Category Archives: reading

Books I Read In September & October.

I’ve now read 25 of the 40 books I set myself the challenge of reading in 2019. Not exactly on track. But importantly I’m still enjoying most of the books I’ve dipped into. I came by these via Wil, A Book Swap where a cash machine used to be, Wils Mum and a local supermarket. 📚

Wolf By Wolf ~ Ryan Graudin ( 2015). What if the Nazis had won the Second World War? This is a reimagining of just that, a world where Adolph Hitler has extended his tyranny beyond Europe, beyond 1945. Prisoners in death camps are experimented on in order to create a race of blue eyed blonds. And an arduous motorcycle race across the continents is created to celebrate Hitler’s Youth and bond with Japan, with whom they tentatively share power. Former death camp inmate Yael ( now a member of the resistance) is charged with winning the race and assassinating Hitler at the Victors ball, a seemingly impossible task. But Yael is a skin shifter , a result of the experiments she endured as a child. Just maybe , the impossible can be achieved. ⭐⭐⭐

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves ~ Karen Joy Fowler (2013). Rosemary doesn’t really speak about her siblings. Once she had a brother ( who ran away) and a sister ( who seemingly disappeared too) and it is not until some way into the book that we learn just what exactly has happened in this rather disfunctional family. Shocking, sad, moving and with witty moments too, this is definitely a thought provoking read. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Librarian Of Auschwitz ~ Antonio Iturbe ( 2019). Fourteen year old Dita is an inmate in the family camp at Auschwitz and here amongst the bleakest horrors, she takes charge of eight smuggled books, protecting and distributing them to her fellow prisoners. The books offer a tiny ray of hope in this desolate place, and Dita is risking all by doing what she does . What is most inspiring about this tale is that it is based on real characters. Dita Kraus is still alive today and educates the young about life in the concentration camps, determined that such attrocoties will never happen again. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Family ~ Louise Jensen ( 2019). If your in the mood for an absorbing psychological thriller with lots of twists and turns, this is definitely the book for you. When Laura and her daughter Tilly suffer an unimaginable loss, the only place they can turn to in the end is a local commune deep in the woods. Warmly welcomed by charismatic Alex and his band of followers , Laura and Tilly find sanctuary from their growing mountain of problems , at first. But here everyone has their own secrets, including Tilly and Laura. And secrets can really tear everything apart. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Any book recommendations?

Books I Read In July & August.

Hello, I thought I would have read more over July & August, but alas I didn’t even remember to swing about in my hammock with a good book. Maybe September will bless us with an Indian Summer! Here’s what I did dive into…..

The Woman In The Window ~ A. J. Finn ( 2018). I much preferred this psychological thriller to others such as Gone Girl and Girl On The Train. Anna Fox is a recluse, her everyday life is spent watching old Hitchcock movies, drinking wine and spying on her neighbours. One day she witnesses the apparent murder of her neighbours wife and the reader watches Anna’s life unravel as she tries to piece together what she has seen. There are loads of twists and turns in this book. It’s a real page turner that keeps you gripped until the end. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Highland Fling ~ Emma Baird (2018). If your looking for a little rom com escapism, I can recommend Highland Fling as a fun & sparky get away from everyday life. Our heroine Gaby needs to escape too, she finds herself the purrfect cat sitting job ( despite being allergic to them!) in a remote Scottish Highland village, where she is soon befriended by a quirky cast of characters. And then there’s a rather moody but impossibly good looking Jamie Fraser look alike who catches her eye. Plus some rather dodgy advice from a dating guru. What could go wrong! ✳️✳️✳️✳️

Murder In Midsummer ~ ( 2019). A collection of short murder mystery stories , most with a summer holiday backdrop. This book is a retro dip into the past and perfect for reading any time of year really. Some of the tales are better than others though, my favourites being ‘The House In Goblin Wood’ and ‘ The Adventures Of The Lions Mane’ . ⭐⭐⭐

The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall ~ Anne Bronte ( 1848). I must admit it’s taken me a long while to get round to reading Anne Bronte’s tale of escape from an abusive marriage. I wasn’t convinced that I would enjoy her writing as much as that of her more famous sisters. I needn’t have worried though, Anne shares the same passionate spirit as her siblings. The book is written in letters and diary form and centures around the sudden arrival of a young ‘widow’ who has come to live at Wildfell Hall, a bleak country house that has been empty for many years. Her reluctance to socialize with her neighbours makes her a figure of gossip, especially when a frequent visitor is spotted leaving the hall. Bronte writes about subjects such as alcoholism, fleeing a violent marriage and women working for themselves, all contraversial topics in the 1800s. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Adventures Of The Yorkshire Shepherdess – Amanda Owen (2019). If you haven’t discovered Amanda’s refreshing books about her life on a remote North Yorkshire hill farm yet, your missing a treat. Amanda, originally a townie from Huddersfield ,has been shepherding since she was a teenager. In her early twenties she met her soon to be husband Clive and moved in with him at Ravenseat. Several flocks of sheep, loyal dogs, faithful ponies, free wandering chickens, a cheeky peacock and ‘9’ children later , Amanda is sharing their very down to earth adventures yet again. I love all her books and I’m actually going to see her at a talk she’s doing in September. Can’t wait! ✳️✳️✳️✳️✳️

What have you read lately?

