Posts Tagged ‘june reads’

Is it just me or did June just fly by? No sooner did it begin than it was over, the longest day been and gone and the first day of July today.

During June, as in the past few months I have just been reading fiction – though within that there is a range, with a mix of modern, vintage and translated books. Seven books finished and another started – five physical books, two kindle books.  

I began the month reading O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker (1991) a novel that has been receiving a bit of attention from bloggers and readers of late – and it’s easy to see why. It is a darkly, strange coming of age novel set in a draughty Scottish castle. As others have said previously, this is a novel with shades of Dodie Smith, Barbara Comyns and Shirley Jackson. It is a wonderfully imaginative novel, slightly gothic in tone, it is rich in vivid imagery, and beautifully written. The novel looks back on the sad, lonely life of sixteen year old Janet who as the novel opens lies dead at the bottom of the staircase in the castle where she lived. It’s a fantastic novel – I’ve not heard of anyone who doesn’t love it. Funnily enough my book group has chosen this for our August read and it wasn’t even my suggestion.

The Braid by Laetitia Colombani (2017) translated from the French by Louise Rogers Lalaurie was my book group’s selection for this month. The story of three different women, from different countries who each face unique challenges. These women’s lives are destined to be intertwined by a single object. The stories of the three women are told in alternating chapters, taking us from India to Sicily to Canada in the company of three very different but equally determined women.

Apricot Sky by Ruby Ferguson (1952) was a delightful read at the end of my half term holiday. A book that the reader is sad to finish, such is the pleasure of spending time with the characters. Set in the Scottish Highlands three years after the end of the war, featuring a large lovable family, their optimism, love and humour set against the ups and downs of normal (sometimes chaotic) family life is absolutely irresistible. Adventurous children, a little romance visitors, picnics and highland walks are the order of the day here, and though in some ways not a lot happens, it is a joy to read.

The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad (2022) was the second of my two kindle reads. An incredibly impressive debut novel set in Lahore, Dacca and London in the late 1960s and 1970s. Faraz Ali is a police inspector, in late 1960’s Pakistan. In 1968, Faraz has been dispatched to a police station in Lahore’s red light district tasked by his cold, biological father, with whitewashing the murder of a young girl. The child has been killed by a man of great power, though no one seems to know who. Faraz’s return to Lahore’s red light district, to the place where he was taken from his mother as a young child open ups a lot of old wounds for Faraz and impacts the next few years of his life.

His Master’s Voice by Ivy Litvinov (1930) was read for the Librarything monthly themed read – only now I don’t know if it really qualified *sigh* but I tried. My first book by Litvinov, but not my last as I have her collection of short stories tbr. A detective novel set in Moscow, with a beautifully evocative opening, a young ballet dancer from the famous Bolshoi theatre finds herself accused of murder.

Always Gardenia by Betsy Hanson (2018) the author kindly sent me this attractive hardback copy of her self-published novel set in an American university. An enjoyable, wryly humorous novel about academic colleagues, the trivialities in everyday life, coping with the challenges of widowhood and the complex relationships between mothers and sons. There are also a couple of lovely little dachshunds.

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak (2021) only my third novel by this writer but she is clearly an exceptional writer. While this didn’t quite reach the heights of utter perfection that 10 minutes, 38 seconds in this Strange World did, it didn’t fall far short. Moving between 1970s Cyprus and modern day England, this novel explores the terrible realities of the conflict that divided the island in two. Part of the novel is narrated by a fig tree – I came to love that tree – I have always had a thing about trees, and I knew I was right, they are pretty special. Still thinking about this one.

As July begins I am reading the book I began on June 28th – it will go into July’s final total. It is an old original green vmc Women Against Men by Storm Jameson first published in 1933. It is three novellas in one volume telling the stories of three women and their relationships with men. I have started the second novella now and again I’m enjoying Jameson’s writing very much.

In July my book group will be reading Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns, one of my favourite writers, it was of course my suggestion. This is both exciting and nerve wracking, but gives me the excuse to re-read the novel which first introduced me to Comyns in 2012. That will doubtless be my next read. The Librarything virago group are reading Irish writers of VMCs – and I have a few Kate O’Brien and a Mary Lavin at least – but I will see what my mood dictates and act accordingly. So it could end up being a fairly VMC inspired month of reading, except I am reading quite fickly these days.

What brilliant things did you read in June and what’s on your tbr for July? I always like to know 😊

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In some ways June has felt really long, and in other ways it has flown. I started the month in hospital – as some of you know. Eight days in hospital isn’t much fun, so I was grateful for my kindle – which really proved invaluable. I am a lot better than I was, still receiving treatment from district nurses and I won’t be back to work until September. Therefore, I have had a pretty good reading month. I didn’t get chance to do a round up post for May as I went into hospital on the 31st when I would have usually been writing the post – and after I got out it seemed a bit redundant. In May though I only read seven books, a little below my average – but June I made up for it a little by reading twelve (and a bit). Needless to say, four of these books still need to be reviewed – all in good time.

