My March Wrap-Up Post (2016)

Monthly Wrap-Up

Well, March has been a better month reading-wise and also personally. Personal news first, in case you’ve missed it, is that I finally got a stairlift fitted in my home, which means I can now safely go up and down the stairs on my own. I fought against this for so long and the minute it was in I felt like a weight had been lifted off me. It’s brilliant to be able to go downstairs whenever I want to without needing help on the stairs. 

I’ve been reading a lot more again during March, which is such a relief. My reading slump had been going on since the end of December and was starting to feel like it might never end. Unfortunately, we can’t seem to get my pain levels under any sort of control a lot of the time so I still can’t read as fast as before, or for as long a period as I lose concentration much more easily but it is great to be able to lose myself in a book even for just a short while at a time. I tend to spend my days reading a while, blogging a while, resting a longer while and then repeating! My blog really takes it out of me, it’s painful to type and it’s hard to think clearly but it gives me such a sense of having achieved something in my day that I refuse to give it up.

I managed to read seventeen books this month (well, sixteen books and a short story), which is not as many as I would have hoped but is way more than the previous two months when I was going through a major reading slump so I’m pleased at what I read. I’ve managed to review seven of these books so far, the ones I’ve reviewed are at the top of my list and have links so you can click to read them if you’d like to. I hope to review the other books but it’ll depend on time and my health situation.

Time to Say Goodbye by SD Robertson

Sisters and Lies by Bernice Barrington

Quicksand by Steve Toltz

You Sent Me A Letter by Lucy Dawson

Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin

The Missing by CL Taylor

The Stylist by Rosie Nixon

Bone by Bone by Sanjida Kay

A Woman in a Million by Monica Wood

The Art of Wearing Hats by Helena Sheffield

A Proper Family Christmas by Chrissie Manby

Sally Ride by Lynn Sherr

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

Between You and Me by Lisa Hall 

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

The Good Mother by AL Bird

 

I also reviewed three other books that I read in February but didn’t manage to review until March:

The Silent Girls by Ann Troup 

Look At Me by Sarah Duguid

The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis


 

I was very lucky this month that I got to interview four authors on my blog. You can read them all at the links below:

Janet Ellis (author of The Butcher’s Hook)

 

Carol Lovekin (author of Ghostbird)

 

Caroline James (author of Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean and Me) 

 

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Andy Owen (author of East of Coker)

 


 

Also on my blog I featured a lovely guest post by Elle Turner (author of Tapestry) and took part in a cover reveal for The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs


 

Then to round off what has been a brilliant month of blogging, I wrote a blog post this week about keeping books for the right moment (you can read that here) and it has become one of the most read posts on my blog and is the most liked so I’m thrilled about that. I’m not very confident in writing posts, I usually stick to reviews, so it was really lovely that something I wrote struck such a chord with some of my readers. 

My blog is still growing, which is brilliant. I’ve been blogging for about seven months now and enjoy it so much, I couldn’t imagine not being a blogger now!

Over the course of the next month on my blog I want to make a new blog header, and to make some new headers for my posts. My husband is much better at taking photos than me so he’s very kindly agreed to take some pics of my favourite books so that we can make them into some nicer headers. I’m looking forward to getting that done. I do keep pondering about changing my WP theme as I’ve never really liked this one, but I know how to make changes in this theme and how to keep it up to date so I’m reluctant to mess about with that just at the moment. Hopefully a new header will at least brighten things up a bit!

 


 

So, that was my month! How was your March? Has it been a book-filled month for you? Please feel free to share in the comments below, or to leave a link to your own March Wrap-Up post.

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Weekly Wrap-Up (20 March 2016)

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SundayBlogShare

I’m linking this post up to Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s Sunday Blog Share.  It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

 

This week has been a busy week for me with a lot of things that have really taken it out of me but it’s been a productive week too.

The biggest and best thing to happen this week was that I got my stairlift installed! I can’t quite put into words how much happier I feel already at being able to get down the stairs. It’s wonderful and I now wish I hadn’t resisted for so long. Finally being able to spend time in a different room of the house has been lovely but it’s really taken it out of me, I’ve been exhausted the last couple of days. It was worth it this week though just to experience the freedom of getting down the stairs again.

Due to the busy week and increased pain levels and fatigue I haven’t managed to read as much as I would have liked this week. I have still being able to read for a little while on most days though, which I’m pleased about. I hate when I have whole days where I don’t manage to read anything at all.


 

This week I’ve read three books:

When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

You Sent Me a Letter by Lucy Dawson I reviewed this book on my blog on Friday so you can read it HERE if you’d like to.

Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin I’ll be sharing my review of this book on my blog tomorrow as part of the blog tour so please look out for that.


 

I’ve managed to blog seven times this week, which I’m very happy about. I miss blogging on the times when I’m not able to.

