Posts Tagged ‘book buying’

Bookish Miscellany

Things have been pretty busy for me this week what with work and two evenings out – so I haven’t had chance to get any more book reviews written. It happens like that sometimes.

jane eyre

One of those evenings – just last night actually was a theatre production of Jane Eyre at Birmingham Rep. theatre. Many of you may know how much I love Jane Eyre, I have read it four times, the first when I was just eleven, (I wonder now what I got from it then) most recently in 2013. Jane has always had a very special place in my heart – so of course I was a little worried about how the book I loved would adapt to the stage. I looked around the packed theatre and saw dozens of secondary school kids all in uniform, I wondered how many would bypass the book entirely and just use the play for their studies – the idea saddened me a bit (but perhaps I am being cynical).

To be honest the first five minutes I was a little unsure – but then I was drawn in beautifully, hooked by the story I know so well.

The staging was unusual. A stark wooden stage with several walkways and levels, ladders leading from one section to the next, all set against a monochrome background. It actually works wonderfully well, there is a fantastic energy to the whole production. The actor playing Jane is superb – a strong Yorkshire accent which I loved (so much more authentic than some TV/film adaptations) the production focuses on Jane’s development into a feisty, spirited young woman with a brain and deeply held convictions. Many of Charlotte Bronte’s words are used, Jane’s best speeches remain almost intact – I bet I wasn’t alone in wanting to stand up and cheer when Jane makes her automaton speech. Throughout the play the actors are accompanied by a small group of musicians at key points in the drama, particularly noteworthy is a fabulous bluesy singer who I could have listened to on her own all night. Her presence no way intrudes – it might sound odd – yet she beautifully compliments the action.

I believe the production finishes in Birmingham tomorrow – but I understand it is on tour – so if you get the chance to see it – do!

Back to actual books – and I will be reviewing again in a day or two I promise.
It almost goes without saying that I have been buying and acquiring books again (sigh) – as always, I do love to share them with you.

Some of these I got a few weeks ago, a few more in the last few days. Here they are in all their glory.


Three weeks by Elinor Glyn, I found in a charity shop – which when I posted a picture of it on Twitter I was told was pretty terrible, so not sure how long before I get around to reading that.

Madame de Treymes by Edith Wharton, I already have a couple of large Wharton novels tbr – but seeing this book on a book stall in Devon for £1, I couldn’t walk away.

Luminous Isle by Eliot Bliss was sent to me by Karen – thank you again, following my read of Saraband, I am really looking forward to this autobiographical novel.

Scarweather by Anthony Rolls a BLCC edition that I happened upon when I was on holiday.

Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood I ordered after watching the recent Imagine programme on BBC – and  the week after I read Stone Mattress a fantastic collection that I galloped through.

The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans sent out to book bloggers who asked and I asked – it looked like something I might be in the mood for this month.

Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar (NYRB edition) – I bought on a whim, I am frequently guilty of idle clicking away – this book had appeared in my Goodreads recommended and I weakly succumbed, never having heard of it before.

Living by Henry Green (NKRB edition) is a novel I have wanted to read for ages. I think I have it in an omnibus edition but I never seem to manage to read novels when they are part of big omnibus editions so I am on a mission to replace my Henry Green omnibus with single volumes. (I have two other NYRB editions on Pre-order- Magda Szabo’s Katlin Street and Elizabeth Hardwick Essays)

Midwinter by Fiona Melrose is a novel I have heard a lot of great things about. I had meant to buy a copy a while ago – but now it’s out in paperback I finally managed it.

A friend from Twitter sent me A Virago Keepsake – which came out sometime ago, but as it contains pieces by many of the writers I love it is right up my street.

Have you read any of these? And have any of you got the new Jane Austen ten pound note yet? I can’t wait to get my first one.




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A few books have come into the house just lately – I have a habit of idly ordering books while I sit watching TV, or when I’m eating my lunch at work. It’s almost as if I do it without thinking – no, I actually do do it without thinking. As if my book buying habit weren’t bad enough, my good friend, and book enabler extraordinaire Liz from Adventures in reading, writing and working from home – passed on to me four books she had promised me, note how two of them are quite fat books!

