A lovely birthday book haul


It’s both a blessing and a curse to have my birthday fall so soon after Christmas – hooray, piles of books, but also oh, no, where to fit in all these books? This year, I’ve decided to embrace it fully: usually I save up my book tokens to spend in the summer but I’ve already spent some of my old and new Christmas book tokens and as well as receiving this lovely pile I have some more book and Heath Bookshop tokens to spend, and will do soon! But in the meantime, look at this lovely pile!

From the top, my best friend Emma went off-list (again) to pick out Robin Ince’s “Bibliophile” for me, which is about a tour around indie bookshops. She also kindly gave me two Susan Scarlett (Noel Streatfeild) novels, “Babbacombe’s” and “Ten Way Street”, the latter having the distinction of having been published in 1940, so it seamlessly allows me to take part in Kaggsy and Simon’s 1940 Week later in the spring. As do Margery Sharp’s “The Stone of Chastity” and D. E. Stevenson’s “The English Air”, which Ali forebearingly bought for me with no choice, given they’re the other Dean Street Press books published in 1940 that I wanted (don’t worry, DSP fans, I have plenty left for Dean Street December still!).

Then Sian kindly chose “Found in Translation: How Language Shapes our Lives and Transforms the World” by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche as well as giving me a book token, and Meg picked “The Story of Art Without Men” by Katy Hessel (with its v. clever spine and cover!) both from my extensive wish list.

I’m so lucky to have such bookish friends, and very grateful for the tokens from Gill, Laura, Jen and my parkrun core team friends (as well as the coffee!) which I will make good use of very soon!

Book token haul part 1 (of many?)


I was lucky enough to receive several book tokens for Christmas, and, mindful that I still had tokens from last Christmas and birthday to spend (I was going to spend them in the summer, then I found out The Heath Bookshop was coming, then I managed to only spend one of them there even though I’ve bought lots of books from the shop), I trotted down there on Sunday afternoon, had a lovely chat and picked up these super reads.

I did also buy Lenny Henry’s “Who Am I, Again?”, the first volume of his autobiography, in the week – they have a special table where you can pick up a book then draw out a mystery discount – I got 10% off it but the discounts go up to 100% and, for locals, it’s still going!

Anyway, today I picked up … “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi, about two sisters with different fates (one a slave-trader’s wife, one sold into slavery) and the effects of those paths on the succeeding generations; James Baldwin’s “Go Tell it on the Mountain”, the novel drawing on his own upbringing in 1930s Harlem; Kerri Andrews’ “Wanderers: A History of Women Walking”, which I spotted in the shop the other week and does what it says on the tin; Helena Lee’s “East Side Voices” which is essays celebrating East and Southeast Asian Identity in Britain (not something you get many books about here); Kalen Callender’s “Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution”, which is a YA novel about queer kids and life online; and Charles Montgomery’s “Happy City” which looks at how city lives can be transformed through urban design. Thank you to Meg, Gill, Laura and Jen (so far) for enabling these lovely purchases (and The Heath Bookshop for stocking them and being able to order other stuff!).

Have you read any of these? Which should I spring on first? I was going to buy “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” but it’s not in paperback yet and I’m controlling my hardback purchases where I can …

State of the TBR – January 2023


Looking at last month’s picture, and given that I have added my Christmas books already, I haven’t done too badly! Incomings have come in but books have come off the TBR, too, although from the middle mainly down to my Dean Street December challenge (remember you have until the end of Monday to submit your reviews to me). The pile at the end is still there, but it’s only one pile …

I completed 17 books in December although I have three left to review (two of Susan Cooper’s “Dark is Rising” sequence, which I’m going to review together, and Dave Grohl’s memoir), and am part-way through three more (one my Reading With Emma Emma Read). I read two of my six ebook TBR books (four for December and two older one) although I started one and only have three January publishing dates so might do OK this month. I read eight out of the ten Dean Street Press books I put out to choose from (seven print and one ebook) and one of the other print TBR I’d set aside for myself (the Christmas stories) but I didn’t get round to my Larry McMurtry for the month.


Incoming print books. I have already shared my Christmas incomings in another post (see here) and also gathered these ones during the month (only four!):

I picked up “Birmingham: The Brutiful Years” by Mary Keating, Jenny Marris and John Bell in advance of their author talk for The Heath Bookshop, and had it signed at the event. It’s about post-war architecture in Birmingham, at risk, lost and saved. My dear friend Cari bought me Alison Mariella Désir’s “Running While Black: Finding Freedom in a Sport that Wasn’t Built for Us” at her launch event and had it signed for me – this is a US book and I’d love to know if anyone has seen similar from the UK. My lovely friend Chrissie popped Peter Oborne’s “Basil D’Oliveira: Cricket and Conspiracy the Untold Story” through my letterbox the other day as she knows I enjoy a sports book, and OUP have kindly sent me Carl Abbott’s “Suburbs: A Very Short Introduction” to review for Shiny New Books.

I won five NetGalley books this month:

Elizabeth Day’s “Friendaholic: Confessions of a Friendship Addict” (published in March) is a non-fiction account of her own and others’ thoughts and research on the phenomenon of friendship. Libby Page wrote “The Lido” and “The 24-hour Cafe” which I really enjoyed (and I might just have bought “The Island Home” on Kindle as I missed that one) and her “The Vintage Shop of Second Chances” (February) is another warm community novel. I enjoyed Julie Shackman‘s “A Scottish Highland Surprise” so was pleased to be offered “A Scottish Country Escape” (March) by the publisher. Anika Hussain’s “This is How You Fall in Love” (February) is a South Asian YA romcom and Krystle Zara Appiah’s “Rootless” (April) looks at the “happily ever after” as a British-Ghanaian marriage falls into crisis.

And I bought no e-books (hooray!)

So that was 17 read and 17 coming in in December – I call that a win in a busy month for incomings!

Currently reading

I’m currently still reading Jini Reddy’s “Wanderland” with Emma, seeking the mystic places of Britain with the author; we should have it finished and reviewed soon and it’s been an interesting if a little frustrating read so far. I’ve decided to use Annabookbel’s “Nordic FINDS” challenge to finish that Icelandic Sagas book I’ve had on the go for EVER so am picking that up for 20 minutes or so a day. And I’m part-way through one of my December NetGalley reads, Eris Young’s “Ace Voices” about the asexual spectrum and people’s everyday experiences.

Coming up

This month, I’ll also be reading my Larry McMurtry from December – “The Evening Star”, which I wanted to do justice as it’s a big book. Then I have two review books to prioritise: Mary Gordon’s “Chase of the Wild Goose” which is “part biography, part novel, part spiritual memoir” about the Ladies of Llangollen, published by the fab young publishing house, Lurid Editions, and the aforementioned “Suburbs: A Very Short Introduction” from OUP for Shiny.

My NetGalley TBR for January has just these three books, but I have one to finish and one to read from my December books and those two September/October ones. I reckon I can manage seven in the month, right?

Colin Grant’s “I’m Black so You Don’t Have to Be” is an intergenerational biography which places the author’s British-Jamaican identity in context; Nell Zink’s “Avalon” is a coming-of-age novel set in the context of late-capitalist California, and Jyoti Patel’s “The Things that We Lost” is a debut novel covering families and mental health in the British Asian and Black communities. With the ones I’m currently reading (including my readalong which will only take another week or so), that’s three books to finish and nine to read in full, though I would also like to get to Barbara Kingsolver’s “Demon Copperhead”, which Matthew has finally finished reading!

Reading Challenges

I am not going to do an author reading challenge this year for the first time in a decade or so. I have two Larry McMurtrys to finish and then I’m going to concentrate on my TBR (I will do Dewithon, Reading Ireland, 20 Books of Summer, NonFiction November, AusReading Month and Novellas in November as well as running Dean Street December again, plus Simon and Karen’s two Year Weeks, but I will fulfil all those from my TBR). I have also realised that I buy hardback books only to find the paperback is out by the time I get round to reading them, so I am going to prioritise the newer hardbacks on the TBR and then try to read any more that I acquire as I go. What are your reading intentions for 2023?

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

Christmas book pile!


I’ll have a lot to get through in my books of the year / state of the TBR post on Saturday and/or Sunday, and although I’ve read two books since I last posted, they are two out of the five “The Dark is Rising” novels by Susan Cooper and I want to review all of them together, so I thought I could share my lovely Christmas book pile today.

First off, I have three very on-Liz-brand books from my Birmingham BookCrossing Not So Secret Santa, Catherine: June Sarpong – “Diversify”, which is about all forms of (also intersectional) diversity and why it’s good for businesses and society, Angie Cruz – “Let It Rain Coffee”, a novel about people from the Dominican Republic living in New York, and Paul Theroux – “On the Plain of Snakes”, his most recent travel book, this one on Mexico.

