Articles, Events

Announcement! Young Writer of the Year 2018

Happy Wednesday dear readers!

I am very pleased to announce that this year I am part of the Shadow Panel for the Young Writer of the Year Award. Along with four other book bloggers, I will be reading the books on the shortlist for the award and choosing a Shadow winner. They all look fascinating and I can’t wait to get stuck in! The shortlist will be announced on 4th November. Keep an eye on the award’s Twitter page here.

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There is a blogger event for the award on Saturday 17th November at The Groucho Club, and this is open to any bloggers that would like to attend. If you’d like to come along, just register here and they will send you an invitation.

The award ceremony itself is on Thursday 6th December at The London Library, and promises to be a wonderful evening.

I will be posting about the shortlist books one by one, and I will also write about both the events and the winning book – as well as our Shadow winner of course! The other bloggers on the panel will be doing the same, so please do have a look at their blogs as well. They are:

You can also read about them all on the award website here.

I’ll be posting on Twitter about the events and blog posts using the hashtag #YoungWriterAwardShadow. I can’t wait to share the shortlisted books with you all.

More soon!

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Comment, Personal

hello september! an update

i was going to write and publish a book review today, but i realised it wasn’t really what i wanted to post right now. i know this is a book blog, but for me it’s also very personal. it is my life in books. books are right at the heart of me. but recently books have not been my priority or my main focus, because my life has been crazy. and so today i just wanted to share a personal post. so my apologies if you are not here for that – feel free to skip.

i started to write a review today, but then something made me stop and just look out of the patio doors at the garden. sometimes i get that in the middle of writing a review – a weird blank moment where i have no idea what to say next, and i need a minute of staring into space to just get my head back on track and remember what i wanted to say. this is why i find it helpful to write notes about a book before i write a review – i often have so much to say, or some weird specific point, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and just forget it all.

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personally i have been feeling overwhelmed quite often recently. my job has become massively busier in the last couple of months, for several reasons, and i have been given more responsibility – which is both good and bad. it’s that classic catch 22 where you are doing well, so they give you more work, which then means you can’t perform quite as well because you are too busy. so you don’t do quite so well. that is essentially what has happened to me since like july. i pride myself on my organisation in my job and realising that i had started to let things slip was pretty horrifying. i started researching diaries and planners, somewhat frantically, and i have started to think a lot more carefully about how i plan and use my time. it made me realise that i haven’t done as much reading as usual over the last couple of months, meaning that i haven’t been writing and posting reviews as much, which is a shame because that’s what i love to do. for me reading is massively important to my self-care and if i don’t do enough then i feel overwhelmed, and un-centred, and weird. reading is my time to myself, when i can feel calm and centred, and i don’t have to worry about anything other than being comfortable and having enough tea. it is a haven.

my point is that my life has been crazy and stressful recently, and that’s why i have been a bit quiet on here, and on my twitter and instagram. in the coming months i am pledging to be more organised in all aspects of my life, to make more time for reading and blogging, and to emanate calm and zen – as much as i can!

apologies for the non-book post. sometimes a life in books isn’t just about reading.

back to book reviews for my next post – the review i’m currently writing is The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson, and i am currently reading Life Among the Savages, also by Shirley Jackson. soon i am also going to be posting my review of A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes, which was sent to me from Agora Books, so look out for that! as always, happy reading x.

 

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Articles, Non-Fiction

Things I Think I Could Write a Book About

I recently tweeted about this – apologies to any of my followers for the repetition here. It’s just that I have often, in my life, thought about writing a book. I used to want to write a novel, and actually managed to write one in my late teens, though I fear it is just over-emotional crap that should not see the light of day. I have it and several other unfinished pieces of fiction saved somewhere on my hard drive, and every now then I go and look at them wistfully, wishing I had been able to finish something. I also tried to write poetry, but that’s better left alone.

Last year, at my mother’s wedding reception, we were all a bit tipsy and I got into a conversation my with mother, aunt, and cousin about what a remarkable life my grandmother led and how her story could make a brilliant book – and my mother suggested I could write it. I admitted that I had thought of this before, but I had no idea how to approach it.

