Posts Tagged ‘oct reads’

October in review

Of course, having hoped that in October I might get somewhere closer to my old blogging routine, I didn’t really get anywhere near it. I did manage one more blog post in October than in September – and I managed to join in with the #1929 club. So, I am clawing my way back.  

I hope you all had a good month of reading during October – autumn has set in, and the nights are really drawing in. Here in the UK the clocks went back to GMT at the weekend, and it’s been raining a fair bit the last few days. Definitely the time to get to grips with some good books. My October reads were largely very successful, only one really failed to hit the spot, and even that had things to like in it. I am going to try and write more fully about one or two of them, but no promises.  

I began October reading a beautiful collection of Irish short stories This Train is For by Bernie McGill (2022), a new to me author. Sent to me by Cathy from 746 books in the summer, it has introduced me to an author I shall want to read again. The writing is exquisite, spare and full of feeling. In this collection are stories of grief, loss sadness and some surprising touches of magic. Many of the stories feature journeys, some physical some of the mind.  

My second read was inspired by Jacqui of Jacquiwine’s Journal – whose review of A Helping Hand by Celia Dale (1966) had me rushing off to buy my own copy. I am so glad I did, it’s a chillingly brilliant novel, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, with elements of Celia Fremlin, Muriel Spark and Patricia Highsmith. The story of systematic elder abuse (from before such a term existed) by greed, exploitation and manipulation might not be for everyone but it is horribly compelling. Celia Dale weaves the most extraordinary tale of suburban domestic horror around her small group of characters, it makes you wonder what is going on behind the neat net curtains next door.  

My next two reads were both for the 1929 club – I had to get started early in order to stand any chance of writing about them. The first of them was Eve in Egypt by Stella Tennyson Jesse (1929) reissued by Michael Walmer. I have already reviewed this for the 1929 club and had to admit to being a bit underwhelmed. It is a blend of fiction and travelogue and parts of it worked better for me than others.  

Water Weed by Alice Campbell (1929) the first of my two kindle reads in October was sent to me by Dean Street Press and introduced me to a new Golden Age type mystery writer. Slightly longer than the average Golden Age mystery, we see a plucky young American heroine desperately try to prove her long-time friend is innocent of the crime he is accused of. There is actually much more to it than that though – see my previous review.  

Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie (2022) a new novel by Kamila Shamsie always seems like quite an event, so I had to treat myself to the hardback. One of the books I want to review more fully – so I shall save most of my thoughts for then. Having had such a success with Home Fire no doubt expectations were high for this. Overall, I loved it, it isn’t quite the jaw dropper that Home Fire was, but it is a different kind of story. It is a novel about the ties of childhood friendship and what we owe to those who have known and loved us longest – it is also a novel about Britain today, about power and how we use it.  

Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard (1993) my second kindle read is the third book in the five volume Cazalet chronicles. I probably won’t be reviewing this in full – as it is hard to write about books in the middle of series. Here the war is in full swing, one father is missing, presumed dead after two years with no word – but will he turn up one day after all? Almost everyone it seems is having an affair or liaison of some sort – so Confusion is a pretty good title. Everyone seems rather un-moored after living through a long war – as VE days gets closer the feeling of exhausted relief is quite palpable.  

The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (2022) I bought this as soon as it came out in May with birthday book vouchers. I had loved The Mercies, which I only read at all because my book group chose it. This is another historical novel based on something that really happened. The dancing plague that hit Strasbourg during the hot summer of 1518 is the background to this fantastic novel. As more and more women join the dancers in the city square, the city authorities declare an emergency. Musicians will be brought in to help dance the devil out of these women. Living nearby is Lisbet heavily pregnant after a dozen previous lost babies, a beekeeper living with her husband and mother-in-law. Her husband’s sister returns from the mountains after serving a seven-year penance for a crime no one will name – but Lisbet is determined to discover. Then the musicians arrive, and more and more women join the dancers. This is a novel that becomes harder and harder to put down.  

So those were my October reads – only seven but I have stopped worrying too much about that.  

I don’t have too many plans for November – my book group will be reading Palladian by Elizabeth Taylor and as it’s about ten years since I read it, I will be enjoying a re-read of it soon. I shall try to get to some novellas for Novellas in November and I might try some Margaret Atwood essays for MARM – it does very much depend on my mood though.  

