The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa has won every literary award there is in her country. That’s how the novel is introduced before it begins, and it struck me as an odd thing to write. Each story stands alone. Why should my enjoyment of this story be affected by what other people think or how she is judged? But as I finished reading about a trapped writer writing about a writer who was trapped it occurred to me that maybe it’s all part of the same narrative.

Ogawa blends reality and fiction in a way that the dystopian events around her become understandable to us. We live on an island where things have gone wrong. Things disappear — ordinary things, things that shouldn’t matter to the people in power — and life goes on. How much can we stand to lose? Today it’s a rose but tomorrow?

What can you let go of right now? Your laptop, phone, coffee, children, parents? There’s a sense of a Buddhist letting go in this story. Remembering how things used to be hurts. When you don’t remember, however, you can float away, free.

Does the same life go on? What does it mean and what are the consequences? Her lyrical approach to reality and to isolation helps us explore how it feels. Seeing it through a Buddhist angle shifts the narrative from the dystopia we are used to.

In the reviews, many compare it to Orwell’s 1984. There is a secretive police that round up those who won’t obey. They are then tortured and murdered. Some come back — those found not guilty/useful — but most are never seen again. We do have a sense that they are uncaring and certainly destructive.

This is a wonderful narrative. I never quite knew where I would end up as I followed our nameless characters. We don’t find out their names. We learn of R — her editor — and the old man, and her mother and father. We don’t find out her name. Which makes sense. Are our names in our diaries? Do we need them when we talk to ourselves, or listen?

Jesus was such a great Buddhist that he even gave up his own body. Ogawa wonders and answers, what happened next?

The Memory Police was published 15 August 2020

Bristol book tournament

In Progress: last updated 09 August, 2013 07.58am
And the best ever Bristol novel is … (the list so far)

LA Weekly have been running a 32-book tournament to discover the best LA novel ever written and it got me thinking about the best Bristol book and how to find it.

Bristol has a long and fascinating association with literature but it seems to be one of the less celebrated cultural aspects of the city. Treasure Island was purported to have been written just around the corner from where the Bristol Old Vic set its production two years ago. Allen Lane (1902-1970), the found of Penguin Books was Bristol-born and educated and there are many more well-known and lots not-so-known works that bring life to characters and places.

There’s a list on Goodreads about books based in Bristol but there are only 10 on it including Jeffrey Archer and something about a pole dancer. To be fair there’s also Julian Barnes’ peculiarly-reviewed A sense of an ending and Smack by Malvin Burgess.

Not much fodder for a tournament however.

Bristol Reads offer their own slightly more literary selection which includes Philippa Gregory and Eugene Byrne

The Last Llanelli Train by Robert Lewis sounds fascinating (2005). It features an alcoholic private detective specialising in the seedier side
of his trade, this noir crime-fiction novel is set amid the squalor and splendour of Bristol.

I had assumed the criteria for a Bristol novel would have to include a Bristol setting but there are other links to Bristol : Julie Burchill is a Journalist and novelist born in Bristol and I don’t know whether any of her books are set here. There’s also Jules Hardy, winner of the WHSmith Fresh Talent Award in 2002.

A list of Bristol novels from Bristol Reads

Eugene Byrne Things Unborn (2001).
E H Young The Misses Mallett (1922).
Marguerite Steen The Sun Is My Undoing (1941)
Philippa Gregory A Respectable Trade (1995).
Lucy English Selfish People (1998).
Lillian Bouzane In the Hands of the Living God (1999)
Jeannie Johnson A Penny for Tomorrow (2003).
Daniel Mayhew Life and How to Live it (2004).
Robert Lewis The Last Llanelli Train (2005)
Ed Trewavas Shawnie (2006).
Caroline Carver Gone Without Trace (2007)

A list of Bristol books from Twitter and blogs

Austen, Jane – Northanger Abbey (1818) (Blaize Castle is destination for an abortive expedition in Northanger Abbey)
Brown, Chris – Guilty Tiger
Cusk, Rachel – Arlington Park (2010)
Dickens, Charles – Pickwick Papers (1836)
Flood, C.J. – Infinite Sky (2013)
Godwin, John – Children of the Wave
Hall, M.R. – The Coroner (Jenny Cooper 1) (2009)
Lee, Jonathan – Who is Mr Satoshi (2010)
Maughan, Tim – Paintwork (2011)
Nichols, David – Starter for Ten (2004)
Smollett, Tobias – The Expedition of Humphry Clinker

Some additions from blogger Nose in a Book.

Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar
Dead Innocent by Maureen O’Brien
Future Bristol edited by Colin Harvey
Manson, Mike – Where’s My Money
The Sun is my Undoing by Marguerite Steen

Nathan Filer :

Missorts – a location-based work by app and writing;

A list of Bristol books from Bristol publishers

Redcliffe Press

I’ve contacted the following:

Akeman Press – publishers of books about Bath but they may know of some Bristol novels as they are regional specialists;

Bristol Short Story Prize – they read many Bristol stories.

A list of Bristol books from Bristol libraries

Local history books for sale at the library – scroll down – link

A list of Bristol books from Bristol Bookshops


A list of Bristol from Bristol higher education institutions

University of Bristol
City of Bristol College

book store window

Books from authors living in Bristol

Burchill, Julie
Dunmore, Helen – author of 11 novels
Hardy, Jules
Harvey, Deborah
James, Amanda – A Stitch in Time
Powell, Gareth L.
Wakling, Chris

The Bristol Fiction Writers’ Group – blog

There are all the authors from the Bristol Short Story Anthologies –
Volume 4

  • Brandt, Ruth
  • Bullock, Emily
  • Bunting, Timothy
  • Burton, Ian
  • Fairweather, John
  • Govinden, Niven
  • Gramich, Eluned
  • Lever, Naomi
  • Lewis, Laura
  • Mazzini, Miha

Volume 5

  • Arnold, John
  • Bardsley, Lewis
  • Bokkers, Catherine
  • Boyle, Lizzie
  • Conran, Alys
  • Durrant, Neil
  • Hood, Kerry
  • Richards, Ian

Review: The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

thetinywife The Tiny Wife is a quirky and rather enchanting, fairy tale cross parable fun little story. In a queue at the bank a flamboyantly dressed man holds up the people behind him and makes them give him something of sentimental value. Things then start happening to them.

I will say no more because it is too lovely and fascinating to spoil. I highly recommend it. There is something delightful about the writing which I haven’t found from too many authors.

Recipes Every Man Should Know, Quirk Books

Recipes Every Man Should Know by Brett Cohen and Susan Russo is another of the Quirk pocket books alongside Stuff Every Dad Should Know and Jokes Every Man Should Know. The recipes range from making sandwiches and cocktails to macaroni and cheese and lobster with burnt butter.

I thought that I might not be the best person to evaluate this book  so I passed it on to a male friend whose cooking skills need some work. His task was to prepare the following mac & cheese dish:

1 pound macaroni
1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup Self-raising flour
4 1/2 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese
2 cups gruyere cheese
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 180c. Grease a deep baking dish with butter.

2. Cook pasta until al dente; drain and set aside.

3. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Slowly add milk, whisking continuously, until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat and cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add 1 1/2 cups cheddar, 1 1/2 cups gruyere, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth; remove from heat. Add cooked pasta to cheese sauce and toss well. Pour into prepared baking dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar and 1/2 cup gruyere.

4. Bake until cheese bubbles around edges and top turns golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Unfortunately he failed to find either of the main ingredients: Gruyere cheese or macaroni. The book did not cater for specific supermarket searches so maybe that’s an area they might want to explore for their next edition.

There is plenty of information on what utensils and implements to use and there is also some motivation along the lines of ‘cooking helps you get girls’. It’s a fun book and perfectly sized. I may have to update you later on the success of their recipes.

I like it. It would make a great gift.

Book received for review from Quirk.

New books and more books

I write a fair proportion of my posts about books and one of the ways I obtain my reading material is from Netgalley. For bloggers and reviewers, this is a site where publishers provide books.

You request, you get approved or not, and if the former you get to access the book in the hope that you will provide feedback.

To my great dismay, I have been consistently rejected by Harlequin books for the last few months. I haven’t read that kind of romance for years but I’ve now become determined to review as many books as I can on the site so they will finally approve me. I love a challenge.

Anyway, tangents aside, here’s a link to their latest tumblr post and a copy of their book which includes 28 excerpts of new spring and summer releases.

I aim to read this and recommend some interesting new books but I don’t trust that I will remember to do it so here’s the link:


The A to Z reading challenge

I spend three days a week commuting and most evenings staying home with my little girl. For a while I couldn’t find any spare time. All of it was spent on catch-up mode with housekeeping and baby duties. All of a sudden though I find I’m getting through books on my kindle app and eBook reader on my phone.

Since I’m not reviewing plays or gigs I thought I’d review books. My Books page is a little bare so my first task is to add entries under each letter of the alphabet. This is my alphabet challenge. I am currently on G, reading Glenn Greenwald’s With Liberty and Justice for Some.

Once I get at least one book under each letter then I am going to do it again so it is a complete alphabet challenge.

Anyone is welcome to join in. Add the following image to your blog and post on it if you like so we can all see your progress. Let me know in the comments and leave a link.

You can post your list of reviews and say which authors / titles you will read.

The Literary Blog Hop Giveaway (23 to 27 June)

** The winner is comment 4: Mystica. Congratulations. **

The Literary Blog Hop Giveaway is back and there are now over 60 participating blogs. You can click on any of the links below and you will be taken to a competition. No need to have a blog to enter.

Judith from Leeswammes is hosting and has put all this together so drop by and say hi. She’s very nice and always ready for a chat about books.

Giveaway: Leave a comment on this post, of any type whatsoever, and you will be entered to win one of the five books listed below. There will be one winner*.

