Monthly Roundup – September 2021

september

The mostly settled weather throughout September has enabled me to get out and about locally each day – to exercise alone as I still fear socialising may be fraught with strongly held opinions and brusque castigations. I am marking time in this way as so many lockdown restrictions remain – in people’s heads even if no longer legislated. The media continues to whip up fear that fits their agenda, with few readers appearing to dig deeper. It is hard not to despair at the apparent lack of critical thinking and bullying nature of so much commentary. Facts on issues remain a challenge to access if off message, with name calling endemic. So much of the science will not be provable until properly researched over years. The sociological and psychological effects already appear chilling.

September saw the reopening of the local gym and swimming pool I had been a member of for years before it closed its doors in March 2020. Although I have continued to run and cycle outside throughout lockdown, I missed my strength training, hence why I joined a town gym when access to such facilities was granted again. I don’t understand why it took so long for my original gym to reopen to former members but, now that this has been rectified, I am very glad to be back to regular swimming (my long unused muscles beg to differ). I am, however, considering whether I can continue to justify two gym memberships. The strength training equipment is much more extensive at the town gym but attending both feels decadent.

In addition to my local runs, I have continued to enjoy weekly Parkruns since they restarted. Husband and I attend these together, although he tore a muscle in his calf fifteen minutes into his first hockey match of the season so has since been volunteering as a marshal while I lollop around the course. I was pleased to beat my personal best time mid month. Some weeks I push hard and others I simply enjoy joining in.

Husband’s hockey may have been curtailed but our boys still train and play – for different teams this season which can make transport logistics interesting. Daughter has been working nights and then weekends so has yet to play a league game.

Younger son continues to apply for jobs – a frustrating process when everything is online and not all links provided work. He has been offered two interviews thus far, neither of which he could progress due to inoperative booking systems and a lack of contact details to be found to raise the issue.

For my fellow teddy bear fans, the month included two updates in my occasional series, Edward Explores. These were, A Happy Birthday and London in the Time of Covid.

Edward’s adventures in London occurred because I was invited to a party – an actual in-person literary event where people chatted and enjoyed themselves in a fine venue. I wrote about the evening here: Launch Party for Dreamtime by Venetia Welby.

Following this, husband and I talked of arranging another trip away, to a remote location rather than a city while access to attractions remains limited. We are, however, reluctant to book anything much in advance due to the threat of sudden changes to restrictions. We have no desire to travel abroad at this time but a short UK break would be welcome once his injury heals.

I have been pleased to note that businesses are starting to state whether behaviours such as mask wearing will be expected at events. It makes arranging attendance – or avoiding – an informed choice. For this reason I will not be at the Marlborough Literature Festival next weekend – a shame as I enjoyed this in previous years. I assume they are catering for what the majority want and that makes economic sense.

I posted reviews for 7 books in August. Robyn added her thoughts on a further 5 books. I also posted an author interview, gleaning some interesting background from Sam Reese whose latest book of short stories I reviewed.

As is customary in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

Fiction

passage north  Some Rise By Sin cover
A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam, published by Granta
Some Rise By Sin by by Siôn Scott-Wilson, published by Deixis Press

passing of formsThe Passing of the Forms That We Have Loved by Christopher Boon, published by époque press

Short Stories

stories tell children  distant ridgeline
Stories We Tell Our Children by Marc Nash, published by Lendal Press
On A Distant Ridgeline by Sam Reese, published by Platypus Press

Translated Short Stories

song of youth
The Song of Youth by Montserrat Roig (translated by Tiago Miller), published by Fum d’Estampa Press.

Poetry

sun is open
The Sun Is Open by Gail McConnell, published by Penned in the Margins

Robyn Reviews

1lind  1tori
The Second Rebel by Linden A. Lewis, published by Hodder & Stoughton
The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino, published by Titan Books

1tjkl  1marg
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune, published by Tor
Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson, published by Simon & Schuster Children’s

1alexThe Winter Garden by Alexandra Bell, published by Del Rey

Sourcing the books

Robyn has made many purchases this month, including three copies of the same book and a third copy of her favourite story of all time (The Night Circus). She now earns her own money so who am I to ask questions?

Robyn received september 2021

I also received a generous stack of enticing titles. I am eager to read each of these.

Jackie received September 2021

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their books to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

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

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Monthly Roundup – August 2021

august

August has been a better month. After so many months of hard to suppress negativity it feels good to write that.

We have eaten out twice, both venues making us feel welcome. The first was a delayed celebratory meal for younger son’s 21st birthday at our local pub. A couple of weeks later we celebrated my birthday with a meal at a local town restaurant which was delightfully busy and buzzing – I was served one of the tastiest fish dishes I have ever eaten.

