New books in and reading progress #amreading @BloomsburyBooks


Just a quick hello as nothing finished to review just yet, or on the horizon as promising to be finished!

I did finish Jaron Lanier’s “Dawn of the New Everything” which was a fascinating book on the development of Virtual Reality which I have read and submitted my review for Shiny New Books – I’ll let you know when that’s out. I had to have a hiatus on that one while on holiday last week as I took slimmer (or e-) books that could be left at the holiday cottage, but got it finished at the weekend.

Next up for review for Shiny is this lovely: a comprehensive review of  the lives of the suffragettes, of course published to coincide with the centenary of some women getting the vote for the first time. It’s a lovely substantial book I’m really going to enjoy getting into, although I was a bit flummoxed when SUCH a huge parcel arrived. Thank you Bloomsbury Books for that one!

I managed to only buy ONE book on holiday as I didn’t really go through the charity shops so much. But I couldn’t resist popping into lovely Newlyn Books, in Penzance (see a photo of the shop on my post from my visit in 2016), where I found this sweet copy of “Mrs Harris Goes to New York” by Paul Gallico. I loved “Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris” so this had to be snapped up.

Nothing has been requested from NetGalley recently – aren’t I good! I’m up to an 82% review rate again after my last review – phew!

I’m currently reading David Goldblatt’s “The Games” again (after a pause for Shiny-ness) and I’m getting up to the 60s now so almost to the ones I remember. Quite timely as the Winter Olympics start. I was reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” but the type is so small and my new glasses should come soon, so I’m putting that aside until I can see it. Next up will be Iris Murdoch’s “The Bell” for my #IMReadalong – I can’t wait to get that started, probably at the weekend.

Any booky news where you are?

Book review – Sue Perkins – “Spectacles” plus birthday (and other) book confessions #amreading #books


Here’s a review to prove I have actually been reading books from my TBR – you can see Sue Perkins’ book nestling next to the as-yet-unopened Bruce Springsteen autobiography. While I really enjoyed re-reading “The Sandcastle”, I was in the mood for a lighter book before starting on my review book about virtual reality and then finishing the history of the Olympics …

Sue Perkins – “Spectacles”

(29 April 2017, The Works)

Yes, dear readers, I didn’t acquire any books between just after my birthday and the end of April last year! This makes me feel less behind, which is a bit weird, given that I’m SO MANY actual BOOKS behind …

I didn’t watch Late and Light Lunch for some reason, but have been aware of Sue, half of Mel and Sue, for their work on Bake Off, and Sue herself for panel show stuff, etc. I thought her book would be self-deprecating and funny, maybe a bit silly. What’s very good is that it takes us right up to date; none of this just getting us up to the juicy fame years then expecting us to buy the next volume. Hooray for that!

It was, though, a very curious mixture of extremely silly and obviously completely invented for comic effect and deeply affecting and emotional sections on her dad, her dogs, etc. This gave a bit of an uneven ride, as it sometimes slammed from one to the other, however she does spend quite a lot of time explaining how her dad escapes from too much emotion by recording the weather etc and her mum by catastrophising, whereas she does it with streams of words, so it seems apt and at least she’s being honest and true to herself by being fanciful then emotional. I couldn’t read the farewell letter to her dog myself, but it’s well signposted.

We do get early years, the Cambridge times, lovely bits about her friendships, lots of funny stories, Bake Off, Maestro and her later travel documentaries, so it’s all here in an entertaining read.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Christmas booky onslaught (lovely onslaught, obvs) is followed swiftly by my birthday books. And my lovely friends came up trumps once again. Here we have Alys Fowler’s “Hidden Nature: A Journey of Discovery”, which is about both her life changes and about kayaking the canals of Birmingham (OK, that is something you wouldn’t find me doing in a month of Sundays, but I read books about mountain ultra runs, so …). Then “Reunion in Barsaloi” by Corinne Hofmann is the third in her series about marrying a Masai chap (as you do) and their subsequent life. Jenni Murray’s “A History of Britain in 21 Women” has been read by almost everyone I know, it seems, and I know about the weird referencing but it’s a must-read at the moment, isn’t it. And finally, Sara Marcus’ “Girls to the Front” is a book about the history of the Riot Grrl music genre/movement. I wasn’t a proper riot grrl (was I? not sure) but I loved many of the bands and I can’t wait for this one. What a set of treats right there!

