We made it through January. I know illness has dogged a lot of us this month – if you are still suffering I wish you a speedy recovery.
I started the month with a few thoughts on the year just past. I have now been blogging for over five years and my site continues to evolve as I work out the ongoing direction I wish to take.
My first review of the year was for Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour – The Haunted Queen which is to be published by Headline in May. I had intended to include this as one of my end of year books to look forward to in 2018 but ran out of reading time over the festive season. My new Fitbit encouraged me to get out walking which was probably a good thing.
I then took a week’s break as I had a family holiday to enjoy and a big feature planned for the remainder of the month. These things take time to organise and prepare.
Those who follow my blog regularly will be aware that this month has mostly been about The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, who last summer invited me to join their reader panel and help judge submissions for the prize. After the longlist was announced in November I contacted the longlisted publishers inviting them and their authors to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. The before Christmas period is just about the busiest time of year for those who provide us with books so I am grateful for the positive responses received.
As part of this feature I posted author interviews with:
- Isabel Waidner, author of Gaudy Bauble (Dostoyevsky Wannabe)
- Benjamin Myers, author of The Gallows Pole (Bluemoose Books)
- Ariana Harwicz, author of Die, My Love (Charco Press)
- Patty Yumi Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace (And Other Stories)
- Simon Okotie, author of In the Absence of Absalon (Salt Publishing)
I included publisher interviews with:
I received guest posts from:
I am also grateful to my fellow judges, Graham and Paul Fulcher, who offered their carefully considered and detailed reviews to run alongside the content I received from authors and publishers. As I had already posted my reviews of the longlisted books I felt that these alternative thoughts added to the feature.
- Gaudy Bauble by Isabel Waidner, published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe
- The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers, published by Bluemoose Books
- Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, published by Charco Press
- An Overcoat by Jack Robinson, published by CB editions
- Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell, published by And Other Stories
- In the Absence of Absalon by Simon Okotie, published by Salt
- The Iron Age by Arja Kajermo, published by Tramp Press
My bookish adventures took me along a new path when I participated in my first ever podcast, adding a few thoughts on one of the longlisted books – We that are young by Preti Taneja – alongside interesting interviews with the author and with the publisher. You may find out more about the podcast, created by The YYY Books Podcast, by clicking here.
As well as my Republic Of Consciousness Prize posts, I published a few reviews of other books I managed to read this month:
- Hollow Shores by Gary Budden, published by dead ink – a collection of twenty-one short stories interlinked by people who, for a time at least, inhabit a stretch of the Kent coastline. These stories succinctly capture the importance of life’s mundanities. They are incisive, intriguing and impressively affecting.
- The Shore by Sara Taylor, published by William Heinemann – another set of stories about a place and the people who live there. A beautifully written if somewhat doleful saga populated by the flawed, wicked and foolish as well as those whose motives are more supportive. I could happily have read more about any of the varied characters featured.
- The Bear and the Paving Stone, by Toshiyuki Horie (translated by Geraint Howells), published by Pushkin Press – a collection of three stories by this award winning author and another fine addition to the publisher’s Japanese novella series.
- The Feed by Nick Clark Windo, published by Headline – set in a dystopian future where communication and curation of experiences has moved almost entirely on line. When the technology fails, chaos ensues, but there is a deadly reason behind the failure. At its heart the story is an exploration of what defines an individual. It may be bleak but this is a compelling read.
- Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magoran, published by Puffin Books – Eight year old evacuee William Beech is handed over to the dour and somewhat elderly Thomas Oakley and discovers, for the first time, that happiness can exist. Despite the trauma and grief the tale is uplifting.
I attended two bookish events in January. The first was in Bristol, a stop on the New Voices of 2018 roadshow organised by Headline. The second was the Judges Dinner for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. Held in London this gave me the opportunity to meet my fellow judges offline, and to discuss the longlist with a view to whittling it down to the five or six titles that will go forward from here. I will be writing more about this event next month after the shortlist is announced in Manchester on 19th February.
I was privileged to receive a number of new titles from publishers which have been added to my TBR pile. For those interested, I post pictures of my book post on my Instagram feed. Thank you to all the publishers who send me books to review. Like most book bloggers my TBR pile is vast and enticing. If I have received your book I assure you I am doing my best to find time to read it.
Thank you also to the many readers, bloggers and publishers who share my words on their social media feeds. I very much appreciate your support. February will see a return to more personal book reviews. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts.