Last week I got to go and see Lucy Worsley talking about Queen Victoria. I was lucky enough to get to see her Jane Austen talk last year and she was brilliant so I was very excited about seeing her again.
It was blowing an absolute gale on the way over but I had such a good time. Lucy Worsley is a great speaker and of course the subject matter is so interesting.
Naturally, I couldn’t leave without buying a book. I loved the Jane Austen at Home book which went with last year’s talk and so I really wanted all of the books on offer. In the end though I stuck with the book about Queen Victoria which actually related to the talk. I am so looking forward to reading it!
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!
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.
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.
My colleague has been raving about Hilary McKay’s new book The Skylarks’ War for months now so when Macmillan Children’s Books sent me a review copy I was rather excited. Not least because I loved reading her Casson Family series as a child.
Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September – boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer.
When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?
I have to admit that when people repeatedly tell me how much I will love something I do start to be a little prejudiced against it. However, I really wanted to like this book so I tried to have an open mind.
It was definitely worth it – the book is beautifully written and I was completely absorbed in the plot. I stayed up far too late reading it! Although this is classed as a children’s book there there are some nuances which feel very adult and grown ups will certainly enjoy it just as much as the children.
Did I love it as much as I was promised? As I was reading it I didn’t think so but now I’ve finished and have had time to absorb it I’m not so sure. I was definitely very moved by it and I found it to be thought provoking. Either way, I didn’t want to stop reading and it has certainly stuck with me. I will definitely be recommending it to many people.
The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
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.
My book club doesn’t have a proper meeting in December as the book shop is just too busy to cope. Instead, we had a trip to the pub for a bookish chat.
It was lovely to spend an evening with a group of book lovers without having the pressure of focusing on one book in particular. We did nominally have a book to read but only two people had actually done so – it was much more of a social evening than a proper book club meeting.
We had a great time talking about our books of the year, our all time favourite books and the books on our Christmas lists. We had a brief excursion into politics but in the main we kept strictly to books and it was wonderful. I would highly recommend it!
For years my friend has been telling me how much she loves Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. Every time she mentioned it I would nod and say I must try it (she did make it sound brilliant) but my TBR is huge and somehow it never made it to the top.
Then a couple of months ago my book club chose to read the first book. I was finally able to say I had taken the advice and read it – and also that I now understood all the fuss because I enjoyed it so much. Having taken at least five years to start the series, I have read the first three books over the past two months and I will shortly be starting the fourth.
This is actually the second book in the series
The series is a great mix of detective story and magic with a few ghosts and myths thrown in. I have been loving reading them.
It just shows that you should always listen to your friends – they do know you after all!
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that it has been a busy few months for me. I was feeling very tired and drained so I have just spent a week in Dartmouth to recuperate.
I intended to have a week doing not very much at all and I relished the time I could spend curled up with a book or my crochet. It being November, most of that was indoors – I particularly loved this corner by the fire.
However, as long as one wore enough layers it was definitely possible to read outside. This little beach was wonderfully quiet and secluded.
It was definitely a good week.
This last week I have realised that my reading habits are changing with the season. I spent the last few months doing as much of this as possible.
I especially love sitting by the sea but reading outside anywhere is something which gives me a huge amount of joy.
It has suddenly got much colder though and although I am still reading outside when I can – I hope to do so tomorrow as it is meant to be sunny – I am also tending to spend much more time curled up inside with a blanket and a book. Cats are optional.
I love autumn and this has to be one of the best bits!
The actual books I read are changing too – I have read many lighter books over the summer but I am now definitely craving some more serious books. I am currently in the middle (almost exactly!) of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which I have been meaning to read for simply ages. After that I have three classics already lined up – Frankenstein, Sylvia’s Lovers and Framley Parsonage. At least, that is my plan at the moment. I will almost certainly feel a desperate need to read something different in between!
For the past year my friend has been telling me how fantastic Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend is but it was only when I booked my Cheltenham tickets that I finally got round to reading it.
Oh my word, I loved it so much! I actually felt a bit bereft after I finished it and not really sure what to do with myself. Imagine how excited I was when a few days later I received a reading copy of book two from Hachette! By the time I met Jessica at Cheltenham (she was so lovely) I had already devoured this book too.
Imagination, discovery and friendship await Morrigan Crow when she escapes her deadly curse and joins the Wundrous Society. It promises her protection and belonging for life – but then Morrigan doesn’t receive the welcome she hoped for…
Has Morrigan’s dream of escaping her cursed life ended before it truly began?
I loved this book. I was having a stressful week and this was everything I needed to relax. I could completely immerse myself in Morrigan’s world and not worry about anything else. It is so wonderful to find a book which will do that.
I very much enjoyed finding out more about Nevermoor and the people within it. When I saw Jessica Townsend at Cheltenham she suggested this might be a nine book series which was fantastic news and I am already looking forward to book three – although as this one isn’t officially published until 31st October I might have a rather long wait!
Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books