Tension (1920) by E M Delafield was first, the last of that gorgeous women writers series from the British Library I had left to read. A brilliant exploration of the effects on someone’s reputation of persistent gossip. Delafield also gives us a brilliant monstrous character in the form of Lady Rossiter.

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine (2010) by Alina Bronsky translated by Tim Mohr was the first of four books in a row I read on my kindle. I find I read quicker on my kindle – also I was stuck in a hospital bed, so I did read quite quickly that week. I enjoyed Bronksy’s unique, quirky storytelling and her use of an unforgettable, unreliable narrator.

The Late Mrs Prioleau (1946) by Monica Tindall was another good read from Dean Street Press. Monica Tindall does an excellent job of very gradually building up a picture of the titular character – who we first encounter in her coffin on the day of her funeral – as does her new daughter-in-law Susan, our narrator.

Small Pleasures (2020) Clare Chambers – a book that has been pretty hyped but is probably deserving of the fuss. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Set in the 1950s a local newspaper reporter nearing middle age investigates a woman’s claim her daughter was the result of a virgin birth, and in the process becomes drawn to the family and in particular her new friend’s husband.

A Crime in the Neighborhood (1997) Suzanne Berne, won the Women’s Prize (orange prize as was) back in 1999. In this novel we see the world through the eyes of nine year old Marsha. The novel captures a time and place to absolute perfection – the stifling heat of a hot summer, the dizzying uncertainties of childhood. As an adult, Marsha can look back upon that summer of 1972 as a time when a terrible crime rocked the suburb where she lived, and how it seemed to be intertwined with the upheavals going on within her own family.

My next read was I Am Not Your Baby Mother (2020) by Candice Braithwaite for my book group. A fascinating examination of black motherhood and in particular the way it is perceived by both the media and by white people – especially I’m afraid those working in the medical industry. I found it hugely readable and quite an eye opener.

The Lamplighters (2021) by Emma Stonex was a lovely birthday gift from my friend Meg. She knows I love a lighthouse and the cover is a beauty. A really compelling read with some lovely descriptions of the sea and its incredible power, not to mention all those details of lighthouse living.

Gather Together in My Name (1974) by Maya Angelou – is the second volume in her autobiography. I am reading them alongside Liz and our friend Meg. A slimmer book than volume one, but every bit as engaging. The more I learn about this woman the more I love her.

Love in Winter (1935) by Storm Jameson is also a second instalment – in this case the second book in a trilogy. The Mirror in Darkness trilogy begins with Company Parade which I read seven years ago. This is a slower type of read, a more complex kind of novel, in which not a huge amount happens despite the 400 odd pages. I really enjoyed it and I hope I won’t wait seven years to read the third book – which I have had tbr for years.

The Winterlings (2014) by Cristina Sánchez-Andrade translated from Spanish by Samuel Rutter. July is Spanish lit month and I wanted to make sure I read at least a couple of things. Knowing that I usually review a week or two after I have read the book – I decided to get one in early. I have had this quirky novel tbr for a couple of years, it is rather unusual but I really enjoyed it.

English Climate: Wartime Stories (2020) by Sylvia Townsend Warner – I have already reviewed this, as it is Sylvia Townsend Warner reading week this week. A wonderful collection of wartime stories written between 1940 and 1946 by an author I find fascinating.

Birds in Tiny Cages (1964) by Barbara Comyns. I was so pleased to find this facsimile edition online several months ago and have been saving the pleasure of reading it. It may not be quite classic Comyns, but there is lots of little Comyns touches throughout and I really enjoyed it. Admittedly, I may not be very objective when it comes to Barbara Comyns. Also, queue excitement – I ordered a copy of Out of the Red into the Blue a couple of days ago – I had almost given up hope of finding a copy. I won’t really believe it’s the right book until it arrives. But that will complete my Comyns collection – not all the same edition though of course.

So, on to July, and as I mentioned above it is Spanish lit month – and I am currently reading Holiday Heart by Columbian author Margarita Garcia Robayo. My book group have chosen (at my suggestion) 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak. Other than that, I shall probably wait to see where my mood takes me.

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July! I can’t quite believe that it’s July already, for me the year is speeding along like a runaway train, perhaps for others it’s dragging. While others are starting to venture out into the world again, I am still shielding – till August. I am doing some work from home too. The danger of course that this has all started to feel quite normal.

June was the first month since lockdown – and possibly this year when I feel as if I have started to read a little more. I’m about fifty pages shy of having read twelve books in June – two of them secreted away on my kindle. I have also read a little more widely and diversely this month, with a couple of non-fiction (although they weren’t what I think of as proper non-fiction) and a couple of novels in translation and some new fiction.

