Love of Libraries

I wrote this post seven months ago and left it unfinished. I came back to it today and couldn’t bring myself to delete it. I nearly did, thinking the first part was too personal, not enough about books, but I remember writing it in a huge flow of words last year, knowing my life was changing. I’m going to let you read it, and it does get bookish after a while. I called this post Love of Libraries, and I think I then didn’t get on to why it was titled that. I’m going to post what I have, and then write another post in praise of libraries shortly. Watch this space. In the meantime, here’s my flashback to last summer…

August 2016

Libraries are amazing. They are like my dream place; shelf upon shelf of books, just waiting for you to discover them. In my recent life, I haven’t been to many libraries. The fact is simple; as many of you know; I am a bookaholic and I have bought books with a passion that has left me with about 200 unread tomes, filling my bookshelves, my house and my life. The problem is, I was, for the last eight years anyway, a teacher. This left me with no time to read. In fact it left me with no time for anything as I became steadily more consumed by the job, and my work/life balance became nonexistent. To touch on my own story, which is slightly relevant but a digression here, I got burnt out by a job many outsiders describe as easy. I got disillusioned by the demands of the powers that be that we test children as young as four, and worse than that regard them as numbers on a page, not living breathing quirky and mischievous human beings. Then, I got out. I write this as a new and uncharted chapter of my life begins. I am not a primary school teacher anymore. Not until I can recharge and regain myself outside the confines of a school, and a career, that I loved but it no longer loves me back.

So now I find myself one again with time to read. For the last few months, as I resigned and came to terms with the decision to leave teaching, possibly for good, I read nothing but Harry Potter books (some for the second time, some for the third or fourth). When I say read, I mean consumed in an unhealthy obsessive fashion.  More on the start of that here. Then I made my Mum, a stubborn resister of the charms of J.K. Rowling and the world she created, read them all. Then I read the new play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and loved it.

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In this time of obsession I read only one other book: How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis. This book made me want to read many others, which are analysed and described by the author as she charts her life in terms of the heroines she has read about and identified with or wanted to be.

This brings me nicely onto what happened this week. A friend gave me a book. This may not sound exciting or special to you, but although I have friends who love books and friends who have only a casual relationship with books, I have not really ever been given a book as a present by a friend. My mum, my husband, my brother and my dad give me books. My friends talk to me about books, but never has someone gone out of their way to get me a book they’d recommended before. Now, among my friends, I like to think I’m the go-to person for book knowledge. They want a recommendation, they ask me. They want to know if there are any children’s books about ladybirds they can read to their class: I will know. The book my friend handed me this week is The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan. Those of you who have read this blog may well be thinking, that’s not something she would read! Well, in my teen years I did read many books I would call ‘chick-lit’ and enjoyed them very much. Then I found Ian Rankin in my final year of university and became a crime reader. What I loved about this particular book was my friend’s enthusiastic statement that the protagonist reminded her so much of me. I read it so quickly and enjoyed it so much, largely because I was drinking in this character my friend had identified as ‘me’.  if you’re interested, the main character is a librarian who is being made redundant. She knows what books people need. She loves recommending books. She sets up her own ‘book van’: a shop on wheels full of books. I wish I was this person! My own bookshop is my absolute dream.

To be continued…

The blog, the challenge and the re-reading…

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything here. I apologise for that, but life takes over sometimes. In the past year of writing no blog posts I have managed to read quite a bit. This is a post about my book related life in 2016 so far. I’m writing it in the hope of writing more regularly again. 

Firstly, the moment has come at last, I can finally say that I have reached the summit that was Bleak House by Charles Dickens. My first Dickens; all 932 pages of it; finished. It took me eleven months on and off and I really enjoyed it in the end. I can truthfully say that once you get past the fog and the slow set up of each and every character, it becomes so worth it. I actually laughed, I also cried real tears. If you have a spare few months or haven’t got round to this very multi-layered book yet, do read it. I recommend it. It’s all the better if you can read it in larger chunks so set aside time if possible. 


The next news is that I’ve had a huge Harry Potter revival. This was directly caused by a visit to the set of Harry Potter at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London. My husband bought the tickets as a present for my last birthday and we spent a very happy day there in February.

Since then I have had to revisit all of the films. Now I’m revisiting all of the books. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first book in the series, is a great book to re-read and this was at least my third time reading it, but there were still bits left out by the film that I had forgotten. It’s so good on the page. J.K Rowling infuses so much detail to every scenario. The wizarding world looks so good in this first portrayal. Moving immediately on, the second book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets brings even more of Hogwarts to life. If you’ve only seen the films I urge you to read these books. This one in particular had me laughing out loud at various points. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban owns the honour of being my favourite of the films, but when I first read the series I preferred the fourth book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which I am currently reading. This is my first reread of these two. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was a brilliant read, and again I was happily immersed in details I had forgotten that the film removed or changed. More on this rereading spree in future posts. Safe to say, I recommend going on a Harry Potter binge.

