I love being put in touch with new authors, and I love even more when this leads me to discover a new series. So meeting author Heather Burnside online, and discovering her emerging series The Riverhill Trilogy was a real treat that ticked all my bibliophile boxes. And now with the release of the finale of this trilogy ‘Danger by Association’, it almost feels like the end of an era. After the saddening and shocking end of the last book, Gangster’s Grip, it was difficult to see where the series could go next.
Once again, I’ve been sporadic in writing, but the good news is that I’m back into my reading groove, helped by the fact I’ve recently opened up the many moving boxes labelled ‘books’. One book I was excited to finally have the time to read was Gangster’s Grip, which as you may remember is number two in the Riverhill Trilogy by the fabulous Heather Burnside. Some of my many boxes marked ‘books’ I’ve read pretty much everything Burnside has written; her short stories collection Crime, Conflict and Consequences, and the first book in the trilogy Slur, and it’s safe to say I’m a fan.
It is Sunday here in Switzerland’s answer to Italy, and as mentioned last week there is little to do here, so I have taken great pleasure in indulging in a morning-long reading session, my first in quite a long time. I haven’t done much reading during the move for obvious reasons, and my transition back into reading wasn’t all that smooth; choosing to read books about serial killers that always seem to prey on women that live alone - not ideal at a time when you’re alone in a foreign country.
The more loyal of my readers will have noticed I have been AWOL the last few weeks. Well I have now reappeared in another country entirely; from frenzied Central London, we have moved to a beautiful quiet town in southern Switzerland. It’s been a huge move, which happened in a whirlwind of activity over Christmas, and now 4 weeks after moving I can finally take in what’s happened! So I hope no one minds if I depart from my usual book talk this week to put down my thoughts about it.
Last week I wrote about my newly found appreciation of the thriller genre, which continues in spades with my latest favourite book, Misdirection by Martin Link. Misdirection, the first in a series featuring Lucas Norton, a down-to-earth, likeable MI5 agent, is an intense, intelligent novel which doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is all the better for it. To compare Lucas Norton to James Bond, as everyone from reviewers to the book’s own blurb have done, is an insult to Norton in my opinion.
While I’m a big fan of Crime and Mystery novels, I’m less keen on its brash excitable cousin, Thrillers. With this exception of The Bourne Trilogy, I have never really enjoyed action or thriller films or books. However it was with delight that I got Corruption of Power the soon-to-be-released thriller from G W Eccles. My reaction is partly due to the fact that this is a book I wouldn’t necessarily read under normal circumstances; as you know I love getting recommendations, otherwise I get stuck in a classics and Agatha Christie rut.
Well my plea to newspaper editors the other week to become a full time reviewer hasn’t been picked up yet, but it seems like plenty of authors have responded to my call! I’ve recently been inundated with requests from hot new authors to review their work and I couldn’t be happier. In my mind it is a mutually beneficial deal; they get some publicity for their work and some soundbites for their webpage or publishers to use, and I get publicity when they post about my review, plus some new books to read!
Occasionally, you get a book with a twist so good you need to go back and read the whole book again. They are quite elusive, there is a fine line between a legitimately mind blowing plot twist, and putting two fingers up to the reader as you back track on the whole of your story (and you all know my thoughts on the twist in We Were Completely Beside Ourselves!). Well I’ve managed to find one of those excellent twisty books.
I absolutely love being a reviewer. One of these days it will be my full time, full paying job and I’ll be able to spend all my time reading books and writing about them. But enough begging to any newspaper editors that might be reading, let’s get back to the point. In the little under a year that I’ve been writing this blog I have been in contact with, worked with and even become friends with some fantastic indie authors.
As I’ve decided this is the year to jump on bandwagons and go for popular, current books, I decided to read the current hit The Martian after seeing the film a few months ago (if you don’t agree with my decision to read the book until after seeing the film then see my thoughts on that here). We’ve all heard the fascinating backstory behind the release of this work from science geek Andy Weir, who self-published his book as a series after being rejected too many times by mainstream publishers, only to have it snapped up as it became popular.
Crime, Conflict and Consequences by Heather Burnside Short stories may seem like the easier option when embarking on a writing career, being less intimidating than a full length novel. However they are deceptively hard to do right. With fewer words an author has to introduce characters and establish their status quo to the reader, put them immediately in a situation of conflict, and resolve it all in only a few pages.
J.K Rowling fans are really being spoilt at the moment, with the excitement of the new Harry Potter play next year (which I am definitely flying back for!), and writing us a book a year for the last three years. Those of us who remember the agonising wait in between the last few Harry Potter books are having it all made up to them as under her alter-ego Robert Galbraith, Rowling writes her third Cormoran Strike novel in as many years, Career of Evil.
The Amazon and Goodreads reviews for Karen Joy Fowler’s We are all Completely Beside Ourselves are mixed. Not in the ‘3 star, some good points, some bad points, I enjoyed it but wouldn’t rave about it’ sense. But in the true sense, as in a split down the middle, half 5 star, half 1 star, “I loved it” or “I loathed it” sense. Like the reviewers are talking alternately about Shakespeare and E.L.
It’s been a crazy few weeks over here, not least due to a wonderful trip to Switzerland last week. Because of all the jet-setting and general life admin, I started - but didn’t complete - a post of my thoughts on this year’s Banned Book Week - which ended over a week ago! Whoops! Not like me to drop the ball, but if you’re still interested, here it is, and I’ll try to be more relevant in future.
If you haven’t done so already I insist you all immediately run out and buy October’s copy of Vintage Life Magazine, although I warn you they are not very discerning on who they feature… I’m in a magazine! (and if you didn’t say that in a Mike Wazowski voice in your head we can’t be friends) I had a fantastic time in Quinto Bookshop doing the photos for the piece; the staff were super friendly - even offering us a cup of tea - and the range of books is incredible!
With my mid-to-late year’s resolution to read more contemporary books, I plunged with gusto this week into Man Booker Prize shortlisted book ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’ by Anne Tyler. I hadn’t read any of Tyler’s work before so I will admit I was quite unsure of what the style would be and if it would work. After all, the story didn’t sound the most action packed so one’s enjoyment of the book would depend purely on it being written well.
An occupational hazard of being someone who writes about reading is that I’m constantly being asked to recommend books, in the same, almost accusatory way comedians are always asked to ‘tell me a joke!’. You’d think I’d love this, being a reviewer and all, but it always really flusters me! Personally I prefer to discuss books with people, rather than be held up as some kind of expert. (Cue huge amount of new readers exiting my blog, exclaiming some variation of ‘You don’t recommend books?
It’s really special time of year in the literary world at the moment, as it just so happens that we celebrate two very inspirational authors within a couple days of each other. Today, September 13th, is Roald Dahl day; a day to re-read some of your favourite of his children’s stories and to branch out to his adult short story collections if you’re feeling brave! I’ve touched briefly on my love of Dahl in my post about Matilda, but there is much more to cover and I will back to it shortly.
It’s a bit of an open secret by now that my husband and myself are thinking of emigrating at some point in the semi-near future (apologies to any friends that I haven’t got round to telling yet, that may come as a bit of a shock!). While we wait for our big break that will enable us to move somewhere exotic and unknown, various plans and preparations are being made, including clearing out some unwanted clutter from our flat.
Lives in Limbo by Victoria Louise Hill I love being put in touch with new authors, and I was lucky enough to be put in contact with the talented Louise Hill a while back, and to read her first novel Lives in Limbo. As soon as I heard the premise, I was so intrigued. Hill describes it best: ‘You had fertility problems. You went through the IVF process. You have your longed-for family.
Some celebrations are in order: it was my bithday yesterday, the last one of my ‘crazy’ twenty-something years! Just thought you might be interested in some of the thoughtful gifts I received (do my friends and family know me or what?!) Just some of my lovely gifts, including one of my two cakes! One of my favourite quotes on a mug from my mum. Remind you of anyone?! A fantastic choice of book from my husband, and a Harry Potter lightning scar necklace from my bestie!
