Book review – Vybarr Cregan-Reid – “Footnotes: How Running Makes us Human” @RunBookshelfFB #amreading

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Oopsadaisy – I’ve been reading a lot but not managing to keep up with my reviews. I’ve been doing an older book, a new book and an e-book in order to make space for Christmas incomings and then not have too many of them to fit on the shelf when it’s time. Of course, I also just had my birthday, with MORE lovely books (hooray! Dean Street Press and Persephone plus other wish list delights for the win – a post on those coming soon as I think there may be one more to come). And, um, I may have come by a couple of others in the meantime.

Anyway, this was at LAST the last book from that huge Foyles book token haul I had in May 2018. So behind on my reading, but that’s the fault of doing the one old one, one new one, which does also have its advantages.

Vybarr Cregan-Reid – “Footnotes: How Running Makes us Human”

(22 May 2018)

Quite a dense running book which looks at different aspects of why running is good for us, taking in neuroscience, physiology and psychology and visiting researchers and labs, sometimes offering himself up as the subject of the research. You get bits of his life as he goes out on runs and contemplates various aspects – he’s a literature professor so there’s more literary stuff than you might perhaps expect, including some stuff about the Lake District poets and Thomas Hardy. He’s partly a barefoot runner (but not full-time and experiences some issues with that) and spends time on that topic, and it’s always interesting to read his descriptions when the shoes come off on his runs. He has some quite funny experiences getting more weather than he bargained for in the Lake District when trying to emulate the walking feats of the poets, and some frustrating times but also fun doing some mild trespassing.

He seems honest about his personality and failings, for example how he’s good at doing things but not so good at not doing things. He also explores matters that are outside his comfort zone, which is admirable, spending time and effort finding out why some people enjoy going to the gym, even if it’s not for him. I also enjoyed his narrative of his slightly accidental marathon (on the roads, while he obviously prefers running in wilder places) and this rang a bell:

‘Pain is temporary, failure lasts forever’, the wankers will tell you. No! Pain is not necessary for success, a  healthy relationship with failure is. (p. 270)

So quite a dense book which looks in depth at how running can enhance our humanity, with some interesting runs and recognisable features. An interesting read.


Two incomings that are not birthday or Christmas related. Diana Pullein-Thompson’s “I Wanted a Pony” was her first solo effort, and Jane Badger Books has reissued it with the original illustrations. When Jane shared this on Facebook, I just had to order it.

My friend Mary Ellen (of running posts fame) has just finished Lara Maiklem’s “Mudlarking” which is all about the things the author has found on the muddy banks of the Thames at low tide. She thought I would like to borrow it and indeed I would!

What’s lovely about both of these is the illustration. Here’s the endpapers of “Mudlarking” along with one of the attractive line drawings in “I Wanted a Pony”

I’m currently finishing off Blind Dave Heeley’s “From Light to Dark” which is his very good and entertaining autobiography. Still to review is Jess Phillips’ “Truth to Power” and I have finished the excellent “Learning Languages in Early Modern England” by John Gallagher, which I am reviewing for Shiny New Books. I think next up will be “Fresh from the Country” by Miss Read, one of Dean Street Press’s new Furrowed Middlebrow books which they sent me in e-format to review but my best friend Emma sent me in print format for my birthday (hooray!). What a great start to the year this month has been so far!

 

Book review – Robert Inman – “Captain Saturday” plus a #bookconfession when there really shouldn’t be one!

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Because, as we now know, I was unable to shoehorn my new Christmas acquisitions onto my TBR shelf, and also because I was horrified to see I haven’t really read any of my Christmas 2018 books, I decided to continue my sort-of policy of reading one of the oldest books then one of the newest ones, then a Kindle one. So I then picked the fattest one on the pile, because less to file away, and it was a really good one. Hooray! Have you read any of your Christmas books yet?

I continue with a book confession. I try not to buy books during the Christmas/birthday season, in case there’s a Terrible Clash (I came close one year when I was looking gleefully at a Mitford Sisters book in Waterstones, didn’t buy it just in case, then met up with my friends and unwrapped a copy). But there were extenuating circumstances, I promise!

Robert Inman – “Captain Saturday”

(25 December 2019, from Gill)

I loved his “Dairy Queen Days” (which I actually read in 2005 and reviewed on my LiveJournal, which I migrated to here: don’t go looking for a big review!) and put this one on my BookCrossing wishlist. I did actually have a go at my messy wishlists before Christmas and they’re now definitely combined and just on here. I was so pleased to unwrap it on Christmas Day and it was all I hoped for.

So we’re in small-city America – Raleigh, North Carolina – and Will (Wilbur) is the town’s most popular weatherman, secure in this job, with a stable marriage, even though he’s been flummoxed in the last few years by his wife’s sudden ambition and achievement in the world of real estate, and a good enough relationship with his son (a preppy student who never gets into a mess). Well, he’s secure until it all suddenly falls apart quite dramatically, and he learns that small actions can grow and have consequences. When his cousin comes to fetch him back to the old house, a Deep South decaying mansion complete with his other cousin who took her own responsibilities too seriously when she came into them plus an immense set of family archives, he finds he needs to work out who he is and how to repair those relationships. We then go back to see his past, and work over his marriage, too, sensitively done but also funny. I loved the modern-day parts where he had to reinvent his life and pretty well start from scratch again, and his lawyer is absolutely hilarious, changing his look and habits with every big new client, from tweedy anglophile to hard hat and checked shirt. A proper big, absorbing novel.

I also loved that it’s an ex-library copy, but not your standard one, weeded from the American Library in Angers, France!


And that book confession? I first read a Chetan Bhagat book when I came across “One Night @ the Call Centre” in 2006 (my review here and Matthew’s here) and really loved it. A while ago, I found lots of his novels in Kindle versions for not much money and treated myself. So this was not on my wishlist, and I came across it when picking up some books for my best friend Emma the week before last (all my posts since then have been review books) in Oxfam books and snapped it up. It’s the story of a cross-continents love affair and looks great. One off the Kindle TBR, too (right?).

I’m currently reading Abi Daré’s “The Girl With the Louding Voice”, a NetGalley win which is quite astounding. It’s the story of a young Nigerian woman sold as a wife to a much older man, escaping from him and making it to the capital. It’s a pretty grim story, but obviously an important one, and it’s written in a captivating slightly broken English (although I’ll have to read up about that as at least one reviewer has commented on it not sounding authentically Nigerian). Has anyone else read this? It’s not one for the breakfast table as quite grim, as I said, but fascinating and engaging. I’m also reading John Gallagher’s “Learning Languages in Early Modern England” to review for Shiny, and it’s fascinating. Lucky me!

Christmas acquisitions and beforehand incomings I don’t think I mentioned … #bookconfessions

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So I said I was going to share my incomings on 1 Jan, but I’ve already got a load of stats, planned books and books of the year to share then, and I have two books on the go at the moment I MIGHT finish and review tomorrow, so why not have a poke around in my acquisitions now, I thought!

Pre-Christmas, these made it into the house and have been sitting around on my desk waiting … for what, I’m not sure.

Well, I know that I should NOT have bought Ada Cambridge’s “The Three Miss Kings” dangerously close to the Christmas’n’birthday season in case someone had already purchased it for me, but it’s a beautifully pristine Virago Green and I could NOT leave it in Oxfam books when I was rooting around looking for gifts for my BookCrossing not so secret Santee. Also, handily, it will work for Australia Reading Month in 2020. Kaggsy from The Ramblings very kindly sent me Joe Moran’s “On Roads” which was on my wishlist but I kept back for similar reasons (I know my friend Caroline will be eying this one for after me). The band Madness’ “Before We Was We: Madness by Madness” and Danny MacAskill’s “At The Edge” were both sent to me by clients for whom I worked as an assistant on the books – I’m very excited to read how they came out (have a look at McAskill’s cycling videos on YouTube – amazing stuff!).

Now on to Christmas. Here’s the whole pile, in approximate order of arrival:

Going from the top, Rebecca Front’s “Curious” is her sort-of memoir and Pamela Brown’s “Maddy Again” is one more of the Blue Door Theatre Adventures reprints, both given to me (along with chocolates and a lovely notebook) by Meg, who was my BookCrossing secret santa, received on 16 December. I’ve popped “The Twelve Birds of Christmas” by Stephen Moss, which takes twelve birds that might have been in the song and tells us about them, into the pile because although our friend Linda gave it to Matthew, I know I’ll be reading it, too. Then Gill did her usual trawl through the books that have been on my wishlist the longest and found me Robert Inman’s “Captain Saturday”, a novel set in the Deep South – I enjoyed his “Dairy Queen Days” very much a long time ago – and “The Kindness of Strangers”, a Lonely Planet title edited by Don George which features stories of kindness when travelling and should be a lovely positive read.  Meg did brilliantly again,  not only buying me a copy of Jess Phillips MP’S “Truth to Power”, which includes ways to challenge power and stories of people who have, but getting Jess to sign it to me (she’s Meg’s MP in the next-door constituency).

