Hello and welcome to the last month of the year! I don’t know about anyone else but in the whole surreal experience that has been 2020, this month has felt like the toughest.
Dark mornings and evenings, colder weather, lockdown and Covid just getting just too close for comfort on more than one occasion has made this month feel like a bit of a slog. I haven’t read anywhere near as much as I wanted but I have tried to find escape and refuge in the books I have read.
A highlight of this month has been some of the cracking book post I have received. I am honestly overwhelmed by the generous nature of publishers, publicists and authors. 2021 is going be a cracking reading year!!
And on the theme of amazing 2021 reads let me introduce you to Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden. This book just blew me away!!! Original in style, subject matter and structure, it’s a rocket waiting to launch. Full review coming later this month but it’s going to set January 2021 on fire!!
A couple of other books awaiting a full review and just finished Medusa Retoldby Sarah Wallis and Inherent by Lucía Orellana Damacela. I repeatedly say I don’t read and review enough poetry so I thrilled to be offered these two books by Fly On The Wall Press. Both unique and beautiful in their own ways; my full review will be up next weekend.
Poetry has given me the perfect opportunity to dip in and out of reading material when my concentration is not what it should have been . Another ‘dipping’ book which had been with me for a couple of months now is Hilary Mantel’s Mantel Pieces. A stunning collection of her articles and essays, written with her usual wit, insight and intelligence. Quite simply a joy.
Another joy was Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold. Emma, @corkyyorky, told me I was going to love it and I did!!! Authors Daisy Johnson, Kirsty Logan, Emma Glass, Eimear McBride, Natasha Carthew, Mahsuda Snaith, Naomi Booth, Liv Little, Imogen Hermes Gower, Irenosen Okojie retell British Folk Takes, and they are stunning. The accompanying Audible podcasts are a must listen and getting me through the dark mornings as I drive to work.
Another ‘Emma’ recommendation was Coming Up For Air by Sarah Leipciger. Set across three time periods, told in beautiful lyrical prose, here is a story that converges with skill and precision.
Talking of recommendations RichardOsman’s Thursday Murder Club has been raved about in every bookish quarter!! And now I see why! A perfect blend of wit, style and entertainment!! This is going to under a fair few Christmas Tress this year!
My book club read this month was TheTurn of The Screwby Henry James. For a slim book it took some getting through!!! One more classic read chalked up, but won’t be a reread!
My final read of the month was the tranquil trip along the canal found in the novel Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngson. My mini Insta review can be found here
It’s been a strange old October. The world shows no sign of getting any calmer and in general things feel trickier than at any point in the year. My reading, the book community and the friends I have within it seem like a focal and high point in my life at the moment. And I continue to be grateful for that.
In terms of blogging this month there has been the inevitable slowing of posts. I am working on roughly a post a week at the moment; the Autumn return to school necessitates a slow down! But the blog is still alive and kicking!! Just a wee bit slower!
I have been involved in some fantastic bookish events this month. High on this list was the Blog Tour for A More Perfect Union by Tammye Huf. This is a beautiful story of love that transcends barriers but also a study of true freedom and what it costs us.
I was thrilled to be able to take part in the cover reveal for Medusa Retoldby Sarah Wallis, published by Fly on the Wall Press next month. I often say I don’t read enough poetry, but this myth interpretation is firmly in my sights.
Talking of November releases please don’t miss the unique and beautifully crafted novel by Catherine Cusset about the genius that is David Hockney! David Hockney – A lifeis published by Arcadia Books on 12th November.
One of the most beautiful and moving books I have read this year has been published this week by the wonderful BlueMooseBooks. Sharon Duggal’s Should We Fall Behindwas a joy from the first sentence to the last; the perfect antidote to the craziness of the world around us. It is out now, and everyone needs a copy in their lives.
