Bookshop haul – a moment of heatwave madness!

It’s quite clearly not unusual for me to indulge in a bit of book-shopping.   It is unusual for me to lose all self-control and succumb to not just one but multiple hardbacks in a single splurge.  Honestly, I don’t know what came over me.  Maybe it’s the knowledge that it’s payday tomorrow or maybe I was just slightly high on the prospect of a week off with the forecast of blazing sun every day and absolutely no commitments beyond my blog and my books; whatever the (100% valid) excuse I’m now the proud owner of a diverse and somewhat unexpected pile of reading happiness.  So what is this booky bounty?

“Silk” by Alessandro Baricco – since I’m still going with “4 3 2 1” I’m in desperate need of something short to make me feel like I’m achieving something!  I would never have picked this up off my own bat but two colleagues at work have recommended it so I have faith that it’s going to be a good ‘un.  As an added bonus the chapters are about a page each, so if that doesn’t make me feel like I’m making progress nothing will.

“These Dividing Walls” by Fran Cooper – I find Twitter such a great way of discovering new and forthcoming titles, and this is one that I’ve seen mentioned or reviewed several times with almost universally favourable comments.  The premise sparked off comparisons in my mind with “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”, which I adore, due to its Parisian apartment block setting.  The style and indeed the substance may well turn out to be completely different of course, but nevertheless I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy it.

“Swallowing Mercury” by Wioletta Greg – this is a bit of a risk in a sense since I know nothing at all about either novel or author.  Yet something about it kept nudging at me as I was browsing the shelves and eventually I decided to take a punt.  The cover art is stunning for a start, and the impression I get from the tiny sections I’ve dipped into is that it has a slightly strange, dreamlike and almost musical quality that I found magnetic, even without knowing anything about the story or setting.  Watch this space.

“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman – I read an excerpt from this novel in a magazine a while back and immediately thought: I AM Eleanor Oliphant!  I was intrigued by the heroine and the idea that life can be, well, absolutely fine, and yet missing something very fundamental at the same time.  There’s been so much love for this all over social media and I can’t wait to read it.

So, a week off awaits and I have a stack of new books, so the reviews should be coming thick and fast before too long!  Here’s hoping your week is as sunny as mine, see you back on the blog soon.

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Glitch on Girl, Reading!

Just a very quick post this evening to apologise to anyone who’s tried to comment on my blog over the last few days. Apparently comments aren’t being accepted for some unknown reason, but rest assured I’m trying to find a fix! If any other WordPress users have had this problem and know how to resolve it please do get in touch via Twitter or my Facebook page – I’d really appreciate any help you can offer. With any luck everything will be running as it should very soon…

 

Reflections on a life in books – a personal post

If you’ve been reading my blog recently you may know I went for a job interview a couple of weeks ago.  You’ll also know I didn’t get it, but the fact I came so very close to embarking on a completely new life (in the end it came down to a choice between me and just one other person) threw me into a state of reflection and self-evaluation the like of which I haven’t experienced for an extremely long time.

My original career plan was to go into publishing after graduation; I realised pretty quickly however that either living in or commuting to London were both out of the question due to my financial circumstances at the time.  Instead I plumped for what I felt was the next best thing but what instead turned out to be the very VERY best thing: a career in bookselling.  In fact, to start with it wasn’t even meant to be a career, rather a way of earning some money in a relevant field before I moved on to what I really wanted to do.  Fifteen years and several bookshops later and I’m still here.  I’ve been a shopfloor bookseller, a store manager and more recently have done some really interesting and fulfilling work in learning and development – but everything I do is grounded in books and the joy I find in them every single day.

And this new job?  Well, it was pretty amazing.  If I’d been successful I would have had an opportunity to travel all over the UK and to work with some of the leading figures in retail L&D.  The responsibility and kudos attached to the role would have been something else.  Yet as I sat on the train on the way home from the final assessment day I felt slightly sick.  Not simply from the fear of change or nervousness about my ability to take on a new professional challenge but because – I realised later – I couldn’t imagine a life away from the world of books that had come to virtually define my existence for most of my adult life.

In the days after the interview and subsequent rejection I was struck by the fact that I’ve managed to achieve something (through chance I should add!) in my working life from the word go that many people take years to find, and some possibly never at all: I found a career that’s a perfect mirror of myself.  Bookselling is essentially me personified and what’s more, it’s also a reflection of almost everyone who works in it.  I’m going to put it out there: I’m a little weird and finally, as thirty recedes rapidly in the rear-view mirror, I’ve made my peace with that.  I’m sure my bookselling colleagues who’ve also found themselves in it for the long haul wouldn’t mind me saying that a few of them are a little weird too!  Books undoubtedly draw in a certain kind of person, and as I sat a couple of weeks ago in a plush Birmingham hotel surrounded by a completely different breed of working people – lovely, welcoming and friendly as they were – I felt my kindred spirits were suddenly very far away from me.  My non-booktrade friends would probably tell you they have some people at work they really like, some who are fine and a not insignificant number they’d be happy to see fall under a bus.  I won’t pretend I’ve adored every single person I’ve ever come into contact with at work but by and large the proportion of people whose company I’ve enjoyed and who I’ve felt I can be completely myself with has been pretty high.  My career in books has given me some of the best friends I could ever have, and it’s no exaggeration to say that at times my book-loving workmates have felt like my second family.