Ali very kindly gave me two lovely Persephones – Elisabeth de Waal’s “Milton Place”, a previously unpublished novel set in a big house in the 1950s, and “The Second Persephone Book of Short Stories” which I’m sure will be as wonderful as the first one (reviewed here). Then my LibraryThing Virago Group secret santa gift, as well as including local soap and chocolate and the lovely Milton postcard pictured with a run-down of why she chose the books for me, had Daphne du Maurier’s “Jamaica Inn” (in the same edition as the copy of “Rebecca” I won from Ali during her Du Maurier reading week last week and allowing me to take part even more fully in 2020 than I was going to, and because I said I liked books from where the sender is from, and it was from Cornishgirl!), a copy of Willa Cather’s “My Antonia” which I’ve read but wished I owned, Rosamond Lehmann’s classic novel, “The Ballad and the Source” which I read YEARS ago and don’t own, and Margaret Kennedy’s “The Ladies of Lyndon”, the last in pre-loved Virago Green form and how I love adding my name to the names already written on the flyleaves.

I think the postcard’s message, “Solitude sometimes is best society” might have to be my 2020 motto if I’m not going to have TBR shelf overhand throughout the next year. But what a lovely pile and a lovely problem to have!

I’ve probably seen everyone else’s new book piles by now. Have you read any of these? Any bets as to when I’ll get to them?!

Book review – Annie Darling – “Crazy in Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop” and “A Winter Kiss in Rochester Mews” #amreading

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A double review of two good reads I’ve powered through this week. The first one got me through the flight from Spain back to the UK and the second had to be picked off the TBR and devoured so I found out what happened to all the characters. I’ve already read and reviewed the two previous books in the series: I bought “The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts” because I’d won “True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop” on NetGally, and, in fact, I spotted “A Winter Kiss” in The Works and bought a second-hand copy of “Crazy in Love” so I could slot that one in and read them in the right order!

Annie Darling – “Crazy in Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop”

(18 Oct 2019)

Each book of this series focuses on one member of staff of the romantic fiction bookshop and their loves and losses. We already have Posy, who inherited the bookshop and the owner’s grandson, and introvert Verity, who rules online ordering and health and safety with a rod of iron, settled down, and now we get to know Nina better. Nina’s all tattoos, innuendo, pastel hair and extravagant retro wardrobe, but she’s becoming a bit fed up with her life of app dating. Just to throw her woes into focus, the shop has a management consultant come in to see how things could be run better. With his sober suits and ever-present iPad for notes, Noah, is bound to rub Nina up the wrong way – but surely she knows him from somewhere. Well, she does, and when she realises from where, she gets all caught up in a web of lies by omission, just as they draw closer.

I loved Nina’s personality and her friends, the tattooist and retro clothes pusher, were a nice new couple of characters. I also really like all the Easter Eggs the author inserts – the pub they all go to after work is The Midnight Bell, which is the pub in Patrick Hamilton’s novels (I really hope that was on purpose, anyway!). Verity stays on brand and refuses to tackle Nina’s packing and there’s a lovely trip to one of her favourite places.

Annie Darling – “A Winter Kiss in Rochester Mews”

(09 October 2019)

In this novel we concentrate on half-French Mattie, who runs the tea shop next to the bookshop with the assistance of pensioner Cuthbert and his granddaughter, Little Sophie (who has been in the books since the beginning). Next door, the only person not now paired up is tweedy Tom, whose home life and background are a mystery and who has always been acting a bit posh and ‘lofty’ around the other gossipy and oversharing staff. When Nina decides to move out of the flat above the shop, there’s a fight over her room and then an uneasy truce. Will being flatmates thaw Mattie’s icy reserve or bring Tom down a peg?

Tom turns out not to be the lothario he appears when set against his very amusing friends, the Bantmeisters. Funnily enough, if you have been watching carefully, Tom was hissing about heteronormativity when it was assumed he knew the answers to the football questions at the pub quiz because he’s a man. And in fact this book is quite a lot about the performance of masculinity, with the Archbishop of Banterbury (aka Phil) getting lessons on not objectifying women and Tom correctly identifying a gaslighter. Although these are light novels to pass the time with, my library and information studies senses prickled (my unfinished Master’s dissertation research was on where best to put information for women experiencing domestic violence) as, much as another dissertation mentioned in the novel says, there’s more depth to romantic fiction than meets the eye.

We have more Easter Eggs – someone has parents called Margot and Jerry! – and commentary on romantic fiction, as Mattie discovers a whole slew of fiction written about women starting bakeries and cake shops: if you’ve ever wandered into The Works you can see quite clearly the trends that sweep across the genre.  Even Virago Modern Classics and their green spines are mentioned, when Nina creates a Christmas tree for the shop window out of books.

