Sunday 3 May 2020

Sunday Thoughts

It's Sunday. It's been 3 years since I regularly blogged here, so what better time to update people on what's different since then?

My kids were tiny when I last blogged regularly. They are less tiny now - Ben is 7 and Sam is almost 6. Here they are eating an ice cream that our friend chucked down her driveway at them as we walked past yesterday (not literally, but there was some back and forthing involved in actually getting the ice creams from her house to their hands)

There's Rhys in the background, wearing his Bookshop Crawl hoodie. Some of you might know that the London Bookshop Crawl, which I started when I was regularly writing this blog, recently celebrated its 5th birthday. It's become an awesome, big, three day celebration of the bookshops of London each February and takes up loads of my time planning it! It's so much fun and a real highlight of my year and we were so, so lucky with timing this year as we squeaked in a couple of weeks before the current situation all began to kick off! I also now run bookshop crawls in different cities across the UK in the spring and summer, although these are mostly going to be postponed this year, but we'll get back to them as soon as we can. Rhys is now much more involved in all the planning and idea generation than he was when I last wrote. He's on twitter as @ninjasassistant and is responsible for having the initial idea for the Virtual Bookshop Crawl we're currently running on social media while we're in lockdown.

I've got into yoga since I was last here too. I started it when I was going through a really bad phase of anxiety and googled 'yoga for anxiety'. From there I discovered Yoga with Adriene and it's amazing! I've been to a few real life yoga classes too, back when that was a thing that we could do, and I enjoyed them, but I really love my at home yoga practice - it makes me feel so strong and clears my head. We've also taken over an allotment, although I might have mentioned that before as this is about our fourth summer with it. It's brilliant - I have an asparagus patch which was entirely inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and which is now at a point where we actually get asparagus from it, and the allotment is full of salvaged things, like the three gooseberry bushes we rescued from the reduced section in Tesco for 20p a plant and which last year had fruit for the first time! I have turned into the crazy neighbour that yells at cats too - between them our neighbours have about twenty cats and one or two in particular are always getting into our garden, digging up plants and pooing on them and it drives me nuts. I spend a large percentage of time (particularly at the moment) wandering round my garden, swearing under my breath (and sometimes not so under my breath if I feel the need to make a point) about the cats (which for the record are all gorgeous and I would love them if they weren't destroying my garden).

I am still a book polygamist - it's actually impossible for me to only be reading one book at a time! Most recently I finished Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes which I really loved. I know I've read some Marian Keyes in the dim and distant past but I honestly don't remember it very well, but this has made me want to get all of her back catalogue and read everything she's written. It was perfect for my state of mind at the moment. I'm also currently reading The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith, The Polar Bear Explorers Club by Alex Bell (which I LOVE and am adding the next two onto my wish list immediately) and dipping in and out of Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman for the readalong I'm hosting at Ninja Book Box.

Speaking of which, we've opened an online bookshop selling pre-loved indie books of all genres alongside the quarterly book boxes. We're also looking into the possibility of opening a real life space here in the Thanet once we can go outside again. It's both exciting and terrifying and I would hugely appreciate any advice anyone can offer!

That's probably enough rambling from me for now, except to say that I'm off to eat some microwave chocolate cake - who would have thought that lockdown would inspire me with a love of microwave baking? But sometimes you just need cake in under ten minutes... 

I am happy to be back!

Friday 24 April 2020


Is anyone still out there? 

I've been off working on other projects for the past three years or so but they're all very specifically tailored towards certain things and for a while I've been thinking about this space and the possibility of picking up where I left off. 

This blog has a long history of me making grand declarations about my intentions and then completely failing to live up to or fulfil any of them, but given that we're currently in lockdown and life is pretty weird right now it seems as good a time as any to pick up again. I am making no plans about the regularity of posting, or even if I will post much after this, but I miss the old blogging community - I miss browsing through friends' blogs and commenting on each others posts and discovering all kinds of books I'd never have heard about otherwise. 

If you read this, please leave a comment, say hi and link to your latest blog post - I've got some catching up to do! 

Monday 13 March 2017

Shopping My Shelves (and giving away books!)

Hey people, it's been a while... I've been having a wonderful time reading whatever I want and having very low commitments blog-wise. It's making my brain feel better I think - either that or just leaving me more room to be anxious about other stuff!

Either way I reorganised my books the other day during a fit of wanting to hide from the world. They're now shelved by publisher, which is pretty much the only way I've never shelved them before and it means they no longer fit on my (two bookcases worth of) shelves! When I was going through them though I realised, as you do, that I'd forgotten I had a lot of them and while I've done a pretty good job of passing on things I know I'll never get around to, I thought a fun thing to do might be to go through them in a bit more depth. Cue a new thing I'll be doing over on my Instagram: Shopping my Shelves. 