We spend a ridiculously high percentage of our lives at work and so to find a professional world into which you fit without effort is nothing short of a blessing.  I also feel now that not getting that new job was a blessing of its own as it made me stop and think about where my happiness really lies.  I’ve heard so many people say over the years that you don’t work in the book trade to get rich; you do it out of passion.  I see now that my passion is more consuming than I’d ever realised before, and I hope it will keep me at the forefront of this great industry for many years to come.

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A few changes to Girl, Reading…

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking over the past week and have decided to make a few little tweaks to my blog, which I hope will make it easier to navigate and also add some new interest for all you lovely people who keep coming back week after week to read my scribblings (thank you btw!)

Firstly, I’ve had some really positive feedback about my “bookshop find” posts so I’ve decided to make those a regular feature, one a week is the plan – this shouldn’t be too hard as I do spend quite a bit of time in bookshops, both my own and other people’s!  These will now be collected in the “Bibliophily Corner” section of my website so if you ever miss one and want to look back they’ll all be in one place.  The eagle-eyed among you will see I’ve also added a new section called “My Bookish Travels”.  I’ve been wanting to write about some of the reading-related places I’ve visited or events I’ve been to but haven’t been entirely sure where they’d sit with the rest of my blog – now they will have a home!  Any events, signings, exhibitions or places of literary heritage I go to, this is where you can read about my experiences, and I’m really excited about the new slant this will add to the blog.  Fear not though, if you just want the reviews, top 5 lists and so on, they’ll still all be there as before.

If you pop over to my new and improved “About” page, you’ll now find a quick navigation guide to the blog letting you know what kind of posts you’ll find where.  Once again, a huge thank you to all my followers – I love you all – and I hope you’ll continue to join me on my future reading adventures.

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My best bookshop spot this week…

Welcome to another of my best bookshop finds!  My eyes almost skated completely over the muted cover and if it hadn’t been for the “signed by the author” sticker I may well not have noticed it at all.

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I’m now very excited though because I thought “HHhH” was extremely clever, providing a very different and thought-provoking take on the historical novel.  If you haven’t read it, it takes the true story of the assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich during the Second World War as its subject, but uses the telling of the story to ask the reader some pertinent questions about honesty, memory and writers’ integrity.  Several times during the book, the author breaks the fourth wall to turn to his readers and ask, how do you know whether my retelling of events is true?  How do you know when someone, who seems to speak with absolute confidence and authority, is actually inventing things?   It made me look not just at historical novels but “factual” history in a new way – so many written accounts of or commentaries on events from the past are based on the author’s interpretation of facts rather than indisputable facts, and are subject to his or her own subconscious or even conscious prejudices.

“The 7th Function of Language” sounds like another ingenious use of history for fictional ends.  It purports that the death of Roland Barthes after he is hit by a van (which really happened) was not in fact an accident but an assassination.  According to the reviews, it then becomes something of a political spy thriller featuring real figures from the French establishment – but perhaps not quite as we know them.

Another day, another bookshop spot then – but the trouble is, so many of the books I want to buy at the moment are hardbacks!  To be fair, I have more than enough paperbacks to be going on with so I should try and curb my book-buying enthusiasm as at this rate I fear my bank balance isn’t going to keep pace with the amount of great hardbacks being released.  In fact, I KNOW it isn’t, so restraint is going to have to be called for and waiting for the paperback looks like the order of the day…

Blogger awards!

It’s always lovely to know people are enjoying your blog, so it was a great honour to be nominated for The Liebster Award by Annie-Jay who blogs at https://comingoutcrookedsite.wordpress.com.  It’s so important I think to build on the caring and sharing relationship that exists between all of us who put so much time, energy and love into writing, so do pop over and check out her fun and thought-provoking take on the world!

If you haven’t come across this award before, it’s intended as a form of recognition given by bloggers to other new bloggers whose content they’ve enjoyed.  I’ve discovered some great new blogs this way, and it’s a lovely positive way of encouraging and supporting other writers.  So here’s how it works:

  1. Answer the 11 questions that your nominator has asked you
  2. Nominate 11 other bloggers (with under 200 followers)
  3. Ask your nominees 11 questions
  4. Let them know that you have nominated them

These are the questions Annie-Jay asked me; hopefully by the time you’ve read my answers you’ll have got to know me a bit better!

  1. What inspired you to begin blogging?

I started mainly because I felt I wanted some kind of creative outlet and wasn’t sure what to do to satisfy that urge.  I’ve made several (mostly abortive) attempts at writing over the years but without much of a plan or sense of purpose, and I thought a blog was a good way to start writing within a structure that would help me stick with it.  A couple of years down the line and I’m so glad I tried it.

