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.

Double Booking

I was really disappointed last week when my love of horses (see Gadding About with Galahad) meant I was taking part in a show jumping competition when I had been booked to see an outdoor production of Lorna Doone.

Luckily my Mother offered to do a guest blog for me.

We were very sad that Eleanor couldn’t go with us but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

This was an opportunity to see a proper story retold in its native habitat. Lorna Doone was written by R D Blackmore and is set on Exmoor. The play was performed in the Valley of the Rocks, a site on Exmoor with the added attraction of the Bristol Channel as a backdrop.

The story has been well adapted by Helena Stafford Northcote for Pleasure Dome Theatre and performed to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its publication. Narrative sections were provided by actors striding down aisles and across the ‘stage’ speaking one line each which added urgency to the story. The rough terrain provided natural opportunities for various cameo scenes including throwing a baby into te sea, a discreet killing and the final denouement of the play as Carver Doone fell over the cliff.

It was wonderful to see this Exmoor story brought to life in such rugged scenery and watching the Doones advancing waist deep in bracken sent shivers down the spine. As dusk fell, the lights of Wales appeared over the sea adding a final magic to the story. The setting was wild and rugged but, dare I say it, that very naturalness created a rival to the manicured and concrete Minack. A far better place to bring the story of Lorna and John to life.

Sorry Eleanor. You missed a wonderful evening.

I was very sorry to miss what sounded like an excellent production. I have been wanting to see a play in the Valley o the Rocks for several years and was very much looking forward to it. I will have to make sure that I get there next year.

Scottish Bookshopping

I couldn’t leave Pitlochry without visiting the bookshops there.  In fact, I doubt if I’ve ever been on holiday without buying a book!

My first stop was the Station Bookshop – opening off the main platform at the railway station.  This was a lovely little warren of a shop with a huge mixture of titles.  It is a charity bookshop so the books are donated but it had a great range and I found several books I wanted to buy – including a box set of PG Wodehouse which I would have loved but getting it home would have been tricky.

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In the end, I picked two lovely, old editions of Walter Scott – The Abbot and Kenilworth. They were both inscribed to the same person, although they were given by different people.  I thought them a perfect souvenir of my trip.

I also visited Priory Books.  I had been hoping to find an easy history of the Jacobite rebellions but everything was either very detailed or too simple.  In the end I spied something entirely different – Fiesta for Wild One, a book in the Kit Hunter series by Peter Grey which I love.

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The tourist information office supplied me with a basic children’s history of Scotland which I found to have the perfect level of information for me.  Then a few days later we made a brief stop in Aviemore and the Waterstones there had Jacobite Stories by Dane Love which was even better.  I read it all the way home!