I began June with A World of Love by Elizabeth Bowen, a lovely first edition I bought with birthday money from ebay – it was quite reasonable and in very good condition. It was also the last of her novels I had to read. It is a novel of great subtlety, focussing on the lives of a group of people in a large house in Ireland.

Following a conversation with Karen from Kaggsy’s bookish ramblings during our weekly lockdown Zoom call I picked up The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin. I gulped it down, I thoroughly enjoyed the subtlety of this one, the fact it wasn’t too heavy on the action, is why I especially liked it. Fremlin is an excellent writer of suspense fiction, in which she weaves a psychological mystery around a domestic setting.

Journal by Katherine Mansfield was the first of those non-fiction books I read. I have struggled more than usual to read non-fiction – so this seemed a good one to try, as journals, biography, memoirs are more narrative driven than other kinds of non-fiction. I did enjoy this book – perhaps my review made it sound like I didn’t – but I was definitely not in the right mood after all – and that spoiled my experience of it. Katherine Mansfield remains a big favourite with me though. There are many beautiful moments throughout however, and the reader does get a real sense of who Katherine Mansfield was.

Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley is a late Victorian novel that is satisfyingly many things at once. A novel of what was then termed ‘the New Woman’ while also having something of the sensation novel about it. It is a novel that satirises the smug, complacency of the middle classes and some aspects of the clergy – demonstrating how women needed independence. Here is a story of a close female friendship, romance, adultery, a suicide pact and the search for fulfilment. It zips along at a marvellous pace, becoming hard to put down. 

There has been a lot of talk on social media about The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet (which I read on kindle.) Very recently published I think it deserves all the attention it is getting. The Vanishing Half is a brilliantly compelling read – it’s a story of race, of colour, exploring the American history of ‘passing.’ It is also a story of belonging – of finding your place in the world.

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi is the first book in translation I had read for about three months. Winner of the Man Booker International prize 2019, it is a novel of Omani society through the lives, loves and losses of one family. It has really whetted my appetite for more in translation, and since reading it I have pulled two more books in translation from the shelves.

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols is technically non-fiction but as I said not what I think of proper non-fiction. This is the first book in Beverley Nichols’ second garden trilogy. After the Second World War Beverley Nichols decided he wished to buy a large country house with extensive gardens. Early in the book Nichols finds his perfect house, a large Georgian house in five acres of grounds. It is delightful and thoroughly entertaining.

Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall had me going off and researching a little about the author – who I knew nothing about. I definitely now want to read more by her. It is a coming of age story; Selina Boyce is the younger daughter of Barbadian immigrants living in Brooklyn, New York during the Depression and Second World War. It is very evocative of a time and place and of a community. Marshall shows us with some poignancy what it was to grow up black and female. 

In the mood for some short stories, and with plenty to choose from I picked up Cocktail Bar by Norah Hoult which I first saw reviewed by Cathy at 746 books during read Ireland month. It is a wonderful collection, which I will review soon. I discovered, what a prolific writer Norah Hoult was, and I am pleased that New Island books have re-issued this collection and one of Hoult’s novels. Many of you will be familiar with her novel There Were No Windows published by Persephone books.

My second novel in translation read in June was After the Death of Ellen Keldberg by Eddie Thomas Petersen published by Handheld Press. A modern Danish novel which I must say I enjoyed a lot – it is set in Skagen a seaside fishing town in winter. Not wanting to pre-empt my review too much but I found it quirky, atmospheric and very compelling.

Dean street press books do make for great weekend reading I find. Not at Home by Doris Langley Moore (another kindle read) was no exception. A novel of domestic disharmony set just after the end of WW2 – there is a character I loathed so much – but quite enjoyed loathing and I longed to see what would happen to her.

At the time of writing I am close to the end of The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara is an Argentinian novel shortlisted for this year’s International Booker prize, that I am reading for Spanishlit month (which seems to be July and part of August).

Gosh this post is already rather long – so I will just say that my plans for July include at least one more book for Spanishlit month and my book group read of Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles. Other than that, I shall see where my mood takes me.

Happy reading everyone – tell me what brilliant things did you read in June?

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I’m a little late with my round up post this time, a lovely, sociable weekend away with friends means I didn’t get chance to do it before now.

As far as my June reading goes, it was a little below par, three of the books I read were rather underwhelming – although I have managed to read nine books and eight of them were for my #20booksofsummer.

BLCC mysteries are good escapist reads, and Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert made for a good start to the month. A World War Two mystery set in an Italian prisoner of war camp. An unpopular prisoner is found dead in the most successful of the camp’s escape tunnel.

My first book from my 20booksofsummer pile was Transcription by Kate Atkinson which I read for my book group. It was a book that should have ticked a lot of boxes for me – and yet it fell rather short.