Yesterday, I had the theatrical experience of a lifetime as I watched one of my favourite actors play a part in one of my all-time favourite plays. I was lucky enough to catch a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, starring David Suchet as Lady Bracknell. Wilde’s plays never disappoint, in fact you don’t have time to be disappointed as you are keeping up with the lightning-fast dialogue.
Hi all, Just a quick note to say I might not be so regular with my posts while I go through a few changes with my job situation. Hopefully I’ll be back here soon with some good news though! In the meantime I’ll still be reading lots and I’m sure you all will be too. So don’t give up on me and I’ll back before you guys check my site again!
Occasionally it can be difficult to think of something new to write about each week, even when it’s a subject that you are passionate about such as this. However with the most anticipated literary launch since the final Harry Potter happening this week, this week’s post was a bit of a no-brainer. I, like many others, got my copy of Harper Lee’s ‘lost’ book Go Set a Watchman delivered to me on Tuesday.
The shop is dark, the windows boarded up to facilitate more shelves; you breathe in more mould and dust than air, and one wrong move and you’re buried forever in a mountain of tomes. Not the best place to spend a sunny afternoon when you come to the British coast? I beg to differ. Calling Paperback Exchange in Bognor Regis a second-hand bookshop doesn’t feel like it does it justice. It instead feels like the main headquarters of a group of eccentric bookworms in a post-apocalyptic world, and they had made it their mission to collect all the literature of fallen humanity.
Quirky. Heartwarming. Uplifting. Not normally words you’d associate with a story about euthanasia, the ravages of age and terminal illness. Yet that’s exactly what I was left with after reading “The Last Best Thing”, the oh-too-short novella by Kate Sebeny. “You might not want to start the book until tomorrow” says Kate, who lives in Iowa, after I mention it’s evening time in London. “Folks report losing sleep over that story.” Well I immediately had to dive in once I’d heard that, hoping that Kate made as good a writer as she does a salesperson!
A couple of weeks ago I went on a bit of a rant about how the education system should be encouraging children to read for pleasure instead of worrying about their grades and OFSTED results. Well something I saw this week made me remember not to doubt the resourcefulness of educators for fighting back against this. As part of my normal day job* I work for an education charity that runs teacher training workshops in schools.
Just a quick note (which should have been last week but I was too peed off about the education system!) to say it’s been 6 months since I started thebookonmydesk. It has absolutely flown by, probably because I’ve been having so much fun! I love books and I’m so glad to be able to share it with the world. I’m so grateful for each of my readers, whether you’re one of my regular fans or here for a one off browse.
A few weeks ago this article came out about how children are reading for pleasure more than ever. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-32797986 You can imagine how pleased I am about this, especially as a former teacher who spent 5 years trying to transfer my enthusiasm for reading to my students! I did this in a few ways, and they remain to this day one of my best memories from teaching. Once, I organised a school-wide book week which had kids reading all over the school and reciting poetry to each other!
How do you feel when you find out your favourite book is being turned into a movie or TV show? Excited that you get to see your favourite characters and scenes come to life? Or a sense of dread - although you will be amongst the first to see it you will be bitterly disappointed. Whole important scenes cut out, characters changed, things not explained properly. It’s just not paying respect to a great piece of writing.
Some of you may remember a while back when I had my 15 seconds of fame in Vintage Life Magazine. Well hold on because things are about to get meta; prepare for a review of the magazine that published one of my reviews. 18 months or so ago, I was out care-package shopping for my pregnant best friend, who’d just been put on bed-rest. After buying the usual calorific treats and bath products I popped into WH Smith to get her some reading material.
After all this time? Always… I’m typing this very gingerly today - I’ve just got a tattoo on my wrist which is oh so convenient for all the writing I do. But it looks awesome so I can handle a tender bit of typing. Judge for yourself: Anyway, on with the (ouch) post. This week’s idea comes yet again from my lovely now ex-colleague Fiona. While catching up over the best burgers Covent Garden has to offer we got on to the topic of fandoms (although I’m not sure that exact word actually came up).