Hockey training has restarted and all three of my children have signed up for the new season. They have also met up with friends for drinks and various more active pursuits. Daughter and younger son both hosted small gatherings of friends – our guest room was occupied for the first time this year. It has been lovely to see and overhear everyone enjoy themselves.

My boys drove to Cardiff to clear younger son’s unused university accommodation after he opted not to pay for a further year of remote learning. Whilst sad that his higher education has been such an expensive let down, with the decision made he can now move forward. He is currently applying for jobs. These do not appear to be as readily available as the media makes out.

Daughter is settling in well at her new hospital job. We are all still adapting to life as a family of five adults living together after so many years of term time absences.

For my fellow teddy bear fans, the month included another update in my occasional series, Edward Explores. There are more planned adventures to come.

I posted reviews for 8 books in August. I was also delighted to host a guest review by fellow Bookmunch contributor (and editor), Valerie O’Riordan. Robyn added her thoughts on a further 4 books.

As is customary in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

Fiction

echo chamber  angels of L19
The Echo Chamber by John Boyne, published by Doubleday
The Angels of L19 by Jonathan Walker, published by Weatherglass Books

dreamtime  an island
Dreamtime by Venetia Welby, published by Salt
An Island by Karen Jennings, published by Holland House Books

Translated Fiction

Elena+Knows
Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro (translated by Frances Riddle), published by Charco Press

Non Fiction

goshawk summer  beethoven
Goshawk Summer by James Eldred, published by Elliott & Thompson
Beethoven by Laura Tunbridge, published by Penguin

Guest Review

things are against us
Things Are Against Us by Lucy Ellmann, published by Galley Beggar Press

Poetry

bent for the jobBent for the Job by Mick Guffan, published by Tangerine Press

Robyn Reviews

1fari  deeplight
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, published by Usborne
Deeplight by Frances Hardinge, published by MacMillan Children’s Books

1pdje  1silv
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark, published by Orbit
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, published by Jo Fletcher Books

Sourcing the Books

Robyn was impressively restrained in her book buying this month, adding only one hard copy to her TBR pile.

book received robyn august

I on the other hand, added many more than I managed to read (I shall use my birthday as an excuse).

books received jackie august

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their books to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

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

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Monthly Roundup – July 2021

july

Today would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary. It seemed an appropriate day to finally scatter their ashes. Sadly, once again, I won’t be joining my sister to share in this act of remembrance. Guidelines for travel are still too unsettled, with uncertainty around rules for last minute testing and vaccination. Despite the supposed lifting of restrictions earlier this month, many businesses continue to mandate mask wearing. My social media feeds are exuding anger against those who show their faces in enclosed settings. To the righteous, it seems, being exempt is a poor excuse for what they regard as endangering others. I do not wish to risk enforced cancellation or confrontation.

And so, July has seen little change in my locked down life. Daughter started her new job meaning three family members now come and go thanks to gainful employment. Younger son read the proposed rules for students in the coming academic year and, realising his final terms at university would likely remain on-line, has opted not to return. He has still to clear out the expensive room he has been renting in Cardiff, that he has spent just the one afternoon in – to deliver his belongings when he was told there would be in person teaching, last September. What a waste of borrowed finance.

We have been doing our best to find entertainments. In an attempt to be upbeat I wrote a second instalment in my teddy bear series: Edward Explores – Lockdown Life. I continue to run, cycle, and visit the gym for strength training. Parkrun finally restarted and, in our delight at the opportunity to run alongside others after a 70 week hiatus, both husband and I achieved personal bests at the first event. I also ran my first half marathon distance of the year, again achieving a personal best time.

I posted reviews for 9 books in July – all worth reading. Robyn added her thoughts on a further 10 books.

As ever in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

Fiction

siphonophore  Source
Siphonophore by Jaimie Batchan, published by Valley Press
Source by Rosemary Johnston, published by Story Machine

Translated Fiction

forty lost yearsForty Lost Years by Rosa Maria Arquimbau (translated by Peter Bush), published by Fum d’Estampa

Poetry

white eye needle
White Eye of the Needle by Chris Campbell

Non Fiction

where  things are against us
Where? Life and Death in the Shropshire Hills by Simon Moreton, published by Little Toller
Things Are Against Us by Lucy Ellmann, published by Galley Beggar

white spines  unwell women
White Spines: Confessions of a Book Collector by Nicholas Royle, published by Salt
Unwell Women: A Journey Through Medicine and Myth In a Man-Made World by Elinor Cleghorn, published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson

corpsing
Corpsing: My Body and Other Horror Shows by Sophie White, published by Tramp Press