Each day (or sporadically, depending how ingrained this becomes) I'll post a picture of a book chosen at random from my shelves of unread books, plus the blurb and a little on where I acquired it/how long I've had it for and a summary of whether I'm going to add it to my pile of books to get to immediately, put it back on my shelves for eventual reading, or pass it on! If it's a book that's being passed on, you dear friends and readers will be able to request it. I'll send one parcel a month for free (up to 2kg - 2-3 books) to a UK person, and other than that you can just cover postage & I'll send you books. I do this fairly often on twitter, but I thought this would be really fun, give me something to post on Instagram rather than just pictures of my lunch, and enable me to share even more bookish love with you lovely people.

Hopefully I'll also make you aware of some brilliant books in the process. If you're not already following me do come and say hi! I'll be using #shoppingmyshelves and will have a page here on the blog for books currently on offer. Look out for the first post this evening!

For reference purposes, here's what my bookshelves of unread books look like:

There are between 300 - 400 books pictured. I have a lot of books. I do not need any more books. I will undoubtedly get more books. We are so far failing absolutely on the spending freeze front, but we are becoming way more mindful of what we're spending and why and I hope this exercise will help more with my book buying! Wish me luck!

Sunday 19 February 2017

London Bookshop Crawl 2017

Where to start with this post? If you've been around the blog for a while you'll have seen that the bookshop crawl I started last year to brighten up February, support bookshops and meet fellow book lovers got a lot bigger this year. Because of that I've been busy madly co-ordinating everything and organising groups and haven't had time to worry about how it was actually all going to work. As we got closer to Saturday I found myself getting a bit apprehensive...

However Saturday morning hit and we headed out to Foyles, the meeting point for the people who were in the four groups we ran during the day. Many other people took part in the crawl across London and it was amazing seeing tweets of where they'd been and all the bookshop love going on - one of my favourite things about the day!

We were a little late to Foyles due to some train/breakfast issues so lots of people were already there when I arrived - some familiar faces and a lot of new ones. If you were feeling overwhelmed I was totally there with you! It was lovely to meet so many people though, and we spent a little while chatting and handing out books (some of us had posted books we wanted to rehome on social media beforehand so it was fun to put faces to names and make some shelf space all at once) and the tote bags we'd had printed for the day.

Rhys and I were leading group 3 and headed off to Orbital Comics. Personally I love and adore Orbital, and they were giving away free comics to bookshop crawlers which was amazing. Rhys got Doctor Strange and I picked up volume one of March by John Lewis which was recommended to me by Elena (and many others). I've actually already finished it and it's just as brilliant as everyone says it is - I highly recommend it! I'm not sure there were a huge number of comics fans in our group, and so we thought it would be good to split up, as our second stop according to the itinerary was Gosh! Comics.

Rhys took most of the group off to Oxfam Books in Bloomsbury where they were given free chocolate and badges and generally seem to have had a whale of a time! Katie, myself and Jane (who it was awesome to finally meet after a while of Ninja Swapping and chatting online) headed off towards Gosh where we found Katheryn, Hanna, Charlotte and Laura (and Peter). This was particularly exciting for me since I last saw Charlotte and Hanna three years ago, before Sam was born, and we've been trying to meet up again ever since! I think I did a good job of creeping up on them and generally involving myself in conversations that didn't involve me, whilst accusing them of bitching about us. Excellent friend, me.

Anyway, at Gosh I decided to theme my comics buying for the day and got volume 2 of March. I'm slightly kicking myself now for not having bought volume 3 as well, but never mind! I've never been to Gosh before and I'll definitely be going back - I loved the layout as the upstairs is laid out much more like a bookshop than other comic shops I've been to, and I found it really easy to browse. Their selection was awesome and the staff were great - the 10% discount for bookshop crawlers helped too!

After we'd rounded up all the people we were supposed to have we made our way over to Persephone. After a couple of minor mishaps (we got split up from a couple of people but found them again at the other end) we finally made it, to find the rest of our group had already finished! Agreeing to meet them at Blackwells we went for a browse. I love Persephone books. They're a small (teeny) bookshop with a publishing house in the back and they publish books by forgotten writers, mostly women. I've yet to read a Persephone book I didn't like so my choices this year were mostly random. Taking advantage of the 3 for £30 offer (they're usually £12 per book) I grabbed High Wages by Dorothy Whipple, because I bought and adored They Were Sisters on last years' crawl, William - an Englishman by Cicely Hamilton, because it's Persephone Book 1, and Miss Buncle's Book by D.E Stevenson.

