March/April Summary and Plans for May

I got my reading mojo back recently and have read a lot in the last few weeks. This is mainly because we still haven’t sold our house, so we’re in a boring limbo which involves lots of cleaning and sitting around whilst people wander around our house. Hopefully someone will buy it soon so that we can move onto the next stage of our lives.

Books of the Month

There were two stand-out books this month:

I highly recommend reading both of them!

Books reviewed in March/April

It’s All In Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan 

A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler  

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave  

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent 

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins 

Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld, Illustrated by Joe Sumner 

The Villa Rouge by Maggie Ross 

Meatspace by Nikesh Shukla 

Shtum by Jem Lester 

His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay 

Stork Mountain by Mirislav Penkov 

Black Milk by Elif Shafak 

The Best Thing That Can Happen to a Croissant by Pablo Tusset 

When the Floods Came by Clare Morrall 

Plans For May

I’m hoping that I’ll continue to read regularly and plan to read/review most of the following books soon:

Walkabout by James Vance Marshall

Long Night of White Chickens by Francisco Goldman

The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan

The War Of The Worlds by HG Wells

Christ’s Entry into Brussels by Dimitri Verhulst

Marching Powder by Rusty Young

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

I’ll also pick up a few random books from my shelves. Hopefully I’ll discover a gem or two. Have a wonderful May!



Books in Brief: Black Milk, The Best Thing That Can Happen to a Croissant and Stork Mountain

 Source: Personal Copy

Translated from the Spanish by Kristina Cordero

The Best Thing That Can Happen to a Croissant by Pablo Tusset

Five words from the blurb: obscenely, family, disappears, business, adventure

I bought this book because I was intrigued by the title. It was a fast paced, mildly amusing, thriller, but unfortunately it has dated badly. It was only published in 2001, but the details of dial-up internet/paper trail investigation etc made the reading experience feel quite weird. I also found that the continual swearing and male humor wore thin after a while. There were several good passages and the plot maintained a good momentum throughout, but the high philosophy of the ending was a bit bizarre and not in keeping with the rest of the book.

It was probably a good book ten years ago, but sadly only an average read now.

 Source: Free review copy received from publisher

Stork Mountain by Mirislav Penkov

Five words from the blurb: Bulgaria, grandfather, mysteries, ghosts, past

This book began really well, with a dramatic scene involving a sandstorm. The imagery and emotion was impressive and I will remember it for a long time.

The story revolves around an American student returning to Bulgaria to find his grandfather.  Details of Bulgarian history/mythology are given throughout and I loved the way realistic elements were blended with fantastical ones.

Unfortunately Stork Mountain didn’t quite work as a whole. Mirislav Penkov is clearly a talented writer, but the individual scenes didn’t connect well and I frequently found myself losing interest. I’m pleased that I read this book as I now feel more informed about the history of this area, but the author’s skill still lies with short stories for now.


Black Milk: On Motherhood and WritingSource: Library

Black Milk by Elif Shafak

Five words from the blurb: author, motherhood, conflict, history, depression

Black Milk looks the impact motherhood had on the lives of many famous authors – including Ayn Rand, Doris Lessing and George Eliot. It also details the author’s own experiences – which involve a dark depression and conflicting thoughts on whether or not authors benefit from having a child.

The book contained many interesting passages, but unfortunately it became a bit repetitive. I suppose this highlighted the fact that experiences of motherhood are the same the world over, but it led to me losing interest.

I also found the author’s conversations with her internal ‘finger-women’ a bit odd. It was good to see this side of her culture, but these passages jarred with the beautifully researched information in the rest of the book.

Black Milk is essential reading for anyone interested in feminist issues, but its repetitive nature means it is perhaps best read in sections, rather than all at once.


Other Uncategorized

September/October Summary and Plans for November

The summer was so busy that I didn’t read much, but things have been a lot quieter since my boys returned to school. This means I’m back to my usual level of reading and am getting through the stacks again. I’ve read a nice selection of books, but my favourite read, by a long margin, was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I think it will be difficult to find a better book this year. In fact I don’t think I’ve read another book with such an intensity of emotion. I highly recommend you give it a try!

Book of the Month:

A Little Life

Books Reviewed in September/October:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara 

The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler 

The Utopia Experiment by Dylan Evans 

Educating Ruby by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas 

Every Boy Should Have a Man by Preston L Allen 

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg 

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh 

Soil by Jamie Kornegay 

Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks 

The First Bad Man by Miranda July 

Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel 

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand 

Plans for November

I’ve recently finished the following books and hope to review them soon:

News from Nowhere by William Morris

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld

Meatspace by Nikesh Shukla

The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts

I then plan to read most of these:

Death and Mr Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Black Milk by Elif Shafak

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

The Postman by David Brin

I hope you have a wonderful November!

2015 Other Uncategorized

Books in Brief: The Seed Collectors, Fates and Furies and Soil

The Seed Collectors Source: Free review copy received from publisher

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas

Five words from the blurb: woman, love, struggles, seeds, parents

I’ve enjoyed many of Scarlett Thomas’ previous books (especially The End Of Mr. Y) so was looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately it was a departure from her usual style and I didn’t enjoy it as much.

