Book Bingo Reading Challenge 2022! Codename Villanelle – Luke Jennings

Hey Loves!
I hope January has been treating you well. It seems like only yesterday that it was New Years and I was sat making some plans for reading etc. Where does the time go? Anyway, I’m here this evening to share my first book choice for my Book Bingo Reading Challenge 2022 with you! I said in a previous post that I wanted a bit more flexibility with my reading and this challenge certainly has given me that. For January, I chose: Read a tale of a villain. Now, this did take a bit of thought but then I remembered all the hype around the popular show Killing Eve. I’ve only ever seen snippets of it because I do always prefer to read the book before I see it, so I decided to start with the first book: Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting really but I know I hoped for an exciting story where I found a truly great villain.

What’s it all about?
In just over 200 pages, we have the introduction, history and foreshadowed future of Villanelle. Opening in Italy, the novella begins with the focus on Salvatore Greco. Linked to a number of murders – two judges, four senior magistrates, and a pregnant investigative journalist – Greco is naturally someone that the world needs to be rid of. Konstantin and his group need to remove Greco, to take him out of the game… In order to make that happen, the best villain needs to be involved. Cue Villanelle.

Known three years prior as Oxana Vorontsova, a registered student of French and Linguistics, she found herself in a spot of bother. In Dobryanka women’s remand centre accused of murder. The centre was truly horrendous: barely edible food, no sanitary conditions, freezing cold to live in and solitary confinement for any breaking of the rules. Life before this was also tough. A dead mother and a questionable father meant that the only option was to grow up in an orphanage, where utterly frustrated, she set fire to the block. As a result, Oxana then was transferred to a psychiatric unit where she was observed as having incredible intelligence but absolutely no time for making any friends. In fact, once returned to another school, intelligence was rewarded but concern was raised at the lack of communication with others. Also, Oxana was linked to a number of violent incidents too. It is for all these reasons that Konstantin recruits her.

‘Konstantin told her, sparing no detail, of what was to come. And listening to him, it was as if everything in her life had led to that moment. Her expression never flickered, but the thrill that ripped through her was as avid as hunger.’

Oxana trained for a year in order to become a villain. There were six weeks of fitness training and unarmed combat. She was broken down to be built back up again but her mind was resilient. She was trained in interrogation and weapon handling. One of the attributes that makes her the perfect assassin: no emotions. The time had come to dump Oxana and become someone new. Oxana was dead and buried. Villanelle was born.

‘Oxana sensed herself changing, and the results pleased her. Her observation ability, sensory skills and reactive speeds had all been extraordinarily enhanced. Psychologically, she felt invulnerable, but then she had always known that she was different from those around her.’

Now transformed, Villanelle’s job was to get rid of Greco. The Organisation knows Greco’s movements and patterns. Therefore, making it incredibly easy to get rid of him. They know that he has his own private box at the Teatro Massimo theatre and he nearly always attends opening nights. This was an opportunity they couldn’t miss to get rid of him, for once and for all. During Puccini’s Tosca, she notices he is there. She develops a cover of a socialite, dressed beautifully, comfortable with higher class citizens within the theatre and manages to inveigle her way into his private box. She flirts and charms and waits for the moment she has picked for the assassination. Job done.

Not one part of Villanelle’s life is real. Friends don’t know the real her despite socialising together. Her story is that she is a day trader but nothing could be further from the truth. Her inability to feel anything robs her life of flavour. The only time she feels alive is when her life is at risk.

‘Fine-living and designer clothes are all very well, but it’s months now since the Palermo operation, and she badly needs to feel her heart race with the prospect of action.’

Her next job brings her to Britain and her target is Viktor Kedrin. Kedrin is a right-wing ideologist looking to create a fascist super state in Europe and Russia. The Organisation decides that he too is bad for business so Villanelle gets the job of assassinating him whilst he is addressing a conference. This opens the door for Eve to become part of the narrative. Eve is a MI5 operative who is trying to decide whether Kedrin deserves close protection or not. Despite her recommendations, Kedrin goes unprotected meaning that he is an open target. His death is easy but it does leave Eve with more questions than answers. It also means that Villanelle is now on the radar of MI5. There are rumours and suggestions of a professional female assassin at large. But who is she? And how is she this good?

Kedrin’s death means that Eve is therefore suspended. However, she does become recruited by MI6 who are creating a black team, top secret, to hunt Villanelle despite not knowing her name. Meanwhile, Villanelle is busy with her next job: removing FatPanda, otherwise known as Lieutenant Colonel Zhang Lei. Head of a cyber-warfare unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, known as White Dragon, is costing the Organisation money and so has to be removed.