Farewell, My Orange by Iwaki Kei on the other hand was wonderful. A review copy I had had tbr for ages it was a little gem. A novella set in Australia it tells the story of two women, immigrants to the country. They meet at an ESL class, and over time they bond through a language that belongs to neither of them, forming a lasting friendship.

Another lovely review book was Life in Translation by Anthony Ferner an excellent novel about the trials and tribulations of a group of translators. It’s a well written intelligent novel set in Lima, Paris and London.  

My favourite read of the month was undoubtedly A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore, an absolutely stunning novel – I was rather sorry to finish it. It tells the story of siblings Catherine and Rob in the years before the First World War. Abandoned by their parents they live in their grandfather’s house – and over the years their sibling love enters forbidden territory. There is a poetry in Dunmore’s writing that I absolutely loved – it is always a pleasure to read such exquisite writing.  It also ticked off a title on my Women’s prize list.

Unfortunately, The Stranger from the Sea by Paul Binding was another book which I had expected more of. Set on the Kent coast in the 1880s, it is a reimagining of the characters from Ibsen’s play The Lady from the Sea. Personally, I thought it might have been improved from being shorter.

Full House by Molly Keane was a breathe of fresh air after the previous book, I always like a Molly Keane novel – she is quite underrated as a writer, I think. She writes complex families so well and her writing is full of wonderful descriptions. In Full House an eldest son returns home after a nervous breakdown and the secrets and frailties of a family are gradually revealed.

The Furrowed Middlebrow imprint from Dean street Press has become yet another firm favourite with me. Henry by Elizabeth Eliot didn’t disappoint, the likeable narrator Anne Palliser relates her own story and that of her elder brother Henry, an irresponsible charmer who decides one day to open a maternity home.

I was tempted to buy Tangerine by Christine Mangan because of the setting and period – I should have known it probably wasn’t my kind of book. I generally don’t like modern psychological thrillers – and though this was much better than some (of the few I have read) I wasn’t completely enamoured. Review to come in a few days.

I am now taking a quick break from my #20booksofsummer list to read my next book group book – An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – which will tick off another book on my Women’s Prize list.

After that it is back to my summer reading list – which I am doing ok with so far. I tend to get distracted from these lists right at the end and I realise I have foolishly put a lot of modern novels on to my list – which might have been a mistake – I usually like to spread them out a bit more than this. I might have to read the VMCs and Persephone I was supposed to save till the beginning of August for the LT All Virago/All August a little early.

I would love to know what you’ve been reading lately and what plans you have for July. As always, whatever you’re reading in July I hope you enjoy it.

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The second half of June has seen us in the UK bathed in glorious sunshine, our gardens are wilting, and temperatures are reaching over 30˚C somewhere in the UK every day. Hose pipe bans are being talked about already and there are wildfires raging on some of our moorland. Not much fun working in a building built before air con was ever dreamed of and not many windows that open – but once I’m home; I am managing to enjoy at least half an hour reading in my garden which is bliss. (oh and the dodgy looking fence in the picture was finally replaced yesterday – hooray!)

Eleven books read during June, two of them on the kindle.


June started with two Persephone books back to back – though I reviewed them out of order I think. The Carlyles at Home (1965) by Thea Holme portrays the home life of writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle and his wife, during the thirty odd years they lived at Cheyne Row in Chelsea. Thea Holme; the author, wrote it while she and her husband were living in the house as custodians.

Young Anne (1927) by Dorothy Whipple – was just a joy, the final book of hers left to be reissued by Persephone books, it was actually her debut. I loved every word.

I was already part way through The Collected Stories of Grace Paley (1994) I had read about seventy pages of it during May but carried on dipping in and out of it while I read those Persephone books. I am a big fan of short stories, and I enjoyed this collection though I’m not sure if I Paley’s style was completely to my taste. I was impressed though, with her ability to bring the New York neighbourhoods she knew so well to such vibrant life.

The Takeover (1976) by Muriel Spark for the 70s phase of #ReadingMuriel2018 – set in Italy it is a story of corruption and money as a rich American woman tries to get her villa back from the Englishman who has laid claim to it.

Joanna Godden (1921) by Sheila Kaye-Smith was such a lovely read, it was a pleasure spending time on the Sussex marshes with Joanna in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. Joanna is a gloriously unforgettable country heroine.

My first ever grown up A A Milne book Four Days’ Wonder (1933) was a big success, light, bright breezy fun, I really can’t wait to read more by him.

The Chilli Bean Paste Clan (2013) was my sixth book with the Asymptote book club. I am quietly impressed with myself for reading them within a few weeks of their arrival and not allowing a pile of them to just collect on the bookcase. The story of a family in a fiction town in Western China it isn’t my favourite of the Asymptote books – but I am glad to have read it.

