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August 2020 Reading Round Up

August got the better of me; I didn’t read as much. I spent a lot more time gaming than reading but I did get back to books I started a few months ago, namely James Rebanks’ A Shepherd’s Life, which I borrowed from my dad a year or two ago…

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Midge Raymond: Forgetting English – A collection of stories based around the themes of travel, and women trying to live with the career versus family issue. Rather awesome; there’s lots going on here away from the obvious things that an inevitable number of characters and storylines brings, and the attention to the details Raymond has chosen is wonderful.

Midge Raymond: My Last Continent – A cruise ship is heading a little too much towards Antarctica and Deb knows that lover Keller may be on board. A good book about a titanic-like shipwreck with lots of information about Antarctica and what we need to do to save it.

Peter Ho Davies: The Fortunes – Four stories connected by Chinese American history, racism, passing, and that rubbish idea that all Asians look the same: we follow 1800s Ling as he works for a Chinese American laundryman and white American railway construction company owner; Hollywood star Anna May Wong discusses her career progression which is marred by racism; a fictionised friend of Vincent Chin discusses the night of his death and what followed; and John travels to China with his wife to adopt a baby, already having lots to think about on the subject of being Asian American now and throughout history, and finding even more now as he goes through the last stages of the handover. An utterly fantastic book – the handling of the subjects, and the writing and language in general is superb.

Peter Ho Davies: The Welsh Girl – A German man, Jewish by Nazi standards, becomes an investigator for the Allies and works on getting information from Rudolph Hess; meanwhile, Esther deals with a short relationship that goes very wrong and the introduction of a German POW into her life; said POW, Karsten, tries to make sense of everything including his surrender on the behalf of those with him. A difficult one to summarise without spoilers, this is an interesting book that looks at aspects of WWII we don’t often hear about, and deals with them in a unique way.

I’ll pick a favourite from both the authors, because that’s a lot easier than picking a favourite over all – Raymond’s My Last Continent, Ho Davies’ The Fortunes.

For September I’m continuing Christina Courtney’s Echoes Of The Runes, Roselle Lim’s Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop and I need to get to Orlando Ortega-Medina’s Savior Of Sixth Street; I’m late on that.

What do you plan to read in these next few weeks?

 
July 2020 Reading Round Up, Pausing Wednesday Posts + Podcast

The start of August got a bit lost, another trip to the vet and stress-related illness for the humans, this time due to rabbit escape artist antics; I’m slowly getting back on track. Reading in July was all for the podcasts; Tracy Rees’ backlist in particular is quite substantial when it comes to page count per book. I’m listing these books by author, and publication date.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Sofie Laguna: One Foot Wrong – A young girl lives in her parents’ home all the time, isolated; her friends are common household items and her parents are not good to her and as she gets older things do not improve. This is a very difficult book to read in the sense that it’s about horrific abuse but the telling of it is incredible.

Sofie Laguna: The Eye Of The Sheep – Jimmy sees things differently to other people though he doesn’t quite know it, but he does know about the tentacles in his mother’s chest that cause her problems, sees his dad struggle, and often can’t help himself from running around for ages; the family situation as it is is not sustainable and we see the changes through Jimmy’s eyes. A fantastic book about a child who defies a label, and his very normal, everyday family, living in the 70s and 80s.

Sofie Laguna: The Choke – A young girl from a bad background struggles to live her life despite her inability to understand what’s going on around her. A brilliant look at the cycle of abuse.

Tracy Rees: Amy Snow – Upon the death of her friend/mistress, a young woman sets out to discover what happened when said friend left home for a longer period than expected. Very good book, totally set in its Victorian period.

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Tracy Rees: Florence Grace – A young girl living in relative poverty in the Victorian period is employed for an evening as a servant for a party, and she meets a boy with the surname Grace – who isn’t going to be her husband. I don’t want to spoil the story so I’ll leave it there; this is as enjoyable as Amy Snow but pretty different and more Dickensian and Emily Brontë than Amy Snow’s Austen and Charlotte Brontë.

Tracy Rees: The Hourglass – Nora quits her well-paid but mundane job when she keeps seeing a beach in her mind’s eye, a beach she knows; meanwhile Chloe is growing up in the 1950s, visiting Tenby in Wales on her summer holidays and looking forward to growing up, perhaps too much. Again, I’m trying not to spoil the story – this is a fantastic dual-plot novel, perfect for summer days.

