April Wrap Up… What A Month!!

It’s time to bid farewell to April 2020!! And that’s not a month any of us are going to forget in a hurry.

I know this post is about books read and adored but if we are honest there is no way you can do any kind of wrap up of the last month without mentioning ‘the C- word’.

Yesterday my 12 year daughter said to me, “Mum, don’t you think it’s strange we are living through something that kids are going to be taught about in history?” And she is right! Scary, hard and life changing times such as these will change our country, and this is historic.

‘Lockdown’ has dramatically changed our lives. For our family despite the challenges there have been some lovely positives. I can’t remember the last time we consistently ate together at least once a day. We are eating more home cooked food. We are using local shops more and more. We have house trained the puppy. I see my ‘working away’ husband everyday.

But there are things I miss desperately. Friends and family above all else. But also little things like the ability to browse a bookshop for five stolen minutes, having the house to myself and savouring the absolute quiet, throwing my hands up and saying ‘Sod it! Let’s get a takeaway’, that sustaining thought that we have planned things to look forward to. Going out the front door to work and school.

Don’t get me wrong, our lives under lockdown are no where near as difficult as others. I know we are lucky, but this time has and will continue to challenge and change us.

So in some ways blathering on about books read seems small fry. Probably it is, but it is my constant. My marker in the sand during strange and shifting times. And when my grandchildren are learning about this in history in the years to come, this might not be a terrible thing to share. Because it will be real, tangible and mine. April 2020 also marked the First Year Anniversary of Bookbound. It’s been tethering me for one whole year and that is something to celebrate.

And now, on to the books!!

So this month has been quite heavily dominated by The Womens Prize . Just before the short list was announced on 21st April I published my own musings, possibly ramblings, which you can find here

I outlined the books I had read from the long list and offered my humble opinion. During the month of April I read Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell, The Mirror and the Light- Hilary Mantel, Red at the Bone – Jacqueline Woodson and A Thousand Ships – Natalie Haynes. And do you know what, I loved every single one of them!

Red at the Bone is compact and quirky. For a short book it manages to paint the picture of one Black American family’s life from the 1920’s right up until the present day. Woodson is author who uses her words sparingly, treating each like a precious commodity. Brevity is her superpower and it’s one I love, having never acquired it myself!! I am not going to lie to you, I was gutted that this one wasn’t on the short list.

A Thousand Ships is a beauty. If you loved Circe, The Song of Achilles or Silence of the Girls step right this way. Haynes has given the females of the Trojan war, both before, during and after the conflict, a voice. She has given them validation, provoking anger, outrage and admiration in equal measure. These woman are strong, they have their own stories and they have an emotional intelligence not previously explored. my personal highlight were the letters of Penelope to Odysseus, edgy and heavy with shades of Carol Ann Duffy’s brilliant poems The World’s Wife .

The Mirror and The Light is a beast of a book. At nearly 1000 pages this took over a quarter of my reading time this month. Regulars to the blog know I love a bit of Tudor history and this series by Mantel is the definitive work within this genre. This is the culmination of the trilogy devoted to the rise and life of Thomas Cromwell. It is quite simply brilliant. I know the books aren’t for everyone. They are dense and packed with research, political and religious history and often darkness. But I love them. This was always going to make the Longlist. And I am sticking my neck out and saying it will win the Booker.

And finally we come to Hamnet. This book!! I honestly don’t know where to begin. This one quite simply blew me away. It is billed as the story of Hamnet, Shakespeare son who died as a youth, but it is so much more. It is a celebration of family, of love, of sacrifice, of fear, of that terrible feeling of loss and inevitability, of power and powerlessness, of grief and every emotion in between.

I had every intention of reviewing Hamnet. But I know I can’t do it justice. It is a book you just have to experience. It is O’Farrell’s best work to date and quite possibly her masterpiece.

And from one of my books of the year to another. Ladies and gentlemen I give you The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. Any one who follows me on Twitter will know that I have been tweeting like a woman possessed about this book since finishing it a week ago. My review can be found here . This book is my new obsession and it is going to take something very special to topple this one from the books of the year pile.

I have also been involved in two fantastic blog tours this month. One was in celebration of a breathtaking debut novel Conjure Women by Afia Atakora. The story of Miss Rue, a black midwife and healer, it spans the period from the end of slavery, through the American Civil War and into the new and uncertain territory of freedom. I read this at the beginning of the month and I am still thinking about it now. If this her debut I can’t wait to see where Afia Atakora goes next.

