State of the TBR – June 2022


Well, looking at last month’s picture, the TBR is about the same but with fewer review copies balanced on top, so that’s a win, right? I’ve left my stash of Three Investigators novels in the pic although they don’t count in the “official” TBR somehow. Sorry for the slightly wonky picture.

I only managed to finish fifteen books in May, that’s still one every two days or so but I’d hoped to read more. I don’t have any read in May to review fully here but there are two reviews for Shiny New Books that I haven’t mentioned on here yet. I read or am still reading all of the print TBR I said I MUST read. I read and reviewed seven out of the nine NetGalley books I had TBR for May, DNF’d one and have one still to read (“The New Doctor at Peony Practice”; I need to read the first six in the series, I’ve got the NEXT one now too, but the publicist at the publisher is fine about the delay). I read and loved “The Scapegoat” for Ali’s Daphne du Maurier reading week.

I picked two books off the TBR out of my new quarter of TBR challenge books but haven’t finished them yet, so still have 36 left to go.

Shiny New Books

I reviewed Jude Rogers’ “The Sound of Being Human” for Shiny New Books – a wonderful memoir of her life in and with music and exploration of how music shapes our lives.


I was actually quite restrained with print books in this last month.

I’m reading and reviewing Nicholas Orme’s “Going to Church in Medieval England” for the Wolfson History Prize book tour, something I’ve been taking part in for several years now. It looks fascinating and approachable and I’ll be reviewing it on 15 June. I saw mention of “Iceland: People, Sagas, Landscapes” by Hans Swik on Paul’s Half Man Half Book blog and had to track down a copy for myself (I had a lucky catch of a copy on Abe Books); a super book of photos and essays. “Haramacy” edited by Zahed Sultan is my latest Unbound subscription copy to arrive: it’s essays from the Middle East, South Asia and diaspora. And Hayley from Rather Too Fond of Books highlighted Patrick Hutchinson’s “Everyone Versus Racism: A Letter to Change the World” by the guy who carried a White counter-protestor to safety out of a Black Lives Matter protest last year and I had to pick up a copy.

I bought NO e-books for Kindle this month.

I won a few NetGalley books this month again:

I haven’t actually read Ibram X. Kendi’s well-respected earlier books but was intrigued by his “How to Raise an Antiracist” (published July), which concentrates on bringing up children to be actively antiracist. I was offered Emily Kerr’s “Take a Chance on Greece” (July) by the publisher and it looks like a fun holiday read with a setting somewhere I’ve only been once myself. “Refugee Wales: Syrian Voices” edited by Angham Abdullah, Beth Thomas and Chris Weedon (November) continues my strand of reading about Wales and its diverse populations. I was offered “100 Queer Poems” (June), selected by poets Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan by the publisher on the strength of my review of “Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head”; it collects past and contemporary poets together. And the Reverend Richard Coles’ “Murder Before Evensong” (June) was a must-request when I was reminded by Hayley that I wanted to read it: I assume we’re in Richard Osman territory but it should be fun, too.

“The Wilderness Cure” by Mo Wilde (August) looks like it came from an email where the first 100 to request get the book: it’s the author’s description of living off free and foraged food for a year. Emiko Jean’s “Mika in Real Life” (September) is a novel about a woman trying to create a relationship with the teenage daughter she gave up for adoption when she was a teenager herself. Tasneem Abdur-Rasheed’s “Finding Mr Perfectly Fine” (July) is a novel about a Muslim girl in London trying to find Mr Right before her mum finds him for her. And Christie Barlow’s “New Beginnings at the Old Bakehouse” (July) is the one I mentioned in the Love Heart Lane series that is waiting on me reading the first six, with the PR’s blessing.

So that was 15 read and 13 coming in in May – not too bad!

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “The Virago Book of Women Travellers” edited by Mary Morris, which Ali kindly passed to me as it’s a massive, heavy hardback; it fitted in with the LibraryThing Virago Group’s life stories theme for May and it’s full of wonderful tales (I have skipped those that are in the Travellers books I bought recently so I get the full effect when I read them). I’m loving Sheila Gear’s “Foula” about life on a remote Shetland island, and I’m also loving Helen Ashton’s “Yeoman’s Hospital” which is a novel set over 24 hours in a wartime regional hospital and fascinating. I’m still reading “Cut From the Same Cloth?” with Emma, too: these essays from British women who wear the hijab are so interesting.

Coming up next, the start of my print TBR …

Obviously I’m prioritising “Going to Church in Medieval England” and then I have my Larry McMurtry, “The Late Child”, sequel to “The Desert Rose” which I loved in May. Then it’s also the start of my 20 Books of Summer project (see my introductory post here), so Ruth Pavey’s “A Wood of One’s Own”, Helen Ashton’s next Wilchester novel (they’re hard to find so it’s not the next one after “Yeoman’s Hospital”), “The Half-Crown House”, Stella Gibbons’ “The Bachelor” and Jeffrey Boakye’s “Black, Listed”. Hopefully I’ll get through more than those and the three books I’m currently reading.

My NetGalley TBR for June is nice and small which should help with the above.

