My May Reading List


I know from reading the blogs and tweets of my book-loving friends that I’m not the only one struggling to concentrate on reading (or anything much) at the moment.  It’s not that the tempting titles aren’t there, but there’s simply so much chaos, stress and confusion going on in what’s become an almost unrecognisable world that it can’t help but filter its way into everyone’s minds and hearts, whether we’ve been personally touched by the current tragedy or not.  On the days when I do feel inclined to pick up a book, however, they’ve come to my rescue as they always do and taken me to a far more manageable place, if only for a while.  So although May has got off to a bit of a slow start, over the next few weeks I’m going to make a concerted effort to take time away from the news and social media, and just relax with my paperback friends.  If you’re in need of some inspiration yourself, here are my picks for this month.

A Map of the Damage – Sophia Tobin

I’ve been a fan of this author since I read her first book, The Silversmith’s Wife, so I was crazily excited when I saw that her latest was about to be released in paperback.  I started reading it a few days ago and it’s already made me cry, made me angry and got me utterly hooked – so a good start then!

The Makioka Sisters – Junichiro Tanizaki

Another bookseller recommended this to me, calling it “the Japanese Little Women” and my word it’s lived up to the comparison so far!  Told almost entirely from a female perspective, it’s a real cultural eye-opener, shedding light on the expectations, conventions and disappointments of marriage among the more privileged elements of pre-war Japanese society.  I’m loving it so much, at the moment it looks set to be a contender for one of my books of the year so far.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics – Carlo Rovelli

I read Reality is Not What it Seems last year and was surprised how much I enjoyed it (and also, I’m not going to lie, a little bit chuffed how much I managed to grasp) so decided to give this one a go.  To be fair, any understanding I gleaned from the aforementioned title was entirely down to the author’s skill at conveying complex concepts in an accessible way rather than any innate scientific instinct on my part, so I’m very much hoping he pulls off the same trick with this one.

Collected Ghost Stories – M R James

I’m utterly useless when it comes to ghost stories, horror films or anything remotely spooky, and I usually avoid them like the plague, knowing if I don’t I’ll be sleeping with the light on for at least a week afterwards.  My sister gave me her spare copy of the book this week (with a warning that at least two of the stories are guaranteed to freak me out completely), and I very bravely started tackling it this afternoon.  I have to say, sitting under a tree in the sunshine it didn’t seem that bad, but we’ll have to wait and see how I feel about it when darkness falls…..

What’s on your TBR pile this May?  Anything you’ve started reading that you’re particularly enjoying?  As always, please do share your comments!


Ginseng and other problems

In the quiet of my flat, the tiny sound of rustling foliage.  Another leaf has fallen from my recently acquired ginseng tree.  Why are they dropping with such alarming frequency?  Google has provided spectacularly little help, with a late night trawl informing me only that ginsengs shed their leaves either when too wet or too dry, too hot or too cold.  Well, thanks for that.  Being a book nerd my first port of call was naturally my horticultural bible, “The Houseplant Expert” – except my well-thumbed edition was written in the days before anyone dreamt of bringing anything as exotic and alien as a ginseng tree into their home.  I’ve probably got what I deserve for buying a plant from a supermarket whose care instruction labels were exactly the same for every single species they sold; but still, it niggles me that yet another beloved houseplant will take its last gasp and expire sometime very soon.

The imminent fate of my little ginseng is the smallest of a whole host of mental distractions that have kept me away from blogging of late.  Writing is something I love, and as such would probably have been the perfect antidote to the intrusive negative thoughts that have been stubbornly hanging around me recently, but my brain has been too saturated to leave even the tiniest bit of room for a pleasurable escape route.  A couple of days ago though, the door opened just a crack and a sliver of light peeked through; after a few weeks of stupor and barely caring if no-one ever read my blog again, I suddenly wanted to write again more than anything.

So here I am.  And next time I’ll be back talking about books as per usual.  Unless anyone out there can shed any light on exactly why my ginseng tree might be losing its leaves, in which case I’ll feel compelled to pass it on…


The Liebster Award – May 2016


First off, a huge thank you to Bronte’s Page Turners for nominating me for this award.  If you haven’t discovered her blog yet then do check it out – she’s an incredibly talented and witty writer.

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. Display the Liebster Award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note: the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
3. Answer the questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
4. Provide 5 random facts about yourself.
5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have less than 1000 followers.
6. Create a new list of questions for your nominee bloggers to answer (if you want to).
7. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!) or list these rules in your post (you can copy and paste from here).

So here goes with my answers to the questions from Bronte’s Page Turners – she asked some brilliant ones!

To paraphrase the poet Ronan Keating, is life a rollercoaster and must we ride it?

