Posts Tagged ‘april reads’

Another month in the year is over already, and I haven’t managed to review as much as I had hoped – again! Never mind, I have set aside this afternoon to catching up a little, so I shall be tackling those unread blog posts of everyone I follow later. 

Eight books were read during April – six real books, two kindle reads – I visited Japan twice and read two of my book group’s choices. 

I started the month reading Manifesto (2021) by Bernardine Evaristo, a brilliantly honest memoir on never giving up. In 2019 Bernardine Evaristo became the first black woman to win the Booker Prize, her journey to get there had been a long one, and this is the story of those years. 

The English Air (1940) by D E Stevenson was a delightful read for the 1940 club – a novel which surprised me in some ways (pleasantly). The inclusion of letters between DES and her publisher in this edition, certainly make for interesting reading. The English Air is a novel with a lot going on, and DES balances those different themes perfectly, giving us humour, romance, and tension in wartime Europe. 

My second read for the 1940 club was The Stone of Chastity (1940) by Margery Sharp, unfortunately I didn’t get around to writing about it. It’s a very funny, slightly ridiculous perhaps but a really fun read. When a professor hell bent on some scientific research into an ancient legend, lands in the sleepy village of Gillenham – he has no idea the trouble he is about to unleash. 

Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988) by Hilary Mantel was my book group’s April read, and it had a mixed reaction from the group. I really enjoyed it.  A novel about expat life in Saudi Arabia, Frances and her husband arrive on Ghazzah Street and must adapt to a very different life. Frances then becomes convinced there is something odd about the empty flat upstairs.  

A Single Rose (2022) by Muriel Barbary translated from the French by Alison Anderson. This was a beautiful little novel – one I had been looking forward to. This is the story of a woman’s journey to get to know her deceased father. Rose is forty, and grew up in France with her mother and grandmother, she never knew her Japanese father. Having received a call from her father’s lawyer, following his death, she travels to Kyoto for the reading of his will. She is greeted by Paul, his assistant – who has an itinerary  put together by her father, which she is persuaded to undertake first. 

I had to get my DDM reading week reading started early, so that I had time to get reviewing later. I chose, I’ll Never be Young Again (1932) by Daphne du Maurier, only her second novel, and one of five that has a male narrator. I shall save my thoughts for next week. 

Love Marriage (2022) by Monica Ali is the novel my book group is reading for May – but it suited me to read it a little early. Most people seem to love this book (I know one person who hated it) and while I didn’t hate it, I certainly didn’t love it – I found it a bit fluffy, some bits unlikely (at best) and several characters are caricatures of a type. All of which irritated me. It will give us plenty to talk about though, and I predict everyone else will love it, because it is very readable and quite the page turner – which is good because I also think it’s a tad too long at something close to 500 pages. 

The Decagon House Murders (1987) by Yukito Ayatsuji translated from the Japanese by Ho-Ling Wong was an impulse buy and a very successful one. I only recently became aware of the sub-genre of novels called Honkaku – I believe they started somewhere in the 1920s and were revived by authors like this one in the 1980s. Pushkin Vertigo have published a few, some of them earlier ones from the 1940s. They are mysteries that pay homage to the golden age of western mystery fiction – they focus on ‘fair-play’ for the reader, so that theoretically the reader can work it out for themselves. There was no way I could do that here. This novel takes Agatha Christie’s And There Were None as its inspiration, it is even referred to by the characters in the novel. A group of students from the K_ university mystery club embark on a week-long trip to a notorious island, where six months earlier four people were murdered. This is the ultimate locked room style mystery – and it is ingenious. I have just ordered the second book by this author that Pushkin has re-issued.

So April was a fairly decent reading month, and I have high hopes for May. Next Monday sees the start of Daphne du Maurier reading week. I started my reading well in advance which I find I need to do as host – but I may re-read Rebecca next week, just for the sheer pleasure of it. I am currently reading my second DDM book, more of that at a later date. It will be a quieter event this year – from me at least. Look out for the welcome post next Monday – in which I will be explaining how Liz will be helping me to collect all the reviews together on her blog. If you’re talking about DDM week on Twitter then please ensure you use the hashtag #DDMreadingweek so that I don’t miss it. The rest of May I will very much suit myself and read whatever takes my fancy. I have already read the May choice for my book group, so there’s nothing that I have to read by a particular time.

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In my last round up post at the end of March I was again giving myself a bit of a hard time over how few books I had read, compared to how much I used to read. I have to stop doing that, it’s fairly clear that this is some kind of new normal, and instead of endlessly going on about how little I read, how slowly I am reading, how I have only managed six books in the month etc, I need to just celebrate the books I have read. I had questioned whether I would continue with these roundup posts, I wasn’t sure whether the act of writing them was unintentionally putting me under pressure to have to have a nice pile of books to show at the end of the month. Well, anyway I have decided to continue with these roundups for now – and the piles of books are considerably smaller, and likely to stay that way. This month’s pile made smaller by the fact I read three books on my kindle.

April seems to have flown, perhaps because of the time off work, holiday weeks always go too fast. I managed a little more reading time, had some time away by the sea and slept a lot.

Here’s what I read.

These Days by Lucy Caldwell (2022)– which I had originally wanted to read in March for Read Ireland month but my hastily purchased copy didn’t arrive in time. I had already seen some positive reviews for this so I was quite confident I would enjoy it. This is the story of the Belfast Blitz in April and May 1941 as seen through the eyes of the Bell family, especially two sisters Audrey and Emma. These Days is an intensely moving story, Caldwell’s descriptions of the German raids, the fear of the people and their incredible resilience to come through it.

I read the highly acclaimed novella Assembly by Natasha Brown (2021) with my book group. I was enormously impressed with the writing, and my book group enjoyed our discussion. At the time I read it, I wasn’t so mad about the episodic nature of the story, yet I found it very thought provoking and the book has really stayed with me and I found myself thinking about it afterwards more than I might have expected to.

Read of course for the 1954 club The Gypsy in the Parlour by Margery Sharp (1954) was a fairly expensive e-book, which I was very glad I had stumped up for. Set mainly in Devon in the late nineteenth century, it is the story of the Sylvester family, particularly the women who drive it. As the novel opens, the three Sylvester women – each of them married to one of three brothers, await the arrival of the new, and so far unseen fiancé of their youngest brother-in-law Stephen. After Fanny Davis arrives, life at the Sylvester farm may never be the same again.

My second club read, again on my kindle was Charlotte Fairlie by D E Stevenson (1954). Definitely one of the highlights of the month, every bit of it was a pleasure the read. The novel is named for the central character, Charlotte Fairlie is a young, girls’ school headmistress. Two years into her dreamed of position, she has discovered that to be a headmistress is a very lonely profession. Tessa is a new girl at the school, who Charlotte finds herself feeling a lot of sympathy and affection for, after a tumultuous school year Tessa and her father invite Charlotte to the idyllic Scottish island where they live, during the long summer holidays.

Book of Wayward Girls and Wicked Women edited by Angela Carter (1986) is the last of the books I bought in January with my Christmas book vouchers. It is a fairly chunky collection of short stories. Tales of female sexual disruptiveness, bad manners, and discontent. Written by a host of big names including Grace Paley, Elizabeth Jolley, Katherine Mansfield and Angela Carter herself. There was only one story I didn’t get on with.

Some of you may remember my year of Muriel Spark reading in 2018. Well I didn’t quite get to them all. Territorial Rights by Muriel Spark (1979) reminded me why I love her writing. Set mainly in Venice (one character back in the UK lives in Birmingham, but we don’t see anything of the city sadly) it follows the fortunes of Robert, his father and his mistress, a Bulgarian defector, and a secret from the war. It’s all a bit mad and chaotic and I rather loved it for that. Not her best perhaps, but so what.

With Daphne du Maurier reading week not that long away, I felt I needed to start my reading early, so as to be ready. I chose to read The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier (1931) first. It was Daphne du Maurier’s first novel, and really shows what kind of writer she was to become. It is a fantastic, sweeping story of four generations of a family in Cornwall. It was definitely my best read of the month.

I have begun another book by Daphne du Maurier – The Doll and other stories – but as that one will be finished in May it can go into the May pile.

So on to May. Of course I am rather taken up with Daphne du Maurier reading week. I haven’t decided if I will try and squeeze a third DDM read in yet, after I finish The Doll, I need to read my May book group read The Mad Women’s Ball by Victoria Maas (2019) so it is all a question of time.

Daphne du Maurier reading week begins Monday 9th May and runs until the 15th. There will be a giveaway – I have already bought the prize – more of that during the week. I do hope some of you will be joining in, if you are, tell me what you are planning to read? As for after that, who knows, I shall wait to see how the mood takes me.

Happy reading to all of you in May.

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April has been a pretty good reading month for me, ten books read, one of which was quite a tome – and nothing that disappointed. Eight fiction, and two nonfiction, three books read on kindle. Of course, we had the 1936 club earlier in the month hosted again by Karen and Simon. Having already read one title in March, two of this month’s books were chosen for that, two quite different titles for a year that offered a wealth of possibilities. Reviewing things in time for the 1936 club meant I started reviewing out of order – but here in the order I read them is what April brought me in books.

I began the month reading The Years by Virginia Woolf a novel I had been meaning to read since the end of my #Woolfalong in 2016. It tells the story of a family over a fifty year period and is one of Woolf’s most conventional novels. I loved it.

My book group chose to read I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou in April. The first book in a seven volume autobiography, it depicts Angelou’s childhood and adolescence. I am now committed to reading the rest of the autobiography with my friend and fellow blogger Liz from Adventures in Reading, Running and Working from Home. I’m looking forward to learning more about the life of this extraordinary woman.

A classic mystery for the 1936 club The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White was the inspiration behind Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. I often find I read much faster on kindle – and I fairly flew through this one. Who doesn’t love a mystery on a train anyway?

Also for the 1936 club was Minty Alley by C L R James. The first novel by a Caribbean writer to be published in England. Set in the Trinidadian capital of the 1920s it’s the story of a middle class young man’s experiences of life in a bustling working class neighbourhood.

In the Company of Men by Véronique Tadjo was my February book from my Asymptote subscription – two more have arrived since it did. It is a narrative about the ravages of the West African Ebola outbreak. Weaving the human stories with those of the natural world, showing movingly the absolute inter-connectedness of everything.

Following my previous read, I needed something of a comfort read. Much Dithering by Dorothy Lambert was an absolute delight. A comedy of manners with some memorable characterisation, it’s light, bright and cheerful. A great weekend read.

The much anticipated biography of novelist Barbara Pym The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula Byrne came out earlier this month and I spent a wonderful week with it – it’s just over 600 pages. Despite the fact the heavy hardback format hurt my hands I loved every bit of it. My review is yet to be written – but I can tell you I found the book, revealing and affectionate, an honest portrayal of a favourite writer.

My book group’s May choice is A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum and with Daphne du Maurier reading week on my horizon I needed to read it a little ahead of time. Another quick kindle read – it’s an excellent debut novel by an American-Palestinian writer. A compelling story about the lives of conservative Arab women living in America.

I had been meaning to read V is for Victory by Lissa Evans for ages. I had so loved Crooked Heart and Old Baggage and it was wonderful to catch up with the characters of Noel and Vee again, and I do enjoy a wartime setting.

The British Library sent me Due to A Death by Mary Kelly recently, and I picked it up as it sounded like it might have more going on than many vintage mysteries and it does. A really intelligent novel, with a fabulous sense of place.

So still four of those April reads to be reviewed – I will get there in the fullness of time.

It’s May tomorrow – and just over a week until Daphne du Maurier reading week starting 10th May. I have realised I might struggle to fulfil my hosting duties this time, as on Tuesday I go back to work properly after shielding until the end of March and then being off sick since the Easter holidays. My reading and blogging is likely to take a severe hit – so if I am quiet that’s why. I have just started my Du Maurier reading with The King’s General – but have only read about three chapters so I’m looking forward to getting back to it later. If I can get two books read and reviewed for the week of #DDMreadingweek I will be delighted – but it will be tricky once I am back at work properly.

As ever I look forward to hearing what you have been reading in April and what you have planned for May.

A few new books have come in just lately, some I have bought, some have been sent to me and some given to me by a friend. What absolute riches! Some of these might get read quite soon. Watch this space. (which would you pick off the pile first?)

Happy bank holiday to those of you in England and Wales and happy May reading to you all.

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Well the lockdown continues – and may last a few weeks yet – and we’re all finding our own ways of coping with the new normal. I really hope you’re all keeping safe and well and finding plenty of good things to read. I read exactly nine books in April – three of them on my kindle, making the monthly book pile look a bit smaller.

I started April reading Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – which I enjoyed but I do think has been over hyped. Beautifully written with great emotion it tells the largely fictional story of William Shakespeare’s only son who died at eleven years old. It has now been shortlisted for this year’s Women’s Prize, whatever you think of the shortlist it is still a novel worth reading.

Karen and Simon hosted another club week, the year was 1920 and the first book I read was Penny Plain by Scottish author O Douglas. A kind of sweet, Cinderella story, where the reader can be fairly sure of a happy ending.