2017-04-08_12.43.26Liz passed on two Edith Wharton novels Hudson River Bracketed and The Gods arrive, Chatterton Square by E H Young and High Table by Joanna Cannan – author of one my favourite Persephone books Princes in the Land. What you all don’t know is that poor Liz loaned me two other books over a year ago and they remain unread – though as one fits in with the 1951 club I might read it next.

2017-04-08_12.42.33Following on from my lovely read of Elizabeth Fair’s A Winter Away – a Furrowed Middle brow title from Dean Street Press, and Liz’s review of Seaview House – I found myself ordering two more titles, Seaview House was at the top of my list and I ordered Landscape in Sunlight. There are times when I unashamedly crave these kinds of books.

Many of you will know BuriedinPrint’s blog – and recently she has been blogging about Margaret Millar, particularly her short stories which are also published in one huge volume. The short stories sound fabulous, but I decided to try her novels of suspense – this large volume contain four separate novels, each sound absolutely gripping. MM

My last book review was of A Wreath for the Enemy by Pamela Frankau, and while reading that, and despite having two other Frankau titles unread on my shelf I ordered two more old volumes from an eBay seller. The Bridge, and I Find Four People. That latter title is an autobiography, and a quick flick through caused me some puzzlement. It seems from my cursory inspection that throughout the book Pamela Frankau writes in the third person, referring to herself as P. Frankau or Miss Frankau – I’m not sure what I think of that – though it does seem odd.


In other news – after my visit to the Hay Festival last May, I loved it so much that I immediately booked accommodation at a different hotel for this year. Suddenly it is almost here (joy!) and the tickets for events across the festival went on sale yesterday. As I have accommodation arranged for four days this year – I went mad and have booked eleven events. Colm Tóibín, Elizabeth Strout – something with Sheila Hancock on the panel (has anyone read her novel? – it seems to have mixed reviews) Charlotte Rampling, Paddy Ashdown – someone talking about rescuing books from Timbuktu – Lucy Worsely discussing Jane Austen – I can’t even remember everything I have booked. Lots to look forward to and I am sure you’ll hear all about it.

So what have you been buying lately? 🙂


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Two new, old books


I had to share my latest two book purchases with you – two books I have wanted for ages – I went in search and struck lucky.

Well I say lucky – neither book was that cheap – I paid rather more than I usually do for old books, and neither is in perfect condition. The dust-jackets are very fragile, though as one of them is over seventy years old, and the other only a decade younger, it is hardly surprising.

Love on the Supertax – Marghanita Laski (1944) – I first saw a review of this a few years ago, and had meant to go in search of a copy before. I have read all the Marghanita Laski books that have been re-issued by Persephone books so far, they are each so different, but the writing is wonderful and the characterisation spot on. The first Marghanita Laski I read was The Village, I found an old 1950s copy in excellent condition in the Castle bookshop in Hay on Wye while on a booky weekend with friends over ten years ago, I now have the Persephone edition too. I loved it and it is definitely overdue a re-read. This is a book I have huge confidence in – I just know I will love it – perhaps that confidence will be my undoing – we shall soon see.

The Indian Woman – Diana Gardner (1954) – Last year I read The Woman Novelist and other stories by Diana Gardner – it ended up on my books of the year list. Sadly, Diana Gardner wrote very little and her one published novel is hard to come by. I found two or three copies online all priced at around £20 – I hesitated for a week or so – as I couldn’t find anything about the book online, no reviews, no synopsis, I was nervous but I decided to take a chance. So, I have little confidence in this novel, I’m worried that if this book was any good it would be better known, someone, somewhere would have reviewed it, surely? Yet Gardner’s writing in that collection of stories is just sublime. We shall soon know, I can barely stand the suspense, I need to know if I have bought a dud, I shall start reading it tomorrow.

I’m pleased that each book has a tiny little inscription inside – the Laski – Xmas 1944 – sigh! I want to know who the people were.


I need some advice on fragile paper dust-jackets – I have a few books with similarly fragile jackets, am I better to carefully mend them with tape (I am not interested in potential value) do I need that magic tape – or is sellotape ok? Should I remove jackets (obviously when reading – but generally too) and put them somewhere safe – or leave them completely as they are.

