Incomings and West Penwith highlights @Edgybooks @SharonMcSwiney


I’ve just come back from a lovely week in West Penwith, staying in Penzance and roaming a little around the coast and across to St Ives. As I read 8.5 books in 8 days (this included two 7 hour train journeys!) I had to replace them obviously, so there’s a book pile later, and I also wanted to draw people’s attention to a lovely bookshop and a super maker.

Edge of the World Bookshop Penzance, external view

The Edge of the World Bookshop

The Edge of the World Bookshop is a wonderful independent bookshop on the main shopping street of Penzance. You can find them online here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. They do loads of author events and signings and have a brilliant stock that’s both deep and wide. I always buy a few books here when I’m in Penzance, and I’ve never been disappointed. I was really chuffed this time to manage to pop in during Bookshop Day – something I don’t usually do as it’s always the day we’re travelling down or back – and picked up a lovely book bargain.

I took a trip to St Ives mid-week and my best friend Emma had given me a mission to find Sharon McSwiney’s shop. Sharon used to share a workshop in the Jewellery Quarter with Emma’s and my mutual friend Esther (who is also now based in Cornwall, making jewellery and automata, website here). So I found the Drill Hall, just up the hill from the sea front, and there was the charming shop and Sharon’s very nice husband, who runs the shop while Sharon makes and teaches.

Sharon McSwiney’s shop

There are so many beautiful objects in the shop – I particularly loved the autumn leaves, and there is both jewellery and larger metalwork items.  Even better, Sharon runs courses, and I bet my local friends would be interested in those. I picked up a couple of leaflets and promised to share them!

You can do full or half-day courses and all info is on Sharon’s lovely website.

I always love finding quirky and interesting shops and artists when I’m away, or returning to favourite places, and I think it’s only fair to share the loveliness – no one asked me to share these details and I’m getting nothing from this apart from the joy of sharing some lovely places and things. Do let me know if you pop to the websites or find something fun to do or buy, though!

And those books?

I always do a trawl of the charity shops when I’m somewhere different and was surprised to find only two books this time. Jo Brand’s “Born Lippy” is a book of advice that also acts as something of a memoir: it’s hilarious of course but with good advice, too. As I’d finished all the books I took with me, I read half of this on the train home. Bernadine Evaristo’s “Mr Loverman” is a novel telling the story of an elderly man, born in Antigua and living in the UK since the 60s, a husband, father and grandfather, who has secretly been in a relationship with his (male) best friend almost his whole life. I got these two from the charity shop opposite the Davy statue, the charity of which I’ve shamefully forgotten.

“On the Marsh” by Simon Barnes tells of buying and living in a slice of Norfolk including some marshland which he then rewilds, giving his son, who is living with Down’s syndrome, a place of quiet and calm in the meantime. Bought at The Works when I went in for some post-it tabs.

Then in Edge of the World I spent my book token from my friend Laura on “Homesick” by Catrina Davies – this is the book about the woman who lives in a shed on her parents’ land near St Ives after she realises she can’t afford to get on the property ladder. A very appropriate book to buy in West Penwith, and I had saved it to buy in the shop. Jonathan Gornall’s “How to Build a Boat”, which is about him learning to build a boat when his daughter is born, to sail in with her, was bought with a cheeky ‘book token’ from my friend Sian, and Isabella Tree’s “Rewilding” was in the bookshop’s Bookshop Day special offer – their favourite books for £5 each – which they are running all this week.

Have you read any of these? I know at least one person who’s just read “Homesick”. And if you have a small independent business that’s a favourite and you want to tell me about, pop a link in the comments!

Book review – Richard Grant – “Dispatches from Pluto” #amreading


Another BookCrossing book read and released, and another holiday book read, for yes, I have already been on my Cornwall trip but I don’t like to advertise when I’m away. I’ve also read “Street Art” and submitted my review to Shiny New Books, and Marian Keyes’ “Grown Ups”, review submitted to NetGalley and published here in January. I am really glad Cari sent me this one: I thought there would be more roadkill and shooting in it than there actually was.

Richard Grant – “Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta”

(BookCrossing, from Cari, 05 July 2019)

Grant and his girlfriend Mariah, an Englishman and an Arizonan, decide to buy a big, slightly decaying plantation house in the Mississippi Delta rather than a tiny sliver in New York. They and their dog (nothing bad happens to the dog) move in and are at first dismayed by the fecund weeds and multiple snakes. They battle on through the year, adopted by a local family which helps them make their way through culture shock (buying the property from a friend’s father, they’re offered a loan direct from the bank when he accompanies them there and Mariah is suspicious of the Southern Hospitality at first). There’s also race and poverty to navigate – trying to get their black cleaner to sit at the lunch table with them is only one of their battles.

The pretext of writing this book allows Grant to access more people, for example following a white Democratic mayoral candidate’s campaign, but he also ends up frequenting a dodgy club with a black scrap-metal dealer, where he probably doesn’t mention the book.

The couple do their bit to confront stereotypes, mainly through large and expansive parties, becoming hunters themselves and helping their British and ‘Yankee’ friends to forge astonishingly close links with the locals – the Brits are surprised to find emails and social media invitations awaiting them from their new friends when they arrive home, and liberal gun-control campaigners enjoy a bit of target practice. Segregation of churches and stores and ‘shadow’ families where a white former plantation owning family is inextricably entwined with a black serving family are still there, and school segregation is rife, but as Grant says, there are many years of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow laws to recover from, and there are some positive signs.

A nuanced, absorbing and fair read.

Book review – Susan Lacke – “Running Outside the Comfort Zone” @RunBookshelfFB @SusanLacke


I picked this book off the TBR because it came to me via BookCrossing so was an easy win to read and release. I also hadn’t read a running book for a while! Shocking! I really enjoyed this quick read, and I was struck by Lacke’s experience, told early on in the book, of people’s reaction meeting her, knowing she’s an endurance runner. I’ve had those double takes a few times, or an assumption that because I’m a small, non-sylph-like, middle-aged woman I need advice on what is euphemistically called ‘toning up’ or nutrition ideas when no, I’m OK, thank you, and yes, I run marathons. Anyway, the truth in that experience made me a) like the author a lot for her willingness to talk about that and b) trust the authors impressions of the experiences she has when writing the book.

Susan Lacke – “Running Outside the Comfort Zone”

(05 July 2019, from Cari, via BookCrossing)

A bit fed up with running and people’s perceptions when they meet her after reading her first book, middle-to-back-of-the-pack runner and writer on endurance running Susan decides to sign up for whatever catches her attention for a year, using each race to challenge herself in some way.

From the Grand Blue Mile (which my blogging friend Kim does!) in the Drake Relays in Des Moines to the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, via cheese-rolling in an England which is hilariously not as she expected, she has a blast but realises there is in fact no password to being a ‘real’ runner. And that that’s fine.

Interstitial pieces with 26 thoughts on the marathon etc. are very amusing, and the tired vs. bonking (being so tired because you’ve run out of fuel that you go very peculiar – not something I’ve done but I’ve been close and I’ve seen others do it) table was genius. She also highlights the Girls on the Run initiative.

A very quick read but really enjoyable and some decent points as well as laughs.

I’m currently reading the new Marian Keyes, “Grown Ups”, via NetGalley. Ooh, more blog content. Oh, I’m encouraged to review it on NG as soon as possibly but can’t review it here until a week before publication … in February!

Book reviews – Phillipa Ashley – “Summer at the Cornish Cafe”, “Christmas at the Cornish Cafe” and “Confetti at the Cornish Cafe” #amreading @PhillipaAshley


I bought the Christmas book of this trilogy along with Ashley’s Little Cornish Isles Christmas book in January this year and quickly picked up the rest of both trilogies, as you can’t just read one, can you? With a Cornwall trip coming up, I grabbed these off the TBR pile (you can see them balanced on the back row) and given that I enjoyed the Cafe so much, I feel the Cornish Isles won’t be far behind.