I went to the National Running Show on my birthday with some of my running friends and I managed not to find the Bloomsbury Sport stall until the end when they’d sold all their stock, but I did get my copy of Lisa Jackson’s “Your Pace or Mine?” signed and met and chatted to Lisa (eeee!) and I bought this one, “The Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running” by Julie Creffield. I wouldn’t consider myself overweight, but I’m no whippet and I really love reading about different people and their different obstacles. Julie came across as lovely and very encouraging, and I thought this would be a positive book with some interesting points and ways to help people I work with as a run leader who might be experiencing some of those obstacles themselves.

I’d better admit to some NetGalley wins, too, hadn’t I. I’ve managed to cling on to my 80% reviewed status and badge, although I’m on EXACTLY 80% at the moment.

Tina Brown – “The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992” – not sure if I admitted this December win. Looks like a lot of gossipy fun. Published 14 November 2017.

Rolf Potts – “Souvenir” – this is entirely my friend Cari’s fault, as she told me about it. How dare she! Tell me about a book she thinks I’d love?? It’s a short (yay) book about souvenirs through the ages and a musing on what we bring back from our travels. Published 08 March 2018.

Sophie Green – “The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club” – a novel about a long-distance book club in the 1970s Northern Territory of Australia. Blame the emails from NetGalley for this one. Published 01 March 2018.

Joanna Nadin – “The Queen of Bloody Everything” – Dido, caring for her elderly mother, remembers when she fell in love with a family – a normal family. Published 08 February 2018.

Scott Douglas – “Running is my Therapy” – I can blame book blogger Rebecca for this one, and even though it’s a PDF not a Kindle book it does indeed look right up my street, about how running can help depression and anxiety. Published 17 April 2018.

Have you read “Spectacles”? Have you got any of these new acquisitions on your shelves, in your blogs or on your Kindles waiting to be read?

Reading update plus book review Levison Wood – “Eastern Horizons” #amreading #books


 I’m conscious that I haven’t blogged on here for a little while – I’ve been nose-in-book but not finished anything to review here yet. So here’s a little update. I have finished a review book just as a review is published; Matthew has read and reviewed a book I enjoyed from last year; and I am making progress with my #IMReadalong.

How are you all? What are you up to? I’m a bit behind with reading your blogs, too!

One book in for the month so far – I went to WHSmith’s to buy an anniversary card for my cousin and found they had a remaindered books tray. And there was Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe’s autobiography, marked down to £3 because the cover’s a bit battered (I think they might have thought there was a mark on the outside of the text block, however this proved to be the edge of the image they have at the top of each chapter). I do like a sports autobiography so I just couldn’t leave him there! I will remove the sticker from his head!

So last night I finished reading Gordon Brown’s autobiography, “My Life, Our Times”, which I will admit has taken me a while to read, as it’s dense and serious with lots of information. But it was really good. I’m reviewing that one for Shiny New Books, so watch out for the review (which I’ll be sending in today) when it’s published.

Talking of Shiny …

Levison Wood – “Eastern Horizons”

Subtitled “Hitchhiking the Silk Road”, this book by the esteemed traveller and travel writer looks back to an early journey in his 20s, taking the silk route from Europe eastwards. It was a young man’s book but gave a nice chance to look back and revisit some of the places he went in his 20s, and I greatly enjoyed it. Read the full review here.

P.Z. Reizin – “Happiness for Humans”

I read and reviewed this book on 3 January and really enjoyed it (read my review here) – so much so that my enthusiasm infected my husband, Matthew, who proceeded to read it on audiobook. Here are his thoughts:

I have very much been enjoying listening to “Happiness for Humans”. I found the story believable, laugh-out-loud funny in places, and gripping.  I liked a lot of the exposition on what it is to be human and how the AIs expressed their frustration and wonderment at the human condition. Also the obsession with cheese. The narrator was excellent as well – particularly with the voices of the AIs. It was a little bit too “chicklit” in places and the obsession with “Some Like it Hot” got a bit wearing at times, but overall an enjoyable, clever and innovative story with deeper insight into the human condition than at first meets the eye (and ear).

