And here we are in March, already… The final week of February proved to be a bit grim as I became ill and rather miserable. The unending rain didn’t help, either… Nonetheless, it proved to be a reasonably productive month as I wrote just over 49,000 words altogether, with nearly 35,500 words on Mantivore Warrior, just over 11,500 words on the blog and just over 2,000 in lesson planning and evaluations.
I read twelve books in February and DNF’d an audiobook because I couldn’t get on with the narrator – the first time that’s happened to me. This is the list of twelve books I completed:
You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce – my outstanding read of the month
The Case of the Reincarnated Client – Book 5 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
AUDIOBOOK Uprooted by Naomi Novi – audio read of the month
A Blight of Blackwings – Book 2 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne
P is for Pluto – Book 3 of the Molly Marbles series by Jackie Kingon
AUDIOBOOK Salt Lane – Book 1 of the DS Alexander Cupidi series by William Shaw
Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus series by David Hair & Cat Mayo
Skyward – Book 1 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter
Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum
Magic Bites – Book 1 of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
I was some 75,000 words into Mantivore Warrior and decided that I was within touching distance of the end – so decided to blast for the finishing line. A mistake – I was nothing of the sort, given that I had a fair amount to tie up in this the last of the trilogy. And as I tried to prioritise my writing to the exclusion of everything else – I was a bit dismayed at just what a struggle it was as there are still a lot of calls on my time. And the stress of trying to push so hard pitchforked me back to feeling dreadful, both physically and mentally… Let’s hope I’ve learnt that lesson and don’t make the same mistake next time around.
Given the car-crash I made of managing my work/life balance at the end of the month (I didn’t…) it won’t be a surprise to learn that keeping the blog going was an almighty fail. Sorry folks. It doesn’t help to drop all the balls, I know. But hopefully this won’t happen again! On the plus side, I’ve been buoyed and comforted by the kind messages and encouragement that I’ve been receiving about my decision to ease down on my blogging frequency. Thank you so much for taking the time to send said comfort – it’s been mightily appreciated and certainly justifies my decision NOT to completely walk away from my blog.
I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, The Festival Murders – see my review here, so was delighted to be approved to read this third book charting Francis Meadowes’ adventures…
BLURB: Francis Meadowes is soaking up the late summer sun in Italy, running a creative writing course at the beautiful Villa Giulia, deep in the remote Umbrian countryside. Recruited by the villa’s owners, Stephanie and Gerry, Francis’s students include snooty, irritating Poppy and her ex-ambassador husband Duncan, eccentric Northern Irishman Liam, quirky, self-styled ‘Hampstead Jewess’ Zoe, bossy Scottish Diana, kooky young American Sasha, mysterious ‘spy’ Tony and restless civil servant Roz. But what should be a magical week under the Italian sun turns into something far more sinister when one of the group is found dead, and the local police quickly turn to Francis for help. Uncovering betrayal, lies, secrets and old scores to be settled, Francis soon realizes something very dark is lurking beneath the genteel and civilized veneer . . .
If you are looking for a foot-to-the-floor, non-stop action adventure, then this one isn’t for you. McCrum wonderfully conveys the glorious scenery and magical surroundings of this creative writing course by the steady accretion of details and description. His prose style is readable and accomplished, as Francis finds himself unwillingly sucked into the horrible murder. As in the first book, I found Francis to be a really attractive protagonist, and it was easy to empathise with his rather detached interest in everyone around him. Writers tend to be a bit vampiric about their own lives, always wondering if they can use what happens around them as material for another book… McCrum uses this side of Francis’ character to very good effect. I thought the crafting of the whodunit was also exceptionally well done – there were a raft of suspects, most with plausible reasons why they should want the victim done away with. But I couldn’t work out who was the murderer until the denouement, though flipping back, the clues were clearly there. Nicely done – and not always the case in cosy mysteries.
Francis’ own involvement was both bizarre and yet believable – and I very much liked the fact we weren’t allowed to forget that someone had died. Particularly with the second death, there was a real sense of shock and loss at the wicked waste of life, which not only upped the stakes, but made it matter that the perpetrator was caught. Overall, this was a classy effort and I shall certainly be following these mysteries and reading more. Highly recommended. The ebook arc copy of Murder Your Darlings was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.