Monthly Roundup – January 2019

Remember when I wrote last month that I would no longer post a monthly roundup? I changed my mind. Feedback suggested that some of you found these posts useful so, instead of abandoning them altogether, I will be trying to find a way to make them more interesting.

My month started with a short holiday during which I read two books but posted no reviews. This hiatus resulted in me being already behind on my Goodreads challenge.

Another challenge I set myself this year was to get out more and enjoy the countryside where I live. I vowed to dispense with the self-inflicted pressure of reading to a schedule that last year led to days spent indoors trying to catch up. I aim to enjoy running this blog which may now result in fewer reviews but a happier writer.

Thus I posted reviews for only 9 books in January of which 7 were fiction (1 translated) and 2 non fiction (1 translated). I reviewed no poetry. Can publishers please send me some poetry to review?

Let’s look at the books.

I struggle to find crime fiction and thrillers that I truly enjoy reading as so many of them merge in my memory and are predictably formulaic. Sarah Hilary provides the exception. Yes, her Marnie Rome series are all written to the same structure but her use of language and exploration of issues provide literary fodder. I took this early proof on holiday (it isn’t out until May) and devoured it.


Never Be Broken by Sarah Hilary, published by Headline

Another early proof I took on holiday was a debut by Tramp Press publisher, Sarah Davis-Goff. I read her dystopian thriller in anticipation of meeting the author at the one event I attended this month – the Headline New Voices Roadshow in Bath.


Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff, published by Headline

I was keen to attend the gig having enjoyed watching what the debut authors I met at the previous year’s event went on to attain – in the case of Guy Gunaratne this included a Booker longlisting amongst other accolades. I will be interested to see what lies in store for this year’s cohort.


Gig Review: Headline New Voices of 2019

Back last May, when I attended the Greenwich Book Festival, I met Louise Candlish and had since been eager to read her latest book. My local library has copies but they were always lent out when I visited. Then I spotted on Twitter that Louise and her publisher were marking the publication of the paperback by leaving signed copies in coffee shops around Hammersmith, near where my daughter lives. I sent daughter on a mission to track one down and she was successful – Yay!


Our House by Louise Candlish, published by Simon & Schuster

Another thriller that I am happy to recommend, a dystopia set in a future England, is published today by a small press I discovered last year.


Wolf Country by Tünde Farrand, published by Lightning Books

I was also pleased to review new titles to be published by two of my long time favourite small presses – both of these are fabulous reads.

   
Mothlight by Adam Scovell, published by Influx Press
Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession, published by Bluemoose Books

I have reviewed several titles for Bookmunch of which one has been up on that site long enough for me to pull it across to my own blog. This work of translated fiction was excellent – one I am happy to recommend.


Katalin Street by Magda Szabó (translated by Len Rix), published by MacLehose Press

My non fiction reading included a translated memoir focusing on a Jewish survivor of Nazi Germany


No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel (translated by Stephanie Smee), published by Pushkin Press

Another non fiction title reviewed was by an anthropologist, about his ethnographic field trip to Indonesia. This one didn’t really rock my boat.


Not a Hazardous Sport by Nigel Barley, published by Eland

The month also brought the announcement of the longlist for my favourite literary prize, which I was privileged to help judge last year.


The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses – Longlist Announcement 2019 

Looking forward, I plan to read more titles from this list as I have only come across three of them to date. Next month I will be posting a few guest posts and Q&As from the presses that made the cut.

Finally, I was a guest myself when Mrs Bloggs invited me to join her for afternoon tea over on her book blog.


Afternoon Tea with Mrs Bloggs

As ever I wish to thank the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel makes my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. I don’t say it enough but your support is always appreciated.

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Monthly Roundup – December 2018

And so we reach the end of another year and my final monthly roundup. I have decided not to continue with this feature in 2019 as I am unconvinced it adds value. Do let me know if you disagree.

