An Evening of Bookish Delights

I had the best bookish evening last night. It started with me rushing home to be back in time for the Pan Macmillan virtual roadshow for booksellers. This took us through a lot of their big titles coming out over the next few months and it was so interesting to hear the authors themselves talking about their books. My reading list just got a whole lot longer! We even got to draw with Rob Biddulph which was a lot of fun – and I was pretty pleased with the result!

Obviously the books were the main part of the evening but almost as important were the snacks that Pan Macmillan very kindly sent out to all attendees. I ate far too much!

That was followed immediately by my virtual book club meeting. It was lovely to see everyone again and to have a proper conversation about the books we’ve been reading. We always end up discussing far more books than just the one we read for the meeting and I love that.

All in all in was a lovely way to spend the evening and I am very much looking forward to the next time. I’m also now getting excited about the Hay Festival which will be held online in a couple of weeks. It is going to be great!

Seaside Reading

On Monday I had a day off work and decided to take advantage of the glorious weather we have been having by spending the afternoon at one of my favourite picnic spots up by the coast path. We had a late coffee and set off for a walk. Although it was short, it was the first proper walk I have had since the pandemic started and I had forgotten just how much I enjoy walking. The weather couldn’t have been better and we had a lovely time.

Back at the car we settled down for lunch and an afternoon of reading and staring out to sea. It is one of my favourite ways to spend a day and I have missed it!

I had two books with me this time – firstly I finished Pink Sugar which was the perfect picnic read. I loved it! Then I picked Barnaby Rudge back up. I have been reading it off and on for a couple of months as I am reading it with an online book club. The schedule made me start off by reading a chapter a day which I thought would be perfect but it turns out I just don’t read well that way. I think just one chapter isn’t enough time for me to immerse myself in the story and so I never really got invested in the characters. I realised that I much prefer to read big chunks at a time.

All of which meant that until Monday hadn’t actually picked it up for several weeks and I had got seriously behind schedule. After some intense reading on Monday though I am catching up and hopefully I will do so by the end of the week. I am certainly much more interested in the book now, although some of that is due to the fact that more exciting things are happening!

I had the best day reading and dreaming and I can’t wait to do it again.

Lockdown Browsing

This has been a good week for me as it saw the arrival of the latest magazine from the Friends of the Chalet School.  I love this magazine with its huge range of interesting articles written by club members. Reading it is like having the best kind of bookish conversation with friends.

This time though, I found myself reaching for the sales and wants section (where members can advertise books for sale – and, of course, those they want) before embarking on reading the magazine itself.  That is not so usual for me and it got me thinking.  Lockdown has obviously stopped all visits to the bookshop and although books can be bought online – for which I am very grateful right now – there is nothing quite so good as browsing in a real, bricks and mortar bookshop.

Part of that joy is of course the browsing among the shelves, not looking for anything in particular.  Those unexpected, unlooked for finds of books I didn’t even know existed are for me even more exciting than finding a book I knew I wanted.  That is something I find much harder on a website and is I think part of the reason I was so happy with my sales and wants list.  You never know what you will find listed there and although most of the titles are familiar there is always something which tempts me into trying to secure it for my collection.

This then is how I will be spending my evening – with a large cup of tea and a highlighter to hand.

Halloween Reading

As it is Halloween this week my online book club has been reading Dracula.  This was my first time reading it and, as I scare pretty easily when reading or watching anything remotely frightening, I was expecting to be terrified.

There were definitely some very atmospheric and spooky parts – the early chapters in Dracula’s castle were especially good. I was not, however, at all afraid. Normally a scary book will make me reluctant to take the dog out at night so this was unexpected.

Some of that was because of the book itself. It does have some issues but mainly I was frustrated by how oblivious all the men in the book are – they don’t even notice when someone has been bitten by the vampire. The only character with real intelligence is a woman – who doesn’t get the credit she deserves.

Partly though, I was affected by the fact that I was listening to the audiobook whilst doing other things like driving or laundry. I don’t think you get the full effect of the atmosphere when you are at a roundabout! I also didn’t like the particular version I had – it was read by two American actors putting on English accents. The accents weren’t perfect but I could have lived with that. What I did struggle with was the fact that every so often they would completely mispronnounce a word and I would find it so distracting that I would miss the next couple of sentences. I think if the whole thing had been read in an American accent it would have been fine – it was the sudden lapses I found jarring.

As ever, my book club discussion was excellent. I love hearing everyone’s reactions to the book and it is so good to have found kindred spirits with whom I can vent over plot frustrations. I am so looking forward to the next one!

