Reading Retreat

I have never been on an actual reading retreat but the idea sounds absolutely wonderful. Going away to spend time reading is like a dream.

However, last week I went away for the week and, although I did have some things I wanted to see while I was there, I planned to read as much as possible. We had a stunning view from our window so I spent a lot of time there with a book and I think I read in most of the coffee shops in the town!

All of that industry was very productive too – I managed to read seven books in six days. They were all children’s books but that’s still quite impressive for me. Even better, for the first time in my life I finished every single book I took with me – so I was more than justified in taking so many (and indeed in buying more!).

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I had the best time and I didn’t really want to leave – now I’m back at work I have been reading the same book since Sunday and it’s just not the same!

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 – 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

Weekend Reading

My sister recently bought herself a hammock seat and having sat in it decided it was exactly what I needed. She is very kind so now I have one too!

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We had great fun getting it up – all the branches seem to go straight up in the air!

It is the most wonderful place to sit and read and I have spent a couple of entire days curled up in it with a book and a cup of tea. I’ve even eaten my lunch and had a nap in it (I would highly recommend it for naps)!

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Even the ponies like it!

I have also needed some blankets – it might be sunny at the moment but it is not really all that warm yet and sitting still you do get a bit chilly. It is totally worth it though.

It is amazing how much reading you can get through when you have no distractions. Over one weekend I spent two afternoons hanging and reading and I got through two children’s books (Malamander by Thomas Taylor and We Won an Island by Charlotte Lo) and a good sized chunk of Martin Chuzzlewit. It was bliss.

Book Review – We Won an Island

I was very lucky to be sent a reading copy of Charlotte Lo’s book We Won an Island by Nosy Crow Books.  I was very excited – the blurb made it sound like exactly the sort of book I would have loved as a child and as you may have noticed I am still very fond of children’s books!

Publisher’s Blurb

When Luna’s family win an island, Luna thinks it will solve everything AND she can finally get a donkey!  But things don’t go entirely to plan – no one expects Luna’s younger brother to win a Sheep Pageant, for example – and the secret festival they hold soon spirals out of control.  But the island is beautiful, and the family are happy, and maybe Luna will get her donkey after all…

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I read this book last Sunday sat in the shade by the stream and it was the perfect setting for it.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I loved the book.  The idea of escaping to an island is obviously wonderful and I thought it was very well written.  The childrren knew exactly what they wanted and just worked for it – no matter how unlikely success might seem.

Of course, they had their setbacks – not least their Father’s depression.  I thought the author portrayed this really well and in a way young children could understand, without becoming too overwhelming or scary.

As a child this book would have sat very nicely on my shelf with Enid Blyton and I have no doubt I would have re-read it many times.  This is a wonderful escapist read and perfect for the summer holidays.

Book Details

We Won and Island by Charlotte Lo

Publisher: Nosy Crow

ISBN: 9781788000413

RRP: £6.99

Apple Blossom Time

The apple blossom is out in full force here and it is this time of year more than any other which makes me want to revisit the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace.

I read these for the first time only two years ago as part of a readalong on Instagram.  I had never even heard of the books before but was told that they were perfect for fans of L M Montgomery and I am definitely one of those!  The readalong only covered the later books in the series – those set in high school or after – although I did go back and read the earlier books afterwards.

I adored the books so much. For me they are the perfect blend of sweetness and sorrow and reading them sucks me into Betsy-Tacy’s world.  There are ten books in the series which follows Betsy and Tacy from the age of five until they are married.  Three more books are set in the same town and feature a great many of the same characters including Besty.  I gobbled them up in no time (I wish there were more!) and they are definitely right up there with Anne of Green Gables for me.

These books are perfect for anyone who loves L M Montgomery or the Little House on the Prairie series and I would thoroughly recommend hunting them out.  Now I just need to find something similar – recommendations are always welcome!

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!

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Medicinal Reading

For the past few days I have been suffering with a shocking cold which always makes me feel miserable.  At times like this I just want easy, comfort reading. Quite often that means children’s books and this time it is pony books I have been craving.

Anyone who follows my pony adventures will know that I am a huge fan of pony books anyway but over the past two days I have read three pony books and don’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Firstly, I have been catching up with Olivia Tuffin’s A Pony Called Secret series.  I adored the first book but it has taken me ages to get round to reading the others.  I am almost up to date with them now and am enjoying them as much as ever.  This is definitely one of my favourite modern series.

Sadly most of the more vintage pony authors I enjoy have gone out of print and often they are very expensive second hand.  However, I came across three at our local market just before Christmas and I couldn’t resist them.  I am very grateful for that weakness now!  I had only read one Joanna Cannan book before and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed her writing – I will definitely have to seek out more of her books in the future.

From past experience, my pony book obsession will last a few days – or possibly weeks – and I will then feel a desperate need to read something much more meaty.  However, while it lasts I am revelling in it!

Book Review – The Skylarks’ War

My colleague has been raving about Hilary McKay’s new book The Skylarks’ War for months now so when Macmillan Children’s Books sent me a review copy I was rather excited. Not least because I loved reading her Casson Family series as a child.

Publisher’s Blurb

Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September – boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer.

When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?

I have to admit that when people repeatedly tell me how much I will love something I do start to be a little prejudiced against it. However, I really wanted to like this book so I tried to have an open mind.

It was definitely worth it – the book is beautifully written and I was completely absorbed in the plot. I stayed up far too late reading it! Although this is classed as a children’s book there there are some nuances which feel very adult and grown ups will certainly enjoy it just as much as the children.

Did I love it as much as I was promised? As I was reading it I didn’t think so but now I’ve finished and have had time to absorb it I’m not so sure. I was definitely very moved by it and I found it to be thought provoking. Either way, I didn’t want to stop reading and it has certainly stuck with me. I will definitely be recommending it to many people.

Book Details

The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay

ISBN: 9781509894963

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

RRP: £6.99

Bookish Restorative

I have had a few days off this week and decided to make the most of them to rest and recuperate from the busyness of the past couple of months.

My ideal was to just sit and read all day long but that isn’t actually entirely practical – if nothing else, I have ponies who need looking after and a dog who needs walking. It’s tricky to ride and read at the same time but it is entirely possible to read whilst dog walking. As long as you wear enough layers of course!

However, I did manage to do a great deal of sitting by the fire with a book. The cat kept me company and I had a marvellous time lost in imaginary worlds.

I have been reading – and very much enjoying – the second volume of Dorothy L Sayers’ letters but for pure escapism and relaxation I picked up a couple of magical children’s books. These were Michelle Harrison’s A Pinch of Magic and Cerrie Burnell’s The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth – both of which were excellent.

It has been a wonderful couple of days.