Tracy Rees: Darling Blue – 1920s – Blue’s father, drunk at her party, declares that whomever can win her love via letter will be given her hand in marriage, which doesn’t go down well with her; meanwhile working-class Delphine runs away from her husband but falls asleep on the train and wakes up further down the line, in Richmond where Blue’s family lives. An interesting look at the ’20s, this book incorporates both fantastical and fun ideas, and sobering social factors (the issues for women when men returned to the workplace post-war).

Tracy Rees: The House At Silvermoor – 1890s – Tommy is growing up to be a miner but hopes for more, and during this time he meets Justine who lives in the next town; they become friends and Tommy shares his dreams but might it be that Justine, with her striking hair that looks more akin to that of the owner’s niece, has more of a chance? A light fantasy/fairy tale set in the industrial period.

So far in August I’ve read Peter Ho Davies’ longer works and I’ve started Midge Raymond’s My Last Continent which I first read a few years ago. I’ve got a couple of other books ready to start, and in one case, continue, after that.

On the subject of Wednesday posts, I have decided to press pause on them for now and move to a twice weekly posting schedule of Monday and Friday whilst this pandemic is ongoing. I’m finding it difficult to keep up with everything at the moment and have to pull back a bit, give myself a bit more space in between. I don’t intend it to be permanent – my plan is to reinstate it once there’s a vaccine and that constant background stress we’re all feeling dissipates. This should make my posting more routine again; overwhelm of things to do has affected it a lot.


The latest podcast episode is with Tracy Rees. Email and RSS subscribers: you may need to open this post in your browser to see the media player below.

Charlie and Tracy Rees (Amy Snow; Florence Grace; The Hourglass; Darling Blue; The House At Silvermoor) discuss Richard, Judy, Dickens, Austen, and Brontë – not all at once – coffee houses in Victorian times, landslides and hourglasses, changes to the Yorkshire mines in the late 1800s to early 1900s, and the inclusion of the average person in historical fiction.

To see all the details including links to other apps, I’ve made a blog page here.

 
June 2020 Reading Round Up

The rabbits are almost there. We had to go through what I can only describe as emotional flashbacks but there have been no more fights, only two minor arguments (both decide to hog the litter tray at various times). Taking a blogging break was a good idea, though I’m happy to be back.

I read a good amount in June; I only finished three books but I had a couple on the go, so that July currently stands at two. Here’s what I read and finished.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Abubakar Adam Ibrahim: Season Of Crimson Blossoms – When Reza breaks in to Binta’s house the woman finds a desire for him under her terror and when he returns in peace they begin an affair. This was a re-read; a very good book about a relationship between a young gang leader and an elder of the community that looks at society as well as the self.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim: The Whispering Trees – A collection of short stories full of folklore and magical realism. This has to be one of the best collections I’ve ever read; I reviewed Susmita Bhattacharya’s Table Manners earlier this year and the quality of it; Ibrahim’s collection is of similar calibre though very different in content, and the shocks and surprises get bigger and bigger as the stories continue.

Roselle Lim: Natalie Tan’s Book Of Luck And Fortune – After her mother dies, a woman travels back to her childhood home in San Francisco’s Chinatown where the locals are being pressured to move out; Natalie’s grandmother was a highly-regarded cook and restaurant owner and as Natalie gets used to being home she starts to consider the choices she made, her relationship with her mother, and the role she can play in breathing life back into the area. A great story that looks at a variety of cultural, personal, and economic discussions with a strong helping of magical realism.

I enjoyed this month’s reading a lot, and I think that enjoyment is what I’m going to remember over any specific story. I read some of each outside in the good weather, which was lovely (the temperature’s since dropped) and really helped the continuing bit of frustration I have over the pandemic.

In July I’m going to be doing more re-reading and have a couple of review copies to get to, which is quite novel at this time. I’ve Roselle Lim’s and Orlando Ortega-Medina’s August releases and very much looking forward to.

How are you getting on in this ongoing new normal, and what have you been reading?

 
May 2020 Reading Round Up

It has indeed been a breakthrough: I read seven books this month. I have been out in the sunshine but more than anything else, and this will come as no surprise, quality and variety helps. And that quality and variety including old favourites helps even more. Here’s what I read in May as I planned podcasts, supervised a couple of bunny arguments (who would have thought that stealing your sibling’s food from their mouth repeatedly would make them upset), and looked to emulate literary pleasure from those times when we all used to go outside and visit each other.

The Books
Non-Fiction

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Nicholas Royle: Mother: A Memoir – Royle looks at his childhood, brought up by his mother, and her impact on the family. A fantastic book that’s very different to a regular memoir, full of word play and literary aspects.

Fiction

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Chibundu Onuzo: Welcome To Lagos – A group of individuals from very different backgrounds end up living and working together in their quest to find a better life; this leads also to the introduction of an ex-government minister and a journalist (this is simplifying it – there’s a lot going on that would need more sentences to explain). A very good book that uses its group of varied people to do what it says on the cover.

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Isla Morley: Come Sunday – The young daughter of Abbe, a woman who is struggling with her general situation, dies in an accident and Abbe has to wade through the repercussions of this whilst learning to live with her grief. An exceptional look at extreme grief and bad circumstances and the process towards acceptance and hope.

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Isla Morley: The Last Blue – 1937: a photographer and journalist travel to find out the news on the ground but instead discover a situation they could never have expected; outcast away from the town centre is a family with two young adult children whose skin is somehow permanently blue. An excellent book that fictionises a real medical event to brilliant social commentary effect.

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Shannon Stacey: Yours To Keep – Emma told her grandmother that she was engaged so that her grandmother wouldn’t worry about her when she moved to Florida, but Emma chose as her pretend fiancé a very real person who has just returned and with her grandmother on her way back for a trip home, Emma needs Sean’s help in keeping up the pretense.

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Terri Fleming: Perception – Continuing the stories of Pride And Prejudice’s Mary and Kitty Bennet, Mary, who does not expect to marry meets a young gentleman who asks her to help him catalog his father’s library; Kitty who is expected to marry, finds a prospective suitor amongst the family’s acquaintance but he’s not well thought of. A fab sequel, firmly in the vein of Austen.

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Zoë Duncan: The Shifting Pools – A woman who has pushed aside trauma from her childhood (her family were killed in war) finds the pain catching up with her; whilst this happens, a distant land called Enanti awaits the coming of a woman prophsised to aid them. A wonderful story of affects that looks at (possible) allegory in order to tell its tale.

Four new books and three older favourites. Of the new books, I think Come Sunday just about pips the others to the post – they were all pretty excellent.

I said last week that I wasn’t sure what book I’d pick up next – this morning I started Christina Courtney’s Echoes Of The Runes.

What genres are you reading at the moment?

 
April 2020 Reading Round Up

As discussed last week, I have a number of books on the go, so it’s not surprising that I finished very little this month; beyond a small reading slump that has coincided with the onset of rain (I’d been reading mostly outside) reading a number at once means I’m in right about in the middle of a few.

In unrelated news, I watched My Fair Lady on bluray yesterday and it was like I’d never seen it before. If it’s a film you enjoy, I very much recommend the bluray – it makes the theatrical aspect far more obvious and somehow brings more clarity to the slightly ambiguous (wholly ambiguous?) ending. It was like it was released yesterday.

The Books
Non-Fiction

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Dan Richards: Outpost – The author travels to various buildings and locations around the globe that are isolated, seeking to discover why they draw us, and what their various roles in creativity are. Good stuff; some of it is unexpected but that does round it off well.

Fiction

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Caroline Lea: The Glass Woman – A young woman in 1600s Iceland agrees to marry the leader of another settlement so that her mother will always have money, but the man seems to hide a secret, and they say he killed his wife. This one creeps up on you – the story goes along fairly steadily for a long time, with some Brontë/Du Maurier aspects before turning into something rather spectacular; it’s a well-written, haunting, last several chapters.

No thoughts of favourites; I’m looking at reading in terms of enjoyment – did I enjoy my reading, as an interest? Yes. The variety definitely helped and my laid back attitude to it all did, too. Looking forward, I’m going to continue as I have been [pauses typing as a massive booming firework goes off and after a shock I realise it’s 8pm on a Thursday in UK lockdown], just perhaps not add any more books to it until at least one is finished…

Due to our present situation, I’d like to note that Nicola Cornick’s The Forgotten Sister (link goes to my review) was released yesterday. On 14th May, Nicholas Royle’s Mother: Memoir, will be released (he wrote An English Guide To Birdwatching – awesome literary fiction with a lot of meta content). Finally in late May, Isla Morley’s The Last Blue will be published.

What kind(s) of stories are you drawn to at the moment?

 

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