Book Clubs at Home

Channel 4 have recently been doing a Stay at Home Academy in the evenings – Jamie Oliver did a series on cooking in the lockdown, then Kirstie Allsopp had some crafting episodes.  This week is Richard and Judy’s turn – I was thrilled to find out that they are presenting ‘Keep Reading and Carry On’.

I have very much enjoyed the first few episodes.  Of course, I would love for them to be longer so we could see some more in depth discussions of the books but the fact that there is a whole programme dedicated to books on primetime television is wonderful.

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I particularly loved Graham Norton and Louis Theroux’s guest appearances. They both came across as genuinely enthusiastic about the books and I would love to have a bookish chat with either of them.

I have also been loving the bookshelves I have seen in the houses of everyone broadcasting from home.  Stephen Fry has a particularly enviable study.  However, when I watched the BBC’s Big Night In a couple of weeks ago my favourite background was Jason Manford’s – he had a blank wall behind him with pieces of paper pinned up saying, ‘Bookshelves’.  I loved it!

Book Review – The Paper and Hearts Society

When I was at school I didn’t know anyone who loved books as much as me.  In fact, I can’t remember seeing many people reading for pleasure at all, although I’m sure they must have done so.  I felt that I was very different.

Once when we went on a sixth form college open day we passed two girls who were discussing the various merits of the Brontës.  My friends thought they were weird – I thought them wonderful (I can’t remember which Brontë those girls preferred but for me Anne is easily the best Brontë sister).

All of which means that when I read the blurb of Lucy Powrie’s debut book The Paper & Hearts Society I knew I had to read it and I could not have been more delighted when Hachette sent me a reading copy.

Publisher’s Blurb

A brand new series from Booktuber Lucy Powrie – about what happens when you give up on trying to fit in in and let your weird out!  It’s time to join The Paper & Hearts Society …

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in.  She doesn’t want to go to parties – in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book.

It’s like she hasn’t found her people …

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books.  What could go wrong? EVERYTHING – especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.

But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back.  Maybe it’s the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed’s fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself …

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

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As soon as Tabby found the flier for the book club I was hooked.  They sounded like just my kind of people and I really wanted to join.  I was whisked away on the story and I loved it.

Lucy has managed to create a diverse range of characters without being heavy handed about it.  She treats people’s differences in a very matter of fact way without making a big deal out of them.  I have read books where it seems as if the diversity is included just for the sake of it.  That was absolutely not the case here – this is primarily a book about people who love books.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I could see a lot of myself in Tabby and I would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or who just loves books.  Books are a key part of The Paper & Hearts Society and it is glorious.

Book Details

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

ISBN: 9781444949230

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group

RRP: £7.99

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.

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!

Book Review – The Sixteen Trees of the Somme

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting is a book I’ve been thinking about reading for a while – mainly because I’d heard it is similar in feel to All the Light we Cannot See which I loved.

I was therefore extremely pleased that my book club chose to discuss it at our meeting last night – I could add it to my teetering TBR pile without feeling at all guilty!

Publisher’s Blurb

Edvard grows up on a remote mountain farmstead in Norway with his taciturn grandfather, Sverre. The death of his parents, when he was three years old, has always been shrouded in mystery – he has never been told how or where it took place and has only a distant memory of his mother.

But he knows that the fate of his grandfather’s brother, Einar, is somehow bound up with this mystery. One day a coffin is delivered for his grandfather long before his death – a meticulous, beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Perhaps Einar is not dead after all.
Edvard’s desperate quest to unlock the family’s tragic secrets takes him on a long journey – from Norway to the Shetlands, and to the battlefields of France – to the discovery of a very unusual inheritance. The Sixteen Trees of the Somme is about the love of wood and finding your own self, a beautifully intricate and moving tale that spans an entire century.

I put off reading it until the last minute – as I’ve mentioned before, I like to read cosy wintry favourites over Christmas – mainly children’s books.

I loved this book – and for once so did most of the book club. I thought it was beautifully written and the author’s love of wood and well crafted objects really showed through – his descriptions were wonderful.

Besides that, the mystery element was intriguing and kept me guessing. I found myself riding my pony and occupying my mind with setting out the facts I knew and trying to fill in the gaps. This is a book which will stay with me for a long time and I will definitely be reading the next one.

Book Details

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting

ISBN: 9780857056061

Publisher: Maclehose Press

RRP: £8.99

Christmas Book Club

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!