      2. One word to describe yourself?

Unique!

     3. What’s the strangest thing that has happened to you today?

This is such a good question I’m disappointed that I don’t have an interesting answer for it! I’m going to say being nominated for this award – although I’ve had some lovely, kind comments on my blog it’s still always a bit surreal to think that people all over the world are reading what you write and enjoying it.

    4. What are you most looking forward to this week?

My next day off – I’m going to see the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie with one of my besties.

    5. What book are you reading at the moment?

As per usual I have a few on the go.  I’m still reading Paul Auster’s “4 3 2 1”, which I’m loving although it’s taking me a while as it’s a bit long to say the least!  For light relief I’m reading “A Conspiracy of Violence” by Susanna Gregory – I do love my historical fiction.  I also got some book-post today, which is always exciting: a crime novel by Amer Anwar, which the author very kindly sent me to try.

    6. Which band were you really in to as a teenager (that you now feel a bit embarrassed to admit to having liked)

I can’t think of anyone I was into as a teenager that I’m ashamed to have liked; I’m more embarrassed by some of the people I’ve come to like in my slightly older age!  I used to be massively into all the indie and Britpop bands of the 90s – Pulp were my absolute favourite.

     7. Where is your favourite place to be?

Very boring, but probably home.  I love taking myself off to explore new places, but I also love to have a permanent sanctuary.

    8. When is the last time you stopped to feel the Earth under your bare feet?

Haha, I can’t step outside in bare feet as I have a huge issue with feeling anything on my bare skin that isn’t carpet!!  Seeing people walking across their lawns or worse, on the pavement, in no shoes makes me shudder.  I don’t even like walking on a sandy beach without flip-flops.

    9. What shapes do you see in the clouds above you right now?

I love the fact that I’ve been asked this question as it’s made me get up and lean out of the window to have a proper look at the outside world.  It’s such a gorgeous evening as well; it’s starting to smell and sound like summer for the first time.  As for the clouds, well, the ones that are out there are pretty flat and indistinct, but there’s one in the far distance with a spilt at one end that makes it look like an elongated crocodile’s mouth.

    10. How do you feel about your birthday?

I don’t think too much about it anymore; I’m usually at work on the day itself anyway!  And it’s only a couple of weeks before Christmas too so by that point other, much more exciting festive things are happening.  I’ve never liked to be the centre of attention, so large parties aren’t for me.  I usually celebrate by having a meal or something like that with my close friends.

    11. Do you prefer beach, mountains, bush, city or suburbia?

Honestly, I can’t choose – I need a bit of everything!  I’ve lived by the sea almost all my life though so I’d definitely miss that the most if it wasn’t there.  I don’t wait for summer to go to the beach; I love it when it’s stormy, when it’s sunny and when it’s a bleak day and there’s not a soul down there.  It can make you feel serene or exhilarated – it’s such a powerful driver of emotion.

These were great questions and a hard act to follow, but here are the 11 questions for my nominees.

  1. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
  2. What is the one book you read over and over again?
  3. What has surprised you most about taking up blogging?
  4. Who is your biggest inspiration?
  5. Would you describe yourself as a pessimist or an optimist?
  6. You have a free day with no work and no obligations – how are you most likely to spend it?
  7. Which song makes you want to get up and dance?
  8. Would you volunteer to be on the first mission to Mars and why/why not?
  9. Are you a summer or a winter person?
  10. Which period of history do you find most interesting?
  11. What do you love most about yourself?

And here are my nominees!  I had trouble finding 11 that had less than 200 followers, so most of these do but they’re all blogs I love and would love others to discover too.  I understand not everyone may want to take part in the award though and that’s absolutely fine by me – no pressure!

http://rosequartzreviewsblog.wordpress.com

https://hayleyreviews10.wordpress.com

https://tobeginwithireadjaneeyre.wordpress.com

http://www.staybookish.com

https://bookdrblog.wordpress.com

https://mybooksense.com

https://standingupforshakespeare.wordpress.com

https://thisislitblog.wordpress.com

https://theselittlewords.com

https://bookkaz.wordpress.com

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Spotted! My best bookshop finds…

I love walking into a bookshop and stumbling across something I didn’t expect to see.  Yes, you can always browse online from the comfort of your sofa, but bookshops have a knack of throwing up gems that you’d never discover any other way.  I’ve been out and about hunting down my next reads and thought I’d share some of them with you.  Tonight, we have this beauty – a stunningly presented collection of previously unpublished stories by voice of the jazz age, F Scott Fitzgerald.

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Interestingly, a number of these stories weren’t accepted for publication because they strayed too far from the style that editors had come to expect from Fitzgerald, so it will be fascinating to see how they differ from the stories we know so well today.  There are also stories that were intended to be published in magazines and even some that were written in the hope they would be turned into films, although none of them ever were.  The cover is pure 20s elegance, the perfect packaging for a collection such as this, and I couldn’t resist.

More of my best bookshop spots will be popping up on the blog soon so keep an eye out!