State of the TBR – January 2022


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

First, the horror …

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


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

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

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

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

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

Currently reading and coming up first

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

Coming up next

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

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

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

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

TBR 2021-2022 challenge report

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

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

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

Shiny reviews and naughty incomings


I’ve had a couple of reviews published in the Shiny New Books online review magazine recently, and I have some incomings to report (yes, I know this is the time of year when I’m supposed to be refraining from such things; there are (sort of) mitigating circumstances (honest, guv!).

Jan Morris – “Allegorizings”

I’ve been reading Jan Morris’ travel writing for years and years, and I was a little nervous approaching this, her last volume, designed to be published after her death. Book-ended by pieces entitled “Pre-Mortem” and “Post-Mortem” (I did nervously flick to the latter, but it was s super piece about the celebration of her and her very long-term partner Elizabeth’s civil partnership), there’s everything from sneezing to marmalade to the wonder of the hot water bottle, as well as more trenchant pieces and travel writing. I said, “The book is soaked in Wales and the Welsh, thankful for small pleasures and looking out to the world with a sometimes naughty grin. It’s a very worthy final book and memento of one of the great travel writers of our age.” Read the full review.

Annie Nightingale – “Hey Hi Hello”

Annie Nightingale was already a successful music journalist – and friend of the Beatles! – when she lobbied to be and became the first woman DJ on BBC Radio One. Here she reviews her long career since then, sharing interviews (charmingly annotated – something I often long to do when I’m transcribing other people’s!), memories and some previously published pieces taking in so many musical genres and artists. I said, “Her close relationships with all sorts of artists mean she can share intimate discussions and details, all done with good sense and a sense of the sometimes ridiculous nature of her world and job.” and you can read the full review here.


First off, early in the month I had an amusing day where two books arrived that were a tiny bit sweary on the covers. Huda Fahmy writes the “Yes, I’m Hot in This” cartoons (I’ve bought a cartoon book previously) and this is a YA graphic novel. “Birmingham, It’s not Shit: 50 Things that Delight about Brum” by Jon Bounds, Jon Hickman and Danny Smith is a fun book about my city which I and several friends and more acquaintances subscribed to (Bill was amazed on Facebook that the book subscription model is alive and kicking, having more of a Jane Austen / Johnson’s Dictionary feel about it; this was on a Kickstarter but I do a lot of subscribing to Unbound books, too).

Then this pile developed. It goes from oldest at the bottom. I went to visit Heaven-Ali last week on a sort of round trip delivering, collecting and delivering secret santa parcels for a book group we’re in, and somehow came away with Rumer Godden’s “Black Narcissus” (nuns go wrong in the Himalayas and perfect for a LibraryThing Virago Group themed read in January), even though I forgot to take up a book I was passing to her. Shucks! Then I had two parcels on Saturday. Thomas Harding’s “White Debt” covers a personal quest by the author to discover the truth about the money made from slavery by his ancestors and to share the story of the Demerera Uprising. That one’s to review for Shiny, and thank you to Weidenfeld & Nicolson for sending it to me for review.

It’s all the fault of these bloggers, really, see (well, I’m friends with Ali separately from book blogging) – the lovely Bookish Beck has got into a kind habit of keeping aside books she can part with that I’ve shown interest in on her blog and sending me a box in December. Said box arrived on Saturday (crossing paths with one I sent her full of some authors I’m no longer reading but she likes), and included “Dad: Untold Stories of Fatherhood, Love, Mental Health and Masculinity”, curated by Elliott Rae; “Gifts of Gravity and Light”, edited by Anita Roy and Pippa Marland, which shares nature writing by a variety of diverse voices; Lucille Clifton’s “Generations”, a memoir of an African American family through slavery and beyond (which will fit nicely into Novellas in November next year!); Caleb Femi’s “Poor”, his tribute in poetry, prose and photography to the North Peckham Estate; and Lola Akinmadé Akestrom’s novel “In Every Mirror She’s Black”, profiling what it’s like to be a Black woman moving through White Swedish society.

And then my lovely friend Gill had given my husband (it turned out, oops: I spent them!) gardening vouchers a good while ago now and me a made-up voucher to spend on books at the super Bookshop on the Green in Bournville (see their Facebook page here and Northern Reader’s super review and photos here) and we finally got to visit the shop (I’ve been sending them my bookshop percentage via Hive and since they opened). It was just as lovely as it looks from the outside, with a superbly curated stock, so deep and wide, lots of adults’ as well as children’s books, and I selected “The Book of Pebbles” by Christopher Stocks and Angie Lewin” which is a beautifully illustrated book on, well, pebbles, Cat Jarman’s “River Kings: The Vikings from Scandinavia to the Silk Roads” which is apparently a radical rethinking on the Vikings; and James Rebanks’ “English Pastoral: An Inheritance” which I really should have got before, in a nice Penguin edition. Only that last one was on my wishlist and my friends have been good at telling Matthew what to take off it, so I THINK I’m safe … Well, I do have arriving today “The Chinese in Britain: A History of Visitors and Settlers” by Barclay Price which was suddenly on a huge price drop on Amazon, so I clicked yesterday … I’m out of control!

State of the TBR – December 2021


It’s time to share the state of my TBR and report on all those November reading challenges. And at the very end of the post, an announcement of my 2022 reading challenge!

I read 26 books in November, which was probably an all-time record, at least since I lived alone in London in the 1990s (one was for Shiny New Books and one for my other blog, so haven’t appeared on here yet). It was down to a) doing Novellas in November, so 15 of the books were under 200 pages, b) not having a huge work schedule so time to read in the daytime, and c) having the Terrible Cold which gave me 2 weeks of milling around feeling a bit rubbish and not spending time running. I’m thrilled to report I’ve taken a total of 23 books off the TBR for my TBR project 2021-22 (one DNF, the others read) so I only have 62/85 left to read (this may be a bit wonky: I will reassess when they’ve gone down a bit more) and am ahead of target (in fact a month ahead of target). I read 16 titles (two in one volume) for Novellas in November and really enjoyed doing that project, and 15 for Nonfiction November, as well as doing all five NonFicNov prompts (one to come out on Friday), and two for AusReading Month. Phew! I read four of my planned NetGalley reads for the month, I didn’t get round to “Unleash the Girls” and didn’t finish “Carefree Black Girls” (it was a valuable read for the author’s experiences but so rooted in a cultural milieu of American contemporary and older TV programmes and musicians etc. that I was having to look up more than I read).


Some incomings first. So many incomings. From the woman who doesn’t buy books in Oct/Nov/Dec in case other people buy them for her (to be fair, only one of these was on my wishlist …

In print incomings, first of all I saw mention of Sam Selvon’s “The Housing Lark”, a sequel to his marvellous “Lonely Londoners” on Ten Million Hardbacks’ blog and had to order it, and at the same time, there was mention in “Saga Land” of Kari Gislason’s own book about his search for his Icelandic father, “The Promise of Iceland”, so an order went off to Hive. Then, I went to Oxfam Books to buy presents for a Not So Secret Santa recipient and found they had some brand new social justice type books I couldn’t leave behind – “Rife” ed Nikesh Shukla, which is a 2019 collection of memoir pieces by young people, Kehinde Andrews’ “The New Age of Empire” about the effect of empire around the world, “This is Why I Resist: Don’t Define my Black Identity” by Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu which is a rallying call for anti-racism, and Remi Adekoya’s look at multi-heritage people and their place and experience in the UK, “Biracial Britain”. Then I saw mention of Amrit Wilson’s “Finding a Voice” on The Market Gardener Reader’s My Year in Nonfiction post and realised this classic of oral history / sociology with Asian women in Britain had been updated, and Lenny Henry has edited “Black British Lives Matter” with essays by leading Black British writers, so that was a must-buy, too (more ordering from Hive).

In ebooks, first of all I was so lucky to be sent two lovely D.E. Stevenson novels by Dean Street Press, “Five Windows” and “The Fair Miss Fortune”. They’re out very early next year so I’ll be reading them soon. Then I got a bit tempted by Kindle offers and picked all these up for 99p each – Elizabeth Acevado’s “The Poet X”, a coming of age story told in free verse about a young woman of Dominican descent in New York, Farhad J. Dadyburjor’s “The Other Man” about a closeted gay man in Mumbai dealing with a doomed arranged marriage, British Malaysian comedian Phil Wang’s memoir, “Sidesplitter” and Elise Downing’s run around the British coast in “Coasting”.

I got a bit excited on NetGalley this month: as well as winning several books I’d requested a while ago, I went a-clicking on the main website (I do try not to do this!). Kodo Nishimura’s “Ths Monk Wears Heels” is an inspiring book by a Japanese monk who featured on Queer Eye (out Feb); Christine Barlow’s “Heartcross Castle” is a Christmas reawd about a woman inheriting a crumbling castle (Dec); Janet Pywell’s “Someone Else’s Dream” has the heroine having to take over the cafe her (soon ex-) girlfriend dreamed of running, and finding support in the community (end Nov; reading now); Emily Kerr’s “Meet Me Under the Northern Lights” is a Christmas novel (Dec); Shellee Marie’s “Influenced Love” has an online influencer finding that world is not all it’s made out to be (Feb); Monica Ali has a new one out, “Love Marriage” is apparently a gripping tale of what happens when people from two cultures try to blend their families (Feb); Kasim Ali’s “Good Intentions” has a similar theme (Mar); Daphne Palasi Andreades’ “Brown Girls” is another New York coming of age novel and a love letter to women of colour everywhere (Jan); and Celia Laskey’s “Under the Rainbow” has a group of LGBTQIA activists descend on a US town that has been declared the homophobia capital of the US (Dec).

Currently reading

I’m currently reading Tristan Gooley’s “How to Read Water”, which is about different forms of water, their clues and patterns, apparently not prioritising the organic over the inorganic in talking about things around the water that help shape it. I’m not very far in yet but it’s very interesting. I’ve also started the NetGalley read “Someone Else’s Dream”, which is pretty enticing so far.

Coming up next

I’ve got quite the variety in paper books to get read this month. Two Christmas novels (Sophie Pembroke’s “The Wedding on Mistletoe Island” and Jenny Colgan’s “An Island Christmas”, both parts of series and hopefully that won’t matter) that have lingered since last year and a Christmas bird book originally given to Matthew which is languishing on the TBR, Stephen Moss’ “The Twelve Birds of Christmas”. Then there’s my last Anne Tyler, “Redhead by the Side of the Road”, which is a really short one, another volume of Maya Angelou, “A Song Flung up to Heaven”, one last British Library Women Writers book, Winifred Boggs’ “Sally on the Rocks” (women fight over a man in a village), and then as we’ve been watching Strictly Come Dancing this year, Craig Revel Horwood’s “In Strictest Confidence” felt appropriate to pick up!

I will also have a few NetGalley and other books on the go. I think I’ll just keep the Kindle on the go for downstairs reading this month and get these read and hopefully a few more.

So I have a good few of my November acquisitions on here, plus “The Arctic Curry Club” by Dani Redd (more light Christmas novel reading), Matthew finally has a space for Richard Osman’s “The Man Who Died Twice” in his audiobook schedule coming up so I’ll read the equivalent of an hour’s worth of audio a day on that at some point, and then I have those lovely D.E. Stevensons.

One last, very important thing … my 2022 Reading Challenge!

I’ve chosen my reading challenge for 2022 (this year it was Anne Tyler, last year Paul Magrs, before that, Iris Murdoch (again)) … and it is … Larry McMurtry. Click on the link for details and how to take part. Fancy joining me?

How was your November reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection? And thank you for bearing with me while I posted and posted and posted – it should be a bit quieter in December!

State of the TBR – November 2021


Well I completed 15 books in October, not as good as other months but still OK. Two I haven’t yet mentioned here because I was reading them for Shiny New Books and one I have yet to review (coming out on Wednesday, I think). I’m really pleased to say I’ve taken 8 books off the TBR for my TBR project 2021-22 (one DNF, the others read) so I only have 77/85 left to read and am nicely on target, especially given my Novellas in November project coming up.


Some incomings first.

In print incomings, first I’ve had another lovely book from the British Library Women Writers series – Theodora Benson’s “Which Way”, then I had to get Dave Grohl’s “The Storyteller” as he’s such a favourite musician and person (and getting that triggered my TBR project – oh-oh!) and “King City” about the independent music scene in Birmingham arrived from Unbound. Jon Mills’ “Utility Furniture” is a catalogue of Utility furniture from 1943 with a long introduction – I have a much-loved Utility tallboy, which can indeed be found in the catalogue. Ali passed me Jane Rule’s “Desert of the Heart”, a lesbian classic novel, I had to buy Alex Haley’s “Queen” (915 pages!!) after reading “Roots” and I couldn’t resist “My Hair is Pink Under this Veil” by Rabina Khan – essays by a British woman who wears a hijab. “Make Mine a Double” by Ed Hodge is the story of St Johnstone FC’s double cup win in Scottish football, an odd choice for me until you know I did the transcriptions for it (and am thanked in the acknowledgements!) and Fannie Flagg’s “The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop” was a gift from my lovely friend Cari after a difficult weekend.

In e-books, I bought two from Amazon – Natalie Morris’ “Mixed/Other” is about the struggles of being dual-heritage in the UK and Kajal Odedra’s “Do Something: Activism for Everyone” is to help my continued search for how I can best support marginalised communities. Moving over to NetGalley, Zoe Playden’s “The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes” (published November) is the story of a 1960s court case involving a transgender person and his inheritance, Johann Hari’s “Stolen Focus” (January) looks at why we can’t pay attention and what to do about it, Zeba Blay’s “Carefree Black Girls” (October, whoops, should have read it in October!) is a collection of essays about Black women in pop culture, and Lizzie Damilola Blackburn’s “Yinka, Where is your Huzband?” (March 2022) is a fun-looking novel about a South London woman with Nigerian heritage fighting against the Aunties’ expectations.

Currently reading

I’m currently working my way through Layla F. Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” which is a challenging and interesting read but I am having to view it through the lens of my own way of operating in the world (e.g. I just don’t shout anyone down or tone-police anyone; I can of course see a lot of familiarity in other aspects of the book); Emma and I are enjoying Afua Hirsch’s “Brit(ish)” and her lovely readable way of writing as our readalong book. I’ve picked up Richard Fidler and Kari Gislason’s “Saga Land” to start off my Australian Reading Month (and because taking it off the TBR made room for some acquisitions) and I’m part way through the delicious “The Love Child” by Edith Olivier, which I’m reading for The British Library Women Writers’ series blog tour (review due out on Friday).

Coming up next – Reading challenges galore!

