Boxes by Pascal Garnier – #ReadingtheMeow2024 #20booksofsummer24

Translated by Melanie Florence It’s a while since I read any Pascal Garnier novellas. Gallic Books have published translations of twelve of his dark tales told with an even darker sense of humour after the prolific author turned towards noir in the 1990s, and Boxes is the fifth I’ve read, so plenty of treats still Read More

Review catch-up – novels by Marian Engel & Alicia Drake

I managed to sign up for rather a lot of blog tours – but for some fab books – in May, which has meant the other books I’ve read have rather had to take second fiddle. Time to catch up with a couple. Bear by Marian Engel First published in 1976, reprinted by Daunt Books Read More

Beirut Station by Paul Vidich – blog tour

This espionage novel was my first encounter with Vidich, who has previously written five more. In Beirut Station, given the current political situation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, with Hezbollah watching in neighbouring Lebanon, the timing of the publication of this thriller set in Beirut back in 2006 when the Hezbollah and Israel were Read More

The Beaver Theory by Antti Tuomainen, blogtour

Translated by David Hackston And so we come to the final part of Antti Tuomainen’s Rabbit Factor Trilogy featuring the awakening of Henri Koskinen, an actuary, a man who thinks in numbers. It began in The Rabbit Factor when Henri learns he has inherited his brother’s adventure park, the failing YouMeFun. Henri discovers that Juvani Read More

The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson – blogtour

Translated from the French by David Warriner The Bleeding is an unusual crime novel with three timelines covering three different eras, combining a millennial police procedural strand set in Québec, with two historical threads, one set in post-WWII Québec in 1949, and the other older still in 1899, in Belle-Époque Paris. The focus of each Read More

Bellies by Nicola Dinan

If I were to reduce this novel to a single line, it would be: ‘Boy meets boy, but when boy becomes girl, can love survive?’ This is the essential plot of Bellies, but that would be doing this complex novel a real disservice, the relationships aren’t as straightforward as that suggests. We follow the lives Read More

Black River by Nilanjana Roy

I’m delighted to be one of today’s stops on the Pushkin Vertigo blog tour for this gripping noir novel by Indian author Nilanjana Roy. Although billed as a murder mystery, and there is indeed a murder to be solved, it is also very much a ‘state of the nation’ novel bringing the religious politics of Read More

The (Jazz) Baroness by Hannah Rothschild

A couple of weeks ago, I read a novel called Viper’s Dream by Jake Lamar which, in its early 1960s timeline featured ‘Nica’, the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter – a daughter of the Rothschild family who abandoned her Baron diplomat husband for jazz, and specifically bebop pianist and composer Thelonius Monk. Best novel I’ve read Read More

Beautiful Shining People by Michael Grothaus – blogtour

I must admit that reading the first few pages of this novel, by American author Grothaus, I thought 372 pages of this… will I make it to the end? Something I would do my best to do because I’d signed up for the blog tour. Well something clicked and I couldn’t put the book down. Read More

The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas #NordicFINDS23

Translated by Torbjørn Støverud and Michael Barnes I discovered the beautifully observed novella The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas (reviewed here) during last year’s Nordic FINDS, it was as much a hit with me as everyone else who had been reading it since Penguin brought out their new Modern Classics edition. Penguin followed up with another Read More

Betty Boo by Claudia Piñeiro: Blogtour

Translated by Miranda France This intriguingly titled noir reprint from Bitter Lemon Press came emblazoned with a quote ‘An Argentine Patricia Highsmith’. That’s an awful lot to live up to, given that Highsmith was famed for her dark twisty plots, told without unnecessary embellishment, but, there’s something in that epithet, and Piñeiro is highly respected Read More

The Black Dog by Kevin Bridges

There is one sense in which the pandemic lock-downs have been a good thing: for many who were sure they had a novel inside them, all those months at home provided the concentrated time to try writing it. One of those new novelists is the Glaswegian comedian Kevin Bridges, who is famed for his storytelling Read More

Two reviews in short & 20 Books of Summer Plans

Firstly, a few words on my plans for 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746 Books. Cathy is such a forgiving host, allowing us to choose our books, be it 10, 15 or 20 however we want; cheating and swaps are allowed – even encouraged! Consequently, I’m not going to nominate 20 specific Read More

#NordicFINDS – Iceland Week – a final quirky novel

Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir Translated by Brian Fitzgibbon My final read of #NordicFINDS is a quirky novel that slightly took me back to nearly the beginning of my project this year, for Butterflies in November has some similarities in its narrator with Bess in The Murder of Halland, except that this time Read More

The Beresford by Will Carver – blog tour

I do love a horror novel that has a strong sense of dark humour, (cf my love for the books of Grady Hendrix here, here and here). Somehow I’ve not managed to encounter Will Carver before, but after reading The Beresford I’ll be exploring his back catalogue soon, for this novel is genuinely creepy but Read More

Review Round-up – Thompson, Bythell & Cowen / Hayes

Beeswing by Richard Thompson In the mid-80s I discovered British folk music, thanks to friends Jon and Jan. An essential part of my education was Fairport Convention and Richard Thompson, although it’s fair to say that Thompson’s solo work really took off for me a little later with his wonderful 1991 song 1952 Vincent Black Read More

A strange hybrid self-help book

The Brain Fitness Book by Rita Carter This is a strange hybrid of a book. While it’s obviously aimed at the middle-aged, I couldn’t quite work out precisely which of us it is aimed at. Let me explain a little about the contents. The book has four main sections. The first, ‘How the Brain Works’, Read More

#QuickReads 2021

Quick Reads, developed by the Reading Agency is celebrating 15 years of the scheme today. That’s 15 years of encouraging those who don’t read, or find reading difficult, as well as those who don’t have time to read much, to pick up one of their novella length £1 books, written by some of our best-known Read More

Short Non-Fiction for Novellas in November #NovNov – Bill Bailey!

Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to Happiness Saturday nights have been bright again since Strictly returned to our screens – the absolute highlight not being the fit young things, but the utter seriousness being given to learning to dance given by Bill Bailey, partnered by Oti. (with Ranvir and Giovanni delighting too). Bill is clearly trying Read More

20 Books of Summer #11-12 – de Hériz & Aboulela

The Manual of Darkness by Enrique de Hériz Translated by Frank Wynne I’ll be writing this book up more fully for Shiny’s ‘My Summer Reading’ slot, in which reviewers highlight an older book they’ve been reading, but I’ll write about it in short here as it’s just still Spanish Lit Month as hosted by Stu Read More

20 Books of Summer #7-8 – The Melrose Novels #2-3 by Edward St Aubyn

See here for my review of the first novel in this series, Never Mind. I know that some of the events happening in that novel are hard to take, especially as they’re surrounded by such mordant wit, but I’d urge those who gave up after the first book, to carry on with the second – Read More

Great Idea but, again I wanted more science…

Body Tourists by Jane Rogers I should be reviewing the pile of books sitting beside me, but having finished this one yesterday, I just had to get my thoughts down straight away. The last book I read by Jane Rogers was her 2011 Booker longisted The Testament of Jessie Lamb (reviewed here). Although I loved Read More

Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist Blogtour

Black Car Burning by Helen Mort This is my second post for the Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist Blogtour, and I couldn’t have picked two more contrasting books (my first was Exquisite Cadavers by Meena Kandasamy, reviewed here). They may have been contrasting in subject matter and style, but both were intense and thought-provoking books to Read More

Paul Auster Reading Week: The Brooklyn Follies

I was looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn, and so the next morning I traveled down there from Westchester to scope out the terrain. I hadn’t been back in fifty-six years, and I remembered nothing. Auster has a good way with opening lines, doesn’t he? I was instantly drawn in to Read More

A book with no words that speaks loud and clear

Bad Island by Stanley Donwood You may have heard of Donwood through his longterm collaborations with Radiohead, or have seen his gloriously colourful cover for Robert MacFarlane’s Underland (right) which came out last year, (indeed Donwood has collaborated with MacFarlane and others on various other illustrated books). I came to Donwood first, however, via a Read More

Review catch-up – Pickett, Knox and Mackesy

As everyone who works in a school knows, the last few weeks of autumn term are simply manic! Normal lessons are interrupted for Nativity rehearsals, carol service rehearsals, trips, other Christmassy events, then the Nativity production itself which was sweet (as ever) and then this weekend we’ve had our staff outing back to back with Read More

Nemirovsky for the 1930 Club

It’s the latest decade reading club hosted by Simon and Karen.    We’re heading back to 1930 this time – a year that doesn’t feature much on my shelves. I have already read and reviewed two prominent books of that year (click on the titles to go to my reviews): Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh and Read More

In Brief:

Catching up on books read with short reviews… Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi Translated by Geoffrey Trousselot A short Japanese novel about time travel set in a café was always going to have to be read by me! It ticks all the boxes on the face of it, and I was hoping Read More

3 shorter reviews – Bissell, Hunter, Ross

Barnhill by Norman Bissell After the end of WWII, George Orwell left London to live in a remote farmhouse on Jura in the Hebrides. It was there at ‘Barnhill’ that he brought together all the ideas that had been fermenting in his brain into the book that became 1984. Bissell’s novel tells the story of Read More

20 Books of Summer #5 & #6 – Greer & Hustvedt

I’d expected to read more books in July than my list shows, having been on ‘school holidays’ since July 5, (although slaving at home on and off for a fortnight on the School magazine). But then I look at my bed – which is where the books I’m reading tend to sit – and there Read More