Books I Read In May & June.

Books I’ve read recently have been a bit of a mixed Book- Bag. See what I did there.😅 There have been some goodies though. Two recommended by bloggers….and one written by a blogger. Yay!

Convenience Store Woman ~ Sayaka Murata (2016). Keiko has always been a bit disconnected from other human beings. Her response to an annoying boy in primary school is to hit him with a shovel. And shouldn’t a dead budgie be taken home for dinner. It’s apparent her family think she’s definitely strange ,so it’s a relief to them when she gets a part time job in a convenience store. The in-store training manual shows Keiko how to be an acceptable and productive member of society and Keiko is happy to appear normal at last. However many years later Keiko is unmarried, has no children and at 36 is still in the same role. She no longer conforms to what society thinks she should be. This is a funny, sometimes sinister, a little heart breaking and actually life affirming story. Go Keiko! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Water Cure ~ Sophie Mackintosh ( 2018). I really wanted to like this book, but it just annoyed me more than anything. If your looking for a distopion classic then I recommend The Handmaid’s Tale. The storyline idea is good. Three daughters are brought up by their mother and father on an isolated island, away from the real world which is apparently full of deadly toxins. They are subjected to cruel purifying treatments which involve drowning dresses etc. But to them this is all quite normal. Then oneday their father disappears leaving their mother to carry on his good work. Things go awry when three men are washed up on the island. Read it and let me know what you think. ⭐⭐

Yeshiva Girl ~ Rachel Mankowitz ( 2018). A Jewish novel about a teenager whose father abuses young girls ( herself included) is difficult subject matter , but Mankowitz’s quiet yet real writing provides the reader with a heroine we really want to hear more from. When Izzy’s parents put her in a new orthodox school whilst he goes through a court case, she finds herself dealing with having to make friends & relationships whilst questioning a religion that appears to very much prioritize men over women. And how can Izzy get on with her life when her peers don’t realise just how manipulative her father really is. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady ~ Edith Holden ( 1979). Book illustrator and art teacher Edith Holden’s Nature notes for 1906 lay unseen and unpublished for many years after her death. Then in 1979 her beautiful paintings and observations were set out in diary form and shown to the wider world. They were an immediate success even spawning a TV series. The diary contains poems and sayings about each month, lovely illustrations and Edith’s day to day pondering’s about the wildlife she saw whilst walking or riding her bicycle in her beloved Midlands. Unfortunately for Edith she died in her forties. Leaning over a river to observe some plant life, she fell in and drowned. 😦 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Chess Men ~ Peter May (2012). Back to Peter Mays trilogy set on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. In this novel many loose ends are tied up and it seems former detective Finn MacLeod has reached some sort of peace in his life, back on his childhood home of Lewis. Of course as is mandatory in Mays trilogy, Finns past is brought back to haunt him when a former friend turns up dead and another is suspected of his murder. ⭐⭐⭐

Remarkable Creatures ~ Tracy Chevalier ( 2009). I must admit to not having heard of the fossil hunter Mary Anning until quite recently. She was a working class girl from Lyme Regis who discovered some of the greatest fossil finds of the 19th Century. Due to her sex and lowly station she wasn’t even credited for her discoveries for many years. Her story is currently being made into a feature film ‘Ammonite’ starring Kate Winslet & Saiorse Ronan. I’m not sure if the movie is based on this book by historical novelist Tracy Chevalier, but her tale is a compelling one. Chevalier tells the story of both Mary Anning through Mary’s own eyes but also through her friend Elizabeth Philpot, who befriended the young fossil hunter after moving to Lyme with her two sisters. Remarkable Creatures is a very easy read and shows just how remarkable a woman needed to be to make her mark in a man’s world. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Have you read anything good lately? Any recommendations?

30 Days Wild Days 7 ~ 12. 🍓

This June is definitely not very similar to last year’s hot and dry ( almost flaming!) one. We’ve had rain here in the North West on most days this month. It does make enjoying wild moments that bit more challenging !

