Book Review – We Won an Island

I was very lucky to be sent a reading copy of Charlotte Lo’s book We Won an Island by Nosy Crow Books.  I was very excited – the blurb made it sound like exactly the sort of book I would have loved as a child and as you may have noticed I am still very fond of children’s books!

Publisher’s Blurb

When Luna’s family win an island, Luna thinks it will solve everything AND she can finally get a donkey!  But things don’t go entirely to plan – no one expects Luna’s younger brother to win a Sheep Pageant, for example – and the secret festival they hold soon spirals out of control.  But the island is beautiful, and the family are happy, and maybe Luna will get her donkey after all…

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I read this book last Sunday sat in the shade by the stream and it was the perfect setting for it.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I loved the book.  The idea of escaping to an island is obviously wonderful and I thought it was very well written.  The childrren knew exactly what they wanted and just worked for it – no matter how unlikely success might seem.

Of course, they had their setbacks – not least their Father’s depression.  I thought the author portrayed this really well and in a way young children could understand, without becoming too overwhelming or scary.

As a child this book would have sat very nicely on my shelf with Enid Blyton and I have no doubt I would have re-read it many times.  This is a wonderful escapist read and perfect for the summer holidays.

Book Details

We Won and Island by Charlotte Lo

Publisher: Nosy Crow

ISBN: 9781788000413

RRP: £6.99

Book Club Musings

Sometimes it is the books you least expect which cause the best discussions.

This week my book club met to discuss Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path – her account of walking the South West Coast Path with her husband Moth after they not only lost both their home and livelihood but Moth was also diagnosed with a terminal illness.  I read a great many glowing reviews when it first came out and everyone I have ever spoken to has absolutely loved it.  That was the first reason I thought we wouldn’t have a great discussion – when all of us love a book we have very little to say.

The second reason was that the only other time we have read a non-fiction book we really struggled to talk about it.  We couldn’t dissect the plot because it was true and it was one of those books about which nobody had any very strong feelings.  We all enjoyed it but nobody loved it or hated it.  It turns out that as a group we need strong feelings to get a decent discussion!

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As I said though, books can surprise you.  I have to admit that I didn’t love The Salt Path but I didn’t dislike it either.  However, the book group as a whole had a lot of strong opinions.  There was a really good turn out and what ended up being an excellent discussion.  People had a lot to say!

It was one of the best meetings we have ever had and was exactly why I wanted to join in the first place.  There is nothing like talking about books with other people who love them as much as you do.

Book Review – The Bookshop Girl

I first saw The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop on the bookshop shelf months ago but I resisted buying it for a long time because I have so much to read! In the end I gave in and treated myself because I just couldn’t resist.

Publisher’s Blurb
This story is about a little girl named Property Jones, so-called because she was left in the lost property cupboard of a bookshop when she was five years old. Property loves living in the bookshop, but she has a whopper of a secret … she can’t actually read! So Property doesn’t see the newspaper article announcing the chance to win the Montgomery Book Emporium, the biggest and most magnificent bookshop in the world! When her family win the competition, Property finds herself moving to the Emporium, a magical place filled with floor upon floor of books and a very bad-tempered cat. But all is not at it seems at the Emporium and soon Property Jones finds herself in a whole heap of trouble.

I very much enjoyed this book. It was an easy read – it is after all aimed at young children – and so was nice and relaxing after a long day at work. As a book lover it is the perfect read – who wouldn’t want to live in what sounds like the most amazing bookshop?! The story combines my favourite things – books and a bit of adventure – so I was very happy. The illustrations are brilliant and really bring the story to life.

Property Jones is a great heroine but my favourite character has to be the Gunther – the bookshop cat – who definitely adds interest to life. I know I would have loved this book as a child – and I would recommend it to bookish adults too!

Book Details

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Ashley King

Publisher: Scholastic Children’s Books

ISBN: 9781407159690

RRP: £5.99

Apple Blossom Time

The apple blossom is out in full force here and it is this time of year more than any other which makes me want to revisit the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace.

I read these for the first time only two years ago as part of a readalong on Instagram.  I had never even heard of the books before but was told that they were perfect for fans of L M Montgomery and I am definitely one of those!  The readalong only covered the later books in the series – those set in high school or after – although I did go back and read the earlier books afterwards.

I adored the books so much. For me they are the perfect blend of sweetness and sorrow and reading them sucks me into Betsy-Tacy’s world.  There are ten books in the series which follows Betsy and Tacy from the age of five until they are married.  Three more books are set in the same town and feature a great many of the same characters including Besty.  I gobbled them up in no time (I wish there were more!) and they are definitely right up there with Anne of Green Gables for me.

These books are perfect for anyone who loves L M Montgomery or the Little House on the Prairie series and I would thoroughly recommend hunting them out.  Now I just need to find something similar – recommendations are always welcome!

The Delights of Readalongs

Over the past couple of years I have taken part in several readalongs. I never really knew they were a thing until I discovered Bookstagram but there seem to be so many of them to choose from! For anyone who doesn’t know – a readalong is when a group of people read the same book with discussions every so often about set chapters.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and Mary Barton are two of my very favourite books so when I discovered that Shelbi over at The Nobby Life was running a series of Elizabeth Gaskell readalongs I jumped at the chance to join in. Shelbi hosted some excellent discussions and of course I loved the books.

