Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

October 2020 Reading Round Up + Podcasts

October was quite busy as reading and podcasting goes. I was a little under the weather for a few weeks of it – torn muscles (there’s definitely a limit to how much housework can be done at once!) – so I was pleasantly surprised by how many books I finished, and more so when I noted the ones I had on the go that were almost finished. There were days to read outside which was lovely. And during my mandatory no-more-housework days I got through the BBC’s Ghosts which I highly recommend, and Love Life which seems to be BBC/American, a well structured romance/drama sort of series by and starring Anna Kendrick. I can also highly recommend the Cary Grant/Katherine Hepburn Bringing Up Baby if you’ve not seen it – it’s on iPlayer for several months and is pretty hilarious. Don’t read the film summary; not knowing what it’s about made it even better.

The Books

Book cover Book cover Book cover

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. This was a re-read: a super book about the lasting affects of a friendship and a whole lot about music in all its technicality.

Intisar Khanani: Sunbolt – On the run from the puppeteers behind the government. A diverse quasi-Asian/Eastern fantasy that’s brilliantly written and thrilling, but is short in terms of plot – this was a re-read: there is now a second book out (this was a re-read) and knowing that means that the issue of length is not a problem. The second book is also a lot longer. In essence, it’s best to go into the novella with a plan to continue the full story. The series as a whole is utterly fab.

Intisar Khanani: Memories Of Ash – Hitomi, now somewhat better and with more magical knowledge, looks to find her mentor who has had to leave to be questioned by the Arch Mages. This is the book mentioned above: it’s full of diversity, very well planned and written and just an absolute riot – a brilliant book full of hope and reader fun against a backdrop of evil.

Book cover Book cover Book cover

Marianne Holmes: All Your Little Lies – Local teenager Chloe is missing, and Annie realises she’s probably the last one who saw Chloe that night… except that she was drunk and so didn’t see anything, had driven home drunk, and before that had entered her boss’s home without permission after he told her to leave the pub the team was socialising in; difficult to explain. An incredibly well-planned novel exploring PTSD and the effects of trauma and alienation from society.

Orlando Ortega-Medina: The Savior Of 6th Street – Virgilio’s artwork is bought by a wealthy woman; Beatrice wants to make him a star but this means leaving behind a lot and being among people very different to those he values, people with connections to the underground. Hopefully that brief premise is enough – this is a very good tale about art and an effective clash of a couple of different worlds that uses as its literary base the religion of Santería, weaving religious concepts into its chapters.

Tammye Huf: A More Perfect Union – The potato famine in Ireland has left Henry’s family destitute; he travels to America in the hope of a better life and whilst looking for work meets Sarah, a house slave walking back to her plantation from an errand; the two become close and the ultimate goal is to escape, which will prove more difficult than Henry could ever expect. A fantastic story, based on the author’s great-great-grandparents, that in its use of romance amongst an appalling situation manages to highlight all the more the horrors of the slavery era whilst maintaining that feeling of hope for those who escaped.

This was a very strong set of books, all very different and so difficult to compare in any way. I loved the Holmes for the author’s careful handling of her character’s situation; I loved the Huf for that excellent balancing of romance and the history; the Ortega-Medina was compelling for its use of Santería, the way it was used as a crucial aspect yet carefully placed as to sometimes appear abstract; Khanani’s Chronicles were a lot of fun (despite the bad guys) and refreshing; and re-reading the Beck Rubin was a delight.

Looking at November, I’m happy to say I’ve a couple of Deborah Swift books to read – the subtextual answer there is ‘yes’ and I’m looking forward to it! Earlier this month I finished Roselle Lim’s Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop which I hope to review soon – it’s going to be quite a different review for good reason, and the basics are ‘loved it’. And I’ve got a couple of Young Writer of the Year shortlisters waiting for me. I’m also starting to look at books I started earlier in the year and didn’t manage to finish – Christmas is going to be very quiet this year and unless my nephew commandeers all my time for gaming over the Internet (which I wouldn’t mind), there’s going to a lot of reading involved.

Has the pandemic changed your reading, and if so, in what way?


Owing to my lesser ability to use a computer recently, I’ve two podcast episodes to include here. Email and RSS subscribers: you may need to open this post in your browser to see the media players below.

Episode 25: Intisar Khanani

Charlie and Intisar Khanani (Thorn; Sunbolt; Memories Of Ash; the forthcoming The Theft Of Sunlight) discuss working to better the health of people in Cincinnati, rewriting and exploring the Goose Girl fairy tale to stunning effect, bonkers jail-breaking heroines, and men who take a far more subtle approach than riding in on horses to save the day.

