Hello! I have two reviews that I’ve recently had published on Shiny New Books to tell you about, and just a few new books in (oops, not oops)

Robyn Lea – “A Room of Her Own: inside the Homes and Lives of Creative Women” looks at a set of women from various places in the US, Europe and Australia who have created interesting and stunning interiors as part of their life’s work, whether they’re artists, interior designers or other creatives.

Not all the women started out as wealthy as they appear to be now. Some are descendants of big designing or European aristocratic families but others started out more middle or lower class. All seem uncompromising in their attitude to creating their surroundings, whether that’s making interesting collections, showcasing their own art works or introducing highly modern pieces into ancient interiors. We do start out with a woman in a castle; but a woman who was very reluctant to up sticks and move into her husband’s ancestral castle. Many of the women’s stories are unexpected and interesting. The pandemic plays a part and the texts do not shy away from the panic attacks, bereavements, family conflicts and complex paths some of these women have experienced.

Read more here

“Your Voice Speaks Volumes” by Jane Setter is a fascinating look at voice and accent, of course looking at regional accents and the sociology around them (and around people who are perceived to change their accent) but also about artificial voices, the way trans people might wish to change their voices (with a very interesting case of a trans woman who complained she came out sounding like a straight woman, not the lesbian woman she was) and other aspects:

Changing voices are covered in a chapter about professionals who use and think about their voices – chiefly singers and radio announcers, and also the voice coaches who work with actors and the like. The chapter on criminology and phonetics is fascinating, too, looking in detail at the work of speaker profiling, and using auditory and acoustic analysis to work out and back up whether two voices on two tapes might be the same voice (or not).

Read more here


So, last week, I had to go and pick up some medication from one local pharmacy and then pop to another in search of some elusive new and different rapid-flow Covid tests (which I did not find). And between these pharmacies, its door passed as I went, was Oxfam Books. Oops. I don’t know how I’m going to fit these on my TBR shelf, but you can’t leave good books in charity shops, can you; they’ll be snapped up the second you leave the place ..

We’ve been enjoying watching Stacey Dooley’s documentaries where she stays in someone’s house, as well as her “This is My House” gameshow but have missed her earlier investigative journalism work with women in difficult circumstances, so I was pleased to spot “Stacey Dooley on the Frontline with the Women who Fight Back”.

The next one down the pile will please Brona of This Reading Life. She hosts the wonderful AusReading Month every November, and I was bemoaning the fact that I had no Australian books to read and talk about in my TBR, as I was trying to do all my challenges this year from the TBR. Well, this is NOW on the TBR … Sven Lindqvist’s “Terra Nullius” is a searing indictment of the way Native Australian people have been mistreated and abused, so I will be learning as well as taking part in the challenge (more about the challenge here). More travel: Sara Wheeler’s “The Magnetic North” is the Arctic companion to the Antarctic book of hers I’ve had for years.

Then in diaries and memoirs, David Lodge’s “Writer’s Luck: A Memoir 1976-1991” covers the period when he was working at the University of Birmingham and overlaps with the time I was there in his department but he was just an esteemed visiting professor as his literary career had really taken off by then. “The View from the Corner Shop” by Kathleen Hey is a Mass Observation Diary from 1941-1946 covering, well, oddly enough, life in a British corner shop and should be fascinating.

In novels, Cathy Kelly is a favourite Irish writer who has taken on the mantle of Maeve Binchy and writes good, woman-centred stories; I think “The Family Gift” is her latest (I might save this for Irish Reading Month next year if I remember to). I have seen Tsitsi Dangarembga’s “Nervous Conditions” reviewed by Imogenglad recently so I was very pleased to find it as it had been in my mind ever since (it was the first book by a Black Zimbabwean writer to be published in English). And “Miguel Street” by V.S. Naipaul is a classic novel based on his own childhood and had to be picked up, too.

So there we go, eight books to jam onto the TBR shelf – but could I have left any of them behind?