Monthly Roundup – March 2022

march

The highlight of March is husband’s birthday. We celebrated with a long weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon, staying at a hotel that, along with many other places in and around the nearby town, builds on its connections to Shakespeare. With this literary link in mind I wrote a review of the hotel – you may read it here. The trip also provided an adventure for my intrepid teddy bear, Edward. You may read of his latest explore in When Bill met Ted on an Excellent Adventure.

As with all the best birthdays, the celebrating continued on the following weekend when we ate out as a family. Other than these outings the month proceeded much as those for the previous two years. Lockdown may have been relaxed but life continues to feel somewhat restricted. I am amazed so many people are planning holidays beyond the country they live in given continuing uncertainty around rules governing travel.

I am grateful to be able to continue with my running – including weekly participation in Parkrun – along with regular strength training and swimming. My exercise routine has proved vital to my mental health.

On Mother’s Day weekend we added eleven new girls to our gradually depleting flock of hens – pullets have been harder to source during the years of plague. My children have taken to baking regularly so extra eggs will be welcome.

I posted reviews for 11 books in March, once again managing a good mix of new publications and older titles from my shelves. Robyn added one review, of a book released today.

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

Fiction

these days  exit management
these days by Lucy Caldwell, published by Faber & Faber
Exit Management by Naomi Booth, published by dead ink

still life  ghosts of spring
Still Life by Sarah Winman, published by Fourth Estate
Ghosts of Spring by Luis Carrasco, published by époque press

i nerd
I, Nerd by Max Sydney Smith, published by Open Pen

Translated Fiction

when i sing
When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Solà (translated by Mara Faye Letham), published by Granta

Short Stories

young farmers  stewkey blues
Young Farmers by Jan Carson
Stewkey Blues Stories by DJ Taylor, published by Salt

Non Fiction

shalimar daniels running formula
Shalimar by Davina Quinlivan, published by Little Toller
Daniel’s Running Formula by Jack Daniels, published by Human Kinetics

Translated Non Fiction

nina simone stopped
The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing by Darina Al Joundi (translated by Helen Vassallo), published by naked eye

Robyn Reviews

1franWild and Wicked Things by Francesca May, published by Orbit

Sourcing the books

Robyn received several special editions through her regular subscriptions as well as a most welcome ARC. Given her long working hours she is still struggling to find time to read.

books received march robyn

My book post this month contained a number of unexpected titles. It is always lovely to be remembered when proofs are being sent out.

books received march

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 once again 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 2022

february

On the last day in January I took part in a virtual running event organised by Outrun the Dark, a runwear company promoting running as a way to deal with mental health issues. Today I hope to take part in a similar event to outrun yet another month spent mostly avoiding people due to their alleged fear of me killing them or their loved ones (I am mask exempt). My concern is of the potential for long term damage to society if people continue to be viewed as a threat simply by taking up nearby space.

We believe dealing with mental health is a noble fight, and we honor the strength and grit needed to persevere. Born from the love of running and the fortitude it builds, we outrun the dark. 10% of profit is donated to funding new ways of beating anxiety and depression.

So closely did these stated company aims align with my own experiences, I had applied to be an ambassador for the brand. Sadly, I was not chosen, but I still follow their community, with its aim to make the world less dark.

outrun the darkPhoto credit: Outrun the Dark website

Having outrun January, February started well with a long weekend away in Devon. Husband and I stayed at a coastal hotel that I suspect would be popular with the coach tour crowd. This would not normally be our sort of thing but we had a lovely room and the food was excellent – although unchanging for the duration of our stay. Despite husband feeling somewhat below par, we managed several scenic walks and took part in a nearby Parkrun. I made good use of the hotel’s tiny swimming pool when he needed to rest. This trip away featured in Edward’s latest ‘Explore’ post.

The rest of the month was quieter with just the usual activities. I managed my first 10 mile run of the year – I’ve been working on pace and now need to build back distance. In strength training I set new PBs for squat and deadlift. This past week my energy levels dipped, as happens from time to time for no obvious reason. I’ve been grateful for my enticing TBR pile when needing to rest.

I posted reviews for 8 books in February – a good mix of new publications and older titles from my shelves. Robyn, although busy as ever, managed to add 1 review.

