The 1944 Club and a wartime classic

1944 is the latest year selected by Simon and Karen in their biannual reading years club.  When I looked at my shelves, I didn’t have much choice from this year – Colette’s Gigi, which as a short novella I’ll try and squeeze in, and my choice below were the only ones immediately to hand (although I think Read More

Two in short: Tremain and Laurain

Because the authors’ names rhyme, and I haven’t got a huge amount to say about these novels, despite enjoying them both a lot, here’s a twofer for you: The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain This was our book group read, discussed back at the start of the month. It was mostly a hit with our Read More

The Ultimate Toilet Book for Christmas?

Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott I wish I’d thought of the central idea in this book – it’s a classic of pedantry that had me guffawing so many times. Devised by a dad and son combo, it’s aimed firmly at others like them, especially those who grew up from the 1970s Read More

The immigrant experience in a North London estate

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne Gunaratne’s novel was longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, but sadly didn’t make the shortlist. It has now been shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize – an award that celebrates creatively daring fiction. Daring it is, for never have I read a book where the dialogue Read More

RIP XIII: A Dystopian SF Horror Fantasy

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer I just adored Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy (see here). His ability to create a genre-defying, strange but real feeling version of our world is unparalleled, and he does it again with Borne.  The setting is in the future after some kind of devastating event, involving the Company – a mysterious organisation Read More

French YA Fantasy – Vol 1 of 4: Can’t wait for Vol 2!

A Winter’s Promise: Vol 1 of the Mirror Visitor Quartet by Christelle Dabos Translated by Hildegarde Serle Publishing YA books is a bit of a departure for Europa Editions, but they’ve taken on the English translation of this French bestseller, and I loved all 492 pages of this first volume. Couldn’t put it down, and Read More

Who better to talk about the surrealists?

The Lives of the Surrealists by Desmond Morris Surrealism was originally more than an art movement, it was a philosophical code – a way of living that rebelled against the establishment.  Originating in  1920s Paris, following the Dadaists in WWI, it spread world-wide. The term ‘surrealism’ was coined by Apollinaire a few years before two Read More

An understated but moving novel with the cutest cover ever!

If Cats Disappeared From the World by Genki Kawamura Translated by Eric Selland I think the little kitten on this book must rank amongst the cutest cats ever to grace a cover.  What you can’t see from the picture above is that his eyes are highlighted with gold, glinting at you, and daring you to Read More

A standalone thriller that’s far from Slough House…

This is What Happened by Mick Herron This is going to be a short review… Mick Herron is the author of the utterly brilliant Jackson Lamb series of spy novels, following the workers of Slough House, where agents get put out to pasture. (If you haven’t read them, see here, here and here!)  He’s taken Read More

Shiny Linkiness: Aug into Sept

Over the past few weeks, I’ve reviewed three cracking new novels for Shiny New Books… … Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale Gale’s latest is just lovely. This novel is a wonderful blend of coming of age story, small-town childhood, friendship and finding oneself, bound up with a love of music, cello music in Read More

Book Group Report: Purple

The Purple Cloud by M.P. Shiel Continuing our Book Group selections inspired by colours.  At our June meeting it was time to nominate ‘purple’ books to read in August and discuss at the beginning of September.  Our initial shortlist was: The Colour Purple by Alice Walker Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg (Wioletta being Polish for Read More

Fake or Fortune? Rachman takes on the art market…

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman Engaging from the first page, this is a story with two main themes. Firstly, art and the art market – if this book were to have a subtitle, Fake or Fortune’ couldn’t be more apt, as in that BBC TV programme where art dealer Philip Mould with sidekick Fiona Read More

One challenge ends, another begins: RIP XIII

The RIP Challenge is now in its thirteenth year! I’ve never signed up before, but the basic premise of this one should be a doddle for me given my penchant for dark books as autumn gets into full swing. Find out the full details and participation levels of the challenge here.  The purpose of the R.I.P. Read More

A London Day Out

On the last of our London days out these summer holidays, my daughter and I experienced several real treats (at half-price entry thanks to our Art Fund Passes, which have got a lot of use this summer)… Stop 1 – The House of Illustration – John Vernon Lord and Enid Marx The House of Illustration Read More

Très charmant! J’ai adoré ce roman

With You in Paris by Clémentine Beauvais Translated by Sam Taylor After the excess of English whimsy (thanks for that phrase, Liz!) of The Brontes Went to Woolworths, I needed a palate-cleanser of a read. Usually, I turn to thrillers, but this book on my bedside shelf caught my eye, and it was just the perfect Read More

A kind of surgical history

Under the Knife by Arnold Van de Laar Translated by Andy Brown I love reading books about medicine in all of its many disciplines, and books about surgery are often amongst the most fascinating. Subtitled “The History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations”, this book promised a interesting take on the subject. In the introduction, Read More

20 Books of Summer: 8 & 9 – St John Mandel & Ferguson

The Singer’s Gun by Emily St John Mandel After the brilliance that was Station Eleven (reviewed here), I’ve been keen to read more by the Canadian author, finally managing it with this one, her second novel from 2010.  While The Singer’s Gun differs thematically from Station Eleven, Mandel’s style of writing, with its elegant observational Read More

Winterson’s powerful debut novel

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson I don’t know how I’ve managed to escape reading Winterson’s debut – I’ve read (and loved) her autobiography Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, (reviewed here), and I very much enjoyed the TV adaptation of this book with Geraldine McEwan playing the fearsome mother. Read More

Shiny Linkiness

I don’t always have time to link to my reviews over at Shiny New Books, but I have to share this one far and wide. Viv Albertine’s second volume of memoir was published in April. I saw her talk about it at the Faber Spring Party, and she was funny and lovely, and through writing, Read More

Can you cheat fate?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin I’ve been itching to read this novel due to its clever premise since I first got my hands on a copy. I’ve finally made time for it. How long would you live your life if you knew the day you were going to die? This is the central question, emblazoned Read More

20 Books of Summer #6 & #7 – Gavalda & Bourdouxhe for #WITMonth

A double-pronged duo today. I can cross off books 6 & 7 from my 20 Books of Summer list and they are both translated from the French by women translators and thus perfect for Women in Translation month, which is hosted by Meytal at Biblibio every August. Billie by Anna Gavalda Translated by Jennifer Rappaport Read More

Six Degrees of Separation: Atonement

Hosted each month by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest, Six Degrees of Separation picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps. Our starting book this month is … Atonement by Ian McEwan Shocking, I know – but I’ve not read it!  I have seen the film though – and one Read More

Agatha Christie meets Harry Potter in a fantasy whodunnit…

The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton I knew that this debut novel for 8-12-year-old children would be something special, as Nicki won the  Times Children’s Fiction Competition in 2016 with this book. Part of the prize was to be published by children’s book specialists, Chicken House, run by Barry Cunningham (who used to work Read More

Review catch-up:

Playing review catch-up, I have three rather different books for you today… Don’t Skip Out on Me by Willy Vlautin It’s ages since I read this book which I got from the Faber spring party where Vlautin, who is in a band too, sang and played his guitar for the audience. Since then, the film Read More

Paris in July 2018 take two: Simenon & Laurain

Two short reviews for my second contribution to Paris in July – an annual tag hosted by Thyme for Tea which I love doing each year. A Man’s Head by Georges Simenon Translated by David Coward A Man’s Head was the ninth Maigret novel, originally published in 1931, I read David Coward’s 2014 translation in the new Penguin Read More