I’m taking part in three challenges this month. Nonfiction November sees us all reading non-fiction and talking about it on Mondays (first warning there are going to be lots of posts from me this month!). I don’t have a specific pile for this, as my two piles for the other two challenges include plenty of nonfiction, but I’ll be joining in with the prompts and adding some more if I have room.

Novellas in November is run by 746 Books and Bookish Beck and encourages people to focus on books (fiction or nonfiction, hooray!) that are under 200 pages. And without even trying or saving stuff up, I’ve got FIFTEEN! Ten are nonfiction, and all but two are included in my TBR project, so all good! I won’t list them all, but you’ll hopefully see reviews for all of them this month!

And finally, for AusReading Month, hosted by Brona at This Reading Life, I have two books (both nonfiction) to read (two!). “Saga Land” counts because Richard Fidler is Australian, even though he’s writing about a country on the other side of the globe to his home (thank you to Brona for spotting this on my TBR and letting me know). Sven Lindqvist’s “Terra Nullius” is an exploration of Indigenous Australian peoples and their treatment at the hands of White settlers and now, and will be a hard but important read.

Image of books

I will also have a few NetGalley books on the go but only the six … (mind you, I had three to read last month and read two of them)!

I will also have two review books to read (Annie Nightingale’s “Hey Hi Hello” and Theodora Benson’s “Which Way”, and my two Anne Tylers. But so many of the books are small, I’m bound to manage them all, right?!

How was your October reading? What are you reading this month? Have you read or picked up any of my selection? And important question: would you prefer to see lots of posts, each about one book, or fewer posts gathering a few books at a time from me, this month?

State of the TBR – October 2021


Row of books on a shelf, filling the shelf

Well, I finished EIGHTEEN books in September, which must be some sort of a record (when I lived alone in London and didn’t know many people, wasn’t running or volunteering and had a long-distance partner, I read more than that, but not in (vaguely) normal times). Eight of those were NetGalley books so I did almost reach the target I set myself at the start of the month (I have started reading one of those and one is left to read; I didn’t read “Sugar” by Bernice L McFadden in the end as the opening scene was so horrific, I couldn’t read on). I also finished two books to review for Shiny New Books, the reviews for which I’ll share when they’re out) and read “Roots” (I did it!) which I’ll be reviewing for 1976 Week in the second week of October. I have a bit of a review lag so you will read about four of these books in due course!

I have taken a few off the beginning of the shelf late in the month, which I am now currently reading. Well, I took Michael Chabon’s “Telegraph Avenue” down to read, which I’ve been looking forward to for aaaages, then realised when having a flick through that I really didn’t like the style (too masculine or something) and put it aside!

I thought I’d do my incomings first today as then it gets less repetitive with the “coming up” section. So …


Four print books, all spelled out in the text below.

Well this looks very good on the print incomings until you recall that I fell into the Oxfam Books shop earlier in the month, which I talked about here. Paul Magrs’ “The Panda, the Cat and the Dreadful Teddy” came out yesterday and my copy from arrived a few days early so that’s already read and reviewed. Ali passed me “The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line” by Ruth Thomas, a novel about palaeontologists in London, and I couldn’t resist picking Adam Nicolson’s new one “The Sea Is Not Made of Water” which is about life between the coastal tides. Then Nova Reid’s “The Good Ally: A Guided Anti-Racism Journey from Bystander to Changemaker” arrived upon publication, ordered ages ago by Past Me.

I’m also thrilled to report that two new books in the British Library Women Writers series have also arrived (thank you, Thomas) – Winifred Bogg’s “Sally on the Rocks” features a village love triangle and in Edith Olivier’s “The Love Child”, for which I’m part of the blog tour, reviewing in early November, a woman’s childhood imaginary friend appears to come to life and needs explaining. There are two more of these coming out soon; these two are available now from the British Library Shop and other book retailers.

In NetGalley wins, I feel I’ve been quite restrained this month. I’m managing to retain my over-80% reviewed status and only a few of them are published in October. Charmaine Wilkerson’s “Black Cake” (published 3 February 2022) features a dead mother who moved in a hurry from a Caribbean island to California trying to reunite her estranged children through post-funeral instructions to share an old cake recipe. “Toufah” by Toufah Jallow (October) documents the life so far of the woman who founded the African #MeToo movement. “Skylark” (November) is the new Alice O’Keefe; I enjoyed her multiracial London novel “On the Up” and this is a fictionalisation of the police infiltration of activist groups, so a bit different. Lisa Z. Lindahl’s “Unleash the Girls” (published in August 2018 but on NetGalley now) is the story of the invention of the sports bra, and Kelle Sandman-Hurley’s “The Adult Side of Dyslexia” (also November) looks at adults’ experiences and advice on the condition.

Currently reading

I’ve just picked Thurston Clarke’s “Islomania” off my physical TBR yesterday – it looks at a series of islands around the world based on different categories and seems good so far. I’m very much enjoying “Of This Our Country”, which is a set of essays by 24 Nigerian writers about Nigeria, whether that’s the land, the diaspora or both.

Coming up next

Four print books, descriptions in text.

In print, up next of course I have my two Anne Tylers for the month, “The Beginner’s Goodbye” and “A Spool of Blue Thread” – the latter I remember quite well as I only read it about five years ago. One more to go after these and I’ll be onto my two as-yet-unread ones. Best friend Emma and I finished our Together Read, “The Salt Path”, last night, and we went through and selected our next four or five books in the week; we’ve decided to start with Afua Hirsch’s “Brit(ish)”, which I’m really looking forward to reading. I’m going to try to work my way through Layla F. Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” this coming month, too, with a notebook.

As well as these, I’ll be reading Annie Nightingale’s “Hey Hi Hello” about her music journalism on the radio, and Jeevan Vasagar’s “Lion City” on Singapore, for Shiny New Books. I wasn’t able to review James Aldred’s “Goshawk Summer” as there were too many grim animal death scenes in it, unfortunately (Beck stepped in to fill the review slot and it’s a good book just not for me).

In NetGalley reads, I just have “The End of Bias” by Jessicca Nordell, left over from September (I really want to read another book on bias I have before I do it!) and Toufah Jallow’s book as detailed above. I also have Christine Pride and Jo Piazza’s fascinating looking novel “We Are Not Like Them” which looks at what happens when a neighbourhood racial divide hits a multiracial friendship. I will try to slot the sports bra book in as well, I think, so it doesn’t get forgotten.

That makes nine to read and two to finish in the month, so I reckon I’ll be able to slip some off the normal TBR, too …

To choose from next

My five oldest books, once you discount ones I’m saving for Novellas in November or to read with Emma in good time (I don’t worry to save things for Non-fiction November as I have such a lot of that anyway), I have two books set in Iceland, on horses and saga locations, one on how to read different kinds of water, a hefty academic tome on white privilege and Nimsdai Purja’s memoir of climbing all 14 8,000m mountains in record time. In the newest ones I have David Lodge’s diaries, a Cathy Kelly Novel and the Northern Line novel from above, Stacey Dooley’s book on women who fight back and “The Good Ally”.

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

Review and acquisitions round-up


Hello! I have two reviews that I’ve recently had published on Shiny New Books to tell you about, and just a few new books in (oops, not oops)

Robyn Lea – “A Room of Her Own: inside the Homes and Lives of Creative Women” looks at a set of women from various places in the US, Europe and Australia who have created interesting and stunning interiors as part of their life’s work, whether they’re artists, interior designers or other creatives.

Not all the women started out as wealthy as they appear to be now. Some are descendants of big designing or European aristocratic families but others started out more middle or lower class. All seem uncompromising in their attitude to creating their surroundings, whether that’s making interesting collections, showcasing their own art works or introducing highly modern pieces into ancient interiors. We do start out with a woman in a castle; but a woman who was very reluctant to up sticks and move into her husband’s ancestral castle. Many of the women’s stories are unexpected and interesting. The pandemic plays a part and the texts do not shy away from the panic attacks, bereavements, family conflicts and complex paths some of these women have experienced.

Read more here

“Your Voice Speaks Volumes” by Jane Setter is a fascinating look at voice and accent, of course looking at regional accents and the sociology around them (and around people who are perceived to change their accent) but also about artificial voices, the way trans people might wish to change their voices (with a very interesting case of a trans woman who complained she came out sounding like a straight woman, not the lesbian woman she was) and other aspects:

Changing voices are covered in a chapter about professionals who use and think about their voices – chiefly singers and radio announcers, and also the voice coaches who work with actors and the like. The chapter on criminology and phonetics is fascinating, too, looking in detail at the work of speaker profiling, and using auditory and acoustic analysis to work out and back up whether two voices on two tapes might be the same voice (or not).

Read more here


So, last week, I had to go and pick up some medication from one local pharmacy and then pop to another in search of some elusive new and different rapid-flow Covid tests (which I did not find). And between these pharmacies, its door passed as I went, was Oxfam Books. Oops. I don’t know how I’m going to fit these on my TBR shelf, but you can’t leave good books in charity shops, can you; they’ll be snapped up the second you leave the place ..

We’ve been enjoying watching Stacey Dooley’s documentaries where she stays in someone’s house, as well as her “This is My House” gameshow but have missed her earlier investigative journalism work with women in difficult circumstances, so I was pleased to spot “Stacey Dooley on the Frontline with the Women who Fight Back”.

The next one down the pile will please Brona of This Reading Life. She hosts the wonderful AusReading Month every November, and I was bemoaning the fact that I had no Australian books to read and talk about in my TBR, as I was trying to do all my challenges this year from the TBR. Well, this is NOW on the TBR … Sven Lindqvist’s “Terra Nullius” is a searing indictment of the way Native Australian people have been mistreated and abused, so I will be learning as well as taking part in the challenge (more about the challenge here). More travel: Sara Wheeler’s “The Magnetic North” is the Arctic companion to the Antarctic book of hers I’ve had for years.

