Book review – Alan Powers – “Living With Books” #amreading #books #bookconfessions


A lovely coffee-table book today which wasn’t in my planned reading for the month, but it’s been flopping around on my TBR shelf and having to be carefully fitted in and not dropped, and so I decided it was time to bring it out and leaf through it. I’ve been reading it gradually through the month, a lovely alternative place to go at quite a busy time! Also watch out for some book confessions …

Alan Powers – “Living With Books”

(21 January 2017 – from Gill, for my birthday)

How exciting a book that arrived this year being read out of the TBR, but as I explained above, it is slightly out of order – you can see it with the turquoise spine in the picture.

It’s  a lovely, lavishly illustrated book full of beautiful photos of rooms in houses and other spaces full of books, too perfect to be actually inspiring for something you’d do in your own house, but delightful to look at!

It’s bookended (hah) by a history of books and their production and a section on how to make your own bookshelves and the care of books, so it’s a lovely resource. It looks at topics as large as home offices and as niche as trompe d’oeil wall coverings and is a delight to read through.

I’ve recently acquired Daniel Tammet’s “Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing: Encounters with the Mysteries & Meanings of Language” to review for Shiny New Books, plus Robert Andrew Powell’s “Running Away” about marathon running and Virginia Hanlon Grohl’s (Dave Grohl’s mum!) “From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars”, the latter two in the Kindle sale although I feel I’ll want the last one in a real book. I’ve also won a book on self-publishers through the ages from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme, having not requested anything for months and months, but that hasn’t arrived yet.

I’m still reading “Madame Solario” but fear I won’t have it done by the end of August or the end of #20Books as it is a biggie. Very good, though. I’m off to the Iris Murdoch Conference at the weekend, so will be taking the Tammet and some post-its and my Kindle to that and trying not to come back with too many more tomes …


New acquisitions and some excitement of my own … #bookconfessions


I’ve had another little burst of book-buying and I don’t always like mixing that up with Persephone reviews or Shiny New Books links, so I thought I’d do a post about those. And I’ve got some exciting book news of my own – I know some of my readers will know this already, as I shared it on my work blog, but this is where I have kept details of my Iris Murdoch project and I wanted to share with you, too, that I’ve finally finished my research project.

Four pretty books that seem to go together first (I could have taken the labels of those two, couldn’t I – but they’re shelved now! “Proust and the Squid” is about the science of reading, it was passed to me via BookCrossing by my friend Sian and I know just the friends in Cornwall who will find it interesting, so will take that down to read on my autumn trip and then pass it along. “Adventures at Black Pony Inn” was bought last week because I was basically sick of seeing “FURTHER Adventures at Black Pony Inn” sitting on my Extra Pile, waiting for its forebear (excitingly, this was listed as a paperback but is a nice substantial hardback). Clare Balding’s “Walking Home” is not exactly an update on her autobiography (“My Animals and Other Family“) but about walking and her life in general, apparently. And Robert MacFarlane’s “The Old Ways” is one of those books EVERYONE has read, isn’t it, and I really should, again about walking, and the old tracks of the countryside (I’m assuming this is like Roger Deakin’s “Waterlog” and you’re all going to tell me you’ve read it).

Now, I do like a nice walk although I’m a complete wuss when it comes to “undulations” and scree slopes and business like that. Give me a road to run down and I’m happy, though, the longer the better. There are almost infinite numbers of running-related books out there, and I’m even in a running readers Facebook group, but this one was mentioned by my friend Cari (old BookCrossing friend, now a happy new runner) as something she thought I’d recommended to her – nope, and then I looked, and then I clicked and now I’ve got a copy, too. How did that happen? Anyway, it looks rather good, all about running round at the back of marathons, with cartoons and everything. I have a few running books I need to dig out to read before I do my next marathon in October – although I’ve already got another booked for the spring (NOT London, not yet) so there’s plenty of time, I hope. Anyway, one more running book on the shelf, and it looks like a quick read.

A little bit of self-congratulation now. For seven years – yes, SEVEN YEARS, I’ve been doing a very part-time, very unofficial research project on what I would call (Virginia Woolf’s) Common Readers but might be called Ordinary Readers – you and me, really, and Iris Murdoch. First I compelled a group of friends to read all her novels in chronological order (this was the start of our various enthusiasms for doing the same with Hardy, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Pym, etc., all ending up with Dorothy Richardson!) and then I managed to persuade 25 book groups to read “The Bell” and fill in a questionnaire for me. Imagine! Anyway, I tried to write it up as well and as academically as I could, various ideas about doing official research or approaching a publisher were posited, but all of that seemed too formalised and deadline-bound for what I could manage between paid work, volunteering, reading and running, so I ploughed my own furrow right to the end and have produced a write-up myself.