As well as new releases this has also been a month of dipping into the TBR pile and getting to those books that have been waiting for too long. I finally got around to polishing off Kate Atkinson’s latest Jackson Brodie novel Big Sky, as always a pleasure. I read my first, and definitely not my last (!) Donal Ryan, the haunting All We Shall Know. And I was lost in the beauty that is NightingalePoint by Luan Goldie, the Women’s Prize nominee which deals with one fateful day in a tower block’s history; a day that will change the world forever.
And of course with Hallowe’en upon us October isn’t complete without some haunting reads. Tick off one long delayed visit to The Haunting of Hill House and an often trodden path to Wuthering Heights and spooky reads are accounted for.
I have also spent the last week looking forward. November promises to be a bumper month of reading and new releases. I am lucky enough to be part of four blog tours, all unmissable reads. Look out for the latest release from Caroline Scott. Following on from the wonderful Photographer of the Lost, Caroline returns to WW1 in her latest novel When I come home again. It is looming large in my mind still, and already causing a well deserved Twitter storm after it’s release earlier this week.
Dipping into the magical and the next two blog tour reads are The Thief On The Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas – perfect for fans of The Doll Factory and Once upon a river – andThe Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow. Any story that combines witches and suffragettes gets my vote!!
The final blog tour read ready for next month was the delightful How to belong by Sarah Franklin. Set in the Forest of Dean and populated with a cast of authentic characters this one was an absolute joy. I can’t wait to share my review.
My final book of October was a dip into my pile of 2021 proofs. I am squirrelling away information ready for my Most Anticipated Reads of 2021 blog posts later next month. And my goodness did I start my 2021 reading with a bang! I am still finding the words to describe The Push by Ashley Audrain, but this one is going to be HUGE!!!
So there ends the month of October. I have a few reads on the go which are hanging on in there and will pop in next months round up. Happy reading and stay safe.
So autumn is very much upon us and September seems to have disappeared in the blink of an eye. For me September is always about the start of the school year, always busy, but this year unsurprisingly it has presented it’s own unique challenges!!
As such the reading totals are way down on last month and the type of books I have read have varied enormously!!
For example, there have been a number of books which I think of as ‘dip in and out books’, books perfectly suited to grabbing when I have five minutes to indulge myself. Keeping me company throughout the whole month has been the glorious Poems to live your life by collected and illustrated by the wonderful Chris Riddell. It’s been the perfect bedside companion to busy days and early mornings.
Entirely different and accidental poetry and very light relief has been found in The beautiful poetry of Donald Trump by Rob Sears. Each poem is a little gem created by the author from actual Trump quotes. As with anything surrounding the current US President it is hilarious and scary in equal measure.
My final ‘dip in and out’ read has been the excellent The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla. This is a collection of experiences and essays by a multicultural cast of voices, focusing on what being a immigrant in Modern Britain really means. Illuminating, sometimes heartbreaking, this collection is likely to provoke every emotion going but it is an absolute must read.
Immigration seems to have been a bit of a theme in my reading this month. I started the month with the fabulous, if some what challenging Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar, part fiction, part fact this is an honest account of what it is like to grow as a Muslim in the USA.
And in a similar vein the month drew to a reading close with the beautiful The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim. My Instagram review can be found here
In a bid to escape the reality of daily news I have reawakened my habit of listening to an audiobook on the drive to work. I am almost at end of my life long love Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, performed by the talented Joanna Froggat. and l have also listened to this month’s book club pick Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
I have been involved in two cracking blog tours this month. One was the mammoth but delightful undertaking of Unto This Last by Rebecca Lipkin, a detailed and compelling retelling of the complex loves of John Ruskin.
I am sent so many fabulous books to read and review and I am genuinely appreciative and overwhelmed by them all. But I wanted to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to Camilla Elworthy from Picador. This year, thanks to her, I have had the pleasure to read some amazing books, including the incomparable Shakespearean by Robert McCrum; my Instagram review can be found here
But this month Camilla sent me a book that literally saved me. In all kinds of ways this has been a tough month but sinking into the pages of Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrinkwas like being enveloped in a warm and book lined cloak. I am so grateful for the chance to read and review this book. Camilla, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You!
