Tag: memes

Six Degrees of Separation: Time Shelter

Well, I haven’t done this for a while… nine years, in fact!

Six Degrees of Separation is hosted by Kate of Books Are My Favourite and Best, and takes place on the first Saturday of every month. Everyone starts with the same book, and puts together their own chain of six more.

The starting book for July is the winner of this year’s International Booker Prize, and one of my favourites that I’ve read so far in 2023:

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov (tr. Angela Rodel). The time shelter is a clinic that re-creates different periods of the 20th century, an immersive environment intended to jog its patients’ memories. Which reminds me of another novel involving elaborate re-creations of the past…

Remainder by Tom McCarthy. The protagonist of Remainder has had an accident that leaves him conscious of every little difficult movement. He spends his settlement money paying people to re-create his past environments, in the hope that he might capture the experience of living as he did then. There are also characters searching for authentic experience in…

Plume by Will Wiles. This novel concerns a lifestyle journalist who gets an interview with a reclusive cult writer, one who appears to have extraordinary insight into the social forces that underpin life in the city – into what makes it real. One of the recurring images is a cockatoo, and another novel in which birds feature prominently is…

Bird Cottage by Eva Meijer (tr. Antoinette Fawcett). This novel is based on the life of Gwendolen (Len) Howard, who conducts in-depth study of the birds near her Sussex home, though her work is rejected by the scientific establishment of the time. Len’s passion for studying birds is all-consuming, which brings me to another book about a deep interest…

Brian by Jeremy Cooper. Here, the main character’s interest is cinema, and he becomes a regular at the BFI, where the world of film opens up and enriches him. There are a lot of films mentioned in this book that I haven’t seen, but that didn’t stop me enjoying the book one bit, because it was so deeply felt. I had a similar reaction to…

The Wandering Pine by Per Olov Enquist (tr. Deborah Bragan-Turner). An autobiographical novel by a writer I didn’t know of beforehand. There was no reason for me to have any great expectations, but I just loved it. I would go so far as to say that The Wandering Pine has one of the most vivid depictions of childhood that I’ve read. I’ll finish this chain with another book about a life lived through most of the 20th century…

Homelands by Chitra Ramaswamy. An account of the friendship between the author and Henry Wuga, who fled Nazi Germany with his wife Ingrid. As Ramaswamy puts it, she and Henry might seem unlikely friends, “a middle-aged Indian woman [and] a white nonagenarian gentleman”, but there are points of connection between their lives. A good place to finish a post about connections.

Mid-Year Book Freakout tag

We are coming up to halfway through the year, which is a pretty good time to take stock. For various reasons I haven’t read as much as I usually would (partly through getting stricter at abandoning books, partly through taking more time), but let’s have a look anyway. I found this set of questions on Nina Allan’s blog; here are my answers:

Best book you’ve read so far in 2022. I would have to say Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung (tr. Anton Hur), a story collection which had me from the first page to the last. Chung goes straight on to my list of must-read authors.

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2022. Well, Marseillaise My Way by Darina Al Joundi (tr. Helen Vassallo) is the only actual sequel I’ve read this year. It’s very good, but also kind of a default answer to this question. Perhaps I could add J.O. Morgan’s second novel, Appliance. This is not a sequel to Pupa, but it is definitely a companion piece aesthetically. I will be reviewing Appliance for Strange Horizons, but I can tell you now that it’s excellent.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year. The first book that comes to mind is Life Ceremony, the forthcoming story collection by another of my must-read authors, Sayaka Murata (tr. Ginny Tapley Takemori). I also can’t leave out Malarkoi, Alex Pheby’s sequel to the wonderful Mordew – sure to be a treat.

Biggest disappointment. I’m chary of calling books disappointments these days, because I know from personal experience that it can be that you’ve just caught a book at the wrong time. So I will say that I’d been looking forward to reading Damon Galgut for the first time, and I was disappointed that I didn’t click with In a Strange Room. Maybe another book, another time. 

Biggest surprise. I’m going to say Homelands by Chitra Ramaswamy – not because I didn’t expect to like it (I did), but because it was not on my radar at all until I found it in the publisher’s catalogue.