Sadly, I still haven’t finished the last book we discussed. The Sylvia’s Lovers readalong came at a time when I had a lot going on and was also in the middle of quite a reading slump. Sylvia was doing nothing to pull me out of it and the stress of knowing I had to read a certain number of chapters a week was not helpful so I ended up stopping altogether. It’s a shame because I really enjoyed the discussions but that’s the point – readalongs are for fun! Hopefully I’ll pick the book up again soon.

Currently I am taking part in a bookstagram readalong of Martin Chuzzlewit. I am rather behind – I sing in a church choir and had five services plus extra rehearsals over Holy Week so I was somewhat busy – but am hoping to catch up again this week. The main thing is that I am enjoying the book and for me that’s the important part. Of course, the discussions make it extra interesting and I really have been learning a lot from them. I would certainly recommend joining in to anyone who is interested!

Springtime Reading

We have been having some simply glorious weather for the past few days. We have had some cold days too of course – it is only April after all – but definitely a good proportion of the time has been sunny.

Days like this make me want to escape outside as much as possible and whilst I was at Halsway Manor last week I took full advantage of the free time on offer to explore the grounds and neighbouring countryside. I found the loveliest disused tennis court complete with the most amazing view and a tumbledown pavillion. There was even a beautiful set of steps just right for sitting and reading.

I also went some way up the hill beind the house. My seat of choice up there was a tree in the hedgeline. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of wanting to climb trees! I didn’t manage to get a picture of myself up the tree but I can show you the view which was magnificent.

It was the most wonderful place to while away a few hours.

Reading and Dancing

This past weekend I went away for a few days folk dancing at Halsway Manor.   I recently treated myself to a copy of the first Abbey School book by Elsie J Oxenham – The Girls of the Hamlet Club and although I have only read a couple of books in the series before but I knew the girls were very keen on folk dancing so it seemed the perfect choice to take away with me.

The house is absolutely beautiful. I had been particularly looking forward to seeing the library and it did not disappoint.

In fact, it was even better than I had hoped as I found half a shelf of Abbey School books in there which made me very happy indeed.

The weekend was very full but I still found plenty of time for reading and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had the most wonderful windowsill in my bedroom.

It was perfect for sitting and reading and I could have quite happily spent the whole weekend there!

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The Joys of Spring

Spring is springing!

We have had a glorious few days of the most beautiful sunshine and it has been marvellous. Things always look so much better when the sun shines.

For me, one of the best things is being able to read outside again. There is nothing quite like it and it makes me so happy that I’ve been able to do so this week.

I had to wrap up warm and my fingers went numb but it was still wonderful.

Of course, as I write this there is an absolute deluge of hail outside and I am curled up by the fire. That is lovely too!

Book Review – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a book I have vaguely known about for some time but I don’t think I really knew any more than the title. The title is obviously great which is presumably the main reason I remembered it!

I certainly had no real idea of the plot until I was exploring Foyles and found it sitting on the shelf looking at me. How could I possibly resist it?

Publisher’s Blurb

Meet Flavia: Mystery Solver. Master Poisoner. 11 Years Old.

England 1950. At Buckshaw, the crumbling country seat of the de Luce family, very-nearly-eleven-year-old Flavia is plotting revenge on her older sisters.

Then a dead bird is left on the doorstep, which has an extraordinary effect on Flavia’s eccentric father, and a body is found in the garden. As the police descend on Buckshaw, Flavia decides to do some investigating of her own.

I am a huge fan of cosy crime books so I was fairly sure I was going to enjoy this one. It felt more intellectual than I was expecting – not that it was difficult to read but it definitely kept me thinking. I thought of it as more akin to Dorothy L Sayers than Agatha Christie.

I found the main character delightful and the book was excellently written. I found myself thinking about it a lot when I wasn’t able to read and that is always a sign of a gripping book. I just wanted to keep reading! I did spot the murderer fairly early on but as I had no idea why or how they had done it I don’t really count that as solving the crime. It wouldn’t stand up in court!

I loved this book and will definitely be seeking out the next book in the series. It is so wonderful to find a new series to obsess over!

Book Details

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

ISBN: 9781409106876

Publisher: Orion

RRP: £9.99

In Defence of Escapism

We all have bad days. Yesterday was quite stressful for me and when I got home all I wanted to do was curl up in front of the fire with my book and a cup of tea. Yes I had a list of chores which needed doing but they would still need doing another day!

This is why I like to have escapist books. People so often scoff at happy books as being ‘just’ escapism but sometimes that’s what I need. If I’ve had a hard day I don’t want to make myself feel worse by reading about someone else being miserable. Books are my happy place after all.

In this instance I was reading Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie which I picked up on my trip to Foyles. It’s a book I had heard of but never really knew anything about – when I found it though I could tell it was perfect for me. I’m halfway through now and I definitely made the right choice!

Just a couple of hours reading settled me back down. Books are the best medicine.