I have ended the month with two cracking books which have both come highly recommended and neither disappointed. I delighted in the short but deliciously dark Sisters by the super talented Daisy Johnson. And lost myself in the workings of the Royals with The Governess by Wendy Holden.
So there we have it; September’s reading laid bare. On to October…
August is always my Happy Reading month! A combination of so much good stuff coming out at the beginning of September and the fact I am not in school, means I can truly indulge myself, and my reading totals tend to climb. This month I have read 21 books in total. It’s been bliss! Back to school this week and I suspect that September’s totals will struggle to reach double figures! August is definitely the purple patch!
August’s books were really varied. I read both physical and eBooks, and was able to catch up with several books I have been meaning to get to for a while. These included Breaking and Mending by Joanna Cannon, Himself by Jess Kidd, Keeper by Jessica Moor , Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield, Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore . Each one was a book neglected for too long and it’s own unique way a delight.
Another book that I finally got round to reading cover to cover was Hollie McNish’s Nobody told me. I am way behind with this one but if you don’t know it is a collection of prose and poetry written during the author’s pregnancy and the first weeks, months and years of her daughter’s life. It is perfection. It sums up the terror, exhaustion, love and exhilaration of that unique time so beautifully. And for this mum about to send her eldest off to the big wide world of University it was a reflective trip down memory lane.
Another book I had been saving for a special, uninterrupted reading time was Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers.Honestly it was one of the best books I have read this year. I wasn’t planning to review it but having been totally immersed in it there was no way I could pass this one by!
Similarly hoarded and enjoyed have been In The Sweep of The Bay by Cath Barton and Alison Weir’s fifth Tudor Queen book; Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen.
I love short stories, but I don’t feel I have read enough this year. So I have managed to squeeze a couple in to August. First was the newly released Supporting Cast by Kit de Waal. This book was like meeting up with old friends as we gain further insights into the lives of the characters from Kit’s previous novels. This one is going on the forever shelf and is due a reread.
The second collection of stories, arrived through my love of Pondweed by Lisa Blower.It’s gone dark over Bill’s mother’s provoked every emotion going! Highly recommended!
My one and only audiobook this month has been Hamnet. Having read this one back in April, the beauty of this book kept us company on the long drive through France and drew a whole car full of people under it’s spell. I will never fail to be stunned by this book.
I made one foray onto the Booker Prize list with The Redhead By The Side of the Road by Anne Tyler. Always in a safe pair of hands with Tyler!
And, as always this month I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to read some cracking proof copies. Thanks to everyone who sent and continues to send me books. I will never take this privilege for granted.
A pretty inspirational proof for me this month was Finish your book by Lizzie Enfield. It has given me the writing kick up the backside I needed and August was a really productive month!! Thank you Emma Dowson for sending this one my way.
Gifted books that have thrilled me in every sense (!) this month have been The Heatwave by Kate Riordan, for which I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour, andAfterthe silence by Louise O’Neillpublished on 3rd September. Both kept me enthralled and intrigued! Similar responses were provoked by the stunning debut The Night of the Flood by Zoe Somerville published on 3rd September. Review coming next week…
And last but certainly not least are the two gorgeous reads that were A Ghost in the Throat and Potterism. Both unique and both bringing new writers into my life, something which gives me joy.
So it’s been a mammoth reading month! The feast before the famine I suspect, but that’s the way it rolls! Bring on autumn…
Every month I seem to be starting these posts with ‘It’s been a cracking reading month’… Well guess what? Welcome to Groundhog Day! So much good stuff this month!
I have discovered new authors, revisited old favourites, flirted with and got a weeny bit annoyed with the Booker Prize long list, made progress with and shamelessly cheated on my #20BooksOfSummer list and just generally read fabulous books. So without further ado, here goes July’s wrap up!
