I have posted before about my love of tiny bookshops and I have a new one to share today!
Last week I went to visit my Uncle and found this lovely little book shed outside a church. It was dark and we were too incompetent to be able to turn the light on but this is exactly why we have torches on our phones!
I spent a very happy time rummaging through the boxes and shelves – which were beautifully organised and far more user friendly than many I have seen. Of course, I couldn’t leave without actually buying a book so I bought three (because why not?) and marched happily along the road clutching them to me.
As I said, it was dark!
I was very pleased with my selection too – Mother Goose illustrated by Arthur Rackam, a copy of Dorothy L Sayers’ Unnatural Death to replace my falling apart copy and a signed(!) copy of Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson. I just read my first Atkinson – Transcription – and I loved it so I am very excited to have another to read!
Last year I went through a spate of reading books about people who love books, or fandom in general. In trying to find more to feed my obsession I came across Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia and immediately ordered a copy. Of course, by the time it arrived I had moved on to other books and so it has sat on my shelf for several months waiting for its moment.
This week the time came. I wanted something to read at bedtime, my book club book was not enthralling me and I was only one chapter into The Three Musketeers so that hadn’t gripped me yet either. Eliza was calling to me from the shelf so I snatched her up and settled down.
In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community.
Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity — begins to fall apart.
I immediately loved this book. It is wonderful to have a character with whom you can identify and Eliza was that for me. I too felt like an outsider at school, although not to the same extent – and my escape was into books not creating a famous webcomic.
Wallace too was a wonderfully drawn character and I found myself rooting for them both – I really cared how their story turned out. The downside of that was that I stayed awake far too late reading it. However, I had a day off on Monday and I allowed myself the luxury of spending the morning curled up in a blanket with the book. It was glorious.
This was a warm hug of a book about finding something you love and doing it – something we should all remember. I made a note of several quotes but I particularly loved this one
If you want the motivation back, you must feed it. Feed it everything. Books, television, movies, paintings, stage plays, real-life experience. Sometimes feeding simply means working, working through nonmotivation, working even when you hate it.
We create art for many reasons – wealth, fame, love, admiration – but I find the one thing that produces the best results is desire. When you want the thing you’re creating, the beauty of it will shine through, even if the details aren’t all in order. Desire is the fuel of creators, and when we have that, motivation will come in its wake.
I was quite bereft when I finished this book – I so badly wanted to spend more time with Eliza and Wallace. Please – recommend more books like this!
On Saturday I went to a meeting of my local branch of the Jane Austen Society. I miss a lot of these meetings because I often tend to be working when they happen so I am always extra happy when I can get to one. It is lovely to have a room full of so many Jane Austen enthusiasts and of course the talks are excellent.
I was especially impressed with the talks this month. In the afternoon we heard from architectural historian Amy Frost about the locations used in adaptations of Jane Austen’s work. It is surprising how many of them are just wrong when you actually look at them. I was particularly amused by the locations chosen for Sense and Sensibility – Norland has grown enormously with each new adaptation, while Barton Cottage has shrunk right down. I loved the cottages used in the more recent adaptations but they certainly bear no resemblance to Austen’s description!
The morning talk was also brilliant. It was somewhat more intellectual than a lot of the talks we have – a fact which I very much appreciated. So much so that I was scribbling away throughout the talk and had to pull out my books when I got home to transfer the notes.
This was Anne Toper – Dialogue in Pride and Prejudice: Blunder and Innovation. She was (unsurprisingly!) talking about Austen’s use of dialogue – particularly how infrequently she uses words such as, ‘He said’ or, ‘She said.’ When she does use them it is deliberately for effect – for an example, read the first proposal scene in Pride and Prejudice (chapter 34) and compare the speech attributions with those used when Fanny and Edmund are talking about stars in chapter 11 of Mansfield Park. The intimacy between the characters is entirely different.
I thoroughly enjoyed both talks and loved the feeling that I was properly studying the texts. As ever, I came away completely enthused and thinking that I must make myself more opportunities for similar events.
I am very late to the Six of Crows party. I have heard people raving about the books for years but for some reason I never picked them up.
Then somebody shared a quote from Leigh Bardugo’s latest book which made me sit up and think, ‘Oh that’s clever!’ I was drawn to the books but thought that although the books set in the Grishaverse don’t exactly follow on from one another, it would be better to start at the beginning. I realise now of course that actually the first book written was Shadow and Bone but Six of Crows was the one which drew me in.
I was very pleased to be given a copy for Christmas and couldn’t wait to get started. It took me a little while to get into it – I don’t read a huge amount of fantasy so I’m not used to learning about a brand new world and its magic. Pretty soon though I was hooked and I raced through it.
In fact, it was so gripping that I finished it one evening and went straight out in the morning to buy book two – Crooked Kingdom. I just had to know what happened next and for those few hours in between I felt bereft.
The book has a great plot which is full of surprising twists and turns. The thing I loved most about it though was the characters – how they interacted with each other and the way there was so much more to them than just the main plot. They all had their own sub plots and motives, plus intriguing backstories which came out gradually through the books.
Obviously, I loved these books. The only question is – do I go back and read the Grisha trilogy next or move on to King of Scars?
I mentioned in my last post that Five by Hallie Rubenhold was one of my favourite books from last year. It is essentially a biography of the five women killed by Jack the Ripper and is very much a book about their lives and not their deaths – although those are covered too.
It is an utterly fascinating book and I was genuinely gripped by it. I wanted to know what happened to those women and how they ended up on the streets of Whitechapel.
Non-fiction can be a struggle for me. No matter how much I am interested in a subject and want to read the book, I do not tend to pick them up. Instead I go for stories. I can’t really explain it but I love to get lost in another world.
In the case of Five, it had been sitting on my shelf for months just waiting for me to pick it up. Every time I started a new book it was overlooked. Then I thought of audiobooks and borrowed a copy from the library.
It was a revelation. I was hooked and just couldn’t stop listening. Which was potentially awkward at times when I had forgotten my earphones – if someone had walked in on me and just heard snippets out of context it might have sounded odd!
Audiobooks are definitely a great tool and something I will remember the next time I want to read a non-fiction book but am putting off starting it. I should manage to learn much more this way!
I’m a little late with my round up of last year’s reading because I wanted to post about Christmas last week. It is still nice to reflect on the year though so better late than never!
2019 was a good reading year for me. I’m not overly driven by numbers – it is much more important for me to feel that I have been enjoying my reading. There were a couple of times when I got bogged down in a book I didn’t much like and which really slowed down my reading but on the whole I can say that I read a lot of books I loved. Most of the time I just wanted to get back to my books.
That being said, I do know that I read 128 books last year – of which 16 were re-reads – which was a big jump up on the 91 of the year before. Of course, part of that is because I listened to 44 audio books – up from 14 in 2018. That definitely helped!
I am not at all good at picking favourites – they change so much depending on my mood. There are a few which stick in my mind though – I loved Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Waverley by Walter Scott. Hallie Rubenhold’s Five was fascinating and I was completely hooked by it.
As for reading resolutions for the new year, I have stopped setting myself firm reading lists as for me they creates too much pressure and stop me enjoying the books so much. The only resolution I really have is to read the books which bring me joy. I so much loved reading my cosy books over Christmas that I want to carry on doing the same all year round and not pressure myself into reading books I think I ought to read. That sounds like a pretty good year to me.
I am sure that by now most of you will have heard of the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð or book flood on Christmas Eve. If you haven’t, in Iceland it is traditional to give each other books on Christmas Eve and then settle down to read them and eat chocolate.
For several years I have wanted to adopt this practice for myself and this year, finally, I managed it.
We actually had company for dinner so we couldn’t spend hours reading but once they had gone we shared our books and settled down to finish the day. I received a lovely copy of Dear Enemy – the sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. It is one I have read before but I wanted a nice vintage copy because my previous one had been print on demand and didn’t contain the pictures which add so much to the story.
I wasn’t disappointed either – I loved the pictures and was once again swept up by the story. It was the best way to wind down on Christmas Eve and I will definitely be hoping to do the same thing again many times in the future.
Christmas reading time is here! One of my favourite things about Christmas is the long, dark evenings which can be spent in front of the fire with a board game or a book. It is just so cosy and wonderful.
It has to be the right kind of books though and I have made a tentative stack of books I may read over the next few weeks. Or possibly not. The whole point is to read exactly what I want and what makes me happy.
Most Christmases I try to read lots of my favourite children’s Christmas stories but this year not all of the books are obviously Christmassy. Some of them do have hidden Christmas scenes – I am reading What Katy Did at School primarily for the wonderful Christmas box the girls receive – but what I really want right now are cosy comfort reads. In fact, I have been looking forward to these books for weeks – which makes me think that perhaps I should read more of them throughout the year!
I have just finished reading Daddy-Long-Legs (I still love it as much as I ever did) and have moved on to Katy which I have not read for years. I know I am going to thoroughly enjoy the next few weeks!
Do you have Christmas reading (or other) traditions? I would love to hear them.
Last Friday I went on a little excursion to Bath. Ostensibly this was to do a bit of Christmas shopping and look at pretty lights, with a quick stop off for a shoppers’ carol service in the Abbey. In reality I was mostly going so that I could visit Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights.
Mr B’s has been one of my favourite bookshops for years. It is always a joy to browse the shelves, hidden a little away from the hustle and bustle of the streets. When they were crowdfunding to expand into next door I knew that I had to contribute something. Apart from anything else, it meant that I got a tote bag, a bookmark (always things I want) and best of all my name actually on the ceiling in the shop! Of course I had to make a trip to see that.
The ceiling isn’t quite finished yet but I could still see my name under the film – and in a lovely font too. This room is the Imaginarium where you can go to be a writer in residence for the day. It looks like such a fun thing to do – I would be sorely tempted, although I’m not sure blog writing counts!
Of course, I had to also have a proper nosy around the shop and I spent a good deal of time there dithering over my purchases. In the end I bought a copy of Maddy Alone by Pamela Brown which looks right up my street. It had the added bonus of being in the new, wonderful children’s room which I loved. It even has flaps to lift on the wall!
As usual, I had a great time and I can’t wair to visit again and see the finished ceiling.