July Summary and Plans for August

July was a fantastic reading month for me. I enjoyed almost everything that I read, leading me to read for longer than usual. In total I finished 14 books.

Three were so good that they’ll end up as my 2010 favourites:


The Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill   

Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card  

The Birth of Love – Joanna Kavenna  

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde 

Luke and Jon – Robert Williams  

Before the Fact – Francis Iles 

The White Bone – Barbara Gowdy  

Illustrado – Miguel Syjuco 

The Surrendered – Chang-Rae Lee 

The Republic of Trees – Sam Taylor  

White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi  

Plans for August: The Booker Long List!

I’ll be spending August working my way through the Booker long list. I don’t think I’ll have time to read anything else. In fact I’ll be lucky to finish the long list before 7th September (the day the short list is announced), especially since I also have to squeeze in The Sopranos by Alan Warner as it comes before The Stars in the Bright Sky.

I’m also considering reading The Siege by Helen Dunmore as The Betrayal is the follow-up to it. I’ve been told that they work as stand alone books, but I don’t like reading things out of order.

Have you read both books? Do you think I’ll enjoy The Betrayal less if I haven’t read The Siege first?

There will be more than Booker on the blog…

Unfortunately I’m a little behind in writing reviews, but the good news is that I have finished almost everything in my sidebar and so I’ll be able to intersperse those reviews with the Booker ones.

Summer holidays

It is the school Summer holidays here in the UK and so I’ll be spending my days looking after my little boys.

This means that you probably won’t see me on Twitter much and my blogging time will be greatly reduced. I apologise in advance for taking longer to respond to your comments and my dwindling Internet presence – I’ll be back to full blogging speed in September.

Have a wonderful Summer!


Luke and Jon – Robert Williams

A few people suggested that Luke and Jon might make the Booker long list and so I tried to squeeze it in before the announcement. Unfortunately it didn’t make the cut, but I’m really pleased that I read it as it was a fantastic book.

Luke and Jon is an engaging, but depressing novella. The book begins with the death of Luke’s mother and so we see how a child copes with bereavement. It was moving, but heartwarming to see him slowly accept the tragedy and then blossom into an independent person.

When I dreamt about Mum it was different. It would be simple everyday things. We would be walking through town on a Saturday morning, on our way to the butcher’s, or we would be in a supermarket and I would try to sneak more chocolate into the trolley and she would catch me and make me put it back on the shelf. Every last dull detail, every sound rang true, everything exactly as it was a few months before. That’s what made the mornings so horrible.

Luke is helped on his journey by becoming friends with Jon, a strange boy with his own secrets. The book is very short so it is hard to explain the plot without giving anything away. All I can say is that this book deals with themes of bereavement and bullying. The length and simplicity of the prose would make it an ideal book to initiate discussions on these topics with teenagers, but this isn’t a YA book. It is a book that will appeal to all ages.

The intense emotion of the book reminded me of Beside the Sea, but I found that the vaguely hopeful ending of Luke and Jon lessened the powerful impact. I guess that this is because novellas are too short to develop a plot that is complex enough to satisfy my needs and so I rely on raw emotion to affect me. This emotion was abundant in the first half of the book, but as Luke began to cope with the loss of his mother the impact was lessened. Am I weird for preferring a book that is desperately tragic?

Recommended if you enjoy emotional books.

Booker Prize Other

The Man Booker Long List 2010

The Booker long list was announced yesterday. I was surprised by the number of relatively unknown books on the list and initially frustrated that I had read so few. I’m planning to read the entire Booker long list and so will have to put in a lot of effort if I am to complete them all before the short list is announced on 7th September.

The three I’ve already read:


…a light, entertaining read..

The Long Song – Andrea Levy stars41

The graphic sex, abusive language and controversial subject means that this book isn’t for everyone, but it will generate debate and isn’t that a great thing for a book to do?

