A Year of Reading

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.

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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.

We Joined the Navy

At first glance this does not seem to be a bookish post but it is about a beautiful building and we did buy books!

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While I was in Dartmouth I went on a tour of the Britannia Royal Naval College and it was a wonderful experience. The historic part of the building is stunning – both inside and out – and the history behind it is fascinating.

Our tour covered the historic building and lasted two hours but I could easily have spent at least the whole day there exploring. There were lots of tempting little staircases which I wanted to run up – obviously, it is a working Naval college and that just isn’t possible!

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The longest uninterrupted corridor in Europe!

I had such a good time and I would thoroughly recommend the tour to anyone in the Dartmouth area. Of course – as I promised – we couldn’t escape without books!

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Book Review – Once Upon a River

My book club’s choice for our last meeting was Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.  It was not a book I would have necessarily chosen for myself but several of the other members were raving about it so I was certainly intrigued and looking forward to reading it.

Publisher’s Blurb

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames, the regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open and in steps an injured stranger.  In his arms is the drowned corpse of a child.
Hours later, the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

And who does the little girl belong to?

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I found that I was somewhat ambivalent about this book.  I did enjoy it and I think it is well written.  I really liked the characters (especially Rita and Mr Daunt) and I was rooting for them to have a happy ending.  The mixture of science and folklore was interesting too and I spent some time trying to figure out how fantastical the story was – the author’s note at the end explained a lot!

However, it wasn’t a book which made me really want to pick it up each time.  I can’t really articulate why either – as I said, I did enjoy the story.  I think I was letting it flow over me instead of being really invested in it.

The other members of my book club loved it though.  So much so that I thought we were going to have a very short meeting indeed – we don’t tend to have a lot to say when everybody likes a book!  Luckily though we did find tthings to talk about and it was a great meeting.

I would still recommend Once Upon a River to others – it is a good book, I just wasn’t in quite the right frame of mind to really love it.  That was just me though and shouldn’t be held against the book. The weather, however, was perfect – absolutely pouring rain which really added to the atmosphere of the book!

Book Details

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Publisher: Transworld

ISBN: 9781784163631

RRP: £8.99

Kindred Spirits

This year I am starting my annual Christmas re-read of Little Women a bit early as I am doing so in the company of some lovely people on Instagram – the Kindred Spirit Network.

Social media is a bit of a tricky topic for me – if I spend too long scrolling – and on a bad day too long can be five minutes – I end up feeling very down and it really isn’t good for me.  On the other hand, I need to use it if I want to promote my blog.  It is difficult for me to find the right balance sometimes.

However, a huge positive side of social media – and Instagram in particular – is the connection I can so easily make with like minded people.  I love having a book club with real people I can talk to in person but none of them really enjoy the same books as me.  Yes, it makes me read a wider range of books and that is great – but sometimes I just want to read a cosy, comforting book which I love.  It is even better if I can share that book with other people who love it just as much as I do.

I am therefore very much looking forward to a couple of months spent curled up with Little Women (and Good Wives – they are usually published separately in the UK).  I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening.

Book Review – A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a book which has been intriguing me ever since I first saw it.  It has sat in the young adult section of the bookshop for months, looking at me and clearly needing me to read it.  Eventually the right time came along and I treated myself to a copy.

Publisher’s Blurb

The case is closed.  Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh.  The police know he did it.  Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the crime, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure.  When she chooses the case as the topic for her final project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden.  And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth . . . ?

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This book was everything I had hoped it would be.  I was completely gripped by the story and read it long into the night – well past my bedtime!  I just had to know what happened next and I have to confess that the solution did take me by surprise.

I thought the book was very well written and I particularly appreciated the low levels of teenage angst.  No longer being a teenager myself, I do often find myself infuriated by the behaviour of teenagers in books.  That was most definitely not the case here and I have recommended this book to several ‘proper’ grown-ups who have also loved it.

I have also just heard about the sequel which is due out next year and I cannot wait!

Book Details

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Publisher: Egmont Publishing

ISBN: 9781405293181

RRP: £7.99

Micro Libraries

Like most of you (I imagine!) I am constantly on the look out for book shops.  The lure of a book shop is almost irresistible and I love to find new ones to explore.

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Some of my favourite finds though have been the mini book exchanges and charity book shops which seem to have been popping up in more and more places recently.  Not only are they unexpected, they are often very beautiful as well.

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How lovely is this?!

