Don’t worry; this isn’t a winter or Christmas blog post. It just so happens that my next book review is a story that features some key moments in December, hence the photo choice. I absolutely fell in love with this book by Josie Silver. I read it every second I could on the train and on my lunch-break, desperate to get to the end and find out what happened. It’s the story of Laurie who falls in love at first sight – something she never believed in – and spends a year desperate to find her mysterious man. She finally finds him, although not in the way she expects to.
I constantly had my heart in my mouth throughout. I am a true romantic at heart so I was willing Laurie and Jack to get together, though I will not reveal if they did. The book does have a sense of One Day by David Nicholls about it as you follow the characters for nearly ten years and as One Day is one of my favourite books, you’ll hear no complaint from me.
The characters felt so real to me and every near miss that they had made perfect sense, though it does make you want to shout at them sometimes to get their act together. That first glance is so realistic and at the same time feels like something out of a classic movie. I really look forward to reading more by Josie Silver and if you love love stories, I highly recommend this book.
Apologies for my sporadic blog posts at the moment and thanks so much for sticking with me.
The Elizabethan thriller The Cursed Wife by Pamela Hartshorne is a change of direction from my usual genre. With the historical setting, I couldn’t resist. It tells the story of Mary and Cat as we slowly uncover their past and understand why their lives are irreconcilably intertwined. The theme of Mary being cursed follows her throughout the novel and is tied to the doll she keeps with her; this doll seems to have powers of its own and changes its expression to foreshadow events, a subtle but terrifying addition.
The trouble that Mary finds herself in is mostly not her fault and you really for her as she struggles to keep her perfect life together. It’s a story of self-fulfilling prophecy. The ending is at once heart-breaking yet undeniable; it also leaves the story open for a potential sequel. Cat is a character I find myself disliking the whole way through; I couldn’t find any redeemable qualities in her but could understand her situation at times.
The story is told from the perspective of the two women and it’s a great insight to see their different takes on the same event. If you like historical fiction and thrillers, I’d definitely recommend this book. Buy The Cursed Wife here.
I suppose it’s finally time I do a blog about Jane Austen. Given my blog’s name where I’ve managed to get three Jane Austen titles in, you might have gathered I’m a bit of a fan. From quite a young age I’ve always enjoyed watching historical and period dramas but I think I really have Keira Knightley to thank for my first journey into Austen. As soon as I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean film when I was about 12, I was hooked and became obsessed with seeing every film I could with Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in (especially Orlando Bloom) When I saw that she was in something called Pride and Prejudice, we hired it on DVD. I was transfixed. The polite way they spoke to each other, the stunning costumes and stately homes. The moral behind every story and even the social conventions. Although luckily we’ve progressed a lot (although not far enough) from a woman being on the shelf if she’s not married by 21, I still think there’s something we can learn from Jane Austen and other writers of her time.
The dating system
Luckily I don’t have to navigate the tricky world of 21st century dating anymore but if I did I wouldn’t know where to start. Where do you meet someone if work, mutual friends and hobbies aren’t working? Online dating? For some, this is a scary process though I personally know quite a few successful love stories that have flourished from this. Back in the 18th and 19th century, the rules were clear; you met a suitable partner at a dance. No more than three though or there’d be talk in the morning. There were obvious flaws with this system. Your whole courtship is public and you can never be alone to fully learn about each other. A chaperone would be needed and the first time you would be able to have a private conservation would be after you’re married.
An easier time?
However, there are no worries about who makes the first move, it would have always been the man. In this age of feminism, women don’t want to be seen to let the man pay or wait for him to ask her out. However, this can lead to confusion and miscommunication. I personally like the idea of chivalry (maybe that’s why I love these types of novels so much) as long as the man isn’t being taking advantage of. I see it as meaning mutual respect for both men and women. I see no reason why a man can’t open the door for a woman and vice versa; it’s polite.
A misunderstood genre
For those who haven’t read any Jane Austen, there’s the assumption it’s all bonnets and tea. Many don’t realise that social commentary and irony play as heavy a role in Austen’s novels as romance does. She’s not writing a classic man meets woman, fall in love story. She deals with issues of inheritance, illegitimate children and slavery as well as poking fun at the clergy even though her father was a vicar. We’re determined to believe that before the modern ages of the 20th century, women were meek and mild. Austen’s heroines are nothing of the sort. Elizabeth Bennet is fiercely independent and has no issue sparring with a man seen as her superior in wealth and class. This would have been unheard of and unbecoming. Emma Woodhouse has no thoughts of marriage but spends all her time matchmaking in a time when love wasn’t seen as a prerequisite for marriage. Elinor Dashwood understands finances and tries desperately to help her mother’s situation when they have reduced circumstances.
A woman before her time
The main thing I want you to take away about Jane Austen is that she was a realist. She understood that, at the time, a woman did require marriage in order to survive. She may have tried to ensure that the majority of her characters had happy after evers but she did it in a realistic and plausible way. Her own life didn’t match this and she knew enough about heartache and lost chances.
I hope for those who are yet to venture into the world of Jane Austen, I’ve inspired you. If you’re already a fan, please let me know what your favourite Jane Austen novel is and I will review it in my next Austen blog.
You may have noticed my blog looks a little different, I’m making a real effort this year to make my blog the best it can be and I really appreciate everyone’s support. Please share if you enjoy reading. x
In the news recently there has been a lot of talk about spending cuts; especially when it comes to libraries. Nearby Bristol has recently had a multitude of libraries be threatened with closure and only last week library staff there went on strike due to a proposed change in their working patterns.
I have a lot of experience with libraries; I have been a regular user of local and educational libraries all my life; I wouldn’t have survived my degree without them. For the last nine months I have also been working in a busy city centre library. As a child I loved going and would take out as many books as I could; I still do that now up to a point but unfortunately life gets in the way. Working in a library or a bookshop was always my ideal job and I am now lucky enough to be doing that. Libraries are the backbone of any society; they do so much but get little recognition. Those of you who are not regular library users may not even know how much people depend on them. My new job has given me a unique perspective into what a library system really does for the community. This might get into a long list but I want to highlight exactly why we need libraries. Starting at the beginning a library is a brilliant way to encourage children to enjoy reading for pleasure as well as to help them develop. A report a few years ago showed that in the UK 30% of children do not own a single book of their own and this has been shown to have negative consequences on their school work and engagement with reading. Encouraging parents to read stories to their children is also important and many libraries run story times and other events where parents can meet others and have a bit of a break.
The internet is not always the best source of information therefore a library can be a great place to help with homework and further education; in most degrees you cannot rely on online sources and libraries are a must. In the city library I work in the public computers are very well used and although this can at times seem like the wrong use of a library these facilities are vital to many. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a computer or is not competent enough to need one. However, so many things need to be done online now such as job searching, applying for benefits and contacting family abroad. During work I had heard a lot people say they couldn’t do without libraries.
The amount of people who use the library just as a safe and warm place to go is also staggering and I’m proud that we can offer that. There aren’t many other places you can go without spending money. For people who have maybe just come out of the prison system or who are trying to get back on their feet after being homeless libraries provide a free way for them to access the help they need. Some elderly or lonely people just want someone to talk to; my local library is the hub of the community. It might not be busy all the time but people like to go there to sit and meet up with friend and just have a quiet place to sit and read.
I haven’t really mentioned books yet and they are quite vital to a library. Without libraries elderly and housebound people would not have easy access to books. Audio books are free to visually impaired people and many libraries have a housebound service where someone handpicks books for an induvial and delivers them. Many value having a local library right on their doorstep; if everyone had to go to the main one library use might fall as it would difficult for many to get there. The amount of information and entertainment that you can access at a very small if not non -existent fee is amazing and we should make more use of these great community assets. Even if you don’t regularly visit one now I’m sure you remember doing the Summer Reading Challenge as a child or being taken to Storytime or being able to print that last minute essay when your printer had broken down. I could go on about all the other services like the mobile libraries and other outreach projects that libraries are involved in but the bottom line is that they are here for everyone.
I definitely believe that a library is something that we will all feel the loss of if it closes. Please support your local library.
A good friend and fellow bookworm asked me the other day “How exactly do you find the time to read?” It’s actually a fair question, considering I work full time, have a full house and kids in activities who have an insane need for one-on-one time with their mama. It’s just that ONE thing that gives me…
As I list reading as one of my favourite things and I work in a library I thought it might be a good idea to talk about some of the books I have been reading. After a recommendation from a friend at work I have got into the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. They would not have been my usual choice but I cannot recommend these enough. If like me you love books about books then these are perfect. Its set in an alternate 1980s which is very different but still recognisable to us, for example Germany won the second war and Britain was occupied for a number of years, time-travel and book-travel exists and most importantly of all literature is vastly more ingrained in culture than it is now. The first book involves the protagonist Thursday Next travelling into Jane Eyre which has a very different ending to the one we are familiar with. It’s an extremely funny book and spans multiple genres so there’s something in there for everyone. It’s full of literary references and jokes which is what makes me really enjoy it, so if you’re looking for something new to read The Eyre Affair is a must. I am also valiantly ploughing through A Dance With Dragons (Game of Thrones), but as I’m a big fan of the tv show and watched that first it does take away some of the enjoyment when I reading bits that I already know the outcome of or they were omitted from the show (sometimes for good reason). At work I constantly have bits of paper in my pocket from books that I have seen that look interesting, the list keeps getting longer but I don’t seem to have the time to read them. I would love to try some new things though so if anyone has any recommendations please comment as I love finding new books.