Tag Archives: cup of tea

Reading Week: Day Two

Mainly Twitter. And scrolling news bars.

I’m afraid that with the dramatic events in the UK’s general election last night, any hope of serious reading has gone out of the window now.

I have, however, discovered the point of Twitter. Using it for rolling news, instant reaction to an event, scrolling while watching live tv, this is a perfect medium to keep yourself informed, up to date and entertained. I now love it!

However, the uncertain outcome of the election is driving me back to the novel. Off to take my chosen prizewinning, dystopian, feminist sci-fi novel out for coffee before the school run. At least I’ll find a coherent narrative here, regardless of the news outlets.

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Posted by on 09/06/2017 in Life, Uncategorized


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Reading Week: Day One

I have inadvertently found myself with a week off work; not through illness, just badly timed annual leave. I am still needed for the delights of the school run and the nightly unplugging of the children followed by pyjama-wrestling, so have to make do with a ‘limited hours only staycation’.

I shall read.

Stuff the housework. Stuff cultural destinations (unless they have comfy chairs and nice tea). Stuff the weather. I shall being to tackle the pile of proofs and my TBR bookcase.

Here goes…

I returned from a HarperCollins event with a box of books, to add to the already amassed pile from work.

(Apologies for the poor quality photos; impressionistic only!)

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Posted by on 08/06/2017 in Life, Reading space


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Book Review: The Silent Wife

Is this new addition to the wife-lit/misery-marriage canon worth the hype?
With a similarly dark cover, enticing cover quotes and rave reviews, one cannot avoid comparison with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
Todd and Jodi have been together for over twenty years; not married although everyone assumes so. They live in an enviable apartment in Chicago; he a property developer, she a psychotherapist. They are childless but are accompanied by their dog, Freud. Their relationship reaches a crisis point as she discovers the latest in a series of affairs. Something has to be done.
Told in alternating chapters, the tension builds slowly. In fact, the cover ‘blub’ evokes a particular expectation which, in the end, is much more subtle.
The characters are well-rounded and engaging; there is much description of the trappings of their lives and its reflection of their unhappiness. This is a very well written thriller. The ending is not quite as expected; a little lacklustre compared to other thrillers. However, part of the enjoyment is in the journey, not just the destination, and I would recommend this ride. It’s worth (most of) the hype.
(received from

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Posted by on 25/03/2014 in Uncategorized


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New Year: New Challenge

No more themes.
No more book buying!
Yes, in an attempt to halt the flow of books cascading through our house, I have vowed not to buy any more books for the whole of 2014. I intend to ‘watch less, read more’.

I'm trying to avoid too much of this...

I’m trying to avoid too much of this…

The ‘no book buying rules’ in full:
1) I shall not buy books for myself for the whole year;
2) I can (if necessary) buy books for others or my children (they cannot have birthdays or Christmas without new books!);
3) I can swap books;
4) There is no limit to the number of books I give away;
5) I can exchange books at Barter Books in Alnwick, as long as I do not pay for them with cash;
6) I cannot download titles I have to pay for;
7) I could download free classics if I don’t already have a paper copy (up for debate);
8) I can receive books as gifts;
9) I can order or reserve books from my local library;
10) There is no limit to the number of books I borrow from my local library.

By the way, as you’ll probably have gathered from the monthly photos of my home library, there is no concern that I will run out of reading material. My bookcases are overflowing, there are books in every room of the house; my Kindle(s) are packed with over 900 books and our local library is excellent.

I anticipate the first few weeks, even months to be difficult. Even the past few days have been tricky. I have been challenged when shopping or late-night browsing. I have disabled my Amazon account and have not gone into my local charity shops in the hope of keeping away from temptation.

However, I hope our finances are improved, my addiction is lessened, and some of those toppling towers of books are out of the house over the coming months.
I am also hoping that by ‘going public’ with my addiction, I will be supported in my resolution.

