Tracking Your Reading: Is It Worth It?

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Scanning social media lately, I’ve seen loads of links, adverts and sponsored posts showcasing new book tracking software, spreadsheets and apps that can help you to examine your reading in more detail.

Book journals have been around for decades, and in today’s market where everything from our sleep and steps through to our diets and skincare regimes are track-able, is it worth the effort to chart your reading habits too?

After all, reading is a hobby. Whilst some books are read for work or in an effort towards self-improvement, the majority are read just for fun. They’re read because people know reading is good for their minds, but they also enjoy it. So what’s the point in diligently tracking it?

For some, it could be another way to heighten their enjoyment and improve the benefits they get from reading, in the same way that those who like walking use step counters to measure steps and track their walking in an effort to improve their health whilst doing something they enjoy.

However, for others I fear that book tracking could make them become stressed and suck the joy out of reading. I personally fear I may start to worry about the books I read, if I read enough and whether my reading is actually making a difference.

After all, reading is a fun hobby, so why monitor it thoroughly? When practically our every movement is being watched and recorded by CCTV and all kinds of other technology, is it really worth downloading a phone app that will track your reading habits too?

There’s also the issue of the technology on offer itself. It’s a fact that all technology companies, especially those offering free apps, are using your data for sales purposes. They’re not giving you something for free out of the kindness of their corporate hearts. They’re collecting information that can be used to track and predict buying habits, and then either selling it on or using it to push adverts targeted specifically at you.

So, in conclusion, I reckon that if you want to track your reading, do it the old fashioned way. Buy yourself a pretty book journal and write down every book you read, and maybe make some notes on what you thought of it. This fancy-smancy new technology is only going to stress you out and target you with seductive advertising. Book journals can’t do that, and they’re cute in their own way too.



The Folio Society’s Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil Review: A Beautiful Way To Experience Berendt’s Savannah


From the very opening sentence, it’s easy to see why the Folio Society has chosen John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for one of its stunning editions.

Everything about this book is seductively and intellectually stylish and designed to bring to life more than just the tale of a real life murder in Savannah, but to showcase the diverse range of characters this majestic city has to offer.

From liars to thieves to everything in between, Berendt brings to these characters to joyful life in all their glory, showing that there is more to Savannah than meets the eye.

The cast of characters is incredibly eclectic and some of the tales are so tall they’re almost unbelievable. From petty grievances in the sitting rooms of the middle classes through to voodoo rituals held in graveyards and dalliances with unsuitable men, there are so many mad tales in this book.

Its main plot surrounds the murder of a homosexual handyman and kept man, who was killed in the home of his employer Jim Williams, who claimed self-defence. However, Williams’ story doesn’t entirely stack up against the evidence, and local opinion was divided. An unpopular man among some of the region’s influential elite, Williams fell foul of their wrath and the case ended up going to trial.

The first trial was overturned when the DA is found to have falsified evidence, and as such Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil follows both trials and their aftermaths. Berendt integrated himself fully into Savannah society, both its high society and lower class neighbourhoods, allowing him a broad perspective on the region’s opinions on this divisive trial, in which neither the killer nor the victim was universally liked.


Whilst the murder, its impact on the community and the trials are a key aspect of the book’s plot, they are not its sole focus. After all, the killing doesn’t even occur until more than halfway through. Predominantly, this is a love-letter to Savannah, and a way to show that cities are more than just the buildings and places they feature, but the people who populate them and the beliefs they hold.

Trying to make his view of the city as diverse as possible, Berendt immersed himself in Savannah life, and delved into both black and white culture at the time. Although integration had begun at the time of his writing the book, the two communities were still, predominantly, separated, and the author shows us this and offers a unique glimpse into the lives of both races.

In fact, through his book Berendt shows us both sides of practically every binary in the city at the time: black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, male and female. He shows how the cities diverse cast of characters’ lives were deeply entwined, and how the actions of one group, or even an individual, shaped the lives of others throughout the community.

