In My Life: A Music Memoir by Alan Johnson (hardcover)
From being transported by the sound of ‘True Love’ by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly on the radio, as a small child living in condemned housing in ungentrified West London in the late 1950s, to going out to work as a postman humming ‘Watching the Detectives’ by Elvis Costello in 1977, Alan Johnson’s life has always had a musical soundtrack. In fact music hasn’t just accompanied his life, it’s been an integral part of it.
In the bestselling and award-winning tradition of This Boy, In My Life vividly transports us to a world that is no longer with us – a world of Dansettes and jukeboxes, of heartfelt love songs and heart-broken ballads, of smoky coffee shops and dingy dance halls. From Bob Dylan to David Bowie, from Lonnie Donnegan to Bruce Springsteen, all of Alan’s favourites are here. As are, of course, his beloved Beatles, whom he has worshipped with undying admiration since 1963.
But this isn’t just a book about music. In My Life adds a fourth dimension to the story of Alan Johnson the man.
The book, signed by the author, was a gift from my lovely husband to thank me for getting tickets for us to hear Alan speak at Henley Literary Festival and enabling my husband to meet Alan afterwards (albeit briefly).
Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield (proof copy)
A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.
Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.
Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can it be explained by science?
Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.
Pre-order Once Upon A River from Amazon UK
A Ration Book Christmas by Jean Fullerton (paperback, giveaway prize courtesy of Corvus and Readers First)
In the darkest days of the Blitz, Christmas is more important than ever.
With Christmas approaching, the Brogan family of London’s East End are braving the horrors of the Blitz. With the men away fighting for King and Country and the ever-present dangers of the German Luftwaffe’s nightly reign of death and destruction, the family must do all they can to keep a stiff upper lip.
For Jo, the youngest of the Brogan sisters, the perils of war also offer a new-found freedom. Jo falls in love with Tommy, a man known for his dangerous reputation as much as his charm. But as the falling bombs devastate their neighbourhood and rationing begins to bite, will the Brogans manage to pull together a traditional family Christmas? And will Jo find the love and security she seeks in a time of such grave peril?
Pre-order A Ration Book Christmas from Amazon UK
Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton (eARC, courtesy of Quercus and NetGalley)
When Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.
Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.
It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.
Pre-order Blackberry and Wild Rose from Amazon UK
The Senator’s Assignment by Joan E. Histon (eARC, courtesy of Top Hat Books and Random Things Tours)
Being trusted by a Caesar makes him an enemy of the Roman who crucified Jesus Christ, and puts him under threat from Rome itself…
Rome 30 AD – A Senator is plunged into the dark heart of the Roman Empire, sent to investigate the corrupt practices of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem by Caesar Tiberius. In this tense historical thriller can Senator Vivius Marcianus outmanoeuvre charges of treason, devastating secrets resurfaced from his own troubled past, and the political snake pit of Rome to save himself and the woman he loves?
Pre-order The Senator’s Assignment from Amazon UK
The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby (proof copy, courtesy of No Exit Press)
Cora was born in a prison. But is this where she belongs?
Birmingham, 1885. Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her. Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?
With the power and intrigue of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions and Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut takes the reader on a heart-breaking journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.
Pre-order The Conviction of Cora Burns from Amazon UK
The Page by M. Jonathan Lee (paperback, giveaway prize courtesy of Hideaway Fall)
Following a tragic car accident, Michael Sewell is alone for the first time. The loss of his wife, Margaret, after thirty years of marriage has left a hole far greater than Michael could have imagined.
Persuaded to go on holiday by his daughter Jane, he’s at the pool when a page blown from a book sticks to his chest. The words from the page resonate with Michael, describing in detail the exact events leading up to the accident. Now, Michael must delve into his past and face his future, taking him and his family on a horrifying and tragic journey toward the truth…
The Page combines dark humour with a racing storyline, as the reader tries to work out what will happen to the main character before he does.
On What Cathy Read Next last week
Tuesday – This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was Authors I’d Love To Meet. As I spent Sunday and Monday at Henley Literary Festival, my list included some of the lovely authors I got to meet or, at least, see in person (which just about counts, doesn’t it?) This also explains why there was limited time for blogging this week… However, I did find time to republish my review of The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse, one of the many authors appearing at this Henley Literary Festival (although, sadly, I couldn’t get to her event).
Wednesday – WWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just finished reading, what I’m reading now and what I’ll be reading next.
Thursday – My Throwback Thursday post was The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting, a book I loved when I read and reviewed it originally. It’s now out in paperback. I republished another review, this time of The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings, who was also on the programme of Henley Literary Festival.
Friday – I published my review of Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan. Yes, you guessed it – another author appearing at Henley Literary Festival. I also shared the top five books I read in September.
Saturday – The first Saturday in the month means it’s Six Degrees of Separation time. This month’s starting book was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. If you fancy joining in next month and want to get thinking, the starting book is Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.
On What Cathy Read Next this week
- Book Review: Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks
- Book Review: Macbeth by Jo Nesbo
- Book Review: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
- Book Review: The Dark Tide by Vera Brittain
- Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
- Event Reviews: Henley Literary Festival
- Blog Tour/Book Review: The Black Prince by Adam Roberts
- Blog Tour/Book Review: Joseph Barnaby by Susan Roebuck
- Book Review: Little by Edward Carey