Book Group report: theme – ‘a recommendation’

East West Street by Philippe Sands Unusually, for a group that picks the books we read by theme – for October’s discussion, we went with a recommendation from another book group of a book that most of us would normally never have picked up. East West Street is a combination of family history during the Read More

20 Books of Summer #1 & #2: Rooney & Torday

Red Joan by Jennie Rooney You may remember the case of Melita Norwood, a British civil servant who passed secrets to the KGB for around 30 years after 1937. She wasn’t uncovered until 1999, but wasn’t prosecuted, dying in 2005, aged 93. Red Joan, Rooney’s 2013 novel was inspired by Norwood’s story (the recent film adaptation directed by Read More

Review Roundup

Catch-up time once again. Some shorter thoughts on some recent reads… The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon I read this as a buddy read with Rebecca at Bookish Beck – do go and read her fab post composed mostly from her twitter thoughts chapter by chapter here, so just a few Read More

Reading between the lines?

Transcription by Kate Atkinson I really must not wait so long to write my reviews. This was the first book I read in 2019! The good thing is it was such a good book, unlike other lesser fare, I haven’t forgotten what it was all about quite yet. However so many of my blog friends Read More

Review Catch-up #3 from 2018

Yet another pair of shorter reviews of books I read at the tail-end of 2018. Where Shall We Run To? by Alan Garner I shall be reviewing this book at length for Shiny but it warrants a short write-up here too. I am a big Alan Garner fan (see here), and I can think of Read More

Nonfiction November: Book Pairings

Nonfiction November is being hosted by Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Julie (JulzReads), and Katie (Doing Dewey). through the site What’s Nonfiction?  They have a wonderful programme mapped out for November here. The topic for the second week is “book pairings” – matching a nonfiction book with a fiction one, which Read More

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 Baltic Books Blog Tour #1

This year the Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are celebrating 100 years of independence with new translations of Baltic Books coming to the UK for the first time and a series of cultural events happening across the UK. The Baltics are also being honoured as the Market Focus at London Book Fair Read More

Book Group choice for April: Egypt

To War With Whitaker The Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly 1939-45 This month, our topic to choose a title was ‘Egypt’ – any book set in or about anything to do with the country. The nominations were: Death on the Nile – Christie Ice Cold in Alex – Christopher Landon Palace Walk by Read More

The Six Degrees of Separation Meme: Fever Pitch

Hosted each month by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest, this meme picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six steps. This month’s starting point is: Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby Now although I adore Hornby, this is a football book, so I’m unlikely to read it although as soccer books go, Read More

Shiny Linkiness

I can promise more reviews before Christmas, but in the mean time, here are some more links to my reviews in the latest issue of Shiny New Books… Old Buildings in North Texas by Jen Waldo This compact novel had me chortling from the first page. Olivia is a recovering from a heart attack and Read More

Clara Vine 4 – War Threatens…

Faith and Beauty by Jane Thynne I was so glad that Jane Thynne extended her Clara Vine series of books beyond the original planned trilogy. This series, centred in 1930s Berlin, with heroine Anglo-German actress-spy Clara, are so thrilling – each addition becomes a must-read for me. You can catch up on my thoughts about the previous Read More

Keeping up Appearances

A Quiet Life by Natasha Walter This is the first novel by Walter, who has previously been known for her non-fiction including her book on feminism Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism (2011). Now she has turned to fiction, and in A Quiet Life, she has based the bare outlines of her story on the life Read More

Winning the war on holiday…

Third Reich by Roberto Bolano Wanting to join in Spanish Literature Month hosted by Stu and Richard, I grabbed the first book I came to on my shelves which turned out to be my second experience of reading Chilean author Roberto Bolano. My first was reading the confusing and slightly surreal Amulet which I talked Read More

The Return of Clara Vine

A War of Flowers by Jane Thynne I am a big fan of the wartime adventures of Anglo-German actress and British spy Clara Vine’s first two outings in Black Roses and The Winter Garden, so I was delighted to get stuck into the third volume of Jane Thynne’s series to see what happened next to Clara. In the Read More

