Book review – Greg Rutherford – “Unexpected” plus MORE arrivals #amreading #bookconfessions #books

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I thought my reading was a bit more under control as normal life reasserts itself, not to mention a fairly healthy work schedule. But I still find myself two reviews behind … and reading two more books (which are taking me a bit longer, so fingers crossed …). Will I be all caught up by the time I post my June TBR photo, and will the TBR be larger or smaller, given that I’ve read more than 20 books this month (hint: oops. But the Pile is definitely smaller). Anyway, here’s Greg, and look how far along he was at the beginning of this month! But also,here are three new arrivals. Again: oops.

Greg Rutherford – “Unexpected”

(12 November 2016 – an impulse click when on sale, I think)

His life story, written with Sean Ingle (who is credited on the title page and gets acknowledgements of his own, in which he thanks his transcribers, so a double win there), opens where it should, with the long jump final at London 2012. It’s described atmospherically and I loved that Greg hung around by the flame after his challenge to watch Mo Farah come in. Then it follows the usual format, although there’s more than standard about his slightly different religious background as a member of a strict Jehovah’s Witness family and community, which saw him not allowed to celebrate Christmas or birthdays and being left with odd ideas about presents. This looks to be what led him to go through a fairly serious amount of rebellion, nothing you would guess from the good guy, ‘I love mediaeval history, me’ persona he puts out now. There was some pretty bad behaviour and a serious drinking habit which lasted longer into his career than I would have imagined, and it’s fair enough that he doesn’t want to gloss over the detail and bad bits as some sports and celebrity bios do, but it’s a bit disappointing in a way. Also, to be fair, he doesn’t come out of it that well and is clearly not proud of himself.

He’s honest and open about his family relationships and some public spats with other athletes and famous figures, but he glosses over the goings-on as people wind down after major sporting events, which is probably done for the sake of protecting others but was a bit of a shame: if you’re going to tell us everything, tell us everything (but then, would I want to know?). The descriptions of his injuries are visceral (sometimes literally) and one episode is not for the faint-hearted, and he explains accurately just what was going on behind that game face and why he performed less well on some occasions. Basically plagued by illness and injury, he’s been strong to keep going; it was sad to read him acknowledge that London 2012 was probably indeed the high point of his career.


The rest of my purchases from the other day arrived in the post this morning and I’m looking forward to getting around in due course to Ben Fogle’s book about searching for an island of his own and Neil Taylor’s history of the Rough Trade record label. But before those will come this absolutely beautiful book – the photo really doesn’t do the tactile and wood-line cover justice – “ReWild: The Art of Returning to Nature” by Nick Baker. The publisher has kindly sent me this one to review for Shiny New Books and it looks so very enticing, doesn’t it.

I’m currently still reading “Banker to the Poor” and “Greatest Hits”, both of which I was also reading two days ago, so maybe I’m finally stemming the flow of reading and reviews … Have you read any of these? Do you like a sporting bio or is that just me?

Book reviews – Jools Holland – “Barefaced Lies and Boogie-Woogie Boasts” and Ronald Rice (ed) – “My Bookstore” plus arrivals #amreading #books

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Unfortunately, both of these books were a little disappointing. Unfortunately, coming after the generally humane and lovely Mark Ellen autobiography, Jools Holland came over as really quite slimy, and I should have broken up the Bookstore book rather than reading it in chunks. Neither was bad as such – I finished both of them and I am quite good at putting down books I’m not enjoying, but they were a little underwhelming. Scroll down to see the first tranche of arrivals after my clicking session (and meet-up with the lovely Sian) in the last few days …

Jools Holland – “Barefaced Lies and Boogie-Woogie Boasts”

(4 October 2016 – The Cook Book shop, St Just, Cornwall)

Finally, the last of my Cornwall purchases! His autobiography, written with Harriet Vyner and sounding like his authentic voice (I feel a bit sorry for the transcriber!). There was interesting stuff about Squeeze and his tours and about his TV shows, but it just read very arch and fake-sounding, lots of pompous stuff about lessons learned and making up for things with this book, and a way of putting things that suggests he’s the type of chap who refers to “My good lady wife” or “A pint of your finest pale nectar” in a pub. There’s also quite a lot of name-dropping and then huge crashes into bathos. It’s all patently him and not the fault of the writer. There’s also a fair bit of vomiting described, so a bit of a struggle, all told!

Ronald Rice (ed.) – “My Bookstore”

(29 October 2016 Brierlow Bar Bookstore, Buxton)

An on to the first of my Buxton purchases, I think. Over 80 writers are featured in this compilation of pieces about favourite indie bookshops around the US, which meant that while it was a lovely paean of praise to the indie, a) I hadn’t heard of most of the writers (I think the bookstores themselves were asked to choose their favourite author customer to write about them), b) not many of the pieces could therefore be very long, and c) they got a little bit samey and repetitive, talking about the horror of big box stores and the Kindle, which is fine, except I don’t have an argument with e-books as i) they let me make my own books available at the lowest price point possible and ii) they are invaluable for people with visual impairment. Anyway, it’s a lovely little book with adorable illustrations, and it’s heart-warming to read of all the great book store owners and employees out there. I should have read it interspersed with more other books, I think.


So the first delivery of brand new books has arrived – thank you Bridget for three of these, and Sian for the Bill Drummond one (I now have the challenge to see if I can get further than her through that one!).

A bit of a variety, but I do like to read a variety of books. It’s interesting to see how cover designs are specificed by genre, though, isn’t it.


I’ve finished Greg Rutherford’s autobiography (not as nice as I thought he’d be – wah!) and a fabulous YA novel called “Running Full Tilt” by Michael Currinder, and I’m currently reading Muhammad Yunus’ “Banker to the Poor” about starting the Grameen microfinance bank and another NetGalley win, “Greatest Hits” by Laura Barnett (the jury’s out on that one at the moment …). What are you reading and what have you just finished? Any naughty purchases to confess?

Competition and book acquisition news

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Laura Bates Girl Up Win year of no clutterI am so sorry that it took me so long to sort out my competitions to win a copy of Girl Up and Year of No Clutter, after being all excited about setting them up. I get frustrated if I go in for something and then never hear, and I’m sure those who put in for the competitions have done too – so, sorry.

Life got in the way, basically, as it tends to do – I haven’t been well and although that’s now pretty much resolved, energy had to be reserved for working, walking, recovering and a bit of blogging the millions of books that I’ve been reading!

Anyway, the winners (chosen using a random number generator online) are …

Girl Up – Cathy Turner

Year of No Clutter – Rebecca / Bookish Beck

I have dropped both of them an email for their address and will get the books in the post as soon as I’m able.

All that reading has made a huge dent in my TBR and Book Pile, so when a friend and I were swapping birthday presents (we got all out of sync so no wishing me a happy birthday as it was a little while ago), I managed to do a good bit of second-hand and special-offer ordering (plus a sneaky click on a Kindle book) to pick up some stuff I’ve heard about recently and things on my Wish List and have on the way …

Ruby Wax – “A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled” – I need to find a way to keep myself calm and sane apart from running and yoga, as when I can’t do those, for whatever reason, things can feel overwhelming quickly. I trust Ruby Wax to not be too “woo” and to give a sideways glance at stuff, and I know she’s been doing a lot of mental health awareness raising and advocacy, so this seems like a good bet.

Carole Matthews – “Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses” – because she writes very nicely done, light novels and because she’s superb on Facebook.

Angie Thomas – “The Hate U Give” – I keep seeing reviews and mentions of this, touted as the novel to read about BlackLivesMatter. I don’t know as much as I should about black lives in the US and I hope this lauded YA novel will teach me more.

Ben Fogle – “Offshore: An Island of my Own” – because I like islands and this has been on my wish list for ev er.

Amy Levy – The Romance of a Shop” (ebook) – out of copyright so a cheap e-edition, I can’t remember why this was on my wish list but she’s also a Persephone author.

Neil Taylor – “Document and Eyewitness: An Intimate History of Rough Trade” – because I do like a music book, especially one about indie music, and this has been on my wish list for aaaages, too.

