What I’ve Been… #9


I’ve finally started on my stack of Scottish literature by diving into Muriel Spark: The Complete Short Stories. The collection opener is ‘The Go-Award Bird’ in which we see a girl called Daphne grow-up  in the Colonies before staying for a few ‘seasons’ in England. The only other Spark I’ve read is The Driving Seat and I found that, like this, disturbed me. There is an edge to Spark’s writing which lingers. She writes character who can’t truly like but get investing in their lives regardless.

Spark Collected

This is going to sound odd but her writing making me think of the weird, which is a genre that plays with the minds of characters (and the readers) so you’re never sure if they are mad or if there is some unknown influence at work.

There is actually no hint of ‘genre’ as Spark plays it very straight but she does play with the readers expectations of normality and scratches off the veneer to show the chaos underneath everyones exterior.

I’ve also finished The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette De Bodard. There is a review coming soon but it ticks all my fantasy boxes. It’s not perfect but its imperfections make it a charming read.

I’m also reading a book I’ve been asked to review for another place. More details soon.

… Adding to the TBR

The last two week’s additions to the TBR are:


I’ve been a fan of The Dresden Files since I saw the TV series on Sky (2007 or so). I’m always surprised how Jim Butcher manages to keep raising the stakes without being silly and keeps me wanted to go back and read the next one (never mind reread the whole series but I cant’ find the time).

Don’t get me wrong I’ve read one dud but he pulled it back with the next book so I have every confidence he knows where it is going, which is an apocalyptic trilogy apparently, though not for a few more books. It’s even more surprising when you he had this series planned from the start to be that long.

I like that he writes in-between-book short stories for the series. I have the collected Side Jobs, the novella Backup illustrated by Mike Mignola(!), and Working for Bigfoot, which collates the three shorts where Bigfoot is Harry’s client: “B is for Bigfoot,” “I Was a Teenage Bigfoot,” and “Bigfoot on Campus”. In addition to that there will another collection like Side Jobs hopefully next year.

This month sees the release of The Aeronaut’s Windlass and a new series. I’m not sure if I’ll read it. I’m a fan of Harry Dresden more than a fan of Jim Butcher. In the same way I’ve not read Codex Alera. Sometimes it’s the characters and not the author.

Speaking of characters, last week saw the release of The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett. It is the last Discworld novel. The end. I’ve not read it yet. Despite being being a massive fan I’ve kept one or two back to read and I need to catch up Tiffany a little before I read. I couldn’t have read it last week even if I wanted to.

Below is a picture of the book that saved me as a reader and was a corner stone the tail-end of my teenage years next to the last. It’s an illustration of the beginning and the end.


Moving on to illustration my life at the moment is in need of the promise of my next two books. I’ll let you know how I get on.


There is probably more I should share. There are some great review copies coming in which I’ll talk about next time.

What have you managed to read recently?

What I’ve Been… #7

… Doing

Last weekend I attended the 3rd Nine Worlds Convention at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre in Heathrow. It’s my second one and this time was bigger and better than the last time. I’ll let others tell you about the actual venue and concentrate on the event itself but the service from the hotel was a little disappointing to say the least.

As I live all the way west from London and over the English/Welsh border I don’t get to London to see all the people I love catching up with. Eastercon was a disappointment this year in that regard as all the cool people have now chosen Nine Worlds as their bookish con of choice. And it’s easy to see why.

It’s such a relaxed space with so many geek-friendly threads. Books are only one part of what goes on. There are threads devoted to Game of Thrones, geek culture and academia, the end of the world, comics, creative writing, games, fanfic, feminism, history, LGBTQAI+, podcasting, Supernatural…. and more. It’s really a lot of mini-cons in one space. But you can crossover easily and see discussions you might be curious about but never get chance to experience otherwise.

After 3 years it has grown a little too big for the venue. Lots of the panels had ‘full’ signs on the door. And I missed out on Knightmare Live as the queue was so long I didn’t see everyone fitting in the room it was allocated to. It’s nice from the panelists point of view to have full rooms but for attendees it’s a little frustrating.

