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March 2020 Reading Round Up

March has been a month, hasn’t it! We’re just into our second week of lockdown here and my house has been in self-isolation for almost three. I like being indoors during winter as I’m not a cold weather person at all, but I do miss being able to go out and about as spring arrives. We had one day without the internet working and that was difficult; being able to be online really helps. The initial poor response by our government led, the day after they essentially announced they weren’t going to do anything, to a massive number of people deciding they would stay home, so the lockdown, when it came, was more relief than anything. And now here we are.

I haven’t read all that much; I’ve been reading for podcasts but I’ve still some to finish – anyone else finding it difficult to concentrate? My guess is it’ll be easier as lockdown becomes more and more normal. Given the number of good things that have happened during this awful time – wages paid by the government; lots of kindness; a more socialist idea of society; the environment! – I do wonder if it would be difficult, especially the more this whole thing continues, to go back to normal life without that ‘old’ normal being changed somehow.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Caroline Lea: When The Sky Fell Apart – A group of residents live through the Nazi occupation of Jersey. A great, if harrowing, book.

Laura Pearson: I Wanted You To Know – A young mother is diagnosed with cancer and as she struggles through the changes to her world and future she writes letters to her daughter for the girl to read after she is gone, making preparations and healing relationships beforehand. An incredibly emotional read; difficult but important.

Weike Wang: Chemistry – The unnamed narrator has been proposed to by her boyfriend twice and can’t find it within herself to say yes; there’s a lot of confusion – she’s struggling with her PhD and is unconsciously still suffering from the neglect of her parents. A search for identity where the reader is more privy than the character, this is an excellent book full of vignettes, humour, and boasts an interesting writing style.

I haven’t a favourite this month; I appreciated all of them. I’m currently reading Dan Richards’ Outpost, where the author travels the globe to explore isolated stopovers for those walking in the wilderness (accidentally perfect timing), Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar Of Wakefield which is very funny, and Caroline Lea’s second novel The Glass Woman which is set in 1600s Iceland and currently seems to have a woman in the attic thing going on – very intriguing.

What are you reading, how are you, and how are you keeping busy where you are?

10 Years Blogging + Podcast

A screenshot from The Sims showing a birthday party

On 4th March my blog turned 10; it’s a milestone I’m still surprised by. I’m hoping to celebrate offline at some point, but for now here are the stats:

Posts: 1302
Reviews: 497
Most viewed post: The Ending of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening
Most viewed review: Joanna Cannon – The Trouble With Goats And Sheep
Books read, including re-reads: 602

I started this blog because I was starting to really enjoying posting reviews to my short-term ‘everything goes’ blog and because I’d started to read book blogs and thought defining my subject would be a good idea. It indeed turned out to be the case. I love blogging; I know I’ve fallen behind sometimes but my passion for writing about books continues and I am also very happy with how the podcast is doing. I had thought to start a podcast before I began hosting live events and I’m glad I got my you-know-what into gear and got it started. Books are awesome, the blogging community is awesome, and you readers are awesome.

Thank you all for being with me on this journey. Stay safe, and stay at home.

Today’s podcast is with Laura Pearson! Email and RSS subscribers: you’ll need to open this post in your browser to see the media player below.

Charlie and Laura Pearson (Missing Pieces; Nobody’s Wife; I Wanted You To Know) discuss the process of grieving for various members of a family, writing a book about cancer when you are working through the same, and changing stories almost entirely from their beginnings.

To see all the details including links to other apps, I’ve made a blog page here. You can also subscribe to the podcast via RSS.

February 2020 Reading Round Up

Reading in February was mostly in view of podcasts. I have a couple of carry-overs too. The fourth of March marked 10 years of this blog being online. I will celebrate it at a later date with stats and so on.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Fran Cooper: The Two Houses – A couple buy a holiday home that is in fact two houses, one house with the middle missing, and when they go to put them back together they start to unravel the mysteries therein. Fab.

Fran Cooper: These Dividing Walls – The various lives of those in an apartment building in Paris, set against the current day sociopolitical background. Excellent.

Laura Pearson: I Wanted You To Know – At 21, new mother Jess finds a lump in her breast and as she continues her hospital appointments she writes a series of letters to be given to her daughter. A heartbreaking book, very difficult to read, but important.