An ideal Christmas read, but do read the others in the series first, they’re very much worth it!


A couple of lovely incomings which bookended (haha) our Spanish trip. Cari sent me Ron Rubin’s “Anything for a T-shirt: Fred Lebow and the New York City Marathon” with the aim that we read it together (although her copy hasn’t arrived yet). Fred is a big hero of Cari’s and she recently ran NYC so I’m really looking forward to finding out more. And waiting for me when I got home was Noel Streatfeild’s “Christmas Stories” which is a lovely-looking collection of stories Streatfeild wrote for various magazines and annuals, never before collected together, sent to me by dear Verity. I definitely plan to read that on Christmas afternoon.

Do you have a Christmas reading plan? Any series of books I should know about? (I have another set of Philippa Ashleys, one of which features Christmas, and another light novel, so will have a bit of a theme around the day for once!

Book review – Simon Napier-Bell – “Ta-ra-ra-BOOM-de-ay” plus some recent incomings

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I don’t seem to have read much this week, maybe because I went out one night and I’ve had quite a lot of work on, although I’ve written a post for Non-fiction November at least (I’m so enjoying taking part in this themed reading and blogging series!). I have read a bit more yesterday and today though and finished this one. And the last books I read were for NetGalley and I like to keep those ones free of random book acquisition chat, so see below for some incomings e-book and tree-book …

Simon Napier-Bell – “Ta-ra-ra-BOOM-de-ay”

(22 May 2018)

Almost the last of my May 2018 massive book haul from Foyles, which did include three books on music I’m having to spread out a bit. This one is subtitled “The (Dodgy) Business of Popular Music” and it’s a history of the business side of music – so publishing, record labels, promoters and managers – although it was a bit dispiriting to read that greed and payola have basically always run both the business and the choice of the songs we hear and notice. As a quote from music sociologist Dr Isaac Goldberg from the 1930s has it-

Everything we ever sing or whistle is the end result of a huge plot involving thousands of dollars and thousands of organised agents … the efforts of organised pluggery. (p. 288)

Everything has always been made as easy as possible, from simple sheet music onwards through to the non-threatening pabulum of the modern hit machine.

It’s good on the sociology behind new trends and fads, which the business kept up with until file-sharing, always edging in – for example the Tube being constructed meant people could come in from the suburbs to see shows and then buy the music, and the rise of colour TV ownership coincided with the launch of MTV. The changes in radio formats were interesting, with DJs coming in fairly late and amazing amounts of bribery going on. I did get lost in the machinations of the record labels but it’s all laid out for us.

The book was published in 2014 so streaming had not been going on long and it doesn’t cover this new development. I also noticed a few inaccuracies or oddities (Deadmau5 being spelled incorrectly; something weird about digital rights management on CDs letting viruses get into people’s computers and a claim that New Order’s “World in Motion” included the phrase “E for England” – I didn’t recall this and found it was only in the draft lyrics) which meant that I was slightly more wary of all the other assertions than I might otherwise have been. But an interesting read all told.


I had some nice book post in the last week or so. I needed to replace my lost (how?) original copy of Iris Murdoch’s “The Flight from the Enchanter” and some detective work in the IM group on Facebook found the date of the edition with the cover I had. Hooray! And my friend Zoe sent me Tayari Jones’ “An American Marriage” which she and a few other friends have read and recommended. It’s the one about a black couple where the husband suddenly gets sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and looks really good and important.

Then I feel duty-bound to record three new wins on NetGalley. “Miss Iceland is by Audur Ava Olafsdottir, whose “Butterflies in November” I enjoyed, and takes a trip to 1960s Iceland and a life of writing and expectations. Kiley Reid’s “Such a Fun Age” is a novel of modern issues, where an online influencer’s black babysitter is confronted for having charge of her two (white) children and the mum tries to make things right when she can’t really. “Tiny Habits” by B.J. Fogg is about how we can make small changes in our lives for the positive. So quite a range there!

Oops – edited to add I also received a lovely email from the folks at the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint of Dean Street Press with three excellent looking books which will be out in January. They chose to send me D. E. Stevenson’s “Vittoria Cottage”, first in her Dering Trilogy and I bet I find myself collecting the lot, Miss Read’s “Fresh from the Country” which is a standalone story about a new schoolteacher, and Doris Langley Moore’s “Not at Home” which is a just post-WWII story about renting part of one’s home to a relative stranger …

Have you read any of these?

