Book reviews – Georgette Heyer – “April Lady” and Diana Wynne Jones – “Charmed Life”, a #1977club fail and a confession


Gosh, that’s a long title isn’t it! Two old favourites and multiple re-reads to review today, one of which was for Kaggsy and Simon‘s 1977 club and the other of which is an appropriate title for the month it’s read in, quite by accident (they’re small books, so shorter reviews), an epic fail on a re-read (I was warned! Kaggsy in fact warned me!) and a super acquisition from a lovely friend.

Let’s get going, then …

Georgette Heyer – “April Lady”

(03 June 2017 – Oxfam books)

From 1957, this is slightly later period Heyer, which surprised me when I read it, as there’s such a slew of cant and argot and jargon that slightly obfuscated the plot that I thought it was a less mature one.

It’s also interesting in that I think it might be the only (if not, it’s one of a very few) of her novels where the hero and heroine are already married at the start of the action. However, although they both married for love, Lady Nell Cardross believes her Earl married her for convenience, and still has Another, and the Earl believes she married him for his money. All very sortable-outable were it not for their respective brother and half-sister, both pretty silly, who get Nell involved in all sorts of plots and businesses, so there’s not time or bandwith to manage it. A very short but enjoyable read with all the London atmosphere and detail you’d want and an interesting ending. Although she’s slight, she writes well and I always recommend a Heyer for a comfort read.

Diana Wynne Jones – “Charmed Life”

(1980s – soon to be replaced. An Unfortunate Incident with a long-gone cat in the 1990s which I thought had been cleaned up has left a lasting stain (no odour) on a few of my children’s books, which I’m going to have to spend vast amounts of time and money tracking down and rebuying. So be it!)

This book was published in 1977 and represents my contribution to the 1977 Club (unfortunately, Bruce Chatwin’s “In Patagonia”, which I also have, was too substantial to fit into a very busy reading week, and see below for the other candidate).

A boy who is an orphan and doesn’t think very much of himself, overshadowed by his remaining family and domineering ward, finds out he has something to do with magic. There’s a powerful enchanter whose name must NOT be mentioned, a turrety castle with magical shape-shifting grounds and all sorts of spells designed to annoy other youngsters. Hmm … yet written in 1977, you say?

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to persuade Harry Potter fans to embrace the (in my eyes) superior Diana Wynne Jones books. Her Chronicles of Chrestomanci are well written, funny, engaging and short! This one was a re-read and I hadn’t read it for ages. I remembered some details, like the magic book of matches that has something to do with our hero, Eric “Cat” Chant and the violin that’s turned into a cat, but had completely forgotten the brilliant Janet Chant, brought in effectively from our world as a rapid replacement at a pivotal moment, more used to wearing trousers than Cat’s original sister’s fancy Edwardian style clothes and very down to earth. Love her!

One interesting feature I had forgotten is the magic garden which allows people to slip through into different worlds – this contains things from “the dawn of all the words” and includes a magic doorway which is like a rough stone lintel – reminding anyone of bits from C.S. Lewis’s “The Magician’s Nephew” and “The Last Battle”?


I had originally picked Angela Carter’s “The Passion of New Eve” to re-read for the 1977 Club. I loved it (I thought). I’d read it a few times in my younger, brand-new-feminist years and loved the themes of gender identity and gender reassignment. Then I saw Kaggsy hadn’t been keen and asked why. “The unremitting rapes”. Oh, right. Well, I didn’t even get to the unremitting rapes; I gave up in the sado-masochistic manky rat-infested flat in post-apocalyptic New York. I hated the way black people were portrayed, I wasn’t keen on the wish-fulfilment acts of violent Women roaming the streets, and it was just pretty horrible. Sorry, Angela Carter, I’m going to leave you there.

A lovely book confession

I’m still not entirely sure how this happened, but my lovely friend Cari got hold of a print and e copy of this book by the amazing runner, Deena Kastor, and then happened upon her at a race expo in Washington DC and a book event in New York, and somehow she has ended up with a copy she’s read and a signed bookplate to keep and I’ve ended up with the hard copy book signed to me by Deena! Thank you so much Cari! I’ve just discovered Wendy from Taking the Long Way Home’s Book Club and this is her April book, so I’m hoping to fit it in after this weekend (I do have that Readathon I’m doing the last weekend in the month but I fear that’s going to be a Tardis of books shoehorned into not enough time!) and I’ve also requested her May book via NetGalley.

Phew, that’s a lot of stuff, hope you’re still with me! I’m currently reading Christopher Booker’s “The Seven Basic Plots” (which is going to take me some time) and “The Lido” by Libby Page, which comes out today and has had a lot of chatter and which is ABSOLUTELY LOVELY so far (I sat down to read it at breakfast and tore myself away at 33%) – it’s the story of two women who have got a bit lost in life battling to save a Lido, and is set in Brixton and Brockwell, beautifully realised). I really hope it lives up to this first third. I also need to start “Running the Smoke” which is 26 tales of running the London Marathon, a must-read as I go down to spectate for the first time in years, and support my lovely friend Bernice, running her first marathon.

What are you reading? Have you had a booky pinch point this year yet where there are just TOO MANY BOOKS to read in one week?

Book review – Katarina Bivald – “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” plus book confessions and challenges #readathon @readathon #amreading


Look at me getting through the books on the shelf with another paperback taken off … and I’ve picked up that HUGE one to start, too. However, there are three confessions under this review. To be fair on me, two of them (with I think two more to come) I ordered on a pre-order thing (a bit like the old subscription model for publishing books) in September 2016, so I can hardly be castigated for clicky-clicky sins committed that long ago … can I?

Katarina Bivald – “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend”

(03 June 2017)

This was bought as a random purchase in Oxfam and I’m very pleased with it. I do love a small-town America story and so does the Swedish author, and this has the added deliciousness of being seen from an outsider’s perspective. It opens very notably with shy Sara standing on the main street of Hope, Iowa, nose in a book, waiting for a lift to an epistolatory friend’s house in Broken Wheel. But something seems to have gone wrong.

Now, this is a romance to an extent, but a very quirky one, and it fulfils the criteria of two women talking about something other than a man very nicely. Because Sara’s a bookaholic and the one thing she wants to do for the residents of Broken Wheel before her visa runs out is get them reading. She sets up a bookshop, adds brilliant labels to the shelves, and waits to see what she can do. And whether it’s a pillar of the church sniffing out the gay erotica or a broken and pitied man getting a taste for chick lit, it starts to work.

There are the usual quirky small-town characters – I loved Grace from the diner and her outcast tales, and there’s an ex-teenage mum and the owner of the general store, but all seen, as I said, by an outsider. I loved the way it very subtly pushes an integration and diversity agenda into the reader’s mind and the town’s habits. There are some very pertinent points here – the book was published in 2013 but written earlier, and at one point in the action, the gay couple in the book consider a plan for a marriage:

Andy and Carl looked at one another, amazed by how simple it was for heterosexual people to say those words. “She has to get married,” they said to each other quietly.

It’s also blisteringly honest on the microscope of small-town life and the price that’s paid if you go against the norms, whether as a teenage mum or a single woman who had one embarrassing moment early on and has steered clear of men forever more. I liked how the men in the book were caring and vulnerable as much as the women, very balanced but not in a lectury way.

The links and musings on books are lovely, from a random list of first lines that everyone will get something out of to mentions of books you might love, too – I was particularly pleased to see mention of Fannie Flagg’s “A Redbird Christmas” and there’s praise from Flagg on the back, too. Oh, and Iris Murdoch’s “The Sea, The Sea” is inserted into the text on the shelf of books that gives this novel its title – hooray! This isn’t all spoon-fed to the readers – some books and characters are inserted very subtly into the narrative.

Only one shocker – and this made me laugh, after reading this post on Hard Book Habit a few days ago – when I got to the end it turned out to be a Richard & Judy book club choice!

On to the CONFESSIONS. First off, I went to a new hairdresser on Tuesday, having been with my previous one for about eight years. Closer at hand and run by someone from my running club, but it’s still nerve-wracking changing hairdresser, amiright? Anyway, all went very well, I have my hair back to how I like it and it was SO QUICK getting there and back compared to the old one that I somehow fell into the Oxfam Books shop and spotted this one. A book about music by favourite poet and travel writer Simon Armitage? Had to be done.

Then just LOOK at these lovelies. Back in September 2016, I found out that Lethe Press were reprinting author and friend Paul Magrs’ earliest novels, the Phoenix Court series. Think magical realism set around North-Eastern tower blocks and precincts. I loved these and realised a while ago that I’d read them when they were new, getting them out of Lewisham Library when I lived in New Cross Gate. I have such happy memories of reading them and finding a great, new – different, very different – writer, and then a few years later got in touch with Paul after reading his book “Exchange” in 2006 (here’s my 2012 review) and have met him and count him as a friend. ANYWAY, Lethe Press were doing a pre-order thing, kind of like the subscription model that publishing used to use, and what is hopefully the first two of a series have now arrived – what fabulous covers! They have additional material, too, short stories and the like. What a treat!

Finally (sorry for the long post) some challenges. Yes, I know I’m not doing challenges this year.

It’s nearly time for Simon and Karen’s [year] club and this time round it’s the 1977 Club. As I’ve wanted to re-read Angela Carter’s “The Passion of New Eve” forever, I have earmarked that to read on Monday. Hooray!

I’m also going to be reading as much as I can in the 24 hours from 1pm on 28 April to 1pm on 29 April as I’ve realised I’ve got space in my schedule to do Dewey’s Readathon, which I know a few bloggers I follow do. All very exciting. FAQs here and do join in if you fancy it.

Oh, and actually finally, I’ve started reading Christopher Booker’s “The Seven Basic Plots” which is that basically humongous book you can see in my TBR pic at the top. It’s impossible to read apart from in bed, so I’ve also started Georgette Heyer’s “April Lady” (topical!), having finished another NetGalley book which I’ll review over the weekend.

Book Review – Felicity Hayes-McCoy – “The Library at the Edge of the World” #amreading #readireland18


Another book for Reading Ireland Month, co-hosted by Cathy at 746 Books, and you can read all about the reading challenge here. Shockingly, I’m going to have to double-post today as I have another Reading Ireland Month book I’ve read plus another to review this month, before I even get to my Iris Murdoch round-up on the last day of the month! That’s what you get for having a reviewing lull but not a reading one.

Anyway, I was attracted to this book because it’s about a rural library, and what librarian hasn’t wanted to run a library in a small town or by the sea? OK, I’m not a librarian now anyway, but that kind of thing sticks. Read on to find out about a lovely feed-good book with a real sense of community and a range of characters – a bit like Cathy Kelly’s novel, actually!

Felicity Hayes-McCoy – “The Library at the Edge of the World”

(18 June 2017, possibly The Works)

Hanna ran away home to Ireland when her marriage went wrong: things are a bit better now her daughter’s living independently, but she’s still trapped in her mother’s garish bungalow and still pretending the divorce was amicable. Can Hanna reclaim her own life, possibly in the cottage her grumpy great-aunt left her, even though she, too, has distanced herself from the community? Will she and optimistic Conor the library assistant ever agree on what’s appropriate use of a library space?

When budget cuts and cronyism threaten her library and other services on the imaginary Finfarran Peninsula, the whole community does come together, but in a plausible and realistic way, and I liked this big most. There’s local youngsters and their fancy deli pulling together with young mums, incomers and old families, resourceful OAPs, glad to be useful again, and the odd nun. We get the full range from meddling priests with power to hold on to to the isolated lord of the manor and (yes) his giant nightmare boiler.

Not everything is tied up neatly, and there are a few hiccups along the way, but there’s the possibility of a new beginning for Hanna – especially when her intractable and exasperating builder, along with his horrible little dog, deigns to return her own house to her.

It took me a few chapters to warm to this book but the author, who lives in Ireland herself and has written non-fiction books about settling in and doing up her home, has a great feel for communities and the people in them and it’s a warm and positive book that ended up a joy to read.

One more book confession, which arrived from pre-order today. I follow Lynne Murphy’s “Separated by a Common Language” blog so I just had to order her new book, “The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between British and American English” – useful for my work as a localiser, of course!

Book review – Julie Creffield – “The Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running” and some book confessions #amreading @JulieCreffield @RunBookshelfFB


A book read out of order? What’s going on? Well, I’m running my next marathon in, erm … eleven days’ time (hope my cold goes in time!), and I do like to read a running book or two in the run-up to a race. Under this review, some horrific book confessions from a NetGalley account gone very, very naughty … But first an inspiring book that talks about things no other book talks about!

