By The Duchess, 12th January 2017

Re-Discover a Love of Books

How to Push yourself Outside your Comfort Zone

How to Push yourself Outside your Comfort Zone

I have always loved reading. For as long as I can remember, I have loved tracing the words on the page and watching as images dance in my mind, the author creating a personal movie, just for me.T
Reading is escape. A chance to hide away from the ‘real’ world for a few hours as you dissolve into a world you can create all for yourself with the helping hand of a few expertly placed words on a page.

Reading is life. Books can shape you. Words can change your world. To give a child a book is to give them the chance to develop the most well-rounded imagination. It is the cheapest and yet most valuable gift you can give a human being.


That, I guess, is why I became a writer. The idea that one day I may be able to shape the imagination of others, fills me with warmth. It also fills me with enough fear to stop me finally sending that manuscript to a publisher – but then that is a different article.

I wish I could say that writing is something I do because I love it. But it’s not as easy as that. For me, writing is as close to having tourette’s as I can imagine. If I don’t write, it builds up inside me like a painful awkward twitch. A pain I can feel in my chest. A need, a desire, for the words to burst out.

Any form of writing will do. Shopping lists, chore charts, articles and yes, of course my own novel. Putting pen to paper is still, for me, as therapeutic as some would consider a spa day.

But what most people don’t realise, is that as a writer, reading is just as important as putting pen to paper. To expand your horizons and read the work of others is the only way you can truly exercise the muscles in your brain that will allow you to express yourself in your own words.

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For the last 2 years or more, The Glass House has been my biggest focus. I have of course taken time to finish my first novel also, but mainly my work has revolved around writing (and editing) for this site. I read books for The Book Club and I spend my days writing articles about issues that matter (as well as the odd frivolous article – sometimes you just need a little lightness!)

But the problem is, somewhere along the last year, I have lost time. I have no time to ‘read for pleasure’ anymore. I put off reading that latest novel because I simply have too much work to do, or the latest batch of pre-publication books have come through for us to peruse and review. Either way, my own personal love of the written word has had to take a back seat.

So, for 2017, I am actually going to make a New Year’s resolution. Those who know me well enough know I NEVER make ‘resolutions’. They always tend to be promises that can’t and won’t be kept about things that are simply not important.

“I promise to go to the gym once a week” – yeah right, okay. That will last a month before I get bored!
“I promise to stop gnawing at my nails” – okay, I can try to promise that, but the realist in me knows that it’s a nervous action I cannot control, and working in a deadline driven fast paced business means I am always going to gnaw at them.

In fact, myself and my husband have always veered away from resolutions. Choosing instead to write a list each year of what we hope to achieve in the next year. Dreams, goals and aspirations. We put the piece of paper away and don’t read it again until the following New Year. To obsess on the things you want to change simply puts too much doubt into the universe, but writing down your dreams affirms them just enough in your subconscious for you to work towards those goals.

Anyway, I digress. This year I am breaking my own rule and I am making a resolution. This year I vow to read more and expand my horizons. It is all too easy to stick to one genre, and as a writer, the only way we can evolve and better our writing skills is to read the perfected words of others.

When I started looking into it – it seems I am not the only one who has thought about setting myself book related goals. So many different blogs and Facebook pages set annual reading challenges.

I recently joined a ‘secret‘ Facebook page for true book lovers. (TBC THE Book Club). The community, built up by the formidable Tracy Fenton, allows us ‘book geeks’ to have a home – somewhere we can share our love (and sometimes obsession) with the written word. Finding this group was almost like ‘coming home’ for me. The best bit about finding this page, was the reading challenge dreamed up by the group’s founder.

Most challenges allow you to choose the books you want to read, but within certain parameters. Pushing you outside your comfort zone and exposing you to books and authors you would never normally come across. The challenge I am doing has one specific caveat: the books all have to be those written by authors who are a part of the TBC community. Which, in itself is amazing. After completing the books, you can post a message to the author to let them know personally what you thought. (Talking to authors really isn’t as scary as some may think!) With over 800 authors also a part of the community, it isn’t hard to find diversity.