I hope you have enjoyed the festive season and found time to read many good books. I posted reviews for 14 titles in December, thereby bringing my total for the year to 167. This was down on 2017 but I console myself with the thought that I attended more literary events this year and provided detailed write-ups of these alongside my reviews of the titles being promoted.

I publish my books of the year around mid December that anyone interested may purchase them as Christmas presents. 15 books made my books of 2018 list, with Little by Edward Carey coming top by virtue of being a fantastic read and offering wide appeal. By posting my list before the year ends there is a risk that a deserving title will be missed as I do not, of course, cease reading. And lo, this was indeed the case. In the week before Christmas I read an astonishing work of fiction. Ezra Maas is original and compelling – read it and question everything.

The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas by Daniel James, published by dead ink

 

December was a month when I tried to make inroads into my vast TBR pile, particularly the books from small publishers who send me generous quantities of ARCs to review. I found those I picked up a mixed bag.

Fiction

 

Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar, published by Pushkin Vertigo
The Teahouse Detective: The Old Man in the Corner by Baroness Orczy, published by Pushkin Press

   

Trap by Lilja Sigurðardóttir (translated by Quentin Bates), published by Orenda Books
The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen (translated by David Hackston), published by Orenda Books

   

The Book of Alexander by Mark Carew, published by Salt
Liminal by Bee Lewis, published by Salt

A Small Dark Quiet by Miranda Gold, published by Unbound

Short stories

Quartier Perdu by Sean O’Brien, published by Comma Press

Poetry

Sincerity by Carol Ann Duffy, published by Picador

Non fiction

In the Restaurant by Christoph Ribbat (translated by Jamie Searle Romanelli), published by Pushkin Press

 

I then ended my reading year by starting on my 2019 ARCs, introducing these with a post about the books I have on my New Year pile and those I am looking forward to in the coming year.

I managed to review three upcoming titles over the festive season.

Fiction

   

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, published by Atlantic Books
The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey, published by Lightning Books

Poetry

Vertigo & Ghost by Fiona Benson, published by Jonathan Cape

 

I will be starting the New Year with a short holiday away with my boys and have no reviews scheduled as our destination offers limited internet access. After this brief hiatus expect more reviews and event write-ups, both here and over at Bookmunch where I am pleased to remain a contributor.

As ever I wish to thank the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel makes my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. I don’t say it enough but your support is always appreciated. Here’s to a happy and good book filled 2019 for all.

Monthly Roundup – November 2018

However many times I start a new month thinking I will grant myself more space for other pursuits, I get caught up in reading and my time is gone. I have so many good books impatiently waiting on my TBR pile – this remains such a delicious non-problem. Looking at my stats for November it does at least appear to have been productive. I reviewed twenty books on my blog which means, for the first time this year, I am on track with my Goodreads challenge. I also attended two fabulous author events in Bath, probably my last in 2018 as I eschew the festive season crowds.

Early in the month I noticed some discussion online where bloggers were bemoaning the lack of shares by authors and publishers of their posts. Over the years I have watched a small but steady trickle of bloggers bowing out as the pleasure of the pursuit has waned. This got me thinking about why I devote so much time to producing content that I hope supports those who provide us with books. I process my thoughts by writing them out so put up this post on Writing, reviews and sharing on social mediaIf writers, and that includes book bloggers, wrote for the plaudits many would not persist.

When I say ‘provide us with books’ I don’t mean the free review copies of books that publishers send out to bloggers such as myself – that is another regular accusation from those who do not seem to understand our motivation.

I did go to the library this month as I was eager to read the Booker Prize Winner, Milkman. I enjoyed Anna Burns’ first novel many years ago and was delighted to see an author from my country of birth win this prestigious award.

I also put aside time to read those books on the Goldsmiths Prize shortlist that were languishing on my TBR pile. I would have liked to have seen Murmur win that award.