Robyn Reviews

1aewa  1aide
Subject Twenty One by A. E. Warren, published by Del Ray
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, published by Swoon Reads

1rach  1seve
The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin, published by Sourcebooks Fire
Seven Deaths of an Empire by G. R. Matthews, published by Solaris

1camr  1shel
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett, published by Penguin
She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, published by Tor

1chuc  1jenw
The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig, published by Del Rey
Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams, published by Harper Collins

1kath  1nkje
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, published by Solaris
The City We Became by N. K. Jemison, published by

Sourcing the Books

Robyn is on NetGalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also received a good number of hard copies, gifted from publishers or purchased.

robyn books july 2021

My book post included several titles I have reviewed already, along with a generous number of additions to my TBR pile.

jackie received July 2021

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their books to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

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

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Monthly Roundup – June 2021

june

I have found June tough. For all the talk of lifting restrictions it seems conditions may be imposed that I personally regard as untenable – a choice to conform or accept pariah status. I am beginning to think I will not be able to make overnight trips or even go out socially in the foreseeable future. If this is to be my life – confined, repetitive and blamed for not acquiescing to the demands of believers – I find myself questioning its worth.

Day follows day and I put myself through the motions. I cycle, most often ending up at the gym where I lift weights. I run on local tracks and lanes. I deal with dishes and laundry, trying to stay on top of things for my family. I remind myself of our many privileges.

We celebrated younger son’s 21st birthday at home with cake, champagne and a takeaway. He seemed pleased with his presents. His future plans remain uncertain. I still don’t know if he will wish to return to university, especially now campus students may be required to adhere to a plethora of personal interventions. Another year learning from home would be a lonely existence.

Daughter finished her final stint working the wards in London and has now also moved home. She purchased her first car that she may commute to the job she starts in a few weeks. I am so very proud of all she has achieved but can see she finds living with us full time frustrating after her taste of independence.

Husband and elder son seem in a better place, their jobs providing structure and purpose alongside contact with colleagues.

On the blog, at the request of a reader, I started a new series that will feature one of my many teddy bears – Edward Explores. I am thinking this will be a monthly endeavour. It has proved a much needed injection of fun during what feels a particularly bleak period.

Sorry for being so negative – I hope you are doing better.

I posted reviews for eight books in June before going on hiatus. Robyn picked up the slack, posting fifteen reviews.

As ever in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

Fiction

ever rest  whereabouts
Ever Rest by Roz Morris
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri, published by Bloomsbury

Everything Happens
Everything Happens for a Reason by Katie Allen, published by Orenda

Translated Fiction

yesterday
Yesterday by Juan Emar (translated by Megan McDowell), published by Peirene Press

Short Stories

intimacies
Intimacies by Lucy Caldwell, published by Faber & Faber

Poetry

owl unbound the heeding
Owl Unbound by Zoe Brooks, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing
The Heeding by Rob Cowen (illustrated by Nick Hayes), published by Elliott & Thompson

Non Fiction

screaming sky
The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster (illustrated by Jonathan Pomroy), published by Little Toller

Robyn Reviews

1alex  1hann
These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy, published by HarperCollins
For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten, published by Orbit

1cari  1sach
Threadneedle by Cari Thomas, published by HarperVoyager
The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, published by HarperVoyager

1tash  1avar
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri, published by Orbit
The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid, published by DelRey

1acwi  1juli
Wendy Darling by A. C. Wise, published by Titan Books
Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa, published by HQ

1emmi  1wahe
Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta, published by Harper Voyager
In the Wars by Dr Waheed Arian, published by Bantam Press

1case  1joan
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston, published by St. Martin’s Griffin
The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He, published by Text Publishing

1mile  1yoko
Artifact Space by Miles Cameron, published by Gollancz
Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada (translated by Susan Bernofsky), published by Granta

1jorDon’t Breathe a Word by Jordyn Taylor, published by Harper Collins

Sourcing the Books

Robyn is on NetGalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also received a good number of enticing titles, gifted from publishers or purchased.

Robyn received june

I received an eclectic selection of books in the post this month and look forward to reading them all.

june books received

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

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

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Monthly Roundup – May 2021

May has been mostly cold and dreich but with occasional bright spells – in life as well as weather. With the gradual removal of certain lockdown restrictions I welcomed the prospect of increased freedom for people to choose how they go about their daily business. It has been cheering to see our local pubs and cafés busy again, albeit with masked waiters. I am even tentatively optimistic that husband and I may be able to travel to Belfast over the summer to scatter my parents’ ashes, sixteen months after their deaths. This will be dependent on the lifting of certain rules such as wearing those litter-generating masks. I need to feel welcome in any hotel or restaurant booked. We won’t arrange anything until we know it will be allowed to happen – so no last minute health test requirements for travel on the car ferry. The invasive and costly nature of complex and ever changing guidelines may yet keep us home for another season.

Husband has been left idling this month following a ransomware attack on the client he had been working with. Given current limitations there were few options for filling the free time unexpectedly available. Thankfully he has now agreed an alternative contract starting after the bank holiday. This one comes with the added bonus that, initially at least, it will be office based. He is looking forward to mixing with colleagues again.

Daughter returned to London for her final few weeks working wards before starting her permanent position in July. She will move out of her London flat next month, without husband and I having seen it other than in pictures. This past year has denied us so many pleasurable memories. We have missed out on treating her, our boys and ourselves while visiting the capital and other places of interest. Putting life on hold feels such a waste at my age.

Before daughter left we celebrated elder son’s birthday at home together. He chose a Nepalese takeaway and we were able to source him presents he seemed pleased with. It can be hard to buy many items with supply and demand knocked out of kilter. Of course, I recognise we are fortunate to be able to afford useful gifts.

Younger son is currently sitting stress inducing exams. A year of on-line learning has taken its toll and he is considering his options for next year. With only a year of his course left to complete it is sad he is in this position. Like so many students, university has not been the experience he hoped for. Our young people have been badly let down by the various responses to the pandemic.

I continue to: visit the gym for strength training, run around our local lanes, cycle loops from home that take in Wiltshire’s pretty towns and villages. I got in a car for the first time in many months to deliver sacks of books and other items to a charity shop last week. I can’t say I have missed this mode of transport with the dangers it brings from drivers frustrated by others using ‘their’ space. Many roads now feel as busy as they have ever been – a factor I consider when choosing routes to cycle. Lockdown did bring some benefits.

I reviewed twelve books in May, mostly new releases and all of them worth reading. I also posted a guest review written by Peter Wild, head honcho at Bookmunch. Robyn added a further twelve reviews from her TBR pile and NetGalley. It is now a year since she joined me on the blog. I do hope our readers have enjoyed her input.

As ever in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

Fiction

hashtag good guy  bitterhall
Hashtag Good Guy With A Gun by Jeff Chon, published by Sagging Meniscus
Bitterhall by Helen McClory, published by Polygon

atomics  netanyahus
The Atomics by Paul Maunder, published by Lightning Books
The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions

the high house  emmet-and-me
The High House by Jessie Greengrass, published by Swift Press – guest review by Peter Wild
Emmet and Me by Sara Gethin, published by Honno

panenka  what willow says
Panenka by Rónán Hession, published by Bluemoose
What Willow Says by Lynn Buckle, published by époque press

Translated Fiction

the others
The Others by Raül Garrigasait (translated by Tiago Miller), published by Fum D’Estampa Press

Short Stories

stay-alive-till-75-  3-x-1
Stay Alive Till ’75 by Adelle Stripe, published by Ration Books
3″x 1″ by Bill Drummond, published by Ration Books

Poetry

we are all somebody  well-meat-again
We Are All Somebody compiled by Samantha Richards, published by Fly on the Wall Press
We’ll Meat Again by Benjamin Myers, published by Ration Books

Robyn Reviews

1leig  1john
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, published by Orion Children’s
The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne, published by Orbit

1tbo  1gene
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, published by Jo Fletcher Books
The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec, published by Titan Books

1eliz  1heat
Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal, published by Picador
The Forest of Stars by Heather Kassner, published by Titan Books

1kace  amstr
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, published by Faber Children’s
In the Ravenous Dark by A. M. Strickland, published by Hodder & Stoughton

1mina  1nico
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, published by Harper Collins
The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis, published by Titan Books

1andy  1ashl
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, published by Del Rey
A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth, published by Hodder & Stoughton

Sourcing the books

As mentioned, Robyn is on NetGalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also purchased and was gifted a number of enticing titles.

robyn received may 21

I received a fine selection of book post that I hope to read soon.

