Weekend Reading

My sister recently bought herself a hammock seat and having sat in it decided it was exactly what I needed. She is very kind so now I have one too!

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We had great fun getting it up – all the branches seem to go straight up in the air!

It is the most wonderful place to sit and read and I have spent a couple of entire days curled up in it with a book and a cup of tea. I’ve even eaten my lunch and had a nap in it (I would highly recommend it for naps)!

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Even the ponies like it!

I have also needed some blankets – it might be sunny at the moment but it is not really all that warm yet and sitting still you do get a bit chilly. It is totally worth it though.

It is amazing how much reading you can get through when you have no distractions. Over one weekend I spent two afternoons hanging and reading and I got through two children’s books (Malamander by Thomas Taylor and We Won an Island by Charlotte Lo) and a good sized chunk of Martin Chuzzlewit. It was bliss.

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

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!

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.

Medicinal Reading

For the past few days I have been suffering with a shocking cold which always makes me feel miserable.  At times like this I just want easy, comfort reading. Quite often that means children’s books and this time it is pony books I have been craving.

Anyone who follows my pony adventures will know that I am a huge fan of pony books anyway but over the past two days I have read three pony books and don’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Firstly, I have been catching up with Olivia Tuffin’s A Pony Called Secret series.  I adored the first book but it has taken me ages to get round to reading the others.  I am almost up to date with them now and am enjoying them as much as ever.  This is definitely one of my favourite modern series.

Sadly most of the more vintage pony authors I enjoy have gone out of print and often they are very expensive second hand.  However, I came across three at our local market just before Christmas and I couldn’t resist them.  I am very grateful for that weakness now!  I had only read one Joanna Cannan book before and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed her writing – I will definitely have to seek out more of her books in the future.

From past experience, my pony book obsession will last a few days – or possibly weeks – and I will then feel a desperate need to read something much more meaty.  However, while it lasts I am revelling in it!

Bookish Restorative

I have had a few days off this week and decided to make the most of them to rest and recuperate from the busyness of the past couple of months.

My ideal was to just sit and read all day long but that isn’t actually entirely practical – if nothing else, I have ponies who need looking after and a dog who needs walking. It’s tricky to ride and read at the same time but it is entirely possible to read whilst dog walking. As long as you wear enough layers of course!

However, I did manage to do a great deal of sitting by the fire with a book. The cat kept me company and I had a marvellous time lost in imaginary worlds.

I have been reading – and very much enjoying – the second volume of Dorothy L Sayers’ letters but for pure escapism and relaxation I picked up a couple of magical children’s books. These were Michelle Harrison’s A Pinch of Magic and Cerrie Burnell’s The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth – both of which were excellent.

It has been a wonderful couple of days.

Re-reading my Childhood

I have been a member of the Jane Austen Society for several years now and for some time I have been toying with the idea of joining another literary society. I was think of something along the lines of the societies for Anthony Trollope, Dorothy L Sayers or Margery Allingham.

In the event – and almost on the spur of the moment – I went for something less literary. The Friends of the Chalet School is something I have known about for a while but have never joined before now.

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My first newsletter arrived this week and I am so looking forward to reading it. I have to admit though that part of the draw for me was their lending library of Chalet School books.

I only recently discovered that almost all of the paperback editions were heavily cut or altered – which means that although I have read a good many of the books I have almost certainly never read a complete one. Therefore, I will obviously have to go back and re-read the whole series from the beginning.

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It is a prospect which fills me with great joy. I have already sourced a 1955 edition of the first book which I hope is complete. I have found a couple of differences within the first few pages so things are looking promising.

However, finding the whole series could (would) be a difficult and expensive project – hence my interest in the library! I am very much looking forward to all of the reading though.