I was even on a panel, The End of Author Mystique, where a group of critics and authors discussed the relationship between readers and authors. I learnt I need to change my use of ‘buy my book’ when talking about thinks I don’t like authors doing into ‘PLEASE buy my book’ as the later is annoying and the former is essential to make sure authors get some financial recognition for the hundreds of hours they’ve spent making their work come to life.

I had a great time and can’t wait for next year’s event. I might even cosplay next time.


So on the car ride into Nine Worlds I listened to the last hour of Good Omens (the BBC cast recording) and forget what I said about it being slow. When it came to the ending, I must have been tired, because I cried. It somehow encapsulated the power of the message of the book with the right tone and it set me off. Really good job.

On the way back I started listening to The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett. I’ve been slowly working my way through a reread of the City Watch books and thought it might be good to mix it up a bit. To be honest the voices of the cast aren’t anywhere near the voices in my head. But as Terry will have had some input into it they must be voices he approved of in some way. I mellowed after a while. They’re still a little odd but I’m not freaking out hearing them any more.

I’m another story down in Fearie Tales. This one was ‘Open Your Window, Golden Hair’ by Tanith Lee. She’s taken the Rapunzel basics and subverted them into a creepy honey trap of a tale. Well worth reading.

A couple of days ago I picked up The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard to see if it grabbed me. I do that with a lot of books.  I taste them to see if it’s something that works for me. Now I’ve been reading it off and on. Mostly when I’m supposed to be doing other stuff. I’m getting addicted. I know it’s dangerous to share book lust as it might fade before the end. But at the moment I’m happy to share.

My current TBR reading plan is:

Finish The House of Shattered Wings
Finish The Autumn Republic
Move onto Scottish literature starting with The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

…Adding to the TBR

I have enough to keep me busy but that didn’t stop me spending money while at Nine Worlds:


I keep seeing The Wicked + The Divine mentioned on twitter. It’s one of the comics I’ve been really curious about but needed a push. I’m being really cautious about the comics I buy as I don’t want to be disappointed. I have high hopes.

I keep meaning to read Frances Hardinge. She’s loved by a lot of people I know. I have A Face Like Glass and  I was standing at the Forbidden Planet considering The Lie Tree or Cuckoo Song. I’m not sure I’d like The Lie Tree as it seems a little dark. I’ve said that but all her books seem dark so maybe I should say a little too dark. So The Cuckoo Song is was.

I bought Battle Mage as I’ve known Stephen for years and as his debut was available a couple of months early. It’s nice to support debut authors.

Speaking of support, Jared of Jurassic London was selling some of their books at the con and I finally picked up a copy of Irregularity. I also picked up The Good Shabti, a The Shirley Jackson Award 2014 nominee. 


And now I have an almost complete collection of Jurrasic London releases:


The other thing which happened was a I got so curious by Tom Pollack’s recommendation that I had to get hold of a copy of The Raven Boys. Twitter seemed to find a it a really good recommendation. And I need to read some more YA.

IMG_2382That’s the end of this week’s update. Hopefully more next Sunday.

What have you all been reading?


What I’ve Been… #6


Over two weeks without a blogpost probably means you’re dead in this ‘instantly contactable’ world but I’m happy to confirm that I’m definitely not dead.

I’ve got my reasons for not blogging: the first Sunday, 19th July, (I try to post these updates on Sundays) I’d been working late at my new job most nights and I’d not read anything worth commenting on that week; The next Sunday, 26th July, I was in Sherwood Forest before driving down Bletchley Park. This was after driving up to Edinburgh via Manchester for an around the UK roadtrip. We ended up in Legoland before driving home to Wales.

A roundtrip of over 1000 miles and really good fun.


I have got some reading done. I finished my re-read of Sabriel by Garth Nix. Now I’ve not read it since 2004(?), which was before YA was YA. You could call Sabriel a YA book. It’s main character is 18 who goes in search of a her father, the Aboshen, whose role in xxxx is to keep the dead dead. But he himself is stuck in death and she sets out to rescue him. Sabriel grows up fast. Nix does a skilful job of engaging us with her quest while dealing with subject of death. He does it from the opening scene and carries on. He shows us the nature of corruption and how rot and decay effect the living as well as the dead. It’s a YA book because of how it’s structured and where it focuses. The end location couldn’t have been better chosen. It does feel a little bit too swift in places but ticks all the right boxes in the right way. Still worth another re-read when I get chance. Though I think I’ll have to read through to my first read of Clariel first, which if the forth book but set way before the events in the trilogy.

I almost started Lirael straight away but I’m foolishly putting it off. Do other people delay enjoyment of books?

I’ve just started Aye, and Gomorrah, and other stories by Samuel R. Delany. I’ve read his non-fiction in  About Writing but the opening story,”The Star Pit”, is my first exposure to his fiction. It’s surprising readable.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve had to go back to re-read the end of The Crimson Campaign to get to grips with the start of The Autumn Republic. It’s a great series so I can’t see how I’ve forgotten where I was. Maybe it’s the first signs of getting older….

…Adding to the TBR

While I was in Edinburgh @WordsofMercury tweeted a picture of the books in promotion that Vintage books are doing to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Warner’s Morven Callar, which was spooky as I was thinking about which Scottish author I should be taking home from EdinburghWest’s Waterstones. They love SF there btw:

IMG_1933 (1)

I did pick up Ray Bradbury’s Summer Morning, Summer Night, which ‘is a collection of short stories and vignettes based in Green Town, Illinois, the fictionalised version of Ray Bradbury’s native Waukegan, which also served as the setting for his modern classics DANDELION WINE, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, and FAREWELL SUMMER.’ 

But back to Scottish fiction. So a twitter exchange ensued and I’ve kindly been sent a pile of Scottish classics:


The two that immediately spring out are Morvern Callar and The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Obviously   these are just a small, but from what I’ve heard, spot on selection. Other authors would include: Iain Banks’s non-SF. And Jenni Fagan gave me a starting list earlier:

The thought struck me during the exchange last weekend that I’ve got wary of trying new experiences in reading recently. I’ve loved and loathed books I’ve read for Hear.. Read This! podcast. Luckily, it finally got me to read The Driver’s Seat by Spark, after I picked it up thanks to John Self’s recommendation.

That leads me on to…


David Hebblethwaite posted a blog called ‘Moving On’ this morning. It’s a funny when bloggers get a little zeitgeisty. My blog has changed. These posts are a different way of how I  think about what I’ve read,  I’m reading or going to read and why. It’s reassuring when it’s not just you. I haven’t digested all the linked posts yet but the nature of social media, reading and reader’s interactions keeps changing. I wonder what will happen over the next 10 years? I’m looking forward to seeing David’s evolution.

Oh and next Sunday’s post is likely to have a lot of mentions about Nine Worlds, which kicks off properly on Friday! It’s my favourite genre convention.

What you been reading?

What I’ve Been Reading #5

A return trip this weekend into mid-Wales meant I could have some audiobook time on the 5-hour drive. So I listened to three-odd hours of Good Omens – the BBC Radio 4 Dramatisation. 


I’m a huge fan of Good Omens. I first read it as a library book as a 16-year old. I’ve listened to the Stephen Briggs narration relevantly  recently and fell in love all over again. As a huge fan I’m not sure that the dramatisation hit all the beats that the source material does. I still have an hour to go before it finishes so it might all turn round for me. It does capture some of what goes on but for me it does miss the narrative voice which makes Good Omens into Good Omens.

Saying that there is lots to love. The voices sound right for the most part. It all makes sense. This is why I’m bad at seeing movie versions of books. I’d rather read the source material.

Lots of long days mean I’ve not got too much further on Sabriel but as it’s going to be my ebook I’ve picked and started my physical read, which is The Autumn Republic. I’m very eager to see if Brian McClellan can bring his story to a satisfying conclusion.


Oh and I’ve read the intro to Tales from the Vatican Vaults. I’m trying to decide if I want to read it in order, which I probably will or go to my favourite author first?  Sorry to tease but it’s not out until August.vaticanvaults

What I’ve Been Reading #4

Sorry this is a little late. I did a five-hour round trip into the heart of Wales yesterday/Sunday (that was until I remembered I’d take off my Apple Watch 30-minutes into the return journey and did a u-turn to collect it).

The trip was to help clear-out some stuff and while we were going that I came across books like these…

IMG_1374 IMG_1384 IMG_1378Finding The Owl Service was quite spooky as I’d emailed Rob from Adventures with Words a list on Saturday making comment on how much I didn’t like that book after reading it for GCSE English. I had though for forgotten how many children’s books I’d read/been given. To be fair I also love Angela Carter, Yeats and Derek Walcott because I’ve studied them.

So yesterday was nostalgic and a little spooky.

I did manage 3/5 reviews this week. In my defence the ones I’ve not written as rereads of Jingo by Terry Pratchett and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling and I’ve been thinking about re-reads in general and might save them for later.

This is only because I’ve just officially starting re-reading Clariel by Garth Nix. I love it but I’d forgotten how dark it was. I know it’s a book about death but it does show you how dark it can be.

Do have any books that you now love/hate after studying them?


What I’ve Been Reading #3

I’m going to do my best to make this a weekly post, so I’m sorry for missing last week. I’ve got a touch of readers block. I’ve been reading Night Lamb by Jack Vance as you’ve seen but I’ve not been feeling it. The promise of the blurb vs that slow movement and focus of the tale itself. I even skipped a few chapters to see where it was going but it remains with a teenagers struggle, which I just can’t seem to get into.  All this means that it has turned into a slog to pick up.  I don’t think you can’t knock me for trying to keep moving but I think it’s time to officially put it aside at page 93.

The other thing that’s making me struggle, and this is an issue I hope other book bloggers recognise, is having a small pile of books to review. I’m going to make time to get the pile reviewed so I’m planning  five reviews coming Monday to Friday this week. This might sound odd but if I can a book waiting for review I can read another genre before I’ve written the review but not the same genre, and as I have a fantasy, crime, comic and two re-reads waiting I’ve run out of options. So hopefully getting this done will get rid of the block.

As way of slight exploration why the reviews are outstanding so long is that I’m 4 weeks into a new job that has me going a completely new role and new hours and leaving me mushy-brained during the week. So hopefully that’s going to level out.


I’ve been doing a dash of non-fiction reading too. I’ve been reading more from What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton and The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook: Reading the Language and Symbols by Caitlin Matthews. I like Jo Walton’s style of writing about books she’s been re-reading the only thing that worries me is how much she’s read that I’ve never heard of. So, so, so much I’ve also been trying to get my head into Lenormand. I mentioned a few posts ago that I reviewed tarot cards well Lenormand is a cut-down set of playing cards with a symbol on each card, which is unlike tarot as that had an extra 26 cards on top of those used as playing cards. It’s an interesting learning curve.

I have snuck in a short story from the Fearie Tales collection. “Find My Name” by Ramsey Campbell is a gem. It’s very spooky and I think it’s my first Campbell. It’s not gonna be my last.

I’m going to be reading more short stories as I’m so excited to get a review copy of China Mieville’s new collection Three Moments of an Explosion.


What have you been reading?

Once More Round the Discworld & Once More to Long Earth

I probably will never write in detail about the effect that the Discworld had on me as a lonely 16 year-old but knowing that the 41st Discworld novel will be the last is oddly comforting though obvisously still sad.  But you have to be in awe of a series that has sustained 41 books without losing the joy of knowing its characters are returning, even if it is one last time.

And speaking of returning, The Long Utopia which Terry co-wrote with Stephen Baxter, is the 4th Long Earth book and it’s out this month and I guess then, after the 5th one, which the guardian reports was finished in March this year, that truly is the end.

What I’ve Been Reading #1

I post a lot on twitter but the only books I’ve ended up blogging about recently are ones I’ve finished writing reviews for.  By only posting reviews I  miss out talking about the ones I’ve been dipping into or not got around to reviewing formally. So, I’m going to have a go at  writing about the other books; books that are coming up or books which take my fancy, and see how that works out.


First up is The Innocence of Father Brown. I’ve only managed to read the first story so far and, to be fair, I was a little bit unconvinced by the farcical nature of it. That was until we got properly introduced to Father Brown at the end. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Speaking of classic crime I’m about a third into The Crime at Black Dudley, it’s my first Margaret Allingham and my introduction to her detective Albert Campion. As so often with her contemporaries she’s using another guest to be the eyes of the investigation and giving an outsiders view of Campion. It’s not the most flattering view though that’s more telling of the narrator than the character of Campion.

I’ve just finished Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan, it’s another first, and it joins Jingo by Terry Pratchett and The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs on the to-be-reviewed pile. I will say of Thief’s Magic that I did and didn’t enjoy it. It’s trying to be different, with a different take on heroes and fantasy worlds and magic but it used two contrasting threads that make it hard to get the weave right and I struggled a bit with the comparison. The ending though is a proper cliffhanger for both characters involved.


A background fascination in my reading is going back into science fiction’s past. Luckily the SF Gateway makes that such an easy task. For example, I was reading the introduction to In Search of Wonder by Damon Knight, which collects his critical writing from 1950-60-ish, and it mentions the Science-Fiction Handbook by  L. Sprague De Camp & Catherine Crook De Camp. Now in the past, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t have bother tracking down a second-hand copy but a couple of clicks later and there it was, ready to be read. The thing about the De Camp book is it contains an essay giving lots of thought into the embryology of science fiction pre-1900 and it’s something I’d never had read without the SF Gateway, so hats off to them. I’m still working my way through both books but greatly enjoying them.

The last book to mention is my unintentional rereading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It might have been seeing the new covers from last year in the shops a couple of weeks ago, which put the idea in the back of my mind, or maybe it’s just one of those things. Anyway, I bought the ebook when Pottermore was first available to test out the online shop and see how it integrated with Amazon (it worked flawlessly btw) but not got round to reading it. I was looking over the books on my kindle trying to figure out my next ebook (I try and keep one paper novel and one electronic novel on the go) and I wondered if it would still be any good so many years later. The answer to that question is YES. Especially as I’m easily over half-way and really want to stay with Harry until the end of this book, though I might have read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets soon after.

That’s my reading, what about you?

All Change? Official Hello

I come from  the generation of teenagers that emerged just as the internet was becoming accessible. My first online connection at 16 was via telephone modem dial-up, meaning a file the size of an MP3 song would take the 30 minutes to download. It also cost you money for every minute you were connected. It’s now something we take for granted.

I also grew up in a place where my only source of books were the shelves in  a small town Smiths or the library, both of which provided a good starting point but it took the reviews in SFX magazine to help me find what I liked as a 16 year old SF reader.  Being able to order books to be delivered, thought Smiths charged me a £1 every time, meant I was a little wider read. Again, now knowing about the ‘right’ books, and having (relatively) cheap and ready access is something easily taken for granted.

I was one of the first wave of book bloggers to get publishers to take the idea of using passionate readers to promote books seriously. Up until then you had to be review  for ‘traditional  media’ and for me that started with poetry magazines before leaping ahead a few years to the student union newspaper (I went to uni later than my peers, which is a story for another time). In the middle (2000-2004)  I had reviewed Tarot cards (another story for another time) for websites and had received review copies of  products so it wasn’t impossible but it wasn’t something publishers did.

Now, of course, book bloggers are seen as an engaged community who are embraced by publishers to spread new, and recently republished, books into the hands of readers, so again it’s now taken for granted that there are such things as book bloggers.

I couldn’t now imagine a world without the internet, nor can I imagine a world without being able to download a book instantly (though I really should restrain myself as it’s way too convenient ) and I couldn’t imagine a world without a book blog. I have tried but I always find my way back.

I’ve run a few of them: NextRead.co.uk was the first; followed by GavReads.co.uk; with a sidetrack to NoClocksAllowed.com; and now I’m focused on CwtchBooks.com. It’s a kind of evolution of my thinking about book blogging. The first was to look ‘professional’ (remember it was the days of not being taken ‘seriously’), the second was more personal, the sideline was an attempt to widen the view of fantasy and science fiction, and Cwtch Books is going to be me occasionally inviting other readers to talk about books, as well as the usual reviews and comment pieces (something I’ve not done for ages). But mostly I’m aiming to be more relaxed and chatty about the books I’m surrounded by.

That’s a very long way of saying, officially, welcome to Cwtch Books. I hope you enjoy reading it.