Anne of Windy Willows – by L M Montgomery

28 10 2017

Book four chronologically in Anne’s life, though this one was actually written 20 years after most of the others. A newly engaged Anne moves to Summerside to become principal of a high school and lodges with two widows in a house called “Windy Willows”. A lot of the book is written as her letters to Gilbert, maybe a half and half split with that and general narrative. She spends three years there while Gilbert is at medical school, and doesn’t get off to the easiest start.

The majority of Summerside either seem to be the Pringle family or have some Pringle blood of them of some sort, and they seem to gang up against Anne initially. But Anne being Anne, she finds her way! From there we meet lots of different people over the three years, very few characters get featured the whole way through other than the little girl, little Elizabeth, who lives next door with her Grandmother and “the woman”, who feed and clothe her well enough, but don’t show anything by way of affection, so in time Anne befriends her and that relationship blossoms beautifully! Elizabeth goes by many different names, depending on how she is feeling: Betty, Beth, Elsie, Bess, Elisa and Lisbeth. “But not Lizzie; I can never feel like Lizzie.”

Anne seems to be not a matchmaker as such, but definitely gets involved in pushing a couple of couples forward in their relationship who have for various reasons not got engaged or married yet. Somehow it’s written so that you feel it’s entirely justified and gives each couple a happy ending!

My only real frustration with this book was a couple of times when we meet someone who is meant to be annoying and talking non stop without Anne or anyone getting a word in edge-ways. But the way it’s written you end up reading pages and pages of this irrelevant annoying waffle and actually don’t care! It makes the point well, but did make me want to skip pages at times.

This book was publish 3 years before World War 2, so it was sad to read the following: “It’s impossible to think of Canada ever being at war again. I am so thankful that phase of history is over.”

Of course, these books always provide some wonderful one liners, maybe not as many as in the other books, but still!

  • “I’ve always liked washing dishes. It’s fun to make dirty things clean and shining again.”
  • “[Babies] are what I heard somebody at Redmond call ‘terrific bundles of potentialities’. […] But I think I’m glad Judas’s mother didn’t know he was to be Judas, I hope she never did know.”
  • “If we were all beauties, who would do the work?”
  • “But there’s one consolation: you’ll be spared an awful lot of trouble if you die young.”

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A Grief Observed – by C.S. Lewis

6 10 2017

At 64 pages I imagined I’d fly through this, even if it was non-fiction. Nope, 10 days!

Essentially these four chapters are Lewis’ scribblings in his notepad after his wife, Joy, passed away. Sometimes it’s a sheer expression of grief, others get more theological.

He actually originally published it anonymously and so the initials with which he refers to other people are all different – I know “H” refers to his wife, but not any of the others!

Some ideas he raises are so interesting. He suggests that some qualities we consider bad, God has, and that they’re not bad, but we only see them as bad because of our human narrow view of the world. C.S. Lewis is definitely one person I have at my dream dinner party – he’s said some quite controversial things in his time and I want to talk much further!

He gives a analogy of grief as going round in circles, and daring to hope that he might be on a spiral, and which direction he is going on it. Such a clever man.

Again there are some great one-liners in here too, my favourite being “What do people mean when they say ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good.’? Have they never been to a dentist?”

I very much enjoyed his use of the plural of cul de sac, “culs de sac”, which is so much more pleasing than what we’d assume “cul de sacs”. But that’s a bit of an aside.

I also loved his reference to “when you have learned to do quadratics and enjoy doing them” – because eventually everyone should enjoy them 😀





The House of New Beginnings – by Lucy Diamond

25 09 2017

I visited a friend at the start of the month and she’d just finished this book and so passed it on to me. I already had a large reading pile, but was interested and have *some* manners, so after I’d finished my current book, and a very short related book after, I gave this one a go.

It’s unashamedly chick lit, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing! Essentially the book is about the residents of the five flats in Seaview House in Brighton.

  • Flat one is Jo, and her teenage daughter, Bea. Jo becomes quite unwell early on and Bea has a damaged relationship with her Dad that needs sorting out.
  • Flat two is Rosa. She’s recently moved down from London after finding out her boyfriend was not all he seemed and so is looking for a fresh start.
  • Flat three is Georgie and Simon. Simon’s just got a great architect job so he’s moved down from Yorkshire and Georgie has come with him, without much sense of purpose.
  • Flat four is Charlotte. She lost her baby daughter recently, after which her marriage broke down and so she has moved to Brighton to get away from all that.
  • Flat five is Margot. She’s an old, frail lady who’s likes money to be spent “unwisely” and to talk about her impending death as some old ladies enjoy doing!

The book begins as Georgie and Simon move in, and gradually you see these women trying to suss out what their life in Brighton is going to be. They gradually get to know each other too and we just spend time following the highs and lows with them over their first summer in the house.

