I am a massive bibliophile! I love books and reading and have done from a young age.  Saying that, I didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts as a reader.  I distinctly remember feeling extremely irritated when half way through the year my P1 (reception) teacher told the class that we should be starting to read the words rather than just look at the pictures in our books.  It just seemed like too much effort!

Onwards and Upwards!

After that shaky start however, I very quickly realised that I LOVED reading.  The first book I ever got from book club (remember bookclub?! Oh the excitement!) was about a girl called Ursula and a bear although the book’s title escapes me.  It obviously didn’t make much of an impression!  I still remember the excitement of receiving it though and it was the first of many that I hassled my mum for throughout school.

Throughout my primary school years I continued to read anything and everything.  Roald Dahl was a particular favourite.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read The Twits especially.  George’s Marvellous Medicine and The Witches were two other favourites.  I loved The Babysitters’ Club series and as I got older I moved on to The Sweet Valley High and Point Horror books amongst far too many others to mention!  Nowadays I read a little bit of everything really – fantasy, contemporary fiction, poetry anthologies, modern classics and the odd chick lit fix of course!  So without further ado here is my list of books you really should read.

  1. Game of Thrones – this is actually only the first book in the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin but it goes without saying that I recommend the whole series!  I won’t go into detail regarding the plot as you’d need to have been living under a rock not to have heard of GoT!  Suffice to say it is set in Westeros and follows the lives (and deaths-lots of them!) of the inhabitants as various dynastic families vie for power in the kingdom.  There are currently five books (although confusingly two of them are actually split into two books) with number 6 – The Winds of Winter – hopefully coming this year.  I say hopefully as we’ve been waiting rather a long time already with no release date given yet!
  2. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – this is the second book by Harper Lee and was only released shortly before her death.  It was a highly anticipated release as prior to this, Lee had only ever written one book – the classic To Kill a Mockingbird (which you really should also read).  It is set 20 years after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird (although it was actually written first) and tells of Scout’s gradual realisation that her father is not the saintly figure she has always thought him to be.  There was some controversy about the book as many readers felt that the way Atticus Finch was  portrayed was simply unbelievable in comparison to how he was portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird. I would say that it isn’t nearly as clear cut or simple as that.  Read it for yourself and make your own mind up.
  3. Into the Wild by John Krakauer – this is a true story, although it is so incredible you would think it could only be fiction!  It is the story of Chris McCandless, a talented and intelligent young man who left his family, gave up all his worldly possessions and hiked into the Alaskan wilderness alone to live a life in the wild.  McCandless was clearly an immensely determined and resourceful individual and Krakauer does an excellent job of piecing together his tragic final days.  It is an incredibly moving book and stayed with me long after I had finished reading it.
  4. The Nation’s Favourite Poems – oh I do love a poetry anthology and this is an oldie but a goodie!  It came together as a result of a British national survey to find the 100 most beloved poems and as such contains all the well-known poems you would expect such as If by Rudyard Kipling, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas and The Daffodils by William Wordsworth.  It’s a perfect book to dip in and out of and will always grace my bookshelf.
  5. Birdsong – this novel by Sebastian Faulks is in turn a love story and a war novel.  It is set in France in the years before and during the First World War and follows the story of Stephen Wraysford, an English man who is living in France.  He embarks on a passionate affair with Isabelle, with whom he is staying, before becoming a soldier in the trenches of Northern France.  The descriptions of his war experiences are the part of the story that really stayed with me and the author has done an incredible (and I believe, accurate) job in bringing the harsh realities of war to life.  This is a truly haunting novel that is impossible to forget and I would urge anyone who hasn’t read it to add it to their must read list!
  6. The Lord of the Rings – what can I say about LOTR that hasn’t already been said?  J.R.R Tolkien’s masterpiece is as popular as it ever was and the tale of Frodo Baggins’s quest to destroy the One Ring is storytelling at its best!  Yes, the descriptions are at times a little wordy but the wonderful characters and sheer imagination contained in these stories more than make up for it.  Also, buying very pretty cloth-bound special editions like I did means you don’t have to bother buying any ornaments for your sitting-room as they look so darn fabulous!
  7. Finally, Kiss Kiss is a  collection  of short stories by Roald Dahl but perhaps surprisingly is for adults.  I wasn’t even aware that Roald Dahl had ever written for adults until the girl doing one of my tattoos (a fellow bookworm obviously) recommended his short stories.  On my way home, with a rather sore back full of pretty stars, I stopped off at Blackwells bookshop and picked up Kiss Kiss!  I’m very glad I did as its a wonderful collection of rather dark, unsettling stories with a twist.  Being Roald Dahl, what else would you ever expect?