The last stop before lunch was Blackwells, where I picked up Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta, with some encouragement from Jane! Those of us who'd met last year, plus a few people I was particularly looking forward to meeting, met up for lunch at Pizza Express. It was really nice to chat with everyone and have a little bit of time off from being in charge of everything!

After lunch we embarked on my big mistake of the day. Our next stop was Libreria, which is a really cool little bookshop - really quirky, beautifully and very cleverly designed, but absolutely miles away from the rest of the crawl route and really not big enough for a group! I grabbed The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan which I'd heard good things about, and we were on our way over to Word on the Water.

This was the stop most people were most excited about I think. It's a bookshop on a barge in the Regents Canal and it's amazing. They had a great selection of second hand books, live jazz and a really lovely owner who gave me a book (Bookshops by Jorge Carrion) as a thankyou for organising the crawl and generally enthused about how brilliant it all was so much that it really reminded me why I was doing it in the first place. Independent bookshops are the best. With the last of the unseasonal sun on the water and the saxophone, plus the friendly dog sniffing all of our bags, it was the perfect penultimate stop. I also bought Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop, as it's about a bookshop on a boat and seemed fitting.

We merged the remainder of our group with the remainder of Louise's group at this point. Our final stop of the day was Waterstones' Piccadilly where we had a chance to sit down and have a drink while attempting to remember obscure bookish things and doing a quiz organised by Stephen (thanks again!). Everyone was pretty much asleep by this point, but after some lemonade and a chat I felt sufficiently revitalised to spend my book tokens on A Close and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, the only thing besides March that was actually on my 'must buy' list, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, and the beautiful hardback Victor Gollancz Guards! Guards! to add to our collection.

After that we said goodbye to everyone who was still around and wearily made our way home. Of course being me I'm already thinking about the summer crawl (if you have an idea for where you want it to be - it roams, and isn't in London - please let me know on twitter. At the moment the front runners are Canterbury and Brighton) and ideas to make the 2018 London event even more excellent. If you missed out on the event but would like info about future ones you can sign up for updates here.

I'm sending out a feedback survey this week, but so far all the feedback I've had has been really good. It seems like people had a brilliant day and I'm so thrilled to have met so many book lovers and made so many bookshops happy by pointing people in their direction. This is the stuff I live for guys. It makes me happy.

My eventual haul plus awesome tote bag & badge. The left hand pile were given to me by fellow crawlers, the right hand pile are my purchases...

Saturday 11 February 2017

On Quitting

I've seriously lost my enthusiasm for blogging lately, and I don't blame the blog. I overcommit myself and I'm really sick of feeling like I can't read what I want to read. Even when constraints are things I'm really excited about and even things I've originated (i.e Re-Readathon, Discworldathon) I've still been feeling really unmotivated. This week has been Re-Readathon and my usual count is 2-4 books finished. This week I've not finished one, and this is partly because of Bookshop Crawl planning but primarily because I'm just having a huge aversion to anything I 'have' to read at the moment.

This post is an announcement, of sorts, and before I start I want to apologise to anyone I may be letting down, but I've decided for the sake of still loving books that I need to pull out of all reading commitments for the rest of the year. No more Re-Readathons, and I'll still co-ordinate Discworldathon of course and will still hope to read some Pratchett this year, but overall I'd like to leave the actual posting and running of events to the hosts for each month as I'm finding having to post about stuff to be really off putting too.

I'm feeling like my focus needs to really be on Ninja Book Box, bookshop crawls and book swap, since these are things that I'm enthusiastic about, and I'd love to bring the excitement back to my reading life. I think making these changes will do that.

I'll probably be putting the blog on a little bit of a hiatus. I plan to primarily post short book reviews on Instagram and leave the blog for the occasional parenting/lifestyle/general thoughts type posts and book lists. I'll be on twitter for all the events I organise. I don't want to stop blogging but the fire has really gone out of it at the moment and I think I need to read exactly what I want, when I want, without ANY pressure at all for a long, long time.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Re-Readathon: Day 1-3 Stats & Different Perspectives

My re-reading so far this week has been really reflective of the state of my brain; disjointed! I'm going through a phase of life where I think after this week I'm probably going to throw in the towel for any kind of reading commitments besides Discworldathon (which I'm doing a terrible job of hosting, and I apologise) and Ninja Book Box related things and just read whatever the hell I want for the rest of the year. However it remains that I love and adore the premise of Re-Readathon and I have been doing some re-reading this week, amongst the mass email sending for London Bookshop Crawl, sorting things for goody bags and organising the February book box! 