This week I’m branching out a little, from reviewing books to… reviewing a play (from a book). Yesterday I decided to make the most of living in London and saw Death of a Salesman at the beautiful Noel Coward Theatre . I’ve never seen the fabulous Arthur Miller play performed before, I’ve only read it, so it was a real treat to see it as it was meant to be seen.
This week has been one of real decision making. I knew I needed to make my voice heard but I just couldn’t quite decide on the best choice. It was after all something I felt strongly about, but which way to go? After a lot of soul searching though, I made my decision, voted and hoped it was the right thing to do. Don’t worry, I’m not joining the swaths of sudden political commentators that have popped up this week during the British General Election (although I did vote I’m keeping my political opinions to myself - that is not the type of discussion I want on this site!).
So I’ve been back in the UK about a week now. I’m still struggling to remember to put a coat on when I go outside, as London currently has nothing like the balmy Jordanian weather that I’m used to, and I’m still waking up ever so slightly too early after being on Israeli time. But, amidst all my end of holiday blues I am rejoicing in the amount of reading I have crammed in over the last few weeks.
Just a quick post this week, I’m currently busy going dangerously close to the plane weight limit, packing for my upcoming adventure to the Middle East. In my case - more books (and shoes) than I could ever need in 3 weeks. My husband despairs every time we go away as he rifles through my suitcase, literally decimating the amount of books and outfits in there. I’m in the unfortunate position of having recently finished my convenient book on Kindle, and nearly finishing my nice slim paperback.
This week on one of my regular sessions browsing The Daily Mail while feeling oh-so-dirty, I came across this story: Choose a life. Choose a career. Choose a freaking big television (and an app that cleans up all the swear words from your e-books) Now, I can see what they’re trying to do with this app but this really does make me uncomfortable. Essentially this is censorship. When did we decide that we’re not all adults who can read profanity if we wish, and can simply close the book if we don’t?
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins No spoilers - but you may work it out yourself Apparently since I left my previous job, the infamous Reading Between the Wines book club that I set up there has fallen apart slightly. However, a couple of the more hardcore members and I have been seeing each other regularly since I left and between us we have set up Reading Between the Wines 2.0, new and improved.
Regular readers (all two of you - hello!) will know that I’ve made no secret of my dislike of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. God knows I’ve tried (with the help of my super-fan husband Pete) to get into them, but I admitted defeat last year with my fifth novel of his. Sorry Discworld fans, you can’t say I didn’t try! However, this really is irrelevant when it comes to this week’s post.
“There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.” ― Lawrence Durrell A couple of months ago, regular commenter Helen talked about the lack of strong and non-traditional female characters in books for her daughter. It’s something I can relate to. My memories of World Book Day when I was a teacher (which was also this week - the one time I miss being in the classroom) was crowds of little girls in Disney Princess costumes.
One of my favourite periods of my working life was the time just after quitting teaching, before I went into the world of grown-up office work. During this gap I volunteered for 6 months at a charity bookshop. It was fantastic for a couple of reasons - firstly I had first dibs on all the books that were donated to the shop; I’ve never spent so much on books in my life despite them being only £1.99 each!
Just a quick note to mention that I’ve been featured in Vintage Life Magazine this month! Apart from books, my other passion is all things vintage so I wrote a review about a 1920’s fashion book which is featured in the March edition. Please do check it out, it is a fantastic magazine, featuring everything you might want to know about Vintage lifestyles.
Hands up, who is having a bit of a miserable winter? I’m suffering with a bit of mild SAD from this lingering, not-sure what-it’s-doing British winter and I’m not the only one. It seems like most people I know, in one way or another, is feeling the winter blues at the moment. So as always, my solution is books; I plan to hibernate and read as much as possible till Spring.
In celebration of the most over-hyped holidays since new years eve, Valentine’s day, I have put together some of my favourite romantic reads. My own valentine’s day was spent searching through record shops with my husband, followed by an evening of chilli and Fargo (fab series) - not very romantic but perfect for us! So what are your favourite romantic stories ? Whose literary relationship best demonstrates love to you? Who is your fictional crush?!