From the incomings above I have “100 Queer Poems” and “Murder Before Evensong”, then “These Impossible Things” by Salma El-Wardany (three British Muslim women against the world, then something happens to divide them), “Dele Weds Destiny” by Tomi Obaro (three Nigerian women against the world, then one of them marries a White man and moves to the US, we see their friendship over 30 years), and Mya-Rose Craig’s “Birdgirl” (story of a young environmental activist).

With the ones I’m currently reading (not including my readalong which will take a while), that’s 3 books to finish and 11 books I plan to read this month, plus more off the 20 Books of Summer and a couple of Love Heart Lane e-books if I can. Seems doable, right?

How was your May reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection?

State of the TBR – May 2022


Oh, the shame of my TBR shelf! For there is … a PILE! How could there be? But there is. It’s down to the amazing haul of books I scored from the Oxfam Bookshop Moseley in the month (see here for details). And I have (at least) managed to get it into the run of books, albeit sideways and in a pile, because I have taken several off the shelves since last month (I’ve realised I’ve included my big stash of Three Investigators novels in the pic – I normally move them aside and they play no part in my stats (OK?!)).

I managed to finish a grand total of TWENTY books in April, which I was really pleased with (helped by being near the end of a couple at the turnover of the month and finishing one of my readalongs with Emma). I managed to finish and review eight out of the nine e-books I intended to read, including the two non-fiction books published in March that I’d not got to that month, and only missing “The Go-Between” (not that one), which was published in January and adding in one more that I’m half-way through “True Biz”. (“The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois” is resisting me but I will get to it.). I have two books finished in April whose reviews are written but will be published next week).

I started my new quarter of TBR challenge books and managed to complete five of them, so not brilliant but not hopeless, with 36 left to go.

Shiny New Books

I reviewed “This Woman’s Work: Essays on Music” edited by Sinéad Gleeson and Kim Gordon for Shiny New Books – an excellent and diverse collection of essays on women in music by women, which really had something for everyone.


In print books, it looks like I was quite restrained until we remember the nine books from earlier in the month.

The publisher Michael Walmer offered me a choice of backlist books after I reviewed “Letters on Shetland” and I chose “Foula: Island West of the Sun”, a memoir by Sheila Gear about farming on a tiny remote island. Natalie Morris’ “Mixed/Other” was a book that Past Me had pre-ordered in paperback; it’s a book about multiraciality in Britain today. And I popped up to Oxfam Books to pick up two more Virago Travellers for Kaggsy and it’s therefore entirely her fault I spotted Robert MacFarlane’s “Landmarks” in the window (actually, it was Matthew who pointed it out to me …) and had to buy it.

I bought several e-books for Kindle this month:

Because I’d won Christie Barlow‘s newest Love Heart Lane novel from NetGalley, I felt I needed to fill in books 4-6 (“Starcross Manor”, “Primrose Park” and “The Lake House”) so I could get all the back story filled in. Simon at Stuck-in-A-Book heartily recommended E. Nesbit’s “The Red House” and I found a cheap copy, and David Harewood’s memoir “Maybe I Don’t Belong Here” on race and his breakdown, and John Barnes’ “The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism” were both on my wishlist and both in the Kindle sale.

I won a lot of NetGalley books this month again:

Lucy Dickens’ “The Holiday Bookshop” (published in July) sees the heroine running a bookshop in the Maldives, a bit different there, Josie Lloyd’s “Lifesaving for Beginners” (July) is an ensemble piece about female friendship and sea swimming and Camille Baker’s “The Moment we Met” (July) pits a busy Black woman against a dating app. Emily Henry’s “Book Lovers” (May) is an enemies-to-lovers light read set in the world of book editors and agents, “Daisy’s French Farmhouse” by Lorraine Wilson (May) was offered to me by the publisher and has the heroine find a new life in France and Christie Barlow’s “The New Doctor at Peony Practice” (May) is the newest Love Heart Lane novel set in Scotland. In non-fiction, “Birdgirl” by Mya-Rose Craig (June) is the memoir of a young woman committed to birdwatching and environmentalism, “Inside Qatar” by John McManus (Sep) looks at the rise of this tiny, rich and troubled country, and “The Ponies at the Edge of the World” by Catherine Munro (May) continues my interest in Shetland. “Why We Read” edited by Josephine Greywoode interrogates 70 writers on why they read non-fiction.

So that was 20 read and, along with the 9 of the Oxfam haul, 28 coming in in April – oops!

Currently reading

I’m currently reading Katherine MacInnes’ amazing “Snow Widows” about the wives of Scott of the Antarctic et al. and Jude Rogers’ super “The Sound of Being Human” (started in pdf but I wanted to get the book) for Shiny New Books. “Cut from the Same Cloth?” is my current read with Emma (got off to a very theoretical start but looks like a good mix of essays by British women who wear the hijab) and my e-book novel is “True Biz” by Sara Novic, a novel set in a school for deaf people in the US which is fascinating.

Coming up next, my print TBR that I must read …

I want to get my teeth into “Foula” and I need to read those two British Library Women Writers novels, Rose Macaulay’s “Keeping up Appearances” and Maud Cairnes’ “Strange Journey”. It’s Real LIves month in the LibraryThing Virago Readers group so time to tackle this substantial “Virago Book of Women Travellers” and it’s Heaven-Ali’s Daphne du Maurier Week this month and she kindly loaned me “The Scapegoat to read for it … and there’s also of course my Larry McMurtry.