Favourite new author – debut or new to you. Bora Chung, Russell Hoban, Geetanjali Shree, J.O. Morgan, Nathacha Appanah.

Book that made you cry. I don’t know that any book has made me cry so far this year. Gerald Murnane’s Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs changed how it felt to look out at the world from inside my head. 

The most beautiful book you’ve bought so far. Henningham Family Press always publish beautiful books. The Lost Spell by Yismake Worku (tr. Bethlehem Attfield) is no exception. 

What books do you need to read by the end of the year? Well, the beauty of it is that I don’t need to read anything by the end of the year. What I might like to read is another matter…

Looking ahead, July will be Spanish and Portuguese Lit Month, for which I plan to catch up on some unread Mexican books that I have. August is Women in Translation Month, and perhaps it’s time for me to read the rest of Agota Kristof’s trilogy, after The Notebook (tr. Alan Sheridan). Later on will be the 1929 Club, which would give me a pretext to read Henry Green’s Living and Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel (tr. Basil Creighton). There’s also the Goldsmiths Prize shortlist to come… That’s plenty to be going on with, I think. 

#6Degrees of Separation: The Luminaries

This is a blog meme created by the authors Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith, that runs on the first Saturday of each month. Everyone starts with the same book, then links it to another book in whichever way they like, and so on for a total of six links. This month’s starting book is Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, and as that’s one of my very favourite books, I could hardly pass up the chance to join in. So:

luminariesThe Luminaries is the second novel by an author I first read in 2009; and so is…

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld. This book has two parallel plot threads, one running chronologically forwards, the other backwards. Another novel with reversed chronology is…

Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis, which gradually reveals that its protagonist is a doctor who worked at Auschwitz. Another book with an oblique portrayal of Auschwitz is…

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, which was one of the first titles I read in my old book group. When the time came for me to choose a book for the group, I chose…

The Prestige by Christopher Priest, in which present-day characters learn about the rivalry between two Victorian stage magicians. Another novel involving present-day discoveryof Victorian strangeness is…

The Evolution of Inanimate Objects by Harry Karlinsky, which is a novel written in the form of a historical biography. And another novel that borrows a non-fiction form is…

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton, which is a novel in the form of an auction catalogue, and a book I really want to read.


Well, I didn’t anticipate that I’d end up there when I started writing this post, but the journey was certainly good fun. If you’d like to join in yourself, the rules are below:



A short intermission… and my day in books

It’s time for a short break in blogging, as I’m now in the process of moving house. I won’t have regular internet access for the next few weeks, but I hope to be back to regular blogging in December, or January at the latest.

Before I sign off, here’s a meme from Cornflower Books in which you have to complete the statements with the titles of books you’ve read this year. The links lead to my reviews of each book. Thanks for reading, and see you later!


I began the day by Touching the Void

before breakfasting on Sweets

and admiring The Longshot.

On my way to work I saw Viriconium

and walked by Hawthorn & Child

to avoid The Sisters Brothers,

but I made sure to stop at A Novel Bookstore.

In the office, my boss said, Everyone’s Just So So Special,

and sent me to research The Evolution of Inanimate Objects.

At lunch with Agnes Grey

I noticed Monkeys with Typewriters

in NW

greatly enjoying The Bellwether Revivals.

Then on the journey home, I contemplated The Quiddity of Will Self

because I have Fascination

and am drawn to Joy.

Settling down for the evening in The Apartment,

I studied The Panda Theory,

by The Remains of the Day

before saying goodnight Still.

Ten favourite books read during the lifetime of this blog

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I’m joining in this week because I was really taken with the theme. I’ve been reviewing books online since 2004, but this blog started in 2009, and I’m concentrating on the period since then. What follows here is not a definitive list of favourites, nor is it in a strict order – it’s a list of highlights. It’s a snapshot of what I like to read.

