State of the TBR March 2021 plus many book confessions #ReadIndies #Dewithon21 @atilatstokbroka


In February I read 13 books, a great total for me, out of which five were published by independent publishers for Kaggsy and Lizzy Siddall’s #ReadIndies month. The date for submitting reviews has been extended to 6 March (read more here) which makes me glad as I do have one (and one non-indie) book left to review that I read in February!

I realise with horror that the TBR starts with the same book it started with in February – however, I read books from all through the front shelf for #ReadIndies and so it definitely has a few extra on the right-hand side of the front shelf and has lost the mini-pile on the back row caused by there not being enough room for everything. So, all good. Honest. I did read a couple of Kindle books, too.

Coming up I have quite the reading roster! As well as the three review books in the right-hand pile to get finished and reviewed, I have Attila the Stockbroker’s new Collected Poems, “Heart on my Sleeve” which is launching on March 06 – I purchased it direct from his Bandcamp page although you can pre-order from all the usual outlets. Then I have my two Anne Tylers for the month, “Celestial Navigation” and “Searching for Caleb” (I have a new copy of the latter on its way as this one is really tatty and has an inscription from someone who is no longer in my life!).

I’m very happy to be able to take part in Dewithon21, otherwise known as Welsh Reading Month, in March (I can only seem to do one out of this and Read Ireland every March). More info here from BookJotter. Mike Parker’s “On the Red Hill”, about two gay couples who inhabit a house in the Welsh hills, I bought a good while ago when it came to my attention, and I purchased Will Hayward’s “Lockdown Wales” from indie publisher Seren Books earlier this month because I’ve been working on a book project about Wales and the Lockdown came up a lot, so I thought it would be a good memento – I’m not buying many lockdown books but this seemed very apt.

I’ll also be reading “Unspoken” by Guvna B, from NetGalley. Subtitled “Toxic Masculinity and How I Faced the Man Within the Man”, it’s the story of his upbringing on a London council estate and his engagement with the masculinities found there, and looks to be a profound and interesting book.

I’m not sure what else I will be reading apart from these nine books!! But I will definitely try to read some from my print TBR and some from my electronic one, both of which have grown, one a little more than the other …


I had a lovely book post day on Friday when my Attila book arrived, and so did two books from lovely Kaggsy of the Bookishramblings (thank you!)

“Life in Translation” by Anthony Ferner is a novel about a translator which Heaven-Ali originally read and sent to Kaggsy, but I’d also put my name in the hat for it and so here it is! And Charlie Hill’s “I Don’t Want to go to the Taj Mahal” is a memoir of his upbringing in Moseley, the next-door suburb of Birmingham to mine (he’s also a friend of a friend) is one that Ali and I both want to read … Actually I must remember that at least one of those will work for Novellas in November when that rolls around …

Then I have won another NetGalley book, even though I’m trying to be careful with how many I request, having got my reviewing percentage safely above 80%. Anita Sethi’s “I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain”, published in June, details her recovery from a racially motivated attack when she was walking in Northern England via keeping on getting out there and walking the Pennine Way, as a reassertion of her right as a brown woman to live in the UK and tread its open spaces. What a lovely cover and I’m very much looking forward to this, as I don’t feel I’ve explored much nature writing by Global Majority People.

And then, even though I very rarely use Amazon for print books, those 99p Kindle sales do appear to have got me rather, recently. Just this month, this has happened.

All but one of them are memoirs; I do have a thing for memoirs. “Boy Out of Time” by Hari Ziyad is a memoir of growing up Black and queer in Cleveland Ohio; Louise Wener’s “Just for One Day: Adventures in Britpop” and Bruce Dickinson’s “What Does This Button Do” offer very different music memoirs, the first about being in the band Sleeper (this was previously published as “Different for Girls”) and the second about being the front man of heavy metal band Iron Maiden as well as a pilot and radio presenter). Uzma Jalaluddin’s “Ayesha at Last” is a “Pride and Prejudice” retelling based in the Toronto Muslim community, Lee Mack’s “Mack the Life” is the comedian’s memoir and Pete Paphides’ “Broken Greek” tells of a life in music journalism that starts off in a chip shop a couple of miles from where I live. Fairly varied, then!

How was your February reading? Are you taking part in Dewithon or Reading Ireland Month, or any other Months?


State of the TBR February 2021 and Book Confessions #AnneTyler2021 #ReadIndies


I completed ten books in January, not too bad, as I certainly had a lot of work to do (I mean, hooray, Brexit hasn’t scuppered my business, but I’m hoping I can rein the hours in a little bit this coming month). Two of those I haven’t reviewed yes, so watch for notes on those this coming week. I also managed to continue my trend of running just over 100 miles in the month, something I was really pleased with given the snow and ice we had in the second half of the month. And I had a lovely birthday.

I have had some incomings (see later) so the TBR is looking like this at the moment, no real proper piles but a small one on the back shelf of the newest books. Some have come off the pile that was in the oldest part of the TBR last month so all good progress I feel, and my NetGalley review percentage is back over 80% again.

I do have a slight issue in that a few books at the start of the TBR aren’t really suitable for reading over meals, so I’m darting around in the order a bit. Also, it’s all a bit monocultural at the front end so I’m hopping between the older and newer ones on the front shelf (and into the Kindle) to maintain some diversity. I’m currently reading “Girl” by Kenya Hunt, which is a set of very interesting essays by a Black woman who has lived in both the US and the UK, on the Kindle.

Next up

Next up I have these lovelies.

I’m already reading Isabella Tree’s “Wilding” a chapter a week with my best friend. Some of the chapters are proving quite “chewy” and full of theory and biology, but others are simpler to get through and we’re certainly enjoying and learning. Two review books: “Digging up Britain” by Mike Pitts is an examination of British archaeology through the lens of new techniques and theories, and I’m reading it for Shiny New Books, and I’ve been asked to read Peter Whitfield’s “Iris Murdoch: A Guide to the Novels” for the Iris Murdoch Society Review as it’s a book about her novels by someone just outside academia, as I am and was when I wrote my book about Irish Murdoch and the Common Reader.

Then, I have my next Anne Tyler 2021 project read, “A Slipping Down Life” – and I do actually remember reading this one first time round! If you’re interested in joining in with my Anne Tyler (re) reading project, do have a look at the project page and join in when/where you can – no pressure but I’m loving chatting about her novels and seeing what other people think of them! And the next book from the shelf is Danny MacAskill’s “At the Edge”, which is the story of his life as a trials cyclist and adventure / trick cyclist extraordinaire.

I also intend to read some books by independent publishers to join in with Kaggsysbookishramblings and LizzySiddal’s “Read Indies month“. So many of my books AREN’T by independent publishers, but just on the front shelf, I have one from Lonely Planet, a reprint from Jane Badger Books, three Persephones, a Dean Street Press, a British Library Publishing book and an Unbound book, plus a self-published one that came in recently, so hopefully I’ll be able to get to a few of those. Are you taking part in this challenge?

New books in

These four books rather bizarrely arrived on the same day! I have mentioned the Iris Murdoch one already. “Grayson’s Art Club” is Manchester Art Gallery’s catalogue of the Grayson Perry’s Art Club exhibition which was put together in association with his TV programme during Lockdown 1 – unfortunately I don’t think it ever went live but this lovely book details the pieces there and reproduces the conversations he had with various artists and arty celebrities during the show and is a lovely memento.

Paul Magrs has a new novel out, “Hunky Dory” about a cafe in Manchester and the diverse folk who haunt it and I cannot wait to read it, and lovely Ali gave me Dorothy Whipple’s “Random Commentary” from Persephone Books, which is a slim volume suitable for those who have read all her novels and need more – it took its time arriving but was very much appreciated.

Did you have a good start to your reading year? Doing any fun challenges?

Christmas / end of year book haul #bookconfessions


I usually share my Christmas book haul at the very end of the year, however I have high hopes that a) we will actually have our new boiler fitted tomorrow, b) while I have a day off for that I finish and review one more book. So here it is today. This is a combo of actual books I was given for Christmas and a lovely parcel from a fellow book-blogger as a sort of Christmas / ooh I have a birthday coming up / end of year package of joy. I’d love to know if you have read any of these and loved them, AND I am going to try to have read these by this time next year (I am ashamed to say I have some from last Christmas still to read).

So here are my Christmas books. From the top, my BookCrossing Not So Secret Santa (which we exchanged via the post and opened on a Zoom this year rather than bringing to a venue and swapping and opening) from the lovely Sue included two from my wishlist, Sally Magnusson’s “The Sealwoman’s Gift” (Icelanders are captured and taken to Algiers to try to make a life) and Ursula Le Guin’s “The Other Wind” (the ‘new’ Earthsea novel). There was also chocolate and a BookCrossing pencil.

Lovely Verity sent me Raynor Winn’s “The Salt Path”, having cleverly noticed that I kept yearning for a copy (once I knew there was a sequel, ahem) and I can’t wait to read this narrative of a couple made homeless by circumstance treading the South-West Coast Path.

I seem to have a tradition of presenting my best friend, Emma, with a list of Dean Street Press’s Furrowed Middlebrow imprint at Christmastime, and she came up with D.E. Stevenson’s “Music in the Hills” and “Winter and Rough Weather” which are the sequels to “Vittoria Cottage” which I read (in e-book form, so need to buy myself a copy) last January.

Then we have my LibraryThing Virago Group not-so-secret santa, which was from friend first, fellow book blogger later Heaven-Ali. What a lovely selection. I knew it would be from her as I was one of the organisers and I predicted there would be a Daphne du Maurier (“My Cousin Rachel”) as she will be keen for me to take part in her DdM reading week in May! I was also thrilled to receive “The Half-Crown House” and “Yeoman’s Hospital”, two Helen Ashtons she has also enjoyed (in lovely pre-loved editions, “Half Crown House” a Boots Circulating Library copy!) and Stella Gibbons’ “The Bachelor”. What joys those all hold! And there was some Christmas tea, too!

And my friend Gill, always a reliable wish-list burrower, provided me with wildflower seeds, hand-made honey and beeswax products and Jeffrey Boake’s “Black, Listed” about Black masculinities in the UK, and James Ward’s fascinating looking “Adventures in Stationery” which is, well, just that.

My super parcel from Bookish Beck included a set of books I’d expressed interest in as she read and reviewed them through the year. How lovely and thoughtful! Oh, there’s an Iris Murdoch in there, too, “The Italian Girl”, which I’ve obviously read, but she pops me paperback editions I might not have when she happens upon them. So the novel “Three Women and a Boat” by Anne Youngson includes scenes travelling through Birmingham on our canals, and lots of people have read Eley Williams’ “The Liar’s Dictionary” which is a dual-time narrative about someone inserting fictional words in a dictionary and a modern lexicographer searching them out. “The Group” by Laura Feigel riffs off and updates the seminal 1960s Mary McCarthy novel and “Silver Sparrow” by Tayari Jones is another wonderful-looking novel of Atlanta. Ruth Pavey’s “A Wood of One’s Own” is the story of four acres in the Somerset Levels. Lucky me!

Have I seen your Christmas book pile yet? How’s it looking? Of course I also received a good number of book and bookshop vouchers, which I will be saving for after my birthday, when I can have a lovely splurge to mop up, well, a tiny slice of the rest of my wishlist …

State of the TBR December 2020 and Book Confessions #DiverseDecember #Magrsathon @PaulMagrs


I have been trying to clear the decks and not buy new books in order to prepare for the Great Christmas and Birthday Influx and I don’t feel I’ve really succeeded at either! I did finish 12 books in November, six of which were off the physical TBR (the others were a mix of review books and Kindle ones). I set out to read one book for Australia Reading Month, which I read (“The Three Miss Kings“) and I took part enthusiastically in Non-Fiction November – I set out five books to read, finished three and started one, and read a bit more non-fiction through the month, and posted my four themed posts and enjoyed linking up with more non-fiction readers.

So this is how the TBR stands, at least it’s not two full shelves, I suppose, and has moved along. The pile to the side is Christmas books which will be read between Christmas and New Year (apart from one of them, see more below) and the ones on top are my remaining Thirkell war novels and three lovely British Library books I haven’t been able to get to yet.

I’m currently reading these three. Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race” has been a thought- and discussion-provoking readalong with my best friend Emma – we took to reading books together during lockdown and enjoy a bit of time on a Thursday evening. We’re quite slow with these as we sometimes have a chat rather than a read, but it’s a lovely thing to do. We have one chapter and the afterword left of this. I just started “The Good Immigrant USA” to go with my read of the UK version, and am learning new things with this one, too, and Jonathan Gornall’s “How to Build a Boat” is just getting started. The first two will be contributing to the DiverseDecember reading challenge hosted by The Writes of Womxn (thank you to Ali for alerting me to this one) – they will be blogging about Black Brown and Indigenous writers who identify as women but we’re free to read anything and use the hashtag. More on that below – including not pushing myself to read loads and feeling I’ve failed!

Up next, Emma and my next read together will be Isabella Tree’s “Wilding” which was discussed in “On the Marsh” which I’ve just finished and I’ve been looking forward to reading for ages. Of course those BL books will be devoured, too. For my LAST BOOK in my Paul Magrsathon I was going to re-read his lovely “Stardust and Snow” which I read on Christmas Day last year, but then he brought out this “Christmassy Tales” volume which includes that one and a host of other short stories. I have already dipped into it to read his Fester Cat story (from the book he wrote by his late lovely pet) and I am not going to be able to resist it now we’ve got into December – there’s a story about a Christmas Trilobite! I will be reading the four light Christmas novels I bought in October between Christmas and New Year, and I have assigned myself Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan novels to read for DiverseDecember. Yes, I have “Brit(ish)” and “Black and British” and various other books but I don’t want to force the issue or read all my BLM books in a rush, so I will enjoy these and see what else I can add in.

New books in

The aforementioned “Christmassy Tales” arrived last week and I also bought my friend Katharine D’Souza’s new novella “Friend Indeed” on the day of publication. I wish I’d got it read for Novellas in November but it will be a Novella in December instead. Bizarrely, Past Me decided to do some Amazon pre-orders in August and September and I was somewhat surprised to receive Jane Linfoot’s “Love at the Little Wedding Shop by the Sea” (book five in her series) and Sairish Hussain’s “The Family Tree” (shortlisted now for the Costa First Novel Award” following the fortunes of a family emigrating to the UK. Both obviously “me” but do I recall ordering them? I do not.

Did you have a good reading month in November? Tempted to join DiverseDecember? Bought anything new or holding off? Is there room on your shelves for Christmas incomings???

State of the TBR November 2020 plus incomings and the schedule for All Of Anne Tyler next year #AnneTyler2021 @DeanStPress @BL_Publishing #BLWomenWriters


Well, the standard TBR has actually gone down, although not as much as I would have wished. An actual gap, right? “Motherland” is still at the end of the front row.

I completed 13 books in October, even though I had a week off at the beginning of the month, which was a little disappointing, especially as only four of them were from this physical standard TBR (the rest being made up of Kindle, usually NetGalley, books and review books that came in, plus two off the pile of Books Where I Have Another One In The Series). I did also DNF two books from this shelf, which is why the gap is so substantial. Anyway, 13 books is not nothing and I read some great ones of course!

New in!

I’ve been very lucky in terms of review books coming in this week (mostly on one day, actually!). British Library Publishing have kindly sent me two more of their beautifully patterned and tactile Women Writers series. Mary Essex’ “Tea is So Intoxicating” has a village divided when a man suddenly decides to open up a tea-garden, and in “O, The Brave Music” by Dorothy Evelyn Smith, we have a coming of age story set just before World War One. Both of these have the usual marvellous introductions and afterwords as well as being lovely objects in themselves.

I was also offered a look through the British Library’s publishing catalogue and chose Polly Russell and Margaretta Jolly (eds.) “Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights” which is a truly glorious book published to accompany the exhibition but a marvellous object and record in its own right:

From personal diaries, banners and protest fashion to subversive literature, film, music and art, no topic is too taboo: Unfinished Business presents how women and their allies have fought for equality with passion, imagination, humour and tenacity.

The exhibition is on at the British Library until 21 Feb if you can possibly get there (info here, lockdown will alter this of course).

Thank you so much to British Library Publishing for sending me these – “Unfinished Business” is destined for a Shiny New Books review and I will share about it here, too.

The lovely folks at Dean Street Press are publishing a lovely new tranche of books in their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint in January, concentrating on the works of Margery Sharp and Stella Gibbons, and while I was busy adding them all to my wishlist, I’ve received e-book copies of Gibbons’ “A Pink Front Door”, about a woman who can’t say no to a series of misfits who need her help, and Sharp’s first novel, eye-wateringly rare to get hold of before this publication, with a highbrow family dealing with a decidedly middlebrow sister. You can read about all the new novels on the Furrowed Middlebrow blog here and I cannot WAIT to read these!

Currently reading and coming up

When I got to the end of my last NetGalley book and got into a sort of state of being totally unable to make a decision (review book from the physical pile? NetGalley book? Angela Thirkell, oldes book, newest book?), I decide to pick off two lovely Dean Street Press books, “Mrs Tim Gets a Job and Mrs Tim Flies Home” – I finished the first earlier today and the second is the current read, along with the very interesting “Work” from Bloomsbury, which is a lovely hardback and not suitable for lounging over a pizza with. Watch this space for notification of my Shiny review of that one.

Coming up, I am taking part in two challenges this month. Australia Reading Month, run by Brona, is what it says, and I’ve been saving up Ada Cambridge’s “The Three Miss Kings”, published by Virago, for AGES so I could join in.

I doubt that’s the only novel I’ll be reading this month (see above!) but I will also be concentrating on nonfiction for NonFiction November, which I so enjoyed doing last year. I have prepared my initial post for tomorrow and laid out some books I will definitely be reading – “The Good Immigrant” UK and US editions, edited by Nikesh Shukla, with Chimene Suley for the US one, which are collected essays on the immigrant experience in the two countries, continuing my reading of direct lived immigrant experiences; “The Secret Teacher” which opens the lid of a school and a young teacher; “On the Marsh” by Simon Barnes, which follows his owning and care for some marshland with an element of rewilding; and “Homesick” by Catrina Davies, which mixes sociology and nature, exploring why she ended up living in a shed on her parents’ land in Cornwall. Some good themes there, I thought, and there will be more nonfiction, too.

All of Anne Tyler in 2021

I’ve been talking about this for ages, but I’ve finally got round to setting out a project page to support my re-reading (and some new reading) of all of Anne Tyler’s novels in order next year. Exciting! I’m going to read two per month and people are totally free to join in with as few or as many as they want to do. I need to wait for “Redhead by the Side of the Road” to come out in paperback then I’ll do a new picture. Meanwhile, see the page here for the schedule and do let me know if you’re joining in / my instructions are clear.

