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

Monthly Roundup – November 2020

November had barely started before England was once again forced into lockdown. With gyms closed and club sports banned, life for my little family became even more constrained. Mood was not helped by the inclement weather and shortening days. There have been moments when I have felt a dearth of hope that we will ever again be allowed to travel freely. I look back on time spent enjoying restaurants and hotels with nostalgia, throwback photos on my social media platforms reminding me of good times had. Until the hospitality industry is permitted to be hospitable again – no curfews, distancing, masks or demands to use hand sanitiser – and the threat of closure at the whim of government is removed, we will not be booking nights out or time away.

To retain a degree of mental stability – until a minor foot injury late last week made it seem unwise – I had been out running three or four times a week, walking or cycling on most other days. I value our local lanes but was growing bored with the repetition. Driving further afield for the sake of variety felt like going against the spirit of what lockdown is trying to achieve. I may rail against restrictions but am trying to adhere to the rules however inconsistent the reasoning.

With gyms due to reopen this week I hope for a better December. Life is short and being made to mark time rather than enjoy what days we have left feels such a waste. Nevertheless, we count our blessings. They are abundant and I must focus on this.

I posted reviews for nine books in November (2 novels, 1 novelette, 1 short story collection, 1 short story chap book, 1 children’s fiction, 1 poetry collection, 2 works of non fiction). Most were outstanding – a good reading month. Robyn added a further eleven reviews. The eagle eyed among you will notice that we both posted our thoughts on one of the books.

Click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.

 

Fiction

 
Cat Step by Alison Irvine, published by Dead Ink
Inside the Beautiful Inside by Emily Bullock, published by Everything With Words


You Ruin It When You Talk by Sarah Manvel, published by Open Pen

 

Short Stories

 
London Gothic by Nicholas Royle, published by Cōnfingō
Signal by Michael Walters, published by Nightjar Press

 

Children’s Fiction / Horror


They Threw Us Away by Daniel Kraus (illustrated by Rovina Cai), published by Henry Holt

 

Poetry


Vertigo to Go by Brendon Booth-Jones, published by The Hedgehog Press

 

Non fiction

 
My Second Home by Dave Haslam, published by Cōnfingō
Absolutely Delicious by Alison Jean Lester (illustrated by Mary Ann Frye)

 

Robyn Reviews

 
The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter, published by Orbit
Paris by Starlight by Robert Dinsdale, published by Cornerstone

 
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar, published by Harper Collins
Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly, published by Hot Key Books

   
They Threw Us Away by Daniel Kraus (illustrated by Rovina Cai), published by Henry Holt
The Betrayals by Bridget Collins, published by Harper Collins

 
The Burning God by R.F. Kuang, published by Harper Voyager
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry, published by Pantheon Books

 
The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapowski (translated by David French), published by Gollancz
Infernal by Mark De Jager, published by Rebellion


These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong, published by Hodder & Stoughton

 

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, including several special editions.

 

I was delighted with my November book post and read a couple immediately.

December is always a quiet month for new releases so I plan to use the time to tackle my TBR pile. Robyn has decided to focus on books by one of her favourite authors – Brandon Sanderson. She wrote about her plans for a Cosmere Christmas here.

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 – October 2020

Happy Halloween! It will be a quiet celebration this year, although I always prefer festivities to be enjoyed with just my little family around me. Daughter will not be able to join us from London where she remains busy on the wards – she did manage a visit earlier this month which we all benefited from.

For me, Halloween is about harvest, and witches – the betimes feminists who lived by their own means, often as healers, and did not kowtow to the men of their time who regarded women as chattels and brood mares. Witches were feared because they challenged rules that were clearly detrimental to a great many people. We need more of this, especially given the current situation in which we are being made to live.

The nights have drawn in and the temperatures dropped this month – hibernation beckons. I continue to visit the gym and run the local lanes but life has contracted further with the turning of the season. Husband  works from home – thankfully unaffected as yet by recent redundancy announcements – and elder son travels to his office each weekday. With masks required on public transport, I allow him to use my little car for his commute – otherwise it would remain garaged. My bike is my favoured mode of transport given I travel only short distances these days. I haven’t used any motorised vehicle in many weeks – others are obviously not so concerned about travelling widely as the roads remain busy and pictures on social media reflect outings and holidays.

University term has commenced for younger son. I am grateful he is studying remotely and living at home given the way so many students are being treated. The accommodation he had to sign up for – having had no confirmation until the last minute that he could remain here – is now an expensive storage facility for the equipment he needs when living away. We wonder if it will be needed at all this academic year.

I have read some truly excellent books this month, and received a bonanza of titles to see me through the days when inclement weather keeps me on my sofa or snug in bed. I posted 9 reviews: 6 novels (1 translated), 1 short story collection, 1 poetry anthology, 1 work of non fiction. Robyn added a further 14 reviews, including 1 in collaboration with Books2Door – I wrote about this here.

You may click on the title below to read the review, and on the cover to find out more about each book.

