The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times is a fascinating book. It’s 1923. Lucy Marsh is a fourteen year old orphan. On Sundays, a man called Coach drives her and a bunch of other kids in his old Maudslay truck out to Epping Forest. There they meet the funny men: Toto, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. They have a picnic. This is my absolute favourite read of the year so far.
The genius of this book is in how Xan Brooks manages to balance a creeping sense of the unsafe with an attractiveness, a charming quality. Lucy is our anchor, and although the story takes in a much broader scope it all puts her situation in context. She acknowledges this dichotomy of beautiful and dangerous in the first chapter, hinting at what is to come:
Maybe this, were she ever called upon to explain her actions, would be her chief line of defence. Your honour, she would say, I went back because the forest is fantastic, which is another way of saying that anything can happen. And this is why, as long as she lives, she will never completely regret her trips to the forest, in spite of the trouble they cause and the horrors that follow.
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Another holiday in the Lake District, and I have come home again with a lovely stack of books. The little bit of Cumbria that my husband and I have visited with friends over the past few years has several lovely independent bookshops, most particularly Fred Holdsworth in Ambleside and Sam Read in Grasmere.
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2017 Reading Progress: 30/50 books
My reading so far this year has been interesting. I’ve felt like I’m in a slump for most of the year, yet I’m still ahead of my target by five books. In part I think this is down to University reading – not only were there a number of books I had to read by a certain date, it has reinforced the habit of reading, whether I feel like it or not. I have spent a lot of time flitting between books I haven’t finished, picking things up and getting distracted, and this is probably where the slump-like feeling is coming from.
Despite this, I have read some really amazing books this year. I’m glad to be ahead of my target – for the next few months, I’m going to be mostly focusing on writing rather than reading, as my final MA hand-in of 40,000 words approaches at the end of September. My June wrap up was a bit thin compared to usual, with just three books, and this may be the trend for a while yet. If I do end up behind on my target, I should have time to catch up from October though. Fingers crossed…!
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June has been surprising. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time reading but it’s been slow progress. Whether measuring by books (three) or pages read, this month was my lowest total so far this year. I am mired in uni work – between now and September I am on the final stretch with a lot of writing to do, and because of that I’m distracted. My brain is ‘on’ constantly, and mostly inside my own book. I’ve been slowed down because I have to take notes – I read something and it gives me ideas, so I still there staring at the wall thinking of how I can apply this to my writing instead. My mind never stops whirring and it’s took three genuinely amazing books to get me to pay attention at all. All three of will be in my thoughts when I come to write about my favourites of the year.Read More »
Of all the book recommendations I’ve ever received, this might be my favourite. I went to a book launch a few weeks ago, where I got talking to a man who used to work in opera. He was incredibly interesting and we got chatting about speculative fiction, Margaret Atwood and excellent writing in general. It was a brilliant conversation. He promised me I would love Penelope Fitzgerald, in particular that I should start with The Blue Flower. He was right.
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Monday 26th June 2017 marked twenty years since the original publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Everywhere you turn online, someone is telling you what they love about this series, so I’m sure you’ve heard everything I can say on that subject elsewhere already. Instead, this is a mini shelf tour of my Harry Potter collcetion. In itself, this shelf is evidence of my love for the series.
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I picked this up on a bookshop browse a few weeks ago in the new fiction section. I hadn’t heard of the book itself, but had heard of Woodson’s memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. After reading the first sentence, I fell a little bit in love and couldn’t leave without it…
For a long time my mother wasn’t dead yet.
Do you ever pick up a book and get a tingly feeling of fate? A little funny instinct that somehow this story will be important to you.
Another Brooklyn is the story of a friendship between four girls, as August looks back to growing up in the 1970s. It is rich with beautiful and brutal moments which connect into a richly moving novel.
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The UK is having a heatwave right now, which I am not enjoying. I don’t cope well with heat. Like most of the country, I have not slept well for the past few nights, and I’ve been filling those hours of restless, sweaty discomfort with reading. Read More »
I first read Ali Smith when I was in University. On a Waterstones wander I picked up the newly published There but for the. I read it in almost one sitting and was completely entranced by writing so different to anything I’d read before. I’ve since made quite a collection of Ali Smith’s books – there are now nine on my shelves, and yet for some reason I haven’t read most of them. Why? I have no idea.
A few weeks ago I saw Ali Smith speak at Bath Festival, which was a amazing. As a reader and as a writer, I was inspired by everything she said – the passion and enthusiasm she spoke with. It was at that event where I bought a copy of Free Love and Other Stories, which was Smith’s first published book. I started reading on the train home and, as I was with There but for the, I was completely swept away by the beauty of the prose. Read More »
As a rule, I don’t like to write prescriptive TBRs. I usually don’t manage to stick to them. But I have so many unread books on my shelves at the moment that it’s starting to feel like a little bit of planning might be necessary to be sure I’m paying attention to the things I really want to. Having so many books around the house makes me very happy, but it also means that browsing as an activity is split between bookcases and rooms.Read More »