5 on Friday: 5 Reviews of 5 Books I Really Want to Read

Books

I’m always on the lookout for reading inspiration and like many people will often be swayed by reviews in newspapers, magazines or online.  There will always be those authors I will want  to read, no matter how good or bad a review.   But I enjoy finding authors I am completely unfamiliar with prior to reading a review but become persuaded I need to read.  Below are selection of both types.  The common denominator being these are all books I really want to read.

  1.  Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe reviewed by The New York Times

I have loved Nina Stibbe ever since I read ‘Love Nina’ which incidentally has since been televised.  I also throughly enjoyed ‘Man at the Helm’  Both of these made me laugh.  ‘Paradise Lodge’ is about a teenager who gets a job in a nursing home.  I got a job in a nursing home when I was a   young, jobless graduate, and I feel sure the humour in this novel is something I will find all too familiar. Read the review here

2.  My Sunshine Away by MO Walsh reviewed on the Hush blog

I came across this review when perusing the blog of the online store Hush.   The subject matter   may be a little challenging.  A man looks back at his childhood in South Louisiana and in particular the sweltering summer of 1989 when “everything changed” after the brutal rape of his 15-year-old neighbour Lindy Simpson on her way home from track practice.     Hush has become  a go to online shop for me, and the blog is well worth checking out.     In fact there is rarely a book recommendation there that I’m not persuaded I want to read.  Read the review here.

3.  Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris reviewed in The Guardian

One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash.  At that moment 5 lives collide and are drawn together by connection and coincidence. I have to confess I already own this book.  The publishers sent it to me to review a few months ago.  I also have to confess that until yesterday it had been sitting on my TBR pile untouched .  I was reminded of it last week whilst perusing the line up for a forthcoming local literary festival and seeing the author Barney Norris’s name crop up.  There is a great review of it in the guardian which i’m sure will persuade you to read it too.  Read the review here.

4.  Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld reviewed by Sarra Manning in Red online

Like Sarra Manning I love Pride and Prejudice which means I’m always drawn to anything even vaguely related to it.   However I also approach anything but the genuine article with slight fear and trepidation.  This novel by Curtis Sittenfeld is  a modern retelling of Pride And Prejudice, again something which makes me a little nervous.  However, as  American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the most engrossing novels I have read, I am persuaded I can trust P&P in her hands enough to  read this contemporary version.  Read the review here.

5.  Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler reviewed in The London Magazine.

Similarly to the novel by Curtis Sittenfeld, ‘Vinegar’ by Anne Tyler is a contemporary retelling of another classic.  This time, Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.  I have huge fondness for Anne Tyler and a certain amount of fondness for this particular Shakespeare play.  Mainly because I watched my husband perform this many years ago as an innocent 6th former under the fierce guidance of Miss Bennett, a larger than life English teacher.  You can read the review here.

I hope this has wetted your appetite and helped you add a few more books to your To be read lists. Let me know of other books you would recommend.

Wishing you all a page turning weekend

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New to me, 91 Magazine

91 magazine

Every now and again I feel the need for a little deviation from the novels which make up most of my reading time.  91 magazine isn’t a magazine I have ever read before but after my first foray I can guarantee  I’ll read it again.

“Every page aims to inspire the space that surrounds you, the life that you’ve created and the things that you love”.

This is the promise on the website.  Quite a claim, but after reading through I certainly finished feeling inspired.  This was not only down to the variety of articles, but also the many beautiful images filling the pages.

91 magazine

I’m a bit of an instagram fan and I loved ‘The Instagram Edit’.  5 pages given over to 5 beautiful instagram accounts from around the world.  I loved looking at these pictures and thinking about the sort of pictures I would like to take.  It also  gave me some new and exciting instragammers to follow, which is always a good thing.

There are ideas for shopping, designing, making and baking.  Tours of homes, restaurants and creative spaces and plenty of inspiration from other bloggers. I especially enjoyed the Top Blog feature on ‘A Playful Day’ Blog.  This is a blog which is new to me but one I’m enjoying getting to know.

91 magazine

This isn’t a magazine filled with unattainable glossy images and interiors that are beyond most people’s budgets or dreams.  It’s a magazine overflowing with ways of  making life more creative and beautiful in any way you can.  And why would you not want to do that?