So, here it is, and I’m going to put the Amazon links up so you can go and have a look at it if you want to, but no one should feel compelled to (I’ve stopped making people read things now!). It’s funny to have it all out of my system and to be going to the Iris Murdoch Society Conference next month without quivering about doing a presentation on my Work in Progress, and not having it hanging over me, unfinished, lurking in the corners, but I’m quite proud that I saw it through to the end.

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon US Buy from Amazon CA Buy from Amazon AU Buy from Amazon FR Buy from Amazon ES

Have you read any of these books (not my one, the other ones!)? Am I last to the pile with “The Old Ways” yet again?

Book review – Annie Darling – “True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop” #amreading #books


Another NetGalley read from the publishers HarperCollins – I couldn’t resist jumping almost straight into this one after I so enjoyed the first in the series, “The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts“. This series really is a treat; yes, they are essentially light and fun romances, but they have a lovely community of characters and enough literary references to satisfy this reader, at least. Highly recommended for a gentle and fun read that you won’t be able to put down.

And it never stops – those pesky (not pesky) NetGalley emails pop through and before you know it, you have a book called “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows” popped into your Kindle. Just the kind of multi-generational, cross-cultural novel I love and should be another treat.

Annie Darling – “True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop”

(ebook, downloaded 11 July 2017)

Starting almost where the last book left off, this tells the story of what happens when introvert Verity, the assistant manager of the shop and someone who refuses to even work the till, ditches her completely imaginary boyfriend and takes up with a real man – but not a boyfriend – for the summer of social doings where it’s so much easier to have a plus one than be badgered with blind dates. She’s not to fall in love with him, however, because his Heart Belongs To Another.

So yes, the central story is light and a little silly because you kind of think they’re bound to end up together, but it’s very charming because of the layers and intelligence of the structure around it. Plus there’s not one of those shoehorned-in Imagined Peril sub-plots that lesser novels often seem to use to build the tension. Verity has a wonderful family of loud sisters and a Vicar dad / The Vicar’s Wife mum, and they’re beautifully drawn. She has a quote from Pride and Prejudice for every occasion and a cat for comic relief (and I trusted the cat-loving author to look after him, which she thankfully did), plus Poor Alan, the Vicarage dog, complete with bee-keeping outfit (I have a friend who will love this book just on the strength of that). There’s an excellent villainess and one point where the reader can feel clever knowing they’ve picked up a clue Verity hasn’t, and believable friendships among the characters and the businesses around the shop, which gives a lovely solid aspect to the book.

And who can beat a writer who can do a lovely light romance and also work in references to E.M. Delafield and have her family of lively sisters look back fondly on their favourite game of “Being the Mitford Sisters”? It’s wry and clear-headed and modern, and while there’s not as much bookshop detail as in the first novel (although the mysterious PhD student, Tom, with his bow-ties and cardigans is described as catnip for female shoppers!), it’s just as good as the first one and I can’t wait for the next in the series to come out!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for making this available in return for an honest review.

I’m still currently reading “Their Eyes were Watching God” and “Eat and Run” (a funny pairing, but one upstairs and one down, so they don’t get mixed up) and I’m hoping for some solid reading time over the weekend to get those done and burrow into a Persephone. What does the weekend’s bookiness hold for you?


State of the TBR – August 2017 #amreading #books


Well, here’s the current state of the TBR and it’s, erm, about the same as it was last month? I’ve actually got round to adding things up now, and I read 13 books in July … but I acquired 12 (Oh, I’ve reviewed 11, don’t worry. The Marian Keyes I read has to be reviewed next month and the Stuart Maconie will come out on Shiny New Books in a few days and then on here, too). The print ones all appear under the Book Confessions tag, but I do appear to have snuck some through on the e-book side, too – you can see which ones I downloaded in July from NetGalley in the photo below, plus I can confess to having bought the e-books “The KLF” by John Higgs and “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight. Oops. No wonder this picture is similar to July’s!

