The Little House Series Read-Along is happening throughout 2016! Join us for some or all of the books - find details here

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks: January Update

At the beginning of the year I posted about how I aimed to try to read mostly my own books this year because I have so many and so many are great and yeeeeeeah. So far, I've failed. During January I started twelve books (and finished six...) out of which three of the books I finished (and only five total of the ones I started) were books I actually owned. The rest were from the library. 


In January I finished Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (for the Little House Read-Along), Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot which has been on my shelf for yeeeears and which was actually a really enjoyable detective style mystery kind of book about a former teen pop star who now works in a residence hall where female students start dying, and Dumplin' by Julie Murphy for a blog tour. 

So really if I'm going to be harsh with myself and try to stick with the aim of reading the books I've had for ages, I only managed one. One. Oh dear. 

Because it's fun to make piles and then fail to uphold, here's some stuff I might get to in February (bearing in mind that the London Bookshop Crawl is on Saturday and I will clearly buy all the things):

With full disclosure, I'm currently in the middle of The Age of Innocence so I'll almost definitely finish that. I love and adore it so far! I've also previously started, really enjoyed and then been distracted by something else, Sketcher by Roland Watson - Grant and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson so I'd like to finish both of those as well, and then I'd really like to fit The Wicked and the Divine in there some time this week preferably, so I can know whether I want the second volume and buy it on the bookshop crawl!

What are you reading in February? Are you taking part in this challenge? Are you doing better than me? I bet you are! 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Little House Read-Along - Little House on the Prairie!

It's month two of the Little House Read-Along, and I'm just going around catching up on everybody's January posts! You can still link up your posts for Little House in the Big Woods here. During February we'll be reading Little House on the Prairie, which is actually the third book in the Little House series but the second featuring the Ingalls family. As it directly continues the story started in Little House in the Big Woods we decided to read it now and Farmer Boy (the second in publication order) next month! 

The events of Little House on the Prairie take place between 1869 and 1870 or so after Pa decides to sell the house in the Big Woods and move the family to Kansas. As you can imagine, it covers a new range of events from those in the first book, and I'm intrigued to read it! The thing I loved most about the first book was how informative it was without you realising it, and as Laura was a lot younger in reality than she is in the book, she actually did more historical research for this book than any of the others apparently, so I'm exciting to keep learning more about a period I don't know much about!

How are you finding the read-along so far? If you've not signed up yet, you're welcome to join us at any point throughout the year. Find the schedule and sign up here

Link up your reviews of Little House on the Prairie below!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

London Bookshop Crawl: Cecil Court

Welcome to the penultimate edition of my series of posts about the shops we're visiting on the London Bookshop Crawl! This is a bit of a cheat really, since there are seven bookshops in Cecil Court, but as none of them are huge and we will be visiting them as one stop on the crawl I thought I'd post a little bit about all of them here!

In case you've not been before, Cecil Court is a pedestrianised street between Charing Cross Road and St Martin's Lane. All the shops have Victorian fronts and hanging signs and a lot of them sell rare or antiquarian books.


Mainly focusing on art books, they have monthly exhibitions focused on a particular artist or press as well as regular launches and events.


I'm the most excited to visit this shop as it specialises in children's and illustrated books from the 1800s to the present day. As the name implies, their real specialism is Lewis Carroll and so they have many and various editions of the Alice books as well as Carroll's other works and some Alice ephemera.

Travis and Emery Music Bookshop

This is Rhys' favourite shop down this road as it sells out of print, second hand and antiquarian sheet music and books about music.

Peter Ellis

Antiquarian booksellers stocking mostly first editions over a range of genres.

Watkins Books

Describing itself as an esoteric bookshop, Watkins also publishes books in the spiritual and new science genres. They also have a quarterly magazine and host regular events.

Goldsboro Books

Goldsboro aims to provide its customers with signed first editions. It was founded in 1999 and is impressively dedicated to bringing brilliant, special and often exclusive signed books to its customers. They have a Book of the Month Club, where you sign up and are sent a signed book that they think is great and has the possibility of becoming collectible each month. Many of them are exclusive to Goldsboro, and although due to the nature of what they sell it's not the cheapest, not all of the books are really expensive (signed and numbered edition of Haniya Yanagihara's A Little Life for £199.99, anyone? Probably not on this trip!). It looks like a lovely shop.

Erica's review

Stephen Poole Fine Books

Specialist in 20th Century literature, this shop has separate sections for Crime fiction and books shortlisted for literary awards as well as some signed copies.

Although I've browsed in Cecil Court before (usually killing time while Rhys went through sheet music in Travis and Emery) I've not really spent any amount of time in any of these shops. As you'll see, I've linked to Erica's review of Goldsboro Books above as she has actually been to it, and I'm hopeful that it'll be a fun stop on our crawl!

