Better late than never … My August Wrap up!

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 McNishs 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.

Camilla Elworthy at Picador has sent me some absolute beauties this year! I have her to thank for the wonderful reading experiences that were The Harpy by Megan Hunter and The Lamplighter by Jackie Kay

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, and After the silence by Louise O’Neill published 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…

Rachel x


I tried this last year and failed miserably! Planning my reading is something I have never been great at.

Don’t get me wrong, if I am on a Blog Tour I will be 100% reliable, if I request a proof I will always read it. But sometimes a glittery new book grabs my attention and I am off, like a magpie, eyes wide, chasing the shiny thing.

So don’t hold me to this list. This is the list I came up with today after days of leaving piles in random places around the house and manically counting, groaning and changing my mind. Ask me tomorrow and who knows!

But I need to get this post written, I need to commit, so this is the stack…

I think…

They are a complete mixture of new releases, books I have had for ages, second hand copies and lovely gifted proofs.

I solemnly swear to do my best…

The List…#20BooksOfSummer…

  • Sea Wife – Amity Gauge
  • Exciting Times – Naoise Dolan
  • The Back Up Plan – Elsie McArthur
  • The Night of the Flood – Zoe Somerville
  • The Cat and The City – Nick Bradley
  • The Sound Mirror – Heidi James
  • It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s – Lisa Blower
  • The Pull of the Stars – Emma Donoghue
  • The Misadventures of Evie Epworth – Matson Taylor
  • Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart
  • Constellations – Sinead Gleeson
  • On Beauty – Zadie Smith
  • The Harpy – Megan Hunter
  • Fleishman is in Trouble – Taffy Brodesser-Akner
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong
  • The Most Fun We Ever Had – Claire Lombardo
  • Gingerbread – Helen Oyeyemi
  • My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
  • A Closed Eye – Anita Brookner

So, Three months, 93 days and 20 books…

And I am already behind the curve!!! The idea of #20BooksOfSummer is the fab idea of @cathy746books.

This summer I promise I will do my best!

Rachel x

Man Booker Review #Two : Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson.

If I could write for just 5 minutes like Jeanette Winterson I would die a happy woman.

Over the years I have continually been amazed by her intelligence, insight and biting wit. Since reading Oranges are not the only fruit in my mid teens, a complete revelation to a young some what sheltered girl (!), I have been completely hooked. No two Winterson books are the same, such is her rare versatility and style, both setting her apart from the crowd.

In that respect Frankissstein is no different.

But it all other respects Frankissstein is completely different.

It is unlike anything I have read before.

To the point where I am actually not sure where to even start with this book.

It is such a feat of fact, beautifully woven with fiction, that encompasses so many relevant and current themes. Winterson’s discussion and consideration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes the reader both into the past, the present and the future.

Here is a dual narrative so cleverly employed. Finding ourselves in the company of Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, we see Shelley’s influences and hear her stories. As an observer of ongoing discussions between Mary, Percy Shelley and Byron the reader witnesses the new and emerging thinking of great these minds , debating what is the nature of a human. There is a tangible feeling of excitement and hope as they stand on the edge of advancement, but also a fear and apprehension about what the future holds.

We are then thrown into the present with the transgender protagonist, Dr Ry Shelley, and his lover Victor Stein pioneer of AI. Ry has changed his body, making it a place his mind feels at home. This character introduces and embeds the idea that as a race we are constantly redefining our understanding of what makes us who we are. It is a debate that has raged throughout history and is explored throughout the novel, in both narratives.

This is an treaty on, amongst other things, what it means to be human and how this debate should be guiding some of our thinking as we progress ever further in our quest for advancement and knowledge.

Winterson opens the discussion, raising question after question. Are we more than a sum of our parts? What is the essence of ourselves, and does this lie in our minds or is it part of our bodies too? And if our sense of self lies within our mind, then is the way to eternal life to download our minds and live within an alternative body? Or maybe not even a body? And would we be happy with this, or is our body important after all?

Winterson draws no conclusions but skilfully uses a cast of characters, both past and present, to shape both the potential and the pitfalls of Al and all that goes with it.

Stein is the champion of the technology, pushing it’s boundaries, seeing it’s potential. He is focused on it’s possibilities and is willing to accept any disadvantages for the greater good.

Ry is a moderating presence, open to ideas and possibilities but questioning how far we as a race should go.

Ron Lord, millionaire sex bot creator, sees the commercial advantages of AI, extols the virtues of commitment free sex but also asks the layman’s questions, questions that have a crucial validity in their simple insightful nature.