Then on Christmas Day I opened John Grindrod’s “Concretopia: A Journey Around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain” from Gill, all about Brutalist and other post-war architecture; Dan Rhodes’ satire on the modern literary industry, “Sour Grapes” and “Sally-Ann” by Susan Scarlett aka Noel Streatfeild (published by Dean Street Press) from Emma; and Dorothy Whipple’s memoir, “The Other Day” and John Moore’s novel, “The Waters Under the Earth”, both Persephone books, from Ali.

I also, naturally, have many book tokens and a The Heath Bookshop voucher from lovely Jen, Sian, Laura, Gill and Meg, which I will be spending at the Bookshop in February (giving them and me a boost). I hope all my booky blog friends had lovely book piles to open and will look at all your posts as soon as I can.

State of the TBR – December 2022


Looking at last month’s picture, I have done quite well again! Incomings have come in but books have come off the TBR, too. Even though I’ve added five books to the little pile at the end, it’s not as big as last month.

I completed 23 books in November (thanks to my week’s holiday and doing Novellas in November), and am part-way through three more (one my Emma Read and one reading along with Matthew), plus the long-term ongoing Tolkien and Sagas books. I read all my ebook TBR books for November (my picture was wrong last month; I have yet to review two of them), and also got my September ones and all but one of my October ones read or (one) started. I read eight out of the fifteen novellas I put out to choose from and two others (one in from a publisher then read right away, one from the TBR), making a total of ten, and I read three books for AusReading Month (one left to review) and twelve for NonFiction November.


Incoming print books. I had some lovely books in this month.

“Mary & Mr Eliot” by Mary Trevelyan and Erica Wagner is an author copy from the publisher – it’s based on Mary Trevelyan’s manuscript about her friendship with T.S. Eliot which I copy-typed a few years ago to start off the process for Erica to edit and provide commentary on it. Lovely publisher Michael Walmer kindly sent me a review copy of his reprint of Howard Sturgis’ “On the Pottlecomble Cornice” which I promptly reviewed for Novellas in November and the British Library Publishing folk kindly sent me “Stories for Christmas and the Festive Season” which of course I have saved to read this month. We had a tea party at Ali’s the other weekend and Meg gave me her copy of Claire Keegan’s “Small Things Like These” while Ali passed me her copy of Elisa Shua Dusapin’s “The Pachinko Parlour”. I went to a Brian Bilston poetry reading run by The Heath Bookshop last week and bought a copy of his latest book, “Days Like These” (a poem for every day of the year!), and finally I received a copy of Nigel Green and Robin Wilson’s “Brutalist Paris” which I had helped crowd-fund. What a lovely variety of ways to receive books!

I won five NetGalley books this month:

“The Silence of the Stands” by Daniel Gray (published November) is about football’s lost season in the lockdowns – whose blog did I see this on?? Alexis Keir writes about returning to St Vincent [edited out my error, apoplogies to the author] and tracing his family’s journeys to the UK and New Zealand in “Windward Family” (Feb 2023) and in “Black Girl from Pyongyang” by Monica Macias (Mar 2023) we’ll learn about how the author was transplanted from West Africa to North Korea to be raised, and how she searched for her identity once she’d grown up (that’s going to be a good one for the Stranger than Fiction segment of NonFicNov next year!). “Happy Place” (April 2023) looks like another good novel from Emily Henry, a break-up novel with a big lie to all the friend group and Shauna Robinson’s “Must Love Books” (Feb 2023) pits a young Black woman against the world of publishing.

And I bought three e-books from Amazon in their Black Friday sale:

I always think I have Trevor Noah‘s memoir, “Born a Crime” but I didn’t, until now. John Cooper Clarke is one of the few poets I like and I couldn’t resist his autobiography, “I Wanna Be Yours”, for 99p. And Patrick King’s “Stand Up For Yourself, Set Boundaries and Stop Pleasing Others” might stop me making myself labour over these massive posts (right?!).

So that was 23 read and 15 coming in in November – back in the right direction!

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “Settlers: Journeys through the Food, Faith and Culture of Black African London” by Jimi Famurewa, which is a NetGalley book published in October and is marvellous so far, Jini Reddy’s “Wanderland” is my readalong with Emma and most entertaining so far, and I’ve finally got to reading Dave Grohl’s “The Storyteller” with Matthew, so he does a bit of the audio book (with Dave narrating and a musical background) on his walk and I catch up with the book (no Dave’s voice or music) at home.

Coming up

This month, I’m taking part in two challenges: my own Dean Street Press December, of course (see my main post here) and I’ve laid out all the DSP books I have in paperback plus one more modern one on Kindle. I’m looking forward to seeing what I and everyone else can read in the month from this lovely publisher.

And I’ve also decided to do #DiverseDecember to maintain the diversity of my reading, though I don’t have a main post to link to for that. So upcoming are Nova Reid’s “The Good Ally”, Riva Lehrer’s memoir of her life and art living with a disability, “Golem Girl” and Rabina Khan’s essays, “My Hair is Pink Under this Veil”. I have my lovely Christmas stories from the British Library, too, and my great big Larry McMurtry, “The Evening Star”. This isn’t the end of Larry McMurtry Rereading, though, as I only have “Cadillac Jack” left so am going to read that in January.

My NetGalley TBR for December has just two books, but of course I have September to November ones, too:

“Beyond Measure” and “Femina” are older ones I need to get read, “The Racial Code” and “The Christmas Castle in Scotland” are two from October I need to polish off (the latter saved on purpose of course) and Meron Hadero’s “A Down Home Meal for Difficult Times” and Eris Young’s “Ace Voices” are published in December.

With the ones I’m currently reading (not including my readalong which will take a while), that’s one book to finish and 21 to read (ten of them paperback novels and I have a week off over Christmas …), but I’m looking forward to it all!

How was your November reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection? Are you doing Dean Street December with me?

State of the TBR – November 2022


Looking at last month’s picture, I have done shockingly badly! Not only have the Three Investigators pile moved back to in front of the books; there’s now a vertical pile of the most recent incomings there, too!

I completed 13 books in October, and am part-way through four more. I read none of my ebook TBR books for October, but did get three of my September ones read and I’m going to make a real effort to keep going and clear them properly. I read some of my print TBR books, including two of my three review books from publishers, I gave up on “The View from the Corner Shop” because it was just too detailed.


I talked about my 22 incoming print books in a separate post this month and have managed not to acquire any more since!

I won six NetGalley books this month:

Jonathan Coe’s “Bournville” (published Nov) is a family saga set in the suburb a few miles from me. Alba Donati’s “Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop” (Nov) is the tale of a bookshop founded in a tiny town in lockdown. “The Racial Code: Tales of Resistance and Survival” by Nicola Rollock (Oct) investigates race and racism in Britain today. Meron Hadero’s “A Down Home Meal for these Difficult Times” (Dec) is a set of short stories set around immigrants and immigration which I imagine I saw on someone else’s blog, but where? Ore Agbaje-Williams’ “The Three of Us” (May 2023) is a novel taking place in one day as a marriage and a best friendship collapse. Colin Grant’s “I’m Black so you don’t Have to Be” (Jan 2023) is a memoir told through a range of intergenerational stories.

I also bought three e-books from Amazon:

Dayo Forster’s “Reading the Ceiling” was another one I think I saw on a blog. It’s a first novel set in Africa and the UK which looks at three directions a young woman’s life could go on. Dipo Faloyin’s “Africa is not a Country” looks at stereotypes and how to break them, and Jane Linfoot’s “A Winter Warmer at the Little Cornish Kitchen” is a bit of fun in a series I’ve read from before to read in December.

So that was 13 read and 31 coming in in October – still going very much in the wrong direction!

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “Black Victorians” which is a NetGalley book from September and Jessie M.E. Saxby’s “Rock Bound”. Jini Reddy’s “Wanderland” is Emma and my next readalong after finishing “Square Haunting” (review to come soon). I’m also inching my way through that big Tolkien book.

Coming up

As well as the Larry McMurtry for this month, I’m taking part in three challenges: NonFiction November, Novellas in November and AusReading Month. I have set aside books for NovNov and AusReading Month and most of the former and all of the latter are nonfiction books, so the reading for NonFicNov will look after itself and I’ll be bombarding you with Monday posts for the themed discussions.

For AusReading Month, hosted by Brona of This Reading Life (introduction and master post here), I’ll be looking at social justice, with four books looking at colonialism and the current and recent experiences of Aboriginal people (an acceptable term to use at the moment, thanks to resources from Brona last AusReading Month). Anita Heiss edited “Growing up Aboriginal in Australia”, collecting people’s experiences, Doris Pilkington / Nugi Garmara’s “Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence” is the true story behind the film of an epic journey made by children (this is also under 200 pages so will fulfil all three of my challenges). Chelsea Watego’s “Another Day in the Colony” looks at the effects of colonialism, as does Claire G. Coleman’s “Lies, Damned Lies,” which is a personal exploration of this.

