Book confessions and a book I can’t review yet! #amreading #books


I’ve just finished reading Marian Keyes’ newest novel, “The Break”, acquired from the publisher via NetGalley, but although I can submit my review via NetGalley, I’m not allowed to review it on here until a week before publication – which means 31 August! So here are some nice new acquisitions. Because I never said I was on a break from buying books, did I?

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts

Hope you’re liking the glimpses of our new duvet cover here. I had to buy this one, “The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts” (honest, guv), because I won the sequel, “True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop” from NetGalley, of course not realising it WAS a sequel until it was too late. Oopsie. I really do not like reading the second book in a series first, so I got this on Amazon marketplace (it seems to be unread) and will have to zip through it first. It looks a little lighter than most of the books I read except by favoured authors, but has good reviews. Anyone read it?


This one is the fault of a Runner’s Bookshelf group I’m in on Facebook, which basically consists of wicked people recommending running books to each other. It’s even teal-coloured, which is totally the club colour of the other running club in South Birmingham – shocking! Anyway, I love the tactile cover and am interested in the way it seems to solidify the good mental health benefits of running. As I’m now an England Athletics Mental Health Ambassador (along with two clubmates) and helping with a Run and Talk event started by the two MHAs at our sister club, I’m hoping this will give me some good ideas about active listening, etc. I note there are worksheets, however – shudder!

So there we go. One book I can’t talk about and two I will get round to reading before they would get to the top of the TBR under normal circs. A shocking way to go about things, right?!

Book reviews – John-Paul Flintoff – “Sew Your Own” and Veronica Stallwood – “Oxford Mourning” #20booksofsummer #amreading


Two books today as one of the reviews is a very short one that doesn’t really need a post of its own. I’m half-way through the 20BooksOfSummer project now, having completed Book 10 on 15 July (slightly less than half-way through the time span, as it finishes on 4 September). So although I’m not reading anything from the project right now, I feel reasonably confident I’ll achieve the goal. One little naughty confession too, but it doesn’t count …

John-Paul Flintoff – “Sew Your Own”

(19 November 2016)

A book claiming to detail one man’s attempt to survive the global economic meltdown and address inequality, it was a bit more episodic and chaotic than I’d have expected, had I not seen some reviews saying it was quite disjointed. I sort of assumed it was a collection of columns from a newspaper or something, and the short chapters made it easy to read.

He starts off in a posh suit shop getting measured for a tailored suit and ends up making his own clothes, all fired up by the idea that we’ve all become both dependent and oblivious, unable to look after ourselves of imagine what goes on behind the scenes to provide our power, etc., so not really working to keep energy use down, etc. He references other “quest” types like Danny Wallace and AJ Jacobs, which is nice, taking inspiration from them, although they tend to be single issue at a time people and his explorations are a mish-mash of recycling, making clothes, disposing of rats and looking into religions.

He does share some good and practical ideas (smile at a teen in a hoodie, plant a guerrilla garden) and shockingly joins the Tories for a bit. He does try to meet politicians with small and big Ps as well as representatives of different religions, although he doesn’t really come to any conclusions apart from most politicians bringing things round to themselves and the Quakers being the most restful religious group. His reporter job comes in handy, as a lot of the insights he gains from people come from interviews with them, though this undermined it a little for me, as he was able to use this access rather than gaining it for himself, if that makes sense? I also got stupidly annoyed that he assumes no reader has heard of musician and artist Billy Childish except in relation to Tracey Emin, because this reader had!

So: entertaining and a bit thought-provoking but disjointed. I loved the column supposedly written by his wife about living with such a paragon and his striving to be good!

This was Book 10 in my 2oBooksOfSummer project.

Veronica Stallwood – “Oxford Mourning”

(19 November 2016)

I’d previously enjoyed “Oxford Exit” in the same series, with its novelist main character and Oxford academic setting. But this one didn’t really do it for me – the main character is unlikeable, the plot didn’t resolve very well and there was a gift of a cat at the end, which means something horrible will happen to it in a subsequent book. So I’m going to stop looking out for books in this series, which is a shame, as the first one was good.

I’m currently reading Marian Keyes’ new novel, “The Break” which isn’t out until NOVEMBER but I got via NetGalley. Very exciting. I’m apparently not allowed to review it on here until a week before publication, but can review it on NetGalley, so will do that and set up a scheduled post on here that I’m bound to forget about.

Running Like a GirlAnd that confession – well, my lovely BookCrossing friend Cari, who I’ve known for over a decade and shared many books with, has recently started running and bought this book to read. She kindly sent it to me, so I now have a very clearly American edition of a British book, which I think is quite cool. I have just the person to pass it on to, and will therefore promote this up to the TBR pile so I can get it to them before the next running club 5k and Beyond group starts up.

How are you doing with 20 Books of Summer, if you’re doing it? What are you reading at the moment?


State of the TBR – July 2017 #amreading


Apologies for the shoddy photos this month – I’ve been at the athletics all day (the British trials for the World Championships) and got back a bit late for the light. Anyway, here’s the state of the TBR, and it looks quite bad (the front shelf ends with the big red Angela Carter bio) but actually my mid-June one looked a LOT worse (see the post where I exposed it here). I read just nine books in June (way down from May’s 22!), four non-fiction and five fiction (one not yet reviewed) but finished one this morning.

I’m currently nearly at the end of Francis Brett Young’s “The Black Diamond” and starting a quick crime novel for some light reading while I think about my Shiny New Books review of “ReWild”.

Up next on the shelf are these lovelies:

However, I do appear to have added Paul Flynn’s “Good as You” (about 30 years of gay Britain from the 80s onwards), “The Shadow District”, which I requested AGES ago and forgot about, first in a series about Arnaldur Indriðason’s Detective Erlendur in his early years, and Naomi Klein’s “No is Not Enough”, about direct action to take in these difficult world times, all from NetGalley. I might get my 25 Reviews NetGalley badge soon but will take a while to work back up to my 80% reviewed status! So a mix of e and paper books this month, I expect.

Plus I’ll be reading those three Cornwall books on the Pile soon enough, as I have a weekend in Cornwall with my photo-a-day group coming up. Exciting!

Not taking part in the LibraryThing Virago Group read this month (Rumer Godden – I like her – she’s not on my TBR) means I can concentrate on #20BooksofSummer. And having added two  books I’d forgotten to link, I’ve now read books from 67 of my 100 years in my Century of Reading!

What are you planning to read in July? Are you doing any challenges?

Book review – Dean Karnazes – “The Road to Sparta” and final book confessions (for now) #amreading #books #bookhaul


I think the final two books from my ordering frenzy have now appeared … Well, I typed that yesterday and then today I got the bus that I have to get off half way up the high street, and found myself in The Works … the only word I can say really is “Oops”. Photos below, but do read the review first as it was in interesting read.

Dean Karnazes – “The Road to Sparta”

(bought 16 June 2016 so I could join in the Runners’ Bookshelf June read)

Karnazes has already published a few books on ultra-running, which I haven’t yet read, so here we get a potted history of why he took up the sport and how he has progressed to being a bit of a celebrity in the field. This book is mainly about his embracing of his Greek heritage and attempt to run the incredibly gruelling Spartathlon (fortunately, this run that takes in the path of the first marathon runner has off-road bits, horrible hill climbing and really strict cut-offs, so not something I’d ever consider attempting). He also attempts to bring the story of Pheidippides, that original marathon runner, to life and explain just what his achievement really was, as he feels this has got lost in history written by people who don’t understand (ultra) running.

Although lots of people have mixed history with “in the footsteps” books, they have usually been historians first, and some of the historical writing does feel a little bit clunky – but bravely done, with his heart and soul put into it, and he’s clear where he veers off into conjecture. He has a bit of a flowery writing style, too, which reads sometimes more like a talking style, but that’s easy enough to get into.

One thing I was surprised by was that he wasn’t as arrogant as I’d expected (I don’t know why I expected that, just from his exploits, I suppose, as every ultra-runner I’ve known or met has been very nice). He’s pretty self-effacing and humble, and he talks about being dyslexic, even “not that bright” and with not-great people skills: he manages to be very engaging in his book for all that (it’s worth mentioning here that I don’t feel his writing style is indicative of his dyslexia at all, but I wonder if he worked with recording his words first, hence the similarity to spoken language). He’s suitably grateful to the people who support races and respectful of his fellow runners, which is typical of most runners but lovely to read.

