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.
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?
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!
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
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.
I have written before about how much I love audiobooks but I have realised recently that I have been listening to them more than ever. Before I discovered I could download audiobooks from the library onto my phone I had a limited supply of books – my choice isn’t limitless now but it is much wider. I am listening to books almost constantly – in the car, working in the stables – any time I can’t read an actual, physical book.
The increase is very obvious when I look at my reading log. Last year I listened to 13 audiobooks – so far this year I have heard 39, with two months still to go.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been working hard on a pair of crochet socks – I often have spells when I am very enthusiastic about crochet and don’t want to be doing anything else. Audiobooks are perfect for that as I can lose myself in the story whilst still having both of my hands free. The only downside is that I have been reading far fewer physical books and I do miss the act of sitting down with my book.
It has also meant that I can’t necessarily read the book I really want as I don’t have access to it in audio form. I am, however, reading a much wider range of books – I tend to just browse until something takes my fancy. I’m sure it’s very good for me!
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.
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 . . . ?
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!
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Publisher: Egmont Publishing
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
I have carried Waverley around Scotland with me on two previous occassions without reading a word of it. I had the best of intentions but somehow I always wanted to read a different book which would be easier – who wants to work on holiday?
This time though, I was determined. Scotland was clearly the place to read it so read it I would. I made sure I wasn’t partway through any other books and started Waverley on the very first train. Within a few pages I knew that it was not going to be hard work after all.
Of course, I had to read it by the Scott Monument!
The only other Scott book I had read was Ivanhoe many years ago. I remember enjoying it but not much else and I had got it into my head that he would be difficult and rather slow reading. Instead, I was swept along by the story and I absolutely loved it.
I also found that it was genuinely funny. Who can resist a line like this in the last chapter?
This should have been a prefatory chapter, but for two reasons: First, that most novel-readers, as my own conscience reminds me, are apt to be guilty of the sin of omission respecting that same matter of prefaces.
I so rarely read prefaces!
I am sorry I never read the book before but very glad I finally took the time to do so. Reading it in Perthshire was especially wonderful – a good deal of the book is set there so I could really picture it coming to life. It was perfect!
On Saturday I took my book stall out for its first outing of the year. Previously I have always had it within a larger marquee or room full of other stands. This time I didn’t have that option so I had my own little gazebo to set up. I had tried a practice run at home and was quite excited about having a space to myself which I could make cosy and just how I wanted it.
We had to arrive early as we had some entries to set up in the craft classes and as it was a reasonable drive I decided to stay and start setting up. For one thing, I didn’t really know how long it would take me with the new gazebo.
That turned out to be a great decision. It was so much more relaxing to have a leisurely set up process instead of rushing and getting stressed. I have been known to get so wound up when short of time that I have actually been unable to remember the alphabet. That was not a fun experience and this was far more enjoyable.
Even better was that fact that my sister lives close to the fête and kept us constantly supplied with tea and cakes. Such a luxury!
Once I was all set up I had nothing to do but sit in the shade and read until the fête opened. It was a lovely, sunny day and even when the crowds started arriving it just meant that I could talk to more people about books – which is after all the point of having the stall in the first place. That and selling some of the books of course!
It was a delightful afternoon. There cannot be many better ways to spend time than sat on the grass with a book, good conversation and listening to music from a Dixieland band. Bliss!