A Wild Swans for this generation?

Once Upon a Time in the East by Xiaolu Guo It is inevitable that Guo’s memoir, which was shortlisted this year for the Rathbones Folio Prize (which I wrote about here), will be compared with Jung Chang’s brilliant family history and memoir Wild Swans, with Guo adding her story as a young woman from the Read More

Book Group Report – ‘Green’

  At the moment, our book group chooses books by picking a key word for members to make pitches based on – we’re currently working our way through some colours. For ‘green’ we had a varied group of suggestions: Plot 29 by Allan Jenkins – a memoir about two brothers rescued from care in the Read More

The Importance of Music to Girls

By Lavinia Greenlaw I adore books that cover musical memories from the 1970s and 1980s, the formative years of my teens and twenties. The 1970s in particular, despite all the horrors they’ve thrown up since, are my musical heartland. Lavinia Greenlaw is a poet and author and is just a couple of years younger than Read More

For the love of good old-fashioned adventure…

Here’s the thing. Now we’re through the beginnings of the computer age, and are in the global communications age – don’t you think that (most) modern thrillers have got too technological? And with those technological advances, plots become bogged down with it all, there’s so much telling about the technology necessary to explain what’s happening Read More

Getting ‘the day that went missing’ back

The Day That Went Missing by Richard Beard Earlier this month I wrote about an evening with Richard Beard at my local indie bookshop, it was a very special experience for an author event. I went away from the evening with my signed copy of his new book of memoir and started reading it there Read More

Meanwhile, at Shiny…

Here are links to my recent posts over at Shiny New Books… Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh This is one of my most-loved TV programmes ever, and the original play is now 40 years old. Penguin have reissued it with a new intro by Leigh – and it still holds up today! Little top up? Read More

In Short – some capsule reviews

A pair of shorter reviews for you today – both books are short and begin with G. That’s where their similarity ends though, they couldn’t be further apart in their style! Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter This prize-winning book from 2015 is hard to categorise, other than short – it’s as Read More

‘Carrison’ and ‘A New Hope’

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher Like the whole world, I was totally shocked to hear of Carrie Fisher’s heart-attack, then death over Christmas, followed by her mother Debbie Reynolds just one day later. I’d bought this volume the week it came out, and had just started to read it when I heard of her Read More

What a Life in Design…

My Life in Design – Sir Terence Conran Terence Conran is 84 years young and still working. He’s one of the UK’s most iconic designers – a quote on the back cover of this book declares him: “Britain’s Taste-Maker in Chief”   Mick Brown, Daily Telegraph. With the upcoming reopening of London’s Design Museum (which he Read More

The making of Mary (Queen of Shops)

Shop Girl by Mary Portas Mary Portas is one of those TV presenter/gurus you either love or find profoundly irritating. I love her and her championing of the high street and independent retailers. Her TV programmes where she helps ailing businesses are full of common sense and good advice jazzed up with her team’s design Read More

Catching up on reviewing…

My to be reviewed pile is larger than I like and I don’t want to forget the books – so here are some shorter reviews for you: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics This is one scary novel – published as a YA book but is definitely not for younger teenaged readers! The story is narrated Read More

When the third part of a trilogy falls a little flat …

This post was edited and republished into my blog’s original timeline from my lost posts archive Something Nasty in the Woodshed by Kyril Bonfiglioli You may remember my enthusiasm for the reprints of the first two wickedly funny and totally non-PC Charlie Mortdecai books by Kyril Bonfiglioli last year; if you don’t, see my write-ups: Read More

My Books of the Year 2014 – Part Two – The Blog edit

Yesterday I shared my best reads of 2014 as reviewed for Shiny New Books. Today, I turn my attention to titles reviewed here. The links will return you to my full reviews: – Best Retro-Subversive Laugh-Out-Loud Book Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler So nearly my book of the year, Discovering Scarfolk is just hilarious! Stuck firmly in Read More

Charlie Mortdecai, volume two

After You With The Pistol by Kyril Bonfiglioli This is going to be a quick post, as you shouldn’t read the second novel in this delightfully Un-PC comedy crime series until you’ve read the first – they follow directly on from each other, but I’m not giving anything away with this quote from near the beginning… To this day Read More

The Prisoner meets 1970s public information films – be very afraid…

Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler I love reading creepy novels in autumn, and this year I’ve had the pleasure of not only reading the fabulous Horrorstör (see here), but also the even creepier Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler. Anyone will be able to enjoy this book, but to really get the most out of it, Read More

My first encounter with Richard Brautigan …

This post was republished into my blog’s original timeline from my lost post archive. It was last summer when Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings was participating in the Beats of Summer fortnight of reading from the Beat Generation, that I resolved to read a book by Richard Brautigan. As I am not a fan of On the Road or The Naked Lunch (bored Read More

My first encounter with Richard Brautigan …

It was last summer when Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings was participating in the Beats of Summer fortnight of reading from the Beat Generation, that I resolved to read a book by Richard Brautigan. As I am not a fan of On the Road or The Naked Lunch (bored by the former, weirded out by Read More

A novel of ‘The Troubles’

Harry’s Game by Gerald Seymour I was amazed to find that this thriller from 1975 was Gerald Seymour’s début novel. Because of its setting, it is the kind of book that my late mother would never have read, and we read a lot of thrillers betweeen us in our household back then. She was born and Read More

Britten centenary – my memories of Noyes Fludde …

This weekend marks the centenary of the birth of composer Benjamin Britten. Radio 3 is celebrating with ‘Britten 100’, a weekend of programmes. I thought I’d celebrate too with some personal memories from my younger years of listening to and performing some of his works… In 1966, the Canadian conductor Arthur Davison, who had made his Read More

Stephen King’s Dark Tower #6

The Dark Tower Book 6: Song of Susannah by Stephen King King’s magnum opus is not a series that you can jump into midway through, so if you’ve not read it, I suggest you start at the beginning. See my series of posts: Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3, Vol 4 and Vol 5 and find your starting point, don’t read on. Read More

Barbara Pym Reading Week

This post was republished into it’s original place in my blog’s timeline from my lost posts archive.   I’ve never read Pym, but was more than happy to join in Barbara Pym Reading Week, hosted by Thomas at My Porch, to help celebrate the centenary of her birth. I consulted my shelves and found four Pyms waiting Read More

The Women of Madison Avenue

Mad Women by Jane Maas Mad Men still ranks amongst my favourite TV programmes ever. I love everything about it – the clothes, the campaigns, the decor, the lifestyle, the cast, (especially John Slattery as Roger Sterling). But how true is the series? I’ve already read one book by a guy who was there – Jerry Read More

A portrait of a family’s grief …

After Phoenix by Martine McDonagh I really enjoyed Martine McDonagh’s debut novel I Have Waited and You Have Come, which was a dystopian psychodrama, so I was very happy to read her second novel – but it couldn’t be more different to her first. It’s Christmas, December 1973, and we meet the Jacobs family: lefty Read More

A master class in the art of stand-up

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin In the 1970s, Steve Martin was one of the US’s top comedians, playing sell-out tours to huge audiences, and regularly appearing on Saturday Night Live and the Johnny Carson Show. After eighteen years, worn out by it, and noticing the first empty seats in an audiences Read More

Love the one you’re with – the Bainbridge version

Sweet William by Beryl Bainbridge I was thinking of an apt title for this post and was planning on calling it ‘The man who loved women‘ after the celebrated François Truffaut film, but then I remembered the Stephen Stills song ‘Love the one you’re with‘. It seemed to encapsulate Bainbridge’s 1975 novel in a nutshell. (More Read More

Don’t call me Vicky! Meet V.I. Warshawski …

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky. Meet V.I. Warshawski – friends get to call her Vic, never Vicky. Indemnity only is the first in a series of 13 novels featuring the sassy Chicagoan PI. One evening she meets a new client, a banker, who wants her to find his son’s missing girlfriend. Vic goes to the boy’s pad to Read More

The World of Ephemera #3: The Department at Work   

In the days of brown coats and drawing boards. My parents worked for the Customs & Excise for just about all of their working lives in one post or another.  The C&E is now incorporated with the Inland Revenue into HM Revenue & Customs or HMRC.  We tend to associate C&E with catching smugglers and inspecting Read More