My second read for the 1920 club was rather different, but equally good. The Happy Foreigner by Enid Bagnold is the fictional account of Bagnold’s experiences in WW1. It’s the story of Fanny; an English woman working with the French army as the First World War comes to an end. Driving officers around the country, witnessing the damage done to the villages she passes through and falling in love with Julien, a French officer.

My Husband Simon by Mollie Panter Downes is one of the three recent publications from the British Library – part of their new Women writers series. The novel is narrated by Nevis Falconer a young novelist, who toward the end of 1930 muses upon her meeting with her husband Simon Quinn four years earlier. It’s a marriage based largely on physical attraction, the two have little in common, and the relationship starts to affect Nevis’ ability to write.

I don’t know what made me pick Midwinter by Fiona Melrose off the shelf, but I’m so glad I did. A thoroughly beautiful novel. This is a novel firmly rooted in the Suffolk landscape, a novel of a father and son, grief, guilt and how we find our way home. Beautifully written and deeply heartfelt.

Next was Christopher and Columbus by Elizabeth von Arnim, a satisfyingly thick VMC that Liz bought me at Christmas. It’s so wonderfully charming, it could easily become my favourite von Arnim. Review next week, I hope.

In May my book group will be discussing Nina is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi. One thing my book group does for me – more and more actually – is to force me out of my comfort zone. This is certainly not a bad novel – it just isn’t my kind of novel – and I thought it was just ok. It seems to have a lot of fans though; a pretty high GR rating and two other members of our book group have already admitted to reading and loving it. Our meeting will be on Zoom again, and I thought I had better try and read this book, as I wimped out of our April book, a collection of short stories, I read just two and won’t be reviewing them.

As Once in May by Antonia White is the autobiography of the author’s early childhood – the title so like that of her most famous novel served to confuse people on Twitter when I posted a picture of it. I only came across it by accident and really enjoyed it – White seeming to have had an extraordinary memory for her earliest years.

I raced through Silence in Court by Patricia Wentworth my first by this hugely prolific Golden Age writer. I loved the way Patricia Wentworth creates a fascinating dynamic between the family members involved in this mystery.

So, that was April. Looking ahead to May – and I am mainly concerned with my Daphne du Maurier reading week. As host, I shall start my reading early so I can get my reviews written up in reasonable time. I probably won’t post every day that week – you might be relieved to hear – and I’m afraid no giveaway this year either – sorry. Still, I hope lots of you will be joining in too in whatever way you can. I just need to decide which of the unread du Maurier books I have to read first. Other than Daphne du Maurier, I shall be reading very much according to my mood – as that has worked best for me so far the last few weeks.

Whatever you read in May; I hope you have a fantastic reading month. What did you read in April? You know I like to know.

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I’m a day late with this round up – the beginning of May has rather crept up on me. I love May – blossom and bank holidays and my birthday! (My family have asked for the titles of Persephone books I might want – hooray). April was a pretty good reading month – 9 books read, and a few of them were a bit longer than I sometimes read.

I began the month reading on my kindle – one of the forgotten books. A Summer to Decide – was the third in the Helena trilogy by Pamela Hansford Johnson – it was a longer book than anticipated, but a thoroughly engrossing read, nonetheless.

Bookworm a memoir of childhood reading by Lucy Mangan – was my book group’s April choice – and was enjoyed by all of us, although I was unable to go to attend when it came to it. A lovely nostalgic read for all us bookworms, it took me right back to those childhood reading days.  

The Last of the Greenwoods by Clare Morrall – is a novel I had had waiting for months – I bought it because it had people living in railway carriages in it. I wasn’t disappointed, set in Bromsgrove a town near Birmingham The Last of the Greenwoods is a story of past mistakes, damaged relationships and a final healing of wounds in the present. Morrall weaves together stories of several generations with understanding.

Bewildering Cares by Winifred Peck – was another kindle read – one of the Furrowed Middlebrow titles from Dean Street Press. Told in diary form is the story of a week in the life of a vicar’s wife during the early days of World War Two. First published in 1940 it depicts a busy, harassed woman who has too many calls upon her time and only one servant. 

The Aloe by Katherine Mansfield is an exquisitely beautiful novella, published after the author’s death. It is the original work that was later reworked into Mansfield’s short story Prelude. It is less than 100 pages and I would have been happy for it to be twice as long.

The Young Spaniard by Mary Hocking – well when I discovered there was a Mary Hocking novel that I had unread which fitted into the 1965 club I just had to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed the Barcelona set novel which sees a young Scots lawyer pulled into the mystery surrounding his cousin’s older boyfriend.

The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark was my second read for the 1965 club. Spark’s longest novel – is set in Israel and Jordan the year of the Adolf Eichmann trial. I thought it was excellent, it’s Muriel Spark’s most conventional novel, yet retains many elements of Spark’s unique storytelling.

The Call by Edith Ayrton Zangwill is a wonderfully feminist Persephone book.  First published in 1924 The Call is a novel of women’s suffrage – among other things. It is also about the struggle for a young woman to be taken seriously within the scientific field. I found it thoroughly involving and an enormously important testament of the struggleh for women’s suffrage and for a woman to be taken seriously in the world of science.

Company in the Evening by Ursula Orange was another book I read on my kindle and another lovely Furrowed Middlebrow title. It is something of a comfort read – and I found I flew through it. Set during WW2 a divorced woman in her thirties has to juggle her job in a literary agency with her home life. This home outside of London she shares with her four year old daughter, her interfering servant and very young, widowed sister-in-law who she has recently invited to live with her. One day when she least expects it, she bumps into her ex-husband. I shall be reviewing this in a few days – but I can say I really enjoyed it.  

I am now reading my book group’s May choice, The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascsarenhas. It’s fair to say that this novel is not my usual fare- and yet I am enjoying it. Like The Call it features women scientists and is a cleverly constructed novel. We meet to discuss it next week.

While I was away in the Like District last week, I bought books, new books at that – well I like to support independent booksellers when I can. One book came from Sam Reads in Grasmere and two from Fred Holdsworth’s bookshop in Ambelside. You will notice two are ‘new’ books *shock* it’s reminded me that I still have ‘new books’ tbr from last year and the year before sitting unread on my shelves, two or three of them were gifts at Christmas – I really must start reading more of my newer fiction. I still haven’t started on my Women’s prize list either – that was always going to be a challenge though, (anything published after 1990 is new books to me). I bought; Spring by Ali Smith, Transcription by Kate Atkinson and Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood – which I want to re-read at some point – my old copy has sadly not turned up.

Looking ahead, May will be largely taken up with Daphne Du Maurier reading week – #DDMreadingweek for those on twitter, please use the hashtag so I can keep track of your links, photos etc. There has been a lot of interest in this so far – and I am probably going to start a few days early so that I can make sure I can read and review at least two Du Maurier books during the week. I do have a lot of other things going on in May, and will be grateful of a distraction, but probably won’t be able to read more than that. I am hoping to get a collection of stories and a novel read – and can’t wait to see everyone else’s reading choices. You don’t need a blog to join in. If you are on Instagram or Twitter – then you can share your Daphne Du Maurier reading using the hashtag or leave comments here on my original announcement post or below any upcoming Du Maurier reviews.

Happy May reading everyone. What did you read in April?

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I am a little late with my monthly roundup – but all in all April was a pretty good month for books. One book was something of a let-down, but pretty much everything else was great. The reading challenges seemed to pile up a bit, my own #ReadingMuriel2018, the 1977 club and last weekend’s readathon have kept me busily juggling. What with reading challenges and book group reading, I have found that my ACOB is suffering a little bit. At the start of the year I was happily ticking off years for every book I read, recently more and more duplicate years are creeping in. In May I need to concentrate on ticking off a few more years.

Here, briefly is what I read during April.

Crewe Train by Rose Macaulay, Denham Dobie has been allowed to run wild, growing up abroad in a less than conventional household. After her father’s death, her smart, society relatives take her to London and try to civilise her. In this novel Macaulay highlights the absurdity in conventional society and the so called civilised way of life.

The Montana Stories by Katherine Mansfield – A wonderful Persephone collection of stories and unfinished fragments written in 1921/22 when Katherine Mansfield was in Switzerland attempting to recover from TB.

The Bachelors by Muriel Spark Has something of an unpromising opening, though I ended up really rather enjoying the novel. It is a novel of London in the 1950s, of bedsitting rooms, public bars and spiritualist meetings. Patrick Seton; a medium is the malevolent presence throughout the novel – he is a truly brilliant Spark villain. Patrick is due to appear in court – charged with defrauding a widow; Freda Flower of her savings. The Bachelors of the title are all connected somehow to Patrick or the court case.

Men without Women by Haruki Murakami; Was a collection of short stories chosen by my very small book group. It certainly gave us a lot to talk about. I really couldn’t engage with the book fully – and of the seven stories only two interested me at all. I decided Murakami wasn’t for me.

The Danger Tree by Olivia Manning; my first read for the 1977 club, The Danger Tree is the first book in the Levant trilogy, and gets it off to a fabulous start. We find the Pringles who we first met in the Balkan trilogy, in Egypt, and follow the fortunes of young junior officer Simon Boulderstone, who has just arrived with the draft.

Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy is beautifully written novella translated from Italian, it tells the story of a fourteen-year-old girl’s fixation on another girl at their Swiss boarding school.

Dancing Girls and other stories by Margaret Atwood – Perhaps not my favourite Atwood collection of short stories, The Dancing Girls is still definitely worth reading, with at least half the stories being of really stand out quality.

Aunt Clara by Noel Streatfeild; A truly delightful read from the author of many children’s favourites, this is one of Noel Streatfeild’s novels for adults. Aunt Clara is the sixty something niece of curmudgeonly old Simon Hilton. Unmarried, he lives in London with his cockney valet Henry. Simon leaves Clara his house and some unusual instructions in his will – much to the disgust and bafflement of her selfish warring relatives.

Faces in the Water by Janet Frame is an incredibly powerful read. The story of a young woman’s life in two New Zealand psychiatric hospital.

The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark; The second book for #readingMuriel2018 I read in April was perhaps my least favourite Spark to date – oddly I know many people love it. I still have to review it –I loved the opening chapter and certainly the character of Dougal Douglas is superbly drawn – but I found other aspects of the novel a bit confusing.

Trick by Domenica Starnone; sent to me as part of my Asymptote book club subscription, Trick is translated from Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri a literary novelist in her own right. I loved this story of a grandfather and his grandson.

Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay; another winner from the British Library – I found this hard to put down, which was lucky as I read it during last weekend’s readathon. A woman is found dead on the steps of a tube station, and the residents of the boarding house she lived in begin to try their own theories out to discover what happened.

So, three of April’s books still to review, but I’ll get to them all in good time. Sometimes it’s a bit of a job finding the time and energy for blogging.

cofAfter all my reading last weekend I’m currently experiencing a bit of a slow reading week, juggling two books Writers as Readers, essays about VMC writers by other writers, and Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty. I’m also planning on reading The Hothouse by the East River by Muriel Spark, very soon, really looking forward to it.

A slightly rushed round-up I’m afraid – but I’m pleased that I managed twelve books in April – a little up on my average. I’m looking forward to a quiet-ish May bank holiday – with lots of reading time, and perhaps a trip to the cinema – if there’s anything on.

Today Virago are celebrating their 40th anniversary of beautiful VMC – you all know how much I love them, so it’s quite fitting that I’m reading an old green at the moment.

Let me know what you’ve been reading in April – anything I really need to know about? Happy reading for May everybody.

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April seemed to fly by – probably because the first week of it I was on holiday from work and wasn’t really thinking about what day it was. Suddenly it is May although the weather seems somewhat confused. I felt as though I had read a lot in April – but in fact it was a fairly average month – 10 books read during April.

Mary Hocking reading week began on April 3rd and I began April with my second Mary Hocking book for that reading week. Checkmate, a novel set in a small community in Cornwall, to where a stranger brings change and unearths a long held secret. Despite the Falling Snow was a review copy I had been sent – and if I am honest I had misunderstood the kind of book it was – there is nothing wrong with it really, it is just not my usual type of read. I actually enjoyed it more than I expected to as it tells a really good story. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson was a book I had expected to like more than I did, beautifully written and brilliantly imagined it is a fictional re-telling of the Pendle witch trials. Winterson herself explains how her story is not historically accurate – but it wasn’t that that bothered me. The novel is very dark shot through with magic and the occult as well as the violence towards women and girls prevalent at the time. The whole made for uncomfortable reading.

The 1938 club hosted by Karen at Kaggsy’s bookish ramblings and Simon at Stuck in a book – saw loads of people across blogosphere reading books first published in that year. I read three books for the 1938 club – The Squire by Enid Bagnold, Young Man with a Horn by Dorothy Baker and Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie. My favourite of those three excellent books was The Squire – which it seems is a book which divides people. I was surprised how much I loved it – I had thought all that mumsie stuff would irritate me to death – instead I found it all rather lovely and beautifully written.

Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf – her final posthumously published novel was my most recent read for phase 2 of #Woolfalong. While it won’t be my favourite Woolf – I was captivated by the exquisite writing and the fantastic sense of place. I am continually finding more to love about Virginia Woolf’s writing. Greengates by R C Sherriff a novel re-issued by the lovely Persephone books was certainly one of my favourite books in April, a novel about retirement and houses – it demonstrates how good Sherriff was at writing about ordinary people – those of you who enjoyed A Fortnight in September would definitely like it.

Next I turned my attention to Constance Fenimore Woolson, a nineteenth century American writer who I hadn’t heard of until quite recently. I decided to read a new collection of her short stories Miss Grief and other stories edited by Anne Boyd Rioux alongside the biography about her life, work and friendship with Henry James written by Anne Boyd Rioux who is doing great work to bring CFW to a new audience. I loved those short stories – another of my highlights of the month and the biography  Constance Fenimore Woolson: portrait of a Lady Novelist, is brilliantly compelling and fascinating – I hope to review it very soon.

2016-05-01_11.52.11May sees the start of Phase 3 of #Woolfalong – short stories – I have bought three collections – which I now realise contain some of the same stories – I want to read at least two collections by the end of June. I generally do love short stories and have a ridiculous number of collections tbr – so Virginia Woolf’s stories appeal to me greatly. I hope I am not disappointed.

My very small book group (which is becoming my only book group as I haven’t fancied the choices of my other group for some time) will be reading The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante – I can’t wait for that – it was my suggestion.

2016-05-01_11.45.25I have three lovely looking review copies that I want to read this month; He Runs the Moon a collection of short stories by Wendy Brandmark, The Testament of Vida Tremayne by Sarah Vincent, and Summer an anthology of extracts and writing about Summer edited by Melissa Harrison. Considering how fickle I can be about what I read when – there is no guarantee that I will get to them all this month.

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April brought me some lovely reads in the shape of a several classics, a couple of newly published books and two new Persephone books which even included a non-fiction title. In purely numerical terms I am reading a little bit less this year – I really can’t work out why I might be getting through fewer books but I am tempted to blame this blog! I am trying not to worry about this – numbers really matter so little, but it is irritating me. Anyway with one disappointing book to which we shall never refer – this is what I did read. Additionally I am also half way through Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu – which is a denser read than I had expected and almost 450 pages, still a damn fine read for all that.

32 A Surfeit of Lampreys (1941) Ngaio Marsh (F)
33 At Lady Molly’s (1957) Anthony Powell (F)
34 A God in every Stone (2014) Kamila Shamsie (F)
35 The Well-Beloved (1897) Thomas Hardy (F)
36 Madame Bovary (1857) Gustave Flaubert (F)
37 Arms Wide Open (2014) Tom Winter (F)
38 All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) Eric Remargue (F)
39 Into the Whirlwind (1967) Eugenia Ginzberg (NF)
40 Wilfred and Eileen (1976) Jonathan Smith (F)
41 When the Cypress Whisper (2014) Yvette Manessis Corporon (F)
42 Young Entry (1928) Molly Keane (F)

My stand out reads for April without a shadow of a doubt would have to be:
Madam Bovary – Gustave Flaubert, the brilliant French classic of middle class bourgeois life.
All Quiet on the Western Front – Eric Maria Remargue – The German classic novel of life in World War 1 trenches –
Wilfred and Eileen by Jonathan Smith – one of Persephone’s latest releases, a lovely novel based upon the life of a real life couple, also set during the time of the World War 1.

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So here we are again – it’s May already – how on earth did that happen? So what will I be reading once I have finished with Uncle Silas? Next up will be the fifth book in Anthony Powell’s epic twelve novel sequence Dance to the music of time; Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant. I hope to read Anna Hope’s much lauded novel Wake this month, as well as Vera Britten’s Testament of Youth, which I have meant to read for years, and have the perfect excuse in the Great War theme read. I will save Testament of Youth for the end of the month when we have half term again, and I have more reading time – as it’s a fair size. Just yesterday I learned of a month long reading event – The Wharton Review. Having several Wharton tbr – I really do have to join in, although I have yet to decide what I will be reading.

So I really hope you enjoy your up-coming May reads whatever they may be – I’d love to know what they are.


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April got off to a really good start reading wise – with two weeks holiday from work during which I managed a lovely London book shopping trip. So therefore I have managed to read thirteen books during April – a little above my average.

Looking down the list of books I read, I realise what a good month it has been. Two Persephone books which were particularly memorable, then I was delighted to discover E F Benson, someone I really should have read before. I also discovered the mystery stories of Francis Durbidge – another writer it seems I have been a bit slow about. I loved the classic clubs sync read – Their Eyes were watching God – a really powerful and affecting American classic. Thanks to Ragdoll books Evelyn Waugh month – I had a good excuse for taking Vile Bodies off the shelf it was a pure joy – hilarious stuff – only the third Waugh novel I have read, now I want to read more. A review copy of The Perfume Collector was April’s big surprise, a light easy read, which I hadn’t probably expected much off – but which I thoroughly enjoyed. Lastly Kathleen Jamie’s lovely lyrical essays rounded off a great bookish month.
This was the full list.

34 Hostages to Fortune (1933) Elizabeth Cambridge (F) April
35 Sense and Sensibility (1811) Jane Austen (F)
36 Queen Lucia (1920) E F Benson (F)
37 Vile Bodies (1930) Evelyn Waugh (F)
38 No Surrender (1911) Constance Maud (F)
39 The Other Man (1958) Francis Durbridge (F)
40. The Swan in the Evening (1967) Rosamond Lehmann (NF)
41. Miss Mapp (1922) E F Benson (F)
42 Amity & Sorrow (2013) Peggy Riley (F)
43 Their Eyes were watching God (1937) Zora Neale Hurston (F)
44 The Perfume Collector (2013) Kathleen Tessaro (F)
45 A Glass of Blessings (1958) Barbara Pym (F)
46 Findings (2005) Kathleen Jamie (NF)


During May I will be reading only books written by authors born in May – for my birthday reading month. My actual birthday is the 13th – a date I share with Daphne Du Maurier. I found I already had about five books on my TBR that fitted the bill – these have now been added to with a few book purchases and free kindle downloads. The truth is – I now have far too many books to choose from – this may need to become an annual event.
I have these authors picked out to read during May – I may not get to them all, there were of course some I have left off the list as I didn’t have books by them and didn’t want to buy any more.
Graham Swift – 4th May The Sweet Shop Owner
Gaston Leroux – 6th May The Mystery of the Yellow room
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala 7th May ‘A Love song for India: Tales from East and West’on my kindle, A Backward Place and The Householder –( loaned to me by Liz)
Pat Barker 8th May Liza’s England, Life Class and Toby’s Room on Kindle
Daphne Du Maurier 13th May – Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel
L Frank Baum 15th May – downloaded free kindle book of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Arthur Conan Doyle 22nd May – I own all the Holmes books in a box set – I fancy re-reading The Sign of Four as I can’t remember it.
Alan Hollinghurst 26th May – The Folding Star
Arnold Bennett  27th May – Hilda Lessways – a free Kindle book –
I am really looking forward to getting stuck into some of these – I’m just sorry I won’t have time for all of them in one month.

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April reads


I have managed to read 13 books during April, this is largely due to 2 weeks holiday from work, and the fact that the books were, in the main, fairly small. I notice that three of the books on my to be read soon list for April remain unread, although one of them is my current read. I allowed myself to become distracted by some books that were not on the list – something I do all the time. Only one non-fiction this month – I just wasn’t in the mood for non-fiction – and now as I find myself contemplating what I will read in May, and I feel the same reluctance to add non-fiction to the list.

So in April I read.

35 Starlight (1968) Stella Gibbons (F)
36 A Map of Glass (2006) Jane Urquhart (F)
37 Fraulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther (1907) Elizabeth Von Arnim (F)
38 Ethan Frome (1911) Edith Wharton (F)
39 Bid me to live (1960) H.D (F)
40 A Wreath of Roses (1949) Elizabeth Taylor (F)
41 To War With Whitaker (1994) Countess Ranfurly (NF)
42 I Capture the Castle (1948) Dodie Smith (F)
43 The Blush (1958) Elizabeth Taylor (F)
44 Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011) Hisham Matar (F)
45 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) Muriel Spark (F
46 Burmese Days (1935) George Orwell (F)
47 Landed (2010) Tim Pears (F)


My special mentions for this month then are:


1. Starlight – Stella Gibbons – a charming bitter-sweet novel from the author of Cold Comfort farm

2. The Blush – Elizabeth Taylor – wonderful short stories – by one of my favourite authors.

3 Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton – a beautifully poignant tragic little novella

4 Burmese Days – George Orwell – a sad story and bitter critique of Colonialism







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