Old Baggage (2018) by Lisa Evans is a prequel to her 2014 novel Crooked Heart which I enjoyed so much, I was offered a review copy of Old Baggage. I had meant to read it in time for its UK publication, but didn’t quite manage that. My review should be up in a couple of days all being well.

I read Who Calls the Tune (1953) by Nina Bawden on my Kindle – her first novel – I can’t say I expected much from it, I tend to find her later novels are better. But I really enjoyed this mystery style novel – the ending of which I did sort of guess. An entertaining quick read all in all.

Eliza for Common (1928) by O Douglas. I was fortunate recently to be able to buy a few books from someone in a booky FB group – two of the books I bought were these smaller style hardbacks of O Douglas. I was afraid the print would be very small – but in fact it wasn’t too bad. This is the story of a Scottish minister’s family in Glasgow, the eldest son, Eliza’s adored brother goes off to Oxford, later writing a play, that is something of a success. Eliza stays at home, nurses her mother though an illness, visits her brother in Oxford. It is the kind of novel where not a huge amount happens, I very much enjoyed it.

I finished the month by squeezing in Not to Disturb (1971) by Muriel Spark, again on my kindle – for #ReadingMuriel2018 – I was so sleepy last night I did have to finish the last bit this morning, despite it being a very slight 96 pages. Still most of it was read in June – just.

A good reading month all in all with Young Anne and Joanna Godden my reading highlights.

the war on women

On to July – I am dipping in and out of The War on Women by Sue Lloyd-Roberts for my very small book group – we meet a week on Wednesday and I have already read three chapters, so I should make it. I am also just about to start reading The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam one of those gap fillers I bought for ACOB. I will probably be dipping into the Collected Stories of Muriel Spark too – although I really don’t think I will be able to get through the entire collection, too busy reading for ACOB! Aside from those, I will wait to see where my mood and my A Century of Books takes me.

What did you read in June that I need to know about? What are you reading now?

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June saw me returning to work after four weeks off sick during May, this is certainly reflected in the amount of reading I have done, I have been so tired! Anyway, I completed eight books, and although I have started another, my tiredness the last two days has meant I haven’t been able to get very far with it. I am indulging in a very lazy weekend – hoping to get quite a bit of reading done.

I rarely post anything personal – in fact I am a little nervous of doing so – but I just wanted to mention that this week I was finally diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I don’t want to make a big thing about it – other people are living with far worse things – but it is changing some of the things I do. The diagnosis wasn’t unexpected – I knew that was the most likely explanation for my symptoms and at least now I have begun treatment. Like with many conditions I suppose I can expect good days and bad, and so this may be reflected in the amount I post here and the regularity of those posts. I try to post twice a week or more – and intend to stick to that as much as I can, but if I go a little quieter – or my reviews seem shorter – it might just be because I have had a bad week. The majority of my energy must naturally go into my job.

Ok, back to books. I started June in the company of Anita Brookner – and I enjoyed it enormously. I have often said how I couldn’t read several Brookner novels in a row, but I really shouldn’t leave it so long next time. Family and Friends opens with a wedding photograph, a group of family and friends in the 1920s, Sophia Dorn – always called by the diminutive Sofka – her eldest son; Frederick, the pride and joy, her daughters; Mimi and Betty all in white, while Alfred the youngest and favourite sat crossed legged at the front with assorted other children. This wedding photo and the ones which follow later in the novel form a frame for telling the stories of these family members and their hangers on. The final photograph coming on the last page – it is the last one in the album we are told by the unnamed narrator.

Photography featured in my second read of June, and was the only one which slightly underwhelmed me – and I’m still not sure why. Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neills Hotel by William Trevor was short listed for the Booker prize in 1970, and tells the story of the inhabitants of the eponymous hotel, which are gradually revealed by the interfering Ivy Eckdorf, a photographer. Ivy Eckdorf is a producer of large coffee table books – in which she has explored the desperate lives of communities in a variety of locations around the world. She had heard about O’Neill’s Hotel in Dublin from a barman – he had described the inhabitants, the hotel’s faded glories, and it had fired her imagination.

The Virago group on Librarything chose Canadian author Margaret Laurence for June, and The Stone Angel was one of two Laurence books I read in June (and I have bought a third). Oh, what joy to discover a new author. The Stone Angel is a simply wonderful novel, Margaret Laurence explores the life of one woman, Hagar Shipley, moving back and forth through different periods of her life. As the novel opens we get a snapshot of Hagar’s childhood, as aged ninety Hagar begins to reflect on her past.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy – has certainly divided opinion since it was published. I’m not going to pretend it is an easy read, I can understand people getting lost in the middle – but even those complicated political bits fascinated me. I loved it – and the characters have stayed with me since I finished it. It starts with Anjum – born Aftab – part of Old Delhi’s Hijra community – a community which has existed since long before the more accepted term of transgender came into use. Born with both male and female genitalia, Anjum leaves her family and finds a home of sorts with the Hijra community. She longs for motherhood, her desire driving everything she does. Later Anjum takes up residence in a graveyard, where surrounded by the dead she builds a makeshift shelter – which over time becomes the Jannat Guest house – home to other waifs and strays. Anjum is a fabulous character.