Laura Pearson: Missing Pieces – When Phoebe dies, aged three, the resulting grief has a massive impact on her four surviving family members. A very good book that looks at different modes of grieving and the way communication and support is paramount (and a re-read).

Laura Pearson: Nobody’s Wife – Emily and Michael are newly married and Jo has just met Jack, but Emily isn’t sure about Michael and the newly-introduced Jack is very much like the men she always fell for. An easier read compared to Pearson’s other books and very different in content, but also very good.

No favourite this month; all are great books.

I’m currently reading more for podcasts, though I’ve also got a 1700s classic on the go. No further plans than that at the moment.

What are you reading?

Camilla Bruce – You Let Me In + Podcast

Today’s podcast is with debut novelist Camilla Bruce! Email and RSS subscribers: you’ll need to open this post in your browser to see the media player below.

Charlie Place and Camilla Bruce (You Let Me In) discuss the darker side of faerie, being as in the dark about answers as your readers are, survival and coping methods following trauma, and the habits of cats inspiring your work.

To see all the details including links to other apps, I’ve made a blog page here. You can also subscribe to the podcast via RSS.

Book Cover

It is effectively all up to you.

Publisher: Bantam Press (Random House)
Pages: 259
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-787-633136-2
First Published: 5th March 2020
Date Reviewed: 4th March 2020
Rating: 5/5

Cassie has disappeared; the elderly romance writer has left a manuscript for her niece and nephew to read that contains the password they require in order to get their inheritance. Cassie wishes to tell them her side of her life’s story, and weaves in excerpts of the book her therapist wrote about her. It’s a dark story – faeries, husbands murdered and recreated, family problems and ownership.

You Let Me In is a Gothic faerie-inspired thriller that makes you want to speed-read it until you get more information.

The book is incredibly well-written and structured; using two effective stories, one Cassie’s narrative, and the other content from the book written by her therapist, you get two sides of the same basic story. This allows you to form your own conclusions, which is very much the point. There are no full answers in this book, it’s one for thought and reader decision, enough that it will linger in your mind for some time whilst you come to your own conclusion as to what really happened and who is telling the truth (though truth in itself is not necessarily easy to delineate out to the people involved). There are no right or wrong answers – again, this is very much a book for readers.

Bruce’s narrative for Cassie is wonderful; Cassie’s story is in the form of a manuscript – you are reading the manuscript-sized letter that she has left for her niece and nephew – and it’s a clever one, because whilst you’re reading about the various family members and finding out what they are doing, so to speak, you’re also not actually doing that at all. Everything you read – potentially even the excerpts of the Doctor’s book – is seen through Cassie’s viewpoint; for all you know, the niece and nephew may well never read the book.

A key part of the book is Cassie’s mental health and situation. There are a number of possibilities in regards to the meaning behind her experiences of the faerie world. Has she been abused by parents? Can she actually simply see faeries where others cannot? Is she just a liar? Without narratives from those she mentions it’s obviously harder work to come to a conclusion but it keeps you reading.

Bruce’s use of Cassie’s narrative also the Doctor’s aids you in your quest. The Doctor’s book gives you a more practical (if that word can be used when the faerie world may be real) idea of what Cassie might have gone through. The excerpts from this book in a book show potential coping methods.

It’s difficult to say that You Let Me In doesn’t provide answers, even though it doesn’t really. Similarly it’s difficult to say it doesn’t end with the threads tied; as said, this is a book for readers. If you are happy to come to your own conclusions when reading fiction you will enjoy it a lot, but even if you prefer more answers you won’t necessarily dislike it because in its own way, the answers are there for the taking, it’s just that what you find might be different to another reader’s.

And that is all rather fitting; a book potentially about faeries, a being that we still ponder over.

It is an incredible book, difficult at times but very much worth it and for all its relatively short length it has a great deal of staying power.

I received this book for review.

Podcast Episode 09: Fran Cooper

You’ll have to forgive me for a bit longer, readers. I’ve been unwell and still getting back into the swing of things. Conversations are a lot easier to be had than blog posts, so here is today’s podcast:

Charlie Place and Fran Cooper (These Dividing Walls, The Two Houses) discuss open mic nights, current and recent sociopolitical situations in Paris (and the world), the way we talk about women and motherhood, and the complexity of relationships.

The main page with the various links, is here. Transcript will be coming soon. Photo credit: Alex Mantei.


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