Jackie received May 21

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

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

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Monthly Roundup – April 2021

April has been another mixed month in terms of my mood, with the underlying stress of imposed restrictions shadowing the beauty of new life bursting forth in the woods and fields where I am fortunate to live. Lockdown was eased mid-month allowing for gyms to reopen. I welcomed the return to strength training and, as well as working out alone or with younger son, have enjoyed a couple of sessions with a personal trainer. I am hoping his expertise will help ensure my form is correct, that injury may be avoided as I slowly increase the weights I am shifting. Prior to this I had been trying to improve my fitness with lengthy bike rides. I still cycle to and from the gym but no longer feel the need to pedal endless miles. Much as I enjoy cycling, the routes I use had become repetitive. Life remains tied to my local area.

With organised sport now permitted the other members of my little family have returned to playing hockey. This means I occasionally find myself alone in the house, a strange feeling after so many months of living and working in the same shared space. What had once been taken for granted has become the exception. This also applies to making small talk at the gym. The staff there are friendly but I have forgotten how to socialise, not that I was ever much good at this anyway. Lockdown has exacerbated my hermit-like tendencies.

Shops and restaurants may have reopened but do not appeal while masks are required and certain strangers’ reactions to my proximity suggest I am regarded as a biohazard. I will return to these when I am made to feel welcome. It would be lovely to have a weekend away with husband but we shall wait until hospitality venues are permitted to be hospitable again. I have said this before – it is undoubtedly a bugbear.

My family are keeping as well as can be expected under the circumstances. We had good news last week when daughter’s exam results were released. After six years at medical school she may finally call herself a doctor. She has an NHS position confirmed, enabling her to start work in the summer. We ordered a takeaway and drank quite a lot of champagne to celebrate. Many of her fellow medical students were privately educated and I feel immensely proud that she, coming through the local state school comprehensive system and with no personal contacts within the field of medicine, has achieved alongside them.

My foot injuries continue to heal and I am running more frequently and covering longer distances. During the recent fine weather this was particularly enjoyable, although even in rain I find exercise provides a sense of achievement. As a reward for my efforts I finally treated myself to new trainers. Unfortunately the wrong size was sent – the downside of online shopping.

I reviewed 13 books in April: 10 fiction (3 translated), 2 non fiction, and a poetry collection. I particularly enjoyed The High House by Jessie Greengrass so sent the couple of proof copies I had received to other book bloggers who I thought would also enjoy this tale. I am grateful to the publisher for providing me with a beautiful finished edition.

Robyn added a further 12 reviews making this a bumper month on the blog. We have both been trying to read from our TBR piles alongside new releases.

As ever in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

Fiction

brood brooklyn
Brood by Jackie Polzin, published by Picador
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, published by Penguin

artist floating  every seventh wave
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro, published by Faber & Faber
Every Seventh Wave by Tom Vowler, published by Salt

skyward  the source
Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley, published by Solaris
The Source by Sarah Sultoon, published by Orenda

the high houseThe High House by Jessie Greengrass, published by Swift Press

Translated Fiction

astragal andrea victrix
Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin (translated by Patsy Southgate), published by Serpent’s Tail
Andrea Víctrix by Llorenç Villalonga (translated by P. Louise Johnson), published by Fum d’Estampa

lonely castle
Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura (translated by Philip Gabriel), published by Doubleday

Non Fiction

gone  spirit of the river
Gone by Michael Blencowe, published by Leaping Hare Press
The Spirit of the River by Declan Murphy, published by The Lilliput Press

Poetry

lover from tunisia
Ouafa and Thawra: About a Lover From Tunisia by Arturo Desimone, published by African Books Collective

Robyn Reviews

sistersong  1rv
Sistersong by Lucy Holland, published by Macmillan
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang, published by Harper Voyager

ag-sl  heather
All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter, published by Titan Books
Malice by Heather Walter, published by Del Rey

iwwv-1 1tmb
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio, published by Titan Books
The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk, published by Orbit

blood  1
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, published by Macmillan Children’s Books
The Prison Healer by Lynette Nomi, published by Hodder & Stoughton

1aho 2rv-1
A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuval, published by Michael Joseph
Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody, published by HQ Stories

last bear  1ar
The Last Bear by Hannah Gold, published by Harper Children’s
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint, published by Wildfire Books

Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also purchased or was gifted some gorgeous finished copies.

Robyns April Books

I received many books that I am eager to read, although I do feel sad that I am unlikely to get to them all as quickly as I would wish.

april books received

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

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

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Monthly Roundup – March 2021

I am all too aware that this past year of curtailed freedoms has revealed in me a seam of negativity I am not proud of. I am one of the lucky ones, living as I do in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside with my little family around me, in a home that has space for us to mingle or enjoy privacy as desired.