The blurb and the first page give the impression that this book is a horticultural fantasy novel involving walking trees and poisonous seeds. Unfortunately the truth is much more ordinary. This book is a family saga, charting the changing relationships between generations of one family. There were good sections, but overall I wasn’t impressed. There were too many characters, so I struggled to keep track of who was who, and didn’t care what happened to any of them. There was also a lot of sex, which didn’t seem to add anything to the story.

Overall, this book lacked the passion of her previous ones. I think she enjoys writing about psychology much more than horticulture.


Fates and Furies Source: Free review copy received from publisher

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Five words from the blurb: relationships, sides, marriage, envy, friends

I could almost copy and paste my review of The Seed Collectors here too – they share so many of the same problems! I’ve read all of Groff’s previous novels (my favourite is The Monsters of Templeton). She seems to be another of those authors whose skill as a writer is improving all the time, but at the expense of raw emotional passion.

This book is about long-term relationships, but I was so distanced from the characters that I failed to form any attachment to them. The descriptive passages were lovely, but there was no forward momentum and I became bored. I might have enjoyed it more if there had been less meandering, but I prefer Groff when she is writing emotional scenes.


Soil  Source: Library

Soil by Jamie Kornegay

Five words from the blurb: Mississippi, flood, farm, body, ruined

Soil begins with wonderfully atmospheric descriptions of a man finding a corpse on his flooded Mississippi farm. Worried he might be blamed for the death, he attempts to hide the body. This turns out to be harder than expected! Here’s a list of DIY nutrients that can be sourced from dynamic accumulator plants.

The characters were all well-formed and I loved the initial tension. Unfortunately the plot began to flounder at the half-way stage – probably because the book was a bit too long. The emotions were all realistic and I could understand exactly why the characters reacted in their own bizarre ways. It developed into a gentler story of rural life/relationships than I expected, but it was an enjoyable read.

I was impressed by many sections in Soil and will seek out this author again in future.



Books in Brief: I Let You Go, Unbroken, Where My Heart Used to Beat

I Let You Go Source: Personal Copy

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Five words from the blurb: tragic, accident, escape, mystery, consequences

I read I Let You Go because it was chosen by my book club. It is a fast-paced thriller about a woman whose child is killed by a car. Some elements were fantastic, but I found other sections less convincing. It’s probably worth reading for the twist alone, but don’t stop to analyse it for too long as it is one of those books that falls apart under scrutiny. Perfect when you’re looking for a gripping mystery to race through!


Unbroken Source: Library

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Five words from the blurb: Runner, WWII, crash, survive, floating

Unbroken is the fascinating true story of an Olympic runner who is shot down during WWII and finds himself floating in the middle of the ocean, hundreds of miles from the shore. Unfortunately the text was lacking emotion and, despite the fact it is one of the most interesting stories I’ve come across in a while, I found myself not caring whether he lived or died. Facts seemed to get in the way – with excessive detail on everything from his Olympic running, to the planes he was flying. A quick check on Goodreads suggests I’m in the minority on this one – most other people seem to love it.


Where My Heart Used to Beat Source: Free review copy received from publisher

Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks

Five words from the blurb: soldier, WWII, sanity, love, Front

I loved Birdsong, so was interested to try Faulks’ new book. Unfortunately it didn’t have the same emotional power. There was nothing really wrong with this story of a former soldier learning more about his family and meeting people from his past, but it wasn’t special in any way. An average read for those who enjoy reading about the way war impacts on a soldier through his entire life.



July/August Summary and Plans for September

I’ve had a very busy summer, spending time with friends and family. I’ve managed to keep up the reading, but haven’t been able to keep this blog up to date. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that now things are getting back to normal.

Over the summer I read two outstanding books: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Both go on to my list of all-time favourites and I hope that you love them as much as I did.

Books of the Summer:

Shantaram A Little Life

Books Reviewed in July/August:

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts 

All Involved by Ryan Gattis 

The Bridge Over the Drina by Ivo Andric 

Blackass by A Igoni Barrett 

Familiar Wars by Julietta Harvey 

Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen 

The Loney Andrew Michael Hurley 

Under the Skin by Michel Faber 

Plans for September

I’m a bit behind with reviews. I hope to catch up in the next few weeks, but here are a few words to give you an idea of my thoughts on the books I’ve finished recently:

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh Gripping, but flawed

Swallow This by Joanna Blythman Scary!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara A masterpiece

Educating Ruby by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas Insightful

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand Lacking emotion

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson Too long

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas Too fragmentented

Cafe Europa by Slavenka Drakulic Fascinating, but dated

I haven’t thought about what I’m going to read next as I’m too busy unpacking! I need to have a good look at all the books I have here and try to prioritise them. I’ll update my sidebar as I work through the outstanding reviews.

I hope you all had a great summer and I look forward to catching up with you soon.