So, I am getting the best of both worlds. You see, I work best with deadlines, I always do. One of the perks of being a writer I guess. But I need to expand my horizons, I want to shake up my bookcase, and I also know that having set parameters will make me stick to it.


So, (for those interested) this is the list of books I have chosen to read this year and I have the deadline of New Year’s Eve 2017 to complete it (most are from the TBC challenge, with a few added extras from another book challenge that I couldn’t resist adding!). It is a stretch given that I still have my own work related books to read and review as well as manuscripts, articles and my own novel to finish. But I am nothing if not determined and with so many books in the world to read and so little time, a challenge can only be a good thing.

Why not join me – take a look at the list below (or indeed hunt around for your own book challenges) and join me. Let us know how you are getting on or even share with us which books you have chosen for each challenge. In return, I promise to update you all with reviews of each of the books I read along the way. That way, I am reading for pleasure, expanding my library and my work life benefits too! Bonus.

And for those of you who are just a little obsessed with books, why not pop over and join our amazing community. Search for TBC THEBookClub on Facebook and send Charlie Fenton a friend request to be accepted into the community (click here) I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

A book about sports
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
How far will you go to achieve a dream? That’s the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits–until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.
As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers–about her daughter’s fears, her own marriage, and herself–forces Katie to consider whether there’s any price she isn’t willing to pay to achieve Devon’s dream.

(Update: The Duchess has read and reviewed this book. To read more, take a look at her review here.) 

Read a debut novel –
The Girls by Emma Cline
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerising older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realise she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.

A book about books –
Matilda by Roald Dahl (re-reading as an adult! Killing two birds with one stone. I get to re-read this amazing book and introduce it to my book loving daughter at the same time!)
Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

A book with girl/mother/daughter/sister in the title –
Mother of the Year by Karen Ross
I often think my mother would prefer colonic irrigation to hanging out with me.”
Beth Jackson is a national treasure, celebrated for her television shows and winning the Mother of the Year Award three times in a row—only, her daughter just wishes that Beth would be more like a normal mother. One who cares less about writing columns about her daughter, and who might actually want to spend Mother’s Day with her daughter. Told from the point of view of the long-suffering daughter of the Mother of the Year, this is a funny tale of love, family, and transformation.

A book with son/brother/husband/father in the title – 
My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry
 FIRST COMES LOVE. THEN COMES MARRIAGE. THEN COMES MURDER. ‘What if your life was built on a lie? When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind. But when she takes on her first criminal case, she starts to find herself strangely drawn to her client. A man who’s accused of murder. A man she will soon be willing to risk everything for. But is he really innocent? And who is she to judge?

A book written by a TBC author you haven’t read yet – (oh yes, TBC also plays host to some of the most amazing authors also! Bonus!)
The Secret of Second Wives by Kerry Fisher
 Would you risk everything for a man you loved? Even if you knew he had done something very bad?
Lara’s life looks perfect on the surface. Gorgeous doting husband Massimo, sweet little son Sandro and the perfect home. Lara knows something about Massimo. Something she can’t tell anyone else or everything Massimo has worked so hard for will be destroyed: his job, their reputation, their son. This secret is keeping Lara a prisoner in her marriage.
Maggie is married to Massimo’s brother Nico. She knows all of Nico’s darkest secrets – or so she thinks. The one day she discovers a letter in the attic which reveals a shocking secret about Nico’s first wife Caitlin. Will Maggie set the record straight or keep a lie to protect those she loves?
For a family held together by lies, the truth will come at a devastating price.

(Update: The Duchess has read and reviewed this book. To read more, take a look at her review here.) 

A book published before 2015 –
When the Crow Cries by Maxine Ridge
What would you do if you found a doorway to another world?
When Robyn becomes friends with Victoria, James and Elliot they show her how to reach higher and further than she could ever imagine. It all seems fun at first. The greatest adventure of their lives. But something darker is stirring in the other world. It’s getting harder to leave.
Breaking the barriers across time and space may be fun at first but the key to get back is lost and they can’t get home until that moment When the Crow Cries.