Whew, a busy post and a busy upcoming month. What are you getting up to in November reading-wise? Any more challenges?

Book review – Diana Wynne Jones – “Power of Three” plus books in (thank you @eandtbooks) and a reading challenge dilemma #bookconfessions


I feel like I’ve been making slow progress through the TBR recently: I definitely haven’t had as much time to read as normal and have been making my way through what I have been reading pretty slowly. I have also got a few review books in – I’m writing up my review of Tom  Mole’s “The Secret Life of Books” for Shiny New Books at the moment, and have a few more I’m reading, so not everything I’ve read is appearing on here just yet (but I’ll of course let you know when the reviews are up!). I have acquired some lovely new books, including some light Christmas reading and a gorgeous wintery themed review book, of which more later, and anyone who’s planning to join in on my Anne Tyler re-read/readalong next year please help me decide my schedule (further below).

Diana Wynne Jones – “Power of Three”

(29 August 2019)

I acquired this at Oxfam Books at the same time as the last two birding books I’ve talked about, so never let it be said I don’t read a variety of books! I do love her stuff and although I read this a bit close to the “Howl’s Moving Castle” trilogy, perhaps, I did enjoy it. You think it’s set in a fantasy land and it seems to be at first, with three races at war, and us following the “people” but later on we realise the giants may not be so odd after all, and what if all three see themselves as “people”? (a nice lesson on tolerance there, plus we see a few episodes from multiple points of view, which is also interesting). There was a bit of knowledge to pick up on how the world worked, and a nice central character who thinks he’s normal and untalented, as measured against his siblings with their gifts, and of course it’s a well-constructed story, as DWJ’s always are, but there’s not much more I can really say about it.

Books in

Fifty words for snow “Fifty Words for Snow” by Nancy Campbell arrived from Elliot & Thompson this week – what a pretty hardback, with a stamped cloth cover. Campbell wrote “The Library of Ice” which I read and reviewed in April last year, and I enjoyed her writing there – here she takes fifty words for snow from around the world and talks about the language, culture and science behind the word and concept. I feel like this will make an ideal Christmas present for the nature and science lover. I’m joining in on a blog tour so will read it during NonFiction November and review it for Shiny and talk about it on this blog at the end of the month, although I can hardly resist dipping into it!

Four Christmas novelsI did a Click and Collect order with The Works last week to get some Christmas cards and they had a paperback sale as usual. As I’m pretty sure we will be holed up at home at Christmas, I thought I could pick up some jolly, light reads, and here they are, Jenny Colgan’s “An Island Christmas” and Cressida McLaughlin’s “The Canal Boat Cafe Christmas” are both parts of series but I am going to ignore that, seeing my bloated Kindle and huge TBR, and Jane Linfoot’s “A Cosy Christmas in Cornwall” and Sophie Pembroke’s “A Wedding on Mistletoe Island” appear to be standalones. I will be re-reading Paul Magrs’ “Stardust and Snow” on Christmas Day but these should cushion the week with some jolliness as well.

And another NetGalley win (so need to do another NetGalley read very soon!), Ryan la Sala’s “Be Dazzled” is a YA novel set in the world of cosplay costume creation, where our hero finds himself up against his ex-boyfriend in a competition to make the most dazzling outfit for a big competition. It sounds fun and quirky and isn’t out until January 2021 so is not pressing in on me just yet, which feels quite important in avoiding overwhelm!

Have you read any of these or acquired anything new? This is supposed to be my quiet period where I keep aware of Christmas and birthday possible incomings, but I’m not sure any except possibly the first one are likely to appear there …

Anne Tyler schedule

So a couple of people have shown interest in joining my Anne Tyler re-read readalong which I’m planning next year, culminating in “Redhead by the Side of the Road” which I have been waiting to come out in paperback, as everything else I have by her is paperback, although occasionally large, QPD paperback (are they still going? Once I’d wriggled out of their Book of the Month I did get some good bargains there!).

There are 23 novels (at the moment) which makes two per month for a year or one per month for two years and I have to wait two years to read “Redhead”. The books are never very long, and I don’t think anyone else is going to do them ALL, so would two a month be OK for people? Maybe the first to be read and reviewed by the 15th of the month and the second by the last day? Does that feel doable? Or would you rather one a month, or three months to read any or all of a particular six? I do want to do them in publication order, but that’s the only stipulation. Please let me know!


Book review – Caroline Young – “Kitted Out” plus books in and some DNFs @ShinyNewBooks @historypress @eandtbooks #bookconfessions #bookbloggers


So I have a review of a lovely book that came out this week on Shiny New Books to share with you, two new books in (one for review and to let people know NOT to get it for me for Christmas, one that I pre-ordered back in the mists of time) and two DNFs that I do hope were for good reason. Because it’s that kind of gallimauphry, you even get a brief running update at the end!

Caroline Young – “Kitted Out: Style and Youth Culture in the Second World War”

No pre-read worries (like the ones here!) about this book I reviewed for Shiny, although it does have a few more intimate details about wartime perils than you might at first expect. It’s a brilliant survey of youth culture throughout the whole world of the Second World War – including details on the gradations of uniforms and the respect they engendered and great information about how the French Resistance and German opposers to Nazism used clothing to signal membership of their groups and resistance as a whole.

There is naturally some material that is violent or difficult to read – about the fates of spies or resistance workers, for example – but it never feels gratuitous and is woven about with the general themes of the book on young people and style. It’s maybe best to be aware it’s not all jolly silk scarves and picking up local fashions in bazaars however; but also decent to be reminded that it wasn’t all about the look of the thing.

Read my full review for Shiny here.

Thank you to The History Press for asking the editors if someone  would like to read this and sending it over in return for an honest review – especially sending a print edition as that made all the different, being able to flick to the pictures as I read the text.

Books in

Past Me apparently pre-ordered Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suley’s “The Good Immigrant USA” this time last year. I’m about to reach the original UK version in my TBR, so not sure whether I will read this directly afterwards as a comparison or leave a gap. Essays on people’s direct experience of being an immigrant in the US. The lovely Alison at Elliot & Thompson has sent the new paperback of Tom Mole’s “The Secret Life of Books”, thus, importantly, removing it from my wishlist and meaning no one should now buy it for me (but I bet I buy it for someone). That will be my next Shiny review but two (one waiting to go out, one in the middle of reading). And I was alerted on the Runners’ Bookshelf Facebook page that Nikki Love’s “With a Little Dash of Crazy: The 63 Marathons in 63 Days Adventure” was free on Kindle and so it was, and so it’s now in my Kindle. Haven’t read a running book for … a bit, right?


I really hope this is not some sort of weird reading slump or that I have a skewed perception (or indeed am a humourless Millie Tant type who must have full diversity shoehorned into every paragraph I read), but I DNF’d two books in a row this last week. But I think it’s just that I expect a certain level in my books (and always have) and these just weren’t there for me.

“Birders” by Mark Cocker was one of two books on the history and sociology of birdwatching I bought at Oxfam Books last July. “A Bird in the Bush” by Stephen Moss, which I have almost finished, does rate this, saying it’s funny and moving in equal parts, and I’m sure lots of people will enjoy it. But it feels so snobby about what a “birder” actually is and who “counts” (this is something that can happen in the hobby, although I have met more absolutely lovely, kind and helpful birdwatchers), then he sniggers about names for females/birds and, where I gave up, giggles about a homophobic slur, justified because “It was the 70s”. “A Bird in the Bush” is much more welcoming, inclusive and non-snippy, so I think I just picked the wrong one to read first time.

I picked up Joanna Trollope’s “City of Friends” from the same Oxfam a few weeks later – I read her early novels and have picked up others and enjoyed them over the years: they do revolve around a certain demographic and that’s fine in its way, and I was attracted by the theme of women in their late 40s who have been friends since university, but then an immigrant woman was wheeled in to make a wise statement to remind a main character of her privilege and then melted away (maybe someone who persisted with the book can let me know if she pops back in and becomes a fully rounded character), then a teenager states, uncontested and not seemingly as part of showing his bad character that “The Indians” at school are good at hockey, and it all just seemed a little lazy. Also the women in the book were all high achiever city types which is not something I can identify with, so I put it down because I have a lot of other stuff I can read more happily.

Still running …

I am still running 20-25 miles a week, some of it with friends, some of it alone, and doing a few challenges, mainly for charity (I recently received a buff and medal from the Swifts running club for running their virtual fun run in aid of their LGBTQ club and an allies charity, Sport Allies) but also running Land’s End to John O’Groats and round the Iceland Ring Road for the fun of seeing where I am on the map at the end of each run around the very familiar streets here. I’m well ahead of where I was this time in the last four years (since records began), mainly because I’m running more frequently, but for shorter distances, to make sure I get out. Blogging about it feels like it’s just inviting me to mull on lockdown restrictions and sadness at missing running in larger groups, so I’m still enjoying reading running bloggers but not doing running blogging myself at the moment. Shout out to any of the running blog folks who’ve read this!

Have you DNF’d more than usual this year? What fun and/or important things are you reading at the moment? Any confessions?

More incomings. Many incomings. Hooray! @zuleika_press @BloomsburyBooks @eandtbooks #BookBlogger #BookConfessions


I’ve taken delivery of a few lovely review books (and others) and I’ve also gone a bit over-excited in the History and Politics Kindle sale so I thought I’d just do a share of my incomings rather than make a review post bottom-heavy with them. So exciting!

First of all, from lovely publishers to review for Shiny New Books

“Work” by James Suzman came from Bloomsbury and is a new history of work that promises new thoughts and surprises. Stephen Rutt is a favourite bird writer of mine and Elliot & Thompson have kindly sent me the paperback of his “Wintering: A Season With Geese”. Finally, the relatively new Zuleika Publishing, who publish narrative non-fiction, history and memoir, have sent me this beautiful-looking copy of “Follies: An Architectural Journal” by Rory Fraser, complete with delightful watercolours of the mentioned buildings. Thank you to all these publishers and look out for my reviews in Shiny and notes about the books here over the next month or so.

These all came from the Kindle sale. Mirna Valerio’s “A Beautiful Work in Progress” is that rare thing, a book about a runner who isn’t skinny or white (to be fair, I’ve read a few books about non-skinny runners) and shares her progress in running from beginner to ultramarathoner. “Black Poppies” by Stephen Bourne tells the story of the Black men and women who served in the First World War and tells their untold stories, ending with the riots of 1919 which I only found out about earlier this year, when Black people who had served in the war were hounded and attacked. David Lammy’s “Tribes: How Our Need to Belong Can Make or Break the Good Society” is a memoir and call to arms for an end to division and to work together for a better society. And everyone I know seems to have read Alexandra Wilson’s memoir, “In Black and White”, detailing her career and experiences as a barrister who is a mixed-race woman from Essex.  All good buys, I think you’ll agree!

Finally, June Sarpong’s “The Power of Privilege: How White People Can Challenge Racism”, which surprised me the other day as I’d pre-ordered it, is a short book by a respected social commenter which will hopefully give some good solid tips on how to do this, and Camilla Sacre-Dallerup’s “Dream, Believe, Succeed” is an inspirational memoir by the ex-Strictly dancer.

Anyone read any of these? Not a bad haul at all, right, and I am reading up a storm at the moment, plus I’m on a week off (but not going anywhere) which means plenty of reading time (and a new radiator).

Book review Angela Thirkell – “Growing Up” @ViragoBooks #Bookconfessions


Three Thirkell novelsI’ve been continuing to work my way through Thirkell’s Second World War novels, which basically tell the story of the war as it’s going on, this one being published originally in 1943 and now republished by Virago, in a funny order but finishing off the series (I have two more to read before I get to “Peace Breaks Out”, the third one published this August, one of which I acquired in 2018 and the other in 2019, as they came out!). I’m finding I’m falling in love with her work all over again, as these books are detailed, careful and very poignant, with little of the snobbery, xenophobia and racism we can find in her novels. Just two book confessions after the review …

Angela Thirkell – “Growing Up”

(20 August 2020)

The young people we’ve been encountering in the novels are growing up and assuming responsibility for people, houses and their own ongoing lives in this installment. Even more poignant than the previous ones, as the war grinds on (it also opens with the death of a cat; however, I’m glad to say that his replacement flourishes), we’re at the Priory near Winter Overcotes with its fascinating two-level railway station, and Sir Harry and Lady Waring take in their niece Leslie after her health breaks down, plus Noel and Lydia Merton, Lydia so much more sensible than when she was Lydia Keith but still a jolly and attractive character who always tries to do her best for people. The Warings lost their son in 1918 so are old hands at grief and loss, but also know that the Priory will pass to Leslie’s brother, and both Lydia and Leslie have much-loved brothers overseas; the station master, Mr Beedle, has a son in a prisoner-of-war camp and everyone is trying to keep their spirits up but showing the strain. The feudal responsibility we saw in the last novel is strong here in Sir Harry:

What a weary business it all was, giving one’s best to a place where one’s widow wouldn’t even have the right to live. Still, one could keep the place going … and there were old men about the place who had known his father, and young men who looked to Sir Harry to get them out of trouble … One must keep going  for them. (p. 33)

As well as the interweaving stories of finding work and finding love, making friendships (that of Lydia and Leslie, both practical women, is particularly nicely done) and the amusing incidents of the convalescent troops from the big house at the kitchen door of the attractive housekeeper we have lovely set pieces, for example Mrs Morland’s attempt at a lecture to the troops (and I loved the passage about how difficult she’s finding it writing novels through the war when all her heroes and heroines have got separated), the young woman porters bringing new life to the railway station, the quick mentions or scenes with characters from previous novels (even Captain Barclay gets a mention, and Mrs Spender and Octavia put in an appearance) and the nods back to Trollope’s own Barsetshire novels.

A good and absorbing read.

Kitted OutOne book in from the publisher, The History Press, to review for Shiny New Books – they sent a PDF but then very kindly sent me a hard copy too, which is useful, because there are some lovely illustrations and I’ll be wanting to flick forwards and back to them as I read. “Kitted out: Style and Youth Culture in the Second World War” by Caroline Young looks at young people around the world taking part in the war, whether on the home front or the land or in active service, and how they perceived, adapted and wore the uniforms, official or unofficial, of their times. It looks fascinating and I will be reading it soon as it’s out already.

Then I spotted Neil Price’s “Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings” on NetGalley and even risked going under my 80% review rate to request it. I can’t resist a book on the Vikings and that’s all there is to say about that. This was published in August so another one I hope to get to soon.

I’m ahead of myself in terms of reading vs. reviews, so by the time this is published I may well be on to the next volume (“The Headmistress”). I’ve read my Paul Magrs for the month and review a very interesting book on the science of rewilding in a couple of days …

Book review Angela Thirkell – “Marling Hall” @ViragoBooks plus #bookconfessions


This book was part of my Christmas 2018 haul and I managed to realise I shouldn’t read it until the ones that came in between these four had been published – which is now. Read on for some acquisitions, too. Will I ever get down to one TBR shelf by the end of the year …?

Angela Thirkell – “Marling Hall”

(25 December 2018)

It’s 1941 and the war presses on – this book was published in 1942 and there’s a fascinating update of the war so far at one point which I found quite moving – we’re at Marling Hall for this one, where the family have adapted the house to circumstances and reduced Help and are making the best of things. There are a lot of characters introduced early on which got me a bit confused, but they did separate out and become clear. There were also no Mixo-Lydians and just some weird sentiment about Russians which was more to reflect the characters’ confusion than anything else, no hunting, and only really the snobbery that comes with a hierarchical society – the inhabitants of the Hall accept Mrs Smith, who is renting her house out to two intellectuals, as a sort of member of the community where kindness is owed back and forth, even if she drives her tenants to distraction. There is unfortunately a ‘village idiot’ but he’s a valued and useful member of the small society who fixes things and makes friends.

We find another bumptious younger daughter in Lucy, and it seems Thirkell can’t do without these, but she’s fun and a nice contrast with her reserved sister Lettice, widowed at Dunkirk, who has a more traditional time with suitors coming from all directions to court her. There are lovely nods back to the Pallisers and a nod forward if you have the whole series, as Miss Bunting features strongly but has her own book later on. I loved the interplay of the various nurses, administrators and secretaries, admitting privately they couldn’t do each other’s jobs!

A few books in and some pre-ordered that we won’t talk about until they arrive, right?

First off, the ebooks – all NetGalley except the last one. I don’t think I’d mentioned Chris McMillan’s “The London Dream: Migration and the Mythology of the City” (published 30 August) which is about just that, or Laura E. Gomez’ “Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism” (published 25 August) which looks at the position of Latinx people in American society, both won in late August and obviously to be read soon. “No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention” by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer (published 08 September) fits in with my interest in books about new businesses and their cultures. I won all these by asking for them, but Phillipa Ashley’s “A Surprise Christmas Wedding” (19 October) and Emily Hougton’s “Before I Saw You” (04 February 2021) were both offered to me by their publishers, which was so lovely. I like Ashley’s Cornwall books and this is a Lake District one so should be fun, and “Before I Saw You” is about people who meet on a hospital ward but don’t see each other for ages, which sounds intriguing. Finally, Claire Huston’s pitch for me to read and review “Art and Soul” was so very well done (she’d obviously looked at my blog for one thing!!) that I couldn’t say no.

Moving into print, I don’t think I told you about Elliott & Thompson sending me Gareth E. Rees’ “Unofficial Britain” which is a work of pscyhogeography about liminal spaces like multi-storey car parks and motorway intersections. I though some of it might be a bit creepy or extreme for me when it arrived, but I’ve read it already and it was excellent. Review for Shiny New Books coming soon.

More psychogeography with Iain Sinclair’s “London Overground: A Day’s Walk Around the Ginger Line” – I forgot why I’d ordered this but I’d been discussing it with my best friend as another potential read together, and maybe one day we’ll get to walk it together ourselves (not in one day, though!).

With that one arrived “My First 1000 Spanish Words” which fills in a lot of nouns I wanted to learn and is also delightfully inclusive, with a multicultural range of faces in the illustrations and somebody who uses a wheelchair on every page. And today “Conversational Spanish Dialogues” arrived – 104 dialogues to read and listen to and learn from (I’ve felt we’ve missed out on joining up our Spanish with Duolingo’s concentration on individual phrases.

It’s fortunate maybe that we’ve entered an enhanced lockdown where I am again, although I wasn’t doing an awful lot of meeting up with people indoors or out anyway. But instead of expanding our social life we’ll be rewinding it – more time for reading!

Have you got or read any of these?

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