With the welcome arrival of Spring I have been working this month on keeping up spirits. This has been helped by my ability to return to a greater level of outdoor activity as my foot injuries continue to heal. I have cycled hundreds of kilometers around our local network of lanes. I have returned to running regularly albeit slowly and over shorter distances as I rebuild muscle and stamina. I cannot yet walk far and miss my wanders across fields but remain hopeful this will return eventually.

I marked the first anniversary of lockdown by writing about the weekend it all kicked off. My musings on a year of plague were posted as A Year Ago This Weekend. Given that I have taken to using my monthly roundups as a sort of diary update, this post had little new to offer regular readers but it helped me to write about what happened and then put it behind me.

The toll on mental health is now being more widely acknowledged. Dan Coxon, editor at Unsung Stories, provided me with a guest post – Darkness and Lightin which he wrote about a new short story anthology the press will publish later this year in collaboration with the charity, Together for Mental Wellbeing. Funds have been raised via Kickstarter, with stretch targets going towards additional stories from some fine writers. If interested, do check this out.

I reviewed 15 books this month – a good mix of genres and form including a few translated works. Robyn added a further 9 reviews.

As ever in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

Fiction

 
Domestic Bliss and Other Disasters by Jane Ions, published by Bluemoose Books
The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw, published by Headline Accent

 
The Beasts They Turned Away by Ryan Dennis, published by époque press
Fox Fires by Wyl Menmuir, published by Salt

 
Whiteout Conditions by Tariq Shah, published by Dead Ink
Shiver by Allie Reynolds, published by Headline


Common Ground by Naomi Ishiguru, published by Tinder Press

Translated Fiction


Butterfly Wings by Rosa Aneiros (translated by Jonathan Dunne), published by Small Stations Press

Interlinked Short Stories


The Last Resort by Jan Carson, published by Doubleday Ireland

Children’s Fiction


The Last Bear by Hannah Gold, published by Harper Collins

Long Form Poetry


Spring Journal by Jonathan Gibbs, published by CBeditions

Translated Poetry


The Silent Letter by Jaume Subriana (translated by Christopher Whyte), published by d’estampa press

Non Fiction


The Future of You by Tracey Follows, published by Elliott & Thompson

Translated Non Fiction

 
Fragments of Infinite Memory by Maël Renouard (translated by Peter Behrman de Sinéty), published by New York Review Books
Simple Passion by Annie Ernaux (translated by Tanya Leslie), published by Fitzcarraldo Editions

Robyn Reviews

 
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, published by Titan Books
The Viscount who Loved Me by Julia Quinn, published by Piatkus Press

 
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, published by Vintage
Normal People by Sally Rooney, published by Faber & Faber

 
Skyward Inn by Aliya Whitelely, published by Solaris
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, published by Tor

 
The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith, published by Titan Books
The Unbroken by C. L. Clark, published by Orbit


The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox, published by Penguin Random House

Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also purchased or received quite a number of hard copies this month, including several special editions from her Illumicrate and Goldsboro Books subscriptions.

I had a bumper book post month, including new releases from favourite authors and small presses.

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

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

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Monthly Roundup – February 2021

February has been tough. My minor physical injuries continue to heal but not yet sufficiently to allow me to return to running or even to walk any distance. In the week just past, the cold and wet weather finally cleared to enable me to return to cycling. It is good to get outside but I still miss running more than I could have imagined before I took up the habit. It is, as far as I have experienced it, akin to an addictive, if mostly socially acceptable, drug.

My little family is keeping well although stress levels have increased notably. This has not been helped by the raising then smashing of hope that came with the government’s proposed path out of lockdown. The suggestion that mandatory vaccination or testing will be added to mask wearing in public spaces raises the spectre of being unable to eat out, take a holiday in the UK or even visit my local gym for the foreseeable future. The prospect of still being deemed a biohazard after so many months staying home leaves me questioning the freedoms we have surrendered – what a country I moved to for its tolerance and opportunity has become.

My inability to exercise each day left me with little to do other than read. Thankfully most of the books I picked up proved capable of taking my mind off the more negative aspects of the life I am currently required to live. February has been a busy month on the blog, mainly because I agreed to help promote the inaugural Barbellion Prize by reviewing the shortlist. My roundup post for this may be found here. 

I reviewed 13 books: 5 fiction (including 2 short story collections) of which 3 were translated; 8 non-fiction, 5 of which were memoirs. All of the latter chronicled the lives of people with health impairments. They were eye-opening and well written. None milked the misery but rather wrote to raise awareness of issues faced. Robyn added a further 12 reviews, a good mix of new releases and older works.