Julie Creffield – “The Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running”

(21 January 2018 – at the National Running Show)

I met life coach and running guru for the larger lady Julie at the National Running show and couldn’t resist buying this book – she was very engaging and is doing some genuinely inspiring work and activism. I’ll say straight off that I’m not the exact audience this book is aimed at – not because I’m some whippet myself, I’m definitely on the more solid side of the runner spectrum, but because it’s very squarely aimed at the new (marathon) runner and also speaks loud and clear to running mums about claiming their time and fitness. And that’s brilliant.

It’s funny, frank and a bit sweary, really like having one-to-one coaching or grabbing a coffee and a chat. Julie addresses the reader directly, helping her face her fears, reassuring her that everyone’s felt whatever she’s feeling at some time. She has quotes from famous and ordinary runners, and what’s brilliant is that when she says she’s a slow runner, she actually is – hooray! I get a bit tired of people saying they’re slow then talking of their 10 minute miles, something I can sustain for maybe a mile, but certainly not comfortably. I know that being relatably slow and middle-aged and non-whippety has helped me to inspire other people to believe they can run long, and Julie does the same but to a wider audience.

The book is packed with great advice for the marathon newbie, and I learned a great tip about weeing (honestly) and picked up an idea for fartlekking (speed play, behave!) where you pick a trigger like red cars or seeing a plane in the sky for your speedy bits. You can always learn from every running book! Julie also talks about chafing, being worried about having an accident in public and dealing with catcalls, something not many running books talk about in depth (Alexandra Heminsley and Lisa Jackson are similarly open, see my reviews of their books under the links, but it’s still rare). There are some great tips on using visualisation to help you when the going gets tough, and even though I’m famously The Runner Who Never Needs The Loo On the Way Round, I couldn’t help identifying with this quote:

Perhaps think about potential toilet stops on long runs, one of my friends says she can plot 18 miles around East London purely by Wetherspoons toilets.

We’ve all been there. Not to mention the Magic McDonalds at the top of That Hill.

One tiny point that I feel duty bound as an editor in the rest of my life to mention. Julie is quite upfront and clear about how she decided to write this book and got it out as soon as she could. A few editing issues got under the radar in the hurry to publish, and some of my friends who have read this book thought that would bother me. But you know what – if she inspired one more woman who was scared to pull on plus-size lycra and get out there to embrace the joy of running by missing a stage in the production process, then so be it. However, if Julie’s reading this and would like a donated line edit, because I REALLY believe in what she’s doing, then she should feel free to get in touch.

Frank as anything and like a friend holding your hand, this reminded me to be mindful of the fears the new runners I encounter face, and will inspire all sorts of people. Good luck to Julie in London next month, too!

Right, confession time.

First off, in “tree” books, my friend Sian has passed me Robert Ferguson’s “Scandinavia” – she’s a bit of a Swedophile (Swedenophile?) and runs a Scandi meetup in our city, and she rates this highly as being quite serious and full of good information, and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I’ve also had a flurry of NetGalley “wins” recently, so here goes …

“A Grand Old Time” by Judy Leigh is about an “elderly” lady who gets sick of being in a care home and decides to go on an adventure to France. There have been a few of this kind of book recently and I hope it’s not too sappy, but it looks jolly. (Published 03 April)

Paul Theroux’s “Figures in a Landscape” is a new (I hope) collection of essays and musings, including an encounter with Oliver Sacks. I was so hoping to win this and was thrilled to do so. (Published 08 May)

“Inner City Pressure” by Dan Hancox is a history of grime music – very useful in my other day job as a transcriber, part of the time for music journalists. (Published 17 May)

Yusra Mardini’s “Butterfly” is her story of her escape from Syria and dream to swim in the Olympics – which she did as part of the Refugee team in Rio. To be honest, I’m not sure how I got this one, I seemed to be pre-approved then it was there, and I fear I may have to skim a little at the start.

I’ve also had a (rare) Did Not Finish. NetGalley win “Something Like Happy” by Eva Green did not say in the blurb that it was about someone with a terminal illness – or that it was relentlessly positive and live every day as it comes-ish, like those Tuesdays with Morrie type books, and reading the reviews people were alternately uplifted and in big tears. I just couldn’t deal with that so put it to one side. Also it was set mainly in a hospital and I spent enough time around those at the start of last year. So even though it looked well done and well written and lots of people will probably love it, not for me.

What are you reading? Any confessions? Do you like to read a certain type of book before a certain type of activity, for example books set where you’re going on holiday or running books before a race if you’re a runner?

Book review – Ruby Wax – “A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled” plus some book confessions #amreading


Well, this book is a number one bestseller … but I wonder how many positive reviews it’s got, short of the puff pieces in the book and the helping-to-sell Stephen Fry quote on the front. I’d be really interested to hear from other people who’ve read it, because I had a very negative reaction to it and almost err on the side of finding it a bit dangerous. After all that opprobrium, I’m sharing some new books at the bottom of this post, at least …

Ruby Wax – “A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled”

(22 May 2017)

Now, OK, I can’t have been desperate to read this because I did let it drift to the top of the TBR before picking it off, but I can imagine that a lot of people who are feeling vulnerable or anxious or indeed frazzled have picked this up. It says it’s a bestseller on the cover and I’m sure a lot of people will have picked it up, there’s also much talk about the Master’s in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy which Wax has taken, so I was expecting something a bit more kind and a lot less harsh and, to be honest, crass than I got.

I want to say right now that of course it’s good to talk about mental health issues – and it’s fine to joke about them, too. Some people who have mental health issues reclaim various words that have been used negatively in the past to apply to themselves and that’s a thing and it’s fine. But I do think books like this have a duty of care and a duty to be consistent, and I didn’t find this in this book. Maybe others will. If it helps one person in one way, it’s obviously worth having, and I don’t begrudge that person the help they’ve received. I also appreciate that Wax is known as a brash and perhaps crass character who – as she says in the book – uses humour to shore up her own worries about her shortcomings. But the tone of the book comes over as cynical and mean.

Now, I don’t mind a bit of robustness. I’m enjoying Bruce Springsteen’s book and he’s just admitted he’s mislaid his knowledge of whom he lost his virginity to in the “fog of battle”. But he’s not writing a self-help book. And there’s a duty of kind, perhaps. A duty of compassion.

I’ve agonised about whether to share some of these quotes. Wax does not bring her kind words. She uses the word “moron” a lot and I didn’t think that was a word we used. She describes being worried that an academic will think she’s “brain-damaged”, as a joke. Um. There’s a terrible bit of crassness, well, I’ll share this because it’s not being horrible about people in psychiatric institutions …

If you’re in an emergency situation, happiness is more elusive. I’d just like to remind you that I realize I’m only addressing about 5 per cent of the people in the world in this book: those who have enough food in their mouths, and clothes on their backs. Most people on this globe don’t have the time to contemplate happiness; whether they live or die is just a flip of a coin.

So far, fair enough. But then she continues …

I apologize to them – not that they’d be reading this book, but if they happen to be using some of the pages to build a fire and read any of this … I’m sorry. (p. 29)

Well, I’m sorry, too – I just don’t find that funny.

She has one core statement in the book that chimed with me. Here it is:

My definition of mindfulness is noticing your thoughts and feelings without kicking your own ass while you’re doing it. (p. 35)

A lot of the rest of the book tells us why mindfulness is good for us and all the things it can help with or cure (quite a scary list if you’re in the middle of something you need the mindfulness for). There’s always a lot of self-justification in self-help books of any kind, but it gets quite repetitive and then plays to some of the clichés – that there are areas in the brain that light up when you think about something (it’s not that simple). She is trying to simplify and she says that – but who let her use her own drawings of the brain when there are perfectly decent diagrams to be had?!

And yes, you can’t get away from the fact that she mocks people who have been resident in clinics and psychiatric wards. Even though she includes herself, it feels nasty. “We need a sense of self for three things: self-reflection, consistency and identity. (It would be terrible if you thought you were Napoleon, as some do; but they’re locked away.)” (p. 67); “I only found my people when I was institutionalized; I felt understood and safe even with the ones who set their hair on fire and claimed that Norman the Conqueror was passing them secrets” (p. 135). She talks a lot about having compassion for yourself but this really undermines that, to my mind.

Then there’s the cynicism – she offers quite a good model for dealing with marital arguments in her section on relationships, then immediately undermines it: “I have never succeeded in this particular exercise, and I don’t think anyone has” (p.147). Why include it, then? I was genuinely confused. There’s also a section detailing a depression she went through which I think was supposed to illustrate how her new clarity helped her deal with it and recover faster – but a) it felt self-indulgent and b) it underlined the idea that depression will come back and get you and you’ll just have to ride it out, which isn’t fantastically helpful as far as I’m concerned.

The actual six-week programme she promises is 40 pages of quite basic ideas about grounding, work with the senses and some elementary yoga that is hard to follow without illustrations if you don’t already do yoga. I think that’s a bit of a rip-off, to be honest. There’s then a chapter on relationships, which I read and was cynical, and ones on children and babies and older children which I have to admit I didn’t read.

It wasn’t for me. I really hope it’s helped some people and I really hope it hasn’t harmed anyone. I’m not sure what else to say. I was really disappointed as I do find value in the mindfulness experienced in my yoga classes and some things I brought out of a mindfulness running book I read a while back (see review here).

Ooookayy. Let’s get back to reading confessions. Well, first of all I’m greatly enjoying Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run” and I’m reading “Souvenir” by Rolf Potts on the Kindle, which is about the history and meaning of souvenirs and is also really good so far.

“This Cold Heaven” by Gretel Ehrlich is a book about seven seasons in Greenland which came highly recommended on Bookish Beck’s blog. I’d popped it in my Amazon basket and then when I went to pre-order a book about US and UK English, there it was and I bought it with an Amazon voucher my parents-in-law had given me. It looks as good as I’d hoped. I’m a bit obsessed with Greenland (not as much as I am with Iceland).

Chase F. Robinson’s “Islamic Civilisation in Thirty Lives” is sitting here with its paperwork inside because it’s a review copy for Shiny New Books. It’s apparently a very accessible journey through the early figures in Islam and, as is suitable for a Thames and Hudson book, has some lovely illustrations. I have to read it for May, which is fine.

I’ve also won two books on NetGalley (bringing my reviewed books ratio down to 79%, oh no!). “Oh my God, what A Complete Aishling” is a comedy novel by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen which came with an enthusiastic recommendation by Marian Keyes. It’s a country girl goes to the big city novel and unfortunately isn’t out till 03 May and can’t be reviewed until a week before, so won’t fit in to Reading Ireland Month. “The Lido” by Libby Page” is an uplifting novel about a community of women coming together to save an outdoor swimming pool and is meant to be a feel-good read and the next big thing. It comes out on 19 April so I’ll try to start it next month.

Have you read any of these or got them lined up? Have I been too hard on Ruby Wax and missed the point?

New books in and reading progress #amreading @BloomsburyBooks


Just a quick hello as nothing finished to review just yet, or on the horizon as promising to be finished!

I did finish Jaron Lanier’s “Dawn of the New Everything” which was a fascinating book on the development of Virtual Reality which I have read and submitted my review for Shiny New Books – I’ll let you know when that’s out. I had to have a hiatus on that one while on holiday last week as I took slimmer (or e-) books that could be left at the holiday cottage, but got it finished at the weekend.

Next up for review for Shiny is this lovely: a comprehensive review of  the lives of the suffragettes, of course published to coincide with the centenary of some women getting the vote for the first time. It’s a lovely substantial book I’m really going to enjoy getting into, although I was a bit flummoxed when SUCH a huge parcel arrived. Thank you Bloomsbury Books for that one!

I managed to only buy ONE book on holiday as I didn’t really go through the charity shops so much. But I couldn’t resist popping into lovely Newlyn Books, in Penzance (see a photo of the shop on my post from my visit in 2016), where I found this sweet copy of “Mrs Harris Goes to New York” by Paul Gallico. I loved “Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris” so this had to be snapped up.

Nothing has been requested from NetGalley recently – aren’t I good! I’m up to an 82% review rate again after my last review – phew!

I’m currently reading David Goldblatt’s “The Games” again (after a pause for Shiny-ness) and I’m getting up to the 60s now so almost to the ones I remember. Quite timely as the Winter Olympics start. I was reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” but the type is so small and my new glasses should come soon, so I’m putting that aside until I can see it. Next up will be Iris Murdoch’s “The Bell” for my #IMReadalong – I can’t wait to get that started, probably at the weekend.

Any booky news where you are?

Book review – Sue Perkins – “Spectacles” plus birthday (and other) book confessions #amreading #books


Here’s a review to prove I have actually been reading books from my TBR – you can see Sue Perkins’ book nestling next to the as-yet-unopened Bruce Springsteen autobiography. While I really enjoyed re-reading “The Sandcastle”, I was in the mood for a lighter book before starting on my review book about virtual reality and then finishing the history of the Olympics …

Sue Perkins – “Spectacles”

(29 April 2017, The Works)

Yes, dear readers, I didn’t acquire any books between just after my birthday and the end of April last year! This makes me feel less behind, which is a bit weird, given that I’m SO MANY actual BOOKS behind …

I didn’t watch Late and Light Lunch for some reason, but have been aware of Sue, half of Mel and Sue, for their work on Bake Off, and Sue herself for panel show stuff, etc. I thought her book would be self-deprecating and funny, maybe a bit silly. What’s very good is that it takes us right up to date; none of this just getting us up to the juicy fame years then expecting us to buy the next volume. Hooray for that!

It was, though, a very curious mixture of extremely silly and obviously completely invented for comic effect and deeply affecting and emotional sections on her dad, her dogs, etc. This gave a bit of an uneven ride, as it sometimes slammed from one to the other, however she does spend quite a lot of time explaining how her dad escapes from too much emotion by recording the weather etc and her mum by catastrophising, whereas she does it with streams of words, so it seems apt and at least she’s being honest and true to herself by being fanciful then emotional. I couldn’t read the farewell letter to her dog myself, but it’s well signposted.

We do get early years, the Cambridge times, lovely bits about her friendships, lots of funny stories, Bake Off, Maestro and her later travel documentaries, so it’s all here in an entertaining read.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Christmas booky onslaught (lovely onslaught, obvs) is followed swiftly by my birthday books. And my lovely friends came up trumps once again. Here we have Alys Fowler’s “Hidden Nature: A Journey of Discovery”, which is about both her life changes and about kayaking the canals of Birmingham (OK, that is something you wouldn’t find me doing in a month of Sundays, but I read books about mountain ultra runs, so …). Then “Reunion in Barsaloi” by Corinne Hofmann is the third in her series about marrying a Masai chap (as you do) and their subsequent life. Jenni Murray’s “A History of Britain in 21 Women” has been read by almost everyone I know, it seems, and I know about the weird referencing but it’s a must-read at the moment, isn’t it. And finally, Sara Marcus’ “Girls to the Front” is a book about the history of the Riot Grrl music genre/movement. I wasn’t a proper riot grrl (was I? not sure) but I loved many of the bands and I can’t wait for this one. What a set of treats right there!

I went to the National Running Show on my birthday with some of my running friends and I managed not to find the Bloomsbury Sport stall until the end when they’d sold all their stock, but I did get my copy of Lisa Jackson’s “Your Pace or Mine?” signed and met and chatted to Lisa (eeee!) and I bought this one, “The Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running” by Julie Creffield. I wouldn’t consider myself overweight, but I’m no whippet and I really love reading about different people and their different obstacles. Julie came across as lovely and very encouraging, and I thought this would be a positive book with some interesting points and ways to help people I work with as a run leader who might be experiencing some of those obstacles themselves.

I’d better admit to some NetGalley wins, too, hadn’t I. I’ve managed to cling on to my 80% reviewed status and badge, although I’m on EXACTLY 80% at the moment.

Tina Brown – “The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992” – not sure if I admitted this December win. Looks like a lot of gossipy fun. Published 14 November 2017.

Rolf Potts – “Souvenir” – this is entirely my friend Cari’s fault, as she told me about it. How dare she! Tell me about a book she thinks I’d love?? It’s a short (yay) book about souvenirs through the ages and a musing on what we bring back from our travels. Published 08 March 2018.

Sophie Green – “The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club” – a novel about a long-distance book club in the 1970s Northern Territory of Australia. Blame the emails from NetGalley for this one. Published 01 March 2018.

Joanna Nadin – “The Queen of Bloody Everything” – Dido, caring for her elderly mother, remembers when she fell in love with a family – a normal family. Published 08 February 2018.

Scott Douglas – “Running is my Therapy” – I can blame book blogger Rebecca for this one, and even though it’s a PDF not a Kindle book it does indeed look right up my street, about how running can help depression and anxiety. Published 17 April 2018.

Have you read “Spectacles”? Have you got any of these new acquisitions on your shelves, in your blogs or on your Kindles waiting to be read?

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