Dec 2013 TBRI thought I’d read more books this month so far, but there are always these few days when the world is quiet, my work is (sometimes) (a bit) quiet(er) and I can delve away into good books in preparation for getting the TBR shipshape to receive any new additions that might have come in.

As my niece might say, “There MIGHT be some more books to put on your shelf”. Yes, there are. And you get to see pics of those at the end of this post. First off, though, I’ve got two books about groups of women that I really did happen to read in sequence. I was a bit worried that they might seem a bit samey, but all was OK in the end!

Kate Harrison – “The Boot Camp”

(03 July 2013 – gift from my friend, Verity)

This was one of a pair of books my friend Verity kindly sent to me back in July. She said she’d enjoyed it, and it looked to be based around exercise, so that’ll do me! Steph, Darcy and Vicki attend a boot camp in the countryside (one that promises – but spectacularly fails to deliver – luxury alongside the sweating and lycra) for very different reasons. What will they learn about themselves, their reasons for being there and the two ex-Army chaps running the fitness side of things? And will the snow that’s threatened trap them there forever?

Well-written and funny, there’s a range of different characters, with different voices, and although romance is present, it’s not the sole focus of the book. Different topics, for example Afghanistan, are skilfully woven into the story without being gratuitous or jarring, and the men are written as well as the women, and there is a satisfying and believable amount of information about the exercise regime. Funny and heart-warming, and I would read more by this author.

Barbara J. Zitwer – “The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society”

(11 July 2013 – Fopp, Manchester)

I bought this one on our “Northern Odyssey” holiday in July, in Fopp in Manchester. I hadn’t meant to have a huge book splurge on holiday, but this was near to the start of it, and where the rot set in – I blame our friends Paul and Jeremy, who lured us into a shop we don’t have in Birmingham and waved various tomes at us …

New Yorker Joey finds herself working on her dream architectural project – the restoration of the house in which Barrie wrote “Peter Pan”. The locals, especially the caretaker, are not welcoming, however, although the caretaker’s daughter latches on to Joey as a rare example of a woman near to her age who she can really talk to. As Joey gets the space to explore her feelings about her ex-boyfriend and about her old best friendship with a woman whose life is now so different from hers, she comes across the Swimming Society, a group of elderly women who decided to work on staying friends decades ago, and have pretty well succeeded. Appreciating their wisdom and the down-to-earth friendship they offer is one thing, but the rifts are still there, and it might take something momentous to heal them before Joey slots back into her old life without making any of the necessary changes.

A good read with a delightful – surviving – dog and a lot to say about the nature of friendship – female and male. Again, there is a romance element, but female friendship and liberation remain more important.

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December 2013 1Christmas acquisitions! Well, first of all we had the BookCrossing Christmas Meal, at Las Iguanas in the city, and I was given this lovely pile of books by Julia. I’ve written about these ones here already, but I’ll just add that I’m really looking forward to reading these excellent choices (and the TBR is down to a shelf and a pile, so I hopefully won’t take 5 months to get to them!

And then we had Christmas Day, which starts with the traditional opening of another (not so) secret santa, this time from the LibraryThing Virago Group. I have to admit that I did suspect dear Verity to be my santa, as I recognised her writing on the envelope and on the gift tag inside. And she has now admitted responsibility. The internal evidence of the Lego Minifigure librarian, Bodleian colouring book, book set in the Bodleian (“Oxford Exit” by Veronica Stallwood) and book on the Underground, Stephen Halliday’s “Underground to Everywhere” (I’m reading one she sent me on this topic right now!) confirmed this anyway.

xmas books 2Then I’d taken a trip to the Persephone shop back in November, taking the opportunity to meet up with my friend Emma, and buying books for all of the Birmingham crew on behalf of one another for one another. This is a traditionally fraught undertaking involving spreadsheets and much confusion (and I will admit here to buying multiple copies of one particular book from me for the others, and from Matthew for me, to cut down on the complexity – it was on all of our wishlists!). I’d managed to wipe any memory of what people had bought me from my mind, so was thrilled to find “The Two Mrs Abbots” by D. E. Stevenson, “A Woman’s Place” by Ruth Adam and “The Crowded Street” by Winifred Holtby (I now have all of Holtby’s novels in different editions!) as I unwrapped the piles. I was also very pleased to receive two books that have been on my wishlists for YEARS – Paul Magrs’ “Strange Boy” and Michael Simkins’ “What’s My Motivation?” (a coming of age novel and a memoir about acting, respectively). A new addition to the wishlist and now my TBR was “The Great Typo Hunt”, which is about people wielding a marker in an attempt to make the whole world grammatical (I’d never do that, of course!

What a lovely selection – thank you so much to everyone who gave me lovely books (I was lucky enough to receive some non-book presents, too). I know one person who received NINETEEN books for Christmas – so go on, share – how many did you get and have you read any of these pictured?