The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas stars41





….the complexity will put off all but the most determined reader.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell stars41

The ten books you’ll hopefully see on this blog soon:



It will terrify you and disturb you… Book Lust

…not nearly as life-changing as rave blurb quotations suggested. @urchinette

There have been some comparisons to The Lovely Bones but I would say this is better… Writer’s Little Helper

Room – Emma Donoghue



Some of you will probably ‘get’ it… books i done read

It’s no Oscar and Lucinda, of course, but it’s still pretty good.  Vulpes Libris

Parrot and Olivier in America – Peter Carey



No blogger reviews, but Scarlett Thomas said:

This is such a page-turner, and is in places so gruesome, that reading it becomes more visceral than intellectual…

The Betrayal – Helen Dunmore



No blogger reviews, but Jan Morris said:

…through the sadnesses and the pathos, the disappointments and the disillusionments, kindness shines.

In a Strange Room – Damon Galgut



No blogger reviews, but Twitter was full of love for Howard Jacobson! underrated writer who has thrilled me over and over again. @JonnyBest

The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobson



Tom McCarthy seems to be dividing opinion:

…the deliberately flattened, almost mechanical characters and the endless technical prose make for joyless reading… Theo Tait

…one of my top 5 novel’s of the year so far… @rbertsindelar

C – Tom McCarthy



The book is very striking without being a sob-fest. Monniblog

Please, do me a favour and read this book. Sasquatch Radio

February – Lisa Moore



….there is so much energy that it explodes out in unexpected directions. Asylum

It’s a rich, immersive read that you shouldn’t miss. Follow the Thread

Skippy Dies – Paul Murray



The style and the themes hit, but for me, the emotional side of the story didn’t. Fleur Fisher Reads

Unfortunately I felt that in comparison to The Road Home, the book was quite slow. Cardigangirlverity

Trespass – Rose Tremain



You don’t have to have read The Sopranos to make sense of The Stars in the Bright Sky, or to be instantly hooked by it. Thomas Jones

Am delighted Alan Warner made it onto the Booker longlist. Scottish, funny, experimental, searching – what’s not to like? @writercampbell

The Stars in the Bright Sky – Alan Warner

When the long list was announced I initially felt a bit disappointed that I hadn’t heard of more of the books, but having just spent the morning researching this blog post I have regained my Booker enthusiasm. Almost every book now appeals to me and I am very excited to begin my Booker challenge. I’m particularly excited about reading Room, C and Skippy Dies.

Wish me luck!

Are you planning to read the complete long list?

Which books are most appealing to you?

Booker Prize Other

Who will make the Man Booker Prize Long List 2010?

The long list for the Booker Prize will be revealed on Tuesday 27th July. I’m so excited! I have read a lot of fantastic new fiction this year and so trying to select 13 books for my ‘Booker dozen’ prediction was very hard. In the end I chose:



I think that Mitchell will win the Booker this year, but it’s probably too early for that sort of prediction!



Books I’ve read, with links to my reviews:

Rupture – Simon Lelic  

The Birth of Love – Joanna Kavenna 

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell stars41

Ruby’s Spoon – Anna Lawrence Pietroni stars41

The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas stars41

Even the Dogs – Jon McGregor  stars41

Solar – Ian McEwan 

Illustrado – Miguel Syjuco 

Books I’ve heard wonderful things about and hope to read soon:

Forgetting Zoe – Ray Robinson

Room – Emma Donoghue

The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell

Parrot and Olivier in America – Peter Carey

The Go-Away Bird – Warren FitzGerald

I plan to read the complete Booker long list this year, but I’m hoping that I’ll have read the majority of them and so this won’t be such a hard task.

What do you think of my selection?

Who do you think will make the Booker long list?

1930s Classics Crime

Before the Fact – Francis Iles

I first saw Before the Fact mentioned on Shelf Love, but was persuaded to read it when Teresa selected it as a ‘book that deserves a wider audience’ at Reading Matters.

Francis Iles is an important author in the crime fiction world as he progressed the genre from simple “whodunnits” into books where the murderer is known to the reader and the joy is in understanding their motives and finding out if they get caught.

I loved the first paragraph of Before the Fact:

Some women give birth to murderers, some go to bed with them, and some marry them. Lina Aysgarth had lived with her husband for nearly eight years before she realized that she was married to a murderer.