To see all the details including links to other apps, go to the dedicated blog page.

Episode 26: Eric Beck Rubin

Charlie and Eric Beck Rubin (School Of Velocity) discuss the representation of the Holocaust in literature, using classical music as a literary device, having a main character whose person limits the opportunity for dialogue through his obsession with another, and the reader being a writer.

Please note that the first reading contains sexual content.

To see all the details including links to other apps, go to the dedicated blog page.

 
September 2020 Reading Round Up + Podcast

September has been an all systems go month. During the latter half in particular, I was reading a lot, enough that I’m taking a break from it for a few days. As well as the list below I read all but a few percent of two more so there was officially more reading done but those books will be on October’s list.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

Book cover Book cover Book cover Book cover

Christina Courtney: Echoes Of The Runes – Mia would never have expected to see an exact copy of her own ring in the display cabinet of a Viking museum exhibit, but it happens and sets off a chain of events that see her co-leading an archaeology team with a handsome expert, digging up her grandmother’s lands… and being called to echoes of a story of early medieval romance in Viking Sweden. A fun time slip with a good back story and an interesting use of the concept of coincidence.

Intisar Khanani: Thorn – When Princess Alyrra is betrothed to Prince Kestrin, she’s not comfortable with the idea of travelling to his kingdom with Valka, who dislikes her, and the sudden appearance of a mage followed by a fae-like lady the night before has her more so; as Valka betrays her and the two womens’ bodies are switched Alyrra starts a different journey, one that will involve learning all manner of things about herself in order to turn back the changes, and all manner of things about her new kingdom that royalty are never privvy to. A superb fairytale retelling and adaptation, Khanani expanding on the ideas in the original Goose Girl to incredible effect.

Joanna Hickson: First Of The Tudors – A fictionised story of Jasper Tudor, son of Catherine de Valois and her second husband Owen Tudor, as well as Jane, mother of his illegitimate children, taking us from Jasper’s early years to the initial first campaigns to bring Jasper’s nephew, the future Henry VII, to the throne. A fantastic story, immersive, detailed, and just simply a very good book in general.

Joanna Hickson: The Tudor Crown – Centering this time on Henry and his mother Margaret Beaufort, the story takes us to the early days of Henry VII’s reign. As good as the previous book.

Book cover Book cover Book cover

Joanna Hickson: The Lady Of The Ravens – A fictionalised story of Joan Vaux, lady in waiting to Elizabeth of York, taking us from Elizabeth’s early days as queen (before her coronation) to beyond Joan’s marriage. With a change in over all focus to court life in the context of the experience of women, this book is both a sequel to the previous and its own story entirely; it’s also very good.

Nicholas Royle: An English Guide To Birdwatching – Silas and Ethel have handed their undertaking business to their son in exchange for a relaxing retirement by the sea, and meanwhile an unrelated Stephen Osmer is hammering out diatribes on his computer keyboard, but both stories are woven together in the form of their unfortunate connection to a literary critic called Nicholas Royle who has unwittingly upset them all. A brilliant piece of meta fiction by one of the two writers called Nicholas Royle.

Nicholas Royle: Quilt – His parents both having passed away, his father’s death very new, our main character moves into the house and starts to wonder about rays, the marine kind, eventually deciding to build a massive tank in the dining room and importing a few for his own. Difficult to say more than that, and it’s already giving a fair amount away – this book is a highly literary, meta, story about particular struggles and, in particular, death.

This has been an absolutely stellar month; I have a favourite, Thorn, but everything else was up there. There was a lot of immersive fiction too, with Hickson and Khanani being particularly excellent in this regard.

So moving (further) into October, I have some more podcast reads lined up as well as a couple of review copies I’m looking forward to.

What are you reading at the moment?


This week’s podcast episode is with Nicholas Royle (Quilt; An English Guide To Birdwatching; Mother: A Memoir). Email and RSS subscribers: you may need to open this post in your browser to see the media player below.

Charlie and Nicholas Royle (Quilt; An English Guide To Birdwatching; Mother: A Memoir) discuss killing yourself – your avatar – off in your fiction, using ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’, and sharing a name with another British writer who also writes fiction… that is also about birds…

Please note that the first reading is set in a public toilet and discusses explicitly concepts around discomfort in this regard, ‘size’, and so forth.

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

 
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

Book cover Book cover Book cover Book cover

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

Book cover Book cover Book cover Book cover

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.

Book cover Book cover Book cover Book cover

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

Book cover Book cover Book cover

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?

 

Older Entries