Posts Tagged ‘aug reads’

Well August has been a funny old month – stressful and dragging where my house move is concerned – and flying by in other ways. My reading has taken a bit of a hit, because while I continued to be away from work, my reading has been quite a bit slower – definitely stress induced. As has become traditional I wanted to concentrate on #Witmonth and vmc reads for All Virago, All August. I did quite well with #Witmonth – especially as I had already read two #witmonth books at the end of July. However. I did much less well with my vmc reads this year, managing only two, though they were both excellent.

I began the month reading In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova translated from the Russian by Sasha Dugdale. A fascinating book, gorgeously written much lauded by other readers. A mixture of genres it tells the story of the author’s Russian Jewish family, and wider Europe over about a century. It is an incredible piece of work.

I have been reading Maya Angelou’s seven volume autobiography with Liz and our friend Meg. Singin’ & Swingin’ & Getting Merry Like Christmas is the third volume. It concerns her relationship with her son, her first marriage and the beginnings of her life in showbusiness including her time on tour with the cast of Porgy and Bess.

Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki translated from the Greek by Karen van Dyck was one of the books I was determined to read for this year’s Women in Translation month. A beautiful coming of age novel about three sisters in the years before the Second World War. There is a lot more going on in this novel than the premise might at first suggest, themes of marriage, fidelity, women’s roles, the bond between siblings and motherhood are all delicately explored. 

The first of two kindle reads this month, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery translated from the French by Alison Anderson was a book I had been aware of for some time, but really hadn’t known much about it. Renée Michel is a concierge at an elegant apartment building in the centre of Paris, like twelve year old Paloma in one of the apartments upstairs, Renée hides her true self from the world. How these two unlikely people find a common bond is beautifully told.

The British Library are very good at producing anthologies of brilliant mystery stories, Murder by the Book edited by Martin Edwards is a particularly good example for the book lover. Stories from a range of brilliant Golden age writers set in libraries or involving writers.

Another #Witmonth read was a book I had heard about from other bloggers; The Union of Synchronised Swimmers by Cristina Sandu – translated from the Finnish by the author. A novella really, it tells the story of six girls from an unnamed country who join a synchronised swimming team in order to escape the country they are from. It’s quite an odd little novel, but not unenjoyable.  

My second vmc read of the month was Old New York by Edith Wharton, and what a treat it was, she was such a wonderful writer. Four short novels of Old New York in one volume, full of Wharton’s observations of society with all its strictures and pitfalls. Containing themes of class, jealousy, infidelity, and illegitimacy.

As I entered the week when I was expecting to exchange contacts and complete on my flat purchase and house sale, I needed something, diverting but not too challenging. I chose The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line by Ruth Thomas, which I probably originally bought for the title alone. I wasn’t sure whether it would be my kind of thing really, but it proved exactly right in fact, generally well written, but reasonably undemanding, with an engaging witty tone, it was fine if not a little underwhelming.

So, on to September – and really I don’t know what to expect from September book wise – I am not making any plans or putting myself under pressure. I am currently reading A Bite of the Apple by Lennie Goodings, which Liz bought for me for either birthday or Christmas, though not sure which year, and which she selected for me to read now when she came to see the flat and help with book sorting. I shall of course be settling into my new place – and also later this week returning to work after another long break. So, my reading will certainly be affected by all of that. I shall be reading strictly according to mood – and if I am able to read anything at all and really enjoy it – that will be enough.

As ever, I would love to know what you have been reading, and what plans you might have for September.

Happy reading.

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August in review

These last few days of August have been something of a disappointment not really feeling like the end of August but more like mid-October – in my part of the UK at least. This post popping up a day earlier than usual as I won’t finish another book by midnight tonight.

September starts tomorrow and with it comes my return to work after months of shielding followed by school summer holidays. It’s going to be a shock to the system – getting back into the old routine, though in many ways I am looking forward to it. Not sure how a return to work, will impact on my reading and blogging but there is bound to be a drop off – so my intention is to write any blog posts at the weekends and schedule them for the following week. That rather depends on my being organised at the weekends and getting down to doing it – so we shall see.

August was a pretty good reading month – juggling things for both #witmonth and All Virago All August – I got through some excellent books, though ended the month on a rare dnf – more of that later. The first three of my #Witmonth reads were actually read in July so I had time to write about them for August – my final tally for #witmonth six books – my final tally for August nine and a half.

The first book of the month however wasn’t for either of those challenges – how easily do we become distracted? Miss Benson’s Beetle is the latest novel from Rachel Joyce. I have enjoyed the other books I have read by her – though they can get a bit sentimental, this one has a darker edge, and is a wonderful story of female friendship, adventure and following one’s dreams. I gulped it down in no time. Definitely my favourite by her to date.

Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen translated from Hebrew by Sonra Silverston. The novel examines morals and responsibilities in the aftermath of a hit and run on a deserted road. I thought this was an even better novel than Liar, which I read last year. There’s an almost thriller like nature to the storytelling which makes this a pacey and gripping read from page one.

The Listener by Tove Jansson translated from Swedish by Thomas Teal is a delicate collection of short stories – some very short. Jansson’s clear, crisp prose, clear vision and her delicate philosophy was a delight to dip in and out of. Jansson’s stories portray a city ravaged by storms, the beauty of the start of spring, childhood, old age and love. Artists feature throughout and as ever her own artist’s eye is evident.

The Mystery of the Peacock’s Eye by Brian Flynn and reissued along with quite a number of other Flynn novels by Dean Street Press is a very clever mystery with a brilliant denouement that I hadn’t seen coming. For me it lacked a little in the character development and description that I so enjoy when reading – but I shall still probably read him again.

For All Virago All August The Last of Summer by Kate O’Brien a lovely, slow thoughtful read – rather perfect for summer days in fact. We find ourselves in a small town in Ireland in the last few weeks in the summer of 1939 before hostilities break out between Britain and Germany. Angèle, a young French actress, had been travelling in Ireland with friends when she decide to cut them loose and go instead to the family home of her dead father. Her arrival is unexpected and disruptive.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder was one of the books on the International Booker shortlist – the third of them I had read. I thoroughly enjoyed this poignant dystopia of memory and loss – it was definitely the one I was hoping would win – we now know it didn’t. Our unnamed narrator is a young novelist on an unnamed island where things have bit by bit begun to disappear, sometimes people disappear too, like her mother. Random objects no longer exist – hats, ribbons, birds, roses – have disappeared from this world as have many other things. When something disappears it simply has no meaning for the people of the island and can be disposed of easily and unemotionally, burnt or handed over to the memory police. This has made me want to read more by this author.

I had never read a Josephine Tey novel until a friend gave me an old copy of Miss Pym Disposes a couple of weeks ago and I decided to read it straight away. My review is written and will pop up later this week. It was exactly the kind of mystery I like – a mystery which has so much more about it than just the mystery. Written in the 1940s and set in a women’s Physical education college – Tey wonderfully recreates the small and not so small tensions, petty jealousies, and anxieties of a group of young women on the brink of graduating.

Lovely Virago sent me a copy of Growing Up by Angela Thirkell – and despite my often talked about issues with her – it being All Virago All August after all – decided to give her yet another go. I was less upset with Thirkell in this novel than in some others – and I must admit I did enjoy this one – escapist of course and pretty much what I was in the mood for. I shall leave further comment for my review.

Not a VMC of course, Dangerous Ages by Rose Macaulay comes from the British Library Women Writers series – but as a Virago author I claim this for AVAA too. This was a superb read – I have read several novels by Rose Macaulay and recommend her highly. Handheld Press are also publishing a couple of things by her one of which I have ready to dive into soon – such an interesting writer.

All of which brings me sadly to my very rare dnf –The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld translated by Michele Hutchison. This was one of several books I bought for my kindle back in July – I thought it sounded interesting but had read no reviews of it. When I began looking at Goodreads I knew I night have made a mistake. When it won the International Booker prize the other day, I decided to take a deep breath and give it a try. Goodreads reviewers having used phrases like graphic, disturbing, grim, disgusting, animal cruelty etc – made me nervous, I ploughed on, through fifty percent of the novel. It really isn’t for me – and so I set it aside – and I won’t be reviewing it. Rijneveld writes well, very visually – perhaps too visually and I am glad they won and have been recognised but honestly this is not a novel for the faint hearted and I gave it a good try.    

So, I end the month reading Father by Elizabeth von Arnim – another from the lovely women writers series from the British Library. Much more up my ally and so far so lovely. It will probably appear in next month’s round up post as my first book of September.

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August in review

I can’t quite believe August is over, normal life resumes next week and I wonder how ready I am for it.

In my bookish life August became all about summer reading challenges, and in the end, it proved a bit much. I managed to complete my #20booksofsummer just yesterday, having swapped three of my original titles, I also read books for both #witmonth and All Virago/All August (the librarything Virago group event). There was a fair bit of juggling and little spontaneity however, which spoiled things a little for me. In fact, I didn’t read as many #witmonth titles as I would have liked to, as I hadn’t put enough on my 20 books of summer pile.

I started the month reading my September book group book as it fitted in with #Witmonth beautifully. Liar by Aylet Gundar-Goshen was my suggestion and I hope it will give us a lot to talk about. Translated from Hebrew by Sondra Silverston; the novel is about an awkward, unhappy teenage girl, the lie she tells, the nature of lies and how they spread. My first book by this Israeli author, I’m sure it won’t be my last.

A Nail, A Rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe is a lovely little collection of stories by the Belgian writer whose work has been enjoying something of a renaissance recently. Focussing on women’s lives in the period around WW2, a couple of the stories come straight from the author’s experiences.

Another tiny collection of stories Thirteen Months of Sunrise by Sudanese author Rania Mamoun depicts life in modern Sudan. I like to be taught about places completely outside my own experience and this little book definitely did that.

The Harsh Voice by Rebecca West is styled as being four short novels, but it is probably more accurate to call them four long short stories. This VMC was undoubtedly one of my books of the month. Rebecca West’s view of the USA in the 1920s is fascinating – three of the four stories take place in America. The narrative voice throughout is extremely strong – and The Harsh Voice became a book I was sorry to finish.

Butterflies in November by  Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir translated from Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon is a book I got from Liz ages ago and I’m so glad I got around to it this #witmonth. It was a delight – a free spirited woman, whose life it set on an entirely new course, thanks to an Icelandic road trip and deaf-mute four year old. It’s a charming novel full of colourful characters, long empty roads and self-discovery. The ending was rather abrupt I thought – but that is perhaps a small criticism.

A few days before we met, I finally read my book group’s August choice; Educated by Tara Westover. A memoir that has been extraordinarily successful I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me – yet I was captivated by Tara’s story immediately. It’s the extraordinary story of a woman who grew up in a family suspicious of government agencies, preparing for the end of days, never going to school and helping out at her father’s scrap yard. At sixteen Tara started out on a journey to become educated, a journey that would cause conflict with her family and open her eyes to a world she had little idea about.

National Provincial by Lettice Cooper is a big chunk of a Persephone book, and is definitely my book of the month. A must read for those who loved South Riding, it is a novel of politics, social class and subtle feminism in 1930s Yorkshire.

Table Two by Marjorie Wilenski, from Dean Street Press, is a novel set in an office of translators during WW2. The world of the office is faithfully reproduced here, with all its petty jealousies and daily routines. In some ways not a huge amount happens, and yet Table Two is hugely readable.

For Robertson Davies reading week I read Leaven of Malice – the second book in the Salterton trilogy. The story centres around the local newspaper, the Salterton Evening Bellman, the family of Professor Vambrace, young Solly Bridgetower and his mother, members of the congregation of St. Nicholas’ Cathedral and the Dean of that cathedral. Davies writes his characters so well and reproduces the community of Salterton brilliantly, I must not leave it so long before reading book three.

Hetty Dorval by Ethel Wilson is a slight little Persephone book – and a Canadian modern classic. It is the subtle story of a young girl’s growth from innocence to maturity in her experience and view of the titular character. Hetty Dorval is one of two books I still have to review.

I was very lucky to have two lovely editions of The Caravaners by Elizabeth von Arnim to choose from. Handheld Press kindly sent me a copy of their beautiful edition which comes out in a couple of weeks. Elizabeth von Arnim’s voice – her wit – is what I love most about her writing, and that is wonderfully present in this novel. The Caravaners won’t be my favourite von Arnim though, because I found the narrator Baron Otto so irritating, I began to want to get rid of him.

September, I think will all be about finding the right books to counteract everything else that is going on. Current goings on in the UK are making me want to look away, and I really can’t face reading anything too modern or complex. So, although I am not selecting what I will be reading now, I expect it to be mainly middlebrow fiction, Golden age mysteries and perhaps some short stories. I have Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments on pre-order, and I will probably read that right away, but other than that I feel like a whole lot of cosy coming on. Watch this space, I am also in a very fickle reading mood having finally finished #20booksofsummer. I’m currently reading Surfeit of Suspects by George Bellairs, kindly sent to me by the British Library.

What did you read in August that I need to know about? – and what are your plans for September?

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It’s September already – well August always does fly by.