 

Fiction

 
Orfeia by Joanne M. Harris, published by Gollancz
Real Life by Brandon Taylor, published by Daunt Books

 
Waiting for Nothing by Tom Kromer, published by the common breath
A Jealous Tide by Anna MacDonald, published by Splice


The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, published by Picador

Translated Fiction


The Pear Field by Nana Ekvtimishvili (translated by Elizabeth Heighway) published by Peirene Press

Short Stories


London Incognita by Gary Budden, published by Dead Ink Books

Poetry


Chaos edited by Anna Johnson, published by Patrician Press

Non Fiction


The Secret Life of Fungi by Aliya Whiteley, published by Elliot & Thompson

 

Robyn Reviews

 
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton, published by Bloomsbury
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, published by Titan Books

 
The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison, published by Rebellion
The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier, published by Angry Robot

 
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, published by Orbit
Witch by Finbar Hawkins, published by Head of Zeus

 
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, published by Orbit
Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott, published by Head of Zeus

 
There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, published by Orbit
As the Shadow Rises by Katy Rose Pool, published by Orbit

 
The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (translated by Danusia Stok and David French), published by Gollancz
Northern Wrath by Thilde Kold Holdt (translated?), published by Rebellion

 
Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco, published by Hodder & Stoughton
Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee, published by Rebellion

 

Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also purchased or received a number of hard copies (I’ve stopped asking her about the multiple copies she buys of beautifully bound editions).

Publishers have been particularly generous this month, with book post arriving almost daily – some purchased or requested, most offered for review. Such abundance may result in me being unable to post my thoughts on every ARC received at or around its publication date. As I am eager to read most of these books, I will get to them as soon as I can manage.

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 – September 2020

Six months into lockdown and I remain amazed at how readily so many have adapted to imposed restrictions. September started with what looked to be a relaxation of mandated measures but ended with threats of hefty fines for non-compliance with stricter rules – rushed through laws applied without balanced debate. I have needed to be outside regularly to remind myself that the world is still a beautiful place.

With the passing of the autumn equinox the changing colours on the trees can be admired. I crunch through fallen acorns and horse chestnuts on many of the local trails I frequent. I have continued my thrice weekly gym visits for strength training – cycling to town and back whatever the weather. I was grateful for our Indian Summer, although the marked increase in car traffic suggested others were going further afield to enjoy the sunny days.

Daughter came home for a short visit at the beginning of the month, when we were still hopeful of a return to greater freedom. We ate out at the Prezzo in our local market town and had a pleasant evening, despite the restaurant greeter’s demand that we sanitise our hands on entering. At least there were no ‘masked bandits’, as my son refers to them. Food and service were good and we talked of returning. Our options have been reduced with business closures increasingly prevalent – and now, of course, only likely to accelerate. We will not be going out to eat while masks must be worn between door and table – I’m at a loss as to what that new rule is intended to achieve.

The promise of cooler weather made it clear that I needed a few additions to my wardrobe. Goods were ordered online with delivery to a town outlet – the only way to achieve free delivery and returns for the various sizes and styles I wished to try on before choosing what, if anything, to keep. Thus I had to enter a shop wearing my mask exemption lanyard – stressful, but the staff were lovely and I suffered none of the feared abuse from customers, who I ensured I distanced from.

Confidence boosted, I decided to shop for a new bookcase at a store owned by a local family – I like to support their business. Here the staff wore masks, which felt strange as I regularly pass them in our village. I still find these face coverings disturbing but, thankfully, I was able to choose what I needed quickly and leave. I am pleased with all my purchases but shopping has become an anxiety inducing activity and will remain limited.

I suffered a foot injury when I accidently bashed my toes into furniture mid month. This has made walking any distance painful – my stout boots press against the swollen digit. I continue to run, perhaps foolishly as the foot is not healing as quickly as expected. There seems little point seeking medical advice with current restrictions on contact. I’m not sure what we are expected to do if we require the expertise of doctor, dentist or optician – services previously taken for granted. I fear lockdown will be the catalyst for a significant increase in the privatisation of healthcare.

Younger son should have been preparing to leave for university but what they will want him to do remains uncertain. This lack of clarity means he has had to keep paying for the expensive accommodation he hasn’t used since March – alongside tuition fees for a course that may remain entirely online. With the current media tales of students confined to their tiny flats, unable to socialise or attend teaching, he would now prefer to stay home and access remote learning. What is needed is a decision for the academic year – and a get out clause if rental contracts are no longer needed through no fault of the students. I realise this is unlikely as landlords will want their income.

When not out exercising I am still reading, albeit slowly as I struggle to concentrate amidst so much uncertainty. I posted reviews for 6 books (2 novels, 1 short story collection, 1 poetry collection, 2 works of non fiction). Happily, all were good reads although I would say the weakest was my choice from the Booker longlist – so much for major literary prizes offering worthwhile recommendations. It is, however, pleasing to note that every book I reviewed this month was published by an independent press.

Robyn continues to read voraciously and contributed 15 reviews. These included one for Mordew by Alex Pheby, a book I have previously posted my thoughts on but wished her to read as it is her favoured genre – fantasy fiction. I was interested in her views, and hope other readers will be too.

You may click on the title below to read the review, and on the cover to find out more about each book.