A book with a one word title –
Duplicity by Sibel Hodge
There are three sides to every story: Yours. Mine. And the truth…Max and Alissa have a fairy tale life—newlywed, madly in love and enviously rich. Then Max is brutally stabbed to death at their home and Alissa, miraculously, escapes with her life. But why was she spared? The hunt for the killer begins, uncovering a number of leads—was Max’s incredible wealth the motive? Had his shady business practices finally caught up with him? Or was it a stalker with a dangerous obsession? Devoted friends rally around gentle, sweet Alissa as she is left to mourn the loss of her husband and pick up her life. But not everyone is who they seem…Deep-rooted jealousies, secrets and twisted love lie just beneath the surface, and not all fairy tales have a happy ending.

A book out of my comfort zone genre –
The Silent Hours by Cesca Major
An epic, sweeping tale set in wartime France, The Silent Hours follows three people whose lives are bound together, before war tears them apart: Adeline, a mute who takes refuge in a convent, haunted by memories of her past; Sebastien, a young Jewish banker whose love for the beautiful Isabelle will change the course of his life dramatically; Tristan, a nine-year-old boy, whose family moves from Paris to settle in a village that is seemingly untouched by war. Beautifully wrought, utterly compelling and with a shocking true story at its core, The Silent Hours is an unforgettable portrayal of love and loss.

A book with a red/green/yellow or blue cover –
I Let You Go by Clare MacIntosh
I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.
At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.

A debut novel written by a TBC Author
Timothy Other: The Boy who climbed Marzipan Mountain by L Sydney Abel
Timothy Other’s birthplace has always been a mystery. 12 year-old Timothy lives at the Dreams and Hopes Orphanage where he was abandoned as an anonymous infant. Timothy’s world crumbles when the orphanage is repossessed by the bank and comes under the strict rule of the horrid Mr. Sterner and the scaly-skinned Ms. ‘Fishy’ Finn. He escapes the Dreams and Hopes Orphanage and travels to the bizarre world of Marzipan Mountain, where he befriends some amazing creatures. Timothy seeks to discover his true origins and becomes embroiled in a matter of life and death, facing the evil forces that crave the secret of ‘Golden Life’.

A book with a colour in the title –
The Dreams of the Black Butterfly by Mark James Barrett
Moises Quispe has heard the whispered rumours about the Black Butterfly – its hypnotic, velvet wings, two feet across and as dark and mystical as the Peruvian jungle night; a jungle receding to a soundtrack of chainsaws and hate; a jungle that gave him life and embraces the spirit of his murdered family. So he searches. Not because of the one million nuevo sol offered for its capture by the maniacal Mr Dollie, or because his mentor – who believes the rumours – has disappeared so completely, but because he must. Perhaps the Black Butterfly has been searching for him too, desperate to reveal the tight, elegant writing embedded in its wings. Its stories: tall, dark and cautionary tales of a doomed humanity that he alone can read. And when the butterfly finally submits, the danger that Moises finds himself in pales into insignificance against the fate of humanity itself. The Black Butterfly has chosen him to deliver its message and the future of mankind is in his hands. Man’s imagination will be nature’s revenge…

A book based on the “in my pants” game on TBC (check out the Facebook group for details!)
Follow Me by Angela Clarke
The ‘Hashtag Murderer’ posts chilling cryptic clues online, pointing to their next target. Taunting the police. Enthralling the press. Capturing the public’s imagination. But this is no virtual threat.As the number of his followers rises, so does the body count. Eight years ago two young girls did something unforgivable. Now ambitious police officer Nasreen and investigative journalist Freddie are thrown together again in a desperate struggle to catch this cunning, fame-crazed killer. But can they stay one step ahead of him? And can they escape their own past?

A book with a number in the title –
The One (A Thousand Small Explosions) by John Marrs
lies-by-john-marrsHow far would you go to find THE ONE?
One simple mouth swab is all it takes.
One tiny DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.
A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.
Now, five more people take the test. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…
The One by John Marrs

(Update: The Duchess has read and reviewed this book. To read more, take a look at her review here.) 