Whilst people are, clearly, an integral part of the book, music also plays a big part in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Emma King, Johnny Mercer and many others are featured in the chapters marked out by nicknames or phrases they used. For those in love with the music of the Deep South this is the perfect book.

This stunning edition features photos of Savannah and the places and properties portrayed in the book. There’s a stark contrast between the photos, which are of people-less places, and as opposed to the chapters and narratives themselves, which teem with colourful characters are all named after titles or phrases used about the characters within.

It also features an introduction by the author himself, making it the perfect gift for fans of the book, or a great way to introduce yourself to Berendt’s Savannah.

In all, whether you choose to treat yourself or someone else, I would urge anyone looking to buy a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil to consider this meticulously crafted edition. With its introduction and haunting photographs of Savannah’s landscape, it is a beautiful book that will bring Berendt’s atmospheric tale to life.

The Folio Society edition of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil, including a new introduction by the author, is available exclusively from


Janet Roger Interview: “What really got under my skin was Marlowe’s voice guiding me around the next street corner”

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As a fan myself, it’s great to hear from someone whose work was heavily influenced by Raymond Chandler. Therefore it is my great privilege to introduce Janet Roger, who spoke to me about her work and how the great creator of Philip Marlowe came to inspire it.  

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime and mystery fiction?

As a teenager I’d read all of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories – not so long after they were written as I’d like to think – and they knocked my socks off. He wrote about Los Angeles and its neon-lit boulevards, its sour, gritty downtown and gun toting cops (a novelty to this young European) and made them exotic. But what really got under my skin was Marlowe’s voice guiding me around the next street corner, and beyond it into a stale apartment block or a down and low bar. He invited me to look over his shoulder, let me into his highs and lows, talked me through them and then put me in the seat beside him to drive me home. It was heady stuff, up to the point where the story began to seem incidental to the city and its moods, its characters and their speech patterns. What really mattered was the time, the place and the people you might run into. I’d discovered a new kind of mystery writing and got hooked.

How did you get into writing crime fiction?

By the back door. I’d been fascinated by a discovery made in the City of London in the early Cold War, a true detective story in its own right, and wondered how to tell it. Now the fact is, in those years a radically new wave of crime fiction was hitting its stride. Meanwhile, Hollywood had embarked on a slew of dark, ground-breaking movies: think Double Indemnity, The Third Man, Gun Crazy or Out of the Past. In other words the story I was interested in had unfolded right at the heart of classic noir. So the way to tell it, and at the same time set it in period, seemed obvious. How to bring that off? How do you stay convincingly close to the conventions of a classic genre and still bring the modern reader along for the ride? Well, that gets into larger questions of how you choose to write your historical fiction. But it was absorbing, and great of fun to do. 

What features do you believe are vital to creating good crime fiction?

Read Shamus Dust and you’ll know I’m absolutely sold on Chandler’s landmark essay on crime fiction, The Simple Art of Murder. He wrote it for Atlantic Monthly in 1944, and I’m not the only one who thinks that – along with his collected letters – it’s the very best of his writing. Yes, you can include the Philip Marlowe novels in that! I won’t paraphrase the original. It argues his case to perfection and the essay is still in print, as a preface to his short stories. Spoiler warning: he’s not at all complimentary about the classic, murder-over-high-tea puzzler!

Please tell me about the books you read. How do they influence your work?

First thoughts are two very slim books that I’d have given my writing arm for. First is Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Forget the movie, it’s a travesty. The original story is lyric, sparkling, spare and unsentimental about its heroine, who goes her own way first and last, entirely her own woman. Such a shame that Hollywood didn’t serve Capote anywhere near as well as his childhood friend, Harper Lee, when To Kill a Mockingbird reached the screen only a year later.