As you can see from my links to November’s posts below it has been an eclectic reading month – just how I like it to maintain freshness and interest. I have also made a concerted effort to read books that have been on my TBR pile for some time, alongside the newer releases scheduled.

 

Fiction

  

Slip of a Fish by Amy Arnold, published by And Other Stories
Murmur by Will Eaves, published by CB Editions

  

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne, published by Tinder Press
Milkman by Anna Burns, published by Faber & Faber

  

The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M Harris, published by Gollancz
Aftershock by Adam Hamdy, published by Headline

  

The Longbourn Letters: The Correspondence Between Mr Collins and Mr Bennet, by Rose Servitova
The Little Snake by A.L. Kennedy, published by Canongate

 

Translated fiction and short stories

  

And the Wind Sees All by Guðmundur Andri Thorsson (translated by Bjørg Arnadottir and Andrew Cauthery), published by Peirene Press
The Cake Tree In The Ruins by Akiyuki Nosaka (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori), published by Pushkin Press

Shadows on the Tundra by Dalia Grinkevičiutė (translated by Delija Valiukenas), published by Peirene Press

 

Short Stories

  

Our Dreams Might Align by Dana Diehl, published by Splice
Flare and Falter by Michael Conley, published by Splice

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood, published by Bloomsbury

 

Poetry

the uncorrected Billy Childish, published by Tangerine Press

 

Children’s fiction

  

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (20th anniversary edition) by JK Rowling, published by Bloomsbury
Sunny and the Ghosts by Alison Moore, published by Salt

 

Non fiction

  

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard, published by Profile
Browse: Love Letters to Bookshops Around the World by various authors, published by Pushkin Press

Chicken Unga Fever by Dr Phil Whitaker, published by Salt

 

Literary events

One of my fellow book bloggers commented recently on the number of excellent book events I have had the opportunity to attend. I concur, and these two were special, as you can read in my linked posts.

  

Markus Zusak in Bath
Joanne Harris and Bonnie Hawkins in Bath

 

With the arrival of December we enter into the festive season with its lists of books to buy and best books of the year – more on that from me in due course. I am also compiling a list of those books I am most looking forward to in 2019. Whatever else may be going on in the world, our reading pleasure continues to be well catered for.

If you are considering buying books – they make the best presents and are so easy to wrap – do please support your local independent bookshop. For those like me who dislike crowds remember many bookshops also sell online.

Or you can buy direct from the publisher – for the small presses especially this helps hugely as they struggle to cover costs selling through the mega site that shall not be named. If you click on the covers of the books above you will be offered further information on each book and how to buy it.

As ever I wish to thank the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel makes my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. I don’t say it enough but your support is always appreciated.

Monthly Roundup – October 2018

This month’s reading has been a mix of new publications – including several read in preparation for author events – and a few books plucked from my vast TBR pile that I have been eager to get to for ages. I have enjoyed fiction and non fiction, translated works, and even a couple of books aimed at children. In total I posted reviews for 14 titles, including two that I originally wrote for Bookmunch. I also posted write-ups from 8 literary events. It has been a busy bookish month.

If you click on the book covers below you will be taken to publisher information and purchase suggestions. Click on a title and you will be taken to my review.

Translated fiction

  
The White Book by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith), published by Portobello Books
Soul of the Border by Matteo Righetto (translated by Howard Curtis), published by Pushkin Press

Fiction

  
Normal People by Sally Rooney, published by Faber & Faber
The Study Circle by Haroun Khan, published by Dead Ink

  
Thin Air by Michelle Paver, published by Orion
Crocodile by Daniel Shand, published by Sandstone Press


Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak, published by Doubleday

Short Stories


Chains: Unheard Voices, published by the MargŌ Collective

Children’s and YA Fiction

  
Captain Pug: The Dog Who Sailed the Seas by Laura James (illustrated by Églantine Ceulemans), published by Bloomsbury
Disbelieved by Beth Webb