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I have loved the whole books are my bag initiative – a way of celebrating bookshops, and reminding all us book lovers of the joy of a high street bookshop.

I am very guilty of buying most of my books online (although, aside from Kindle ebooks I still refuse to buy books from a certain large river) but there is nothing like browsing a real bookshop. Due to my online buying, I had managed to get all the way to last week, without acquiring a ‘Books are my Bag’ bag. Now, however I am the proud and happy possessor of one of the original bags. Last week, during half term, I was holidaying in Teignmouth in South Devon, a place that holds a very special place in my heart, and where I have been returning twice a year for the last few years.

Tucked away in a small street just a few minutes’ walk from the sea front in Teignmouth is a small bookshop; The Quayside Bookshop. It is a small shop, new and used books shelved together due to a premium on space. Naturally every time I go to Teignmouth I make a pilgrimage to The Quayside bookshop, and usually I do buy something. Last Friday on my last day in Teignmouth I wandered down to the shop from our seafront apartment just in time for opening at 10 o’clock (actually I waited outside; till I saw the lights go on). Later, chatting to the woman who runs the shop, I was informed her first customer of the day usually appears around 1 o’clock. We chatted briefly about the life of a bookseller, and I was left with the impression that it is a pretty difficult and precarious way to make a living. In a town that relies on summer trade, it must be doubly so. One of my favourite lottery winning fantasies is running a seaside bookshop – I would be rich enough not to worry about making a profit.











Anyway last week I bought:

New books; The Batchelor by Stella Gibbons and Our Man in Havana by Graham Green
and second hand lovlies The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey – a lovely old green penguin and The Complete short novels of Anton Chekov.

the bookshop bookThe official book for ‘Books are my bag 2014’ is The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell. I was delighted to receive a copy of the book which arrived while I was away. Jen is I believe doing a blog tour, and so next week I will reviewing her book ‘The Bookshop Book’ and posting her answers to my interview questions. Please bookshop lovers, check out the book, I have just started it, and although famously bad at reading non-fiction, am already charmed by it, probably because of its subject.

“Books are full of stories. Not just stories on shelves but those hidden away. There are the stories of bookshop owners, and all the books they read that made them fall in love with reading. There are the stories of authors, and why they wrote their first book. There are the stories of second-hand books, and all the people who owned them. And there’s the story of every single customer who walks through the door. We all love stories, with their sense of mystery and adventure.”

So please come back next week for my posts about The Bookshop Book, I can’t wait to talk about bookshops some more with you, and I may just have to visit some more.

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Oxford book shopping


I had the nicest day in Oxford yesterday. Liz and I were meeting up with Elaine a friend from the Librarything Virago group who was visiting the UK from her home in Chicago and spending the last few days of her trip in Oxford. We were also able to meet up with Simon for a short time before he zipped off on a train himself. It really was my kind of day – 3 cafes and three bookshops, lots of chat, pizza Express and a train journey.

Some of you may just have noticed that I like original green Virago modern classics, I also like buying books – well it’s something of an addiction. I knew from experience that Oxford book shops are pretty great, and they seem to have a fair few Virago Modern Classics, which I have begun to collect again, after having stopped myself collecting them twenty years ago when I had moved to a tiny flat. Now I live in a fairly average sized two bedroomed terraced house, thankfully I live alone – because I fear this Virago collecting may take over every bit of available space I have.
Here is what I bought:

2013-08-19 22.35.22Song of the Lark – Willa Cather (to replace a kindle version)
Full House – Molly Keane
The Rising Tide – Molly Keane (which upon arriving home I discovered I already had – yes in original Virago green – oops)
Young Entry – Molly Keane
Liana – Martha Gelhorn
All Passion Spent – Vita Sackville West
The Edwardians – Vita Sackville West
A Sea Grape tree – Rosamond Lehmann (to replace a modern Virago)
Beyond the Glass – Antonia White

Two non VMC’s I bought as if the above were not enough –
Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker and
Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald – which I was distressed to find recently I no longer had a copy of.