My NetGalley TBR for May is fairly full, and because it includes that Love Heart Lane book, I need to read books 1-6 of that series first (I have the first three as a cheapy omnibus e-book).

So from those incomings above, I have “Why We Read”, “Daisy’s French Farmhouse”, “Book Lovers”, “The Ponies at the End of the World” and “The New Doctor at Peony Practice”, then I have Sara Cox’s novel of community and pottery, “Thrown”, Susanna Abse’s therapists’ tales, “Tell me the Truth About Love”, Akwaeke Emezi’s “You Made a Fool of Death with your Beauty” (I hear this novel opens with a shocking scene so hope I can deal with it!) and Clare Pooley’s new community-based novel, “The People on Platform 5”.

With the ones I’m currently reading (not including my readalong which will take a while), that’s 21 books I think I’m going to read this month, and that’s not including getting a few more off the print TBR, too! I do have a weekend away with two longish train journeys coming up this month at least …

How was your April reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection?

A Haul!


So, my friend Jen kindly informed a few of us in our BookCrossing group that the Oxfam Bookshop in Moseley had a load of Viragoes in the window. Upon rushing up there yesterday (after doing an urgent bit of work, naturally), I discovered three piles of Virago Travellers, those slightly elusive travel books they republished, usually written by doughty women about, at the very least, donning a thorn-proof skirt and hoicking themselves up onto a donkey, but often dressing as a man, to travel through all sorts of exciting places in the 1850s-1950s sort of time period.

Readers, I was restrained. OK, I already had some of them. But I did want to leave some for others to discover and I couldn’t “rescue” them all. They were all donated from / on behalf of (look, I didn’t push to know: too sad!) the same person, and when I asked the nice chap who’d got them out of the window display for me, he and the manager brought out the novels that had come in at the same time – unfortunately I had all of those except one. Then it would have been RUDE not to have had a look around the shop proper, right? and the travel section yielded some lovelies. The haul in full …

Virago Travellers:

Flora Tristan – “Peregrinations of a Pariah” – French writer visits Peru in 1833 to claim her inheritance – she’s a pariah because of her divorce.

Gertrude Bell – “The Desert and the Sown” – The famous traveller’s journey through Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, first published 1907.

Alexandra David-Neel – “My Journey to Lhasa” – In 1923, she was the first European woman to visit the city of Lhasa. She was adept in Tibetan ascetic practices to keep warm.

Flora Tristan – “The London Journey of Flora Tristan” – More of the French traveller, exploring London in 1826-39.

Edith Durham – “High Albania” – Seven years of travel in the Balkans in – yes, a “waterproof Burberry skirt”.

Virago Modern Classic:

Edith Wharton – “The Mother’s Recompense” – Not one I’d previously come across: a woman who abandoned her husband and daughter 20 years ago is summoned back to New York by that daughter.


Mike Carter – “All Together Now” – The son of the man who organised the People’s March for Jobs in 1981 does the same walk just pre-Brexit vote to look at what has happened to the working classes in the meantime.

Patrick Barkham – “Islander: A Journey Around our Archipelago” – I can’t resist a book about islands and this looks at all Britain’s isles, from a great and perceptive nature writer.

Vikram Seth – “From Heaven Lake” – More Lhasa! The novelist hitchhikes through Sinkiang and Tibet.

Have you read any of these? I couldn’t leave any of them behind, could I, now???

State of the TBR – April 2022


Looking at my TBR shelf I notice that it’s about as full as it was last month (though with more review books) so at least it hasn’t got any worse, has it …

I read 13 books in in March, which I was pretty disappointed with, although I was having a very busy time at work in the first couple of weeks, and it’s still not too bad (note that there are a few more books in than out last month, however!) I only managed to finish and review seven of the eleven NetGalley ebooks I intended to read, although I have since finished two more (“The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois” is STILL proving hard to get into but I will persist). I have two reads from March left to review which is fine as I like to be reviewing in advance in case I don’t have time during the week. One of these was the Maya Angelou poems that finishes my set and I read my Larry McMurtry 2022 book for the month. The Angelou was number 13 out of 53 in the second quarter of my TBR Project, so I have 40 books left to read of that (I’m reading one at the moment) in six months, which makes 6.66 books per month and means I need to get on with that! I read two books for Reading Wales 2022, both by Richard King, “Brittle with Relics” and “The Lark Ascending” and bought another.

Shiny New Books

I reviewed “Brittle With Relics” for Shiny New Books as well as on here (see link above) with a less emotional and more “professional” review.


In print books, you would think I have NOT been restrained this month as I was last month. But actually it’s all down to review copies coming in (thank you!), books being pushed on me and Unbound books getting published, oh, and needing to buy the second book in a series when I won the third one on NetGalley. So really, I only slipped up with Ted Edwards’ “Fight the Wild Island: A Solo Walk Across Iceland” which I suddenly found at a good second-hand price (so that hardly counts, either!).

I was kindly sent “Snow Widows” by Katherine MacInnes (the story of the widows of Scott of the Antarctic and his expedition mates and what happened next: how cool is that?), “This Woman’s Work”, edited by Kim Gordon and Sinead Gleeson, about women and music; Rob Cowan’s poetry book, “The Heeding” (OK, the publicist sent this to me in error but I peeked at it and was drawn in, it came in Feb, actually); and Maud Carnes’ “Strange Journey” and Rose Macaulay’s “Keeping up Appearances” which are the two latest in the British Library Women Writers reprints series.

Then “100 Voices” ed Miranda Roszkowski is an Unbound book I subscribed to, showcasing 100 women and their stories of achievement; my friend Meg pressed “Detransition Baby” by Torrey Peters onto me, saying I had to read it; and I had to buy Nicola May’s “Starry Skies in Ferry Lane Market” because I have book 1 already and won book 3 on NetGalley.

I bought two e-books this month: Malala Yousafzai’s “We are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls” and Charlotte William’s “Sugar and Slate”, a memoir of growing up Black and Welsh which was the readalong for Reading Wales this year – I was holding out for a print copy but none was to be found that was affordable and I won’t leave it till next March!

I won a lot of NetGalley books this month (but not toooooo many are published in April, thank goodness):

“Tell Me the Truth About Love” by Susanna Abse (published in May) is tales from a therapist on love and relationships; Sara Cox’s “Thrown” (May) is a novel about community and, yes, pottery; Osman Yousefzada’s “The Go-Between” (Jan) is a coming-of-age story set in 1980s and 1990s Birmingham where the author crosses two worlds and cultures; Nicola May’s “Rainbows End in Ferry Lane Market” (Apr) is third in a series about a small community; Salma El-Wardany’s “These Impossible Things” (Jun) charts the lives of three British Muslim women over the years; Sara Novic’s “True Biz” (May) is set in a school for the D/deaf and examines both the pupils and the head as it struggles for survival; in “You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty” by Akwaeke Emezi (May) a Nigerian woman struggling with grief goes to the Caribbean and finds love and friendship; and Candice Carty-Williams’ “People Person” (Apr) has a woman in South London finding she has five half-siblings …

So that was 13 read and 18 coming in in March – oops!

Currently reading

I’m currently reading Sairish Hussain’s “The Family Tree”, a multigenerational saga set in a Muslim family in the UK, because I had to take something from my standard print TBR. When I took this picture earlier today, I was reading Warsan Shire’s “Bless the Daughter Raised by A Voice in Her Head” but I’ve finished this amazing hook of poetry already, as it was both short and powerful.

Coming up next, my print TBR that I must read …

… includes the review books already mentioned, TWO Larry McMurtry’s (they are short ones) to finish the Duane/Thalia series, and that middle Ferry Market novel. I would ideally like to get something else from the normal print TBR, too.

My NetGalley TBR for April isn’t too bad:

So from those incomings above, I have “The Go Between” by Osman Yousefzada, “People Person” by Candice Carty-Williams and the two Ferry Lane Market books (books 1 and 3). I also have Julie Shackman’s “A Scottish Highland Surprise”, which the publisher kindly offered me via NetGalley, and Bonnie Garmus’ exciting looking “Lessons in Chemistry”. Elizabeth Fair’s “The Native Heath” was sent to me by Dean Street Press ages ago and somehow got overlooked: it fits in with Kaggsy and Simon’s 1954 Challenge so out if comes! I do also have “Shadowlands” and “The Ship Asunder” left over from my March NetGalley TBR, however I notice that all but one of the April ones are novels, which should help me get through them relatively rapidly, I hope …

That’s 15 books to read this month, which I hope I can manage, but hopefully I’ll get a few more off the print TBR, too!

How was your March reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection?

State of the TBR – March 2022


It’s the second month with my new TBR shelf, and it has been marvellous being able to see what I’ve got, as well as being easier to move around when I take books off it (not that that happened much this month!). For example, I was able to grab “Anna and Her Daughters” off the bottom shelf when Ali read it and I just had to follow suit.

I read 15 books in February, which I was quite pleased about given that I started slowly, including all the NetGalley ebooks I intended to read and one more I acquired during the month (“The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois” is proving hard to get into but I will persist). Three of my reads I have yet to publish reviews for, and one was published in Shiny New Books (more below). My Maya Angelou fitted into our monthly Virago challenge and I read my Larry McMurtry 2022 book for the month even if I was a bit late with my review. I have not done that well with ReadIndies, having read five (two to review) and I’ve read book 10 out of 53 in the second quarter of my TBR Project (I have got book six and eleven in the respective challenges off the shelf to read).

Shiny New Books

I read “No One Round Here Reads Tolstoy” by Mark Hodkinson for Shiny New Books and my review is out today! I really enjoyed reading about his journey from a working-class household with one book to his discovery of the world of books and progress to being an editor and publisher. I also showcased “Brown Girls” and “Black Cake” there in a double review highlighting these two great debut novels.


In print books, I have been very lucky and also very restrained. I bought a second-hand copy of Christina Hardyment’s “Arthur Ransome and Capt. Flint’s Trunk” after seeing this book about the locations of the Swallows and Amazons series on someone’s blog (help – whose?). Then lovely Verity sent me Katherine May’s “The Electricity of Every Living Thing” about a woman’s self-healing through walking (and what a beautiful cover) and while she thought she’d sent it late, it arrived on just the most perfect day to get a surprise book in the post, and the publisher Michael Walmer has very kindly added me to his list and sent me Peter Jamieson’s “Letters on Shetland” which I can’t wait to get stuck into very soon, as I love reading about Shetland and its history.