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

Fiction

pig iron  the retreat
Pig Iron by Benjamin Myers, published by Bloomsbury
The Retreat by Alison Moore, published by Salt

pricklet
The Pricklet by Mazin Saleem, published by Open Pen

Translated Fiction

battles kings elephants  tender
Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants by Mathias Enard (translated by Charlotte Mandell), published by Fitzcarraldo Editions
Tender by Ariana Harwicz (translated by Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff), published by Charco Press

memoirs polar bear
Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada (translated by Susan Bernofsky), published by Granta

Poetry

singing in the dark times
Singing in the Dark Times by Margaret Corvid, published by Patrician Press

Non Fiction

the other jack
The Other Jack by Charles Boyle, published by CB editions

Robyn Reviews

1oliv
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, published by Tor

Sourcing the Books

With a large backlog of unread books that she really wants to read, Robyn has cut back on purchases. These are the titles she has received since the New Year.

Robyn books jan feb

My book post has been very pleasing. I have some good reading ahead.

Jackie books february

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 – January 2022

january19

The first day of a New Year is a Parkrun Day so I started this month taking part in one of my favourite activities. The route of our local Parkrun includes a couple of laps around a riverside field. It gets very muddy at this time of year. The keen runners regularly fall over trying to retain momentum on the slip-slidey surface. I tend to take things easier in such conditions, although this doesn’t help with my attempts to improve overall pacing.

Later in the month temperatures plummeted and the field froze – an improvement for running but utterly chilling on my bike ride in. After one particularly freezing event I chose to run home rather than cycle as at least this kept my body temperature at an acceptable level. On a previous week I had got so cold I still felt unwell the next day. Such are the trials of winter when coping with gear inappropriate for the conditions.

I know there are those who suffer seasonal affectiveness disorder and have much sympathy for the challenges this brings. I try to keep my mood steady by going outside each day, even if it is just a short ride to my local gym for strength training. Over the past few weeks husband has been joining me in this as his leg injury is still bothering him, effecting his running activity. Thinking it might be improving he ran one Parkrun alongside me, the slower pace limiting the effort he needed to expend. I was amused by his comments afterwards – that the view from my more relaxed place in the pack is so different to that amongst his fast and focused brigade.

We celebrate daughter’s birthday in January. She booked a few days off work so was able to enjoy some R&R as well as getting outside in daylight for walks, and also trips to the cinema. The family meal at our local pub was enjoyed by all, as was pizza night on the day itself. I ate more that weekend than I normally would in a week.

Unless, of course, that week includes Christmas. In this month’s Edward Explores my intrepid teddy bear came out of hibernation for the festive season and was rewarded with a delightful new friend.

I posted reviews for 9 books in January. Robyn added a further 3 reviews.

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

the raptures good choices
The Raptures by Jan Carson, published by Doubleday
Good Choices by Bonny Brooks, published by Open Pen

failing of angels  not in the world
The Failing of Angels by Chris Tutton, published by Avalanche Books
We Are Not In The World by Conor O’Callaghan, published by Penguin

matilda windsor  Amongst Women
Matilda Windsor is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin, published by Inspired Quill
Amongst Women by John McGahern, published by Faber & Faber

Translated Fiction

goddess chronicle  wilder winds
The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino (translated by Rebecca Copeland), published by Canongate
Wilder Winds by Bel Olid (translated by Laura McGloughlin), published by Fum d’Estampa

Non Fiction

long field
The Long Field by Pamela Petro, published by Little Tolller

Robyn Reviews

1xira  1fred
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao, published by Rock the Boat
Beartown by Fredrik Backman (translated by Neil Smith), published by Penguin

1ciar
The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth, published by Andersen Press

Sourcing the Books

Robyn has been enjoying some well deserved time off work and will share the books she received in January with next month’s haul.

I received this very pleasing stack, some of which I read immediately.

Jackie books January

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 – 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

Book Review: Goshawk Summer

goshawk summer

“Ultimately, just how compatible are concepts such as commoners’ rights, unfettered public access and commercial logging, with the encouragement and protection of biodiversity?”

Goshawk Summer: A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other, by James Aldred, was written from field notes the author kept while filming a family of goshawks in the spring and summer of 2020. An experienced wildlife cameraman internationally, Aldred was happy to return to what had been his childhood stomping ground during the first lockdown. As the rest of the world retreated he was able to fully appreciate the creatures of the New Forest and how they behaved when freed from the invasions of people. And then lockdown ended and the public, restless from many weeks of confinement and with few other options, returned to the forest in barely manageable droves.

Aldred’s observations are measured and candid. He films with the help of New Forest Keepers who grant him access to areas where they know the various creatures he seeks are breeding. The author may grow exhausted from the 3am starts and days spent ankle deep in water but footage captured provides him with a new perspective on the forest – its visitors and inhabitants.

“Humans are sensory beings, we all want to feel alive to prove we’re not wasting our short time on this planet, and I find the best way to connect with the here and now is to step into trees and give myself over to the wonder, curiosity and joy that they evoke. They help remind me of who I am, where I’ve come from and where – ultimately – we are all going.”

The New Forest is very much a managed environment, even if now mostly aiming to conserve its biodiversity. There is much in this book on species under threat from multiple sources. Ground nesting birds can have their nests trodden on by careless walkers or disturbed by curious off the lead dogs. When numbers of a bird species decline, their ability to fight off predators as a team effort becomes less viable. Aldred does not focus entirely on goshawks through their breeding season. He also observes amongst other creatures: lapwings, a Dartford warbler, curlews, dragonflies, a family of foxes. He notes not just their behaviours but also the conditions they require to survive. People are an obvious threat to survival but certainly not the only one. For all its endearing beauty, this is nature and it is brutal. In rearing their chicks, goshawks must hunt for the food they require to grow.

“It’s almost impossible to identify most of the corpses that arrive on a goshawk nest, especially since the male usually plucks and butchers them beforehand. It’s like trying to recognise an animal from the inside out.”

To capture his required footage, the author sets up a hide in a tree, fifty feet above ground. On filming days he then brings in his expensive camera equipment, all without scaring away the subjects who are well aware of the dangers man poses. Adult goshawks are particularly wild and wary, and could choose to go elsewhere if a threat is deemed too great. Each arrival and departure must be carefully planned by Aldred to be minimally disruptive.

The forest during lockdown was alive with creatures venturing out where they would normally avoid. The author muses on how amazing this was while recognising his own invasion and the privilege of being there to observe. In the outside world there is fear of dying. The forest is also a scene of regular quietus.

“We tend to celebrate springtime as a joyous period of awakening, fecundity and new beginnings: the season of life. And so it is. But its easy to forget that springtime is defined by death just as much. The pressure placed on parents to bring back a never-ending supply of food results in nothing short of a seasonal killing spree. We just don’t tend to see it”

When lockdown is eased and visitors return, the killing of creatures on the busy roads is added to the more nature driven death toll. Many of the people arriving have little idea how to behave in the forest, risking barbecues on tinder dry surfaces, organising raves and leaving behind litter or other environmental damage. Locals grow incandescent with rage as verges are parked on. Fear of disease being imported leads to othering.

Just as many of the people arriving are not New Forest natives, neither are many of the creatures the author observes. Species of raptors that were once common have been hunted to extinction – many regarded them as vermin. Their cousins exist in the forest now thanks to reintroductions. Goshawks were returned in 2000 and appear to have established a foothold – at a cost to those they feed off.

“you have to accept that when you bring these things back – just like goshawks themselves – it will have an impact. But how do you know what’s the norm? … chuck a new species back into the mix it’s obvious others are going to suffer”

The author welcomes the greater variety of creatures and despairs of the species in decline. He ponders how much man should be doing to bring nature into line with whatever is currently perceived as desirable.

“I believe that a little space goes a long way and sometimes all we really need to do is take a step back to let nature do its thing. A helping hand is sometimes welcome, but to think that nature needs constant micromanaging smacks of hubris and to my mind simply reflects our generally elevated sense of self-importance.”

He returns to this theme when filming dragonflies that thrive in and around a mire.

“Dragonflies have lived in perfect harmony with the planet for [280 million years], while the way we treat it makes me sometimes wonder whether we are as sentient as we like to believe.”

Aldred’s knowledge and appreciation of his surroundings are inspiring and instructive. I was, however, somehow pulled up short when he described a visit to a couple who raise birds of prey in captivity. This is done for the purpose of training them to fly alongside a camera. The author states that these birds make regular appearances in David Attenborough documentaries. While much of the footage is skilfully captured wild animal behaviour, it appears some is staged – and this disappointed me.

Not that such revelations are a reflection on the book. It is simply another nugget shared by a man whose work brings life in the wild to a wider audience. If changes are to be made to protect the wild creatures, people must be made aware of the dangers modern developments pose. Goshawk Summer offers a fascinating window into the lives and habitats of many forest visitors and dwellers, and their complex interrelationships. Man doesn’t need to be banned from the benefits of existing alongside but rather to be educated in how to minimise the damage currently wreaked by rapacious usage.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Elliott & Thompson.

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