I am failing in my reading now that I'm so engrossed in the novel. Here are three books which arrived weeks ago now, all by writers I know via the internet. Jenn Ashworth and I swapped our own novels via Twitter: I sent her Too Many Magpies and I got in return A Kind of Intimacy, which I have been interested to read for some time now - a novel with an unreliable narrator, one of my favourite novelistic modes - a woman with a secret in the past, I think. I sent off for Sarah Salway's Getting the Picture as soon as it was available (it's only just officially published), and it looks every bit as inventive yet readable as all her other work. Neither have I yet managed to read. Roast Books asked me if I'd like a copy of Nik Perring's flash fiction collection, Not So Perfect, and I couldn't resist, but I have only just got around to reading it, and Nik's launch has already been and gone. This book is striking for the concepts of the stories - a woman fills her house with post-it notes to remind herself of a lost lover, another woman vomits up animals, another actually spits fire, a man literally grows invisible as he fails to be acknowledged - and for the contrast in the determinedly deadpan prose in which they are told. Striking too is the format: fittingly for a book of flash fiction, the book is compact, indeed the size and shape of a CD, and quite lovingly produced, with illustrations - although, ex-typesetter as I am, I thought the number of 'widows' (a last line, the punchline, appearing all on its own over the page) was a shame, especially in a book of stories so very short, where the last line is often so important. Clearly, though, Roast Books have put a lot of thought and effort into the production and marketing of this book, and I'd say they are a new publisher to watch.
I was really sorry to miss the launch last week at the lovely Simply Books in Bramhall, as I was here in Wales. And speaking of my favourite bookshops, I haven't managed a browse in Caernarfon's Palas Print, as I've been shut away up the mountain with the novel each day, but the other evening I snapped their latest lovely window display: nature and wild flower books and those gorgeous paper cabbages and turnips: