February 2021 wrap-up

Hello you lovely humans, February is almost over and it’s ending on a sunny note here in Scotland! I’m so excited that spring is just round the corner, but so aware that we’re often hit with a surprise cold spell in March/April, so I’m not quite changing my wardrobe over yet! Anyway, here is my wrap-up for the month. I managed 4 books this month, which I’m pretty chuffed with because for the first fortnight I was stuck in a rut with my 3 current reads, but I made it out and managed to squeeze in one more.

Smailholm by C.L. Williams

This was a nice easy read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The story revolves around the cursed people of Smailholm and their pursuit to break that curse – I loved the premise of the book, the determination showed by the characters and just the overall story that was told. I was initially thrown by the 2 POV/voices who narrate the story, but the fragmented thoughts of Daeblin soon make sense to the story and pull together. The way the story ends indicates there is more to come and another book on the way – I think I would read it if given the chance, but I don’t think it would be at the top of my list.
It is a middle-grade historical fantasy and was well written. I gave it four stars in the end as I think I would have loved it when I was younger but didn’t quite gel with some parts as an adult. It was an engaging story and I loved the idea of a tiny tiny village hidden away in the brambles.
Oh, if you’re someone who loves to collect pretty editions of books – this one is definitely for you. The cloth-bound hardback is so beautiful, and the illustrations in the book help bring it to life.

You can buy your own copy of Smailholm here. *affiliate link

Scabby Queen by Kirsten Innes

One of my goals for 2021 was to read more books about Scotland/by Scottish Authors, so I joined the Scottish Bookclub! Scabby Queen was selected as the book of the month, and although it is nothing like what I normally read, I was excited to give it a go.

I have mixed feelings about the book and the characters so it is really difficult to draw together a cohesive review because that is exactly what this book is not. The book is so complex and deals with so many issues – these range from political opinions to nostalgia to personal horrors, rape and racism. The book focuses on Clio Campbell but we only hear her true words once, in a letter. Everything we learn throughout the book – about Clio, her life and what she stood for – was told through the experiences of those who knew her in some way so I found myself changing my opinion of Clio is almost every chapter. I found that no-one truly knew Clio, I’m not sure if Clio knew herself really… I found the final chapter from the view of her Mum to be perhaps the most poignant and helped to click several parts of the mystery of Clio together, I’m not sure why that chapter has stuck with me but it has! One other ‘character’ who really shone through for me was Sammi. After rebuilding her life, she gets hauled into one of Clio’s political crusades, and I really thought her chapters highlighted some of Clio’s toxic traits and overall attitude to personal relationships.

I found myself going through a range of emotions while reading and switching between pity, sadness, compassion, rage and confusion while trying to form an opinion of Clio Campbell. I’m still not sure now how I feel but I gave it a solid four stars for the ability to invoke so many feelings and questions! One thing I really loved with the unrelenting and unapologetic Scottish-ness of this book. It captured the patriotism of the Independence campaign, the unrest and hardship of mining villages on strike, the reality of hard political campaigns on poorer areas and the rift between the poetic Highlands and the gritty central belt. I also really loved seeing Ayrshire being prominently featured in a book! I am excited to hear the thoughts of others from the Book Club.

If you want to give the book a go and try to decipher your feelings, you can pick it up here. *affiliate link

Journeys to the Other Side of the World by David Attenborough

Oh I just love David Attenborough! This is the second instalment in his ‘adventures of a young naturalist’ and it is just amazing to read about the places, people and animals he encountered on his trips across the world. I found a lot of this book had more focus on anthropology – particularly peoples relationships with spirituality, rituals and their surroundings. This was so interesting to read and particularly enjoyed learning how some animals fit into this worldview. I gave it four stars overall!

Buy your own copy and be transported to tropical paradises here. *affiliate link

Glasgow at war 1939 – 1945 by Craig Armstrong

This book was kindly gifted to me by the lovely team at Pen & Sword Books.

Glasgow was key in Scotland’s war efforts due to the city’s large industrial background, with a particular emphasis on the Clyde shipyards and this book gave a quick overview of life, tensions and feelings on the Home Front. While I thought the book aimed to give an overview of life during the war, I found placed a lot of emphasis on strike action – almost every chapter had a reference to various Trade Unions or organisations and strike action – although this was reality for many workers during this rime, I felt that other influences could have been explored too.
My favourite section was around the Blitz – particularly how Glasgow rallied to face the onslaught of German bombs with little training and a lack of proper infrastructure. The mention of some particularly heroic acts and sacrifices by ordinary working people really highlighted a ‘Glasgow at war’ for me. The city motto has long been ‘People make Glasgow’, and I think this shines through even in 1941. I gave it three stars overall, as I found some parts repetitive and felt it did not give a wider look at some aspects but was really moved by the information on the Blitz.

I believe the author has a couple of ‘PLACE at War’ books, so you can pick up your own copy of Glasgow here, or you can find one more local to you if you are interested. * affiliate link

And there we have it – my wrap up and mini reviews for the month! I’m not sure what to pick up in March, so we’ll see what worlds I end up exploring next! I do have one exciting thing planned for March, which will crop up in it’s own post so look out for that… For now though, I’m off to (safely) enjoy this weather and make the most of my daily walk.

I hope you are all keeping well and enjoying this rare mild weekend safely. Please let me know what you have been reading this month and if you have any stand out favourites – I’d love to hear all about them and any recommendations you may have.

Bye for now,

Alison x

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