Now School’s out for me, I can breathe and get in some serious staying in bed with a book (and cats) in the mornings (fan on at the moment and through the heatwave), so I hope to ramp up my #20BooksofSummer22 books – I’m up to 10 already (by including recent backlist book group reads), so am on course to complete that challenge.
I’ve also managed to fit in a read for Paris in July – a tag which has been going for years. hosted by Readerbuzz and Thyme for Tea which celebrates everything French – which is just as well, as the book I read is set in Marseilles! I’m currently reading a novel translated from Spanish from Mexico – for the 10th Spanish & Portuguese lit month, hosted by Stu. Reviews coming soon!
I was going to have an Italian Fortnight straddling July-August – but have too many other commitments at the moment – so shall save that for another time.
I’m also running slightly ahead of schedule on my Goodreads target of 130 this year, which I upped from 125 last year. Before anyone takes issue with me for racing through books – I have more time to read these days – so I do read more. I am, though, horribly aware that I suffer from BABLE (Books Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy) and the TBR never seems to shrink…
Some recent Shiny Linkiness now for you…
The Half Life of Valery K by Natasha Pulley
Pulley’s fifth novel sees her moving into 1960s USSR, for a tale beginning in a Soviet gulag, which moves into something more sinister, as nuclear scientist Valery is transported from there to a secret town in the middle of nowhere to investigate radiation effects. At the beginning, of the novel, given the fantastical elements of her previous books, I had wondered if we were going to venture into Stranger Things territory with the radiation being caused by something alien. However, the truth is stranger than fiction, with the story being inspired by sinister real-life events, which makes it all the more shocking.
Valery is such a wonderful character, you can’t help but love this man who has had a hard half-life so far as a closeted humanitarian radical in Stalin’s world. The other star of this novel is Shenkov, the secret town’s chief KGB officer, who has to carry out awful and gruesome tasks on occasion but carries on in order to protect his family. The increasing friendship between him and Valery is touching and echoes that between Pulley’s previous protagonists. (There’s an octopus too!).
This novel will definitely feature in my year-end best of list.
Read my full review at Shiny HERE.
The Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris
I really enjoyed Fitzharris’ first book – The Butchering Art – about Joseph Lister’s introduction of antiseptic techniques in the Victoria era, while Wellcome Book Prize shadowing a few years ago.
She moves on to the Great War for her second book, which follows the career of Harold Gillies, the pioneering plastic surgeon, who re-built so many maimed soldiers’ faces. Gillies, born in Dunedin, New Zealand, was an ear, nose and throat surgeon, hard-working and ambitious but also unusually for surgeons – a real team player. He experienced the horrors at the front, returning to England to set up the Queen’s hospital in Sidcup which specialised in facial reconstruction, bringing surgeons, dentists, doctors and nurses from all over the world to give these poor soldiers the ability to breathe properly and eat again.
As in her previous book, Fitzharris offers an effective blend of biography and the history of medicine together with the stories of the horrors of the war. She doesn’t shy away from the gore, for it is what gave Gillies his raison d’être and humane desire to help to rebuild lives. The Facemaker is compelling reading and I recommend it.
Read my full review at Shiny HERE.
Coming Soon – August-December
The Susan Cooper The Dark is Rising Readalong
This year I have hugely enjoyed the #Narniathon21 hosted by Chris, rereading CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, one book per month.
It struck me that having a monthly read from classic children’s books – ancient and modern is a very good thing – and I immediately thought of another series that is so highly thought of, but one which I’ve never read… The five books of The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper, published between 1965 and 1977.
I am lost to understand why I never read these as a kid. In the mid to late 1960s I was reading all the fairy tales I could get my hands on, plus: Alice in Wonderland, Alan Garner, The Hobbit (LOTR came a bit later) as well as the Narnia books. Fantasy was my go-to subject – so why not these? As I got much of my reading from the library in those days, it was possible that they were always out on loan…
So I am planning to make up for that by reading one book per month from August to December – and if you’d like to join in, feel free – it’d be lovely to have you. I’ll probably post around the end of the third week each month and use the tag #DarkisRising22.