The draw will be random using If I can’t find your email address then I will choose someone else. The competition is open to countries where Book Depository delivers as that is the site I will use.

Have fun.

*Just like in Highlander

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Candle Beam Book Blog
  3. Musings of a Bookshop Girl
  4. The Book Whisperer
  5. Book Journey (US/CA)
  6. breieninpeking (Dutch readers)
  7. bibliosue
  8. heavenali
  9. I Read That Once…
  10. The Parrish Lantern
  11. The Bibliomouse (Europe)
  12. Tell Me A Story
  13. Seaside Book Nook
  14. Rikki’s Teleidoscope
  15. Sam Still Reading
  16. Nishita’s Rants and Raves
  17. Readerbuzz
  18. Books Thoughts Adventures (North America)
  19. 2,606 Books and Counting
  20. Laurie Here (US/CA)
  21. Literary Winner (US)
  22. Dolce Bellezza
  23. The House of the Seven Tails
  24. The Book Diva’s Reads (US)
  25. Colorimetry
  26. Roof Beam Reader
  27. Kate’s Library
  28. Minding Spot (US)
  29. Silver’s Reviews (US)
  30. Book’d Out
  31. Fingers & Prose (US)
  32. Chocolate and Croissants
  33. Scattered Figments
  34. Lucybird’s Book Blog
  35. The Book Club Blog
  1. Lizzy’s Literary Life
  2. The Book Stop
  3. Reflections from the Hinterland (US)
  4. Lena Sledge’s Blog
  5. Read in a Single Sitting
  6. The Little Reader Library (UK)
  7. The Blue Bookcase (US)
  8. 1morechapter (US)
  9. The Reading and Life of a Bookworm
  10. Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
  11. My Sweepstakes City (US)
  12. De Boekblogger (Europe, Dutch readers)
  13. Exurbanis
  14. Sweeping Me (US/CA)
  15. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US)
  16. Beauty Balm
  17. Uniflame Creates
  18. Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book (US/CA)
  19. Curiosity Killed The Bookworm
  20. Nose in a book (Europe)
  21. Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews (US)
  22. Giraffe Days
  23. Page Plucker
  24. Based on a True Story
  25. Read, Write & Live
  26. Devin Berglund (N. America)
  27. Ephemeral Digest
  28. Under My Apple Tree (US)
  29. Annette Berglund (US)
  30. Book Nympho
  31. A Book Crazy, Jane Austen Lovin’ Gal (US)
  32. Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity

11/22/63 by Stephen King

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed forever.

If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you?
Would the consequences be worth it?

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

Explore the Possibilities.. (From Goodreads)

Time travelling books can be a little problematic because if you can travel back in time, you should theoretically be able to avoid lots of problems, fix things to make a better world and then go back to a lovely all-better-present and feel like a hero.

As movies like Back to the Future show however, things don’t always work out that way. Stephen King is quite ingenious in the way he makes changing the past a bit more difficult and complicated than with just the power to travel back in time.

As with his other novels, this one goes on for a few hundred pages and King puts a lot of effort into his characters There was a bit of a nod towards his usual haunt of Derry, Maine and a rather large nod to It and the clown Pennywise who terrorised the little children – I thought that this was a little self-indulgent but others may find it a bit of a wink to his loyal readers who have stuck around for the last few decades.

The one thing that I found a little annoying but which certainly adds to the tension and adrenaline-inducing-fright for which King is famous, is the constant foreshadowing in the book.

The story is written in first person narration, post-event so there are many instances of “If only I had known” etc which are just there to get the heart racing and do not offer much else to the plot. I usually think of these tricks as manipulative but they were not too bad.

No matter what his weaknesses, King is a masterful storyteller and I was sad to see this story end. He had to be quite creative to find a way to make it problematic to travel back in time but he managed it quite well. A clever and fun read which I enjoyed for quite a while.

Top books of 2011

A glance at the books of 2011 isn’t as easy it seems because while there have been some amazing, in fact, thousands of amazing, books out this year; I’ve been busy and have really only been able to read on the Kindle and ebook reader apps on my phone.

Despite this I have picked my top five books for 2011.

The rest of the book choices have come from unread books and from lists around the world.


  • Library Journal:Best Books 2011: The Top Ten
  • School Library Journal: Best Books 2011: Fiction
  • Kansas City Star:Top 10 Books of 2011
  • Seattle Times: 32 of the Year’s Best Books
  • Washington Post:Notable Fiction of 2011
  • Library Journal:Best Books 2011: More of the Best
  • Publishers Weekly:Best Books of 2011
  • BookPage:Best Books of 2011: More
  • Kansas City Star:Top 10 Books of 2011
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch:Favorite Books of 2011
  • Happy Reading.

    Giveaway Winners

    The giveaways have now been closed and after 80 entries there have been three winners.

    The winners have been contacted and will be receiving Full Dark, No Stars, First Among Sequels and Something Rotten respectively.

    Thanks everyone and thanks Leeswammes for making it all such a great success.

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