I had a bit of a NetGalley influx this last month, although even though there was one more than this (Kate Weston’s “Must Do Better”, reviewing tomorrow), there were 13 books in and 15 read in the month, so that’s a victory of sorts, right?

Matthew Green’s “Shadowlands” (out in March) is an enticing book about lost villages and the like in Britain (I know at least two people who will also be tempted by this one!). Anne Booth’s “Small Miracles” (August) is a heart-warming, positive novel offered to me by the publisher. Télé-Michel Kpomassie’s “Michel the Giant: An African in Greenland” (February) is a travel book I’ve been looking for for ages (you know how I am obsessed with Greenland and love books about different cultures encountering one another) and I discovered had been republished by Penguin. Julie Shackman’s “A Scottish Highland Surprise” (April) is another light novel offered to me by the publisher: wedding shop, mysterious tea sets and small community life: yes please. Charlotte Mendelson is an author I’ve enjoyed before and “The Exhibitionist” (March) is another perceptive family story. Margaret Atwood’s “Burning Questions” (today!) is her new book of essays. “The Ship Asunder” by Tom Nancollas (March) (yes, I have yet to read his lighthouse one) looks at British maritime history in bits of eleven ships and boats combined in one imaginary one. Erika L. Sanchez’ “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” (March) is a coming of age novel about a Mexican American young woman. And last in the picture but first in my TBR (probably), finally I’ve got my hands on a copy of Anne Tyler’s “French Braid” (March) although I’m still hoping for my ARC from the publisher, too. At last I’ll finish my Anne Tyler project (for now).

Coming up next

I am only reading one main book right now, and that’s Richard King’s “Brittle With Relics: A History of Wales 1962-1987”. It’s such an amazing work of oral history that I’m really savouring it and reading it slowly, and even though I provided administrative support on the book, it’s so beautifully put together it’s like everything is new to my eyes. I’m reviewing it for Shiny New Books but will write about it here, too. As well as Maya Angelou’s “And Still I Rise” book of poetry, which I’ve started to dip into but neglected to photograph, I have Larry McMurtry’s “Duane’s Depressed” and then Damian Hall’s “In it For the Long Run”, published by Vertebrate so another ReadIndie book, about ultra running. I haven’t read a running book for ages, it feels.

My NetGalley TBR for March is pretty horrendous:

So from those incomings above, I have “Shadowlands”, the Atwood and Anne Tyler, “An African in Greenland”, “I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter”, “The Ship Asunder” and “The Exhibitionist”. In addition, I have Kasim Ali’s “Good Intentions” (novel about a mixed heritage secret relationship), Symeon Brown’s exploration of influencer culture, “Get Rich or Lie Trying”, Lizzie Damilola Blackburn’s “Yinka, Where is Your Huzband” (life as a Nigerian British woman who’s as yet unmarried), and Warsan Shire’s “Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head” (poetry by an award-winning Somali British woman).

That’s 15 books to read this month, which I can manage, but hopefully I’ll get a few more off the print TBR!

How was your February reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection?

State of the TBR – February 2022


Well today you get to see something exciting … the new iteration of my TBR shelf! After so many years (literally 20 years) sharing this shelf with my husband’s books, my books just got too much, the piles I was making were perilous, and (with his permission) I’ve moved all of his books to be gone through in my study and have taken over THE WHOLE BOOKSHELF. Positives: I can see all the books. Negatives: I can see ALL THE BOOKS. There are a lot of them.

I read 17 books in January, including all the NetGalley ebooks I intended to read (“The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois” is going to be a long read and I did skim Johann Hari’s “Stolen Focus” but it wasn’t much new, he seemed to state things as new that weren’t and he’s the guy there was a huge plagiarism scandal over, so I decided not to review the book here), as well as most of Richard Osman’s “The Man Who Died Twice” which I’m reading along with Matthew (and seems never-ending, I have to say!). In print books, I finished my on-going readalong with Emma and read one book for our monthly Virago challenge as well as my Larry McMurtry 2022 book for the month. I’ve done really well with my NordicFINDS challenge (scroll down my January TBR post for the books) – the challenge continues until the end of 6 February and I’ve already read and reviewed five of them, I’ve read two now out of the Jon Kalman Stefansson trilogy and will review them together soon, I have a short book of short stories to go and I’ve made some progress in my massive saga book. In addition, nine of the ten count towards my TBR Project!


In print books, I shared a parcel from Australia and an Unbound book and my birthday incomings already, and just one more has come in since then, Eileen Jones’ “How parkrun changed our lives”. My friend Rachel kindly picked up a copy at the Running Show and had Eileen sign it for me, and I actually met Eileen that day as she came to our Oaklands parkrun first! Given it at the next parkrun, what could I do but photograph it there?

I was quite restrained with NetGalley requests (or they were quite restrained with what they gave me?) in January and ended up with these

Sofi Thanhauser’s “Worn” I have read already and reviewed it here. Tomi Obaro’s “Dele Weds Destiny” (published in June) follows three Nigerian women friends over 30 years, one moves to America, the other two stay behind. Alecia McKenzie takes an artist back to his mother’s homeland of Jamaica, where he heals and learns amidst family in “A Million Aunties” (Feb). Clare Pooley wrote the lovely “The Authenticity Project” and her publisher kindly offered me “The People on Platform 5” (May): what will happen when the commuters start talking to one another? Georgia Hill’s “The Great Summer Street Party” (Feb) looks at a community commemorating D-Day 75 years on (it’s one of those books split into three: will I get hold of the others?), and A. J. Clementine is a trans woman TikTok star who tells her story of pain and acceptance in “Girl, Transcending” (Feb), one of those books you can only read on the Shelf App.

Currently reading and coming up first

I’m currently reading Richard Osman’s “The Man Who Died Twice” from NetGalley (truth be told, I finished it this morning, after Matthew reported what chapter he’d got up to on the audio book on his walk and I wickedly carried on); Jon Kalman Stefansson’s “The Heart of Man”, the final part of his “Heaven and Hell” trilogy, being read for Annabel’s NordicFINDS challenge, and Maya Angelou’s “Mom & Me & Mom”, the last prose book Ali, Meg and I are reading before we finish our readalong with a volume of poetry (or will we all read the essays, too?) and fortuitously a Virago book by a North American writer which fits the LibraryThing Virago Group’s monthly challenge. I hope to read a book of Reykjavik-based short stories which will complete my NordicFINDS nine, and will continue with my saga book. And my Larry McMurtry for the month is “Texasville”, the sequel to “The Last Picture Show”. I’ve also got “No One Round Here Reads Tolstoy” by Mark Hodkinson, the memoir of a working-class reader, and just in, one more exciting book I can’t wait to read and review …

Coming up next

The main focus of my print reading this month will be on the ReadIndies challenge run by Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Lizzy’s Literary Life. I’ve made a lovely pile for it just out of the first part of my TBR (also cunningly forming part of my TBR Project, too!).

I won’t go through descriptions etc. of them in case I don’t get round to them all, just note I have a metaphorical pile (as they’re all back in (visible) place on my TBR shelf), but all of these are published by independent publishers, from Profile Books to Unbound via Dean Street Press, and I’ll link to their publishers as I review them.

My NetGalley TBR for February is quite big but also fairly fiction and memoir-heavy so I have hopes of getting them read. As well as “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois” and “The Man Who Died Twice” rumbling along in the background, I have these eight that are all published this month.

Shellee Marie’s “Influenced Love” is a light romance about social media influencers, Kodo Nishimura should be inspiring in “This Monk Wears Heels”; Monia Ali’s “Love Marriage” is the first new book by the author for a while; “Small Town Girl” is Donna McLean’s memoir of being involved in the Spy Cops scandal (read about in novel form in “Skylark“); “Girl, Transcending”, “A Million Aunties” and “The Great Summer Street Party” I’ve described above and Charmaine Wilkerson’s “Black Cake” is a family story of a matriarch of a Black American family forcing her children to come to terms with one another through the medium of cake.

That’s 19 books to read this month, I can do it, can’t I?

How was your January reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection?

Special birthday book incomings!


I’ve been lucky enough to make it all the way to my half-century, and although I also asked people to make a donation to Fareshare Midlands if they wanted to mark it, and I was also the lucky recipient of Kiva loan vouchers, book tokens, lunches, meals, a chunk of money to spend through the year and other lovelies, my main gifts were these lovelies.

Henry Eliot – The Penguin Modern Classics Book – a massive book all about these truly iconic volumes from the lovely Meg.

Maya Angelou – Wouldn’t Take Nothing for my Journey Now, Even the Stars Look Lonesome and Letter to My Daughter – it’s been so lovely reading Angelou’s volumes of memoir over the last few months with Meg and Ali, and I’m so pleased to have these volumes of her essays from Ali.

Lars Mytting – The Bell in the Lake – could I resist adding a Nordic book about a bell in a lake and the community around it to my wishlist a while ago? No, and thank you Sian for picking it from the list!

Molly Clavering – Susan Settles Down and Touch Not the Nettle (a pair that go together), and Love Comes Home, and D. E. Stevenson – The Tall Stranger and Anna and her Daughters – a super selection from Dean Street Press given to me by Emma on our day out in Oxford.

Helen Taylor – Why Women Read Fiction – a lovely-looking book from Gill; she also added to my Christmas bonanza with David LodgeQuite a Good Time to be Born (the first volume of his memoirs) and Stuart Hall – A Life Between Two Islands (his memoir!) as we hadn’t been able to meet up for a while.

Tom Nancollas – Seashaken Houses (history of lighthouses), Deborah Frances-White – The Guilty Feminist (the book of the podcast) and Nefertiti Austin – Motherhood So White (class, race and gender in perceptions of motherhood in the US) made their way to me from Cari, spreading the birthday joy across the world!

Have you read any of these? How well do you think I did fitting them on my bookshelves? Have I, indeed, rejigged my whole TBR shelf? (you’ll have to wait to see until Tuesday …)

Incomings this month so far


I haven’t got anything ready to review as I’ve been concentrating on a read and review for Shiny New Books, but I have had some lovely Incomings that I don’t want to get mixed up with anything that might or might not be arriving for my upcoming birthday, so here we go with a small but perfectly formed pile of lovelies.