So, tell me what brilliant things did you read in October? I always love to know – and whatever you pick up in November – happy reading.  

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October in review

I seem to remember predicting that October would be a bad reading month for me – well I got that spot on. Much less read than usual – and I can’t see it improving much during November. It has been good getting back to work properly, but the pay off is utter exhaustion, and I tend to slump listlessly in front of the TV when I get home and never manage to read for as long as I want to in the evenings.

The little pile of books pictured, doesn’t quite tell the full story, as there was another book – a rare DNF that I read more than half of on my kindle – but just had to set aside, and I have now just started what will be my first book of November. Despite that DNF which was so frustrating – more of that later – the books I did manage to read were actually really good. A very on brand pile for me – a BL women writers book, a vintage, a Handheld press book and Dean Street Press and a darkly comic, quirky novel in translation.

Due to having a couple of my September reads to review during October – I have only managed to review three of my October books. I was away for a few days until Friday evening, and as I was also ill while I was away I just didn’t manage to get my blog done, despite having dutifully taken the laptop with me. What this space – reviews are coming.

I began the month reading Bear by Marian Engel (1976) for the 1976 club. A novel which has more going for it than just that one thing everyone talks about. It has a gorgeous sense of place, and I enjoyed the writing style.

Sally on the Rocks by Winifred Boggs (1915) is one of the gorgeous new publications from the British Library – their women writers series is producing an excellent list. In this novel Winifred Boggs highlights beautifully the inequalities between men and women in the early years of the twentieth century. Sally is a fabulous heroine too.

My third Margaret Kennedy novel of the year Red Sky at Morning (1927) was a good read, though a little baggy in places. Again Kennedy presents us with a complex family dynamic and excellent characterisation.

Next came my DNF – which I wasted four days on. The Healing by Gayl Jones (1998) on kindle and I really don’t know what went wrong. I began really enjoying the book, which I read slowly but happily for two days before getting really bogged down. It is written in a stream of consciousness – but I don’t think that was the problem. I just suddenly didn’t like it anymore and didn’t want to bother – but because I had begun by liking it – I battled with it half-heartedly for two more days before admitting defeat. Wasted days really. I won’t be writing about this one – although I read over half of it.

Then I picked up a review copy (which will remain nameless) which after 20 pages I decided was absolutely terrible and cast that aside too. Deep sigh!

A book I bought not too long ago and had been looking forward to There is no Story There by Inez Holden (1944) is re-issued by Handheld press was fascinating. Like the earlier Night Shift and It was Different at the Time – it presents a view of WW2 that is not often found in literature. This time a group of conscripted workers at a large rural munitions factory.

Somewhere in England by Carola Oman (1943) is the sequel to Nothing to Report that I read in September. We meet again several of the characters from that novel as well as getting to know a few new ones. The war is in full swing, and the main setting for this novel is the hospital that has been set up in the country home of Mary Morrison. A gentle, comfort read for half term was just what I needed.

Daughters by Lucy Fricke translated from German by Sinéad Crowe (2020) was passed on to me by a friend – was also a perfect half term read. The story of two women on a road trip across Europe who are both dealing with difficult fathers. Both funny and moving it’s a thoroughly compelling read. November is German lit month so I can review this one for that – look at me being all organised.

So, on to November and I am hoping to squeeze one or two more books into the month by reading some little books for Novellas in November – though I’m not sure what books I will be reading – very much going with my mood at the moment. Though I am hoping to get to my next Maya Angelou – as I am currently behind my reading buddies – due to my appalling reading month. I am also eyeing up Muriel Spark, some novellas in translation and a little Margaret Atwood for MARM. I had intended to (and still might) re-read Lady Oracle for MARM – but my reading is so fickle at the moment I am not making any promises. My book group are reading Hag-Seed – which I read a couple of years ago – so I will at least enjoy talking about that with them. What I actually manage – remains to be seen – my target is eight books – that might be more of a challenge than it sounds. I have gathered together some possible reads, but we’ll see.

