June 2024 Review

June was a strange month, I had the first week off in-between jobs and then started my new position as a production engineer. It is going well so far. Did get a little more read than normal, including six from the #20BooksOfSummer challenge. I always think I will read more but other things going on prevented that…

Books Read

Stubborn Archivist – Yara Rodrigues Fowler – 2.5 Stars

The Tobacconist – Robert Seethaler – 2.5 Stars

Our Man In Havana – Graham Greene – 2.5 Stars

Phosphate Rocks: A Death in Ten Objects – Fiona Erskine – 3.5 Stars

The Quarry – Iain Banks – 4 Stars

After Dark – Haruki Murakami – 4 Stars

Chasing the Dram: Finding the Spirit of Whisky – Rachel McCormack – 4 Stars

Footmarks: A Journey Into Our Restless Past – Jim Leary – 4 Stars

Minor Monuments – Ian Maleney – 4 Stars

Anorexia Nervosa: The Broken Circle – Anne Erichsen – 2.5 Stars

The Skin Spinners: Poems – Joan Aiken – 3 Stars

Muscat & Oman – Ian Skeet – 3.5 Stars


Book(s) Of The Month

The Lost Paths: A History Of How We Walk From Here To There – Jack Cornish – 4.5 Stars

Cairn – Kathleen Jamie – 5 Stars


Top Genres

Travel – 19

Fiction – 17

Natural History – 10

Poetry – 6

Memoir – 6

Science Fiction – 5

History – 3

Science – 2

Humour – 2

Food & Drink – 1


Top Publishers

Bloomsbury – 6

Eland – 3

Canongate – 3

Vintage – 3

Picador – 3

Unbound – 2

Sort Of Books – 2

Harper North – 2

Faber & Faber – 2

Little Toller – 2


Review Copies Received

Empordan Scafarlata – Adrià Pujol Cruells Tr. Douglas Suttle


Library Books Checked Out

Wild Service: A Culture Of Connection And Care – Nick Hayes (Ed)

Adrift: The Curious Tale Of The LEGO Lost At Sea – Tracey Williams


Books Bought

H is for Hawk – Helen MacDonald (Signed)

Waterlog – Roger Deakin

The Pebbles on the Beach – Clarence Ellis

In the Hot Unconscious: An Indian Journey – Charles Foster (Signed)

Down the River – H.E. Bates

Wanderers in the New Forest – Juliette De Bairacli Levy

The Unofficial Countryside – Richard Mabey

Beechcombings – Richard Mabey

Backwards Out of the Big World: Voyage into Portugal – Paul Hyland

Twenty Wessex Walks: Exploring Prehistoric Paths – Jane Whittle

The Hard Way: Discovering the Women Who Walked Before Us – Susannah Walker (Signed)

Return to Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village in the Twenty-first Century – Craig Taylor

Conundrum – Jan Morris

Words Made Stone: The Craft and Philosophy of Letter Cutting – Lida Lopes Cardozo Kindersley & Marcus Waithe

The Atlas of Unusual Borders: Discover Intriguing Boundaries, Territories and Geographical Curiosities – Zoran Nikolić

Between Two Seas: A Walk Down the Appian Way – Charles Lister

The Wind Off The Island: A Portrait of Sicily and Life at Sea – Ernle Bradford

By The Ionian Sea – George Gissing

A Valley in Italy: Confessions of a House Addict – Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

An Englishman In The Midi – John P. Harris

How to Be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest – Sarah P. Corbett

River Journey: Searching For Wild Beavers And Finding Freedom – Bevis Watts

I Can’t Stay Long – Laurie Lee

The Next Fifty Things that Made the Modern Economy – Tim Harford

Into The Crocodile’s Nest: A Journey Inside New Guinea – Benedict Allen (Signed)

Basilicata: Authentic Italy – Karen Haid

Desert Soul – Isabelle Eberhardt

A Visit To Don Otavio – Sybille Bedford

Congo Journey – Redmond O’Hanlon


So are there any from that huge list that you have read, or now seeing them, now want to read? Let me know in the comments below.


July 2024 TBR

A tiny bit late in posting this as I couldn’t log into my blog for a day or so. All sorted now so here I am. The TBR seems to be getting longer again, rather than shorter, but I am ploughing through the books bit by bit. Here is the list for this month:


Still Reading

Nature Writing for Every Day of the Year – Ed. Jane McMorland Hunter

A Cloud a Day – Gavin Pretor-Pinney

A Year Of Garden Bees & Bugs: 52 stories of intriguing insects – Dominic Couzens & Gail Ashton

Peat and Whisky: The Unbreakable Bond – Mike Billett


Challenge Books

Labyrinth (Languedoc, #1) – Kate Mosse

Sepulchre (Languedoc, #2) – Kate Mosse

Heartburn – Nora Ephron

Cartes Postales from Greece – Victoria Hislop

Silverview – John Le Carre


Review Books

Bloom: From Food to Fuel, the Epic Story of How Algae Can Save Our World – Ruth Kassinger

Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do – Wallace J. Nichols

The House Divided: Sunni, Shia and the Making of the Middle East – Barnaby Rogerson

Cornish Horrors: Tales from the Land’s End – Ed. Joan Passey

Scenes from Prehistoric Life: From the Ice Age to the coming of the Romans – Francis Pryor

Hunt for the Shadow Wolf: The Lost History of Wolves in Britain and the Myths and Stories That Surround Them – Derek Gow

In All Weathers – Matt Gaw

The Long Unwinding Road: A Journey Through the Heart of Wales – Marc P. Jones

Hedgelands: A Wild Wander Around Britain’s Greatest Habitat – Christopher Hart

Brazilian Adventure – Peter Fleming

Brandy Sour – Constantia Soteriou, Lina Protopapa (Tr)

Enchanted Islands: A Mediterranean Odyssey – A Memoir of Travels through Love, Grief and Mythology – Laura Coffey

The Station – Athos: Treasures and Men – Robert Byron

One Fine Day: A Journey Through English Time – Ian Marchant


Library Book

How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything – Mike Berners-Lee

Wild Service: A Culture Of Connection And Care – Nick Hayes (Ed)

The Rosewater Redemption – Tade Thompson

The Half Bird – Susan Smillie

Sticky: The Secret Science of Surfaces – Laurie Winkless

All My Wild Mothers: A Memoir Of Motherhood, Loss And An Apothecary Garden – Victoria Bennet


Other Books

There and Back: Photographs from the Edge – Jimmy Chin

Ultra-Processed People: Why Do We All Eat Stuff That Isn’t Food … and Why Can’t We Stop? – Chris van Tulleken

The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas – Daniel James



The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You – Paul Farley


Any that take your fancy from that list?

Set My Hand Upon The Plough by E.M. Barraud

4 out of 5 stars

The publisher provided a copy of this, free of charge, in return for an honest review.

Barraud was stuck in a tiny stuffy room in a house on Ludgate Hill. She had an uninspiring job entering figures in the premium register, and it was only the though of the weekend that got her through the week. She had filled in the form for the National Service and promptly forgot about it.

It was only after she received a letter saying that she had been accepted that her life changed forever. She arranged for a week’s training in her home village beginning on the 4th of September 1939 and she would work on the land in various capacities over the next five years during the war. Every day on the farm she used different muscles and there were some days that she could barely walk. She was taught how to use a tractor, and even though she never considered that she was a tractor driver when she compared  herself to others on the farm, she was obviously competent enough not to break it.

The more I see of the average countryman, the more I am sure his slowness is the slowness of certainty: all his life he has pitted his wits and his strength against nature and his wisdom is fundamental.

I really enjoyed this book. Barraud’s prose has an easygoing quality about it and I found it to be descriptive and insightful about farm and rural life, whether it is breaking ice in the water butts to fill buckets, leading a horse across a field hoeing the weeds or the daily routines of feeding the horses and other animals around the farm.

She gets involved with the local library as a way of giving something back to the local community. It had been shut for two years and she was concerned about stepping on toes, but they were delighted to have her and gain access to the books there. The descriptions of the villagers and some of her thoughts on the books they choose makes for interesting reading.

The contrast between this and All Around The Year by Michael Morpurgo is quite stark. Even though they are only set 30 years apart, the methods that they use to carry out similar tasks is so very different. I thought that it was quite amusing that she thought that if anyone had time to realise that she was inept she never would have lasted. I somehow doubt that she was that bad, but you can see how she had such a steep learning curve.

Her domestic arrangements of living with her partner, Bunty, must have raised a few eyebrows in this conservative rural setting. But if she had faced any prejudice or comments from the others in the village, then she didn’t mention it in this book. It would have been nice to hear more about her, but I think that when this was first published in the 1940s that might have been too much for people to read about!

Anticipated Books For Autumn 2024

I’m a tiny bit late with this. I have scoured all the catalogues I could find online and went through the big pile that I had bought home from the London book fair and here is a list of new books coming out in the later part of the year that piqued my interest.



Italy’s Paradise: A History of Tuscany – Alistair Moffat

The Fresh and the Salt: The Story of the Solway – Ann Lingard



A Mudlarking Year – Lara Maiklem

How To Be A Citizen – C.L. Skach

Goodbye To Russia – Sarah Rainsford

Good Nature – Kathy Willis

The Golden Road – William Dalrymple

Smart Money – Brunello Rosa & Casey Larsen

The Starspotters Guide – Sheila Kanani

Kind – Graham Allcott

Finding Your Feet – Rhiane Fatinikun

The Long History Of The Future – Nicole Kobie

One Garden against The World – Kate Bradbury

Ebb And Flow – Tiffany Francis-Baker

Rare Singles – Benjamin Myers

The Great When – Alan Moore

The Wood At Midwinter – Susanna Clarke



Feeding the Machine: The Hidden Human Labour Powering AI – James Muldoon, Mark Graham & Callum Cant

Uprooting: From the Caribbean to the Countryside – Finding Home in an English Garden – Marchelle Farrell

The Many Lives of James Lovelock: Science, Secrets and Gaia Theory – Jonathan Watts

Raising Hare – Chloe Dalton

That Beautiful Atlantic Waltz – Malachy Tallack



Standard Deviations: The truth about flawed statistics, AI and Big Data – Gary Smith

Firebrands: 25 Pioneering Women Writers to IgniteYour Reading Life – Joanna Scutts

Vet at the End of the Earth: Adventures with Animals in the South Atlantic – Jonathan Hollins


Elliott & Thompson

Radical Rest – Evie Muir

A Winter Dictionary – Paul Anthony Jones

Owls! Owls! Owls! – Polly Atkin


Europa Editions

Shifting the Moon from its Orbit – Andrea Marcolongo

The Passenger: South Korea – Various

The Passenger: Naples – Various


Faber & Faber

Crunch – Natalie Whittle

A Year of Living Curiously – Beth Coates & Elizabeth Foley



Crypto Confidential – Jake Donoghue

Eliminating Poverty In Britain – Helen Rowe



How the World Eats: A Global Food Philosophy – Julian Baggini

The Dead of Winter: The Witches, Demons and Monsters of Christmas – Sarah Clegg

Brilliant Maps in the Wild: A Nature Atlas for Curious Minds – Mike Higgins



Syracuse – Joachim Sartorius



Exploding Tomatoes and Other Stories – Sophie Grigson

Turning to Stone – Marcia Bjornerud

A Pub For All Seasons – Adrian Tierney-Jones



Vatican Spies; From the Second World War to Pope Francis – Yvonnick Denoël Tr. Alan McKay

Secrets of a Suitcase: The Countess, the Nazis, and Middle Europe’s Lost Nobility – Pauline Terreehorst Tr. Brent Annable

A Twist in the Tail: How the Humble Anchovy Flavoured Western Cuisine – Christopher Beckman


John Murray

Time And Tide: The Long, Long Life Of Landscape – Fiona Stafford

Lost To The Sea: A Journey Round The Edges Of Britain And Ireland – Lisa Woollett


Little, Brown

Life As No One Knows It: The Physics of Life’s Emergence – Sara Imari Walker

Myths of Geography: Eight Ways We Get the World Wrong – Paul Richardson

Still Waters and Wild Waves: A Printmaker’s Journey – Angela Harding

Trees in Winter – Richard Shimell

The Tree Almanac 2025: A Seasonal Guide to the Woodland World – Dr Gabriel Hemery


Murdoch Books

Everyday Folklore – Liza Frank



What an Owl Knows: The New Science of the World’s Most Enigmatic Birds – Jennifer Ackerman

Mapping the Darkness: The Visionary Scientists Who Unlocked the Mysteries of Sleep – Kenneth Miller

The Science of Spin: The Force Behind Everything – From Falling Cats to Jet Engines – Roland Ennos

The Haunted Wood: A History of Childhood Reading – Sam Leith



Eat, Poop, Die: How Animals Make Our World – Joe Roman

Good Chaps: How Corrupt Politicians Broke Our Law and Institutions – And What We Can Do About It – Simon Kuper

On the Roof: A Thatcher’s Journey – Tom Allan

Tracks on the Ocean: A History of Trailblazing, Maps and Maritime Travel – Sara Caputo

Embers of the Hands: Hidden Histories of the Viking Age – Eleanor Barraclough

The Future of AI – Patrick Dixon

The Bookshop, the Draper, the Candlestick Maker: A History of the High Street – Annie Gray

A Cheesemonger’s Tour de France – Ned Palmer

Church Going: The Curious Story of Britain’s Churches – Andrew Ziminski

Larry: A New Biography of Lawrence Durrell: From India to Alexandria (1912–47) – Michael Haag



The Medieval Scriptorium: Making Books in the Middle Ages – Sara J. Charles

England’s Green: Nature and Culture since the 1960s – David Matless

The English Table: Our Food through the Ages – Jill Norman

Readers for Life: How Reading and Listening in Childhood Shapes Us – Sander L. Gilman and Heta Pyrhönen (ed)

Weeds – Nina Edwards

Wood, Whiskey and Wine: A History of Barrels – Henry H. Work


September Books

Children of the Volcano – Ros Belford

Beach Explorer – Heather Buttivant

A Ride Across America – Simon Parker



Slow Trains To Istanbul – Tom Chesshyre

All Boats Are Sinking – Hannah Pierce

Vive Le Chaos – Ian Moore

Vagabond – Mark Eveleigh


University of Wales Press

Where The Folk – Russ Williams


Verso Books

The Masters Tools – Michael Alexander McCarthy



Homecoming: A Guided Journal To Lead You Back To Nature


Are there any I have missed that you’d think I’d like? Or are there any that you didn’t know about that you are now excited about?

Let  me know in the comments below.

May 2024 Review

May by and because of other things going on, I didn’t get as much read as I wanted to. But I did read twelve books and of those, had three favourites.

Books Read

Salt Slow – Julia Armfield – 3 Stars

Mischief Acts – Zoe Gilbert – 3 Stars

Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – 3 Stars

Set My Hand Under The Plough – E.M. Barraud – 4 Stars

An Ocean of Static – J.R. Carpenter – 3.5 Stars

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin – 2.5 Stars

Venomous Lumpsucker – Ned Beauman – 2.5 Stars

Wayfarer: Love, Loss And Life On Britain’s Ancient Paths – Phoebe Smith– 4 Stars

The Gathering Place – Mary Colwell – 4 Stars


Book(s) Of The Month

Black Ghosts – Noo Saro-Wiwi – 4.5 Stars

Seaglass: Essays, Moments and Reflections – Kathryn Tann – 4.5 Stars

Cull of the Wild: Killing in the Name of Conservation – Hugh Warwick – 4.5 Stars


Top Genres

Travel – 17

Fiction – 11

Natural History – 9

Poetry – 5

Science Fiction – 5

Memoir – 5

History – 2

Humour – 2

Science – 2

Writing – 1


Top Publishers

Bloomsbury – 6

Canongate – 3

Unbound – 2

Picador – 2

Harper North – 2

Eland – 2

Little Toller – 2

Salt – 2

Orbit – 2

Saraband – 2


Review Copies Received

Brandy Sour – Constantia Soteriou, Lina Protopapa (Tr)

The Station – Athos: Treasures and Men – Robert Byron

Muscat & Oman – Ian Skeet


Library Books Checked Out

The Half Bird – Susan Smillie

The Stirrings: A Memoir In Northern Time – Catherine Taylor

The Laundromat: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite – Jake Bernstein

The Lost Paths: A History Of How We Walk From Here To There – Jack Cornish


Books Bought

Hot Sun, Cool Shadow: Savoring The Food, History, And Mystery Of The Languedoc – Angela Murrills, Peter Matthews (Ill)

milk and honey – Rupi Kaur

The Raven’s Nest: An Icelandic Journey Through Light and Darkness – Sarah Thomas

The Wild Flowers of the Isle of Purbeck, Brownsea and Sandbanks – Edward A. Pratt

Word From Wormingford: A Parish Year – Ronald Blythe

An English Forest – Richard Kraus

Dorset Smugglers – Roger Guttridge (Signed)

Between The Chalk And The Sea: A Journey On Foot Into The Past – Gail Simmons (Signed)

The Pacific – Simon Winchester (Signed)

The Local: Christmas Eve At The Warrington – Maurice Gorham & Edward Ardizzone

A Love Letter From A Stray Moon – Jay Griffiths

The Unsophisticated Arts – Barbara Mildred Jones

Country Matters – Clare Leighton

Going To Ground – Various

The Ancient Woods Of South-East Wales – Oliver Rackham

Shrewdunnit: The Nature Files – Conor Mark Jameson

The London Compendium: A Street-By-Street Exploration of the Hidden Metropolis – Ed Glinert

Minnie’s Room: The Peacetime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes – Mollie Panter-Downes

The Happy Tree – Rosalind Murray

The Godwits Fly – Robin Hyde

The Runaway – Elizabeth Anna Hart

A London Child of the 1870s – Molly Hughes

Extremely Pale Rosé: A Very French Adventure – Jamie Ivey

La Vie en Rose – Jamie Ivey

Rose En Marche: Running a Market Stall in Provence – Jamie Ivey

the sun and her flowers – Rupi Kaur

In the Footsteps of Du Fu – Michael Wood

Footprints through Avebury – Michael W Pitts

Call of the White: Taking the World to the South Pole: Eight Women, One Unique Expedition – Felicity Aston

There and Back: Photographs from the Edge – Jimmy Chin (Signed)

Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan: including a summer in the Upper Karun region and a visit to the Nestorian rayahs. Vols. I, II – Isabella L. Bird


So are there any from that huge list that you have read, or now seeing them, now want to read? Let me know in the comments below.

June 2024 TBR

Almost summer! However, the mixed weather isn’t holding much promise of being able to read over breakfast in the garden. I have a week off in between jobs too so hope to make some inroads into this list. It is the start of the 20 Books of Summer challenge that I have picked five books from, plus the usual suspects from previous TBRs are still lurking here. I am getting through them, but much slower than I want to…


Still Reading

Nature Writing for Every Day of the Year – Ed. Jane McMorland Hunter

A Cloud a Day – Gavin Pretor-Pinney

A Year Of Garden Bees & Bugs: 52 stories of intriguing insects – Dominic Couzens & Gail Ashton


20 Books Of Summer Challenge

Labyrinth (Languedoc, #1) – Kate Mosse

After Dark – Haruki Murakami

Phosphate Rocks: A Death in Ten Objects – Fiona Erskine

Stubborn Archivist – Yara Rodrigues Fowler

The Quarry – Iain Banks


Review Books

Bloom: From Food to Fuel, the Epic Story of How Algae Can Save Our World – Ruth Kassinger

Blue Mind: How Water Makes You Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do – Wallace J. Nichols

Minor Monuments – Ian Maleney

The House Divided: Sunni, Shia and the Making of the Middle East – Barnaby Rogerson

Cornish Horrors: Tales from the Land’s End – Ed. Joan Passey

Scenes from Prehistoric Life: From the Ice Age to the coming of the Romans – Francis Pryor

Hunt for the Shadow Wolf: The Lost History of Wolves in Britain and the Myths and Stories That Surround Them – Derek Gow

In All Weathers – Matt Gaw

The Long Unwinding Road: A Journey Through the Heart of Wales – Marc P. Jones

Hedgelands: A Wild Wander Around Britain’s Greatest Habitat – Christopher Hart

Brazilian Adventure – Peter Fleming

Cairn – Kathleen Jamie

Brandy Sour – Constantia Soteriou, Lina Protopapa (Tr)

Enchanted Islands: A Mediterranean Odyssey – A Memoir of Travels through Love, Grief and Mythology – Laura Coffey

The Station – Athos: Treasures and Men – Robert Byron

Muscat & Oman – Ian Skeet

Peat and Whisky: The Unbreakable Bond – Mike Billett


Library Books

The Rosewater Redemption – Tade Thompson

Iconicon: A Journey Around The Landmark Buildings Of Contemporary Britain – John Grindrod

Footmarks: A Journey Into Our Restless Past – Jim Leary

The Spymasters: How The CIA’s Directors Shape History And The Future – Chris Whipple

Secret Britain: A Journey Through The Second World War’s Hidden Bases And Battlegrounds – Sinclair McKay

Footmarks: A Journey Into Our Restless Past – Jim Leary

Weathering – Ruth Allen

Chasing the Dram: Finding the Spirit of Whisky – Rachel McCormack



The Skin Spinners: Poems – Joan Aiken


So, any from that list take your fancy? Let me know in the comments below.

20 Books Of Summer 2024

It is that time of year again, the challenge run by Cathy at 746 Books is running the #20BooksOf SummerChallenge, and again I am taking part.

As I did last year, I have decided to read fiction (all bar one) to clear some space on my shelves to fit all the other books I have bought. So here is my list of 20.

Labyrinth – Kate Mosse

In the Pyrenees mountains near Carcassonne, Alice, a volunteer at an archaeological dig, stumbles into a cave and makes a startling discovery-two crumbling skeletons, strange writings on the walls, and the pattern of a labyrinth. Eight hundred years earlier, on the eve of a brutal crusade that will rip apart southern France, a young woman named Alais is given a ring and a mysterious book for safekeeping by her father. The book, he says, contains the secret of the true Grail, and the ring, inscribed with a labyrinth, will identify a guardian of the Grail. Now, as crusading armies gather outside the city walls of Carcassonne, it will take a tremendous sacrifice to keep the secret of the labyrinth safe.

Sepulchre – Kate Mosse

In 1891, young Léonie Vernier and her brother Anatole arrive in the beautiful town of Rennes-les-Bains, in southwest France. They’ve come at the invitation of their widowed aunt, whose mountain estate, Domain de la Cade, is famous in the region. But it soon becomes clear that their aunt Isolde-and the Domain-are not what Léonie had imagined. The villagers claim that Isolde’s late husband died after summoning a demon from the old Visigoth sepulchre high on the mountainside. A book from the Domain’s cavernous library describes the strange tarot pack that mysteriously disappeared following the uncle’s death. But while Léonie delves deeper into the ancient mysteries of the Domain, a different evil stalks her family-one which may explain why Léonie and Anatole were invited to the sinister Domain in the first place.

More than a century later, Meredith Martin, an American graduate student, arrives in France to study the life of Claude Debussy, the nineteenth century French composer. In Rennesles-Bains, Meredith checks into a grand old hotel-the Domain de la Cade. Something about the hotel feels eerily familiar, and strange dreams and visions begin to haunt Meredith’s waking hours. A chance encounter leads her to a pack of tarot cards painted by Léonie Vernier, which may hold the key to this twenty-first century American’s fate . . . just as they did to the fate of Léonie Vernier more than a century earlier.

Citadel – Kate Mosse

1942, Nazi-occupied France. Sandrine, a spirited and courageous nineteen-year-old, finds herself drawn into a Resistance group in Carcassonne – codenamed ‘Citadel’ – made up of ordinary women who are prepared to risk everything for what is right. And when she meets Raoul, they discover a shared passion for the cause, for their homeland, and for each other. But in a world where the enemy now lies in every shadow – where neighbour informs on neighbour; where friends disappear without warning and often without trace – love can demand the highest price of all.

Music for Torching – A.M. Homes

As A.M. Homes’s incendiary novel unfolds, the Kodacolor hues of the good life become nearly hallucinogenic.Laying bare th foundations of a marriage, flash frozen in the anxious entropy of a suburban subdivision, Paul and Elaine spin the quit terors of family life into a fantastical frenzy that careens out of control. From a strange and hilarious encounter with a Stepford Wife neighbor to an ill-conceived plan for a tattoo, to a sexy cop who shows up at all the wrong moments, to a housecleaning team in space suits, a mistress calling on a cell phone, and a hostage situationat a school, A.M. Homes creates characters so outrageously flawed and deeply human that thery are entriely believable.


The Gun Seller – Hugh Laurie

When Thomas Lang, a hired gunman with a soft heart, is contracted to assassinate an American industrialist, he opts instead to warn the intended victim – a good deed that doesn’t go unpunished.

Within hours Lang is butting heads with a Buddha statue, matching wits with evil billionaires, and putting his life (among other things) in the hands of a bevy of femmes fatales, whilst trying to save a beautiful lady … and prevent an international bloodbath to boot.

A wonderfully funny novel from one of Britain’s most famous comedians and star of award-winning US TV medical drama series, House.

The Tobacconist – Robert Seethaler, Charlotte Collins (Tr)

When seventeen-year-old Franz exchanges his home in the idyllic beauty of the Austrian lake district for the bustle of Vienna, his homesickness quickly dissolves amidst the thrum of the city. In his role as apprentice to the elderly tobacconist Otto Trsnyek, he will soon be supplying the great and good of Vienna with their newspapers and cigarettes. Among the regulars is a Professor Freud, whose predilection for cigars and occasional willingness to dispense romantic advice will forge a bond between him and young Franz. It is 1937. In a matter of months Germany will annex Austria and the storm that has been threatening to engulf the little tobacconist will descend, leaving the lives of Franz, Otto and Professor Freud irredeemably changed…

Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

Dark allegory of a journey up the Congo River and the narrator’s encounter with the mysterious Mr. Kurtz. Masterly blend of adventure, character study, psychological penetration. For many, Conrad’s finest, most enigmatic story.

Our Man In Havana – Graham Greene

Mr. Wormold, vacuum cleaner salesman in a city of powercuts, is, as always, short of money. His daughter, sixteen, followed everywhere by wolf whistles, is spending his money with a skill that amazes him, so when a mysterious Englishman offers him an extra income he’s tempted. All he has to do is run agents, file reports: spy. But his fake reports have an alarming tendency to come true, and the web of lies he weaves around him starts to get more and more tangled.

The Mask of Dimitrios – Eric Ambler

English crime novelist Charles Latimer is travelling in Istanbul when he makes the acquaintance of police inspector Colonel Haki. It is from him that he first hears of the mysterious Dimitrios – an infamous master criminal, long wanted by the law, whose body has just been fished out of the Bosphorus. Fascinated by the story, Latimer decides to retrace Dimitrios’s steps across Europe to gather material for a new book. But, as he gradually discovers more about his subject’s shadowy history, fascination tips over into obsession. And, in entering Dimitrios’s criminal underworld, Latimer realizes that his own life may be on the line.

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain – Barney Norris

One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide – a flower seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard, a widower – all facing their own personal disasters.

The Quarry – Iain M. Banks

Kit doesn’t know who his mother is. What he does know, however, is that his father, Guy, is dying of cancer.

Feeling his death is imminent, Guy gathers around him his oldest friends – or at least the friends with the most to lose by his death.

Paul – the rising star in the Labour party who dreads the day a tape they all made at university might come to light; Alison and Robbie, corporate bunnies whose relationship is daily more fractious; Pris and Haze, once an item, now estranged, and finally Hol – friend, mentor, former lover and the only one who seemed to care.

But what will happen to Kit when Guy is gone? And why isn’t Kit’s mother in the picture? As the friends reunite for Guy’s last days, old jealousies, affairs and lies come to light as Kit watches on.

After Dark – Murakami Haruki

From internationally renowned literary phenomenon Haruki Murakami comes this spellbinding novel set in Tokyo during the spooky hours between midnight and dawn.

Nineteen-year-old Mari is waiting out the night in an anonymous Denny’s when she meets a young man who insists he knows her older sister, thus setting her on an odyssey through the sleeping city. In the space of a single night, the lives of a diverse cast of Tokyo residents—models, prostitutes, mobsters, and musicians—collide in a world suspended between fantasy and reality. Utterly enchanting and infused with surrealism, After Dark is a thrilling account of the magical hours separating midnight from dawn.

The Elephant Vanishes – Murakami Haruki

When a man’s favourite elephant vanishes, the balance of his whole life is subtly upset. A couple’s midnight hunger pangs drive them to hold up a McDonald’s. A woman finds she is irresistible to a small green monster that burrows through her front garden. An insomniac wife wakes up in a twilight world of semi-consciousness in which anything seems possible – even death. In every one of these stories Murakami makes a determined assault on the normal.

Phosphate Rocks: A Death in Ten Objects – Fiona Erskine

As the old chemical works in Leith are demolished a long deceased body encrusted in phosphate rock is discovered. Seated at a card table he has ten objects laid out in front of him. Whose body is it? How did he die and what is the significance of the objects?

The Railway Man – Eric Lomax

During the Second World War Eric Lomax was forced to work on the notorious Burma-Siam Railway and was tortured by the Japanese for making a crude radio.

Left emotionally scarred and unable to form normal relationships, Lomax suffered for years until, with the help of his wife, Patti Lomax, and of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, he came terms with what happened. Fifty years after the terrible events, he was able to meet one of his tormentors.

The Railway Man is a story of innocence betrayed, and of survival and courage in the face of horror.

Heartburn – Nora Ephron

Is it possible to write a sidesplitting novel about the breakup of the perfect marriage? If the writer is Nora Ephron, the answer is a resounding yes. For in this inspired confection of adultery, revenge, group therapy, and pot roast, the creator of “Sleepless in Seattle” reminds us that comedy depends on anguish as surely as a proper gravy depends on flour and butter.

Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has “a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs” is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron’s irrepressible heroine offers some of her favorite recipes. “Heartburn” is a sinfully delicious novel, as soul-satisfying as mashed potatoes and as airy as a perfect soufflé.

Silverview – John le Carré

Julian Lawndsley has renounced his high-flying job in the City for a simpler life running a bookshop in a small English seaside town. But after only a couple of months into his new career, Edward, a Polish émigré, shows up at his door with a very keen interest in Julian’s new enterprise and a lot of knowledge about his family history. And when a letter turns up at the door of a spy chief in London warning him of a dangerous leak, the investigations lead him to this quiet town by the sea . . .

Silverview is the mesmerising story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals. In this last complete masterwork from the greatest chronicler of our age, John le Carré asks what you owe to your country when you no longer recognise it.

Cartes Postales from Greece – Victoria Hislop

Week after week, the postcards arrive, addressed to a name Ellie does not know, with no return address, each signed with an initial, A.

With their bright skies, blue seas and alluring images of Greece, these cartes postales brighten her life. After six months, to her disappointment, they cease. But the montage she has created on the wall of her flat has cast a spell. She must see this country for herself.

On the morning Ellie leaves for Athens, a notebook arrives. Its pages tell the story of a man’s odyssey through Greece. Moving, surprising and sometimes dark, A’s tale unfolds with the discovery not only of a culture but also of a desire to live life to the full once more.

Stubborn Archivist – Yara Rodrigues Fowler

When your mother considers another country home, it’s hard to know where you belong. When the people you live among can’t pronounce your name, it’s hard to know exactly who you are. And when your body no longer feels like your own, it’s hard to understand your place in the world. This is a novel of growing up between cultures, of finding your space within them and of learning to live in a traumatized body. Our stubborn archivist tells her story through history, through family conversations, through the eyes of her mother, her grandmother and her aunt and slowly she begins to emerge into the world, defining her own sense of identity. An exciting, bold, witty debut, Stubborn Archivist is unlike any book you’ve read, and one you won’t forget.

Seveneves – Neal Stephenson

What would happen if the world were ending?

When a catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb, it triggers a feverish race against the inevitable. An ambitious plan is devised to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere. But unforeseen dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain…

Five thousand years later, their progeny – seven distinct races now three billion strong – embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown, to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is at once extraordinary and eerily recognizable. He explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.


As I did last year, if there are any that take your fancy, let me know I will be happy to send them on. First come first served though.

Bibliomaniac by Robin Ince

5 out of 5 stars

Those who follow me on the various social media networks out there will know that I buy a lot of books. Far more than I can realistically read, but they make me happy and as far as I see it, a home without books is just a house…

Robin Ince also buys a lot of books. Like hundreds of them a year. He will trawl charity and second-hand bookshops looking for anything that piques his interest. If he likes the look of it, he buys it. Knowing what my house looks like, I do wonder just what his house looks like…

This wonderful book is the account of his travels around the independent bookshops of the UK promoting one of his books and a record of the books that he finds and brings home on his tour. He reads far more fiction than I do, but he has a similar principle, if it looks interesting then he will buy it. I do this with non-fiction books…

I am a bibliomaniac.
There is no cure and I am not seeking one.

Whilst we have similar philosophies on books, I don’t think that I have ADHD like he does, but I do think that I have autistic traits hence why I can see the parallels that I have with him. He is a big fan of independent bookshops which will become very evident if you read this book, and I am too. They offer an alternative curated selection of books that reflects the interest of the bookseller, rather than me feeling that I on the receiving end of a corporate marketing machine. If you have read White Spines by Nicholas Royle, then this is a must-read for you.

Now Is The Time To Know Everything by Simon Moreton

4 out of 5 stars

The author provided a copy of this, free of charge, in return for an honest review.

Miscarriage is one of the big taboos in this country. Almost no one talks about it, and even though it is a fairly common occurrence, you rarely get to hear about those who have suffered. I know of one or two couples where it had sadly happened, but I am sure there are others.

As people are reluctant to talk about it, you will probably never know who in your friendship circles has suffered. If you do come to know it is probably going to be from the bereaved mother-to-be. Rarely do we hear from the father’s perspective.

In this book, Moreton takes us on his journey through the heady days of early pregnancy and the anticipation of welcoming a new individual into the world. It is also a reflective book, he delights in tracing back through various family members in the hope of understanding just what sort of person you might have been.

Even though this is a book about a tragedy, it isn’t a sad book. To me, it felt like a love letter to the child they never knew. It is the story of how they came to be and were made by the generations before. It is also a discovery for him, he learns of family secrets that were unknown until now.

For those who have gone through the grief and trauma of an event like this, this might not be the book they need, but for others, there will be some resonance in the words and art.

The Lost Flock by Jane Cooper

3.5 out of 5 stars

The publisher provided a copy of this, free of charge, in return for an honest review.

It is said that if you never want to work again, then make a hobby you love a job. I am not totally convinced by this reasoning, as I think that I would probably end up disliking it. For me, a hobby is something that you can use to escape the world and pressures of modern life. But for some people it works, though I think if Jane Cooper knew quite how things would turn out, she may have done things differently.

It began with knitting and the discovery of rare-breed wool. Further research led to a whole new world of rare breed sheep that she knew nothing about. She travelled around the country collecting fleeces from those that had rare breeds and meeting the sheep in question. And slowly but surely she fell for one of the breeds.

The one that sparked her interest was the Orkney Borerary a tiny but robust and hardy breed that can trace its heritage way back to the Vikings who first brought this breed to the islands off the Scottish coast. It is one of the few surviving breeds of primitive sheep and they are hardy and much smaller than the sheep you will see in fields.

Before long she was hooked and she wanted a flock of her own. This prompted a move from Newcastle to the islands itself and this book is her story from taking on a handful of sheep to a flock of over 100. However, her enthusiasm is infectious though and she has persuaded a number of other crofters to adopt the sheep in their flocks.

I liked this book. It is an interesting story of how someone who followed her interests and passion and ended up becoming the sole custodian of a flock of this rare breed of sheep. It has not been an easy journey, there have been setbacks, the abattoir being closed on the island by a short-sighted council being one of the challenges they have had to face. Cooper is one of those people who should be celebrated for her tenacity in keeping the Orkney Borerary alive.

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