Before the Fact was easy to read, with a light, almost humorous tone. We watch Lina’s relationship with her husband grow and then falter, as she slowly discovers his flaws and finally realises that he is a murderer. The narrative darkened slightly towards the end, but I’m sure that even the most nervous reader could cope with this book.

It is hard to imagine how 1930s readers reacted to discovering the name of the murderer on the first page, but despite the fact that this frequently happens in modern books I was impressed by the way the plot developed. The book was packed with 1930s charm, but the issues of trust in a relationship are still relevant today.

I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the development of the crime novel, or if you are after a lighter, enjoyable read.

I also watched the DVD as part of C.B. James’ Read The Book, See the Movie Challenge

The Hitchcock classic, Suspicion, is based upon Before the Fact. I hadn’t seen any Hitchcock films before and so thought this was the perfect place to start.

I was really disappointed by Suspicion. The book opens with you knowing that the husband is a murderer, but the film starts off really slowly. You have absolutely no idea where it is going – all you see is a happy couple getting together and setting up their own home. Little things slowly start happening to indicate that everything might not be quite right, but it was too little too late for me. I’m not used to watching these older films, so perhaps it is just a sign of my addiction to the faster paced ones created today, but I can’t help feeling that Frances Iles had the right idea by letting us in on the secret from the start.

The film also looks at things from a slightly different angle – you don’t know whether or not he is a murderer until the very end. This is he/isn’t he? question really irritated me, but perhaps that was because I’d just read the book!

My husband started watching the film with me, but gave up after 40 minutes. At that point I told him that Cary Grant was a murderer. He almost decided to continue watching, but in the end decided he couldn’t take any more of their slow relationship building!

I’m afraid I wouldn’t recommend Suspicion – read the book instead!

Have you read any books written by Frances Iles?

Have you seen Suspicion?

2009 Commonwealth Writer's Prize Recommended books

The Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill

 Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2008 

Note: This book is called Someone Knows My Name in the US 

The Book is Negroes is an epic story following the life of one woman, Aminata Diallo, as she is captured from her West African village and sold as a child slave. We see her grow into a strong woman who battles against adversity, ending up in London amongst key figures in the abolition of the slave trade. 

On that slave vessel, I saw things that the people of London would never believe. But I think of the people who crossed the sea with me. The ones who survived. We saw the same things. Some of us still scream out in the middle of the night. But there are men, women and children walking about the streets without the faintest idea of our nightmares. They cannot know what we endured if we never find anyone to listen.

The book gripped me throughout. I immediately connected with Aminata and loved seeing her develop from a frightened child into a brave woman. The fact that the whole story was seen through her eyes meant that by the end of the book I knew everything about her. I felt as though I was part of the story, rather than a distant observer.

I thought I knew a lot about the slave trade, but I was completely unaware of some elements of this book. I has no idea that slaves helped the British fight the Revolutionary War in Manhattan, or that some of those who did were shipped to Nova Scotia; so this book educated as well as entertained me. 

There were points when I felt that the plot was a bit too convenient – Aminita seemed to end up in all the right places, just as critical moments of history took place. In the end I can’t complain too much – the story was fantastic and the notes at the end explained a little bit about the history, making me realise that it could almost have happened. 

This book is easy to read – I’d describe it as quality fiction, rather than literary fiction. It is the type of book that has broad appeal and so I’m surprised it hasn’t had more coverage in the blogging world. I’d compare it to The Help or A Thousand Splendid Suns – the type of book selected by Richard and Judy or The TV Book Club, enjoyed and discussed by book clubs everywhere.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, if only so you are aware of the numerous ways in which slaves suffered.

The thoughts of other bloggers:

…while the themes are definitely heavy, it doesn’t feel like a burden, even with almost 500 pages to it. Kiss a  Cloud

In focusing in on one main character, Hill has personalized history that makes us uncomfortable…   BookNAround

Books like this are so important to us and to future generations, lest we should forget. The Book Whisperer

The Book of Negroes is a masterpiece of historical literature, capturing the contradictions of the human condition in graceful, honest prose… Giraffe Days