January!! A Monthly Wrap Up.

I am going to come clean right at the start and say I am one of the those people who has an almost pathological hatred of January. I know it is probably a state of mind issue but I honestly can’t get over how long it goes on for and how grey it is.

That said despite the dark mornings and the hundreds of days, it has been a cracking reading month!

To start with I seem to have got my blogging mojo back again. After a bit of a dip in the autumn I am now right back in the swing of it. The TBR piles are still huge but they aren’t intimidating me anymore and I have requested and received some lovely and most welcome books this month. Something I never take for granted and I always genuinely touched and grateful for.

If we are talking numbers then I have read 14 books in January ( I told you it was a supernaturally long month!!) and listened to 1 audiobook.

The audiobook ‘thing’ is a relatively new addition for me. I have made the decision to stop listening to the news on the way too and from work. It’s is, I have decided bad for my mental health in the the current climate, I can’t physically read, unless I want to end up in a ditch (!), so audiobook it is. January has been a comfort listen, as I am revisiting the delightful Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard, my literary fluffy jumper. Just finished Marking Time and nicely stuck into Confusion.

Revisiting fiction has been a bit of a theme this month, as in preparation for the much anticipated release of The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel I joined in my first blogger read along. Embarking on Wolf Hall this month and Bring Up the Bodies next is nicely stoking the fires of excitement . Wolf Hall is as brilliant as I remember, but I do concede that it take a while to get into the rhythm. If you stick with it I promise it is worth it!

I began 2020 with a collection of short stories; Sudden Traveller by Sarah Hall. Hall is an accomplished writer and Queen of the short story. Her collection Madame Zero still looms large in the memory. It was a great start to the month and whetted my appetite for more great short stories.

Luckily I had To the Volcano and other stories -Elleke Boehmer from Myriad Editions waiting patiently for me. Another feast of short stories whose review was an absolute pleasure to write.

I am very much a physical books girl but I do read on the Kindle from time to time. And this month I read The Hunting Party By Lucy Foley. This novel had been getting loads of attention on Twitter last year and it was chosen as my book club read for January, mainly due to it’s setting, both in place and time. The remote Scottish Highlands at New Year with a murderer on the loose provided a welcome distraction from the rapidly ending Christmas holidays! I read it at the perfect time!

Talking of Christmas, my ‘other half’ did me proud and came up with a bumper stack this year. I have been slowly working my way through, deviating, as you do, alongs paths of proofs and ‘accidental’ book purchases!

Some were devoured and worshipped in that rather strange and chocolate filled time between Christmas and New Year, but this month I have indulged in just a few more.

The Offing by Benjamin Myers needs very little introduction. Such a beautiful book, filled with eloquence and stunning descriptions of the natural world, it offered a gentle escape to the East Coast of Yorkshire. A strong story of friendship and support unexpectedly found I honestly loved every word.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams was another delight. It is initial tone is quite deceptive. It seems lighthearted, is certainly humorous but as the novel progresses it’s true depth is revealed. Make no mistake, there is a lot going on here. Concentrating on Queenie a young black woman, it embraces her life, her mental health and everything that has affected it. This novel is a must read. And it is also just out in paperback so this is the perfect time to dive in!

Finally from the Christmas stack was my only nonfiction read of the month Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner. Lady in waiting to the late Princess Margaret, it is Anne’s own marriage that provides the most colour in this book. Her husband, Colin Tennant, was flamboyant and charismatic, the brain child behind the exclusive private island of Mustique. He was also mentally ill and prone to tremendous ‘meltdowns’, one of which earned him a lifetime ban from British Airways! Anne has lived a colourful, privileged but also at times tragic live, and I challenge you to read this one without your mouth hanging open!

On the whole though, January has definitely been a fiction heavy month. For example I finally embarked on The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. This story, of a strange sleeping sickness that strikes down a Californian town, beginning in the college dorms and leading to the town’s complete isolation, was addictive and unsettling. The feelings were heighten by the fact that no sooner had I closed the book than the Coronavirus outbreak began to be reported.

I was lucky enough to read two gifted books this month. Firstly the spectacularly haunting Our Fathers by Rebecca Wait, whose review can be found here, and the historical novel The Alphabet of Heart’s Desire by Brian Kearney from Holland House Books, Instagram mini review can be found here

Reading aside perhaps the most lovely bookish thing to happen this month was my first blogger meet up. With nearly all of us fighting the Great British Rail Network to the last (!), I met up with four lovely bloggers in Manchester. Huge thanks go to Emma, @corkyyorky, Jules, @julesbuddle, Siobhan, @thelitaddict_ and Rebecca, @_forewardbooks, for inviting me along.

Aside from great conversation, food and a teeny bit of wine it was fairly inevitable we were going to land up in a bookshop!

So for the last two reads of the months I have these lovely ladies to thank. It was Emma who told me had to read Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton. She wasn’t wrong! What a book! I am not saying too much as I have a review in the pipeline but I am seriously wondering whether I haven’t already found one of my books of the year! In January, I know!!