‘The predations of White Dragon have cost their victims billions of dollars over the years, and a group of individuals, collectively more powerful than any government, has decided that it is time to act.’

The assassination of FatPanda swiftly comes to Eve’s attention as she is scouring news bulletins, CCTV and the internet for any sign of Villanelle. The MI6 Black unit that she runs immediately travel to China and make contact with an operative who works at the Chinese Ministry of State Security. Whilst it is difficult for them to trust each other, the need to track down their common enemy means they share information that gets them one step closer to Villanelle. Inevitably, this does not end well with further bloodshed and a cold trail.

Meanwhile trouble is brewing within the Organisation. Konstantin has vanished and Villanelle along with other operatives are given the task of getting him back. Alongside this, Eve is following her own trail looking at the financial transactions that shadow the assassinations. These lead her to a problem much closer to home… For both Villanelle and Eve, it has become clear that their employers are fallible and that their world is getting more and more dangerous.

‘Konstantin always have her to believe that in working for the Twelve, he and she were part of something which was both invisible and invulnerable. This episode showed that for all its reach and power, the organisation could be hurt. Despite the warmth of the salon, Villanelle shivers.’

Final Thoughts
I found this book to be a complicated thing to review really. The hype around the TV series probably didn’t help but I expected more than I got. Whilst researching, I read somewhere that someone felt like it was a first draft, and I can totally see why it felt like that. I wanted it to be brilliant and I wanted to be hooked. Nevertheless, I do think that Villanelle is a brilliant villain. She is gritty and hard but I do wish her character was developed more really. Maybe I’m just a bit greedy! All in all, not a bad book by any means but I haven’t rushed out to buy the next book in the series. I doubt it’s one I’ll read again.

Regardless, I am really pleased with the start of my Book Bingo! I can’t wait to see where I go next! I would love it if you took part in this too so please do let me know what you’re reading.

Big love all xxx


Hello Lovelies!

I firstly want to wish you all a Happy New Year and welcome 2022 in with a bang! I hope it is full of wonderful experiences, good books, peace, health and warm friendships. None of us know what the future holds but I am going to be positive for the year ahead because I’m certain there’s good books waiting to be read and memories waiting to be made.

Anyway, I’m here today to share with you my thoughts and summary on 2021 and to show you all the books I’ve read in 2021 too. Also, I’m really excited to launch my new Reading Challenge for 2022 as well and I hope you take part in this with me!

2021 was a wonderful year in so many ways but utterly devastating in others. Like the rest of the world, we went into 2021 not really knowing what was going to happen. I decided I would just do what I always do – work on my blog, read plenty, get out there and take advantages of any opportunities that came my way and provide stability to the children in my classroom. I’m absolutely certain I’ll be doing exactly the same now we are in 2022 too!

I remember this time last year in my post I was overjoyed to have read so may books in 2020 – a huge 148. Well, in 2021 I managed to read 161 books. I honestly can’t believe it. I know that sounds so silly because I did my monthly round-ups but it’s still something I’m so proud of and something I never expected to be able to do. Also, how lucky am I to have had the time and the ability to read so may amazing books. It also tells me (not that I need reminding) that reading is definitely a thing of respite and joy for me. I’m still the girl that will read before bed, in the car on long journeys and at any given moment really. My head is usually in a book and I doubt that will ever change!

2021 in books!