As ever in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

 

Fiction / Short Stories

 
Astral Travel by Elizabeth Baines, published by Salt
Like Fado by Graham Mort, published by Salt

Translated Fiction

 
Theatre of War by Andrea Jeftanovic (translated by Frances Riddle), published by Charco Press
Havana Year Zero by by Karla Suárez (translated by Christina MacSweeney), published by Charco Press

Translated Fiction – Short Stories


Nordic Fauna by Andrea Lundgren (translated by John Litell), published by Peirene Press

Illustrated


Dreamy Days and Randon Naps by Mawson, published by Odyssey Books

Non Fiction

 
The Pleasure of Regret by Scott Manley Hadley, published by Broken Sleep Books
Chauvo Feminism: On Sex, Power and #MeToo by Sam Mills, published by The Indigo Press


Trauma: Essays on Art and Mental Health, published by Dodo Ink

The Barbellion Prize Shortlist

Four memoirs that explore the realities of living with disability and chronic health conditions.

 
Sanatorium by Abi Palmer, published by Penned in the Margins
The Fragments of my Father by Sam Mills, published by 4th Estate

 
Golem Girl by Riva Lehrer, published by Virago
Kika & Me by Amit Patel, published by Pan MacMillan

 

Robyn Reviews

 
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, published by Rebellion
The Stranger Times by C.K. McDonnell, published by Bantam Press

 
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth, published by Borough Press
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell, published by Orbit

 
Fable by Adrienne Young, published by Titan Books
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, published by Faber & Faber

 
To Be Taught If Fortunate by Becky Chambers, published by Hodder & Stoughton
Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, published by St Martin’s Griffin

 
The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers, published by Hodder & Stoughton
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, published by Orbit

 
The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu, published by Pan MacMillan
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, published by Jo Fletcher Books

 

Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also purchased a number of hard copies, supporting: Illumicrate, Goldsboro Books, and Blackwells.

My monthly book post was both generous and interesting. It included a couple of purchases from Toppings.

 

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

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

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Monthly Roundup – January 2021

Happy New Year! I haven’t offered this greeting to many people as it feels strangely inappropriate in current circumstances. Nevertheless, I started the month on my usual raft of good intentions. The house was undecked and cleaned. I resumed my weekly running schedule. I started a 30 day yoga programme at home. I cycled to the gym for strength training, intending to build up slowly after injury. After just one gym visit the country was placed in Lockdown3 and the facility had to close.

So far, this lockdown has been the hardest to bear. The weather turned decidedly wintery making cycling without a destination unappealing – I do not possess appropriate cold weather gear. Thus I focused on running our local lanes, until the recurrence of foot injuries left me all but housebound again. I do my best to adhere to the prescribed rules so only interact with those outside my little family when on daily exercise – greetings shared while passing at the recommended distance. I miss the fresh air and occasional glimpses of others so am impatient for my damaged feet to heal, well aware that if I rush the process I will not properly mend. It is all immensely frustrating.

I find myself getting cross at things of no consequence, such as adverts for holidays. ‘Treat yourself to a Spring Break’ they implore as businesses try to navigate their way out of the imposed financial quagmire. As I have stated before, I will not be staying away from home until the hospitality industry is permitted to be hospitable again – no masks, social distancing or requirement to sanitise hands. I wonder if hotels and restaurants will be allowed to open up in this way any time this year – how many will survive.

Thinking of survival, I read in the news of the stresses suffered by those working for the NHS. When the call went out for help, daughter cut short her visit home, returning to London early to work shifts on the COVID wards. Thankfully, we all remain mostly well and I must focus on this.

Younger son has been sitting exams remotely. I hope his university takes into account the extra pressures students have had to deal with this year when marking papers. He has not been impressed with his term of distance learning, finding face to face teaching more effective yet no longer available without accepting solitary confinement in halls.

Husband is still working from home, going out during his lunch break for air and exercise. We look forward to daylight lengthening that our evenings may not be quite so housebound. For now we make use of our son’s subscription to Netflix and Prime. We have yet to find films or series we would rave about but there is enough to provide distraction.

I still have my books. As well as reading early copies of upcoming titles, I have been delving into my TBR pile. I am trying, this year, to read more of the books publishers have sent that I didn’t manage to review ahead of publication, and also to actually read a few of the titles I buy for myself. To achieve this I have had to exercise restraint in requesting new, tantalising titles from publishers – so hard when they sound so good.

Four books that I have agreed to take are the titles shortlisted for the inaugural Barbellion Prize, a literary award dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing. I posted about this here.