It’s been a lovely summer, but Monday sees a return to work, and a return to less reading time and blogging time. I always take a couple of weeks to settle back into the routine.

I have read a fair bit during August, the number of books is perhaps not much greater than usual, but I feel as if I have read a few fatter books. The Muriel Spark Complete stories of course was in last month’s photo too, I read almost half of it during July, and in August read the second half.

August is both Women in Translation month and All Virago all August, and so I was happily juggling books for both challenges.

Open the Door by Catherine Carswell was my first VMC of the month, I read while I was on a short break in Belgium. Open the Door! Is the story of a young woman’s awakening, her search for love, independence and happiness is brilliantly and compellingly told. Joanna is both trapped and in time released by her large capacity for love.

New Islands by Maria Luisa Bombal is a small collection of stories from the most creative period of the Chilean author. A couple of the stories are rather strange, but I still enjoyed them.

The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers is a novel about a man who escapes from a concentration camp in Germany in the late 1930s. However, it is also about a lot more than that, showing us exactly what life in Germany was like for ordinary people. It seems timely indeed that this German classic has been reissued now.

Sisters by a River was Barbara Comyns first novel, one which gave me a lot to think about, as Comyns light, bright, breezy tone is very deceptive, behind the humour there is a lot that is really rather dark. Comyns wraps that darkness in witty anecdotes, that rather belie some of the content.

The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart is a novel about mothers and daughter and the legacy of slavery, set on the lush island of Guadeloupe. It was chosen by my book group (my suggestion) and we will meet to discuss the week after next.

Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell – is an enjoyable social comedy written in that last year of peace. It was a deliciously witty bit of escapism.

I found David Golder by Irène Némirovsky to be fascinating – it has been viewed as quite a controversial novel – which now having read it I understand. I enjoyed it though, and the novel gave me a lot to think about, Irène Némirovsky was an interesting and complex woman.

My kindle which is peeping out from among the real books above I took on a trip to the Isle of Wight, having been reminded of poor hotel lighting when I was in Belgium. I read The Night Watch by Sarah Waters – a novel of considerably more than 500 pages – it zips along art a cracking pace and is so well written with excellent period detail. I am reminded I must read more by her.

The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim is the follow up to her first novel Elizabeth and her German Garden and is really every bit as wonderful and life affirming.

Love, Anger, Madness by Marie Vieux-Chauvet is a Haitian triptych. Three novellas, which I still have to review, which were powerful, disturbing and quite compelling.

cofI have started reading a book I bought ages ago from a charity shop (I think) called Summers Day by Mary Bell (1951) – a book published by Greyladies. I really could find virtually no information about either the novel or the author (the name being shared by a notorious British child killer). I came across this piece on Furrowed Middlebrow’s site about the author – which interested me.

September is the start of phase 5 of #ReadingMuriel2018 – and I have three Spark novels to read over the next two months. Apart from that I haven’t made any reading plans, although I need to concentrate on my ACOB – I have precisely thirty years to go. I may just do it! Though a couple of recent purchases might distract me from that, two beautiful looking new books that I really want to read.


I read some excellent things in August, and as always would love to hear what you read.

Happy September reading.

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August is over already and I am anticipating going back to work next week. August is usually a pretty good reading month for me, and this August was certainly good, seeing me juggle books for the librarything Virago group’s annual All Virago All August, and Women in Translation month. I didn’t just read for those two challenges though, there were three books not for either challenge.

August began with me reading This Real Night by Rebecca West, sequel to The Fountain overflows. Carrying on the story of the Aubrey family it takes us from before the First World War until the time when that terrible conflict touches them personally.

The Power by Naomi Alderman was my very small book group’s August read, proving hugely popular with the whole group, it gave us a lot to talk about. The novel packs a punch – imaging a world turned on its head – where women have all power.

The Orchid House by Phyllis Shand Allfrey set on the island of Domenica, as the daughters of a privileged white creole family return from America and the UK. The story narrated by Lally the old Dominican nurse who has worked for the family for years.

A World Gone Mad the diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939 – 1945 – the author of the famous Pippi Longstocking stories kept a war journal throughout the war. From her own neutral country of Sweden Astrid Lindgren was able to observe the terrifying situation as it unfolded in the Scandinavian region – as well as keeping a record of the war in Europe as a whole.

One of my favourite reads of the month was Chatterton Square by E H Young, E H Young is one of those Virago authors I particularly love – and Chatterton Square was her final novel. It tells the story of two rather different families living in Upper Radstowe – Young’s fictionalised version of Clifton in Bristol. (In case you missed it I also wrote a short introduction to E H Young here).

As soon as the new novel from Kamila Shamsie arrived I had to start it right away. Home Fire has been longlisted for this year’s Booker prize, and for one will be very disappointed if it doesn’t make the shortlist. It a novel which I think is essential reading for the world we live in, raising so many pertinent issues. It is an extraordinary novel, powerful, perhaps controversial and enormously readable, I urge everyone to read it.

My second read for Women in Translation month was slight little book containing two longish short stories; La Bal and Snow in Autumn by Irene Nemirovsky. These two stories are quite different, one the story of family of nouveau riche and the revenge taken by an unhappy teenage girl on her nasty, selfish mother. The second tale tells the story of a faithful Russian family servant, who in her advancing years follows the family she has served, as they emigrate to Paris.

Another lovely Virago read for AV/AA was Saraband by Eliot Bliss, a beautifully written coming of age story set just before and after the First World War. Thanks to Karen – I have now a copy of Luminous Isle the only other novel published by Eliot Bliss, both novels are said to be highly autobiographical.

Iza’s Ballad by Hungarian writer Magda Szabo, was my third read for Women in Translation month. I read The Door by Magda Szabo this time last year, and had been looking forward to reading more. It tells the poignant story of an elderly mother and her modern city living daughter – and the devastating changes that are brought to her life following the death of her husband.

Stone Mattress nine wicked Tales by Margaret Atwood, was up next (it is one of three books that I still have to review. I love short stories and this collection really is superb.

My very small book group chose The Summer Book by Tove Jansson for our September read, and I decided to pick it up a couple of weeks early. I have reviewed it already because I wanted to get in before the end of Women in Translation month. It proved to be a charming little book, full of wisdom, portraying the relationship between a six-year-old girl and her grandmother during a summer spent on an Island in the Gulf of Finland.

Another collection of short stories came my way with An Unrestored Woman –by Shobha Rao a collection either set during or inspired in some way by the upheaval surrounding Partition in 1947 – with the seventy-year commemorations of Partition having taken place a couple of weeks ago – it felt like a very timely read. It is a powerful collection, and I like the Atwood stories I couldn’t help but gobble it up.

My final read of the month was another Virago book; The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns. It is a brilliant little novel, unusual a little twisted perhaps but I loved it – and I hadn’t been sure that I would.

So three August books still to review – I am sure I shall get around to them soon, work permitting.

Thirteen books read is very good for me these days – and as I head back to work on Monday I can predict that September’s total will be nothing like that. I always struggle with my reading when I get back to work in September. August was an outstanding month quality wise too – Home Fire, Chatterton Square, Stone Mattress and Iza’s Ballad my stand out reads – though it is hard to separate them from the rest.


(Teignmouth seafront from the pier)

cofSo that’s it, Summer is over – as far as I’m concerned, my holiday at the seaside which I came back from last weekend already seems long over. *sigh* (roll on the next holiday). I haven’t made any particular plans for September – except to read pretty much only what I can cope with. The Librarything Virago group’s author of month is Nina Bawden, who many of you will know I like very much, and as I have three or four of her books waiting I am fairly sure to join in. (I failed miserably with Christina Stead in August – she and I are not destined to be friends). I suspect I will be leaning towards easier comfort reads – especially the beginning of the month and I have set aside a couple of Golden age mysteries and an Angela Thirkell in possible preparation as well as a super looking review copy. I am currently reading Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter – which a little over a hundred pages in, I’m enjoying it hugely.

What have you been reading during August? Is there something you feel I must read?

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August in review


I remember summers, when I would read something like fourteen or fifteen books during August, no work, and perhaps less money than I have now, meaning I stayed at home and read and read. This year – with ten and a half books read – I realise I will never get back to those reading rates – I obviously have too many other things in my life now, I think I’m glad to have that balance though. I think I can blame the Olympics a little too – goodness it was so marvellous and I lost hours and hours of my life to it.

August has all been about juggling – I juggled three reading challenges – finishing #20booksofsummer, and reading things for #WITmonth and #Woolfalong. Today 1st September will be all about finishing that orange spine penguin – Recollections of Virginia Woolf – which I have been reading for my #Woolfalong.

