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November 2017 Reading Round-Up

It’s beginning to look a lot like but not quite feeling so. The weather here has been very mild and it’s rather as though Spring is on the way. Up until mid-November I was reading a lot so there’s a fair number here, but I did lose my way after that with a long book I’ve not yet finished and am still to get myself back on track. I’ve prepared some Christmas reading – books set at Christmas rather than books for Christmas – which includes contemporary romance as it often does; I find finding Christmas romance very easy but books in other genres are difficult. I am thinking of creating a reading list going forward as I reckon actively factoring in different sorts of books will help slumps. It’s one thing to know that reading an easier book after a difficult one works, another to remember that at the time.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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April Munday: The Heir’s Tale – A man back from war finds himself torn between his betrothed and the woman he has always wanted to be with. A well-set book with a good use of different points of view.

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Hanif Kureishi: The Last Word – A writer is charged with creating a biography of a literary giant and ends up travelling to the man’s home. No plot or characterisation to speak of.

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Helen Oyeyemi: What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours – A literary collection of short stories, most with a magical realism/slightly creepy factor. Excellent.

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Lewis Carroll: Through The Looking-Glass – Alice wants to know what it’s like in the reversed, mirrored, version of the house she lives in; she goes through the mirror and finds herself in a wonderland. Good but not as well crafted as the more famous story.

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Louise Douglas: The Love Of My Life – Against all advice, Olivia goes back to her home town, back to the familial abuse and the in laws who do not want her there and blame her for everything. Good, but you have to be prepared for the affects of the hatred to never go away.

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Louise Douglas: The Secret By The Lake – Amy returns to work for the family she loved after tragedy strikes but it’s a difficult place to be and there’s a lot of disturbances that she finds difficult to get answers to. Very good.

The Oyeyemi was my favourite – absolutely outstanding; I am again tempted to try more of her work. I am glad to have finished the Kureishi – I had been looking forward to reading it but it did fall very short of expectations.

Quotation Report

None this time – there are some great quotations in the Carroll but I’ve repeated them a couple of times recently already.

It’s high time I got to those Young Writer of the Year books. This year’s shadow panel have chosen Julianne Pachico’s The Lucky Ones as their winner so I’ll be starting with that.

How are your preparations for the festive season going and/or what books are you looking forward to reading over the holidays?

 
October 2017 Reading Round-Up

Well, I’m back with time to blog properly. I’ve not got any posts drafted besides this one but I do have one in the planning stage for Friday. The last 12 days have been absolutely packed – our festival was 10 days which meant a lot of time doing the usual work in the office, then out in the evenings, and at some other point – whenever I had time – I’ve been writing up my notes and editing photographs. I’m still working on the last bit as there is a lot to cover. This past Saturday was our finale day; we had a transport heritage group situate 4 vintage buses alongside the old town walls and each deck became a ‘stage’ for various local poetry groups. Half-way through the afternoon the Southampton Ukelele group gathered outside and played a set which drew a lot more people over (we were in the same area as a new shopping/restaurant complex) and the weather was perfect. It was 28th October and we were taking our jackets off and pulling up our sleeves.

My In Conversation with A J Waines went very well; I’ll post more about it later once we’ve edited the photos and video. As for my reading, it’s not gone badly. Lots of reading in the small moments. There are 4 books on the list but for my own peace of mind I’m saying to myself I read 5 books – I’ve 70 pages left of the Hanif Kureishi.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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A J Waines: Girl On A Train – When Anna sits down beside someone on the train she is frustrated by their constant fidgeting and confused by the look they give her as they go to leave at a small station; then, as the train begins to move again, it ploughs into something. A thriller that is nothing like the book of a similar name but just as good if not more so.

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A J Waines: Lost In The Lake – When psychotherapist Sam takes Rosie on as a client she reckons it’s just about helping Rosie recover her memories of a terrible accident, but it turns out there is more to the accident than thought and Rosie thinks there’s more to their relationship than there is. A fantastic, highly developed thriller that looks into the reasons behind decisions.

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Lindsey Hutchinson: The Workhouse Children – When Cara finds out she had siblings she goes looking for them in the workhouse; seeing the conditions she makes a pledge to get the residents out into good homes and paid work. Highly unrealistic and no real plot.

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Nicholas Royle: Ornithology – A short story collection on the theme of birds, this book includes stories about twitter and stalking, the similarities between birds and humans, a futuristic concepts. Very original and rather horrific but in a good way – it makes you think.

I very much enjoyed the Royle but my favourite this month was Lost In The Lake. As coincidental as it sounds, considering I interviewed the author, the structuring and overall planning of this book is exceptional. My least favourite is pretty clear.

Quotation Report

The line I highlighted in the Royle:

Out of context, it doesn’t make sense. Out of context, nothing makes sense.

This month there’s the promotion for the Young Writer Of The Year Award and April Munday’s latest to get to. And I’ve my next author event happening on 23rd November with Louise Douglas. I’m incredibly excited about it – I loved The Secrets Between Us and can’t wait to ask her about the Daphne Du Maurier influence. I’ll be reading her first and latest books in preparation.

What are you reading and are the shops where you are already stocked for Christmas?

 
September 2017 Reading Round-Up

I was pleasantly surprised to find I’d read four books this month. It’s been a long four weeks and I’d forgotten a couple of them… actually I thought the Ramaswamy might have been it. With everything that’s going on at the festival, home fixing, and my own events, I didn’t expect to have much to list here, but here it is. I’ve one more review deadline to make and then I’ll be moving on to reading A J Waines’ backlist for my Conversation, so next month may look a bit samey but with good reason. I’m already planning December – on Saturday I bought my first Woolf, and I’ll likely be reading The Essex Serpent and the new Philip Pullman (finally!)

The Books
Non-Fiction

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Chitra Ramaswamy: Expecting – The author chronicles the nine months of her pregnancy, filling the pages with details, commentary, and bookish references. A book about pregnancy that’s interesting to both parents and those who don’t plan to have children.

Fiction

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Fanny Blake: Our Summer Together – Separated from her husband and watching him get with a much younger woman, Caro realises it’s time to live her own life and when a younger man from a different country enters, she throws caution to the wind. Sweet, but it’s got a slight sheen of patronisation to it.

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Lesley Glaister: The Squeeze – Romanian Marta goes to meet the man at the hotel against her intuition; she’s trafficked to Scotland; meanwhile Norwegian Mats travels to Scotland for work and decides against his better judgement to join a coworker at a brothel. Quite good, but full of editing problems.

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Orlando Ortega-Medina: Jerusalem Ablaze – A collection of short stories about the darkness inside of us. An awesome book that’s a fulfilling but easy read (for good reason – the author says himself the stories are to entertain rather than send messages).

Two favourites – the Ortega-Medina and the Ramaswamy. In terms of reviewing, the first wins, but I enjoyed them both a lot.

Quotation Report

None this time.

As busy as it’s going to be, I’m looking forward to this next month. Though there will also be relief when it’s over, perhaps best shown in the way I originally accidentally titled this post ‘October’ reading round up.

What are you currently reading?

 
August 2017 Reading Round-Up

Lots of reading this month – I decided early that I wanted to make up for the last two and I managed it. The small moments helped but just making a firm decision and stopping yourself from watching a film (or Mozart In The Jungle in my case, the follow up series to the last several months’ Parks & Recreation) is great. I can’t say I remember having many conversations about a topic other than books but for one month that’s okay.

The Books
Non-Fiction

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Adrian Mourby: Room’s Of One’s Own – Wanting to find out about and experience the spaces past writers have inhabited and worked in, the author journeys around the world to visit them. An okay book; often Mourby is denied access to the buildings which means you end up reading his suppositions instead, and there is a distinct lack of diversity.

Fiction

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Alison Sherlock: A House To Mend A Broken Heart – A self-proclaimed bad housekeeper struggles to keep a large historic house clean without any estate income and when the Lord’s grandson arrives and schedules some builders the company may end up being dodgy but the man himself seems a winner. Lacking in chemistry, characterisation, and writing.

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Barbara Erskine: Sleeper’s Castle – When Andi’s partner dies and his long-gone ex-wife reappears looking for a fight, Andi travels to Hay-On-Wye to house sit and finds herself dreaming of people who used to live in the house… and it seems they are aware of her presence. Strictly okay.

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Eric Beck Rubin: School Of Velocity – Jan’s lined up to play in front of an audience, one of many occasions he’s done so, but this time the random music in his head is too much to bear; he takes us back to his childhood, his extremely popular and extroverted friend, and a relationship that he’s still to get his head around. A super book about the lasting affects of a friendship and a whole lot about music in all its technicality.

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Isabella Connor: Beneath An Irish Sky – When Jack’s estranged wife is killed in a car crash he doesn’t want to visit the hospital bed of the teenager people are calling his son but he does, even if it would upset his snobby parents; he still doesn’t know why his wife left him and young Luke’s councillor is interested in helping. The basic story is all right but there are some stereotypes, and the relationship between Jack and his son’s trauma councillor raises questions.

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Kitty Danton: Evie’s Victory – Britain during World War Two; Evie wants to be a better person. There’s no plot to this book – it’s a series of social calls – and there is far too much telling and explaining of commonly understood things.

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Naomi Hamill: How To Be A Kosovan Bride – The story of two women from the day of their weddings, one who passes her virginity test but doesn’t like her husband, and another who fails and goes to university instead. A wonderful book interwoven with stories of the conflict and folklore tales.

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Terri Fleming: Perception – With Jane, Lizzie, and Lydia married and away, there are just two girls remaining, and whilst Mary doesn’t think she’ll ever marry there may be a bookish man out there for her. A sequel to Pride And Prejudice, this is a very well told book with an excellent use of language, great knowledge of the characters, and no fear in sticking to the idea of less action in a story… and there is a fair amount of time spent organising library.

I think the Fleming just gets it this month in terms of pure enjoyment – it’s an easy read and a very pleasant surprise (I’m suspicious of sequels). In terms of literary appreciation the Hamill wins with the Rubin following swiftly afterwards.

Quotation Report

In School Of Velocity, Jan recommends a musician use the energy in the air as the house lights go down as a kind of armour. Then there’s this:

Accompaniment is a particular skill. You are the bridge between the audience and the soloist, a lens that magnifies the leading melody, a handler to the outsized personality next to you, one player who sometimes has to be two.

And in Rooms Of One’s Own, Mourby quotes from William Morris (“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”) which makes one wonder whether Marie Kondo is a fan.

The coming month is likely to be chock-a-block. I’ve a lot of reading to do – we’ve secured an author for the conversation in Southampton for So:To Speak – and I’m working with the festival generally, which means lots of content to write. But I’m very much looking forward to it; by the end of October I imagine we’ll all be exhausted but hopefully it will pay off in spades.

Did you make a rough goal of how many books you wanted to read this year, and, if so, are you on track to achieve it? (I’ll probably be somewhere between my usual 50-60.)

 
July 2017 Reading Round-Up

I tend to read a fair amount in the month of July, be it in the number of books I read or page count, but this time I’ve finished very little. It’s been an overcast month (being outside away from electronics helps) and seeing my nephew a lot more than usual ensured I spent more time answering multiple proliferations of questions rather than concentrating on books. Many evenings have been spent playing Monopoly and Mouse Trap. For once, I regret nothing in terms of numbers, even if I’ve now a huge pile to read post haste.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Susanna Kearsley: The Shadowy Horses – When Verity is offered an archaeology job in Scotland she takes it and decides to keep it even when she meets the leader of the dig who is basing his theories on supernatural events. A fair book but Kearsley leans too much on a fictional/literal Scots dictionary, constantly halting scenes.

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Tove Jansson: Letters From Klara – A collection of short stories with a subtle underlying theme. You need to make time for it, because subtle really is the word, but it’s good.

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Zoë Duncan: The Shifting Pools – A woman who suffered war-based trauma as a child and has yet to heal goes through her grief, eventually finding herself in a fantasy world where the people require strength to fight battles. It’s difficult to sum this up well – saying there is a fantasy world sounds, well, too out there, but it really works; a wonderful book.

Duncan’s book wins this month, hands down. I loved it; the fantasy element could be considered too lengthy but the structure of the book and general way it’s all been written is exceptional. It’s worth reading the back story, the author’s childhood, that is the reason for the book.

Quotation Report

In The Shifting Pools, Duncan puts forth the concept of getting over something, healing, and studies it, saying why time doesn’t heal, it merely allows you to scab over, to find new ways to live. Stasis rather than healing.

In theory, August should be packed.

How is your summer/winter going?

 

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