Phillipa Ashley – “Summer at the Cornish Cafe”

In this fun novel we meet Demi, short for Demelza, and Cal. Demi’s moved in and out of homelessness with her dog, and Cal’s just back from a traumatic time in the Middle East working for an aid agency. He’s now trying to restore his family’s holiday park while fighting his PTSD and his love for Isla, who he left behind and who has clearly moved on. Demi jumps at the chance of a job that comes with her very own tumbledown cottage. But evil Mawgan, from a local property developer family, seems to have it in for them and she owns half of the fictional village. I loved the community with its variety of characters and the details of the restoration; this and the main characters’ back-stories made it an absorbing read, and I want to go to Demelza’s Cafe!

Phillipa Ashley – “Christmas at the Cornish Cafe”

We’re just a few weeks on from the end of the first book, and the official opening of the cafe coincides with the arrival of moody Kit to rent out one of the cottages. While Demi and Cal are not really officially an item as such, the two men react against each other and come over all possessive. Demi’s working on her social media and her cafe team, including Shamia, a food blogger casually mentioned as wearing an on-brand headscarf to work. There’s peril as Mitch the dog goes missing and confusion as to who Kit actually is, more details of the cafe and resort (hooray!) a harbour lights festival clearly and pleasingly modelled on Mousehole, and an epic storm where the community pulls together. But there can’t be a Christmas baby … can there? I love Demi’s growing confidence and refusal to let the men patronise her in this one.

Phillipa Ashley – “Confetti at the Cornish Cafe”

More fun to complete a year in the life of Demi and Cal. The celebrity wedding Isla has brokered draws close and there’s a bit of a panic to get everything done, especially as things keep going mysteriously wrong. The modern world of Instagram and blogs is there again, done very well and keeping it up to date. It’s quite realistic on how good results need hard work and although you can predict some of the plot, that’s obviously done to keep the “Ah, yes” factor, as you know what might happen but certainly not how it will happen. A satisfying end to the series – or will there be more?

It’s hard to write more about these books without giving the plot away, but I really enjoyed them. One thing I particularly liked, which might be down to marketing meetings but feels more authentic than that, is the inclusivity, not as plot points, just as asides. As well as Shamia the cafe worker and blogger with a headscarf, we have a lesbian couple who do face difficulties with their families, but as much for who the two are as for their sexuality, plus a vicar and a falconer who are both incidentally mentioned as being female, and a trans Zumba teacher. Nicely done and reflect a wider variety of people than some light women’s novels do.

State of the TBR October 2019


So it’s state of the TBR again and amazingly, even with all those incomings, it still fits (exactly) on its double-stacked shelf!


Having started and very much enjoyed Phillipa Ashley’s “Cornish Cafe” series, I decided to pull the rest of that trilogy plus another Cornwall book (having a trip coming up makes me want to read and take with me  books from the place I’m going – I assume everyone does that) off the TBR (the two trilogies I have were balanced on top of the back row). Then, as we’re busy stocking some shelves that go at a rate of knots, I pulled some BookCrossing books off to read and release. So here’s my next-up stack.

Gavin Knight’s “The Swordfish and the Star” is a non-fiction (supposedly) book about the area we stay in, but I’ve heard mixed reviews from local folk so will take it with a pinch of salt.

“Dispatches from Pluto” by Richard Grant – an adventure writer spends a year in the Mississippi Delta after having originally looked to buy in New York. A fish out of water/ethnography book recommended and sent by Cari.

In “Running Outside the Comfort Zone”, runner and writer Susan Lacke decides to get her running mojo back by taking on runs involving all sorts of challenges. Another from Cari.

Tony Wilson’s “24 Hour Party People” is apparently a novelisation of the film, but tells the story of Factory Records and the Hacienda. I do like a good music book and thank Sian for this one.

Of course I also have my Iris Murdoch of the month to read: “The Message to the Planet” this time, which I am slightly worried about as it has not traditionally been a favourite. However, I have changed my mind on a few of hers this time re-reading them, so you never know!

Do you read local books when you travel? What’s your best intersection of book and place? Mine might be reading Murdoch’s “The Philosopher’s Pupil” (set in a spa) in the reception area of a Turkish hammam ….

“The Book and the Brotherhood” round-up and “The Message to the Planet” preview #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


It’s the last day of the month, so time to round up our reading of “The Book and the Brotherhood” and turn our attention to “The Message to the Planet”.

Our usual lovely suspects have posted comments on my review, but I’ve also received notes from another reader on “Henry and Cato” and “The Sea, The Sea” recently, and I hope to collect more and more over the coming months and years. Comments on any of the posts gladly welcomed! Jo has also done her usual perceptive review on Goodreads and Brona has a great review up on her blog.

If you have any juicy paperbacks or alternative covers, do send me covers to include as I love seeing all the different ways the books are interpreted. I always welcome reviews after the month I happen to have read the book, so do comment away if you’re coming to this at some other time! It’s always good to talk about Iris Murdoch!

“The Message to the Planet”

Now on to this one. Hm. This is the one I’m a bit nervous of reading, as it’s traditionally been the one I liked least. I hope to change my mind on it a bit this time, though!

I have three copies and this is the last one I can say that about, as Vintage didn’t re-issue “The Green Knight” or “Jackson’s Dilemma”. I picked up a first edition quite cheaply and I have the same edition in paperback from when it came out, plus my new Vintage one.

Blurb wise, we have a mottled inside flap from the First …

Not too different on the Penguin paperback …

… and we get more of the A.N. Wilson quote before the same stuff again on the Vintage.

Are you going to be reading or re-reading “The Message to the Planet” along with me? Are you catching up with the others or have you given up? What’s your favourite so far? Your least favourite? Do you have a photo to share of you reading one of the books, or where you read it?

You will find a page listing all of these blog posts here, updated as I go along.

Sedate lady running 23-29 Sept 2019 #amrunning #running


A pleasant week including a lovely Run and Talk activity and even a return to yoga.

Tuesday – I got my own run out of the way in the daytime, literally running some errands and getting in 4.1 miles more quickly than I usually do. Then in the evening, when it was time for running club run, I met up with my fellow Mental Health Champion, Maria, and we ran a low-key and non-threatening but fun Run and Talk activity to coincide with National Mental Health Awareness week.

2019_09_24 MHC

I would have popped my coat off too but I had flouro armbands on for walking home in the dark and got all caught up.

The theme of Run and Talk runs is that it’s sometimes easier to talk when you’re side by side with someone, rather than with eye contact. We were encouraged to base this around men, who are more at risk of losing their lives through suicide and who might traditionally not feel they can talk about depression, anxiety, etc., but we kept it general, although I did mention in my introduction that people might consider using telling a male identifying person at home about the activity to encourage them to open up or talk about talking.

I’d prepared these conversation starters and handed them out as the runners left the school playground where we meet. Maria and I then sheltered from the wet and wild weather in her car and had a chat until the first runners came back in. We then collected the conversation starters and asked how people had found them.

I also gave out the lipsalves the Samaritans had given me at parkrun the other week. We had a happy and enthusiastic response, people enjoyed them and thanked us and had had all sorts of conversations.

Thank you to Kings Heath Running Club for letting us run this session on the “big” club night and for supporting us in our Mental Health Champion work (it’s very much an encouraging and signposting role rather than crisis management and i think club members appreciate us being around).

4.1 miles, 11:37 mins per mile

Wednesday – I made it to Dave Yoga after two weeks off, felt a bit weedy but also noticed that a lack of 14+ mile runs has left me a little less stiff than I’d have expected. I missed yoga on Friday as had a massive work project and prioritised finishing on time over yoga and working after tea.

Thursday – A lovely catch up and run with Sara, who I haven’t seen for a while. She dropped her kids at school and ran to the park; we did a modified summer club route and then made up the miles round the back of the high street – we both got the distance we needed and destressed.

5.6 miles, 12:39 mins per mile

Sunday – A seaside getaway meant I got to run in my happy place – the coast. The weather was wild and woolly and I got damp and salt-scrubbed and a bit muddy, but it was great. Will add some pics next week as I wanted to get an update in this week and haven’t sorted them out yet.

10.3 miles, 13:30 mins per mile

Weekly total a nice tidy 20 miles. Total this year 759.2 (I need 750 at the end of this month to be on track for my 1,000 miles in a year total, and I’m now down 30 miles on this time last year).

weekly-run-down-final-300x300The Weekly Run Down is run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Kim’s weekly wrap is here and Deborah’s is here.


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