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 – 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 – July 2020

July has had its highs and lows. The early part of the month brought with it some welcome client work, thereby adding a structure to our weeks that has been missed. Work is still entirely from home, for the time being, but is a step in the right direction.

Elder son changed jobs, moving to a trainee position in his profession of choice, a year after graduating. In the interim he has worked in a local factory and then a supermarket – real life experience that will, I hope, result in greater appreciation of how privileged he is in so many ways. Daughter passed her end of year exams and has now returned to London to complete her final year at medical school. Our little household will remain at four as younger son’s university informed him learning will be online until at least January. His expensive student accommodation lies empty but must still be paid for.

It had begun to feel that we were moving forward after the stasis of the lockdown months. We watched as shops, pubs and restaurants started to reopen, albeit with restrictions. A lovely hairdresser visited our home, cutting my and daughter’s hair while wearing rather offputting PPE. News that gyms and swimming pools were to grant access to their facilities was welcomed.

And then came the announcement that mask wearing was to be made mandatory in shops as well as on public transport. The polarisation of opinion this created caused a massive spike in my stress levels that has still to abate. I wrote about my reaction in a personal post: Mask wearing and other plague related issues. I will now be avoiding enclosed public spaces for the foreseeable future: On not wearing a face mask.

I continue to try to manage my anxiety with exercise – long walks and bike rides in the still beautiful countryside, plus regular runs that push me to my physical limits. I miss the strength training gym membership offered and await news on restrictions these establishments will be forced to work to. Elder son returned to training on opening day and I may join his town centre gym. The little local facility I have been a member of for years cannot yet know when it will be permitted to open fully and freely.

I hurt for the small businesses that will not survive mandated restrictions, the employees facing redundancy and the stress this brings. It feels to me at times that a section of society is so concerned with not dying that they have forgotten how to live. Risk exists in many chosen activities.

In amongst all else that has been happening, I still turn to my books. Reading cannot offer the relaxation and escapism I crave in these times of uncertainty – I struggle to concentrate for long periods – but I still gain pleasure from appreciation of fine writing.

I reviewed 9 titles in July: 7 fiction (1 translated) and 2 non fiction. In addition, Robyn contributed 9 reviews.

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

 

Fiction

 
Patience by Toby Litt, published by Galley Beggar Press
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce, published by Doubleday

 
The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams, published by William Heinemann
The Silken Rose by Carol McGrath, published by Headline Accent

 
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue, published by Picador
The Blackbird by Claire Allen, published by Henningham Family Press

I am running a Twitter giveaway of The Blackbird that will close at 5pm on 31/7/2020. Do consider entering for the chance to win a copy of this truly beautifully bound and illustrated book – it is well worth reading.

 

Translated Fiction


A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti (translated by Fionn Petch), published by Charco Press

 

Non fiction

 
Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, published by Quercus
Not Far From The Junction by Will Ashon, published by Open Pen

 

Robyn Reviews

 
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, published by Jo Fletcher Books
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, published by Hodder & Stoughton

 
The Story of Silence by Alex Myers, published by Harper Voyager
The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune, published by Hodder & Stoughton

 
The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant, published by Harper Collins
The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi, published by Mantle

 
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
The Year of Witching by Alexis Henderson, published by Bantam Press


Circe by Madeline Miller, published by Bloomsbury

 

Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She received her first physical ARC this month as well as making a couple of hefty purchases.

     I

I took delivery of some intriguing sounding books, many of which I couldn’t help but read immediately.

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, speedy recovery from any illness, and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

Random Musings: On not wearing a face mask

Masks are now mandatory in many more places than previously, a ruling backed by legislation and enforced by fines. This is just a short post to request, once again, that people be kind to those who appear to be ignoring the requirement to cover their nose and mouth. Failure to comply may not be selfishness as some commentators are implying.

I read the following article this morning: Deafblind woman and sister verbally abused for lifting mask on train. The reaction reported added to my concerns about venturing into shops or using public transport. It is not the plague I fear but rather a public willing to loudly condemn those who do not act as they desire. It looks like bullying to me and can be just as damaging.

To be clear, I have no plans to put myself – masked or not – into enclosed public spaces. If I am considered a danger to others then I will keep away as much as I can. I do not wish to add to discomfort felt in these already difficult times.

I have my grocery slots for home deliveries booked and can manage a while longer without other purchases. Travel by bus or train will only occur in an emergency.

It is the potential for such an emergency that led to me adding a possible face covering to the grab bag I carry when out on my walks or bike rides. The thought of wearing it, however, fills me with a dread I find hard to define. I will keep my exemption card to hand but still fear its dismissal. I do, after all, mostly look and act fine.

It is not just wearing a mask that would be hard for me personally, it is the thought of encountering a mass of others with their faces covered, and being punished by them for not doing likewise.

 

As I have said before, the long term damage to health and wellbeing from this pandemic goes much further and deeper than the risk posed by a coronavirus.

Something is changing on the blog this month

Never Imitate has taken on an intern. There are two main reasons why this came about.

1. Time has become fluid

For a still unspecified time we remain confined to home and its surrounds. In my other life – which I rarely mention – paid work dried up just a few weeks into lockdown as clients became aware that restrictions would remain in place for much longer than first anticipated. Budgets were reconsidered and projects deferred. The future is a concerning unknown.

With acres of free time unexpectedly available, and the potential for getting away removed, husband and I have been looking after our mental health by keeping active. We have long enjoyed our exercise but, with the closure of gyms, had already moved activity entirely outdoors. We own no home gym equipment but do possess bicycles, running shoes and stout boots. Each day we cycle or run or walk along the local lanes and paths. This offers a reminder of the beauty of nature – of life going on despite the anger oozing out around us on various media, exacerbated by enforced confinement.

Being out and about fills a satisfying portion of my day. Having family around me when home is also a pleasure – thank goodness we all chose to lockdown together. A larger household does, however, create a degree of additional work. And all of the above has had an effect on my ability to focus for extended periods, particularly on reading. I can no longer fully escape inside my books.

Obviously, with reading curtailed, the number of reviews I am able to write for the blog is reduced. I decided that another contributor may prove useful.

Regular followers know my tastes in books. To add some spice to the blog, what I was looking for was a reviewer who enjoyed quality titles I would be unlikely to pick up myself.

2. Readers enjoy a wide variety of writing styles

I consider my reading to be fairly eclectic but do have preferences – and entire genres I tend to avoid. I have a vast TBR pile – it makes sense that the books I select from it are those I expect to enjoy.

There will be occasional crossovers between my choices and the titles my new contributor reads. In these instances, some of you may be interested in comparing our reviews.

Mostly though, our reading piles differ markedly. For example, she is an avid fan of fantasy fiction. One other notable difference in our reading habits is her acceptance of ebooks, thereby granting access to Netgalley. In lockdown, with physical proofs much less widely available, it has proved a valued resource.

I am hoping that the blog will benefit from the broader selection of books reviewed. Coming soon then, look out for Robyn Reviews.

 

Read the bio: About Robyn, Never Imitate’s Intern

Monthly Roundup – May 2020

We have survived our second full month in lockdown. Sadly, it seems this diminuation in personal freedom is the way life must now be – if pillory is to be avoided. With the slight easing of official constraints recently, those who live in and around my village are at least exercising more freely. We pass each other on local lanes and footpaths, pausing briefly to enquire about well being. Still though, households confined together are rubbing along with barely suppressed cabin fever. Social media reflects a growing frustration over a range of issues as people try to cope with the imposition of previously unimaginable restrictions.

Our paid work dried up earlier than anticipated so husband and I have been filling the acres of free time with: runs, bike rides, walks. It would seem we require targets to aim for, and chase personal bests on activity apps. I joined Strava as a means to engage with others who exercise as I do. Ideas for fresh routes have been shared and enjoyed.

With the start of exam season my student children are dealing with remote testing. I wrote a post about some of the issues we face living in the countryside where internet access is not entirely reliable.

My elder son has his birthday in May and we did our best to celebrate. Confinement together remains better than being apart. I ponder how we will look back on this family time when it is history.

I reviewed ten books this month with an even mix of fiction and non fiction. Click on the cover below to learn more about the book, and on the title to read my review.

 

Fiction

 
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, published by Tinder Press
The Mating Habits of Stags by Ray Robinson, published by Lightning Books


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, published by Bloomsbury

 

Short Stories


The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland edited by Sinéad Gleeson, published by New Island Books

 

Poetry


Grenade Genie by Thomas McColl, published by Fly on the Wall Press

 

Non fiction

 
Mother: A Memoir by Nicholas Royle, published by Myriad Editions
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty, published by Little Toller

 
The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times by Paul Anthony Jones, published by Elliott and Thompson
A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong, published by Canongate

 

For Bookmunch


The Idea of the Brian: A History by Matthew Cobb, published by Profile Books

 

Not book related

I posted this tribute to my parents who both died at the end of last month – something I am still processing.

 

Sourcing the books I read

The Royal Mail managed to deliver one book purchased.

Four other books arrived for me to consider reading.

 

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, speedy recovery from any illness, 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 2020

April has been surreal. I am still trying to fathom how our government achieved this lockdown with so little protest from the wider population (for the avoidance of doubt, although I am questioning certain decisions, I am adhering to guidelines on proscribed activities). Yes, the media has whipped up a frenzy of fear of this new plague but with people’s livelihoods and future prospects on the line I expected more reasoned debate. It is only now, however many weeks in, that articles are appearing in newspapers pointing out the wider cost of these measures. It is not as straightforward as health vs wealth. Unless protected by personal assets or a benefactor, regular income and a home are necessary for survival.

Even in lockdown we cannot entirely avoid contact with other people. When we are eventually freed, the virus will not have been eradicated from everywhere.

I feel despair for those who have built small businesses and must now face the prospect of failure due to the imposed restrictions. I feel despair for the young people whose future prospects have been stymied. It is stressful for us all not knowing what the eventual fallout from lockdown will be. Saving lives is more complex than a soundbite suggests. Stress and loneliness can also kill.

And then there is the blame game. The opinionated will no doubt remain vocal as they try to use the trouble this is causing to promote their personal, political agendas.

I am aware that I am stating my opinion here. I am aware that I know little about this new virus – that will require careful research, probably lasting years.

On then.

We want some positive news!

Until I was struck down ten days or so ago with the recurrence of a chronic health issue that temporarily prevented me going much further than my garden (I know, I am lucky to have outdoor space), I enjoyed some notable outings on daily exercise. Husband purchased a new bicycle and set up his old one for our daughter. Thus we could all enjoy cycling the highways and byways that surround our home. We are fortunate in living within easy reach of many interesting, scenic, and currently eerily quiet places.

I was also out running two or three times a week and set a new personal best time over the 10k distance. My longest run is now 18k. I had been aiming to achieve a half marathon so hope my running legs return to form once I am properly up and about again.

The fence that blew down in my garden, forcing my free ranging hens into lockdown (they have a spacious enclosure), was finally replaced. I had missed watching them scratch around widely and sunbathe. We are all happier to see them wander where they will.

The weather in Wiltshire has been mostly amazing. Spring has sprung and I derived much pleasure on walks admiring the bluebells and wild garlic carpeting local woodland. As the month progressed I watched as pretty blossom and leaves appeared on trees. Farmers are keeping busy and crops are growing in the fields. I feel blessed to live in the countryside. Even from my bedroom, where I have been forced to rest and recover, I could watch the changes and remember the cycle of life continues.

And I am now slowly recovering. Debilitating pain is a reminder of the true value of good health.

But also…

I received news last weekend that my father had died. He had suffered a variety of health issues in recent years so, although the specifics were something of a shock, his death was not totally unexpected.

 

I posted reviews for 11 books this month: 4 novels (1 translated); 2 poetry collections; 2 short story collections; 3 works of non-fiction (2 memoirs). Click on a title below to read my review. Click on the cover to learn more about the book.

 

Fine Fiction

 
The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Rofley, published by Peepal Tree Press
Wild Dog by Serge Joncour (translated by Jane Aitken and Polly Mackintosh), published by Gallic Books


Saving Lucia by Anna Vaught, published by Bluemoose Books

 

Two more books from Open Pen – a novelette and a poetry collection

 
Never Seen the Sea by Holly Watson, published by Open Pen
Bad Boy Poet by Scott Manley Hadley, published by Open Pen

 

Short Stories

 
Carrying Fire and Water by Deirdre Shanahan, published by Splice
A Stone Statue In The Future by Benjamin Myers, published by Bluemoose Books and Little Toller Books

 

Originally reviewed for Bookmunch 

Long form poetry and a fascinating account of Britain’s canals

 
The Martian’s Regress by JO Morgan, published by Jonathan Cape
Waterways by Jasper Winn, published by Profile Books

 

Non Fiction

Two very different memoirs

 
This One Is Special by Suzanne Askham, published by O-Books
Jolts by Fernando Sdrigotti, published by Influx Press

 

Literary Events

At the end of last month my favourite literary prize was announced online. I wrote a post to signal boost the occasion as their party, to which I was invited, had to be cancelled due to lockdown.


The Republic of Consciousness Prize 2020

 

I agreed to take part in a blog tour as it is being run to highlight books that would have been considered for another literary prize I value – the Wellcome Book Prize – which is on hiatus this year.


Reviews of: Constellations, and War Doctor

 

Sourcing the books I read

Purchases made have been slow to arrive this month. The only ‘book’ received was the short story by Benjamin Myers – a digital download that I made into my own hard copy.

Do please consider purchasing this (for only £3) as it will help raise much needed funds for two fabulous, small independent presses whose finances are struggling due to the current situation. Click on the picture below for further details.

Two publishers did manage to get books to me. With many publicists working from home ebooks are being offered. Apologies but I prefer to wait for hard copy.

 

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, speedy recovery from any illness, and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx