February 2020 Review

We had an extra day in February, so Happy Leap Year! Even with that extra day I didn’t manage to read all that I wanted to but did manage a healthy 16 books in the end. I also had my judging day in London for the Edward Stanford Travel Awards, where I was reading the Adventure Travel category. I was also fortunate to get an invite to the award presentation for this. Had a really great evening and met several authors that I had only know via the Twittersphere.

Anyway, to the books for February.

I don’t read much fantasy, but having read Uprooted by Naomi Novik a while back I jumped at the chance of Spinning Silver when offered a copy. I liked the world-building and some of the plot but didn’t get along with the way the narrative changed points of view. Overall I thought it was a good book, but was a little long.


The Edge Of The World by Michael Pye is a book about the countries surrounding the North Sea and how that blend of cultures and peoples defined Europe and us. In here he focuses on specific subjects, but I felt it would have been better if he had concentrated on time periods so you could track the way it changed.



I am a big fan of Laurie Lee, he had a gentle poetic way with words. This new book of his, Down In The Valley is a transcription of his conversations that he had whilst making a BBC documentary. It has some of the magic, but not all and I think that this is down to the way we speak and write tends to be different. I picked up Cobra In The Bath by Miles Morland thinking it would be a suitable book for my #WorldFromMyArmchair challenge where I am reading a travel or non-fiction book that is set in or passes through every country in the world. Turns out this was a slightly pompous memoir about his unusual upbringing and work as an investment banker with a little bit of travel tacked on the end.



I had supported the publication of this book by Anita Roy, A Year In Kingcombe. For those that don’t know, this owned by Dorset Wildlife Trust and is a beautiful place to visit. This is about twelve visits that the author took over the course of a year. Matt Gaw’s book The Pull of the River was a favourite when I first read it and I was really pleased to receive his new book, Under the Stars. In here he sets out to discover the beauty of the night sky for himself and scratches the surface of the night landscape. Well worth reading.


Two very different poetry book this month, first up A Force That Takes by Edward Ragg which the author kindly sent me. It is a wide-ranging collection that contains one of my all-time favourite poems. I won Soho by Richard Scott in one of the Costa giveaways and hadn’t got to read it until now. It is a pretty graphic collection of poems about gay relationships, not my usual reading, but it is good to read beyond your regular haunts sometimes.



I read two science books this month too. The first is Through Two Doors at Once by Anil Ananthaswamy. This is about the two-slit experiment that shows how light is both a wave and a particle at the same time. Quantum mechanics is not the easiest of subjects, but Ananthaswamy manages to make some of this non-baffling… I was lucky enough to receive the new book from Marcus Chown too, The Magicians. In here he has dramatised the ten most significant events in the development of physics and done a really good job of it.



The Impossible Climb was one of the books that I was judging on for the Edward Stanford Travel Awards. It is about Alex Honnold dramatic free solo climb of El Capitan and climbing life in general in Yosemite. The guy is mad and brilliant at the same time. Alexander Kinglake was a traveller in the middle east in the middle of the 19th century and Eothen has just been republished by Eland. He is cited as influencing many travel writers since. It is an interesting book, full of insight and imperial attitudes, but worth a read.  Gail Simmons arranged for me to receive a copy of her book, The Country of Larks. It is a short book as she follows the path of HS2 across the Chilterns and walks in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson. Beautifully written too.



I had three books of the month in February, Sea of Rust C. Robert Cargill which is a bleak, post-humanity story around a robot forging a life in this world scoured of all life. Another bleak science fiction book by Ben Smith called Doggerland where two men are charged with maintaining the wind farm off the Norfolk coast. It is hauntingly beautiful and disturbing at the same time. Finally is Mudlarking, a story of things that are found on the Thames foreshore. This social history book by Lara Maiklem is as fascinating as the things that she finds every time the tide goes out.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    Some great reads and some that you’ve saved us from! I think I agree with you on Mudlarking. I read 10 books in February but, due to some time off just now, appear to have finished four books already this month!

    • Paul

      Review for those are written, just had some other things to publish first. Well done you. I need to spend much less time on twitter…

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