And from a novelist at the beginning of her journey to one firmly established; I throughly enjoyed reading and reviewing I Am Dust by Louise Beech. In these strange times when you can’t get to the theatre, I Am Dust brings all the thrills and more to you! Set in my university city of Hull, this is a unique novel. My blog tour review can be found here.

This month has also been about ‘dipping’ for me! By that I mean having a few books around that I can dip in and out of when I have a few moments of head space and clarity. One such book has been The Moth . I saw that Maggie O’Farrell has included this part of her Reading Hour on World Book Night and I was intrigued. A stunning celebration of oral storytelling I plan on blogging about this one very soon.

I have also been loving the collection of works by women poets through the ages, skilfully put together by Ana Simpson. She is Fierce, is quite simply sustaining me on a daily basis. Stunning .

And a dipping book that became a devouring book is the delightful collection of short stories A Registry Of My Passage Upon The Earth by Daniel Mason. This one is due out on the 14th May, and a review is coming. I am only allowing myself to say that this is one of the best collections of short stories I have read in a while…Watch this space!

So all in all quite a month. Not too many physical books but lots of love for those I read. I should also mention I have just emerged from the enveloping warmth that is the final two Cazalet Chronicles, listened to on Audiobook. It is my mission in life to bring these books to every household in the land. Long live Elizabeth Jane Howard!

Happy reading and here’s to May!

Rachel x

Monthly wrap up: March 2020!!

How do you wrap up March 2020?!? The month the world changed and everyday life became like a dystopian novel or Hollywood blockbuster. I don’t know about you but I keep expecting the soothing tones of Morgan Freeman to pop up at the daily briefing to tell us the world is saved.

Alas not!

For all my glib references to the fact that I had enough books to survive at least 3 pandemics etc etc, none of you need me to tell you that the reality is very different. Life has quite literally been turned on it’s head. My life, everyone’s lives, have changed beyond recognition and people I love and care about are working on the front line.

In such extreme circumstances I nearly abandoned the idea of a Monthly Wrap up. I mean who really cares about what I read last month when we are fighting a global pandemic?

The answer is probably no one, but in times of crisis then normality and routine is some how comforting. So I am clinging to one small shred of normality: I read books and I write about what I have read.

And if no one else reads this, so be it. If nothing else I will have a record of what I was reading in this time of change and extraordinary social history.

That said, it has been very hard to read! As a teacher I am getting to grips with a whole new set of professional challenges. Providing online work for those that want it, remote support for those that need it, managing a team remotely, all whilst managing my own families needs. Daily structures have disappeared and reading time, which I imagined might be plentiful has actually been pretty hard to come by.

And when I do have a slot of uninterrupted time available to me, it has proved somewhat challenging to concentrate! I know I am not alone in the feeling that our Bookish Mojo’s have, at least temporarily, gone walk about! For every book I have finished this month I have abandoned at least one more. Perfectly solid books, but my attention has been so fleeting that I have had to move on, trying to find something to hold me steady.

So the 8 books I have managed to finish this month have worked hard to earn their place.

Of those 8 books, 3 were read in preparation for Blog tours, or in one case my first ‘Blog Blast’.

Rust by Eliese Goldbach was my only nonfiction read of the month. A moving and insightful story of the Rust Belt of the MidWest, it was an illuminating insight into current US politics and a ray of hope in a divided landscape.

The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange by Sue Lawrence took me far away from the current crisis to Jacobite plotting and broken families in the distant past. It’s grounding in truth and ongoing intrigue was enough to break through reality and soothe the soul for a while.

My final blog tour read was the wonderful The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves. It’s a stunner of a book, moving and heartfelt. Published today by Century, I can’t wait to share my review next week.

Also pending a review is the breathtaking My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. Published in the last couple of days this a must read. Compelling and dark, but oh so important, I am still working on the words to do this one justice.

The Ninth Child by Sally Magnusson was another welcome foray into the past. Just as she proved in her previous novel The Seal Woman’s Gift Sally has the gift to create a beautiful and captivating portrait of time gone by. Her emphasis on strong female characters is captivating and the perfect plotting was inspired.

My final review of the month was SheClown and other Stories by Hannah Vincent. A complex and beautifully diverse celebration of women, embracing many different roles, lives and viewpoints. It’s sharp, insightful perception was another of those texts that helped me find some escape in this increasingly crazy world.

Finally not reviewed but certainly enjoyed were the final two books of the month Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss and Wild Dog by Serge Joncour.

