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!

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

Crafting with Audiobooks

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.

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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!

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

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

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!

Reading Waverley in Scotland

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.

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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!

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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!

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?

Celebrating Stories

The main reason for my Scotland trip was to stay in Pitlochry for the festival theatre there.  I love going to the theatre but – at least locally – we don’t seem to get many proper plays so I was very much looking forward to my trip.

The theatre famously states that you can, ‘Stay six days, see six plays.’  We were a little early in the season for that but I still had a choice of four.  I decided against The Crucible as it traumatised me when I had to study it at school.  Watching Jo March (Winona Ryder) playing Abigail Williams in the film was just too disturbing for me!

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The theatre has the best views

That still left me with a choice of three shows though.  The first I went to see was Blonde Bombshells of 1943, which tells the story of Betty – a band leader whose band has landed a BBC performance just when she has lost half her players.  The auditions and rehearsals were so entertaining and it was a great show.  I especially enjoyed the performance of Tilly-Mae Millbrook who played Miranda.

Next I saw Blithe Spirit – a story I know very well as I have seen the film several times.  This was my favourite of the week  – a real classic play.  I loved Eddie – played by David Rankine – a different take on the maid character.

Finally, I went to see Summer Holiday which was of course a lot of fun.  It was a bit too noisy for me but that is the case for any musical.  I enjoyed myself but it reinforced something which really I already knew – for me, plays are the thing.

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I’ve never had the opportunity to see repertory theatre before and I loved being able to watch the same people play different characters through the week.  They really did change, which just shows what great actors they are.

I had the best time – a whole week immersed in stories was just wonderful.  I do so enjoy the theatre and I must make the effort to get to more plays – even if I have to travel a bit further to get there.

Book Review – The Paper and Hearts Society

When I was at school I didn’t know anyone who loved books as much as me.  In fact, I can’t remember seeing many people reading for pleasure at all, although I’m sure they must have done so.  I felt that I was very different.

Once when we went on a sixth form college open day we passed two girls who were discussing the various merits of the Brontës.  My friends thought they were weird – I thought them wonderful (I can’t remember which Brontë those girls preferred but for me Anne is easily the best Brontë sister).

All of which means that when I read the blurb of Lucy Powrie’s debut book The Paper & Hearts Society I knew I had to read it and I could not have been more delighted when Hachette sent me a reading copy.

Publisher’s Blurb

A brand new series from Booktuber Lucy Powrie – about what happens when you give up on trying to fit in in and let your weird out!  It’s time to join The Paper & Hearts Society …

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in.  She doesn’t want to go to parties – in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book.

It’s like she hasn’t found her people …

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books.  What could go wrong? EVERYTHING – especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.

But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back.  Maybe it’s the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed’s fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself …

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

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As soon as Tabby found the flier for the book club I was hooked.  They sounded like just my kind of people and I really wanted to join.  I was whisked away on the story and I loved it.

Lucy has managed to create a diverse range of characters without being heavy handed about it.  She treats people’s differences in a very matter of fact way without making a big deal out of them.  I have read books where it seems as if the diversity is included just for the sake of it.  That was absolutely not the case here – this is primarily a book about people who love books.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I could see a lot of myself in Tabby and I would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or who just loves books.  Books are a key part of The Paper & Hearts Society and it is glorious.

Book Details

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

ISBN: 9781444949230

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group

RRP: £7.99