A book with a name in the title –
The Truth About Melody Brown by Lisa Jewell
Melody Browne can remember nothing before her ninth birthday. Now in her early thirties, Melody lives in the middle of London with her seventeen-year-old son. She hasn’t seen her parents since she left home at fifteen, but Melody doesn’t mind. She’s better off on her own.
And then fragments of her past start to come back. At first her memories mean nothing to her but slowly, day by day, she begins to piece together the real story of her childhood.
But with every mystery she solves another one materialises, with every question she answers another appears. And Melody begins to wonder if she’ll ever know the truth about her past …

A book at the bottom of my ‘must read’ pile – 
Lies by TM Logan
When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.
And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.
But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.
When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.
And that’s when Joe receives the first message . . .
Lies by TM Logan

A book with a season in the title –
I Won’t Be Home for Christmas by Amanda Prowse
While her free-spirited daughter travels the world, Vivienne prepares for a lonely Christmas in Bristol, with her best friend Ellen and her ancient dog Bob.Then a letter arrives that changes everything. Vivienne’s daughter is getting married in New Zealand, and she wants her mum and Ellen by her side.But out on the rugged coast of Tutukaka, the sea sparkles, romance beckons – and Vivienne falls under the spell of another life. Will she leave everything she holds dear for a chance at happiness? Or will her daughter be the only one to fall in love this Christmas?

A book recommended by Tracy Fenton –
The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

When time is running out, every moment is precious…
When Claire starts to write her Memory Book, she already knows that this scrapbook of mementos will soon be all her daughters and husband have of her. But how can she hold onto the past when her future is slipping through her fingers…?

A Book Starting with the first letter of your first name
(I’ll have to keep you guessing, because none of you know my ‘real’ first name…)
Exposure by Ava Marsh
Kitty Sweet isn’t like anyone you’ve ever met before.
She’s an infamous porn star, imprisoned for double murder. As damaged as she is charismatic, as dangerous as she is charming.
But once no different from you or I.
Kitty’s past is full of heartbreak and desperation, of adulation and glamour. Of ruin. She’s descended to an underworld most people can only imagine, and lived to tell the tale . . .

A book published in 2016 –

My Girl by Jack Jordan
Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man. She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house. Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death? Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets. But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me.

A book recommended by a fellow TBC member –
How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst
My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago I was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve-week-old son Dylan. I have no memory of what happened but you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police are telling you, don’t you? But if you can’t remember what happened, how can you be sure that they are telling the truth? And if there was the smallest chance your son was alive, wouldn’t you do anything to get him back? If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?

A travel memoir –
Lost on Planet China by J Maarten Troost
Lost on Planet China finds Troost dodging deadly drivers in Shanghai; eating Yak in Tibet; deciphering restaurant menus (offering local favorites such as Cattle Penis with Garlic); visiting with Chairman Mao (still dead, very orange); and hiking (with 80,000 other people) up Tai Shan, China’s most revered mountain. But in addition to his trademark gonzo adventures, the book also delivers a telling look at a vast and complex country on the brink of transformation that will soon shape the way we all work, live, and think. As Troost shows, while we may be familiar with Yao Ming or dim sum or the cheap, plastic products that line the shelves of every store, the real China remains a world—indeed, a planet–unto itself.

A fantasy or YA novel –
The Path Keeper by N.J Simmonds
Can love ever be stronger than fate?
What if every coincidence was a tiny miracle? What if our life was already mapped out before birth? What if someone had the power to change the path we were destined to follow?
Ella hates her new life in London, she misses Spain and she’s struggling to get over her past until she meets Zac. He has always loved her but he isn’t meant to be part of Ella’s story. Not this time. Not ever. Little does she know that his secret is the one thing that will tear them apart and will force her to live in a world that no longer makes sense, a world more dangerous than she could ever imagine.

(Update: The Duchess has read and reviewed this book. To read more, take a look at her review here.) 

A book published between 1900-1950
A Room With a View by EM Forster
Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte, and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance. Her eyes are opened by the unconventional characters she meets at the Pension Bertolini: flamboyant romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, the Cockney Signora, curious Mr Emerson and, most of all, his passionate son George.
Lucy finds herself torn between the intensity of life in Italy and the repressed morals of Edwardian England, personified in her terminally dull fiancé Cecil Vyse. Will she ever learn to follow her own heart?

What did you think?

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