The book’s also funny – for example when he signs up (alone) for a 199 mile relay race in order to get the distance in, wondering whether the organisers will be confused by every member of the team having the same name. He runs a marathon in a toga, just to see what it’s like, and gets some interesting chafing. He also admits his errors, running on empty and not doing basic self-care routines during Spartathlon, but mentioning that this is hypocritical, as it’s something he tells newbie runners firmly not to do!

Exciting and engaging, the book winds up with a description of the end of the race (though has he run all the way himself?) which involves being given a wreath and touching a statue, so not your usual race finish! He has some true things to say about how even the marathon winkles out your weaknesses, and I will certainly be picking up his other books.


On to these last purchases. This one was down to some awful, wicked recommendation in a Runners’ Bookshelf group I belong to. It’s about the neuroscience of sport, looking at elites but also how you can apply some of the learning to the amateur athlete. Well, I can’t resist a running book, can I?

While we’re here, I appear to have developed some more NetGalley books (I’ve lost my 80% reviewed badge for the time being, because I have got a few TBR now and haven’t read enough to make myself stay in that 80% category if I add too many new ones).

“The Gender Agenda” by James Millar and Ros Ball is about the new gender issues that have become more visible recently. Danzy Senna wrote a novel called “From Caucasia with Love” which I adored years ago and has come up with a new novel, “New People”. Joshua Clark Davis has written “From Head Shops to Whole Foods” about the changing face of activist entrepreneurs, Marta McDowell’s “The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder” looks fascinating although I have to read it on my PC in a weird format (grr) and finally Debbie Macomber’s publishers got in touch with an automatically approved offer of her new one, “Any Dream will Do” (cue earworm). What’s a girl to do??

And this is a new one by the lovely Paul Magrs – if you enjoyed his Brenda and Effie series, you won’t want to miss this one, about a group of authors in 1930s Oxford (remind you of anyone in particular?) and their elusive servant, Brenda … I will NOT be able to control myself and will end up reading this before it reaches the top of the TBR, I just know it.

I then had the aforementioned issue in The Works and had one last fling with book buying for the foreseeable future. Well, a Debbie Macomber I hadn’t seen before, another Cornwall book (I’ve got two nights there and two long train journeys …) and one about a MOBILE LIBRARY … you see my problem.

Karen from Kaggsysbookishramblings mentioned the other day that she’d love to see a photo of the TBR in its current, horrendous state, so here’s a special photo just for her. No one else can even SEE it, right?

And yes, it’s double-stacked, and the back row goes all the way behind the Pile. I don’t think this is the actual worst it’s ever been, but incomings have been much higher than outgoings just recently …

In final news, I’ve had a swap around already in my #20BooksOfSummer list. I just couldn’t face Jane Gardam’s “Old Filth” as I just don’t want to read about ageing and crumbling at a time when I’ve been doing just that! So I have swapped in an e-book I recently won on NetGalley called “Out of the Blue”, edited by Helen Mitsios, which is new short stories from Icelandic writers. Exciting (and I’ve had a lazy Sunday and have read it already – review tomorrow!).

Even more acquisitions! #books #bookhaul


I don’t normally do just a book haul post, but I didn’t want to mix this up with yesterday’s review (I like to review books publishers have sent me without distracting details) and I do like to keep up to date! I kind of fell into The Works on the way back home from volunteering at parkrun on Saturday and this happened. First of all, yes, I know this is not a book. I am a bit obsessed with jigsaw puzzles and, indeed, fear I have nowhere to store this one. I wanted to buy this when I was unwell last month; a 500 piece puzzle doesn’t normally last me long enough. Given that it’s of Cadenabbia on Lake Como in northern Italy and given that I have “Madame Solario” on my 20BooksofSummer list, which is set there, I thought I’d better do the decent thing and buy the puzzle to do when I’m reading the book! There’s a plan!

And so to the books. And look – our new duvet set – hooray! Anyway, I’m off to Cornwall for a weekend with the Project 365 photography group I belong to, in about a month – it’s a long train journey and I thought it would be a lovely idea to take some books set in Cornwall, read them on the train down then share them at the party (people with a good memory will recall that I bought “Breakfast Under a Cornish Sun” a few days ago). Those two have joined the Pile, so aren’t really on the TBR (so don’t count …?).

Then we have “Deep South” by Paul Theroux – he’s someone whose travel books I will always read, and I hadn’t realised he’d done one about the southern states of America, so that’s perfect. And William Sitwell’s “Eggs and Anarchy” is about the people responsible for food rationing and communicating about it in Word War II, which also fits my collection policy well, so is totally OK. I think Sitwell is the grandson of Sacheverell Sitwell, brother of Osbert and Edith, too!

I need to stop now, though, don’t I. I am not photographing the current state of my TBR for (wo)man nor beast …

Acquisitions and a (BookCrossing-related) giveaway!


Well my book wishes have come to roost, and I’ve had a lot of lovelies popping through my letterbox this week. Read on to find out more, but first of all, I’ve got a lovely giveaway, which I’m organising via BookCrossing but don’t be alarmed, all will be made simple below.

Linda Gillard four books

The lovely author Linda Gillard has sent me print copies of four of her books to share! She has been a Friend of BookCrossing from the publication of her earliest novels (BookCrossing is a site for sharing book reviews and giving books away by leaving them on park benches, etc. – it’s also a way to share books by sending them on through a list of readers).

Two of them I’ve read and two I haven’t, so two will start out on their journeys before the others. Read the descriptions and post in the comments if you’d like to read one or more of the books.


“Emotional Geology” is my favourite of hers so far and I reviewed it here. Think Scottish islands and climbing and a lovely hero!

“Untying the Knot” has a hero with terrible PTSD who’s trying to restore a castle in the Highlands (as you do). He and his estranged wife need to stop their daughter making a terrible unsuitable marriage – if they can bear to be in the same room, of course. I read this before it was published and it’s a marvellous story.

“The Trysting Tree” is a dual-timeframe novel, with a man walking away from the Somme and a woman grieving under a tree which will only give up its secrets a century later.

In “Cauldstane” we meet a ghost-writer, a brooding yet honourable hero and someone who’s not so keen on him moving on and will do anything to stop him from the other side – a gothic ghost story.

The most comprehensive list of Linda’s novels with lots and lots of reviews is on her Amazon page.


All of the books will be registered on and will have a BookCrossing ID. Registered BookCrossers will be first on the list and will pop a review on when they’ve read the book. Non-BookCrossers are VERY WELCOME to take part. All I ask is that when you have the book, you go onto, enter the book’s ID and enter a quick review. Note: you do NOT have to join BookCrossing to do this, you can just do it as an anonymous guest. Please comment below on which book(s) you would like to read, with your BookCrossing name if you have one.

When you receive the book, you will need to pass it on to someone else after you’ve read it, if more than one person is interested in that book. They are all paperbacks. If overseas postage is a problem, let me know your country and that it is a problem and I’ll get a sensible order sorted out. It would be great if you could read the book within a month or so then pass it on.

As well as “Cauldstane” and “The Trysting Tree”, which I will be swiftly adding to the TBR, these lovelies have arrived this week:

Christopher Booker’s “The Seven Basic Plots” has been on my wishlist for ages – and Linda happened to have a copy which she didn’t want to read in case it stopped her writing, so she kindly sent it to me. It’s MASSIVE! Eeeps.

Jane Austen’s “Teenage Writings” was sent to me by the lovely Karen from Kaggsysbookishramblings; she reviewed it recently and I was interested. I think I’ll be passing this to Heaven-Ali afterwards.

Jon Kalman Stefansson’s Heaven and Hell” and “The Sorrow of Angels” are the first two in a trilogy of which I have the third – so it had to be done really, didn’t it? These might have to wait until after 20 Books of Summer to start, though.

And Dean Karnazes’ “The Road to Sparta” I have already started, as it’s the Runner’s Bookshelf Facebook group June pick. I thought it would be all serious and gung-ho but it’s actually great fun as he’s a nice character, fairly self-effacing and able to laugh at himself.

Anyway, forgetting the no hope there is for me (dear readers, there are two more books on the way to me still!) do post in the comments below if you’d like to join in the bookrays for Linda Gillard’s novels, remembering to add your BookCrossing name if you are a BookCrosser and letting me know if you aren’t one.

Book review – Dorothy Whipple – “Every Good Deed and Other Stories” (Persephone) plus what happened in Oxfam on Saturday #books #amreading #bookconfessions #20booksofsummer


I’ve started off my #20BooksOfSummer challenge in style … by immediately seizing on a book I was supposed to be saving for All Virago (and Persephone) / All August because I had to read it RIGHT NOW. Oops. But it was good. And I had another oops moment on Saturday. I’d been and volunteered at parkrun, had a cuppa in the cafe and wandered back home. I wasn’t in a huge hurry as a big job I’d been booked for had failed to materialise (this is upsetting but has given me a nice lot of reading and sorting out time) and I popped into the local Oxfam Books to see if they had a particular book I wanted to give to a friend. They didn’t, but … Well, let’s do the review first.

Dorothy Whipple – “Every Good Deed and Other Stories”

(5 November 2016 – from Verity)

My lovely Verity sent me this as an UnBirthday/UnChristmas present, which is the lovely idea of sending you something just because, rather than on the date in question. As I said above, I intended to save this until August. But I couldn’t.

There’s one novella and then some classic length short stories in this very nice volume from Persephone Books. The novella comes first, and “Every Good Deed” examines whether “Every good deed brings its own evil return” or “Cast your bread upon the waters and it shall return to thee after many days” should be assumed to prevail in life. The good Miss Tophams are quiet and unworldly, and easily fooled and taken advantage of, but isn’t it better to trust people and do good than to be suspicious and miss the opportunity to help someone? They certainly see badness and vulgarity for what it is eventually in the person of Gwen, a girl they take in who turns against them, as we expect her to. But this Elizabeth Taylor-like story with its conmen and blowsy women asks whether nurture or nature sill come out on top, and we silently cheer nurture on, however dry and silly the poor sisters first appear to be.

“Miss Pratt Disappears” is the longest of the remaining short stories, in which a lady forced to live with her brothers in turn ends up making a marvellous bid for freedom and is very satisfying. The rest of the stories are often bittersweet pieces about the gap between impression and reality which all work extremely well at capturing the ebbs and flows of life and relationships. “One Dark Night” gives a very claustrophobic and frightening picture of a journey in the blackout which, although returning to the Whipple world of shops and sisters, is unusual in its panicky atmosphere.

A lovely collection, and none of these are found in the “Persephone Book of Short Stories” which makes it good value.

This is Book #1 in my 20BooksOfSummer!

And thus to the horror that came back out from Oxfam with me … Some of them DON’T COUNT, honest!

Helen Cross – Spilt Milk, Black Coffee – this is an excellent novel by a local author – I already have a copy but I picked this one up because I like to send out local authors in the LibraryThing Virago Group Secret Santa.

Pamela Brown – The Swish of the Curtain – I already have an original TV adaptation copy of this but this is the pretty reissue of this childhood favourite so will also be used as a gift.

Charlie Hill – The Space Between Things – an excellent novel set in local Moseley in the 1990s, when my best friend Emma lived there – it’s out of print and I’ve been looking for a copy to give her for so long that I forgot whether I’d already done so!

These therefore DO NOT COUNT, as they are gifts.

Barbara Kingsolver – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – I have read all of hers and M many of them (apart from The Lacuna, which neither  of us fancy) so I pounced on this non-fiction about a year living off seasonal foods etc.

Cathy Kelly – Between Sisters – a reliable cosy read and I am a tiny bit low on light novels in the TBR at the moment

Samantha Tonge – Breakfast under a Cornish Sun – I’m going down to Cornwall for the photograph project I do’s summer party and this will be perfect for the journey down and even features bunting on the cover (the group loves bunting).

Halldor Laxness – The Fish Can Sing – yup, another weird one and I know I didn’t love the last one of his I read, but I can’t pass him by.

Georgette Heyer – Sylvester and April Lady – Sylvester DOESN’T COUNT as I already have it in an omnibus I acquired via BookCrossing, and I’m trying to collect all the books in that so I can pass along the omnibus. I didn’t have April Lady so that’s on the TBR now.

Katarina Bivald – The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – a Swedish woman moves to small-town America and opens a bookshop – a novel but it sounds very fun.

Have you read any of these? Am I beyond redemption?

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