Friday, 29 January 2016

Little Parcels of Joy: A Happiness Project

This week I tried again to make honey fudge. To put this into perspective, I recently made my first successful batch of fudge - peanut butter - after years of failing to get it quite right and became obsessed. Since then I've successfully made gingerbread latte fudge and black forest fudge, both of which were gorgeous, but I've failed to make honey fudge quite right either time. The failure of the story isn't the important bit. The important bit is that while I was in the process of making the fudge I thought about how much fudge I would have if it were to go right and how often now I don't bake or attempt confectionery because I don't have enough people in my immediate vicinity to eat things, and people at work start not liking you pretty soon if you ruin their diet too many times in a month.

Then I though how exciting projects like Random Acts of Kindness were back when I first started blogging, and how many connections I've made with people through things like that, Ninja Book Swap and OTSP Secret Sister, among others, and I thought wouldn't it be nice if I started a project where people would give me a little information about themselves so that I could send them secret gifts once in a while, without them knowing when they would arrive. I mean, I love expecting things in the post, but equally it's really exciting when you're not expecting anything and something lovely shows up out of the blue!

Because I'm me, I immediately (I mean immediately, like, while the fudge was still boiling) made a sign up form and announced my plan on twitter, having not at all thought through how it would work. I created the option for people to just receive stuff or to also send stuff as well. The proviso of this is that it will be entirely random, and mostly be baked goods, confectionery and occasionally bookish gifts and random little things. Nothing too expensive, nothing big, just a little parcel of joy. Does what it says on the tin! And so far, of the people that have signed up well over 75% want to send as well, which means I have to think about the logistics of how it will work.

Honestly, I'm still not sure, but here is the idea that I have: if you want to take part, fill in the form. If you just want to receive stuff, that's fine. You don't need to do anything else, but I will be in touch to check if you're OK with me passing on your address to other people on the list who want to send stuff as well as receive it.

If you want to send stuff as well then my current idea is that I will make a spreadsheet in Google Drive and share the link with those on the list. The sheet will contain just names, whether people have any allergies or dislikes, which country they are in (not full address details), and when they were last sent something. Then if you have something you'd like to send to someone you can check the sheet, figure out who you'd like to send it to (or just select a number at random, as I'll be doing!), make sure they've not just been sent something, and then give me a shout for their address details.

I know it sounds a bit convoluted but I'm not particularly happy with having people's full addresses on a public spreadsheet so I thought this way worked better!

There is no commitment with this project. If you said you'd like to send stuff too and then never have anything to send, that's ok. If you said you'd just like to receive but find yourself with the urge to send someone something, that's also ok. You can send once a week, once a month, twice a year, whenever you have something lovely you want to give to someone!

Basically there are no rules, except those of common decency. This project is designed to spread joy so please only send stuff that's nice (it should go without saying that you shouldn't send anything of an offensive nature, anything that could be dangerous, or anything that's just horrible). If you're a terrible baker, please don't bake! Do something else that you are good at - make stationery, knit something, draw a picture, whatever, and please say hi when you send stuff. Unexpected gifts are good, receiving anonymous baked goods in the post could be considered a teeny bit sinister...

I'm sure there will be teething problems and glitches from time to time, but I'm excited to start another little joy spreading project! Again, if you'd like to take part - either to send or to receive - please fill in the form which can be found here!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

London Bookshop Crawl: Daunt Books

In case you haven't seen, I'm organising a bookshop crawl in London on February 6th and I've been doing a series of features on the bookshops that we're going to be visiting. As many of them are independents it has temporarily taken the place of my Saturday Make Mine an Indie feature, and the aim is just to give a little more information about the places we'll be visiting as we'll be way too busy browsing/making each other buy all the things on the day to pay much attention to things like that I think!

Image result for daunt books logo

Today's post is about Daunt Books. Although it's now a chain of shops and its founder is the managing director of Waterstone's we are visiting the original one in Marylebone and all of its stores are in London, so. Founded in 1990, the original Daunt Books is housed in a beautiful building that was built for antiquarian booksellers Edward Francis in 1910. They have an immense amount of books which are organised by the country that they're set in, regardless of genre which seems like an incredible way to discover new things and get out of your comfort zone! In 2010 they began publishing books (which I'll talk about in another Make Mine an Indie post!), and in 2014 they launched their own book festival which will run 10th-11th March 2016 if you're interested in going!

On their website they sell book bundles and subscriptions, during which you get a book a month for a year and they also have Daunt Books bags (cotton and canvas) and mugs, so I'm clearly going to be buying one or both while we're there! They also have a very interesting blog. 

Some interesting trivia: James Daunt's name is actually Achilles James Daunt. There's no way that he wasn't going to be a bookseller really, is there? Daunt are also opening their first branch outside of London, in Saffron Walden, Essex, under the name Hart's Books. Also, Daunt Books in Marylebone has been featured as one of Time Out's 100 Best Shops in London, which is pretty cool. 

Besides the Marylebone branch, Daunt also have shops in Chelsea, Holland Park, Belsize Park, Hampstead and Cheapside. 

Here's their London Reading list to get you in the mood!

Find Daunt Books on their website, twitter, Facebook, or with us on the 6th!

Catch up on the Make Mine an Indie series here.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Dumplin by Julie Murphy

Today I'm part of the blog tour for Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, and I want to say straight up that I loved this book! I know there's been a lot of buzz about it and many of you have probably read it already, but if you haven't then please do! I actually read it twice to write this review as the first time I read it in one sitting and stayed up waaaay too late trying to finish it so my head was a bit fuzzy on details towards the end and I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything.

Dumplin' is the story of Willowdean Dickson. She's fat and comfortable with her body. She doesn't see why she should be ashamed of the way that she is and her confidence and sass, at least in her own head, are admirable. That is until the guy she likes at work likes her back and she finds herself letting her insecurities affect her like she never has before.

I absolutely adored the layers of story in Dumplin'. Centred around the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant, which Willowdean's mother once won and now organises, it is about her issues with her mother, about how they are coping after the death of her aunt, her relationship with Bo (the boy at work) and her best friend Ellen, and how the insecurities she pretends not to have affect these relationships, and overall about what happens when she decides to enter the pageant.

I haven't read a narrator or protagonist I liked as much as Willowdean for a long, long time. I wanted to hang out with her. I loved her voice and her bravado, but I especially liked it when her vulnerability showed. There are so many lines in the book that I just loved and I think it's really important for everyone (but particularly teenagers) to see someone who describes themselves as fat being completely unapologetic about it. The book asks important questions about why it is that we feel it's OK for us to judge people we know nothing about based on their looks, and also about what it means to be beautiful and for me it was extremely refreshing to have a protagonist who wasn't your run of the mill teenage narrator.

Although it's not really the same, a lot of things about Dumplin' reminded me of My Mad Fat Diary, which is a totally brilliant thing as I adore that series. Dumplin' is full of loveable, relateable and very real characters. I always hate it when people describe books as 'having lots of heart' but this one really does and it will tug at yours!

Oh and did I say, quotable? I've turned over so many pages while reading this because of lines I just loved. and Harper have made some fantastic graphics for a few of them!

Thank you so much to Alice from Harper360 for giving me the opportunity to read this amazing book and take part in the blog tour. Please check out the other stops on the tour and find Julie Murphy on twitter @andimJULIEDisplaying Dumplin' 4.jpg

Monday, 25 January 2016

#LittleHouseRAL: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is my first review for the Little House Read-Along that Lynn and I are hosting. If you'd like to join us you still can! Check out the details and schedule here.

So I read this book waaay back at the beginning of the month; it was actually the first book I read in 2016, but of course I have been totally rubbish at actually writing this post, but here we are. It's not the end of the month yet, I still have time!

I've been so excited to kick off this read-along of a series that I have very few memories of ever having read before. People have been telling me how it's comfort reading for them and I can absolutely see that. 

The book kicks off as winter begins with Laura and her family - Ma, Pa, Mary and baby Carrie - all tucked up snug in their little house as the bears prowl and the weather rages outside the door. The house seems totally impenetrable, protected by the firelight and the sound of Pa's fiddle playing and stocked up with smoked, salted and frozen meat caught by Pa with his gun. It will probably come as no surprise that I loved the air of self-sufficiency running through this book. It provided such an interesting look into life in 1870s America; a period about which I know very little. 

It also made me think a lot about how much we take for granted in our modern lives, and how little most of us actually have to do nowadays. Our houses are heated, our food is pre-packaged, everywhere is easily accessible by car... For Laura and her family so much work and preparation went into things that seem so trivial to us, and it was a really good reminder for me.

I wonder if Mary was actually so perfect though? In every piece of children's literature I love there is always the 'perfect' child to juxtapose the 'unruly' heroine - Diana and Anne, Beth and Jo, countless of Noel Streatfeild's characters - and often I wonder if the perfection is just in the memory of the author (who often was the 'unruly' child, as is the case with Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott and Noel Streatfeild) or whether it was actually reality. I don't know if there's any way to know, but I found it interesting to wonder!

That said, I did relate to Laura a lot more than I did Mary. I particularly enjoyed the scene where she is arguing with her cousin (I think? The other Laura Ingalls anyway!) about whose baby is prettier, it gave me a little giggle, and the scene with the party was my favourite - such beautiful description, and I always love reading about the ways that people used to entertain themselves before they were transfixed by screens all day long! 

In the spirit of the read-along I decided that I would do an activity each month relating to the book we're reading that month. Because it was easier than shooting a bear, smoking our own meat, or making cheese, we decided to make and dress up paper dolls. Here they are before they were dressed:

Benji (who is three) loved dressing them up. He then took it a step further and covered the entire thing with multi coloured Quality Street wrappers and stickers and made it into a birthday card for his Grandma. Who am I to argue with such creativity? 

I loved this book and I'm really looking forward to reading the next one! Also apologies that I've not been round and commented on everyone's posts yet - sick kids this month have made everything take six times longer than it should!