Review: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Despite having heard a lot about this book before I picked it up, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. A young girl goes missing while on holiday in a village in mid-England. The villagers join in the search parties. And then time passes, and life in the village goes on.

McGregor’s prose is lucid and full of sharp observation. This book takes in an impressive number of perspectives and voices, casting its gaze on many characters within the village. The girl who disappeared, her parents’ later comings and goings and the broader effects on the community serve as a centre of gravity, although many other little dramas are explored. She is forgotten and remembered in waves, the narrator occasionally sidestepping another story to remind us of the mystery, reciting the information known and how it might have changed.

The missing girl’s name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. She had been thirteen at the time of her disappearance. She’d been wearing a white hooded top with a navy-blue body-warmer, black jeans and canvas shoes. She would be taller than five feet now. 

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Bird Mugs, Good Books and Writing

Over the last few weeks I’ve been a bit absent from this blog, which will probably be the case for a while longer. I’ll still review everything I’m reading, but I’m just busy. Blogging has always been something fun for me to do and I’m determined to keep it that way. Much as I love posting regularly twice a week it’s just going to have to wait a while.

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I bought this mug in the Lake District. It holds a pint of tea and makes me very happy. 

Aside from my MA, I’m just busier than I’d anticipated. Making time in the week seems to only produce more things that need doing in it! July was slow reading, my smallest wrap up since I started writing them (although only by books, not by pages). 

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July Wrap Up (2017)

July. I went on holiday, I wrote and wrote and wrote, and reading time has been sacrificed to that. But, that’s ok. My reading is probably going to be thinner until October, and that’s just how it’s going to be.

I feel like I’ve been reading quite a bit – really it’s finishing things that I’ve been having a problem with. Which is why I’ve brought back the ‘Books I Started This Month’ list, just to make myself feel a bit better. I was loving The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan but after The Clocks in This House, the succession of present tense books was sneaking into my writing, and rewriting scenes into the past tense gets boring really quickly, so I’ve had to pause it for a while. Read More »

Review: The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks

The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times is a fascinating book. It’s 1923. Lucy Marsh is a fourteen year old orphan. On Sundays, a man called Coach drives her and a bunch of other kids in his old Maudslay truck out to Epping Forest. There they meet the funny men: Toto, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. They have a picnic. This is my absolute favourite read of the year so far.

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The genius of this book is in how Xan Brooks manages to balance a creeping sense of the unsafe with an attractiveness, a charming quality. Lucy is our anchor, and although the story takes in a much broader scope it all puts her situation in context. She acknowledges this dichotomy of beautiful and dangerous in the first chapter, hinting at what is to come:

Maybe this, were she ever called upon to explain her actions, would be her chief line of defence. Your honour, she would say, I went back because the forest is fantastic, which is another way of saying that anything can happen. And this is why, as long as she lives, she will never completely regret her trips to the forest, in spite of the trouble they cause and the horrors that follow

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Holiday Book Haul

Another holiday in the Lake District, and I have come home again with a lovely stack of books. The little bit of Cumbria that my husband and I have visited with friends over the past few years has several lovely independent bookshops, most particularly Fred Holdsworth in Ambleside and Sam Read in Grasmere.

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Jan – June 2017 | Half Year Goals

2017 Reading Progress: 30/50 books

My reading so far this year has been interesting. I’ve felt like I’m in a slump for most of the year, yet I’m still ahead of my target by five books. In part I think this is down to University reading – not only were there a number of books I had to read by a certain date, it has reinforced the habit of reading, whether I feel like it or not. I have spent a lot of time flitting between books I haven’t finished, picking things up and getting distracted, and this is probably where the slump-like feeling is coming from.

Despite this, I have read some really amazing books this year. I’m glad to be ahead of my target – for the next few months, I’m going to be mostly focusing on writing rather than reading, as my final MA hand-in of 40,000 words approaches at the end of September. My June wrap up was a bit thin compared to usual, with just three books, and this may be the trend for a while yet. If I do end up behind on my target, I should have time to catch up from October though. Fingers crossed…!

 

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June Wrap Up (2017)

June has been surprising. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time reading but it’s been slow progress. Whether measuring by books (three) or pages read, this month was my lowest total so far this year. I am mired in uni work – between now and September I am on the final stretch with a lot of writing to do, and because of that I’m distracted. My brain is ‘on’ constantly, and mostly inside my own book. I’ve been slowed down because I have to take notes – I read something and it gives me ideas, so I still there staring at the wall thinking of how I can apply this to my writing instead. My mind never stops whirring and it’s took three genuinely amazing books to get me to pay attention at all. All three of will be in my thoughts when I come to write about my favourites of the year.Read More »

Review: The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

Of all the book recommendations I’ve ever received, this might be my favourite. I went to a book launch a few weeks ago, where I got talking to a man who used to work in opera. He was incredibly interesting and we got chatting about speculative fiction, Margaret Atwood and excellent writing in general. It was a brilliant conversation. He promised me I would love Penelope Fitzgerald, in particular that I should start with The Blue Flower. He was right.

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#HarryPotter20

Monday 26th June 2017 marked twenty years since the original publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Everywhere you turn online, someone is telling you what they love about this series, so I’m sure you’ve heard everything I can say on that subject elsewhere already. Instead, this is a mini shelf tour of my Harry Potter collcetion. In itself, this shelf is evidence of my love for the series.

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Review: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

I picked this up on a bookshop browse a few weeks ago in the new fiction section. I hadn’t heard of the book itself, but had heard of Woodson’s memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. After reading the first sentence, I fell a little bit in love and couldn’t leave without it…

For a long time my mother wasn’t dead yet. 

Do you ever pick up a book and get a tingly feeling of fate? A little funny instinct that somehow this story will be important to you.

Another Brooklyn is the story of a friendship between four girls, as August looks back to growing up in the 1970s. It is rich with beautiful and brutal moments which connect into a richly moving novel.

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