Monthly Roundup – September 2021

september

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiction

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

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

Short Stories

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

Translated Short Stories

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

Poetry

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

Robyn Reviews

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

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

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

Sourcing the books

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

Robyn received september 2021

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

Jackie received September 2021

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

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

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

Monthly Roundup – February 2020

It feels as though the whole of February has been wet and stormy. In recent weeks, every time I venture out for a walk, run or bike ride, I return home cold, damp and muddy. Daffodils are growing in my garden so spring is on its way. I am hoping we do not have to endure snow before the warming sun returns.

I had my big children visiting on two weekends this month so, as a family, we had all the excuse we need to eat out together. This weekend I am in London catching up with my daughter. I continue to take part in weekly Parkruns and hope to complete the Fulham Palace event while in the capital. A dry course would be most welcome.

February saw my return to adding literary event write-ups to my blog. I also featured an author interview in preparation for another event I plan to attend. We will have to see if my impetus to book tickets and travel to such entertainments continues further into the year.

I posted reviews of nine books this month: five novels (one translated), two short story collections, and two works of non-fiction. These proved quite a mix of positive and negative. As I would never pick up a book to read that I did not expect to enjoy, there were a few disappointments.

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

 

Two fine novels that I recommend you read 

 
The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue, published by Corvus
How Pale the Winter Has Made Us by Adam Scovell, published by Influx Press

 

A crime fiction tome that wasn’t for me, and a novelette that fully satisfied in under seventy pages

 
Bury Them Deep by James Oswald, published by Wildfire
One Thing by Xanthi Barker, published by Open Pen

 

Five star translated fiction


Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini (translated by J. Ockenden), publishe by Peirene Press

 

Well written short story collections, although one didn’t quite resonate

 
Escape Routes by Naomi Ishiguro, published by Tinder Press
Exercises in Control by Annabel Banks, published by Influx Press

 

Non-fiction worth reading – loved one cover, found other off-putting

 
Under the Stars: A Journey into Light by Matt Gaw, published by Elliott and Thompson
Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia by Tracey Thorn, published by Canongate

 

An interview I very much enjoyed doing


Author interview: Venetia Welby

 

Write-ups of my first two literary events this year

 
Cornerstone 2020 New Writing Showcase in Bristol
Naomi Ishiguro in Bath

 

Sourcing the books I read

This month publishers generously provided me with a bumper thirteen new titles to consider.

I purchased a further six books to add 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.

Random Musings: Literary Podcasts

I am old school when it comes to book reviews, author interviews and literary discussions. I prefer reading to watching or listening. Mainly this is due to time constraints. I can read most articles in just a few minutes whereas audio and visual content demands a much longer time commitment. I prefer to devote that extended time to reading books.

Last year my favourite book prize, the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, announced that it was starting a podcast. I was dismayed. Then, when I read of the books, participants and discussions being featured I grew curious.

The episodes released varied in length but required that a significant block of time be made available. To listen I had to find a space within my day. The obvious place, where I would benefit from a distraction, was the gym. After presenting my cost-benefit analysis, my husband kindly gifted me a set of headphones. Many fruitless attempts to download episodes to my phone for offline listening later (I don’t use Apple products or have internet access at the gym) I found a means of carrying audio content with me (I use Castbox, available for android).

Listening to podcasts while cycling nowhere or working out on a cross trainer has proved effective at taking my mind off how tiring and tiresome these activities can be. I quickly worked my way through each of the Republic of Consciousness podcasts and sought out alternatives to supplement the time I have available each week. I now have a backlog of interesting book discussions to listen to, thereby working both my heart and mind.

The Republic of Consciousness Podcast for Small Presses

Click on image for link

“The Republic of Consciousness Podcast comes out about 3 times a month. It’ll be a bit different each time, but expect interviews, readings, and some regular features, such as our Book of the Month.”

Bookmunch Podcast

No dedicated page as yet but first three episodes may be found here:
Episode 1 – Emma Glass (Peach)
Episode 2 – Adam Foulds (Dream Sequence)
Episode 3 – Melissa Harrison

Why Why Why: The Books Podcast

Click on image for link

“We ask writers why they wrote the book they wrote, editors why they published the book, and readers why they picked up the book and read it.”

 

I realise that I am probably late to the party but I am enjoying these audio broadcasts given that they fill a time slot when reading would be difficult. It goes to show that trying new things can sometimes be worthwhile.

 

Updated, May 2019

I am still listening to and enjoying the above podcasts during my visits to the gym. The RofC hasn’t quite managed to produce fresh output three times a month but each new episode it does put out is worth listening to. I have also been listening to the following that you may wish to check out.

The Comma Press Podcast: from the team behind the Manchester based publisher


Click on image for link

“Series One focuses on our best-selling Protest: Stories of Resistance anthology, and episodes will feature the author and their historical consultant from the collection, alongside a third guest who will be connected to the cause or movement, either directly, or in a more contemporary way, and will be hosted by a Comma editor.”

Unsound Methods: A literary fiction podcast


Click on image for link

“We want to share conversations about the nitty gritty of writing fiction and explore what makes fiction ‘real’.”

The Slightly Foxed Podcast: the independent-minded book review magazine


Click on image for link

“Think of it as an audio version of the magazine, full of interesting bookishness, interviews and discussion – all set around our kitchen table, here in Hoxton Square.”

Monthly Roundup – April 2018

April has been a busy month for family related activities. As my children grow older I see less of them so prioritise in their favour when we can be together. A local road closure and the ongoing engineering work on the GWR affected my ability to travel so I did not attend any literary events. Added to these issues I was working my way through an 800 page non fiction book which, although fascinating, proved more technical than expected and would not be rushed.

I posted reviews for 16 books in April and interviewed one author – links are below. However, the month opened with a random opinion piece that was inspired by some negative debates on social media around book blogging and negative reviews. You may read it here: Random Musings: Book love and negative reviews

On then to the books. As long time readers will know I have a particular fondness for the small presses and am always happy to discover a new one. Ampersand Publishing sent me four titles which I devoured. These included two poetry collections:

Recipe for being a Woman by Hermione Cameron
Echoing by Elliot Koubis

and two works of fiction:

Tumours by Chay Collins (nominated for the Saboteur Award for Best Novella)
The Goldberg Variations by Robert Hainault

I also reviewed a translated poetry collection from the fabulous Little Island Press:

Shortening the Candle’s Wick by Andres Ehin and Ly Seppel (translated by Ilmar Lehtpere)

Unusually for me there was only one book of translated fiction this month, although I did get to interview the author:

The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland by Nicolai Houm (translated by Anna Paterson), published by Pushkin Press
Author Interview: Nicolai Houm

I posted a couple of reviews originally written for Bookmunch

The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal
The One Who Wrote Destiny by Nikesh Shukla

In non fiction I posted reviews of a nature monograph that made me want to return to Ireland and revisit the places described, and a best selling memoir.

Eagle Country by Seán Lysaght, published by Little Toller
Educated by Tara Westover, published by Hutchinson

I also posted a review of the latest non fiction offering from Galley Beggar Press:

Wrestliana by Toby Litt

Other fiction reviews posted included the following:

The Sound of My Voice by Ron Butlin, published by Polygon
Claudia by Anthony Trevelyan, published by Sceptre

You by Phil Whitaker, published by Salt
Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O’Neill, published by Lightning Books

Mayhem and Death by Helen McClory, published by 404 Ink

Finally, I acquired a new hen enclosure this month which got me so excited I had to write about it: Constructing the Perfect Walk-in Run

 

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

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

Next month I have two short breaks planned with my family. It is therefore likely to be a quieter month on social media and on my blog, although there may be pictures of my adventures.

Jx

Monthly Roundup – February 2018

January on my blog focused on the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, with just a few reviews of the books I was reading thrown in for good measure. This month saw a return to a more familiar format with a focus on new book reviews, although not all recent releases as I kept my New Year promise to myself and also plucked titles from further down my TBR pile.

These included a number of medical themed books. The announcement of the Wellcome Book Prize longlist reminded me that I still had several titles unread that I was eager to get to.

Click on the cover to find out more about the book from the publisher’s website – the links below will take you to my reviews.

  

  

 

I posted four book reviews originally written for other sites.

  

  

 

There were also original reviews of several new releases and books from my TBR pile.

Non-Fiction:

Fiction:

Poetry

 

I attended one book event, travelling to Manchester for

I will be posting more about the author and publisher panels and talks next week.

I posted one interview this month, with

Next month I have a number of literary outings to look forward to, including the winners event for the Republic of Consciousness Prize on the 20th. I also have more excellent books to read – thank you to the publishers who send me their titles for review.

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

Monthly Roundup – January 2018

We made it through January. I know illness has dogged a lot of us this month – if you are still suffering I wish you a speedy recovery.

I started the month with a few thoughts on the year just past. I have now been blogging for over five years and my site continues to evolve as I work out the ongoing direction I wish to take.

My first review of the year was for Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour – The Haunted Queen which is to be published by Headline in May. I had intended to include this as one of my end of year books to look forward to in 2018 but ran out of reading time over the festive season. My new Fitbit encouraged me to get out walking which was probably a good thing.

I then took a week’s break as I had a family holiday to enjoy and a big feature planned for the remainder of the month. These things take time to organise and prepare.

Those who follow my blog regularly will be aware that this month has mostly been about The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, who last summer invited me to join their reader panel and help judge submissions for the prize. After the longlist was announced in November I contacted the longlisted publishers inviting them and their authors to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. The before Christmas period is just about the busiest time of year for those who provide us with books so I am grateful for the positive responses received.

As part of this feature I posted author interviews with:

I included publisher interviews with:

I received guest posts from:

I am also grateful to my fellow judges, Graham and Paul Fulcher, who offered their carefully considered and detailed reviews to run alongside the content I received from authors and publishers. As I had already posted my reviews of the longlisted books I felt that these alternative thoughts added to the feature.

My bookish adventures took me along a new path when I participated in my first ever podcast, adding a few thoughts on one of the longlisted books – We that are young by Preti Taneja – alongside interesting interviews with the author and with the publisher. You may find out more about the podcast, created by The YYY Books Podcast, by clicking here.

As well as my Republic Of Consciousness Prize posts, I published a few reviews of other books I managed to read this month:

I attended two bookish events in January. The first was in Bristol, a stop on the New Voices of 2018 roadshow organised by Headline. The second was the Judges Dinner for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. Held in London this gave me the opportunity to meet my fellow judges offline, and to discuss the longlist with a view to whittling it down to the five or six titles that will go forward from here. I will be writing more about this event next month after the shortlist is announced in Manchester on 19th February.

I was privileged to receive a number of new titles from publishers which have been added to my TBR pile. For those interested, I post pictures of my book post on my Instagram feed. Thank you to all the publishers who send me books to review. Like most book bloggers my TBR pile is vast and enticing. If I have received your book I assure you I am doing my best to find time to read it.

Thank you also to the many readers, bloggers and publishers who share my words on their social media feeds. I very much appreciate your support. February will see a return to more personal book reviews. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts.