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.

Book Review – Old Baggage

I always used to be scared of joining a book club because I would have to read books I didn’t like.  At the same time, I really really wanted to join a book club!  As it turned out, the book club is wonderful and I love the discussions we have.  Whilst there have been a few books I really did not enjoy I have liked most of them and in fact the ones which have stayed with me the most have often been the ones I have not been keen on reading.

Old Baggage was our latest read and while I wasn’t especially drawn to it I didn’t have any strong disinclination to read it either.  My colleague loved it so I was quite intrigued by it and I definitely liked the cover!

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Publisher’s Blurb

Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present.  During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant.  Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gave speeches, smashed windows and heckled Winston Churchill, and nothing – nothing – since then has had the same depth, the same excitement.

Now in middle age, she is still looking for a fresh mould into which to pour her energies. Giving the wooden club a thoughtful twirl, she is struck by an idea – but what starts as a brilliantly idealistic plan is derailed by a connection with Mattie’s militant past, one which begins to threaten every principle that she stands for.

I found this to be a much gentler book than I expected – I think I thought suffragettes meant lots of very militant action!  I did at first think I was not going to like Mattie at all but by the end I was very firmly on her side, despite her faults.  I thought the book was beautifully written and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The only problem I had was with the very last chapter – It felt disconnected from the rest and seemed almost to have been tacked on in order to link Old Baggage to the author’s previous book, Crooked Heart.  I will have to read it to see how they actually connect – the extract at the end of my copy is intriguing and I will certainly be reading more from this author.

Book Details

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

ISBN 9781784161217

Publisher: Black Swan

RRP: £8.99

Book Review – Jane Austen at Home

Last year I went to see Lucy Worsley’s talk about her book Jane Austen at Home. Obviously I am a Jane Austen fan but I also love watching Lucy’s television programmes so I was very much looking forward to it.

I wasn’t disappointed either – Lucy gave a fantastic talk and if you ever get a chance to see her I would thoroughly recommend going. Of course, I had to buy the book and get it signed!

Publisher’s Blurb

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

It took me a while to get around to reading it but it was always hovering at the back of my mind and when I booked to go to the Jane Austen Society study day I knew it would be the perfect companion for me. I was so excited to finally be reading it.

I sometimes struggle to get into non-fiction but I was immediately gripped by this one and I resented having to put it down to do something else. It was just as well as I had a four hour train journey so I needed something that kept me wanting to read!

This was a really interesting way to look at the life of Jane Austen and I did learn some things I hadn’t previously known. I loved Lucy Worsley’s style of writing and I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.

Book Details

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

ISBN: 9781473632202

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

RRP: £9.99