Bill from The Australian Legend and I had been discussing how it was almost impossible to order books on or by Indigenous Australian people in the UK (this is similar to how US publishers are often unable to ship to the UK and it’s well-nigh impossible to get anything by Indigenous Canadian authors, too, hence me falling on that slightly weird book about the first premier of Nunavut at a good price and available a while back. Sometimes you can obtain these books in ebook form but if I’m going to pay more than a few pounds for something, I like to have it physically in front of me, able to be kept or passed on (I keep my Kindle for cheap light reads and NetGalley).

Bill then very kindly sent me a selection of books by and about Indigenous Australian people (I’m using that term after Brona helped me to research best practice in terms: this may change in the future of course) and they arrived in much less than the promised 25 days! “Growing up Aboriginal in Australia” edited by Anita Heiss does what it says on the tin: an anthology by both well-known and high-profile authors and newly discovered writers. Nugi Garimara / Doris Pilkington’s “Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence” is the original book that inspired the film of the same name I was too feeble to watch, and is the story of the author’s mother’s escape from an institution in 1931. And “Another Day in The Colony” by Chelsea Watego is a collection of essays by Watego looking at the ongoing daily racism faced by what she describes as First Nations people in so-called Australia. These look wonderful and powerful and I now need to decide if I am going to save them for Brona from This Reading Life‘s AusReading Month or Lisa from ANZ Litlover‘s Indigenous Lit Week in July!

I do like being a subscriber for Unbound books – you get to help all sorts of more unusual books that can’t – or don’t want to – attract a conventional publisher, you pay a bit of money upfront and in the fullness of time, you get a book that has your name in the back (the books go on to be published and available; I’ve bought quite a few books published by Unbound over the years that I didn’t realise came from them and hadn’t subscribed for). The only problem is that you come in right at the beginning of the publishing process, sometimes even before the author’s finished writing the book, and then suddenly you get an update that it’s on its way and there it is, trying to squeeze onto your already crowded shelves! But this, Lucy Leonelli’s “A Year in the Life”, looks like a good one, as they all are, of course: the author tires of the corporate ladder and decides to spend a year exploring Britain’s many subcultures, finding amusement and eccentricity but also community and care.

Have you read or subscribed to any of these? How’s your book buying going this year so far?

State of the TBR – January 2022


It’s time to share the state of my TBR after the addition of my December incomings (which were many and various). After sharing incomings paper and e-book, I’ll talk about the reading challenges I’m working on this month. There’s a report on what I’m reading now and next and I’m also going to share the position of my special TBR 2021-2022 project, to read all the pre-05 October 2021 books by 05 October 2022 at the end of the post.

First, the horror …

I read 20 books in December, which was really quite pleasing, including all of the print books and all but 2.5 of the ebooks I planned to read (I added an e-book and started one of my two Dean Street Press books out on 06 January; Matthew has only just got to “The Man Who Died Twice” so I’m starting it today. However, all the incomings are now on the shelf and yes, that is a pile at the front and three piles at the back plus some vertical books. I think that might be the worst it’s ever been! (now I’ve removed a pile of books to read for challenges, the front shelf is all vertical again, like that makes it any better). There are some small additional piles with those books in series etc, but they have gone down a lot.


I shared my interim incomings part way through the month after a lovely, generous BookCrossing Not So Secret Santa, a super parcel from the lovely Bookish Beck and various naughty purchases. Of course several of my lovely friends provided books for me to open on Christmas Day, too (as well as some book tokens for mid-summer joy!).

From the top, Tessa Wardley’s “Mindful Thoughts for Runners” which is quite a comprehensive look at mindfulness and being in the moment when running which I had somehow never encountered but Meg cleverly found. Margery Sharp’s “Fanfare for Tin Trumpets” (a boarding house novel), Stella Gibbons’ “The Swiss Summer” (a 1950s trip to the Alps) and D. E. Stevenson’s “Smouldering Fire” (Scottish man lets his home, romance and mystery ensue), plus Jokha Alharthi’s “Celestial Bodies” as the story of three Omani sisters, adds a new country to my list and is a Woman in Translation month candidate, too – all from Ali. Emma kindly sent me two Molly Claverings, “Near Neighbours” (cheerful tale of an older woman liberated to enjoy life) and “Dear Hugo” (woman moves into small Scottish village, becomes one of the community) – I came to love this gentle Scottish writer last year, and five of those last six books are Dean Street Press ones, hooray! And Sian found me [Susie] “Dent’s Modern Tribes”, about the specialised language used by experts in various fields.

In ebooks, I both went a bit naughty in the sales on Kindle (and the free e-book I get every month with our house Amazon Prime account), and also requested and won a good few NetGalley reads. Oopsie. First the NetGalleys …

Symeon Brown’s “Get Rich or Lie Trying” March) is about the Influencer economy online and how it works. In Bonnie Garmus’ novel, “Lessons in Chemistry” (April) a woman teaches America to cook in the 1960s but teaches women more, too. Honoree Fanonne Jeffers’ “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois” (November 2021) is an epic tale of a Black US family from slavery to now (it’s massive, too!). Jane Linfoot’s “Tea For Two at the Little Cornish Kitchen” (Jan) returns us to St Aidan’s in Cornwall for gentle reading. Donna McLean’s “Small Town Girl” (Feb) tells the real life behind the spy cops scandal I read about in “Skylark“, and Warsan Shire’s “Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head” (Mar) is poems by a British Somali woman.