1. The Rehearsal – Eleanor Catton

This is a tale of pure serendipity. I was visiting Cambridge, and saw the hardback of The Rehearsal in a bookshop. It wasn’t the subject matter that grabbed me, but the blurbs promising something different. I took a chance on it… and really didn’t get along with its mannered prose style at first. But I persevered and, once I realised what Catton was doing – how completely the novel’s different aspects embodied its theme of performance – I got into it, and ended up absolutely loving the book. The Rehearsal is the fondest memory I have of reading a book in the last few years, and it showed me a new way to appreciate fiction.

2. Pocket Notebook – Mike Thomas

A few bloggers enthused about Pocket Notebook in 2010 – and I really liked its Clockwork Orange-inspired cover – but I never got around to reading it. The following year, I started reviewing for Fiction Uncovered; when I saw Pocket Notebook on their review-copy list, I decided to try it. I was utterly blown away by the vividness with which Thomas created his corrupt-copper protagonist. My only regret is that I didn’t read this novel a year earlier.

3. Skippy Dies – Paul Murray

This book has 661 pages. I devoured the whole lot in a weekend. An Irish boarding-school comedy with added quantum physics, Skippy Dies goes from humour to sharp characterisation to social commentary to pathos to the borders of science fiction and back again, without putting a foot wrong. Stunning stuff.

4. Solo – Rana Dasgupta

When I started this blog, I was just beginning to investigate the parts of the contemporary British literary scene that would most interest me. The website Untitled Books was (still is) a great resource, and it’s where I found out about Solo. I love books with wide-ranging sensibilities, and Solo – with its account of a life that feels like a daydream, and a daydream that feels like life – is that sort of book.

5. Beside the Sea – Véronique Olmi

One of the great joys of book blogging has been discovering small presses. Peirene Press are one of the fine publishers who’ve emerged in the last couple of years, and Beside the Sea is one of their best books. Ostensibly the story of a mother taking her children on a trip to the seaside, darkness gradually emerges from behind the happy façade to build up a brilliant but tragic portrait.

6. Yellow Blue Tibia & New Model Army – Adam Roberts

Yellow Blue Tibia was the very first book I reviewed on this blog. I was wanting to catch up on some of the contemporary sf authors I hadn’t read, and my first Adam Roberts novel just blew me away. My second, New Model Army, did the same the year after – a novel that I can genuinely say did something I hadn’t come across in a book before. I can’t choose one of these books over the other for this list, so here they both are.

7. The Affirmation – Christopher Priest

Being surprised by an unfamiliar author is great; but so is reading an excellent book by a writer you already know. A Christopher Priest novel is a maze of realities and unreliable perceptions, and The Affirmation is up there with his best. Priest’s narrative shifts between realities, and his masterstroke is to make our world seem no more (or less) real than his fictional one.

8. An A-Z of Possible Worlds – A.C. Tillyer

You can’t explore the world of book blogs for too long without coming across books that you’re unlikely to hear of elsewhere. I first heard of An A-Z of Possible Worlds through Scott Pack’s blog, and it really ought to be better known. Lovingly produced by its publisher, Roast Books, this is a collection of stories in a box – twenty-six individual pamphlets, each about its own place. The stories are very fine, too.

9. Coconut Unlimited – Nikesh Shukla

Here’s another way of discovering books in the blog age: finding a writer to be an engaging presence on Twitter; then, a year (or however long) later, reading his or her newly-published book. That’s what happened with Coconut Unlimited, which turned out to be a razor-sharp and hilarious comedy. More interconnectedness: I met Nikesh Shukla last year at a Firestation Book Swap, which Scott Pack usually hosts (although he wasn’t there for that one).

10. The City & the City – China Miéville

The City & the City generated one of my longest reviews, and I can’t remember reading another book that had so many interpretations from so many different people. It’s a novel to argue with, and argue about. At the time, I hadn’t read one of Miéville’s adult books since The Scar; I remember thinking that The City & the City was good enough in itself, but too quiet to catch on as some of his earlier works had. Of course, I was wrong. It was fascinating to see how the novel was received beyond the sf field, and the book blogging community was a big part of that reaction for me.