These are just a few of my favourites, I could fill far more than one post with all the books I love!  I would love to hear if you’ve read any and of course what you think of them.

 

I don’t know about you but I LOVE Sundays.  It really is the only day of the week I can switch off and do my own thing without worrying that I should be doing this or that or whatever.  Where I live in the Hebrides, Sundays are particularly peaceful as there is almost nothing open.  One petrol station opens for a few hours and the hotels and a few pubs are open but other than that, nothing – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Things have changed since I was a wee girl in the eighties mind you.  Back then you couldn’t get on or off the island as there were no Sunday planes or ferries and the swings in the play parks were chained so children couldn’t play on them!  Yes, really!  Nowadays both the planes and ferry run on a Sunday and there are no more chains on the swings.  I like to think we have the balance right now.

Taking a Breather

The great thing about an island Sunday is we have no choice but to take a breather and relax. If Tesco was open I’d probably end up dashing around doing my shopping on a Sunday morning and spoiling what is one of my favourite times of the week.  I love taking my dog for a long walk on a Sunday morning then having a leisurely brunch and a read of whatever takes my fancy.  We have no Sunday papers (that’s one thing that I would like to have actually) as the ferry only sails once and doesn’t return till 9pm and anyway there’s nowhere really open to sell them!  It’s not something I’m particularly bothered about though, you don’t miss what you’ve never had.

My Sunday afternoons are usually spent lazing around either reading or watching a film (usually one I’ve seen a hundred times) or taking a wee trip to one of the beautiful beaches on the island if the weather is good.   Recently I’ve been spending a good bit of my day taking part in blogging chats and writing blog posts.  I’ve found they are a great way to chase away the Sunday night blues!  How do you spend your Sunday?

Unusually for me, I haven’t read any novels this month.  Usually I’ll read at least one but starting up this blog has taken far more of my time than I expected.  So other than one (fairly short) non-fiction book, I’ve been dipping into and thoroughly enjoying a few magazines, some of which I discovered completely by accident (hurrah for Twitter).  So here are my January reads:

  1.  The Simple Things – I LOVE The Simple Things! I discovered it in the Spring when a very thoughtful friend put a copy in my birthday bag.  Straight away I thought, “This is my kind of magazine.”  It’s about living the good life and has a huge variety of articles on things like rustic food, getting outdoors, interiors, crafty things and travel.  It focuses very much on the more rustic side of life (even for city dwellers) and appreciating the beauty and individuality of each month and season.  The February issue is currently sitting in my magazine basket waiting to be read! *squeals with excitement*
  2. Oh Comely – this is published by the same group as The Simple Things and I came across it through adverts in the aforementioned.  At first I thought it might be a bit too alternative for me, but after sampling a few back issues on Issuu I decided to subscribe to it and I’m so glad I did.  It has a lovely mix of whimsical, arty, eclectic articles – I’m struggling a bit here to even describe it!  But I love the mix of different topics, this issue for example had writing on time travel,  the good old days and going home to name but a few.  Reading Oh Comely actually makes me feel quite peaceful which brings me nicely on to my next read. 
  3. Breathe – Breathe is a magazine all about mindfulness.  It is similar to The Simple Things and Oh Comely in that it advocates taking time to enjoy things, appreciating each season and dabbling in crafts.  It usually gives away a wee notebook for your doodles and musings too!  A gratitude journal came with issue 1 and issue 3 has a listography notebook- love it!  It also has a section devoted to crafts and has a few pages of gorgeous patterned paper every issue which I will be putting in frames for display.
  4. 404 INK – and now for something completely different! 404 Ink is a new alternative literary magazine published in Scotland.  I came across it when author Kevin MacNeil (who hails from my beautiful island!) mentioned it in a tweet as he wrote a short story for it.  I thought I would check it out and I’m glad I did.  It certainly showcases some weird and wonderful ideas but I really enjoyed reading it.  Not every piece was my cup of tea but I love reading new things and different genres – how else do you discover what you like?
  5. National Geographic – 100 Shocking Events – the title says it all really.  I spotted this in the newsagent and just had to buy it.  I love this 100 greatest… or 100 most… kind of reading as you can just dip in and out of it.  It gives a brief overview of a disasters, scandal and misadventures such as Charles Lindbergh’s fall from grace, the wrong turn that in part lead to World War 1 and (ahem) The Jerry Springer Show, amongst many others.  Perfect Sunday reading.