Interestingly, I’d seen the character Jen as resembling Jen from the IT Crowd (just from the name, really) and the narrator gave Ralph the voice and mannerisms of Moss from the same programme.

I’m now back reading “The Sandcastle” for my Iris Murdoch readalong. There are lots of passages and scenes I remember well but some I’d forgotten; it’s a good read, though.

Coming up, I have another review book for Shiny, “Dawn of the New Everything”, which is about virtual reality, but I think I might go for some light relief in between and pick up Sue Perkins’ autobiography or the book about living Danishly.

What are you reading RIGHT NOW? (apart from this blog post)?

Book review – Matthew Syed – “Bounce” plus MORE books in #amreading #bookconfessions


Well, I’ve got off to a goodish start to the year, having now finished two of the three books that very messily hung over the New Year (I prefer to finish the book I’m reading before midnight on New Year’s Eve, but I’m not sure how often that actually happens!). Here’s my review of Matthew Syed’s “Bounce”, plus news of TWO more books in, although one is a collection rather than reading copy, so that’s OK, then.

Matthew Syed – “Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice”

(28 January 2017)

Bought with a book token after Christmas and birthday season last year (I’m a bit horrified that I’m a full year behind on my reading now!).

This is an interesting book that takes much from sport and chess and talks about its application to other worlds, too. It looks at whether talent actually exists or whether – for example – you can create a chess “genius” from scratch. It turns out that for complex activities like chess and tennis (not so much things like running), genetics don’t matter (except for the very basics, for example basketball and netball players need to be a certain height), talent doesn’t exist and the people who excel (whether that’s Tiger Woods or Mozart or the three daughters of a man who decided to prove a point by making them into chess grandmasters) do so because they’re practise more and with more intent, failing more, than others.

He uses his own career in table tennis to illustrate both the power of practice and, later, theories on “choking” (when someone’s suddenly unable to play) and concentrates on the almost automatic actions people make when practice has drilled it into them. He also brings in the psychological aspects of having a growth instead of fixed mind-set (associated with beliefs in hard work or innate ability, respectively), attitudes to failure and success, and belief (religious or otherwise). He also brings in the fallacy of the role of genetics in sport in a separate chapter that looks at socio-economic reasons why certain people are better long-distance runners or sprinters (something I’ve read about elsewhere in books published since, so he’s been borne out on that one). There was an odd chapter on sports enhancement through drugs and the philosophy of enhancement which seemed to be there to bulk out the book a bit, although it was interesting.

I have to mention that unfortunately a big minus in this book to me was some of the language used. Although it’s not completely contemporary, having been first published in 2009, he refers to “sportsmen” throughout, even though he talks a fair bit about women in sports, too; worse, he uses the word “blacks” to describe people of colour, sometimes putting it in inverted commas when he’s castigating another author for being racist, but not always, and not in the chapter title, and he refers to someone’s “sex-change operation” (I do understand that the term “gender reassignment surgery” might have come to the fore after this book. It might be a smallish matter, but it did grate, and the book could do with an update, as it’s otherwise very good and thought-provoking.

And now to the confessions. Remember how I bought a first edition of Iris Murdoch’s “The Flight from the Enchanter” with my tax rebate? Well, I also bought a copy of “The Sandcastle”, to help complete my earlier books. I found a second printing, which means it came out after the Book Club edition, but it still has the dust jacket and year, so I’m fine with that. I can’t afford or justify being completely precious, and this is my collection, not for profit and gain. Here are the front, back (doesn’t she look like Dora from “The Bell” on the back and spine – it is the same artist who did “The Bell”) plus the blurb. So charming!

And then the Runners’ Bookshelf group I’m in decided to read “Running: Cheaper than Therapy” which is supposed to be hilarious and true, so I clicked and here it is. And it matches “The Sandcastle” in terms of colour terms, so everything’s OK. Right?




Book reviews – three Debbie Macombers – and two more in … #amreading


A quick round-up of some Chrismassy Debbie Macombers I wasn’t sure I’d read (thank you for the loan, Linda) and two more books that arrived today.

Debbie Macomber – “A Merry Little Christmas”

I’d already read both the books in this collection, but had forgotten the first one entirely. in “1225 Christmas Tree Lane”, Beth Morehouse has 10 puppies to home and a Christmas tree farm to run, while still yearning for her ex-husband. It brings in all the Cedar Cove residents you could possibly remember in a clever way that reminds you of them all and is a nice Christmassy read.

“5-B Poppy Lane” is tied together by a Christmas visit but is mainly about Ruth’s grandmother’s experiences in the Second World War. I remembered part of that but read it anyway, as it was short.

Debbie Macomber – “Not Just For Christmas”

This should have been the name of the dog one, right? I realised I had already read “Buffalo Valley” so skipped that one, making this pair of volumes count as three books, not four. “Love by Degree” featured sassy Ellen living in a house full of male students and sparring with the homeowner, with the inevitable results, although the ending was a little rushed. All nice gentle books which got me nicely through the end days of the year.

I know I posted a picture of 18 incoming books yesterday, but two things happened.

First off, I got a tax rebate. And I spent a BIT of it on this, “The Flight from the Enchanter”, which I’ve found is the rarest and dearest of the Iris Murdoch first editions (it’s her second novel). Don’t come round: they’re still not that costly, but she is my favourite author.

It arrived yesterday while I was out, so I popped down to the Parcel Depot today and collected it (and two running tops bought with a very handy Decathlon voucher). This is cute: I bought it from eBay from a company called The Book Cellar, and the owner sent me a handwritten note – how lovely!

We went to Oxford to meet up with my best friend and her family, and were back at dinner time so decided to try out a restaurant in Grand Central. We popped into Foyles on the way, as you do, and I spotted this lovely, HALF PRICE!

Well, it would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it … except I didn’t have my book token with me! So I asked them if they could put it behind the till for me, and they did, and I collected it today. Oh, it’s lovely, the illustrations are super and the re-telling looks marvellous. What a treat! (and yes, I know the Neil Gaiman one exists: it also looks lovely and I have a bit of book token left, so …)

Have you been a-buying now the Christmas book season is over?

Christmas book haul #amreading #bookhaul


Huge pile of books

Having met up with my best friend and her family today, I now know there are no more books to come. Perhaps handily. Because look what’s come into the house this month. EIGHTEEN lovely books! Want to know more … ?

So first of all came our BookCrossing Secret Santa meal earlier in the month, where I was thrilled to receive from Lorraine a lovely old copy of Mary Webb’s Gone to Earth – one of her wonderful Shropshire novels – and Marcus Crouch’s The Nesbit Tradition: The Children’s Novel, 1945-70, which is again clearly right up my street. Then it was Christmas Day and before I went out to marshal at Christmas Day parkrun (which was a lot of fun), I opened my LibraryThing Virago Group Secret Santa parcel from the lovely Lisa and found We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (yes, I know the twist, but no, I’ve never read this, somehow), Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (looks very interesting), Barren Ground by Ellen Glasgow (a Virago Modern Classic; I read and enjoyed her Virginia a while ago) and The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch (from my wishlist, setting up a book shop in the town the Trigiani novels are set in).

Then dear Verity sent me some books she wanted to pass on in an unChristmas/unBirthday parcel (just something we do), so I was thrilled to unwrap Angela Thirkell’s Christmas at High Rising, The Brandons and Summer Half, plus Ann Bridge’s Peking Picnic and Stella Gibbons’ Starlight and Westwood.

I was also lucky enough to receive Sathnam Sanghera’s If you Don’t Know me by Now from the lovely blogger, Bookish Beck (however I fear Mr Sanghera or his publishers changed the name of his autobiography between the hardback and paperback editions, leaving me to put this on my wishlist when I’d read it under a different title – howls of rage and embarrassment and I promise to find it A Good Home, possibly tomorrow). Then I opened How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis (which I had looked at in our local Oxfam Books earlier in the week, but remembered it was on my wishlist – phew!) and The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler (both lovely books about books) and Tina McElroy Ansa’s Baby of the Family, which had been on my wishlist for AGES, since I used to read her books from Lewisham library!