So, what brilliant things did you read in October? What are your plans for November? reading challenges galore at least. German lit month, Novellas in November, Non-fiction November and Margaret Atwood Reading Month – are you joining in? I’m always delighted if I can hit two or three challenges with one book.

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October has flown by – and I have today arrived home from a week’s self-catering in Devon with my mum – we’re in a bubble. It was wonderful to get out of Birmingham for a little while and to see the sea. Though it is also nice to get home and be on my own again, and I am looking forward to my own bed tonight. My reading continues to be a little slow, though I sped up a little last week, just eight books read this month. While the numbers might not be huge – what I read was very good indeed.

I began the month reading The Last Resort by Pamela Hansford Johnson for Simon and Karen’s 1956 club. She is definitely an underrated writer – and I really enjoyed this complex, subtle novel. I have just bought another of her books to read soon.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid was my book group’s choice for October – and it proved a really good book to discuss. A thought provoking, compelling read into the bargain.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman a much anticipated debut – and it is such an enjoyable witty novel – quite deserving of all the hype. I loved the fact that the main characters are mainly older people.

From the British Library Women Writers series Tea is so Intoxicating by Mary Essex was a novel that was right up my reading alley. When David Tompkins decides to open a tea garden in his village not everyone is happy – including his wife.

I finally got around to reading The Finishing School by Muriel Spark, her final novel, which I bought for my Muriel Spark year of reading in 2018. It is sharp, witty and brings us full circle – showing her still at the height of her powers.

Clash by Ellen Wilkinson is a novel I have been wanting to read for ages – and when I plucked it from the shelf I knew instantly I would love it. Review still to come. A novel about the General Strike of 1926, trade union activism and the labour movement – I found it enthralling.

Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth is my book group’s November read which I decided to get on with before November’s reading challenges got in the way. I found it a really good, often unusual read about chickens, animal rights activists and their attempted audacious heist.

As I am writing I am finishing off Rhododendron Pie by Margaery Sharp, Margery Sharp’s first novel famously difficult and expensive to find is being re-issued by the lovely Dean Street Press in January.  They kindly sent me two e-books for review – and I’m afraid I just couldn’t wait to read this one – and I have to say I have enjoyed it very much.

So that was October – and now I am looking ahead to November. In November there are all kinds of reading challenges that can help distract us from everything else that is going on. November is MARM (Margaret Atwood reading month), Novellas in November, Non-fiction November and German Lit month. Phew!!

I am hoping to join in some if not all of these – not sure if I have anything German. However, I do have some Margaret Atwood set aside – and loads of novellas. So, Novellas in November is the challenge I am concentrating on – it is hosted by Bookish Beck and Cathy at 746 books. I may just manage to read more physical books if they are small. Looking through the pile I hastily got together I can see a few non-fiction titles of novella size too – ticking off two challenges. Similarly, I think I have decided to re-read Surfacing by Margaret Atwood – I can barely remember a thing about it – and its size make it perfect for Novellas in November. I am nothing though, if not a fickle reader, so I may not just read novellas – though I do have a fabulous selection to choose from.

What did you read in October? Are you joining in with any of these reading events?

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October in review

I’m a couple of days late with this month’s roundup because I have been away for the last week. I arrived home a few hours ago, and before getting down to writing this, I finished my first book of November, The Silence of the Girls – started at the end of October, but it might as well go into the November pile.

Where September crawled by, October flew – and as you can see from the picture above, I am still not reading very fast. I have given up all hope I think of getting back to the kind of reading rates I used to enjoy, but as long as I am enjoying what I read – then I am happy.

I started the month reading Moor Fires (1916) by E H Young – a favourite author. Moor Fires was E H Young’s third novel and is definitely not typical of her later work. Still, for fans of E H Young’s work it is well worth reading. The novel set on a stretch of wild moorland, where twin sisters Helen and Miriam Caniper live with their stepmother; Notya and their two brothers. The sisters are twenty as the novel opens, and clearly very different. Helen is a domestic being, she loves her home and the moorland and has no wish to be anywhere else. Miriam longs to escape, she enjoys nothing more than to torment the young men who come in her way, proud of her looks and quick to make fun of others.

Nina Bawden’s Anna Apparent (1972) came next – another author I have read and enjoyed many times before, and this was another good one. Bawden is so good at portraying complex relationships within families. In this novel Bawden considers the question of nature versus nurture and the effects of childhood trauma. Who exactly is Anna? The carefully nurtured daughter of an adoptive mother, the younger second wife of Giles, casual lover to Daniel? While she is all of these things in time, she is also an individual. Anna’s view of herself is disrupted in the wake of a tragedy.

Karen and Simon hosted the 1930 club and my first read for that was A Shutter of Snow (1930) by Emily Holmes Coleman, a classic of American literature, It is the story of a woman’s two month stay in what was then called an asylum following the birth of her child.

My second read for the 1930 club was The Mysterious Mr Quin (1930) by Agatha Christie – well you can’t go wrong with an Agatha Christie. It’s a book of stories – though it is presented almost like a novel. Each chapter is a different story in which Mr Quin will turn up eventually. It’s a thoroughly engaging and entertaining collection, in which the reader must suspend disbelief as coincidences abound. Christie really does flex her storytelling muscles nicely with these stories, taking us from English country houses to the South of France and Corsica. While many stories feature the unravelling of mysteries of the past, other stories concern matters in the present, several pieces having a supernatural quality.

Girl, Woman, Other (2019) by Bernardine Evaristo was my standout book of the month. A worthy booker winner – I found it compulsively readable, a novel of modern Britain and some of the women who make it – their voices ring out clear and strong from every page. Twelve wonderful humans, mainly women, mainly black, scattered across the UK in town and country, who call this nation home.

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton (1973) was sent to me by Virago books, a fabulous collection for this time of year. Delightfully chilling stories that never quite descend into horror, they bear witness to Wharton’s own fascination with hauntings, bewitchments and spirits. From childhood Edith Wharton had been terrified of ghost stories, and in these stories, she has channelled her fears in tales which expose the faults in us mere mortals; betrayal, grief, greed and the misuse of power. 

The Light in the Dark (2018) by Horatio Clare is a book I have had a long time, I first bought it in hardback, now the paperback is out. It is an absolutely glorious book, beautifully written. Look out for my review next week.

I ended the month reading The Silence of the Girls (2018) by Pat Barker – my book group’s choice. I finished it an hour or two ago, my first book of November it won’t be my favourite book of November, but it was compelling, and I will be interested to discuss it with my book group.

So on to my plans for November, my plans are fluid, as my reading mood is proving rather fickle. However, November is chock full of reading events – which you might aware of.

#MARM (Margaret Atwood reading month) hosted by Buried in Print and Consumed by Ink – is high on my agenda all being well. There is a read-a-long of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments for anyone who is interested in that. As well as the two novels I have tbr, I have several Atwood I would like to re-read, but Maddaddam and Hag-seed are novels I have meant to get to for a while. German lit month is again hosted by Lizzy at Lizzy’s Literary Life, and I have a book that should fit that and #novellasinNovember – so I think I might just start with The Artificial Silk Girl (I can’t remember who hosts Novellas in November, I’m sorry). It is also Non-fiction November (again I can’t remember who hosts that) and I have lots of books of essays on my shelves – I am hopeless at reading much non-fiction, so I have pulled one collection off the shelf – though whether I actually get to it, is another matter. Of course, I have other non-fiction books, and many other novellas, so we’ll see how the month goes.

I also have a couple of review books and a collection of stories I would like to find time for – but I have probably selected more than I can manage – I wonder how many of these will end up in the row of books I actually read in November? Anyway, lots of excellent reading events to join in with if that’s your thing.

What brilliant things did you read during October? Anything I should know about? Are you joining in with any of the reading events?

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October in review


We turned the clocks back an hour at the weekend. Sunday was spent telling each other that yesterday it had been such and such a time – a yearly tradition in this part of the world that always makes me smile. Suddenly we have only two months of the year left, and again I’m forced to remember how true it is that the years go faster as we get older. I have always had a slight fondness for November – which I know not everyone shares – fireworks, poppies for remembrance, Christmas markets starting up – I quite like it really.

October was an ok reading month – ending with a half term holiday spent by the sea and visiting glorious moorland. Restorative and wonderfully bracing, and the extra reading time thrown in just what I needed.


October began with me reading Early Spring a memoir of childhood and adolescence by Tove Ditlevsen, Early Spring faithfully recreates the sights and sounds of Tove Ditlevsen’s 1930s childhood environment. It was a childhood of great poverty, and loneliness and yet Ditlevsen grew up with a burning determination to write.

Staying with Relations by Rose Macaulay was the book which accompanied me on y weekend away to this year’s Bookcrossing convention. It is a book worth reading for Macaulay fans, and I enjoyed it, though I admit it is not as such a good novel as either The World my Wilderness, Told by an Idiot or Crewe Train. It tells the story of Catherine Grey a young writer who accepts an invitation to stay with her aunt, cousin and her aunt’s second husband and step children at her house in the Guatemalan jungle.

A Spark novel that I certainly hadn’t previously heard of, The Only Problem is a wonderfully entertaining novel. An academic writing a book on the Book of Job while his estranged wife runs around with French terrorists and a policewoman masquerades as a housekeeper – could any of this come from anyone other than Muriel Spark?

I had been looking forward to the second book in Olivia Manning’s Levant Trilogy, and The Battle Lost and Won really didn’t disappoint. Here we continue to follow the fortunes of Harriet and Guy Pringle and others in Cairo, as well as young Simon Boulderstone, a young officer fighting the war in the desert.

Seven for a Secret by Mary Webb was a book that I had had for years, never quite managing to get around to it. My A Century of books was the impetus I needed – and it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. Gillian Lovekin is eighteen as the novel opens, living with her father, on his farm in the Shropshire hills. Gillian is a very pretty girl, a head full of dreams and longings – including for men to lose their hearts to her. It is rooted in the Shropshire countryside of Webb’s birth, it tells the story of Gillian and Robert Rideout and the stranger who comes along and disturbs their rural community.

White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen is a powerful little novella from Peirene Press. A novel about survival, White Hunger takes us to the heart of the Finnish famine in 1867. Uncompromising description, and some quite lovely writing, stop this from being utterly depressing – but it does make for a tough little read.

Another World by Pat Barker like Seven for a Secret was only pulled from my shelves because of ACOB. It was the only book I had for 1998 – and I already knew I enjoy Barker’s writing. In this novel, the shadow of WW1 falls across three generations of one family. It is the 1990s Geordie a WW1 veteran is dying at 101 years old. His grandson and his second wife have recently moved into an old house with their various squabbling children and a spooky old mural is revealed as they start to decorate.

Symposium by Muriel Spark was thoroughly enjoyable. It starts with guests at a dinner party – introducing us to quite a number of characters all at once. The narrative moves back and forth in time – slowly revealing the past of one of the guests in particular.

My very small book group picked Vox by Christina Dalcher as our November read. I decided to read it quickly while away as I can’t count it for my ACOB and the last two months of the year will be a bit of a race to the finish. Billed as a re-imagining of The Handmaid’s Tale – we were all very excited. I don’t want to pre-empt my review too much but – yes, it is very compelling, very readable but it is no Handmaid’s Tale and should not be seen as such. Part speculative fiction part thriller – it’s an entertaining read, but I can’t say I have been blown away.

So here we are – November 1st. My plan for the next few weeks as I mentioned is to make good progress with the last sixteen books of ACOB. I shall, however be reading Curriculum Vitae for #readingMuriel2018 and Life Before Man for Margaret Atwood reading month.

I have just started reading The Diviners by Margaret Laurence. I believe it is strictly speaking the fourth in her Manawaka series of novels, and I have only read and the first and second, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t matter what order they are read in.

As always, I love to hear about what you have been reading and about your plans for coming month.

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October in review


Two months of the old year left – goodness – how the years fly by these days.

I began October reading The Ghostly Lover – a book which really deserves a better title – it was the first novel by Elizabeth Hardwick, a coming of age novel set in depression era Kentucky.

Strong Poison – by Dorothy L Sayers was a re-read, the October choice of my very small book group, which provided us with an enormous amount to talk about, perhaps surprisingly so.

The Librarything Virago group had selected Margaret Kennedy as the author of the month – and I found myself engrossed in The Oracles, a fairly unusual novel in some respects, but one in which I could see echoes of other Margaret Kennedy novels. It tells the story of a community wrangle over a piece of modern art, and a group of abandoned children who get caught in the cross fire.

