are books I read before I started BooksPlease. They are all books I read in 2006 and although I may have mentioned them on my blog I’ve not reviewed them.

Looking Back at Books I Read in 2021

2021 was an odd year in many ways and the various events affected my reading. There were times when I didn’t want to read and several times when I certainly didn’t want to write about the books I did read. In total I read 80 books and didn’t write about 19 of them. I will write about two of them at least, a NetGalley book and also The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel.

I began the year determined to read Mantel’s book as I’d bought it in March 2020, but as the months went by I kept reading other books instead. After a good start I just couldn’t get interested in it and I’d loved the other two books in the Wolf Hall trilogy, but this third book was just dragging along. I left it for a few months and finally finished it just before Christmas.

I took part in four Challenges

Back to the Classics – completed 6 out of 12 categories
Mount TBR 2021 – read 40 of my TBRs meeting my target of reading 36 books
Wanderlust Bingo – still ongoing, completed 11 out of 25 categories so far
What’s in a Name? – completed 6 out of 6 categories

My Year in Books 2021 – this is one way of looking at what I read. I saw this on Cath’s blog Read Warbler and was inspired to do my own.

How do you feel? Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipciger

Describe where you currently live: Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

If you could go anywhere, where would you go?  A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson

Your favorite form of transportation is (with): The Railway Children by E Nesbit

Your best friend is: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

You and your friends are: The Killing Kind by Jane Casey (no way!)

What’s the weather like? Ice Bound by Jerri Nielsen

You fear: The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray

What is the best advice you have to give? Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier

Thought for the day:   I Love the Bones of You by Christopher Eccleston

 How would I like to die? (from) A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry

Top Five Tueday: Book Covers with Plants

Top Five Tuesday was originally created by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm, but is now hosted by Meeghan @ Meeghan Reads. To participate, link your post back to Meeghan’s blog or leave a comment on her weekly post.

This is my first attempt at a Top Five Tuesday post. This week it’s about books with plants on their covers, so here are mine. I’ve read all of them except for one.

Heat Wave by Penelope Lively, with its cover full of summer flowers, reflecting the long hot summer in the English countryside.


Pauline is spending the summer at World’s End, a cottage somewhere in the middle of England. This year the adjoining cottage is occupied by her daughter Teresa and baby grandson Luke; and, of course, Maurice, the man Teresa married. As the hot months unfold, Maurice grows ever more involved in the book he is writing – and with his female copy editor – and Pauline can only watch in dismay and anger as her daughter repeats her own mistakes in love. The heat and tension will lead to a violent, startling climax.

In Heat Wave, Penelope Lively gives us a moving portrayal of a fragile family damaged and defined by adultery, and the lengths to which a mother will go to protect the ones she loves.

The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson – a striking cover for this historical fiction about the early years of Henry VII’s reign.


My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…

When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive. 

A Month in the Country by J L Carr. I loved this quiet novel, in which not a lot happens and yet so much happens as Tom describes the events of that summer month in the country. And it has a gorgeous cover too!


A damaged survivor of the First World War, Tom Birkin finds refuge in the quiet village church of Oxgodby where he is to spend the summer uncovering a huge medieval wall-painting. Immersed in the peace and beauty of the countryside and the unchanging rhythms of village life he experiences a sense of renewal and belief in the future. Now an old man, Birkin looks back on the idyllic summer of 1920, remembering a vanished place of blissful calm, untouched by change, a precious moment he has carried with him through the disappointments of the years. Adapted into a film starring Colin Firth, Natasha Richardson and Kenneth Branagh, A Month in the Country traces the slow revival of the primeval rhythms of life so cruelly disorientated by the Great War.

The Overstory by Richard Powers. This was recommended to me by a friend and I bought this last year but I still haven’t read it yet. I love its cover.


An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. An Air Force crewmember in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan.

This is the story of these and five other strangers, each summoned in different ways by the natural world, who are brought together in a last stand to save it from catastrophe.

The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter – an Inspector Morse book. An atmospheric cover for this mystery that Morse solves from crossword type clues, with plenty of twists and turns and vivid descriptions of the scenery and locations.


They called her the Swedish Maiden – the beautiful young tourist who disappeared on a hot summer’s day somewhere in North Oxford. Twelve months later the case remained unsolved – pending further developments.

On holiday in Lyme Regis, Chief Inspector Morse is startled to read a tantalizing article in The Times about the missing woman. An article which lures him back to Wytham Woods near Oxford . . . and straight into the most extraordinary murder investigation of his career.

20 Books of Summer Starts Today

Today is the start of Cathy at 746 Books20 Books of Summer. I previously listed the books I thought I’d read, but I’m already making a change and substituting Blue Moon by Lee Childs for An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris.

So, these are the 20 books that I’m hoping to read this summer:

  1. The Railway Children by E Nesbit
  2. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
  3. Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K Jerome
  4. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.
  5. Sing, Jess, Sing by Tricia Coxon
  6. An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
  7. The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge
  8. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  9. The Killing Kind by Jane Casey
  10. The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson
  11. True Crime Story by Joseph Knox
  12. Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas
  13. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
  14. Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipciger
  15. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles ** – as Rosemarykay pointed out in the comments I’ve duplicated this one, so I’m changing it to Heresy by S J Parris
  16. Loch Down Abbey by Beth Cowan-Erskine
  17. A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry
  18. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
  19. Katheryn Howard, The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir
  20. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

A Reading Plan for the Coming Week?

Last weekend I planned posts for the week ahead. I managed to stick to the plan, but I did find it a bit stressful. So, this week I’m taking it as it comes. I may do a Top Ten Tuesday post and a review post of The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, but that is by no means a definite plan. I’ll be busy next week in the garden, now that the grass is growing along with everything else!

And I may pluck up courage and visit Barter Books – that will be exciting!

Do you plan your posts, I’m wondering? Do you find it helps or hinders?

Six Degrees of Separation from Shuggie Bain to The Secret Life of Bees

It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Shuggie Bain is by Douglas Stuart and it won the Booker Prize in 2020. I haven’t read it.

This is a story of a young boy growing up in poverty in a dysfunctional family in the 1980s. Shuggie’s mother, Agnes, is an alcoholic, and his father, Shug, is a taxi driver who despises his wife’s addiction to ‘the drink’, cheats on her whenever the opportunity arises, and ultimately abandons her to a low-income housing development called Pithead, a depressing colliery where residents survive on government handouts. It’s Douglas Stuart’s first novel.

My first link is to another Booker Prize winning book, The Gathering by Anne Enright, the winner in 2007. It’s a dark and disturbing novel also about a dysfunctional family. The narrator is Veronica Hegarty and it is through her eyes that the Hegarty family story is told as they gather at her brother’s wake in Dublin. Liam, an alcoholic, had committed suicide by putting rocks into his pockets and walking into the sea at Brighton. 

My second link is from a fictional character who put rocks in his pockets to drown himself to a real person who committed suicide in the same way -Virginia Woolf. In his biography of her, Quentin Bell described how she made her way to the river bank, slipped a large stone into her coat pocket and drowned herself.

My third link is from a suicide to a death that seemed at first to be a suicide but then turned out to be murder, in Gallows Court by Martin Edwards, set in 1930s London. There’s tension and suspicion about who is telling the truth, and who is not who they appear to be. You just cannot believe anything as it’s full of illusions and tricks to baffle and mislead.

Fourth, there’s another apparent suicide in The Serpent Pool, a Lake District Mystery, by Martin Edwards. Bethany Friend drowned in the Serpent Pool, a lonely, isolated place below the Serpent Tower, a folly high on a ridge. DCI Hannah Scarlet, in charge of the Cumbria’s Cold Case Team, investigates her death with the help of historian, Daniel Kind.

Fifth, from the Serpent Tower my chain moves on to the Eiffel Tower in Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner. It combines crime fiction and historical fiction, as Eugénie Patinot takes her nephews and niece to the newly-opened Eiffel Tower in 1889. They sign the visitors’ book, and then Eugénie collapses and dies, apparently from a bee-sting.

And the final link is to bees in Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Lives of Bees, (I’ve had this book for 6 years and it’s been hidden in my Kindle ever since – unread!). It’s a coming of age tale set in 1960s South Carolina’. It tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. This book also links back to Shuggie Bain as both are their authors’ debut novels.

My chain began in Glasgow, moved to Dublin, various places in England and then Paris before ending up in South Carolina. The links include Booker Prize winners, dysfunctional families, suicide, murder and bees.

Next month’s chain (May 1, 2021) will begin with Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, a book I’ve never come across before.