Persephone time – I did pick all of these for myself when I visited the Persephone Bookshop in November, but was thrilled to open Long Live Great Bardfield by Tirzah Garwood (a lovely biography which Ali is reading at the moment herself!) and Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan, and Diana Tutton’s Guard Your Daughters which of course Simon from Stuck-in-a-Book was instrumental in recommending they reprint.

What a lovely haul this is! And I have managed to fit them all on my TBR shelf with only a little shuffling around and moving of piles onto Mr Liz’s shelves. No TBR pic yet just in case I finish what I’m reading now and manage to shift it a little before Monday …

How were your Christmas book piles? I’ve seen a few so far. And have you got or read any of these?


Book review – Edmund Gordon – “The Invention of Angela Carter” #amreading


A review of a book that took me ages to read and has been the first completed book of the month (I have finished another since then, and am half-way through the next one). I’m still, somewhat horrendously, on last January’s books, but I seem to recall a book-buying hiatus at some time in the year, so am hoping to hop forward at some point and not be 11 months behind! See below for the first of the Christmas influx – and what a lovely beginning …

Edmund Gordon – “The Invention of Angela Carter”

(21 January 2017, from Ali)

The first proper biography of the author, even though it’s 25 or so years since she died, and very much concentrating on, as the title suggests, her own self-invention and people’s invention of her myth. Gordon takes as one of his themes her own idea that we all dress up in our personalities and perform femininity, etc. and aims to show this through the book; it’s a good theme to use, especially as he points out at the end that “She’s much too big for any single book to contain”.

He does also talk about her unreliability in her writings about herself and points out in the text when two accounts she makes in, say, a letter and an article don’t agree, or her stated memory clashes with one of her friends’. This make it an interesting and shifting work. He’s taken pains to track down old friends, editors and lovers and is clear about his process; I did find it odd, then, that at one point he mentions how “she would have viewed” A.S. Byatt’s work – surely better to quote from a source or leave that out, given the attention to reliability of sources (the endnotes are done in that modern way of quoting a page number and bit of text but there was nothing for this). Gordon also annoyed me near this assertion by implying that Barbara Comyns (loved by many fellow bloggers as well as me) was just a precursor to Carter and is not read much now. Humph.

There is an awkward encounter with Iris Murdoch, which I love, although (sorry, another although), IM appears in the index several more times relating to very light references that I wouldn’t necessarily have expected to be indexed, once for a reference to John Bayley being her husband. This seemed a little OTT but better too many than too few entries, I suppose. To be more positive, I loved her friendship with Salman Rushdie (and had no idea he accompanied Bruce Chatwin on his “Songlines” travels) and her dealings with Virago when that came about, and it’s meticulous on her contracts, contacts and trips and will be a great resource for scholars in itself.

I can’t say I warmed to Angela, not that I need to adore the authors whose work I enjoy, but I also wasn’t moved to go towards the books of hers I haven’t yet read, although I do intend to re-read “The Passion of New Eve” next year and I’d be interested in picking up some of her collected non-fiction. The rise of her mythical status as a white witch or fairy godmother (mainly seemingly based on her letting her hair grow out white) was well explained and her relationship with her main nurse brings a different angle to her last illness.

A decent book which I just didn’t love as much as I’d have liked to. But I learned a lot.

We had our BookCrossing Christmas meal on Friday and I was absolutely thrilled to receive from my friend Lorraine (who we’ve known since way back in 2005 when we moved to Birmingham) two wonderful pre-loved books from my wishlist. “Gone to Earth” by Mary Webb will be a wonderful dark Shropshire tale and Marcus Crouch’s “The Nesbit Tradition: The Children’s Novel 1945-1970” is so far up my street.

And look inside:

The Nesbit book used to belong to Manchester University’s John Rylands Library and the Mary Webb has the signatures of a past owner and a photo pasted in of the woman who played Hazel Woodus in the film. In fact, one of Lorraine’s relatives was an extra, too, as were many of her friends in the village. How wonderful (the bookmark, hand cream and (not pictured) 85% dark chocolate were all  most welcome too. Let the Book Flood begin!

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