Early January saw me feasting on Stories, an anthology edited by Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio. The anthology was a Library Book Sale buy, for a mere ZAR10.00 and what value I found for my ten Rand’s purchase! The book is old and worn, published in 2003, and clearly much read, and I’m sure enjoyed, by many others. And now entertaining me.
I’m delighted to have been introduced to the spy novels featuring the awful Jackson Lamb – surely one of the world’s most horrible bosses ! But highly readable and vastly entertaining. I’ll be looking out for more Mick Herron novels.

On the non Fiction side I read a deeply moving, beautifully written memoir by Australian actress and writer, Ruth Cracknell. It’s a sensitively written, thoughtful account of a forty-one year love story and its difficult ending.

At long last I’m getting to grips with my Kindle. Apart from the relief of expanded print size, there are the downloadable Samples, so useful, when you’re undecided whether you should buy an e-book. So I’ve included a Samples section in the monthly Reading Roundup.

January is the month when we are exhorted to clear up our lives and – shudder – our bookshelves. British writer Deborah Levy feels strongly about this and writes how : Marie Kondo can’t have my bookshelves
I have reached a stage where many of my books no longer speak to me, but I won’t be persuaded to part with Jack Kerouac or Colette  ..    an article in The Guardian.
Did you chuck or cherish your books in January? I didn’t Kondo my bookshelves, but I did chuck out some. I realise that if an unread book has been languishing on my shelf for years, then I’m probably never going to get around to it. Big moment of truth!

Stories – All New Tales – Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. An anthology of imaginative fiction by some of the world’s best known authors. The whole shebang from horror to humour and pretty much everything in between. Recommended.

Spook Street – Mick Herron. Stylish, very English spy story set in modern London. Funny and gripping. Reviewed on this blog: https://thebooksmithblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/17/spook-street-mick-herron/

The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz. Terrific crime novel, written by acclaimed Brit writer. Highly Recommended. . Reviewed on this blog: https://thebooksmithblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/29/the-word-is-murder-anthony-horowitz/
The World my Wilderness – Rose McCauley. Re-issued by Virago Classics; great writing and characterisation. Shows the effects of WWII on one young girl. Worth reading. Lighter than it might sound. Recommended.


The Low Carb Solution for Diabetics – Vickie de Beer & Kath Megaw. The focus is on feeding a Type 1 Diabetic child. Clearly presented easily accessible layout. Informative, practical and useful.

Journey From Venice – Ruth Cracknell. Memoir. A long awaited pre-retirement holiday in Venice turns into a travellers’ nightmare. Achingly personal yet restrained. Recommended.

The Library Book – Susan Orlean. NF. She’s one of my favourite writers. And I love books about Books & Reading. So – a big fat Yes, to buy later in the year.
The Lonely City – Olivia Laing. Moody. Introspective, arty – a Maybe.
Blackfish City – Sam Miller. SF. Fantastic world-building, but no thanks.


THE WORD IS MURDER – Anthony Horowitz


Despite the fact I’m not a huge fan of thrillers, Anthony Horowitz had me hooked. His story of the murder cunningly constructed – BTW, all I can say is without writing a Spoiler: there’s an enormous red herring, a whale sized red herring, at the heart of the murder story. More than that I must not say. If you’re looking for a challenging murder puzzle, look no further.

Leaving the crime aside, I enjoyed the semi-autobiographical perspective of the novel. What do I mean? Horowitz has chosen to use a First Person narrator i.e. himself. He explains how he is hired by the enigmatic detective, Hawthorne, to write a book based on the crim Hawthorne is investigating. Despite his misgivings, because Hawthorne is a difficult man, Horowitz agrees.

So he tells the story in a very personal way, giving us his reactions to unfolding events, as he follows Hawthorne around London hunting down leads and clues. Interspersed with the events, are Horowitz’s thoughts, plans, misgivings about the book he is supposed to be writing; he worries whether he has made the correct choice in taking on the job. He gives us fascinating insider anecdotes on his past writing career, notably as writer for the BBC series Foyle’s War.

I loved the episode where Horowitz is in a face to face meeting with Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings Fame) and Steven Spielberg ( major movie fame!) and Hawthorne barges in, disrupts the meeting ( and, incidentally, Horowtiz’s prospective future career as a writer for Spielberg!) and manipulates the writer into leaving immediately with him.

The tone of the narrative is personal, confidential and flattering because we’re privy to a very successful writer’s angst about his writing and his career. Let it be noted that Anthony Horowitz is highly successful  – so I think his angst may have been misplaced.

To me the book read as a blend of fiction (the crime) and fact ( Horowitz the writer) so perhaps I should label it as ‘faction’. Whatever we choose to call it, it was a terrific read and I can highly recommend it.






Why, oh why, do people write comments in novels and short story collections?

A recent Book Sale buy, a short story anthology, has heavy underlinings in green felt-tip, plus awestruck comments elsewhere on the quality of the writing, liberally sprinkled with exclamation marks.

By all means annotate non-fiction textbooks or reference books, if these are going to be keepers on your shelf. Or, even in treasured poetry anthologies which you know you will keep on your shelves, and have been carefully detailed in your Will to follow you in to the grave or the fires. But works of general fiction that you will probably donate or give away? Sorry, no!

I do wish you wouldn’t. Its visually distracting, that heavy, coloured wobbly underlining and really, I neither care nor agree with your notes about the ‘stunning’ or ‘amazing’ prose. Grrrhhh.

You may visualise me adjusting my bi-focals, and polishing my Fuddy Duddy Book Nerd Badge.
** You will note the emphasis is on BITE.

SPOOK STREET – Mick Herron


24 pages into the spy thriller I thought : this reminds me of those dreary John le Carre spy novels. If this doesn’t improve I’m abandoning it. Page 30 is the deadline.
Whilst I read many of the JlC spy novels I don’t know that I enjoyed them that much. Half the time I didn’t have a clue what was going on – they were so vague, so murky, so is he/ or isn’t he? However, the Mick Herron Spy Thrillers came highly recommended, so we put a couple into the Milnerton Library Book Club.
And I’m so glad we did! I can’t wait to read the next one! Because – suddenly – the story took off and I was hooked, breathlessly turning the pages.

Herron’s style is very English – wry, dry, witty . There’s no 007 boobs and bullets stuff here. It’s all London in the rain (it never stops raining throughout the novel) and the workers in Slough House – the reject spies, the psychopaths, the drunks, the deranged, lurching along under the command of the ghastly Jackson Lamb – find themselves embroiled in the enigma when one of their own is killed – or is he?

There’s a rogue ex-CIA spy up to no good in France – if I write more, it’ll be a spoiler. There’s a retired top dog who’s gone cuckoo (dementia; if you read the novel, re-read my review; there’s a pun here) . What do you do with elderly spies, suffering from dementia, who know far, far more than is safe for them, us, and everybody?

Herron shows the morally murky world of spydom where solutions to sticky problems are always pragmatic and expeditious. They have to be. The ending of the novel is in the same vein.

Highly recommended. I can’t wait to read the next one!


Some of the book bloggers I follow are rashly committing themselves to public promises and revealing their personal reading plans and promises. Reaching a target of 100 books during the year is a common theme, ditto entering x-number of Reading Challenges. Entering Goodreads annual reading challenge is another recurring theme.
Others are vowing to limit their number of book purchases, or lay waste to their TBR shelves (not before time in some cases; I recently read about a book addicts whose 1300 book TBR shelves were proving a traffic hazard within her house.). Adds a perspective to my own modest TBR shelf.
Others are determined to write book reviews of every book they read; good luck with that one, is all I can say! But: each to their own.
Another blogger asked: when did reading become a competitive sport? Good question!
I shall continue to meander peacefully amongst the Backlists, with a very occasional foray into Booker Short List territory. One cannot keep up with the Latest, Hottest, Raveworthy new novels. It’s a physical impossibility.


I read for pleasure, and always have done. If I’m looking for information, I hop on-line, and hey presto! Thank you Wikipedia or Google.
But I am prepared to publicly reveal that I will briskly abandon boring books. My time and my eyesight are too precious to waste. More than this – no, that’s between me and my Reading Diary, in which I record my bookish thoughts and stats. When the spirit moves me, that is.


My motto for 2019 is: Relax! Read and enjoy!