At the weekend we took Hugo for a walk round Salthill Quarry Nature Reserve in Clitheroe. As its name suggests, Salthill is a former quarry, now reclaimed by nature. As well as being geologically fascinating ( fossilised crinoids or Sea Lillie’s can be found here), the reserve is a haven for wildflowers and butterflies. The rain kept the insects away but lots of flowering plants to see including vibrant blue milkwort, ground spreading wild thyme and clusters of yellow rattle. I even got to sample a wild strawberry ( there are lots right now) , a tiny burst of flavour on my tongue. 🍓

On Sunday we travelled to Cumbria to visit family. On the way I couldn’t fail to notice all the many Ox -Eye Daisies blooming on the roadsides. I actually know them as Dog Daisies. They have many other names too including Moon Daisy, Midsummer Daisy, Bull Daisy and Marguerite. Daisy originates from ‘ Days Eye’ as their flowers open up to the sun. Apparently ‘That’s a Daisy’ was used as a phrase describing something good in the 1800s. Over the years that changed to ‘ That’s a Doozy’ .🌼

Monday was a rare sunny day and Hugo and I had an enjoyable walk. The rain has made everything so green! After spotting some open dandelions in the morning, I returned later to collect them ( after finding a recipe for Lemon & Dandelion biscuits on Pinterest) , only to find they had all turned into fluffy seed clocks by mid afternoon. Perhaps a blessing in disguise! 🍋

I treated myself to some Nature inspired reading this week. I remember my Gran having this book when I was growing up. ‘ The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’ is just that, a beautifully illustrated chronicle of the flora and fauna that Edith Holden spotted when out and about ( often on her bicycle) in Warwickshire in 1906. An entry for June reads ~ Cycled through Widney : The Yellow Irises are out in the marsh there now, and at the edge of the stream I found the large blue Water For-get-me-not. While I was stooping to gather some, a beautiful Demoiselle Dragonfly came skimming across the water and lighted on a bunch of roses, the next moment it was away again. This book is really lovely to dip in and out of, I will be doing that alot I think. 🙂

Meanwhile in the back yard, my washing up views take in a succession of birds feeding their young. Sorry for the bad photo ( taken with my phone camera) of some coal tits and blue tits. They are loving the fat balls. So too is the jackdaw, who now brings a friend and knocks alot of crumbs to the ground. Luckily I have a fledgling blackbird visitor, who is enjoying the spoils.

Are you having a wild week?

Books I read in March and April.

Sorry this post is so late, I think I have discovered book reviews are not my favourite thing to write! Really didn’t get many books read in March and April , though I did enjoy the five books I did sit down with. Here’s a short recap of my reading material. 😊

Tom’s Midnight Garden ~ Phillipa Pearce (1958). I found a copy of this children’s classic in a charity book sale and thought I would give it a go as I remember owning Phillipa Pearce’s ‘ The Battle Of Bubble & Squeek ‘ as a girl. I’m so glad I did as Midnight Garden is such a magical tale. Tom goes to stay with his very dull aunt and uncle over the summer holidays , so not to catch the measles his brother has so inconveniently caught. They live in a boring old manor house which has been converted into flats, there isn’t even a garden to play in much to Toms disappointment. The only unusual thing in the whole house is as old Grandfather clock in the communal hallway which ominously strikes a 13th time every night. A restless Tom investigates and finds the extra hour takes him back in time to when the manor house was one residence with a huge garden and is home to a lonely little girl called Hattie. Over the summer Tom meets Hattie in the garden most nights, only to find the time shifting as Hattie grows up. A children’s adventure fantasy that adults can enjoy too. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

111 Places In The Lake District That You Shouldn’t Miss ~ Solange Berchemin (2019). Apparently there’s a whole range of 111 Places guides out right now, encouraging you to visit the more quirky and lesser known tourist attractions in various cities and areas. Lakeland is explored thoroughly in this handy guide which includes Postman Pat’s Valley, a nine metre stone that appears to defy gravity, the home to the world’s largest colour pencil, a Giants grave and a Buddhist Temple. Directions, opening times and website info are all included. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

One False Move ~ Harlan Coben ( 1998). Another charity book sale purchase, this was a good detective yarn to get to grips with. Even though it is book 5 in a series, the likeable character of its protagonist sports agent/crime solver ‘ Myron Bolitar’ encourages the reader to hunt out the other novels. Also this book can easily be read as a stand alone story. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Lewis Man ~ Peter May ( 2014). The second in a crime trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides, Lewis Man revolves round an unidentified corpse found in a Lewis peat bog. Detective Fin MacLeod now residing on the island feels duty-bound to solve the mystery but as he digs deeper, long buried secrets threaten to endanger the people he loves. ⭐⭐⭐

The Lido ~ Libby Page ( 2018). I enjoyed this feel good tale about the importance of community and friendship. Two women from very different decades become friends through their enthusiasm to save their local Lido which is under threat of closure. Rosemary is 86 and all her happiest memories are wrapped up there whilst Kate is 26 and struggling with loneliness in a new city. A heart warming book. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Have you read any good books recently?