Narcissa by Richmal Crompton was a fabulously compelling novel, with one of the most monstrous characters, I have read in a while, at the centre of it. A darker story than the other books by Crompton I have read, but quite unforgettable.

Reader, I married him – a collection of short stories edited by Tracy Chevalier – had been a gift I was really looking forward to reading. The stories, all inspired by that famous final line in Jane Eyre – were something of a mixed bag, but overall, I was a bit disappointed in the collection.

I have fallen out of love a little with the Booker prize the last two or three years, but I still keep my eye on it. This year I happened to read two of the longlisted books, and now two of those that were shortlisted. I can’t say I fancy the winner much – but I am open to persuasion. Elmet was the first of those shortlisted books, and I enjoyed it enormously. Not sure I understand why it was shortlisted and Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie wasn’t – but then what do I know?

Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen was the first of two books I read for the #1968club hosted by Simon and Karen. Bowen’s last novel – it has a simply unforgettable ending.

My second read for the #1968club was By the Pricking of my Thumbs, a Tommy and Tuppence novel – the couple are described as (a little tongue in cheek I suspect) ‘quite elderly’ by that I suppose about sixty. It might not be Agatha Christie’s best – but I enjoyed it enormously, finding very hard to put down.

I finished the month reading Autumn by Ali Smith – the second of those Booker Prize shortlisted novels. I haven’t read Ali Smith before – at least I haven’t finished one of her books before – having given up on The Accidental several years ago. This one -chosen by my very small book group as our November read, I enjoyed.

Those final two books of course will be reviewed soon.

I spent a week in my favourite seaside location during half term – and it really helped to re-charge the batteries, and while I was there I had a mooch in a little bookshop I like to pop in to each time I am there. I only came away with two books – a Persephone book The Gardeners Nightcap by Muriel Stuart (complete with matching bookmark) – not sure it’s a book I would have bought new – but I am happy to add it to my collection, and Wet Magic by E Nesbit, which looks perfect comfort reading. I admit, that one is already calling me.cof

November is a month that is perfect for curling up with a book and large pot of tea, but this year has been a very slow reading year so far – so I expect that will continue. However, I have one or two things set aside for the month. This month the Librarything author of the month is the wonderful Margaret Atwood – as well as several potential re-reads, I have three of her books tbr – Wilderness Tips, short stories from the early 1990s and more recent novels, Oryx and Crake and The Hagseed. I feel like the short stories are particularly calling to me – but I shall probably only decide which to read as I pick it up. A Facebook group I am a member of is having an Angela Thirkell reading week next week – beginning November 6th – so as I have a battered old copy of The Headmistress I shall be reading that.


With December and the end of the year on the horizon, my thoughts have turned to possible reading challenges. I sort of had a year off in 2017, though I paricipated in a few as I knew I would end up doing.

 I am considering two for 2018. 

1. A century of books, I know Simon and others are doing it again. I have never done it before. I will attempt to do it over two years, however, and I won’t make a list before hand. I assume that’s how everyone else has done it?

2. Read the 16 books of the Jalna series by Canadian writer Mazo de la Roche. I will read in narrative order, not year of publication. I have very few expectations really, are these even books I will like? I have purchased the first one.  

Anyone have any thoughts, advice etc. Anyone like to join me? 

So how was your October for books? Any exciting plans for November?

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October in review


Not quite as many books on the book pile picture this month as I read about four books on my kindle. The downward trajectory in my monthly reading totals continues, which I am trying not to get too fed up about, I think I just have to accept I won’t ever get back to those totals of a few years ago unless I give up everything else in my life including (and probably especially) this blog. My tbr is terrifyingly out of control, I can no longer see much of it – and so one of these days there will have to be a cull. I’m not very good at culls – I always imagine an enormous pile of thirty or forty books being consigned to the bookcrossing boxes – but when it comes to it I wimp out somewhere around seven or eight.

This month has seen me reading a real mix of old and new, as I started out on a pile of review copies and impulse buys from the new Foyles in Birmingham, as well as helping Karen and Simon celebrate the fantastic 1924 club. I began October a little over half way through the seventh Forsyte novel Maid in Waiting, which I enjoyed very much. I am hoping to get to number eight, Flowering Wilderness in the next few weeks. Leadon Hill by Richmal Crompton was something of a surprise, it is a light read – but has rather more about it than I had expected, the character development is particularly strong. The Sans Pareil Mystery, one of my Netgalley books was perfect for a tiring, stressful week, the second in a series I hadn’t read before, but that didn’t stop me enjoying a historical, regency set mystery with good characterisation. Despite its rather slow start, Yeoman’s Hospital by Helen Ashton was a good second hand book shop find, the 1944 novel from the author of Persephone books title Bricks and Mortar. The Classic women’s literature challenge was launched recently by the Classic Club – and I kicked off my reading with A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf’s famous extended essay in six chapters – which I found quite brilliant. My first read for the 1924 club was The Rector’s Daughter by F M Mayor, something of a forgotten classic, I loved it. Seducers in Ecuador, Vita Sackville West’s odd little novella was my second read for the 1924 club, rather different from other things I have read of her’s, it felt a little experimental, but is also strangely memorable. The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien – her first novel in some years, and another read courtesy of Netgalley – was a powerful novel inspired by the events of the siege of Sarajevo in 1992 and the subsequent disappearance of Radovan Karadzic. Unusually for me I went on to read two more brand new novels during the week I spent on holiday in Devon, reviews of these two to come – the fourth Neapolitan novel The Story of the Lost Child – and Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last. Each of these contemporary novels very different to one another – and I did enjoy them – but perhaps three ‘modern’ novels in a row were a bit much for me. As October 31st draws to a close I picked up my large collection of Shirley Jackson stories and essays, which I set aside having not read very much a few weeks ago, and read a few of those, her writing is excellent, and I do need to try and read more of them between books.
My Stand out reads for the month:

A room of ones own2015-10-13_21.47.05the rectors daughter

A Room of One’s Own, Yeoman’s Hospital and The Rector’s Daughter, old books almost always win for me it seems.

November feels oversubscribed with books already – A collection of feminist essays for a book group, another book group read I am not even sure I can face, some review copies which look great and I really must try to get round to and the next Forsyte book all on the horizon. Sometimes, however I do need to just be able to read according to my mood – so I hope I shall be able to do that. I have a strange yearning toward Persephone books and Jane Austen – but I may not squeeze Jane in this month. I also think I really need to get on with that cull. As always I would love to know what you will be reading during November. Long dark nights = lots of excuses to curl up with books.

bad feministmy mother riverflowering wildernesstrouble on the thames

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I started this month a little way into This Side of Paradise – which turned out to be a bit of a literary whimper and have ended it with a bang reading the massively talked about and reviewed The Luminaries (my review in a couple of days). 11 novels read during October – most of them fairly slight – made up for with the largeness of that final book.

103 This Side of Paradise (1920) F. Scott Fitzgerald (F)
104 Wild Strawberries (1934) Angela Thirkell (F)
105 The Clue of the twisted candle (1918) Edgar Wallace (F)
106 The Last September (1928) Elizabeth Bowen (F)
107 The Sugar House (1952) Antonia White (F)
108 The World is a Wedding (2013) Wendy Jones (F)
109 The Haunting of Hill House (1959) Shirley Jackson (F)
110 An Unsuitable Attachment (1982) Barbara Pym (F)
111 Sleepless Nights (1979) Elizabeth Hardwick (F)
112 The Five People you meet in Heaven (2003) Mitch Albom (F)
113 The Luminaries (2013) Eleanor Catton (F)

Aside from The Luminaries which is wonderfully literary, massive in scope and just wonderfully impressive – my standout reads for the month are:

The Last September – Elizabeth Bowen, a novel to be read slowly, the prose is beautiful, Bowen is always impressive and this only her second novel shows her early genius.
Sleepless Nights – Elizabeth Hardwick; an unusual but astonishingly well written novel – although there is little of the novel form about it.
Wild Strawberries – Angela Thirkell – 1930’s froth, cosy reading at its best, I can’t wait for the new Thirkell re-issues from Virago.

ausreadingAnd so on to November. I haven’t made any definite reading plans for November, although I have a couple of new books on pre-order I think may not be able to resist, including the new novel by Elizabeth Speller and there will of course be another Barbara Pym for the centenary read-a-long. I am also probably going to be taking part in the Ausreading month hosted by Brona’s books. For this I am going to be reading ‘The Three Miss Kings’ by Ada Cambridge and am considering re-reading My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. I hope some of the three miss kingsyou will be able to join in too.

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Nine books read during October, and quite a mixed bag of things I think. Some of them were slower reads, which is why despite one week off work and away on holiday I didn’t manage to read more than what is lower end of my average in a month. I continue to be even worse than usual with non-fiction at the moment and am going to trey and read one or two during November.

104 The Wedding Group (1968) Elizabeth Taylor (F)
105 The Casual Vacancy (2012) J K Rowling (F)
106 The Moorland Cottage (1850) Elizabeth Gaskell (F)
107 Umbrella (2012) Will Self (F)
108 The Children (1928) Edith Wharton (F)
109 A Treacherous Likeness (2013) Lynn Shepherd (F)
110 Lady Audley’s secret (1862) Mary Elizabeth Braddon (F)
111 The Limit (1911) Ada Leverson (F)
112 The penguin book of ghost stories (2010) Michael Newton (ed) (F)

So my Special mentions for October are:

1 The Children – Edith Wharton – one of Edith Wharton’s slightly less well known novels, about a middle aged man’s infatuation with a fifteen year old girl.

2. A Treacherous Likeness – Lynn Shepherd – not published yet _ I was lucky to read an uncorrected proof – loved it great atmosphere blending fact and fiction in the lives of the Shelleys.

3. Lady Audley’s Secret – Mary Elizabeth Braddon – a fantastic ninteenth century sensation novel – I loved every word.


I have gathered togther a nice little stack to read during November.  As I have been doing so badly reading non-fiction I have incuded two non-fiction titles. There are also reads for my Thomas Hardy challenge and the continuing Elizabeth Taylor centenary readalong. I am also doing my bit for libraries with my current read.

My reads for November then – hopefully – distractions permitting wil be:

1. To Bed with Grand Music – Marghanita Laski

2 Harriet – Elizabeth Jenkins

3 Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont- Elizabeth Taylor

4 Two on a Tower – Thomas Hardy

5 Tea by the Nursery Fire – Noel Streatfield

6 Brief Lives – Anita Brookner

7  Selected Letters – Jane Austen

8 Talking to the dead – Helen Dunmore

9 The Two Mrs Abbotts – D E Stevenson – which I am currently reading. (It’s the third “Miss Buncle book)

A set of books to be eagerly anticipated I think, and I am really looking forward to them. What will you be reading during November?

One thing about these chilly early winter evenings – they are perfect for reading. Unfortunatly work is a bit full on at the moment so I am being tempted away from my books by TV too – I need a bit of easy distraction sometimes. Early bedtimes with my book though, are very much the order of the day at the moment.


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October reads

97 Jamrach’s Menagerie (2011) Carol Birch (F)
98 Sense of an Ending (2011) Julian Barnes (F)
99 The Echoing Grove (1953) Rosamond Lehmann (F)
100 The Bloody Chamber (1979) Angela Carter (F)
101 Pigeon English (2011) Stephen Kelman (F)
102 Half Blood Blues (2011) Esi Edugyan (F)
103 Boy: tales of childhood (1984) Roald Dahl (NF)
104 Eight Cousins (1875) Louisa M Alcott (F)
105 Bring the Monkey (1933) Miles Franklin (F)
106 Mandoa Mandoa (1933) Winifred Holtby (F)

Some lovely books read this month – although only one non fiction, I must try to get better at reading NF.

Special mention must go to:

1. Jamrach's Menagerie – Carol Birch – brilliant page turner, and worthy booker nominee

2. Half Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan – another booker nominee, wonderfully evocative with a great narrative voice.
3 The Echoing Grove – Rosamond Lehmann – I love Rosamond Lehmann, and this is a brilliant complex novel, beautifully written.

4 Boy: tales of childhood – Roald Dahl – charming autobiographical tales from the childhood memories of the great children's writer

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