Monthly Roundup – December 2021

december

Another year draws to a close. The virus is still with us, mutating as such agents do. Governments around the world scrabble to appear in control by limiting freedoms and encouraging public shaming. Lives are put at risk as healthcare efforts focus on this one infection. Hard won livelihoods are decimated, feeding the myriad health impacts associated with stress and potential penury. It is hard not to despair at the media manipulation and fearmongering. Someone on Twitter described 2021 as ‘rather like a remaindered copy of the previous year’ and this resonated.

At the beginning of December it looked ever more likely that additional restrictions would be imposed in England. Husband and I decided we could squeeze in one more trip away before the hospitality industry became inhospitable again. The hotel we stayed at on the south coast had reintroduced a mask mandate, but the weather was good and the food provided excellent so we had a mostly enjoyable few days by the sea. We walked up and down the local cliff paths for miles. We ran as tourists in Bridport Parkrun. Of course, Edward came along with us. I wrote about his adventures here: Edward Explores: The Dorset Coast.

On returning home we cast our minds towards Christmas. Books make the perfect present so I published my roundup of recommended reads – 23 titles that particularly impressed me from the well over 100 books reviewed this past year – Annual Roundup.

Along with the other Bookmunch reviewers, I contributed to their fine Best of 2021 list.

Robyn’s recommendations came later in the month – Robyn’s Reads of 2021. She has been so busy with work her contributions to the blog have had to be curtailed.

I continue to exercise regularly although this has been somewhat limited recently by fluctuating energy levels and time constraints. Hopefully I will get out more in the New Year.

Husband and I attended two social events this month – a work dinner hosted by the company we are currently contracted to, and a dinner party with the friends husband runs with each Sunday – when he is not injured. I am rarely comfortable in social situations but these events passed without anxiety inducing incident. Phew!

I posted reviews for 10 books in December. Robyn has been too busy on the wards to add to this.

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

Fiction

Pupa  glide
Pupa by J.O. Morgan, published by Henningham Family Press
Glide by Alison Jean Lester (with photographs by Andrew Gurnett)

here is where  foster
Here is Where by Morgan Omotoye, published by Open Pen
Foster by Claire Keegan, published by Faber & Faber

reset  he wants
Reset by Paolo Pergola, published by Sagging Meniscus
He Wants by Alison Moore, published by Salt

Translated Fiction

four minutes
Four Minutes by Nataliya Deleva (translated by Izidora Angel), published by Open Letter

YA Fiction

strong stuffStrong Stuff by A.F. Stone, published by SRL Publishing

Poetry

the maskThe Mask by Elisabeth Horan, published by The Broken Spine

Non Fiction

B plaguesB, A Year In Plagues and Pencils by Edward Carey, published by Gallic

Sourcing the books

Robyn received several gifts of books alongside her usual subscription copies from Illumicrate and Goldsboro.

IMG-20211227-WA0000

My monthly ‘books in’ pile was small in quantity but big in quality – two of these were read immediately.

books received jackie december

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. A New Year beckons. Let’s hope it includes moments of joy and a better appreciation of what is still our beautiful world. Whatever it brings, may we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Monthly Roundup – November 2021

november

There have been positives this month. I’m going to try hard to focus more on the positives.

Husband and I spent the first weekend of November in the Lake District. Despite the wet weather we had a lovely few days away. We climbed a mountain, walked around several lakes and ran a Parkrun in nearby Ambleside as tourists. We also enjoyed lots of lovely food. Naturally, Edward, my adventuring teddy bear, accompanied us. I wrote about his exploits in Edward Explores: Grasmere.

Edward had further adventures locally. I posted about these in Edward Explores: Fungi. Included is a family meal out to celebrate what should have been daughter’s second graduation, which she could not attend. We are so proud of all her achievements.

Daughter and I attended a ‘gig’ in Bath, visiting Toppings Bookshop on its reopening day. I wrote about this here.

Time has also been spent at the two gyms I frequent, with longer, loopy bike rides taken to get there – so cold at this time of year. I continue to run regularly and beat my personal best at our local Parkrun – pleasing given the course has now turned muddy and therefore slippery following recent weather. After much procrastination, I finally contacted a friend I used to walk with weekly and arranged to meet after many months of no communication. It was good to catch up with her news – we now hope to get back to walking together more regularly.