My second even has a connection of sorts to Shamus Dust, where there’s actually a passing nod to Homer. (How does an ancient Greek epic poet possibly fit in a hardboiled detective story? Newman, the private-eye narrator, asks the same question!). Christopher Logue’s War Music is a narrative poem, not a translation but a reworking of some of the first books of Homer’s Iliad. The writing is fast paced, knife-edge precision, thrilling in its accounts of hacking, screeching hand-to-hand combat. Exquisite in its fixing of the heroes of the Trojan War, the landscapes they maul over and the skies they die beneath. You’ll read either one of these two in an afternoon, then want to reread it next afternoon.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

Absolutely no rituals! I have a mortal terror of routine in all things. It drives me completely nuts. Writing, like everything else, gets done wherever I happen to be, in the expectation I’ll be somewhere else tomorrow. There, got that off my chest! But you’ll gather I rely more on inspiration than method. Where does the inspiration come from? Probably from a lifetime of needing to get out of a soup I just landed in!

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Collaborating isn’t really for me (see above!) but it’s an interesting question. It occurs to me that there are artists I’d love to talk to about their way of seeing things, for example the early-twentieth century paintings of Edouard Vuillard. He’s hard to categorize, and if you’re not familiar do look him up. His oblique, fragmented take on his surroundings – often interiors – invites you to loiter over what’s going on there. Another painter would be Camille Corot (earlier than Vuillard) who has a magical way of overlaying real landscapes with the lyric haze of visual memory. The common thread is how to represent seeing and remembering. Better stop there before this becomes a visit to an art gallery.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m well on into a sequel to Shamus Dust called The Gumshoe’s Freestyle, set six months later in the City (of course), in the summer of ’48. Those immediate postwar years made interesting times. Freestyle ties up some loose ends, returns to some characters from the first story and develops with them. Actually, there’s a connection planted toward the close of Shamus Dust, though you do seriously have to know your Chandler to spot it. I liked the idea of some oblique, passing link between two cases that Newman and Marlowe will never know they once shared an interest in. That said, Freestyle stands on its own and takes our private eye to an entirely new case. It’s been interesting to decide which characters to go back to, how fleeting or important they need to be, and of course, how to introduce them to a reader who doesn’t already know them from the earlier story.

Are there any new books or writers are you looking forward to in the future?

Well, one that’s new to me is Jonathan Letham’s Motherless Brooklyn. It’s now arrived on the big screen thanks to the persistence of Edward Norton, who wrote the screenplay, directs and performs. The book was first published twenty years ago, so it’s time I caught up with another author who takes the private-eye genre and defies its expectations. The film, by the way, moves the setting back to the late 1950s. There’s something magnetic about the period, isn’t there?

It’s been great to hear from Janet; thank to her for taking the time to answer my questions! Her book Shamus Dust is out on the 28th October. You can find out more about her HERE


Why Autumn Is An Awesome Season For Reading Crime Fiction

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Sometimes I feel like a DFS advert: in the same way they have a summer, winter, autumn and spring sale, so too do I seem to advocate for almost every season as a great time to enjoy a good book.

The reason being that reading is a year round activity, but there are still differences in each season. However, there are differences between the reasons for reading throughout the year: as the nights draw in during the autumn, now is the time people are not sunning themselves in the garden or trekking off to the beach, but instead tucking up and keeping warm with a nice book.

Which brings me to autumn. Now’s the time to be getting comfy, and what better genre of literature to read than crime fiction? There’s a warming feeling that comes with any narrative with mild thrills, leaving the reader feeling exhilarated and entertained.

Crime fiction is also a great style of literature to lose yourself in, and you can let your imagination run away with you when you’re cold and grumpy and it’s been dark since about 4.30pm. Comfort food is the watchword for autumn fans, but comfort reading is also a great idea; after all, you can’t eat continuously for the whole season (you could try, but I wouldn’t recommend it).

There’s some great new literature out now too, with Margret Atwood’s The Testaments recently launching, as well as new crime fiction and thrillers from fan favourites such as Lee Childs, Stephen King and Peter Robinson, among many others. As such now’s a great time to treat yourself to a fat hardback and chill out under some warm blankets and jumpers.

