Bollocks to Alton Towers

Bollocks to Alton Towers is a guide to visitor attractions in the UK that are a parallel world to the identikit theme parks and desperate-to-entertain you museums that top the visitor attraction lists and vie for awards.

This small book of “Uncommonly British Days Out” is a friend lend. I’ve only had it for three years. We’re off to stay with the friends who lent it soon, so I thought I’d make it the first book in my new personal reading challenge.

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Variations

Variations is a collection of short stories inspired by real events that explore transgender history in Britain. The stories take a variety of forms, from diaries, letters and oral history interviews to blogs and screenplays. Across the collection, Juliet Jacques follows a series of trans people and their experiences from the 19th through to the 21st century. She opens each story with a paragraph that contextualises what follows and regularly includes footnotes with further context. This gives such an air of authority that I began to question whether this book gathered together fiction or fact. In a way, it does both. Jacques has written a history of trans experience but disguised it as fiction.

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Ways of Living

Gemma Seltzer’s collection of short stories centred on the lives of female Londoners is in some respects more Ways of Leaving than Ways of Living. Its principal characters are seeking escape. In their escape, they’re also looking for understanding, whether that’s understanding themselves or being understood by others. The nature of friendship is placed under a microscope and found to be largely a matter of convenience.

The women could be anywhere. That they are in London adds a different flavour – the proliferation of people performing an artistic life and vying for attention, the particularities of multicultural working class life in the unmonied areas – but the lives portrayed here could be lived in any city. Even a global city is parochial, when you dig down into it. Perhaps the London-ness of these stories is that the strangeness of the characters’ behaviour is normalised.

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Staying Home: Short Stories

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Read 02/06/2022-03/06/2022

Rating 4 stars

Staying Home is a collection of four short stories selected from the 2020 Comma Press Short Story Course. These course collections are available exclusively in Kindle format for 99 pence each, and are often the first time the included writers have been published.

The 2020 course collection features four women writers, one of whom is a friend. The course took place online in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic, and this is reflected in the subject matter of one the stories. Continue reading

How to Bring Him Back

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Read 29/05/2022

Rating 3 stars

How to Bring Him Back by Claire HM is a single story in the Fly on the Wall Shorts series. It follows Cait, a writer from Birmingham, as she tries to conjour up the man she wronged almost a quarter of a century earlier. Its form is that of a writer’s confessional, an attempt to shape the past into a semi-fictional narrative. It left me wondering how close Cait is to Claire HM. Continue reading

10 Books of Summer

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Cathy is running the summer reading challenge that aims to clear some books off your To Read pile again this year – hooray! I’m joining in with my usual ten book goal. As a target, it worked out well for me last year, despite being fooled by some tiny old books into thinking they were short reads. I only missed my goal by one. I’m confident that I’ll hit my goal this year, though, especially since I’ve averaged a book a week so far.

The challenge runs from 1 June to 1 September and you can find out more about what’s involved in Cathy’s introductory post on 746 Books. The main rule is that the rules aren’t tightly binding. So if you choose a book and then don’t fancy it, it’s more than okay to swap it for something else. Or if you have a bit of a reading slump and your target starts to feel like a stretch, then you should feel free to recalibrate to something more realistic. As long as something gets cleared off the To Read pile, you’re golden. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: From Ethan Frome to That Old Ace in the Hole

December is here and, as ever, I’m taking part in the Six Degrees of Separation meme, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

Suitably for the month of December in the Northern hemisphere, if not her southern one, Kate has chosen Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome as our starting book. It’s a book I’ve read twice, once more than 25 years ago, when I first discovered Wharton as a writer, and then again around the time that the film adaptation starring Patricia Arquette and Liam Neeson was released. It’s a book that I love, my favourite of the works of Wharton that I’ve read.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From What Are You Going Through to The Essex Serpent

It’s been a busy first weekend in November, which is why I’m a couple of days late for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. This bookish meme, in which readers link together a chain of books, is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

November’s starting point is Sigrid Nunez’s novel What Are You Going Through.

I haven’t read this novel yet, but I have read Kate’s review of it, so I know what it’s about.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From The Lottery to The Resident

September has flown by and suddenly it’s the first Saturday of October. Which means it’s time for Six Degrees of Separation, hosted as ever by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

October ends on Hallowe’en, making it the spookiest month, and our starting point for this month’s chain is a Shirley Jackson short story, The Lottery (available online here).

A heads up – I’m thinking a lot about Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa this week, two women brutally murdered by opportunistic men while simply going about life in a way we should all be free to, regardless of gender, but that women are conditioned to feel at risk doing. So there’s a flavour to my choices this month.

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Random Thoughts: European Book Tour

Political map of Europe from vidiani.com

I’ve been perusing my stack of books that I have yet to read, and have decided that I’m going on another book trip. I enjoyed “holidaying” over the summer via the books I’d bought on recent holidays. As it’s unlikely that I’ll get to Europe for a while (thanks pandemic, thanks Brexit), I thought I’d knock a few titles off the stack that are by European authors and head off on a virtual tour of the continent.

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