Do you ‘suffer’ with book-buying-compulsions? Do you seek the thrill of a new (second hand) book? Do you listen to/watch book-related programmes with pen in hand to jot down titles to then order online? Do you love the anticipation of a fresh book joining others on your shelves?
Do you feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of unread paper on your shelves? Do you just not know how to start reducing the number you buy? Do you not know where to start reading?
Do all your efforts at reducing the number you have end up in a half-hearted ‘prune’ of a few tens but with the discovery of more great reads you’d forgotten you had?
Do you have unintentional duplicate copies of novels you’ve not even read?
Welcome to Book-Addicts Anonymous!

The only difficulty now is just what to read?!

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Posted by on 05/01/2014 in Book-ish things, Life, Reading space


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A Victorian End of Year Review (of sorts)

ImageVaultHandler_aspxAnd so, the end of 2013 has passed… and so has my two-year themed reading challenge. It’s been such fun choosing a monthly theme then piling up the appropriate books with fevered anticipation. And then posting gratuitous pictures of my personal library. The total of books read thematically has been less than impressive, as seen on my Good Reads list.

Organising my reading thematically has given me focus, made me take books off my shelves (even if they’re just been piled up and reshelved after a couple of months), and challenged me to discover new authors and genres.

However, it has sometimes been restrictive and the blogging element of the experiment has fallen by the wayside a little. I haven’t reflected on the themes deeply enough, perhaps because the reading in the end hasn’t been so focused. I’m still distracted by all the books I haven’t read, and all the books which keep piling up in our house.

So October’s theme, which melded into November and (oops!) into December, was Victoriana. I loved the anticipation of this and found some delicious looking books on my shelves (see previous post). The few novels I managed to read were successfully atmospheric and (perhaps) overly dramatic. Some were set in brothels with suitable emphasis on sexual proclivities (The Crimson Petal and the White in particular; not too gratuitous but with an engaging narrative style. And stonking good plot). There was swirling fog, gorgeous dresses, and grisly murders (at times). They all seemed to be hefty tomes with complicated plots and lots of sex. Perhaps it’s an attempt to redress the balance of our mis-conception that the Victorians repressed everything. (see Matthew Sweet’s Inventing the Victorians to redress the balance)

Reading contemporary novels set in the Victorian era has been an interesting contrast to the style and content of the ‘real’ Victorian novels I’ve already read.  Some of the Victoriana was almost a self-conscious parody, seeking to recapture the thrills of a Victorian ‘sensationalist novel’ but failing. I’d rather read Wilkie Collins or Mary Braddon, thanks.

I would recommend anyone to try a year, or a few months, reading within a certain theme; whether a particular author, setting, genre, subject matter. I have discovered some gems and authors I wouldn’t have otherwise have tried. Get out of your comfort zone and look in a different part of your local bookshop or library.


And so as I look ahead into 2014, I’m resolving to ‘watch less, read more.’ I have many books piled up waiting to be read and am looking forward to a year’s ‘free reading’, returning to my old habits of reading different books, whatever takes my fancy…
…. but with the twist that I cannot buy any more books for myself for the whole year.

Now, that’s an idea for a year’s worth of blog posts…


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On book-ish things

Yesterday I bought a bag.
Not a very exciting purchase you might think; perhaps not even worthy of mentioning in a blog, certainly not as the opening line.
But just look at the bag:

Yesterday's new things: gorgeous tea, trainers for daughter, bag for me.

Yesterday’s new things: gorgeous tea, trainers for daughter, bag for me.

I simply couldn’t resist it. I have many reusable cotton bags and certainly don’t need any more. But it’s a pseudo-retro-print of ‘Jane Eyre’: the only book I am ever able to decide upon as my favourite book, one of the few books I will happily and regularly read again, and one of those novels which has shaped my life (perhaps a subject worthy of another blog post?)
It wasn’t cheap but it cheered me up. It is also full of library books awaiting their return today: it’s useful and beautiful.
But did I really need it? And why could I not resist another book-related ‘thing’, as useful and gorgeous as this is?

I already have these lovely things:
Book mugs on a book tableBook-ish notebooks (one is half written in; I feel I have to write 'special' things in it, not just shopping lists)

Book mugs on a book-table, book-ish notebooks (one is half written in (I feel I have to write ‘special’ things in it, not just shopping lists)image

Our walls are decorated with books in so many different ways. The poster of Emily was bought on a ‘pilgrimage’ to Haworth when I was 14; framed for my 16th birthday: melodramatic, moi?! Its Wuthering Heights counterpart from The Shipley Art Gallery’s exhibition celebrating Penguin books a few years ago.

