A Gardener’s Life

Son of the Secret Gardener by Trevor Millum The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one of my favourite childhood novels, read from my trusted Puffin edition with this glorious cover by the much missed, late Shirley Hughes. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that FHB based Misselthwaite Manor in her novel around Read More

#NordicFINDS – Finland Week – My ‘Would-be’ Gateway Book

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson Translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal Because until this week, I’d read so few Finnish books, I didn’t have a definite gateway book that led me into the country’s literature. But it would have been The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, because when Sort Of Books started their Read More

#NordicFINDS – Sweden Week – a novel of letters and longing

Some Kind of Company by Nan Östman Translated by Julia Rivers We have to thank Aspal Press for finding this hidden gem of Swedish literature and making it available in English translation for the first time. Östman, who died in 2015, is a much loved Swedish children’s author, often writing about girls and horses, and Read More

#NordicFINDS – Norway Week – My Gateway Book

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder Translated by Paulette Møller My second gateway Nordic read was another huge worldwide bestseller, first published in English translation in 1995. I got my original copy with the cover above through the QPD book club, now defunct, who produced what we’d now call trade paperbacks of new hardbacks – ie: Read More

Two French novellas for #NovNov

Week three of ‘Novellas in November’ hosted by Bookish Beck and Cathy at 746 Books is all about books in translation. I’ve talked about a Danish SF one and two German novellas in previous posts. Now it’s time to turn to novellas written in French – which means an excuse to include the next Maigret from my Read More

#NovNov – Translated fiction novellas from the archives

Week 3 of Novellas in November month (hosted by Bookish Beck and Cathy at 746 Books) turns its attention to translated books. If I get my act together, I’ll have read 2 French, 2 German and 2 Danish novellas and might even get some reviews posted. But until then, here’s a selection of translated novellas from my Read More

The Mirror Visitor quartet – the final installment

The Storm of Echoes by Christelle Dabos Translated by Hildegarde Serle When I was sent a copy of the first volume in this fantasy quartet of novels by Daniela at Europa Editions in 2018, I fell in love with Christelle Dabos’ world-building in its fractured planet, the wonderfully realised young heroine Ophelia and anti-hero Thorn. Read More

Lots of Shiny Linkiness

Time to catch up here with a bit of linkiness to my reviews published at Shiny New Books, there have been several over the past weeks I’ve not mentioned here. Star Turns by Tim Walker Journalist Tim Walker has worked at many publications, currently at the New European, where he resurrected the Mandrake diary column Read More

20 Books of Summer 21 nos. 18-20 – Le Carré, Sallis & Shaw

I’m going to finish off the reviews of my 20 books in one go today. Here goes… Call For the Dead by John Le Carré Having read many of Le Carré’s early books over the years, I was slightly surprised to discover I’d never read his first book, the novella Call For the Dead, published 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

#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