We are nearly up to date. I’ve set myself targets this year of reading a book a week: 52 books. I’ve read 19 so far. A far greater challenge I have set myself is to not buy any more books at all. This is important as my unread library stands at over 200 books. I will keep you informed.

Books I have read this year include:Bleak House by Charles Dickens 8/10. Four Agatha Christie books: The Mysterious Mr Quin, The Listerdale Mystery, By the Pricking of my Thumbs and The Pale Horse; all 7/10. Three books by Dick Francis: Bolt (7/10), For Kicks (8/10) and Flying Finish (7/10). Disclaimer by Renee Knight (7/10), I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (9/10), Slam by Nick Hornby (8/10), Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin (8/10), Agatha Raisin Kissing Christmas Goodbye by MC Beaton (6/10), The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (7/10), Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer (7 and 1/2 out of 10), Very British Problems by Rob Temple (6/10) and the first three Harry Potter books by JK Rowling. 

I will hope to tell you more about some of the above in future posts. In the meantime, happy reading everyone, whatever you might be reading at the moment.

30 day book challenge: Day 10!

Into double figures already!
Day 10: Name five absolutely great film adaptations of books.

1. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging Directed by Gurinder Chadha (2008)
Not quite a perfect adaptation of Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging and It’s OK, I’m Wearing Really Big Knickers, by Louise Rennison, but brilliant all the same. It had The Stiff Dylans, the olive costume, the mad cat and sister, the snogging coach and the love story with complications. What it lacked it made up for with a great soundtrack. A complete guilty pleasure. The books are so funny though, go out and read them if you haven’t yet!

2. High Fidelity Directed by Stephen Frears (2000)
Novel by Nick Hornby. If you haven’t already realised I love this book, you haven’t been paying attention! I also love the film, despite it’s American cast, when it was very much a British book. The adaptation does well though. It keeps the record collection, the shop, the break ups and the top fives extremely close to how I imagined them.

3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Directed by Alfonso Cuaròn (2004)
Novel by J.K. Rowling. In my opinion the best adaptation of the Potter books. It came the closest to my imagining of the storyline and I absolutely loved the time turner bits. Handled so well by the director. My most watched of all the films.

4. The Bourne Identity Directed by Doug Liman (2002)
Novel by Robert Ludlum. A great adaptation. Not the Bourne I imagined in the book but the changes were okay with me, and that’s very rare for me. A good film. A cracking read.

5. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Directed by Terry Gilliam (1998)
Novel by Hunter S. Thompson. The book is a fantastically written, trippy, drug-addled, highly amusing mess of a read. The film is more of the same. I love both but for different reasons. Both make me laugh, both are crazy. The book made me go out and hunt down more Hunter S. Thompson. The film made me want to go to Las Vegas. Great stuff.

Honourable mentions to The Beach and A Clockwork Orange.
That’s all for today folks. Tomorrow I will tell you three terrible film adaptations of books, if I can think of any! Check out, as always Flower Faerie Lives Life and Books on the Tube. Also, I will be following Me, Bookshelf and I, who has recently startedthe challenge. Check them out too, if you like!

30 day book challenge: Day 1!

Wow, nothing like a tricky question to start a month of book questions. Today I will be telling you my top ten favourite books of all time! The top five wasn’t too hard, because I made up my mind about most of those a long time ago. All the other positions were very much up for grabs. I’ve been very ruthless and left out childhood books, since I will talk about those at a later date! Without further ado, here they are (top 5 in order, 6-10 not so much):

1. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

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This has been top of my list of all time favourites for a long time. Why? Quite simply, I love the language in it. I admit the way Alex narrates may not be for everybody but I can’t get enough of it. Though alien at first, you quickly pick up the meanings and I loved that! I’ve always loved different languages and learning them, and just writing this is making me want to re-read this brilliant book. It’s a story of Alex and his ‘droogs’ and the ‘ultra-violence’ they commit and what happens after that. I don’t want to spoil the rest if you’ve never read it!

2. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

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Another long standing favourite and top of the list until I read A Clockwork Orange in 2005. It is a book about love, rejection, music, records, mix tapes, lists of top fives and how all of these shape your life. This book is responsible for countless hours spent devising and making mix tapes for myself and friends; and further hours listing, both in conversation with others and in writing, my top five of anything and everything. It is the reason I knew my top five all time favourite books already! If you’ve never read this or seen the film, what are you waiting for!

3. The Time Travellers Wife – Audrey Niffeneger

Looking back, I was unfairly rude to this book. Before I read it I judged it loudly and heartily (to my mum who was trying to convince me to read it) based solely on the title. A few pages in, I was proved wrong. This book was so gripping, and so unlike anything else I had ever read; one of those where you wish you’d had the idea yourself! So, do not judge, just read. An amazing story of love through time and such vividly drawn characters to really care about. I will probably never watch the film though. I just don’t think I could stand it not being as I imagined.

4. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

I didn’t like the film, and the book still makes me incredibly sad, but it has been in the top five a long time, and deserves its place there. It is beautifully written, and has such a well crafted storyline and interesting viewpoint.