Day 1,2 and 3 
Books read from: Pride & Prejudice, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
Pages read: 90

So that's pathetic, but on the plus side I am really enjoying Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennet particularly is hilarious. 

Different Perspectives 

Today's mini challenge is hosted by Gee. She asks us to reflect on a different perspective a re-read has given us, for better or worse. Honestly I don't have an answer for this! I'm not saying I've reacted in exactly the same way every time I've re-read a book, but similarly enough that there aren't any particular books that spring to mind when I think about this question! The closest I can get is my response to Sylvia Plath. 

When we studies Plath at school I really really hated her poetry. It struck me as massively self indulgent, whiny and narcissistic. Honestly, it still pisses me off that she'd compare her relationship with her father to Hitler and the Jews. For goodness sake. But when I re-read a lot of it at University I eventually began to realise that although all my former opinions remain (in my head at least) true, I do have to give her credit for being pretty great with words. 

Here's the poem that changed my mind (from


The prince leans to the girl in scarlet heels,
Her green eyes slant, hair flaring in a fan
Of silver as the rondo slows; now reels
Begin on tilted violins to span

The whole revolving tall glass palace hall
Where guests slide gliding into light like wine;
Rose candles flicker on the lilac wall
Reflecting in a million flagons' shine,

And glided couples all in whirling trance
Follow holiday revel begun long since,
Until near twelve the strange girl all at once
Guilt-stricken halts, pales, clings to the prince

As amid the hectic music and cocktail talk
She hears the caustic ticking of the clock.

Weird because it's definitely not technically her best, but I do still really like it. 

Head over to Gee's blog and link up your entries for today's challenge, and don't forget to let us know how your re-reading is going in the comments or using #rereadathon!

Sunday 5 February 2017

Re-Readathon Day One: Intro Survey & TBR

Hey people, welcome to day one of Re-Readathon. I hope your reading has been going well, and I'll just say now, from the start, that you shouldn't expect my posts this week to be anything less than last minute. I'm going to aim to post every day but we'll see what happens because with organising the bookshop crawl and sorting the February Ninja Book Box not to mention caring for two under fives, everything's a little bit mad around here!

Anyway, here are my answers for the opening survey. Below there will be a master linky for you to link up anything Re-Readalong related all week so please feel free to link up your survey answers and TBRs there!

Opening Survey

1. Tell us a little about yourself!
I'm Bex, I'm the founder of Re-Readathon and many other much crazier internet based projects. I find it impossible to do just one thing at a time, including reading one book at a time. I have an addiction to buying books and live in a house with 300+ of them as well as my two young children and husband. I like milkshakes, singing loudly, Harry Potter and board games, the more obscure the better. I'm also entirely failing at hosting Discworldathon this year!

2. How often do you re-read books?
I re-read fairly often - often I don't finish my re-reads though. Whenever I'm feeling down or the world is going to shit I reach for an old favourite, most regularly Harry Potter, Little Women, or Fangirl or Attachments, but I'll often just read until I start to feel better again and then move on to something else. Re-Readathon is my chance to actually finish entire re-reads.

3. What is your current favourite book?
I think The Outrun by Amy Liptrot which is absolutely phenomenal memoir slash nature writing, although I did just finish Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi which is entirely as good and better than everyone has been saying it is. Talk about breaking your heart, firing you up and making you fall in love with it all at once.

4. What do you love most about re-reading?
Oh where to start. Re-reading is like my medication. Reading familiar words calms me down so much. I love revisiting worlds that I know I'll be swept up in, or wallowing in nostalgia from re-reads of childhood favourites. For me there isn't really a risk in re-reading like there is in other reads. Yes I've started to re-read things and they've not had the same effect that they did the last time I read them and that's sad but ultimately I just put them down until another time. For years I re-read Little Women annually. In the last couple of years I've only dipped into it, as mentioned above, but have moved to Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for my annual fix of familiarity. I think what I re-read reflects what I need at the time really, and I'm great with that.

5. What's on your TBR? What are you going to read first?
I've tried to keep my TBR a little more manageable this time. Usually I go completely overboard and it's ridiculous but this time I've kept it to six... Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (of course, because it's a new year and I haven't read it in 2017. Plus it'll inspire me for the coming season on the allotment), The Winter of Our Disconnect by Susan Maushart, because I've been thinking a lot about how connected we all are all the time recently and I'm needing some inspiration to unplug, The Colour of Magic for Louise's readalong for Discworldathon this month, Little Women because it feels like a crime to not include it, The Outrun by Amy Liptrot because I haven't re-read it yet, and I've started with my beautiful clothbound edition of Pride and Prejudice because I saw it at the theatre last week and wanted to remember it better.

Please link up any and all Re-Readathon related posts below!