The Humans by Matt Haig I can’t spoil it as I haven’t finished it myself yet… I usually write reviews for books that I have just finished recently. It is obviously best to write about a book that is still fresh in your mind, and while you are still feeling whatever emotion the writing has managed to stir in you. It’s also not unusual for me to write reviews of books that I read a long time ago.
Matilda by Roald Dahl If you haven’t read this children’s classic by now you deserve to have it spoiled! There once was a small girl, with dark hair, big eyes and a huge love of books. She used to love going to the library and would sit and read for hours at a time in her bedroom. This of course is one of Dahl’s most famous characters, Matilda Wormwood, but it could also so easily be describing myself as a child.
Horns by Joe Hill No spoilers, but you’ll know more than I did before I read it I knew two things about this book before I started reading it: 1) I think I saw some bus posters advertising this film with Daniel Radcliffe in it. 2) My friend Fiona (in her second appearance on this site) said it’s good. I don’t usually choose my reading material based on films starring terrible actors, but Fiona is usually right about these kind of things so I took her borrowed copy and gave it a go.
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak No plot = No Spoilers To ease myself back into writing this week, let’s start with a children’s book, with the Roy Walker-esque* of titles The Book With No Pictures. You may have seen the semi-viral video of this being read by the author B.J. Novak, who also produces and appears in the second best version of the series ‘The Office’. Well we won’t hold that against him as he has written the best book for young children I have seen in a very long time, and as an ex-teacher I’ve seen a lot.
With the huge shock of going back to work this week after the Christmas break, and consequently running on less than 10 hours sleep and 4000 calories a day, I have not had much energy to write. So I give you my first guest post, a review of Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett, written by my very lovely husband. Please note I do not usually condone the use of American spelling on this site but will allow it this once as hubby did spend the majority of his childhood in California.
Excellent, you’re back! Ready for the second half of my year in books? This post covers July to December. July The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith As with Cuckoo’s Calling, I read the second in the Cormoran Strike series in a couple of sittings. Once again I marvelled at Galbraith’s storytelling; this was a fantastic mystery which kept me guessing till the very end. The Prince, The Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark A book of two very different parts so it deserves two different reviews.
As 2014 draws to a close, it’s a good time to think back to all you’ve achieved in the previous year. One of mine is the amount of great (and not so great) literature I’ve managed to munch through over these 12 months (one of the pros of having a 90 minute round commute). Over the next two posts take a look of my year in books, a year of absolute favourites, and a few I wish I’d not wasted my time on!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, which to me is the sight of a pile of new books in the glow of the lights of the Christmas tree. If you’re all partied out, full of mince pies and looking to read a book with a bit of a bit of a festive flavour, take a look at my list of Christmas-themed reads. Hopefully there’s something for everyone! For the traditionalist in their ‘kerchief: The Night Before Christmas (A Visit from St.
Rivers of London By Ben Aaronovitch No Spoilers (You wouldn’t believe me anyway) I first came across Rivers of London, the first of the highly popular series by Ben Aaronovitch, in my book club at work. This was about a month ago and it was my friend and fellow book-clubber’s turn to recommend a book. The lovely Fiona has great taste in books and I was looking forward to seeing what she was going to pick.
Sylvia Plath Letters Home edited by Aurelia Schober Plath Spoiler free (apart from the obvious) This review was originally published on readingaddicts.co.uk - an awesome website, be sure to check it out I first took an interest in Sylvia Plath from reading her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar aged 15 (much to my mother’s chagrin). From just this narrow source material I felt such a connection to her; what slightly awkward, nerdy teen girl wouldn’t?
Hi, I’m Soph. I’m a former teacher and lifelong bookworm. I’m now a freelance writer and I live in London with my husband and my cat. I am constantly reading, so with so many words going in, some have to come out. I also like cats and chilli con carne, but not together. I’ve had my reviews published on websites and magazines, including Vintage Life Magazine where I was October’s Blogger of the Month in 2015!