Enter Claire, American and far right religious, trying to make the moral case for AI, sometimes with twisted logic, making what she sees fit into ‘God’s’ plan. Here we see shades of Darwin and the up roar his theories caused, similarly AI takes us further from long held and traditional views, views which have underpinned belief systems and societies.

Winterson has opened the debate on AI, showing us just how far we have come, where we currently are and questioning how far we can and crucially should go. We are challenged to discuss how AI will benefit the human race, but also what it may cost us. We should question who benefits from these potential advances. Is the progress universally enhancing or does it have the potential to compromise or even destroy that which we hold dear?

The dual narrative shows us that as a race we have always been on a continual journey. Questions that we are asking in this era of advanced technology, Brexit and Trump are questions that were debated by the Romantics in the Villa’s of Florence and Geneva and others throughout time. You can’t stop humans discussing, progressing and push boundaries; there is an inevitability here.

Frankissstein is a book that challenges, that encourages questions, discussion and debate. It’s not a cosy, ‘keep it to yourself’ read. It’s one to push the boundaries, be argued over at dinner parties. It is a book bursting to get off the shelves and out into the big wide world.

A book with a voice that needs to be heard.

I, for one, can’t get this book out of my head. It’s ‘food for thought’ is still being digested and I can’t wait to feast again when I see Winterson at the Manchester Literature Festival on 5th October. (Link for tickets right here !)

I am left with a feeling that this is a book with a very important message in our rapidly changing world.


Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson is published by Jonathan Cape.

My Summer Reading Plans* (*please note these may be subject to sudden change!)

This blog post started life as a #20booksofsummer post. It was going to be really easy to write…

Then I realised that 20 books were definitely not going to Be enough, so it expanded to 30 books of summer…

Now it is completely and utterly out of control! The lists and notes have been rewritten so many times. Every time I have opened my emails, checked my Twitter and said hello to the Postman the plans have changed…

But school finished on Friday . It might be raining in Cumbria, but my summer is officially here. I can delay this no longer.

So here goes, tentative summer reading plans, which are very likely to expand at a moments notice!

And I will begin with…

Beautiful proofs just begging to be read…

Having just devoured Don’t Think a Single Thought by Diana Cambridge in almost a single sitting, I can’t wait to get my teeth into The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow. Both books are published by the very talented Louise Walters, and Naseby Horses is set in the Fens, my childhood playground. With a ‘silent and mysterious setting’ and a local curse to boot this one is right up my street. And who can resist a proof that comes bagged up in lavender!!

Next up is The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. I have had this gorgeous looking proof winking at me for a good few weeks now and I am so excited to be on the blog tour for this one, leading up to it’s publication on 12th September with Little Brown. Set in a ‘sprawling mansion filled with exotic treasures’ and billed as being perfect for readers of The Night Circus, The Thirteenth Tale and The Binding, my hopes are high.

The next two books in this category are late entries, having just come to my attention in the last week and for that I am very grateful!

The first was so beautifully reviewed recently by Amanda @BookishChat, the intriguing Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner, published by Reflex Press. After rediscovering my love for short stories in the past 12 months I can’t wait to embark on this one. Thank you David Borrowdale for my gifted copy.

The second is the long awaited sequel to Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke. Having discovered this huge talent at the end of last year I was thrilled to be offered a proof of Heaven, My Home. Set in Texas against a backdrop of racial violence following the election of Donald Trump, a black man is implicated in the disappearance and potential murder of a white boy : the son of an Aryan Brotherhood captain.

This book feels like an important and timely read and I am very grateful to Hope Ndaba at Serpent’s Tail for sending this one my way.

American Dirt by Jeannie Cummins has been getting a whole lot of love on Twitter recently and I am so grateful to Louise Swannell for her super speedy response to my begging for a proof. This is (I think!!) my first 2020 proof. The story of a mother’s love and desperate efforts to protect her son as circumstances force them to flee Mexico, riding the ‘la bestia’; dangerous freight trains crossing the US – Mexican border. Published by Tinder Press this too feels like an important novel of it’s time.

Now I am very definitely a ‘physical books’ kind of a gal, however when I really, really, really want to read something I will turn to NetGalley!

Currently waiting for me on my shelf are four crackers which I am planning to devour on the long car journey to France in a couple of weeks time!

Let’s begin with the incredible talent that is Laura Purcell and her upcoming release Bone China. A historical thriller set in Cornwall and inter woven with superstition and intrigue, this one is just brimming with promise! Published on 19th September by Raven Books this one looks like a gem.

The Underground Railroad launched Colson Whitehead into my reading consciousness with a bang. His latest work The Nickel Boys is set in 1960’s Florida and, just like Railroad finds it’s foundation very much in reality. Here is the story of a Reform School that twists and destroys the lives of the boys within it. I am not anticipating an easy read but certainly an important one.

Tracy Chevailer‘s new offering is up next! A Single Thread is set between the Wars. Focusing on Violet, mourning the loss of her brother and fiancé, one of a generation of women unlikely to marry, she strikes out alone. Looking for independence and seeking a purpose in her life, this book seems full of promise and empowerment! Published by HarperCollins UK on 5th September

And finally Jeanette Winterson has held me under her spell since discovering Oranges are not the only fruit as a wide eyed teenage. To have a digital copy of her latest book Frankissstein seems like a true honour! Within these pages Winterson tackles the thorny issue of AI and asks the difficult question of what will happen when humans are no longer the most intelligent creatures on the planet? Published 1st October by Grove Press.

New, shiny, recently released books that are singing to me…

First on this list has to be The Moss House by Clara Barley. Just published by BlueMoose Books and hot on the heels of the fabulous Gentleman Jack, this is the book for anyone looking to immerse themselves once more in the story of the awe inspiring Annie Lister and her lover Anne Walker.

(And interesting fact Clara Barley and my good self shared an A level English teacher, the wonderful Linda Hill of Linda’s Book Bag.)

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, Bloomsbury is quite literally EVERYWHERE this summer. Already a Sunday Times #1 bestseller this imitate portrait of the lives and desires of three very different women is widely tipped as the nonfiction read of the summer.

On Chapel Sands: My Mother and Other Missing Persons by Laura Cumming, Chatto &Windus is about as compelling a family history story you will find this year. With the story of her mother’s kidnap in childhood at it’s heart this is Cummings exploration of a Lincolnshire coastal hamlet and it’s secrets.

And the finally – Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, Galley Beggar Press. I have made absolutely no secret of the fact that this book scares me and intrigues me in almost equal measure. Approximately 1000 pages long and largely told through a single sentence, it is certainly unique. It’s on order…I am waiting with bated breath

Books that I have missed…

These are books that have been published for a while now, books the world has been raving about but books I haven’t quite caught up with yet.

The first had been recommended most heartily by Claire @yearofreading and who am I to disagree! Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott was long listed for this year’s Women’s Prize and is the story of Truman Capote and his ‘Swans’, the wealthy, beautiful women he courted but ultimately betrayed.

And continuing the theme of hedonism, let us look next to Daisy and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It feels like every single person in the bookish world and beyond has read this tale of a 70’s band rise and fall. And I want to join the party!

Heading in a completely different direction now, for I can’t go long without venturing into the world of Victorian England. Particularly the grimy streets of London where there is a mystery to be solved. The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell looks like a promising way of scratching my Dickensian itch. This first hit my radar through the Backlisted Podcast and I have been running to catch up with it ever since.

Sneaking another one in here, let me introduce Heroes by Stephen Fry. Around this time last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed Mythos. Heroes is the last of my Christmas present books and it seems a perfect read for basking (please God!) in the summer sun!

And finally…my blasts from the past my TBR pile…

Blogging has thrown up so many welcome literary discoveries that I have, inevitably been cheating in my ‘To be read pile’. So in no particular order below are the books I am determined to get to this summer!

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – This has been by my bed for a least two years! Another one that scares me a wee bit. Time to face my fear I think!

Stoner – John Williams – I have been meaning to read this for time immemorial. Who thinks the time is right?

Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien Everyone has read this tale of revolutionary China, right? Wrong!! Need to sort it out!

Frankenstein– Mary Shelley Strictly speaking this is a reread, having read this many years ago at University. Having just completed the brilliant Arguing with the dead by Alex Nye, which focuses on Mary’s tangled relationship with Percy Shelley, and having access to Winterson’s Frankisstein, it feels the time is right to reacquaint myself with the monster!

And so there you have it..

…my somewhat tentative summer reading plans.

There are, however, any number of things which might just sway me off course.

At this moment, for example I am very aware the Man Booker Prize long list announcement is looming. I would like to say I won’t be affected…

…it would be a lie!

Every time I log on to Twitter I will make new golden discoveries, be tempted into requesting proofs and just generally feast myself on the loveliness of fabulous books floating in the ether!

Lovely publishers will hopefully continue to be in contact sending me goodies, (again, Please God!)

And I will wander into beautiful book shops and rescue poor unwanted books… for their own good…naturally!

But I promise that one thing that will definitely happen is that I will read lots of lovely books…

…and it’s always good to have a plan!!!

Happy reading!

Rachel x