  1. Corcoran, Caroline – The Baby Group
  2. Bell, Anna – We Just Clicked
  3. Fennell, David – The Art of Death
  4. Ridpath, Michael – The Diplomat’s Wife
  5. Ryan, Iain – The Spiral
  6. Bond, Caroline – One Split Second
  7. Rankin, Ian – Mortal Causes
  8. Rauf, Onjali Q – The Night Bus Hero
  9. Collen, Lindsey – Mutiny
  10. Watson, Christie – The Courage to Care
  11. Wood, Giles & Killen, Mary – The Diary of Two Nobodies
  12. May, Peter – Lockdown
  13. Turner, A.K. – Body Language
  14. Bailey, James – The Flip Side
  15. Napolitano, Ann – Dear Edward
  16. Rowell, Rainbow – The Prince and the Troll
  17. Potter, Alexandra – Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up
  18. Lee, Krys – How I Became A North Korean
  19. Logan, T.M. – The Holiday
  20. Carr, John Dickson – The Corpse in the Waxworks
  21. Walliams, David – Code Name Bananas
  22. Clarke, Rachel – Breathtaking
  23. Grisham, John – The Rooster Bar
  24. Priestley, J.B – An Inspector Calls
  25. Rowell, Rainbow – Eleanor and Park
  26. All on the Board – All on the Board
  27. Alam, Rumaan – Leave the World Behind
  28. Howells, Debbie – The Death of Her
  29. Cavanagh, Steve – Fifty Fifty
  30. Mackesy, Charlie – The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
  31. Michaelides, Alex – The Silent Patient
  32. Hardiman, Rebecca – Good Eggs
  33. Dowling, Tim – How to be a Husband
  34. Charles, Janet Skeslien – The Paris Library
  35. Lefteri, Christy – The Beekeeper of Aleppo
  36. Logan, T.M. – Trust Me
  37. Barnes, Simon – Rewild Yourself
  38. Rosen, Michael – Many Different Kinds of Love
  39. Dowling, Tim – Dad You Suck
  40. Vesper, Inga – The Long, Long Afternoon
  41. Sakhlecha, Trisha – Your Truth or Mine?
  42. Hogan, Ruth – Madame Burova
  43. Hawker, Luke Adam – Together
  44. Morray, Beth – Saving Missy
  45. Logan, T.M. – The Catch
  46. Perry, Annika – Oscar’s Quest
  47. Patterson, James – Murder Games
  48. Swanson, Peter – Her Every Fear
  49. Coben, Harlan – Long Lost
  50. Coles, Richard – The Madness of Grief
  51. McConaughey, Matthew – Greenlights
  52. Moore, Captain Tom – Captain Tom’s Life Lessons
  53. Logan, T.M. – 29 Seconds
  54. Logan, T.M. – Lies
  55. Benedictus, Leo – Consent
  56. Bauer, Belinda – Exit
  57. Toon, Francine – Pine
  58. Cohen, Julie – Together
  59. Redhill, Michael – Bellevue Square
  60. Sher, Abby – All The Ways The World Can End
  61. Kinsella, Sophie – Shopaholic and Sister
  62. Henry, Emily – Beach Read
  63. Kinsella, Sophie – Shopaholic & Baby
  64. O’Leary, Beth – The Road Trip
  65. Schutz, Lars – The Alphabet Murders
  66. Markinson, T.B. – The Setup
  67. Cloke, Nicci – Close Your Eyes
  68. Taggart, Caroline – The Book Lover’s Bucket List
  69. Latham, Martin – The Book Seller’s Tale
  70. Wurger, Takis – Stella
  71. Woods, Carolyn – Sleeping with a Psychopath
  72. Nealon, Louise – Snowflake
  73. Grisham, John – The Associate
  74. Tolkien, J.R.R – The Hobbit
  75. Candlish, Louise – The Skylight
  76. James, Peter – Wish You Were Dead
  77. Liardet, Frances – We Must Be Brave
  78. Hwang, Sun-Mi – Miracle on Cherry Hill
  79. Brandi, Mark – The Rip
  80. Williams, Candice-Carty – Notting Hill Carnival 
  81. Lansdale, Joe R – Cold in July
  82. Earle, Phil – When The Sky Falls
  83. Lefteri, Christy – Songbirds
  84. Kaplinsky, Natasha – Letter from Lockdown
  85. Wharfe, Ken – Guarding Diana
  86. Patterson, James – Mistress
  87. Paris, B.A. – The Therapist
  88. Adimi, Kaouther – A Bookshop in Algiers
  89. Michaelides, Alex – The Maidens
  90. Skördeman, Gustaf – Geiger
  91. Wix, Katy – Delicacy
  92. Owens, Delia – Where the Crawdads Sing
  93. Woolridge, Addie – The Checklist
  94. Craven, M.W. – The Puppet Show
  95. Philby, Charlotte – A Double Life
  96. Carpenter, Elisabeth – The Woman Downstairs
  97. Maclean, Julianne – These Tangled Vines
  98. Bell, Alex – It Started With a Tweet
  99. French, Dawn – Because of You
  100. Berry, Lauren – Living the Dream
  101. Ayrton, Lucy – One More Chance
  102. Rous, Emma – The Au Pair
  103. Baker, Tim – Fever City
  104. Galbraith, Robert – Troubled Blood
  105. Hislop, Victoria – The Island
  106. Hislop, Victoria – One August Night
  107. Patterson, James – The Quickie
  108. Rentzenbrink, Cathy – Dear Reader
  109. Patterson, James – Kill Me If You Can
  110. Crawford, Susan – The Pocket Wife
  111. See, Lee – The Island of Sea Women
  112. Coble, Kaela – Friends and Liars
  113. Dinsdale, Robert – Gingerbread
  114. Christie, Agatha – Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly
  115. Patterson, James – Texas Ranger
  116. Hawkins, Paula – A Slow Fire Burning
  117. Carpenter, Elisabeth – Only a Mother
  118. Taylor, Kathrine Kressmann – Address Unknown
  119. Sharpe, Tess – The Girls I’ve Been
  120. Chaney, Lawrence – Drag Queen of Scots
  121. Pullman, Philip – Grimms Tales for Young and Old     
  122. Natsukawa, Sosuke – The Cat Who Saved Books
  123. Ryan, Katherine – The Audacity
  124. Shakespeare, William – Macbeth
  125. Seuss, Dr – Green Eggs and Ham
  126. Williams, Margery – The Velveteen Rabbit
  127. Frazier, Jean Kyong – Pizza Girl
  128. Peston, Robert – The Whistleblower
  129. Patterson, James – Private Princess
  130. Hope, Lucy – Fledgling
  131. Rowling, J.K. – The Ickabog
  132. Kinsella, Sophie – The Party Crasher
  133. Patterson, James – Texas Outlaw
  134. Walters, Minette – The Swift and the Harrier
  135. Miller, Ben – The Day I Fell Into a Fairytale
  136. Norbury, James – Big Panda and Tiny Dragon
  137. Carr, Jimmy – Before & Laughter
  138. Benjamin, Ali – The Thing About Jellyfish
  139. Grisham, John – Sooley
  140. Page, Alexandra – Wishyouwas
  141. Dickens, Charles – A Christmas Carol
  142. Beaumont, Lucy – Drinking Custard: Diary of a Confused Mum
  143. Stevenson, Robert Louis – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  144. Barnett, Laura – Gifts
  145. Hoang, Helen – The Heart Principle
  146. French, Nicci – Killing Me Softly
  147. Prior, Hazel – Call of the Penguins
  148. Daley, Tom – Coming up for Air
  149. Thayne, RaeAnne – Christmas at the Holiday House
  150. French, Nicci – What to do When Someone Dies
  151. Fletcher, Carrie Hope – Into the Spotlight
  152. Ahlberg, Janet & Allan – The Jolly Christmas Postman
  153. Patterson, James – Don’t Blink
  154. Wilson, A.N. – The King and the Christmas Tree
  155. Kinsella, Sophie – Love Your Life
  156. Perry, Sarah – The Essex Serpent
  157. Fargher, Anna – Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue
  158. Cooper, Daisy May – Don’t Laugh, It’ll Only Encourage Her
  159. Rayner, Jay – Chewing the Fat
  160. Lean, Sarah – The Good Bear
  161. Donaldson, Julia & Sandey, Victoria – The Christmas Pine     

There are so many great books here by brilliant writers. Yet, I am well aware when people post how many books they’ve read, it can be quite overwhelming. Confession time: there are so many books that I’ve given up on. I’m absolutely ruthless as well because I can give up after reading the first page. I just know if it’s a book for me or not. That isn’t to say that it’s a bad book. I’m in no position to judge and never would – it’s more about how I react to it. For example, I struggle when there’s lots of characters because I get confused. I’m less good with books that constantly change time frames. These books are still amazing to other people, but just aren’t the right ones for me. Don’t ever feel like you didn’t do very well because you read less. Reading a book is an absolute joy and honour. Most of all, reading is for you. Don’t ever forget that or doubt yourself when it comes to reading.

And now the bit I’m most excited about… My new reading challenge!

I’ve reflected quite a lot on my Reading Challenge of 2021. I loved doing it and I am so pleased I made it but I want 2022 to be even better. Last year, each month had a different theme. This year I’ve gone for a more fluid approach whereby I’ve made a bingo card and I will tick off one of the twelve focuses each month across the year.

Anyway, I’m proud to introduce to you all Book Bingo: Reading Challenge 2022!

There are some obvious things here where it fits certain months but I think this flexibility means I’ll be branch out into new areas that I haven’t gone into before. I can explore self-published books, new genres and tick off those books that I’ve been meaning to read for years but never quite got round to because a beautiful cover somewhere else caught my eye…

I’d love it if you took part in this with me and shared with me what you pick. After all, my to be read pile grows because of this community – let’s face it! Most of all, I really hope you like it! Happy New Year again and here’s to a booktastic 2022! Until next time…

Big love all xxx