Library Checkout: November 2019

I’ve been desperately trying to get through the final handful of 2019 releases on my docket, whether they’re review copies or available from the library. So I recently made a last-minute flurry of requests on the 2019 titles I still intend to read, and will do my darndest to get through them all – though I’m definitely being brutal at this point and DNFing anything that doesn’t grab me within the first chapter.

I give links to reviews of any books I haven’t already featured, as well as ratings for all. What have you been reading from your local libraries? Library Checkout runs on the last Monday of every month. I don’t have an official link-up system, but feel free to use this image in your post and to leave a link to your blog in the comments if you’ve taken part.



  • Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley
  • The Dig by Cynan Jones
  • Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem
  • “Birthday Girl” by Haruki Murakami
  • A Half Baked Idea: How Grief, Love and Cake Took Me from the Courtroom to Le Cordon Bleu by Olivia Potts
  • Chances Are by Richard Russo
  • The Poetry Pharmacy Returns: More Prescriptions for Courage, Healing and Hope by William Sieghart
  • Baker Cat by Posy Simmonds
  • Rain Falling by the River: New and Selected Poems of the Spirit, Christopher Southgate [from my church’s theological library]


  • Critical: Science and Stories from the Brink of Human Life by Dr Matt Morgan


  • Ring the Hill by Tom Cox
  • The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Heavens by Sandra Newman
  • My Name Is Why: A Memoir by Lemn Sissay


  • Afloat: A Memoir by Danie Couchman
  • The School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton
  • Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life by Paul Dolan
  • Diary of a Lone Twin by David Loftus


  • The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico


  • Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (I only plan to skim it!)


  • The Body Lies by Jo Baker
  • Five Ingredient Vegan: 100 Simple, Fast, Modern Recipes by Katy Beskow
  • The Easternmost House: A Year of Life on the Edge of England by Juliet Blaxland
  • Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
  • Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
  • Under the Camelthorn Tree: Raising a Family among Lions by Kate Nicholls
  • The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn
  • The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold
  • Mr Dickens and his Carol by Samantha Silva
  • The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater
  • Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith


  • Live a Little by Howard Jacobson – It’s been a while since I tried a Jacobson novel; the idea of a comic romance between 90-somethings appealed to me. The first chapter, about Beryl and her morbid cross-stitch sayings, was entertaining enough, but the second chapter quickly lost me.
  • After the End by Clare Mackintosh – I thought this might be a bit like a Jodi Picoult book: a gripping, heartwarming issues book with a medical theme. That might indeed be the case, but the first 10 pages were awfully dull.
  • Grand Union: Stories by Zadie Smith – I read the first and last (title) stories, and started on the second. Two out of three were so bad that if they didn’t have the famous name attached I’m not sure they could have gotten published. In “The Dialectic” Smith attempts to cross Elena Ferrante with Jonathan Safran Foer for a thin tale of a mother and daughter arguing about the treatment of animals on a beach. Main problem: no one speaks like the daughter speaks here, no matter her age or upbringing (“I dislike this place”). The title story, about mothers and daughters in a diverse area of London, is fine, but nothing special. And then the first five pages of “Sentimental Education” were sexually explicit just for the sake of it and too reminiscent of On Beauty. I skimmed through the rest to see if any other story jumped out at me, but decided to move on to something else instead.


  • Nightingales in November: A Year in the Lives of Twelve British Birds by Mike Dilger – The writing is very dry: a set of list-like, month-by-month observations.

Does anything appeal from my stacks?

24 responses

  1. Pleased to see the Russo gets a good rating. Ring the Hill caught my eye of Heavenali’s blog and I’ve added it to my list. Are you enjoying it? I thought the Baker was a clever take on the distressing number of crime novels that feature violence against women. Good luck with your race to the 2019 literary finishing line!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After The End is very sub Jodi Picoult.

