September and October 2022 book blog

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana …

October was a busy month, there was a family wedding (congratulations to my wonderful nephew Jake and his talented, funny, witty and utterly amazing bride Eva) and also lots of promotional stuff going on for my second book, Ransomed Hearts.

None of that stopped me from reading, but I obviously didn’t get round to doing a September blog. So, here goes.

September started with a gorgeous new collection of Lisa Tuttle stories, courtesy of the brilliant Valencourt Press. I am, absolutely, a fan of Lisa Tuttle. I found her stories at an impressionable age (early twenties) and have reacted to any and all of her work with a very enthusiastic ‘WANT’. ‘The Dead Hours of Night’ did not disappoint, and although they span almost forty years of writing, they are all, clearly, Tuttle stories.

I felt like a woman with two lovers as I slipped away from the Tuttle anthology and went to meet Gwyneth Jones’s ‘Life’ Somehow this book slipped through the cracks and I’ve only now got round to reading it. It’s a keeper, it’s going nowhere. I’m not lending it out or giving it away, I will come back again and again.

‘Life’ feels like stepping sideways into my favourite books. It’s a cousin of Mary McCarthy’s ‘The Group’ in its sexual politics and focus on the dynamics of a group of fellow students as they grow up and go into the world. Reading it also brought back the urge to re-read Marge Piercy’s ‘Vida’, there’s something about the way the protagonist lives in her own world of research, whilst her most important relationships drift away, that reminds me of Vida’s political isolation. Most of all though, the book feels a hair’s breadth away from Gwyneth Jones’ own ‘Bold as Love’ series, in its general mood and the personalities of the major characters. Loved it.

I don’t read much literary fiction, but I make an exception for the Nightjar chapbooks, single story editions of dark fiction, edited and presented by Nicholas Royle. I tend to save them up and treat them as an anthology. I had a pile of chapbooks going back to last year, so I settled down with them, and over the course of two or three weeks I read almost two dozen chapbooks. They’re all listed on my Goodreads page, but the standouts for me were Claire Dean’s ‘Middleton Sands’, Françoise Harvey’s ‘Guest’, David Bevan’s ‘The Bull’ and ‘The Golden Frog’ and Joanne Done’s ‘Medlar’.

After dipping into so many worlds by so many voices, I picked up ‘The Stars Seem So Far Away’ by Margrét Helgadóttir. Margrét is an anthology sister of mine, from one of the Hic Dragones anthologies, and I bought this book a long time ago, shelved it, and never saw it again. Last month I accepted that it was, mysteriously, gone for ever, and bought another copy. It was definitely worth buying twice, and I loved the interlinked short stories about a group of young people surviving and making their way through a world changed by global warming.

After spending the best part of two months reading short stories, I was hungry for something different, and it doesn’t get much more different than a chunky Stephen King novel. Fairy Tale could have easily been a series, in the style of The Dark Tower, but King has reined himself in and kept it to supernovel length. What can I say? It’s Stephen King, I loved it.

And then, back to the short stories. Ellen Datlow is my favourite anthologist, and ‘When Things Get Dark’ is a collection of dark tales rooted in the style and feel of Shirley Jackson stories. I’m still in the middle of it, and will post a review next month.

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