I’ve also managed to acquire Bill Drummond’s “45” – he was one of the band, The KLF and my friend Sian got 60 pages in before giving up … a challenge!

Another electronic arrival is “Popular” by Mitch Prinstein – this is a non-fiction book about popularity and likeability in the status-obsessed world of social media, and was provided as some kind of pre-approved pre-link on NetGalley by the publisher! Whoo!

Some of these no doubt will appear on my 20 Books of Summer 2017 list – the only challenge I’m doing this year, because it’s just such fun taking part. A teaser post on 746Books’ blog can be found here.

Have you read any of these? Any recommendations or warnings? Are you doing any challenges this year and how are they going?

Book reviews – Mark Ellen “Rock Stars Stole my Life!” and D. E. Stevenson “Mrs Tim of the Regiment” plus … #amreading #books

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Two more books from my massive reading stint today and a funny pair but one that ended up at the front end of the TBR shelf. Both offered a good, dense amount of text that took me a little longer to get through, so perhaps these offered more reading “value” than the crop of novels from yesterday’s reviews, although I needed that lighter stuff, too.

Mark Ellen – “Rock Stars Stole My Life!”

(03 October 2016 – Penzance)

The music journalist and magazine editor (and fan, and bass guitarist) writes his autobiography. Although full of rock’n’roll excess and excitement and almost as indiscreet as promised on the cover (he certainly writes openly of his feelings about the management of publishing companies; I suspect that the part of my job that makes me a transcriber for music journalists interviewing various musicians has inoculated me against indiscretion in that area), it’s fundamentally a story of a an essentially kind, decent and loyal person who appreciates the path he’s gone along. He’s generous in his praise of his colleagues and I loved reading about the ins and outs of magazine life – especially the gone but not forgotten Word magazine. A good example of the rock write biography (OK, there are only two I can think of and both have been good) and very enjoyable.

D.E. Stevenson – “Mrs Tim of the Regiment”

(03 September 2016 – from Astley Book Farm, the last remaining read from that trip!)

An absolutely charming book and I’m raring to read the three sequels (although I sadly find they are v expensive second hand and not reprinted (yet?) – I will keep a firm look-out for them). A little like the Provincial Lady in that it’s in the form of a diary of a nice lady with children and servant problems, but Mrs Tim is an Army Wife, used to moving at the drop of a hat and also taking a pastoral role with the wives of the lower ranks while dealing with the angels and horrors at her level and above.

Mrs Tim has admirers but professes not to realise this – she comes across as sweet rather than annoying in this, luckily. There’s a move and all the horrors that entails, social calls that are almost unbearable but lovely neighbours, and a delightful interlude in Scotland when she gets to take a little holiday with one of these neighbours (plus the woman’s lovelorn son and completely batty relative).

Not much actually happens in the novel: some love is found and lost, yearnings happen, ghosts might be seen and there are episodes with the children; it’s a little uneven, too, mainly episodic and veering at times between farce that’s more farcical than the Provincial Lady and lyricism that’s more lyrical, but it’s a lovely, engaging and attractive read and fabulous as a whole.


One addition to the TBR shelves has come in the form of Jess Phillips’ memoir / polemic / call to action, which my friend Meg very kindly got for me (and got signed for me) at her book launch. I had to start it almost straight away and I think it’s brilliant – straight-talking and honest and explains how she got to be how she is and where she is (MP for a local constituency and loved/hated in equal measure).

State of the TBR May 2017 and a small confession

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I’ve had a good reading month in April (1o read in total, not all reviewed yet) but I have to confess that I’ve lagged in my competition admin – everyone waiting for the “Girl Up” draw, I promise I’ll do that soon. Events have been conspiring to send me all the fabulous reading, work and running opportunities recently and something has to give.

So, I think the TBR’s looking rather good – the front shelf only goes up to “The Gallery of Vanished Husbands” and is looking much better. I have some real crackers on there, too, that I’m very much looking forward to reading.

However, I haven’t shared a picture of The Pile recently (I’m not sharing the Kindle: that’s a step too far) so here it is in all its glory. The pile is meant for books that a) I’m reading bit by bit (the Sagas of Icelanders), b) books in series that I want to keep in order (the rest of them – nearly done with the IndriĆ°asons!) and c) books in series where I haven’t read the ones that come before them but after the last one I read (I have given up on this with the Earlene Fowlers and am going to read these soon, otherwise they languish for EVER).

Of course, review books hover around on here or on top of the shelf: do you have separate areas of your TBR or is it one great big mass of joy?

“Whiteladies” by Francis Brett Young, in this rather delicious Worcester Pear edition, is what I’m reading at the moment. I’ve only just started but it looks to be a sweep of a saga set just outside the Black Country as industrialisation and capitalism hit the Midlands. I love this writer, and yes, this is a signed first edition, but it’s unlikely I’m going to stumble upon a “reading copy” of it so I’m reading my first edition. I don’t like to be too precious about such things and it’s not in perfect condition to start off with. I know I have a few FBY fans among my blog readers; if you haven’t tried him, he does lovely big, meaty books full of great characters and if you know the Midlands well, a lot of them are set here, which is marvellous. If you use the Search function you will find my earlier reviews; I haven’t read one for a while and I’m really looking forward to settling into this one.

These are the next books to read: I’ll be taking the D.E. Stevenson and Mark Ellen on a short trip this week where paperbacks are easier to deal with than a big 1930s hardback, and then more music, Woolf-ness, microlending, light fiction and that tempting book on bookshops bought on my trip to Buxton (I forgot that when I mentioned the London trip in the last blog post: of course I went to Buxton with the lovely Laura and did the bookshops there, too!). Jools might need to shuffle down a bit, actually, however much I usually read books in acquisition order, because I don’t like to read two similar books next to one another (do you? probably not, I imagine). Anything take your fancy there?

Naturally, I’ll also be reading from my Kindle, as I have two NetGalley books and four Elizabeth Fair novels still to read (and the rest!).

And a final April confession, picked up in the naughtily tempting The Works and books I would have bought anyway, honest. But they’re on the TBR and it’s not too big, so …

How was your April reading and what’s May looking like for you?

Book review – Nancy Moss – “The Riddle of Cliff House” #amreading

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A meh book but an interesting author story with this one, you can see its cover in the picture from my charity shop finds in Penzance here, and you’ll get the review of the Ada Leverson up next, too. So the author is Nancy Moss, and I remember a discussion on here or Facebook about her (or “her”) so I did a quick search and found this information page on Goodreads which details that a) the first two books in the Cliff House series were republished with ROBERTA Moss as the author, and they were all actually written by a chap called Robert Alfred Moss, who apparently wrote Girl Guide and Brownie books. All very odd. The only Brownie books I remember reading were Verily Anderson’s ones. I’d love to know if any of my blog readers have read any of those!

Nancy Moss – “The Riddle of Cliff House”

(03 October 2016)

Published in 1957, this school story is almost a parody of itself, with all the familiar tropes and characters of a classic girls’ school story piled one on top of the other in a breathless rush, with most of the characters being pretty annoying. Ends are then left untied, even though this is the last in the series and characters actually mention at the end of the book how annoying it is that the ends haven’t been tied up like they would in a school story! I normally like a bit of metafiction here and there, but the central character with her endless punning is SO annoying … disappointing and not much to redeem it. I was going to write this in the style of the book, but realised I was annoying myself!


Just a couple of NetGalley “wins” so that’s OK, isn’t it. I have Michael Currinder’s “Running Full Tilt” which is about a promising cross-country runner’s relationship with his somewhat violent autistic brother (I’m worried about the violence anyway and the link of violence with autism but it’s had some praise and I’ll have to see). Then I just won Sandhya Menon’s “When Dimple Met Rishi” – and is a light Indian-American romance novel set at a coding convention, just the thing for some light reading, and the kind of thing I like to dip into sometimes. I don’t think the reading / reviewing load will be too heavy on those and I don’t have any weird restrictions on when I can post the reviews, either.

So, tell me if you’ve read Robert Moss’s Brownie books, or what you’re reading now. And I promise I’ll catch up with everyone’s blogs over the weekend. I’ve been working on a Very Exciting Project which I can’t talk about, so reading working running … that was it for this week really!

Book reviews – Lorna Landvik “Patty Jane’s House of Curl” and “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge” plus a book confession #books #amreading

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Lorna Landvik Once in a Blue Moon Lodge

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with this novel back in October – there was an embargo on reviews until nearer the publication date, but I think it’s actually out now so all is good. Somehow I’d managed not to realise (even though the description does say this is the case) that this is the sequel to Landvik’s “Patty Jane’s House of Curl”. I knew I had that book, but when I went to get it from the shelf, I realised that I’d had it for 20 years and could hardly remember a thing about it, so then I had to read that one first so I could get the most out of “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge”. I’m glad I did, and I’m going to review them together – divided by a small book confession (a loan isn’t as bad as a full-blown purchase, right?) so if you don’t want to know what happens in “House of Curl”, stop reading when you’ve seen the book on running and come back to this review when you’ve read “Blue Moon Lodge”.

Lorna Landvik – “Patty Jane’s House of Curl”

(9 March 1997)

A much-loved Minnesotan novel of which I had fond memories and which has survived 20 years of regular book culls. The story of Patty Jane and what happens when her husband goes missing suddenly, it’s a tale of female solidarity and friendship which reminds you of “Steel Magnolias” or Fannie Flagg’s novels, with the Minnesotan setting bringing up memories of Garrison Keillor, too. Patty Jane, her daughter Nora, her sister Harriet and her mother-in-law Ione make up the nucleus of the family, and there’s a cast of characters around the salon and then the salon-within-a-salon who support, annoy and cheerlead for them in equal measure. A few curve balls are thrown in as the salon with a difference develops a sexy male manicurist and classes in music, Hollywood and dodgy films, amongst other things. Men tend to be artists, women to be practical and solid, and it’s a great read with laughs and tears and good characters.

Interlude … a book confession

Carry on after the book confession for “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge” …

Even though I wasn’t massively keen on his “Running with the Kenyans”, I did get quite a lot out of it and have done a book swap with my friend Jenny. I’m especially OK with it because my friend Andy commented that Finn is a bit more mature here, so hopefully there’s less disparaging of the club / “fun” runner.

Lorna Landvik – “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge”

(20 October 2016)

This sequel can’t have been planned when “House of Curl” was originally written, because the epilogue of that book happens 25 years after a certain pivotal episode in the novel, and the earliest parts of this one happen before that but take a different path. Anyway, that doesn’t really matter because I’m sure people will be really happy to find out what happened next to these well-loved characters.

It is lovely to revisit Patty Jane’s daughter Nora, now finished with law school, back home and wondering what to do with her life when Patty Jane decides to close the House of Curl. Grandmother Ione is also having a change: when she receives a life-altering letter, she decides to go back to Norway to confront issues from deep in her past. Nora accompanies her, and I got a bit lost here, as they end up being separated so that Nora can meet a lovely chap and fall for him.

There’s a lot of jumping around in timelines and sometimes an e-book is not the best format for this kind of book, as breaks within chapters can get a bit lost. It was easy to pick up the story again, and we find Nora with some hard decisions on her hands, one of which is an offer to buy a lodge by the lake she has previously visited by accident, somehow endearing herself to the crabby owner.

There’s plenty of story in the book, perhaps too much: it jumps about and forwards a lot, and seems to start just listing events rather than dwelling on their emotional importance and impact, and filling us in, introducing a new social issue (war, women’s issues, eating disorders) or giving a character an illness then jumping ahead to the next milestone. Maybe someone who reads more slowly than me would find this more satisfying, but I will admit to being a little disappointed.

I’m sure the few typos I found will be ironed out by publication, but I hope someone picks up that the mention of Reese’s second wife should be of his third, as this had me leafing back through the first novel to check.

Thank you again to NetGalley for providing me with this pre-publication copy.


Are sequels ever as good as the original? Discuss!

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