What I’m trying to say is that any time’s a great time for a good book, but in autumn you can really ham up the cold weather and dreariness and use it as an excuse to get super cosy with one of your favourites. So what are you waiting for? Get reading!



Wallander Prequel Will Let Mankell Lovers Explore Detective’s Early Cases


Following three exceptional series showcasing the detective career of renowned sleuth Kurt Wallander, Netflix has announced that it will be releasing a prequel show to offer fans an insight into the character’s early cases.

As a lifelong fan of Henning Mankell, and especially of his dour, Morse-esq police inspector, I am incredibly excited to hear that there will be a prequel series. The series will star Swedish actor Adam Pålsson in the role of Wallander, alongside Argo’s Richard Dillane as Superintendent Hemberg and Ripper Street’s Leanne Best as Frida Rask.

Other cast members have been announced, including Ellise Chappell, who starred in Poldark and feature film Yesterday, will play Mona, Wallander’s wife. Yasen Atour, who stars in Small City and Robin Hood plays Reza, Sara Seyed (His Only Son) plays Jasmine, Reza’s wife and Charles Mnene, who has starred in The Widow and Misfits, plays Bash.

Additionally, Jacob Collins-Levy, who plays King Henry VII in Starz’ The White Princess, plays Karl-Axel Munck, Alan Emrys, who features in Johnny English 3, plays Gustav Munck and Kiza Deen  from Silent Witness plays Mariam. 

Titled Young Wallander, the series is directed by Ole Endresen and Jens Jonsson and produced by Berna Levin. It will give watchers a new means to enjoy these amazing stories and will hopefully be faithfully based on the tales from the short story series The Pyramid, which is one of my favourite of Mankell’s books. 

Set to be shown in 2020, this six-part series, which has just started filming, tells the story of detective Kurt Wallander’s first case and is produced by Banijay-backed Yellow Bird UK. The story, as in The Pyramid, will focus on the formative personal and professional torments faced by Wallander as a recently graduated police officer in his early twenties. 

So it’s exciting times for fans of quality Scandinavian crime fiction and Henning Mankell alike as a new side to the famed world-weary detective is brought to life. Whilst it’s always hard to see a new version of a beloved character, in this case one who was never better portrayed than when done by Krister Henriksson, I think this will be a great chance for fans to see on screen for the first time this amazing detective in his younger days. I only hope the series does Mankell’s amazing characterisation and raw, emotive storytelling justice. 

Daniella Bernett Interview: “People often ask me why I chose a journalist and a jewel thief as my protagonists”

Daniella Bernett Author Photo

Apologies for the gap between posts, I’ve been away on a well-deserved trip back down to Dorset! Today I’m back with an exciting interview with writer Daniella Bernett, who discusses her thriller writing and how she keeps her readers on the edge of their seats.  

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and thriller writing?

Mysteries and suspense thrillers are terribly appealing, like a siren call to my soul. It seemed only natural that I when gathered up the courage to write my first novel, it would be a mystery (with a soupçon of romance to make things that much more interesting).

For me, mysteries have always been about the puzzle. I don’t need to know how much blood and guts have been spilled. I want to know why the crime was committed. The author dangles the answer before the reader’s eyes. The clues are like pearls that are strategically dropped here and there. It is the reader’s job to collect and arrange all of them so that they form a necklace. And voilà, the solution miraculously materializes. That’s what I wanted to do.

Specifically, talk me through your upcoming book When Blood Runs Cold. What do you think will draw readers towards it?

I’ve laced When Blood Runs Cold with layers of lies and betrayal. After all, whose interest isn’t piqued by a whisper of scandal and intrigue?

When Blood Runs Cold is about how one can never escape the past. Journalist Emmeline Kirby is reeling from the recent discovery that her parents were murdered while on assignment when she was five years old. She’s determined to find their killer. At the same time, she’s working on a story about the suspicious death of Russian national Pavel Melnikov, a man who tried to double cross Putin and Russian mafia boss Igor Bronowski. Her questions have garnered her a growing number of enemies. Along the way, two men are poisoned to prevent them from exposing these ugly machinations. If this wasn’t enough, Emmeline learns that everything she believed about her life has been a lie and she becomes a murder suspect.