We followed our men to Los Alamos …

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit This is not a novel about the development of the atom bomb, but rather the development of the community surrounding the laboratory which produced the bomb. Most of the scientists who worked at Los Alamos were seconded to the military from all over the country in 1943 Read More

Back to Pre-WWII Berlin…

The Winter Garden by Jane Thynne Last year, I was thrilled to read Jane Thynne’s novel Black Roses, actress/spy Clara Vine’s first outing in 1930s Berlin, in which she became accepted in the high social circles of the First Reich’s wives. This was the story of how Clara came to Berlin to act in the Read More

“It’s the end of the world as we know it” …

Ragnarok by A.S.Byatt The Myths series of books by Canongate, is a set I’ve been collecting since their inception in 1995 – I’ve read maybe half of them so far though – something I must address! Every year or two, Canongate are adding titles in the series – short novels by esteemed writers. The latest Read More

Practice makes perfect?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson Way back, when Kate Atkinson’s debut novel Behind the Scenes in the Museum was published and won prizes, I bought a copy – and struggled with it. Me and it didn’t gel back then, and I’ve not bothered reading any other books by Kate Atkinson since, until now. I was Read More

‘A Duty-Dance with Death’ – ‘So it goes’

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut This was our book group’s choice for discussion in November. Whilst it’s fair to say that whilst nobody loved it, and some didn’t get on with it at all, it did provoke some good discussion. I quite enjoyed it, and would certainly read more by Vonnegut. My only previous experience with Read More

Q&A with Jane Thynne, author of ‘Black Roses’

Back in March, I reviewed a fabulous romantic thriller set in pre-WWII Germany. Black Roses by Jane Thynne is the story of Clara Vine, a young actress who goes to Berlin to pursue a film career and ends up as a British spy and confidante of Magda Goebbels, the infamous First Lady of the Third Reich. Read More

A novel of love, war, betrayal and stiff upper lip

Some Day I’ll Find You by Richard Madeley Richard Madeley slightly surprised everyone in 2008 when he published his successful memoir Fathers and Sons which explored male familial relationships through the mirror of his own. Despite journalistic roots, it was somewhat unexpected that one of the most successful daytime TV hosts and champion of the Richard Read More

Reading Thomas Keneally for Australian Literature Month

April is Australian Literature Month at Reading Matters. Kim is also generously donating 50p for each linked review to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation which gives books to families in remote parts of Australia, which is a fab incentive to participate! A swift perusal of my shelves came up with several authors to consider, including Kate Read More

When mothers fail their daughters …

Magda by Meike Ziervogel The past couple of weeks have seen the publication of not one, but two novels featuring the ‘First Woman of the Third Reich’ Magda Goebbels. The first was Black Roses by Jane Thynne – A spy story set in 1933 Berlin. I loved it and you can read my review here. Read More

A Tale of Two Women in 1930s Berlin

Black Roses by Jane Thynne Remembering Jane Thynne’s columns and reviews in the Daily Telegraph, and having read that she is married to thriller writer Philip Kerr, I had high hopes of her new novel, set in Berlin during the years preceding WWII. I wasn’t disappointed, for Black Roses is a brilliant historical thriller based Read More

A tale of motherhood across generations…

The Confidantby Hélène Grémillon, translated by Alison Anderson I got a letter one day, a long letter that wasn’t signed. This was quite an event, because I’ve never received much mail in my life. My letter box had never done anything more than inform me that the-sea-was-warm or that the-snow-was-good, so I didn’t open it Read More

From the archives May 2013: HHhH by Laurent Binet trans Sam Taylor

I reviewed this originally on my old blog in two stages – combined into one post here: Halfway Hangups: HHhH is the book du jour, the one that’s getting the blog-inches, mostly giving it glowing reviews. It won the Prix Goncourt in France, and Mario Vargas Llosa thinks it “magnificent.” For anyone who hasn’t encountered it yet, HHhH Read More