Moving on hastily, these are the two books I’m currently reading. I’m kind of toying with “Run for your Life” as it’s not really what I expected, being a plan for sorting your problems out while running which isn’t coming at the right time for me really, but it does have some interesting points, for example on how to listen while running, so I will persevere. “The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts” is a well-written and intelligent delight, it really is – with references to Angela Thirkell – yes, it is a romance, but there’s plenty more detail about running a bookshop, etc., and a range of interesting characters. I bought this because I won the sequel on NetGalley and I’m really looking forward to that now.

Coming up, well, here’s the paper version. I will be going against my “read in acquisition order” policy here, although actually all of the front row of my TBR apart from “Eat & Run” arrived for Christmas or Birthday or was bought with a book token in January, so they’re not exactly widely spaced out. Anyway, thanks to the 20 Books Of Summer project, and All Virago / All August, which is a challenge done in the LibraryThing Virago Group online, once I’ve read “Eat & Run”, I will be picking off the two Virago books and three Persephones before the other books by other publishers. Shocking, I know, but fortunately I do do this every August. I also suspect I’ll be saving the Simon Armitage for when I’m in Cornwall again later in the year. Other books that will feature this month are Linda Gillard’s two in my Pile so I can get them all shared out via BookCrossing.

And here’s my NetGalley TBR, in publication order – if you can see this (can you expand it?), you will see that I haven’t had the older ones for ages but downloaded them fairly recently.  I will make a big effort to read the ones that are being published in August or are just published, and will I’m sure push on to the second “Little Bookshop” volume.

How’s your TBR?

Book review – Susie Dent – “How to Talk Like a Local” plus #20BooksOfSummer update and one confession #amreading


So here’s Book 14 in my #20BooksOfSummer campaign, and just under two-thirds of the way through the time period we have to read our 20 books so I’m OK with being at 14/20, although I’m not reading any 20Books books right now. It’s been a diverse range so far, with six novels and eight works of non-fiction, six by women and eight by men (not the same six and eight) – this will even out with the remaining six, with four by women and two by men, and just the one non-fiction to come.

Susie Dent – “How to Talk Like a Local”

(03 December – from Sian for my BookCrossing Birmingham Not So Secret Santa)

I think this is the last NSS book chosen beautifully from my wishlist, although there are still a fair few Christmas then birthday books to get through. Not such a small book at it appears, with really quite small print, this is a fun look at British dialect words, with separate sections by Simon Elmes about particular regional accents and dialects. I liked the emphasis on new words being formed and older ones spreading and changing meaning and recognised a few from places I’ve lived or people I’ve known from various regions. I was pleased to see “coopy down” for squat, from the South-West, as this is a word I remember my Gran using.

The book does lean a little heavily on Simon Elmes’ “Talking for Britain” and also mentions Carl Chinn’s “Proper Brummie”, both books I’ve read, so not a lot seemed hugely new but it was entertaining.

This was Book 14 in my #20BooksOfSummer challenge.

I popped out to buy some picture frames and came home with some headache pills, a drinking straw dispenser and David Weir, the wheelchair athlete’s biography, as you do … I’ve already shelved it so no pics for a fairly long time, although you’ll get to see my TBR tomorrow.

I’m currently reading, as I mentioned, two non-20Books books. Arriving at the same time, “Run for your Life” is not what I expected, being a whole scheme you have to follow in order to run mindfully and solve all your problems – probably not the right thing to do in the middle of marathon training – and “The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts” opens on the street I used to live off and has an intelligent knowledge of literature and an engaging story so far. Then it’s on to “Eat and Run” before plunging into Virago and Persephone land for a bit. And you?

Book review – Adam Nicolson – “When God Spoke English” and some book confessions #20booksofsummer #amreading


I’m rattling through those 20BooksOfSummer books although I’m not sure I’ll get all the non-Viragoes done by the end of Monday. I have got a bus journey and post-long-run lolling to do tomorrow, though, so you never know. I popped to the local town centre of Solihull today to buy (oh, the thrills) my special cheese (I found a low-fat, high-protein alternative, should really write about that one day) and Lakeland’s bathroom mould remover (which promised so much and delivered … so much!) but unfortunately the bus stop is by an Oxfam Books and it would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it? Anyway, first a review of an excellent book …

Adam Nicolson – “When God Spoke English”

(01 December 2016 – charity shop)

I bought this when I was supposed to be buying Christmas presents – oopsie. But as I’ve often said, if Nicolson rewrote the phone book, I’d read it – he’s a real go-to author. I must get his latest one about sea birds, although it’s elegaic, apparently.