 

Fiction


The Nacullians by Craig Jordan-Baker, published by époque press
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook, published by OneWorld

 

Short stories


Postcard Stories 2 by Jan Carson, published by The Emma Press

 

Poetry


London Undercurrents by Joolz Sparks and Hilaire, published by Holland Park Press

 

Non fiction


Unofficial Britain by Gareth E. Rees, published by Elliott and Thompson
Dead Girls by Selva Almada (translated by Annie McDermott), published by Charco Press

 

Robyn Reviews


Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles, published by Wednesday Books
Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody, published by HQ


A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington, published by Quercus
Divine Heretic by Jaime Lee Moyer, published by Quercus

 
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas, published by Macmillan Children’s
The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus, published by Transworld


The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, published by Orbit
Five Little Liars by Amanda K Morgan, published by Simon & Schuster


The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry, published by Titan Books
La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman, published by David Fickling Books


The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty, published by HarperVoyager
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, published by Bodley Head


The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, published by Gollancz
Mordew by Alex Pheby, published by Galley Beggar Press


A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, published by Del Rey

 

Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also purchased or received a number of hard copies – including a surprise copy of a book she is now offering as a giveaway (do check her Twitter feed).

I also made several purchases to add to the review copies publishers kindly sent. These included another Booker Prize contender – will it be more impressive?

I was a guest on Shelf Absorption, a blog that enables readers to check out other people’s shelves. I reblogged the post here. The stack of books pictured on the floor now fills my newly purchased bookcase.

 

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 – August 2020

August is my birthday month and we celebrated this year by eating out for the first time since lockdown began. It was a mixed experience. The female waiting staff wore masks although the males didn’t – I assume this was their choice. The tables were not set, cutlery being delivered with food. Hand sanitiser was reapplied by staff regularly and, although the place was full, tables appeared to be used only once throughout the evening. I find mask wearers unsettling but could mostly relax in the buzz and ambience of a busy restaurant. It is unfortunate that service was slow and food not particularly well cooked. In acknowledgement of these issues, husband and son were not charged for their puddings. I wonder how this, and all other imposed measures, effected the bottom line of a business that is doing its best amidst imposed restrictions.

The rest of the month was largely a repeat of the life we have been required to get used to. With liberties removed and mask wearing enforced I have remained mostly at home, exercising in my local area. Many acquaintances are posting pictures of the holidays they are taking. Some are even flying abroad, accepting quarantine on their return. Until husband and I can be sure that facilities such as restaurants and museums are opening without restrictions, we will not be going away on our usual short breaks in the UK. A neighbour reported on an afternoon spent in our nearest city – Bath – last week, telling us the mask wearing and social distancing made shopping unpleasant and she would not be returning if she could help it. Saddened though I will be if previously bustling businesses cannot keep trading, the stress of being treated as a potential killer keeps me away.

The small, local gym I have been a member of for years announced it would be reopening with rules and restrictions on use that remove the pleasure I had always gained from attending. I do not wish to be tied to a booking system and would wish to use the swimming pool – currently available only to small numbers of hotel guests. I therefore decided to join a town centre 24/7 gym that operates on a much more relaxed basis. I am glad to be back to strength training. I cycle to and from the place – a 22km round trip – so do not feel the need to use their cardio machines for now. With my regular runs and daily walks, my fitness routine continues to help keep my stress levels mostly balanced.

I wrote a post about taking up running which you may read here.

I am still struggling to settle into reading although most of this month’s titles impressed. I posted reviews for 6 books this month: 3 novels, 1 short story collection, 1 poetry collection and an astonishing work of autofiction. Robyn contributed 13 reviews, mostly from her favoured genre of fantasy fiction but also a few thrillers and big name releases.

You may click on the title below to read the review, and on the cover to find out more about each book.

 

Fiction


Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir, published by Headline
Mordew by Alex Pheby, published by Galley Beggar Press


V for Victory by Lissa Evans, published by Doubleday

Short Stories


Foxfire, Wolfskin and other stories of Shapeshifting Women by Sharon Blackie, published by September Publishing

Autofiction


A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, published by Tramp Press

Poetry


How to Make Curry Goat by Louise McStravick, published by Fly on the Wall Press

 

Following on from my review last month of their latest release, The Blackbird, I posted a Q&A with Henningham Family Press in which they discuss creating their beautiful books as works of art.

 

Robyn Reviews

Fiction


The First Sister by Linden Lewis, published by Hodder & Stoughton
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, published by Vintage


We Are All The Same In The Dark by Julia Heaberlin, published by Michael Joseph
All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace, published by Titan Books


Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron, published by Bloomsbury
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, published by Canongate


Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, published by Walker Books
Seven Devils by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam, published by Orion


Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, published by Tor
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (tr Neil Smith), published by Michael Joseph


The Killings at Kingfisher Hall by Sophie Hannah, published by Harper Collins
Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi, published by Michael Joseph


Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall, published by Orion

 

Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She has also acquired an impressive stack of hard copies this month – it is lucky she purchased a bookcase when she moved into her latest flat share in London.

I also received a bumper number of books, three of which were birthday presents from family.


Review copies


Gifts and purchases (one to give away)

 

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