I simply love these things; both in terms of design and in what they represent.My book related accessories reflect my book obsession.
If can’t be reading when outside or socialising, then a bag, mug or jewellery is almost as good.
But, of course it isn’t. It’s aesthetic rather than actuality.

I  have this bookcase in our living room (non-fiction):

And the other set in the living room is like this; this one’s double stacked (fiction, alphabetical):


You may be pleased to hear that I am not going to photograph every bookcase or pile of books in our house. I recently realised there are significant

Are you as frustrated as me that you can't see the titles in this 'to read' pile?

Are you as frustrated as me that you can’t see the titles in this ‘to read’ pile?

numbers of books in every room, except for our small bathroom. (The only time a book’s in there is if we’ve left our bathtime reading on the floor, probably perilously close to a puddle of water. Books don’t last long in that room.)

Books are an alternative form of decoration. They’re bright and varied, intensely personal (if you really have chosen them yourself rather than buying them by the yard as I’ve heard of in hotels and pubs), and are a great form of insulation.

And yet, sometimes they are overwhelming. The bookcases tower above me, demanding my time, energy and interest. I feel a sense of guilt of ownership and pressure to read when I realise how many books I own. It’s almost although I’m behind with my homework. (I’m always behind with my housework)

But who’s pressurising me to accumulate, to read, to feel overwhelmed?
Well, there’s this self-imposed structure of monthly reading themes and the discipline of writing this blog (this month’s theme reflection to follow soon-ish). There’s the feeling that I ‘should’ have read certain books, keeping up with the latest bestsellers or filling reading gaps in the classics canon (not many, admittedly; I spent most of my teenage years reading Victorian melodramas).
But why? Who cares what I’ve read?
I do.
And reading is (almost) never a waste of time.

I know books are inanimate, the pressure is internal, the guilt is misplaced. Most books are second hand, charity shop buys; my financial outlay is very modest compared to a habit of mortgage-sized shoes or excessively priced handbags (no, tote bags aren’t included in this!).

And, of course, books are so useful, aren’t they?
They DO something.
Books are much more than items of furniture or decoration; more than something to be looked at, their beauty proclaimed.
Their true value lies within.
Behind the covers you could encounter anything. No matter how new, glossy and vibrant or dog-eared, peeling and dull, the words within have the same potential to thrill and transform, entertain and educate. You cannot judge a book by its cover.
Hang on, that sounds like a profound message, a parable for life.
No matter how our ‘covers’ appear, our true value is within. It is discovered over time. You need to gently pick up the book, start to leaf through the pages, and spend energy, imagination and time in someone else’s company.image

No, there’s never enough.
Perhaps I should be spending the time I lust after beautiful fripperies at The Literary Gift Company reading; the time I spend idly, aimlessly browsing on Amazon, reading; the time I spend looking at new Kindle covers, instead turning on my Kindle and reading; the time I spend browsing in the library, sitting in a corner reading. With a cup of tea in ‘The Common Reader’ mug, of course.

The book accessories are fun and nicely designed but I know they shouldn’t replace my reading resources, either time or money.

But my Jane Eyre cotton bag is so much more attractive than a plastic supermarket bag, don’t you think?

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Posted by on 26/06/2013 in Uncategorized


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On Not Reading Fiction

As expected, April’s reading challenge was cruel; i completed fewer books than I expected and only dipped into a fraction of what i had hoped for. Of course, non-fiction isn’t really a category or genre. It’s limitless in scope; many people never read fiction and never run out of interesting books. To be honest, it made as much sense to choose ‘non-fiction’ this month as it might have done to read only ‘fiction’ one month without specifying author, style, theme, content, etc.

Although this was intended to be a challenge outside my comfort zone, I gravitated towards areas I’ve already studied: history (British, English, monarchs, Tutors and Victorians mainly), theology (Christian, usually contemporary, Anglican, liberal), autobiography or memoir, with a sprinkling of contemporary poetry.