5. A Million Little Pieces – James Frey

Not exactly a memoir, not completely fiction either, James Frey writes about drugs and his life recovering in rehab. I haven’t yet read any of Frey’s other novels, and this isn’t the type of book I usually enjoy. I don’t know what else to say, I just thought it was great! Not for the faint hearted though, Frey’s details and descriptions are graphic to say the least.

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6. The Hanging Garden – Ian Rankin

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I’ve never quite found anything that matches up to the way Ian Rankin writes crime in his Rebus series. Believe me, I have read a lot of crime novels, but no one writes the way he does. It’s the descriptions, the characters, the carefully crafted plots, but mostly it’s the writing itself. In my opinion this is by far the best to feature Inspector Rebus. Somehow poignant yet still gritty.

7. The Passage – Justin Cronin

Blew me away. I’ve written about this elsewhere. There is so much to it, so may threads to join together and every part is just so well written and gripping. Post apocalyptic with a difference. It has made me think about it again and again, which must be the sign of a good book.

8. The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins

I feel like I have just cheated but these three books (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay) just work so well together as a whole that it is hard to separate them. If I had to choose I think it would be Mockingjay on the list. I loved every moment of these books and craved more about Katniss and Peeta even after it was all over.

9. Favourite Sherlock Holmes Stories – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Absolute classics of crime literature; these stories filled my childhood as my mum used to read them to me and my brother. I haven’t chosen one of the stand alone novels, though I do love them. This collection of ten stories works so well because Conan Doyle selected them as his top favourites. A joy to read.

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10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling

Such a hard choice for the final spot. There were a lot of candidates, but this sneaks in as probably the book I have re-read most times in my life. I have a huge soft spot for the time turner idea and I really like the characters.

Now I feel strangely guilty for the books that didn’t make it. I’m sure I will mention them elsewhere in the next few weeks of the challenge. I fear tomorrow may involve even more thinking!

Check out my fellow blogger Flower Faerie Lives Life who is also starting the 30 day challenge today.

Book 13: Pistache by Sebastian Faulks… And the 5 books of the zombie apocalypse (two unrelated things!)

There are two parts to today’s post. First, a short review of a short book called Pistache by Sebastian Faulks. Secondly, just for fun, I’m joining in with Penguin’s Readarama and naming my 5 books to read in the zombie apocalypse.

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I pretty much read Pistache by accident. Apparently the title means a friendly spoof or parody of another’s work. I was given it a few years ago for my birthday. It was inspired by The Write Stuff of Radio 4. I have never listened to said show. Therefore, I did not read the book until now. I started reading it last week as a time filler when I’d already finished The Postman Always Rings Twice, and I finished it early this week. It is very short, and definately a book to dip in and out of at leisure. I enjoyed it, but I have a confession to make… I really have read very little literature/ classics. This was the reason I didn’t enjoy Pistache as much as I could have done. The key problem for me was, quite often I hadnt read the author Faulks was spoofing, so I didn’t get the jokes! I’m quite embarrassed to admit that, especially as the parodys I did manage to follow were mildly amusing. I didn’t laugh out loud, but they certainly entertained me. If you have read lots of classics and famous authors you will possibly love Pistache!

I would rate Pistache 6/10 (through no fault of its own).

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Now, to the topic of zombies! I love zombie films and have watched many. I’ve even read a few books about them. Thanks to Readarama I also really want to read The Enemy by Charlie Higson. So today when they announced their top 5 books to read in the zombie apocalypse (if it should hit the world), I wanted to make my own list. Here it is:

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1. The Passage – Justin Cronin.

This is my top favourite post apocalyptic book I have ever read. It is amazing. Such a long book that by the end you are living every moment and when it comes to an end you can’t believe the world is still going on around you. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If the zombies come I will look to this for tips and to reassure me.

2. Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion

Another zombie book. I would read this to reassure me that the zombies might change and become friendlier in time. A lovely book, even though it’s about zombies. I haven’t seen the recent film yet, but the book is a great read.

3. The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins

Yes, I’m cheating by having all three. I read these recently and couldn’t get enough. I would happily read them again and again so they would be a must for entertainment during a zombie apocalypse.

4. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

One of my favourite ever books, this would cheer me up no end and I could send some time making to five lists like the main character Rob. If you’ve never read this, read it now! No, I’m not going to tell you any of the plot, just that you must read this book!

5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling

To take my mind off the zombies I would need a bit of magic. This is my favourite of the seven Harry Potter novels, and I knew I couldn’t get away with listing all seven. I love the timer turner idea and I would happily read this again and again.

Having reached the end of the list, I realise I probably should have listed some huge classics of literature so I could improve my mind, by frankly if zombies are everywhere I’m going to reread my favourites instead! For comfort.

I’m still reading Our Tragic Kingdom by Scarlett Thomas this week, but I’ve been very busy and have barely started. I will tell you more when I get to the end!