Sometimes you need a palate-cleanser of an easy book amidst a sequence of more challenging ones, and dotted through my TBR you can find just those. This was an easy win, as it was one of my most recent acquisitions, spotted on my wishlist by Gill and appearing for my birthday. Only a short review as it’s a little book, but then I will share the new books that have come in this last week or so. Oops!

First an update on my Anja Snellman “Continents” competition. I put the names in alphabetical order and without them knowing that, asked the publisher to give me three random numbers (yes, they are giving away THREE print copies). Well done to Jillybeans, Kaggsy and Tredynas Days. The generous publisher has also offered e-copies to all participants, so you will have had an email from me with details of how to claim your prize by now.

Mary Mackie – “Cobwebs and Cream Teas”

(21 January 2019)

A slight volume, just the thing among heavier books, devoured and enjoyed quickly. Mary’s husband gets a job as houseman (general handyman and maintenance/cleaning coordinator, also deputising for the administrator) at a National Trust property, and they move into the flat that goes with it. We’re taken through a year in their lives, explaining the cleaning, preparing, displaying and closing routines with the addition of funny, stressful and occasionally sublime incidents. The author is a writer which allows her to get drawn into helping in the house but also means it’s well-written with some nice descriptive passages and the ability to set a scene. Chris is endlessly inventive, even inventing a new way to dust decorative plaster ceilings (only allowed once checked by the NT). Attractive drawings add to this edition.

Books in

When we were at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on Friday, Matthew noticed this on their display. A joint production of Birmingham University’s Cadbury Research Library and the BMAG, “The Birmingham Qur’an Manuscript” tells the story of the uncovering of a page of script from the Qur’an which PhD researcher Alba Fedeli matched with other leaves scattered in libraries across the world. There was something of a fuss about the dating of the page, whereas what was more interesting was the artefact as a palimpsest, with varied readings included and over-written. I have been lucky enough to work with Alba in my job, helping polish articles and documents (she speaks approximately 1 million languages) and so I had to snap it up. There are lovely reproductions of the actual pages, plus input from various people including a librarian and conservator I know! Really a pamphlet more than a book, but it had to be purchased!

My clever and practical friend Sian found these two books from my wishlist around birthday time and kept them in reserve in case the book she wanted to give me didn’t arrive. She had Matthew take them off my wishlist just in case, and now she’s read them herself, she’s passed them to me, anyway – hooray! (When I met her for a coffee, I gave her “Girls to the Front” which she’d given me for Christmas but I knew she’d enjoy.

Tim Parks’ “Where I’m Reading From” is according to the back “lively and provocative” – it’s pieces about what readers want from books and apparently how to look at literature in a new light. Kim Gordon’s memoir, “Girl in a Band” covers her time as a founding member of Sonic Youth and a lot more and has had a lot of positive talk.

Then I went to Shirley to meet my friend Linda for a coffee, I was a bit early and I popped into the charity shops. Sarah Vaughan’s “The Art of Baking Blind” is set in a baking competition – I enjoyed the Strictly novel I read years ago and this looks to be the Bake-Off equivalent. One of those light palate-cleansers I mentioned above; Linda’s already read and enjoyed it. Margot Lee Shetterley’s “Hidden Figures” was a good find – we watched the film about black woman “computers” at NASA in the first days of space flight at the weekend, talked about reading the book, and there it was! And Cathy Kelly’s “The House on Willow Street”, although from 2012, is one I haven’t spotted before: I like her reliably well-written stories of, usually, three or four women and their lives and issues. This one’s set by the sea instead of Dublin and looks fun.


Has anyone read any of these? I’m looking forward to getting to some of them reasonably soon, as I continue to read my TBR in my new way (oldest, newest, Kindle book). I’m currently reading “Invisible Women” for Shiny New Books and hope to have that reviewed for them soon, and will then start another NetGalley on the Kindle as I’m travelling to London to support the marathon this coming weekend.