Hockey season is in full swing so the other members of my family come and go between training sessions and matches. As two of them also work shifts, it is a rare treat to all sit down to eat together.

I posted reviews for 8 books in November. Robyn added her thoughts on a further 2 books.

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

Fiction

learwife  Emperor-of-Ice-Cream
Learwife by JR Thorp, published by Canongate
The Emperor of Ice Cream by Brian Moore, published by Turnpike Books

small things
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, published by Faber & Faber

Short Stories

building a wall  colchester writenight
No One Has Any Intention of Building a Wall by Ruth Brandt, published by Fly on the Wall Press
Colchester WriteNight, published by Patrician Press

Translated Fiction

Brickmakers   Byobu
Brickmakers by Selva Almada (translated by Annie McDermott), published by Charco Press
Byobu by Ida Vitale (translated by Sean Manning), published by Charco Press

Translated Non Fiction

intimate resistanceThe Intimate Resistance: A Philosophy of Proximity by Josep Maria Esquirol (translated by Douglas Suttle), published by Fum d’Estampa Press

Robyn Reviews

1tad  1susa
Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson, published by Orbit
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, published by Bloomsbury

Sourcing the books

Robyn purchased her usual pile of pretty hardbacks, none of which she has yet found time to read…

robyn books november  robyn trilogy november

I received a pleasing quantity of books through the post and also made some purchases while at the Toppings gig.

IMG_20211127_175140341

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 – October 2021

october

October has been another month of marking time. Is this what life is to be now – limited social interaction and staying mostly local? At least the lack of travel and associated consumption means less environmental pollution.

I am enjoying the photographs various friends are posting online as they return to travelling abroad. I feel a hint of regret and nostalgia but am happy they are finding ways to navigate the myriad and ever changing rules now in place around the world. I am also grateful that I live amidst beautiful countryside. I can appreciate this from my doorstep.

There have been highlights. Younger son finally secured a job and is now a ‘key worker’. It is part time but he picks up occasional extra shifts to add to his contracted hours. Daughter should have graduated this month but only the former students would have been allowed in the venue so opted not to attend. In the event she was working nights again so a good call. We celebrated as a family a few days later with dinner at a local restaurant. Our young people have missed out on so many milestones that would have been observed more lavishly in former times.

Husband’s calf injury is healing and he has managed a few short and easy runs recently with no ill effects. I continue to run several times a week. At one of my weekly Parkruns I cracked the 28 minute barrier, setting a new personal best for the course. I also set a PB over the half marathon distance, although this run required several days recovery. I am in awe of anyone who can run a marathon or longer.

My cycling has become less enjoyable as the weather turns autumnal, although I did purchase a pair of windproof gloves that have helped keep me more comfortable. Most rides eventually lead to the town gym where I strength train – these workouts are showing gradual improvements. Setting and then ticking off personal goals helps with motivation but are, I realise, unimportant in the scheme of things. We take what we can.

My teddy bear post this month saw Edward out and about locally – those interested may read Autumn.

It has been a mostly decent reading month. I posted reviews for 8 books in October. Robyn added her thoughts on a further 2 books. The non fiction titles I read inspired me to write a personal post, On Mattering.

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

Fiction

case study narrow door
Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet, published by Saraband
A Narrow Door by Joanne Harris, published by Orion

Translated Fiction

bureau  winter flowers
The Bureau of Past Management by Iris Hanika (translated by Abigail Wender), published by V&Q Books
Winter Flowers by Angélique Villeneuve (translated by Adriana Hunter), published by Peirene Press

Occupation
Occupation by Julián Fuks (translated by Daniel Hahn), published by Charco Press

Short Stories

dead relativesDead Relatives by Lucie McKnight Hardy, published by Dead Ink Books

Non Fiction

northern irish writing  aurochs and auks
Northern Irish Writing After The Troubles by Caroline Magennis, published by Bloomsbury Academic
Aurochs and Auks by John Burnside, published by Little Toller

Robyn Reviews

1naom  1kate
The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik, published by Del Rey
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, published by 4th Estate

Sourcing the books

Robyn purchased her usual pile of pretty hardbacks. Now all she needs is some time between long work shifts to read them.

robyn received october 21

I was delighted to receive a fine stack of books and am looking forward to picking up many of these.

jackie received October 21

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 – 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 September. 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