Wild Dog , which joins a chorus of fantastic books released today is published by Gallic. Translated from it’s native French by Jane Aitken and Polly Mackintosh, this is a book which works across two time periods, both centred on a remote French Farmhouse. Steeped in superstition and overtaken by nature, there is a feeling that any thing could happen.

Tidal Zone, was a treat I had been saving for myself. Sarah Moss is one of my most recent favourite authors, having been blown away by Bodies of Light and Signs for Lost Children last year. Tidal Zone is the story of a family trying to come to terms with the sudden ill health of child, and all the adjustments and emotions that come with it. Given the current climate this might have been just too near the mark. But in Moss’s skilled hands it was an immersive joy. I can’t wait to read Summerwater which is due for publication in this summer, and which I feel privileged to have secured a digital copy of.

So looking forward in this strange and uncertain world , however hard it maybe at times, reading will remain one of my constants. Currently I am tucked into Hamnet By Maggie O’Farrell. This brilliance is my guiding light towards others on the Women’s Prize Longlist, due to become a Short List on 22nd April.

And in other news, next week my little blog turns 1! How to celebrate this blog birthday in uncertain times? Who knows but I will be marking it some special way.

Take care and stay safe

Rachel x

February Reading Roundup!

Wow! The end of February already! Where did that month go???

The big change in the BookBound household has been the arrival of Orla! This bundle has turned our lives upside down and is definitely getting way more likes and retweets than any blog I could produce!!

In other news, unless you are reading this blog from sunnier climes and distant shores, February seems to have passed in a haze of wind, sleet, snow and of course copious amounts of rain. I know it is a very British thing to harp on about the weather but… Even those of us living in the Lake District have found the last month remarkable for all the wrong reasons! As I write now the windows are rattling yet again as Storm Jorge makes it’s presence felt.

The upside of stormy weather? Plenty of reading time, because no one wants to go out!

So… what have I read this month?

Well I began with an absolute treat! My first, but definitely not my last Carol Lovekin novel, was the perfect novel to begin a wild February! Steeped in mysticism and feminine power it was an absolute pleasure to read and review as part of the Wild Spinning Girls blog tour.

Carol was so lovely to work alongside and took the time to show her appreciation for the dedication of bloggers everywhere. In case you missed it you can find my review right here

Carrying on with Blog Tour theme I was lucky enough to manage to grab a spot on the blog tour for The Foundling by the incredible Stacey Halls.

As expected the novel was stunning! Immersive and impeccably researched. My blog tour review goes live tomorrow…watch this space…

As always I have to say a huge thank you to those lovely people who have sent books for me to enjoy this month. I honestly never take this privilege for granted. This month I have read three such books ; all very different but all equally delightful. My blogger reviews of the gripping The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott and life affirming Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano can be found on the blog.

Finding Clara by Anika Scott , the third of this trio, was an interesting and thought provoking read.

It is set in Germany, just after World War Two and it focuses on what it was like to be within a country that has lost a war. The novel focuses on three characters. Clara, an heiress who’s father is awaiting trial for War Crimes and is herself wanted by the British Military Police. Jakob, a wounded war veteran, doing what he can to support his family and Willy, a teenage boy, living in an abandoned mine, labouring under the misconception that the war is still being fought.

These characters bring to life the reality of defeat and explore the grey areas of war. What is acceptable and who is ultimately responsible for their actions in a time of chaos, when normal rules don’t seem to apply.

It was refreshing and often quite challenging to consider this time in history from a new perspective. Definitely one I would recommend and thank you Klara Zak for my gifted copy.

Finding Clara is published on 5th March by Hutchinson Books and can be preordered here

In other fiction news this month I have been catching up with some longstanding recommendations. When numerous knowledgeable bloggers start shouting ‘You have to read this book!’ experience tells me to listen and obey. Falling into this category this month have been the deliciously quirky The Hoarder by Jess Kidd, (late to the party! I know!) and the recently released and superb The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams. Add to that list the unique and haunting Saltwater by Jessica Andrews and you can see this month has contained some stunners.

It seems to be becoming a theme in my reading at the moment but I have also started to revisit books. This month I read for book club My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. If you haven’t read it, do! It’s a master class in dramatic tension and plot twists. Audiobook wise I am continuing to work my way through the gorgeousness of The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard; Confusion completed Casting off begun.

This month has contained many treats but I have to say the last day of the month threw me something special! Last night I had the pleasure of experiencing my first Hollie McNish performance. Just amazing!!!

First performance maybe…definitely not my last!

Thank you February! Wild weather aside, it’s been a stonking book month!

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…