It’s an easy read and pretty feel good 🙂





Remember, Remember (The fifth of November) – by Judy Parkinson

11 09 2017

I hated history at school, I liked the Victorians and Tudors, probably because of their pretty dresses, but the Romans never stuck, nor did much else.

This is my sort of history book. No article in it is more than 250 words. It opens with a timeline and a list of monarchs, and then from the Roman Invasion around 2000 years ago, up until the end of the Second World War, each significant historical item has one page, and one page only to be explained. It was so easy to read, you could binge or just read a page or two depending what time you had. Bite-sized; perfect.

I’ve had this on my shelf for a while and occasionally used it for reference, but it was great to just read it through over a couple of days (especially having just read some historical fiction and seeing how much of that came up) and get a good overview of the history of my country!





The Constant Princess – by Philippa Gregory

11 09 2017

I aimed to read a load of books on holiday, but I realised that when I was a child I think I got so much reading done on the long car journeys; now it’s me driving, I’ve lost all that reading time!

I’d been thinking about trying a Philippa Gregory book for a while, and always liked the Tudors, so when it came to topping up an Amazon order to get free delivery I tacked this one on my basket.

She’s written so many books, but helpfully has put a suggested reading order together so you get a chronological flow.

Posted by Philippa Gregory on Monday, July 7, 2014

It may look like I’ve started in the middle, but I decided to go for the one about the first of Henry VIII’s wives, Katherine of Aragon. That said, once I was reading it I kinda wished I’d started one book further back on Henry VII’s wife, but I imagine I’d work my way right back if I did that – maybe one day I will!

We start with Catalina age five in Spain to get a bit of background – at this point she’s already betrothed to Henry VII’s oldest son Arthur (Henry VIII’s older brother), and then quite quickly skip forward nine years to her arrival in England for her wedding to the Prince of Wales.

It’s hard to know how much to share without a spoiler alert because this is based on history – we all know that Arthur died before he made it to the throne because we know there was never a Tudor King Arthur! That said, there’s a lot to read about their relationship, and then of course how she ended up to be married to his younger brother later on.

I’d be fascinated to know where the line is between fact and artistic licence in these books. They are said to be very well researched, but how far does that go? Did a very young Prince Henry really walk her down the aisle to Arthur? Probably. Did Henry VII really storm in her bedroom to check she was attractive when she first arrived to marry his son? Who knows! All sorts of questions arise!

I really enjoyed this and can see me at some point working my way through the series, just got lots of other books to get through in the mean time!





The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs

28 08 2017

So a bloke decides he wants to become more intelligent, and so gets all 33,000 pages of the 2002 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and sets out to read them in the space of the year.

Seemed like quite a Gormanesque style of challenge, which I always enjoy, so when my friend picked up on my enjoyment of the idea, she got it for my birthday – perfect!

The book is structured so that you’re always under the subheading of one of the articles he’s decided to tell you about, but often he’ll go off on a tangent, and sometimes a full blown life anecdote.

We learn that he and his wife are struggling to conceive and follow that part of his life, alongside all his attempts to show off his new found knowledge. This includes applying to MENSA, auditioning for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, trying an evening on a college debate teamand even pointing out an error in one of the articles!

He also lists things he thinks you can do to make you more likely to get into the “EB” as he affectionately calls it, things like getting beheaded, being a botanist, etc. He also keeps lists on his computer of ironic facts he discovers, people who married their cousins, all sorts of things.

He spends several hours each morning and evening reading, and so tries out a speed reading course to see if that will help, and later on does admit to skim-reading some of the heftier stuff, though he does pledge to read every word of Q! He also gets to go on a tour of the Britannica office and have a go at editing an article (given his full time job is an editor at a magazine, this is less shocking than it initially sounds!).

It was like reading a short, chatty version of the encyclopaedia – I learnt a few things, not many that will stick (a problem he also found as he went through it!), but interesting at the time. There wasn’t much of a dramatic climax or anything, I thought he might struggle to keep pace, but that didn’t seem to be an issue, but it was fun to just learn and get to know him at the same time. Definitely will try some of his other books!





Spectacles – by Sue Perkins

1 08 2017

I honestly feel like I’ve just spent a week hanging out with this woman! I had high expectations from the book and she didn’t disappoint.

She writes just like she talks, lots of random ad-libs, clever jokes, all sorts. Very clever and very quick!

She describes things so beautifully, and none more-so than her first meeting with Mel Giedroyc, just stunning! She also talks about her family with such affection, amid all their nuances there’s proper love there 🙂

It’s hard to say much about this book because she says everything so much better. All I can say is I read a 400 page book in 8 days – that NEVER happens!