And let’s begin with the Booker Prize shall we? And let’s get the gripe out of the way first. Now, rarely do I gripe on the blog, in fact as many of you know, I received an unsolicited DM on Twitter this month complaining that I never write negative reviews. But today I am making a weeny exception to the rule. Because as exciting as the Booker long list looks, it is, in my humble opinion, and it seems quite a lot of Bookish Twitter agree, flawed. Put simply, WHERE IS HAMNET????? Maggie O’Farrell’s masterpiece deserves it’s place on this list, it is nothing short of stunning. Madness rules in my opinion!!! And if that is your opinion too, do me a favour and nominate this work of genius for The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize, but be quick nominations close just before midnight tonight, 1st August 2020.
That moan out the way the long list does contain some fabulous stuff. In terms of The Booker Prize and my own reading, I have neatly ended this month with Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, which I enjoyed and been wholly transported to Glasgow of the 1980’s by the beautiful and heartbreaking Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. Since finishing this book I haven’t stopped tweeting and talking about it. It is incredible, and if you missed my review you can find it here.
I started this month with reading a couple of cracking books for blog tours. I was thrilled to be asked to read and review Rodhamby Curtis Sittenfeld. She is such a versatile author and with the US elections fast approaching, (grab some popcorn ladies and gents!) this felt like a timely read.
I followed that up with thought provoking Fleishman is inTrouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Sharp, insightful and full to the brim with ideas, I can certainly see why this one made the Women’s Prize Long list. It would, I think, make a wonderful book club book.
Talking of book club reads they have accounted for two of my titles his month. Firstly My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, which I know has a special place in lots of hearts, but unfortunately failed to hit the spot for me. And secondly The Carer by Deborah Moggach; thats for next month’s meeting so can’t give anything away about that one yet!
This month I have read a real balance of familiar and brand new authors; just the way I like it! On the new entrances list we have the brilliant and quite hilarious debut from Matson Taylor, The Misadventures of Evie Epworth, which you haven’t read, you need to!! Another new-to-me author is Heidi James. Having just finished and reviewed her upcoming novel The Sound Mirror I am off to read everything else she has ever written!! Review coming next week, keep your eyes peeled, but BlueMooseBooks have knocked it out the park once again!!
Continuing the theme of ‘new’ authors leads me to a confession. I had never before read any Jenny Eclair. I know! I have been to her live show, listened to her podcasts etc but not read one of her books. Well now I have and it’s a cracker. You can find my review of Older and Wider on Instagram.
And my final new discovery is a flipping gem. In preparation for next months blog tour slot I read Below The Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin. And before I did I embarked upon it’s prequel The Last Days Of Rabbit Hayes. These are two books that depict a family coming to terms with a daughter’s terminal cancer diagnosis and examines how we cope when someone far too young is taken from us. They are written with passion, heart and so much great Irish humour. My review is out next month, but these are special books.
Back in the camp of old favourites I was thrilled when I received a gifted copy of Emma Donoghue’s new novel The Pull of the Stars. Dealing with the 1918 Flu epidemic, set on a Dublin maternity war, this one is timely and stunning. It has crept on to my books of the year list without a doubt.
For the next new discovery from an old favourite I have Amanda at Bookish Chat to thank. The northern streets of Pat Barker’s Blow Your House Down have made a diverting and dark interlude. Loved it!
And finally we come to Summerwater, the latest masterpiece from Sarah Moss. And it is a masterpiece, so much so I had to read it twice before I could compose my review. Both the novel and my review are out next month and the former is not to be missed, as for the review, I hope I have managed to convey something of the awe I felt for this novel.
I can’t sign off without an update on my #20BooksOfSummer challenge. 8 out of 20 read! As predicted I am woefully distracted and fickle, but I am trying!
Hope you all had great reading months and let’s catch up at the end of August!!
Can you believe that we are already halfway through this strange and defining year? Never have I been so grateful for books, and once again June was a pretty spectacular reading month.