Sunday: Weekly Wrap-Up Post

Monday: Q&A with Andy Owen (author of East of Coker)

Wednesday: WWW Wednesday post

Thursday: Review of The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis

 Cover reveal for The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs

Friday: Review of You Sent Me A Letter by Lucy Dawson

Saturday: Stacking the Shelves post


 

Coming soon on my blog:

Monday: I’m on the blog tour for Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin so will be able to share my review of this wonderful novel and also a Q&A with the author herself!

I haven’t got the rest of my blog week scheduled yet but I do know that I will have a Q&A with author Caroline James, and I have some reviews to write and post too of books that I’ve read over the last couple of weeks.


 

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

 

The Missing by C. L. Taylor

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Truth, Lies and O-Rings by Allan J. McDonald and James R. Hansen

The Stylist by Rosie Nixon

The Day of Second Chances by Julie Cohen


 

What have you been reading this week? Please feel free to link to your weekly wrap-up post, or if you don’t have a blog please share in the comments below! I love to hear what you’re all reading. 🙂

 

Q&A with Andy Owen (Author of East of Coker)

 

 

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I recently got to do a Q&A with Andy Owens, author of East of Coker, and am pleased to able to share it with you today.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I am married with two young children and I live in West London. East of Coker is my second novel. 

How did you first come to be a writer? 

Through reading. I have always read – both fiction and non-fiction. More specifically, whilst working for the government in the UK on counter terrorism duties I read Moby Dick and was struck between the similarities between some of the characters and situations in the novel and some of those I was encountering in my day job. When Melville introduces Ismael to us speaking of the need when he feels it is a ‘damp, drizzly November’ in his soul, to get to sea, he highlights something enduring in human nature. He highlighted the same existential ennui that I was seeing in some of those that were going off not to sea, but the mountains to join terrorist organisations and that had formed a part of the motivation to sign up for some of the soldiers I had previously served with. Melville’s characters embark on a journey that explores themes of obsession, belief, belonging and the impact of charismatic leaders on a group – all themes I was interested in and were relevant to some of the issues of today. 

So, I started to write as I thought I had something to say on a subject that was been dealt with in a shallow and often ignorant way. It was something I had experience of and I thought I had found an interesting idea of how to do it – an idea that would mean it was a good story too. Since I started reading I had always been fascinated by how we recycle stories from one generation to the next. Ultimately I wanted to contribute to an important conversation that was been dominated by the loudest voices rather the most thoughtful. I also hoped it could be a way of helping raising funds for a good cause through donating the royalties. 

What is your book East of Coker about?

If my first book Invective was about why people want to go off and fight, East of Coker is about what happens after you have ‘visited a place where the surface layer has been eroded and the bedrock that is beneath us all is exposed’. More than this it is also about how we can help each other move on. It moves through a London and an Iraq that shadows TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, asking what duty do those left behind have to those that would otherwise be forgotten and, how through acceptance of what we have done, who we are, and where we are all inevitably heading to, what happiness can be found. I think in the end it is a love story, but maybe not one in the traditional sense. 

It follows the lives of Arthur, a wounded veteran of an old war, the love he left behind, an injured veteran of a new war and an Iraqi family in Basra, become intertwined as they all try in different ways to cope with the uncertainty the conflicts they have been exposed to has created. As their stories eventually collide in a hospital in London, while riots outside get closer each night, Arthur tries to free himself from the anchors of the past and ensure his new friend does not suffer like he has. As Arthur learns how to accept his fate he realises there is one more fight he must fight. He must reach the woman who has been waiting for him to return, for all these years, before time runs out. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a family try to cope with the consequences of a modern war fought on ancient soil by unwelcome intruders, threatening their way of life and traditions. I hope that despite some of its subject matter it is ultimately uplifting. 

All royalties are donated to the Shoulder to Shoulder Project, a volunteer mentoring programme that supports ex-service men and women who are recovering from mental health issues or having difficulty adjusting to civilian life.

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

Ultimately it is experience and imagination, in that order. Both books have started with ideas. The ideas themselves are inspired by the desire to tell stories from the perspective of those who may not have a voice. I agree with Susan Sontag when in ‘At the Same Time: Essays & Speeches’ she muses on what literature can do and she says ‘literature can train, and exercise, our ability to weep for those who are not us or ours’. She says that writers ‘evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own’. Our brains are hardwired to learn through stories, from when we first sat round the fire, to the parables of the early religions through the whole body of world literature. We learn what we are like and value as a society by understand our own stories, but maybe more importantly we learn what others are like, learn that we are more alike than different by learning the stories of others and experiencing the world through their eyes even for the brief time it takes to read a few pages. Writing gives you the opportunity to increase the amount of empathy in the world, which should provide enough inspiration to give it a go. 

What is your writing routine?

I start with an idea, then do the research, then do the writing. Writing happens in bursts and mostly at 30,000 feet. I travel a lot with work, mostly to Africa and Latin America, so long flights are great opportunities to get focussed bursts done with no distractions. 

What’s your favourite book?

It’s a really hard question to answer, there are so many and different books have meant different things to me at different times. In the last  12 months I read Sebald for the first time. Reading Austerlitz taught me that you could tell a story through the gaps in what you do write. It stayed with me for a long time after, just as Camus’ The Outsider had many years ago. On a list of my favourite books Joyce’s Ulysses, which made me first realise that you could write language in a way that reading it could be like listening to music, and Homer’s original. Hemmingway, Orwell and Graves writing on war influenced me greatly and I will always happily read anything by William Boyd, Julian Barnes, Marilyn Robinson or John Le Carrie. And Moby Dick obviously…

Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? What’s your answer to that question?

What will you have? A Guinness please

How can people connect with you on social media?

I am on Twitter (@owen_andy)


 

East of Coker is out now and available to buy on Kindle from Amazon. The book will also be available in print later this month via The War Writers’ Campaign. Please check out their website.

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About the book:

The lives of Arthur, a wounded veteran of an old war, the love he left behind, an injured veteran of a new war and an Iraqi family in Basra, become intertwined as they all try in different ways to cope with the uncertainty the conflicts they have been exposed to has created. Each chapter is told through a separate voice seeing conflict from different sides. 

Their stories eventually collide in a hospital in London, while riots outside get closer each night, when Arthur recovering from a stroke meets the injured veteran from Iraq who is struggling more with mental injuries than the physical ones he received in the incident he described to us in previous chapters. Arthur tries to free himself from the anchors of the past and ensure his new friend does not suffer like he has. He helps his friend realise he should talk to his family and learn to move on like he never managed to do. As Arthur learns how to accept his fate he realises there is one more fight he must fight. He must reach the woman who has been waiting for him to return, for all these years, before time runs out. He uses all his strength to make one final journey to find out that she is still there waiting.    
East of Coker moves through a London and an Iraq that shadows TS Eliot’s Waste Land, asking what duty do those left behind have to those that would otherwise be forgotten and, how through acceptance of what we have done, who we are, and where we are all inevitably heading to, what happiness can be found. 

‘This is an ambitious and thoughtful book, valuable both for itself and its charitable links. It weaves stories of loss and war around a structure of T.S. Eliot’s the Waste Land and speaks for, as well as supports, some of those for whom speech is difficult yet necessary in the wake of past trauma.’ Gay Watson, A Philosophy of Emptiness.

Stacking the Shelves (12 March 2016)

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(Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, which is all about sharing the books that you’ve acquired in the past week – ebooks or physical books, and books you’ve bought or borrowed or received an ARC of.)

This week I have received a few books for review and have bought a few as well so my TBR is showing no sign of shrinking as yet!

A Mother's Love by Santa Montefiore my book

 

I won a book in a twitter giveaway this week and my prize arrived within days, so that was really lovely. Here’s the book I won – a beautiful hardback copy of Santa Montefiore’s A Mother’s Love, I can’t wait to read it.

 

 

The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish

 

I was also chosen to review Louise Candlish’s forthcoming book The Swimming Pool for LoveReading, which I’m thrilled about. It will be my first time reviewing for them so I’m excited. The book arrived yesterday morning and I plan to start reading it very soon. I do love Louise Candlish’s novels!

 

 

Tell Me Lies by Rececca Muddiman

 

My other exciting book post this week was a copy of Rebecca Muddiman’s brand new book Tell Me Lies for review. I do love Rebecca’s writing and have enjoyed her previous books so I’m looking forward to this one.

 

 

 

The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace

 

 

I requested one book on Net Galley this week (which was very restrained by my standards!) and was approved for it. The book is The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace. I’ve heard only great things about this book so I’m very excited to read it soon.

 

I was also offered a couple of books to review privately and hope to have time to read these books soon.

East of Coker by Andy Owen (Andy is going to be featuring on my blog next week in an interview I did with him so look out for that.)

Dear Dad by Giselle Green


 

I also bought a few new books this week.

Lover by Anna Raverat

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (currently on sale for Kindle at £1.99)

In Her Shadow by Louise Douglas (currently on sale for Kindle at £1.99)

The Woman Who Upped and Left by Fiona Gibson (currently on sale for Kindle at 99p)


 

So, that’s all of my new books from the last two weeks. Have you bought any new books recently? Tell me all in the comments below, or if you have a stacking the shelves post on your blog feel free to post the link below too. 🙂 

My weekly wrap up post will be on my blog tomorrow so please look out for that.