Then in diaries and memoirs, David Lodge’s “Writer’s Luck: A Memoir 1976-1991” covers the period when he was working at the University of Birmingham and overlaps with the time I was there in his department but he was just an esteemed visiting professor as his literary career had really taken off by then. “The View from the Corner Shop” by Kathleen Hey is a Mass Observation Diary from 1941-1946 covering, well, oddly enough, life in a British corner shop and should be fascinating.

In novels, Cathy Kelly is a favourite Irish writer who has taken on the mantle of Maeve Binchy and writes good, woman-centred stories; I think “The Family Gift” is her latest (I might save this for Irish Reading Month next year if I remember to). I have seen Tsitsi Dangarembga’s “Nervous Conditions” reviewed by Imogenglad recently so I was very pleased to find it as it had been in my mind ever since (it was the first book by a Black Zimbabwean writer to be published in English). And “Miguel Street” by V.S. Naipaul is a classic novel based on his own childhood and had to be picked up, too.

So there we go, eight books to jam onto the TBR shelf – but could I have left any of them behind?

Books in, Shiny linkiness and 20 Books of Summer pile #20booksofsummer21 @WolfsonHistory @ShinyNewBooks @VertebratePub


I seem to be posting reviews of NetGalley books, blog tours, books from my own challenges or other people’s, and there’s not really been room to round up what’s been coming in, plus an important decision about my 20 Books of Summer. So I thought I’d put it all in one place!

Books in

First off, I’ve been very fortunate to be asked to take part in the Wolfson History Prize shortlist blog tour, for the third year in a row. I reviewed “Birds in the Ancient Word” in 2019 and the large (and prize-winning) “The Boundless Sea” last year and this year I was able to choose Richard Ovenden’s “Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack”. Ovenden is director of the Bodleian Library and he looks at the long history of destroying libraries and archives and how this is gathering pace as history progresses – and what this means for history and civilisation. It’s already been a Radio 4 Book of the Week and I can’t wait to get started with it. Watch out for my review on 1 June.

Having already ordered one book from them, on the back of an email from the lovely indie publisher, Vertebrate Publishing, I ordered this gorgeous book by John D. Burns, “Wild Winter” in which he travels into the wild north of Scotland in winter looking for the area’s wild animals. We had a memorable bird-watching holiday in Inverness and north a few years ago so I’m looking forward to reading about some places I’ve been to. Do check the publisher out, too – they seem genuinely lovely.

Of interest to any editor readers I might have, “Respectful Querying with NUANCE” by Ebonye Gussine Wilkins looks at how we work with people who are not from the same ethnic/cultural background as ourselves and raise those queries that editors always have to raise when we don’t know the context as well. It’s a slim volume from the American Editorial Freelancers’ Association and I will get to it soon.

And lastly (I think – I bet I’ve forgotten an ebook) I managed to get myself into our local Oxfam Books on Sunday – I’ve been keen to get hold of some of those lovely books people have been donating furiously, and although I don’t think they had a lot of new stock out, I managed to find in the sport section Anna McNuff’s “The Pants of Perspective” in which she runs the length of New Zealand, and Alex Hutchinson’s “Endure” which looks at how athletes get the mental and physical strength to undertake greater and greater feats of endurance.

Shiny link fun!

I love reviewing non-fiction for Shiny New Books and very much enjoyed reading Mike Pitts’ “Digging up Britain”, which is a look at new archeological techniques applied to sites in Britain going backwards from the Vikings way into prehistory. He has a lovely engaging way of writing and makes all the technology very clear and easy to understand.

Many of us have watched Time Team and various other TV archaeology shows; many of us have seen or heard of some of the sites discussed here (I was particularly pleased to find the Staffordshire Hoard featured), but how many of us have been able to keep up with the enormous strides that archaeological science has been making over recent decades? Pitts is able to take an admirable long view over most of these sites, showing how knowledge has increased and dates have gone back in time or been refined as often generation after generation of archaeologists have studied, pondered, hypothesised and published. Read more.

20 Books of Summer 2021

And finally, it’s almost time for 20 Books of Summer again, hosted as ever by Cathy from 246 Books and people have begun sign-up posts already. I usually decide what to read right at the end of May and pick books off the start of my TBR. This year I decided to go a bit different and have a theme, particularly for the first two months.

I’ve always read diversely, especially since those days mining Lewisham Library for their LGB (as it was then) and “Black and Asian” sections. In the last few years, more and more publishers have been making books available that honour more diverse own voices and centre voices that have been marginalised. And of course, after the Black Lives Matter movement came to prominence last year, even more books have been written, taken on and published, which has been brilliant and inspiring. I have been reading the books I bought then and before, drip-feeding them into the blog, but I’ve decided to do an “othered voices / own voices” theme for June and July in my 20 Books of Summer this year. August has to be put by for All August / All Virago [and other books that celebrate mid-20th century lost women writers] and that worked out well as I had 6 or 7 Virago et al. books and 14 or 15 books in my othered/own voices category still waiting to be read (ones I have read include “Don’t Touch my Hair“, “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” and “Trans Britain“).

It’s quite an ambitious pile as it doesn’t include any of my Anne Tyler re-reads (there will be six during the period of the challenge), review books or ebooks (I never like including books I can’t physically see in 20 Books, no idea why!). So I’m not actually sure I can do it! I’ll share the full title list when I start the project, but here’s my exciting pile for the time being, with Black African, European and British, Asian British, gay, trans, working-class and Gypsy voices represented in the first two months, and some lovely indie publishers in the third. Don’t worry: I’ve left myself some diverse reads on the shelf (a couple of novels and an academic book on white privilege), have a load on the Kindle and am always buying more, so I won’t suddenly plunge into the white middle class for the rest of the year!

Are you doing 20 Books of Summer/Winter and have you created your pile yet?

Incoming books – a pile so big it had to have its own post! #bookconfessions


I have, thankfully, been reading quite a lot and quite quickly recently. Because although only a few physical books have come into the house, the e-book pile has grown quite horribly. And while they don’t seem to really EXIST somehow, do they, not forcing their way into your peripheral vision as you get ready for bed by a bulging TBR, they are there and they do need to get read.

Shall I do the paper books first?

These two beauties have arrived from the lovely folks who produce the British Library Women Writers series. They’re their two new ones – “Mamma” by Diana Tutton, which looks at the relationship between a woman who was widowed when her daughter was a baby and her new son-in-law, nearer to her than her daughter in age, and “Tension” by E.M. Delafield, which puts into opposition a woman of the old guard, titled and secure and a new professional woman, looking at women’s roles in public life and gossip and reputation. I’m on the blog tour for “Tension” so will be reviewing it later on in May – there’ll be a blog tour for “Mamma” too and I’m sure you’ll see lots of familiar names on both.

Then two I’ve bought for myself recently. When I was reading Adharanand Finn’s “The Rise of the Ultra Runners“, Damian Hall popped up a few times, a man who’d gone from unfit to fit and was running ultras and setting Fastest Known Times (the time it takes to run a big known route which isn’t a race, basically your own timed run). Then I saw Damian’s book, “In it for the Long Run”, was coming out on the indie publisher Vertebrate Publishing (they always have good discounts, by the way) so I pre-ordered a signed copy. And “Pandemic Solidarity“, edited by Marina Sitrin and Collectiva Sembrar, came about because I had a Waterstone’s voucher calling to me, I spent that on another book entirely, which isn’t coming out until August, on world feminisms, but bought this one to get the free postage (I know, I know). It’s a collection of positive stories of community action on the pandemic from around the world.

Now here are the NetGalley wins just from April. Fortunately, they will be published across the upcoming months!

Bernice McFadden’s “Sugar”, published 05 August, is a novel set in 1950s Deep South America, where a growing friendship between an incomer treated with suspicion and a resident changes their lives and the small town’s they live in. “Fit for Purpose”, Richard Pile looks at the physical, mental and spiritual well-being we need to build to cope with modern life (I’m more interested in the physical and mental side and hope they’re the emphasis, as I’m not a spiritual person though I do have strong principles I live by. That’s out on 25 May. That one comes out on 24 June. “My Mess is a bit of a Life: Adventures in Anxiety” by Georgia Pritchett is a memoir about living with anxiety by a TV writer and producer which has had praise from Miranda Hart and Sara Pascoe among others. It’s published on 01 July.

In the novel “The Mismatch”, Sara Jafari writes about two very different people falling in love, with the setting the lives of Iranian people in the UK. That one comes out on 24 June. “Ms. Adventure” by Jess Phoenix is the memoir of a vulcanologist (that’s one of those ones you have to read in the Shelf app which is slightly annoying) and came out on 02 March. “Conversations on Love”, out on 15 July and edited by Natasha Lunn, caught me with its mentions of Candice Carty-Williams and Philippa Perry and is a collection of musings and essays on love of all kinds. Dany Asaf’s “Say Please and Thank You and Stand in Line” is the story of four generations of Canadian Muslims and looks at both history and hope for the future as multiculturalism is strained and is published on 10 May.

And my Amazon book (one) ebook purchases. I try not to buy books on Amazon these days: I use and divert the profit to one of three independent bookshops I use in real life, but the first one in the image is published by the US Editorial Freelancers Association and I couldn’t get it any other way. I don’t really like ebooks at full price but will pay a couple of pounds for them – I love a book! But sometimes there’s a special offer and then I click away!

“Respectful Querying with NUANCE” by Ebonye Gussine Wilkins is a book for work which helps editors working with people from different cultures to their own to keep the author’s voice and experience centred while working on their text and understand when and how to raise a query on matters of content or explanation. I was alerted to this book by a fellow editor and it looks like a useful resource. I will review this on my work blog when it’s arrived and I’ve read it.

A.I. Shoukry mentioned his memoir about running in Egypt, “It’s not Just About Running”, in the Runners’ Bookshelf group I’m in and a few of us bought it: it sets running in the country against the backdrop of its political and social change. Elizabeth Acevedo’s “Clap When You Land” is the two countries / two families novel-in-verse that’s been talked about a lot and was on my wishlist then popped up for 99p. A.M. Blair (a fellow book-blogger) has written several novels taking Jane Austen as her inspiration – “A Case of First Impressions” “Pride and Prejudice” and “Nothing but Patience” “Sense and Sensibility”. The latter at least is set against a backdrop of the author’s own background, the Sri Lankan community in America, and while apparently some have criticised this (WHY?), I am looking forward to this twist on the classics. And Ritu Bhathal‘s (who hails from my city of Birmingham) “Marriage Unarranged” is a novel about a woman turning down her arranged marriage and going on the pre-wedding shopping trip to India anyway.

So, volcanoes, at least seven different ethnicities, novels, non-fiction, running, editing, physical and mental health – I’m missing nature but apart from that I’d say … these conform to my collection development policy, amiright?

What have you acquired this month? Have you read any of these?

State of the TBR – April 2021 plus a few #bookconfessions


I finished or read 14 books in March, a total I’m very pleased with, and it’s shown up in my TBR, as well (some books came from the front shelf and some from the back shelf, which is why the front shelf seems to have shortened from both ends compared to at the beginning of March). A couple of these were review books for other sites, one is up now on Shiny and linked below.

I did also read some e-books but I’m pleased the pile tottering on top of the books is now at least to the side (and two of the books in he pile are the same book, an ARC and a finished copy.

Currently reading

I’m currently reading “Expiation” by Elizabeth von Arnim, which is a real page-turner of a story about a woman who’s disinherited for being Bad – our sympathies lie very much with her and my heart is in my mouth at the moment wondering what’s going to happen to her. My other current read is “The Rise of the Ultra Runners” by Adharanand Finn: I’m enjoying his discomfort as he moves from the safety of road running to the excitement of off-road stuff (knowing I’ll never have to do that myself again!). These were both books I was given for my birthday in 2020 and I’m relieved to say I’ve read all my 2019 books at last!

Up next

I have three lovely review books to finish and review for Shiny New Books: Sathnam Sanghera’s “Empireland” is an investigation of how Britain’s imperialism has shaped the country itself, “Field Work” by Bella Bathurst is about farming and working on the land and its effects on people and the land, and Mike Pitts’ “Digging Up Britain”, about new developments in archaeology, has had its publication date moved back a couple of times but is aiming for this month now.

Then I have my two Anne Tylers for the month, “Earthly Possessions” and “Morgan’s Passing” – again, I don’t recall much about these but I’m sure I’ll enjoy them.

Coming up

These are the next books at the front of the TBR, and as I’m trying to get as up to date as possible, I will be concentrating on these.

Stella Martin Curry’s “One Woman’s Year” completes my longest-outstanding Persephones, I may skip Sathnam Sanghera’s novel given I’m reviewing him this month, then we have some round the world travel, discussion of East Germany, invention in Africa and a book I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to read on the Internet’s influence on language.

I realise I should have read the ebook “Between Worlds: A Queer Boy from the Valleys” by Jeffrey Weeks last month for Dewithon – it’s published today so I will get to it soon, and one of my most recent NetGalley wins is out this month, too, so those will hopefully be in the mix as well.


I have been quite careful this month and not too many books have come in. A couple of recent NetGalley wins (OK, a few) – I was offered Phillipa Ashley’s “An Endless Cornish Summer” by the publisher and have read it, ready for review at the weekend, and I have Greg McKeown’s “Effortless” which is about sorting your life out and doing the most important things, and Natasha Brown’s “Assembly” (a novel in which a young Black woman gets sick of it all and tells it how it is – this is described as shocking and might be out of my comfort zone but it does look important).

Past me also pre-ordered Debbie Macomber’s “Welcome back to Cedar Cove” which is an ebook of stories from the fictional town she wrote a whole series about (will I remember who’s who) and I got too excited about Emma Dabiri’s (of “Don’t Touch My Hair” fame) new book, “What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition” to wait. I’ve also got Anne Tyler’s “Redhead at the Side of the Road” arriving in paperback to complete my collection.

Shiny Fun!

Last but of course not least, I have reviewed two books for Shiny New Books recently.

The “Grayson Perry’s Art Club” exhibition catalogue was a lovely memento of the first series of the televised art club, with all the interviews and pieces by the celebs and other guests, and images and stories from the members of the public who exhibited, too. Of course the exhibition never opened (or hasn’t yet) so this is a lovely thing to have and helps the gallery, too.

Read my review here.

And “Hyphens & Hashtags*” by Claire Cock-Starkey was an excellent read about the history of symbols and glyphs, mostly found on the keyboard, some not, with a good theme pulled out of how these settled in the first place and have changed since.

Read my review here.

So that’s it, March in review and April to come. What was your best read of March and what are you looking forward to reading in April?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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