Then there’s Gregory Longdon, her dashing fiancé and jewel thief-cum-insurance investigator, whose past has caught up with him in the form of ruthless entrepreneur Alastair Swanbeck. Swanbeck has ties to the underworld and Putin. He has been waiting years to exact his revenge for Gregory’s meddling in things that should have been left alone. And now, he has found his perfect tool: Emmeline.

To add a bit more tension, I’ve included a Sotheby’s auction of the Blue Angel, a flawless 12-carat blue diamond that men are willing to kill to possess.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

After I graduated from college with a B.S. in Journalism, in the four months it took me to find employment, I wrote a mystery novel. My first job was as a copywriter at the publisher Penguin USA. One day, I plucked up the courage to show my book to one of the editors. She actually read it. She told me that it was better than what she usually sees from debut authors. However, she said that I should think more in terms of a series. I tried revising the book and submitted it to several agents, who all rejected it. Thus, I chalked it up to a good exercise. But I didn’t forget the editor’s advice. The kernel of the idea for my Emmeline Kirby and Gregory Longdon series slowly started swirling around in the back of my mind, until one day when all pieces fell into place and Lead Me Into Danger, Book 1, came to life on the printed page.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

Inspiration is derived from all sorts of sources. It could be a newspaper article; a snippet of overheard conversation; a real-life crime, or a dream. I get a lot of ideas from the sights and sounds of a city or an area that has made a strong impression on me. You’re either going to laugh or you’re going to run very quickly in the opposite direction, but oftentimes I come across a place and think, “Wouldn’t this be the perfect setting to find a dead body?”

For me, setting is an important character all its own, one that helps to establish the tone and propels my stories. ’ve been an Anglophile since I was a little kid, so naturally my characters had to be British and London had to figure prominently in my books. I also adore Venice. That enchanted city’s history of intrigues was simply begging to be featured in Lead Me Into Danger, where Emmeline and Gregory become ensnared in a hunt for a Russian spy in the British Foreign Office.

In terms of Deadly Legacy, Book 2, what set the story in motion in my mind was the 2003 heist at the Antwerp Diamond Centre. A group of Italian thieves stole $100 million in diamonds, gold, and other jewellery. Only one man was caught. The diamonds were never found. This captivated my imagination. From Beyond The Grave, Book 3, focuses on Emmeline and Gregory’s rekindled relationship. His recent resurfacing has thrown her safe world into turmoil. Therefore, I wanted to take them outside of London, where they wouldn’t be distracted by daily routines. I selected Torquay along the English Riviera in Devon because I love the sea. Gently lapping tides, a rugged coastline, romantic sunsets, and murder. A Checkered Past, Book 4, is back in London and deals with a looted Nazi painting, an IRA collaborator and, alas, a murder or two. I am passionate about the issue of looted Nazi art, as everyone should be about injustice.

In term’s of writer’s block, what I usually do is scream. No, not really. In my head, yes; out loud, no. Seriously, I sit for a bit going over the last paragraph I wrote hoping for a new burst of energy. A strong cup of tea often stimulates my brain cells. But when the muse utterly fails me, I turn off my laptop and step away to allow the plot to steep in my mind overnight. This is usually the best medicine. The next day, I come back renewed and refreshed with a different perspective. And what do you know? The words begin to flow once again.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Agatha Christie. There are so many things I admire about the grande dame of mystery. She was truly a master at her craft. What I love the most is that Christie conceived such deliciously wicked and ingenious plots that appeal to the reader’s intellect. Jealousy, love, and greed are the primary motives for murder. Christie took these motives threw them into a pot, swirled them about, and in each book conjured up a new way to explore these emotions. Her stories endure to this day because of her astute insight into human nature and all its foibles.