Non Fiction

  
For Love & Money by Jonathan Raban, published by Eland
Landfill by Tim Dee, published by Little Toller

  
The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad by Sam Jordison, published by Michael O’Mara Books
The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity by Kwame Anthony Appiah, published by Profile Books

Literary events

  
Rachel Trethewey at Bowood
Adam Kay in Bristol

  
Adelle Stripe and Mick Kitson at the Marlborough Literature Festival
The Corsham Bookshop (for Bookshop Day)

  
Edward Carey in Bath
Tim Dee in Bath

  
Sally Rooney in Bath
Novel Nights in Bristol 
with guest speaker Nikesh Shukla

As ever I wish to thank the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel makes my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. I don’t say it enough but your support is always appreciated.

Monthly Roundup – September 2018

This month I watched as my three children packed their belongings and dispersed, each to a different capital city in the UK. My house feels very quiet. This does mean that I now have plenty of reading time, although I am making a concerted effort to remain active and leave the house each day. Autumn is my favourite season and I wish to wander the fields and watch the leaves turn.

I reviewed fourteen books in September, a good mix of fiction and non fiction including one translated work and a children’s book. I also wrote up one of the literary events I attended.

This was a strong month for fiction.

  

The Life of Almost by Anna Vaught, published by Patrician Press
Francis Plug: Writer in Residence by Paul Ewen, published by Galley Beggar Press

  

The Dominant Animal by Kathryn Scanlan, published by Little Island Press
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon, published by Virago

  

The Plankton Collector by Cath Barton, published by New Welsh Rarebyte
The Groundsmen by Lynn Buckle, published by époque press

Little by Edward Carey, published by Gallic Books

Buffy is currently my go to TV series for those evenings when I feel the need to switch off my brain. I enjoyed this children’s picture book which takes the key characters and presents them in an appealing form for the next generation.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Kim Smith, published by Quirk Books

My non fiction reads were an eclectic mix.

  

In Search of Lost Books: The forgotten stories of eight mythical volumes by Giorgio van Straten (translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre), published by Pushkin Press
Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott, published by Unbound

Pearls before Poppies: The Story of the Red Cross Pearls by Rachel Trethewey, published by The History Press

My selection for Bookmunch were all worth reading.

Fiction

Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks, published by Hutchinson Books

Non fiction

  

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harare, published by Jonathan Cape
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, published by Profile Books

I attended a party at the aptly named Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath

Launch Party for The Life of Almost by Anna Vaught

I have quite a few gigs lined up for the coming month and will also be writing up those I attended at the tail end of September but didn’t have time to include here.

As ever I wish to thank the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel makes my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. I don’t say it enough but your support is always appreciated.

Monthly Roundup – August 2018

August is my birthday month (I had a lovely day) and also school exam results month (my youngest child attained his place at university) so as a family we have been celebrating. Having reached month’s end this is also the end of summer, although I still have a couple of weeks with all my children home before they disperse, each to a different UK capital city to continue with their studies. I anticipate quieter times ahead.

I was offered a new opportunity early in the month when a producer from my local radio station, BBC Wiltshire, contacted me to ask if I would like to come into their studio in Swindon once a week to recommend a summer read to listeners of the afternoon show. How could I refuse? You may read about, and listen if interested, to my five guest slots by clicking the following links.

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5

The 15 books I read in August proved a mixed success in terms of enjoyment, the smaller presses mostly outperforming the larger houses.

     

Takeaway by Tommy Hazard, published by Morbid Books
Layover by Lisa Zeidner, published by One (Pushkin Press)
Night Driver by Marcelle Perks, published by Urbane

  

Prodigal by Charles Lambert, published by Gallic Books
A Perfect Mother by Katri Skala, published by Hikari Press

A note on this next book…
I had a ticket to a sold out event in Bath, part of Patrick Gale’s latest tour, but offered it back to the bookshop when I realised his latest story wasn’t for me. I hoped that a more appreciative attendee could go along and perhaps buy the book – better for all concerned. In doing this I discovered that the bookshop runs a waiting list – worth knowing if you can’t or no longer wish to attend a popular event.