I also came away with The Need by Helen Phillips. A really quirky and original read which offers a very honest and sometimes dark commentary on motherhood. I finished it last weekend and I am still thinking about it everyday.

Add in the fact that I have had the pleasure of being involved in two blog tours this month; Payback by R.C Bridgestock and The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G Parry , then this has been a pretty full reading month!

Goodbye January and bring on all the bookish goodies that February has to offer!

Rachel x

P.S. Is it spring yet??

April Round Up: First Month of Bookbound!

So April is over and it’s time for me to present my monthly round up!

Well the big news, in case you didn’t already know is …I started a Book Blog!

And the even bigger news is that I am loving it. It might be harder than I ever thought but the connections, and in some remarkable cases, reconnections, with wonderful book loving people are so invigorating and rewarding.

It’s a slow burn but the followers here on WordPress, on Twitter and Instagram are slowly growing. People aren’t laughing me out of town and everyday I have to pinch myself to check that this is actually a new addition to my life. A very welcome addition at that. Every time I get a new post like, comment or follow I am more than slightly bewildered but enormously grateful. So thank you for all interactions, past, present and future.

There is plenty for me to learn about the whole process of blogging. For instance I am fast becoming aware that just because I have discovered NetGalley, doesn’t mean I have to request everything in sight. I am continually reminding myself; “There are still only so many reading hours in a day, that I still work full-time, and I still have 4 teenagers etc etc., one of whom is on the brink of GCSE’S!”

Rest assured I am pacing myself, but it’s hard… really hard. There are so many lovely, scrummy books out there begging to be read.

Another thing I thought I knew but now I TRULY KNOW is that good quality, well researched and accurate blog posts aren’t bashed out in a matter of minutes. I am in silent awe of skilled and eloquent bloggers who can post fantastic reviews several times a week. I am definitely not one of those bloggers. I am currently aiming for a couple of good quality posts a week. Anymore is a welcome bonus.

My excitement levels have reached fever pitch over the last few days with my requests being graciously accepted for some very promising ARC’s. And perhaps most exciting of all is the fact I have been asked to participate in two lovely blog tours. More of that later…

I am one giddy little kipper at the moment! Can you tell?

So, what did I read in April?

So April was a pretty solid reading month. I was actually surprised to discover that I has read 15 books. The fact we had a school holiday would definitely have been a contributing factor to this! And there were no DNF’s!

My complete list for April is :

  • Human Croquet – Kate Atkinson
  • The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter
  • The Complete Poems of Rupert Brooke
  • Letters from a Lost Generation : First World War Letters of Vera Brittain and Four Friends – Ed. Alan Bishop & Mark Bostridge
  • Boy of My Heart – Marie Connor Leighton
  • Because You Died: Poetry and Prose of the First World War and After – Vera Brittain
  • The Familiars – Stacey Halls
  • Graceland – Bethan Roberts
  • The Cut Out Girl – Bart van Es
  • The Cutting Season – Attica Locke
  • My Sister the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • Bottled Goods – Sophie van Llewyn
  • Lost Children Archive – Valeria Luiselli
  • Picking Up the Pieces – Jo Worgan
  • Signs for Lost Children – Sarah Moss

I have the pleasure of reading a varied selection of books this month and it contains many highlights.

For those of you who have read some of my previous posts, it will come as no surprise that one of my favourite reads has been My Sister the Serial Killer. Also high up on the list is Bottled Goods, quirky and intense, and the brooding Signs for Lost Children. And no month that contains a previously unread Kate Atkinson can be a bad reading month. Why did Human Croquet sit on my TBR pile for so long? Makes me twitchy about what else is sitting there undiscovered. So many books…

What’s next? Reading plans for May…

As May is already upon us, then it’s reading plans are in fact already actions.

As of lunchtime today my first read of May is A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara. There will be a review to follow, but first I will need to gather my thoughts. Not a book to be taken lightly in any sense, a review will need careful consideration. A truly incredible but heartbreaking novel.

Next up is my first blog tour read, (did I mention I was excited?) This Stolen Life – Jeevan Charika. Perfect bank holiday reading!

I am also privileged to have some Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) waiting for my undivided attention. Winking at me from my Kindle is the haunting cover of The Immortal Prudence Blackwood – Stephanie Grey. And I am feeling nostalgic for the Fens of my childhood whilst eagerly awaiting Naseby Horses – Dominic Brownlow.

Belonging to two Book Clubs means there is reading already set out for me in real life. First up is The House at the End of Hope Street – Meena van Praag, followed by A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman.

In addition I am hoping to get to my two remaining unread Women’s Prize short listed books, An American Marriage – Tayari Jones and Ordinary People – Diana Evans. With a fair wind, and another bank holiday, I might even get to the long listed Remembered – Yvonne Battle-Felton. Wish me luck!

Finally…

So that is a round up of my reading month. It is also a round up of my first blogging month. And I hope sincerely the first of many.

Thank you one and all for all the help, advice, support and encouragement. Onwards…