And that’s it, what have you been reading this January?

Ah January, it’s you again!  It’s that time of year that so many of us hate.  The festivities of Christmas and New Year are a distant memory, the weather is rubbish and money is in short supply.  In fact, tomorrow is blue Monday, officially the most depressing day of the year apparently!  It’s easy to feel fed up when you have all that stacked against you!  It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom though and I’ve decided this year to embrace January in all its cold, dark glory and make the best of it!  So without further ado, here are my reasons to be cheerful.

  1.  The sun is setting a little bit later every day!   The shortest day has been and gone more than three weeks ago and optimistic souls like myself can definitely see the days getting longer, hurrah.
  2. Winter walks are wonderful.  I love getting out with Archie my wee dog, on crisp Winter days.  No matter how fed up I am, being outdoors always makes me feel better.  Having a dog means I’m out whatever the weather and to be honest even being out on wet, windy days has its plus points, such as getting home and warming up with a nice hot cup of tea and of course obligatory cake/ toast/ chocolate.
  3. It’s the perfect time of year to embrace hygge.  Lazy days at home with a book and your hot drink of choice are a fabulous way to recharge your batteries and you don’t have to feel guilty about staying indoors and hibernating like you might at other times of the year!
  4. It’s also that time of year where you don’t feel you have to be out and about and be a social butterfly.  You can legitimately stay at home and read LOTS!
  5. Similarly, days when you’re stuck indoors mean plenty of time for nice crafty projects! My house move means time has been in short supply but as I’m finally getting there (for now anyway) I now have time to dust my sewing machine off and make something pretty, yay,
  6. It’s time to get those holiday brochures out.  There’s never a better time than cold, dark, snowy January to dream of sunnier climes and having fun in the sun! I’ve just spent a very enjoyable few days browsing holidays as I managed to get tickets to see U2!! In Barcelona!! Oh happy days!!  So I’m off to Barcelona for a week in July and I CAN’T WAIT!!  It’s amazing how much having something to look forward to can give you a boost when you’re feeling fed up. Oh and apologies for the excessive use of exclamation marks but I am excited!!

So these are a few of my reasons to be cheerful in January!  And if none of these work for you, well, at least January comes but once a year!  How do you cheer yourself up on gloomy Winter days?

After years of gazing wistfully at blogs, wishing I could be brave enough to become a blogger, I’ve finally done it!  Yay me!  What I love about blogging is that its popularity shows that the written word is as popular and relevant as ever.  In this age of YouTube, Social media, Netflix etc, where there is such a huge amount of choice, it’s heartening that blogs can attract so much interest and are such a source of enjoyment for so many.  Obviously, to be a blogger you need to be involved in social media as it’s a huge part of sharing your posts and getting involved with the blogging community, but I think that is just one of the bonuses of having a blog.

So anyway, what I’m trying to say is that for me, blogs are all about finding enjoyable things to read and what makes them unique (as opposed to magazines, books etc) is that you can immediately connect with the author and others with similar interests as you.  Don’t get me wrong, books are absolutely my first love but reading blogs and starting my own blog is just another way of enjoying and getting involved with the world of reading and writing.

Its probably pretty obvious why I decided to start a blog – I love reading other blogs and pretty much anything else I can get my hands on; but i also enjoy writing and always have.  When I was in primary school I was always writing little stories and attempting to start my future bestselling novel (ha).  I loved making comics and I remember starting a diary when I was about 8, inspired by the legend that was ‘Luv Lisa’ in Bunty, a long defunct girls’ comic.  Being 8 and easily bored, it didn’t last long!  However, during my angsty teenage years, I began to write a proper diary regularly.  Being a stereotypical ugly duckling (big glasses, big eyebrows – long before they were cool, terrible, terrible clothes, frequent sad tales of unrequited love) with few friends, I found this to be incredibly therapeutic.  My teenage diaries are almost exclusively about my yearnings for whichever unsuspecting lad I had my eye on at the time.  As I never, ever told anyone if I fancied someone (due to the almost certain painful rejection that would ensue) my diary really did become something I could pour my feelings into without risk of ridicule.

As I got older the content obviously changed but my diaries continued to be a great outlet for me.  I continued, on and off, until my mid twenties but as life got busier I found I had less and less time to write and so eventually I stopped altogether.  Until now!  I’m hoping my little blog will be as enjoyable and therapeutic to write as my diaries were although hopefully it won’t feature quite as much angst!  Come to think of it, I still have those diaries.  I spy a future blog post right there…