#BanksRead2021: 4 – The Dystopian One

A Song of Stone by Iain Banks There’s something about Scotland that suits dystopias of the military takeover kind–the abundance of castles, lochs and game all play their parts. Distant memory reminds me of the last episodes of the mid-1970s BBC series Survivors which had the plucky survivors in the Highlands, negotiating with a laird Read More

The Coming of Christianity and the Beginning of the Death of Magic?

Sistersong by Lucy Holland I read less fantasy these days, but when I do, there’s no type I enjoy more than that with an Arthurian or Dark Ages setting. Sistersong is exactly that, and I found it hard to stop reading this novel which occupies that fertile fantasy crossover land between YA and adult reading, Read More

Discovering a new indie press – Broken Sleep Books

A few weeks ago, I was directly contacted by a new author, Rosanna Hildyard, to see if I’d like to read her booklet of three short stories, Slaughter, published by Broken Sleep Books. I’m a bit cagey about responding to direct author requests, just in case I don’t get on with their work. (Once I Read More

Two more indies in translation: Yuri Herrera and Kristina Carlson

This year, I’m going for it as far as reading from my own shelves is concerned, continuing to read more from small presses, and more in translation. Of the latter, that’s 13/30 books read so far – ten languages from twelve countries. I’m pleased with that. If I can add more books from Africa into Read More

Hiiii, Ouaf Ouaf, Crôa Crôa, Coin Coin, Piit Piit

The Strays of Paris by Jane Smiley For those who don’t know their French animal noises (NB: I cheated and looked them up) above we have a neigh, woof, caw, quack and squeak. We can only hear these onomatopeic words, but the animals in Jane Smiley’s new novel can understand each other perfectly. Smiley hasn’t Read More

A feminist fairytale by Sally Gardner

The Snow Song I’ve followed Sally Gardner’s writing career for a long time now, ever since she first started writing (and illustrating sometimes) books for younger children, my daughter adored her Fairy Shopping picture book. Next, she wrote a series of wonderful children’s novels, moving on to YA (I reviewed The Door That Led to Read More

Three more Novellas for Nov, well Dec now

As I love novellas, I kept on reading them after the end of Novellas in November (hosted by by Cathy and Rebecca). So here are quick reviews of three more, all of which were superb: one each from Irish, French and Italian authors. Academy Street by Mary Costello Costello’s 2014 novella follows in the vein of Colm Tóibín’s Read More

A novella for #NovNov and #SciFiMonth

The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer Never has an idiom been less appropriate to apply to a book, than the opportunity with this one to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ as it fits two current tags! Jeff Vandermeer’s novels defy easy categorisation, combining SF with fantasy, horror, dystopias, eco-thrillers and more, demonstrating imagination in Read More

The Searcher by Tana French – Blog Tour

The new standalone crime novel from Tana French, author of the Dublin Murders series (my review of the first here), is that rare thing – a really slowburn multilayered mystery that delves deep into looking at all kinds of relationships – be they friends and family, neighbours, professional, or best kept at arms’ length. The Read More

Review Catch-Up

Not only have I been too busy and mentally wired the past couple of weeks to read much. I’m also way behind on reviewing, so a bit of a catch-up is in order, so two shorter reviews for you today! Firstly though, I watched Susanna Clarke in conversation with Madeline Miller on the Waterstones feed Read More

The Search Party by Simon Lelic – Blog Tour

The Search Party is Lelic’s sixth thriller, and having loved reading his first three (Rupture, The Facility and The Child Who) I was keen to reconnect with this author. The structure of The Search Party has a lot in common with his stunning debut: Rupture combined police procedural with psychological thriller in a cleverly constructed Read More

A Cracking Memoir – Mother by Nicholas Royle, and a DNF

Before I get into talking about specific books, an apology to all the lovely book publicists who have sent me review copies of titles out from mid-August onwards. THANK YOU! I will read and review all the books you’ve sent, but with the crowding of titles coming out on this year’s ‘Super Thursday’ – Sept 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

Japanese Literature Challenge 13: The Pain of the Clown

Spark by Naoki Matayoshi Translated by Alison Watts Just fitting in at the end of the season of the Japanese Reading Challenge 13, hosted by Dolce Bellezza, here’s my second contribution. (See here for my first.) In recent times, having read several Japanese novels which are understated but still thought-provoking comedies such as The Nakano Read More

Silver by Chris Hammer

Chris Hammer was a journalist for years before writing his first thriller, Scrublands, (see Kim’s review here). In Scrublands, investigative journalist Martin Scarsden visits a town in the bush where, a year before, a priest had shot at his congregation before being killed himself. He discovers that the accepted facts don’t fit and in doing Read More

A review assortment – Johnston – McGlasson – Dawson

I didn’t mean to leave a week between posts, but I’ve got some very welcome overtime at the moment, which means that everything else moves into blogging time and so on. So here are three medium length reviews of recent reads for you. A Sixpenny Song by Jennifer Johnston It was Kim’s post here, celebrating Read More

Review Clear-out! James, Scarfe, Vaughn and Auster

In an effort to make room on my dining table where I work, so we can eat Christmas lunch on it, I’m clearing the pile of books yet to be reviewed, here’s my last batch for 2019: Somewhere Becoming Rain: Collected Writings on Philip Larkin by Clive James When James died a few weeks ago, Read More

Two Short Reviews: Rodriguez Fowler & Bourland

The Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodriguez Fowler I was lucky enough to be on the Shadow Panel in 2017 for this fabulous award that celebrates works by young authors (18-35), having followed it before then, and ever since, naturally. This year’s Shadow Panel also had an interesting set of books to choose from: poetry, 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

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

Book vs TV – which came first for this one?

State of the Union by Nick Hornby Are you watching State of the Union on the telly? (Sunday evenings on BBC2 at 10 – or the complete series on iPlayer). I pre-ordered the book, then the BBC made the series available on iPlayer before starting showing it on BBC2, so I started watching it and Read More

In short – some recent reads

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan Oh, what a nostalgia trip this book was. There has been so much love for it all over the blogosphere, and quite right too. I rediscovered so many books I’d forgotten, I might even re-read some of them. There were others I’ve never read but would like to – can you Read More

An evening with Kate Clanchy and her new book

Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me by Kate Clanchy Some of you may know Kate Clanchy’s work from her super comic novel Meeting the English (see here) or her earlier memoir Antigona and Me (see here), about a refugee who became her cleaner and nanny. She has also published books of poetry Read More

A modern morality tale

Strike Your Heart by Amélie Nothomb Translated by Alison Anderson Belgian author Nothomb writes taut novellas about flawed heroines that are always interesting (see here and here) and they always read like fables or fairy tales in one sense or another, despite being resolutely modern. Her newest, published last autumn is no different in that Read More

Review Catch-up #1 from 2018

I’ve got a pile of books I finished reading in 2018 that I haven’t reviewed yet. Some deserve their own posts, but here’s a pair of shorter write-ups. The Atlas of Disease by Sandra Hempel This is a curious book – ostensibly an ‘atlas’ produced using the latest data available, in which the author charts 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

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

Darkness at Dungeness…

Salt Lane by William Shaw This is the first book by William Shaw that I’ve read – he is the author of three crime novels set in the 1960s known as the ‘Breen & Tozer’ trilogy (watch out though – they have different titles in the US and UK, and there are now four in Read More

Review Catch-up…

Life is rather busy, and I’m terribly behind on my reviews. So here is a batch of reviews and links for you… Educated by Tara Westover This memoir of growing up in an unconventional setting and how the author escaped to discover the world outside was absolutely compelling reading, Westover grew up off-grid in Idaho, Read More

1977 week – ‘Here’s Johnny!’

Twice a year, Simon and Karen host a club where we all read from a particular year. This time it was 1977. This turned out to be not the best year for me – the book I would have chosen, had I not read it before would have been Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym Read More