Nudge-Book issue 92- Now Available


The latest edition of the magazine I am delighted to be a contributor for has its latest issue available now.  And it has had a name change!  It’s still nb but that now stands for nudge-book to tie it in with its associated website ( where I am the “Community Voice” for the Book Hugger section.

You may think, oh here he goes, pushing a magazine he is writing for and okay, I hold my hands up, but I was reading nb long before I was a contributor and it is the only UK magazine out there for readers and reading groups so it is well worth supporting.  In this issue we say goodbyes to our editor and publisher, Guy Pringle, who has done a fantastic job in ensuring such a magazine can survive in this digital age and after 17 years at the helm has decided to start his well-earned retirement.  We are all sure that it will continue to go from strength to strength under Mel Mitchell who has also worked tirelessly on the publication for a number of years.

If you head over to the nudge bookshop you can purchase a copy (or take out a subscription).  This edition has features a Crime Fiction Supplement and much else besides.  There’s an interview with Graeme Macrae Burnet whose Man Booker shortlisted “His Bloody Project” I so loved.  There’s an interview with Clare Mackintosh who became the fastest selling new crime writer in 2015 with “I Let You Go”.  Her latest, “I See You” is available as a Recommended Read and is available free for nb readers from the nudge website (you just pay p&p).

There’s a couple of exclusives from me as well.  You can find my interview with Charlie Lovett whose “Lost Book Of The Grail” and “The Bookman’s Tale” both delighted me this year and there is a feature on TV adaptations.  You can also find out the NB books of the year as voted for by readers.  Just one spoiler here as I am so delighted that my five star rated “Owl Song At Dawn” by Emma Claire Sweeney was voted the Book Hugger Book of The Year.

There does seem to be more content in each edition of nb, so if you haven’t seen it for a while give it a go.  The directory at the back of the magazine features reviews of a whole range of books which might have escaped your notice.  If your “To Be Read” list is looking a little lacklustre and out of date then let nudge books give you a nudge…………….

Newbooks 91- Now available


I am aware that I’ve been a little slow off the mark here telling you about the latest newbooks magazine.  I can only put it down to wanting to tell you about some of the books shortlisted for the Nudge/newbooks Bookhugger book of the year.  There is now just one day to cast your vote- as a reminder here are the selections.

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult.  My five star review for this is here.

Exposure – Helen Dunmore – My five star review for this is here.

The Wonder – Emma Donoghue – My four star review is here.

The Song Collector – Natasha Simons – My four star review is here.

How To Measure A Cow – Margaret Forster – My three star review is here.

Waking Lions – Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Father’s Day – Simon Van Booy

Hide – Matthew Griffin

The Good Guy- Susan Beale

Owl Song At Midnight – Emma Claire Sweeney (I am currently reading this and enjoying it very much, my review will follow shortly).

If you have read any of these books and think they are worthy of the title of Bookhugger Book Of The Year you have now just a few hours (voting closing on 10th Feb) to head on over to the Nudge site (here) to register your vote.

Bookhugger Book Of Year nominees that have already featured on

I must confess that for this issue of newbooks I did not contribute as much as I have done in the past.  That was because of moving home (twice in a short period of time) and losing contact with the rest of the world with no phone line, mobile phone signal or internet (something which I have griped about before on here, and which I have now just about got over).

There is a lot of great stuff to read in this latest edition of newbooks which can be purchased as an individual copy or as a subscription over on the nudge site (just click here).  There’s a great feature on authors’ new years resolutions (I wonder how many of them have already been broken).  Those contributing include reviewsrevues favourite Chris Whitaker (good to see that sense of humour still going strong, Chris), Sara Baume and Natasha Solomons.  The big interview and cover author is Claire Fuller, who is interviewed by Mel Mitchell, who also does a great job with author Magdalena McGuire.  A section on debut authors focuses on Joseph Knox, Katie Khan and Ross Armstrong as well as rounding up the debut novels that are going to be appearing over the next couple of months. There is also an extract from the book I am currently reading “Owl Song At Dawn”  and interview with author Emma Claire Sweeney.  There are loads of books reviewed in the Directory for those of us looking for the next great discovery.

There’s also the Recommended reads which can be picked up from the Nudge website for free (you just pay P&P).  These are subject to availability and include the aforementioned Emma Claire Sweeney (this is where my copy came from), Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg, The Bones Of Grace by Tahmima Anam and Life In A Fishbowl by Len Vlahos.

If your to be read list is looking a little depleted (as if!) or you just want to experience one of the only print magazines about books still available in the UK check out Newbooks 91.





The Song Collector – Natasha Solomons (Sceptre 2015)


Natasha Solomon’s fourth novel provides my introduction to her work.  It is a novel about music, which can be a hit or miss affair in fiction but here it works extremely well.  Central to the plot is Hartgrove Hall, a country house, which at the earliest chronological spot of the story, November 1946, is being reclaimed by the Fox-Talbot family after being requisitioned by the military during the war.  This has left it neglected, beginning a decline which will see the next generation striving to turn back.

The youngest of the three Fox-Talbot sons, Harry, is a “song collector”, a music fanatic determined to catalogue every folk song he encounters.  The house becomes a springboard for his musical achievements when he composes a symphony in tribute to it which establishes his career.  The narrative follows two timeframes, the second being Harry’s attempts to get his life back on track following the death of his wife, Edie, a wartime singer of great repute, who we first meet as his older brother’s girlfriend.  The earlier strand is a love story as to how Harry and Edie got together and their attempts to save Hartgrove Hall. It is also very much a love-song to music itself.  This provides Harry’s redemption, his means of keeping hopes of retaining his home alive and also with his musically-gifted grandson it provides his chance to celebrate Edie and to pick up some of the pieces following her demise.

Solomons is a gifted writer.  This is a confident, mature piece with both music and the old house conjuring up an air of yearning which is strong throughout.  There was a point when I noted the unusual occurrence for me of favouring the modern narrative strand rather than the post-war years. (Normally with this type of book I relish the earlier years and tolerate the more modern strand).  I did become engrossed in the relationship between grandfather and grandson and felt a little disappointed when it switched back to Harry and Edie’s earlier love triangle.  Having said this all aspects of the novel are highly satisfactory.  It is very close to a five star read, but it does look like in 2017 I’m going to be just as stingy at giving them out.  A five star book is assured of a permanent place on my bookshelves so with space limited has to really blow me away.  I do sense that Natasha Solomons has a five star book within her (perhaps in her back catalogue, “Mr Rosenblaum’s List” seems highly appraised) or with her next work but for me it just misses out on the ultimate accolade this time round.

“The Song Collector” has been shortlisted for the Bookhugger Book Of The Year over at Nudge books.  Take a look to see the other nominations and if this is your favourite read of the year vote for Natasha Solomons You have until  10th February to register your vote.


The Song Collector was published in hardback in 2015 and in paperback by Sceptre in March 2016.

New Books from newbooks


Unashamed plug now – the new edition of newbooks magazine (issue 87) – the UK magazine for readers and reading groups is out now.  It can be purchased as an individual copy or by subscription at the nudge store here .This is one of the few and undoubtedly the best UK magazine that deals with books.  From this issue I have been given a greater role and have been recruited as the “Community Voice” for Literary Fiction.  This means a regular column and a greater presence over on the Bookhugger section on the associated website Nudge Books .  Just click on the Bookhugger tab on the site for a disarmingly large photo of me!  I am thrilled to now be working for a magazine I have loved for so long and have been contributing to as a reviewer for the last few years,

So what do you get in this issue of newbooks?  Well, as you can see the cuddly Bill Bryson is on the front cover and is the main interview feature.  There are also features on film adaptations of novels, a special feature on recently published debut novelists and articles/interviews on the writers of the four Recommended reads – To stop you squinting at the picture these are:

The Trouble With Goats And Sheep- Joanna Cannon

The Life And Death Of Sophie Stark – Anna North (See my review of this book here)

A Reunion Of Ghosts – Judith Claire Mitchell (this is on my To Be Read list)

The Queen’s Choice – Anne O’Brien

The featured books are all available free (just p&p to pay) for those purchasing the magazine – see the link to the nudge bookshop above for more information on this

As a rounding off to 2015 newbooks readers have been voting for their Book of The Year.  Voting has now closed and the winner will be announced in the next edition due in the spring (I’ll let you know when).  The shortlist for the books in my category – The Bookhugger were as follows:

A God In Ruins- Kate Atkinson

The Blue Guitar – John Banville (Reviewed on reviewsrevues here)

Noonday – Pat Barker

Spill Simmer Falter Wither (Reviewed on reviewsrevues here)

The Green Road – Anne Enright (Reviewed on reviewsrevues here) (Have you seen the paperback edition?  How much more appropriate is that cover?)

Purity – Jonathan Franzen

Fates And Furies – Lauren Groff

The Crossing – Andrew Miller

A Spool Of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler (Reviewed on reviewsrevues here)

These Are The Names – Tommy Wieringa (Reviewed on reviewrevues here)

Anyone who has read my Top 10 Reads of 2015 would be able to work out which one I voted for.  But has it won?  My lips are sealed ………………

blueguitar   baume  greenroad  bluethreadwieringa

Which would be your favourites from the shortlist?

But what can I find by our esteemed reviewsrevues writer I hear you ask?!  Well, in this edition you will find my overview of the Bookhuggers year, another recommendation for my Book of the 21st Century, reviews of a couple of books from the Costa Award shortlist and a review of Garth Risk Hallberg’s “City On Fire”.  Surely that’s worth the subscription fee alone!!