My first thought, after the hangover, was to do some background reading on where she grew up, namely India in the 30s and early 40s, at which point she came over to England with her English father and her siblings. But I failed to find any books about India in the 1940s before Partition, so the whole thing stalled (if anyone can recommend anything on that period I’d be very grateful!). I reckon I should also try to read about England at that time, to get more of an idea of what it would be like to move there as a very English, and yet not English, young woman. I know that Anglo-Indians faced prejudice both in India and England.

Anyway, my point is that I think there could be a book in my grandmother’s story. And that’s only my maternal grandmother – not my father’s mother, whose family had to flee Belgium in World War 2. That’s a whole other story, and one I know very little about. Perhaps I could just write a book about previous generations not passing on their amazing stories and how annoying this is for their children and grandchildren?

Here are my other possible topics, as mentioned on Twitter:

  • anxiety
  • dogs I have loved
  • divorce
  • mothers, both mine and other people’s
  • sex/lack thereof
  • my hair

Any takers?

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Articles, Non-Fiction

I’m Still Here

I realise it has been a bit quiet around here of late. As per my last post I am still reading The Amazons by Adrienne Mayor, which is taking me longer to read than I expected, and is the principle reason I haven’t posted reviews since my late January round up.

It’s funny when you’re enjoying a book and yet it still takes a long time to read. The Amazons is a very dense book packed with a lot of information, a lot of detail, so I think that’s why it’s taking me a while to read. The start of 2018 for me was blighted by illness and I think I’m still recovering as I constantly seem to be tired, so there have been a lot of days when I have just not felt able to read, as much as I might want to. That’s a horrible feeling.

At least I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for reading. I had a bit of an online binge and bought ten of the new Penguin Modern series (a bit like the Little Black Classics), as well as a copy of The Histories by Herodotus, as it’s referenced so much in The Amazons. I also bought a copy of Jenny Mollen’s book Live Fast, Die Hot. I don’t exactly love the title, but I’m keen to read this one – I follow Jenny on Instagram and find her funny and engaging, and I like her frankness about life. Similarly, I pre-ordered Busy Philipps’ untitled book that I have heard her talking about on Instagram. She is definitely worth following – I love her.

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It’s easy to feel like there is sometimes just too much out there that’s amazing and worth devoting time to, and it can feel impossible to commit to everything that you’d like to. This applies to books, but also to other media like TV and movies – but also to friends and social life, work, housekeeping, relationships… throw almost constant anxiety into the mix (hello!), and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Reading is my retreat, but I need the time and space to do it. Sometimes life overwhelms you to a point of paralysis. I am lucky that we have enough space in our house that if I want to, I can take myself off to another room away from the TV, my husband and the dog, and just read in peace for a while. I always feel restored when I am able to do this.

I’m now close to the end of The Amazons, so I will try and do a write-up as soon as I can once I have finished it. I absolutely love classical stuff, but I think I’ll take a break and read some of the Penguin Moderns I bought next. What joy can be found in these small perfect books!

More soon.

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An Update

Hello dear readers – as you may have noticed, the blog has been rather quiet of late. I had a total reading slump leading up to Christmas, though I did manage to finish one book at the end of December (Miss Jane by Brad Watson) which I will review at some point. I’m currently reading Mindhunter by John Douglas, as I loved the Netflix show based on it, and I love true crime. So far it’s a fascinating and engaging book, and I am very much enjoying it.

I am currently getting over the flu whilst also taking antibiotics for a chest infection, so I’m not exactly on the ball with keeping the blog updated. Life has got in the way too much recently, for better or worse. I’ve also just turned 30, which is making me feel old and weird.

I am still going to review books and keep blogging, but I think over the next few months the updates won’t be too frequent – but I am still here, still reading, still being 30. I’ve just got to get the hang of fitting everything in as life changes.

Happy reading x.

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Back soon!