2013-08-20 00.08.41So useless am I – I can’t remember the names of the bookshops we visited – but one was the Oxfam bookshop on St. Giles, and the second was next door to the lovely cafe where we had lunch called The Nose bag – and I highly recommend the Nose Bag – I had a delicious smoked mackeral pate and salad with a lovely pot of tea.  The third book shop – had both second hand and new books and is where I bought the one brand new book of my haul Miss Hargreaves  – only as it had a slightly damaged cover I was able to haggle the price a bit – getting it for £6 instead of £7.99. I’m proud to say that  my new book buying resloutions are firmly in place. I am also going to (rather rashly) promise that I won’t buy any more books – for a long long time – honest!!

I have said before that my TBR has reached critical mass – which to me means I have more books on it than I could read in 1 year –I’m not sure what comes after critical mass but I think I may have reached it. The pictured TBR of course does not include the 50 books on my kindle.
What do you think they would say if I rang into work and said I couldn’t go anymore because I have too many books to read but could they still please pay me? Yeah thought so.

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Now there is something about a bookshop isn’t there? – but if you are anything like me you buy a lot of books online. I sort of miss book shopping in actaul bookshops.

Yesterday I read a blog post by ALifeinBooks – which really made me think. The post – which I really want you all to go and read if you haven’t already – is about Amazon. We nearly all use Amazon – I have used them a lot for years, have spent a fortune there over the years I fully admit. Amazon lead the marketplace – but there are plenty of alternatives for book buying addicts. I also use other online stores – often as happy with used books I especially like awesomebooks and abebooks. I have also bought new books from Penguin’s online store before now – and it was pointed out to me yesterday that WH smith’s online store often has books priced at a similar level as Amazon. As a Persephone books fan I would never buy a Persephone book from Amazon I would always buy direct from Persephone.

kindle2Some of the things raised in AlifeinBook’s post I already knew about – a few of the things were an unpleasant revelation. I’m not sure I am any longer that comfortable being a customer of Amazon – and I have been a good customer for a very long time – but for a while (since the whole tax thing was revealed) I have felt less happy about them. So I have decided to only continue to use Amazon for kindle books – and I don’t buy that many as so many of the ebooks I download are free books – when I buy new physical books I will find other places to buy them from. I actually don’t at all like the fact that I am obliged to use Amazon whether I want to or not for ebooks – ok so I can download free books from manybooks.net and girlebooks, but if I want to download something I will have to pay for I have to use Amazon. Fine. However if ever (god forbid) my kindle breaks –I will replace it with another ereader.

None of this will be easy – a quick experiment I undertook today; I looked up one of the Booker longlisted books Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson, a hardback – Amazon has it for £11.04 (kindle £7.25) WHSmith don’t have it – Waterstones have it for £12.79. Is it any wonder that Amazon have us all running back to them? If you own a Kindle as I do – you have no choice but buy ebooks from them – the ebooks sold by WHsmith and Waterstones aren’t compatible with kindle devices. However I am going to try and buy physical books from other sources – or not buy them until they hit the charity book shops. I really need to rain in my book buying – and if it is a book I must must must have – I’ll pay the extra and buy it from Waterstones or direct from places like Little Brown (for Virago books) Penguin and Persephone books (as I already do anyway). I may even go back to the lovely big Waterstones store here in Birmingham – just now and again as I’m afraid they make buying books a little expensive – but I used to love mooching around in there. I really wish there was a nice little indie bookshop here in Birmingham – but if there is one I don’t know of it. I love the charity books shops that we can find on so many high streets in this country – and have been known to seriously disgrace myself in an Oxfam book shop – squealing in delight and then tottering out under a weight of used lovelies. So as a result – I will probably be buying fewer books – and they may cost me more – but I think I might prefer to do that for the moment.

No company is perfect – they exist in order to make money – however there are ways and means – making money shouldn’t be incompatible with being decent employers and contributing fairly to the UK economy. Nothing that Amazon do is illegal – and no doubt one customer (ie me) going elsewhere will hardly hurt them – but it might give me a little satisfaction. IMAG0322

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