A new bookshop in Kings Heath – The Heath Bookshop – and indie businesses in Kings Court

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I found out there was going to be a new bookshop in Kings Heath, my suburb of Birmingham, some time last year when I filled in their first questionnaire. Catherine and Claire have since put in a lot of hard work, and they opened officially last weekend, with a plethora of author events. It was such a joyful time and it was also lovely to run into so may people I knew at the events. Kings Court itself is a real find, and somewhere I wouldn’t have ventured without going to the bookshop – see below for some photos of the area and its indie businesses.

Setting up the bookshop

You can read about the journey the bookshop idea has taken on their Facebook page here. I first visited the premises in Kings Court back in July and met Catherine (who, it turns out, was a student of my friend Gill; when I met Claire, she immediately recognised me as a KH Running Club member; that’s One Degree of South Birmingham for you!).

Fast-forward a couple of months and a few interstitial visits and I popped in last Thursday to find books on the shelves!

They were soft-opening and, as I’d promised, I took a book token in to give them a go at processing one of those (their first book token transaction; they’ll also be selling book tokens). I chose Bernadine Evaristo’s memoir, “Manifesto” and also picked up two small books of short stories, “Stories” by various authors and “Walking Backwards” by Charlie Hill, whose books I’ve reviewed on here a few times.

Launch Weekend

On 9-11 September there was a lovely launch weekend, like a mini book festival, with various authors taking part. There will be pics up on their Facebook and Instagram. I attended Osman Yousefzada’s talk on Saturday afternoon.

I bought his book, “The Go-Between: A Portrait of Growing up Between Different Worlds”: he grew up in Balsall Heath, just down the road from Kings Heath, and this looks fascinating (I did win it on NetGalley but wanted to get a proper copy).

Then on Saturday, I met Gill as normal but instead of going to a coffee shop (well, I did go to a coffee shop, see below), we went to an author talk. Niall Griffiths, Wales resident, Liverpool born, friend of the bookshop, was a hoot.

His novels are more on the thriller side of things but he read some poems and I liked their concrete nature (as in they’re about things, rather than being those ones that are in funny shapes on the page), reminiscent of Attila the Stockbroker, so bought those (in fact, bought the copy he’d done the reading from!).

The hitherto unknown Kings Court

Kings Court is a little court running off the high street; I think it used to house a greasy spoon and a furniture shop but is now a lovely little indie destination. I am sure I’ve missed some places out, but the offerings include Levain & Cherry, an artisan bakers, The Milkcake Man, a dessert shop with a difference, Borough & Fox, an indie greengrocer, and Pause Cafe, a lovely find of a speciality coffee shop with an amazing array of cakes (I had a super coffee there on Sunday and a chat with a fellow customer, and will be back to try out the vegan cakes).

Pause Cafe
View into Kings Court

Well worth a visit, and definitely worth a look around when you’re popping to the bookshop!

About The Heath Bookshop

Facebook page here including opening hours and author events

Instagram here

They’re on Bookshop.org so if you’re not local and want to support them, you can order your books through their page and send them their portion of sale price.

State of the TBR – September 2022

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Looking at last month’s picture, I’m pleased at how things are going. My little pile of Three Investigators Mysteries is safely tucked into the shelf now, and things have definitely moved on in the oldest part of the TBR (top left). Hooray!

I completed 16 books in August, and am part-way through two more. I finished two of my ebook TBR books and am part-way through a third, with one unread as yet. I read ten out of eleven of my print TBR books, not managing the Michael Walmer, which I’d warned him might happen. I completed my 20 Books Of Summer challenge! Those are all also from my TBR challenge – I now have 14 books to go on that from now until 05 October, which isn’t going to happen, see below.

Shiny New Books

Shiny has been having its August break so no books reviewed there.

Incomings

I was again restrained with print books in this last month.

Kaggsy of the Bookish Ramblings sent me “Country of Origin” by Dalia Azim, a novel about Egyptians in New York. I was reminded of the existence of “Life Among the Qallunaat” by Mini Aodla Freeman (an Inuit woman’s memoir of living among the non-Indigenous settlers) by The Australian Legend’s review and managed to find an OK-priced ex-library copy, and publishers Elliott & Thompson kindly sent me Aliya Whiteley’s “The Secret Life of Fungi” which I will review here on Fungus Day in October and also for Shiny.

I won just the five NetGalley books this month:

The nice folks at Faber offered me “Avalon” by Nell Zink (published January 2023), a novel about utopias and finding yourself, and then when we were discussing their non-fiction list, approved me for history of measurement, “Beyond Measure” by James Vincent (June 2022). I was also offered Julie Caplin’s “The Christmas Castle in Scotland” (October 2022) by its publisher, having enjoyed one of her novels before. “Fire Rush” by Jacqueline Crooks (March 2023) is a coming-of-age novel set in 1970s London and Crooks was named best debut Black female novelist by Bernardine Evaristo in the Guardian, which is enough for me to request it from the tempting email, and Jimi Famurewa’s “Settlers: Journeys Through the Food, Faith and Culture of Black African London” (October 2022) looks very interesting and also pairs nicely with the novels I’ve read recently about British Nigerian Londoners.

So that was 16 read and 8 coming in in August – very much in the right direction!

Currently reading

Slightly oddly, I’m currently reading two books loaned to me by Heaven-Ali – “The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym” by Paula Byrne, the biography of our beloved writer, and “Desert of the Heart” by Jane Rule, a 1960s lesbian classic about a woman staying in Reno to accomplish her divorce (I was attempting to include this in All August / All Virago and the Virago Groups’s travel theme for August but didn’t get it finished). Actually, I think this is Ali’s hard copy of Francesca Wade’s “Square Haunting” too – Emma and I started this as our readalong this month and are thoroughly enjoying it, as predicted. On the Kindle is Derek A Bardowell’s “Giving Back: How to Do Good, Better” which is an excellent and powerful book on the social sector and how we can all make our money and work go further and to the right people.

Coming up

Coming up next in print books, well, this isn’t going to happen. This is all the books that will get my TBR project finished, plus two review books, and doesn’t include my Larry McMurtry as I’d taken the picture and shelved the books before I thought about it. It also includes the first volume of David Lodge’s memoirs, as I have the second volume in the TBR project but need to read that first. Argh!

I’m not going to list them because it’s ridiculous, but basically I’m going to concentrate on the review books, of course, “Rock-Bound” and “The Secret Life of Fungi” and then try to eliminate those ‘extras’ that have been hanging around on the shelves, so the top row of light women’s novels and two Earlene Fowler quilting cosy mysteries and that massive Tolkien catalogue. Any others will be a bonus. Sensible, right?

My NetGalley TBR for September:

Well, there is a bit of diversity in the print TBR but I seem to be giving myself more of a course in Black British history and diverse people’s lives in America. Alternative history of the Middle Ages, “Femina” by Janina Ramirez, is still on there, and I’ve added “Beyond Measure” so it doesn’t get forgotten. Then I’ll be covering Black British Georgians (“Black England” by Gretchen Gerzina), Black British Victorians (“Black Victorians” by Keshia N. Abraham, John Woolf) and Black Britons in the whole of history (“African and Caribbean People in Britain” by Hakim Adi). Then Diya Abdo’s “American Refuge” covers stories of the refugee experience in the US and “Mika in Real Life” by Emiko Jean is the story of a Japanese woman in America. Kamila Shamsie’s “Best of Friends” travels from Pakistan to London, and “Inside Qatar” promises to show the real history of the place hosting the men’s football World Cup (people have had trouble downloading this one, so fingers crossed). So this time it’s mainly serious non-fiction on the Kindle and light fiction in print books!

With the ones I’m currently reading (not including my readalong which will take a while), that’s 3 books to finish and 17 to read, minimum. Can I do that? Hm, possibly not!


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

State of the TBR – August 2022

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Having a look at last month’s picture, I still feel like I’m doing OK – the top shelf has shifted along again and there’s still a little space at the end. It is a bit shocking however that I’m onto books acquired in June and July 2021, which means that all these books have arrived in the last year (the vertical ones). Oops.

I completed 15 books in July, with two more on the go. I read seven of my ten ebook TBR books, DNF’d two and didn’t start one, but did read an extra one I won during July, too. I didn’t read all of my print TBR, reading four, including my huge Larry McMurtry, “Moving On”, the 800-pager that took up most of my week off. I’m currently on book 11 of my 20 Books Of Summer, which are all also from my TBR challenge – I now have 24 books to go on that from now until 05 October and none of that is strictly ideal – I don’t think I’ll get either challenge finished (obviously, there are worse things to worry about and at least I am getting through my books and keeping more up to date).

Shiny New Books

My review of “Going to Church in Medieval England” by Nicholas Orme, which I read and reviewed here for the Wolfson History Prize, came out on Shiny New Books – do pop over and have a look.

Incomings

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

I saw “It’s a Continent: Unravelling Africa’s History One Country at a Time” by Astrid Madimba and Chinny Ukata mentioned on another blog and had to snap a copy up. Then I was thinking about world Englishes, as you do, and found Edgar W. Schneider’s “English Around the World”. Claire Coleman’s “Lies, Damn Lies” I bought after seeing The Australian Legend’s review and will fit in with Brona’s Aus Reading Month in November. I went to the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham in my week off and spotted “A Brief History of Black British Art” by Rianna Jade Parker, which felt relevant after watching Lenny Henry’s “Caribbean Britain” TV series, and for the same reason ordered a copy of “Life Between Islands”, on Caribbean art, the catalogue of an exhibition at the Tate Gallery I didn’t manage to get to. Michael Walmer kindly sent me his new novel re-print, Jessie M. E. Saxby’s “Rock-Bound: A Story of the Shetland Isles”, part of his Northus Shetland Classics imprint, and Kaggsy of the Bookish Ramblings sent me (and Ali) Reshma Ruia’s British Asian novel, “Still Lives”.

I won just the six NetGalley books this month:

“Black Voices on Britain”, ed. Hakim Adi (published Sept) is a collection of African, Caribbean, American and British voices from the 18th to early 20th centuries. “Black England” by Gretchen Gerzina (Sept) is about Georgian England and “Black Victorians: Hidden in History” by Keshia Abraham and John Woolf (also Sept) does the same for the Victorian era. Diya Abdo’s “American Refuge” (Sept again) collects stories of the refugee experience, Eris Young’s “Ace Voices” (Dec) collects what it means to be asexual, aromantic, demi and grey-ace, and Kamila Shamsie’s “Best of Friends” (Sept again!) is a novel about friendship spanning thirty years.

So that was 15 read and 13 coming in in July – still tilted vaguely in the right direction!

Currently reading

I’m currently reading Angie Thomas’ “On the Come Up”, the excellent follow-up to “The Hate U Give” (the characters aren’t connected but the location is as it’s set just after) and Elizabeth Fair’s “The Marble Staircase”, which is one of the Dean Street Press Furrowed Middlebrow imprint books they kindly sent me for review (out today, review coming soon). I’ve also taken “Square Haunting” by Francesca Wade off the shelf as it’s my and Emma’s next read and we’re starting it this week.

Coming up

Coming up next in print books, I have my Larry McMurtry for this month, “All My Friends are Going to be Strangers”, the lovely book from Michael Walmer and the remaining nine and a half books on my 20 Books of Summer list (books 11-20; see their descriptions here):

My NetGalley TBR for August is a lot calmer than it has been:

“Femina” by Janina Ramirez, which I had left over from July but am committed to getting read, is an alternative history of the Middle Ages, told through the women of history who have largely been forgotten. Anne Booth’s “Small Miracles” is a heartwarming novel about three nuns whose convent is slated for closure. “Giving Back” by Derek A. Bardowell promises to redefine the role of charity and reimagine philanthropy through a reparative lens, and Mohsin Hamid’s “The Last White Man” is a satirical science fiction (I think you’d call it?) novel about what happens when White people’s skin starts to turn dark overnight. Then of course I have my two Dean Street Press novels to finish, including Susan Scarlett’s (aka Noel Streatfeild) “Clothes Pegs”.

With the ones I’m currently reading (not including my readalong which will take a while), that’s 2 books to finish and 16 to read. Can I do that? Hm, possibly not!


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

State of the TBR – July 2022

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Having a look at last month’s picture, I feel like I’m doing pretty well – the top shelf has shifted considerably, the pile of Virago Travellers on the bottom shelf is a pile no more, AND there’s a bit of space at the end! This is down to having read more print books than I’ve acquired (though not sure the actual balance is as good if you include e-books).

I completed 16 books in June, with two more half-way through each, and I’m pleased with that, especially as one was quite a substantial hardback. I read all five NetGalley reads I had that were published in June and read and reviewed six and am part way through the seventh of my 20 Books Of Summer, which were all also from my TBR challenge – I now have 28 books to go on that from now until 05 October (update coming in a couple of days).

Shiny New Books

I reviewed Miranda Roskhowski’s “100 Voices” which prints essays by 100 women about their achievements, many in writing but in other fields as well, and Katherine MacInnes’ “Snow Widows“, about the wives and mothers of Scott’s Antarctic expedition, drawing together so many archived materials to bring their voices out on Shiny New Books in June. Do pop over to have a read.