Book review – Ian Jeffrey – “How to Read a Photograph” @Thamesandhudson @Shinynewbooks plus incomings

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The last of my reviews from the lovely Thames & Hudson’s Autumn catalogue came out on Shiny New Books this week.  Ian Jeffrey’s “How to Read a Photograph” takes the subjective matter of what is a good photograph and aims to answer it by showing us great photographs from a range of photographers from Fox Talbot to contemporary photography artists. For each we have a potted history and then a detailed examination of some seminal photos. There are old favourites and new artists to discover: this helped to cement my understanding of what I really like in a photograph. Reading it is a great learning experience and it’s an interesting read as well as a great reference book.

Read my full review here. Thank you to Thames & Hudson for sending me lovely books in return for an honest review.


When you find yourself downloading a photo and calling it October 2019 7 and it’s got more than one book in it, you know you’re in trouble.

I had to buy myself a new copy of Marianne Grabrucker’s “There’s a Good Girl”, about raising her daughter in the 1980s and noting all the examples of gendered behaviour and speech around her, after I read and reviewed “The Gender Agenda” (my review here), which riffs off this book, and then discovering I couldn’t find my own copy. I must have loaned it to a harrassed parent one day! I managed to score the exact Women’s Press copy I used to have (well the edition, not my actual copy; that would have been weird) from Abe Books and I am tempted to read it again now!

Taking a day out to Alderley Edge to meet one friend and accompany her to another friend’s house for lunch, a lovely forest walk and a long chatty lunch (thanks, Kerry!) didn’t stop Laura and me from darting into one charity shop on the rather well-groomed high street before I caught my train home. I grabbed Bill Jone’s “The Ghost Runner”, which is about the endurance runner, John Tarrant, who accidentally lost his amateur status but joined in races anyway. I’d heard about him from other books so had to get this for just £1 in the Age UK shop. I put Jo Brand’s proper autobiography (vol 2) back on the shelf and now I wish I’d picked it up, so I sense a return visit on the cards!

I have started reading “Girl, Woman, Other” and my goodness, I’m enjoying it, however it was too large a hardback to fit in my handbag for the journey, so I got on with Clair Wills’ “Lovers and Strangers” which is a history of post-war immigration into the UK, and very good it is, too, covering all kinds of people, from Irish people and Displaced Persons to the more familiar Windrush travellers.

 

 

Book review – Clara Parkes – “Knitlandia” plus new books in @janebadgerbooks

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I picked a book off the shelf because I wanted to pass it to a friend, and now I’ve reviewed all my review books and read my Iris Murdoch for the month I can pick some more from the main TBR.  This was a tiny, slight book you can’t even see here as it was at the back. I promptly acquired three more – but two were from a friend’s publishing venture and the third just cried out to be bought – honest!

Clara Parkes – “Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World”

(20 August 2019, Oxfam Books)

An interesting and rather charming book detailing the author’s adventures and travels as a modern yarn guru in North America. A fascinating insight into print and online magazine publishing, knitting conventions (including Yarnover, which is also big in my friend Kathy’s life) and their rise, fall and changes, TV appearances and online teaching programmes – all the industry that hangs off the modern revival of interest in knitting and other crafts.

Her preface concentrates more on her love of travel than knitting at first, and the whole book is entertaining and has enough other detail to keep the non-knitter (like me!) interested. Parkes charts the explosion in online mass communication but also the move towards more artisanal and specialist yarns, such as single-breed ones, something that’s happened simultaneously just as she was there to record it. There’s more traditional travelogue around meeting some very forthright characters and also acceptance being gained from various quarters. Debbie Macomber gets a shout-out amongst the other knitters, presumably for featuring knitting so strongly in her novels and it’s an entertaining and informative read all round.


Now for some exciting news from Jane Badger Books. I’ve been friends with Jane for some time, bought her book, “Heroines on Horseback” about the history of the pony book (my review here, now available in ebook format from the website) and talked about pony books with her. She’s decided to reprint some classics, including illustrations where they’re available, and kindly sent me two Patricia Leitch novels to review – “The Horse from Black Loch” and “Dream of Fair Horses”. I’m going to be putting together a piece on Jane and her publishing venture soon and look forward to revisiting these books, too. Pop through to the link above to see what else she has available. I LOVE that people can do this now off their own bats, it’s just great.

And given that I have and have read “The Testaments“, I really felt I should pick up Bernadine Evaristo’s “Girl, Woman, Other” which of course shared the Booker Prize this year. I tried to tell myself it was “to encourage her” although she needs no encouragement. Really I was just pleased to see that it was in a loosely flowing experimental format rather than in Actual Poetry, which I’d heard and had put me off. Ali’s reading it at the moment so I’m looking forward to discussing it with her.

Any book confessions you want to share with me … ? At least I’m reading and reviewing fairly briskly at the moment!

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