For Novellas in November, hosted by Cathy 746 Books and Bookish Beck (intro post here), I have laid out 15 books (like last year!) which I don’t expect to get through; 14 of them are non-fiction and all but two are by Global Majority People authors, too, so I’d like to read as many as possible. I won’t list them all here so you won’t get disappointed when I don’t read your favourite!

My NetGalley TBR for November has just four books, but of course I have the September and October ones, too, including the one I won in October, published then. Two you have seen about above, then “Refugee Wales” is a project looking at Syrian people who have settled in Wales, and Hakim Adi (ed.) “Black Voices on Britain” takes original sources into account, although by then I’ll have read about lots of Victorians and Georgians so I wonder if there’s going to be a lot of overlap.

With the ones I’m currently reading (not including my readalong which will take a while), that’s 3 books to finish and a big choice to read, but I only really have to read my Australian ones and I’ll cover all my challenges, so only a minimum of eight!

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

Interim incomings


Oh dear, the horror, the horror. TWENTY-TWO books have come into the house this month. Well, I call it “come into the house” but it has been pointed out to me that most of them don’t come in of their own accord, but have been instigated by me. Anyway, want to see them? Course you do.

Two lovely review copies:

“Europe, Love me Back” is a book of poems written in the Netherlands by Rakhshan Rizwan and published by the lovely local indie publisher, Emma Press. This came out on 6 October and I’m reading it at the moment, review to come very soon. Siobhan Daniels’ empowering tale of life on the road after 60, “Retirement Rebel” is published tomorrow by the indie Vertebrate Publishing, and my review will come out then, too.

I’ve been to two book events at The Heath Bookshop this month (so far; for the next one, I do already have the book at least).

I bought Jess Phillips’ “The Life of an MP” and Kit de Waal’s childhood memoir, “Without Warning & Only Sometimes” and novel, “My Name is Leon” at the book events, and got them all signed. You can read about the bookshop here if you haven’t already.

Then I met up with LibraryThing Virago Group friends Claire and Genny early in the month and Genny and I took a trip to Kings Heath Oxfam Books.

David Olusoga and Melanie Blake-Hansen’s “A House Through Time”, which is about researching your house’s history but with details of the houses from the TV series, was on my wish list, as was Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to be an Antiracist” (reading him backwards as I’ve already read “How to Raise an Antiracist“!). Wesley Lowery’s “They Can’t Kill Us All” is the story of Black Lives Matter, published by Penguin: I feel like there’s someone who’s buying all the BLM booklists then donating them to Oxfam as I’ve previously found good ones in there. And finally, I know Claudia Winkleman’s “Quite” is probably quite slight, but there it was and now it is here.

I’m a big fan of Bookish Beck’s book blog and she’s very kind to me and other readers and passes on books we’ve indicated an interest in through the year, so I look forward to a box of books I’ve asked about and ones she thinks I might like (OK, not quite read the last box yet ….).

This year, it included Sophie Pavelle’s “Forget me Not”, about British species that have been affected by climate change; Barbara Kingsolver’s “Demon Copperhead”, her new novel that I was desperate to read; Marie Winn’s “Red-Tails in Love” about wildlife in Central Park, New York; Cal Flyn’s “Isles of Abandonment” is about the psychology and ecology of abandoned sites; the red book with the bomb on it is an extract from Elaine Castillo’s “How to Read Now”; and “Deeper into the Wood” is the sequel to Ruth Pavey’s “A Wood of One’s Own” which I enjoyed a while back.

Finally, I went to Stratford-upon-Avon yesterday to meet some random men off the internet. Fortunately, they were the lovely Andy and Scott, Scott being the chap behind the wonderful “Furrowed Middlebrow” blog and publishing imprint with Dean Street Press. Of course we went to the Oxfam Books and Shakespeare Hospice Bookshop … and I have to say I’ve met my match in terms of pressing books on people, although I did introduce Scott to two new authors to him, so got my own back a bit …

I blame Laura Tisdall and her encouragement of my fellow-interest in “nun books” fro Kate O’Brien’s “The Land of Spices” (it’ll do for next year’s Irish Reading Month, right?); Charlie English’s “The Snow Tourist” is a trip to find the deepest snow field and includes a visit to Greenland, so had to be had; I found the reprint of Floella Benjamin’s memoir “Coming to England”; Rob Young’s “Electric Eden” on 100 years of Britain’s folk and visionary music has informed the work of some of the writers I work with, so was a must; and I think Ali told me about Ann Petry’s “The Street” and there was a lovely Virago Green of it. That was al in Oxfam Books. At the Shakespeare Hospice Bookshop, I found a 1964 World Books edition of Iris Murdoch’s “An Unofficial Rose” (I’ve allowed myself to actually start collecting different editions of her books, oh-oh) and (very) local boy Joe Lycett’s “Parsnips, Buttered” so a bit of a funny pair there.