I’m going to be honest, there’s something about the irritatingly cheery way Ronan sings these words that makes me want to run to the top of a very tall building and hurl myself off, probably tearing chunks of my hair out at the same time.  But you know what, that loveable chap is right!  I’ve had more peaks and troughs throughout my life than, well, a rollercoaster, but I’ve reached the point now where I know that no matter how deep the troughs go I will always manage to climb out the other side eventually.

What made you start blogging?

I started blogging on a bit of a whim actually, without any real idea of how it worked or what was involved.  All I knew was that I was getting up, going to work, coming home again and sleeping and wasn’t producing anything of any visible worth.  I’m not saying that by starting to blog I’ve bestowed some wondrous gift upon the world or that my writing is anywhere near creative genius, but nevertheless I feel so much better in myself knowing I’m finally putting effort into producing something I can share with others, and getting involved with a community of people who hold the same passions I do.

Did you take photographs of your bookcase as a 9 year old, or were you a reasonably adjusted child?

I wouldn’t say I was a well-adjusted child (or particularly well-adjusted adult come to that) but there were no photos of bookcases in my youthful, pre-Instagram days!  The earliest memory I have of my own photographic endeavours is of “borrowing” my parents’ camera, when I was about 9, going along to the farm just up the road and using up a whole film on mostly out-of-focus pictures of goats.  Parents were not best pleased.  I still adore goats.

I buy most of my books from charity shops.  Does that make me a fiend for not more fully supporting independent bookshops, or am I just one of Thatcher’s children, always chasing the cheapest price?

I love browsing charity shops for books – nothing mean about buying a book from somewhere that’s going to donate your money to a good cause!  I always use high street retailers – whether that’s charity shops, independent bookshops or chain bookshops – to buy books though, as the thought that one day the internet may be our only book-buying option is a hideous one.  The bricks-and-mortar bookseller is vital to our reading culture in my eyes, and if we don’t use them we’ll lose them.  Charity shops are definitely a great place to go if you want to take a bit of a risk on an author or title you’re not sure you’ll like; if you pick up a terrible book for 50p you’re probably not going to feel overly aggrieved!

Television book clubs (eg Richard and Judy’s in the UK, Oprah’s in the US and any others elsewhere around the world that I’m not cosmopolitan enough to be aware of): a good or bad thing? (Respondees must try not to be swayed by the boyish good looks of Richard Madeley)

I tend to be of the opinion that anything that gets people reading and talking about books is a good thing, so I’m hugely pro the media book club!  Richard and Judy in particular have picked some really enjoyable reads over the years.  (And yes, Richard Madeley – does that man not age??)

Have you ever inherited any books from a relative and if so, did you come across any interesting finds? 

It was interesting that you asked this questions, as only a couple of weeks ago I started writing a blog post about the books I remember from my late grandmother’s house.  In the end I abandoned it as it was too personal and therefore of no interest to anyone but me; but it got me thinking back to all the lovely books that had enthralled me as a child.  Most of them are unfortunately not in the possession of my branch of the family, but there’s one my grandmother gave to me because it had been my favourite when I was very young.  It’s an enormous coffee table book on English cathedrals, and in a way it’s quite an odd one for a small child to gravitate towards, but I was mesmerised by the photographs of vaulted ceilings and gothic stonework.  I’d make a beeline for it every time we visited, and looking at it today still brings back all those memories from a time inlife when you see wonder in almost everything.

5 random facts about me:

  1. My party trick is getting my whole fist in my mouth. Stopped doing said trick after a terrifying moment one night in a bar when I couldn’t get it out again.
  2. I anthropomorphise everything. No, really, EVERYTHING.  I use bookmarks, mugs, shampoos etc in rotation so that none of them feel left out.
  3. When I was younger I found Robin Hood from the Disney cartoon movie disturbingly attractive. Yes, I know he was a fox.  But apparently, following very honest conversations with friends, I’m not the only person who thought this!
  4. I love cake so much. I could give up chocolate if I had to, but never cake.  I can’t pick an all-time favourite as I’m obsessed with so many, but at the moment it’s ginger and cinnamon.
  5. I’ve always wanted to be a brunette. I’ve tried dying and tinting but my complexion is so fair it looks ridiculous, which is heart-breaking because in my dreams I’d look something like Penelope Cruz…

So now it’s time to nominate some other lovely people whose blogs I love and think you should visit…

My burning questions are:

  1. Has there ever been a time in your life when you fell out of love with reading?
  2. How easily do you part with your books?  Are you a sharer or a hoarder?
  3. What was the last book that moved you to tears?
  4. Do you have a talent that may come as a surprise to people?
  5. If you could choose only one book to pass on to the next generation what would it be and why?
  6. What’s the perfect edible accompaniment to a good book?

Hope you’ve enjoyed finding out a little bit more about me, and thanks again to Bronte’s Page Turners for nominating me to join in!