Hello dear readers, you may have notice that there have not been any new posts here for a while – and I must apologise for that. Getting married took over my life, and I have just returned from our two-week honeymoon – and life hasn’t got any less busy! I am still reading away, and making notes for reviews, but I just haven’t organised myself in the last few weeks to post reviews. BUT there are some in the works and I plan to return to posting next week. Upcoming reviews include:

  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • Labyrinths by Catrine Clay (a biography of Emma Jung)
  • Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (brand new second novel from an author I love, out in July)
  • By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart

I’m still reading all your lovely blogs, and am still over on Twitter @lizzi_jr, and I will back to reviewing next week.

Happy reading!

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Articles, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Reviews

WWW Wednesday, 1st March 2017

I’ve only participated in WWW Wednesday once before, and that was ages ago, so I felt like giving it another try. The idea is to post three things:

  • What you most recently finished reading
  • What you are currently reading
  • What you will read next

Hence ‘WWW’! So here goes:

What I recently finished reading: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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I read this last month after having meant to read it for years, and I’m glad I finally did. I was spurred on by the upcoming TV adaptation, and also by the fact that this mad dystopia seems oddly relevant these days, especially in the States… my review is here.

What I am currently reading: Labyrinths: Emma Jung, her Marriage to Carl, and the Early Years of Psychoanalysis by Catrine Clay

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I am almost at the end of this book and have loved it so far. I knew nothing about Emma Jung before I read it, and she has turned out to be an engaging and fascinating character. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the field and period. You can see the book on GoodReads here.

What I’m going to read next: The Good People by Hannah Kent

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I loved Hannah Kent’s first novel, Burial Rites, and so when I heard she had a new book coming out I just knew I had to read it. This one has a similarly beautiful cover, and I think it will be just as fascinating and wonderful as its predecessor. You can read more about it on GoodReads here.

So there you have it! What are you WWW Wednesday books?

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Articles

New affiliate: Blackwell’s

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I am pleased to announce that I am now part of the affiliate programme for Blackwell’s!

Blackwell’s are one of my favourite bookshops and the Oxford branch (just up the road from me) is an institution. The downstairs section, know as the Norrington Room, is the largest single room selling books in the world (!) and is also often the venue for their amazing in store events. They also organise events that are held around the city. Two of the best I have been to were ‘An Evening With’ type things with two of my favourite authors – Sarah Waters and Donna Tartt. Both events were held in the beautiful Divinity School, which is next to the Bodleian LIbrary, and is part of Oxford University.

I’ve added the Blacwell’s logo to the right hand side of the site (just scroll down a bit) so you can click through and browse some lovely books! I’ll also add a link to buy books at Blackwell’s at the end of reviews, along with Wordery and Foyles.

Happy reading!

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Articles, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Reviews

Looking back on the books of 2016

This is another overdue blog post, but one that I’ve really been looking forward to writing. I read 31 books in 2016, of varying quality, but overall it was a good reading year. I tried to branch out, accepting a total of eight review copies from publishers – which is a lot for me these days. Of these the highlights for me were (links go to my reviews):

The last of these is not out until May 2017, so my review will come a little closer to the time. It was offered to me by Georgina Moore at Tinder Press and I am very glad I accepted. It is a wonderful blend of crime fiction and historical fiction based on real events, coupled with multiple narrators (all unreliable) and some really beautiful writing. In case you didn’t know, it’s about Lizzie Borden, and I loved it. You can read more here. And just look at that beautiful cover!

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(image via goodreads.com)

I read a lot of history books in 2016, both fiction and non-fiction. One other historical novel I must highlight is The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. I’d been intimidated by its length (over 900 pages) but finally gave it a go earlier in the year – and I was not disappointed. It is a fictional autobiography of a former Nazi officer which the author spent five years researching, and it is one of the best novels I have ever read. Not only is it brilliantly written but it is deeply philosophical and challenging, and I greatly admire Littell for somehow managing to write it.