As there as been a slow shift back to some kind of normal, whatever that has become, then I haven’t read quite as much as in previous months but as you will see the quality over quantity rule definitely applies.
And on that note on to the books…
The first book of the month was a book club read, in fact a re-read for me, Geraldine Brook’s , Year of Wonders. This is the story of Eyam, the small Derbyshire village which, in 1665, completely and voluntarily, cut itself off from the rest of the world in order to stop the spread of The Plague. This book was a conscious, if some what tentative choice by our bookclub, made entirely due to current circumstances. Read in our current context this book takes on a whole new depth and suddenly changes from a story very much of the past to something relevant and relatable.
Continuing in the vein of reading influenced by wider events I made a pledge at the beginning of the month to read more BAME authors. In June I have had the absolute pleasure to read two stunning and equally thought provoking books that fall into this category. Firstly, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, whose review you can find here. And secondly, The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Dare. Released by Sceptre, it is the story of Adunni, a 14 year old Nigerian girl who passionately wants an education. It is the story of her reality and how hard she has to fight for what in the West we take for granted .
June has been a slower but immersive reading month. There have been books that have challenged and there have been books that have stepped up and soothed my soul. Firmly in the second category is the delightful and recently published The Phonebox at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina. A unique and moving exploration of grief and healing, I am busy recommending this to everyone.
And again, very much in the soul soothing category is the charming and quite stunning Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession. The whole of Book Twitter has been recommending this one to me for a very long time. I still have no explanation as to why I waited so long to fall under it’s spell. It is unique and filled with joy. Just read it!
Perhaps one of the most exciting things to happen over the last month has been the reopening of bookshops. I know I am not alone in the fact I have missed my book browsing fix. As a family we have escaped a couple of times to the Northumberland Coast, which has meant a couple of visits to the ever glorious Barter Books. The TBR is nicely topped up and I have started to make a dent in my recent purchases. Two of which are the very definitely unique (!) Wetlands by Charlotte Roche and Booker nominated The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh.
So looking ahead to July(!)… There are two books I read in June whose reviews are ready and waiting to go. Both have July release dates, both books you won’t want to miss. They are Pondweed by Lisa Blower, published by Myriad on 9th July, and Boy Parts by Eliza Clark published by Influx Press on 23rd July. Impatiently waiting to share my thoughts on both!!
I have also tentatively committed myself to #20BooksOfSummerchallenge! I am slightly nervous having failed spectacularly last year to stick to the plan but heigh ho! So far I have read 2 and 1/2 on this list, the brilliant and award winning Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson being one. Watch this space…
If you have managed to get to the end of that bookish June ramble many thanks and see you on the other side of July!!!
May is almost done and it seems my reading speed as picked up! From struggling with my reading mojo at the beginning of lockdown, I now seem to be finding my retreat in books the longer the situation continues.
With the ever more crazy situation in politics and current affairs in general, books seem a safer refuge. Beautiful weather has taken my reading outside, and the world has seemed blissfully far away.
So, what I have I read! Well quite a lot actually, and I have finally begun to get through some of my ‘overlooked’ titles. Books that have been sitting on my shelves for ages. One such book was The Confession by Jessie Burton. Published last year, I was late to the party but it was completely worth the wait. I hadn’t planned to review this one but I was so surprised and delighted by it that I felt I had to.
Another ‘catchup’ book, was The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey. Set at the beginning of World War Two, and with strong female characters, this one was always destined to be a winner for me. My review can be found here.
I also finally got around to reading Where the CrawdadsSing by Delia Owens. I particularly enjoy the setting of this novel. It was one of those books where you became completely transported and immersed. It brought to mind one of my all time favourite reads To Kill a Mockingbird.
I embarked upon a couple more catch up reads as part of my book club reading. The first was the gentle and delightful Saving Missy by Beth Morrey. I read it and enjoyed it but it really came alive in our book group discussion. So many layers are cleverly woven into this novel, it made for a great Book Club book.
My second book club read of this month was Normal People by Sally Rooney. I have to admit here and now that I have avoided this book for a long time. I know it came out to universal praise, but I was quite reluctant to read it. I had read and not enjoyed Conversations With Friends and this quite simply put me off. I haven’t had my book club discussion on this one yet, so I am playing my cards close to my chest…Watch this space!
This month I also completed my self imposed challenge to read the Women’s Prize Short List . Let’s not kid ourselves, this has been no great hardship. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed each book on the short list this year. I finished my reading with Dominicana by Angie Cruz and Weather by Jenny Offill. I will be watching with interest when the winner is announced on 9th September. I have my favourite, but that is for another time.
Other books I have read and reviewed in May have included some fascinating historical fiction. The witty and observant Chatterton Square by E.H Young was recently re-released by British Library Publishing. Set in the summer of 1938, against the backdrop of appeasement, it is a wonderful commentary on a women’s perspective on marriage.
From 1930’s London to 1700’s Imperial Russia, allow me to present Tsarinaby Ellen Alpsten. This was a book I reviewed as part of a blog tour. Filled with opulence and cruelty in equal measure it is the story of Catherine I of Russia and her remarkable rise from peasant to Tsarina. You can fine my review here.
One of my favourite books of the month, both to read and review was the extraordinary Saving Lucia by Anna Vaught. Published earlier this month by Blue Moose Books, this book is the story of four women. All incarcerated within asylums, all infamous , but at the same time all desperately misunderstood and overlooked. This novel is a beautiful reimagining of their stories, offering them freedom through their own voices.
My final review of the month was an Instagram Review of A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet. Focusing on the approaching global emergency that is Climate Change, the author explores what happens when theory becomes reality and how the older generations struggle to adapt to the sudden and necessary changes needed. A powerful warning to all.
The vast majority of my reading this month has been fiction, but there have been two notable and worthy exceptions. Firstly I dabbled in poetry, picking up Matthew Francis’ The Mabinogi. I heard of this retelling of the ancient Welsh epic from not one but two podcasts, Backlisted and Hay Festival Podcast. I have to say, I loved it. Evocative and lyrical it was a unexpected and welcome change.
Secondly, I come to my one nonfiction read of the month Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker. The fascinating, and often heart breaking story of the Galvin family. A fine all American family to the outside world, 6 of their 12 children were diagnosed with schizophrenia. This book examines the realities of life in the Galvin household, and explores how this family helped unwittingly to inform future research in to and treatment of schizophrenia. Thank you to Amanda @BookishChat for putting this one on my radar.
Finally I come to what I am thinking of as ‘Treats yet to come.’ These are the books that I have read this month that either have reviews pending or are yet to be published. And there are some crackers!
I am so excited to currently be working on my review of Summerwater by Sarah Moss. Sarah Moss is a genius in my eyes, and Summerwater is just a delight. This review is taking an age to write, as I am determined to do the book justice. Due out in August of this year, it is not to be missed.
A couple of books that I have reviews written for and ready to share in the next week or so are Walter & Florence and other stories by Susan Hill and The Light Keeper by Cole Moreton. Neither of these books were on my radar at the beginning of the month and both have been a delight. Watch out for the reviews!
And finally we come to What Doesn’t Kill You – Fifteen Stories of Survival. A collection of moving and deeply personal accounts of individual experiences of surviving mental ill health. It is my pleasure to be part of the blog tour beginning early next month, organised by Anne Cater, which celebrates this very important book.
So, all in all a very busy reading month. I think it is far to say that what is getting me through lockdown are family, ice cream and books!! Bring on June!
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 Women’s 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 – JacquelineWoodson 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 ofAchilles 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 byLouise 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 CazaletChronicles, 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!
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.
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 Goldbachwas 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 Lawrencetook 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 She–Clown 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 booksof the month TidalZone 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.
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 Napolitanocan 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!