Teaser Tuesday: Ghost Story

Time for the weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading, where we open the book we’re reading at a random page, and quote two sentences (without spoilers). My quote this week is from Ghost Story by Toby Litt:

The only drama came from the juddercrash of the pilot light catching, or the yawp of the central heating waking up and that was long past, now. Agatha enjoyed listening – doing nothing but listening; she took possession of the house first of all through her ears. (p. 31)

It’s difficult to give a true flavour of Ghost Story just by pulling out a couple of sentences – this is a book that works through long, immersive stretches of prose – but I think these lines give a sense of how the main character, Agatha, becomes preoccupied with the small details of her environment; and so starts to haunt (or be haunted by) her own house.

Teaser Tuesday: Pure

I’ve found this weekly meme over at the Should Be Reading blog: open the book you’re reading at a random page, and quote two sentences (without spoilers). Sounds fun. Today I am reading Pure, Andrew Miller’s Costa-winning novel set in pre-Revolutionary Paris:

When the assault took place, when precisely, no one could ever say with any certainty. Somewhere between very late and very early, some deep, velvet-lined pocket of a winter’s night. (p. 189)

I haven’t actually reached that page yet; I’m intrigued.

55 Reading Questions

I found this meme on Story in a Teacup; I may be coming to it a little belatedly, but I liked the questions, so I thought I’d respond. 55 questions; 55 answers – here goes…

1. Favourite childhood book? I cut my reading teeth, as it were, on Fighting Fantasy and Terry Pratchett books.

2. What are you reading right now? You Came Back by Christopher Coake.

3. What books do you have on request at the library? Nothing at present.

4. Bad book habit? Acquiring books faster than I can read them.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? Ghost Story by Toby Litt; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark; State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

Continue reading

Sunday Salon: Favourite books from A to Z

The Sunday Salon.com

I came across this meme on the Musings of a Bookshop Girl blog: for each letter of the alphabet, name your favourite book whose title starts with that letter. I’m not much of a one for naming definitive favourites, so instead I’ll list a favourite book for each letter (with links to where I’ve written about them. Here goes:

A  An A-Z of Possible Worlds – A.C. Tillyer

B  Beside the Sea – Véronique Olmi

C  Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

D  Diving Belles – Lucy Wood

E  Everyone’s Just So So Special – Robert Shearman

F  The Facts of Life – Graham Joyce

G  The Godless Boys – Naomi Wood

H  How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe – Charles Yu

I  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

J  Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey

K  The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

L  Legend of a Suicide – David Vann

M  Mr Shivers – Robert Jackson Bennett

N  Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson

O  On Roads: a Hidden History – Joe Moran

P  The Prestige – Christopher Priest

Q  The Quiddity of Will Self – Sam Mills

R  The Rehearsal – Eleanor Catton

S  Solo – Rana Dasgupta

T  Tender Morsels – Margo Lanagan

U  Under the Sun – Hanne Marie Svendsen

V  Vellum – Hal Duncan

W  We Had It So Good – Linda Grant

X  Xenogenesis – Octavia E. Butler

Y  Yellow Blue Tibia – Adam Roberts

Z  Zoo City – Lauren Beukes

I wasn’t sure whether I’d find something for each letter, but, luckily, The Quiddity of Will Self (which is the last book I read) turned out to be really good, and gave me the Q. (The X is a slight cheat, as it’s the omnibus of a series which I only read as individual volumes, but I think I can be allowed a little leeway.)

Let me know if you decide to do this meme yourself, as I’d love to see how our lists compare.

Today’s little diversion

This meme comes from the Cornflower Books blog — complete the sentences with the titles of books you have read this year. I was quite surprised at how well my year’s reading list matched with some of these.


I began the day with The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

On my way to work I saw The Tiny Wife

and walked by Rivers of London

to avoid A Visit from the Goon Squad

but I made sure to stop at The Night Circus

In the office, my boss said, Where Would I Be Without You?  

and sent me to research Pub Walks in Underhill Country

At lunch with Mr Fox

I noticed The Cornet-Player Who Betrayed Ireland

under The Silver Wind

then went back to my desk Down the Rabbit Hole

Later, on the journey home, I bought Everything I Found on the Beach

because I have Generosity

then settling down for the evening, I picked up The Sense of an Ending

and studied Tree Surgery for Beginners

before saying goodnight to The Islanders

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