Anyway, this is a carefully done, impeccably researched and beautifully written history of the creation of the King James Bible. Starting with a vivid account of the accession of James to the throne (how much did you know about him? Me, not so much), we meet the various characters who get involved with the translation, some of whom initially took part in complex negotiations over the direction the church was going to take which motivated this new work. We then get as much detail as is available on the rules of how it was to be done (this was a fascinating chapter), who did it and how it was done, going into detail on some passages and comparing them with the sources and even modern translations. Lastly, there’s some information about the printing (rather haphazard) and selling of the bible and its subsequent revisions.

It’s very big on how different Jacobean thought and society was to ours, with humility sitting next to grandeur and florid decoration exposed by huge plain windows, all steeped in religion like you couldn’t imagine now. He touches on trade, nonconformists and the complex world which all led to rich translations with multiple layers of meaning, most of which are lost now, particularly in modern biblical translations: “The flattening of language is a flattening of meaning”. There’s a lovely sense of the compactness of Jacobean high society, with everyone seemingly linked and busily using those links to gain preferment.

A celebration of a word-obsessed king and a major achievement which has left few records. There are good illustrations of the main characters and a close reading that should satisfy most people.

Note that this has, weirdly, also been published under the titles “Power and Glory. Jacobean England and the Making of the King James Bible” and “God’s Secretaries. The Making of the King James Bible”.

This was Book 13 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.

Now onto those confessions.

I didn’t realise until I was taking them to the counter that I’d picked up two books with “Accidental” in the title! However, I have made a bit of a blunder! Lucy Hawking’s “The Accidental Marathon Runner” did seem a little familiar, and yes, I read it in 2009 (review here). So I’m going to have to offer that to fellow reading runners now! One less on the TBR. Vikas Swarup’s “The Accidental Apprentice” is the book he published after what I read as “Q & A” but became “Slumdog Millionaire” so he obviously has a thing about adapting TV shows for books, as this one has a woman plucked from obscurity by a businessman, except she has to clear some hurdles first. It looked like the kind of book Mr Liz might be interested in, and we haven’t done a readalong/listenalong for a while, so …

And here is what I think is the last George Eliot I haven’t yet read! I was (not exactly) famous for only having read “Middlemarch” for years and years – but that over and over again, three or four times. Then a friend gave me a copy of “Daniel Deronda” and it was one of my top ten reads of the year (review here) and then I’ve gradually acquired all of her books and read them – but not forcing the issue (so that I spaced them out) but as I found them. I’ve, of course, loved them all (apart from “The Lifted Veil” but that’s notoriously odd), and you can see all my reviews on this search result here. So, when I spotted this, I couldn’t resist.

Only two added to the TBR, then: all good. Have you acquired recently, or diminished your TBR?

Book confessions and a book I can’t review yet! #amreading #books


I’ve just finished reading Marian Keyes’ newest novel, “The Break”, acquired from the publisher via NetGalley, but although I can submit my review via NetGalley, I’m not allowed to review it on here until a week before publication – which means 31 August! So here are some nice new acquisitions. Because I never said I was on a break from buying books, did I?

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts

Hope you’re liking the glimpses of our new duvet cover here. I had to buy this one, “The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts” (honest, guv), because I won the sequel, “True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop” from NetGalley, of course not realising it WAS a sequel until it was too late. Oopsie. I really do not like reading the second book in a series first, so I got this on Amazon marketplace (it seems to be unread) and will have to zip through it first. It looks a little lighter than most of the books I read except by favoured authors, but has good reviews. Anyone read it?


This one is the fault of a Runner’s Bookshelf group I’m in on Facebook, which basically consists of wicked people recommending running books to each other. It’s even teal-coloured, which is totally the club colour of the other running club in South Birmingham – shocking! Anyway, I love the tactile cover and am interested in the way it seems to solidify the good mental health benefits of running. As I’m now an England Athletics Mental Health Ambassador (along with two clubmates) and helping with a Run and Talk event started by the two MHAs at our sister club, I’m hoping this will give me some good ideas about active listening, etc. I note there are worksheets, however – shudder!

So there we go. One book I can’t talk about and two I will get round to reading before they would get to the top of the TBR under normal circs. A shocking way to go about things, right?!

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