As I found last year, I read less during this ‘no fiction’ month. Perhaps the lure of a story well told is the most compelling choice; a book full of information about ‘stuff’, no matter how well and entertainingly written doesn’t leap into my hand alongside my cup of tea. I know it should. I know there is a plethora of well-written, gripping reads which happen to be ‘not made up’. Many such books adorn my shelves (in the non-fiction section of my ‘library’, arranged by subject rather than alphabetically; I’m not that obsessed with order.). I simply ran out of the time (and some days, the inclination) to dive in head first.

20130404-143451.jpg As I reflect on what I read (or didn’t read) in April, I realise that non-fiction is easier to ‘dip into’; to dabble with a bit of this, a dash of that, not desperate to follow the plot to the end. Although many historical books read like fiction (the soap opera of the Tudor dynasty for example), there isn’t the same sense of loss when you reshelve a book unfinished. I can always pick it up again, refresh, then continue where I left off. I usually know the end result if it’s historical; memoirs can often be delightfully gossipy or impressionistic; theology can be life-adjusting, knowledge without time limit.

Some months seem to be time for ‘dipping’; more time spent living than reading. Times to choose to watch a film together rather than trying to read while he screen-surfs; going to reading group, meet-the-author events and a quiz on World Book Night rather than staying in, reading. (We won the satisfyingly challenging quiz though; found some use for all that information at last); checking out piles of library books only to return them a few weeks later, having moved them around the house, to be reshelved unread, until the next borrower.

So, what did I dip into?
As I type, I am faced with a small pile of general theology/Christian life titles: The Life and Work of a Priest (Pritchard), Praying the Jesus Prayer Together (Ramon & Barrington-Ward), The Wounded Healer (Nouwen) alongside a couple of books on Islam and the Qu’ran.
I am also about to start (breaking my rules on changing topic each month: live dangerously!): Unapologetic by Francis Spufford. I’ve heard great things about this apologetic of ‘why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense’. I’m looking forward this reading this one.

Iimage‘ve also been reading about writing: Reading Like a Writer (Prose (the author not the style of reading: great name, I know!)), Who’s Afraid of Jane Austen? (Hitchings), How to Read a Book (Adler & van Doren) and the wonderfully glossy re-vamped The New Writer Magazine. I’m hoping these will inspire me to continue to find time to write alongside my reading.

Historical books have included: Crown & Country (David Starkey; one to return to as I only made it as far as the 7th C), Winter King (Thomas Penn, the reign of Henry VII), Behind Palace Doors (Michael Farquhar). Alongside this English monarchy-obsessed dip I’ve enjoyed watching Lucy Worsley’s new BBC series Fit to Rule which explored the lives of English monarchs through their physical and mental illnesses. I realise I know very little about the Hanovarians; I though Queen Anne was only a style of chair – I should have known better.

Iimage am glad I gave myself chance to start Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I’ve been too busy being a forcibly extrovert Mummy recently to continue much further than the first chapter but I hope to find more ‘quiet’ to read and reflect further on the characteristics and power of introverts.

The memoirs I have read, in varying degrees of completion, include: In the Blood (Andrew Motion), It’s Not Me, It’s You (Jon Richardson), With the Kisses of His Mouth (Monique Roffey), The Book of Silence (Sara Maitland), Out of Me (Fiona Shaw; an author I met this month), Wife in the North (Judith O’Reilly), Call the Midwife (Jennifer Worth), A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English (Shappi Khorsandi).image

Still untouched on my shelves are a few books I had every intention of enjoying: Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match (Wendy Moore), Shelf Life (Simon Parke), She-Wolves (Helen Castor; admittedly, I read up to page 57 last year), Delusions of Gender (Cornelia Fine), Elizabeth (David Starkey), Watching the English (Kate Fox) – and that’s just one shelf.

A month of trying to not read fiction has whetted my appetite for more stories. However, I shall try to temper my joy of stories with at least one non-fiction choice. A little learning can go a long way…

This month’s main tea of choice: Fortnum & Mason’s Yunnan loose leaf tea (!)

Postscript: This month’s reading group fiction choice was: The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne. An emotionally involving court-room thriller set in the North-East. Worth giving up non-fiction reading time for.


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