I have seen several in old phone boxes too which I love.  The only trouble is that unless I know when I leave the house that I will find one I very rarely have a book with me which I can swap – only the one I am actually reading.  Still, that just means another trip to find some books and that’s not really a hardship!

Autumn Reading

I quite often find that my reading slows down over the summer. There is just so much to do outside and I have been particularly busy this summer – see my alter ego Gadding About with Galahad if you want to know why!

Not that I haven’t been reading – I have made a reasonable dent in the TBR shelves I showed you in July (ten books read) as well as several extra ones I snuck in. It is just that I wasn’t reading as much as I would have liked.

However, the onset of autumn always makes me want to read. It’s partly all the back to school stuff in the shops and partly the long dark evenings when a blanket and a book by the fire seem like the most wonderful idea. Either way, I’m hoping to read a great many more books over the next few months!

Brilliant Book Festival

As I mentioned in my last post, last week was the Appledore Book Festival.  Not only was I at the book fair, I was also working at the festival itself which meant that I got to spend an entire week by the sea talking to people about books.  It was wonderful.

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Added to that, I also got to meet many authors which is always fun.  It was particularly lovely to meet Tim Waterstone – who was one of only a very small handful of authors to come across and introduce himself to me.  I was utterly charmed and of course I bought his book.

Another highlight was the event for Hazel Prior and her book Ellie and the Harp Maker.  It was held in a little café and as well as talking about harps and writing she read some passages from the book interspersed with harp music.  It was a delightful event – not least because she got the entire audience singing a song about how books are cool.

Books, books, books

Books are cool!

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I also ate a lot of cake.  This was peanut butter and jelly cake and it was amazing!

I had a wonderful week.  It was hard work – almost twice as many hours as normal – and I am now exhausted but Appledore is always one of my favourite weeks of the year and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

Book Review – Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales

I read Anna James’ first Pages & Co book – Tilly and the Bookwanderers – as soon as I could get my hands on a copy last year and since then I have been waiting impatiently for book two. I was therefore very excited when Harper Collins sent me a review copy of Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales last week.

Publisher’s Blurb

Tilly Pages is a bookwanderer; she can travel inside books, and even talk to the characters she meets there. But Tilly’s powers are put to the test when fairytales start leaking book magic and causing havoc . . .

On a wintery visit to Paris, Tilly and her best friend Oskar bravely bookwander into the land of fairytales to find that characters are getting lost, stories are all mixed-up, and mysterious plot holes are opening without warning. Can Tilly work out who, or what, is behind the chaos so everyone gets their happily-ever-after?

The parcel happened to arrive just as I was about to start a new book. I put that aside and immediately started this one instead.

It’s been a year or so since I read the first book so it took me a little time to remind myself of the more detailed aspacts of the plot. I was also a little hazy to start with on the actual mechanics of bookwandering and I did wonder if I should have re-read book one first. However, I soon settled back into the story and I loved it.

Bookwandering – the ability to read yourself into a book – is obviously a reader’s dream. Added to that, this series is such a cosy read and it is the perfect companion for curling up in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate. I so much enjoyed this book and now I cannot wait for book three. Which is a shame as I don’t have much choice!

I also have to share how lovely the cover is under the jacket. I had what I thought was the perfect bookmark too!

Book Details

Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James

ISBN: 9780008229900

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

RRP: £12.99

Exploring Berwick

We broke our journey home from Scotland at Berwick-Upon-Tweed.  It is one of those places through which we have passed many times on the train and we thought it was about time we actually had a look around.

We stayed at the King’s Arms which for me was primarily notable for the fact that Charles Dickens had stayed there and had even given a reading in the ballroom.  I was delighted by the Dickens coffee lounge but sadly disapppointed to find that it was not open when we wanted it.  That didn’t stop me having a quick read though!

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We spent pretty much the entire day walking around the old town walls which were so interesting.   I love exploring historical sites and there is so much history there.  I was just a bit sad that we could not get to more of the castle.

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The museum at the barracks was also very good.  I particularly liked the rooms set aside for the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regimental Museum.  I found it incredibly moving and actually ended up feeling rather overwhelmed – which wasn’t helped by the fact that I am scared of mannequins.  It was a fantastic museum though and I would highly recommend a visit.

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I had a great time discovering the history of Berwick and I could easily have spent more time there.  We did however manage to squeeze in a short boat trip which rounded the day off nicely.