August started with a lovely Peirene press book, The Murder of Halland, I enjoyed the taut atmosphere of a novel which is not a traditional crime story despite its title. Read for #WITmonth it reminded me what a superb publisher Peirene are, I do have three others tbr which I must read soon. My second read unfortunately was bit of a duffer – Challenge by Vita Sackville West is fairly unremittingly dull – read for my very small book group – my suggestion – I was the only one of us to read it. The Green Road was the book I was reading when I went away on holiday – I was away ten days, one night in Somerset, seven in Devon, and one night in Cornwall with friends it was a lovely hot, sunny but busy holiday – which went far too fast. I loved The Green Road, and I am determined to read more Enright. The World my Wilderness is a great coming of age type novel, written by a woman I want to know more about and read more by, it recreates the post war period in London and France beautifully. Desperate Characters by Paula Fox was the novel with which I completed my #20booksofsummer, a novel of a complacent New York couple, shaken out of their complacency over one eventful weekend.

As I travelled from Devon to Cornwall for a party, I was reading The Door by Magda Szabo on my Kindle, by the time I finally arrived home late the following day – I had nearly finished – thanks mainly to the hours of travel from Devon to Cornwall and then from Cornwall to Birmingham across one weekend. I remember a nice polite young man on the train, (oh god I sound about 400 years old) asking me what I was reading, and telling me how he got back into reading with the Millennium trilogy. The Door is a wonderful novel, which has stayed with me – well Emerence the central character has stayed with me – and I look forward to reading my other book by Szabo soon. The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau reminded me how I had once been determined to track down all Pamela Frankau books – well I now have two others waiting. It would be hard to sum up that book in a sentence, but it was one of my highlights of the month. The Grand Hotel my third read for #WITmonth was another superb novel – one I had seen lots of love for on other blogs – such an array of fascinating characters against the backdrop of Berlin of the 1920’s I loved every page. Blue Skies and Jack and Jill are two short novels published together in my Virago edition, I had seen fairly low ratings of it on Goodreads, thankfully I didn’t allow it to put me off. I thought the novels, although unusual in tone were very good indeed, Hodgman surprises her readers, which is something I like. With the end of August and the end of phase 4 of #Woolfalong looming I rushed to read two more books – and only managed one and a half. Winifred Holtby’s A Critical Memoir which I still need to review and Recollections of Virginia Woolf edited by Joan Russell Noble, which I hope to finish today.

20160827_211135 (1)September means back to work – I know I shouldn’t complain – but oh my those 6.00 am starts hurt, and I am always shocked by how little reading time I have when I am back in my usual term time routine. I am also busy with a few other things happening – an event I have been helping to organise is just three weeks away – and I will have things to do for that too. So September will be about finding the right books for the right time – some comfort reads perhaps. I am aware that phase 5 of #Woolfalong starts today – non-fiction written by Virginia Woolf. Having now read two non-fiction books in a row – and being famously bad at reading non-fiction it may be a few weeks before I get anything read for #Woolfalong, but I am looking forward to those diaries when the time is right. I am enjoying being able to read whatever I like after finishing #20booksofsummer – although I’m looking forward to #ReadingRhys – I have two Jean Rhys books set aside for that. Phew! All these challenges! 2016-09-01_10.48.05

The other thing about holidays is that being out of my usual routine means I keep publishing blog posts at odd times – I don’t suppose it matters – but a normal-ish service will be resumed soon.

What are you all planning for September? – do tell.

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August in review


A quick little round of my reading month this time, as I am starting to think these round up posts are a bit pointless – and I’m trying to decide if I’ll carry on with them.

I began August with a fairly new publication – The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall a book that imagines the re-introduction of the grey wolf to Britain. Heading off to Devon for a week at the good old English seaside I only packed my kindle, at least then I’m sure of not running out of books. On it –after finishing The Wolf Border – I read Twilight Sleep a jazz age novel by Edith Wharton, The Ice House, a novel of friendship and betrayal by Nina Bawden both for All Virago/All August (thankfully the actual edition is unimportant it just has to have been published by Virago or Persephone in the past). I then got a little fix of golden age crime with Fear Stalks the village by Ethel Lina White, a new to me author. Back to All Virago All August next with a stunning novel from Persephone books – The Happy Tree – which could quite easily make my top books of the year list. Of course August was also Women in Translation month (#WITmonth) and my first of the two books I managed for that was Those who leave and Those who Stay by Elena Ferrante the third book in her acclaimed Neapolitan series. The Ha-Ha by Jennifer Dawson is a classic novel of mental illness, a novel which won the Tait Black memorial prize in 1962. Yet another VMC; The Lying Days by Nadine Gordimer a coming of age novel from South Africa, a beautifully written first novel. I then read The Love-Child by Edith Olivier a very slight little novella, as I don’t have the green VMC edition (yet) I read my lovely Bello books edition, really such a wonderful little book, why I haven’t read it before now is a mystery. I had a brief break from VMC’s with a review copy of Renishaw Hall; the story of the Sitwells by Desmond Seward (I haven’t reviewed this one yet – but will in the next couple of days.) I then read my final VMC of All Virago/All August; The Quest for Christa T. – which I rushed to review before the end of #WITmonth – a complex novel from East Germany, beautifully written, difficult it might be but very impressive. Finally I moved on to The Mill on the Floss a re-read from my Classic Club list that I have been circling for a while – I have read over 400 pages of it – but not quite finished, but I am certainly enjoying it very much, and should finish it by tomorrow.

strangerin the housemy career goes bung

So September is upon us, and this week I will trudge wearily back to work – I am grateful for the long break and shouldn’t moan – but oh my it hurts to go back! So what I choose to read next will need to suit my back to work doldrums. I do have a few potential things lined up though, one of my book clubs will be reading Stranger in the House by Julie summers, while the other will be reading The Big Sleep (not sure if I fancy that or not). The classic Club spun me a number 5 – and number five from my list was My Career goes Bung by Miles Franklin. I should also be getting back to the Forsyte Saga chronicles with the first novel in the third volume; Maid in Waiting. Whatever you’re reading in September I hope it’s a great month for books.

foylesbrumOne bit of other exciting book news here in Birmingham is of course the opening of a new Foyles shop in the Grand Central development above the refurbished New street station. I believe it will open at the end of the month – I will of course be checking it out – merely in the interests of reporting back to you all of course.

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2013-08-25 15.01.05

August has been a wonderful reading time for me. A month with no work, and plenty of reading time – it’s maybe surprising I didn’t read more than I have – but what do the numbers matter? I have worked my way through a lovely bunch of book this month. For a lot of members of the Librarything Virago group, August is all about All Virago/all August. It doesn’t matter if you read the book in a Virago edition – just as long as it has been published by Virago at some point in its history – it was hard choosing which ones to read I have so many TBR. There has also been the #GreeneforGran reading tribute going on during August too – and I read two Graham Greene novels. Here then is the full list. Thirteen books read; one non-fiction, nine for AV/AA and 2 for #GreeneforGran.

81 The Odd Women (1893) George Gissing (F)
82 Good Daughters (1984) Mary Hocking (F)
83 Emma (1815) Jane Austen (F)
84 Breakfast with the Nikolides (1942) Rumer Godden (F)
85 Stamboul Train (1932) Graham Greene (F)
86 The Secret Adversary (1922) Agatha Christie (F)
87 The Judge (1922) Rebecca West (F)
88 The Glimpses of the Moon (1922) Edith Wharton (F)
89 Careless People (2013) Sarah Churchwell (NF)
90 A Few Green Leaves (1980) Barbara Pym (F)
91 Indifferent Heroes (1985) Mary Hocking (F)
92 The Ministry of Fear (1943) Graham Greene (F)
93 The Lost Traveller (1950) Antonia White (F)

The first two books of Mary Hocking’s Fairley family trilogy were a joy, and I know a lot of fellow Viragoites were reading them too – Mary Hocking has turned out to be a wonderful discovery for many of us. Careless People by Sarah Churchwell, was a fascinating and compelling read, a non-fiction book I will keep it has inspired me to re-read/read more by and about F Scott Fitzgerald. Emma was a re-read – and I absolutely loved it – liking the character of Emma herself far more this time than I did when I first read the novel in my late teens or early twenties. The Ministry of Fear was that wonderful thing; an atmospheric bit of escapism. Unfortunately, for me Edith Wharton’s The Glimpses of the Moon was disappointing only a three star read, while The Judge, The Odd Women and The Lost Traveller (review to come) were all fabulous Virago reads.

2013-08-31 16.31.01So on to September. I go back to work on Monday after the summer school holidays. My first read of the month will be Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy for my on-going Hardy reading challenge – now I think Tess was my least favourite Hardy back in the day – but I really think I am more ready for it this time. There are no unpleasant surprises now – I know it all – and can just revel in Hardy’s world and Hardy’s words. I have it in two editions – well three if you count the emergency Hardy collection I have on my kindle (yes I know!) – so I will be reading it in a Wordsworth classics edition when out and about – and in my beautiful hardback Folio edition at home.
I am also planning on re-reading A Room with a view for the classic club spin, and Crampton Hodnet for the Barbara Pym read-a-long. I have also set aside the third novel in the Mary Hocking trilogy and the next book in the Antonia White quartet. I have also set aside a Persephone novel – Housebound, and The Pre-war House by Alison Moore – sent to me by Alex in Leeds. I also have a desire to read Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu and The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen. I have left a couple of fairly huge books off my September pile that I have been wanting to read, because I know I always read a little more slowly when I first get back to school after the holidays, it’s as if I have to re-adjust to my normal routine, the much shorter reading time comes as a shock – and there is so much good telly on in the autumn. Still this pile is one to contemplate with pleasure.

2013-08-31 16.42.09
What will you be reading during September?

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I had originally planned that during August I would be reading just Virago Modern Classics. Needless to say this didn’t happen. I did get distracted by other things – for various reasons. As I work in a school, August is a wonderful time for me – because I just get so much reading time, so I always read far more in August than many other months (April and December are often quite good too). This August has been fabulous – I did read a good number of VMC’s aswell as two Persephone books and three non-fiction. Fifteen book completed and one that I got about half way through and didn’t finish (the first so far this year).

79 In a Summer Season (1961) Elizabeth Taylor (F)
80 Devoted Ladies (1934) Molly Keane (F)
81 Our Spoons Came from Woolworths (1950) Barbara Comyns (F)
– Losing Battles (1970) DNF Eudora Welty (F)
82 Greenbanks (1932) Dorothy Whipple (F)
83 Why be happy when you could be normal (2012) Jeanette Winterson (NF)
84 The Return of the Soldier (1918) Rebecca West (F)
85 Vera (1920) Elizabeth Von Arnim (F)
86 The Maul and the Pear Tree (1971) PD James & TA Critchely (NF)
87 Bliss & other stories (1920) Katherine Mansfield (F)
88 The Soul of Kindness (1964) Elizabeth Taylor (F)
89 The Other Elizabeth Taylor (2009) Nicola Beauman (NF)
90 Devil by the Sea (1976) Nina Bawden (F)
91 William (1925) E H Young (F)
92 The Lighthouse (2012) Alison Moore (F)
93 The New House (1936) Lettice Cooper (F)

I have also read several of the short stories in Virago’s newly published Complete Short Stories.


 This is where I usually pick out 3 or 4 books for special mention. Goodness what to pick this time?I have spent such a lot of time reading and thinking about Elizabeth Taylor this month in preparation for my month of Blog hosting A Soul of Kindness, that these books immediately spring to mind. I just love her work and so enjoyed re-reading that biography.


In addition the books I read while on holiday in my beloved Teignmouth (pictured above) on my kindle were also marvelous – in particular The Return of the soldier by Rebecca West and Vera by Elizabeth Von Arnim.


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August Reads

75 Started Early, took my dog (2010) Kate Atkinson (F)
76 Last Train to Liguria (2009) Christine Dwyer Hickey (F)
77 Howards End is on the landing (2010) Susan Hill (NF)
78 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) Agatha Christie (F)
79 Dark Fire (2007) C J Sansome (F)
80 Mennonite in a little black dress (2011) Rhoda Janzen (NF)
81 The Ballad and the Source (1944) Rosamond Lehmann (F)
82 Blood on the Tongue (2002) Stephen Booth (F)
83 Ella Minnow Pea (2002) Mark Dunn (F)
84 White Ladies (1935) Francis Brett Young (F)
85 The Misses Mallet (1922) E H Young (F)
86 The Game (2004) Laurie R King (F)
87 Three Men in a Boat (1889) Jerome K Jerome (F)

Thirteen books read during August. I have been on holiday from work the whole month and so that is why it is a little higher than usual. 8 of them read on kindle, but only 2 non fiction. I am still not  wanting to read non fiction very much – and when it comes to books – if I really don't fancy reading it – I often don't.

Some excellent reads this month, and also a nice variety. Hard to pick just 3 or 4 for special mention but…

1. Last Train to Liguria – Christine Dwyer Hickey – for sheer readability.

2 The Ballad and the Source – Rosamond Lehmann – I love Rosamond Lehmann and this complex ambitious novel is a work of some brilliance.

3 White Ladies – Francis Brett Young – a fabulous old fashioned read, by a sadly forgotten out of print Black Country author.

4 The Misses Mallet – E H Young – recently discovered this 1920's/1930's author and have become a huge fan.

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