Summer Reading

Last year I had a big clear out of books. Most of them I had read but some had been languishing on my TBR for years. Genuinely years. Books were taking over the house and so I tried to be fairly ruthless – if I’d had it for years and wasn’t likely to read it any time soon then it was a candidate to go. If it was also still in print or otherwise readily available then it was almost certain to go – when (if) I was ready to read it then it could be replaced.

It wad quite hard to do but was also very freeing. For the first time in a long time I didn’t feel guilty about buying a new book because there were so many others waiting at home that I just had to read. Of course, the idea of having to read something is really nonsensical – reading should be fun.

I was very proud of myself and kept my physical TBR down to a strict minimum (the list of books I want to read has always been ridiculously long but at least it doesn’t take up more room than a notebook). However, I have recently started to notice that it is growing and as I don’t want to have to cull them again I have made a resolution – over the summer I will do my utmost to only read books that I already own.

I am very much a mood reader so do not usually have a set TBR for any given month but, as you can see, there is quite an eclectic mix to keep me going. Some of these are re-reads (Artemis Fowl) and a couple are ones I started last year, put down and never picked back up again (Sylvia’s Lovers and The Italian). It would be so good if I could finish one of those!

There will be a couple of exceptions though. I need to read Erebus by Michael Palin for my August book club meeting and the new Murder Most Unladylike book is published next month. I will almost certainly be buying it as soon as it comes out!

The books on the bottom shelf are too tall to stand upright!

Did I buy a couple of books sooner than I might have done otherwise just because I knew I would be setting myself this challenge? Yes. Yes I did. I am the one setting the rules after all.

Do you see any favourite books? Any you think I should read first?

Reading Spot

Many people have a special reading spot to sit with a book but I never have.  Not that I have nowhere to read – far from it.  Of course, I do have my hammock chair where I love to sit and read but it is not my designated spot.  I will read anywhere and everywhere.

It’s part of the reason I take a book with me everywhere.  You never know when you might have a spare five minutes which could be filled with valuable reading time.  Waiting for a train, a tea break at work, anything is possible.

DSCF0738

This is Moor at 13 in Kingswear, just across the river from Dartmouth. It is a lovely place with the most amazing view!

One of my favourite things to do though is take myself out to a coffee shop, order a hot drink (and maybe a cake) and just sit by myself and read.  It is wonderful.

Book Review – The Princess and the Fangirl

If you have not yet read Ashley Poston’s Geekerella I would highly recommend going and finding a copy. It is the most lovely book about fandoms and I adored it.  The sequel – The Princess and the Fangirl – has just been published and I was so excited to receive a reading copy from Quirk Books.

Publisher’s Blurb

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: to save her favorite Starfield character, Princess Amara, from being killed off.  On the other hand, the actress who plays Amara wouldn’t mind being axed.  Jessica Stone doesn’t even like being part of the Starfield franchise—and she’s desperate to leave the intense scrutiny of fandom behind.

Though Imogen and Jess have nothing in common, they do look strangely similar to one another—and a case of mistaken identity at ExcelsiCon sets off a chain of events that will change both of their lives.  When the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, with all signs pointing to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible.  The deal: Imogen will play Jess at her signings and panels, and Jess will help Imogen’s best friend run their booth.

But as these “princesses” race to find the script leaker—in each other’s shoes—they’re up against more than they bargained for.  From the darker side of fandom to unexpected crushes, Imogen and Jess must find a way to rescue themselves from their own expectations…and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

20190605_190640.jpg

This books continues the story of Geekerella but follows different characters through the story.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about that at first – I wanted to know more about what happened to Elle and Darien!  I needn’t have worried though – Imogen and Jess had a brand new story and I was very quickly immersed in it.

The book is set at ExcelsiCon and is written in a way which made me very keen to find a convention to visit.  I’ve discovered that I love books about people who are passionate about something, be that a book, and film or a television show.  Stories really.  All of which means that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The thing I took most from it though was something Imogen’s friend Harper says.  She talks about how she doesn’t believe that, ‘…the only meaningful stories are the ones that are deep and pondering and boring… I think sometimes the stories we need are the ones about taking the hobbits to Isengard.’  I am often guilty of picking up books because I think I should read them.  If they don’t enthrall me I struggle through them but my reading slows right down and I get distracted much more easily.  The Princess and the Fangirl has reminded me that it’s okay to read ‘easier’, frivolous books if I enjoy them because that is the point.  As Ashley Poston says in her acknowledgements, we should ‘keep reading what makes you happy, and keep celebrating the content that makes you feel most alive, and carve out your spot in the universe.’

Book Details

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

ISBN: 9781683691105

Publisher: Quirk Books

RRP: £8.99

 

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!

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!

DSCN6497.JPG

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!

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 – 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

Being a Janeite

Last Saturday was the Jane Austen Society’s annual study day and for the first time I made the trip up to London to attend.  I was very excited about going but more than a little nervous about being on time – my train was due to arrive 40 minutes before the first lecture started and as trains were delayed by the weather that weekend I was convinced I would be late.  However, my journey ran perfectly and I arrived at Senate House with time to spare.

The talks were all based on the theme of reading but took us in a wide variety of directions and I found them fascinating.  I was greatly interested in the Reading with Austen project and I would highly recommend having a look at their website.  They are trying to locate all the books which were in the Godmersham Park library when Austen was there and the virtual bookshelves are wonderful.

20190209_112233.jpg

I also particularly enjoyed the talk on 19th century illustrations in Jane Austen.  I found it fascinating that the illustrations focused so much on typically feminine objects like dresses and bonnets and pictured very few books.  The speaker suggested this gave the impression that the books were very frivolous and I think this is an idea which continues today.  Certainly I have heard people writing off Jane Austen as ‘just’ a romantic novelist when in reality she is so much more.  On the other hand, some illustrations made the books look like highly sensational novels – I found them rather amusing!

The break times were an excellent chance to chat with other Janeites and I was in my element with so many other like minded people.  It might have been my first study day but it’s certainly won’t be my last.