… and then the Kindle books. Chandra Blumberg’s “Digging Up Love” was the free one through Amazon Prime and has an American woman moving cities to work in a bakery and meeting a palaeontologist (I do love that cover); Sue Cheung’s “Chinglish” was on special offer and is an illustrated “almost entirely true” memoir about growing up in Britain with Chinese heritage. I’ve already read Louise Lennox’s “Merry Kiss Me” and ordered a boxset of the first three “Love Heart Lane” novels after enjoying Christie Barlow’s “Heartcross Castle“.

Currently reading and coming up first

I am hoping to get through a few books this month, especially as I have a week off work around my birthday (I was going to go somewhere but I’m now going to do more local fun things and see friends individually). I’m currently still reading Afua Hirsch’s “Brit(ish)” with Emma, but we’re nearly done so will start another one this month. The next Maya Angelou is “Mom & Me & Mom” and will be read this month. Thomas Harding’s “White Debt” is a book on slavery legacies to read for Shiny New Books, and Larry McMurtry’s “The Last Picture Show” is my first read in my Larry McMurtry 2022 project (I will be reading “Lonesome Dove” but want to fit this in first).

Coming up next

My main print reading this coming month will be for Annabookbel’s Nordic FINDS challenge, although I’m going slightly off-piste and interpreting it in my own way – I’ve pulled all the Nordic or part-Nordic books off my shelf, including the huge “Sagas of Icelanders” books, and will try to read and review them all in the month. So I have Jon Kallan Stefansson’s “Heaven and Hell” trilogy (Iceland), Christine Ritter’s “A Woman in the Polar Night” (Svalbard, thus Norway), A. Kendra Green’s “The Museum of Whales I will Never See” (Iceland), “The Book of Reykjavik” (short stories, Iceland), Sara Wheeler’s “The Magnetic North” (Svalbard and Lapland, not sure whose bit), Kari Gislason’s “The Promise of Iceland” (Iceland) and Cat Jarman’s “River Kings” (Vikings, so various bits).

I will also have a few NetGalley out this month to read, plus “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois which seems to be out this month but NG says November last year):

So there’s Nikki May’s “Wahala” (Nigerian English women in London face a threat from a fourth friend), Johann Hari’s “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention”, Daphne Palasi Andreades’ “Brown Girls” (a group of young women of colour growing up in Queen’s, New York, should be a good comparison piece to “Wahala”) and the “Little Cornish Kitchen.

So that’s 19 books in total: which is doable, right?!

TBR 2021-2022 challenge report

A quick update on my TBR Challenge, I have got the numbers all wonky so I’m calling it Quarter 2 with 53 books to read. Here they are:

Far fewer than in the original picture and I’ll count down from 53 and hope it works this time. Several of the ones above are from this category, so I should be able to keep on track (at least 6 per month to get done by 05 October).

How was your December reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection?

Two exceedingly Christmassy reads to round off the season


Even though I have read a lot of wintry and then Christmassy books this month, cutting a swathe through the TBR and its associated challenge, I had yet MORE Christmassyness arrive just before Christmas, opening “Christmas: A Very Peculiar History” in my BookCrossing Not So Secret Santa parcel and receiving the lovely short story / Christmas card “The Christmas Dinner” by Washington Irving from (I will admit as they’ll both read this) two lovely booky friends. What better reads to save for Christmas Day? (Actually, we were quite busy on Christmas Day, what with me going to parkrun in the morning, cooking a lovely lunch, going for a walk and doing a Zoom call with a dear friend, so not THAT much time for reading!). Only one will count towards actual books read, but both deserve a review.

Fiona MacDonald – “Christmas: A Very Peculiar History, With Lashings of Second Helpings

(16 December 2021 – from Sam via BookCrossing)

A little gifty book that packs a lot of information into its 191 pages of vintage-illustrated text (including a glossary and index). It has details on the history of all the things to do with Christmas, from its timing to the tree and Father Christmas himself, info on practices around the world, and fun facts galore. It’s a pretty little book but certainly has enough content to keep you reading for a good few hours. One tiny mention that all the scholars mentioned are men and even when there’s an illustration of a random scholar, it’s a man, with women and girls relegated to general illustrations, but I’m probably being extra picky there. A good gift and one to consider when putting together parcels for friends or relatives.

Washington Irving – “The Christmas Dinner”

This is one of the lovely Christmas card / pamphlets that Renard Press do in aid of “Three Peas“, a charity that supports people who have had to flee war and/or persecution in Europe. It’s such a lovely idea and I was very pleased to receive them this year again. This is a great story of a typical British Christmas dinner reported by an American writer in 1820 – so you get his footnotes explaining lots of traditions, as well as extra ones from the modern editors to explain things that might have got lost in the mists of history. Everything’s there from feasting to dressing up in costumes in this charming little read that gets you into the spirit of Christmas or keeps you there on a sleepy afternoon.

Two lovely gifts! Did you do a Christmassy read on Christmas afternoon?

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