Incomings

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

Paul from HalfManHalfBook kindly sent me Jason Cowley’s “Who are we Now? Stories of Modern England” which takes a snapshot of post-Brexit England, and “Dorset in Photographs” by Matthew Pinner which I’ve already been through greedily. I saw Wendy from Taking The Long Way Round talking about Stacy T. Sims’ “Next Level: Your Guide to Kicking Ass, Feeling Great, and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond” and felt this exercise and nutrition orientated guide could help me at this tricky time of life, so bought myself a copy immediately.

I bought three e-books for Kindle this month; well, one was a free one from the First Reads initiative, and the lovely folks at Dean Street Press sent me two upcoming new reprints:

Scott from Furrowed Middlebrow posted about the Susan Scarletts and Elizabeth Fair here with all the covers here. Susan Scarlett was Noel Streatfeild’s nom de plume for her lighthearted romances for grown-ups and I have the delightful-looking “Clothes Pegs”, and the Elizabeth Fair, “The Marble Staircase”, is a previously lost and unpublished work by this lovely author.

Meanwhile, “This Way Out” by Tufayel Ahmed was an Amazon first reads special and is a novel about a gay Muslim British Bangladeshi man with a White partner. Racheal Lippincott and Alyson Derrick’s “She Gets the Girl” I think I saw on a blog and then was cheap for Kindle; it’s a YA campus romcom and looks fun. “It Takes Blood and Guts” is the memoir by Skin, lead singer of 90s and beyond band Skunk Anansie – I liked her insights on the recent Top of the Pops history programmes and grabbed this when it was in the sale.

I won several NetGalley books this month:

“Femina” by Janina Ramirez (published in July) is an alternative history of the Middle Ages, told through the women of history who have largely been forgotten. Charlene Bauer’s “Girls They Write Songs About” (July) I was trying to ignore but someone incited me to request it on their blog, set in 1990s New York it’s about friendship and changing lives as you come of age. I was made aware of Hakim Adi’s “African and Caribbean People in England” (September) by Annabel on her possible Shiny reviews roundup and found it on NetGalley – it takes the long view of history from Roman times onwards.

Mohsin Hamid is well known for his provocative, interesting work, and “The Last White Man” (August) is a fable where people with white skin find it turning darker … Derek A. Bardowell’s “Giving Back: How to do Good Better” (August) looks at how we can redefine charity and reimagine philanthropy and all make our giving count more. “What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You” by Sharma Taylor (July) looks at what happens when the son a woman gave up for adoption 18 years ago in Jamaica comes looking for her in the US, and Ronali Collings’ “Love & Other Dramas” (July) has three women and two cultures engaging with one another in a novel about family and friendship

So that was 16 read and 15 coming in in June – a balance of sorts and at least tilted vaguely in the right direction!

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “Running in the Midpack: How to be a Strong, Successful and Happy Runner” by Anji Andrews and Martin Yelling, which is a book written for runners who aren’t new to the sport, aren’t elites and aren’t right at the back: these groups have lots of books written for them but they claim, probably rightly, that “midpack” runners don’t. Lots of mental health and all-round health advice so far. I’m also reading the first of my July NetGalley reads, “Take a Chance on Greece” by Emily Kerr, which is a fun novel with a heroine who runs back to Greece to find out where and why she got that tattoo.

Coming up

Coming up next, I have my Larry McMurtry for this month, “Moving On” – all almost 800 pages of it, but his books ARE compulsive reading, thankfully, and the next seven books on my 20 Books of Summer list (books 8-14):

My NetGalley TBR for July is a little alarming, although I am already half-way through the first one, “Take a Chance on Greece”. I do also have a Christie Barlow but still need to catch up on the rest of her series first (the publisher said they will be patient with me, as I’ve gone and bought all the earlier ones!).

… and of course my two Dean Street Press lovelies. Ten novels, a few of them what I’d consider “light” and two non-fiction, I know “Femina” is quite a long one.

With the ones I’m currently reading (not including my readalong which will take a while), that’s 2 books to finish and 18 to read. I will note that quite a lot of the NetGalley books are light novels this month, and I have a week’s actual staycation (staying at home with a week off work) coming up this month so maybe it’ll work …


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

State of the TBR – June 2022

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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.

Incomings

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

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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.

Incomings

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!

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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.

Others:

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

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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.

Incomings

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

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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.

Incomings

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

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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!

Incomings

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?

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