Books I read in January and February.

This year I am hoping to read 40 Books, a total I have set myself on Good Reads. I thought if I write a short description of each on my blog, this might encourage me to keep up with the challenge 🙂

The Black House ~ Peter May (2011). This is the first book in a bleak murder mystery trilogy set on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. My other half came across the series after we holidayed on another Hebridean Island North Uist last year. Fin Macleod is a homicide detective who returns to his childhood home of Lewis to investigate a grisly murder. Bereft by a recent personal tragedy of his own, Fin jumps at the chance of spending some time on the island. But as the detective hunts for the murderer, he finds himself being hunted too. The Black House flits between the past and the present and paints a picture of a rugged island with troubling secrets. I’m eager to delve into the next instalment. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

How to Be an Urban Birder ~ David Lindo ( 2018). I love how enthusiastic the author of this informative birding guide is. After seeing him promoting the book on Breakfast telly, I was delighted when Wil bought it me for my birthday back in November. Lindo’s motto is ‘Look Up!’ and this is certainly as true of our towns and cities as anywhere in Britain when it comes to spotting birdlife. If you imagine that urban buildings are cliffs ( they could be homes to peregrines) and rooftops are viewing platforms ( excellent bases for watching migrating species) then you get the idea. This book covers the best locations to look for birds in towns and cities and is packed full of photos , illustrations and useful tips.⭐⭐⭐⭐

The prime of Miss Jean Brodie ~ Muriel Spark ( 1961). I picked this renowned Scottish Classic up whilst away for a weekend in Edinburgh. Jean Brodie is an unconventional school teacher in 1930s Edinburgh. In a subtle almost sinister way she sets about grooming six of her pupils to become almost mini clones of herself. The book was made into a 1969 film starring Maggie Smith. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dear Mrs Bird ~ A J Pearce ( 2018). Ahh I loved this story, set during blitz torn London in World War 2. Perhaps my favourite of the books I’ve read this year so far. Our heroine is Emmy who takes a job as a newspaper reporter , but due to a misunderstanding she is actually employed as lowly assistant to no nonsense ( and very unsympathetic ) Agony aunt Mrs Bird. Emmy takes it upon herself to answer the letters Mrs Bird discards. A light hearted but also sometimes heart breaking read. I hope there is a sequel. ❤️⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock ~ Imogen Hermes Gowar ( 2018). Who can resist a novel with mermaid in the title. Not me! A lonely childless widower and a high class ,but down on her luck courtesan’s paths become entwined, through the discovery of a mermaid. This is a discriptive historical novel set in 18th Century London , with a scaly touch of the supernatural. Although I was eager to see how the book would end, I did not find myself warming to the characters, some of whose stories seemed to end… unfinished. ⭐⭐⭐

Nightingale Wood ~ Stella Gibbons ( 1938). It seems that the esteemed writer of Cold Comfort Farm actually wrote shelve loads of books, most out of print until recent times. Nightingale Wood is billed as a modern version of Cinderella ~ modern in the thirties that is, when it was written. Viola is our Cinderella, a young widow now living with her stuffy in-laws. Her father in law rules the roost and his two daughters are dying of boredom. One wants a dog and the other wants the chauffeur. Viola herself falls for a dashing young man who lives in the big house through the woods, but his intentions arent exactly honourable. This book isn’t just a fluffy love story, it’s an observation of how the restrictions of sex and class in the thirties shaped everyday life. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Bird And A Poem ~ Magpie.

Returning to a blog post series I began twelve months ago, I’m posting a bird photo, along with a corresponding poem from this lovely book The British Museum Birds. Each poem in the anthology is matched with a gorgeous illustration from the British Museums vast collection of artworks. Today I’ve chosen a poem by W. H. Davies entitled Magpies.

In the book the poem is matched with this beautiful Chinese woodcut on paper, entitled Magpies and Plum Tree by Ding Liangxian.

Magpies

I have an orchard near my house

Where poppies spread and corn has grown ;

It is a holy place for weeds,

Where seeds stay on and flower, till blown.

Into this orchard, wild and quiet,

The magpie comes, the owl and rook:

To see one magpie is not well,

But seeing two brings all good luck.

If magpies think the same , and say,

Two humans bring good luck, not one’ –

How they must cheer us, love, together,

And tremble when I come alone!

W. H. DAVIES ( 1871 -1940).

England.

P1000447
Hello Mr Magpie!

Are you one of those crazy people ( like me) that always greets solitary magpies? I don’t think I’m a superstitious person, but I still find myself calling ‘ Hello Mr Magpie’ when I see one perched alone, cackling at me from a tree. P1000445

It is amusing to think that the magpies cackle may be a greeting to a solitary human too.

Are you superstitious about magpies?