  

Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale, published by Tinder Press
Strangers With The Same Dream by Alison Pick, published by Tinder Press

I reviewed two books in the Canongate Myths series for Bookmunch. The latter proved not to be what I had expected, and not in a good way.

  

Weight by Jeanette Winterson
Lion’s Honey by David Grossman (translated by Stuart Schoffman)

I will be attending the Debut Authors event at the Marlborough Literature Festival next month so borrowed (and enjoyed) the books to be discussed from local libraries.

  

Sal by Mick Kitson, published by Canongate
Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe, published by Fleet (Little Brown)

Salt kindly sent me their 2018 short story collection, edited by Nicholas Royle and offering a fine taster of current work in the form. I had only read a couple of these stories previously, in author collections. I do enjoy short stories and must read more of those currently languishing on my TBR mountain.

Best British Short Stories 2018

I also enjoyed three poetry collections. I would happily take more of these.

    

What Are You After? by Josephine Corcoran, published by Nine Arches Press
Certain Manoeuvres by Lydia Unsworth, published by The Knives Forks And Spoons Press
Circling for Gods by Jo Burns, published by Eyewear Publishing

 

I posted two interviews that other sites did with me.

Bookblast: Meet the writer behind my book reading hen avatar
Link Age Southwark:  writing competition judges interview

Judging the writing competition referred to in that second interview will likely keep me busy throughout September, limiting my other reading. My blog may appear unusually quiet.

Finally, as a judge for last year’s Guardian Not the Booker Prize, I and my fellow judges were asked to nominate a wildcard choice to complete their shortlist. We opted for Three Dreams in the Key of G by Marc Nash, published by Dead Ink. If you are following the prize and read the book do let me know your thoughts.

As ever I wish to thank the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel makes my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. Your support is always appreciated.

Monthly Roundup – July 2018

This was another busy month and one that will be remembered for the heat – given the weather enjoyed I no longer feel bad that I didn’t manage to organise a family summer holiday this year. We did manage a day trip to a beach where we built sand fortifications as well as messing around in the sea with our dinghy and body board. It was pleasing to find that my grown up kids can still enjoy their buckets and spades.

I read 13 books this month, a good mix of fiction and non fiction although no works in translation. I opened with a musing on expectations of readers inspired by a comment from an author at a festival attended in June – So an author wants a reader to ‘get’ their book? 

I attended two events in July – you may check them out below.

My fiction reads included a book of protest poetry ideal for the Formula 1 racing season

Lou Ham: Racing Anthropocene Statements by Paul Hawkins, published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe

 

The half dozen other fiction titles read were

    

The Hope Fault by Tracy Farr, published by Aardvark Bureau
The Hurtle of Hell by Simon Edge, published by Lightning Books
The Devil’s Half Mile by Paddy Hirsch, published by Corvus

    

Three Dreams in the Key of G by Marc Nash, published by Dead Ink
The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola, published by Tinder Press
A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne, published by Doubleday

 

In non fiction I read an excellent memoir and a history of surgery as well as the Wellcome Book Prize winner and an amusing parody of hipster London

  

Self & I by Matthew De Abaitua, published by Eye Books
Under the Knife: The History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations by Arnold van de Laar, published by John Murray

  

To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell, published by Granta
The Bespokist Society

 

I posted reviews of two books originally written for Bookmunch

  

Brexit & Ireland by Tony Connelly, published by Penguin
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, published by Canongate

 

The events attended were an author reading that was rearranged at the last minute to avoid a clash with a football match, and a party in a bookshop to launch a festival programme

 

Will Eaves in Bath

Launching the Marlborough Literature Festival programme

 

As ever I wish to thank the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel makes my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. Your support is always appreciated.