I would like readers to be talking about my books long after I’m dead. I try to leave readers wanting more, like Christie did with such consummate skill. I hope I’m succeeding.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Old Sins Never Die, Book 6, will be released in fall 2020. I’m currently working on Book 7. As you can see, Emmeline and Gregory are always dragging me off on another adventure.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

My to-be-read list never dwindles, but off the top of my head these are some of the books I’m looking forward to: Summer Country by Lauren Willig; Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen; Northing Ventured by Jeffrey Archer; The Other Woman by Daniel Silva; Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini; Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders by Tessa Arlen.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

People often ask me why I chose a journalist and a jewel thief as my protagonists. A journalist is inherently curious about many subjects. His or her job is to ask questions to uncover the truth and ensure transparency. Naturally, a journalist would be intrigued by crime, especially murder. The determination to find answers and see that justice is served are all important.

Now, how does a jewel thief fit into the model of a sleuth? Aren’t lying and evading the law a thief’s modus operandi? Isn’t this in stark contrast to a journalist’s reverence for the truth and justice? Most definitely. That’s exactly the point. A portrait in contrasts. Who better than someone on the wrong side of the law to discern the twisted workings of a fellow criminal’s mind? A thief immediately recognizes things that the honest person would never even contemplate. In Gregory’s case, he has a certain code of honor. Murder is an offensive transgression, a line that should never be crossed. Thus, I have two diametrically opposed sleuths who are of one mind when it comes to the taking of a human life: the culprit must pay for the crime; otherwise chaos would reign in the world.

My website is You can follow me on Facebook and Goodreads.

Thanks to Daniella for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been great.

The Top Five Inspector Gently Novels For Fans Of Genial Crime Fiction

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Recently Inspector Gently has been following me around. Every charity shop I enter, every library I visit and every bookshelf I browse, there he is with his witty titles and pretty, picturesque cover pictures. I’d already seen the Martin Shaw headed TV series, but I’d never read the books, yet somehow they just seemed to keep cropping up.

So, taking the hint, I decided to check him out, and I’m happy to say these ingenious books are as quaint yet punchy as you’d expect. Alan Hunter’s novels are easy reads and their enchanting East Anglian setting and genial Inspector leave you feeling relaxed even as you read about grizzly murders and evil plots. Sit back and enjoy these five classics that I’ve picked out especially for you.

5. Gently With The Ladies: Mid-way through Hunter’s epic 22 novel series, this book has all the classic hallmarks of an Inspector George Gently caper: red herrings, fake alibis and seriously dubious choices made by the chief suspect. In this case, the accused is linked to Gently, who is at first convinced of guilt but then becomes intrigued by the yarn and decides to follow it through and find out more.

4. Gently Where The Roads Go: Despite showcasing everything from racial tensions to sinister gangland hits, Hunter somehow manages to make his Inspector George Gently novels quaint and restrained, which is a real feat. They are, nonetheless entirely compelling, and this is no exception. Gently works in this book to uncover the killer of a Polish immigrant who was gunned down in a layby. With a plethora of motives Gently has a tough road ahead as he works to track down the killer.

Inspector George Gently

3. Gently By The Shore: Inspector Gently is called to investigate when an unidentified and seemingly unidentifiable naked body is found in the sand at a popular tourist destination. Faced with fleeting and vague accounts, a mysterious corpse and terrified travellers with seemingly nothing in common, Gently has to use all his wits to solve this mystery.

2. Gently Floating: When a body is found in a river Gently finds himself faced with too many suspects, leaving him questioning everything as he rushes to find a cold-blooded killer. In true Hunter style, this is an understated yet profoundly human book that is easy to read and highly entertaining.

1. Gently Does It: I feel I’m becoming as formulaic as some of the books I review, but I’ve come to believe that the first book in a series is the best place to start, and I’ve not been proved wrong yet. The first in this series shows Inspector Gently on holiday, only to find himself on the trail of a killer with a local policeman antagonising him the entire time.