July Miscellany

December Miscellany __1_1_1 (2)

Well, that’s another month of summer gone – the days are just flying by!

July turned out to be a while lot busier, work-wise, than I anticipated and as a result, (you’ve guessed it!) I am behind on the 20 Books of Summer challenge.


At the moment, I have read 15 of my chosen books and am halfway through 2 more. I have only managed to review 9 so I have a lot of catching up to do in that department. If I’m honest, I think at this stage, that I won’t complete the challenge as set. I think I will finish 18 of the original 20.

I am not going to stress about it too much though, I’ve read way more than 20 books already this summer, so it’s not such a disaster!

How are you all doing with the challenge? It’s hard to believe that we have a mere 4 weeks left!

As I said, it has been a busy time in work, but an exciting one also.

In early July, I had the pleasure of welcoming the dream line up of Max Porter and Sarah Moss to HomePlace, interviewed by Sinéad Gleeson. They were, as you can imagine, insightful, intelligent and witty and I was delighted then when Max Porter made the longlist for the Booker Prize.

max et al

Last week – and I am still pinching myself about this one – Van Morrison played three intimate gigs in HomePlace and they were all astonishing. I know, because I watched them all! Booking Van Morrison was the culmination of three years hard work and I never quite thought I could pull it off, so when he opened his first show with St Dominic’s Preview, I will admit, I may have shed a tear!

Honestly, that’s Van in the spotlight!

In other reading news, I was quite pleased to see that I had quite a few ARCs of longlisted Booker books, so I took a little summer reading detour to catch up with some of the longlisted books and read some other good books too.


The Chain by Adrian McKinty

I was lucky enough to attend the Belfast launch of Adrian McKinty’s new novel The Chain. Adrian is originally from Belfast but now lives in the States and is the author of the acclaimed Sean Duffy series of novels set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Adrian’s story, if you haven’t heard it yet, is quite something.

With Adrian McKinty and my little sister!

He had given up writing and was working in a bar and as an Uber driver after being evicted from his house, when a big American agent called him up on the recommendation of crime writer Don Winslow, and talked him into writing an ‘American’ book.

The resulting book, The Chain, is a high-octane, taut thriller written in Harlan Coben style, which has one of the best premises I have heard in a long time. Your child is kidnapped. To get your child back you must kidnap another child. When their parents kidnap a child, yours will be freed. You can never break the Chain.

The Chain lacks the slow-moving subtlety and descriptive prose of McKinty’s Sean Duffy series, but it does exactly what is expected of it. The plot is propulsive and the tension and pace never slip. The Chain has already been optioned by Paramount Pictures, so this will undoubtedly make Adrian McKinty’s name.


Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland

fake like me

I requested Fake Like Me on a whim while browsing through Netgalley (this is why I am in the situation I am with my TBR!) and was drawn to it as I love a novel set in the art world. This clever, visceral thriller explores issues of privilege, women artists and commodification in the contemporary art world. It is not often that I am genuinely surprised by a plot twist, but Fake Like Me pulls it off. The book references a lot of contemporary art and artists and as such may feel weighed down by some readers, but I enjoyed checking out lots of new painters and artists on the internet as I read.


Flames by Robbie Arnott


I first heard of Flames when Susan at A Life in Books recommended it, so it went on my Christmas list and I am so glad it did. I predict that this will be my book of the year, if not my book of the last five years. I was blown away by the beauty and wit of this wondrous tale of fire, nature, human relationships and talking water rats. Magic realism can be a bit hit or miss for me, but I was so engrossed and carried along with this wonderfully constructed narrative that I accepted everything that was offered to me.

Susan’s review says what I am struggling to say, but I urge anyone looking for something a little different, or for something unforgettable, to try Flames.


 Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry

night boat

I do love Kevin Barry’s writing, it is so colourful, heightened, and moreish and Night Boat is no exception. Two aging Cork gangsters travel to Spain to find a missing daughter and in the process, look back on their lives. I have read a description of Night Boat to Tangiers as Waiting for Godot meets Harold Pinter meets Sexy Beast and I think that sums it up perfectly! I’d love to see this make the shortlist. Plot-wise, it is pretty standard, but the prose and dialogue practically fizz off the page.


My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite


I often think that when people say they have read a book ‘in one sitting’ that they are not being entirely truthful, but I am here to prove myself wrong. I read My Sister, the Serial Killer in one afternoon and found it to be very entertaining but rather slight. Mixing crime fiction, romance and a comedy of manners, this slim novel starts out strong and worked best for me when it focused on the relationship between the two sisters, but I felt like it didn’t fully come together.


I have copies of Lanny by Max Porter and Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman and a few other Booker longlisted titles on my Netgalley shelf:

  • The Wall by John Lanchester
  • Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luisella
  • Frankisstein by Jeanette Winterson
  • The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy

Are there any you would particularly recommend I read? Any shoe-ins for the shortlist? Because reading these will help me finish my 20 Books of Summer, right?!


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Monthly Miscellany

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

45 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Hi Cathy – your job sounds so great – you are surrounded by authors, books, musicians, art and culture – how wonderful! As for reading a book in one sitting, I too, am often skeptical when I hear someone say that, because I can never do it! But I believe My Sister…is an exception. I’ve heard many others say the same thing. Thanks for sharing all your books – I’m doing my library’s reading challenge and, although I won’t finish, I’ve made a respectable dent!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great summer you’re having!
    I love reading your brief thoughts on each book so I can decide which ones to prioritize. Flames sounds like a must. And that cover!


  3. Oh, I did admire Ghost Wall. I like Max Porter too but I find my attention can wander a bit when I’m reading his books, as they can get a bit dreamy and abstract, but Ghost Wall was compelling. How great to meet both writers.


  4. I’m so glad to hear you loved Fake Like Me because I am very excited about it, the summary sounds so up my alley. I’m so excited to read the Kevin Barry, I think that’s the Booker title I’m most anticipating. But I am also looking forward to Lanny and Frankissstein. Can’t wait to hear your assessment of Ducks – that one still scares me…


  5. Wow, Gleeson, Moss and Porter all at once? That is indeed a dream lineup! I’ve only seen Porter live — that was just to deliver Mark O’Connell’s acceptance speech at the Wellcome Book Prize ceremony, but even in that context he was hilarious.

    I’m definitely going to read Lanchester and Levy from the Booker longlist, and I might consider the Barry. (I thought the Winterson was pretty awful, but opinions are varying wildly on that one.)


    • I know Rebecca! Max was so funny and they were all lovely people. I enjoyed the Barry a lot and have started the Levy. The premise of the Winterson doesn’t really appeal to me but we’ll see.


  6. Fake Like Me sounds really good. The only book I’m interested in reading from the Booker longlist that I haven’t already read is Girl, Woman, Other – I wasn’t especially impressed by any of the ones I have read. I’ve written 11 reviews but only read 14 of my Books of Summer, so I’m behind – but I’m determined to finish all 20 this year!


  7. I may well get through your 20 Books of Summer challenge, Cathy—though not with all my nominated books! I’ve read just eight on my list, though to be fair I’ve got through sixteen books since the start and am nearly two-thirds through Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley which is on my list.

    As always, some juicy titles mentioned in this post have caught my eye but, excuse me for passing on them: I have my own 746 books or so to tackle… 😁


  8. Thanks so much for the link, Cathy. I’m delighted that you were as bewitched by Flames as I was. I hope many othere readers will overcome any worries about wackiness and dive into this one.
    Many, many congratulations on the Van Morrison gigs. What a coup! I’m sure you were all too well aware of the man’s legendary reputation for not turning up – to get him on stage once would have been a triumph but three times is beyond most programmers’ wildest dreams I would have thought!


  9. Reading 20 will not be a problem, but finishing the actual list will be. Oh well. It’s been a really crazy summer. A kid moved out for college, another kid had all these trips, I had two trips, I painted a bathroom and a hall, I’m now in charge of a mini quilt show….I don’t even know, dude.


  10. Wow! Van Morrison! Go, you!! 😀
    I’ve got 6 of the 20 left to read, but five are pretty short so I haven’t abandoned hope… yet. I doubt if I’ll get them all reviewed in time though, so you’ll need to start thinking up innovative punishments… 😉


  11. Am not only impressed that you managed to book Van Morrison but extra impressed he did three nights on the spin – I saw him at a music festival a few years ago – he was due to headline but decided it was too hot and instead insisted on coming on mid-afternoon – when there were only a few thousand hangover recovering eejits like myself around – as a result it was fantastic!!! Read an article about Adrian McKinty’s writing ‘journey’ in The Guardian I think – interesting stuff. As for Booker I’m with you that My Sister starts well but runs out of steam, The Wall is decent but wasn’t blown away by it – however Lanny is stunningly good. I thought it would struggle to live up to Grief Is Only Thing.. it surpasses it. Probably one of the three best books I’ve read this year


  12. Everything I have heard about My Sister, the Serial Killer makes me question why it’s on the longlist at all. What is it that the Booker judges saw that very few others are seeing??

    You’re behind on your reading challenge having read 16? I’m nowhere near my own goal. But you know what, it doesn’t really matter unless you plan to send the book police my way….


  13. I just (literally JUST, like five minutes ago) opened The Chain to read five pages or so, to see if it would be right for a particular customer of mine. Five chapters later, I remembered I was at work. It is really something else.


  14. Kudos on all the exciting events at work! I love your skirt in the first picture.
    18 out of 20 Books is Summer is truly a success in my book.
    I’ve heard about The Chain and I just don’t think I can read it – the scenario is just too scary for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Glad to see you’ve been having a productive summer of reading Cathy (18 is still so many!). Interested to see your thoughts on the Winterson and Levy should you check them out – I’m curious as well, but I’m holding off until I see more reviews.


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