I was a bit late posting for Margaret Kennedy day but I really enjoyed The Forgotten Smile. The Forgotten Smile is a later Margaret Kennedy novel – one offering the reader a wonderful escape to another world. The majority of the novel takes place on Keritha, a tiny Greek Island, largely forgotten by the rest of the world. A place of Pagan mysticism and legend, where the cruise ships don’t stop and aren’t really welcome. It’s a place out of step with the modern world and is perfect for an escape.

The Devastating Boys by Elizabeth Taylor is possibly her best collection of short stories, each of the eleven stories is quite perfect. On of things that Elizabeth Taylor can do in her short stories is to have her characters step fully formed from the pages, and the reader is immediately involved in their lives. These stories take place both at home and abroad, and concern a variety of types. We have remembrances of childhood holidays and the infatuations they bring. Loneliness and humour sit side by side throughout this delicious collection.

I do love an Agatha Christie – whether it is a re-read or one I haven’t read before (there are some), I always enjoy settling in with one. The Clocks is one I couldn’t remember if I had read or not, firmly rooted in the 1960s Poirot who only makes a couple of brief appearances is really getting on a bit.

My last book of June was my second Margaret Laurence novel, A Jest of God – a review next week – but it was another big hit with me.

I have now started read A Lady and her Husband by Amber Reeves a lovely Persephone book, I have read about 100 pages so far and I love it.

I don’t have many plans for July – other than Save me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald which was chosen by my very small book group, I am looking forward to that. The Librarything Virago group has chosen Rumer Godden for July – a fantastic choice and I have a couple waiting to read – so shall almost certainly join in with that.


What are your reading plans for July – read anything in June I need to know about? Let me know.

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So it’s the 1st of July, although it doesn’t feel like it, here, in fact as I write I’m contemplating an actual bubble bath later.

June saw the start of #20booksofsummer hosted by Cathy – sticking to the list is the challenge for me, and I have done ok so far. June got off to a good start reading wise, I fairly flew through my first four or five books. Then, predictably things slowed down, and last week was a particularly slow reading week. I did read some wonderful books though, and that is the main thing. Posting this round up later than usual – so racing through it a bit.

I began June reading a wonderful Persephone book which I had managed to overlook for years, Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan, it could easily make it on to a list of favourite Persephone books were I to compile one. Monday or Tuesday is a slim volume of stories by Virginia Woolf, which I read for phase three of #Woolfalong. Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh was a birthday gift from a friend, it’s a really good read, filled with bee culture it’s a story of the lies of omission, the past and friendship. Beryl Bainbridge reading week saw lots of bloggers reading and writing about the author who died in 2010. I read A Quiet Life and A Weekend with Claude, I enjoyed both of them very much, A Quiet Life is a more domestic type of novel, while A Weekend with Claude concerns the relationships between a peculiar bunch of characters during the weekend of the title, it reminded me a little of Iris Murdoch. I had been looking forward to reading Fingers in the Sparkle Jar for weeks, a I finally slotted it in between the two Bainbridge novels. It is a stunning coming of age memoir, superbly written, it is a must for fans of TV naturalist Chris Packham. I was several days late for Margaret Kennedy day, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading Troy Chimneys her unusual historical novel, which won the James Tait Black memorial prize. Up next was another collection of short stories, A Dedicated Man by Elizabeth Taylor, a wonderful collection by one of my favourite writers, her short stories are really a must if you’ve not read any. My final read for the month was Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin, a review should be up in a few days, I seem to be blogging slowly too just at the moment, so bear with me.

So I read exactly nine books during June, all off my #20booksofsummer pile. I’m quite pleased with myself.

IMG_20160630_212352Now I will take a short break from the pile to read this gorgeous looking review copy which only arrived the day before yesterday. Another collection of short stories, the cover art blew me away, and when I opened it up and skimmed the first page I was smitten. I hope the rest is as wonderful as it promises to be. Rosy Thornton is an author new to me, but she has apparently written several other books – if anyone can point me in the direction of other Rosy Thornton books I should read, I would love to know.

July is the start of #Woolfalong phase 4 – check out my #Woolfalong page if you need a reminder of the schedule. I was planning to read Flush and to re-read Nigel Nicolson’s biography, but I appear to have just ordered Winifred Holtby’s critical memoir – which I might read instead or maybe even as well. I also have to read the early nineteenth century novel Zofloya by Charlotte Dacre for my very small book group, which has been postponed so I have an extra week to get to it, but I’m not sure I am looking forward to it.