If you would like to find out a little more about this charming magazine why not pop along to their website, you can find it right here.

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5 on Friday: 5 Floral Water Colours From Charles Rennie Mackintosh

This wasn’t the post I had planned for this weeks 5 on Friday but after reading and then reviewing ‘Mr Mac and Me’ earlier in the week I found myself browsing the internet for examples of Rennie Mackintosh’s work. I soon became lost in his botanical watercolours.   It’s no secret that I love flowers so anything with a floral content is bound to appeal.  These are so delicate but also so detailed.  I particularly love that they  were all painted in Walberswick, the setting for the book, a place I have visited often and a place  where I enjoyed the best fish and chips of my life.

I thought I would bring a bit of cheer to this ‘sunny’ August Friday by sharing some of them with you.

Larkspur Walberswick 1914

Larkspur Walberswick 1914

Have a lovely weekend X

Images all via Hunterian Art Gallery

Book Review: Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud

Mr Mac and Me

This book by Esther Freud with the very beautiful cover was lent to me by an artist friend.  Both of us hail from Norfolk, both of us love the Suffolk seaside towns of Walberswick and Southwold, the setting for this book. I am fond of Esther Freud’s writing and my friend is rather fond of the artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh of whom this book is about.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh is the ‘Mr Mac’ of the title and this book is about a period of his life during the first world war that he spent on the Suffolk coast.  He arrives as a mysterious Scotsman in a black cape, wollen hat and smoking a pipe.  The locals immediately christen him Mac which is how he is known throughout the novel.  The arrival of Mac and his red haired artist wife Margaret become a source of fascination and intrigue to Thomas Maggs.  Thomas is the only surviving son of a local publican.  He lives with his parents and sister above the pub.  Thomas loves the sea and dreams of setting sail, he helps his parents, he adores his sister, he goes to school and he works for a while with the local rope maker, and he loves to draw ships.  Apart from the alcohol outburst of his father, life is generally quiet and predictable.  Thomas has a ‘deformed’ foot and a limp and is told to expect little from life.

However, he is naturally inquisitive and gradually he begins to visit Mac and his wife at their home watching them in silence as they work and paint.  They provide a haven of peace away from his difficult father and the domestic violence that lurks at home. As war is declared suspicion surrounds Mac. The locals question his reasons for night time walks and the time he spends gazing out to sea through his binoculars.  Thomas has grown very fond of the Scotsman and takes on the role of friend and protector.

Esther Freud has used this period of Mackintosh’s life when he was down on his luck and going largely unrecognised for his many great works to weave a story of friendship and loyalty.  Fact and fiction is cleverly intertwined throughout the novel.  The detail of both Mac and Margaret’s watercolours of flowers are portrayed so clearly and beautifully that I found myself scouring the internet to look at them.

This is a hugely enjoyable and well written book by an author who clearly knows her subject and as a part time Suffolk resident also clearly knows her setting.

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Create: Itsy, Glitzy Cards

CardsIn last weeks 5 on Friday, 5 under £5 post I referenced the Sticky squares of gold striped paper I had bought from Tiger for the princely sum of £1.  At the time I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it.  But after a particularly gruelling day at work I arrived home needing to do something creative.  I remembered my sticky glitzy stripey paper.  Inspiration struck, and I spent the next hour or so sitting in the garden lost in some therapeutic card making.

As you can see they are incredibly simple, literally child’s play.  The striped squares were attached to white cards, and an assortment of shapes were then added for prettification.

I already had a packet of blank white cards.  I also had a packet of glittery, stick on shapes which I had bought months ago and only used a few of.   Apart from these 3 items the only other thing I used was scissors for a bit of trimming.  CardsThe hardest part was peeling the paper of the back of the sticky squares and applying it to the cards with out it becoming wrinkled and wonky.  I more or less managed this, rescuing only one near casualty on the brink of disaster.CardsNo glue was needed as the glittery shapes also have peel of backs so the only mildly difficult bit was deciding which colour and shape combination to choose.CardsAnd this is what I made!  They’re not going to win any prizes for innovation but they are stripey and bright, and hand made, all of which ticks lots of boxes for me.

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5 on Friday: 5 For Under £5 August

July where did you go? And August how did you arrive so quickly?  These are the kind of deep ponderings that keep me awake at night.  That and should I paint my toe nails pinky red or reddy pink this week.  Oh yes, no one could call me shallow.

Of course I’m not always so philosophical I do think about shopping too.  Sadly (although maybe not for my purse), during recent weeks my shopping has been minimal and largely incidental. Mainly because I haven’t had much free time to hit the shops.  We also had some very hot weather not so long ago and who wants to spend hot days or evenings  shopping? Not me.

But fear not friends, despite this I did still mange to come upon a few little bargains. to share with you on this the 5th of August or as its known here and on other blogs ‘5 for under £5 August- Friday’ As always, my purchases  were all completely essential , as I’m sure you’ll agree.

BooksBooks will undoubtedly feature pretty high on my list of priority purchases, and despite regularly telling myself I must not buy any more I just don’t seem to be able to help it, and can always justify a new book.  I read ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes last year, it was my first Jojo Moyes and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was very excited to hear she had written a sequel and when I saw this for the knock down price of £3.50 in Waterstone’s, it would have been wrong to have walked away empty handed.  I think I’ve decided it will be joining me on my next holiday jaunt.

This absolutely beautiful book is my number one bargain of the month.  ‘Saplings’ by Noel Streatfeild is a Persephone Book.  I love Persephone books.  I couldn’t believe it when I spotted this languishing on the slightly dodgy £1 book trolley outside the hospital friends shop where I work.  At the time I was passing I had no money with me.  In my desperation not to loose it to some other eagle eyed, persephone book loving, bargain hunter I hid it at the back of the trolley underneath some dog-eared John Grishams and beetled off to get some money from my office.  Frankly I would have paid £1 for the cover of this book alone I love it so much.  Napkins come and napkins go, which is why I tend to buy my napkins from Tiger where they seem to change the designs relatively regularly and  are always cheap and cheerful.  £1 for a packet of napkins is not to be sniffed at (although they are quite useful for blowing your nose on should you run out of tissues).  I’m a bit into pink right now so these were my napkin of choice this month.NapkinsTiger is an endless source of joy to me and when napkin shopping recently I also picked up these  square sheets of sticky striped paper.  Like a magpie I’m drawn to pretty shiny things and as soon as I saw these it was clear I wouldn’t be leaving the shop without them.  I may not have known exactly what I was going to do with them when I was handing my cash over (£1) at the till but it didn’t take me long to work it out afterI had brought them home.  Card making of course.  Since taking these pictures I have made a number of very simple cards , which of course is a whole other blog post….Craft cardsAnd finally flowers.  Gypsophila to be exact, otherwise known as ‘baby’s breath’.  When I got married, a hundred years ago, wedding bouquets dripping in gypsophila were the thing.  I think it then went out of fashion, not that I know anything about fashion but I don’t remember seeing much of it for a few years.  Now  it seems to be back, or at least back in the places I shop.  I love these frothy stems and have taken to buying bunches of them to stuff into vases all over the house.  I currently have it in the  kitchen, bathroom dining room and bedroom.  It’s very cheap.  I paid £1.67 for a generous bunch, and a few stalks go a long way.  I usually buy white but actually prefer the pink version which I bought this week.  It seems to last for ages too, which is always a bonus in floral purchases.Flowers

So there you have it, my 5 under £5 for 5 on Friday on the 5th August.

If you want to see more  inspiration for Five Under £5 or better still join in yourself then check out Rainbeaubelle.

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Poetically Speaking: An August Midnight by Thomas Hardy

Last summer I paid a visit to the beautiful cottage in Dorset where Thomas Hardy penned many novels, stories and poems.  Just over a year later I have discovered his poem ‘An August Midnight’ which I have become really quite fond of.  The myriad of bugs that are aplenty at this time of year are given a mystical aura as they float and glide in the dead of night leaving remnants of themselves on the page.  I hope you enjoy it too.

hardy - writing room

An August Midnight

I
A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter — winged, horned, and spined —
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While ‘mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands . . .

II
Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
— My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

Thomas Hardy

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5 on Friday: July on Instagram

Apparently it’s the end of July.  Not quite sure how that happened but apparently it has.  After a damp start, July produced  some soaring temperatures and uncomfortable nights .  This meant plenty of  time in the great outdoors, long evenings in the garden, picnics, walks and lots of running as I prepare for a half marathon later in the year.  We  had a lovely time at the beginning of the month  visiting with best friends and discovering the Wirral. I had the privilege of being at Wimbledon on Ladies finals day with my mum.  We drove out to the Cotswolds for some walking, beautiful views and lots of fresh air. We also managed  to fit in a prom at The Royal Albert Hall and visit to RHS Wisley last weekend with my husbands parents. These are five of my favourite instagram moments from July.

You can find more of my snaps on Instagram @angiev1n

Have a lovely weekend, deep breath, its nearly August.

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It’s all about the Flowers at RHS Wisley

RHS WisleyOn probably the hottest Saturday of the year so far we took a trip to RHS Wisley to marvel at the flora and fauna and bathe in the scent of a thousand different flowers.  If you haven’t been before its stunning, particularly in the height of summer when awash with colour and fragrance.  It isn’t just about the flowers of course, there are fabulous veg plots, fruit trees laden with pears, apples and berries and a corridor of Bonsai.  Thankfully for us there were also enough shady spots to pause a while.RHS Wisley

RHS WisleyHaving recently been on a photography workshop I was keen to try out some of what I had learnt. I was almost overwhelmed with what to photograph.  Every corner and every plant is crying out to be snapped. RHS Wisley

RHS Wisley I’ve just finished reading ‘The Bees’ by Laline Paull, and have developed a particular fascination with these creatures.  The bees were plentiful and I was bee-side myself with all the photographic opportunities.  I imagine the bees of Wisley are fairly familiar with nosy photographers sticking their lenses into places they’re not wanted.RHS Wisley

For adults the entry cost is  £14.50, although you can save 10% on that if you are organised enough to book in advance.  We weren’t.  When the weather is good, it’s very easy to while away a day here.  There are plenty of places to stop and refresh with food and drink, ample spots in which  to sit and an excellent gift shop overflowing with books.  RHS Wisley is the ideal place for flower lovers, gardeners, and photographers alike.RHS Wisley

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Book Review: The Bees by Laline Paull

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The Bees,  Paull’s debut novel a  was shortlisted for the 2015 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.  She didn’t win, but she was in the esteemed company of Anne Tyler, Rachel Cusk, Ali Smith and Sarah Waters.  Despite this and other plaudits, I still approached it with some trepidation.  I like animals  and I likes stories about animals.  Who doesn’t like Black beauty for goodness sake, but I still wasn’t sure I wanted to read a story about bees.  Not just a story about bees,  but a story where all the characters are bees, talking bees.

How wrong I was. This is one of the most innovative and imaginative novels I have read in a very long time.

This is the story of Flora 717, a bee born into the lowest class of hive society as a sanitation worker.  Along with all the other bees her role is to serve the queen and keep the hive functioning.  Flora, despite her lowly beginnings is special.  She earns herself time in the queens sacred presence and she learns what it is to sacrifice all for the queen.  Against all the odds she survives internal massacres, predator invasions and treachery within the hive.

There is so much detail in this story and as someone that knows very little about bees I am unqualified to judge how much is true and how much is exaggerated truth or pure fiction.  Whichever it is I learnt so much about the life of bees whilst buying completely into the complexity of their lives told within this story.  Parts of this are especially tender, in particular the depiction of Flora giving birth.

“This egg glowed golden and smelled sweeter than Devotion.  Flora felt her body wet with liquid wax, and quick and grateful she brought it forth handful by handful building up the roughest crib directly in front of the cocoons.  Then she knelt and held her egg close thrilling to its living vibration.  Though slightly larger, it was the same shape as before – and Flora vowed that this time she would feed her little son everything he needed to grow strong – and discover what she must do to seal him in Holy time”

Like many others I know it took me a little while to get going with this novel, but once I did I couldn’t stop.  My advice to anyone contemplating reading this would be,  just go with it.  Abandon yourself to the magic and dive right in.  I can fairly confidently say you will never look at a bee in quite the same way again.

Image: Changing Pages