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I read a handful of other books about the Second World War and three of the best were written by and about women, real women of the War who faced huge challenges and trials but who remained strong and determined throughout. The first of these was Gone to Ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon. The book is a compilation of her stories (recorded on tape and put together by her son) from her time living in Berlin during the War as a Jewish woman. She lived ‘underground’, in hiding, using an alias and constantly moving. It is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. Similarly, I also read A Woman in Berlin. It is an anonymous account of the last few months of the War by a German woman living in Berlin. She is not persecuted as Jalowicz Simon was, but her whole life is destroyed and she suffers immensely. It is a harrowing but necessary book and shows the cost of the War on ordinary German people that often gets overlooked. I read these two books close together and wrote about them in one blog post (linked above) and they have really stuck with me. I think they are vital reading for anyone considering the experience of women in Europe during the Second World War.

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Another book that fits into that category is If This is a Woman by Sarah Helm. It’s a massive book so I waited until it was out in paperback before I read it, the delay making my expectations quite high – and they were all met. It is the first book dedicated to the story of Ravensbrück, the only Nazi concentration camp built specifically for women, and it was one of the most incredible books I have ever come across. I had read If This is a Man by Primo Levi so I had some idea of what to expect; but of course each story is unique, and these women all had incredible stories. Sarah Helm is to be hugely admired and respected for telling these stories, for doing the research and making sure each name is mentioned, each life is honoured in some way. I will not soon forget this book. I should note that in America the title is simply Ravensbrück.

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Towards the end of the year I wanted to branch out from history, and so I read The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson, which was just brilliant. I was already a fan of Jackson’s writing but I’d never actually read any of her short stories. Some of these are still quite fresh in my mind (least of all the title story) and I am desperate to read more. Luckily I was given two more volumes of her short stories for Christmas, so I have those to look forward to. These were Let Me Tell You and Dark Tales.

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The other highlights of my reading year, which I don’t have space to write more about here, were:

I have enjoyed reading other ‘best of 2016’ posts – it was a good year for books – and I look forward to a great 2017 filled with marvellous things to read. I am on my second book of the year at the moment and frankly I am dying to get back to it, so I shall finish here. Happy 2017!

 

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Fiction, Non-Fiction

Overdue update on Christmas and birthday books

As I said in my last post, life has rather gotten in the way of blogging over the last month or so (probably more than that), so I am only just getting around to organising posts I meant to write and publish a while ago…

First I must ask you to cast your mind back to the excitement of getting presents at Christmas, and then double it, because my birthday is just after Christmas and so I get lots of presents around that time. Not too bad.

I actually received fewer books than I expected to, seeing as I asked for quite a few, but I am so pleased with the ones I did get. And aren’t they pretty!thumb_img_9248_1024

These were all on my wish list apart from The Prose Factory, which was a pleasant surprise from my fiancé’s mother.  I’d never even heard of it but it looks fascinating so I’m looking forward to getting into it at some point.

I’ve just finished reading the book about Katherine Howard and have a blog post in the works. It has made me really want to read more about the women of the Tudor period, particularly Henry VIII’s other wives, as well as Elizabeth I and Mary. I am particularly keen on reading about my namesake as she has always held a certain mysterious magic for me and I would love to understand more about her life and reign, and her character.

I also asked for every Shirley Jackson book that I haven’t already got, and I am very pleased to now have Let Me Tell You and Dark Tales, especially as the latter is a very nice little hardback with a bright green back cover. I can’t wait to get back into more of Jackson’s eerie and wonderful short stories.

I asked for The Devil in the White City as it’s something I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while. The book is set in 1893 and “tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the [Chicago World’s] Fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.” (quote from GoodReads). I think both these men have interesting stories, and it just sounds like a fascinating time. It also doesn’t hurt that H.H. Holmes was the inspiration for the character of J.P. March in American Horror Story: Hotel – and for the hotel itself.

My fiancé’s amazing brother and sister also got a set of Vintage Classics editions of Virginia Woolf, which was a lovely surprise.

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I’ve some of these but not all, and I’m very glad I get to read them in such lovely editions! I plan to start with A Room of One’s Own as I’ve never actually gotten around to reading it…

So there you go – lots of amazing reading to be getting on with. I did also get vouchers for Foyles so there may even more books soon, what a surprise!

Happy reading!

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