I reviewed 9 books in January: 8 fiction (2 translated, 1 for children) and 1 non fiction. Robyn added 12 more, including the final book in her Cosmere Christmas series and the first in the Bridgerton series. It is a rarity for her to read romantic fiction so I was interested in her thoughts.

As ever in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

 

Fiction

 
The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan, published by Serpent’s Tale
The Priest and the Lily by Sanjida O’Connell

 
The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, published by World Editions
The Absent Therapist by Will Eaves, published by CB editions


Absolution by Paul E. Hardisty, published by Orenda

 

Translated Fiction

 
Winterkill by Ragnar Jónasson (translated by David Warriner), published by Orenda
Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París (translated by Christina MacSweeney), published by Charco Press

 

Children’s Fiction


Sunny and the Wicked Lady by Alison Moore, published by Salt

 

Non Fiction


Coasting by Jonathan Raban, published by Eland

 

Robyn Reviews

 
Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson, published by Gollancz
The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens, published by HarperVoyager

 
The Witchling’s Girl by Helena Coggan, published by Hodder & Stoughton
Uprooted by Naomi Novik, published by Pan Macmillan

 
Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen, published by Orbit
The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige, published by Hodder & Stoughton

 
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, published by Walker Books
We Lie With Death by Devin Madson, published by Orbit

 
The Cousins by Karen McManus, published by Penguin
Infinity Son by Adam Silvera, published by Simon and Schuster

   
The Duke & I by Julia Quinn, published by Piatkus
Shadow in the Empire of Light by Jane Routley, published by Solaris

 

Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also received a number of hard copies, including some birthday gifts from generous online friends.

 

I was very happy with the books I received in January, all from small presses.

 

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

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

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Monthly Roundup – December 2020

We reach the end of 2020 having faced a challenging year. This month started with the lifting of Lockdown 2 and ended with more stringent restrictions for large swaths of the UK. For now, Wiltshire is in a tier that allows gyms to remain open and I had returned to my thrice weekly visits. However, in the week before Christmas, bad form on a deadlift resulted in a back injury that forced me to rest and recuperate. As I had been struggling with a number of foot injuries which hampered running efforts I decided to abandon all my digital challenges – disappointing after beating numerous personal bests before everything started to hurt even more than is usual.

Daughter returned to Wiltshire mid December for a month long stay. Thus we were all together for the festive season and could enjoy our quiet celebrations. Online grocery shopping comes with a risk of items not available or random substitutions. As we had no guests to cater for I could relax into accepting whatever was available without anxiety. The only item my children voiced regret at missing from their Christmas dinner was sprouts – I will add them to our next midweek roast.

Younger son has heard from his university that the rest of the academic year will be online. He has paid thousands of pounds for a year’s accommodation that he will not have used for even a night. Although I am glad to have him here rather than isolated in halls, the wasteful addition to his already large student debt is infuriating.

I posted reviews for 8 books in December – 4 fiction (1 translated) and 4 non fiction. Robyn added a bumper 14 more as part of her Cosmere Christmas series (introduced here). Her final review in this series will appear next week.

We each posted an annual roundup of recommended reads selected from those books we reviewed on the blog this year – do check them out: Annual Roundup: My Books of 2020 and Robyn’s Roundup: 20 Books of 2020.

As ever in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

 

Fiction

 
The Last Good Man by Thomas McMullan, published by Bloomsbury
The Piano Student by Lea Singer (translated by Elisabeth Lauffer), published by New Vessel Press

 

 
Greensmith by Aliya Whiteley, published by Unsung Stories
Beastings by Benjamin Myers, originally published by Bluemoose, now available from Bloomsbury

 

Non Fiction

 
Seven Kinds of People You Find In Bookshops by Shaun Bythell, published by Profile
Broken Consort by Will Eaves, published by CB editions

 

 
Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell, published by Elliott & Thompson
It’s the End of the World by Adam Roberts, published by Elliott & Thompson

 

Robyn’s Cosmere Christmas 

All the following books were written by Brandon Sanderson and published by Gollancz, with Dawnshard due out in 2021.

 
Elantris
The Final Empire

 

 
The Well of Ascension
The Hero of Ages

 

 
The Emperor’s Soul
The Alloy of Law

 
Shadows of Self
The Bands of Mourning

 
Warbreaker
The Way of Kings

 
Words of Radiance
Edgedancer

 
Oathbringer
Dawnshard

 

Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also purchased or was gifted a number of hard copies, including some received for Christmas.

There were no books for me under the Christmas tree. Thankfully, I was sent a good number of welcome additions to my TBR pile.

 

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

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

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx


Robyn and I wish all our readers a New Year filled with fabulous books