So what will you all be reading in July? as ever I’d love to know.

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June began with Mary Hocking reading week; I had already read one book the last week of May, so I kicked June off with the second of my two Hocking reads The Hopeful Traveller, a sequel to A Time of War. It was so lovely to stay with the characters I had just spent time with in the previous novel. Mary Hocking week was a great success from my point of view, I so loved seeing everyone’s posts and chatter about it. From one reading event to the next with Summer will Show for Sylvia Townsend Reading month. That was a big complex novel set during the French Revolution of 1848. Next I finished All Day Long by Joanna Biggs – which, I began reading during May, a fascinating portrait of Britain at work in the twenty-first century, set against a backdrop of the economic downturn. After which I got down to The Silver Spoon (and two short interludes) for my Forsyte saga reading, I gobbled them up, as I seem to have done with all the Forsyte books once I have picked them up. I have though, abandoned my chunky big paperbacks in favour of my kindle, and will continue to read my Forsyte books on it as the print size is much more comfortable. A Persephone book is always a treat to read, and Heat Lightning was a lovely book, a slow, thoughtful read, peopled with believable, complex characters, the quiet drama unfolding over one, hot sultry week. Mr Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell, a book so full of charm it can’t help but be a huge hit with anyone who loved Cranford. It is in fact referred to as the prequel to Cranford, despite being set in a different place. Circles of Deceit by Nina Bawden, is a novel of family fractures, a theme Bawden always wrote about so well, I always enjoy her writing, and this novel is particularly astute. Watership Down was read for a book group, though unfortunately I missed the actual meeting through work related exhaustion. On Sunday I finished Road Ends by Mary Lawson, a lovely novel set in Canada and London, by the author of The Other side of the Bridge (review to come) in which she has created another memorable family. I have finished the month reading Elizabeth and her German Garden (for book group 2), a book I am very overdue in reading. At the time of writing, I am still reading that and naturally liking it very much. So as well as the end of June, that all also brings me to the end of my list for #20booksofsummer part 1.


For #20booksofsummer part 2 I have decided (possibly foolishly) to go for broke and choose all remaining twelve books.


The more observant among you will notice there are not twelve books in the obligatory book pile photograph. Three of my chosen titles are on my kindle, and one book is not out yet – I await its arrival with baited breath. The majority of the titles on the pile, that I don’t have to read for book groups, are books that I have had tbr for ages. I very strongly resisted the urge to read the books I have bought very recently. I now feel quite excited about reading books I had almost forgotten I had got.
So on #20booksofsummer list part 2 are:

Swan Song – by John Galsworthy
The Hundred Foot Journey – by Richard C Morais – for book group 1
Stranger in the House – by Julie Summers for book group 2 (non-fiction, stories of the men returning from Second World War)
Go Set a Watchman – by Harper Lee (on pre-order it should arrive the middle of July)
Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie
The Mill on the Floss – by George Eliot (a re-read)
The Rising Tide – by Molly Keane
The Bay of Angels – by Anita Brookner
The Hopkins Manuscript by R C Sherriff – it was a review from Karen that made me really want to read this and I have now had it ages.
West with the Night – by Beryl Markham (non-fiction and another re-read)
Holiday – by Stanley Middleton – a booker winner from 1974
The Lying Days by Nadine Gordimer – just a book I have been meaning to read for such a long time.

So there they are – I doubt I will finish all of them in July – though I should get most of the way through them, and with the long school summer holidays beginning for me on July 17th I may read a little more than I have been (my total for the year so far very much lower than the last few years I am sad to say). Now all I have to do is just make sure I don’t get distracted from this lovely pile of books (which is always the danger of making book piles).

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June has turned out to be quite a fairly successful reading month for me; I managed to read a bit more this month than last, – taking twelve books off my tbr. Of course June has been Mary Hocking month for me – and I think one or two other people have also been reading her – including some of my lovely friends from the LibraryThing Virago group. I actually managed four Hockings – and so enjoyed them. I have another two sitting here tbr – after an impromptu visit to ebay. I do so enjoy her world, recognisably English and firmly rooted in the times they were written, be it the 70’s 80’s or 90’s; with storylines featuring Greenham common protestors, Irish troubles, homelessness and child protection. I would so like to see her books being re-issued, I am sure there must be a lot of out of print authors who would deserve to be re-issued, how one goes about raising the profile of such authors with publishers I have no idea. However one result of her books being out of print is that I have been acquiring some rather nice old ex-library copies. It might sound strange but I do rather love them, wondering who has had them before me, and where they might have been.









Beauty is a sleeping Cat – reviewed The Very Dead of Winter – a novel I read and very much enjoyed in December, and I know Liz is reading Good Daughters and will review it soon.

Aside from those lovely Mary Hocking books my other stand out reads for June were:
Brook Evans by Susan Glaspell – a wonderfully poignant Persephone book
Drawn from Memory – the first volume of memoir by Winnie the Pooh illustrator E H Shepard
Beyond the Glass by Antonia White – the fourth book in her famous quartet of novels.
So this is my complete June list – a review of By a Slow River will be along in due course.

52 Letters from Constance (1991) Mary Hocking (F)
53 The Kindly Ones (1962) Anthony Powell (F)
54 The Last Kings of Sark (2013) Rosa Rankin-Gee (F)
55 The Meeting Place (1996) Mary Hocking (F)
56 Beyond the Glass (1954) Antonia White (F)
57 A Song for Issy Bradley (2014) Carys Bray (F)
58 Brook Evans (1928) Susan Glaspell (F)
59 An Irrelevant Woman (1987) Mary Hocking (F)
60 Drawn from memory (1957) E H Shepard (NF)
61 Look, Stranger (1978) Mary Hocking (F)
62 The War Workers (1918) E M Delafield (F)
63 By a Slow River (2003) Phillippe Claudel (F)

I have no exact plans for July – which feels wonderful – I am going to read just exactly what I want. Although saying that I do intend to read one or two more Great War theme books and I have now started my next Anthony Powell – but after that I’m going with the flow.
So what will you be reading in July – any special plans?

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IMAG0229Pictured: walking through a field of oil seed rape on a rare beautiful day at the end of May.

I read ten books during June, a great mix, which found me deviating slightly from the pile of books I put together at the end of May. One of those books I simply didn’t get around to, another From Dusk to Dawn by Violet Trefusis I read five pages of and threw to one side, finding it utterly banal. It later had a bookcrossing sticker put inside it and was taken to the monthly bookcrossing meet up where I hoped it would find a more appreciative reader. Three of the books I have read during June, I hadn’t intended to read at all this month – I do so easily get distracted by other books I find.

This is this list.

59 No Fond Return of Love (1961) Barbara Pym (F)
60 A Very Private Eye (1984) Barbara Pym, H Holt, H Pym (NF)
61 Locked Rooms (2005) Laurie R King (F)
62 Farewell Leicester Square (1941) Betty Miller (F)
63 A Particular Place (1989) Mary Hocking (F)
64 A Woman of my age (1967) Nina Bawden (F)
65 Quartet in Autumn (1977) Barbara Pym (F)
66 Stoner (1965) John Williams (F)
67 The Exiles Return (2013) Elisabeth De Waal (F)
68 Perfect (2013) Rachel Joyce (F)

June started with Barbara Pym reading week – for which I re-read No Fond Return of Love before moving on to her diaries and letters in ‘A very private eye’. Later in the month I re-read Barbara Pym’s ‘Quartet in Autumn’ which I absolutely loved this time around. My Classic Club spin book was the hugely enjoyable ‘Farewell Leicester Square’, and I also read another Persephone book ‘The Exiles Return’, which I liked very much although I had a few minor issues with it. ‘Stoner’ by John Williams was one of two wonderful discoveries ; ‘Stoner’ a modern American classic which seems to have gone unrecognised by many for a long time was a giveaway on twitter – and one I was really delighted to have received. My other wonderful discovery was ‘A Particular Place’ a Virago Modern Classic by Mary Hocking – whose writing is reminiscent of both Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor. I immediately bought four others from awesomebooks and it seems several members of the librarything Virago group seem to be gearing up to read her books this summer too. The last book of the month was ’Perfect’ by Rachel Joyce – a review copy from the publisher – the novel comes out next week and I’ll post my review in a couple of days – but I urge everyone to look out for it – it is quite remarkable.


So July is upon us – in a few hours at least. Last July Liz and I began our months of re-reading a month of re-reading in July and another in January in recognition of how many wonderful books we have read and never seem to have time to re-read. I loved my re-reading – but in the months since January when I did my last month of re-reading my TBR has exploded! I just can’t justify re-reading all month – as I have some review copies I need to get around to – so glad I don’t get too many of these generally – too much pressure. I also wanted to celebrate all things Brookner and came up with an Anita Brookner reading month for July too. So July will be a mix of

Brookner, three re-reads and some review copies. IMAG0275I haven’t decided which of the Brookners, I have, to read yet – although I have started with Undue Influence.

I will try to read at least a couple of Anita Brookner novels during July – her writing is really very good indeed.
I also have Bartchester Towers by Anthony Trollope, The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald and The Sweet Dove Died as my re-reads. IMAG0277A group of Noble Dames for my Hardy reading challenge. And review copies of Big Brother by Lionel Shriver –which came out in May and The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy which is out in July and a memoir The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines by Shohreh Aghdashloo, which came out a couple of weeks ago.


Some great things to look forward to for me. What will you be reading?

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