      Those two Zadie Smith stories are pretty poor, although I liked ‘A Sentimental Education’ more than you did ( I didn’t think its only purpose was to be shocking). I liked some of the other stories in the collection much better, but overall it’s a very mixed bag.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know I didn’t really give the Smith collection a proper try, but with so many other books grabbing my attention I didn’t want to force myself through stories I wasn’t enjoying.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Fair enough, I gave it 3 stars so definitely don’t recommend you prioritise it!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m enjoying Ring the Hill, though not as much as Cox’s previous book, 21st-Century Yokel, which I think managed to make its extended, rambling essays a little more cohesive. Still, he’s come on leaps and bounds since his early cat books.

      I know you and Laura really rate the Baker; it’ll be the only thing I’ve read by her besides Longbourn, and I expect will be quite different!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Afloat looks interesting.
    Disappointed that Grand Union was a thumbs down (I bought it when I saw Smith speak in Melbourne recently).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I live next to a canal and know some people who live on the boats, so I’m fascinated by the lifestyle. The writing in Afloat is nothing special, though — thus only skimming it.

      Your mileage may vary with Grand Union!


  3. I’m relieved that there is someone else out there who doesn’t always like a Clare Mackintosh. I thought I was alone. Posy Simmonds? Yes please! I heard some of the Lemn Sissay, on R4, so that’s on the list. My own list though is now so long I can’t possibly be tempted by anything on yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t even know how I heard about the Mackintosh, but the medical ethics plotline attracted me. Too bad the writing didn’t match up.

      I was pleased to discover that Simmonds has some children’s books as well as comics for grown-ups. My library also has Fred, which is also about a cat.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I really loved The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. Mudlarking sounds interesting, will have to add it to my TBR list. Would love to know what you make of The Glass Woman and The Starless Sea, can’t quite decide whether to get copies of them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pippin, thanks for stopping by! I’ve given up on The Glass Woman after it didn’t grip me in the first 10 pages, and may well do the same for The Starless Sea, although I’m about 40 pages in. It’s reminding me (too much?) of A Discovery of Witches.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That cover of The Starless Sea is beautiful 😍👏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I like it better than the U.S. cover.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. After White Teeth I’ve never been able to get into Zadie Smith’s work. Glad it’s not just me. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Ducks, Newburyport–I’m put off by the size of that doorstopper!


    1. On Beauty is one of my favorite books, but I didn’t much care for Swing Time and also DNFed NW. So she’s a hit and miss author for me.

      I saw Ducks on the reservation shelf last week and it was even more enormous than I expected. I thought the paperback couldn’t be *that* big, but 1000 pages is 1000 pages however you look at it! Anyway, I just plan to skim parts of it to see what it’s like and what all the fuss was about.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love your Library check out post – my favourite! I sometimes find it adds to my TBR pile, but also I trust your judgement and I probably delete more than I add.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Penny! I’m pleased to know it’s your favourite. A lot of nonfiction releases you and Paul probably get to before I do, but I’m glad you still find these posts useful for deciding whether to read something.


  8. I have Mudlarkiing to borrow from a friend and am worrying about reading Ring the Hill as Ali warned me there’s some sad cat stuff. As we’re mourning our dear cat and preparing for the excitement and worry of getting two new ones, I’m not sure I’ll cope!


    1. I’m so sorry to hear about the kitty 😦 Cox has had a lot of cats over the years and some do come and go. I don’t think I’ve gotten to any sad bits in this book yet, though I know a couple of his cats were probably pretty elderly at this point. 21st-Century Yokel is a safe bet from his books. And I wish you well with getting your new feline companions.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The Jo Baker is SO GOOD, so clever. The Heavens is the book I’m saddest not to have gotten to this year – I have an e-galley but the formatting is so frustrating as to make it nearly impossible to read. And The Christmas Chronicles is a brilliant choice for a wintry read – enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just finished The Heavens this morning. It’s not entirely my sort of book but I still found it entrancing. I think you and Laura would absolutely love it. Women’s Prize material, I should hope? You could always check if your library system has it.


  10. I’m intrigued by The Diary of a Lone Twin: has anybody read this? Twins fascinate me.


    1. I skimmed the book. The author is a food photographer who lost his identical twin to brain cancer 30 years ago. He challenged himself to write an entry a day for most of a year, reflecting on his brother and his life since then.

      Liked by 1 person

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