So there we have it. Twenty-two books in and not that many actually read this month. Dear, oh dear, as our King would say. Read any of these? Shocked at my profligacy? Relieved it’s not only you at the book confessional this month?!

Andy, Scott and me outside the Shakespeare Hospice Bookshop, which never disappoints

State of the TBR – October 2022


Looking at last month’s picture, I haven’t done too badly or too well – it’s slightly fuller than it was last month but a few more have disappeared from the oldest part, top left and there is now NO PILE in front of the shelves! My Three Investigators Mysteries pile is still tucked in, albeit turned around.

I completed 11 books in September, and am part-way through three more. I finished NONE of my ebook TBR books for September, although I did DNS one as I couldn’t get the file to work. I read or abandoned eight of my print TBR books and am in the middle of my ninth. Those were all also mainly from my TBR challenge – I now have 3 whole books and several to finish to go on that from now until 05 October, the good news being that Matthew won’t be ready to start the Dave Grohl book that initiated the challenge until a few days after that. I am now still on books that came in in September 2021 but should be “just” a year behind again soon.


I was NOT restrained with print books in this last month. This is probably down to my lack of self control as the new bookshop opened in Kings Heath, where I live – I reported on the opening weekend and the books I bought there here.

As well as those on the top row that came then, Meg passed me Ali’s copy of “Sankofa” by Chibundu Onuzo, about family secrets and a return to Africa to read, I bought Rob Beckett’s memoir / consideration of British class systems “Class Act” very cheap in The Works, I introduced Matthew to the Heath Bookshop and how wonderful to just browse and not just have to search for books on my wishlist, so I went for Eniola Aluko’s “They Don’t Teach This” about her career in British football, and Robert Twigger’s “Walking the Great North Line” about a walk through the middle of Britain. Claire kindly picked up our mutual friend Sally Brooks’ novel “Four Movements” (50 years, four people, one piano) for me at her book signing. Two review books arrived, from the British Library in their Women Writers series, “War Among Ladies” by Eleanor Scott (about teachers at a girls’ school!) and “Chase of the Wild Goose” by Mary Gordon is a novelisation of the Ladies of Llangollen from new publisher Lurid Editions (not out till Feb so reading in November). Finally, my pre-order of Damian Hall’s important book about the carbon/climate effect of running, “We Can’t Run Away from This”, popped through the letterbox.

I won just the four NetGalley books this month:

I went looking for “Pineapple Street” by Jenny Jackson after seeing it mentioned by another blogger (who?) – it’s a saga about monied folk in Brooklyn Heights (pub April 2023). Susan Rogers and Ogi Ogos’ “This is What It Sounds Like” (Oct 2022) is about why we like the music we like. “The Things That We Lost” by Jyoti Patel (Jan 2023), winner of the 2021 #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize is about the secrets that lie in family histories, and Jessica George’s “Maame” (Jan 2023) is a debut following a young woman’s journey to independence.

So that was 11 read and 17 coming in in September – even if I have read the two short story collections, going very much in the wrong direction!

Currently reading

As well as my readalong with Emma, “Square Haunting”, I’m still reading “The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym” and picking away at those Icelandic sagas (Matthew has granted me that I’m reading them so they are off the TBR challenge even if not finished) and Stacey Dooley’s “Women Who Fight Back”, a very engaging but often shocking read about some of the subjects of her documentaries.

Coming up

As well as the Larry McMurtry for this month, these books take me up to and through Dave Grohl’s “The Storyteller” while covering the three review books I must get to in print.

My NetGalley TBR for October covers Africans in London, why we like the music we like, a Christmas novel I might read later, a book about healing through nature and edited primary sources on Black people in Britain:

All very achievable if I didn’t have the EIGHT books from NetGalley published in September that I have yet to read! And I think there’s a Kaggsy and Stuck in a Book Year read coming up, too, for which I have an e-book languishing somewhere.

With the ones I’m currently reading (not including my readalong which will take a while), that’s 3 books to finish and 21 to read, minimum. Can I do that? Hm: no!

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

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


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


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.


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?

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